After several years of darkness falling on the Middle East, we’re actually seeing quite a bit of good news in recent months.
The U.S.-led coalition of Sunni Arab countries is systematically crushing the Islamic State. The Caliphate has been dismantled. ISIS jihadists are still a threat, but they’re being driven out of Syria and Iraq.
With the fall of the Caliphate, the ISIS-led genocide against Christians and Yazidis is over, as is the relentless slaughter of Muslims who don’t share ISIS’s wicked theological and political views.
The Saudis are making major reforms and cleaning house in significant ways inside the kingdom — they’re also developing closer ties with Israel, as are the Gulf emirates.
This week marks the 40th anniversary of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem in 1977, and the beginning of a dramatic peace process that led to the Camp David Accords in 1979.
Four decades later, Egypt’s peace with Israel is not perfect. But the relationship between the two governments is closer — and warmer — than ever.
What’s more, President el-Sisi told our Evangelical Delegation earlier this month how highly he regards Sadat’s legacy of peace, and how he wants to build on that legacy. Mrs. Jehan Sadat, the widow of the late Egyptian leader, also told us over tea in her home how highly she regards President el-Sisi. She said he is carrying on her husband’s legacy. That is no small thing, especially just a few years after the Muslim Brotherhood nearly burnt Egypt’s society and economy to the ground.
Led by the remarkable King Abdullah II, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan also maintains a solid peace treaty with Israel and close security and intelligence cooperation. Nowhere in the Arab world are Christians safer than in Jordan. Indeed, as I mentioned when our Delegation met with the King in Amman this month, Jordan is an island of calm and stability in an ocean of fire. Again, given the history of the region, this is truly something to give thanks over.
Meanwhile, Israel’s economy is booming. Tourism is at record levels. Natural gas is flowing. And polls show that most Israelis feel safer and more secure than any time in the last seven decades. This is all good news.
And yet, all is not well.
There are still many serious challenges in the region, especially for impoverished Palestinians — especially for those living in Gaza, trapped under Hamas’ cruel hand — as well as for the millions of Muslim and Christian refugees in the region who have had to flee from violence in Syria and Iraq and have no idea where to call home.
That said, today was a particularly ominous day.
Today, the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey met in the Russian city of Sochi at a summit aimed at strengthening their emerging military and economic alliance, and at figuring out how to consolidate their gains in Syria.
Such an alliance is a new axis of evil, and it bodes ill for the U.S. and the West generally, and for Israel in particular. Indeed, students of the ancient Hebrew prophecies of Ezekiel 38 and 39 should be watching events carefully. One should not draw speculative, rash conclusions, of course. We cannot say that the eschatological “War of Gog & Magog” is at hand. But the trend lines in the region are remarkably consistent with the 2,500 year old prophecies.
Let us, therefore, remain watchful and prayerful, calm and sober, seeking the Lord’s wisdom in how best to serve Him and advance His Kingdom in these curious days.
For now, here’s more on today’s sobering summit in Sochi….
“Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday a ‘new stage’ had been reached in the Syria crisis but achieving a political solution would require compromises from all sides, including the Syrian government,” reported Haaretz, an Israeli news organization, based on reports from the Associated Press and Reuters.
“A three-way summit in Sochi on Wednesday between the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran could produce decisive steps towards ending the bloodshed in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the start of their talks,” the article noted.
“Putin announced he and his counterparts at Sochi, Erdogan and Iran’s president Hassan Rohani, supported the convocation of a Syrian peoples’ congress as one of the first steps to establish inclusive dialogue in the war-ravaged country,” Haaretz added. “Putin said the three leaders had instructed their diplomats, security and defense bodies to work on the composition and date of the congress.
Iran’s military is also present in Syria, alongside Russian troops and Hezbollah, the pro-Iran Lebanese militia. They say that does not amount to foreign interference because they are in Syria at Assad’s invitation.
As a prelude to the summit, Putin earlier this week hosted Assad at his residence in Sochi. It was the only time the Syrian leader is known to have left Syria since his last visit to Russia, two years ago.
Putin also made telephone calls in the past 24 hours to other leaders with influence in Syria, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, as part of Moscow’s drive to build an international consensus over a peace deal to end the six-year conflict.