Is This World War III?

Five reasons the battle between Israel and Hezbollah is more serious than you may realize
From the September 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

What makes this conflict so important? On one side is a tiny nation—slightly smaller in size and populace than little El Salvador in Central America. On the other, a small terrorist organization that controls about one fourth of a country only half as big. Considering the wars going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Congo and two dozen other nations worldwide, why is the world’s attention so riveted on Israel and Lebanon? Certainly it could seem like exaggeration to speak in terms of “world war.”

But this conflict is so important, for many reasons—not least of which is the soil on which it is being fought.

The battleground currently soaking up the blood of Israelis, Arabs and Persians was not only the cradle of civilization, the backdrop of the beginning of the age of man—it is also the primary setting and focal point for the unfolding drama of end-time Bible prophecy.

In at least five specific ways, this war has lurched our planet much closer to the fulfillment of those prophecies—prophecies that will relentlessly escalate into unparalleledworld war.

1. Iran started a war.

The decision to ignite a war on July 12 was calculated. That day, unannounced and unprovoked, Hezbollah began Operation Truthful Promise—raiding Israel, abducting two soldiers and killing others, and shelling Israel from behind the Lebanese border.

In the days that followed—as Israel retaliated and encountered well-fortified Hezbollah bunkers in southern Lebanon, together with vast stashes of advanced weaponry, and continued to suffer unrelenting rocket attacks including those on Haifa, its third-largest city—the fact quickly became apparent that Hezbollah had been preparing for this war for years.

But this terrorist group had plenty of help—most notably from the Islamist nation within which lie its spiritual roots: Iran. The Islamic Republic has nurtured and funded this terrorist group from its beginning. Hezbollah’s foundational document identifies the Ayatollah Khomeini, who led the Iranian Revolution in 1979, as the group’s “commanding jurist,” whose orders it must obey. Along with Syria, Iran has supplied the ideological motivation, the finance, the training, the armaments and the logistical support that make Hezbollah the effective terrorist force it is.

Western intelligence sources say Iran has been readying Hezbollah for some time to start a war with Israel. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an Iranian military organization, regularly sent teams to southern Lebanon to train Hezbollah, holding exercises on weapons usage and terrorist tactics; it also helped prepare rocket and missile arsenals in the Bekaa Valley and Syria at least for most of 2006. Evidently as preparation for the current offensive, intelligence sources report that Hezbollah received a major weapons consignment from Iran this March. The shipment, which reportedly contained 12,000 Katyusha rockets as well as other types of missiles, was airlifted to Syria and then transported in a military convoy to Hezbollah’s bases in southern Lebanon. July 11, the day before the war began, a summit in Damascus was attended by a top Hezbollah official, the head of Syrian military intelligence and the Iranian national security adviser, among others.

“At the same time as the missile consignment was heading to Lebanon, an unnamed senior Iranian official said that his country would inflict ‘harm and pain’ on the United States and its allies, and vowed to ‘use any means’ to ‘resist any pressure and threats’ designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program. The rhetoric was not empty” (Spectator, July 22). Just when world powers threatened to send Iran to the UN Security Council for failing to respond to their request for it to resume negotiations over its nuclear program, Hezbollah attacked Israel.

The timing of the war was orchestrated by Iran, with Syria’s assistance, and executed with precision. Together they decided what type of war to fight and when to start it. As a result, Israel is now battling what intelligence firm Stratfor says could be “the most resilient and well-motivated opposition force in its history.”

Clearly, this is more than a battle with just a terrorist group—though Israel has fought as though it is. This is a war with the Middle East’s most formidable nation.

For 12 years the Trumpet has pointed to Iran fulfilling the role prophesied by the Prophet Daniel of “the king of the south,” which would put it at the forefront of hostilities to emerge from the Middle East—directed first at Israel and, eventually, at other global powers—in these times; the current war flawlessly fits that mold. (We recommend you request a free copy of our booklet The King of the South for a scriptural explanation of that prophecy.)

There are reports that the number of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps troops in Lebanon increased after the war began, and that Iranians are involved in firing missiles into Israel. The missile that hit an Israeli Navy missile boat off the coast of Lebanon on July 14, killing four Israelis, was directly operated by Iranians (New York Sun, July 19). “This was a direct message to the Israelis that we are fighting the Iranians here,” an Arab diplomatic source said. A report published by an Israel-based research group, the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, confirmed that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard based in Lebanon “provides military guidance and support for terrorist attacks against Israel.”

There is no doubt that, with Iran’s guidance and support, Hezbollah will aim to make Israel’s offensive into Lebanon as costly as possible—inflicting substantial Israeli casualties, even digging in for a long-term Iraq-style insurgency. This technique has proven to test even the mighty U.S. military to its limits.

2. Iran is using this war to rally the Muslim world.

Iran and Hezbollah have already won a psychological victory simply by taking Israel on. In the Islamic world, stories of killing and kidnapping Israeli soldiers, of launching rockets into Israeli towns, are making heroes of Hezbollah terrorists. The image of Israel’s military might has been weakened. Hezbollah has gained credibility. Radical Islam is resurging. Israel’s offensive is not intimidating these Islamic peoples. Quite the contrary, it is galvanizing them.

Even though the ruling regimes of some Arab countries—like Saudi Arabia and Egypt—are less than thrilled with the growing clout of the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis for the threat a dominant Iran poses to them, the populations of those countries are largely rallying behind Hezbollah. This presents these Arab states with another problem: The Hamas-Hezbollah assault on Israel has the potential to embolden radical Islamists in these countries—even to the point of ousting their secularist, authoritarian governments.

With protests against Israel breaking out in cities across the Arab world—in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen—the situation for Arab regimes has become more tenuous, and Iran’s sway more pronounced. Arab states cannot afford to be seen to defend Israel, and yet allowing the demonstrations to escalate poses a political risk. “Iran is going to aggressively promote these demonstrations in an effort to force the Arab regimes to the edge; those governments will have to struggle with allowing protesters to vent their anger while keeping a check on Iran’s rise in the region and keeping the Israelis at bay” (Stratfor, July 21).

Large swathes of the Islamic world rejoice in Hezbollah’s actions and efforts. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims around the world are growing excited and motivated by this war. There is a growing sense of empowerment among Muslims. “A new reality is in the air,” wrote Douglas Davis for the Spectator. “Hezbollah’s attack last week represents the opening salvo in Iran’s war against the West—and anyone else who stands in its way” (July 22).

This war is not merely about territory or riches—it is a religious and ideological war that knows no boundaries. The passions fueling the war are finding lodgment in the minds of Muslims across the globe. That being the case, we are likely to witness spillover effects. When you consider the massive global reach of the billion-strong Muslim community, and the significant percentage who are sympathizing with the cause of the jihadists in southern Lebanon, the idea of this conflict presaging a world war becomes more plausible. How long before this radical Islamic mindset explodes into violence in Berlin, Paris, London or Washington?

And remember, their mode of waging war means it would only take a diehard few to wipe out many hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands. Even handfuls of devoted Islamic suicide bombers could inflict greater devastation than legions of Western soldiers under orders from weak-willed civilian leaders.

3. Nobody in the world will stand up to Iran.

The fact that Iran started this war is monumental—it marks a historical, watershed moment. But even more shocking is the fact that it is getting away with it.

The U.S. and Israel have both issued some fairly stern words toward Iran for its role in the current conflict. But that is as far as they will go. Iran cannily used Hezbollah as a front group to launch this war, which offers the rest of the world the option of pretending it didn’t do it. Apparently the world is taking that option.

Why? The biggest reason is the possible escalation into world war.

It isn’t only those in the Islamic world taking Iran’s side lately. Russia and China have both proven themselves loyal allies as well. In addition to using their power in the G-8 and UN Security Council to blunt international criticism toward Iran and Syria, Russia and China also lend practical, material support to these countries, by way of armaments. The missile fired from Lebanon that killed four Israeli seamen, for example, was a radar-guided c-802 missile that Iran had acquired from China. Russia has well-established military and economic ties with both countries. It supplies arms to Syria and is building a nuclear reactor in Iran. Russia also has friendly relations with Hamas and Hezbollah, not recognizing either of them as a terrorist organization.

It matters not that Russia and China are communist countries; they share a common goal with Islam: to knock the United States—along with its Western allies—off its superpower perch. The driving ambition of all these anti-Western countries is to reorder the global balance of power, and first on the agenda is to bring down America. As both Russia and China grow in clout on the world scene, the significance of their support of these Islamic nations and groups will grow.

Thus, picking a fight with Iran could quickly provoke a major global clash.

There is another reason the U.S. is so careful not to act too tough with Iran: It frankly depends on Iran at this point to help prevent Iraq from blowing up into an even deadlier situation. As the Trumpet has repeatedly reported, through the back channels the U.S. has secured Iran’s assistance in keeping a lid on the Iraqi Shiites, over whom it has considerable influence through leaders such as Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr.

A sign of just how far the U.S. is from actually punishing Iran came on July 18, when White House spokesman Tony Snow stated Iran and Syria need to be “using their influence to get Hezbollah to stop firing rockets and return the [Israeli] soldiers.” Not only was this an explicit acknowledgment that Iran is a decisive factor in the Middle East crisis, it amounts to a plea for Iran to get more involved. Stratfor wrote that this request fell in line with Iran’s strategy—“gaining entry into a dispute involving Israel in order to enhance its credentials as a leader of the Muslims in the Middle East. … The Hezbollah-generated crisis gives the Iranians the opportunity to do this, and they are hoping they will be able use their influence in Syria and Lebanon to help defuse the situation and thus consolidate their position as a player in the region” (July 18). Hence, the U.S. (and Israel) would actually find itself indebted to Iran, creating a situation not unlike that involving Iraq.

Think about this situation! For months, even years, Iran has been calling the world’s bluff—openly sponsoring terrorism, inflaming Islamist radicalism, defying international pressure to give up its nuclear program. The world has been completely ineffective at putting a stop to these activities. (See last month’s Trumpet cover story, “Shrugging at Evil.”) Now Iran has started a war—and still,no nation in the whole wide world is showing itself willing to stop it!

Any objective observer must acknowledge that Iran is making admirable progress toward its goal of cementing its position as the most dominant nation in the Middle East. Any observer with understanding of biblical prophecy should wonder at the rapidity of the unchecked rise of this crucial end-time power.

4. The United States is becoming a fringe power.

The United States is Israel’s strongest and staunchest ally. But with its resources tied up so heavily in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is reluctant to invest too heavily in a third conflict. The Israel situation is simply the latest in a series of serious threats—including, very prominently, those involving Iran and North Korea—where the U.S. is passing its responsibilities on to other parties as much as it possibly can. (See “How to Lose a War,” page 8).

This too is a monumental prophetic development. The waning of American influence, and consequent rise in that of other powers, is perhaps the most comprehensively prophesied of all trends for our day.

America is among several Western nations that have asked Germany to step in and help with the situation. According to Germany’s weekly newsmagazine Spiegel, U.S. President George Bush, on a July visit to Germany, asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel to speak with Israel. She and the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, accepted the offer and went on to speak not only with the Israeli prime minister, but also with several neighboring Arab countries as well.

The Trumpet has forecast that eventually the U.S. will lose its credentials as a mediator in the Middle East and the Jews will feel compelled to request assistance from Germany. That the U.S. is seeking to offload some of the accountability for the situation, and that Germany appears so anxious to beef up its status as a peace broker, are interesting developments—both of which have enormous potential to grow more pronounced as the present crisis grinds on.

5. Israel is looking elsewhere for help.

Though Israel is certainly the strongest military power in the region, this crisis could easily escalate beyond its control. One of the most important things to watch for is clues as to whom the Jewish state will turn to for help. It is already demonstrating a certain acknowledgement of Washington’s limited helpfulness and of the need to seek other options.

July 23, for the first time in its history, Israel announced it would consider the presence of an international military force in order to shore up its security. After the Israeli prime minister met with Foreign Minister Steinmeier, he announced that, in the words of the Jerusalem Post, “Israel would consider deployment of an EU-manned international force in Lebanon …” (July 23; emphasis mine throughout). The Israeli defense minister, after speaking with Steinmeier, said Israel would welcome nato—almost all of whose members are from Europe—to do the job. He called for “the deployment in the south [of Lebanon] of a multinational force with broad authority.” According to the Post, Germany is being considered as a major source of troops for the force.

Michael Oren, an Israeli historian and a senior fellow at a Jerusalem research organization called the Shalem Center, responded: “In a way, we’re playing an old Palestine Liberation Organization game, to precipitate regional instability and then try to bring in international intervention. We fought against it in the past, but Israel now realizes it can’t do things alone. And Israel feels here it has a friend in America and some greater understanding in Europe” (New York Times, July 23).

Germany is primed to play a central role in peace negotiations between Israel and Lebanon. Reports also show a growing sense of responsibility toward the crisis among Germany’s European counterparts. Recently, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana “called on [EU] member states to be prepared to participate in operations in the Middle East” (EUpolitix.com, July 17).

The United Nations has proven itself an utter failure at solving such crises. Its resolution two years ago demanding that Hezbollah disarm accomplished nothing. There is broad skepticism within Israel and in Europe over any possibility of the long-term success of a UN peacekeeping mission in the area.

Instead, we can expect that—perhaps not immediately, but at some point—it will be the “peacekeeping” forces of a German-led European army that will be called upon to really deal with the crises being precipitated by Iran and its Islamic henchmen. The fact that Germany and the rest of Europe are taking a special interest in the present war reveals the beginning stages of a trend we should expect to intensify.

The Trumpet has long forecast that eventually the Jews will feel compelled to request assistance from Germany. This biblically prophesied event is of enormous significance, because it promises to be the undoing of the Jewish state, as it is treacherously double-crossed by its old nemesis. It is vital that readers continue to watch this situation for ongoing developments.

Is This World War III?

As we go to press, the short-term outcome of this war lies shrouded in the plumes of smoke rising from Hezbollah rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes. Perhaps the heat of war will once again recede into the more tolerable, grinding daily conflict that region has suffered from for the past six years. Perhaps.

But the underlying realities that sparked this war, and the prophetically significant trends this war has aggravated and laid bare before our scrutiny, will not go away. This world, having lurched measurably closer to the fulfillment of the Bible’s prophecies of end-time events, cannot now lurch backward. Iran’s power will not wane. Islamist fervor within the Middle East and worldwide will not be tamed. The world will not suddenly find the will to crush Iran’s ambitions. The United States will not emerge anew as a strong international peacekeeping or military partner. The Jews will not suddenly decide they no longer need Europe’s help.

All of the current trends will only intensify. And as they do, they will thrust the world even closer to World War iii.

The Israel-Hezbollah conflict is just one battle in a much larger, global war. It is a broad and building war between two massive, loose alliances. On one side are Israel, America, Britain and other Western states. On the other are Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, Russia, China and other anti-American, anti-Western states. This second group is getting bolder all the time. In the middle is a German-dominated European Union seeking to play mediator—in order to boost its own aspirations for world power status.

God prophesies that the violence in Lebanon today will soon explode to engulf many nations! “For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee, and the spoil of beasts, which made them afraid, because of men’s blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein” (Habakkuk 2:17). Other prophecies show that this warfare will go beyond rockets and air strikes—and will include nuclear warfare. Everyone on Earth will become swept up in the conflagration.

Watch these trends as they point toward that future—and put your trust in the true God who gives you a warning through those prophecies, who alone can protect you as they come to pass.