Syrian President Bashar al Assad is a bad man. Yet like most bad men in the Middle East he’s managed to keep his country in line through a system of fear and tyranny. It’s hardly surprising considering his political baggage. He comes from the same socialist Ba’ath party that spawned Saddam Hussein.
Using many of Saddam’s old tricks, Assad has kept a tight leash on the military and took the war to his own civilians in rebellious areas. More than 27,000 Syrians have died in the fighting since 2011.
Assad has survived as Syria’s dictator since 1971. Despite international pressure and the fact that he is losing his war against rebel groups, he has no plans of stepping down. His most recent escapades include plans of using chemical weapons against his own people. Some have taken this measure to mean that Assad is “frightened and cornered” ready to commit murder-suicide should he be taken out of office.
What will happen when Assad steps down from power? Assad has made powerful allies during his tenure – most notably Iran and Russia. There’s always the possibility that Russia and Iran (both or which have troops and advisors aiding Assad inside Syria) might step in to keep Assad in power. This scenario seems unlikely given the international outcry this would cause. Then again, has international outcry stopped Iran or Russia before?
If Russia and Iran aren’t able to keep Assad in power, will Syria then become a peaceful Western-friendly democracy? No. The United States has neither the patience nor the political will to create a sustainable democracy in another Middle Eastern nation.
Radical elements of the rebel opposition have too much sway. Syria will go the way of Egypt – another large Arab nation in the hands of a Muslim Brotherhood-like regime.
For the West, they are left with two impossible scenarios – the continuation of a vicious dictator backed by Iran and Russia or a radical Islamic takeover of another Arab nation.
For Israel, Syria’s leadership change may help initially as Assad is no friend to Israel. In 2011 he paid protestors to storm the Israeli border in an effort to take the international eye off his rebel slaughter. It worked as western media outlets, thirsting for a chance to make Israel look like “occupiers” and “oppressors” took the bait. For a few days Israel was in the media crosshairs as Syrian protestors died trying to breach the Israeli border.
Should Assad lose power, the radical elements of the rebels will likely be anti-Jewish, much like the Muslim Brotherhood. Even in the hands of radicals, Syria poses a minimal threat to Israel. Israel has defeated them in four wars over the past 70 years. They could certainly do it again.
Israel’s Nightmare Scenario
What if someone else decides to attack Israel? What if the anti-Israeli powers take advantage of Syria’s chaos by implementing an invasion of Israel – from Syria? The Iranians and Russians have considerable sway in Syria. They may shirk at seeing a new Syrian regime unfriendly to them. Seeing their embattled dictator on the verge of receiving the Gaddafi special, the Russians may decide to rescue their man.
While they are “rescuing” Assad, perhaps the Russians and Iranians decide to keep a strong peace keeping force in Syria? They would only be a stone’s throw away from the gates of Israel. Israel's worst nightmare -- Iranians, Russians, and Turks invading with their masses into Jerusalem.
In the future, Ezekiel’s chapter 38 and 39 describe an invasion of Israel from the “remote parts of the north” (Ez. 38:13). This invading army consists of Russians, Iranians, and possibly the Turks along with numerous other allies (see Ezekiel 38:2-6).
This army will converge in the “mountains of Israel” (Ez. 38:8). There are a few mountainous regions, but the largest happen to border Syria along the Golan Heights, Mt Hermon being the largest peak. Any enemy armies invading Israel form the north would enter through this strategic zone.
Fortunately for them, the Syrians are absent from Ezekiel’s prophecy. Willing or not, the Syrians will submit to the northern powers as they descend upon Israel. The battle ends well for Israel as God Himself steps in to destroy the invaders in the “mountains of Israel.”
I’m not saying the Russians and Iranians will invade Israel any time soon. Only God knows when His prophecies will be fulfilled. I’m not saying that the Russians will step in and save Assad. I’m not even saying Assad has joined Ahmadenijad and Putin on a wild spring break trip to Daytona Beach, FL (although I suspect this has happened).
But With Syria in chaos and on the verge of regime change, opportunities present themselves for Russia and Iran.
Syria’s Prophetic Future
Unlike the invaders of Gog and Magog, Syria still has a future after that failed invasion. During the Tribulation, the book of Daniel describes a great war that is to take place in the Middle East. The antichrist decides to invade the Middle East and it is Egypt and Syria who lead the attack against him. Throughout the book of Daniel Egypt was referred to as the “king of the South” while Syria was known as the “king of the North.” Daniel explains below,
“At the end time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, with horsemen and with many ships; and he will enter countries, overflow them and pass through. He will also enter the Beautiful Land, and many countries will fall; but these will be rescued out of his hand: Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon. Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape (Daniel 11:40-41).
As you can see the Egyptians and Syrians don’t come out on top. But hey, at least they tried. It is possible that the prophecy of Isaiah 17:1 is fulfilled at that time, “Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will be a heap of ruins.” Word of warning to Damascenes, if the antichrist is attacking your city, it’s time to leave.
During the Millennium, the remaining portions of Syria will be controlled by Israel. Yes that’s right. One of Israel’s oldest enemies to the north of Israel will find itself conquered by Israel. Ezekiel describes the new boundaries of Israel during the Millennial Kingdom and the old borders of Syria now become part of Israel.
“This shall be the boundary of the land: on the north side, from the Great Sea by the way of Hethlon, to the entrance of Zedad; Hamath, Berothah, Sibraim, which is between the border of Damascus and the border of Hamath; Hazer-hatticon, which is by the border of Hauran. The boundary shall extend from the sea to Hazar-enan at the border of Damascus, and on the north toward the north is the border of Hamath. This is the north side.” (Ezekiel 47:15-17).
Will Assad step down from power? Will his allies seek to keep him in power? We shall soon see. Either way the Russians and Iranians will want to keep their influence in Syria for events in the future. As God is preparing the world for future events, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the tumultuous Middle East.