I’m sure we have all been hearing about Iraq in the news lately. The situation over there is definitely tense and as the days go on, the situation becomes even more urgent. But what is really happening? And what does it all mean? Hopefully as you read this post, you’ll gain a little more clarity into what’s happening and why it’s so important.
After WWI, Iraq and its government was primarily Sunni. However, in 2003 after the United States invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein was overthrown and Shiites took power. Many believe the Shiites exacted revenge at this point in time for the brutal treatment they received at the hands of the Sunnis. The majority of Muslims in the world are Sunni, however, today they are a minority of the population in Iraq.
Rebel militants from Syria are now crossing the border and promoting the violence and upheaval we see taking place in Iraq. These rebel militants, who have ties to al-Qaeda, are part of a group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They are also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). Today the Levant includes the island of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and part of southern Turkey but originally indicated Mediterranean lands east of Italy.
Main differences between Sunni and Shiites
The main differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims stem from political disagreement. After the death of Muhammad, Sunni Muslims believed that their new leader should be elected from anyone who was capable. Shia Muslims, however, believed that the new leader should come from the descendants of Muhammad. This question of leadership has caused a great rift between the two sects, especially in recent years as American and European leaders attempt to establish more “westernized” forms of government in the region.
However, another point of contention is the Mahdi. In Islam, the Mahdi is considered the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will rule before the Day of Judgment and will rid the world of evil. According to Islamic tradition, the Mahdi’s rule will coincide with the second coming of Jesus – whom they refer to as Isa.
***It is especially important to keep in mind from this point on, that the following information is from the Islamic perspective and is an exact mirror image of what we as believers in Yeshua the Messiah and the Bible believe. Please keep in mind, I am not agreeing or promoting the Islamic end-time ideology.***
According to Islam, Isa/Jesus will assist the Mahdi in the fight against the Antichrist. Muslims believe Isa/Jesus will return east of Damascus, dressed in yellow robes with his head anointed. At that time, Isa/Jesus will tell all Christians that they were wrong to believe that he was the son of god and will, instead, point them to the real messiah…the Mahdi. While both Sunni and Shiite Muslims agree that the earth will eventually become an Islamic world, the Shiites have a very particular, and somewhat alarming, view of end-times.
So what I’m saying here is the man we consider the Antichrist is the Muslim’s messiah and the man they consider the Antichrist will be Yeshua our Messiah. This is why it is so important to call Him by His real name Yeshua and understand that we do NOT all serve the same God. The enemy always tries to deceive people by imitating YHVH’s order and plan and then twisting it. We need to be on guard against the lies and deceptions of the enemy.
According to most Shiites, the Mahdi will be the Twelfth Imam. The Twelfth Imam, or Hidden Imam, is believed to be the infallible male descendant of Muhammad. He was thought to have already been born but disappeared and will one day return. The Shiites believe that chaos precedes the return of the Mahdi and marks the end of the age. It’s an apocalyptic time marked by wars, plagues, and famines, followed by the Day of Judgment. The Shiites believe a precursor to the return of the Mahdi will be the destruction/conquering of Israel and America. However, according to some Sunni Muslims, the Mahdi will be an ordinary man – most likely a politician – who will revolutionize the world according to the ideology of Islam and establish the caliphate.
According to Andrew McCarthy, author of The Grand Jihad, the caliphate can be described thusly:
“The caliphate is an institution of imperial Islamic rule under sharia, Muslim law. Not content with empire, Islam anticipates global hegemony. Indeed, mainstream Islamic ideology declares that such hegemony is inevitable…For Muslims, the failure of Allah’s creation to submit to the system he has prescribed is a blasphemy that cannot stand.”
The mounting threat is that the ISIS militants would try to establish a caliphate – or Sharia Law state – in Iraq, if they could gain enough ground…or the right ground. Namely, the city of Baghdad.
Movement of Rebels
The ISIS began its attack in the north and eventually gained control of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, a major city where U.S. troops took heavy casualties during the war.
The northwest Iraqi city of Tal Afar fell to ISIS, according to Iraqi Gen. Mohammed al-Quraishi. Many Tal Afar residents — ethnic minority Shiite Turkmen — fled the fighting north toward Iraq’s Kurdish region. Tal Afar is in Nineveh province, midway between the country’s border with Syria and Mosul, north of Baghdad.
Before Iraqi security forces lost Tal Afar, several mortar rounds landed on a busy area in the town and killed at least seven and wounded 33 people, security officials in Baghdad and Tal Afar have said.
Also Sunday, ISIS gained control of two villages in Adhaim, in its first push into Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad.
On top of that, Iraqi security forces and gunmen believed to be ISIS clashed near al-Khalis, about 18 miles from Diyala’s capital, Baquba. Three mortar rounds landed near a recruitment center recently opened for volunteers to help the Iraqi army fight against ISIS.
Baquba is about 37 miles northeast of Baghdad. Baquba is an ethnically-mixed city, though Sunnis represent a slight majority.
Given Baquba’s proximity to Baghdad, if Baquba were to fall, it could give ISIS militants three-pronged access to Baghdad — from Anbar province to the west, Ninevah and Salahuddin provinces to the north and from Diyala province from the northeast.
The important thing to take away from all this is that the ISIS is marching across Iraq with the capital city of Baghdad its ultimate goal. If Baghdad were to fall, the battle would be over. It is crucial the Iraqi government secure Baghdad. If the ISIS can gain control of Baghdad, there is a very strong possibility that a caliphate would be established in Iraq.
So What Does it Mean for Us?
So what does all of this have to do with us in America? Well, first of all, it’s important to understand that the moving and shaking we see sweeping across the Middle East – going back to the Arab Spring as well – has important spiritual implications for us as believers. Remember all the end-times stuff we talked about earlier? It’s important for us to remember that we do not fight against flesh and blood but against principalities, against authorities, against the world-rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual matters of wickedness in the heavenlies.” We also need to understand how important it is for us as believers to know the real name of our Messiah Yeshua. The Muslims also believe in a man named Jesus but this man is going to lead countless astray when he turns them to the Mahdi – the true, Biblical Antichrist.
When President Obama removed American troops from Iraq, he claimed that he had left behind a “stable and secure and sovereign Iraq.” However, it’s now evident to see that this is not the case and, in fact, essentially removed the glue holding Iraq together.
The Iraqis have asked the U.S. for help by way of airstrikes, which, President Obama has been hesitant to provide. However, President Obama is considering sending Special Forces to Iraq to “advise and train Iraqi troops.”
Additionally, 170 armed troops have already arrived in Baghdad to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy…an embassy which cost the U.S. a reported $750 million to build.
In addition to sending troops, the U.S. is also contemplating the possibility of cooperation with another country in order to keep the ISIS from advancing on the country. Which country? Iran.
Possible U.S. Military Cooperation with Iran
Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the Obama administration is willing to talk with Iran over the situation in Iraq and is not ruling out a potential military cooperation with Iran. Both the U.S. and Iran have a similar interest in preserving Iraq’s Shiite government. Iran and Iraq are the only countries in the region with a primarily Shiite majority. There are, however, large minority Shiite communities in some countries.
While the U.S. and Iran may have similar short-term goals with regards to Iraq, they certainly have different long-term goals. The U.S. would like to see an inclusive, representative democracy in Iraq, while Shiite Iran is more focused on protecting Iraq’s Shiite population and bolstering its own position as a regional power against powerful Sunni Arab states in the region. In fact, Iran’s military leaders are already begun taking a leadership role in Iraq.
However, getting involved with Iran, in any way shape or form, could have dire consequences. An Iranian video titled “The Coming is Near,” reported the Iranian government views the unrest in the Middle East as a signal that the Mahdi is about to appear. The video, which was produced by the Iranian regime, says that the Iranian regime believes all the signs are moving into place and that Iran will soon help usher in the end-times. The Iranian regime believes the chaos is divine proof that their ultimate victory is at hand. The video also noted that Iran was destined to defeat America and Israel.
Any sort of cooperation with Iran seems directly at odds with our best interests.
Implications for future
So this big question for us right now is, should we get involved? This is a tough question. On one hand, we have spent the last 10+ years at war with our troops overseas. Many feel we should just let the Iraqis handle the situation and fight amongst themselves. However, there is another side to consider. We have an interest in securing the region. Not only did we fight for so long to give some sort of stability to the region, we have spent millions upon millions of dollars on this initiative.
So it seems there is no easy answer to this question. While I don’t know if we should send troops or if we do, how many we should send, I do know that we have a definite interest in securing the region. The result of not securing the region is the potential caliphate that these Sunni militants want to establish. And the result of an established caliphate takes the world one step closer to the end-time events we read about in Revelation.
While I do not think, at this point, the Sunni militants will take the city of Baghdad or Iraq as a whole, I do think that Iraq will not easily recover from this battle. It is possible at this point for another country – like Iran – to come in while the Iraqi government is especially vulnerable and begin to “help” them rebuild and in the process establish themselves as a regional power. At this point, only time will tell how this will play out but a few things are certain. We, as believers should be praying about this situation. This situation will have ramifications not only for us but for Israel. Second, we are most certainly witnessing the birth pains Yeshua spoke of in Matthew. We are watching prophecy unfold before our very eyes. Like the five wise virgins, will you be found ready and prepared?