WILL TURKEY RULE THE ROOST IN THE MIDDLE EAST?
Trying to understand the driving forces behind geopolitics today is more than tricky. The advantage that someone like me has, however, is knowing
how the final act concludes.
A CROWN FOR THOSE WHO EAGERLY AWAIT JESUS’ COMING
That doesn’t necessarily mean I am right about the particulars, but as a Pre-millenarian, I am committed to the return of Jesus Christ to establish a 1,000 year kingdom, physically as well as spiritually, on this earth. Bible prophecy has been devoted for at least 200 years (likely much longer) on the geopolitical developments in the world and how they fit into the last days of great wars and tribulation described by Israel’s prophets supplemented by Jesus Christ, Paul the Apostle, and John the Revelator.
Bible prophecy is not a topic that biblical Christians can avoid. Jesus taught us that we should always “watch for we know not when the Lord comes.” (Matthew 24:42) And one of the most heretical aspects of today’s Christianity is its failure to preach that Jesus is coming soon and that we had better be like the wise virgins and make sure our lamps are trimmed and we have plenty of oil.
The Bible says that a special crown awaits those who eagerly await Jesus’ coming. (2 Timothy 4:8). Prophecy students earnestly seek that crown of righteousness, but even more, the appearance of Christ and the promise that when he appears, we shall all be together, reunited with those that have gone on before us, as well as friends and family scattered across the earth. Furthermore, the word for Christ’s coming is parousia, which means “coming and staying” – dwelling with – not making a sudden appearance and then darting off to the next event. Despite this wonderful vision, we can’t dwell only on what comes in the next life. If we are to be true students of Bible prophecy, we have to stay apprised of earthly things – specifically what happens geopolitically in the Middle East.
Lately, my focus has been centered on the geopolitics of the Islamic Antichrist Theory. We might not think about it in those terms, but it would be foolish to only consider our biblical interpretation without evaluating what is actually happening in the world today. That is why I have questioned one of the core assumptions of the Islamic Antichrist Theory (IAT): that Turkey will be the powerhouse in the Middle East during the last days. IAT contends that Gog will be a Turk and he will also be the Antichrist. These two abhorrent figures, usually distinguished in the prophetic scenario, are conflated in the IAT. And even more concerning is the IAT premise that the scope of the Antichrist’s kingdom rests solely in the Middle East.
IS THE ANTICHRIST A REGIONAL PHENOMENON?
The issue I have labored in my new book Mistaken Identity: The Case Against the Islamic Antichrist is this: should the Antichrist’s span of control be only regional, then many statements in the Bible must be spiritualized. Any talk about Antichrist having control over all peoples, nations and tongues, and that the whole world comes under his sovereign control, has to be redirected and restricted to the Middle East – and only the Middle East.
If we make this assumption – that Gog is Antichrist and he is a Turk, that his powerbase is Turkey, we have to determine where Russia fits into that picture. If Gog (aka Antichrist) somehow is able to aggregate the Shia as well as Sunni peoples together to come against Israel, we have to deal with the reality that Russia still looms like a bear (an analogy that has been accepted for Russia down through the ages) ready to pounce on any nation that threatens its interests in the Middle East including Turkey. How do we reconcile what Russia would do if Turkey were to suddenly replace it as the dominating presence in the Shia Crescent? Could this geopolitical switch happen?
The cold hard facts are simple: Russia isn’t going anywhere. Russia reasserted itself in Syria. It not only relentlessly bombed rebel strongholds, it also bombed rebel hospitals, without remorse. Russia continues to supply nuclear technology to Iran. Russia has provided BDM capability (ballistic missile defense, which also provides anti-aircraft capability) to Iran with the sale of its older S-300 system. It is true that Russia announced it is moving back most of its troops and some aircraft from Syria. But according to Israeli sources, they do this while unloading even more military pieces in a “forward placement” operation strengthening their foundation for other military operations in the region.
NATO and the United States would love Turkey to be a positive influence in the Middle East; but Turkey has become a nation not to be trusted. With its support of ISIS (allowing ISIS oil to pass through its borders for sale elsewhere) Turkey has been indirectly financing these jihadis. As Turkey has moved away from Western values, returning to its Islamic roots and culture, Turkey has made it clear it seeks to become a caliphate, reviving the old Ottoman Empire of Turkey past. But can this actually happen? Would Russia stand by and let Turkey assume a dominating role? What would Russia stand to lose if Turkey became the dominating player in the region? The answer is straightforward: just about everything. Controlling the oil, its own and all the oil in the Middle East, is Russia’s short and long-term strategy. Russia has the military might to muster such resources for a long, long time. Most political scientists, even those that predict Turkey’s growth and Russia’s decline, would not bet on Russia going quietly into that good night. Without maintaining some pricing control over mineral exports, Russia would fragment and lose its place in the world. We should rightly assume that Russia would act with the same resolve as it just acted in Syria. A declawed Russian bear? This could happen in a hundred years. It won’t happen in the next twenty.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE OIL, STUPID!
That is why I assert, along with many others who study the geopolitical of the Middle East that the essential issue has been and remains who controls the oil. And Russia will remain right in the middle of Middle East geopolitics. Turkey will not block Russian ambitions and Turkey is not likely to replace Russia in supporting the Shia governments of Iran, Iraq, and Syria (plus: don’t forget Hezbollah — the Iranian proxy force which has become the de facto government of Lebanon). Blood may be thicker than water, but oil is thicker than blood. The Shia Crescent enjoys Russia’s support for several incidental reasons, but the most important one is oil. It is not incidental.
Europe and Russia have contested for Middle Eastern oil since it was first discovered in the 1890s to have many times the innate power of coal. This was true prior to World War I when Germany constructed the Baghdad to Berlin railroad to move oil from Iraq to German industry and its war machine. It is true today inasmuch as it is a well-known fact that over half of the world’s known oil reserves are shared between Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
The politics of oil is one of the main threads we should follow to understand history since 1901 to today. It has been, as controversial author William Engdahl writes, all about who owns the oil. (See his book, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order – 2012). Most of us reckon that fighting over oil has been a big part of U.S. foreign policy during our lifetimes – since the 1970s forward. But what we don’t realize was how oil “fueled” (pun intended) wars beginning 100 years ago.
When World War I ended, England and France divvied up the Middle East based upon the known oil deposits of that time. They established highly favorable agreements with Middle Eastern sultans and sheiks enabling them to rob the Middle East of its mineral wealth. That oil grab remains more fundamental to the hatred which Arabs and Iranians have for the West than the fundamentalist religion they profess and for which they kill today.
Today, fighting over oil has been combined overtly into fighting fueled by religion. The essential violence we see in the word today is based upon Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism and what is now being called Salafist doctrine (which speaks to “getting back to basics” i.e., slaughtering infidels in the name of Allah). However, while geopolitics is also blended into the highly flammable mixture of Islamic aspirations, oil remains the primary “base” of the soup.
The strategy for the Middle East can be summarized in one word: cutthroat. Cutthroat conveys the cliche “every man for himself”. Alliances are always relationships established for convenience, but eventually it all gets down to “what’s in it for me”. Turkey may decide it no longer wants to remain in NATO. And, depending upon what President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says and does in the years ahead, NATO may determine it is no longer in its best interests to have Turkey remain a member. It’s unlikely, but Turkey could decide that it wants to be the Islamic caliphate even if it means burying the hatchet (a mixed metaphor to be sure) with Iran as well as its one-time foe, Saudi Arabia (oil and water have never mixed, but Turks and Arabs through the years haven’t gotten along particularly well either – see Lawrence of Arabia for the details). Perhaps Sunni and Shia will find a way to work things out. But the smart money remains on Russia staying the course with the Shia, supporting Iran, Iraq, and Syria – even if Bashar al-Assad becomes road kill along the way there.
CHANGING PARTNERS: CRUMBLING ALLIANCES IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Middle East Alliances are changing. Consider the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. It used to be that U.S. and Saudi relations were indispensable to both nations. That long-honored relationship that put the Petrodollar into the driver’s seat of the world economy, is no longer so sacrosanct. The U.S. made a deal with Iran on July 14, 2015, and didn’t even tell Riyadh. And now the powers that be are allowing more and more information to come out into the light of day concerning the House of Saud and the gross atrocities that are part and parcel of everyday life in Saudi Arabia. PBS’ Frontline recently did an expose of what it is like to be a citizen of the Kingdom (Saudi Arabia Uncovered, March 29, 2016). Shocking doesn’t begin to describe the storyline. Here is a link to the program. After you finish reading, you might wish to watch the program. But be advised: It is graphic.
The Kingdom, while being a significant ally, has also abetted terrorism including, at lower levels in the government, support for the 911 attack. The 911 Commission Report provides over 800 pages documenting what happened. But the most important pages have never been made public. These missing “28 pages” were discussed on CBS’ 60 minutes (April 10, 2016), a section of the 911 report that has been classified and not made public. Several U.S. elected officials that have read these 28 pages, asserted the Saudis were up to their earlobes in 911. Exactly how and how much remains a mystery for now. These senators and congressmen cannot disclose what they’ve read without violating U.S. law. Whether the Saudi’s involvement is a part of a bigger conspiracy involving American officials comprises the stuff of the biggest conspiracy theory in our day – matters “truthers” will talk about on radio shows. It is interesting to be sure; but we will not likely see the truth come out, especially what America’s role was, anytime soon. But the alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United States is not what it once was. The United States, under Obama’s administration, has reevaluated every alliance in the Middle East and allowed its former autocratic allies to crash headlong into the rocky waters they once navigated with abandon. Mubarak, Gaddafi, Hussein. They are all history. Likewise, while Bashar al-Assad has never been a friend, the U.S. has been adamant that he had to go too. Russia saved Assad and helped the U.S. out too — by being so brutal in its bombing that ISIS and the rebel forces threatening Assad were killed or driven underground. They could do what the U.S. wouldn’t do: bomb indiscriminately. Once again, perhaps without a pure intent, Putin helped Obama out of a jam. ISIS now doesn’t threaten the Middle East, at least for now. Assad still rules, but recent deals between the U.S. and Russia seems to forebode that Assad’s days are numbered.
Where does that leave us? Alliances in the Middle East seem more transitory than ever. The U.S. has influence still, but generally it has opted out of being the policeman any longer. The Russians demonstrably asserted themselves, but they too don’t want to be the policeman. Having said that, when all things are considered, the issue that remains is who controls the oil. The Russians and the United States cannot afford to adopt a laissez-faire attitude. While clearcut alliances are now mostly shredded, we can maintain our confidence in the fact that everyone will act in their own self-interest — to the extent that they can establish what that is. Indeed, as the days grow darker, it gets much harder to see what those interests are.
Concerning Turkey becoming the dominating player in the Middle East: it remains a long shot. Whatever it becomes, it seems clear that Turkey will only be what Russia and the United States allow it to be. The Islamic Antichrist Theory hinges on Turkey being at the center of power in the Middle East. Until Russia and the United States are no longer players in the Middle East, and until Shia and Sunni settle their differences, we won’t be seeing Turkey as Islamic alpha dog that leads the pack. Or to return to the original metaphor: Turkey will not rule the roost. At least not in our lifetimes.
My new book will be available on April 17, 2016, MISTAKEN IDENTITY: THE CASE AGAINST THE ISLAMIC ANTICHRIST. It is the sequel to my current best seller, THE NEXT GREAT WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST: RUSSIA PREPARES TO FULFILL THE PROPHECY OF GOG AND MAGOG.
All this week, I will be offering the Kindle Version of
THE NEXT GREAT WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST
for only $6.49, two dollars off
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