The Middle East continues to dominate the headlines.
A proxy war is taking place in strategically located Yemen, between Iran and Saudi Arabia, backed by the US.
The country’s Sunni president was overthrown in January by Shia Houthi rebels from the north. Supported by Iran, they are moving south, establishing control over a wider area.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of ten Arab countries in an attempt to restore the Sunni led government to power. The US backs Saudi Arabia, but, as usual, it’s more complicated than that. AQAP (Al Qaeda in Yemen) is also fighting the Houthis. Even Islamic State, a long way from home, is involved.
It gets messier.
Last week, the 22-nation Arab League met in Sharm el-Sheikh. In a final communiqué, the 22 nations pledged to form a unified military force to deal with regional security issues. This primarily means Iran.
The Sunni-Shia conflict is widening and now pits all 22 Arab nations against Iran.
The war in Yemen could also get worse. Most non-Yemenis have flown out of the country, rescued in aircraft sent to the country by their home governments.
Yemen is very important to the Saudis, who neighbor them to the north. Saudi Arabia is feeling increasingly encircled by Iranian proxies, to the south in Yemen, to the north in Iraq and Syria and also Hezbollah in Lebanon
There is a growing fear that the war could spill over into Saudi Arabia, which has a small Shi’ite population. It could also affect Oman, which has been an oasis of peace under its current leader, Sultan Qaboos. Bahrain, too, which is the regional naval base for the US Fifth Fleet, could be seriously affected. It’s Sunni king walks a tightrope ruling over a majority Shi’ite population, estimated to be about two thirds of the total number of Bahraini citizens.
Iran has effectively declared war on Sunni Islam. The country is aiding the Iraqi majority Shi’ite government against ISIS. The US has been helping bomb the rebels, thereby risking accusations of being an Iranian proxy. But, further south, the US is supporting the Sunnis in Yemen against Iran.
No wonder everybody is confused. And no wonder our domestic news channels tend to avoid getting into this. To fully understand the situation, you need a degree in history, another in geography and a third in comparative religion!
Suffice it to say, it’s a real mess.
Interestingly, this week Senator Rand Paul has entered the US presidential campaign. His isolationist message will inevitably appeal to voters anxious to get out of the Mideast and leave the Sunnis and Shi’ites to fight to the (very) bitter end. (One opinion poll today shows him leading over Hillary Clinton.)
However, it’s not as simple as that. The Bible shows us that, out of this quagmire, will come a regional leader who will attack Europe. A revival of the Roman Empire (the King of the North) will then have to intervene in the region. You can read about this in the last few verses of Daniel, chapter 11 (verses 40-44).
We can already see the Europeans waking up to the seriousness of the threats coming from the nearby Middle East. A 25,000 strong rapid reaction force has been established to deal with further Russian aggression. But it can also be used to deal with problems that arise in the Middle East that may threaten Europe.
The Middle East is not going to calm down. The problems in the region are only likely to worsen in the future, as we near the time of Christ’s return.