Tag Archives: Damascus

IMMINENT MISSILE ATTACK ON SYRIA

“Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap. (Isaiah 17:1) 

By an amazing coincidence, I have been reading a book on “Munich” while the current crisis in Syria has been building up.

At Munich in 1938, Hitler and Chamberlain met to discuss Hitler’s claims on German Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.   Chamberlain famously gave in to his demands. The former British PM described Nazi Germany’s annexation of the area of German-speaking Czechoslovakia in 1938 as “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of which we know nothing.”

Similar words could be spoken today about Syria.

At the time of writing this article, President Trump is deciding on how to react to Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its own people. If the US does nothing, nobody else will.   In 1938 Neville Chamberlain, as British Prime Minister, was the leader of the western world; today it’s President Trump.   Less than a year after Chamberlain’s famous appeasement toward Hitler, Britain and Germany were at war.   It had become all too clear, even to Chamberlain, that Hitler was intent on global conquest.

There’s been plenty of evidence that Russia has similar territorial designs.   The Russians took control of part of Georgia a few years ago; this was followed by the conquest of Crimea and of eastern Ukraine.   Domination of Syria makes them the most powerful voice in the Middle East.  This role is growing – last month, Putin met with the leaders of Iran and Turkey in Ankara.  These three are now in a de facto alliance while Turkey remains officially in NATO.

Geoffrey Wawro, a professor at the University of North Texas, wrote a book called “Quicksand” (2010), on “America’s pursuit of power in the Middle East.”   Reviewer Rick Atkinson sums the book up well, writing that Wawro reveals “how an extraordinary tale of idealism, politics, force and miscalculation began and unfolded over the last century.”

The more the US got involved, the more the US was sucked in; hence the title “Quicksand.”   Why should we expect any other outcome following action in Syria?   Could US intervention lead to war with Russia?

“There was no reason for war in 1914, beyond the murder of an archduke in Bosnia.   As AJP Taylor said of 1914:   “Nowhere was there a conscious determination to provoke a war.   Statesmen miscalculated [and] became prisoners of their own weapons.   The great armies, accumulated to provide security and preserve the peace, carried the nations to war by their own weight.”   I wonder what Taylor would have said of Trump’s “Get ready, Russia” tweet.” (“Look at Syria and you can see all the elements that have led to world wars,” Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, April 12th.)

A miscalculation now could be fatal for the US, Russia and Syria.

SYRIAN COMPLEXITIES

Syria is a perfect illustration of the complexity of modern warfare and the geopolitics that complicate everything.

Syria was established after World War One and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.   After “the war to end all wars,” the Treaty of Paris carved out a number of new countries from the ruins of the Turkish ruled empire.   The treaty was aptly described as “the peace to end all peace” by a British general who saw a future of never-ending conflict in the region.   A century later nothing has improved.

Before World War One, Mesopotamia was a sleepy backwater of no interest to anyone.   The same could be said of Syria.   Bible students know that this had to change to fulfill apocalyptic prophecies about Israel (the Jews) and its neighbors.   The prophesied Jewish national homeland was established exactly seventy years ago, in May 1948.

Syria was a Mandated territory of the League of Nations.   France was given the mandate; Britain was given Iraq and Jordan to administer, again under a Mandate from the League.   Palestine was also a League of Nations mandated territory, given to the British.

After World War Two, the French left Syria.   It soon fell under the Soviet sphere of influence.   From 1970 Syria has been the home of a Russian naval base, the only one Russia has on the Mediterranean. The Russians are not going to give it up.   And they will support President Assad as long as it is in their interest to do so.

The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 helped Russia to gain further influence in the region.   By removing Saddam Hussein from power and arranging an election in Iraq, the majority Shi’ites came to power, altering the balance of religious and political power in the Middle East.   Iran is the leading nation of Shia Islam.   An arc of Shia Islam now exists, from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, roughly the same territory of the ancient biblical King of the North. Russia is heavily involved with the Iranians and Syria.   Turkey is now also with them, wanting to stop its Kurdish minority from breaking away.   The Turks are not Arabs, so this does not present a conflict for them.

Syria is not majority Shia.   Assad’s support comes mostly from his Alawite clan, a branch of Shia Islam, which amounts to only 11% of the population.   The Sunnis do not want to be ruled by Assad. Neither do the Sunnis in Iraq want a Shia government over them.  This is why ISIS formed, to “protect” Sunnis from Shi’ites.

It’s all very complicated.

No wonder the president is taking his time.

If he does nothing, he will be seen as weak against Syria and the Russians.  If he does something, innocent lives will be lost, but Assad will remain in power and Russia will continue as its benefactor.

A further complication came today when the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced that Moscow has “evidence” the video of the gas attack was performed by actors.   How does the West prove the film was real?

It seems like a no-win situation for the United States.

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European Immigration:   Nuns Out, Terrorists In                                                          by Douglas Murray, April 13, 2018 (Gatestone Institute)

  • When the same Home Office that forbade Sister Ban even to enter the country discovered that the young male Iraqi was in Britain, he explained clearly that he had been trained by ISIS.  He told the Home Office officials that the group had trained him to kill.   The Home Office promptly found him a place to live and study, and treated him as the minor he said he was but most likely was not.   He subsequently told a teacher that he had “a duty to hate Britain.”
  • Last year the Institute of St. Anselm (a Catholic training institute for priests and nuns, based in Kent) closed its doors because of problems it had getting the Home Office to grant visa applications for foreign students.   One nun last year was apparently denied entry to the UK because she did not have a personal bank account.
  • So, those who flee ISIS are turned away, while those who are trained by ISIS are welcome.

 

 

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UNCERTAIN DEALS

Map for deals

Two current international “deals” may yet amount to nothing.

The European Union’s latest deal with Greece, the third bailout of the country in the last five years, may yet fail.

The Greek government may not be able to get the agreement through parliament as it is only going to make austerity harder for the Greek people.

Four bills need to be passed in the next twenty-four hours.   Pensions must be cut; taxes increased; the defense budget slashed and steps taken toward privatizing ports and other government owned enterprises, which it is hoped will cut corruption and make things more efficient.   As the ruling party, Syriza, is very left-wing, there’s a good possibility the parliament will not approve everything.   The Greek population voted against further austerity less than a month ago.

There is concern, too, beyond Greece’s borders.   European creditor countries are fully aware that, even if the Greek parliament approves the agreement, they may not keep their word.   It’s happened before.   This would mean that, in a few months, Greece will be back, asking for a further bailout.

A further set-back occurred this morning when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that Greece’s debt was “unsustainable” and that the country needs a much greater infusion of cash from the EU.   The EU bailout deal has, at least, united all concerned in the conviction that it won’t work!    The Greek problem is not about to go away.

Then there’s the deal between six western powers and Iran.

The British Guardian Weekly wasn’t sure which deal to put on its front page, Greece or Iran.   Right up to the last minute, Greece was going to be the leader, but then the deal with Iran came through.  The paper decided that the Iranian deal was the more important one, with far reaching implications.   But both deals could have both short-term and long-term negative consequences.

On Iran, the headline on the Fox News website was: “Win for Putin?” Putin has been supportive of Iran, Syria’s Assad and Shi’ites in general.

It’s certainly a win for Iran, which can look forward to the lifting of international sanctions.

The best the West can hope for is that this will buy time, that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons for at least the next ten years, by which time, democracies being as they are, none of those signing the agreement today, will still be in power.   They can, as with so many things, kick the can down the road.

However, even if this presupposes Iran will keep its side of the deal.   That’s no more likely than Greece abiding by the terms of the EU bailout deal.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter what the West thinks about the Iranian deal.

Israel’s prime minister has described the deal as “a mistake of historic proportions,” that it endangers his country.   He added:  “the more you read it, the worse it gets.”   Iran has been screaming “Death to Israel.  Death to America,” for over 35 years.   A recent demonstration in Tehran showed mobs screaming the same again. Perhaps nobody in Washington has been watching!

But, even Israel is not the country most concerned about the agreement.   The Sunni Arab states are.   Almost certainly, they will see through this agreement and their fears of Shia Iran acquiring nuclear weapons will lead them to acquire the same.   It may take a few years, but they will be driven by a great sense of urgency.   Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt are the three countries most likely to pursue their own bomb, with immediate help from Pakistan, which already has the bomb.   Saudi Arabia certainly has the money for this.

The greatest threat to world peace remains the Sunni-Shia conflict, a struggle that has continued for over thirteen centuries.   Although an Obama Administration spokesman expressed the hope that the Iran deal would help bring a resolution to the ancient conflict, this is at best naïve.   Nothing will end the conflict until the Messiah comes and sorts out the religious mess that is today’s world. Meanwhile, the US will be seen as siding with the Shi’ites against the Sunnis.   Tehran and Damascus must be celebrating at this development.

The Iranian deal brings to mind I Thessalonians 5:3 :  “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction comes upon them, as travail Upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (KJV).

Thankfully, Jesus Christ is returning to end the spiritual confusion. “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”  (Matthew 24:22).

NETANYAHU’S ADDRESS HIGHLIGHTS DIVISIONS OVER ISLAMIC MILITANTS

Netanyahu

Prior to 9/11, most Americans were barely aware of the religion of Islam.

In the short time since that tragic day, Islam has established its presence in the country with mosques and schools in every sizeable community.   The president of the United States has even said that the country was founded on Judeo-Christian-Islamic principles.

One thing the religion has done is divide the country and other nations where there has been widespread immigration from Muslim lands, mostly in the Middle East.

At no time has that division been greater than now.

In France, it was the Charlie Hebdo killings that caused the division, between those on the right of the political spectrum who want an end to Islamization and the immigrants themselves, supported by those on the left who side with them.

In Germany, there is PEGIDA staging weekly demonstrations against the Islamization of Europe.   Critical of PEGIDA are the established political parties who bend over backwards to assure Muslims that there is a place for them in their societies.

Now division has come to the United States with the visit of the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

Some would say the division is over Israel.   But the divide is also over how best to handle militant Islam.

The gulf between the two became clearer today when the Prime Minister addressed the US Congress in Washington.

The invitation to speak came from the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. The White House made it clear that it was opposed to Netanyahu speaking, claiming it was a breach of protocol so close to the Israel election.

Although most Democrats did listen to the speech, Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, was very critical almost immediately afterwards, claiming she was “near tears” throughout the speech and “saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States.” She was reportedly visibly agitated while Mr. Netanyahu was speaking.

The subject of the speech was Iran and the imminent deal between western allies with the Iranian regime over its nuclear program.   The deadline for this agreement is March 31st.   Mr. Netanyahu believes that the impending agreement will make it more likely that Iran will develop nuclear weapons – and soon.

The division is clear – and not just over Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

The division is between those who see a serious threat from militant Islam and those who are in denial.   Iran is not the only threat but it was the focus of the prime minister’s address.   Iran with a nuclear weapon could annihilate Israel, a small country and near neighbor.   Indeed, Iran has threatened to annihilate “the world’s only Jewish state.”

The prime minister reminded his audience of the story of Esther, the Jewish queen married to a Persian king in the fifth century BC.   The Persian king at the time wanted to annihilate the Jews, just as today’s Iranian leadership does.   Tomorrow (Wednesday, March 4th) is the Feast of Purim, which commemorates the delivery of the Jews from total disaster.

More recently, the leader of Hezbollah, Iran’s chief terrorist proxy said:  “If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down all over the world.”

Although Iran is not an Arab country and has traditionally been isolated as the only major Shi’ite Islamic nation, today it dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana’a.   Mr. Netanyahu referenced Iran’s support against Sunni Islamic ISIS, claiming that their support against ISIS does not make them a friend of America.   It’s a case of “the enemy of your enemy is your enemy!”

“Both ISIS and Iran want to impose a militant Islamic empire,” he warned.

“The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam and nuclear weapons.”   This clearly would change everything in the Middle East and the wider world beyond.

Mr. Netanyahu’s address was impassioned.   We have not heard such a powerful speech from a politician in many years.   It is particularly impressive when we consider that English is not his first language.   Mr. Netanyahu and former British statesman Sir Winston Churchill are the only two world leaders who have addressed Congress on three occasions.   Following the speech, Netanyahu was compared on at least two news channels to Churchill, who spent the 1930’s warning of the impending threat from the Nazis, as Netanyahu warns of the increasing threat from militant Islam.   If the world had heeded Churchill, the Holocaust would not have happened. If the world listens to Netanyahu, a future holocaust may be averted.

Students of the Bible know that Jerusalem, Israel’s “eternal capital” will be the focus of major conflict in the near future.

The Old Testament prophet Zechariah, writing about events leading up to the Second Coming of the Messiah, prophesied that Jerusalem and Judah (Israel) will be at the center of the final conflict to confront mankind.

“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem.   And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.”  (Zech 12:2-3.)

Zechariah 14:2 adds:   “For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem.”

Centuries later, Jesus Christ, answering a question about the “signs of His Coming,” said:   “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.”

Mr. Netanyahu was right when he pointed out that “we share a common destiny.”   What happens over there will affect us over here – and all countries in between.

The day before he addressed the US Congress, Mr. Netanyahu spoke to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), one of the most powerful lobby groups in the United States.   He said then that, whereas the President of the United States spends every day thinking about America’s security, as Israel’s prime minister, he spends every day thinking of Israel’s survival.

In that one sentence, he encapsulated the difference between the leaders of the two nations.   At the present time, militant Islam is a matter of national security to the United States.  If Mr. Netanyahu’s warning is not taken seriously, it could soon become a matter of national survival, as it is in Israel.