Doesn’t Ezekiel’s scenario rule out any attack on Iran by the U.S. or a Western-led coalition?
Not necessarily. Ezekiel rules out the possibility that any country—including the United States—will come to Israel’s defense once Russia and Iran and their allies have surrounded Israel. Only God will come to Israel’s defense in the final throes of this prophecy. But a number of scenarios could unfold between now and then:
- The U.S. could effectively use preemptive military force against Iran, defusing the crisis for a number of years and buying the world more time before the day of judgment Ezekiel foretold.
- Likewise, Israel could use preemptive military force against Iran, with the same result. (Remember that Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 resulted in the capture of massive amounts of Soviet weaponry, thus forestalling a Russian invasion of Israel.)
- In yet another scenario, Israel might use preemptive military force but not destroy all of Iran’s weapons of mass destruction. In the process, Israel could trigger international condemnation against them and give Russia a pretext to take Iran’s side and form a coalition against Israel.
U.S. foreign policy cannot be expected to be based on biblical prophecy. It should, however, be based on U.S. national interests. Stopping Iran from going nuclear is in our supreme national interest. Protecting the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates—on which we depend—from Iranian domination is in our supreme national interest. Safeguarding against an Iranian takeover of Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq is also in our supreme national interest, as is protecting Israel, our most faithful and effective ally in the region and the first and strongest democracy in the Middle East. We should, therefore, act accordingly.
That said, there is very little political support in the United States for another war in the Middle East. Most Americans want to pull out of Iraq, not invade Iran. And members of Congress and the intelligence services note very real and serious risks of launching any sort of military strike against the mullahs. We could get all of their nuclear sites but one, and the retaliation could be devastating. Iran could also—as Ahmadinejad has vowed to do in the event of an attack against Iran—launch thousands upon thousands of new terrorist insurgents into Iraq, worsening the violence there. They might also send suicide bombers into the U.S., possibly through the all-too-porous U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada (scenarios I wrote about in The Last Days). Or they could unleash their missiles on the oil fields of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, destroying pumping, refining, and shipping facilities and driving the price of oil—already at record highs—through the roof.
I can, therefore, envision a scenario in which the current president or the next takes no military action against Iran, or plans to do so but waits too long, even as Russia develops a full-blown military alliance with Iran. We could then see Ezekiel’s prophecy play out in the not-too-distant future.
I can also envision a scenario in which, under great international pressure, Iran announces that it will dismantle its nuclear weapons program if Israel agrees to give up its nuclear weapons as well. Diplomatic pressure would then begin to grow for the adoption of a “Middle East nuclear-free zone” resolution at the United Nations.
Israel would surely resist such a diplomatic ploy, insisting (rightfully, in my view) upon the need to retain its arsenal as a matter of self-defense. In such a scenario, Russia might then begin building a coalition to force Israel to comply with the U.N. demands, much like the U.S. built a coalition to force Iraq to comply with U.N. demands. This was the scenario I used in The Ezekiel Option. The Egyptians in particular have been pushing a nuclear-free-zone option in the Middle East. As the crisis with Iran intensifies, their proposal may pick up widespread support.
The thing to remember is that there are many roads that could ultimately lead us to the events described in Ezekiel 38–39. As individual believers (as opposed to national policy makers), we should keep our eyes on the big picture—praying for peace and working to communicate the good news of Christ’s redeeming love to the nations of the epicenter as this terrible drama unfolds.