Part One – Syria
Israel has been in the headlines again – a mysterious Israel Air Force attack delves deep into Syria; an upcoming US-prompted peace conference in Annapolis MD discusses a major dividing up of the land of Israel; a brazen new book accuses the American Jewish community and Israel of acting against the interests of the USA, raising the ante of anti-Semitism in the USA. The sharks smell blood and are circling, while the Jewish David, one arm tied behind his back by world pressure and opinion, finds himself confronting many modern-day Goliaths. We are indeed living in significant days!
Serious stirrings in Syria
Some secret events in Syria have hit the headlines in recent days. Israel’s strict censorship rules on military matters forbid direct reporting of certain military matters, but anonymous leaks to major journalists have somewhat dispersed the mists of war. London’s Sunday Times reported on September 16 2007 that just after midnight on September 6, the 69th Squadron composed of eight Israeli F-15Is, F-16s and a UAV crossed the Mediterranean coastline of Syria and headed to a military target 50 miles from the Iraqi border – Deir ez-Zour. Syrian radar was somehow blocked, and a pre-positioned Israeli special forces Shaldag team (air force commandos) painted the target with laser beams.
The pinpoint accurate bombing destroyed what Israeli intelligence anonymously describe as either nuclear material or a nuclear device from North Korea which could be fitted on North Korean Scud-C missiles (already in Syria’s arsenal). An Israeli source said, “We’ve known for a long time that Syria has deadly chemical warheads on its Scuds, but Israel can’t live with a nuclear warhead.”
Over the years the world’s intelligence community has given us some context for this attack. A CIA report from June 2003 stated, “Broader access to foreign expertise provides (Syria) opportunities to expand its indigenous capabilities and we are looking at Syrian nuclear intentions with growing concern.” (https://www.cia.gov/library/reports/archived-reports-1/jan_jun2003.htm#7).
On November 12 2003 John R. Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security at the State Department, spoke at a public gathering in Washington DC (www.state.gov/t/us/rm/26129.htm):
“As I have recently testified to Congress, we are concerned about Syria’s nuclear research and development program and continue to watch for any signs of nuclear weapons activity or foreign assistance that could facilitate a Syrian nuclear weapons capability. We are aware of Syrian efforts to acquire dual-use technologies that could be applied to a nuclear weapons program. . . Broader access to Russian expertise could provide opportunities for Syria to expand its indigenous capabilities, should it decide to pursue nuclear weapons. . . Since the 1970s, Syria has pursued what is now one of the most advanced Arab state chemical weapons capabilities. It has a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin that can be delivered by aircraft or ballistic missiles, and has engaged in the research and development of more toxic and persistent nerve agents such as VX.”
On April 29, 2004 Bolton told the United Nations that the Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan had “several other” customers for his nuclear bomb factories besides Iran, Libya and North Korea. Western diplomats said then that Bolton was clearly referring to Syria (see the Reform Party of Syria’s article www.aina.org/news/20050104115532.htm).
Whoever Digs a Pit May Fall Into It (Eccles. 10:8)
Exactly six weeks before the Israeli bombing raid, a deadly explosion took place at as-Safir, a secret Syrian missile production laboratory in the Muslemiah area north of the city of Aleppo. According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, Syrian weapons experts (under Iranian supervision) were attempting to mount a mustard gas chemical warhead on a North Korean Scud-C (300 mile range). At that moment, rocket fuel caught alight in the lab, and the explosive blast dispersed mustard gas, VX and Sarin nerve gas across the storage facility and to those standing outside. Jane’s states that 15 Syrian officers and dozens of Iranian missile engineers were killed, while fifty others were seriously injured with chemical burns to exposed body parts.
According to Syrian media sources, “There is a heat wave and temperatures reached close to 50 degrees, which caused an ammunition dump to explode.” However, Jane’s reported that the blast took place at around 4:30 am in the cool morning hours, and also that the Syrian government rejected the possibility of sabotage. Of course, in November 2005 Syria and Iran had signed an agreement wherein Iran agreed to supply Syria with weapons, train Syrian operators, and transfer technology for chemical warfare systems for mass destruction.
Syrian soldiers, Iranian missile engineers and North Korean missiles – that combination tends to make Israeli generals nervous. On August 14, North Korea’s Minister of Foreign Trade, arrived in Syria to sign a protocol on “cooperation in trade and science and technology”. Though no details were released, Israel’s attention was certainly riveted once again. A Middle East expert, who is connected to Israelis involved in the September 6th raid, told the Washington Post that the raid’s timing was linked to the arrival at the Syrian port of Tartus three days earlier of a North Korean ship carrying a cargo that was officially listed as ‘cement’ but was understood to contain nuclear equipment. Perhaps everyone breathed a sigh of relief to know that on September 18 (12 days after the Israeli raid) Syrian Expatriate Affairs Minister Bussaina Shaaban said that the allegations of nuclear cooperation between Syria and North Korea which led to the reported Israeli overflight were ‘an orchestra of lies.’ In an interview with the Iranian Fars news agency, the minister denied reports in Israeli and American media that suggested Pyongyang was helping Damascus build a nuclear installation in the country.
A Death Wind over Damascus
In 1991 I served in the IDF during the First Gulf War. After the war ended, I traveled to the USA where I met a prophetic man with a world-recognized reputation for accuracy and humility. He told me a vision the Lord had once given him, a vision which is yet future. This man saw an accident that would take place in a chemical weapons stockpile near Damascus. The resulting explosion would cause a death wind to sweep over Damascus, destroying much of the population. This prophetic man said that the experience was like a fulfillment of Isaiah.17:1-14. As we consider these two recent events in Syria, as well as this prophetic future aspect, let us pray for God to save many people in Syria, and for His grace to be extended to believers in that country. Let us pray for protection over the Jewish people in Israel as dark clouds gather.
An encouraging biblical story in 2 Kings 6 reminds us of God’s age-old perspective regarding the conflict of Israel and Syria, and can guide us in our prayers:
Now the king of Syria was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Syrians are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Syria. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.” “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so that I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O YHVH, open his eyes so that he may see.” Then YHVH opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all round Elisha. (2 Kings 6:8-17).
He who guards Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psa.121:4), and no weapon forged against Israel will prevail (Isa. 54:17). Yet at the same time the Lord Himself bids us pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psa. 122:6). He challenges us to intercede with passion and resolve in the following words: “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on YHVH, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth (Isa. 62:6-7). With trust and faith in the Guardian of Israel, we press forward in prayer at this strategic and significant time in history.
Once Bitten, Twice Shy
The USA is facing deep division among its citizens over whether or not the government and the intelligence community can be trusted regarding the subject of weapons of mass destruction. The unfortunate strategic shading of some intelligence in the pressured atmosphere surrounding 9/11 has tarred all involved in that affair (see The One Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind, Simon & Schuster, 2007).
But these intelligence sins of omission or commission do not cause the all too real threats of Islamist terrorism to simply fade away. Though these threats may sometimes appear distant from America’s shores, we can take an example from plucky Israel – one country that has been constantly forced to deal with chemical, biological and atomic threats all on its own, in the rather unforgiving neighborhood called the Middle East.
On June 7 1981 the IAF attacked and destroyed Iraq’s atomic bomb plant (Osirak or Tammuz 1) at al-Tuwaitah, 11 miles south-east of Baghdad. Israel had been following the construction of that plant (built with French and Italian help) as well as the chemical warfare installations and bunkers (built with German help) “with growing concern” for many years. The world belittled and dismissed Israel’s concerns until the moment of no return approached, when the reactor was about to go hot. A force of eight Israeli F-16s and six escorting F-15s flew 680 miles across Jordan, Saudi Arabia and into Iraq to bomb the target successfully.
What was the response of the world to this successful attack? For starters, Israel was condemned and censured at the United Nations by the United States, UK, France, etc. On June 19 1981 the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed UN Security Council Resolution 487, which “strongly condemns the military attack by Israel in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct.” (S/RES/487; http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/6c57312cc8bd93ca852560df00653995?OpenDocument).
Wisdom is Proved Right By Her Children (Luke 7:35)
But the God of Israel has a wry sense of humor, and He is very patient! Ten years later, in the prelude to the First Gulf War, the Iraqi government tried to recover components from the Osirak site in August 1990 and then accelerated its nuclear program to create a weapon using radioactive fuel. On January 17 1991 coalition forces targeted the site previously bombed by Israel, halting the weapons program. On January 20 56 F-16s attacked the same site and on January 23 a force of F-117s bombed Osirak. Finally 48 F-16s targeted the facility 7 more times for over a month and, a few weeks later, 17 F-111Fs participated in the raids. After 19 days of strikes the US Defense Intelligence Agency declared the site to be “severely degraded”. This time, it seems, coalition forces were not censured at the UN.
In June 1991, then-Defense Secretary Richard Cheney visited Israel and gave a satellite photograph of the destroyed reactor to the commander of the IAF Major General David Ivry. On the photograph, Cheney wrote, ‘For General David Ivri, with thanks and appreciation for the outstanding job he did on the Iraqi Nuclear Program in 1981, which made our job much easier in Desert Storm.’ (this story is found in Maj. Gen. [res.] David Ivry’s ‘The Attack on the Osiraq Nuclear Reactor – Looking Back 21 Years Later,’ Israel’s Strike Against the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor 7 June, 1981, Jerusalem: Menachem Begin Heritage Center: 2003, p. 35).
Professor of International Law at Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana) Louis Rene Beres wrote that, “Israel’s citizens, together with Jews and Arabs, American, and other coalition soldiers who fought in the Gulf War may owe their lives to Israel’s courage, skill, and foresight in June 1981. Had it not been for the brilliant raid at Osiraq, Saddam’s forces might have been equipped with atomic warheads in 1991. Ironically, the Saudis, too, are in Jerusalem’s debt. Had it not been for Prime Minister Begin’s resolve to protect the Israeli people in 1981, Iraq’s SCUDs falling on Saudi Arabia might have spawned immense casualties and lethal irradiation.” (Louis Rene Beres and Tsiddon-Chatto, Col. (res.) Yoash, “Reconsidering Israel’s Destruction of Iraq’s Osiraq Nuclear Reactor,” Temple International and Comparitive Law Journal 9 (2), 1995. Reprinted in Israel’s Strike Against the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor 7 June, 1981, Jerusalem: Menachem Begin Heritage Center: 2003, p.60).
What has just occurred in Syria seems to be on the order of the Osirak raid. Powerful events are taking place behind the scenes at this moment – in the natural and in the world of the spirit. Press on in prayer for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven; for Israel and her allies to be preserved and protected; and for the gospel message to spread in power throughout the Middle East, in Syria, in Iraq, in Iran – and especially and with priority to the Jewish people, “to the Jew first”! (Romans 1:16).
In Messiah Yeshua’s love,
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