After being written off by the Israeli press; after exit polls put Likud and Zionist Union neck and neck; after strenuous efforts by Obama’s crack political operators sent to Israel to help defeat Netanyahu, they all proved wrong and a beaming “Bibi” declared himself the victor. It seems he has a further term as Israeli Prime Minister. The prognostications of men matter not to the One who “removeth kings, and setteth up kings”. It is always true “that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Dan 2:21; 4:17).

But the cost may be high for Israel. Obama dislikes Netanyahu intensely. His pre-election declaration against a Palestinian State will further alienate Obama. However we should remember that this is not a sudden about face by Netanyahu. On 13 July, 2014, writing in The Times of Israel, David Horowitz reported on a speech given by Netanyahu on day 4 of Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza:

“He made explicitly clear that he could never, ever, countenance a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank. He indicated that he sees Israel standing almost alone on the frontlines against vicious Islamic radicalism, while the as-yet free world does its best not to notice the march of extremism. And he more than intimated that he considers the current American, John Kerry-led diplomatic team to be, let’s be polite, naïve.” According to Horowitz, Netanyahu added: “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”

“…Israel standing almost alone on the frontlines,” declared Israel’s Prime Minister. The words of Jeremiah (in a latter days context) come to mind: “There is none to plead thy cause… All thy lovers have forgotten thee” (30:13-14).

Israel, Iran and nuclear weapons

When Netanyahu addressed the US Congress on the third of March, just two short weeks before the Israel election, he focused on the danger of a nuclear armed Iran and what he saw as the fatal limitations of the American approach. He declared: “My friends, I’ve come here today because, as prime minister of Israel, I feel a profound obligation to speak to you about an issue that could well threaten the survival of my country and the future of my people: Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons.

We’re an ancient people. In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people. Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the Book of Esther. We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies. The plot was foiled. Our people were saved.

Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology. He tweets that Israel must be annihilated…”

Netanyahu pointed out that only a week before, Iran had engaged in “a military exercise blowing up a mock U.S. aircraft carrier. He reminded his audience that “In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa.” And he pointed out that the proposed deal with Iran would leave it with thousands of centrifuges enriching uranium and after ten years all controls would automatically expire. This deal (being negotiated by an American led coalition), he said, “…doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”

Shia Iran versus the Sunni Middle East

Other Middle East nations are not so sanguine about Iran’s intentions as an American administration seemingly driven by hope and wishful thinking. Reports are emerging that Saudi Arabia under its new King Salman (half brother of the former King Abdullah) has made a deal with Turkey and Pakistan for military support if needed, including nuclear weapons from Pakistan. And apparently China may supply missiles to Saudi Arabia. Iran is developing ICBMs, and America might reflect on why Iran would be developing Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles. It certainly does not need ICBMs to attack Israel, less than 1,700 kms away; it has medium range ballistic missiles quite capable of reaching Israel, and Europe for that matter. Iran has already developed silo facilities for its missiles and NTI (the Nuclear reat Initiative) suggests “Iran’s likely reason for developing silos is to prepare for the deployment of larger missiles, such as an ICBM, that would require a xed launch site.”

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a senior member of the Saudi royal family and Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief, quoted by the BBC, has said that “whatever comes out of these talks (with Iran), we will want the same”. The BBC also reported that “Saudi Arabia signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with South Korea that included a plan to study the feasibility of building two nuclear reactors in the kingdom. Riyadh has also signed nuclear co-operation agreements with China, France and Argentina and intends to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 years.” Now these are not nuclear weapons but the Saudis, the Egyptians and the Gulf States are fearful of Iran’s ambitions and if Iran develops nuclear weapons, a nuclear arms race in the Middle East would likely follow.

Quite apart from any nuclear ambitions, Iran (Persia Ezek 38:5) is deeply involved throughout the Middle East and expanding its influence. The operation to retake Tikrit, the home town of Saddam Hussein, from Islamic State has been led by Iranian trained Shiite militias and Iranian Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani, head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, reportedly directed operations. A Sunni leader in the area described it as a Persian led invasion of the Sunni triangle.

Iran has forces on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, within a few kilometres of the Israeli border and Jordan. The Washington Institute commented: “Some 4,000 – 5,000 troops have been massed for the offensive (in the south of Syria), which focuses on the provinces of Deraa, bordering Jordan, and Quneitra, bordering the Israel-controlled Golan Heights. Combatants include units from the Syrian army; the National Defense Forces, a government militia; an estimated 2,000 Hezbollah fighters, constituting a sizable portion of the group’s forces in Syria; and, notably, Iranian military elements including advisors and senior officers. A website close to the Syrian regime posted a photo of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, visiting the area, signaling its importance to Iran. General Soleimani clearly gets around; Golan Heights one day, Tikrit in Iraq the next. Greg Sherida, Foreign Editor of The Australian put it bluntly: “…the truth is Iran is a problem without a solution.”

The West has little idea of the forces driving Iran, or its enemy, the Islamic State for that matter. Both are driven by Islamic ideology; both expect the imminent return of the Mahdi and the triumph of Islam. And a significant number also anticipate the near return of Jesus Christ, one of the revered prophets of Islam, to serve as deputy to the Mahdi. Once again it is Benjamin Netanyahu who provides appropriate insight: “I think the West misunderstood and still misunderstands the threat (from Iran). It is a fanatic, messianic ideology that seeks to have an apocalyptic battle for world supremacy with the West… the leading radical Islamic regime, Iran, is seeking to first acquire nuclear weapons and then embark on a world conflict.”

Russia – rebuilding, aggressive, expansionist

Whatever its present ambitions, it is clear from Ezekiel 38 that Persia will be subservient to Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. Of this great Russian led confederacy, Ezekiel points out that “Persia, Ethiopia and Libya (are) with them” (Ezek 38:2, 5), that is, Persia or Iran will be a confederate, not the leader. Russia is today both on the one hand part of the group of countries, including the United States, negotiating to (they imagine) curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, while on the other, a leading supplier and adviser to Iran.

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, is determined to return Russia to the Super-power status once enjoyed by the former Soviet Union. Some have simply declared that Putin is Gog. We ought not to go this far when specific scriptural evidence is lacking. Let us be content with the indications before us. Despite the impact of the dramatic reduction in the oil price affecting Russia’s export earnings, Russia still has the eighth largest level of foreign exchange reserves of all nations at over $US360 billion. Oil is certainly her highest export earner at 70% and these oil and gas revenues underpin the Russian budget. But energy production comprises about 16% of Russian GDP, substantial but not overwhelming.

Putin has made clear his determination to modernize and rebuild every branch of the Russian military despite any budgetary constraints; indeed Russia has budgeted for major increases in its annual defense spending out to 2020. The magazine, The National Interest, headed a major March/April, 2015, article “The Bear Awakens: Russia’s Military is Back”. They went on: “If all goes according to plan, the Russian military, by 2020, will return to a million active-duty personnel, backed up by 2,300 new tanks, some 1,200 new helicopters and planes, with a navy fielding fifty new surface ships and 28 submarines, with 100 new satellites designed to augment Russia’s communications, command and control capabilities.” “If all goes according to plan” is a significant qualifier, but Putin is ruthless and determined. He already has Crimea, Ukraine may follow. The Baltic States are afraid, even soporific Europe is taking note. “Gog of the land of Magog, prince of Rosh” is taking shape.

United States – military powerful but in decline

The United States has spent trillions in failed military interventions since ‘9-11’. These expenditures together with growing social programs have resulted in huge budget deficits for the US. The response has been to cut expenditure on defence, though the US still spends more on defence than the combined military budgets of the next ten largest country defence budgets.

The cuts are starting to hurt. The conservative US based Heritage Foundation has carried out an extensive study on the US Military, its 2015 Index of US Military Strength, which can be downloaded free from the Heritage Foundation or purchased as a book. Their conclusion is that the only division of the US Military that they categorized as “strong” was the Air Force. They categorized the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Nuclear Capabilities as “marginal”. The US is reducing its troop numbers, ships etc. just as Russia is embarking on its expansion program. Ezekiel posits a feeble response to the Russian confederacy: “Art thou come to take a spoil?”(Ezek 38:13). Just a timid question – no action is described at all. It is divine power which meets the invader with overwhelming force. Declining US power, accepting her alignment with “the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof ” (v13) is what we should expect, and it is coming to pass. Another indicator for Watchmen to monitor.

The world economy – shoals ahead?

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is a generally well respected economics and political commentator for The Telegraph in the UK. His article on world debt in The Telegraph for 11 March, 2015, commenced: “Sitting on the desks of central bank governors and regulators across the world is a scholarly report that spells out the vertiginous scale of global debt in US dollars, and gently hints at the horrors in store as the US Federal Reserve turns off the liquidity spigot.

This dry paper is the talk of the hedge fund village in Mayfair, and the stuff of nightmares for those in Singapore or Hong Kong already caught on the wrong side of the biggest currency margin call in financial history. ‘Everybody is reading it,’ said one ex-veteran from the New York Fed.”

He continues: “The report – ‘Global dollar credit: links to US monetary policy and leverage’ – was first published by the Bank for International Settlements in January, but its biting relevance is growing by the day.

It shows how the Fed’s zero rates and quantitative easing ooded the emerging world with dollar liquidity in the boom years, overwhelming all defences.” So once again the greenback reigns, and, as the US dollar rises other currencies fall as Evans-Pritchard observes: “The BIS paper’s ominous implications are already visible as the dollar rises at a parabolic rate, smashing the Brazilian real, the Turkish lira, the South African rand and the Malaysian ringitt, and driving the euro to a 12-year low of $1.06.” Major corporations in the developing world may be crushed under the weight of the almighty dollar.

A final comment by Evans-Pritchard: “Mr Jen (former IMF official, Stephen Jen) said Asian and Latin American companies are frantically trying to hedge their dollar debts on the derivatives markets, which drives the dollar even higher and feeds a vicious circle. ‘This is how avalanches start,’ he said.

Companies are hanging on by their ngertips across the world. Brazilian airline, Gol, was sitting pretty four years ago when the real was the strongest currency in the world. Three quarters of its debt is in dollars.

This has now turned into a ghastly currency mismatch as the real goes into free-fall, losing half its value. Interest payments on Gol’s debts have doubled, relative to its income stream in Brazil. The loans must be repaid or rolled over in a far less benign world, if possible at all.”

Will those “that dwell carelessly in the isles” remain unaffected by these tumultuous economic times? Even if they are, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt.6:33) is our Lord’s timely advice. Our lives are in the hands of a loving Father; we need not fret about tomorrow.

Conclusion

Yes, the sea and the waves are roaring and prophecy is unfolding. The eyes of the world are ever on Israel and the Middle East. “But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth” the angel declared to Daniel as he stood before him (Dan.10:21). We do not have the angels visible before us, yet their work in these last days must be intense. Would we not love to enquire of them exactly what lies ahead? What we do have, however are the Scriptures of truth. Let us read, observe and keep awake. “Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments” (Rev 16:15).