FIVE YEARS LATER: WHAT DOES THE ARAB SPRING MEAN TO THE FULFILLMENT OF BIBLE PROPHECY?
It has been five years since a Tunisian street merchant ignited his clothing burning himself to death, and simultaneously igniting a fire that soon spread to the entire Middle East. The past five years have been a watershed period for politics in the region. The developing story strongly suggests that a dramatic shift in power has occurred and will transform the region. No longer will American interests dominate the Middle East (British and French interests waned long ago). Instead, Russia will oversee the strengthening of Iran and Iraq, but more specifically Shi’ite over Sunni. Moderate Arab states are in decline. The caliphate of ISIS, despite being under heavy attack, will likely persist in some way, shape, or form to foment mischief of the most heinous kind.
We have seen an enormous alteration in U.S. political policy in the Middle East. The standard refrain used to be conflict followed by nation building, which encouraged liberty and democracy. Instead, most critics charge that America employs a strategy of ousting autocratic leaders (our former allies) and setting fire, metaphorically speaking, to the offending country’s institutional structures. This picture of the United States is not one that Americans are used to seeing. Combined with the moral decay in American society that believers in Bible prophecy decry, failed U.S. foreign policy relying on often-underhanded covert operations by the CIA provokes increased alarm and a conviction to many Christians that God’s judgment cannot be too far distant.
Highlights of the Arab Spring
Let’s first recap highlights of five years of “Arab Spring” and assess how this series of unfortunate events have progressed the prophetic timeline toward fulfillment.
It was December 17, 2010 when Zine el Abidine Ben Ali performed his act of immolation. Within a few weeks of that graphic incident, protests began in Egypt’s Tahrir Square that led to the fall of long-time Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, followed by the installation of a Muslim brotherhood President, Mohammed Morsi, and then his ouster in June 2013, turning leadership over to army chief Abdel Fatah el-Sisi. Later, in June 2014 after el-Sisi resigned from the military, he was elected virtually unopposed and presently serves as Egyptian president. Meanwhile, Morsi sits in prison, having been sentenced to death – probably unjustly – by an Egyptian court. Morsi’s plight continues to ignite protests by Egyptian Muslims. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been outspoken about Morsi’s fate, asserting that such a travesty of justice would never be tolerated in Western courts. While there is no love loss by this author in respect to the Muslim Brotherhood, there remains a legitimate question about whether justice has been served and whether it is wise for the Egyptian regime to keep Morsi imprisoned and facing death.
Nine months after the sacrificial “first fire” of Ben Ali in Tunisia, Libyan President Muammar Gadhafi was assassinated trying to escape rebel forces outside Tripoli (20 October 2011). Rumors regarding his fate involve considerable intrigue. Some accounts allege that the coalition (France, England, and the United States) overthrew Gadhafi’s government to confiscate Libya’s gold. Additionally, it has been openly admitted by U.S. officials that the CIA was intricate to the planning of his overthrow ostensibly to enact justice for Gadhafi’s criminal actions targeting the West, including planning and carrying out various bombings; most notably Pan Am Flight 103, which crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland (22 December, 1988) after a bomb planted by Libyan terrorists exploded in its cargo hold. Post-Gadhafi, chaos reigns throughout Libya. Russian President Vladimir Putin points to Libya as what he contends is a classic example of CIA covert action and an expression of “standard” destructive American foreign policy in the Middle East. This accusation, unlike many others emanating from Russia, can no longer be so easily dismissed.
Today we find Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the center of controversy for his government’s murder of perhaps 250,000 Syrian civilians. But the U.S. joined the fight against Assad, i.e., the Syrian civil war, only in July 2014 after ISIS rebels beheaded American journalist James Foley (as recorded in an infamous and gruesome video). For two years before this event, despite recommendations from local American ambassadors, the U.S. remained reluctant to provide support to Syrian rebels. Afterwards, the current U.S. administration commenced bombing ISIS locations and began half-heartedly training moderate Syrian rebels (aka The Free Syrian Army – FSA) in Turkey and Jordan. Fearing that President Bashar would meet a similar fate to Gadhafi, Vladimir Putin intervened in the Syrian civil war to support Assad, justifying his actions as measures meant to “provide stabilization to the region.” His claim was that American had brought chaos to the region; he would reinforce law and order.
Of course, it was the Syrian civil war, and ISIS attacks which were the fundamental crises spurring the massive migration of over one million refugees, flooding Europe during 2015. The repercussions of this unplanned immigration will have vast implications, reshaping European politics and culture for the remainder of this century. Meanwhile, despite ten thousand sorties completed by coalition and Russian forces, ISIS still advances its global terrorist threat. The recent San Bernardino murders of 14 U.S. citizens provide a grim reminder. As long as ISIS remains intact, it will inspire future acts of terror.
NATO member Turkey has been on the cusp of war with Russia after shooting down a Russian fighter on November 24, 2015, that Turkey claims was invading Turkish airspace. Never mind that Turkey was guilty of using the Syrian civil war as an excuse to continue its assault on Kurdish “rebels” – who had demonstrated their valuable ability to successfully engage and defeat ISIS. Under the disguise of attacking ISIS, Turkey repeatedly bombed Kurdish positions reducing the effectiveness of the overall coalition effort against jihadi extremists. It seems that teaming with Turkey is no walk in the park. Russian officials have accused Turkey of covertly supporting ISIS, specifically alleging that Turkish President Erdogan and his son are profiting from ISIS oil sales. Purportedly, Turkey allows the free flow of ISIS oil across its border and through its territory (oil is drawn from producing oil platforms in western Iraq and trucked through Turkey). Whether or not Turkey aids and abets ISIS, ISIS “gleans” over a million dollars daily in the sale of oil, self-financing its murderous activities. ISIS no longer needs (but nonetheless still receives) millions of dollars in donations from Sunni billionaires in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The U.S. should be thinking, “With allies like these…”
The U.S. Abrogation of Responsibility for the Middle East
Initially President Obama characterized ISIS as Al-Qaeda’s “JV” (Junior Varsity). However, like many other foreign policy assessments of this administration, ISIS has not gone quietly into that good night. As I have noted in my most recent book, The Next Great War in the Middle East, the real battle in the Middle East goes far beyond rebel bands and terrorist organizations. It involves the three-century-old so-called “Great Game” between Russia and the West (first played by the British Empire and now, over the past 70 years, quarterbacked by the U.S.) However, the current administration has played the game with less enthusiasm over the past five years and the consequences are monumental.
Who will ultimately control the Middle East? The U.S. brags it stands as the “sole global superpower” inferring Russia is just a “regional power”. The cold hard fact is that Russian power only need be projected in the Middle East for Russia to dominate global politics. Because of its vast reserves of fossil fuels, the “Levant” comprises the “choke point” for a majority of the world’s energy needs and thus, global economics. Being the sole global superpower and possessing the capability to project power around the globe, really just means the U.S. is spread too thin to “go all in” against Russia in the Middle East. Having chosen to be a global policeman, the U.S. cannot be equally effective in every conflict. In the days of “sequestration”, the price of maintaining peace is a budget breaker. The British learned this after World War I. The U.S. has yet to arrive at the same inevitable conclusion.
The recent release of the film 13 Hours highlights the story of CIA contractors attempting to prevent the murder of American diplomat J. Christopher Stevens, killed in Benghazi, Libya, on September 12, 2012. The U.S. government may never acknowledge the truth behind the story, but it appears that the U.S. Executive Branch was moving guns from Libya (utilizing Gaddafi’s enormous cache of weapons) through Turkey to rebels in Syria. Exactly which groups were the intended recipients became murky as time went own. Soon, however, the guns were finding their way into the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of Al-Qaeda, America’s former Public Enemy Number One. Less provable was that these weapons were winding up in the hands of ISIS with the knowledge of the CIA, the State Department, and the Pentagon.
What developed then, according to highly regarded (but sometimes controversial) reporter Seymour Hersh, in effect amounted to a quiet coups d’état within the United States. According to Hersh, The Pentagon grew increasingly distressed about White House plans to arm Syrian rebels even through the evidence was that Al-Qaeda and ISIS were the real beneficiaries of the armaments originating in the U.S. and then later, from Gadhafi’s cache of weapons in Libya. Hersh tells us that The Joint Chiefs communicated “military to military” with their counterparts in Russia, Germany, and Israel to provide actionable intelligence useful to Assad in his war against Syrian rebel forces (those backed by the CIA and the White House). As a result it has become all too clear just how confused U.S. strategy in the Middle East is. It has gone so far off course as to pit the U.S. against itself – the Pentagon has been covertly fighting against the CIA and White House in the sands of Iraq and Syria. To assess the situation as a total unacceptable mess constitutes a colossal understatement.
Hersh provides details in his January 7, 2016 London Review of Books article. Says Hersh:
The military’s resistance dates back to the summer of 2013, when a highly classified assessment, put together by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then led by General Martin Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and, potentially, to Syria’s takeover by jihadi extremists, much as was then happening in Libya. A former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs told me that the document was an ‘all-source’ appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy. The document showed, the adviser said, ‘that what was started as a covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.’ The assessment was bleak: there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists.
For those who watch the geopolitical developments in the Middle East, and the prospects that Russia may be intensifying its presence there “for the long haul”, the soundings today return with proof we are about to reach the destructive shores of what is known among Bible prophecy aficionados as the War of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39). In this War, Gog (who this author believes is Russia and not Turkey) will assemble a massive war effort against Israel, throwing the war into global conflict. As I argue in my new book mentioned earlier, the U.S., the U.K., and Saudi Arabia will all likely face attack, potentially including nuclear missile attacks for U.S. citizens on its very homeland. (See Ezekiel 38:13)
So where are we today? The U.S. appears to have lost its grip in the region. The fact that the U.S. sided with Iran through the recent “treaty” (the so-called July 14, 2015 “nuclear deal”), and therefore threw in with the Shia against moderate Sunni regimes (like Jordan and long-time friends Egypt and Saudi Arabia), does not bode well for American influence in the region. Perhaps the current administration thought that picking “Persia” over Israel would win the U.S. points. In the end, the U.S. aided Russia’s efforts to strengthen Iran and carry the day across the so-called “Fertile Crescent.” Should this conclude with a betrayal of Israel (which now seems inevitable), I do not need to tell my readers that the U.S. will literally call down fire from heaven upon itself. The Daughter of Babylon will indeed become as Sodom and Gomorrah. “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” (Isaiah, 13:19, see also Jeremiah 49:18, 50:40)
Conclusion: The Confrontation of the Century Lies Just Ahead
Exactly where this will lead seems clear enough to this author although for the time being the precise pathway remains imperceptible. In the months ahead and over the next year or two, expect Russia to gain an increasingly dominant position (mostly by proxy) controlling more and more of the Middle Eastern oilfields, eventually driving oil prices higher (despite the amazingly low prices today), as Putin runs a gambit to corner the market on petroleum and natural gas. Along these same lines, we should also recognize that Ukraine, like the Middle East, is crucial to Russian interests since almost all pipelines transporting Russian oil and natural gas to Europe pass through this country which lies smack dab in the middle between supplier and consumer. Make note it is not just the perennial Russian naval base in Crimea at Sevastopol that demands Moscow’s attention; the network of pipelines crisscrossing the Ukraine is just as vital to Russia. Putin can ill afford to let it languish. Like the Fertile Crescent, expect Russia to be resolute to remain in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
Over 40 years ago noted Bible prophecy scholar, the late John F. Walvoord wrote a prescient piece entitled, Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis (1974). In his book he predicted oil would be the “hook in the jaws” for Gog (Russia) that would bring it into confrontation with Israel. Despite myriad obstacles and changes of direction since then, the destination Walvoord predicted for Russia hasn’t changed one iota. As Grant Jeffrey phrased it, Russia will still keep its “appointment with destiny.” At this moment, we stand at that decisive culmination, when the LORD moves in such a way that all nations shall know that Jehovah – He is God. “So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.” (Ezekiel 39:7) The five years of Arab Spring have propelled us far down the path toward this crucial prophetic fulfillment.
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Douglas Woodward is author of eleven books, including The Next Great War in the Middle East: Russia Prepares to Fulfill the Prophecy of Gog and Magog. You can communicate with him via email, email@example.com. Also check out his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/sdouglaswoodward and web site, faith-happens.com.