Syria, Northern Thunder, and much further down the line: an Overview – Part 1

Feb 19, 2016 | Flashpoints

After so many years of civil war in Syria, it would be easy just to conclude that the problems are simply intractable and to all but abandon any attempt to make sense of it. Understandably, world media has currently been focusing on specifics like the catastrophic bombings of the hospitals in Syria, and the attack in Ankara, but I want to draw the curtain a notch further back by providing a two part overview on the situation in and surrounding Syria. This first part will be more of a summary of what is happening to help inform our prayers, whilst the second will adopt a more prophetic perspective. If it feels as though our prayers for God to sort out the mess are but a tiny drop in the bucket, then let’s rejoice that enough drops fill oceans!(1)

The need for this is all the more urgent since the Russian foreign minister declared last week that we are firmly back in Cold War territory, whilst ensuring that Russia itself continues to be playing a leading part in making it a ‘hot’ war.

The first thing to bear in mind, however, is that there are many Sunni nations who are determined to oust Assad in Syria and to establish Syria as a staunchly Sunni nation. Perhaps they were not too displeased that ISIL appeared to be achieving this goal for them – but then Russia stepped in forcefully and changed the whole picture overnight.

Saudi Arabia’s offer to put boots on the ground went largely unrecorded in the western press, but at this very moment a vast coalition of Arab troops are gathered in northern Saudi Arabia in the largest (and longest) military exercise ever to be held. Codenamed Northern Thunder (2) this exercise is a unique enterprise, gathering the Armed Forces of twenty or so nations together. Their very presence has actively caused many to speculate whether they are on the point of launching a surprise attack on Syria before Iran, Hezbollah or Russia, can do anything about it. According to The Independent, Saudi jets have even been sent to Turkey as an advance fighter force already. But Russia isn’t about to be taken by surprise and would retaliate most severely, quite possibly up to the level of using tactical nuclear weapons, as President Putin has repeatedly warned.

Apart from the major logistical implications that would be involved in supplying such an invasion, there appear to be competing interests amongst the nations most directly involved. Turkey, for instance, has so far shown itself far more interested in shelling Kurdish forces in northern Syria than either dethroning Assad or taking on ISIL head on.

With so many international forces on or surrounding Syria, there are many critical flashpoints. The one sure outcome is that there will be victims caught in the middle. Although some humanitarian aid is now being permitted, it is important to remember the fate of the seven besieged cities (some at the hands of government forces, some from “rebels” and some by ISIL). This is not the first time supplies have saved them from immediate starvation, but if the sieges resume directly afterwards the dreadful scenarios will repeat themselves.

Meanwhile the unbelievably implausible propaganda war continues. A few days ago I heard a senior Russian making the outrageous claim that not a single civilian had been killed during the innumerable and intense Russian bombing attacks!

Stay strong in prayer

A friend had a very strong burden to pray in tongues for Turkey last year. She sensed that the country was going to be strategic in events that will unfold shortly in the Middle East, and also that the enemy has maintained a hidden foothold there since the birth of the Church, as we see in the churches in Asia Minor that often came under such intense persecution. She also had a great sense when praying of myriads of angels clustering around Turkey and the Aegean Sea. Major things are happening and we need to keep praying for this country and this region, that the Lord will be increasing His heavenly armies even more than the human ones that are being amassed.

As Siman Tov Allalouf urges in Word from Yerushalaim:

God knows if this will actually turn into an invasion and a showdown between the forces of East and West and the two divisions of Islam. For this reason we need to have the mind of Messiah in these days ahead. To be able to pray and stand in the gap. The possibility of tactical nuclear weapons being used is very high.

One of our sure ways of prayer comes also from Daniel chapter twoAnd in the days of these kings, the God of Heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. And the kingdom shall not be left to other peoples, but it shall crush and destroy all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever (Dan 2:40-44). This is the Lord’s view of where this is all going. As we pray we know from the word that God wins in the end. So let us be diligent in prayer in this hour. Source.

Jesus, watch over the vulnerable, save the distraught and speak to those in greatest need. Oversee, overrule and humble military and political leaders who are spinning this complex web. In Jesus’ name. Amen.(3)

(1) On a lighter note, this link from the Independent reminds us just how complicated the whole situation really is.

(2) See here for an overview of Northern Thunder operation – but please note the comments regarding precise numbers of forces involved.

(3) We are providing this link to a short but hauntingly beautiful melody by Arcangelo Corelli. Depending on your taste, you may find that it helps you to enter into the emotions as well as the reality of the situations I have been describing. The situation is too fluid and fast-moving to have put any words to it, but the music is an on-going offering that conveys something precious which will remain as an aid to prayer whatever the specifics of the unfolding scenarios.


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