As Easter approaches, Israel’s UN ambassador warns of “the Middle East war on Christians,” rising persecution in Islamic countries. Notes that Israel’s Christian population is growing.

crossAs Jews celebrate Passover and Christians celebrate Easter this week, Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, has written an excellent op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on the intense persecution followers of Jesus Christ are facing in Islamic countries.

He notes that there is an “exodus” of Christians leaving the Middle East today, just as Jews had to flee many Arab countries in the 20th century. That said, he also points out that Israel “is the only country in the Middle East with a growing Christian population. Its Christian community has increased from 34,000 in 1948 to 140,000 today, in large measure because of the freedoms Christians are afforded.”

I commend the article to your attention, and encourage you to share it with others.

THE MIDDLE EAST WAR ON CHRISTIANS

Muslim-majority nations are doing to followers of Jesus what they did to the Jews.

By Amb. Ron Prosor, Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2014

This week, as Jews celebrate the Passover holiday, they are commemorating the Bible’s Exodus story describing a series of plagues inflicted on ancient Egypt that freed the Israelites, allowing them to make their way to the Holy Land. But over the past century, another exodus, driven by a plague of persecution, has swept across the Middle East and is emptying the region of its Christian population. The persecution is especially virulent today.

The Middle East may be the birthplace of three monotheistic religions, but some Arab nations appear bent on making it the burial ground for one of them. For 2,000 years, Christian communities dotted the region, enriching the Arab world with literature, culture and commerce. At the turn of the 20th century, Christians made up 26% of the Middle East’s population. Today, that figure has dwindled to less than 10%. Intolerant and extremist governments are driving away the Christian communities that have lived in the Middle East since their faith was born.

In the rubble of Syrian cities like Aleppo and Damascus, Christians who refused to convert to Islam have been kidnapped, shot and beheaded by Islamist opposition fighters. In Egypt, mobs of Muslim Brotherhood members burn Coptic Christian churches in the same way they once obliterated Jewish synagogues. And in Iraq, terrorists deliberately target Christian worshippers. This past Christmas, 26 people were killed when a bomb ripped through a crowd of worshipers leaving a church in Baghdad’s southern Dora neighborhood.

Christians are losing their lives, liberties, businesses and their houses of worship across the Middle East. It is little wonder that native Christians have sought refuge in neighboring countries—yet in many cases they find themselves equally unwelcome. Over the past 10 years, nearly two-thirds of Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians have been driven from their homes. Many settled in Syria before once again becoming victims of unrelenting persecution. Syria’s Christian population has dropped from 30% in the 1920s to less than 10% today.

In January, a report by the nondenominational Christian nonprofit organization Open Doors documented the 10 most oppressive countries for Christians; nine were Muslim-majority states noted for Islamic extremism, and the 10th was North Korea. These tyrannical regimes uphold archaic blasphemy and defamation-of-religion laws under the guise of protecting religious expression. In truth, these measures amount to systematic repression of non-Islamic groups.

Last year in Saudi Arabia, two men were prosecuted for the “crime” of converting a woman to Christianity and helping her flee the Islamic kingdom. According to the Saudi Gazette, one of the men, a Lebanese, was sentenced to six years in prison and 300 lashes, and the other man, a Saudi, was sentenced to two years and 200 lashes. Those are relatively mild sentences in Saudi Arabia, where conversion to another religion is punishable by death.

The “justice system” in other Islamic nations is not particularly just for Arab citizens, but it is uniquely oppressive for Christians. Radical Islamists in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa are using an ancient law called the “dhimmi pact” to extort local Christians. The community is faced with a grim choice: pay a tax and submit to a list of religious restrictions or “face the sword.”

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressions of political dissent are regarded as acts of blasphemy. Last summer, three Iranian Christians caught selling Bibles were found guilty of “crimes against state security” and sentenced to 10 years in prison. They were relatively lucky. The regime has executed dozens of people for the so-called crimes of “waging war against God” and “spreading corruption on Earth.”

The scene unfolding in the Middle East is ominously familiar. At the end of World War II, almost one million Jews lived in Arab lands. The creation of Israel in 1948 precipitated an invasion of five Arab armies. When they were unable to annihilate the newborn state militarily, Arab leaders launched a campaign of terror and expulsion that decimated their ancient Jewish communities. They succeeded in purging 800,000 Jews from their lands.

Today, Israel, which I represent at the United Nations, is the only country in the Middle East with a growing Christian population. Its Christian community has increased from 34,000 in 1948 to 140,000 today, in large measure because of the freedoms Christians are afforded.

From courtrooms to classrooms and from the chambers of Parliament to chambers of commerce, Israeli Christians are leaders in every field and discipline. Salim Joubran, a Christian Arab Israeli, has served as a Supreme Court justice since 2003 and Makram Khoury is one of the best-known actors in Israel and the youngest artist to win the Israel Prize, our highest civic honor.

Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest living in Israel, recently told me: “Human rights are not something to be taken for granted. Christians in much of the Middle East have been slaughtered and persecuted for their faith, but here in Israel they are protected.”

Nations that trample on the rights of their people sow the seeds of instability and violence. The uprisings that have erupted across the Middle East are evidence that the region’s Holy Grail has become the pursuit of freedom, democracy and equality. Let us hope that this quest bears fruit before it is too late for the region’s remaining Christians.

Mr. Prosor is Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.

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>> Report on my meeting with Jordan’s Ambassador to the U.S.

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Listen to new podcast: 3 revolutions underway in the Muslim world 35 years after Islamic Revolution in Iran.

podcast(Washington, D.C.) — This week marks the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

In a new podcast, I talk about the importance of this game-changing moment in the Middle East. I also explain that there is not simply one revolution underway — there are actually three revolutions in motion in the Islamic world today.

The podcast runs about 11 minutes. In it, I explain these three revolutionary forces — the Radicals, the Reformers, and the Revivalists — and briefly describe who they are and what they want.

Hope you find it helpful.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Today marks 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. But there are now 3 revolutions underway in the Islamic world.

revolution>> Watch an address I gave several years ago explaining the Radicals, Reformers and Revivalists

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UPDATED: (Washington, D.C.) — Today marks the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians turned out on the streets to mark the occasion. Many denounced America as the “Great Satan.” Many also shouted, “Death to Israel,” which they believe is the “Little Satan.”

The fall of the Shah in 1979 and the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini was a game-changing moment in the modern history of the Middle East. Iran suddenly shifted from a friend and ally of the United States (and even quietly allied with Israel), to a serious enemy. It started with the seizure of our Embassy and taking our diplomats hostage for 444 days. But it has gone much worse over time. Iran has been implicated in killing Americans in the Beirut bombing of our Marine barracks, and at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. They have funded, trained and armed terror groups around the world. Now they are actively developing a nuclear weapons program even as the world refuses to take decisive action to stop them.

But for all the attention the Islamic Revolution in Iran has received over the years, it is important to understand it in its fuller context.

As I noted in my 2009 non-fiction book, Inside The Revolution: Why the followers of Jihad, Jefferson and Jesus are battling to dominate the Middle East and take over the world, there is not simply one revolution underway in the Islamic world — today there are three revolutions competing for the hearts and minds of some 1.5 billion people.

Here’s a snapshot of who they are and what they want:

The Radicals are extremist Muslims. They want to overthrow every regime from North Africa to the Middle East to Central Asia. They want to replace them with Islamist dictatorships who believe that “Islam is the answer and jihad is the way.” 

  • The Ayatollah Khomeini was one of the first leading Radicals in 1979.
  • Today, Iran under the Ayatollah Khamenei is far and away the Shia leader of the Radicals. Khamenei is repressing his people, oversees the leading state-sponsor of terrorism, is actively advancing a nuclear weapons program, yet is trying to beguile world leaders into thinking his regime is not really so dangerous after all. 
  • Osama bin Laden was the leader of the Sunni Radicals for many years, replaced by Ayman al-Zawahiri after bin Laden’s death.
  • Other Radicals include a mix of Sunni and Shia groups such as al Qaeda, Iranian Twelvers, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the like.
  • At the moment, some 30,000 Radical jihadists are operating in Syria, trying to destroy the Assad regime and create an Islamist state.
  • Radical groups like al Qaeda and the Brotherhood are also actively trying to bring down moderate Arab regimes. A prime target for the Radicals is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

It is interesting to me that Jesus Christ once warned His followers that there would be Radicals in this world, killing in the name of religion. “[A]n hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.” (John 16:2)

The Reformers are moderate Muslims who say, “Islam is the answer, but jihad is not the way.’”They want more freedom, more openness, more protection of human rights and civil rights, free elections, and free markets. Some even support the creation of full-blown Jeffersonian democracies, if at all possible. In this group historically have been:

  • Kemal Mustafa Ataturk (the founder of modern Turkey as a democratic, pro-Western state, a NATO ally and even friendly to Israel, though sadly Turkey is now moving away from his model)
  • Egypt’s late-President Anwar Sadat (he did not advance democracy in his day, but he did make peace with Israel and try to move Egypt away from war and extremism, though sadly he was then assassinated by Radicals)
  • Jordan’s late-King Hussein (he made peace with Israel and initiated a democratically elected parliament while retaining his authority as monarch)
  • Jordan’s current King Abdullah II (the son and current monarch, who has been waging a fierce and focused battle against Radical Islamic extremists, and has been advancing his father’s political and economic reforms impressively, if incrementally — I would describe him far and away as the leader of the Reformers in the Arab world today)
  • Morocco’s King Mohammed VI (who also has been waging a fierce and focused battle against Radical Islamic extremists, and has been incrementally advancing a series of political and social reforms)

The Revivalists are former Muslims who say, “Islam is not the answer, jihad is not the way, Jesus is the way — and the only way for our part of the world to move forward and make real and lasting social, economic and spiritual progress is to skip back in our history before Islam and revive what we once had: first century, New Testament, Biblical Christianity.” These followers of Jesus Christ in the Islamic world tend to be apolitical. They don’t want to engage in political activity. They are focused on evangelism, discipleship, church planting, pastor training and spiritual renewal. By using dual strategies of an air war (satellite TV, radio and the Internet) and a ground war (especially the house church movement), their numbers have swelled into the millions since 1979, despite widespread (and recently intensifying) persecution. I profile a number of their leaders in the book, though few of them are known by name in the West.

The Revivalists passionately believe that the Lord God of the Bible loves all Muslims, and wants them to repent and be “born again” through faith in Jesus Christ. This is why they are willing to risk their lives to tell Muslims the good news of salvation through Christ.

These first three are the revolutionary forces in the region, people and movements who advocate and push for dramatic, sweeping change.

Then there is another set of important players:

The Resisters tend to be secular Arab nationalist leaders who oppose significant change of almost any kind. They may be Muslims but they certainly aren’t revolutionaries. They don’t want to build an Islamic empire. They want to build their own empires. They want to hold onto the power, wealth and prestige that they currently have, and gain more if they can. They strongly oppose revolutionary movements of all kinds. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was a classic Resister. So were Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Libyan leader Moammar Ghadaffi. Other Resisters include the besieged Syrian President Bashar Assad, , the leaders of Saudi Arabia, and so forth.

The Reticent tend to be weak-willed Arab leaders who seem constantly pulled in opposite directions. They don’t have strong convictions. At times they seem to want peace with Israel, for example, and even a modicum of political or social reform, but then other forces push back at them and they waffle or change their tune. At the moment, Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is the best example of a Reticent leader. He has been offered historic deals by recent Israeli Prime Ministers to make peace and create a Palestinian state and have dramatic economic change and growth. He has occassionally shown real interest in positive change, but has never had the courage to say “yes.”

Finally, and most importantly, are the Rank-and-File — these are the billion-plus everyday Muslims citizens who work hard, play by the rules, are trying to find decent jobs to feed and educate their families. They aren’t revolutionaries. They long for more freedom and opportunity, but mainly they keep their heads down and try not to be noticed and not be interfered with. They are the audience to which the revolutionaries are playing. They are watching the battle between the Radicals and the Reformers, and they are increasingly curious about the message of the Revivalists. And some of them are making their move and joining one of the revolutionary movements. 

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Inside Iran’s murder of 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut: Reflections on the Islamic Revolution 30 years to the day after the attack.

A Time magazine cover from 1983.

A Time magazine cover from 1983.

The following is the excerpt from my 2009 non-fiction book, Inside The Revolution:

At 6:25 local time on the morning of October 23, 1983, agents of the ayatollah used a suicide bomber to plow a truck filled with explosives into the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

The attack resulted in “the largest non-nuclear explosion that had ever been detonated on the face of the Earth,” according to a U.S. federal court judge who found the Islamic Republic of Iran guilty of perpetrating the crime.[i] Locked doors on a building nearly three hundred feet away were ripped off their hinges. All the trees in the surrounding area were stripped completely bare of their leaves. The windows in the control tower at Beirut’s international airport were blown out. And the four-story cement and steel Marine facility collapsed into fifteen feet of rubble, ash, and smoke.

When my wife and I got married in the summer of 1990 and settled in the Washington, D.C., area, we soon met Charlie and Lynn Derbyshire, a couple at church who had experienced the evil of the Iranian Revolution firsthand. Lynn lost her oldest brother—Marine Captain Vincent Smith—in the Beirut bombing. Charlie was still helping her heal from the loss when we met. But the horrors of 9/11 and the subsequent deaths of American and Israeli forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon in the years that followed ripped open those wounds afresh. Through Lynn and Charlie, my wife and I have gotten a personal and painful glimpse at the lasting emotional scars left by the jihadists.

When I set out to write this book, I wrestled with whether or not to even ask Lynn if I could share her story. In the end, however, I did ask. I felt it was important for others to understand the human impact of the Revolution and to realize that for the victims of terrorism, the trauma is in many ways as real today as it was so long ago.

Graciously, Lynn and Charlie agreed.

“He Made Sure I Was Safe”

“I loved Vince,” Lynn explained as we sat in her living room and talked over coffee. “Vince was my hero, my protector, my friend. He was so much more than a brother. I have six brothers and two sisters, and he was the oldest. And he was always the one who would come in and stop the family fights. He was always the one who would tell my brothers, ‘Okay, quit pickin’ on her; enough is enough.’ You know, whatever practical joke they were playing—putting frogs in my pockets or whatever. Vince would just swoop in and rescue me from this kind of sibling fun. I always looked to Vince as my savior. Vince was always the one who made sure I was safe.”

Vince graduated with honors from high school, then headed off to the Naval Academy. He played football. He sang in the glee club. He also became a follower of Jesus Christ while at the Naval Academy through long conversations with Lynn’s cousin, a strong believer, who was there as well.

In time, Vince fell in love, got married, and then went off to basic training and flight school before becoming a pilot, most often flying Cobra attack helicopters.

In May of 1983, he was sent to Beirut to serve as the air liaison officer for the group, making sure that when ground troops needed air support—whether for transporting supplies or a for combat mission—they got what they needed.

“This Can’t Be Happening”

In October of that year, Lynn was living in New Mexico. Newly married, she and her husband had just come home from church on a beautiful Sunday morning when her neighbor ran to meet her. Tears were streaming down her neighbor’s face. She grabbed at Lynn’s arm as Lynn was getting out of the car. “You’ve gotta come in the house,” she said. “Something terrible has happened! You gotta come watch the news.”

“It was about ten in the morning,” Lynn recalled. “I kept saying, ‘Well, just tell me what’s happened—just tell me.’ We went into her house—and this was before they had 24/7 coverage of news events, so we had to wait through whatever the program was until the next time they broke in with their special report—and I kept saying to her, ‘Tell me what’s wrong; tell me!’ We were both crying, and I just couldn’t conceive of what was happening. So then when the news came on, I was obviously prepared that there was a huge tragedy, but I just didn’t . . . I just couldn’t think. And so when the news came on the television, it was almost like being physically hit. I kind of sat back in the chair—‘This can’t be happening, this can’t be true.’”

Network newscasters reported that suicide bombers had attacked the Marine barracks in Beirut as well as the barracks housing French peacekeepers. There were 241 Americans dead, 56 dead from the French barracks, and many more wounded.

Lynn rushed back home and called her parents, who were living in Washington, D.C., but they were not home. Nobody had cell phones back then, so she had no way of reaching them.

She then called Vince’s wife, also in the D.C. area, and found her parents already there, trying to comfort her and her young son. Lynn asked her father, who was an active duty colonel in the Marine Corps at the time, “Dad, don’t you know what’s happening? Can’t you tell us anything?”

“We just don’t know anything yet,” her father replied, noting that his colleagues were saying a massive search-and-rescue operation was under way because there were so many men still unaccounted for. 

“That was a Sunday,” Lynn remembered, “and it was two and a half, almost three weeks later before they were able to identify Vince’s body. So it was just every day—going into my neighbor’s house to watch the television and calling my parents every day. My dad finally said, after about the fourth day, ‘Honey, I know it’s hard, but I promise I’ll call you if I find anything out. I’m not gonna leave you out. I promise I’ll call.’

“I was a schoolteacher, and I went to school and was trying to teach, and I just couldn’t even function. I would be writing on the blackboard and forget midsentence what I was writing. I would turn around and look at these little sixth graders, and I just kept leaving the room. But I couldn’t not go to work, because that’s even worse. So if you can just imagine . . . waiting—nineteen days—to find out whether someone you love is dead or alive. It was torture.”

“How did you finally get the news?” I asked her.

“My father called me on a Thursday morning. It was about 5:00 a.m., I think. And when the phone rang, I knew. I just knew. You know, you have a sixth sense about that stuff. I answered the phone, and he said, ‘It’s time to come home. They’ve identified Vince, and it’s time to come home to bury him.’

“That was a whirlwind in itself, trying to get from a tiny little town in central New Mexico back to Washington, D.C., and see to the funeral arrangements, and it was just surreal. They buried him in Quantico Cemetery. It was the first time I had been back together with most of my family since my wedding day. So to go from the joy of seeing your family at your wedding and then to be together at a funeral, it was just terrible.

“And I really couldn’t believe it. I spent a long time in that first of stage of grief, where you say, ‘This isn’t happening; this can’t be real; this isn’t me.’ Because I was accustomed to Vince being gone for a long time. He was seven years older than me. When I was eleven, he went away to the Naval Academy, and I was accustomed to not seeing him. He would be gone for long stretches, and then we would get letters and hear whatever was going on with him. Then he would be home for a few days, and then he’d be gone again for six months. So I just had this surreal feeling that, ‘He’s gonna come home. He’s gonna come home.’

“Of course it was a closed casket, so I had to talk myself into believing that he was in that box. I remember when we went to the funeral home the night before the funeral. They had the casket in a room and you could go in and kneel down and pray, and they gave each of us an opportunity to do that. Here’s this flag-draped casket and all these flowers, and there’s nothing there that was Vince. It couldn’t be—it just couldn’t be. I remember kneeling down and praying, ‘Lord, how could You do this? If You really are a loving God, how could You let this happen?’

“And as strange as it sounds, I really couldn’t believe it even through the whole funeral. I flew back to New Mexico still feeling that it wasn’t real, because there were men who had survived the bombing who weren’t identified for a long time, who were airlifted to a hospital in Germany or somewhere. They were bandaged head to toe and were recovering, and it was weeks before they figured out who these people were because they were so badly banged up. They were unrecognizable. And I kept dreaming. I’d wake up in the middle of the night sitting up, like you see in Hollywood films, screaming his name, because I was just convinced that he couldn’t have died. It wasn’t possible.”

“I’d Never Heard of Suicide Bombing”

In time, U.S. authorities reconstructed the chain of events that led to the bombing.

They learned that after months of monitoring operations at the barracks housing the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit, Hezbollah operatives had ambushed a truck that was headed to the compound to deliver fresh water. The operatives then quickly replaced that truck with one they had painted to look like the one Marine guards were expecting. This nineteen-ton vehicle, however, had been outfitted with some 2,500 pounds of high-tech explosives.

The driver, the U.S. later learned, was a devout jihadist, eager to give up his life to kill Americans and thus, he hoped, secure his place in paradise.

As the sun was just beginning to rise on a gorgeous autumn day in the Lebanese capital, “the driver drove past the Marine barracks” and “circled in the large parking lot behind the barracks.” He then pushed the accelerator to the floor, “crashed through the concertina wire barrier and a wall of sandbags, and entered the barracks.” The force of the explosion was equivalent to between 15,000 and 21,000 pounds of TNT.[ii]

At the time, of course, Lynn and her family knew almost none of the details. They were operating in the fog of war, amid rumors and scraps of information. Moreover, they were dealing with a kind of warfare that had never been used against Americans before.

“I’d never heard of suicide bombing,” Lynn recalled. “And up until Vince went there, I had never heard of Lebanon. I’m embarrassed to say I was one of the average Americans who doesn’t know anything about geography. We had to look it up on a map. I had never heard of terrorists, of course. I had heard of Muslims, but I’d never heard of this whole idea of radical Muslims and jihad and all of that sort of stuff. None of us had ever heard of that.”

Lynn was not alone; this was the first known suicide bombing by Muslims against American targets in history.

Many Americans were unsure why we had forces in Lebanon in the first place and demanded that we pull out. We were not there making peace, they argued. We obviously were not keeping the peace. There was no peace. So what was the point?

Unfortunately, the U.S. government offered no answers. In my view, the Reagan administration should have attacked Hezbollah camps with a vengeance, making it clear that killing Americans would not pay. They also should have given the Marines clearer rules of engagement. Incredibly, at the time Marine “peacekeepers” in Lebanon weren’t allowed to carry weapons with live rounds in them. The Marine guards on duty the morning of the attack had not even been allowed to chamber rounds of ammunition in their weapons, making them helpless to stop the suicide bomber as he sped toward them. They were sitting ducks.

All of that should have changed immediately. But instead of showing strength in the face of the jihadist challenge, the Reagan administration cut and ran. On February 7, 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced that he was pulling the Marines out of Lebanon.

Not a few Americans breathed a sigh of relief. But among jihadists throughout the region, there was elation. The “Great Satan” had just been dealt a significant blow. The Americans were now in retreat, all because of one driver willing to give up his life to kill others. This was a model, they concluded, that had to be replicated.

Iran’s Involvement

And then the story took a curious twist.

“Right after the bombing,” Lynn explained, “Hezbollah came forward and claimed credit for having done this, and in a very bragging, grandiose way: ‘We killed all these Americans! We’re gettin’ ’em! We’re gettin’ ’em where it counts, and we’re the ones; we did it!’ But by pretty early in 1984, it became clear that Hezbollah was doing this at the behest of the Iranian government.”

Sure enough, over the next few years, as the U.S. government continued to investigate the attack, it became increasingly clear that the entire operation had been set into motion not by Hezbollah alone but with the direct assistance of the Khomeini regime in Tehran. The mounting evidence was so compelling, the families of the slain Marines eventually decided to join together and file a wrongful death suit against the Islamic Republic of Iran. In so doing, they hoped to prove once and for all in a court of law that Iran was, in fact, responsible for the deaths of their loved ones. They also hoped to punish the regime in the only way they could, since neither the Reagan administration nor any U.S. administration that followed had punished anyone for the wanton murder of American Marines.

“I’m just a soccer mom,” Lynn demurred. “Really, I’m just trying to raise my children and keep my household running. I’m going to the grocery store and doing the laundry and those kind of things, so most of this about radical Islam I don’t really understand. It’s way above my pay grade. It wasn’t until we were actually at the trial and I was hearing the testimony they had gathered that I understood how cut-and-dried the case really was, how completely and thoroughly responsible the government of Iran was for the death of my brother and the other 240 Americans that were killed that day.”

Overwhelming Evidence

Lynn was right. During the court case, which the families ultimately won, many facts came to light that proved beyond a doubt that Iran was behind the attack. Consider the following excerpts from the trial judge’s written opinion:[iii]

  •  “The post-revolutionary government in Iran . . . declared its commitment to spread the goals of the 1979 revolution to other nations. Towards that end, between 1983 and 1988, the government of Iran spent approximately $ 50 to $ 150 million financing terrorist organizations in the Near East. One of the nations to which the Iranian government directed its attention was the war-torn republic of Lebanon.”
  •  “Dr. Michael Ledeen, a consultant to the Department of Defense at the time of the Marine barracks bombing and an expert on U.S. foreign relations, testified at the trial that ‘Iran invented, created, funded, trained, and runs to this day Hezbollah, which is arguably the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization.’”
  •  “The fake water delivery truck . . . [was] driven by Ismalal Ascari, an Iranian.”
  •  “On October 25, 1983, the chief of naval intelligence notified Admiral [James A.] Lyons of an intercept of a message between Tehran and Damascus that had been made on or about September 26, 1983. . . . The message directed the Iranian ambassador to contact . . . the leader of the terrorist group . . . and to instruct him to have his group instigate attacks against the multinational coalition in Lebanon, and ‘to take a spectacular action against the United States Marines.’” (emphasis added)
  •  “Based on the evidence presented by expert witnesses at trial, the Court finds that it is beyond question that Hezbollah and its agents received massive material and technical support from the Iranian government.”

An Order from the Top

One of the judge’s conclusions was that “the sophistication demonstrated in the placement of an explosive charge in the center of the Marine barracks building and the devastating effect of the detonation of the charge indicates that it is highly unlikely that this attack could have resulted in such loss of life without the assistance of regular military forces, such as those of Iran.”[iv]

Which brings up the question: would the Ayatollah Khomeini have been required to give approval to such a plan?

At one point in the trial, lawyers questioned Dr. Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, on this very issue. Clawson said there was no doubt in his mind that such a massive attack against American forces had to have been approved at the highest possible level of the Iranian regime, specifically by Khomeini himself. Otherwise, he argued, Hezbollah would never have even considered making a move against the U.S.

Q: In the fall of 1983, was there anything of a significant nature, and especially a terrorist attack [of] the dimensions of the attack on the Marine barracks of October 23, 1983, which would or could have been undertaken by Hezbollah without material support from Iran?

Clawson: Iran’s material support would have been absolutely essential for any activities at that time, and furthermore, the politics of the organization [were such] that no one in the organization would have thought about carrying out an activity without Iranian approval and almost certainly Iranian orders.

Q: Is that opinion within a reasonable degree of certainty as an expert on Iran?

Clawson: Absolutely, sir.

Q: Would any such operation as the October 23rd, 1983, attack require the approval within Iran of the Ministry of Information and Security?

Clawson: Yes, sir.

Q: What about [Iranian prime minister] Rafsanjani?

Clawson: There would have been a discussion in the National Security Council, which would involve the prime minister, Mr. Rafsanjani. . . . It would also have required the approval of Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.[v]

Justice for the Survivors

When the trial was over and all the evidence had been examined and thoroughly reviewed, the Honorable Royce C. Lamberth, the U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia, ruled that agents acting on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran “caused the deaths of over 241 peacekeeping servicemen at the Marine barracks” in a “willful and deliberate act of extrajudicial killing.” Moreover, Judge Lamberth concluded that Hezbollah, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security “are jointly and severally liable to the plaintiffs for compensatory and punitive damages.”[vi]

I asked Lynn what her reaction was when she heard the verdict.

“I sank to my knees in gratitude,” she replied instantly. “I was so grateful. To me, it was a piece of justice that had finally been done. To be able to finally say, ‘Here’s the guilty party; we can name somebody who has done this’ was a huge step down the road to justice.”

“No order from this Court will restore any of the 241 lives that were stolen on October 23, 1983,” Judge Lamberth wrote in the closing section of his opinion. “Nor is this Court able to heal the pain that has become a permanent part of the lives of their mothers and fathers, their spouses and siblings, and their sons and daughters. But the Court can take steps that will punish the men who carried out this unspeakable attack, and in so doing, try to achieve some small measure of justice for its survivors, and for the family members of the 241 Americans who never came home.”

On September 7, 2007, after reviewing the merits of each individual member of the class action suit, Judge Lamberth ordered Iran to pay more than $ 2.6 billion to the nearly one thousand survivors and family members of those killed. “The cost of state-sponsored terrorism,” he said, “just went up.”[vii]

The families of the victims know that the chances of their ever actually receiving any of the settlement money are very low. And even victory cannot heal all the wounds.

“Twenty-four years later, the wound in my heart over Vincent’s death is still gaping wide,” Lynn shared with me as our conversation drew to a close. “Now why is that? It’s because the criminals are getting away with their crime. And it’s because they’re continuing to commit similar crimes and other people are suffering and dying at their hands. So there’s a sense of hopelessness. There’s a sense that this is never going to end, that our world has changed completely and we’ll never be able to go back to feeling safe. You know, we’re not safe in the United States, we’re not free in the United States. We’re in bondage to our fear—the fear of terrorism. Now you just look around Washington, look around the airports, all those security measures, all the big barricades, the concrete barriers. All that stuff is a result of terrorism, because we’re afraid of terrorists.”

Hezbollah’s Continuing Threat

Sadly, Lynn is right. Those responsible for the Marine barracks attack continue to get away with their crimes, and to plot new ones. Hezbollah is widely regarded in intelligence circles as the most dangerous Shia Muslim terrorist organization in the world. Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has said that “Hezbollah may be the A team of terrorists,” while “al Qaeda is actually the B team.”[i]

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, continues to breathe murderous threats against Americans and Israelis and to recruit and train jihadists while working closely with Tehran to prepare for the Islamic messiah known as the Mahdi to come and bring about the end of the world. Consider a mere sampling of Nasrallah’s statements:

  •  “Let the entire world hear me. Our hostility to the Great Satan [America] is absolute. . . . Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September, ‘Death to America’ will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: ‘Death to America.’”[ii]
  •  “We do not believe in multiple Islamic republics; we do believe, however, in a single Islamic world governed by a central government.”[iii]
  •  “Jerusalem and Palestine will not be regained with political games but with guns.”[iv]
  •  “America will remain the nation’s chief enemy and the greatest Satan of all. Israel will always be for us a cancerous growth that needs to be eradicated.”[v]
  •  “We pledge to persevere on the path [our founders] had chosen, the path of Khomeini and Khameini.”[vi]
  •  “I ask Almighty Allah . . . to make you the men who would clear the way for the Mahdi of this earth to establish divine justice.”[vii]
[To read more, see Inside The Revolution, now in paperback]


[i] Cited by Daniel Byman, “Should Hezbollah Be Next?” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2003, http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20031101faessay82606/daniel-byman/should-hezbollah-be-next.html?mode=print, accessed August 24, 2008.

[ii] Cited by BBC Monitoring: Al-Manar TV, September 27, 2002; see Deborah Passner, “Hassan Nasrallah: In His Own Words,” research paper produced by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, July 26, 2006, http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=7&x_issue=11&x_article=1158, accessed July 6, 2006.

[iii] Cited by Nicholas Noe, editor, Voice of Hezbollah: The Statements of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, p. 32.

[iv] Ibid, p. 50.

[v] Ibid, p. 54.

[vi] Ibid, p. 54.

[vii] Cited by Mohamad Shmaysani, “Al-Sayyed Nasrallah: Drill Shows Resistance Full Readiness,” al-Manar, August 11, 2007.


[i] See Hon. Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge, District of Columbia, “Memoradum Opinion” in the case of Plaintiffs v. The Islamic Republic of Iran, May 30, 2003, p. 16.

[ii] Ibid, p. 16.

[iii] Ibid, pp. 7–19

[iv] Ibid, pp. 18–19

[v] Ibid, p. 10.

[vi] Ibid, pp. 24–25.

[vii] See “Iran must pay $ 2.6 billion for attack on U.S. Marines, judge rules,” CNN, September 7, 2007.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

With interest in Gog & Magog prophecies growing, Muslim scholar writes analysis from Islamic perspective.

gogmagog-islambook(Netanya, Israel) — Interest in the prophecies of Gog & Magog seem to be growing in recent years. With the Russian-Iranian alliance strengthening, and significant turbulence in the Middle East, I’m seeing more and more Christians and Jews — pastors, Rabbis, scholars and lay people — studying the prophecies found in Ezekiel 38-39, and the distinctly different but similarly named prophecy found in Revelation 20. I’m even seeing more people Tweeting about Gog & Magog.

When I wrote The Ezekiel Option as a novel in 2005 about how the “last days” prophecy involving a Russian-Iranian alliance might come to pass, I had no idea the depth of interest there would be. Nor did I anticipate the depth and breadth of interest I found when I wrote the non-fiction book, Epicenter (originally released in 2006, and later released in a paperback 2.0 edition), explaining the prophecies in more detail.

But what has really intrigued me is that there is also growing interest in the Muslim world. In part, this is because the Qur’an refers to these prophecies. Recently, I learned that an Islamic scholar published a free ebook in 2009 entitled, An Islamic View of Gog and Magog in the Modern World. I have only begun to read it, but I didn’t want to wait to bring it to your attention. The Islamic author, Imran N. Hosein, makes the case the war will be against Israel. He argue that Russia is “Magog.” He claims that “Gog” is the “Anglo-American alliance.” He believes the war is approaching, and bemoans the fact that not enough Muslim leaders are focused on this issue.

“I began my study of Gog and Magog more than fifteen years ago in the early 90’s while resident in New York,” writes Hosein. “My subsequent public lectures on the subject never failed to provoke keen interest from my Muslim audiences in several parts of the world. The evidence and arguments presented in the chapter on Gog and Magog in my book, ‘Jerusalem in the Qur’an’, succeeded in convincing many who read the book that we now live in a world dominated by Gog and Magog. They were easily convinced that the ‘town’ mentioned in the Qur’ān in Sūrah al-Anbiyāh’ (21:95-6) was Jerusalem and hence, that Gog and Magog (and Dajjāl) explained the ominously unfolding ‘war on Islam’ with slaughter and destruction of Muslims in so many parts of the world. As a consequence, such readers also understood Israel’s mysterious imperial agenda, and many have been making efforts to extricate themselves and their families from the embrace of Gog and Magog – an embrace that will take 999 out of every 1000 of mankind into the hellfire. Despite my best efforts, however, I failed miserably, again and again, to convince my learned peers, the scholars of Islam, that Gog and Magog were even released into the world. I earnestly hope and pray that this book might make a difference Insha’ Allah.”

Expect interest in Gog & Magog to keep growing around the world and in all three major monotheistic religions.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog