The attempt by western powers and the Arab League to topple the Syrian regime has Russia threatening to veto any vote at the Security Council level in order to protect its interests in the Middle East. Iran is also causing consternation and raising temperatures in the Middle East, drawing the Biblically designated allies closer together.
This week headlines around the world have been dominated by Syria. Russia has also figured heavily into the headlines as opposing any UN action in Syria. Running a close third has been Iran with the growth of its nuclear capabilities which draws international eyes toward Israel and the fear that they will intervene.
The Attempt to Topple Syria
The Arab League resolution has called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the violence and hand over power to his deputy. However, Russia is not going along with this, nor is it standing by while other act. CBC News reported on February 1st,
International powers remain deadlocked on what to do in Syria. The U.S. and some European powers favor the removal of al-Assad but Russia and China apparently fear a regime change that might threaten their long-term interests in the region.
Russia has been a long-standing ally of Syria, has an important naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus and has been selling arms to Syria for years.
Both Russia and China may also fear that a regime change in Syria would embolden Western powers to do the same in Iran, which is a major supplier of oil and natural gas to China and an ally of Russia.
Russia does not want regime change because it will “threaten their long-term interests in the region”. The meaning of this is further elaborated by an article entitled, “The Last Battle of the Cold War,” in the Wall Street Journal which reported on January 31st, 2012:
Time and again at the United Nations, Moscow has declared the sovereignty of the Assad regime a "red line"—and stated that it would veto any resolution in the Security Council that would put it in jeopardy….
Mr. Putin is invested in Syria, as well as in other dictators in the region. There are philosophical and ideological stakes at work here. Mr. Putin has ridden the windfall of oil and gas revenues for a good decade, buying off the middle classes, tranquilizing his country, and justifying his authoritarianism at home as the price of restoration of grandeur and power abroad…
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been emphatic that there can be no repeat of Libya. By his lights, the green light given to protect Libyan civilians had turned into a warrant for regime change.
Democracies are on a rampage, so the Russian custodians of power insist, and a line has to be drawn in defense of an autocratic cabal of nations. Russian history alternates long periods of quiescence with sudden rebellions. The Putin autocracy was taking no chances.
The French Press reported yesterday that the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said,
“I don’t think Russian policy is about asking people to step down. Regime change is not our profession,”. Lavrov argued that while Mr. Assad was not an ally of Moscow, it was not up to other nations to interfere.
Whether Mr. Assad can survive the “Arab Spring” or not we do not know for sure. What we do know is that a regime friendly to Russia and hostile to Israel will exist in the latter day. Russia has great interest in Mr. Assad’s survival, and following the loss of Gaddafi as their ally, does not want to lose another client state.
Iranian Nuclear Threat Pulls Players Together
Running parallel to this is Russia’s protection of Iran, the “Persia” of Ezekiel 38 who is “with them” along with Libya. This is definitely “heating up” the Middle East. Bloomberg reported on February 1st:
Israeli Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz said his country must build up its military capabilities and be prepared to strike if economic sanctions fail to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Israel must be “willing to deploy” its military assets because Iran may be within a year of gaining nuclear weapons capability, Gantz said yesterday.
“There is no doubt that Iran is striving for a bomb,” Gantz said. Its activities “must be disrupted,” he said.
Speaking at the same conference, Israeli Military Intelligence chief Major-General Aviv Kochavi was reported by the Jerusalem Post, to have said:
Iran can make bomb within a year; add to that 200,000 rockets and missiles, this threatens Israel. Iran has created a stockpile of enriched uranium that could be used to manufacture four nuclear weapons.
The French Press reported secret talks between the CIA and the Mossad in the US this last week on this very issue. We read:
The head of Israel’s intelligence service paid a secret visit to Washington last week to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, the CIA director and a top U.S. lawmaker said Tuesday.
Mossad chief Tamir Pardo flew to the U.S. capital to consult with his American counterparts amid speculation over a possible Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, CIA director David Petraeus and Senator Dianne Feinstein revealed at a congressional hearing.
The Bible paints a picture of the Merchants of Tarshish and the Young Lions of siding with Israel and “pushing” against the power of the north in Daniel 11:40:
And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him….
The “southern alliance” will be pro Israel, although unable to stop the onslaught described in Ezekiel 38.
We look for a power more favorable to Israel to be driving the American bus in the latter days. Canada’s Prime Minister has proven to be pro-Israel, Britain is leaning this way, as are the Australians and the New Zealanders at times. The USA has had drop in its support for Israel under Obama. Although the current leadership of the CIA is exhorting Israel to hold back, the Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney has different ideas:
"I believe the best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and to appease, but is to say we stand with our friend Israel,” he said. “We are committed to a Jewish state in Israel; we will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally Israel.”
It will be interesting to see what transpires throughout the US Elections this fall…. and also in Russia.
Beating the Swords into Plowshares
Russia’s focus on the Middle East is rooted in its future ambitions. Russia is concerned about its military contracts and the billions of dollars tied up on them. Reuters reported on January 31, 2012:
Russia is counting on President Bashar al-Assad keeping his grip on power to see through potential arms contracts worth up to $6 billion and help Moscow reach a record defense export year, according to the CAST think-tank…
Having lost tens of billions of dollars in arms contracts with Libya after leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted last year, Moscow is looking to Damascus to maintain a foothold, both politically and economically, in the region.
At stake for Russia, the world’s no. 2 arms exporter, is billions of dollars in potential and current arms contracts with ally Syria, including deliveries on an order of 24 MiG-29M2 fighter jets signed in 2007.
Syria, where Russia maintains a naval base, is also the only ally Russia has left in the Middle East.
“(If Assad goes) Russia will lose everything,” CAST Director Ruslan Pukhov said.
“Syria is one of Russia’s top five clients. Russia already concluded with Syria contracts for $4 billion and has $2 billion more potential contracts on the way,” Pukhov said.
Moscow-based CAST is Russia’s most respected defense and security think-tank. Although it has good relations with the government it is independent.
We do not believe that Russia is as dependent on Syria as the CAST Director believes. The scriptures paint a different picture. Ezekiel 38:4–5 speaks of a military buildup in the region preparing for Armageddon:
And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords: Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet:
Daniel 11:40 echos the picture:
And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.
Joel 3:9-11 speaks of little gentile nations arming themselves thinking they are strong:
Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.
We continue to watch the Bible in the News. This has been Jonathan Bowen joining you. Tune in next week for a special report when the Bible in the News will come direct from Israel, God willing.