Today, May 8, 2018, might become an infamous day in American foreign policy and in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Or it may not. But it is likely to be seen as a very significant move toward the next great war in the Middle East. It is unlikely to send the entire region into a state of war. However, it will increase tensions in the longer-term, even while it reduces tensions in the immediate future.
The JCPOA is Now History
There is no doubt that terminating America’s participation in the JCPOA (Joint cooperative plan of action) alienates the U.S. from Russia, China, and even our European allies. At the same time, our most important ally in the Middle East, Israel, is praising Trump’s decision. And yet, the final word on the ‘pull out’ of the treaty is still subject to further discussion over the next two weeks according to some sources. America could terminate its involvement but not reinstate sanctions against Iran. Additionally, by supporting the Iranian agreement, the U.S. could elect to bring sanctions against those nations that continue to support the agreement. This could lead to strained relations in all directions between the U.S. and everyone else except Israel.
Is Military Action Imminent?
At this moment, Israel and Iran are repositioning troops. Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border will probably draw fire from Israel at the drop of a hat. Hezbollah boasts over 150,000 troops supported by Iran and they are prepared for war. But, given Iran is over 500 miles away from Israel, most experts believe that Iran and Israel can’t go into “hand-to-hand” combat, but can only exchange airstrikes and conduct a proxy war in southwest Syria along the Golan Heights. Still, the possibility of a nuclear exchange looms if one believes the rhetoric of the respective sides. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent presentation on “Iran’s Big Lie” concerning its actual nuclear bomb project (conducted over a decade ago despite denials to the contrary), was timed to demonstrate to world leaders that Iran can’t be trusted and Trump is justified in pulling out of the JCPOA. His PowerPoint may not have convinced European leaders, but it no doubt wasn’t meant for them. It was targeted to Donald Trump’s base in the U.S. From the standpoint of keeping his promise, Trump benefitted from Mr. Netayahu’s timely polemics. A “casus belli” was well articulated and a majority of Americans buy it. So we must wait to see what the next action will be – but we won’t be waiting very long.
May 8, Iran and Israel Prepare for War, Geopolitical Futures
The U.S. has an aircraft carrier group present in the eastern Mediterranean and stands ready to protect American interests in the Levant (which generally means the U.S. will defend Israel in the event of its being attacked).
This event, coupled with the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in the next week, provides a double dose of pro-Israel medicine that Islamic leaders (and the Palestinians) opposing the Israel/U.S. alliance must accept. Will they just swallow hard and move on? This seems improbable. These two actions by Trump and the recent Israeli bombing of a missile cache in Syria seem sure to precipitate a major reaction to the conflict.
But what might Iran do in response? It is predictable that Hezbollah will soon fire Iranian-made missiles at Israel – those not destroyed in the aforementioned attack. This will likely lead to a significant military response on the part of Israel. And even if Hezbollah doesn’t initiate a war, Israel will. Israel has a consistent pattern of preemptive strikes. There is no reason it will hold back now. However, as long as Iran, Russia, Turkey and other states in the northern Islamic confederacy don’t strike Israel directly, it is unlikely the U.S. will get directly involved at this time. Just being in the neighborhood with our allegiances clear is enough. Our military strength and presence create a dampening effect on major military action, but it has little effect on the conflict between Israel, Hezbollah (and indirectly Iran). This means that it is doubtful that Russia or China will engage in a regional war at this time. And if Israel decides to go all out in its military efforts against Hezbollah (which is likely in my opinion), expect Israel not only to aggressively strike Hezbollah with massive bombing runs but to also direct the IDF to cross the provisional border between Israel and Syria. That is, the IDF will engage Hezbollah on the battlefield, attempt to destroy its missile cache, and likely weaken Hezbollah’s position in a meaningful way. I expect a ground war in southern Syria this summer.
What Does Trump Want?
Trump’s gambit appears to be seeking regime change in Iran. The Iranian leader, Rouhani, is not in a strong position after years of sanctions. According to Jacob Shapiro of Geopolitical Futures (May 8, 2018):
… the biggest impact of ending the deal will be felt within Iran itself. The Rouhani administration, which represents a political faction that wants to reduce state control of the economy and curtail the wide-ranging power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, banked its future on the JCPOA. Rouhani believed the influx of foreign capital and the attendant economic benefits would legitimize his ambitious political reforms. Rouhani’s administration even moved to arrest key IRGC figures last September. Now, Rouhani’s grip appears to be loosening. Rouhani took to the airwaves over the weekend to criticize an Iranian ban on the messaging app Telegram, alluding to decisions made at the “highest level of the system” to which he had no recourse. Hard-liners in Iran suspected the U.S. would pull out of the deal as soon as it was no longer consistent with U.S. interests and will be vindicated at home if the deal fails.
David Sanger (New York Times, May 8, 2018) summarizes the situation this way:
For President Trump and two of the allies he values most — Israel and Saudi Arabia — the problem of the Iranian nuclear accord was not, primarily, about nuclear weapons. It was that the deal legitimized and normalized the clerical Iranian government, reopening it to the world economy with oil revenue that financed its adventures in Syria and Iraq and its support of terror groups.
Now, with his announcement Tuesday that he is exiting the Iran deal and will reimpose economic sanctions on the country and firms around the world that do business with it, Mr. Trump is engaged in a grand, highly risky experiment.
Trump also wants to demonstrate toughness to Kim Jong-un (North Korea’s dictator) to make doubly sure that the negotiations on the future of the Korean peninsula move forward in a favorable way. And, if Trump can force Iran back to the table (which seems unlikely for a number of months), it is certainly conceivable that Trump will win big in dealing with the other half of the modern day “axis of evil” (Iran, North Korea being its ally). This may well result. Trump could conceivably accomplish his goals for peace between North and South Korea while at the same time, fail miserably in the Middle East.
However, I assert that this course of action ultimately will only harden the resolve of the Islamic nations to conspire against Israel to find a “final solution.” If so, then what happens during the month of May 2018, promises to be a primary driver pushing the region toward its next great war involving Russia, Iran, Turkey, and also Islamic nations to the south, all confederating against Israel. Note: this doesn’t confirm the Psalm 83 war looked for by so many. Instead, it points to the war at the outset of the so-called Tribulation period. It has been my view (as outlined in my book, The Next Great War in the Middle East) that the Psalm 83 war is not what comes next. Rather, the “big one” is what we should expect. It is what the ancient prophets of Israel saw as the Messianic War concluding the age.
In conclusion, this sparring between Israel and Iran may trigger World War III. So it is that what happens in 2018 could lead us to the war of Ezekiel 38-39. In other words, what prophecy scholars call the war of Gog and Magog now becomes even more likely as a result of Trump’s gamble.