(Washington, D.C.) — Readers of this column will recall on July 15 I wrote that “over the past several weeks, I have been hearing from current and former senior Israeli officials and advisors at the highest possible levels, that the showdown with Iran is entering the critical ‘end game’ phase. I’m hearing from people with direct knowledge of the plans that war could come in 2013.”
Specifically, I noted that Israeli officials “want the U.S. and other world powers to intensify economic sanctions and all other measures necessary to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear plans, give up its enriched uranium, and shut down its enrichment facilities. But they are deeply concerned that the so-called ‘election’ of Hassan Rouhani — widely but wrongly perceived to be a ‘moderate’ and a ‘reformer’ — will cause officials in Washington and elsewhere to lower their guard and actually ease up pressure on the Khamenei regime, rather than crack down harder.” If that happens, I noted, such easing up on Iran is exactly what could lead Israel to feel forced to go it alone and launch a massive preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2013, in a scenario not unlike what I wrote about in my novels, The Tehran Initiative and Damascus Countdown.
Less than two weeks later, we are seeing evidence that the Obama administration is moving in exactly the wrong direction. While Congress wants to ratchet up the Iran sanctions and make them tougher, the White House is actually strongly resisting such efforts. The President wants to ease up on the sanctions in hopes of engaging with Iran’s new regime. In other words, President Obama is taking Iran’s bait. And this could push the Israelis to war sooner rather than later.
“U.S. Eases Bite of Penalties Against Iran — White House, Seeking to Improve Ties With New Leader in Tehran, Lifts Curbs on Medical Supplies, Agricultural Products,” reads a Wall Street Journal headline.
Excerpts from the story:
- The Obama administration, seeking to improve relations with Iranian President-elect Hasan Rouhani, eased restrictions on medical supplies, agricultural products and humanitarian aid entering the heavily sanctioned country.
- The Treasury Department’s announcement Thursday was viewed by many Iran-watchers as a gesture of good will from Washington as it seeks to restart talks with Tehran over its nuclear program once Mr. Rouhani enters office next month.
- However, the White House is clashing with Congress, where a bilateral group of lawmakers is seeking to tighten the sanctions, say U.S. officials and Capitol Hill staffers. Their proposed legislation would significantly toughen financial penalties on Iran by targeting the country’s oil exports, ships and banks by October, in an effort to convince Tehran to halt its nuclear program.
- Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials have been advising Congress to give the administration more time to pursue negotiations with Mr. Rouhani before further tightening the financial noose on Iran. Mr. Rouhani, who succeeds President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is seen as a relative moderate and has pledged to try to improve relations with the West.
- “We don’t think new sanctions would be helpful at this stage,” said a senior administration official involved in the sanctions debate. “We’ve proven that the sanctions are working.”
This is a serious and potentially tragic mistake by the President and his team. But this is exactly what Israeli leaders have feared, and expected.
As I noted on July 15, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is beginning to prepare the public in Israel and around the world for a ‘military option.’ This is why he appeared on CBS’s “Face The Nation” on Sunday (see excerpt of transcript). The PM called the Iranian a ‘messianic, apocalyptic’ regime bent on genocide, a reference to the Shia eschatology Khamenei holds that Iran must annihilate Israel and the U.S. to usher in the reign of the Twelfth Imam. Netanyahu also called the incoming Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, a ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ who has bragged in the past about negotiating with the West while secretly advancing nuclear enrichment. What’s more, Netanyahu vowed not to ‘wait too long’ to stop Iran.”
To be clear: I’m not saying war will definitely come in 2013. For my part, I continue to pray for peace, even as I — and my colleagues at The Joshua Fund — prepare for war and other national crises in the epicenter. We should be grateful a major regional war between Israel and Iran hasn’t occurred yet. It could be devastating. Hopefully, the regime in Iran will fall. Perhaps sanctions and/or diplomacy and/or covert operations will make war unnecessary. But I believe it is important to be honest with you about what I’m hearing and keep you informed.
- Please pray for peace in Syria, and in Egypt, and in Israel.
- Please pray for U.S., Israeli and other leaders to have wisdom to know just what to do.
- Please pray for Christian leaders in the region to have courage and wisdom.
- Please pray that all the people of the epicenter develop a deep hunger to read the Bible and discover the power of God’s Word, as we discussed in the recent Epicenter Conference.
- Please pray for The Joshua Fund team and me to be able to keep providing food, medical equipment, and other humanitarian relief supplies for the poor and needy now, while also preparing for the crises that may lie ahead.
Thanks, and God bless you.