VOL. 43 JANUARY-FEBRUARY, 1980 NO. 1
THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Four days before the close of 1979, President Hafizullah Amin of Afghanistan was murdered by Soviet backed revolutionary forces in the third coup to overthrow the Afghan government in 20 months. Hafizullah Amin had been the leader of a Communist supported regime, attempting to quell the nationwide rebellion by Moslem tribesmen against the Communist subversion of their country Amin had not been successful, so after three covert attempts to control Afghanistan, the Soviet Union moved into the open and began airlifting thousands of troops into the capitol city, Kabul At the same time, thousands more came across the border with tanks and heavy armor for support As we now write, the number of Russian troops in Afghanistan exceeds 100,000.
World Deplores Invasion
The Soviet action was deplored by most of the United Nations in a General Assembly resolution But the response has been mostly verbal The US has reacted with economic retaliation, cutting off wheat sales and restricting transfer of US technology It also set aside for the time being, further effort to seek ratification of the SALT II Agreement. The posture of both the European nations and the Far Eastern nations has been one of grave concern over possible future moves by the Russians and the feeling that some strong response was needed to drive the Russians out. A recent headline in the Los Angeles Times proclaimed ‘US Ponders the Unthinkable’ —a strange paradox for even journalistic license to propose. Of course the headline meant that the US was reluctantly facing the highly undesirable possibility of having to engage in a military action against the Russians, an action which could well have to be nuclear. Meanwhile the Russian forces are seen collecting on the Afghan Iranian border, adding greatly to the fears that Tran may be next to fall.
At first, the Afghan overthrow seemed merely to be yet another insurrection in that strife-torn nation. But the rapidly escalating Soviet presence has _ overshadowed even the Iranian captive issue. What do the Russians want in Afghanistan? There is relatively little in Afghanistan proper that can serve the Russian interests. The country, about the size of Texas, with its 18 million inhabitants is poor. The terrain is mountainous and desert. The inhabitants themselves are fiercely independent Moslem tribesmen, whose exploits against former revolutionary forces are nearly legendary.
Russia’s Two Goals
There are perhaps two main objectives of the Soviet action. The most immediate appears to be that of supporting a procommunist regime that was on the verge collapsing in the face of Moslem counter-revolutionary forces. The Russian concern over the outcome of political intrigue can be appreciated by noting that Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan all border Russia in the south. Their combined populations total some 130 millions most of whom are Moslem, whose hatred of Communism is a matter of record.
The Afghanistan takeover also puts Russia one step closer to a warm water port and most importantly, closer to the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and Oman, which controls access to the Persian Gulf Oil fields. A significant Soviet presence in the region would have grave implications to both the U.S. and western nations with regard to their oil supplies. This position of influence must clearly be a major long-term objective of the Soviets.
“. . Persia, Ethiopia and Libya with them, all of them with shields and helmets .. .” (Ezek. 38:5).
The U.S. News and World Report recently observed that the latest Soviet moves also bring them closer to control of virtually all the waterways through which the majority of the world’s oil from the middle east must pass. On the southwest is Ethiopia, now able to exercise control over the entrance to the Red Sea and Suez Canal. Midway is the state of South Yemen, which could control the Red Sea approaches from the Arabian Gulf. The final link is the Strait of Hormuz, just about 350 short miles from the southern border of Afghanistan.
Again we have seen how the preparatory work is done quietly out of the limelight, until the time is right. Then swiftly, overnight, the Russian Bear moves forth.
As we have noted in these pages before, these are only the early stages of the invasion Ezekiel describes in his 38th chapter. At the present, Iran, however anti-U.S. it may be, is also equally antiCommunist. It will take a substantial change in attitude of modern day Persia before it becomes an ally of the Soviets. We may also observe that having the above nations as allies does not actually give the Soviets the middle east’s oil that it seems to want. It merely gives a form of control of the shipping. Further it appears unlikely that with its supply of petroleum threatened, the industrial world will sit idly by, content to accept the Soviet “goodwill” toward them.
There appears to be some sort of intervening period between the gaining of political control of these nations in Ezekiel, which events we are now seeing, and the actual invasion of Israel and Egypt. With the recent support of Anwar Sadat of Egypt toward some type of military excursion to resist the Soviets, we may well be seeing the first signs of the revival of the old “king-of-the-south” to power as in Daniel 11:41, Consistent with the Cairo-Jerusalem accord, the Egyptian power position could provide some measure of the stability that would be the outward signs of peace and safety in the land of Israel. What it is that will make Israel the object of Russian conquest we have not yet seen. The plainness of their invasion goals — to take cattle, spoil, silver gold and captives —- cannot be easily set aside and explained in terms of political strategy.
No nation can “dwell safely, all of them .. .” while subversion is going on around them. In some way then, a lull in the situation must develop so that the false sense of security may be established.
Oil May Play a Part
There are several ways this could occur in addition to the possibility of an actual Arab-Israel truce. One is the probable shift in emphasis for energy supplies over the next decade or so. At the present time middle eastern oil reserves are not increasing as fast as consumption. It is now generally agreed that by the end of this decade the world oil production will have peaked. Thereafter less and less oil will be produced each year. The U.S. has already entered this state and must look actively for other sources of energy. Dust in the interval before the world peak the importance of the middle east for oil may begin diminishing simply because other oil producing nations will have a greater share of the market.
Whether the industrialized world as a whole can respond with alternatives for oil in time is a matter of speculation. On the one hand, the Olivet Prophecy leads We expect increasing turmoil and trouble. On the other, Ezekiel 38 suggests a calm before the storm, as does 1 Thes 5:2,3, speaking of the peace and safety cry. The two descriptions are in no way contradictory. No doubt, both conditions will obtain, first the calm, then the time of trouble such as never was.
As the apostle Paul admonishes us in 1 Thes. 5:4, 5: “But ye brethren are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night nor of darkness.”
Let us keep our lamps burning, our loins well girded and our hearts prepared with joy to welcome our Lord and King at His coming.