Heightening Mid-East Tensions

By Hal Lindsey
On Saturday, Syria apparently launched another chemical attack against its people — including small children … By the time you read this, the expected US military response may have already begun … Russia has warned that it will shoot down US missiles and even target the US naval vessels that fire the missiles … After the chemical attack, came a mystery air strike against Syria — probably launched by Israel … Russia then began a war of words with Israel, finally showing their long-held but usually camouflaged disdain for the Jewish state … Hamas continues to stir up violent anti-Israel protests along Israel’s Gaza border … Iran says it will soon restart its nuclear program — as if it had ever actually stopped.
And that’s just part of what’s gone on, in only the last few days!
The first big question is whether the Trump Administration can really be sure that Syria launched the chemical attack.  Russia and Syria both deny it.  That’s what they would say in either case, but the timing seems suspicious.  Only a few days ago, the President said that with ISIS defeated, he wanted to pull US troops out of Syria, and soon.  That would seem to be in Syria’s favor.  Why rock the boat now?
But while tweeting on the subject, Mr. Trump made a good case that the chemical attack really was a Syrian operation.  “Many dead,” he tweeted, “including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria.  Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world.  President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad.  Big price...”
If the area is “in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army… completely inaccessible to outside world,” then who else could it be?  As President, Donald Trump surely knows the facts, and he has no reason to lie about it.  After all, a Syrian chemical attack will delay the troop withdrawal he’s anxious for.
The President answered the last major chemical attack in Syria by launching 59 cruise missiles at Syria’s Shayrat Airbase.  Most observers expect a bigger response this time, but Russia’s increasingly close relationship with Syria and Iran complicates things.  Alexander Zasypkin, Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, made an ominous threat.  He said, “If there is a strike by the Americans, then… the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired.”
It’s unlikely that Russia has the ability to shoot down US cruise missiles.  It’s also unlikely that they would actually try to sink the US Navy ships launching the attacks.  But even the threat shows how dangerous things have become.  A world soaked in gasoline is playing with matches.
President Trump has worked hard to form a better relationship with Russia.  But by the time of Trump’s election, Putin’s course was already set.  He committed to it when he sent the Russian military into Syria in 2015.  It’s ironic that Trump’s critics have called him weak on Russia and have demanded a more hardline approach.  Yesterday’s peaceniks have turned into today’s warmongers.
But in this case, the President has pulled no punches.  He directly blamed Putin for Assad’s action, and practically dared Russia to try and stop the US response.  On Wednesday, President Trump tweeted, “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria.  Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’  You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
Assad has placed his troops on alert, evacuating bases near the border with Lebanon, and transporting personnel to Russian installations — presumably safe from a US missile strike.
The “mystery air strike” took place Monday on an air base in the Homs province.  At first, Syria blamed the US.  But after the Pentagon issued a strong denial, they and the Russians switched the blame to Israel.  Was it Israel?  They didn’t confirm it, but neither did they deny it.
Israeli Defense Forces play their cards close to the vest.  Just last month they finally acknowledged an air strike on a Syrian nuclear reactor way back in 2007.  The Syrian civil war began four years later, so we can all be glad that Israel chose to forcibly shut down the Syrian nuclear program.
The strike on Monday caused the deaths of several Iranians as well as Syrians.  There were no Russian deaths or injuries reported, but Russia had soldiers assigned to the base.  That’s a problem for US forces as well.  We don’t know for sure where Russian soldiers are embedded with Syrians.
On Monday, Israeli fighter jets hit a Hamas target in Gaza.  It was clearly a military target, and no one was hurt.  But Russia used it as another excuse to ramp up their anti-Israel rhetoric.  
In January, Putin and Netanyahu met at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow.  They seemed to hit it off.  Netanyahu’s main purpose in the trip was to express concern about Iran’s stronghold in Syria, and their movement of advanced weaponry into Lebanon and Syria.  The two got along well, but looking at it now, the effort seems to have been wasted.
Putin knows that his alliance with Iran is one of the chief causes of unrest in the region.  He’s playing a dangerous, high-stakes game.  Newsweek reported on Wednesday that Russia is instructing its citizens to stock up on water and buy gas masks in anticipation of nuclear war.  The world right now is teetering on many dangerous precipices.  All of them fit the dramatic scenario laid out in the Bible for the end times.
For Christian believers, I have two pieces of extremely good news.  First, God has already shown us how these things eventually work out.  We win!  In the meantime, we will face difficulties.  But that’s where the second piece of good news comes in.  God’s promises remain in effect even when the world seems to be falling apart.  Trust Him.
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