Mideast Powder Keg
By Hal Lindsey
The Middle East has long been a powder keg, and right now that powder keg is inhabited by people with flaming torches. In the last week, hostility in the region reached new levels. But this time the rage is not against Israel. It is Muslim versus Muslim; Sunni versus Shiite. The possibility of war between them, casts a pall over the entire planet.
Sunni and Shiite Muslims have been at each other’s throats since Muhammad died in the year 632 AD. 85 to 90% of the world’s Muslims are Sunni. By that you would think Shiites are a marginal minority. But radical Shiites run Iran, a nation that has grown significantly more powerful since the nuclear deal it concluded with the United States and five other world powers last summer.
One rarely discussed side-effect of the Iran nuclear deal has been an exacerbation of the volatile relationship between Sunnis and Shiites. After the agreement, both factions ratcheted up the belligerence. Sunni-led Saudi Arabia did everything it could to crash world oil prices just as Iran prepared to re-enter the global market again after years of sanctions. Saudis and Iranians have been fighting through proxies in several countries, including Syria, and have fought directly in Yemen.
Tensions rose to a whole new level late last week when Saudi Arabia executed Nimr Baqr al-Nimr a Shiite cleric, along with 47 other prisoners. After Iranian protesters attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with Iran. The Saudis also suspended airline flights between the two nations.
The conflict then spilled over to other countries. Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Iran. The United Arab Emirates recalled its ambassador. Hostilities spread to Africa where Sudan recalled its ambassador to Iran, and expelled the Iranian ambassador. Russia and China, both of whom are allies of Iran, have entered the fray offering their services as peacemakers.
There’s no clear cut “good guy” in this fight. Iran seems willing to blow the world into chaos believing it will bring back their Muslim messiah, the “Mahdi.” They promise to wipe Israel from the earth. They fund terrorism. They have a history of providing a safe haven for terrorists. They love to shout “Death to America.” And, yes, they are still developing nuclear weapons, and the intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICMBs) to carry them.
On the other side, Saudi Arabia’s whole existence is based on a movement within Sunni Islam called “Wahhabism.” It was named after an eighteenth century Sunni preacher named Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. He preached a severe, fundamentalist form of Islam, urging practitioners of the religion to get back to its basic tenets.
In 1744, al-Wahhab converted Muhammad bin Saud, founder of the Saud dynasty and the first Saudi State. The Sauds were later defeated by the Ottomans, but the Saud dynasty did not go away, and remained a power in the region. Modern Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932.
Wahhabism remains the basis of the laws and governing philosophy of the nation. That’s why Saudi punishments include beheading, stoning, amputation and lashing, often in public. It is a place where rape victims can be treated worse than their attackers. In one case, seven men gang-raped a teenage girl. But since she did not have a chaperone with her at the time, the court also punished her. She actually received more lashes than one of her rapists.
You’ve heard that women can’t legally drive cars in Saudi Arabia, but it also goes against the code for them to try on clothes when shopping, enter a cemetery, buy a Barbie, go swimming, or interact with men who are not relatives. Their faces don’t have to be covered, but they are not allowed to wear clothes or make-up that might “show off their beauty.” And, as mentioned above, Saudi Arabian women cannot go outside the home without a chaperone, called a “mahram.”
Despite all this, the United States used to have a good relationship with the Saudi Kingdom. At one time, the U.S. probably could have talked Riyadh out of executing the Shiite cleric. But the Iran nuclear deal changed that. Saudi Arabia no longer trusts the United States. It feels that the U.S. has thrown in its lot with Shiites.
With the Iran deal, the United States alienated much of the Sunni Muslim world, and Sunnis make up at least 85% of the world’s Islamic population.
You might expect that by giving Iran pretty much everything it wanted in the nuclear deal, America would have at least turned the Shiites into friends. But Shiites respect strength. When we gave away everything in negotiations, it only increased their disdain.
In the Middle East, no one is sure whose side the U.S. stands. In the nuclear deal, the United States stands with Iran against Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Muslim nations. In Yemen, the U.S. stands with Saudi Arabia against Iran and the other Shiite nations. In Iraq, the U.S. seems to stand with the Shiite government against the Kurds and Sunnis. In Syria, the U.S. stands against President Bashar al-Assad and his allies, the Iranians. The U.S. is also against Sunni terror groups, such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. America claims to be on the side of Syria’s “moderate rebels,” but can’t seem to find any.
The list could go on and on. The U.S. is both for and against practically every one of the many factions in the Middle East. This foreign policy chaos has left everyone confused, and no one trusting the United States. Though still active in the region, the U.S. has squandered away its friendships, influence, and standing.
That opened the door for the Russians. They have seized the opportunity to fill the void where the U.S. once stood. In doing so, Vladimir Putin has neatly positioned Russia to fulfill the role prophesied for it in the Bible 2500 years ago. Pray that we will out last President Obama’s Presidency. If we get another left wing President, we are finished.