Last September we looked at the “Merchants of Tarshish and her young lions” – the role of Britain and her commonwealth allies in  the Middle East. With recent developments it seems apt to look at the other two countries mentioned in the same verse in Ezekiel 38 – Sheba and Dedan. We have been witnessing remarkable changes in the Middle East and Northern Africa as the peoples of many nations here, having seen via the internet the incredible (from their viewpoint) freedom in the West, desire such freedom for themselves. At the moment the only place in this region with free speech, a free press and free elections is Israel!

Following the fall of the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt, people power has exerted itself in many countries, mainly only to be brutally suppressed by their rulers. One undesigned consequence has been the exploitation of the unrest by Iran. For years they have been seeking to increase their influence in a ring of countries surrounding the Arabian Peninsula. The uprisings in so many countries have been an opportunity which Iran has eagerly exploited. This has had the effect of increasing the concerns of the Sunni countries who are opposed to the Shi’ite Iranian ways. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made his country’s policy clear – that when they have eliminated Israel from the Middle East, together with American influence, they will impose Shia rule upon their Sunni neighbours!

The gulf between the two branches of Mahomedism is deep; there is no love lost between them. This is driving the Sunni countries to work together against their common enemy – Iran. What the rulers of these countries realise – a view that may well not be reflected by the ordinary citizens – is that Israel is their greatest bulwark against Iranian aggression. We have seen cooperation between Israel and her Arab neighbours in the past – for example in December 2008, in “Operation Cast Lead” when Israel invaded the Gaza Strip following years of constant rocket and mortar bombardment. With Hamas being an extension of Iran’s power, there were many Arab countries willing to pass intelligence on to Israel. They, too, wished to see Hamas’ power broken and were disappointed that Israel left the job uncompleted. Israel has built up strong intelligence links with Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The future of the Egyptian links remains uncertain, but a recent Debka article spoke of Israel’s growing ties to Saudi Arabia. Before looking at this article we need to paint the scriptural background to the relationship between Sheba and Dedan and Israel.

What is interesting is the order in which Ezekiel lists these nations.

Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of  Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall  say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast  thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to  carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle  and goods, to take a great spoil?” (Ezek 38:13)

Top of the list is Sheba and Dedan! Yet who  would have thought that these Arab nations would  be first in the list to challenge Gog’s invasion of  Israel? Surely the Arabs are bitterly opposed to  Israel and would be rejoicing to see her destruction!  This verse indicates that the changes in attitude  that we are now witnessing are moving in the right  direction, in preparation for the time when the true  Arab nations – sons of Abraham through Keturah  and Ishmael – will turn to Yahweh and be brought  into the bonds of the New Covenant. If all nations  are to be blessed in Abraham and his Seed, then  Abraham’s other children will have a prominent  place in the Kingdom, though subservient to Israel.  As this Kingdom picture of Isaiah shows, the  longstanding conflict will then be over.

“Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and  thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because  the abundance of the sea [ie seafaring people]  shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the  Gentiles shall come unto thee.

The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the  dromedaries of Midian and Ephah [Abraham’s  son and grandson through Keturah]; all they from  Sheba [grandson through Keturah] shall come:  they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall  shew forth the praises of the Lord.

All the flocks of Kedar [g’son through Hagar]  shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams  of Nebaioth [grandson through Hagar] shall  minister unto thee: they shall come up with  acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the  house of my glory” (Isa 60:5–7).

Sheba is mentioned in this list; Dedan was his  brother, being sons of Jokshan, Abraham’s secondborn  son through Keturah. There was also another  pair of brothers named Sheba and Dedan through  Ham’s grandson Raamah.

As our previous article showed, we have long  seen the role of Britain with her young lions,  America, Australia, Canada and India, not only  working in the Middle East in the Sheba-  Dedan region, but also friendly to Israel, and  so concerned at her invasion by Gog. It was  interesting to see that Prime Minister Stephen  Harper, who has stood out in his defence of  Israel, was returned in the recent Canadian  elections with a majority and no longer needs  a coalition government. He, too, stood up to  defend Israel in the May G8 summit, forcing  them to drop any reference to Israel having to  return to the 1967 borders in their statement  on Israel. Canada seems to have survived the  economic storms far better than the US, where  Obama’s support for Israel is weaker and who  is pushing for Israel to give up land to establish  a Palestinian State. As God declared:

“And I will bless them that bless thee, and  curse him that curseth thee: and in thee  shall all families of the earth be blessed”  (Gen 12:3).

So let’s examine the position of the Sheba-  Dedan nations and then we can look at the  remarkable change in the situation in relation to  Israel.

The Sheba-Dedan nations

Saudi is the most powerful of the moderate Gulf  States and seems to occupy much of the ancient  Sheba and Dedan territory. It is not easy to identify  where the Hamitic and Semitic pairs of Shebas and  Dedans settled. Of the Dedan descended from Ham,  the Castell’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary states:17-4

“Dedan, the place where they resided, is believed  to be identical with the Daden of the Middle  Ages, now called Bahrein, in Arabia Deserts, an  island on the western shores of the Persian Gulf.”

Now Bahrain has been in the news in recent  months. It consists of an archipelago of one main  island and 32 small ones. The King of Bahrain is  Sunni, but of the 81% Muslims living there, 67%  are Shiite and 33% Sunni. This has caused conflicts  between the Shiite majority and the Sunni minority  and the full force of the “Arab Spring” 1 has been felt  in this small kingdom. It has mainly been fermented  by Iran who was hoping to overthrow the King  and take over the island. This would have been a  significant boost to Iran’s penetration of the area,  especially as the American 5th Fleet is stationed here  to defend the region from Iranian aggression! The  Bahraini King was so alarmed at the fierceness of  the protestors that he asked the Saudis to send troops  to squash the uprising. Saudi was only too pleased to  help – they too were fearful of an Iranian presence  1 “Winter” would be a more appropriate title! on their back door. The troops entered the island  and have remained there. Debka 25-Mar-11 reports:

“This week saw a milestone in Persian Gulf  history. Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa  assented to Saudi King Abdullah’s decision to  assume the management of the island’s defense,  foreign affairs, finance and internal security  policies.

No public statement was issued in either Riyadh  or Manama. But our sources report that the pact  is already in execution: Bahrain will become the  14th Saudi province. Whereas 13 provinces are  governed by Saudi royal princes, Bahrain will  continue to be ruled by the Al Khalifas, whose  head will enjoy the same privileged status as  Saudi royals.”

So we have seen Saudi Arabia in effect taking  over this former Dedan.

Ezekiel mentions the Semitic Dedan and puts  her in the region of Teman.

“Therefore thus saith the Lord God; I will also  stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and will cut  off man and beast from it; and I will make it  desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall  fall by the sword.” {or, they shall fall by the  sword unto Dedan} (Ezek 25:13)

This places this Dedan in the area of northern  Saudi Arabia, close to its border with Jordan.  The Hamitic and Semitic Shebas seemed to have  mingled and settled in the region of Yemen. Here  is another area where the people are in rebellion  against their President and there have been several  brutal attempts to rein in the protesters. Yemen is a  Republic and in spite of several promises to stand  down, the President was only forced to leave for  Saudi Arabia to recover from head wounds received  in the fighting. Saudi Arabia borders Yemen and  she is concerned at the worsening situation with  the President absent. It would not be surprising if,  in cooperation with the other Gulf countries, she  eventually moves in to take control.

Saudi’s economy is booming. With Libya’s oil  supplies in disarray and Japan seeking non-nuclear  sources of energy, the resulting steep rise in demand  for oil has pushed up prices, benefiting the Saudi  economy greatly. She has increased her daily output to try to meet demand.

Before continuing to look at Saudi Arabia’s neighbours, let’s look at a most interesting development.

Netanyahu’s secret weapon: An Israeli-Saudi  strategic understanding

The 27-May-11 Debka article, hinted at earlier,  carried this headline. It shows the growing Saudi-  Israeli intelligence links!

“The bipartisan acclaim Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu won from a joint House  meeting in Washington Tuesday May 24  was just one weapon in the Israeli leader’s  armory. The other one, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s  intelligence sources reveal, is a series of secret  understandings he has forged with the ‘young’  Saudi princes assigned by King Abdullah in  recent months to manage the oil kingdom’s foreign and security affairs.

Saudi Arabia and Israel have been cooperating  quietly on issues of shared interest for three years  starting in the days of Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert. But the basis of understanding has  broadened and strengthened in the four months  since the fall of Egyptian President Hosni  Mubarak and the falling-out between Abdullah  and President Barack Obama over the latter’s  Middle East policy.

When the Israeli prime minister met Obama  at the White House Friday, May 20, the day  after the US president unveiled his Middle East vision which Israel sharply criticized, he made  no secret of the relationship he had set in motion  with Riyadh and even suggested that it might be a useful anchor for Washington’s policy in the region and its approach to the Palestinian  question.

Netanyahu let it be understood that his own Palestinian steps had been coordinated with the Saudis and through them with the GCC Gulf  emirates and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources,  the accords Israel has reached with the Saudis do  not constitute a formal pact or treaty but rather  a row of strategic understandings hammered  out in fairly regular, unpublicized encounters  between Israeli and Saudi intelligence chiefs at  which Netanyahu too has put in an appearance.  Until recently, they focused mostly on the perils  posed by Iran’s military and nuclear impetus and  expansionist activities. In the six months since  the Arab Revolt began engulfing the region,  the agenda has broadened to steps arising from  shared intelligence covering the Arab capitals  challenged by popular uprisings and revolts.  Last week, we reported that Jordan’s King  Abdullah II had accepted an invitation to join  the Gulf emirates association, the Gulf Council  of Cooperation. Since then things have moved  fast and, notably, Lt. Gen. Mohammad Al Qqad,  Director of the Jordanian General Intelligence  Dept. – GID, was told to pitch in with the Israeli-  Saudi intelligence partnership. He came armed  with the strong ties he already maintains with  his Israel counterparts.”

A truly remarkable picture! The “Arab Spring”  has caused much unease for Israel as the prospects  for a change to a more democratic rulership –  which Israel would welcome – turn increasingly to  prolonged conflicts, with prospects of a deterioration  in these countries’ relations with Israel. Egypt is one of Israel’s main concerns. The Egyptian Intelligence  services had worked closely with Israel, indeed  during the uprising, prior to Mubarak’s overthrow,  Israeli spy planes sent to cover the Cairo and  other Egyptian cities, beamed live pictures of the  demonstrations to the Egyptian Army via a link to  the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv, according to  a Debka report 4-Feb-11. We will have to await  events to see whether Egypt does in fact turn her  back on Israel. If she does, we would expect this  to be a temporary step, as Egypt is clearly to be  over-run by the King of the North as described in  Daniel 11:42,43.

During March, both PM Netanyahu and the  Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saudi Al-Faisal were  in Moscow at the same time. It is thought that PM  Putin had arranged a joint meeting to discuss the Middle East situation, which causes concern to Russia too.

Saudi Arabia is surrounded by many smaller  countries; those with a coastline on the Persian Gulf  share membership of the Gulf Cooperation Council,  which was set up in 1981. There were grand plans  for an Arabian Common Market with a common  currency, but it seems to have become rather lost. In 1984 they set up a joint military force – the  Peninsula Shield Force. Troops from this force have  joined the Saudi troops in Bahrain. The renewed  Iranian threat, together with the fallout from the  “Arab Spring”, has galvanised the six countries –  Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and  United Arab Emirates – to move forward with their  defence plans. At the end of May they announced  that they would expand the Peninsula Shield Force to 22,000 troops. They also invited Jordan and  Morocco to join them.

Gulf Council invites Jordan’s membership,  anticipates military benefits

This GeoStrategy Direct 01-Jun-11 headline  indicates an interesting enlargement of the GCC.  In the light of the earlier article concerning Israel’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia, this is a logical step as Israel and Jordan have long shared intelligence information. With Fatah throwing in their lot  with Hamas, both Jordan and Saudi Arabia are  appalled that Abbas, the PLO leader, has chosen this pathway. It only increases the Iranian threat to Jordan, Israel and Saudi. The article described the value of Jordan, in spite of its much weaker  economy.

“The GCC has invited both Jordan and Morocco  as members. Officials said the invitation would  enhance the GCC’s military and economic reach, particularly amid rising tension with  neighbouring Iran.

Officials said Jordan has already been helping  train and equip several GCC militaries and  security forces. They said Jordan’s admission  into the GCC would supply Western-standard  military and security skills for the six Gulf Arab  states.

‘Jordan also participates in peace and security  keeping efforts,’ Khalid Abu Al Einan, former  commander of the United Arab Emirates Air  Force, said. ‘There has always been interaction  with the Gulf countries.’

Al Einan said Jordan has conducted military exercises in the Gulf region since 2003. He said  the Hashemite kingdom has relayed skills and techniques for a range of military requirements.

‘Joint military exercises on the logistics, operational and strategic levels have been  conducted in the past,’ Al Einan said. ‘Certainly,  this has been of huge benefit to all the parties.’  Officials said Jordan has been working with the  militaries of Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and  the UAE. They said most GCC countries were  sending officers for training at Jordan’s counterinsurgency  facility outside Amman. Jordan has  also been conducting an intelligence exchange  with neighboring Saudi Arabia.”

Morocco is so far away from the Gulf that at first  one is not quite sure why they have been invited  to join. However, historically there were many  links with Israel as there was a significant Jewish  population in Morocco, most of whom have now  emigrated to Israel. Israel had a bilateral liaison  office – virtually an Embassy – until 2000 when it  was closed. The present King’s father enjoyed good  relations with Israel.

The two countries which need to become part  of this alliance of nations are Yemen and Egypt.  Significantly Yemen is due to become a GCC  member in 2016 even though she, too, has no  boundaries on the Gulf. As we remarked, we will  have to see which camp Egypt emerges into; it may  be after the Master’s return that circumstances force  Egypt to throw in her lot with these moderate Arab  countries. We also expect to see Britain working in  Egypt again.

What we are seeing forming is a southern group  of nations who traditionally have worked with the  US and Britain, who are burying their differences  with Israel in their fear of Iranian aggression.

Persian Gulf states eye ties with India, joint regional  security strategy

An earlier GeoStrategy Direct article, 18-May-11,  spoke of the Gulf’s wish to build military ties to India, the Eastern Tarshish power, which itself has  strong ties to Israel.

“The Gulf Cooperation Council, amid the threat from neighboring Iran, has been drafting a common security policy and examining defense cooperation with India.

Officials said New Delhi has been preparing for  high-level defense talks with several GCC states. They said India was offering Gulf Arab militaries  training, equipment and weapons.

‘The GCC is looking for regional allies to  counter emerging threats,’ an official said.  Officials acknowledged that previous GCC  efforts to form a unified security policy have  failed. But they said over the last six months,  all six members have recognized the threat from  Iran and Al Qaida.

On May 7, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony  began a Gulf Arab tour. Antony accompanied  a defense and military delegation to Qatar and  Saudi Arabia, both of which have strategic  relations with Pakistan, India’s neighbor and  rival.

Officials said India has sought to expand its  stake in the GCC market. So far, the Indian Navy  has been holding exercises with several GCC  militaries, particularly Oman. Indian warships  have also visited Saudi ports.

New Delhi has assessed that Saudi Arabia was  prepared for cooperation in the areas of exercises and defense logistics. Officials said one prospect  was that India refurbish Saudi Navy warships.”

Pakistan has strong links to Iran; hence the  Gulf’s courting of her rival India!

Brothers and sisters, what exciting times we  are privileged to live in. We see the signs both in  the political heavens and in the world of nature.  The day is at hand when God will arise to shake  the heavens and the earth and to usher in Christ’s  reign of righteousness. Let us watch and pray, for  our Master must be at the door.