The developments in the Middle East are coming fast, yet how do we make sense of them? Sometimes it’s easy to identify red flags in headlines, but what do they mean? To what do they point?
I prayed about it, asked God to help me understand what I am seeing. He reminded me of a vision Rick Ridings, director of Succat Hallel, shared with us last fall.
Please go read “Praying for the nations: Iran and the Arab world” for the complete vision. Below is a visual representation.
In the vision, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were menacing Israel. Nearly a year later, Israel is preparing its citizens for retaliatory attacks from Iran and/or Syria as it contemplates striking Iran’s nuclear facilities. Let’s look at the rhetoric and actions of each of these nations. Keep in mind that this is just a snapshot of what is happening. It is intended to give you a regional picture and guide as you pray for God’s will in the Middle East.
The Persian nation has been a consistent agitator for years. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been saying Israel will by wiped from the map since at least 2008. This year is no different. Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program has Israel on alert.
- UN nuke agency forms special ‘action team’ to investigate Iran’s nuclear program — Times of Israel
- Iran expands nuclear capacity underground, sources say — Reuters
- Israel a ‘cancerous tumor’, Middle East’s biggest problem, Iranian supreme leader says — Times of Israel
- Iran Steps Up Threats to Rub Out Israel — Gatestone Institute
- Iran unveils upgraded short-range missile — Associated Press
The bloody civil war in Syria has destabilized the government with the world’s largest chemical weapons cache. Some in Israel are concerned Bashar Al-Assad may attack Israel in a last desperate move. A fresh report that Assad tried to destabilize neighbor Lebanon by orchestrating terrorist attacks gives credence to Israel’s concerns.
Assad vows Syria will defeat ‘foreign conspiracy’ at any price — Al-Arabiya
- Probe reveals Syria’s Assad behind Lebanon terrorism plot — Al-Arabiya
- Syria says will use chemical weapons if attacked — The Associated Press
Lebanon has been suffering spillover violence from the civil war in Syria, though it turns out some of the violence was manufactured by Syrian President Assad. Shi’a Islamic militant group and political party Hezbollah is based in Lebanon and continues to threaten Israel in word and deed.
Probe reveals Syria’s Assad behind Lebanon terrorism plot — Al-Arabiya
- Two dead as clashes flare again in Lebanon’s Tripoli — Reuters
- ‘Hezbollah drill prepares to ‘occupy the Galilee” — Jerusalem Post
- Hezbollah Leader Threatens Hundreds of Thousands of Fatalities, Turning Israelis’ Lives into Living Hell — MEMRI
- Jewish and pro-Israel groups push EU to classify Hezbollah as terrorist group — The Times of Israel
It’s hard to see how Saudi Arabia fits. The mainly Sunni Muslim kingdom distrusts Shiite Iran. Still, the Sauds have made it clear that Israel may not fly over the Arabian Peninsula on the way to Iran. Also, recent uncovering of al-Qaeda cells as well as purchases of U.S. weapons send up warning flags.
- Saudi Arabia allegedly warns it will intercept Israeli jets en route to Iran — Al-Arabiya
- For Saudi Arabia, despite Ahmadinejad’s visit, Iran remains ‘the snake’ — The Times of Israel
- Saudi Arabia arrests suspected militants with al-Qaeda links — Reuters
- Saudi deals boosted US arms sales to record $66.3 billion in 2011 — Reuters
The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt has made Israel wary. The leadership continues to say that they wish honor the peace treaty with Israel. A terrorist attack at the border in early August has put that to the test. In an effort to clean up the Sinai Peninsula of jihadists, Egypt has moved in tanks and helicopters, technically violating the 1979 peace accord. Also, Egypt continues to allow Iranian ships through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea, most recently a cargo ship with weapons bound for Syria.
- IDF foils assault on southern border after terrorists kill 16 Egyptian soldiers — The Times of Israel
- Egypt tells Israel military presence in Sinai is temporary — The Times of Israel
Rockets continue to be fired from Gaza into southern Israel. Ruling group Hamas admitted that 3 Gazans were involved in the Egypt-Israel border attack. Egypt has opened the border crossing with Gaza, raising concerns that arms may flow more easily to militants.
- Hamas says 3 Palestinians in Gaza assisted in August 5 border terror attack — The Times of Israel
- Egypt reopens Gaza border crossing for passengers — The Associated Press
- Analysis: There is no Gaza blockade — Jerusalem Post
- UN: Gaza not livable by 2020 without urgent action — Reuters
I’ve split Gaza from the rest of the Palestinian claimed territory (Judea & Samaria aka the West Bank) because they function separately and because I see little chance of Hamas, Fatah and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority ever reconciling (read “Son of Hamas” for why).
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas intends to ask the United Nations General Assembly for a status upgrade after getting stonewalled by the United States in the UN Security Council last year.
A year ago, Turkey was saber rattling toward Israel, threatening to have its navy escort ships trying to break the Gaza sea blockade. Right now, Turkey is distracted by the Syrian conflict, the resulting flood of refugees to its borders and the newly stoked insurgency by militant Kurds.