According to the Washington Post, it was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who talked Trump into the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, with an assist from Vice President Mike Pence. They report that Pompeo first proposed the idea months ago, which is at odds with the administration’s claim that the strike was based on intelligence about an “imminent threat.”
While the authors of that piece chronicle the fact that the secretary of state has been obsessed with Iran throughout his career in Congress, the CIA, and now at the State Department, they failed to address the question of what motivates his interest.
As Kathryn Joyce pointed out last March, “even amid an administration stacked with evangelical staffers and advisors, Pompeo stands out.” At about that time, the secretary of state was in Jerusalem and sat down for an interview with reporters from the Christian Broadcast Network.
Chris Mitchell asked Pompeo, “could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?”…
“As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible,” Pompeo said.
On that occasion, Pompeo was reacting to a question from a reporter. But a few months later, he gave a speech titled “The U.S. and Israel: a Friendship for Freedom.” He used the occasion to bring up the Biblical story of Esther himself.
A lot of people get spun up with the wrong ideas that American evangelicals want to impose a theocracy on America. I wish they would be concerned about the real theocratic takeover that has been happening in Iran for the last four decades. The ayatollahs have grievously deprived the Iranian people of that most basic, simple, fundamental right, their right to worship.
That same twisted, intolerant doctrine that fuels persecution inside Iran has also led the ayatollah and his cronies to cry out, quote, “death to Israel” for four decades now. This is similar to a cry that came out of Iran—then called Persia—many, many years ago.
It was in the 5th century B.C. There was a wicked advisor named King Xerxes. A fellow named Haman hatched a plot to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire. He secretly wrote letters with the king’s seal to all the provincial governors, ordering the people to rise up and attack the Jews. This edict, once issued, could not be revoked. But thanks to the courageous intervention of Queen Esther, who begged the king to show mercy to her people, Haman’s plot was exposed and the Jews were ultimately spared.
I wanted to tell this story today for a couple of reasons, because similar threats to the Jewish people have marked other eras as well… Thank God we have a leader in President Trump—an immovable friend of Israel.
Pompeo went on to articulate the Trump administration’s pressure campaign on Iran as a demonstration of its support for Israel.
The secretary gave that speech to a group known as Christians United for Israel (CUFI) that was the brainchild of John Hagee. Here is what Sarah Posner wrote about him back in 2006:
Hagee, who serves as head pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, hosts his own television program that is seen twice a day on TBN. He argues that the United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… With CUFI, which Hagee has said will cause a “political earthquake,” the televangelist aims to put the political organizing muscle of the conservative evangelical movement behind his grand plan for a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.
Vice President Mike Pence addressed the same group in 2017.
One of the things Hagee is known for is the elaborate charts he has created to predict the rapture and events leading up to the end times. He also has a history of making bigoted statements about Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. John McCain was forced to distance himself from the pastor after he received an endorsement for his presidential campaign in 2008. Clearly, neither Pompeo nor Pence share those concerns about Hagee and his organization.
What we are witnessing is a secretary of state who is conducting U.S. foreign policy in alignment with Christian Zionism, with the support of the vice president. While neoconservatives like John Bolton have their own twisted logic for wanting regime change in Iran, it is the belief that events in the Middle East align with Biblical prophecy about the end times that motivates Christian Zionists like Pompeo, Pence, and Hagee.
As I noted when the same crowd celebrated Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, rising tensions in the Middle East are a feature, not a bug, for these folks. That’s because all of this was prophesied thousands of years ago as a prelude to the rapture. In other words, they welcome the escalation.