World Watch Today

Who will control Syria?

02 17 2018

Leaders from Iran, Russia and Turkey compete for influence in Syria

The Islamic State’s downfall has left a power vacuum in Syria.  Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Israel are all very interested in who fills that power vacuum in the country.

Currently it is Iran who is best positioned in the country and has the deepest relationship with the Assad regime in Syria.  Turkey is very much anti-Assad and is most concerned that Syrian Kurds could fuel an uprising of the Kurds in Turkey. The more Turkey and Iran are focused on competing for power in Syria, the less focused they are on competing with Russia. Putin has polite relations with Turkey and an even stronger partnership with Iran, but Middle East relationships are a short-lived relationship that change very quickly.

Israel has been most concerned about Syria. On February 10th, an Iranian drone crossed into Israeli territory and was shot down. Israel responded to the Iranian intrusion by dispatching fighter jets to attack targets in Syria, including the Tiyas air base, near Palmyra, where the Iranian drone apparently originated from. Syrian anti-air systems reacted, striking an Israeli F-16, which crashed after making it back to Israeli territory. This pressured Israel to smash eight Syrian targets and four Iranian positions. Russia and America are hoping that tensions between Iran and Israel do not escalated into a war between these nations.  Everyone in the region is fixated on the question, who will gain the upper hand in Syria?

Israel is watching Iran’s involvement in Syria very closely. It is one thing for an Iranian proxy like Hezbollah, with its reduced number of fighters, to fire rockets at Israel from Lebanon. But when Iran begins to station missiles, massing ground forces and placing aircraft in Syria, just across the Israeli border, using Syria as a base of Iranian operations, this amounts to a deadly menace to Israel.

Russia wants to preserve Syria as an independent nation and a Russian ally, not as a proxy nation used by Iran to project its power throughout the region. The Tiyas air base, which was the target of the Israeli strike, has also been a base for Russian aircraft in Syria. Russia and Israel have close relations – Netanyahu was in Russia just last month to express Israeli concerns to Moscow – and Russia is not looking to pick a fight with Israel (it relies too much on Israeli technology, also there is a large population of Russian Jews living in Israel who have relatives back home in Russia).

Saudi Arabia… The Saudis, who as recently as November were threatening war against Iran, hate Iran. So much so that Saudi Arabia remains extremely hostile to Iran and will support Israeli moves against it (and Saudi Arabia, unlike Israel, is within range of Iran). In addition, Egypt and Jordan remain aligned with Israel, they too fear Iran, a Shia led country.  Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan are Sunni.

It boils down to this; Iran is seeking to fill the power vacuum left behind by the Islamic State’s defeat in Syria. No one likes the Iranians; they stir up trouble everywhere and they threaten the leadership status quo in the Arab world—which is Sunni. Israel has been bombing targets in Syria for years to prevent Iran from building up forces in that country. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan will allow Israel to attack Iranian targets in Syria because of their fear and hatred of Iran; Russia does not seem to mind the attacks as it too, does not want to see Iran become too dominant in Syria.

The war for control of Syria is far from over.  It will be most interesting to see if Israel and Iran are drawn more deeply into fighting each other in that country.  Just because the Islamic state has been defeated there, it does not mean all is well in Syria, far from it.  Another question to be answered in 2018, is what will happen to Assad of Syria, will he maintain his leadership of the country or will he be forced by Russia and Iran to leave office?  President Assad of Syria is among one of the basest of men who continues to rule in the Middle East (Daniel 4:17); that whole region will only become more muddled as we transition over to a Syria without the Islamic State. —Steven LeBlanc

Poland's serious disagreement with the European Union

01 26 18aPoles march against “Muslim Invasion of Europe” in the Spring of 2017

German leader Angela Merkel says the current world order is under threat—This was a comment that was made at the famous Davos meeting of world leaders and business leaders this week.

The world under threat—what does she mean?

Well…she is worried about the nationalist movements—nation first thinking that is taking hold in countries such as: Poland, Hungary, Austria, England, the United States, Russia, China and even Germany.

The German Chancellor believes in the community of nations approach to solving problems—that we all work together for the common good, and that means that individual nations should give up their sovereignty to a great degree—she does not believe in America first, or Poland first or Germany first, or to the Russia first way of thinking.

You don’t hear much about Poland in the news here in the States—but Poland is important—let’s take a moment to discuss this pivotal country.

• Poland has a population of 38 million people
• Poland is the most religious country in Europe (It is 88% Catholic, their weekly church attendance ranks the highest in Europe, even higher than in Italy).
• Major cities; Warsaw (capital) 1.742 million; Krakow 764,000.
• Roman Catholicism is so popular in Poland that there is a television channel dedicated to the pope.
Poland has been invaded or fought for freedom 43 times since the 1600s
• Poland’s history can easily be summed up as a continuous struggle against invasions. Poland suffered terribly during the 2nd world war—it was sandwiched between 2 monsters: Hitler and Stalin.
• Between the 1939 invasion of Poland, and the end of World War II, over 90% of Polish Jewry perished. Six death camps (Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka) were founded in which the mass murder of millions of Polish Jews and various other groups, was carried out between 1942 and 1944.
• Poland lost 6 million citizens in World War II— 3 million were Jews; Poland had the largest concentration of Jews, more Jews living in Poland than in any other European country.

01 26 18bThe infamous Auschwitz/Birkenau Camp II

• An estimated 1.3 million Jews were murdered at the twin camps, Auschwitz I (the original camp), Auschwitz II–Birkenau (a combination concentration/extermination camp).
• With a population of nearly 40 million and a half-trillion-dollar economy Poland is now the world’s 24th largest economy.
• Since Poland completed the transition from Communism to democracy in 1991, its economy has been growing at an average annual rate of 4 percent and, remarkably, has not suffered a single year of negative growth.
• Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) government rules the country; the Party is pro-US, anti-Russia, and cool to the leadership of Germany’s Angela Merkel.
• After the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Poland set out to distance itself as far as possible from Russia
• Poland is rapidly increasing its military power.
• Poland, along with Hungary, has refused to take in any refugees under a 2015 deal that was supposed to allocate 160,000 people among EU member countries in order to take the burden off Greece and Italy. Germany’s Angela Merkel is upset with Polish leaders for not complying with EU rules regarding refugees.
Polish leaders warned that EU pressure on Poland to accept refugees “is a straight road to a social catastrophe, with the result that in a few years Warsaw could look like Brussels.”
• Despite being in the EU, there’s little appetite in Poland to create a West-European style multi-ethnic society.

It is true that the tide of nationalism that is on the rise around the world finds its footing in anger. People are angry. Look at Poland, one of the most dynamic countries in Europe. The Polish people supporting the Polish government, is refusing to take in refugees from the Middle East and North Africa—this angers the European Union.

Poland, in particular, will force policymakers in Brussels to decide what to do with an elected government that chooses not to adhere to EU laws. Poland and others like it will resist whatever the EU tries to do to bring them to submission.

The Scriptures reveal that in the “last days” of human authority a vast and powerful religious system (Catholic system), will have astonishing influence on a union of nations that is gradually, but surely, emerging on the European continent (Revelation 13). Poland will be a big part of this end-time structure; remember– Poland is the “most Catholic country” in Europe, considered to be more devout than Italy. Poland matter, watch Poland!

Iran "Flare-up"

01 14 2018
Over the past 4 weeks we have seen Iran hit by a wave of protests. Students, middle class and the working class poor have demanded that the government do something about rising food prices and high unemployment. The protests have spread from the northeast part of the country to many villages and towns throughout the country. These protests are growing in size, and they are very difficult to control—the Iranian leadership is worried.

The demonstrations have turned increasingly hostile with protesters chanting anti-regime slogans such as “death to Khamenei,” “the Khamenei’s regime is illegitimate” and “free political prisoners.” The protests are driven by widespread observations that the ruling class (under the religious clerics) has become harsh, dishonest and self-serving, producing exhibiting apathy and discrimination—the government just doesn’t seem to care about the people.

Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei is now 78 and in poor health; meaning a fight is on the horizon over the selection of the next supreme leader. His death will open up divisions that already exist within the nation—Iran is a very divided nation; there are many different factions vying for power throughout the country. Also take note; that the international nuclear deal, aggravated rather than healed rifts between the reformist and conservative factions within the country.

Iran signed the nuclear deal because it hoped to lift sanctions and open the door to international investment in the country. The economy has improved, but not as much as hoped for. Also, few international companies have made significant investments in Iran; business people outside of Iran do not trust the Iranian regime, so are unwilling to risk large amounts of capital investment in building their business in the country.

When watching nations and geopolitical trends ALWAYS keep in mind that the spirit 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. How will the leaders of Iran deal with the protests—harsh crackdowns may not work? Economic trouble can quickly lead to massive unrest among Iranians. Will the protests grow or will they fade. We will watch this situation very closely.

Prime Minister Netanyahu on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

Jerusalem at the Center

12 11 2017

Jerusalem is very important both historically and prophetically. Zechariah 12:3 asserts, Jerusalem will become “a very heavy stone for all peoples.” The marginal note in the NKJV Study Bible says on this verse: “ Jerusalem is compared to a heavy stone that brings injury to anyone who tries to remove it from its place.”

For years, US policy has been to avoid declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel in the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal; remember the Palestinians also claim Jerusalem as their capital. For 68 years the State Department insisted on pretending that Israel has no capital. This position was a fundamental component of an overall US Middle East policy—this was done so as not to upset the Arab world. President Trump initiated a new course for US Middle East policy entrenched in reality for the first time since 1948.

Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital has also transferred the United States attention to relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the move would be seen as buttressing Israeli sovereignty over the city.

Moving the embassy hazards setting off diplomatic chaos with Arab states (such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan), which could include far-reaching protests outside US diplomatic offices and embassies around the world. There was widespread condemnation from the Arab world after Trump’s decision was declared.

Approximately 852,000 people live in Jerusalem — 38% are Arab and 60% are Jewish; the Jewish population includes around 200,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews, with the rest split mostly between religious Zionist and secular Jews. Of the city’s Arab population, 96% is Muslim; the other 4% is Christian.

The US has never had its embassy in Jerusalem. It has always been in Tel Aviv, but in 1989, Israel began leasing to the America a plot of land in Jerusalem for a new embassy. To this day, the plot has not been developed, and it remains an empty field. The 99-year lease cost $1 per year. In 1995, the US Congress passed a law requiring America to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Supporters said the US should honor Israel’s choice of Jerusalem as its capital, and acknowledge it openly. So why have presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama refused to move the embassy; they were timid about upsetting the Arab world, so they never followed through with the intent. President Obama never seriously considered moving the embassy.

Palestinian leaders are enraged, claiming that an embassy move to Jerusalem would be a violation of international law, and a huge setback to peace prospects. President Mahmoud Abbas has turned to other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Jordan’s King Abdullah, to help pressure Trump to change his mind. The Palestine Liberation Organization has suggested it would cancel all agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, should the move take place.

We will be watching Jordan’s reaction to the announcement. Jordan, where Palestinians make up nearly half the population, will have to deal with the consequence from Jerusalem’s new status. Jordanians will take to the streets to try to force their king to break the country’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel. At the same time, the powerful Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood will exploit the President’s announcement to gather strength in Jordan’s parliament seeking to erode the monarchy’s political strength.

Jerusalem is described in the biblical Book of Zechariah as “ a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples” (12:2). This news story is a fire that will not die.

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