Unriddling the Middle East

A record of accurate analysis on the world’s knottiest region
From the February 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

Twenty years ago, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry was putting the finishing touches on his first book. In it, he encouraged readers to always pay close attention to the anniversary of Herbert W. Armstrong’s death. January 16 is a significant date, he explained in Malachi’s Message: “Will we see some dramatic event in the world or within God’s Church … then?”

Mr. Flurry posed that question in late 1989. Malachi’s Message began landing in mailboxes on Jan. 16, 1990. Exactly one year later—on Jan. 16, 1991—the Gulf War erupted.

America’s invasion of Iraq dramatically changed the landscape of the Middle East, triggering a chain reaction of events in the region the end of which we have not yet seen. Looking back, Mr. Flurry’s 1989 forecast of a “dramatic event” possibly occurring on the anniversary of Mr. Armstrong’s death was the beginning point of what has turned out to be a remarkable legacy of prophecy.

The King of the South

When the First Gulf War exploded on Jan. 16, 1991, Mr. Flurry saw immediately that it would have tremendous repercussions for the future of the entire region. “Saddam Hussein appears to have plunged the world into war,” he wrote in the February 1991 Trumpet. “[Hussein] has created a Middle East that is out of control. … That means events are going to be terrifying and move at a dizzying pace.”

As events in the region unraveled, Mr. Flurry turned to the Bible for insight. His understanding centered around a single prophecy: “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over” (Daniel 11:40).

This prophecy is clearly about an end-time clash between two great powers. The identity of the “king of the north” was also clear: Herbert Armstrong had taught it for decades. The question, it seemed—and the key to understanding events in the Middle East—revolved around the identity of the “king of the south.”

By the summer of 1992 the answer was coming into focus. “The king of the south could rule Iraq or Iran or both countries. But it is looking more now like Iran may produce this king,” wrote Mr. Flurry in the July issue of the Trumpet. Mr. Flurry didn’t just identify Iran as possibly producing the king of the south, he also stated: “It looks very much like the end-time king of the south will rule the radical Islamists! … Much of the world is unaware of what a powerful and dangerous force the Islamic camp is becoming.” Remember, that was July 1992.

It wasn’t until nearly a decade later, on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, that much of the world awakened to what a “powerful and dangerous force” the radical Islamic camp had become.

After 1992, the Trumpet’s forecast that Iran would grow stronger and eventually rise as the most dominant power in the region grew progressively stronger. By the end of 1994, Mr. Flurry added new details about Iran’s future. In a December 1994 article titled “Is Iraq About to Fall to Iran?” he stated, “The most powerful [Islamic] country in the Middle East is Iran. Can you imagine the power they [Iran] would have if they gained control of Iraq, the second-largest oil-producing country in the world?” Saddam Hussein and Iraq exhibited few signs they were about to fall under Iranian influence, yet a prophecy in Psalm 83 guided the forecast that Iraq would ultimately end up in Iran’s hands. “Prophecy strongly indicates that Iraq will unite with Iran,” we stated in the March/April 2001 issue, two years before American forces invaded Iraq.

In the spring of 2003, when American forces stormed Baghdad, toppled Saddam, crushed the resistance and liberated the Iraqis, the Trumpet forecast that the victory might facilitate an Iranian takeover. “Saddam Hussein was the only leader that Iran feared,” wrote Mr. Flurry in June 2003. “Now the U.S. has taken him out of the way. … Have we now cleared the way for Shiite Iran to rule Shiite Iraq?”

By late spring that year, the war in Iraq was widely considered a terrific victory. With Saddam on the run, his followers in retreat, and an awesome amount of American military power on the ground in Iraq, President Bush famously declared “mission accomplished” on the deck of the uss Abraham Lincoln. Still, Mr. Flurry wrote in November 2003, “Human logic should show America and Britain that they can’t win the war against terrorism.” By invading Iraq, the U.S. confronted a dangerous part of the equation, he wrote, “but [Iraq] is not the head of the terrorist snake.” He continued, “The fruits and evidence of the past two decades overwhelmingly prove where the king of state-sponsored terrorism is! … [T]he solution to terrorism lies in doing something about it! We must confront the source. The terrorist movement flows from Iran.”

Consider these forecasts in the context of current events. Despite war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Islamic terrorism looms as large over America and the West as ever. After creating a wobbly administration in Baghdad, the U.S. is now drawing down its presence in Iraq. Washington hopes that Iraqi elections in March will produce a more stable, Western-friendly administration. But ongoing explosions, ethnic unrest and political wrangling indicate this won’t happen. Why is a stable, Western-friendly Iraq a fallacy? Primarily because Iraq’s infrastructure—politically, socially, religiously and militarily—has been infiltrated by Iran!

And Baghdad is just one of Tehran’s many playgrounds in the Middle East. The fact is, Iran is the primary cause of most of the region’s major problems. It terrifies neighboring larger, moderate states, persecutes the smaller ones and—via its terrorist proxies in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank—causes the entire region, particularly Israel, to live in fear. With its apocalyptic ambitions, war talk and oil wealth, Iran also features prominently in the foreign policies of every major world power, often provoking serious tension in international relations. Its rogue nuclear weapons program is one of the most dangerous threats to regional and global peace and safety.

Today, Iran is on the verge of acquiring the most terrifying of all weapons, the nuclear bomb. The success of Iran’s nuclear program fulfills another of the Trumpet’s long-held forecasts. As early as 1992, Mr. Flurry alerted readers to the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of radical Islamists. “The Islamic world … has much of the world’s oil,” he wrote in the July issue. “And now they have nuclear bombs!” he stated, citing reports that Iran had obtained nuclear warheads from a Soviet satellite state.

From then on, the Trumpet warned that unless America acted decisively, it was inevitable that the king of the south would obtain nuclear weapons. “Iran is far ahead of any … Arab country in developing nuclear warheads and bombs,” Mr. Flurry wrote in December 1994. “They are a very aggressive force that will be stopped only by a superior force!”

In 2003, Mr. Flurry told readers where Iran’s weapons buildup would end:

“[N]uclear capability is just the capstone of a comprehensive Iranian military buildup. … [I]n the hands of a country like Iran, this terrifying arsenal won’t sit idle for long. Their history shows that they are adept at using those means at their disposal to meet their objectives” (June 2005).

Just as the Trumpet has forecast over the past 20 years, the “king of the south” ranks among the world’s most pressing, dangerous and hardest-to-solve problems!

Israel’s Wound

One of the most underreported trends in Israel in recent years has been the emergence of Europe as a dominant player in Israeli politics, particularly in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Europe’s enthusiasm for this role was evident last December, when—within hours of enacting the Lisbon Treaty—EU leaders gathered to produce an official statement on Israel-Palestinian relations. In its declaration, the EU went beyond merely urging peace talks; it made clear that it supports dividing Jerusalem and establishing East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

The EU expressed its intent with all the subtlety of a Hitler speech. The ink had barely dried on the Lisbon Treaty before the EU was making it clear that it wants the chief seat at the negotiating table. For Trumpet readers, this wasn’t the least bit surprising. This is something we’ve been forecasting since 1993.

This forecast hinged on a specific prophecy in Hosea 5: “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound” (verse 13). The key to understanding this verse is knowing the modern identities of Ephraim, Judah and Assyria. Explained plainly in our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, they are Britain, Israel and Germany, respectively.

This scripture prophesies that in the end time, Britain and Israel will turn to Germany, the lead nation in Europe, for assistance. The obvious question is why. The answer—which Mr. Flurry began explaining as early as 1993—can be found in the meaning of the term wound in Hosea 5:13. Strong’s Concordance defines the original Hebrew word, Mr. Flurry noted in November 1997, as, “in the sense of binding up: a bondage, i.e. remedy.” Gesenius’ Lexicon defines it, “the pressing together, binding up of a wound; here used figuratively of a remedy applied to the wounds of the state.”

This “wound” is also discussed in Obadiah 1:7, Mr. Flurry explained. Gesenius defines wound as “falsehood; hence, fraud, insidious dealing … net, or snare.” “In Obadiah the wound is directly related to being deceived by a peace pact!” he wrote. “Is the 1993 peace pact with the Arabs the Israeli wound that God refers to in Hosea 5:13?”

Remarkably, immediately after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn in September 1993 and the world celebrated the Oslo accord as heralding a new era of peace in Israel, the Trumpet forecast the ultimate failure of the peace pact. In November that year, Mr. Flurry wrote, “Today the radical Islamic movement is causing other nations to fear—even motivating peace treaties. But these treaties are destined to fail. The deadly delusion that ‘all problems can be solved by negotiation’ is going to lead Israel and the U.S. to disaster.”

Confident in the Word of God, the Trumpet has since consistently encouraged readers to ignore the periodic signs of peace, the ongoing negotiations, the apparent breakthroughs, and simply believe the Bible’s forecast that Israel’s peace pact is a wound, not a remedy. “What most [Jews] don’t know is that the peace process is a deadly delusion,” Mr. Flurry wrote in the September/October 2000 Trumpet, after the failed Camp David talks between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat. “It is a wound that will cause death, if they don’t repent. It is like terminal cancer!”

Three More Prophecies

The Trumpet has also delivered three other specific forecasts relating to the Jewish state, each of which is clearly evident on the world scene today. First, we have forecast that America would diminish its support of Israel and eventually divorce from the Jewish state. “As America grows weaker, she is pushing Israel more and more into a state of retreat,” Mr. Flurry wrote in August 1995 (article, page 22).

Second, we have repeatedly reminded readers that Europe, particularly Germany, will eventually replace the U.S. as the key “mediator” between Israel and the Palestinians. This forecast is also based on Hosea 5:13, which says that when Judah recognizes its wound, it turns to Germany for help. Why does Judah turn to Europe, and not its old friend the United States? Mr. Flurry asked in February 1992. “It’s rather obvious that the U.S. can’t help them. The stock market will probably have collapsed by that time and chaos will be reigning.”

Regarding Europe replacing America in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Mr. Flurry wrote 15 years ago, in December 1994: “What we actually see here is a great shift in world power. A weak U.S. is being pushed aside by Europe—the king of the north. … Europe is moving not only to be a co-sponsor in the peace process—they want to take control of it!

Since 1992, Trumpet readers have been repeatedly reminded that Catholic Europe is bent on developing a dominating presence in Israel, specifically Jerusalem. “Watch for the U.S. being sidelined in the peace process,” we wrote in March/April 2001, “and for a Vatican-EU-UN combined diplomacy to take over and consummate the Middle East peace process ….” Isn’t that exactly what we see the EU doing today?

Third, we have consistently forecast that East Jerusalem would eventually fall under control of the Arabs. According to Zechariah 14:2, this transfer of control will not be peaceful; rather, East Jerusalem will be snatched from Israel in a fit of violence. In a November 1996 article, “Is Jerusalem About to Explode?” Mr. Flurry stated, “The recent violence in Jerusalem reveals how one half of Jerusalem shall be taken captive in the very near future. … That is the critical event prophesied in Zechariah 14:2.”

Four years later, Mr. Flurry delivered another powerful warning: “There is about to be a war over Jerusalem! It will probably come after the Jews have lost control of East Jerusalem and the U.S. can no longer help them. Regardless, the Jews will go to Germany for help” (September/October 2000). With a conservative government in Israel, a radicalized Palestinian population being goaded by Iran, and the prospects of the peace process looking dim, the time when the Arabs rise up to take half of Jerusalem appears closer than ever.

Turkey and Egypt

It is hard to overstate how much Israel’s safety, and the entire security equation of the Middle East, hinges on Israel’s relationships with Egypt and Turkey. For years, Israel’s leaders rested comfortably knowing that although they were surrounded by an arc of Islamic hatred, they had friends in Cairo and Ankara. For years, the Trumpet has warned that Bible prophecy indicates that these relationships will be short-lived and that Egypt and Turkey will ultimately sever their connection to Israel and ally themselves elsewhere.

For nearly 20 years, we have forecast that the moderate government in Cairo will be replaced by hardcore Islamists who will quickly align Egypt with the anti-Israel, radical Islamic administration in Tehran. Our editor in chief first said this in the November/December 1990 Trumpet, after the assassination of Egypt’s speaker of the parliament: “Egypt’s President Mubarak could [also] be assassinated …. This could radically change Egyptian politics ….” Mr. Flurry went on to explore the prophecy in Daniel 11, which states that Egypt will be destroyed along with the king of the south by the king of the north. Why is Egypt also destroyed? he asked: “Is it because Egypt is somewhat allied with the king of the south …?”

By July 1993, Mr. Flurry’s prophecy for Egypt had grown even clearer: “Islamic extremism is gaining power at a frightening pace in Egypt. … This verse [Daniel 11:42] indicates Egypt will be allied with the king of the south. … I believe this prophecy in Daniel 11:42 indicates you are about to see a radical change in Egyptian politics!”

When we first wrote about Egypt, reality didn’t seem to back our forecast. During the early 1990s, Cairo and Tehran were barely on speaking terms. Egypt was the most moderate Arab state in the Mideast and widely considered to be America’s and Israel’s firmest ally in the region. Iran was an unfriendly Islamic theocracy. Yet the Trumpet invested its confidence in biblical prophecy and maintained that Egypt, under the sway of radical Islam, would eventually align itself with Iran.

As the years passed, events validated the prophecy. During elections in December 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood won 88 seats in Egypt’s parliament, a six-fold increase over the previous election. Although that was fewer than a quarter of the parliament’s seats, the Brotherhood’s success exposed radical Islam’s growing influence and popularity. Since then, President Hosni Mubarak’s health has grown steadily worse, while the health of the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Islam has grown stronger. Many experts now admit that radical Islam is a strong force in Egypt—and may soon gain the upper hand.

The Trumpet’s forecast for Turkey centers on a prophecy in Obadiah, and includes history revealed in the Bible as early as Genesis 25 and 27. Essentially, we have forecast that Turkey, while it may appear to be a friend of Israel and America, will ultimately betray both. Before this final act of betrayal, we explained, expect Turkey to reduce its support of Israel and position itself for greater cooperation with its Muslim neighbors. “Obviously, with decreasing incentive to remain on friendly terms with the West,” we wrote in December 1997, “Turkey may decide to resolve its problems by making concessions to the Arabs.”

“What will happen to the Turkish-Israeli military alliance?” we asked in February 1999. “Turkey will betray the peoples of the very nations that it is allied with today. … The Turkish-Israeli alliance will end in betrayal.” In November 2007 we wrote: “Suspicion between Turkey and Iran has thawed in recent years, and ties have improved. … The more cooperative these two nations are, the more latitude the Turks are likely to give Iran without feeling directly threatened as Tehran pursues its regional ambitions. Watch for that cooperation to increase—and for Iran to become even more brazen.”

If you’ve read anything about politics in Turkey lately, you know that forecast is coming true. In January last year, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan lambasted Israel for standing up to Hamas in the 2008 Gaza war. In October he refused to participate in planned military drills with nato allies because of Israel’s involvement in the exercises. And while a chill is setting in on the Turkish-Israeli relationship, Ankara’s relations with its neighbors, including Iran, are steadily growing warmer.

Why Prophecy?

These analyses of Middle Eastern affairs are not the product of human intellect or lucky speculation. They are based on Bible prophecy. And the purpose for Bible prophecy, as many of the ancient prophets explained, is to declare the power and presence of an Almighty God!

Notice what the young Jewish Prophet Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon before he interpreted the king’s dream: “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery which the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days” (Daniel 2:27-28; Revised Standard Version).

Our message to you is the same. While there are some extremely astute, clear-thinking intellectuals out there producing exceptional analysis of current world events, no politician, commentator or columnist can explain the full meaning of world events and where they are leading. Only the majestic “God in heaven who reveals mysteries” can do this. And He does. How? Through the “more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19).

Truly, our motivation for revisiting these older articles is to solicit a reaction—even if only in a handful—similar to Nebuchadnezzar’s after Daniel explained the king’s dream. Notice it: “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face … [and] said to Daniel, ‘Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries …’” (Daniel 2:46-47; rsv).

Awesome, isn’t it? Humbling too. After witnessing God’s power and willingness to reveal prophecy, the king of one of the greatest empires ever to exist fell on his face in reverent worship of God. How do you react in the presence of revealed prophecy?