How can anyone make sense of the muddled Middle East? Terrorist attacks, angry mobs, brutal politics—the whole morass can become a blur. Many simply ignore it.
You shouldn’t—and you needn’t! There is a logic at play in this hotly contested region. When you understand it, this will clear the haze and even strengthen your faith.
Almost a decade ago, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote a slim, readable booklet called The King of the South. It was essentially a compass, orienting readers to the major trends and events to watch for in the Middle East based on biblical prophecies. This booklet has since undergone two revisions to add information on subsequent events that have reinforced all its major arguments.
Two specific prophecies Mr. Flurry highlighted bear a closer look in light of today’s news.
First, the prophecy of an Iranian takeover of Iraq.
Iraq is a fledgling democracy under attack; its cries for freedom are muffled in the fog of war. But peer through the smoke, and this is what you see: a country steadily transforming from Iran’s fiercest enemy to, potentially, Iran’s closest ally.
A Plum to Be Plucked
In The King of the South, Mr. Flurry wrote: “The most powerful Islamic country in the Middle East is Iran. Can you imagine the power they would have if they gained control of Iraq, which was at one time the third-leading exporter of oil in the world? I predicted as far back as 1992 that this could happen.” From the moment Saddam Hussein fell two years ago, the Trumpet began spelling out how this development would draw the new Iraq into just such a relationship with its eastern neighbor.
Consider the present facts. With its people given a political voice, Iraq now has a Shiite prime minister, a Shiite-dominated government and a Shiite-dominated constitution-drafting committee headed by a Shiite. Eighteen of 36 federal cabinet members are Shiite; the Kurds have half that and the Sunnis even less.
To the Shiite-ruled Islamic republic of Iran, this is a delicious shift from the era of Saddam, a Sunni Baathist who led a gory eight-year war against it in the 1980s. The fact that many of the new Iraqi cabinet ministers spent years in exile in Iran only smooths relations between the two countries more.
The son of a leading Shiite cleric took one of the most important posts: head of the oil ministry. Considering the importance of oil to the nation, this appointment in itself gives the Shiites great leverage. Before this appointment had been decided, Stratfor reported: “The Shia know they cannot achieve their objective of a Shiite-dominated state without the critical oil portfolio” (April 26).
And sitting in the most important office of all, that of prime minister, is Ibrahim al-Jafari, who has tight and long-standing connections with Iran. Stratfor stated, “Iran will gain significant pull in Iraq under Jafari’s leadership—even if for less than a year, as this new transitional government is tasked with drafting a constitution and holding the final round of general elections by early 2006. … Iran will emerge as the biggest beneficiary of Jafari’s premiership …” (February 22). Jafari heads the conservative Islamic Dawa Party, which received backing from Iran during Hussein’s reign. Though he has worked to boost his secularist credentials since Hussein was deposed, Jafari maintains ties with the Iranian government, and his party’s official position is that Iraq should be an Islamic state.
Ahmad Chalabi, one of the three newly appointed deputy prime ministers, also has close ties to Iran.
In addition, on May 24, a Shiite cleric, Hummam Hammoudi, was appointed chairman of the committee that will draft Iraq’s new constitution. Hammoudi, a former exile in Iran with a doctorate in Islamic economics, told reporters just days after his appointment that “the Shiite leaders will press for a clause declaring Islam to be the principal source for all legislation” (New York Times, May 26; emphasis mine).
The 55-member constitutional committee elected in early May has a Shiite majority—with 28 Shiite, 15 Kurdish and just 2 Sunni members (smaller parties make up the rest). However, under American pressure to make the constitution-drafting represent all sides, just weeks after this body was formed the Shiites agreed to forming a new constitutional commission with 46 additional seats. Of the new seats, 13 to 15 are to be reserved for Sunnis—which will give the Sunnis, at most, 17 seats out of 101. But, to complicate matters further for the Sunnis, once the commission approves a new constitution, the document will still have to be approved by the 55-member committee (with two Sunnis) and the 275-member National Assembly (also with 17 Sunnis). The move to give the Sunnis a voice on the matter is essentially a farce.
Hammoudi has also said the interim constitution is not to serve as a basis for the new charter because it needs to be “authentically Iraqi.” “The decision,” concluded the New York Times, “appeared to mean that the American effort to balance competing ethnic, religious and regional interests in the constitution would be pushed aside” (ibid.). In other words, all efforts thus far to thwart the constitution Iraq’s top Shiite clerics seek—one that enshrines Islam and allows for an Islamic state—have failed.
Already, relations between the Iraqi and Iranian governments are sweeter than they have been in generations. On May 17, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi visited his Iraqi counterpart in the highest-ranking Iranian visit to Iraq since Hussein was dethroned. On this visit, in a demonstration of solidarity the two ministers issued a joint statement placing the blame for the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war on Hussein and his cronies.
Kharrazi said it was in Iran’s best interests to “support by all possible means the Iraqi government.”
This relationship needs to be watched. Iran insists it has no intention of meddling; as Kharrazi said, “Iraqis are in charge of their own affairs …. Any interference would be an insult to the Iraqi people.” But the reality is quite different: There is no chance a nation as aggressive and ambitious as Iran fails to recognize on its western frontier the enormous plum waiting to be plucked.
One possibility to ponder: Iran using Iraq’s terrorists as leverage. It appears the terrorists in Iraq are there to stay. The U.S., on the other hand, won’t bunker there forever; yes, it wants peace and resolution—but the day is coming when it will label Iraq’s terrorist insurgency as, ultimately, a problem for Iraqis. One could foresee, as the Iraqi government wearies of wrestling this wild boar, a point where Iran would step in—most likely by invitation—to put an end to the problem. Obviously, this favor would come with a price.
However it happens, after Iran becomes the “king of the south,” as your Bible calls it, this king isn’t going to support his neighbor: He will have influence over Iraq and probably rule it. Watch for it.
Radical Change in Egypt
The second prophecy in Mr. Flurry’s booklet worth revisiting concerns Egypt.
The 24-year autocratic rule of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak becomes more tenuous by the day. In recent months, demonstrations against Mubarak’s government have snowballed, culminating in nationwide protests on May 4. At the same time, Islamist strikes designed to weaken the government have also increased. On April 30, two attacks targeting tourists in Cairo were partly thwarted; seven people were injured and the attackers killed. Several weeks earlier, an explosion at a Cairo bazaar killed two and injured over 20.
A primary instigator of recent unrest is the nation’s largest Islamic organization, the banned Muslim Brotherhood. What until last December were rare demonstrations of dissatisfaction with the government are now regular episodes, thanks largely to this Islamic group.
What is most telling, however, is that even though the Muslim Brotherhood is outlawed, Cairo is cautious as to how severely it cracks down on these illegal protests for fear of inciting the sympathetic masses!
With the winds of radicalism gusting within the populace, the weather in Egypt is about to change.
The political puzzle is clicking together just as Mr. Flurry wrote in The King of the South, under the subhead “Radical Changes in Egypt”: “Daniel 11:42 implies that Egypt will be allied with the king of the south, or Iran. This prophecy indicates that there would be a far-reaching change in Egyptian politics!”
We certainly cannot rule out a crisis resulting from the rapid departure of Mubarak from the political scene—through either death (he is aged and in poor health), as put forward in our July 2004 Trumpet, or assassination, as Mr. Flurry suggests in his booklet: “President Mubarak, a moderate, could be assassinated just as Anwar Sadat was. This could implement another gigantic change in Egyptian politics, similar to what happened in Iran’s 1979 revolution.” If Mubarak were no longer in control, a vacuum and almost certain political instability would result.
On the other hand, if truly democratic elections were held—which the U.S., ironically, encourages—the Islamists would have the best chance of controlling Egypt (see our May 2005 cover story).
Watch for an Islamic government to come to power in Egypt—whether through the implementation of some form of democracy or by other less democratic means—and for a subsequent cementing of ties between Cairo and the dominant Islamic power in the region, Iran.
Mr. Flurry has predicted for almost a decade that Egypt will fall under the influence of Islamists. We are about to see it happen.
These facts do not vindicate the predictive insight of Gerald Flurry, but the biblical prophecies upon which his statements are based. They are, in truth, a vindication of the great Creator God who issued those prophecies millennia ago and is now guiding events to ensure that they come to pass. Through the Prophet Isaiah (46:9-10), He says, “I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand.”