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.

Islamic Terrorism: If We Don’t Go, They Will Come

Last week I mentioned that the expulsion of ISIS from their self-styled capital in Raqqa, Syria would lead to an increase in lone wolf attacks in the West. I had hoped the next event would not occur so soon. But it did.

So on behalf of all those affected by Tuesday’s attack in lower Manhattan, I tell you this: if we don’t go to Muslims with the good news of the gospel, they will come to us with the bad news of Islamic jihad.

If We Don’t Go, They Will Come

We see this principle in the Old Testament where God wanted His people to reach out to other nations and be a witness to them. But they (the Israelites) did not do it. He even sent Jonah by force to show His love for the nations. But then because Israel did not go to the Assyrians and Babylonians, those nations came, attacked them, killed them, and took them to captivity.

This same consequence is what is happening today to America and much of the Western world. For centuries the Church has ignored the Middle East and Muslims. Only 3 percent of the Church’s mission budget is spent to reach out to 1.6 billion Muslims. Because we did not go to them with the love of Christ, they are coming to us with the hatred of Allah.

Terrorists coming with the hatred of Allah is exactly what happened on 9/11, and it is what is happening now. So the same OT principle is still valid: If we don’t go, they will come—and it will not be pretty. If we continue to disregard reaching out to Muslims of the Middle East, they will continue to come to us with violence and acts of terrorism.

Love or hate

It Is Impossible to Monitor All Terrorist Threats

Government officials feel helpless to stop it. Representative Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) said yesterday that stopping terrorism in the USA is impossible. Terrorism is impossible to stop completely because an act of terrorism easily could happen on any street corner, any movie theater, any stadium, any concert, or in any shopping mall in the US.

A few months ago, after my presentation at a conference about reaching out to Muslims with the love of Christ, I talked to a top homeland security officer. He said, “We are on the defensive in America, and that is a weak position. It is impossible to monitor all potential terrorists and stop them before they do their acts of terrorism.” He then continued, “There are many threats that Homeland Security thwarts before they happen, but unfortunately it takes only one person that we miss to bring terrorism to the US.”

Moving to the Offensive

Being on the defensive is a weak position. Jesus commands us to go (Matthew 28:19). We must be on the offensive with the gospel and love of Christ towards Muslims. We must go. The gospel is powerful but only if it is shared (Romans 1:16). Perfect love casts out the Islamic spirit of fear only if it is expressed (1 John 4:18).

Living on the defensive, in constant fear, or in search of ways to protect ourselves against inevitable attacks is not the answer to Islam. Neither is it the answerto return violence with violence. The only response with long-term impact is to aggressively love Muslims and share the gospel with them.

The good news is that God has done His part by opening the hearts of millions of Muslims towards the gospel already. The bad news is that the Church is pretty much asleep and is not doing its job. And yet the worst news is that, as a result, terrorism will increase in the USA. The news we get in the future will be based on the choices we make and the actions we take now.

We can be fearful of Islam.

We can be indifferent to Islam.

Or we can proactively obey Christ
and go share the gospel with Muslims.

Please join me in going on the offensive.


Related articles:

Henney, Megan. “New York, Terrorist Attacks ‘impossible to Stop’: Rep. Collins.” FOXBusiness, October 31, 2017.

Shariat, Hormoz. “Defeating ISIS—Quenching the Flames of Jihad.”

Photo: Copyright: paktaotik2 / 123RF Stock Photo

Defeating ISIS—Quenching the Flames of Jihad

Some people hear me talk about Islam and think I hate Muslims because I want to offer them something other than their beliefs—and because I speak truth about what the Quran teaches. Do you think I hate Muslims? Islam was mine from birth. I practiced it for many years. These were and are my people. I have received the threats on my life. And I love them still. They are God’s treasure. I am giving my life for them.

Do you love Muslims? Perhaps you fear what they might do in your city and around the world. Perhaps you fear that they might spark a blaze of terrorism that destroys all that you own and love. What can you do when the threat of jihad presses in like an uncontrolled fire that turns on a whim and consumes everything in its path?

soldiers against a sunset
Islamic soldiers

Two recent events are pressing on my heart this week: the California wildfires and the war on ISIS. They are completely unrelated…and yet the same.

We Have Backed ISIS into a Corner

Last week, American-backed forces drove ISIS out of the caliphate’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, in Syria. You probably have seen the news reports. While some Western officials are celebrating, the mood for many is somber. European officials tasked with protecting their citizens from attacks—like the Champs Elysees killings, the Manchester concert bombing, the Barcelona van ramming, and the London subway bomb—know that the battle is far from over. American forces, hopefully, have learned from the Taliban and Al Qaeda what happens when a void is left in Islamic jihad leadership. The battle is far from over.

The reality is that when you kill a Muslim, 100 more will rise up in his place. The theology and culture of Islam—the Spirit of Islam—is anger, violence and revenge. Allah asked Mohammed to take revenge. Islam gives honor to those who kill and die for the faith. An Islamic jihadist facing defeat and dishonor is like a cornered animal—he’s at his most dangerous state.

The Enemy Is Not Just ISIS; It’s the Theology of Islam

Let’s make no mistake—ISIS is not the sole enemy. The enemy is the Spirit of Islam. There have been many “lone wolf” attacks, and yes, many have been connected with ISIS. But ISIS is not the common denominator; Islam is the common denominator. Islam makes people captive to fear and anger.

As Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammed al-Adnani said before his death last year, “True defeat is the loss of willpower and desire to fight. We would be defeated and you victorious only if you were able to remove the Quran from the Muslims’ hearts.”

We may have pushed ISIS back, but we are far from claiming victory. Lone wolves and sleeper cells will continue to be inspired by whichever leader or organization takes up the mission of the Quran: Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS—or whatever we will call ISIS 2.0.

The Gospel Solves the Problem of Revenge

Yes, it is good to make terrorists weak. Yes, we must stand up and fight. I’m not saying we shouldn’t. A nation must defend itself. Military might can be a good thing. But it will never be a long-term solution to peace. For this enemy, defeat only kindles more anger and fanaticism.

In past weeks, a video of a tree in California burning from the inside out went viral. This tree and this wildfire that killed many and destroyed much is like an observant Muslim lit up by the Spirit of Islam. You can attack the flames and spray them with water, you can build barriers and backfires to contain and defeat, but hot spots will smolder and rekindle and flames will leap from one place to another. The heat will sustain itself under the ashes, in the heart of a tree—wherever it can find protection.

The only way to truly put out the fire is to quench its burning desire to reignite—for a Muslim, this means we must solve the problem of revenge. We must love them with the gospel. As the Bible teaches us, we have to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

I often feel people think my message sounds like a pastor’s broken record, an empty solution that ignores the realities of terrorism and war. But I have seen the results over and over again. The love and self-sacrifice of Jesus cools the ground and quenches the flame in the Muslim heart. They no longer have to be angry and seek honor through revenge. The good news is that millions of Muslims are also fed up with the message of hatred, violence, and revenge. They are questioning the teachings of Islam and are open to the message of the gospel.

When a Muslim hears and accepts the gospel, Jesus transforms them. He puts out the destructive fire and makes them a light to hundreds. And right now, Jesus is turning many fires into lights in Iran and the Middle East. The mainstream media won’t tell you this. The Iranian government won’t tell you this. But Jesus is the great firefighter for the Muslim world. So the violence is causing Muslims—who aren’t allowed to question—to question Islam. And Jesus is drawing people to him.

Do you love Muslims? God does. He sees all the destruction caused by fire and jihad, whether in California, Europe, or the Middle East, and he weeps for the many people here and there, who are his treasure. They need the gospel. If you have it, help me share it.


Related articles:

Coker, Margaret, Eric Schmitt, and Rukmini Callimachi. “With Loss of Its Caliphate, ISIS May Return to Guerrilla Roots.” The New York Times, October 18, 2017, sec. Middle East.

McDermott. Matthew. “Watch an Eerie Tree Burning from the Inside in California Wildfire.” Video on NationalGeographic.com. October 17, 2017.

How Does ISIS Recruit Operatives in the US?

As we continue to see homegrown terrorist attacks in nations across the globe, it is important to ask certain questions about our own vulnerability:

  • How are Americans radicalized despite the long distance between ISIS (the Islamic State) and us?
  • How does ISIS use social media to indoctrinate Americans so they will kill and die for them?
  • Why are ISIS leaders able to attract so many Muslims around the world who become dedicated enough to the cause even to die for it?
  • How ISIS influence some of the Islamic Centers (mosques) in the West so much that these mosques turn into recruiting centers?

 

Many journalists and researchers have given answers to these questions in past months, but the true answer is simple and shocking: The main strategy of ISIS is not to promote itself on social media and through local mosques. For the most part, the leaders of ISIS do not directly call Muslims around the world to come join them. So why they are so successful?

ISIS Strategy: A Call to Faith

Contrary to what many people believe, the main emphasis of ISIS online and around the world in Islamic Centers is not to promote itself; the main emphasis of ISIS is to call all Muslims to be serious in their Islamic faith.

You see, most Muslims are lukewarm Muslims who do not strictly follow the teachings of Quran. They have learned to pick and choose from the verses they like and obey the ones that they agree with. (Don’t some of us Christians do the same?) The politically correct name for these lukewarm Muslims is “moderate Muslims.”

One question people ask is, “Why don’t the moderate Muslims speak up against ISIS?” The answer is that they cannot speak up because they have no basis in Quran to support their position.

But any Muslim who decidesone-million-irani-school-children-memorizes-holy-quran to dedicate themselves to the teachings of Quran and follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad will easily become a candidate for ISIS recruitment.
Any Islamic Center (mosque) with a leader dedicated to teaching the whole Quran and who asks the people to obey Quran opens the doors to ISIS recruiting, even if the leader does not intend to do so.

Some will take up that challenge to study Quran and the life of Muhammad seriously. They decide in their hearts to do what Quran says and to do what the Prophet did in the first Islamic century to fight with and destroy infidels. It is then that they wake up and realize that ISIS is doing exactly those things: following Quran and Muhammad. It is then that they are attracted to ISIS and its mission. It is then that they are convinced that today’s situation is similar to the situation when the Prophet led the first Muslims, and that Muslims should respond as he did: with violence.

This is when these Muslims start to admire ISIS and believe the Islamic State’s cause is from God. This is when American Muslims decide to join ISIS to advance its cause.

So all ISIS needs to do to radicalize Muslims in America and around the world is to challenge Muslims to read Quran and do what it says. Radicalization follows naturally. They are just asking moderate Muslims to be dedicated Muslims. Becoming radical is automatic.

So what is our answer to this strategy?

Our Response: A Call to Faith

Many of us, my dear Christian brothers and sisters, could also be called “lukewarm.” It is time for us to call our fellow believers in Christ to move from “moderate” to “dedicated”—to study the Bible and the life of Jesus and do what He did: love our enemies, lay down our lives for others, comfort the brokenhearted. If we do these things well, we, too, will be called “radical.” If we do these things well, as Jesus did, we will bring peace to those who have none.

As an army of radical Muslims spreads hatred and brings death around the world, an army of radical Christians can spread love and bring life wherever they go. We will be winners because we are promised that we can overcome evil with good (Ro 12:21). And we know one thing: the light always overcomes the darkness (John 1:5) no matter how dark the darkness appears to be.

Related Articles:

Norris, Daniel K. “Obama Says ISIL Does Not Speak for Islam—Is He Right?” Charisma News.