Written in October 2018
63,000 Russian troops have seen combat in Syria, helping the Syrian government to restore control over the country, along with Iranian and Hezbollah forces. Russia has established a permanent naval base in Syria at Tartus, an air base at Khmeimim and a sophisticated intelligence gathering base at Latakia. These bases are protected by the highly advanced Russian air defence systems, S-300 and S-400. In August Russia began massing an armada of warships off the coast of Syria in preparation for an attack by the Syrian army on Idlib, the rebel’s last stronghold in the north of the country.
In July the Assad regime, backed by a Russian air campaign and forces on the ground, took back control of the area of southern Syria, which was in the hands of anti-Assad rebels. Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shiite militias played a key role in re-capturing the region, thus bringing Russian and Iranian backed forces up to the border with Israel at the Golan Heights. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah wants to turn the Golan border into an active war zone with Israel as well as threatening to invade northern Israel across its border with Lebanon.
Iran has made no secret of its desire to destroy Israel. Recently a senior Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khatami, spoke of Iran’s capability and intention to totally destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa. It has supplied over 100,000 missiles to its allies in Lebanon, capable of hitting Israel, and is seeking to build a permanent presence in Syria. On 26 August Iranian Defence Minister Hatami met with Assad and signed a military cooperation pact with Syria which deepened its military grip on Syria. This pact provides for three large Iranian bases to go up in Syria as hubs for Iranian command posts dispersed across the country, one of which is between Damascus and the Israeli Golan border. Iran and Syria agreed to retaliate for every Israeli or US attack on Iranian or Shiite military forces by attacking Israeli forces on the Golan Heights or US forces in eastern Syria.
While Iran makes these threats and hostile actions against Israel, its domestic situation goes from bad to worse, as persistent drought causes food and water shortages, the US decision to reimpose sanctions causes an economic crisis as its currency goes into hyperinflation and discontent against the regime grows daily. This is a good illustration of God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants, ‘I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.’ Genesis 12. There can be no doubt that the curse of God is against the Islamic regime that is ruining Iran today.
Russia has given assurances to Israel that it has no hostile intentions towards Israel and said that it will hold back Iranian forces from Israel’s border, although it will not agree to Israel’s demand that they be removed from Syria. Russia needs the Iranians and their allies on the ground to defeat the Syrian opposition. Even after the war is over, the Iranians are likely to remain in Syria, as an occupation army keeping Assad in power. The Russians need Assad in power so that they can maintain their naval and air bases in Syria from where they can project their power into the Middle East. Iran needs to stay in Syria so they can further their penetration of the Arab Middle East and have a base for their goal of attacking Israel.
On August 1st Russian officials announced that they had reached an agreement with Israel that Iranian forces would withdraw to a distance of 85 kilometres (nearly 53 miles) from the Israeli border on the Golan Heights. There are doubts about Russia will be able to deliver on this agreement. Given Russia’s track record of treachery and brutality in its actions in Crimea, Ukraine, Syria and the Novichok attack in Britain, there is not much reason for Israel to trust them.
It is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Russia does become an active enemy of Israel. If Israel carries out its stated intention to ‘act against Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria’, and attacks Iranian bases in Syria, it could find itself up against Russia. The presence of Russian warships in the area and Russian supplied anti-aircraft missiles in Syria is already making it more difficult for Israel to attack Iranian targets. The Israeli military struck more than 200 targets on Iranian weapons bases and convoys carrying arms in Syria in the last 18 months and intends to continue doing so. An added situation has arisen since Iran supplied missiles capable of reaching Israel and Saudi Arabia to its Shiite allies in Iraq. Israel has threatened to attack these.
All of this runs the risk of a wider confrontation, even the possibility of a world war. Russia and the United States are gearing up for a confrontation over an imminent offensive by the pro-Assad coalition against a 100,000 men-strong force of the Turkey-backed Sunni Islamist rebels in the Idlib Province in northern Syria. US President Donald Trump warned the Iranians and Russians not to make a “grave mistake” by “recklessly attacking” the last large rebel hub in Syria and has already ordered his military to prepare for a massive response whenever the pro-Assad coalition launches the long anticipated offensive in Idlib.
Russia does not seem worried by Trump’s threats and has already started bombing Idlib. At the same time Russia is holding its largest military exercises in 37 years known as Vostok 2018 in central and eastern Russia, involving 300,000 men, 1000 aircraft, helicopters and drones and 36,000 tanks, armoured personnel carriers and infantry fighting machines. These are held in conditions as close to combat as possible and involve its airborne units which are ready to move anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. China is also participating and contributing troops.
Israel is also preparing for a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, which could come soon according to IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot. Any conflict with Hezbollah could bring Iranian forces in Syria and even Russian forces into the fray.
All of this raises the question, are we on the way to the fulfilment of Ezekiel 38-39, the War of Gog and Magog? This prophecy speaks of an army coming down from the north to attack Israel, led by a great power to the uttermost north (Russia) with allies including Persia (Iran), Togarmah (Turkey) (Ezekiel 38.2-6). According to Ezekiel 38.7-9 this event will happen ‘in the latter days’ after Israel has been gathered back from the nations and has people dwelling on ‘the mountains of Israel’ (Golan Heights or the mountainous area of the West Bank / Judea and Samaria?).
At this time the Lord says:
‘You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you. … Then you will come from your place in the far north, you and many peoples with you. … It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know Me when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes. … I will turn you around and lead you on, bringing you up from the far north, and bring you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will knock the bow out of your left hand and cause the arrows to fall out of your right hand. You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you.’ Selections from Ezekiel 38 – 9.
The reference to the ‘arrows’ could be speaking of missiles to be knocked out by the Lord intervening in the war. After the Lord rescues Israel, He will pour out His Spirit on the house of Israel (Ezekiel 39.29). This is yet another sign that we are living in the last days before the soon coming of the Lord.