“The Middle East In Turmoil” by Todd Strandberg

A wave of anti-government unrest has swept over several Arab nations. The turmoil began in Tunisia with protests over high food prices and political repression. A key tipping point came when a twenty-six-year-old Tunisian fruit seller named Muhamed Bouazizi set himself on fire—and later died–after police revoked his vending permit. Bouazizi’s act highlighted the callousness of the state and has inspired protests in Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen.

All eyes are on the unrest in Egypt. Rioting is typical for the Middle East, but is actually unheard of for Egypt. For decades, the strong-arm rule of Hosni Mubarak has kept order in the nation.

It is a mystery to me why we call Mubarak the president of Egypt. He has ruled the nation under a draconian state of emergency for twenty-eight years and has imprisoned and tortured thousands of his opponents. He was even talking about making his son the next president of Egypt. Mubarak has been elected president five times, but in each vote he was the only person on the ballot.

Egypt holds regular multi-party parliamentary elections, but it’s just a facade of democracy. All power rests almost solely with Mubarak. The parliament is just a rubber-stamp factory to give him legitimacy.

Western nations have long played along with this charade. Here is what Vice President Biden said recently when asked if Mubarak is a dictator: “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with Israel. …I would not refer to him as a dictator.”

Biden made his comment right before the big eruption. After the Egyptian people took to the street, the Obama administration suddenly became concerned about the lack of freedom in Egypt. Just as you can’t change your bet once the race horses have left their gates, we’re going to live with the consequences of decades of bad foreign policy.

The Mubarak dictatorship is a core pillar of the U.S.-backed order in the Middle East. We provide Egypt with $1.5 billion in aid each year to maintain stability. We may soon see our investment go up in flames.

I can still see in my mind the image of George W. Bush and Barack Obama holding hands with the king of Saudi Arabia. Bush started this practice because we wanted the Saudis’ help with a favorable oil policy and their cooperation with the War on Terror. The king of Saudi Arabia is not some loveable, figurehead ruler. He represents a government that has an even worse record on human rights than Egypt.

When it comes to calling for democratic reform, the West needs to be careful what it wishes for. Islamic fundamentalists are slowly winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the Arab people. These organizations have poured billions into aid projects. If free elections were allowed to take place, we’re not going to see a rash of Jeffersonian democracies popping up in the Middle East. In a fair vote, most Arab nations would become Iranian-style Islamic states.

Radical Muslim groups have already used the political process to gain power in nations like Turkey, Iraq, and Lebanon. The liberal news media gave little coverage to the fact that Hezbollah, a terrorist political party, was able to win a dominant role in the Lebanese government.

Israel is nervously watching the events in Egypt . It has much to lose if Mubarak is toppled. Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, and Mubarak has steadfastly honored the deal. Egypt has been vital in preventing militants from smuggling arms through Israel’s southern border.

Strangely, little is prophesied about Egypt for the last days just before Christ’s return. Since it played a role in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973, it would seem logical to conclude that it will be a key player in any future conflict.

One thing I’ve noticed about Bible prophecy is that end-time progression tends move like earthquake fault lines. Following years of inactivity, everything suddenly moves all at once. Since we have never had such a high level of civil unrest in the Arab world, it’s important for us to remain watchful.

“For when you see all these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your head, for your redemption draweth near” (Luke 21:28).

— Todd

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