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!

 

 

Silent Respect, Fleeing Armies and Stark Irony

I admit…I’m a Middle East news junky!  I just find it so intriguing that the news so closely aligns with Scripture!  But, I seem to find the ridiculous and absurd more often than not.  (That’s easy when Israel’s enemies habitually open their mouths with the strangest and most untruthful things!)

But yesterday was an especially intriguing news day.  To begin with, it was Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It is a day filled with ceremony honoring the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.  The grandest ceremony takes place at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum where the Israeli Prime Minister and President almost always speak to the Jewish people, exhorting them to never forget the atrocities carried out against their people.

But perhaps most fascinating is what happens mid-morning on Yom HaShoah.  Sirens go off around the country for two minutes and the entire nation literally stands still to honor the Holocaust victims.  Here is what it looks like on busy freeways (click the picture to see the video):

Image result for yom hashoah traffic

Of course, while that was going on, we continued receiving news regarding Syria.  The US has pledged to send missiles in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons on innocent Syrian civilians.  There are US threats against Russian, Iranian and Assad regime positions.  (Other allies are making commitments to the effort as well.)

The response: Military aircraft and sea vessels are scrambling every which direction!  After commandeering a Syrian port months ago, Russian vessels are scooting out into the Mediterranean Sea.  Iran is evacuating air bases it claims not to have, and Assad is moving his military assets to what he considers to be safer, Russian protected bases!

Before the US threat of airstrikes in Syria:

After the US threat of airstrikes in Syria:

 

Finally, a stark irony (among many).  According to Israel National News (Arutz Sheva), just days before Yom HaShoah, the Palestinian Authority used pictures of dead Holocaust victims to misrepresent an alleged massacre of Palestinians by Jews in 1948.  The picture is clearly misappropriated.  (You will find the story and pictures here.)

These are crazy news days, but it doesn’t mean we have to be afraid.  As Christians, we are living in one of the most exciting times in history.  Not because of the crazy things taking place, but because we know that Jesus is returning soon!  We can lift up our heads because we know our redemption draws near!  (Luke 21:28)

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?

Nikki Haley: “The monster responsible for attacks has no conscience.”

Once again, America’s Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has not shied away from confronting the biggest perpetrators of slaughter in Syria.  In 9 1/2 minutes in the UN Security Council meeting, she boldly and unashamedly delivered a scathing report of the atrocities in Syria, calling out Bashar al-Assad personally, as well as the Russian and Iranian regimes.

She also called upon the UN Security Council to act this time, following utter disregard following the last Syrian chemical attack.

Friends, this mighty warrior needs our prayers!  She has an unbelievably difficult task in dealing with a Security Council that has long been silent when it comes to legitimate needs to take action.  Please listen to her pleas for action in the UN, then pray fervently that they respond appropriately.