A best-selling Christian author known for his high-level government contacts inside Israel says most of the candidates running for president, including the front-runners of both major parties, are ill-prepared to deal with the threat of what he calls "apocalyptic Islam."
Joel C. Rosenberg, author of the popular "Last Jihad" series and "Epicenter" among many other novels and non-fiction books, says Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton do not have the skill set needed to deal with Iran's mullahs or the growing threat of the Islamic State.
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"I would say there are probably three candidates right now who are particularly strong on this issue," said Rosenberg, whose latest novel, "The First Hostage," centers on a plot by Islamic terrorists to kidnap the U.S. president. "The person that's been speaking and working on these issues for the longest is former Sen. Rick Santorum. He wrote the original sanctions on Iran. He's very experienced."
Given that Santorum "doesn’t seem to have traction" with voters, Rosenberg said the next tier of candidates he sees as most prepared to deal with the Islamic threat are Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
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"I've been impressed by Sen. Marco Rubio. I've met with him to talk about these issues in Iowa, and then he's asked me to send him various fact sheets and backup and he has been speaking about 'apocalyptic Islam' in debates, in speeches, so he's embraced that language, not because I persuaded him but we did talk about some of the nuances, and he's served on the Senate foreign-relations committee as well as the intelligence committee."
Aside from his writing career, Rosenberg is founder of the Joshua Fund, which seeks to mobilize Christians to "bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus."
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Rubio adopts 'apocalyptic' language
Rosenberg spoke with WND Thursday, just hours before the GOP debate. During the debate Rubio again spoke of "apocalyptic Islam," saying ISIS has an end-times vision that involves provoking Western powers into a "World War III" scenario in Dabiq, Syria.
Cruz also has impressed Rosenberg.
"He has spoken a little bit about apocalyptic Islam. I've met him several times. I've spent more time with his father than him," he said. "But I've met with some of his colleagues and advisers, so I feel confident that he understands the threat."
"I would put those three in a different category, of people who get it and have demonstrated to me that they're serious about neutralizing the threat of Iran and ISIS."
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Rosenberg says "radical Islam" is a threat in itself and includes groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that work to implement Shariah law in various parts of the world.
But within radical Islam is another group of Muslims that believes in "apocalyptic Islam," he said, and this includes the Islamic State, also called ISIS.
"All devout Muslims, whether Sunni or Shiite, believe in the coming of their so-called Mahdi in the last days, that he will establish a global Islamic caliphate in the last days and they believe in a final judgment," Rosenberg told WND. "But that doesn't mean all Muslims believe in committing genocide."
"What is unique about Iran and ISIS is they believe in a genocidal eschatology, that you believe you must slaughter thousands or millions to accomplish your religious objectives, and this is stated openly by both those regimes," he said. "I produce fact sheets on both so people can examine for themselves what we're talking about because this stuff sounds crazy, and it can be hard to grasp without looking at the data. The problem is the candidates are not looking at the data."
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Rosenberg, 48, is author of 10 fiction and five non-fiction books about Islam, the Middle East and Bible prophecy. His novels have sold more than 3 million copies.
Born in Rochester, New York, to a Jewish father and gentile mother, Rosenberg now makes his home in Israel with his wife and family.
A major theme of his books is that to misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it.
"On Dec. 7, 1941, we were blindsided by an imperial Japan," he told WND. "On Sept. 11, 2001, we were blindsided by al-Qaida."
On the Democratic side, Rosenberg sees no evidence that the party's leaders are interested in even having an honest debate about the true nature of "radical" or "apocalyptic" Islam.
"Secretary Clinton fully supports President Obama's approach toward Iran and the Islamic State. I've seen no daylight between Clinton and Obama," he said. "In fact, Secretary Clinton fully supports the Iran nuclear deal."
Flirting with evil
Rosenberg said his novels, though fiction, are heavily researched and based on insights he's gleaned from many political, intelligence and religious leaders.
"I was sitting and having breakfast recently with former CIA Director James Woolsey, who of course worked under (Mrs. Clinton's) husband and he said something to me I found interesting. He said if you read through the Iran deal, as an arms control agreement it's not that bad, if it were made with Denmark, or some other rational, normal government," he said. "But when you make the deal with an Iranian regime that is calling for the annihilation of the U.S. and Israel and is driven by an apocalyptic, end-times, theology, the deal is not only dangerous but insane.
"That's what Obama has done and that's what Clinton supports," he said.
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A what about Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist running against Hillary Clinton in the primaries?
"Mr. Sanders goes even further, saying we should normalize relations with Iran," Rosenberg said. "Clearly the two leading Democrats running for president and the current president have no idea how dangerous Iran is and so they're making bad decisions," he said.
Not impressed by Trump
In doling out report cards for the GOP presidential candidates, Rosenberg seems to save his most stinging rebuke for Trump.
By describing Obama's Iran nuclear deal as a badly negotiated "contract," Trump misses the point, according to Rosenberg. This is not to be treated as a real estate deal, he said, but something where lives hang in the balance.
"The leading candidate in the GOP has no clue. He would be an absolute catastrophe as president," Rosenberg says. "He said he would not rip up the deal with Iran. He says it's a contract. First of all it's not a contract. Our government has not signed it and Congress has not approved it. This is like a gentleman's agreement between our president and the government of Iran. So he doesn't understand just how dangerous it is."
Rosenberg said Trump's lack of experience in matters of foreign policy has leaked out in some of his comments.
"Mr. Trump says he would kill not only the terrorists but their families. So this is a war crime. Mr. Trump is proposing war crimes as a solution, as a foreign policy," he said. "This is insane. And yet many conservatives and many evangelicals are supporting Mr. Trump.
"So on the topic of foreign policy and the Islamic state we have a president who doesn't understand the nature of the threat and we have two front runners who are not prepared to do anything to neutralize that threat."
Rosenberg said he believes the vast majority of Muslims are not violent by nature.
"About 90 percent of the Islamic world does not subscribe to violent jihad," he said. "About 7 to 10 percent support violent jihad. Now radical Islam, their objective is to attack us, whereas apocalyptic Islam wants to annihilate us. Radical Islam wants to use violence to drive the infidel out of their part of the world.
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"Apocalyptic Islam isn't simply trying to attack us on their soil but all over because it wants to establish an Islamic caliphate all over the globe."
He said there's no way to stop apocalyptic Islam without destroying the entire movement. Limited strikes being doled out by the Obama administration are like pinpricks – they can be annoying or even painful but will only help the apocalyptic leaders of ISIS to expand their appeal and their worldwide recruitment efforts.
"It's not going to work because, the more you retreat, they're coming to the next genocidal group to expand their kingdom," Rosenberg said.
He sees "apocalyptic Islam" is a subset within "radical Islam."
"Quite a few of the Republican candidates do understand this generally," he said. "But the two Cubans (Cruz and Rubio) and certainly Santorum above all, have really demonstrated to me they know what they are talking about."
Rosenberg said Rubio made a mistake by sponsoring the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill in 2013.
"He was approaching immigration purely as a domestic policy and that was I think a mistake," he said. "His membership in the Gang of Eight, as he's repented of that, he's used that to justify why he was wrong before."
Rosenberg then returned to criticizing Trump as "having absolutely no idea what he's talking about."
"He's talking about killing women and children, and he won't rip up the Iran deal. I'm just Identifying people who are showing good judgment on these issues and I'm disturbed that the frontrunner has shown none," Rosenberg said. "He has spoken highly of Vladimir Putin. And yet you have a big chunk of the Republican Party and evangelicals who are drawn to him and aren't working their way through the issues. There is nobody in the party worse than Mr. Trump on foreign policy and national security issues. I'm convinced he would be an unmitigated disaster."
Surprised by Trump's evangelical support
Rosenberg said he is most surprised by Trump's ability to garner support from evangelicals.
"Generally I think the conservatives and evangelicals, they see him as strong, and as tough, but they perhaps are not paying close attention to the fact that he's wrong and ill-informed and irrational on foreign policy," he said. "He is not rooted in the basic principles of American liberty and security. When asked where does he get his foreign policy advice from, he said he gets it from the Sunday-morning TV shows. I meet with CIA directors, prime ministers and foreign ministers – and I'm a novelist. I think the standard ought to be a little higher for the frontrunner of the Republican nomination for president."
In contrast to many other conservative pundits, who see Trump as unstoppable in his drive to win the GOP nomination, Rosenberg said he expects Trump to lose some traction as the primaries unfold.
"I suspect Trump is going to hit some speed bumps and we'll watch an emerging race between Cruz and Rubio," he said.
Here are Rosenberg's opinions on some of the other GOP candidates:
Rand Paul: Like Trump, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has said he would not rip up the deal with Iran. Rosenberg is not a fan of Paul's "isolationist' worldview.
"Rand Paul would be horrible. He has a set of principles that are isolationist that I don't agree with but he isn't getting traction," Rosenberg said.
Ben Carson: "I believe Dr. Carson is a genius as a surgeon and a complete novice when it comes to foreign policy and national security. The stakes and the risks we face as American people are too great to entrust to a novice. The oval office is not a place for on-the-job training. The role of Commander in chief is not for the uninitiated. And to put it in the hands of people who don't know what they're doing is foolishness, especially when there are people who do know and have displayed good judgment."
Jeb Bush: The former Florida governor, like Trump, Paul and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, has said he would not immediately tear up the deal with Iran.
"I like him. I think he's a good man. I think he has a solid world view on some of these issues but he has not shown strength as a commanding leader, he's sinking in the polls and is running ads to attack his own protégé (Rubio) so I don't think he's a real factor."
Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee: "I believe Huckabee and Christie have, generally, a reasonably sound understanding of radical Islam, but the three I mentioned, as I watched them they are talking with a level of detail that strikes me as different and deeper and better prepared."
Donald Trump: "He doesn't listen to anybody. He's unaccountable. He's a billionaire who would go to the White House not believing he has to talk to anybody, listen to anybody," Rosenberg said. "I would never have thought to create a candidate in a novel as unqualified and as dangerous as Donald J. Trump. He is a fictional character who would have never dawned on me. I think he is dangerous and the American people deserve better."