It is becoming more critical than ever to keep our eye on the ball. Whatever one’s view on the decision by Speaker of the House John Boehner to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress — and I have called it ill-advised, this unnecessary brouhaha should not divert us from the real issue: Will we stop Iran from becoming a nuclear armed power?
That question has always been critical to the security of the world as well as that of the State of Israel. Failure to achieve the goal or even the perception that the goal was not truly achieved will inevitably lead Arab states in the region — already fearful of Iran’s quest for regional domination – to develop their own nuclear programs. There is broad acknowledgement such a development would move the world closer to our modern nightmare of nuclear Armageddon than ever before.
And, for the State of Israel, this is a life and death scenario. Let’s remember that at the heart of the Islamic Republic of Iran is a goal of destroying the Jewish state. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was infamous for stating on a number of occasions that Iran sought Israel’s disappearance. But far more serious are the comments by the all-powerful Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who in November 2014 said that the “barbaric” Jewish State “has no cure but to be annihilated.” Included was his nine-point plan for the elimination of Israel reminiscent of Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
As dangerous as ISIS, the brutal terrorist group is, we should never lose sight of the far greater threat coming from Iran. This means we need to be very careful in cooperating with Iran against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. While tactically it may make sense to do so, the risk is it can influence U.S. determination in nuclear negotiations only to hold out for a deal that will effectively stop Iran from going nuclear. The more we treat Iran as if it were a responsible player in the region rather than the brutal force, at home and abroad, that it is, the more likely there will be erosion in the American resolve to only strike a good deal with Iran.
Once again, the month of Christmas witnessed some of the most barbaric attacks on Christians throughout the Islamic world.
After Andrew White, an Anglican priest known as the “Vicar of Baghdad,” told of how the Islamic State (IS) “chopped [Christian] children in half; they chopped their heads off,” he offered the following anecdote:
IS turned up and they said to the [Christian] children, “You say the words [shehada, convert to Islam], that you will follow Muhammad.” And the children, all under 15, four of them, they said, “No, we love Jesus [Yesua]. We have always loved Jesus. We have always followed Jesus. Jesus has always been with us.” They [IS] said, “Say the words!” They [children] said, “No, we can’t.” [White starts sobbing] They chopped all their heads off. How do you respond to that? You just cry. They’re my children. That is what we have been going through. That is what we are going through.
Christmas celebrations were, as usual, tense and sometimes bloody:
Somalia: Islamic terrorists boasted of successfully slaughtering Christians while “they were celebrating Christmas.” Eight Islamic gunmen infiltrated the main African Union base in Mogadishu and killed three peacekeepers and a civilian contractor. Later, the Islamic group Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had killed 14 peacekeepers whom it described as “Christian enemies”: “We targeted the enemies at a time they were celebrating Christmas,” said Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, spokesman for Al Shabaab. Western diplomats who were celebrating Christmas in Mogadishu were evacuated to safety bunkers until the raid was over. Witnesses reported hearing bomb blasts and volleys of gunfire throughout the day.
Iraq: In mid-December, as people in the West were doing their last minute Christmas shopping, churches under IS authority were turned into torture chambers for Christians. According to a witness, “churches are being used as prisons and for torture. Three of the Christian prisoners died because they were sick and nobody cared for them.” The witness, known as Abu Aasi, said that Christian prisoners in the churches are being forced to convert and that IS members have been “breaking all the crosses and statues of Mary.” Other reports told of how Christian prisoners—blindfolded and handcuffed—were held at the ancient Chaldean Church of the Immaculate Conception in eastern Mosul and that St George’s monastery was now a female prison.
Pakistan: Christian minorities celebrated Christmas “with religious fervor by offering prayers in different churches under tight security,” reported Dawn: “heavy contingents of police were deployed in and around the churches at cantonment and city areas where movement of other people was restricted and the citizens were allowed only after thorough body search.”
Iran: On Christmas day in Tehran province, nine Christians were arrestedafter a paramilitary force and armed plainclothes agents raided a house church where they were celebrating Christmas. The Christians were transferred to an unknown location. NCR-Iran adds, “The clerical regime in Iran continued human rights abuses in Iran during Christmas. At dawn of the 25th December, on Christmas day when hundred[s] of millions of people around the world were celebrating the birth of the Christ, the barbaric regime of Iran hanged 7 people in mass execution in Shiraz.”
Nigeria: The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, capital city of Borno State in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria—which has been besieged by the Islamic organization Boko Haram and where streets were left vehicle-free on December 25 to avoid suicide attacks—experienced another tense Christmas. Most of the 5,000 displaced persons welcomed in Maiduguri are in fact refugees from other regions that had fallen to Boko Haram.
The rest of December’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and country in alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity.
The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s missile division boasted on Monday that his country has provided short- and mid-range ballistic rocket technologies to its allies, including the Palestinians and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
IRGC aerospace force commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that information and skills to locally produce military rockets were also given to the governments of Syria and Iraq.
“The IRGC’s Aerospace Force has developed to a stage in the field of missile industries that it can mass-produce different types of short- and mid-range missiles,” Hajizadeh said, according to a report by the semi-official FARS news agency.
Israeli defense officials have often voiced concerns over the spread of mid-range missiles to Hezbollah and the Palestinians that put all of Israel within striking distance.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has helped Iraq, Syria, Palestine and the Lebanese Hezbollah by exporting the technology that it has for the production of missiles and other equipment, and they can now stand against the Zionist regime, the ISIL [Islamic State group] and other Takfiri [apostate] groups and cripple them,” Hajizadeh said.
Israel has vowed to prevent what it terms “game-changing” technologies from falling into the hands of Hezbollah. Several airstrikes over the past three years, attributed to Israel and carried out amid the continuing civil war in Syria, were said to have targeted advanced weapons shipments heading to the Lebanese terror organization.