A generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia is back in the Middle East. It cannot be good for America!
Britain dominated the Middle East between the two world wars. After World War II, that domination continued for about a decade. Then, in 1956, the Egyptians seized the British and French owned Suez Canal. The two countries, together with Israel, invaded Egypt in an attempt to reclaim the Canal, but they were stopped by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In hindsight, it marked the end of the British Empire. It also resulted in greater US involvement in the region.
The Book of Daniel is a prophetic book in the Old Testament, written during the sixth century before Christ. It’s a remarkable book because the writer, Daniel, who served two kings of Babylon while Babylon was the greatest power in the world, then served two kings of Persia when it was the Persian turn to attain the status of super power.
His writings predicted the eventual replacement of Persia by Greece and then, in turn, Rome. These were four of the greatest empires of the ancient world. Each rose to greatness and each descended into oblivion. Only their ruins remain.
Daniel put it well when he wrote the following:
“And He (God) changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.” (Daniel 2:21)
God is behind the rise and fall of nations. He also reveals His prophetic outline “to those who have understanding.”
Just as Great Britain’s period of pre-eminence came to an end, so will America’s. But, as with Britain, the change took a while to be fully realized.
Russia’s intervention in the Middle East fundamentally changes the balance of power in the region. Russia, in the form of the Soviet Union, was heavily involved in the area following the British withdrawal. While the US supported Israel, Jordan and the other conservative monarchies, including the Shah of Iran, Moscow supported Egypt and Syria. That changed with the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979. Moscow has not had much clout since.
But now that’s changed. Moscow is not only involved in Syria, propping up President Bashar al-Assad against ISIS and other groups, it is also involved in Iran and Iraq. In effect, Russia is backing the Shi’ite arc that starts in Lebanon (Hezbollah) and swings through Syria, Iraq and Iran. Bible students will remember that this is basically the territory of the old King of the North of Daniel, chapter 11, the Seleucid dynasty that had its origins in the conquests of Alexander the Great. The rivalry with the Ptolemaic dynasty labeled the King of the South in the scriptures continued for two centuries and constantly threatened the Jews who were in the middle. The terms “King of the North” and “King of the South” refer to their geographical location in relation to Jerusalem and the threat they posed to the ancient capital of the Jews.
The same chapter prophesies that these two powers will be revived in different form prior to Christ’s return and will once again threaten the Jewish nation of Israel.
So it’s interesting to see Russia getting involved.
Vladimir Putin had this to say at the United Nations just a few days ago:
“An aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and the lifestyle itself. Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty, and social disaster. Nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life. I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realize now what you have done?”
President Putin was talking about the United States and the consequences of American intervention in the Middle East.
Discussing this speech on PBS’ McLaughlin Group, conservative columnist Pat Buchanan had this to say:
“We are responsible for the disaster in the Middle East by our interventions.”
The mess the US and its allies created in the Middle East is affecting peoples around the world. The Lansing State Journal carried the following front-page headline today: “Eager for Syrians to arrive”, referring to Lansing, Michigan, welcoming Syrian refugees in the coming days and weeks. Europe has been invaded by hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom are refugees, over the last few weeks. Australians are also seeing Syrian refugees arrive in their country. This could pose a serious security threat to western nations.
President Obama said the following at the UN: “The strongmen of today become the spark of revolution tomorrow. You can jail your opponents, but you cannot imprison ideas. You can control access to information, but you cannot turn a lie into truth.”
What the US president was saying was intended as a warning to President Putin and the Arab dictator he intends to keep in power, President Assad of Syria. The latter is a ruthless dictator (the former is simply a dictator who can be ruthless; there’s a difference). The US position on Syria is that Assad must go. That now seems highly unlikely. When Mr Obama refers to “ideas” that cannot be suppressed, he is referring to democracy and the “moderate” resistance to Assad. However, recent history shows that democracy is not the winner when dictators in the Middle East are overthrown. Rather, Islamic extremism or chaos, and usually both, result.
Putin, unfettered by ideological constraints, instinctively knows that.
Russia is in Syria to stay.
This could pose a problem for Israel now that the Russian bear is on its border.
It could also weaken the Russians. Mr. Putin must remember that it was Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 that brought down the Soviet Union, which he has described as the greatest disaster of the twentieth century.
What it will mean for Russia is not clear at this time. However, it is clear what it means for the United States. Just as an American president’s decision in 1956 precipitated the fall of the British Empire, so an American president’s inaction over Syria and cozying up to Iran, with the resultant weakening of ties with traditional allies in the region, has directly led to America’s decline in the Middle East.