It’s a place given up for a disaster zone. Violent deaths are so commonplace that many of us have become quite indifferent to news of further mass killings in Iraq.
America swept into Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) with “regime change” and democratization on the cards. But it wasn’t long before the initial motive was abandoned. America found no weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, much as its agents scoured the country.
Even so, America pressed on with its democratization programme, overseeing successful national elections and the installation of a government of national unity. However, as we all know too well, America has not had it easy in Iraq. Virtually from day one to today, violence has dogged America’s presence in Iraq with an ever rising death-toll involving Iraqi citizens and US soldiers.
America came to Iraq promising stability, but got its fingers burnt. Iraq has become an embarrassing albatross around the neck of the Bush administration.
The bloodbath has been blamed on Al Qaeda and other insurgent groups in Iraq. As of writing, President Bush is planning additional troop deployments to Iraq in a renewed effort to contain the violence there.
But the question is, will the current round of counter-insurgency measures succeed in stemming the tide of the ruinous violence in Iraq? With the hindsight of previous counter-terrorism operations, there’s little hope that the insurgency would be easily uprooted. Iraq continues to be racked by wave after wave of violence; the insurgents too elusive and redoubtable to crush. Far from being weakened, they are even growing in sophistication.
Since the beginning of this year, the insurgents have introduced a novelty to fighting America—shooting down US military aircraft, five down so far!
Will Iraq someday break free from the cycle of violence? It may, but does the Bible hint at a major armed conflict to engulf the region of ancient Babylon in the last days?
A passage in the book of Revelation not so obliquely foretells war and gore in the ancient land of Babylon with the two-river landmarks, Tigris and Euphrates:
“And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
“Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
“And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men” (Rev. 9:13-15).
Looking at the ever-worsening situation in Iraq, is it to be taken that “the four angels” have been let loose—the spiritual forces behind the insurgency? Or is the current violence the forerunner of the prophesied one to come? Consider also the special breed of fire-spitting horses committed to the war effort (verses 17-18). Could they be a reference to modern military equipment like tanks and armoured personnel carriers which equally spew “fire and brimstone?”
How things eventually pan out will clarify whether the prophecy is yet future or happening now. Iraq is still in transition; it has by no means attained stability. Nor has the violence simmered down in a region notoriously volatile and war-prone.
Indeed, the sectarian nature of the violence raises the spectre of a protracted conflict—and Iraq may well provide the fertile ground for old scores to be settled. Already, the United States has accused Iran of meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs. Then enter the possibility of the Sunni/Shiite divide in Iraq taking on a regional dimension.
Is it possible that Iran and Saudi Arabia could be sucked into the Iraq conflict, with Iran on the side of the Shiites and the Saudis on the side of the Sunnis?
From both the geopolitical and prophetic perspectives, the prospects are not good.
Since Old Testament times, this history-rich region of the Middle East has been the subject of divine prophecies predicting doom and destruction. (See Isaiah chapters 13 & 47; Jer. 51).
The region has been as known for fame as for infamy! Experts say not only did the Garden of Eden extend to Iraq, but was also the cradle of civilization (Mesopotamia), the place where Noah built his ark, the site of the Tower of Babel, the place where Abraham originally had his home (Ur)—and Isaac and Jacob’s wives too.
In this same place, several prophets, including Jonah, thundered against sin, calling people to repentance. Whence also came the wise men that visited and paid homage to the infant Jesus. And now it’s the hotbed of terror!
The sheer ferocity of the terror in Iraq, not to mention President Bush’s insistence on invading Iraq against all ‘sound’ advice, speaks of unseen forces manipulating events behind the scenes.
The Middle East is destined to be at the centre of major eschatological events that will bring down the curtain on the age of man.
The Israeli-Palestinian problem, Iran and Iraq could serve as a backdrop to these events. A storm is gathering in the Middle East. But after the storm, there will be calm:
“For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Heb. 10:37).
And He comes to install durable peace in the very region that’s today synonymous with hatred and violence—Jerusalem and the surrounding nations and indeed all the world (Isaiah 2:1-4; 11:1-9; 65:17-19).
In the meantime, keep abreast of events in the Middle East and stay prepared for the coming of our great King and Saviour. He will not tarry!