The foundations of the modern Middle East were laid in the aftermath of the First World War. This conflict set in motion the final acts of the long, slow drying up the “great river Euphrates” (Rev 16:12). While the well-known 1917 Balfour Declaration led to the eventual creation of the state of Israel, the turbulent years of 1918 to 1924 witnessed the collapse and partition of the Middle Eastern territories of the Ottoman Empire by the Allied powers. A new Middle East was born. The 1922 collapse of the last Ottoman government ended the long political and cultural control of the Arabs by the Turks. Partition reduced Turkey’s borders to the Anatolian Peninsula and allowed Arab history to move on through a period of Allied Protectorates to, ultimately, the independent nations we know today.

The Ottoman collapse also ended the Ottoman Caliphate – a highly significant event in the modern history of Islam. The religious authority of Islam was embodied in a Caliph, who was considered the political and moral successor of the prophet Muhammad. The Caliphate (in some ways similar to the Papacy) assumed the spiritual leadership of not only Arab Muslims, but the entire worldwide Muslim community and its ces­sation led to a strong sense of historical injustice that continues to upset and obsess many Muslims today. Politically, it created a vacuum that, over the last cen­tury, many have sought to fill. The desire and struggle (Jihad) of some Muslims to restore the Caliphate by force accounts for much of the conflict and terror that we see in the Middle East and globally in 2015.

The 2014 rise of the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) and its expansion into Syria (ISIS) represents one of the most significant challenges to the post World War One order that the Middle East has seen. This new super-state, the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL), claims to hold not only temporal power – spanning the English and French created borders of Iraq and Syria – but spiritual power as well. ISIL claims to have restored the Islamic Caliphate, which offers a powerful and emotive call to radical Islam across the globe. It offers hope to Muslims who see a unique opportunity to recreate what was so unceremoniously ended in 1924.

Threats at home and abroad

On May 2, the Adelaide Advertiser featured a double page spread detailing a 29 year old, Adelaide trained Pediatrician, who left Australia to join the Islamic State, drawn by the ideal of ISIL. Speaking in a recent video he appealed to those who share his vision for the future: “We need the brothers and sisters to come and help us from around the world. We need the man power to help us grow this”. The appeal of the Islamic State and a restored Caliphate is a dream that most global Muslims reject, but at the present time ISIL is exerting a powerful force for destabilisation both in the Middle East and nations as far afield as Australia.

In 2014, 150 Australians were acknowledged by the Federal Government as fighting for ISIL in either Syria or Iraq. At that time the Australian Foreign Minister told the ABC’S AM program that an “extraordinary number of Australians had joined the extremist cause”. Although Australia had cancelled several passports on advice from intelligence agencies, those travelling overseas continued unabated. A matter of months later it was evident that even Australian teenagers were leav­ing for Syria. This became especially clear last October when an Australian teenager appeared in an ISIL video threatening both the West and Australia specifically. Mr Abbott said that the video “again highlights the threat posed by ISIL” … ISIL is a threat that reaches out to Australia and our allies and partners.

On the eve of the ANZAC commemoration, the Prime Minister said he would use his trip to the Anzac Day centenary commemorations to talk to Turkish leaders about “preventing foreign fighters from travel­ling through Turkey to conflict zones in Syria and Iraq”. There is a sad irony to the prevention of Australian fighters arriving in Turkey being discussed on the centenary of ANZAC.

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The recent progress of ISIS

In early May, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stated that the “Islamic State is retreating and is now weak. Thank God we have liberated all the territories of Diyala province and most of Salahuddin province. Baghdad has become safer than at any time.”

Last year ISIL published a document in which it claimed to have traced the lineage of its leader and caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, back to Muhammad. In January of this year it was reported that al-Baghdadi was severely wounded in an airstrike and he has spent February to April on the move and in hiding. Iraqi government sources reported on April 22 that Abu Alaa Afri, the self-proclaimed Caliph’s deputy and a former Iraqi physics teacher, has now been installed as the stand-in leader while Baghdadi deals with his in­juries. The alleged descendant of Muhammad has been forced to watch from a distance as the Iraqi armed forces push back with some degree of success in their offensives this year.

Areas under ISIL control as of April 6th, 2015 Iranian thaw?

The rise of ISIL is making strange bedfellows of traditional enemies: Iran and USA with its allies, including Australia. We know that Iran (Persia) will ultimately be part of the Gogian confederacy opposed to the West (Ezek 38:5). On April 2, the foreign ministers of the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, France, China, the European Union and the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that they had reached agreement on a deal over controversial Iranian nuclear activities. Under the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty it is appropriate for a nation to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes – such as power generation. However, the need for such power in oil and solar rich Iran continues to raise questions about the true intent of the Islamic re­public’S nuclear program.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission reported in late April that: “Under the agreement Iran agreed to reduce its installed enrichment cen­trifuges from 19,000 to 6,000 – only 5,000 of which will be spinning. Its second largest enrichment facility will be turned into a physics research centre and reduce its stock pile of low enriched uranium. The IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] will be able to inspect any facility it deems to be suspicious and Iran will also address the IAEA’s concerns about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program. In return, the EU and US sanctions will be lifted.”

President Obama’s foreign policy approach of negotiation and bi-lateral diplomacy towards Iran has been widely criticised by his political opponents at home and abroad. Prominent in the criticism is the recently re-elected Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. In the lead up to the negotia­tions, and during the election campaign at home, Netanyahu flew to the USA to speak to Congress on March 3. In his speech he strongly warned against Obama’S approach.

Netanyahu’S opposition to the Iran deal has long been on record. He has called the West “comatose” and “delusional” over the deal, saying, “it doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paves Iran’s path to the bomb”. So what we see is Israel becoming isolated, forgotten and forsaken by “her lovers” as the final crisis looms on the horizon (Ezek 38:5).

President Obama depicted as an under-miner of both Netanyahu and Israel

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on March 4 that, “Benjamin Netanyahu used his controversial address to Congress to paint a dystopian vision of an Iran acting as a nuclear-armed IS [Islamic State] terrorising the world should US President Barack Obama continue to pursue negotiations with the regime. He likened Iran to Nazi Germany – and as many noted, by implication, Mr Obama to Neville Chamberlain – and said any deal with Iran would pave the way to it developing a nuclear weapon.” Martin Indyk, the Brookings Institution’S head of foreign policy and a former US ambassador to Israel, told CNN after the speech, “It was clear that the speech had dangerously politicised the [US-Israel] alliance and that the relationship between the two leaders [Obama and Netanyahu] had deteriorated from bad to toxic”.

President Obama offered the following com­ment on the issue: “What I would say to the Israeli people is … that there is no formula, there is no op­tion, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon that will be more effective than the diplomatic ini­tiative and framework that we put forward — and that’s demonstrable”. Netanyahu went on to win an unexpected victory in the election held on 17 March.

Benjamin Netanyahu depicted as having global interests on his mind as Obama is accused of thinking only of himself

The fact that underlies these American and Australian overtures to Iran is the knowledge that, without Iranian help, the US and its allies may not be able to defeat Islamic State (ISIL).

The way of the Kings of the East

The flood that poured over the Middle East during the rise of Islam and its eventual inundation and immersion under the rule of the Ottoman Turks was at last ended in the events of the First World War. 1915 set in motion events that released the Middle East, Palestine and Jerusalem from the Turkish waters. With the waters turned back, the inundation ended and Israel was restored; Revelation 16 depicts Kings arising out of the East, bringing with them the full brightness of the light of a new morning. Fear characterises our times, so let us have confidence – we have opportunity to share in the kingship of this age to come, if we keep our garments today and continue to wait and watch.

Photo credits:

Michael Ramirez – investors.com/cartoons

ISIL map photo – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Territorial_control_of_the_ISIS.svg