Tag Archives: Shiite

COLOGNE CATHEDRAL MEMORIAL

Koln cathedral

It’s Friday morning here in Michigan.   As I write, I’m watching the State Memorial service from Cologne (Koln) Cathedral, for the 150 people killed in the “Germanwings” flight in the French Alps on March 24th.    The German Chancellor Angela Merkel was present, along with the German President Joachim Gauck.   Spanish leaders were also represented.   These were the two countries that lost the most people in the disaster.

The Cathedral is about a thirty-minute drive from Dusseldorf Airport where the plane was due to land after a short flight from Barcelona in Spain.

Koln Cathedral is one of the most magnificent buildings in Germany, an architectural marvel from the Middle Ages, a time of great faith in European history.   At such a time as this, faith is a great help to those who have lost loved ones.   The peace and serenity, together with inspiring music and the presence of 1,500 people, seemed to bring some comfort and closure to the relatives and friends of the victims, who still await burial.

The service is being relayed on BBC World, with occasional interruptions to bring the latest world news.  Religion is a common theme running through the morning’s news program.   Koln Cathedral is a reminder of the religious certainties of the past. Construction of the gothic cathedral began in 1248.   The church remains a Roman Catholic cathedral, in a country divided by Lutheran Protestantism five centuries ago.   The German Chancellor is the daughter of a Lutheran minister and grew up in the officially atheist German Democratic Republic (communist East Germany).  The German president is a former Lutheran pastor who came to prominence as an anti-communist civil rights leader in the former communist state. The professed atheism of the eastern European countries did not bring the utopia that people had hoped for.   I first visited the cathedral as a 16-year-old exchange student.   The German student I stayed with was also an atheist.

Fifty years ago it seemed that religion was a thing of the past. Now, it dominates our news on a daily basis.   This is especially true of news involving the Middle East.

A frequently mentioned news item this morning is the arrest of fifteen Muslim immigrants arriving by boat from Libya.   The men originated from West African countries.   10,000 refugees have landed in Italy in the last seven days.   The fifteen were all on the same boat and had deliberately pushed twelve Christians overboard during a religious dispute, killing all twelve.

Another news item was of regular chlorine bomb attacks on Sunni Muslims by the Shi’ite Alawite government of Syria.   Victims included small children who died agonizing deaths, witnessed by survivors.

Switching for a few minutes to a US based channel, concern was being expressed over a US citizen who had spent two months in Syria training with ISIS, and was arrested on his return to the United States where he was planning terrorist attacks on Americans in uniform.   The concern is that he is the first of many more to come, people motivated by extremist religious views, intent on mass killing.

In such a time of religious confusion, comfort can certainly be drawn from the religious certainties of the past.   But those certainties hide a disturbing reality.   In 1248, when the foundations of the cathedral were laid, beliefs were based more on tradition, on ignorance and superstition than on revealed scripture.

The Bible was not the foundation of the medieval church.   It wasn’t until 1534 that the Bible was first published in German, having been translated by Martin Luther.   It was the revealed truths in the scriptures that divided the medieval church, still clinging to beliefs and traditions that could not be biblically substantiated.

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the truth.   “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).   Jesus Christ is truth.   He is also “the Word.”   (John 1:1, 14)   God’s Word is truth.   (John 17:17)   The Apostle Paul adds: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  (II Timothy 3:16)

The same Bible also tells us, in this age of great religious confusion, that salvation is only possible through Jesus Christ.   (Acts 4:12)

The solid walls of Koln Cathedral may be a reminder of religious certainties but they also reflect certainties that were wrong.   Today, we should be thankful that we have access to the scriptures, thanks to men like Martin Luther and his contemporary William Tyndale, who died to bring us the Bible in English.

Five centuries later, it was revealed just a few days ago, the Bible has still not been translated into 57% of the world’s languages.

For those of us who are blessed with a translation in our own language, we should renew our commitment to daily Bible Study and remember the importance of working out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Martin Luther showed that it wasn’t the medieval church that could guarantee us salvation.   That remains true today.   Only Jesus Christ can guarantee us salvation.   Our eternal life depends on Him.   The Church can help guide us in the right direction, but salvation depends on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The sister of one of the German victims of the crash prayed a very moving, yet simple prayer before the congregation:  “Lord, please dry our tears.”

This simple request brought to mind a verse in the last book of the bible:   “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.   There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  (Rev. 21:4)

Understanding the real truth of God brings a peace of mind that truly sets us free.  (John 8:32)

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PROXY WAR PITS SAUDIS AGAINST IRAN

Shia-Houthi rebels                                                 Shia-Houthi rebels

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.

YEMENI CONFLICT WIDENS SHIA-SUNNI DIVIDE

Shia Sunni

Fill up with gas – the price of oil has been “surging overnight”!

That’s the likely international outcome of the latest development in the Middle East.

Early Thursday morning (late Wednesday in the US), a coalition of ten countries, led by Saudi Arabia, started bombing Shi’ite rebels in Yemen, aiming to restore the “legitimate” (Sunni) government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is in hiding somewhere.

The conflict widens the Shia-Sunni conflict, which is the root cause of the never-ending conflicts in Iraq and Syria.   The latest war pits Saudi Arabia and Iran against each other.

Yemen is not a big oil producer.   But it’s strategically located, controlling the 25-mile wide Gulf of Aden, through which a great deal of the world’s oil is shipped.   The British controlled the Gulf from 1839 until 1967.

Illustrative of the volatility in the oil market is the fact that, less than 24 hours ago, hopes were high that a deal between Iran and the western coalition would lead to a glut of oil, driving the price down.   The deal may still happen, but the benefits will likely be more than offset by the Yemeni conflict and the increasing Sunni-Shia struggle throughout the Middle East.

This is the basis for the ongoing battle over Tikrit in Iraq.   Over a week ago, the Iraqi military was claiming victory over ISIS forces controlling the city.   But ISIS, the most militant group within Sunni Islam, is holding its own against a combined force of Shi’ite Iraqi troops, Shia militias and Iranians, who are also Shi’ites.

Interestingly, the US supports the Saudi-led action to restore the President of Yemen, at the same time as supporting the Iraqi and Iranian action to defeat ISIS.   It’s doubtful this difficult balancing act will last.

Another question is what it will take for western intervention in the region.   An article on the widening conflict in the Middle East in the latest issue of Time Magazine ended with the following paragraph.

“It’s impossible to predict when and where the next extremist attack on a Western target may occur.   But it seems all to likely that it would require a mass casualty terrorist strike in a Western country to build the public support needed for the sustained military effort that could actually eliminate these growing threats.”   (The New Caliphates, TIME Magazine, Volume 185, Issue #11).

Certainly, such an attack cannot be far off.   This could certainly fulfill the prophecy in Daniel 11:40, which states:   “At the time of the end the King of the South shall attack him.”   The King of the North then retaliates.

As this global crisis worsens and spreads, another recent development shows ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram “troops” training together in Mauretania, a Moslem country not directly affected by terrorism until now.   With ISIS now operating in Tunisia and Libya and Boko Haram in alliance with ISIS, operating in Nigeria, Niger and Chad, the whole of West Africa is vulnerable.

At the same time, the Taliban, which operate in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, has pledged support to the new Caliphate.

The spreading Caliphate is well on its way to achieving its avowed goal of an Islamic State stretching from the Atlantic through the Middle East and on to Indonesia.   The plan is a five year plan, which means conflicts are set to increase and spread.

Meanwhile, the “mass casualty terrorist strike” Time warned about, may already have happened. It has been disclosed that the pilot was locked out of the cockpit of the “Germanwings” flight that crashed into the Alps two days ago.   When the pilot went to the bathroom, his co-pilot locked the door behind him and then immediately set the controls for a rapid descent and the final, fatal crash.   The Marseille prosecutor has just declared that the “co-pilot was not known as a wanted terrorist.”   The question remains as to why he would deliberately fly the plane into the mountains.   Terrorism was quickly denied but terrorist websites constantly inspire “lone wolf” violent attacks as part of their cause.

Spain and Germany lost the most people in the crash.   Spain is one of the countries that ISIS wants in its Caliphate, having been ruled by Muslims for over 700 years.

It’s too early to tell if this was a factor in the plane crash but a criminal investigation is now underway.   It seems certain the loss of 150 lives was no accident.

 

 

 

 

TERROR GROUPS GLOBAL REACH

Jan. 27, 2015:  In this image made from video posted by a Libyan blogger, the Cortinthia Hotel is seen under attack in Tripoli. (AP)
Jan. 27, 2015:   In this image made from video posted by a Libyan blogger, the Corinthia Hotel is seen under attack in Tripoli. (AP)

ISIS has claimed it was behind the attack on a leading hotel in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, earlier this week.   The hotel was one of the few remaining western hotels, catering to foreign nationals. An American and a Frenchman were amongst the nine who were killed.

The attack shows that ISIS is now operating in Libya, a long way from home.

The three major terror threats right now are ISIS, AQAP and Boko Haram.

ISIS, having established a rudimentary caliphate over parts of Syria and Iraq, now calls itself IS (Islamic State) reflecting its new status as a country.   It is even negotiating with Jordan, a neighboring country, over the fate of a Jordanian prisoner and a Jordanian pilot captured by IS.   There is the possibility of a proposed exchange of prisoners.   They also hold a Japanese journalist and are threatening to behead him at the time of writing.

AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) staged the Paris attacks. Some terror experts say this is the most dangerous group and the biggest threat to the West, including the United States.   The terror group emanates from Yemen, home of Osama bin Laden.   Yemen’s pro-American government has just fallen, replaced by a group loyal to Iran, a Shi’ite theocratic republic.   This strengthens Iran at the expense of the US.   AQAP is Sunni and will likely continue uninterrupted, safe in its own territory in the splintered nation.

Boko Haram may seem disconnected but operates over an increasingly wide area.   It has the same aims as the other two, the downfall of the West and a rejection of all things western.

In addition to the three groups mentioned, there is also the Taliban, which continues to stage terror attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.   A Taliban attack on a school in December killed 148, mostly students.

Smaller groups like the Nusra Front also operate.

The Economist magazine (page 26, January 17th issue) showed there were 17 significant terrorist attacks by these groups in a one-month period (December 15th – January 13th).   The total number of deaths is hard to determine as statistics from some areas, especially Nigeria, are unreliable.   But a low estimate for the period totaled 528. During this one-month period there were terror attacks in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.   They included suicide bombings and gun attacks.

This is a global conflict, which will affect every nation on earth.

RISE OF ISIS

Bin Laden is dead, Long Live al-Baghdadi
Bin Laden is dead, Long Live al-Baghdadi!

Frontline’s “The Rise of ISIS” (PBS), shown on Tuesday, was a very revealing look at the origins of the terrorist organization, which went from nothing twelve months ago to being the world’s most feared terror group today, a group which has the potential to bring down the West. Although it has its origins in al-Qaeda, it is a far bigger threat. It’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is more successful than Osama bin Laden ever was. He spoke recently to the faithful in a mosque in the conquered city of Mosul, something bin-Laden never did.

The birth of ISIS has its origins in the Sunni-Shia conflict, which the US led Coalition failed to understand from Day One of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In fact, the whole debacle in Iraq and Syria is a classic example of a clash of civilizations, with a great deal of bungling on the western side. Two civilizations clashed – the West and Islam. Neither side understood the other.

Prior to the US invasion, Iraq was led by a ruthless dictator called Saddam Hussein.   Saddam was not a religious man and kept the religious extremists under control. Al-Qaeda did not even exist in Iraq under his rule.

The western invasion changed everything – and the consequences are likely to be with us for decades to come.

Saddam was a Sunni, a minority in Iraq, which has a majority Shia population.

The West saw democracy as the solution to everything. I remember an interview with President George W. Bush who, quoting an author, enthusiastically said that the spread of democracy would end all wars. British Prime Minister Tony Blair felt that democracy in Iraq, strategically located in the Middle East, would spread to other countries in the region, ending all the friction that leads to war.

Inevitably, once democracy was imposed on Iraq by the West, the majority Shia came to power, under the leadership of Anwar al-Maliki. This was a major shift in the balance of power in the region, giving Shi’ite Iran much greater influence in the Middle East.

As “Frontline” showed, it was al-Maliki’s paranoia that set the stage for the triumph of ISIS. Only one day after US troops left the country, he turned on leading Sunnis.

Al-Maliki could not embrace the Sunnis in government. Remembering Saddam’s reign of terror, Maliki was fearful of the Sunnis and feared a return to Sunni domination. It soon became clear that he would send Iraq’s army out to crush Sunni opposition, even when peaceful demonstrations were being held.

Al-Qaeda saw an opportunity to get into Iraq and soon had even moderate Sunnis supporting the organization, which was seen as the protector of Sunni Islam in the country. In February this year, ISIS broke away from al-Qaeda, pursuing a more extreme course. ISIS is sustained by the Shi’ite – Sunni conflict in Iraq. It also operates in Syria, where it has a big base.

Many in the West may see ISIS supporters as “mad,” but there is clearly a method in their madness. They have a dream of establishing a Caliphate across the Muslim world. Extremist Islamic terror groups threaten many countries throughout the Middle East and Africa – the dream could be realized. The latest casualty is Egypt. Over thirty Egyptian troops were attacked and killed just a few days ago. The Egyptian president responded by saying that the terrorists threaten the Egyptian state. The border with Gaza is to be more strictly enforced to keep Hamas fighters out of Egypt. The country is the most populous Arab state. If it falls, others will fall, just like dominoes.

Bible prophecy indicates that the entire region will become part of the “king of the south,” mentioned in Daniel 11. “At the time of the end” (v. 40) is the time period for this. The “king of the south” will push (attack?) against the “king of the north” (an alliance of countries to the north of Jerusalem). The king of the north then has to invade the Middle Eastern countries. Egypt is specifically mentioned, suggesting that Egypt will become a part of this extremist caliphate, just as the president warned could happen.

If ISIS is defeated, which seems unlikely at this point in time, the dream of the Caliphate will endure and another group will simply take over, just as ISIS has replaced al-Qaeda as the main threat in the region.

ISLAMOPHOBIA IS NOT SURPRISING

keep-calm-and-resist-islamophobia

One day last week BBC World Service Radio was promoting a documentary on “Islamophobia.”

Dictionary.com defines Islamophobia as “hatred or fear of Muslims or of their politics or culture.”

Unfortunately for the BBC, the advertized program was broadcast the day after the end of the siege of the Westgate Mall, in Nairobi, Kenya.  It’s highly likely that many listeners are Islamophobic.

It wasn’t just the upscale Nairobi Mall that contributed to a rise in the number of Islamophobes.  While the siege was going on, Islamic militants blew up a Protestant Christian church in Pakistan, killing over 80 people and injuring hundreds, including many children.  The attack on the Mall focused mostly on the rooftop car park where a children’s cooking show was being recorded.  Clearly, children will not be spared!

On the same day as the Mall attack, Iraq suffered one of its worst days of terrorism:

“On 21 September 2013, a series of car and suicide bombings struck the central and northern regions of Iraq, with the largest attack targeting a funeral in Sadr City, a predominantly Shi’ite neighborhood of Baghdad.  The attacks left at least 107 dead and more than 200 others injured.“  (Wikipedia)

Nearly a thousand civilians a month are dying in Iraq as Sunni Muslims target the majority Shi’ite population.

These attacks were carried out by Sunni Muslims affiliated with al-Qaeda.  Al-Shabab is also affiliated with the better-known international terror network.

Is there any wonder that millions of people suffer from Islamophobia?

Al-Shabab (“The Youth” in Arabic) is a militant Islamic group based in Somalia.  “The Shabab has proved impossible to dislodge from its southern Somali redoubts and has promised that the Westgate attack will be followed by others of its kind.”  (“The state of al-Qaeda,” The Economist, September 28th)

American news programs during the siege highlighted the Minneapolis connection.  The twin cities have the highest Somali population in the US.  Second generation Somalis are being recruited to join al-Shabab.  Claims that the Mall attackers included some Americans and one British woman have not been verified.

Typically, following a successful terror attack, Americans reacted blindly, flailing wildly to try to anticipate the next attack.  As a result, the Mall of America, the country’s largest mall, which happens to be in Minneapolis, is jacking up its security.  Al-Qaeda (and its Al-Shabab affiliate) is not dumb – any mall attack in the United States is more likely to be elsewhere.

People with long memories will remember when there were no Somalis in the US, prior to the 1965 change in immigration law.   Any hope of a reversal of the “new” law is not likely – neither party seems inclined to do anything which would have a positive effect in this area of counter-terrorism.  President Obama spoke recently of the need to rid Syria of chemical weapons so as to protect our children – a change in US immigration law would be more effective.

As with the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, “non-Muslims were singled out for execution; hostages were taken to prolong the drama; well-trained fighters were able to hold off security forces for a considerable time; and, as at least six dead Britons bear witness, the killers picked a target with a Western clientele.  Such attacks are easier to plan and execute than blowing up airliners and more glamorous (for the fighters involved) than suicide bombings.  As a result Western intelligence agencies fear that they may become increasingly popular.”  (ibid. The Economist)

In May President Obama declared that al-Qaeda was on the “path to defeat.”  The reality is very different.  The Economist article contained the following disturbing observation made by a counter-terrorism intelligence expert:  “Tactically, we may have defeated the central leadership, but strategically, they are winning.”

Al-Qaeda’s goal remains the same – the establishment of an Islamic caliphate across the Islamic world subject to sharia law.  Their vision allows no place for western influence.

Indeed, a few days after the Mall attack, an agricultural school in northern Nigeria was attacked by Boko Haram.  Dozens of young students were killed while they slept.  Boko Haram means “western education is a sin.”  The movement is another affiliate of al-Qaeda and has staged a number of attacks in Nigeria in recent years.

Al-Qaeda and its affiliates are concentrating right now on soft targets in their own backyard.  But if they are to achieve their goal of an Islamic Caliphate and expel non-Muslims they will have to switch their tactics and concentrate more on western countries.

They will be helped in this by second generation Muslims whose parents immigrated to the West in recent decades and whose hatred of the countries that took them in knows no bounds.

When Jesus Christ was asked by His disciples, “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3)  He first warned them of false religion, followed by “wars and rumors of wars.” (verses 4-6)  This is where we are now.

False religion is not new.  What is fairly new is the modern rise of Islam, once again pushing against the West as it has done periodically throughout history.  There will no doubt be more attacks on malls, churches and schools.  At some point, the West will hit back – and then we will see the fulfillment of the prophesied end-time events.

Islamophobia is not surprising.  What is surprising is that there has been no backlash as a result of all the terrorist attacks in recent years.  Now there’s a good program idea for the BBC!

ORWELL, “1984” and US POLITICS

George-Orwell-1984

Sales of George Orwell’s “1984” are at their highest in many decades, following revelations of the US government listening in to our phone conversations in true “Big Brother” fashion.

I pity the federal employee who has been assigned my phone number – he must be bored out of his mind.

I was on a train in England sometime ago, with nowhere to go to escape the woman across from me who clearly was not interested in quietly reading like other well-behaved passengers (i.e. myself).  She rather spent the entire two-and-a-half-hour journey calling her friends.  Her inane chatter almost drove me mad!  Whichever government employee keeps tabs on her might want to switch to tracking me – compared to hers, my life is far more interesting!

In the same week as the revelations hit the headlines, I did think of “1984”, one of the best books of the twentieth century, but it was for a completely different reason.  I’m not going to read the book again.  It’s one of the few novels I read twice but I prefer his “Burmese Days” and think that his most famous book “Animal Farm” was the most influential and perceptive book of the century.

However, “1984” has been on my mind.

The reason is the new de facto alliance between the United States and Al-Qaeda.  Remember Al-Qaeda?  Osama bin Laden?  If you remember, they attacked us on September 11th, 2001, and killed about 3,000 Americans.  The attack led to two major wars that killed even more Americans, plus Brits, French, etc. – not forgetting even more domestic casualties (“collateral damage”) in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you can remember even further back (Americans have notoriously short memories!) you will know that we actually armed Al-Qaeda in their war against the Russians (then the Soviet Union) back in the eighties.  At that time, OBL was a “freedom fighter.”  Then he became “Public Enemy #1;” now, of course, he’s dead.

But his organization lives on and is fighting against the Syrian regime of Bashir al-Assad, who is now “International Enemy #1” (unofficial title).  And so are we.  We fervently want to end his dastardly regime and replace it with another dastardly regime!  Because that’s the way it works in that part of the world.

It gets more complex but I will try and simplify it for you.

Assad is an Alawite, a sect of Shia Islam.  OBL and his not-so-friendly bunch of thugs are Sunnis, as are most Muslims.  Assad is supported by Hizbullah, a Shiite terrorist organization in Lebanon that is in conflict with Israel – and Iran, which is ruled by Shiite nutters who don’t like us; or maybe they do, as they haven’t attacked us yet, whereas the Sunnis have!!!

Assad and the others are also supported by the Russians.  Remember them?  They were our enemies for over forty years during the Cold War.  They are still our enemies but everybody is still hoping they return to democracy (return???  They’ve never been a democracy.  Why should we expect them to embrace democracy now, especially when it’s not working any more in the West?).

This is all very reminiscent of “1984.”  If you remember (and I’m going back 40 years here), there were three major powers and two of them were always in alliance against the other one.  The problem was they kept changing sides.  And when they did history had to be rewritten so that the people thought they had always been at war with the present enemy and in alliance with the other.

Sounds awfully like modern international alliances and wars, doesn’t it?

There’s another lesson from Orwell that’s applicable here.  It’s found in “Animal Farm.”

For those unfamiliar with it, the book is a satire on communism.  At the beginning, the animals rebel against Farmer Jones and take over the farm.  The analogy is with Russia (Farmer Jones represents Czarist Russia; the animals the peasants who took over with the Bolshevik Revolution.)   In time, the pigs start to resemble the Czar.  In the final scene, when the animals look through the farm window, they see the pigs sitting at the table smoking cigars and drinking whisky.

In other words, revolutionary rulers end up being just like those they overthrew.

In the same way, when it comes to the Middle East, successive US Administrations looks like the last presidency and the one before that and the one before that . . .

Nothing changes and nothing is accomplished.

But they keep on having to take sides in every dispute and sometimes going to war.

And all for what?