Afterthoughts: The US-led Attack on Syrian Chemical Weapons Facilities

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Questions about the US-led attacks in Syria are swirling, so let’s approach them the appropriate way: by viewing them through the lens of Scripture.

What led up to the American-led attack?

In brief, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is opposed by rebel groups who have suffered under his tyrannical reign.  Thus, to rid himself of the rebels, Assad has repeatedly attacked them with chemical weapons.  Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, America (and the rest of the world) stood on the sidelines, despite “red lines” that were crossed by the Assad regime.  Once elected, President Trump vowed to take action if chemical weapons were used, and he followed through on that promise about a year ago when Assad unleashed a chemical attack on his own people.  Again, on Saturday, April 7, Assad used chemical weapons to decimate citizen (including children) in the city of Homs (just outside Damascus).  President Trump openly declared that missiles were forthcoming, though they were not launched until April 14.

Why did President Trump wait so long to strike?

That is a  complicated question and I may not have the correct answer, but here is my take.  In early April (before Assad’s latest assault with chemical weapons), Trump announced that he wants to pull troops out of Syria.  Following Assad’s attack, Trump then had a dilemma: pull out (as recently promised) or attack (to fulfill a previous promise)?  To remain true to his campaign promise to respond to chemical weapon attacks, he had to do something.  But he wanted the assistance of others, and he did not want to be dragged into a long conflict.  Thus, I believe it took time to draw the UK and France into commitment to strike alongside the Americans.  (Which they did.)

Meanwhile (in the span of that week), rhetoric from the White House, the State Department and the Department of Defense had grown fairly course toward Russia and Iran, holding them responsible for aiding and abetting Assad in his monstrous attacks on his people.  In fact, in the aftermath of Assad’s attack, President Trump very specifically aimed tweets at Russian President Vladimir Putin, stating smart missiles were coming.

So, if Russia and Iran were being held responsible, why didn’t the US target Russian and Iranian facilities?

Reports from trustworthy sources indicate that there may have been considerable disagreement among Trump’s advisors regarding attacks on Russian and Iranian positions.  Also, the timing was interesting.  It was several days after Trump promised action that he actually ordered the attack.  By that time, virtually all Russian and Iranian military assets were evacuated, leaving very little for the Americans and their allies to attack.  In fact, reports indicate that Assad very likely evacuated the Syrian chemical weapon stashes from the two storage facilities that were hit.  Therefore, while I see the destruction of the research facility as a major “hit,” I’m not convinced the attack was very successful in terms of setting back Assad’s capabilities in using chemical weapons again.

Will the US and its allies carry out further attacks?

It appears this round of attacks is over.  Things are “returning to normal,” meaning Syrian jets are back in the air, bombing rebel positions.  (Though no chemical weapons are believed to have been used since April 7.)  Though the US has said they will levy additional sanctions on Russia, Russian and Iranian military assets are returning to their bases in Syria, and I suspect it will soon be “as you were.”

Now….through the lens of Scripture.  We’ve talked at length in previous posts about the Isaiah 17:1 prophecy, foretelling the destruction of Damascus.  That is coming, and I believe, could be the spark that lights the fuse for the Ezekiel 38 prophecy.  (War of Gog and Magog – attack on Israel by a coalition led by Russia and including Iran, Turkey and others.)

Now, the elephant in the room: is the US truly standing with Israel or not?  By not taking more decisive and determined action against the thugs in Syria whose target is ultimately Israel, is the US as strong a partner as Israel needs?

Dear friends, Scripture tells us that, in the end, Israel will stand alone.  Of course I want the US to take the strongest stand possible for Israel.  Of course I don’t want America to let Israel down.  But God’s Word is God’s Word.

The US is not specifically mentioned in Scripture, so that should be our first clue that the US will not likely be a key player in the end.  If there is any possible mention (indirectly) of the US, perhaps it is part of the “…merchants of Tarshish with all its villages…” in Ezekiel 38:13.  However, if that is the case, those “merchants” and “villages” do nothing to assist Israel.  They simply stand on the sidelines asking questions!

Furthermore, Joel 3:2 indicates a time in which God will gather ALL nations to be judged for how they treated Israel.  Unfortunately, America is part of “ALL nations.”

But here is my favorite view of these current events through the lens of Scripture:

Some boast [trust] in chariots and some in horses,
But we will boast [trust] in the name of the Lord, our God.
~Psalm 20:7 NASB (“trust” used in other translations)

It will NOT be the strength of the military (US or otherwise) that will protect and save Israel.  It will be the Lord Himself!  Should we, as individuals, be faithful to stand with Israel, regardless of the cost?  Absolutely yes!  Should we pray that our nation remains faithful to stand with Israel?  Absolutely yes!  But at some point, will Israel ultimately stand alone?  Yes…and Israel will see the power of her God!  Trust in the name of the Lord our God…He reigns over all!

 

 

Will there be a US Strike on Syria?

White House briefing from military leaders (Photo Credit: Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

News is abuzz over the potential US strike in Syria.  President Trump has cancelled a trip to South America in order to remain at the White House to manage the situation, and movement of US vessels and aircraft has been observed in the Mediterranean.  The Pentagon has likely drawn up possible attack options, while the President is soliciting assistance from current allies such as France, Saudi Arabia, Britain and Qatar.  All have called for Syria to be held accountable, though it remains to be seen how active they will be in any military action.

Following Trump’s recent announcement that he plans to pull US troops out of Syria, he now walks a thin line in determining how to orchestrate an effective strike on Syria.

News reports can be found on almost any news outlet, so if you are interested in more logistical detail, just scan the news outlets.  However, I think it is important to view current events through the lens of Scripture, so let’s consider a logical  stream of Biblical thought:

  • Isaiah 17:1 tells us Damascus will be utterly destroyed in the last days.  Damascus and the surrounding area are taking a beating, and should the US or its allies strike hard and relentlessly, Damascus will cease to exist.
  • As you likely know, Russia has propped up the Assad regime in Syria almost from day one of the Syrian civil war.  Putin has become “czarish” and is calling the shots in much of Syria.  No one has attempted to restrain Russia and Putin is smelling the power he so desperately desires.
  • Along with Russia, Iran has set up camp inside Syria.  In fact, it is believed that the helicopter that deployed the latest rounds of chemical weapons took off from an Iranian-controlled base.  That base (T-4) was attacked by Israel soon after the chemical weapons attack, destroying infrastructure.
  • Turkey is the “silent partner” at the moment (though not-so-silent in the grand scheme of things).  Wanting their piece of Syria, their motive is to drive out their arch enemies, the Kurds.
  • Taken together, Russia, Iran and Turkey make up the key players (though not the only players) in the coalition named in Ezekiel 38.  A ruler (Gog) will arise out of Russia and will command the invasion of Israel.  Puting could well be that ruler Ezekiel describes, and we could well be on the verge of that War of Gog and Magog.
  • It is believed by some well-known Bible scholars that the destruction of Damascus (Isaiah 17:1) could be the spark that lights the Ezekiel 38 fuse.
  • Interestingly, the United States is not mentioned specifically in Ezekiel 38, and only as a spectator if one believes the US is a “village of Tarshish” (Britain or Spain), alluded to in Ezekiel 38:13.  (More detail in Week 8 of the study, Looking for the Blessed Hope.)  If the War of Gog and Magog is indeed at hand, we can expect America’s power to be taken away somehow, because they will not be a major world player at that point.  What will happen to diminish or totally dissolve America’s military might?  Internal collapse? External attack? Rapture?  (That’s my pick!)

Most are oblivious to what it taking place in the Middle East right now.  Many of those who do have an inkling are expressing fear.  But let’s anchor Biblical truth here!  As believers in Christ, we should most definitely care about what it taking place in the world.  We should be praying as Scripture commands, and we should be doing whatever the Lord leads us to do.  We must be about our Father’s business!

But, dear friends, Scripture is filled with “do not fear” messages!  We do not have to be afraid of what is happening, or what is about to happen.  We know how it all ends!  As believers in Jesus the Messiah, we are another day closer to joining our Savior for eternity!  Therefore, we stand firm.  We stand bold in our faith.  We stand steadfastly with Israel (while the world turns their back on her).

Prophecy is not meant to scare, but to prepare!  It is time to take stock in what we believe and how we live it out.  It is a time to prepare to meet our Lord!

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.  But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.  For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”
~Matthew 24:42-44

Are you ready?

Through the Lens of Scripture: Macron and the EU

When we gather at our virtual study table, we often talk about viewing today’s events through the lens of Scripture.  So, pull up a chair and let’s go back to a news piece from a few days ago and put it into Scriptural context.

Consider Emmanuel Macron: “France is back at the core of Europe.”  Read the article and you will discover Macron hyping a “stronger Europe,” and that France is perhaps the linchpin that brings it all together.

The EU is currently a coalition of 27 European countries, but Macron makes it clear that he does not intend “to wait for all the people around the table before moving forward.”

“If some people are ready to be more ambitious, to go further in terms of integration and ambition of what makes you sovereign as a power in this global environment, to defend your values and your interests, let’s move,” Macron said. “Those who don’t want to move forward should not block the most ambitious people in the room,” he said.

Global environment…the most ambitious people in the room.  Key phrases!  By the way, he gave his speech in English (as he often does on the world stage).  Do you ever wonder why?

Well, I don’t claim to be a prophet, but here are some thoughts:

 

  • Daniel 2 describes the account of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that the prophet Daniel interpreted.  The dream makes known a succession of kingdoms, including a fourth kingdom (revived Roman empire) described as feet and toes of iron and clay.  (Verses 40-45)  Iron and clay do not mix.  This is a divided kingdom.  The passage also indicates that iron will crush and shatter all things.  In other words, the iron portion of the kingdom will subdue the clay portion.  Could it be that Macron’s French empire and the other “most ambitious people in the room” become the kingdom of iron that crushes all others?
  • Daniel 7 provides another glimpse into a similar dream God gave to Daniel himself.  In it, the same succession of kingdoms was described, and when it came once more to the fourth, Daniel again describes a kingdom that devours and crushes others.  (Verses 23-25)  The kingdom is characterized as having 10 horns, which represent 10 kings.  Is it possible that the 27 nations in the European Union will be whittled down to the 10 “most ambitious,” who will ultimately make up this 10 king coalition?  We know this passage of Scripture to be indicative of the antichrist, and we have previously noted similarities between characteristics of Emmanuel Macron and the antichrist.  I am not saying he is or isn’t the antichrist…only questioning whether or not the stage is being set for fulfillment of Daniel’s vision.
  • Revelation 17:12-18 also describes the rise of the antichrist, called “the beast” in this passage.  It predicts that 10 kings (horns) will “give their power and authority to the beast,” who will then be destroyed by the Lamb of God!
  • When Macron speaks of “global environment,” it is no coincidence.  One World Government has been on the rise for ages, and Macron is among those pressing for it.  Revelation 17-18 talk specifically about the rise and fall of mystery Babylon…false religion and false government.

Finally, regarding Macron’s speech in English.  While we have to be careful not to make too much of it, I do find it interesting that Macron consistently speaks the most common language of the day.  If you want to lead multi-national coalitions, speaking different languages, it might behoove you to speak the language that is understood by the most people.  A vast number of Europeans speak (or at least understand) English as a second language.  Thus, is it any surprise that Macron would abandon use of his native tongue in favor of a common language?

Signs of the times?  It certainly looks like it!  Is Macron the antichrist?  It is too early to say for sure.  The point is not to identify who the antichrist is, but for each of us to determine for ourselves whether or not the stage is set for the last act.

As Christians, we likely won’t be here when the antichrist is revealed, so we don’t need to know who he is!  But we DO need to know and understand the season in which we live.  Jesus is coming…are you ready?

World Leaders React to Iranian Chaos

After almost a week of protests-turned-riots in Iran, world leaders have reacted in various ways.  Let’s take a look:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:  Following Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s outrageous claim that Israel was behind the uprising by Iranian people, Netanyahu responded with a 90-second video that went viral.  He refuted the Iranian claim as “laughable,” called out the Iranians for wasting “tens of billions of dollars spreading hate,” and vowed that, when the regime falls, “Iranians and Israelis will be great friends once again.”  (See video here.)

US President Donald Trump:  Stated that the United States’ aim is to “collect actionable information” in preparations to issue stronger sanctions against Iran.  In multiple tweets, he expressed support for the protesters, that the US was watching for human rights violations and that it is time for a change.  (See news of those tweets and other comments here.)

Hezbollah leader in Lebanon, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah:  First comments were that the protests in Iran were being dealt with “calmly and wisely” and that “there is nothing to worry about.”  He followed with: “Trump’s hopes have been disappointed…[as will the hopes of] all those who bet that the protests would grow and lead to the fall of the regime and chaos in Iran.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Very little reaction came from the German Chancellor. Simply that Berlin was watching the developments and that the protesters “deserve our respect.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan:  Communication has been ongoing between Erdogan and Iran’s Rouhani.  Hoping the protests would end “in a couple days,” Erdogan pledged Turkey’s backing of Rouhani’s statement to uphold protesters rights, but urging them “not to violate laws.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin: Mostly silent, but eventually the Russian Foreign Minister stated: ““This is Iran’s internal affair. External interference destabilizing the situation is inadmissible.”  Perhaps a veiled warning to the US and other backers of the protesters.

French President Emmanuel Macron: Made it clear that the message coming from the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia was “almost one that would lead us to war … a deliberate strategy for some,” and stressed the importance of keeping a dialogue with Tehran.

Very expected reactions as battlelines are being drawn.  Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US stand with the protesters, desiring an end to the oppressive regime in Iran.  Turkey, a drastically growing ally of Iran, takes a stand with them.  Russia (who actually cares less for Iran and more about the benefits they might bring) gives lip service as they focus on other things.  (See Putin’s Titanic has hit a fatal Middle East Iceberg)

Then there is Macron…the rising leader in Europe.  While Germany bears little authoritative power, Macron continues to play the part of peacemaker, urging restraint on the part of the US and allies while “keeping a dialogue with Tehran.”

Do you see the stage being set?  The Bible tells us that Russia, Iran and Turkey (along with Sudan and Libya) will attack Israel from the north.  Those nations are already united and growing stronger in their coalition with one another.

However, with turmoil inside Iran, might it be a distraction that lengthens the timeline?  Given all that is going on in Syria, might this be a bubble of time in which Damascus is destroyed (as prophesied in Isaiah 17)?  Might that be the spark that lights the Ezekiel 38 fuse?

We don’t know!  But what is clear is that the stage for future Biblical events is being set.  It is time for us to be about our Father’s business, friends!  I hope 2018 is a year of commitment to that very thing!

Blessings!