When the Middle Eastern pot boils over

The following is some useful information about the current state of affairs of the Middle East provided by my Jewish friend, Avner Boskey.

The Middle East is a violently boiling cauldron. So many changes are happening so quickly, and the media does not grasp the complexity and intractability of the present situation.  What follows is a brief summation of the current state of affairs, and scriptural guidelines on how to pray for each country.

Syria

The History

At present over 100,000 people have been murdered in the civil war raging across Syria, many of these unarmed civilians including women and children. Syria has been a dictatorship since time immemorial. Its population is a mix of Arab Sunni Moslems (60%), Arab Alawite Islam with Shi’ite roots (12%),  Kurdish Sunni Moslems (9%), Arab Greek Orthodox Christian (9%), Armenian Christian (4%), Arab Druze (3%), Arab Isma’eli Moslem (2%), and 1% made up of other minorities like Turkmen, Circassian, Assyrian and Jewish. For background on the biblical and historical perspective in Syria, see “Shakings, Weighings and Divisions: Syria, Annapolis and the Return of YHVH – Part One – Syria”; October 13, 2007 at www.davidstent.org under “words.”

Military dictatorship ruled Syria (and much of the Middle East after WWII), which eventually ended up as Socialist Ba’ath governments (espousing Arab nationalism, socialism and secularism). A military officer named Hafez al-Assad (from the quasi-heretical Alawite Islamic stream) became Commander of the Air Force in 1963, and then after a military coup in 1966 became Minister of Defense. In another coup in 1970 he became Prime Minister, and in 1971 became President. He attacked Israel in 1973’s Yom Kippur War, forced Lebanon into a practical annexation in 1976, supported and trained international terror groups, carried out assassinations of Lebanon’s Prime Ministers in 1982 and 2005, and oversaw the murder of between 25,000 – 40,000 Syrians in 1982 in Hama in an attempt to crush the Muslim Brotherhood. At that time the President’s brother Rifa’at al-Assad declared that the Syrian government was prepared to “sacrifice a million martyrs” (over a tenth of Syria’s population at that time) in order to stamp out “the nation’s enemies.” For more background on Hama, see “Shattering the gates of Damascus (Amos 1:5)” August 7, 2012 at www.davidstent.org under “words.”

Assad died of a heart attack in 2000 and was succeeded as President by his son, Bashar al-Assad. Hafez al-Assad was considered by his supporters as a champion of secularism, women’s rights and Syrian nationalism. His critics have accused him of being an authoritarian dictator, a leader of a personality cult, a sponsor of terrorism and a perpetrator of multiple human rights abuses both at home and abroad. Christians in Syria (considered a minority group) nevertheless felt a measure of protection from Assad’s government.

The Players

The civil war places Assad’s government forces on one side, and a Islamist green rainbow of warriors on the other side.

The Muslim Brotherhood organization, a jihadi Islamist group whose strategy involves coups and/or election-based takeovers of secular Arab dictatorships, has successfully risen to exercise power in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, Egypt, and Gaza. One of its main leaders Youssef Qaradawi operates out of Saudi Arabia. Its networks are active in Jordan and Syria. For more background, see “Hurtling Through The Fog of War: A Messianic Perspective On The New Hamastan” February 4, 2006, at www.davidstent.org under “words.” The Muslim Brotherhood has been waiting patiently in Syria since Hama, looking for the right time for a coup, a revolution or an election which would bring them to power. Street demonstrations in 2012 afforded them that opportunity, and it was quickly snatched up.

Yet at the same time, al-Qa’eda proxies, spillovers and franchises stepped into the abyss, attempting to achieve their version of jihad on the backs of the Muslim Brothers. These include Jabhat Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Fatah al-Islam and Jordanian Salafi-jihadis.(www.understandingwar.org/report/jihad-syria).

The Syrian opposition (or National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_opposition) involves many different streams, including: Syrian National Council, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians, the Damascus Declaration, the Syrian Democratic People’s Party, the Supreme Council of the Syrian Revolution, the Assyrian Democratic Organization, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, the Free Syrian Army and Higher Military Council, the Liwaa al-Umma, the Syrian Liberation Army, the Syrian Liberation Front, the National Salvation Front in Syria, etc.

These groups are not as strictly organized or supplied as the regular Syrian Army. As a result, there is a war of attrition going on, with many civilian casualties caused by Assad’s warplanes bombing cities, Assad’s artillery shelling civilian areas, and limited use of chemical warfare by Assad’s army. Rebel forces are chipping away at resupply routes, and command and control centers. They are being gradually armed with heavier and more advanced weapons. The balance of power tips back and forth with every new day.

At the same time, a state of anarchy is happening among the rebels, with Salafi and jihadi forces massacring Shi’ites and Christians (beheading Orthodox priests, torturing Protestant believers etc.), executing Muslims they suspect of being not fully Salafi and Islamic, etc.

Ø  Syrian believers in Yeshua see the handwriting on the wall, and know that whatever the outcome, their lives will be terrifyingly worse if the rebels come to power.

The stockpiles of chemical weapons in Assad’s warehouses are mostly aimed at Israel, though they could also be targeted at Jordan and Lebanon if need be. Surrounding countries (especially Israel and Jordan (with the US shadow handing over Jordan’s shoulder) – as well as Special Operations Forces from Western countries – have their fingers on the trigger, waiting and watching to see if the tripwire snaps and operations to seize chemical weapons becomes necessary.

Iran openly activated Hezbollah forces recently in order to bolster its influence over the western Middle East.  Hezbollah in Lebanon is a strategic partner of Assad’s Alawite regime, and they have lost over 500 fighters on Syrian soil in an attempt to prop Assad up from collapse.

The Great Game between the West and the Saudi-led block (on the one hand), and Russia, Iran and China (on the other) is heating up.

Ø  Pray that believers will be protected and given great opportunity to witness their faith

Ø  Pray for the preservation of human life

Ø  Pray that Islamist forces will not triumph in Syria

Ø  Pray for the destruction of all chemical warfare stockpiles, with minimal loss of life

 

Egypt

Egypt has been convulsing in birth pangs for at least two years now. For more background, see “Riots on the Highway to Egypt” January 31, 2011; and “You say you want a revolution” – February 12, 2011, at www.davidstent.org under “words.”

The military dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak was dislodged by street demonstrations and US State Department pressure. At first the demonstrators became the darlings of the news media, and the moniker “Arab Spring” was coined, replete with visions of sugar-plums and Twitter hash tags. Within a very brief time indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood hijacked the ‘revolution’ and established itself as the new Pharaoh in Egypt. While corruption was a significant factor in Mubarak’s Egypt (and in the rest of the Middle East), the accession of President Morsi’s Brotherhood did not alter the socioeconomic situation. The economy actually got worse, as Islamists moved into offices of power and influence, and Western investors balked at pouring in good money after bad.

Persecution of Coptic and Protestant Christians has increased (riots, arson, murder), and recently Shi’ites were massacred in Cairo while at worship. The safety of women on the streets and in public squares has become highly dangerous. The Muslim Brotherhood has been pushing to ratify an Islamist constitution, one which would disenfranchise secular Egyptians, Christians and women.

In June and July 2013 crowds have taken to the streets in a bizarre parallel to the anti-Mubarak crowds of 2011. Now they are calling for Morsi to step down, accusing him of being an American and Zionist agent. Flags of the USA and Israel are being burned in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, as well as posters of President Morsi. The largest demonstration known to mankind took place on Sunday June 30, with over a million Egyptians protesting the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist reign.

Ø  Pray that believers will be protected and given great opportunity to witness their faith

Ø  Pray for the preservation of human life

Ø  Pray that Islamist forces will not triumph in Egypt

Ø  Pray for revelation according to Isaiah 19 regarding the ultimate spiritual result for Egypt and Israel

 

Jordan

In 1922 the eastern bank of the Jordan river was established as a British puppet state, and then again in 1946 as a fully sovereign Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan (today known as Jordan). King Abdullah (a descendant of the Hashemite dynasty and related to Mohammed) lost out on ruling Mecca to the Ibn Saud family, but the British set him up as king in this territory. For years under British tutelage, Jordan gradually moved to rest under the American umbrella (as did the new country of Saudi Arabia!).

The Hashemite dynasty is not native to the country of Jordan, and a majority of the population is descended from Arabs hailing from west of the Jordan river (commonly known as Palestinians). As a result, a simmering Muslim Brotherhood movement arose, intent on wresting Jordan away from the Hashemites, and on establishing an Islamist Caliphate in that country. Only a strong and wily intelligence service keeps Jordan alive.

The Syrian spillover has resulted in refugees flooding into northern Jordan – approximately 420,000 at latest count. Social and economic instability has resulted, and Jordan’s leadership (as well as those of Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq) are focusing fitfully on developments.

The USA has recently conducted Operation Eager Lion in Jordan, depositing Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries, F-16 fighter jets, Special Operations Forces and other boots on the ground. Syria, Russia, Iran and China have protested America’s presence. Similar American military groups have established themselves on Turkey’s border with Syria. Jordan’s leadership is concerned at how Syrian developments might lead to unrest and violence on Jordanian soil (as once happened in 1970, when Syria invaded Jordan and the USA asked Israel to threaten Syrian forces with Israeli tanks; www.ndu.edu/press/lib/images/jfq-55/25.pdf ; www.aisisraelstudies.org/papers/Rubinovitz2009b.pdf).

Ø  Pray that believers will be protected and given great opportunity to witness their faith

Ø  Pray for the strengthening of human life and for spiritual fruit among the Syrian refugees in Jordan

Ø  Pray that Islamist forces will not triumph in Jordan

 

Lebanon

Lebanon was severely weakened after the PLO failed to overthrow King Hussein, and he subsequently drove the PLO out of his country into Syria and Jordan (the Black September season in 1970). The arrival of a substantial Sunni terrorist contingent in Lebanon weakened the tenuous balance between Maronite Christian, Druze, Shi’ite and Sunni, and led to the civil war of 1975-82 wherein over 100,00 Lebanese were killed. Israel’s invasion in 1982 resulted in the PLO been driven out and re-establishing itself in Tunis.

Into this vacuum moved Syria and Iran. The latter strengthened the Shi’ites in Lebanon, and the al-Amal movement gave way to a Khomeini-like jihadi organization known as Hezbollah(the party of Allah). This movement gradually became the main player in Lebanon, taking most of its orders from Iran’s mullahs and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran). The attacks on US and French Marines bases in Lebanon were engineered by Hezbollah, as well as similar attacks on the Israeli army, and attacks on Jewish organizations in Argentina, The Hezbollah network is one of the strongest present-day terror networks in the world, with many sleeper cells in Western countries. Most of its armaments come from Iran and through Syria.

Hezbollah has kept its Shi’ite warriors under wraps when it comes to action in Syria, but events there have prompted Iran to “call in the mortgage” and send Sheikh Nasrallah’s fighters into the thick of Syria’s front lines. This has catalyzed a strident negative reaction from Sunni leaders in Saudi Arabia, in Gaza’s Hamastan, in Egypt and among Lebanese Sunnis, Druze and Christians. Fighting has drifted back and forth across the Syrian-Lebanese border.

A fuse has been lit in Lebanon, and Hezbollah’s power base is experiencing tremors. The previous Lebanese civil war (1975-82) might end up being child’s play compared to what may be coming around the bend. And in many instances in the Middle East, the tradition is, “When things get bad, blame Israel!”

Ø  Pray that believers will be protected and given great opportunity to witness their faith

Ø  Pray for the strengthening of human life and for spiritual fruit among the Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Ø  Pray that Islamist forces will not triumph in Lebanon

Ø  Pray for much spiritual fruit among all Lebanese, including among Hezbollah members

 

Afghanistan

The original American invasion of Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom, October 7, 2001) was meant to drive out al-Qa’eda and its minders the Taliban, allowing the country to become a Western-oriented democracy. Though al-Qa’eda was scattered as a result, it went underground in Afghanistan and Pakistan, morphing into a loosely knit diaspora community from Indonesia to Yemen. The British and Russians were not able to crush the Afghanis during their military sojourns in that country, and the US forces have not been able to get more brilliant results. President Hamid Karzai is a leader tainted by typical Afghani corruptions, while US diplomats negotiate with the Taliban behind Karzai’s back as US forces prepare for a staggered retreat from Afghanistan.

The Islamist world sees Afghanistan as the anvil upon which Western “Christian” forces are beaten, while in the West many leaders are running full speed away from defining themselves, their countries and their morality as Christian.

Ø  Pray that believers will be protected and given great opportunity to witness their faith

Ø  Pray that Islamist forces will not triumph in Afghanistan

Ø  Pray for much spiritual fruit among all Afghanis, including among Taliban members

 

Iraq

The Kingdom of Iraq was created by British statesmen in 1932, which functioned as a British puppet until 1958, when a Ba’athist coup established the Republic of Iraq. The dictator Saddam Hussein ruled with an iron hand from 1979-2003, when he was deposed by US military forces.

Iraq is made up of a Shi’ite majority (65%), a substantial Sunni minority (34%), and a one percentage point of minorities, including Armenians, Chechens, Circassians, Egyptians, Palestinians, and Shabaks.  The ethnic distribution is as follows: Iraqi Arabs (75%), Kurds (17%), Turkmen (3%), Assyrians (2%) and Persians (2%). This religious and ethnic mix guarantees that Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurd will always be fighting each other for control. The fracturing of Iraq into separate countries does not look like a feasible option in these days of energy-based political decisions.

As the US walks out the Iraqi door and slowly disengages from the country once called Mesopotamia, explosions are accompanying her at every corner. Al-Qa’eda in Iraq has moved delicately into the vacuum, while Sunni and Shi’ite employ IEDs to fragment civilians and worshippers on both sides of the Islamic divide.

Ø  Pray that believers will be protected and given great opportunity to witness their faith

Ø  Pray that Islamist forces will not triumph in Iraq

Ø  Pray for much spiritual fruit among all Iraqis

 

Iran

The Western orientation of the Shah of Iran could not paper over his corruption and cruelty. The rise of a bloodthirsty and demonized Shi’ite Islamist Republic under the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 led to the rebirth of ancient Persia as a Middle Eastern force to be reckoned with. The export of Shi’ite jihad to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates, Central Asia, Iraq and Lebanon altered the Islamist jihadi equation in the world. Iran’s persecution of Jews, Bahai’s, Christians, Communists and secular Iranians has led to a dictatorship international recognized for its cruelty and zeal against its own citizens.

Iran’s spread of international terrorism through its Revolutionary Guards Pasdaran movement is the most outstanding example of its kind. Iran’s fanatic fervor in obtaining nuclear weapons, while threatening Israel’s with total destruction, has created deep fear among the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, and any other country within reach of Iran’s cold and bony arm. The world’s attention is fixed on Iran’s race to nuclear holocaust, yet shows callow spinelessness in confronting these ambitions. The parallels between the world’s indifference to Hitler in the 1930’s and the world’s indifference to Iran in our day must be drawn and considered.

Ø  Pray that believers will be protected and given great opportunity to witness their faith

Ø  Pray that Islamist forces will be removed in Iran

Ø  Pray for much spiritual fruit among all Iranians

Ø  Pray for the removal of nuclear weapons factories in Iran

Hamastan and PA

As a result of Western pressure on Israel, the PLO terror organization was allowed to return to Gaza and the mountains of Israel. More pressure from the US and EU led to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally disengaging from Gaza. The gap was quickly filled by the local Muslim Brotherhood branch (Hamas) coming to power in January 2006, with President Jimmy Carter as an international observer during the voting. Knee-capping, torture and assassination of PLO/Palestinian Authority personnel was the order of the day, and soon Gaza became an armed camp with missiles aimed at Israel. Two main clashes with Israel have occurred (2009 and 2012), while scores of Qassam rockets and mortars have slammed into Israeli cities, kibbutzim and moshavim before and after each war. Over10,138 rockets have been fired at Israel during this period, as well as 4,890 mortar shells (www.idfblog.com/facts-figures/rocket-attacks-toward-israel/www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/hamas-qassam.htm;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_rocket_attacks_on_Israel).

Gaza has become an Islamist region, with shari’a law in effect. Unaccompanied women and mixed couples displaying any physical affection are in severe danger. Christian workers have been martyred, while foreigners have been kidnapped and held for ransom. Israeli cities, towns and villages are attacked from time to time by rocket and missile fire. Smuggling tunnels bring weapons in and terror teams out. The Sinai peninsula has become a terror hotbed, and rockets have been fired from the south into the Israeli city of Eilat, often overshooting their mark and hitting the Jordanian city of Aqaba. Terrorists attempt to tunnel into Israel on a regular basis.

Gaza’s Hamas leadership oversee an Islamist Palestinian “state.” Yet the Palestinian Authority in what is called the West Bank oversee another quasi-state. Under their watchful eye, terror squads belonging to the PA (Tanzim, al-Aqsa) as well as Islamic Jihad groups and Hamas operatives – all plan and attempt to execute terror attacks and the planting of IED’s against Israeli civilian targets. Only Israel’s Shabak (General Security Services) , the IDF and the anti-terror barriers stand in the way of bloody casualties.

The world would like to see peace break out in this area, yet turns a blind eye to all of the above – active support of terrorism, refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, wanting descendants of Arab refugees to settle in Israel and not in PA areas (thus overrunning and destroying the Jewish state), etc.

Two Palestinian-ruled geographical entities exist. Both are attempting to destroy Israelis. Why exactly is there great fanfare about a peace process?

 

Israel

The nation of Israel sits like a pontoon bridge on a lake of hungry sharks, surrounded on all sides by the most unfriendly of neighbors. As the pot boils over in one country after another, and as the world turns two blind eyes away from the threats facing this country, we believe that the God-breathed prayers of believers in Yeshua worldwide make all the difference in the world.

Ø  Pray that Israeli believers will be protected and given great opportunity to witness their faith

Ø  Pray that Islamist forces will be weakened in Israel, the PA area and in Hamastan

Ø  Pray for the gospel to go forth in power to the Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, to Gazans and those in the PA areas

Ø  Pray for the destruction of all weapons formed against us (Isaiah 54:17 )

Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!

In Messiah Yeshua,

Avner Boskey

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