Qasem Soleimani Assassination: Impact on Iranian Christians

Iran’s government has been heading down a troubled path for many years. In this third post, I consider what we may expect spiritually in Iran in the coming months.

The Iranian government is between a rock and a hard place. It has too many multifaceted problems and is fighting too many unwinnable wars. Besides their internal problems, now they must respond to Trump’s action and threats. These issues impact how the government will treat Christians and how the people will respond to the gospel message. 

Funeral of Qasem Soleimani, Tehran, Iran on 6 January 2020.

Funeral of Qasem Soleimani, Tehran, Iran on 6 January 2020.
Photo: Maryam Kamyab and Mohammad Mohsenifar
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

The Islamic Regime’s Problems

  1. Bad economy. The economy is bad because of sanctions, poor decisions, and weak economic infrastructures. Iran can solve none of it. A lack of financial resources will continue to pressure the government. They have been reducing subsidies. If they become unable to pay salaries to government employees and especially the revolutionary guards, the whole government will implode. Even if they suddenly want to shore up the economy’s foundation, they cannot because the system is not designed for such corrective action. So the economy is an unsolvable problem for them. 

  2. Corrupt government. Corruption is so rampant that it has become an integral part of how the government governs. The US$150 billion that they received under Obama’s administration sped up corruption in Iran. Many people in power wanted a piece of that pie. Those who want to eradicate corruption cannot do it because the top clergy and their families are the major players in it. So corruption is another unsolvable problem for them. 

  3. Oppositional population. The people are against them. They came on the streets to protest the economy, and they faced bullets. As a result, their hatred of the government and even Islam itself has increased. The regime reportedly killed over 1,500 people within the past two months. They have not allowed the families of the dead to gather and mourn, and they arrested those who tried. That means the parents of some of those who were killed are now in jail because they publicly mourned the loss of their son or daughter. The government has lost the people’s heart, and there is no way to gain it back.

  4. Military Threat. Now they have President Trump threatening them with action. It started with the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, but Trump made it very clear that he is ready for more. They have no solution for that. If they do nothing, they look weak. For 40 years, they have lied to the people of Iran, telling them that Iran is a superpower. Now they are in danger of being found out and losing respect and credibility. This threat may give people hope that their government is not as strong as it claims and that it could be toppled. If so, this hope will encourage them to continue their protests and oppositions. 

The Spiritual Impact

  1. More salvations. I predict that in the next six months, we will have an accelerated number of Iranian Muslims who will come to Christ. This expectation is not new. We saw a similar occurrence ten years ago. During the Green Movement in 2009, the government killed, raped, and tortured many people. The government’s brutality unmasked the true face of Islam to many: a heartless religion that devalues human life. Because of what they saw, many people who were undecided about Islam beforehand became sure that Islam is not the way. Thus, they became open to the message of the gospel. Even some fanatic Muslims—people who were sold out to Islam and opposed Christianity just a few months prior—came to Christ. How do we know? Because they contacted us and shared their stories. Likewise, we expect that in the next six months, we will see a surge in salvations among those who used to be devoted Muslims—even among the clergy and government officials!

  2. Fewer persecutions—temporarily. Because the government has too many problems to fight, for the next few months they will not focus on destroying Christianity as they have when they have had the money and time. If their negotiations prove successful, however, and they can bring back a more normal situation to Iran, then they will start a new wave of Christian persecution. 

  3. More intense persecution. They will arrest fewer people, but they will act harshly toward them—that is, long jail terms and even execution. They will want to make an example out of the few they arrest to put fear in the hearts of other Christians and stop them from evangelizing, fellowshiping with other Christians, or connecting to organizations outside Iran such as Iran Alive. As Christianity grows and the government feels more out of control, it will intensify the persecution. 

  4. Greater opportunity for Christians to be salt and light. As the darkness grows, the light can have more impact because it has the power to destroy the darkness. Light in the midst of the darkness is easily seen and very attractive. So this is the time for Christians to be different. In the midst of the nation’s desperation and hopelessness, Christians can bring the hope of Christ. 

On our channel, we encourage Christians to behave differently than their culture expects. We ask them not to be afraid, not to lose hope, but to continue in faith, to love others, and to share their faith with others. We tell them that no matter what happens, even if there is a war, God will still be with them and stay faithful to His promises. We tell them, “Continue to show Christ to the people around you in your actions and talk because no matter what, you know that you are the winners. Iran will eventually be a Christian nation according to Jeremiah 49:38.”

These are critical times. What happens in Iran will impact the Middle East, and what happens in the Middle East will impact the world. Let’s be awake and alert. Let’s see where God is working and join him. 

What Can We Do?

Let’s listen to God more than we listen to the news. When we listen to the news, we will be reactionary—reacting to what has happened—that is, reacting to what Satan has done. But when we listen to God, we will be proactive. If we listen to the news more than God, then we will always be a few steps behind Satan because we must first hear what he is doing and then try to stop him. But when we listen to God first, we stay several steps ahead of Satan. God wants us to be proactive and be several steps ahead—not behind—what Satan is doing. God wants us to listen to him more than we listen to the news. 

Know the will of God and do it. This is the time to act. I have felt a great urgency in my soul the past few months that we should act and act now. With what we see happening in Iran now, I know that feeling of urgency was and is from the Lord. The time is short, and the days are evil. We must be wise and not fools. We must know the will of God and then do it (Eph. 5:15–17). Before us is a historic opportunity to make Iran the first Islamic nation that turns to Christ. We know it will surely happen because He promised it (Jer. 49:38), but we also know that He wants to accomplish His will through us. Let’s join together to do His will and make history in Iran and the Middle East. 

General Soleimani Assassinated—Now What?

The new year began with an event that will change the future of Iran. In this second post, I consider what we may expect politically in the coming months.

Iran has lost one of its top leaders. General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Quds Army, was more powerful and influential than Iran’s President Rouhani. The people and the Iranian government are on the opposite side of almost every issue, but regarding Soleimani, they both loved and respected him.  

Senior commanders of the Islamic Republic of Iran's armed forces, including General Qasem Soleimani, met with Ayatollah Khamenei on April 11, 2016. Source: http://english.khameini.ir, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Senior commanders of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s armed forces, including General Qasem Soleimani, met with Ayatollah Khamenei on April 11, 2016. Source: http://english.khameini.ir, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Despite President Trump warning that the United States will quickly strike back, “perhaps in a disproportionate manner,” if Iran strikes any American person or target, Ayatollah Khamenei and Iran’s military leaders vowed to take revenge. They responded Tuesday by firing 22 ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq.

What will the Islamic Republic of Iran do now? What will happen? Will they continue to fight back? If they do, the U.S. may attack and they will lose a lot; if not, they will look weak and full of hot air. 

There are three possibilities: moving to full-fledged war, responding with a limited conflict, or private negotiation. 

Full-Fledged War?

In my opinion, this option is very unlikely because:

  1. The Islamic government knows a war with the United States will end its regime. This government is in trouble—big trouble. The economy is bad, and sanctions are making it worse; the nation has risen against the government; the people are turning away from Islam to become secular agnostics or Christians. This regime has no popularity either inside or outside the country. 

    In the past two months, not only have Iranian cities demonstrated against the Iranian government but so have cities in Lebanon and Iraq. The people of Iraq want Iran out of their country. Iraqis are happy about the assassination of Soleimani but do not show it on the streets because of fear. Many were killed a few weeks ago demonstrating against Iran’s intervention in Iraq. 
  1. The Islamic government does not have many options unless it already has a nuclear bomb. If so, they will detonate one in the center of Iran’s desert to let the world, and especially Trump, know that they cannot be pushed around anymore. If they do have the bomb, they probably will not use it except to threaten, bully, and impose their will in the Middle East and the world. 
  1. If they have no nuclear bomb, Iran’s options are VERY limited. Trump threatened that he has already identified Iranian targets to hit if Iran acts against U.S. citizens or property. They understand Trump may do it, and even his own congress cannot stop him. 

    Iran knows that without a bomb, they have practically no protection from a U.S. attack. Therefore, after the assassination, they declared that they will fully pursue making the bomb. A possible shortcut for them is to purchase a bomb from North Korea and detonate it in a desert to pretend that they have successfully built it themselves and that they can build more. 

Limited Conflict

As already seen through Iran’s initial ballistic missile response, this option is likely.

  1. Khamenei and the Iranian government will want never to appear weak. Honor and shame are controlling values in the Middle East, especially among the leaders. So to show that they are not taken aback by the assassination and that Trump’s threats mean nothing to them, they have to do something even if through other organizations. Tuesday’s ballistic missile attack seems to be just such an action. Khamenei said he had dealt the United States a “slap in the face” while the foreign minister announced that the nation had “concluded proportionate measures” in its retaliation. 

    This attack—perhaps intentionally—had no casualties. It brought honor to the Iranian government, showing its own people and the world that they are not afraid of the U.S. and that they will retaliate. But with no casualties, they felt safe from U.S. payback. It is interesting that the Iranian media is presenting the attack as a point of strength. They are saying, “Nobody since Vietnam has attacked U.S. bases, but we did. And Trump did not have the guts to retaliate.” 
  1. Iran’s government must also maintain deniability. Iran may follow up by attacking U.S. embassies around the world, attacking U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf, or killing some American citizens around the world—even in the U.S.—just out of pride to show that they are not defeated. Of course, they will do these things through proxy terrorist organizations whose support is not traceable to Iran. For their own protection, they want to be able to say, “We did not do it; those who support us and hate the U.S. did it on their own.”

Negotiation?

This option is most likely, but it will not be a public negotiation.

  1. Because of Trump’s multifaceted strategy, I believe the Islamic Republic of Iran has no choice but to negotiate. They know that if they misbehave, Trump will attack their oil facilities, which will wipe them out completely since their only source of survival income is oil. 
  2. Iran cannot support or survive a war. They will not want to enter a war with the United States because they know their army cannot carry on that fight for more than a few days. More importantly, they know their own people will not support that war. The American population wants to avoid war because of its cost—both in money and lives; the Islamic regime wants to avoid a war with the U.S. too, but for them, the motivation is even higher—their survival. 
  3. Negotiation will happen in secret. Iran will be forced to negotiate, but public negotiation would admit weakness. The importance of honor and saving face will prohibit public terms. So after limited terrorist action around the world through their proxy agents, they will start negotiating with the United States secretly without either side mentioning it publicly.
  1. Negotiation is not the same as appeasement. Critics might say, “But that is what Obama did, negotiating with Iran.” President Obama’s policy invigorated the regime. Obama wanted the treaty more than they wanted it. Obama wanted to evade war more than they wanted to avoid it. Therefore, Obama came to the negotiation table from a very weak position. 

    The Iranian government celebrated after the nuclear deal with Obama was signed because they got so much with little cost. They received US$150 billion in cash, the removal of sanctions, freedom to sell oil in the world market, and permission to have business relationships with Europe and other countries, all for just a promise that they would delay building a bomb until 2025! They used that money to expand their influence in the Middle East, finance terrorism around the world, and yes, build the bomb—but in new, underground facilities hidden in the middle of large cities. They were allowed to buy arms from Russia and build up their military, including developing intercontinental ballistic missiles able to deliver nuclear warheads to Israel, Europe, and soon, to the United States. 

    It seems that Trump has a better understanding of the Islamic-Iranian culture. An appeasement policy never works against a bully. It encourages them to continue that behavior. You must stand firm against bullies. Even the Bible tells us, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Islam’s mandate in the Quran is to rule the world by war and violence with neither compromise nor negotiation. Islamic regimes will never negotiate by choice but only when they have no other way out. 

The good news is that the Lord is faithful to His promise in Jeremiah 49:38. We know that sooner or later there will be a horrible war in Iran according to Jeremiah 49:34–37. Let’s pray that this war will be delayed so that more Iranian Muslims will have a chance to hear the gospel before being killed. 

Iran as a nation has rejected Islam and is open to the gospel. Let’s do our part to share the good news with Muslims and disciple them to become agents of transformation after they get saved. Through our broadcasts and our training school, we are doing just that. Will you join us?


In my final post for this series, I write about the impact of these current events on Iranian Christians.

Did you miss part 1 that explained Qasem Soleimani’s role and popularity in Iran? Find it here.

Who Was Qasem Soleimani—a Terrorist or a Hero?

A lot is happening and will happen in Iran and the Middle East in 2020. The assassination of Qasem Soleimani has started a chain reaction that will change the future of Iran. These changes will probably affect the whole Middle East and even the world. 

The Iranian government has vowed to take revenge. In response, President Trump has warned that he is ready to take action and destroy 52 already identified sites in Iran if there is any attack on American lives or properties. Many predict a full-fledged war will happen soon.

General Qasem Soleimani on 1 October 2019.
Source: khameini.ir. Photo cropped and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Who Was Soleimani?

Who was Qasem Soleimani? Outside Iran, he was known as a terrorist, but inside, he was a hero. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians mourned in the streets after his death because many people loved and admired him. This is why:

He was in charge of the Quds Army, the international arm of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He executed Iran’s policy in the region and internationally. In the region, under Soleimani, Iran became a major force determining the future of countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. We know Iran is the top financier of terrorism around the world. It was Soleimani who was trusted with that budget, and he was effective in using the money to fight wars with proxy armies and produce terrorism through proxy organizations. 

He was the number two man in Iran. He was a close ally and friend of Ayatollah Khamenei for over 40 years. Khamenei has trusted none of the other IRGC leaders, fearing that if they become powerful and united, they may turn against him. So he has frequently changed the senior leadership of IRGC with one exception: Soleimani. Khamenei trusted him very much.

He was a national hero. For years, the media in Iran, controlled by the Islamic government, had depicted and promoted Soleimani as a national hero. Due to that propaganda influence, the people believe the following: 

  • He was the hero who protected Iran from an invasion and attack by ISIS. State-controlled media caused the people to believe that without the general, ISIS would have attacked and even taken over Iran.
  • He single-handedly defeated ISIS. The people believe that Trump undeservedly took the credit for Soleimani’s work of defeating ISIS.
  • He made Iran a significant power in the Middle East and the world. Under him, Iran gained a major role in what was happening in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. We must not forget the statements made by Khomeini, Soleimani, and other high-rank Iranian officials for the last 40 years, statements that were drilled into the people’s minds through the media: “Iran under the Islamic Republic has flourished to become a major world power, so much so that even the United States is afraid of it.”
  • He took control of Iraq, which at one time was the archenemy of Iran. That means he not only protected Iran but overtook an enemy country and brought it under the control of the Islamic Republic. Because Iran has a majority Shiite population, he was able to infiltrate and then control the power factions inside Iraq and its government.
  • He is the hero who made Iran so strong that America does not dare attack it. When Iran shot down the multimillion-dollar U.S. drone last June and President Trump gave no answer—nor answered immediately to subsequent similar aggressions—the media’s take has been, “Look how strong we are. We can attack Americans, we can attack the oil ships, we can attack the oil production facilities of Saudi Arabia, we can attack the U.S. embassy in Iraq, and America does not dare to respond because we have superior power.”

As a national hero, Soleimani was more popular and loved by people than Khamenei himself. Even though the people’s hatred for their leaders has grown, Soleimani was the only official who had a good name and was loved.

What Was Soleimani’s Future?

Khamenei had plans for Soleimani’s future. The ayatollah worked hard through the media to deceive people and make Soleimani a hero because he had a long-term plan: make him the next president. Currently, no government-approved candidate for the 2021 election is positioned to bring hope—even false hope—to the hearts of the people and get them to vote. With Khamenei and the Islamic government so unpopular, Soleimani was the solution. 

The top religious leaders expected that when Soleimani became president, they could deceive and control the people for another eight years, giving them a false hope that Soleimani would curtail the power of the mullahs and make Iran’s governments more secular. A more secular rule would remove the clergy from the government but not from power. Under the guise of democracy, they would continue to rule the people.  

This deceptive plan was working. Hundreds of thousands of people publicly mourned Soleimani’s death. Few realized that Soleimani was supporting and supported by the corrupt Islamic regime. They did not realize that during the protests in 2009 and 2019, he was the one who brought Syrian soldiers to the streets of Tehran, killing Iranian youth with no mercy, and stifling both movements. Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, sent his soldiers to return a favor to Soleimani’s Quds army, which has been helping Assad for many years by slaughtering the people of Syria who opposed Assad, assuring the survival of his rule. 

By killing Soleimani, Trump not only stopped an international leader in terrorism but derailed the top clergy’s plans for their regime. It was a great personal blow to Khamenei and his future. 

Nevertheless, Khamenei is using Soleimani’s death to his advantage. He pronounced three days of national mourning that hundreds of thousands of people attended. The government organized and spent much money on a huge, prolonged national memorial. They used the love people had for Soleimani and the grief they are feeling for their own purposes:

To distract people from their daily misery. People have been protesting for two years. But in the past two months, their lives have been so miserable that their protests have been national and continual. Government forces reportedly have killed over 1,500 people and arrested over 12,000. But the protests still go on. The people have economic woes and are therefore disgusted with the government because of its corruption. Those in power have embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars for themselves and their families. The government has spent billions of dollars to advance their ambitions outside Iran but has not cared about its own people. 

To once again emphasize that the U.S. is their enemy. For survival, the Iranian government has always needed an outside enemy. For the past 40 years, enmity with the United States has served that purpose. Unlike the government, most of Iran’s people love the U.S. Therefore, the government is using this assassination to convince people that America does not have goodwill towards the people of Iran. So, they say, America must not be trusted but rather hated, and if some love the U.S., they are deceived.

To avoid complaints and protests due to war status. Although they have no actual war as yet, now they can ask people to tolerate their miserable lives because “we are fighting the U.S.” The government can sidestep demands with this war excuse.

The year 2020 will be one of many unexpected happenings—it has already started that way. But no matter what happens, we as Christians must be alert, seek the truth (and not believe everything we hear in the news), seek God’s wisdom and supernatural understanding of the events and what He is doing through them, ask Him to reveal to us His plans and what He is doing and where He is working. Then we must have the courage to step out by faith to do His will, partnering with Him to transform our lives, our families, and our nations.

My next article in this three-part series will address what we may expect next in the chain reaction that follows the assassination.