President Obama’s peace deal with Iran brings to mind Neville Chamberlain’s visit to Munich in 1938. That was when he met with “Herr Hitler” and came back waving a piece of paper, proudly proclaiming “peace in our time.” One year later he had to declare war on Hitler. A broken man, he died a few months after that.
When hearing assurances of peace in our time, I am not only reminded of Neville Chamberlain. I also remember the words of the Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 5:3. “For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.”
Whether or not this verse is applicable specifically to the Iran peace treaty remains to be seen. The Middle East is a very volatile region and the West seems unable to keep its collective nose out of it, so further conflicts are inevitable.
However, involvement by the West is not an essential component of any Mideast conflict. Regional powers are quite capable of warring amongst themselves.
A root cause of conflict in the region is the Sunni-Shia divide within Islam. Iran is the leader of the Shi’ite camp, fighting ISIS in Iraq, which is now ruled by Shia Muslims, thanks to western intervention in the country. Syria’s Assad is another proxy of Iran. Tehran is also supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen against the Saudi backed Sunni Muslims.
The fear of Iran amongst the Sunnis is palpable. Fear of an Iranian nuclear bomb is inevitably going to lead to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey trying to acquire the same. Turning to al-Qaeda for help against ISIS is another. Yes, that’s right – these three countries, allies of the US, are now backing al-Qaeda against the Islamic State! The British Spectator magazine has a really good article on this latest development in the current issue. (“The enemy’s enemy: how Arab states have turned to al-Qa’eda” by Ahmed Rashid, 18th July).
The other major conflict in the Middle East is the more familiar one between the Jews and the Palestinians. In modern history this predates Israel’s independence in May, 1948. The never-ending conflict saw its latest flare up last year when Hamas (supported by Iran) lobbed thousands of missiles at Israeli settlements. When Israel retaliated to defend itself, world opinion inevitably turned against Israel.
The dispute is not over. It will flare up again. As will problems with Lebanese based Hizbollah (also Iranian backed) and the Palestinians on the West Bank.
This can also escalate into a religious dispute. According to the Israeli Video Network, the Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction, Uri Ariel, called on Friday for the construction of a Third Temple in place of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits on the Temple Mount.
“The first Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, the second Temple in 70 CE, and ever since the Jewish People have been mourning its loss.”
“‘He then went on to say “Al-Aqsa Mosque is currently in place of the temple, despite the temple being much holier than it. Al-Aqsa Mosque is only the third most holy mosque in Islam.” “Now that Israel has once again become a Jewish sovereign state, the desire to rebuild the Temple is growing stronger and stronger”, he added.”
Excavations under the Al-Aqsa led to violent demonstrations by Palestinians a few years ago. Any attempt to replace the Al-Aqsa with a new Temple building would likely provoke World War III!
This does not mean to say that nothing will happen. As Mr. Ariel said, “the desire to rebuild the Temple is growing stronger and stronger.”
Jerusalem has been fought over more than any other city. It’s not over yet. ”When you shall see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that it’s desolation is near” (Luke 21:20). Jesus said this in response to His disciples asking about future events that would precede His second coming.
These two disputes go back centuries. Nothing we do today is going to resolve them. Between them, they daily threaten Mideast peace. If both flare-up at the same time, the whole world could be engulfed in a never-ending conflagration.
A further potential conflict, made more likely by the peace deal with Iran, is a war between Israel and Iran. Israel’s prime minister has reacted very negatively to the peace treaty. He is now working on the US Congress to try to get that body to reject the peace treaty. If that fails, his last option will be to bomb Iran. An alternative to that is to wait until Iran actually has the bomb and can then attack Israel.
In addition to the three major conflicts that can quickly escalate, there are “minor” conflicts like the civil war in Syria, continuing anarchy in Libya and the possibility of war between Turks and Kurds.
World leaders should be careful proclaiming “peace and safety” (“peace in our time”), lest “sudden destruction “ should come upon them.