While US media has been focussed on alleged Russian hacking of the US electoral process, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has strengthened its role in the Middle East.
The morning that America suffered a major setback in the Middle East, American news networks led on two deaths – those of actresses Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds. Tragic though these deaths were, developments in the Middle East put America where Great Britain was exactly six decades ago.
Before World War Two, the British Empire was the dominant power in the region. Britain withdrew from Israel in May of 1948. Immediately, the Jewish nation was invaded by five neighboring Arab nations. Miraculously, Israel survived. In those early days, it was not helped by the United States.
In 1952, as a direct consequence of defeat against Israel, Egypt’s King Farouk was overthrown by the military. The new leaders soon seized the Anglo-French Suez Canal. Together with Israel, these countries invaded Egypt but were soon stopped by US President Eisenhower. This single event led directly to the dismantling of the British Empire. In 1958 the pro-British King of Iraq was overthrown. Britain was losing its remaining influence in the area. The country fought a war against rebels in Aden, withdrawing from the protectorate in 1967.
It was a gradual decline, with one setback after another. Now, the UK does not play any major role in the Middle East.
Since Britain, America has been the dominant power in the region. During the time of the Soviet Union, the US and the USSR were rivals in the area, with Moscow backing Egypt and Syria. Later, Egypt switched sides and allied itself with the United States, but Moscow retained its influence in Syria. Iran was in the US sphere of influence until the Shah was overthrown in 1979.
The region has seen never-ending turmoil since the fall of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire after World War One. That turmoil shows no sign of ending.
The recent war in Iraq has left a big mess in the region. At its root is the almost 1,400 year sectarian conflict between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. Until the US invasion of Iraq, the country was dominated by Sunni Muslims, even though the majority of people were Shia Muslims (the reverse is the case in Syria). Following the US backed election in Iraq, the majority Shia now rule the country. This development has altered the religious balance in the region and is causing repercussions everywhere. ISIS was formed to protect Sunni Muslims from the now dominant Shia.
In Syria, Sunnis have been trying to overthrow the Alawite (Shia) minority regime of President Assad for five years. Enter Moscow. Russia’s backing of the Syrian president has enabled Assad to win. The US showed a great deal of weakness, refusing to get involved even when the Syrian government crossed the line and used chemical weapons on its own citizens. Now, after months of fighting in Aleppo, the biggest city of the country, Assad is firmly in power and Russia is sponsoring “peace talks” with the rebel factions in the country. The US is not invited to the peace talks. Russia now controls Syria. To accomplish this, the country needs Turkey’s help. The two are pushing for peace in the country. Turkey, the second most powerful military power in NATO, is now working with the Russians to bring peace to the Middle East.
That’s two set-backs for Washington in just a few days.
A third set-back is in Israel. The outgoing administration in Washington did not veto the latest UN vote against Israel, condemning the country for building new settlements for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Friction between the US and the only western style democracy in the region is unsettling, to say the least. This set-back may only be temporary as a new President takes over in the US in just three weeks, but that gives a few days for further negative developments. Even the British have criticized America’s condemnation of Israel. The State Department seems set on causing rifts with US allies in the final days of the current Administration.
Keep in mind, too, that Syria borders Israel on the Golan Heights. What happens in Syria may affect Israel. Perhaps that’s why Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Moscow in June, the fourth time in a year that he sat down with President Putin to discuss the situation in the Middle East.
The tables have been turned once again in the region. Over sixty years ago, the UK was the dominant power in the region; since then, it’s been the US. But now Russia is arguably the dominant power in the area. The Russians are in alliance with the Shi-ite Muslims in Iran and Syria; they are also working with Sunni Turkey, which ruled the whole area prior to 1919. At the same time, it seems that Israel’s prime minister is more comfortable with Putin than with Obama, with whom he’s had a serious exchange of heated words in recent days.
There’s even a fourth development that puts Russia ahead. Following the hacking scandal, President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the US; President Putin made it clear that he will not expel any Americans. This is a triumph for Putin in the propaganda war with America.
What lies ahead? Remember that the Middle East is the primary focus of Bible prophecy with Jerusalem at the epicenter.
In the nineteenth century, there was no indication that the Jews were about to become an independent nation again. Their period of self-rule ended with the Romans before the time of Christ. Their rebellion against the Romans in the first century AD led to the Diaspora, a dispersion that scattered the Jewish people throughout the Roman Empire and left them scattered until fairly recently. Bible prophecy showed that the Jewish nation would be restored and that happened in 1948.
Exactly a century ago, British and Australian forces entered Jerusalem in the continuing war with the Ottoman Turks. At this point in time, a Jewish nation became possible. The British were given a mandate to administer Palestine by the League of Nations. This was an impossible task as Palestinians and Jews clashed repeatedly. Eventually, the League’s successor, the United Nations, divided the territory up between Jews and Palestinians, the latter never accepting their loss of land.