BREAKING NEWS: Russia moves to push forward conference to eliminate WMDs in Mideast. Is this a Kremlin ploy to shift focus from Iranian nuclear program to Israel?


(Washington, D.C.) — Even as Prime Minister Netanyahu meets with President Obama in Washington, Russian President Vladimir Putin is suddenly signaling a major new international move that could shift the focus off of Iran’s nuclear threat and place enormous international focus and pressure on the State of Israel to disclose and dismantle its own strategic weapons.

“Russia wants to revive plans for a conference on ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction now that Syria has pledged to abandon its chemical arms, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in comments published on Monday,” Reuters reported on Monday.

“Such a move could put Moscow at odds with Washington which announced the conference would be delayed last year,” notes Reusters. “Analysts said it feared the event would be used to criticize its ally Israel, believed to be the region’s only nuclear-armed state.”

“Russia has been pushing to extend its influence in the Middle East. It initiated a UN deal to get Syria to abandon its chemical arms after Washington threatened military strikes to punish Damascus for a sarin gas attack on rebel areas,” notes Reuters.

“We will seek to have this conference take place,” Lavrov said.

This is a striking development, coming as it does on the heels of the Russian gambit that prevented a U.S. military intervention in Syria and ostensibly a deal with Bashar al-Assad to disclose and destroy Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

It’s also a scenario ripped from the pages of The Ezekiel Option. In the novel, the Russian President calls for an international coalition to force Israel to disclose and dismantle her WMDs, or face an invasion not unlike the invasion of Iraq in 2003. [See excerpts from the novel below.] 

Is this what we are about to see play out in real life? A similar international effort was set into motion in May 2010, but then ran aground. At the time, however, Russia was not in the lead. Other countries were. Now, the Kremlin seems to be ready to lead the initiative.

Israel is already increasingly isolated from the international community. The “charm offensive” by new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been dazzlingly successful in shifting the debate and putting Israel on the defensive. The likelihood of an Israeli first strike on Iran appears to have receded significantly if President Obama is eager to engage in diplomacy with Tehran and pressures Israel to hold off on an attack.

And as amazing as it is to say it, the events of this week could theoretically set into motion the fulfillment of the End Times Bible prophecies found in Ezekiel 38-39 — i.e, the “War of Gog and Magog” — if the leader of Russia begins to emerge as the leader of the anti-Israel coalition and requires Israel to comply with the treaty or face an international military coalition prepared to force her to comply.

Meanwhile, “Vladimir Putin has accepted an Iranian invitation to visit the country and meet with newly elected President Hasan Rouhani, a spokesman for the Russian president confirmed,” reports the Times of Israel. “Putin has been invited to Iran, and he will certainly take advantage of this kind invitation,” the Interfax news agency quoted spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Friday. “The dates of the visit will be agreed upon through diplomatic channels.”

This will be the second time Putin has traveled to Iran. The first was a two day trip on October 16-17, 2007



EXCERPTS FROM THE EZEKIEL OPTION (published by Tyndale House, copyright 2005)

Russian President Yuri Gogolov rose to speak.

“Mr. Secretary-General, distinguished delegates, and ladies and gentlemen: As we gather together on September eleventh, the anniversary of the attacks upon this great city, let me begin by assuring all Americans—and reassuring each of you—that the Russian Federation is fully committed to being a member in good standing of this global community and to helping the world win the war on terror once and for all.”

The General Assembly erupted in thunderous applause.

Bennett watched the speech in his West Wing office.

Joining him were Indira Rajiv of the CIA’s NAMESTAN desk and Ken Costello, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs. Bennett had invited them both to help him analyze the Gogolov speech and European and Islamic reaction to it.

“Many are the pressing issues that confront us,” Gogolov continued.

His pace was measured, confident; his proficiency with using a teleprompter rather intriguing given that this was his first international address.

“Some are regional. Some are economic, cultural, or social. But I believe we can all agree that the most pressing issue of our time is ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction and keeping them out of the hands of terrorists.”

More applause.

“Regretfully, some would seek to divide the great powers. Some would seek to pit the United States against Russia on the great issues of our time, but they must not be allowed to succeed. Yes, we have our differences. Yes, the debate over whether the United States should have gone to war against Iraq was one of them. And yes, there is much work to do to repair relations strained so badly by the unfortunate U.S. response to the perceived threat of Aeroflot flight 6617.

“But let there be no confusion: the Russian Federation never disagreed with the objective of the United States to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. To the contrary, we have always shared the vision of making the Middle East a nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons-free zone.

“Perhaps it is time to concede that regardless of our differences, the world is much safer now that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power and can no longer threaten the peace.”

The great hall was silent for a moment. The delegates were too stunned to know how to react.

“Today, however, I would submit that another Middle Eastern country is known to possess weapons of mass destruction. She operates in defiance of multiple U.N. resolutions. She has repeatedly attacked and invaded her neighbors. She has repeatedly violated the human rights of the people entrusted to her care. And she is widely seen as a threat not only to regional peace but to world peace. Regretfully, of course, I speak of the modern State of Israel.”

The General Assembly of the U.N. had never been so utterly silent.

“We must be honest. Only one country in the Middle East refuses to become a signatory to the landmark Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—the State of Israel.

“Moreover, only one country in the Middle East is known to actually possess nuclear warheads—the State of Israel. They are not dreaming of them, designing them, or developing them. Israel has already deployed nearly three hundred nuclear warheads.

“Which begs the question: if the United States was able to persuade this body that Saddam Hussein was a threat worthy of international action, how can we allow a double standard for Israel?

“Some will argue that India, Pakistan, and Cuba have not joined the NPT either. They are right, and this is a great concern of mine. I am determined we can make tremendous progress in these areas if we work together. Indeed, we have already done so.

“I have the great privilege of announcing to you that over the past few days I have been in talks with the Cuban government. I have been able to convince Havana to drop her long-standing concerns, and for the good of the global community and in the interests of world peace, I can now announce that the esteemed president of Cuba will join me immediately following this speech to officially become the NPT’s 188th signatory.”

The General Assembly exploded with a standing ovation.

“And this is just the beginning,” Gogolov continued, raising his hands and asking for everyone to please retake their seats. “I am also pleased to announce that the presidents of India and Pakistan have agreed to a summit in Moscow in January. Together, we will discuss a de-escalation of tensions between the two countries. And it is my personal mission to persuade both India and Pakistan to become members of the global community of NPT signatories within the next twelve to eighteen months.”

This brought the house down—another standing ovation, which lasted for almost four minutes.

And now the Russian shifted gears. “Which brings us back to Israel—a rich country; a powerful country with a strong army, an impressive air force, and the strength of the American superpower at her side. With all these assets, I ask you: why should such a country refuse to sign a treaty aimed solely at making the world a more peaceful and prosperous place for all mankind?

“When the United States went to war in Iraq, she did so, in part, because the regime of Saddam Hussein had defied sixteen U.N. Security Council resolutions. What, then, shall we say of Israel, which has defied ninety-seven such resolutions since 1948?”

Gogolov moved in for the kill.

“Israel has answered decades of U.N. demands with decades of defiance. Are these resolutions to be enforced, or cast aside without consequence?

“Russia helped to give birth to the United Nations. We want the resolutions of the world’s most important multilateral body to be enforced. And right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by Israel.

“If the Israeli regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally foreswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material. Further, the Israeli regime must immediately allow IAEA and U.N. inspectors into its nuclear reactor at Dimona as well as all other nuclear, chemical, and biological research facilities.

“Toward this end, this afternoon Russia will introduce U.N. Security Council Resolution 2441, giving the State of Israel thirty days to comply with the steps I have just outlined. If Israel does comply fully, a new era of peace and prosperity will sweep the region, and the world will be more secure.

“But let there be no doubt: if Israel continues to go down the road of defiance, the international community will have no choice but to join together to enforce the U.N. resolutions related to Israel, just as the United States and her allies enforced the U.N. resolutions related to Iraq.”

Bennett watched as Gogolov left the platform.

For a moment an awkward silence filled the great hall, but then the General Assembly erupted in a standing ovation that went on minute after minute. Nearly all the delegates were on their feet, applauding wildly. Then the camera caught the Israeli ambassador storming up the center aisle. As he exited, the view switched to the U.S. ambassador, who sat in stunned disbelief.

Bennett, too, sat motionless. The gauntlet had just been laid down, and Bennett was in shock….

Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Growing number of media stories focus on Isaiah 17 & Jeremiah 49 prophecies on the future of Damascus.

Headline on The Drudge Report today.

Headline on The Drudge Report today.

(Washington, D.C.) — As the crisis in Syria intensifies, interest in Bible prophecies concerning the future of Damascus are growing. People all over the world are increasingly, and understandably, interested in the prophecies found in Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah. Do they describe a future judgment of the city of Damascus and its utter destruction?

Now, a growing number of media outlets are covering the growing interest. Most of the articles are dismissive, some are snarky, some find it all ridiculous, but at least the articles are making people aware that these Bible prophecies exist.

Here are a few examples:

I’ve been writing and speaking about these prophecies for some time. Most recently, my novel, Damascus Countdown considered this very subject, the coming Biblical judgment of the Syrian capital. We don’t know, of course, whether the prophecies of Scripture will come true in our lifetime, much less soon. But the novel provided me an opportunity to imagine one possible scenario of how they could unfold. What’s more, the novel has made many people aware of the prophecies who otherwise had never even heard of them, much less considered them seriously, and encouraged them to go back into the Scriptures to study the texts for themselves.

Given the growing interest in these specific prophecies, I have posted 23 pages of my personal study notes on Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah and the future of Damascus. I hope they are helpful both to pastors, Bible study leaders and lay people who want to study these issues more closely. Reporters are welcome to study them, too.

That said, let me make a few last points:

  1. First, these prophecies are very sad and sobering — Christians should not be gleeful or excited about the coming judgment of any city or nation. After all, Jesus told us to love our neighbors, and our enemies. Love does not hope for something bad to happen to other people.
  2. Second, the prophecies have not yet come true yet — As I explain in the study notes, Damascus has been attacked and conquered numerous times in history, but it has never been utterly destroyed and uninhabited, as the prophecies foretell. Rather, Damascus is widely regarded as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on the planet. What’s more, while prophecies found in the first few chapters of Isaiah do describe the conquering of Damascus in 732 BC, the prophecies of Isaiah 17 were not even given to Isaiah until the year King Ahaz died (see Isaiah 14:28), which was in 715 BC. Thus, Isaiah 17 could not possibly have been referring to the events that had happened two decades earlier. Rather, Isaiah 17′s description of Damascus’s complete destruction is eschatological. It will come to pass in the End Times, at some point prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. And, of course, Jeremiah’s prophecy about the destruction of Damascus was written more than a century after the events of 732 BC., and has not yet come to pass either.
  3. Third, while it is important to study the Bible and know what the Scriptures say about the future of the Middle, Christians should not argue and/or become divided over the interpretation of Bible prophecy. Rather, we need to be both hearers of God’s Word, and doers, as well, according to James 1:22.

That means that we need to understand the “whole counsel of God” and obey faithfully. Thus, we should be praying for peace in the Middle East. We need to be praying for safety and security for the people of Damascus and Syria. We need to be praying for an end to the horrific civil war there, and a diplomatic resolution. We need to pray for our President and Congress and national security leaders to have wisdom, and praying for the leaders in the region to have wisdom to do the right thing, as well. We also need to pray for the Arab Christians there to be strong and courageous amidst terrible darkness and persecution, to care for the needy and suffering around them, to show the love of Jesus, and to share the Gospel of Christ to everyone in Syria. And we need to be doing all we can to encourage the local Arab Church in the region, stand with them, help them provide humanitarian relief to Syrians who are fleeing from the bloodshed and cruelty, and let them know they are not alone. Numerous churches and Christian organizations are doing this and for this I am grateful. My colleagues and I at The Joshua Fund are certainly trying to do our part, as well. Real people are suffering.

Real people need the Church to step up show the love of Christ. This is our most important mission, for Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors, and our enemies.

Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Damascus Countdown? White House about to use military force in Syria. That would be a catastrophic mistake. The focus should be Iran.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis that could be called into service to project force into Syria. (Photo by AP)

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis that could be called into service to project force into Syria. (Photo by AP)

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(Washington, D.C.) — The countdown to U.S. intervention in the mess in Damascus appears to be nearing the zero hour.

The Obama administration is actively considering using military force to bring down the Assad regime in Syria. Specifically, the White House and Pentagon are analyzing the idea of running a 24/7 “no-fly zone” over Syria, as well as training and arming rebel forces to defeat the Assad forces. But the costs would be high — upwards of $ 1 billion a month — and might not even be successful.

In my view, active U.S. military involvement in Syria would be a catastrophic mistake. I feel terrible for the bloodshed and carnage going on inside Syria. But tragically I see very little that the West can do to actually make the situation better.

Who exactly would we arm and assist? We’re talking about a civil war that is pitting Shia radicals (Assad’s regime, Iran and Hezbollah) against ”the rebels,” most of whom are Sunni radicals (including al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood forces). I don’t want any of them to win. Are there small numbers of rebels who might be better if they could really come to power? Perhaps. But the fact is they have very limited chances of getting to the top of the greasy pole. Indeed, if the wrong people seize control of Syria, the situation for the Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and the West could actually become much worse.

Syria is imploding. It is increasingly possible that the geopolitical state we call the Syrian Arab Republic will cease to exist in the not-too-distant future. We can and should help with humanitarian relief. We can  and should show mercy to those fleeing for their lives. We can and should help the persecuted Christians, and pray actively and consistently for peace and stability. But I don’t think the U.S. government or any Western power should stick its hand into that hornet’s nest.

Our highest priority should be stopping Iran from building nuclear weapons. Period.

Still, the White House appears to be readying the military for U.S. intervention, and some Republicans in Congress are encouraging them along these lines.

“The Pentagon has provided Congress with its first detailed list of military options to stem the bloody civil war in Syria, suggesting that a campaign to tilt the balance from President Bashar al-Assad to the opposition would be a vast undertaking, costing billions of dollars, and could backfire on the United States,” reports the New York Times.

Excerpts from the story:

  • The list of options — laid out in a letter from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin of Michigan — was the first time the military has explicitly described what it sees as the formidable challenge of intervening in the war.       
  • It came as the White House, which has limited its military involvement to supplying the rebels with small arms and other weaponry, has begun implicitly acknowledging that Mr. Assad may not be forced out of power anytime soon.       
  • The options, which range from training opposition troops to conducting airstrikes and enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria, are not new. But General Dempsey provided details about the logistics and the costs of each. He noted that long-range strikes on the Syrian government’s military targets would require “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines and other enablers,” and cost “in the billions.”       
  • General Dempsey, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, provided the unclassified, three-page letter at the request of Mr. Levin, a Democrat, after testifying last week that he believed it was likely that Mr. Assad would be in power a year from now.       
  • On that day, the White House began publicly hedging its bets about Mr. Assad. After saying for nearly two years that Mr. Assad’s days were numbered, the press secretary, Jay Carney, said, “While there are shifts in momentum on the battlefield, Bashar al-Assad, in our view, will never rule all of Syria again.”       
  • Those last four words represent a subtle but significant shift in the White House’s wording: an implicit acknowledgment that after recent gains by the government’s forces against an increasingly chaotic opposition, Mr. Assad now seems likely to cling to power for the foreseeable future, if only over a rump portion of a divided Syria.
  • That prospect has angered advocates of intervention, including Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who had a testy exchange with General Dempsey when the general testified before the Armed Services Committee about why the administration was not doing more to help the rebels. The plan to supply the rebels with small arms and other weaponry is being run as a covert operation by the Central Intelligence Agency, and General Dempsey made no mention of it in his letter.       
  • On Monday, Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who heads the House Intelligence Committee, said that despite “very strong concerns about the strength of the administration’s plans in Syria and its chances for success,” the panel had reached a consensus to move ahead with the White House’s strategy, without specifically mentioning the covert arms program. Senate Intelligence Committee officials said last week that they had reached a similar position….
  • In his letter, General Dempsey assessed the risks and benefits of different military options. But his tone was cautionary, suggesting that the Pentagon views all of these options with trepidation.
  • Training, advising and assisting opposition troops, he wrote, could require anywhere from several hundred to several thousand troops, and cost about $ 500 million a year. An offensive of limited long-range strikes against Syrian military targets would require hundreds of aircraft and warships and could cost billions of dollars over time. Imposing a no-fly zone would require shooting down government warplanes and destroying airfields and hangars. It would also require hundreds of aircraft. The cost could reach $ 1 billion a month.


>> Watch videos of the messages from the 2013 Epicenter Conference on “The Power of the Word” to bless both Israel and the Arabs

Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog