A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about Turkey’s offensive into the Afrin region of northern Syria, Operation Olive Branch, asking if they were hinting toward an Ottoman Caliphate revival. An article by Gatestone Institute seems to be hinting in the same direction, as they quote recent comments by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“Those who think that we have erased from our hearts the lands from which we withdrew in tears a hundred years ago are wrong…
“The things we have done so far [pale in comparison to the] even greater attempts and attacks [we are planning for] the coming days, inshallah [Allah willing].”
Erdoğan’s comments were made after recent military exploits in Syria and a maritime incident with Greece. It appears Turkish leaders view the Greek Isles as future Turkish booty.
“In December, for instance, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main Turkish opposition CHP party, stated that when he wins the election in 2019, he will “invade and take over 18 Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, just as former Turkish PM Bulent Ecevit invaded Cyprus in 1974.” He said that there is “no document” proving that those islands belong to Greece.
Concerning Turkish supremacy in the region, the article continues:
“The Ottoman dynasty and empire was established by a nomadic Turkmen chief sometime around the year 1300. During the more than 600 years of the Ottoman period, the Ottoman Turks, who also represented the Islamic Caliphate, regularly launched wars of jihad, invading and occupying lands across three continents.
“Neo-Ottomanists in Turkey still proudly embrace the concept of jihad (Islamic holy war) against the kafirs (infidels). The head of the state-funded Directorate of Religious Affairs, the Diyanet, has openly described Turkey’s recent military invasion of Afrin as “jihad.”
Just as King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia are trying to put forward a more tolerant, moderate vision of Islam, Turkey and Iran seem to be doing the exact opposite.
In an escalation of tension, Israel and Iran’s war of word turned physical a few weeks ago, and Iran was quick to issue dire warnings. According to the Jerusalem Post, Moshen Rezaei, Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council had this to say:
“If they [Israel] carry out the slightest unwise move against Iran, we will level Tel Aviv to the ground and will not give any opportunity to Netanyahu to flee.”
Meanwhile, Iran is escalating its proxy wars in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq – even to the point of militias hostile to U.S. troops taking control of U.S. military equipment in Iraq.
In contrast, an article from The Hill had this to say about changes within the Saudi regime:
Last year, the Crown Prince said “We are returning to what we were before — a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world. We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today.”
As MbS’s leadership aims to create a peaceful Islamic culture, it also dedicates efforts to combat and raise awareness against extremists that promote violence, hatred and opposition to moderate Islam, namely the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the Iranian-supported militias.
The Hill article goes on to highlight advances in women’s rights within Saudi Arabia as confirmation of internal changes.
Whether it’s the enemy of my enemy is my friend mindset or something else, it’s clear the sands are shifting in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Jordan are both in the process (to varying degrees) of normalizing relationships with Israel.
The softer, more inclusive image of Islam telegraphed by the southern Sunni States is in direct conflict with the more radical vision of the Shia alliance (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey) forming in the North. Maybe that’s why Saudi Arabia maintains a critical eye toward its perceived enemies, naming Turkey as part of a triangle of evil, along with Iran and hardline Islamist groups, according to the Jerusalem Post.
It’s quite possible, however, there is much more to the new image promoted by Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, even beyond peace accords or the announcement of NEOM, the multi-cultural utopia planned to span northern Saubia Arabia, northeastern Egypt, and southwestern Jordan.
As I’ve written many times before, Daniel 11 paints a vivid picture of an ongoing conflict between the King of the North and the King of the South, which clearly began with the divided Macedonian Empire, and the King of the North (Seleucus I Nicator) squaring off against his nemesis in the south (Ptolemy I Soter).
Today, we see a new north-south, Shia-Sunni rivalry forming that closely aligns with the nations listed in Ezekiel 38-39.
The nations of Put (Libya) and Cush (Ethiopia) are predominantly Sunni but so is Turkey. Unlike Turkey’s more pragmatic choice, however, maybe Libya and Ethiopia will choose to align themselves with the Shi’ite forces attacking Israel out of sheer principle, forming alliances split between hardline anti-Israel and moderate Israel-neutral forces.
Time will tell how it all plays out, but it is important for students of the Bible to be aware of Middle Eastern developments. Remember, the Bible is a Middle Eastern book, written by Middle Eastern men about Middle Eastern history and a Middle Eastern Messiah, while also revealing future Middle Eastern events, so it needs to be read and understood in terms of a Middle Eastern interpretation.
For more information regarding the impact of Middle Eastern turmoil, visit Israel in the Middle.