World Watch Today

Proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia

06 20 2017
PRESIDENT TRUMP WITH ARAB LEADERS

What we are seeing in the Middle East is a blatant proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.  This brawl has been devastatingly fought out across Syria’s many cities, and also in Yemen, nearly 600,000 people have died in Syria and Yemen combined.  The region’s two most ruthless centers of power — the house of Saud and the Ayatollahs in Iran — find themselves fighting each other not just for influence but for the position of who will be the leader of the Muslim world.

Iran and Saudi Arabia remain deeply hostile to one another. As one of Saudi Arabia’s most significant figures, Prince Turki al-Faisal, said on a recent visit to London, ‘Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the birthplace of Islam. As such, it is the foremost leader of the wider Muslim world. Opposing the Saudis is Iran; Iran portrays itself as the leader of not just the minority Shiite world, but of all Muslim revolutionaries interested in standing up to the West.’  Saudi Arabia despises Iran—the feeling is mutual.

Prince Turki condemned Iran’s ‘meddling’ and its ‘destabilizing efforts in the countries with Shia majorities — Iraq and Bahrain — as well as in those countries with significant minority Shia communities such as Kuwait, Lebanon and Yemen.’ As he asserted, ‘Saudi Arabia will oppose any and all of Iran’s actions in other countries, because it is Saudi Arabia’s position that Iran has no right to meddle in other nations’ internal affairs, especially those of Arab states.’

Clearly tensions between the two nations are swelling.  Saudi officials more recently called for the Iranian leadership to be called to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes. And what is most disturbing is the rumors that the Saudis will buy nuclear bombs ‘off the shelf’ from their contacts in Pakistan if Iran ever reaches anything approximating the nuclear dawn.

This proxy war is not a rumor of war—it is a real war being fought out between these two nations, and the war is escalating.  It is only two years ago that the Iranians attempted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington. The plan was foiled only because the two suspects — an Iranian-American and an officer from Iran’s Quds Force — ignorantly connected with an informant from US Drug Enforcement Administration.   Remember Matthew 24:6 tells us we will hear of more wars—it seems like this proxy war is far from over and will continue to destabilize the Middle East.

To add to the current Middle East chaos we have a break in Saudi Qatari relations.  In early June Saudi Arabia led a six-nation effort to cut ties with Qatar (on June 5th).  The nations in question – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and the Maldives – also banned all travel to and from Qatar and, with the exception of Egypt, and ordered their citizens living in the country to leave.  Why the breakdown?  The Saudis believe Qatar is supporting terrorist organizations that are hostile to the Saudi Royal family; also Qatar has become too friendly with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s great enemy.  The Saudis have had enough!

To add to the mess, and it is a BIG mess… The United States is supportive of Saudi Arabia and angry at Qatar as well because the U.S believes that Qatar gives money to terrorist groups—which it does.  But this gets complicated—remember the Middle East is layered with complications.  America is supportive of Saudi Arabia but the regional headquarters of the U.S. Central Command is in Qatar, and the Qataris have helped the United States not just in the Middle East but also in South Asia, where they assist in peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban.  So America is in the middle of the disagreement between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, looking to maintain friendly relations with both countries.

Adding yet another layer to this row… Iran has sent hundreds of tons of food to Qatar in recent days, because Qatar is almost entirely dependent for food from foreign exports.  So this means Iran is now more engaged in the affairs of the Arab world because they are helping Qatar; remember most of the Arab monarchies loathe Iran.  The food was meant to help relieve Qatar from its economic isolation after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Doha and closed their air, sea and land borders to the tiny Persian Gulf state.  Qatar needs to get food somewhere so now they are relying on Iran.  This proxy war will only get worse in the months ahead.  I am watching this proxy war very closely—there is no solution in sight!

One Middle East nation that has not abandoned Qatar is its long-time friend Turkey. Turkey has constructive dealings with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well; but Turkey sponsors Qatar’s efforts to stand up to Saudi Arabia’s authority in the Middle East; Why– because Turkey wants to become the dominant Sunni power in the region.

As we continually see, Middle East relationships are layered with intrigue and complications. Expect greater pandemonium in the Middle East!—Steven LeBlanc

America planning for war with North Korea:

Expecting the next European war

When we think of Europe most Americans think of fashion, quaint cafes, the Eiffel tower, fascinating architecture and endless historical sites. But history thinks of Europe very differently… Europe’s past is the location of massive wars, ethnic cleansing and brutal concentration camps.
05 05 2017

Berlin, Germany devastated by allied bombing during World War II

Europe’s history of fighting is far from over.   Europe remains a small continent, fragmented into many parts and crowded with many ethnically dissimilar nation-states.  It has a history of resentment and bitterness and ethnic violence.  Europe’s anger against other Europeans is still very much alive.   The fact is all nations have memories, and all but the most powerful nations feel wronged by some crime that cannot be made right.  This will help you understand Europe today and why there will be future European wars.

Suffering on the continent over the past 100 years has been staggering.  For example Poland in the past has been brutalized by both Russia and Germany; the Serbs killed thousands of Croats and Bosnians in the decade of the 90s; and during World War II the Ustaše regime in Croatia viciously killed thousands of Serbs at the Jasenovac concentration camp outside of Zagreb.  Revenge killing is a well-known modus operandi in Europe.  No nation really trusts others.  Friendships between nations are shallow and superficial at best.

Over the years France has been repeatedly invaded by Germany; the British do not trust the French, the Greeks despise the Germans…Germany believes it must protect itself from Russia and western Europeans.  In Belgium the Walloons do not trust the Flemish, the Flemish look down upon the Walloons; the Greeks despise the Turks, the Turks believe they are part of Europe, when no one else in Europe believes Turkey should be considered European.  And lets not forget…the Hungarians and Romanians dislike one another immensely. The differences and old wounds are almost endless when it comes to Europe.  Old wounds have a way of reopening.  War will be part of Europe’s future—the old wounds will chafe again.

Let’s not forget that the First World War was essentially European; 16 million people died in World War 1, most of the dead were Europeans.  The Second World War was truly global, but it was Europe that suffered the most during World War II.  No one can be certain of exactly how many died in Europe in World War II, but a conservative number is 51 million, this included soldiers and mostly civilians.  In 1939, Europeans numbered about 550 million.  An astounding 10 percent of all Europeans perished during the six years from 1939 to 1945.  But numbers do not capture the awfulness of war—the starvation, millions killed, the sadness, and the fear, the millions of orphans.

Poland lost over 16 percent of its population during the 2nd world war, Germany more than 10 percent; the Soviet Union lost 14 percent.  The greatest losses took place in the “Bloodlands” of Eastern Europe; Poland and the area we call today Belarus were hit particularly hard.  Between 1942 and 1947, 17 million people died in Eastern Europe, killed by Stalin or Hitler.  By Eastern Europe I mean the general area that encompasses what is now Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, and western Russia.  But even countries to the west like France lost half a million, and Italy and Britain lost almost a half million during the 2nd world war.

Geopolitical analyst George Friedman sums up the devastation that overtook Europe this way in his outstanding book, FLASHPOINTS, “combining the 55 million dead from World War II and over 16 million from World War I, in the thirty-one-year period from 1914 to 1945 approximately 71 million Europeans died in general warfare. When you add roughly 20 million killed or starved under Stalin, the number rises to 91 million. Add in the Russian and Spanish civil wars, and sundry other conflicts hardly worth mentioning, such as Turkey’s war with Greece and Armenia, and the number of 100 million is conservative.

The Balkans and ethnic cleansing

And there have been recent European wars.  In the Balkans, there were about a quarter of a million casualties in the 1990s thanks mostly to the aggression of Slobodan Milosevic a Serbian and Yugoslavian president.  The term ethnic cleansing originated in former Yugoslavia in the 90s.  It bears repeating… all nations have memories, and all but the most powerful nations feel injured by some wrong that cannot be made right.  This is especially true of the Balkans. By the Balkans I am talking mostly about former Yugoslavia.  Catholic Slovenia and Croatia, Orthodox Serbia and Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina (thought of as Muslim but with a large Serbian Orthodox population) these merged together into a temporary nation whose ethnic hostilities boiled beneath the surface; this became the communist state of Yugoslavia headed by Marshal Josip Broz Tito who suppressed in-house ethnic conflict with an iron fist.   But he died and 25 years ago the Balkans erupted into a vicious war.

The Balkans is important to European history. We should remember what Bismarck said in 1888: “If there is ever another war in Europe, it will come out of some damned silly thing in the Balkans.”  How prophetic that statement was.  When Gavrilo Princip, a member of “Unification or Death,” a Serbian group, assassinated Archduke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo (Bosnia) in 1914, it set in motion the 1st world war.  Today the nations of former Yugoslavia (Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo) are at peace, but the peace will not last long.  As we have learned over the centuries, in the Balkans peace is fleeting.

The European Union intended to achieve what the Romans, Charlemagne, Napoleon, and Hitler had all failed to do: create a united peaceful Europe.  Today Europe is relatively peaceful.  But Prophecy tells us it will not remain that way.  The peace in Europe today is simply the calm before the storm.  Keep in mind that conflict in Europe can occur quickly.  Let’s not forget the recent past.  Germany was weak, divided, and barely armed in 1932.  By 1938 it was the great military power on the Continent.  Nightmares can come to pass quickly.

In the not too distant future– we are told that political turmoil in Europe (Revelation 17), will lead to a newly formed confederation of states that will be beastlike (terribly destructive).  We are told in the book of Daniel, that God often removes and sets up leaders according to His purpose and insights: Daniel 2:21– He controls the course of world events; He removes kings and sets up other kings…thus we watch Europe with this in mind, and with intense interest!

European leaders will eventually choose one single dictator, the prophesied “beast,” which will set up a system that will be extremely brutal (Revelation 17 verses 12 and 13).  European extremism will return to European cities.  Jesus Christ himself will destroy this end-time empire, and then Christ will establish the Kingdom of God on earth, that Kingdom will rule the nations with justice and force.  Europe is important—we will continue to watch this year’s important election process on the Continent with a discerning eye—Steven LeBlanc

George Friedman's Insights on North Korea

Who will be Iran's next supreme leader?

04 17 2017a

Sadeq Larijani; possibly Iran’s next Supreme Leader

There is increasing talk in Iran as to who will replace Supreme Leader Khamenei when he dies.  The death of Khamenei will mark the biggest political change in the Islamic Republic in the last 30 years.

The supreme leader is the most powerful person in Iran, with absolute authority over all segments of the state.  Iran’s supreme leader is 77 years old. Rumors that he suffers from cancer have circulated for the past few years.   We know from Iran’s state-run news agency (published photos of him recovering from prostate surgery), that he is battling cancer.

04 17 2017b

Supreme leader Khamenei when he was in the hospital for prostate surgery

More recently, we know that the Iranian government is treating his succession with urgency; there is talk that the Supreme leader himself is vetting potential leaders.  A new person in that position could dramatically alter the course and tone of Iran’s foreign and domestic policies. In the hours following Khamenei’s death, the Speaker of the Assembly of Experts will assemble an emergency session to choose a successor. The next supreme leader is likely to be one of three men: Sadeq Larijani, Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, or Ebrahim Raisi.

The favorite is the current head of Iran’s judiciary, Larijani, 56, who was born in Najaf, Iraq, to an influential family: He is an elected member of the Assembly of Experts.

Larijani has exhibited an absolute devotion to the supreme leader. He has never claimed the status of grand ayatollah, thus showing veneration to Khamenei’s authority. And he supports the notion that the Assembly of Experts should exercise minimal supervision over the supreme leader, an extreme view within the seminary.  Khamenei has described Larijani as a “learned, brave, cerebral, revolutionary mujtahid [an authoritative interpreter of Islamic law] and devout scholar” and has compensated him for his faithfulness by promoting him to key positions.

As head of the judiciary, he demonstrated his conformist zeal, fervently attacking Rouhani for supporting the nuclear deal. Further adding to his influence, Larijani chairs the board of trustees of Imam Sadiq University, which trains civil officers for key political positions in the Islamic Republic. His involvement in such pivotal institutions has given him a deep understanding of Iran’s maze of power.

When it comes to relations with the USA, Iran will continue its guarded and no-nonsense strategy, cooperating on some issues (for example, helping with the fight against the Islamic State) while spurning to do so on others (for example, maintaining its hostility toward Israel). And as long as the United States sustains its end of the nuclear deal; Iran will continue to maintain a limited and fractured relationship with America. It is silly to hope that pressure from the Trump administration will produce any political change in Iran.

When watching nations and geopolitical trends ALWAYS keep in mind that the spirt world is at toiling behind the scenes, often demons are motivating and influencing world leaders to make certain decisions. It reminds me of the lying spirit that swayed King Ahab as recorded in 1 Kings 22. In 1 Kings 22 we are told of a council of war between the kings of Israel and Judah. Treacherous King Ahab and the good Jewish King Jehoshaphat were planning war against Syria to regain land that Israel had lost. At the council, God’s prophet Micaiah was brought before the two kings, he revealed an perceptive vision from the throne of God and how the world of angels and demons can sway world leaders:

Micaiah viewed God sitting on His throne and the spiritual host of heaven around Him. “Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will persuade him [Ahab].’ The LORD said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets’” (verses 21-22). God was allowing Ahab to be persuaded by his advisors (influenced by a lying spirit) to engage in a battle that would lead to Ahab’s death.

The lesson for us is that at times lying demonic spirits work through government advisors [types of false prophets] to prevail upon leaders to make foolish decisions. The Bible tells us there is a parallel world where demons seek to confuse and influence world leaders.  With this background; I cannot help but to consider that demon spirits will be involved in the sequence of discussions that will lead to who will be the next Supreme Leader of Iran.—Steven LeBlanc

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