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Politics and Prophecy Make The Tehran Initiative

  • Glenn McCarty Contributing Writer
  • 2011 1 Nov
Politics and Prophecy Make <i>The Tehran Initiative</i>

Author: Joel Rosenberg

Title: The Tehran Initiative

Publisher: Tyndale House

As "what if" tales go, the scenario cooked up by Joel Rosenberg for his latest string of political thrillers is particularly juicy, equal parts political thriller and Middle Eastern political study, with a bit of end-times prophecy thrown in.

Rosenberg's latest, The Tehran Initiative is a sequel to 2010's The Twelfth Imam, which detailed the ascent to power of Muhammad Ibn Hasan Ibn Ali, also known as the 12th Imam or Mahdi, who according to the beliefs of certain Shi'a Muslims, will bring about the end of days.

In Tehran, Rosenberg weaves a mesmerizing blend of fact and fiction, made all the more mesmerizing by the fact that we often can't tell which is which. At times, it seems as if Rosenberg is reading a Time magazine from the future, and turning the news reports into novels.

As in Imam, CIA operative David Shirazi and his covert operations inside Iran form most of the novel's action. In a harrowing opening section, the President of the United States narrowly escapes death in a terrorist attack at a midtown Manhattan hotel, the same attack that claims the life of Egyptian president Abdel Ramzy.

In the attack's aftermath, intelligence begins to gather that not only does Iran possess eight nuclear warheads, but they plan on using them in the near future against enemies of Islam, specifically Israel.

This will-they-or-won't-they situation surrounding Israel's launch of a preemptive strike against Iran forms the central conflict of the novel. The standoff is so precisely paced that the pages which precede the fateful decision by Israeli prime minister Asher Naphtali race by.

Rosenberg is in full command of a cast of global characters. He understands there's greater tension to be found in the buildup than the payoff. He also gets that the political maneuvering between heads of state involves a hefty amount of internal conflict, so instead of focusing on the street-level reaction to these apocalyptic events, he focuses his lens on the power brokers, bouncing back and forth between nations and these political players for maximum tension.

Tension isn't Rosenberg's only goal, but by focusing on conflict and suspense, he steers this ship in a much more satisfactory direction than other end-of-days thrillers, which seemed crafted primarily for evangelistic purposes. Here the messages are more subtle, but no less compelling. Rosenberg finds his emotional gravity in several nuanced subplots, specifically one involving Marseille Harper, an old friend of Shirazi who finds herself drawn into the harrowing events.

Through her influence, Shirazi finds himself asking spiritual questions, and ultimately, being drawn closer to a faith in Christ, not simply because of the prophecies he witnesses being fulfilled, but because of the irresistible witness of Harper and others in his life.

Tehran is one of the year's most compelling reads. The veracity of novel's details - about interrogation methods, political deal-making, and military protocol - lends airtight credibility, and perhaps explains why Rosenberg has gained so much popularity, from both Washington insiders and average suburban families.

This is a novel with a wide scope, and the result is a timely thriller fraught with tension. It would be loads of fun if it weren't so chillingly rendered. The stark reality presented by Rosenberg asks as many questions about the nature of man as it does our society. Regardless of one's knowledge of end times prophecy or Middle Eastern politics, one comes away from Tehran with a begrudging appreciation of just how close we stand to slipping off the razor's edge and into global calamity.

*This review first published 11/1/2011