Prophecy Update Newsletter
IN TODAY'S NEWSLETTER...
Is the US in Bible Prophecy? - By Pete Garcia -
Originally written on October 28th, 2017. Updated for you here in 2019
There has been much discussion as of late on whether or not the United States is found in Bible prophecy. How does the world's most powerful, Christian, and Israel-friendly nation not warrant a mention as a key player in the last days? If the US is in Bible prophecy, what role does she play? If she is not, then why not? What happens to her vast natural resources, advanced technology, military arsenal, and able-bodied citizens? Considering these questions, there are biblically sound, and astute teachers on both sides of the issue who either believe that the US is Mystery Babylon, or that we are not in the picture at all.
Those who are in the camp of us being Babylon (mystery or otherwise), seem to make good points for that case (see here). Probably the strongest reason why we could be is that the Jew's are told to come out of her. As of 2017, the largest concentration of Jewish people outside of Israel is in the United States. While at the same time, there are practically no Jews in what was traditional Babylon (Iraq) thanks to the likes of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other militant Islamic groups. So how could they come out of her (Babylon), if they are not in there to begin with?
Those in the camp who believe we are not in the prophetic picture at all (see here) also believe so for a variety of well-thought-out reasons. The most obvious reason for saying the US is not in Bible prophecy is that there is no explicit mention of any nation (in the geopolitical sense) that matches our description in the prophetic texts concerning the last days.
While a number of doomsday scenarios could pose an existential threat to the United States, none (in my opinion) threaten to so suddenly upend the traditional global order as would the Rapture of the Church. This particular threat to our current world order has been gravely underestimated in books like the "Left Behind" series and other popular eschatological material. Underestimated not because of the percentage of how many American's are raptured up, but by what immediately follows.
Also keep in mind that it is not just the total number of Christian's caught up in the United States that threatens her national sovereignty, but that we have Christian's sprinkled throughout our social strata. For example, Egypt may see a decent percentage of its Coptic-Christian population raptured up, but they are sitting at the bottom of their social strata. Same with Russia and China. So while we may never truly know whether President Trump is a Christian or not, there is no doubt with Vice President Pence. The second most powerful man in the US would suddenly be removed in a blink of an eye.
And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. Luke 17:26-30
Speculation abounds as to what the percentage will be for those believers who are actually caught up. Some think as low as one percent while others think as high as twenty-five percent. The percentage then has become a sort of a measuring stick by which we could determine whether or not the US survives the Rapture event and goes on to play a major role in the 70th Week of Daniel. I tend to think around ten percent of the US population will be raptured, but even then that means around thirty million Americans (by current population standards) would instantaneously disappear. But regardless, the how is less important than the why in regards to our potential role in the Tribulation.
What is of utmost importance is realizing that once the Rapture does occur, the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit is also removed (2 Thess. 2:6-8).
This does not mean that the Holy Spirit disappears from the earth altogether. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent and cannot, not be everywhere. The Holy Spirit was on the earth prior to the day of Pentecost and He will be here after the Rapture event. What it means is that the mystery of iniquity (or lawlessness) that is active in the world today, is at the same time actively being hindered by God's power through His people. We are salt and light to a world that will quickly be engulfed in darkness once the Rapture occurs. But after the Rapture, lawlessness will no longer be hindered. Lawlessness will go unchecked and the world will quickly move in one accord under the direction of Satan who will rapidly form that final world system.
Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours." Luke 4:5-7
The idea that the world first experiences the Rapture then sees the unleashing of the four horsemen matches perfectly with what Paul is shown concerning the order of events. The man of sin cannot be revealed until we (the body of Christ) are removed. This is why we see John record the Revelation in the manner which he does (Rev. 1:19):
Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, "Come and see." And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. Revelation 6:1-2
The first horse out of the gate is the man of sin riding the white horse. He seemingly takes advantage of a crisis already in progress. How long the crisis lasts between the Rapture and his arrival is unknown. We know that the actual 70th Week does not start at the Rapture, but with a covenant that is signed between Israel and the nations (Dan. 9:27) which he will ultimately violate halfway through. As Bill Salus has already articulately alluded too, the removal of the restraint of lawlessness will seemingly force Israel's hand into some type of peace/security treaty with the 10-nation/region confederacy (the revived Roman Empire). That treaty will be for seven-years, which at the midpoint, the rider on the white horse (the Antichrist) will violate. The man of sin will then become the son of perdition once Satan physically possesses him at the midway point.
At present, it is impossible for us to know who this man will be. We only know what the Bible says about him. However, his arrival likely comes at a point of great turmoil. So if the world's agenda is currently being hindered by God the Holy Spirit through the body of Christ on the earth, what does our removal then signify?
A total lack of restraint.
Unchecked restraint will result in violence, bloodshed, crime, turmoil, and conflict, unlike anything the world has ever seen.
It will mean that the floodgates of hell are opened and there will be a short, super intense period of chaos immediately following the removal of the body of Christ (the Church) from the earth. This will force the power structures of the former world-order (pre-rapture) to realign themselves to a new post-rapture reality. The old saying is that nature abhors a vacuum, and will fill itself with anything to avoid a vacuum. If the church's removal provides this vacuum, you can guarantee that something will fill that void. This is where I believe the spirit of antichrist becomes the strong delusion that sweeps over the world.
Logically what comes with turmoil and change, is conflict. If we look back at World War 1 or World War 2, we see that the geopolitical realities changed significantly before and after each of those events. After the Rapture will be no different. The world will be forced to realign itself. IF the US is not impacted at all by the Rapture, then the current power structure (or the world order) will not need to change. But we do see great change coming because the next horse unleashed is the rider on the red horse.
When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come and see." Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword. Rev. 6:3-4
As I've stated in a previous brief's, any belief system outside of true, orthodox Christianity, is from Satan. While the varying religions and worldviews may have different angles, forms of worship, terminology, agendas, etc., they are all varying corruptions of the truth. The reality then is that there is only one God, who is expressed in three Persons, who are all of the same divine essence, and being, co-equal in power, and willingly submitting to each other to eternally be in one accord, according to Scripture. Anything that deviates from that is from Satan.
In other words, Satan could have just as easily used Hinduism or Shintoism to violently rampage across the Middle East and Europe as he has with Islam. Any view that is not true biblical Christianity, is fiercely (when confronted) opposed to the truth because of what it reveals about its corrupted nature. Without the Holy Spirit to keep the world at bay, the world will tear itself apart trying to establish a new dominant religious position.
When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come and see." So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine. Rev. 6:5-6
When peace is taken from the earth, what naturally follows is economic disparity and starvation. Global war will violently disrupt the world's economic structures and systems. Amazon will not be shipping. Air and sea travel will stop. The oil will not be shipped. The US dollar will crash, and it will drag all the rest of the world's currencies down with it. However, the rich and powerful will still have the means to keep their wealth and sustenance, while the majority of the world's populations will not. Following massive worldwide starvation, comes death and pestilence. Imagine Venezuela, globally.
When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come and see." So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth. Rev. 6:7-8
The world population is currently at 7.5 billion people. While we can't know the percentage of those taken up at the Rapture of the Church, we can know (roughly) how many perish during the first four Seal judgments. A fourth of that is around 1.875B people. This is an unprecedented number and aside from the Noahic flood, we really don't have anything else that can really compare to the number that large perishing in such a short period of time. That number alone will force major geopolitical alignments that will bring about the final world system headed by the Antichrist.
I think that the biblically, reasonable answer to the question of whether the United States is in Bible prophecy is that we are, but not in the way we hoped or expected. Although I believe we are not Mystery Babylon, we will be essential to its creation.
Every gentile power that has ever risen to global prominence, has ultimately befriended and then betrayed the nation of Israel and/or the Jewish people. [The nations will have to answer for this as well (Matt. 25:31-46)]. So it stands to reason, that after the Rapture, the US will cease to look or be anything of like what it is today. I expect the US to become exceedingly hostile toward the Jews and Israel, much the same way Europe rapidly became in the early 20th century.
The Jews will have to flee the United States back to Israel just as they did Europe between WWI and WWII. This is because the antichrist spirit will feed that supernatural hatred to a people who have been given over to a strong delusion. Satan's plan is to gather all the Jews into one place so to set a snare for destruction (Matt. 24:15-21, 2 Thess. 2:3-4). If Satan can destroy Israel and kill all the Jews, then God's prophetic word would fail, thus nullifying God's plan for Satan's eternal damnation.
Likewise, if the US ceases to be the world superpower, some other nation(s) will have to rise up to fill void such as the revived Roman Empire. What's left of the US will be incorporated into that final world system. Without the constraints of the Judeo-Christian constitution, the US will dissolve relatively quickly. Imagine all the left-wing democrat radicals running the show, and it's not hard to see how quickly they will turn on Israel.
Side note: This leads me to believe that the Gog and Magog invasion (Ezekiel 38-39), will be after the Rapture. I cannot imagine any scenario where our current leadership abandons a close ally in her greatest time of need. However, after the Rapture, the US will not be in any position to come to anyone's aid.
The antichrist and the false prophet simply do not have enough time left to build the world forces it needs to dominate the planet in only seven years. They will have to rely on taking from what's already in existence (from the major world powers). This may be from the creation of some new AI architecture (think Skynet) or through the supernatural, as Satan's forces will be unrestrained at that point. The antichrist will use either (or both) to impose his iron-fisted will over the entire planet. Granted, even that time will be very brief as the forces from the east will eventually rise up to challenge his (antichrist's) authority (Rev. 16:12).
Unfortunately, the US will be amongst the nations who finally assemble at the Valley of Megiddo and try to challenge the physical return of Jesus to the earth (Zech. 12:3). The nation's armies are quickly and effortlessly destroyed as Jesus brings His armies from heaven to watch Him single-handedly destroy the world's system (Dan. 2:44-45). Unlike earthly empires and kingdoms, Jesus does not have any weaknesses. He is the infinite source of all wealth, all power, and does not rely on consensus to conduct His will, because He and the Father, and the Spirit are One in purpose. To this, Revelation 19:15-16 states-
Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORDS.
Even so, Maranatha!
Validation - By Daymond Duck -
The fulfillment of hundreds of Bible prophecies is validation that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
Here are seven examples.
First, Bible prophecy indicates that the Promised Land will be divided at the end of the age (Joel 3:1-2).
There are two areas in Israel with large Muslim populations.
One is controlled by Hamas in Gaza (Islamic Jihad and others are there too), and the other is controlled by the PA in Judea-Samaria.
These two areas are separated, and the Israeli military controls all traffic between them.
Jared Kushner released the economic part of Pres. Trump's "Deal of the Century" at a "Peace to Prosperity" workshop in Bahrain on June 25-26, 2019.
He suggested the creation of a land corridor with a railroad and highway to connect the Hamas-controlled area of Gaza to the PA-controlled area of Judea-Samaria.
That land corridor will divide Israel, strengthen the terrorists, and increase the threat to Israel by allowing trains and trucks to move missiles, rockets, troops and vehicles between the two areas.
Israel is clearly opposed to this, and it appears to violate God's warning against dividing the Promised Land.
There is some speculation about the possibility that the recent natural disasters in the U.S. might be a warning against dividing Israel this way.
Second, the way I understand the Scriptures, the last Gentile world government will consist of ten groups of nations in the world, not ten nations in the EU.
The EU will be one of the ten groups, and it will be the model or pattern for the other nine groups.
The Antichrist will be an eleventh horn (a little horn, diverse from the ten, not one of the ten horns), and authority will be given to him over everyone on earth (Dan. 7:24; Rev. 13:7, 17:12).
It is important to know that the globalists have a three-step plan: 1) Divide the world into ten regional trading blocks of nations (a financial or economic New World Order); 2) Change the rules to convert the ten regional trading blocks of nations into ten regional political blocks of nations (a political New World Order); 3) Merge the ten regional political blocks into a one-world government.
Anyway, on Nov. 30, 2018, U.S. Pres. Donald Trump, Mexico's Pres. Enrique Pena Nieto and Canada's Prime Min. Justin Trudeau signed the USMCA (also called the new NAFTA or the NAFTA replacement agreement).
It was Pres. Nieto's last day in office, and he said the following in Spanish, "The negotiation of the Mexico-United States-Canada Treaty made it possible to reaffirm the importance of the economic integration of North America."
This will merge the North American nations into a trading block (formerly called the North American Union or NAU).
Mr. Nieto said, "The renegotiation of the new trade agreement sought to safeguard the vision of an integrated North America, the conviction that together (merged into one regional block) we are stronger and more competitive."
Shortly after signing the agreement, Mr. Nieto tweeted: "On my last day as President, I am very honored to have participated in the signing of the new Trade Treaty between Mexico, the United States and Canada."
"This day concludes a long process of dialogue and negotiation that will consolidate the economic integration of North America" (a major step toward a financial New World Order).
Mr. Nieto said, "The USMCA is not a step back towards American independence and sovereignty; it's a step closer toward greater integration" (there goes MAGA).
On July 23, 2019, Christian Gomez wrote an excellent article for The New American titled "USMCA and the Quest for a North American Union."
Mr. Gomez called the USMCA "a steppingstone toward an EU-style North American Union."
He notes that globalists use trade agreements to gain control over the governments of participating nations, and the end result of trade agreements is the erosion and transfer of national sovereignty to world government.
He points out that the USMCA will set aside the U.S. Constitution and establish a Free Trade Commission run by bureaucrats with more authority than the leaders of the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
Mr. Gomez states that the USMCA is a "living agreement" that the Free Trade Commission can change without U.S. approval (change into a political block without the approval of Congress, and even the Pres. of the U.S. won't be able to do anything about it.).
For whatever it is worth, it has been reported that Pres. Trump plans to send the USMCA to Congress after Sept. 1, 2019 (about one month from now).
It has also been reported that there is growing optimism that Congress will approve it.
Those that are against world government are running out of time to stop this.
Third, according to the Bible, Israel will prosper (Ezek. 38:13), and the angel Gabriel will stand up for Israel at the time of the end.
On July 22, 2019, it was reported that a Major Gen. in the IDF (Israel's military) called the IDF the biggest start-up in Israel and perhaps in the entire world.
A nation needs investments to grow, but investors are reluctant to invest in a nation that is unstable and insecure.
God has given Israel a powerful military that makes Israel stable and secure, and that motivates investment in Israel.
Fourth, concerning the Battle of Gog and Magog, God told Russia's dictator (Gog) to prepare for the war, prepare her allies and be a guard unto them (Ezek. 38:7).
In Aug. 2018, Israel shot down a Syrian drone over Israeli territory.
An examination of the drone found that it contained Israeli technology that was sold to Russia in 2010.
Vladimir Putin is using Israeli technology to prepare Russia's allies for war.
Fifth, God will cause Jews to go back to the Promised Land from all over the world at the end of the age (Jer. 23:7-8).
On July 19, 2019, it was reported that Israel is expecting 30,000 immigrants from 40 nations in this year alone (Israel is now home to more than 7 million Jews).
Sixth, Jesus said, "brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matt. 10:21-22).
China is now encouraging schoolchildren to report family members that are Christians.
Students are told that Christianity is evil, and reported family members could be arrested and prosecuted.
Seventh, according to the Bible, hyperinflation and a global economic collapse are coming in the Tribulation Period (Rev. 6:5-6).
On July 22, 2019, America's national debt hit $22,023,119,533,123.43, and our debt ceiling was suspended for two more years.
God is validating the truth of the Scriptures on a daily basis.
Those that haven't accepted the death of Jesus as punishment for their sins need to do so now.
Prophecy Plus Ministries, Inc.
Daymond & Rachel Duck
Israel Watch: The Man of Perdition - Jim Fletcher -
(A dear friend pointed out this week that my next "Israel Watch" would be no. 666. Aside from closing in on my 13th year having the privilege of writing this weekly piece, the implications of the number are obvious. How could I not write about...Antichrist?!!)
I could have skipped this number of "Israel Watch" and gone straight to no. 667. Kind of like building managers that don't have a 13th floor, but go on to 14, 15, and so on.
But redeemed people don't live with superstition. We are confident in Christ that He and not evil run the show. So it is that I will depart somewhat from the normal tone of this column to write about that man who already has had much ink generated about him.
I won't have much groundbreaking information to share, and I despise speculating about "who he is." I once gave a talk about Israel and just before the Q&A I said that I don't discuss the Antichrist, mark of the beast, that sort of thing. The first question was from a woman who said, "Do you think the Antichrist is alive today?"
I'm also struck by how many arguments are generated among Bible prophecy enthusiasts over the Man of Sin, the one the Bible speaks a bit about, and who will play a central role in history.
The very great Henry M. Morris, father of the modern creationism movement, was a wonderful Bible scholar. Of the Antichrist, he wrote:
"Again and again He [Christ] urged us to watch and be ready for His return. He did not tell us to watch for the Antichrist or the revival of Rome's empire or a great apostasy or a great revival or a world government or anything else-just for Him!"
I think this is sound advice. Hear Dr. Morris again:
"In the late years of the apostolic period, Christians were already concerned about the coming of Antichrist, the great 'man of sin' whom Paul wrote about (II Thessalonians 2:3). John warned, however, that they should be more concerned with the many antichrists who had already come. The original language in John's comment actually says that 'we know there is 'a last hour,' rather than 'the last time.' Whenever a church or a Christian ministry allows antichrists to compromise its ministry, it signals a last hour for that ministry.
An antichrist is not a 'false Christ,' though these also are enemies, but rather one who denies, or dilutes, the union of true humanity and full deity in Jesus Christ. 'Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son' (I John 2:22). Thus one mark of an antichrist is questioning the deity of Christ.
However, it's not wrong to do some study on this subject, so long as we realized becoming obsessed is counter-productive to a healthy Christian life.
Most of us can remember some of the names thrown around in the last several decades as being a potential Antichrist.
Hitler. Stalin. Mussolini. As I've written in this space before, many years ago in my life as a book editor, a man sent me a heavily documented manuscript identifying the Antichrist as...Prince Charles.
Prince Charles isn't the Antichrist. Further, we can't be sure that he has been born yet. He might not be alive at this moment.
I subscribe to the view that we are living in the general time of Christ's return. I anticipate it every day. I do this primarily because news about Israel is heating up as never before. I believe many Old Testament passages indicate that the great final prophecies will begin to rollout when Israel faces intense pressure in the very last days.
The name "antichrist" is mentioned only handful of times in the New Testament, primarily in the letters from John. In 1 John 2:18, the man of sin is mentioned specifically:
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
Paul wrote this in 2 Thessalonians 2:
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
Many interpretations say that he is mentioned in Daniel. My purpose here is not to argue those passages, but to point out that even though Antichrist is a key figure in history, the Bible doesn't give much detail about him.
We know from Scripture that he is coming and in the last days. But what of his character or even his appearance? We know little. We can only speculate about much of it.
When I was a teenager and watching "A Thief in the Night"-type movies in church, he was portrayed in films as a coolly menacing guy with red eyes in private.
It appears that he will be a human man to whom Satan gives him his power. I believe he will be an initially charming, pleasant, assuring presence. Sir Robert Anderson wrote a fascinating treatment of the subject, The Coming Prince, in 1894.
He wrote this:
"'WHAT is it that all Europe is looking for?' - the words are quoted from a leading article in the Times newspaper, on the recent finding of Agamemnon's tomb. 'What is it that all Europe is looking for? It is the KING OF MEN, the great head of the Hellenic race, the man whom a thousand galleys and a hundred thousand men submitted to on a simple recognition of his personal qualities, and obeyed for ten long years...The man who can challenge for his own the shield of Agamemnon, now waiting for the challenge, is the true Emperor of the East, and the easiest escape from our present difficulties.' 1. The Times, Monday, 18th December, 1876. The realization of this dream will be the fulfillment of prophecy."
Anderson rightly states that people are almost longing for a figure that will "take away their problems." And yet he also analyzes the difficulties in being dogmatic about antichrist's identity:
"'If the book of Daniel might be read by itself no question whatever could arise. 'The Coming Prince' is there presented as the head of the revived Roman empire of the future, and a persecutor of the saints. There is not a single statement respecting him that presents the smallest difficulty. But some of the statements of St. John seem inconsistent with the earlier prophecies. According to Daniel's visions the sovereignty of Antichrist appears confined to the ten kingdoms, and his career seems limited to the duration of the seventieth week. How then can this be reconciled with the statement of St. John that "power was given him over all kindreds and tongues and nations, and all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him '?"
The truth is, I don't think we can speak with authority on the identity of the coming Antichrist unless we see him revealed. In other words, if you were alive during that time and you had knowledge of the Bible, you'd realize that this dynamic new leader being interviewed on CNN is...the guy.
Prior to that, we are only speculating. And so that brings us back to the proposition that we are to be looking for Christ, not Antichrist.
My heart rests when I think of it that way.
Trump has a serious Syria problem - analysis - By Seth J. Frantzman -
US President Donald Trump wants to end what he has called "endless wars" - but he increasingly faces hurdles in Syria because US policy is running up against the reality that once you get into a conflict, it's hard to get out. The US-led coalition and its Syrian Democratic Forces partners on the ground defeated ISIS this year in March, but the jihadist threat still exists. Turkey has said it will launch an operation into eastern Syria in areas where the US and its partners are present, potentially leading to instability and more refugees.
The problem for the US in Syria, which Trump vowed to withdraw from in December, is that it got into Syria to defeat ISIS but now faces challenges from Russia, Iran, the Syrian regime and Turkey, the latter of which is supposed to be a US ally.
All of these countries oppose the US presence for different reasons. The Syrian regime opposes the US because it doesn't want America empowering local forces and appearing to harm its "sovereignty." Russia opposes the US because Moscow supports the Syrian regime, but also because it wants to see US influence weakened. Moscow has condemned the US role in Raqqa, arguing that the city has not been rebuilt since it was liberated in 2017, and has slammed the US role in Tanf, a desert base, accusing Washington of training militants and harming Syrian infrastructure, even stealing oil.
Iran's opposition to the US is historically clear: It wants to undermine America's role in Iraq, while not provoking a conflict with Washington. Yet the US has sanctioned the IRGC, which is active in Syria, and has condemned Iran's role in the war-torn country. Tehran understands that the US in Syria poses a challenge to their decision to carve out influence there, and a corridor of Iranian power that stretches from Al Bukamal on the Iraqi border to Damascus.
Lastly, Turkey is concerned about the US role because it believes the SDF is an umbrella group that contains the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which both countries view as a terrorist group.
From Ankara's perspective, there are questions about why Washington would support terrorists along Turkey's southern border. A Turkey-PKK ceasefire fell apart in 2015 and Turkey has fought against the PKK in cities in its eastern areas as well as through air strikes in northern Iraq and through the invasion of Afrin in Northwest Syria in January 2018.
Turkey wants to totally destroy the PKK and all its affiliates. It has launched air strikes against Yazidi members of the PKK in Sinjar and against a PKK camp near Makhmur. It seeks a total war across the region against anyone linked to the group. As such, eastern Syria is a target.
BUT TURKEY has a hurdle in the presence of US forces. For years, Ankara has threatened an operation. It increased rhetoric last fall - and its rhetoric is not just about launching a military operation, but about giving Syria to its "true owners," as the Turkish President said on December 12.
And who are the "true owners"? This is not spelled out, but Turkey has said it wants to help mostly Arab refugees return to Syria, who fled during the ISIS war. This already resulted in demographic change in Afrin, changing a historically Kurdish area into one that is more Arab.
Some 167,000 people, most of them Kurds, fled Afrin in 2018; Turkish media says 150,000 Syrians went into Afrin - but they are apparently not the same people who fled, leading to concerns about whether a Turkish operation in eastern Syria would be another repeat of Afrin. Ankara doesn't view the operation this way, claiming that it merely wants to create a "peace" corridor along its border and remove "terrorists." On August 4, Turkey told the US and Russia it would launch an operation.
This has sent the US scrambling. Since January, the it has been trying to work on a "safe zone" concept with Turkey that would allow some kind of international force to patrol the border inside Syria. But it was never clear what this plan entailed because US envoy James Jeffrey was always tight-lipped about what America really thought would occur.
This is a tightrope for Washington, because the US knows that if it appears to abandon the SDF and hand over part of eastern Syria to Turkey, then the SDF will seek Syrian regime support to prevent towns and cities it fought to liberate from ISIS, ending up run by Turkish soldiers or Syrian rebel forces. That would create a crisis in eastern Syria, as the regime rushes to secure areas - and as Turkey seeks to work with Russia to get approval for another Afrin-style operation, leaving US forces marooned and with no real function, a fait accompli for Washington, ending years of Syria policy in disgrace.
THE US also knows that its plans for "stabilization" in eastern Syria are not going well. The precarious situation in Syria is such that stabilizing the area after the ISIS war requires cash, but in 2018 most of the investment the US envisioned was not forthcoming.
Washington went hat in hand to Riyadh, and several hundred million dollars was supposed to arrive. But Trump's decision to leave left the fate of the cash up in the air, as the US tinkered to turn 2,000 troops into 200 in eastern Syria, while asking the UK, France and others to send troops.
So far, the UK and France seem willing only to send a token. Germany rejected US requests. Turkey knows it has influence over the UK and Germany, and that it can pressure these countries regarding any decision to commit to a framework Ankara rejects. Amid the Brexit debacle, the UK will need Turkey, maybe more than Turkey needs the UK.
Turkey is determined to go it alone if its last-minute demands of the US are not met. Turkish officials have told this message to its leading media: Anadolu, Daily Sabah and others. Jeffrey is looking into the abyss, as he looks at a year of work perhaps going down the drain. He was appointed in August 2018; now Turkey is the one making the demands: that the US must be flexible.
Washington has warned that there could be 15,000 ISIS fighters still at large in Syria. Hakki Ocal at Daily Sabah said this was a scare tactic - and anyway, the Turkish officers in the tanks on the border are ready to go into Syria regardless.
TRUMP HAS another message. He warned European countries over the weekend to take back their thousands of citizens who are being held in eastern Syria and who were previously ISIS supporters that were captured during the war. They could be released, he warned: Someone needs to take responsibility. If there is a conflict as Turkey moves into eastern Syria - and the regime and Russia along with everyone else scrambles - the increasing danger of ISIS sleeper cells and the thousands of its former members would indeed be a threat. Already they are described as a ticking time bomb; already there are dozens of attacks a month by ISIS sleeper cells in eastern Syria.
Turkey could be blustering. It has done this before to get what it wants. Telling the US that it will launch an operation and leaking stories about wanting the coordinates of US units, ostensibly so those units would be hit in an operation, may be more rhetoric than reality. Will the US Air Force really open up the skies of eastern Syria to a Turkish military operation of the sort that took place in Afrin?
The US knows that this would be humiliating: to see its partners run to Damascus to sign a deal, and see the Russians demanding entrance to eastern Syria - while the US is poised to withdraw, or try to hang on to some canton in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. This is not how the US wants its involvement in Syria to end. And for Trump, that is the major Syria problem.
Daily Jot: And the hate continues - Bill Wilson -
There is no cooling down of the hateful rhetoric in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH. The Democratic candidates for President are blaming President Donald Trump's support of "white supremists" and hateful rhetoric as the reason two shooters killed and wounded all those people. In addition, they are calling for more gun control. It is the pattern of the left. They did the same with the assassination attempt of Congressional Republicans by Illinois leftist James Hodgkinson in June 2017 and Stephen Paddock, the anti-Trump protester and Las Vegas killer. These politicians and their Hollywood buddies vomit visceral 24/7, but when tragedy happens, it's always the president's fault.
Now, we have more shootings and more deaths. And the cycle of rhetoric continues. Celebrities and politicians have pounded the airwaves and social media with extreme and aggressive comments. They are sarcastic, mean-spirited and demeaning to anyone who disagrees with their beliefs. Anyone who disagrees with them is some sort of label from racist to bigot to misogynist to idiot. This rhetoric is pounded into people 24 hours a day, seven days a week on talk shows, news programs, social media, websites, emails and most any other form of communication. It has people so distraught, angry and edgy that it is the only thing many can talk about. Others are tuning out for their own mental stability.
Whether it is Congressional shooter James Hodgkinson or mass killer Stephen Paddock or these young people in Texas and Ohio, we as a nation must ask ourselves, "How much visceral can a person take?" How much negativity aimed at one group of people-Christian, conservative Americans-can a person take before they snap? How many words from the Democratic candidates for President, Nancy Pelosi, Kathi Griffin, Ashley Judd, Madonna, CNN, MSNBC, and others fill the container of hatred so much that it boils over in violence? What is the last full measure? Hodgkinson, Paddock, Patrick Crusius(TX) and Connor Betts(OH) knew, because they reached it. This incitement must end. People on both sides of the political spectrum need to tone it down. This type of free speech has become weaponized, evidenced by these shootings.
George Washington, in his 1796 Farewell Speech, warned against divisions when he said, "The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles." We should act as such. Jesus said in Mark 3:25, "And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand." There are ways to disagree without being disagreeable. As Christians, we know how Christ taught civility and solving our differences without hate and vulgarity. For the sake of our way of life and our eternal hope, let us first be an example of Christ in our discussions, and also call on everyone to tone down the rhetoric in this atmosphere of hate.
Daily Devotion: Why Read the Bible? - by Greg Laurie -
If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. -John 8:31
Some people like to work out, citing the endorphins that are released. But I dread working out. And I complain while I'm working out. But after I'm done, I'm glad that I did it.
That's sometimes what it's like to study the Bible. There are times we really want to read it and look forward to it. Then there are times when we get up in the morning and think, "I'll just skip it today." But then we do it anyway. That isn't legalism; that's discipline. And there's a difference.
Discipline says, "I'm going to read the Bible because I need to do it. I know God wants me to do it. And when I'm done, I'll be glad I did it."
It's an absolute that we determine to do before anything else, even if it means that we don't have time to check our social media or e-mails or texts. It's something we must discipline ourselves to do.
The Center for Bible Engagement recently did a study and came up with something I find very interesting: "The 'power of 4' is evident when we consider that for some of these behaviors (getting drunk and sex outside marriage) examined there is no statistical difference between Christians who read or listen to the Bible two to three days a week and those who do not engage scripture at all or only once a week."
In other words, if you're not reading your Bible four or more times a week, then you won't make significant choices or changes any differently than someone who doesn't read the Bible.
Jesus said, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed" (John 8:31 NKJV). We need to see the value of God's Word. We need to long for God's Word.
FROM THE HEART
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