Commentary on world events that relate to Bible prophecy and on Rapture Ready issues world events.

Jan 31, 2011

The Middle East In Turmoil

A wave of anti-government unrest has swept over several Arab nations. The turmoil began in Tunisia with protests over high food prices and political repression. A key tipping point came when a twenty-six-year-old Tunisian fruit seller named Muhamed Bouazizi set himself on fire—and later died–after police revoked his vending permit. Bouazizi’s act highlighted the callousness of the state and has inspired protests in Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen.

All eyes are on the unrest in Egypt. Rioting is typical for the Middle East, but is actually unheard of for Egypt. For decades, the strong-arm rule of Hosni Mubarak has kept order in the nation.

It is a mystery to me why we call Mubarak the president of Egypt. He has ruled the nation under a draconian state of emergency for twenty-eight years and has imprisoned and tortured thousands of his opponents. He was even talking about making his son the next president of Egypt. Mubarak has been elected president five times, but in each vote he was the only person on the ballot.

Egypt holds regular multi-party parliamentary elections, but it’s just a facade of democracy. All power rests almost solely with Mubarak. The parliament is just a rubber-stamp factory to give him legitimacy.

Western nations have long played along with this charade. Here is what Vice President Biden said recently when asked if Mubarak is a dictator: “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with Israel. …I would not refer to him as a dictator.”

Biden made his comment right before the big eruption. After the Egyptian people took to the street, the Obama administration suddenly became concerned about the lack of freedom in Egypt. Just as you can't change your bet once the race horses have left their gates, we're going to live with the consequences of decades of bad foreign policy.

The Mubarak dictatorship is a core pillar of the U.S.-backed order in the Middle East. We provide Egypt with $1.5 billion in aid each year to maintain stability. We may soon see our investment go up in flames.

I can still see in my mind the image of George W. Bush and Barack Obama holding hands with the king of Saudi Arabia. Bush started this practice because we wanted the Saudis' help with a favorable oil policy and their cooperation with the War on Terror. The king of Saudi Arabia is not some loveable, figurehead ruler. He represents a government that has an even worse record on human rights than Egypt.

When it comes to calling for democratic reform, the West needs to be careful what it wishes for. Islamic fundamentalists are slowly winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the Arab people. These organizations have poured billions into aid projects. If free elections were allowed to take place, we’re not going to see a rash of Jeffersonian democracies popping up in the Middle East. In a fair vote, most Arab nations would become Iranian-style Islamic states.

Radical Muslim groups have already used the political process to gain power in nations like Turkey, Iraq, and Lebanon. The liberal news media gave little coverage to the fact that Hezbollah, a terrorist political party, was able to win a dominant role in the Lebanese government.

Israel is nervously watching the events in Egypt . It has much to lose if Mubarak is toppled. Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, and Mubarak has steadfastly honored the deal. Egypt has been vital in preventing militants from smuggling arms through Israel's southern border.

Little is prophesied about Egypt for the last days just before Christ's return. Since it played a role in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973, it would seem logical to conclude that it will be a key player in any future conflict.

One thing I’ve noticed about Bible prophecy is that end-time progression tends move like earthquake fault lines. Following years of inactivity, everything suddenly moves all at once. Since we have never had such a high level of civil unrest in the Arab world, it’s important for us to remain watchful.

"For when you see all these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your head, for your redemption draweth near" (Luke 21:28).

-- Todd

End-Times Indigestion

A diagnosis of current, troubling realities in the Middle Eastern region of the world leads to a disturbing prognosis. Indigestion is possibly the culprit that threatens to bring on the terminal condition that prophecy calls Armageddon. Okay, so maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to liken what’s going on in the most volatile part of the world to a human gastrointestinal condition. But it certainly seems that it is gas that is shaping up to be at least one incendiary ingredient that might ignite history’s final holocaust.

While the Mideast broils with vitriol against Israel, the one nation on earth specifically pointed out by Zechariah the prophet as being at the center of end-times hatred, a situation taking place in the belly of that geographical beast bears watching. Natural gas is emerging as a burning issue in that highly volatile region. Key prophetic players are at the center of the ongoing developments.

The European Union (EU) is at the heart of matters involving the recent discovery of natural gas in Iraq’s Kurdish region. The EU has been striving to lessen dependence on Russia for supplying natural gas. Discoveries in Iraq open the possibility that the Europeans might be successful in accomplishing that independence. However, quickly rearranging relationships among nations surrounding the region of new gas discovery provoke some interesting thought, prophetically speaking.

The Nabucco consortium, a European group of oil and gas companies, hopes to construct a pipeline to southern Europe through Turkey. Nabucco is much more than just a commercial enterprise. It is an attempt to shift the balance of power in European energy politics, according to expert observers.

If the 3,300-kilometer Nabucco is built, it will be the first major natural gas pipeline into central and eastern Europe that isn’t controlled by Moscow. This is important because the EU fears Russian control of such a large chunk of its gas supply. Several EU member states have also suffered severe winter gas supply disruptions in recent years as Russia fought with its neighbor Ukraine over transit rights. So Nabucco has strong political backing from the European Commission, and is treated with disdain by the Kremlin. (James Herron, "Iraqi Gas Discovery Boosts EU Hopes of Gas Independence," Wall Street Journal, 1/26/11)

Europe’s plans are far from being a done deal. The pipeline must go through both Iran (to an extent) and Turkey, as stated before. The Russians are almost certainly going to have a major objection to losing their monopoly on gas-supply operations in the region. And that country’s influence is considerable. Russia has over the past several years made ever-tightening alliances with the two major nations with which the EU must deal in order to bring natural gas from the Kurdish gas fields. At the same time, those nations, Turkey and Iran, are continuing to solidify relations with each other. The three–Russia, Iran, and Turkey—have formed a triad of sorts. It is a most fascinating arrangement in these strange days of quickly moving geopolitical realignments.

Russia and Turkey have just signed in Istanbul a strategic cooperation protocol for enhancing their bilateral relations. This was arranged by the Turkish- Russian Joint Strategic Planning Group, which is charged with carrying out preparatory work for the high-level Cooperation Council meeting in Moscow this March. Although the group didn’t divulge any details of the strategic protocol, it is logical to presume that considerations regarding the proposed EU pipeline figure in the planning.

One source reports:

Russian-Turkish ties have predominantly expanded on an economic basis, especially with energy deals. Projects in the energy sector such as Samsun-Ceyhan, South Stream and Nabucco will also be on the agenda of the preparatory talks. Turkey receives 70 percent of its energy resources, including gas and oil, from Russia. Turkey will also put into operation its first nuclear power plant with the cooperation of Russia. ("Russia, Turkey Sign Strategic Cooperation Protocol," People's Daily Online, 1/26/11)

Russia no doubt intends to continue to exert hegemony over Middle East energy sources and supplies at all cost. Turkey, under its recently installed, antagonistic-to-Israel, Islamist regime, is firmly ensconced within the Russian-Iranian (Persian) camp. The EU will likely have to look elsewhere for its energy independence from the Russian Bear.

There is such a source to the south of Russia, Iran, and Turkey. Can you guess who that is?

In 2009, a partnership that included Texas Based Noble Energy Inc. and Israeli oil companies discovered Tamar, an offshore gas field containing eight trillion cubic feet of natural gas. It was the largest gas find in the world in 2009 and the largest ever for Israel at the time.

Last December, the company announced the discovery of the Leviathan field, which contains a whopping 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—enough to supply all of Israel's gas needs for 100 years—and promises to turn the once resource-starved country into a net energy exporter. (Charles Levinson, "Israel to Launch State Fund Within a Year," Wall Street Journal, 1/26/11)

There is talk of the EU contracting with Israel to provide the much-needed natural gas supply. It will be fascinating to watch developments, in consideration of the Gog-Magog prophecy of Ezekiel chapters 38-39.