5. Will the US and Iran partner in Iraq to stop ISIS?
Both have similar interests: to help the current Shiite Government of Iraq maintain control and stop the Sunni ISIS from taking over Iraq.
They may partner in some ways to help stop ISIS but will never acknowledge it publicly.
Iran has a major influence in Iraq where the majority of the population is Shiites and the government is led by Shiites.
Iran’s goal has been to get the US out of Iraq and be the sole influencer of the Shiite Iraqi regime. They are happy that the US has pulled out of Iraq and do not want to see the US’s influence and presence increase. Therefore, they may work with the US for the short time but will want the US out of Iraq as soon as ISIS is stopped.
ISIS stands for Islamic State in Iraq and (greater) Syria.
They are the coalition of Sunni forces in Iraq and Syria.
Their immediate goal is to topple two Shiite governments in Iraq and Syria.
Their intermediate goal is to have a unified Sunni state that covers the whole region including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel.
Their long-term goal is to bring back a worldwide rule of Caliphates. They believe that they are mandated by the Quran to do so and use as much violence as needed to accomplish that goal.
They are much stronger than Al-Qaeda in numbers, unity, and finances. They have performed mass executions, even including women and children. They are so violent and brutal that Al-Qaeda looks conservative and moderate comparatively.
When in power, they will be the number one source of terrorism in the world.
Thursday March 20th, Iranians rang in the Persian New Year. Nowruz, meaning “new day,” always begins on the first day of spring. It represents two ancient symbolic concepts: Ending and Rebirth, or, more specifically, the ending of evil and rebirth of good.
Awaiting arrival of Nowruz, Iranians prepare the haft sin, or the seven ‘S’s. The haft sin sofreh includes seven items starting with the letter S:
sabzeh – sprouts, symbolizing rebirth
samanu – a sweet pudding made from wheat germ symbolizing affluence
senjed – the dried fruit of the oleaster tree, symbolizing love
siib – apple, symbolizing beauty
somaq – sumac, symbolizing sunrise
serkeh – vinegar, symbolizing age and patience
sombol – hyacinth, to denote the coming of spring
For the remaining thirteen days of the New Year celebration, Iranians gather together and celebrate. Relatives come and visit the older members of the family and in return, the elders pay their respect by visiting them back. On the last day, as is the tradition, Iranians picnic in the suburbs, dance, sing, and play outside until the night forces them back to their homes.
The clerical establishment ruling Iran have long tried to stop Iranians from celebrating their long tradition of Nowruz. Even under though the people of Iran are under constant oppression, they have not given in and continue to be proud of their Persian heritage and cling to the hope of a fresh start.
Lets us pray that with this New Year that love will conquer hate and that the people of Iran will meet the only Source of true hope, Jesus.
Recently, I received a touching email from one of our Church 7 members via our Counseling Center Ministry. God is penetrating the hearts of Iranians unlike any other time in history. Amir is being transformed through hearing God’s Word and applying it’s teachings to his life. Here is what he wrote to me:
Dear Pastor Hormoz,
I would like to share a testimony regarding the topic of the Samaritan woman, which you have been preaching about for the past few weeks.
I always tried to have a good relationship with my family and others, but it had been so difficult for me and I prefer to be alone because these relationships have caused me so much sadness and stress in the past.
When I heard the sermon, Christ met me like He met the Samaritan woman and changed my life. I now love to meet new people, spend time with my family and I even love my enemies. It is so strange, but I do not feel like I did before and I am not upset with anyone anymore.
I have a joy that comes from the inside and I like to transfer this joy to others. I really receive more than I give and I enjoy these relationships with people in ways that I never thought I could. Now I understand what life is really all about.
Thank you for teaching God’s Word to me. I am grateful for you all.
Please join me in continuing to pray that millions of Iranians will be transformed by the Word of God, just like Amir!
My dear friend and Middle East expert, Joel C. Rosenberg (@joelcrosenberg), has been posting his thoughts on the nuclear deal recently struck by the US, Russia, Germany, UK, France and China with Iran.
I highly recommend reading his most recent post, as he highlights the major points of the deal and gives wonderful insight regarding the implications on Israel and the West.
In the coming days, I am going to post my own thought on the issue, from the perspective of Iranians…specifically those who follow Jesus. Check back for these posts, as I will provide a unique perspective that may be helpful as you learn about the impact of this significant event.
As you know from reading my previous posts, there are no above ground churches inside Iran. Until a few months ago, there was actually one building church, the Central Church of Iran, that was allowed to exist. It was highly regulated and everyone who walked in the door was registered with the government. Many of them were harassed and persecuted as a result, even though the church was allowed to exist.
It too has been closed, leaving every Christian in the country with the choice of finding an underground house church, or plugging in to Church 7, our global satellite Church for Iran. You can read more about this strategy in my post, “Our House Was Converted into a Church”.
Below, I have copied an email we just received from a Church 7 member, whose family found themselves orphaned after the Central Church of Iran closed it’s doors. I know you will find it encouraging. There is no doubt the Lord is using Satellite TV to transform Iran into a Christian nation in this generation.
My name is Amir and I am a member of Church 7. Through this letter, I want to thank you for not leaving us alone. You provide food for us who are alone in Iran.
My wife and I always cancel our plans on Friday nights in order to participate in Church 7. Sometimes we even invite friends to come to Church with us by telling people that Church has not been closed after all. We record all of Church 7 programs and when we gather with our friends, we watch them and worship together.
The Lord has been faithful, just as he promised, and has not left us alone. Even after the closing of the Central Church of Iran, of which we were members, we have not become orphans. We have a Church to go to, where we worship and receive our teachings.
I want you to know that we love you all and to let you know that for us, your programs are a living hope.
Rouhani gained the upper hand by skipping lunch with President Obama and later receiving his phone call while leaving the country.
To a Westerner, both of these events may seem insipid or commonplace.
President Rouhani simply explained, “A meeting between the two presidents needs some preparation, and since the ground was not prepared, this meeting did not take place.” As a result, President Obama picked up the phone and called Rouhani since they were not able to meet in person. This gesture exhibited both respect and hospitality from a Western point of view.
However, both events, which seem ostensibly harmless, were great PR plays by Rouhani to the Persian culture.
By skipping a planned appointment with President Obama, Rouhani illustrated his stature of importance to the people of Iran and the rest of the Middle East whose culture recognizes this as a display of power. Rouhani is so mighty and dominant, that even the President of the United States of America does not get his time.
By calling President Rouhani as he was leaving the U.S., President Obama displayed an act of contrition and weakness in the eyes of the Persian culture. In my native Iran, this is viewed as chasing after the person who is in the more dominant position.
Rouhani would never have extended such a gesture, as he would be subject to public emasculation and humiliation for bowing in this way.
Our opinions of a skipped lunch and the intentions of President Obama’s phone call are completely irrelevant. President Hassan Rouhani left the United States with an important public relations victory on the largest stage Iran has been on in 34 years.
I wonder if President Obama is going to take Benjamin Netanyahu’s call…the one when he tells Obama to be wary of his new “friend.”
I recently had the privilege of sitting down in our studio with my dear friend, Joel Rosenberg. You may know Joel through his many NY Times bestselling books, his educational and charitable organization, The Joshua Fund, or his blog (http://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com) and Twitter account (@joelcrosenberg), both of which I follow and strongly recommend you do as well.
I know Joel as passionate Follower of Jesus Christ, whose heart for the Gospel to be proclaimed and embraced in the Middle East, even in Iran, is unmatched and genuine.
During his visit, Joel and I sat down and had a wonderful conversation about the Middle East and specifically his thoughts related to Iran in the Scriptures and the unique role the Lord has in store for this dangerous, beautiful and spiritually open country.
This is a startling statistic, which is changing the face of Iran and has the potential to impact the entire Middle East. Let me explain.
When I was a young college graduate, living in Iran during the Islamic Revolution of 1979, I was part of a generation that was demanding change. At the time, we did not know that we were exchanging something we perceived as bad, for something much, much worse than we could ever have imagined. Today, only 30% of Iran’s surviving population was even alive at that time. The overwhelming majority of the population knows nothing but the incredible persecution and oppression that they have experienced under a government that they never asked for and certainly do not want.
Perhaps this helps to shed some light on fact #5, The Mosques Are Empty. The younger generation has seen only a lifetime of misery and hopelessness, while the older generation has seen broken promises and a system that has failed them completely.
As a result of this youthful demographic, Iran has established itself as a top consumer and producer of social media in the Middle East, despite the fact that the government attempts to restrict Internet access and intimidate people from engaging with Facebook, Twitter, personal blogs and other forms of Social Media. However, as with all younger generations, Iran’s youth possesses technological savvy and continues to stay ahead of the government’s attempts to stem the tide.
You need only look at the Green Movement of 2009, when tens of thousands of young Iranians flooded the streets of Tehran to protest the presidential election results. The horrific shooting death of Nedā Āghā-Soltān was captured on a cell phone, uploaded to the Internet and viral within hours.
Pray for the youth of Iran, as they are the key to reaching the country for Christ.