Category: Gog-Ezekiel 38 & 39

Gog of Magog and the Great Earthquake

September 18, 2012 in Updates

Joel Richardson

In several previous articles, I’ve set forth various reasons why we should recognize “Gog” of Ezekiel 38,39 to be one and the same with the Antichrist/Beast of other antichristic prophecies. I have also addressed and dispelled some of the most common arguments against this view. In this article, I will detail yet another significant reason why Gog must be the Antichrist and why the Battle of Gog of Magog can only conclude at the return of Jesus.

Among the many events that concludes the Battle of Gog and Magog, one major event is “a great earthquake” in the land of Israel. The earthquake will be so great that all creatures and mankind “who are on the face of the earth” will tremble in fear:

It will come about on that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel… there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all the creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; the mountains also will be thrown down, the steep pathways will collapse and every wall will fall to the ground. —Ezekiel 38:18-20

Many seem to miss the fact that this earthquake will result in the mountains of Israel being “thrown down”. Beyond this, “every wall will fall to the ground”. We’ll come back to this issue of the mountains and walls collapsing, but first, let’s briefly consider a few other significant Biblical passages that also speak of:

1.) A massive eschatological invasion of Israel
2.) A divine deliverance
3.) A massive earthquake that brings the invasion to an end

In Isaiah 29, the LORD warns Jerusalem, called here “Ariel”, that He will bring armies against her:

Yet I will besiege Ariel; she will mourn and lament, she will be to me like an altar hearth. I will encamp against you all around; I will encircle you with towers and set up my siege works against you. —Isaiah 29:2-3

But though it is the LORD Himself who brings these armies against Ariel, He also promises to destroy them with both a personal visit, as well as with a mighty earthquake:

But your many enemies will become like fine dust, the ruthless hordes like blown chaff. Suddenly, in an instant, the LORD Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire. Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel, that attack her and her fortress and besiege her, will be as it is with a dream, with a vision in the night…. So will it be with the hordes of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion. —Isaiah 29:5-8

In another famous end time passage, we see the same pattern again repeated. The LORD promises to gather the surrounding gentile nations against Jerusalem. And once again, he responds with a personal visit and a great earthquake.

I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it… Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. —Zechariah 14:2-5

So we see that the themes of invading hordes, a corresponding great earthquake and a divine deliverance of the people of Israel are commonly repeated themes among these passages that speak of the return of Jesus. It might be quite logical then, to assume that because Ezekiel’s oracle perfectly mirrors all of these elements, it is also speaking of the return of Jesus. Many argue however, that Ezekiel’s invasion, the mighty earthquake, and the accompanying deliverance, precede these other passages by several years.

But here is where the popular view runs into yet another insurmountable problem. For as we have already seen, the great earthquake of Ezekiel’s oracle results in all of the mountains in Israel being thrown down. But if this is the case, then how can it be that in the middle of the tribulation, Jesus warns the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea to flee to the mountains:

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. —Matthew 24:15-16

How can Jesus tell people to flee to mountains which, according to the popular view, no longer even exist? If Ezekiel’s prophecy is to have happened a few, or even several years prior, resulting in the mountains of Israel all falling down, how can Jesus still be speaking of near-by mountains, and telling his people to flee to them? For students of the Scriptures who take the words of the Bible literally, there are really only two options; either Ezekiel’s earthquake comes sometime after the middle of the tribulation, or Jesus didn’t know what He was talking about. I’m going with Ezekiel’s earthquake taking place at the conclusion of the tribulation.

But as much as this causes a insurmountable mountain of a problem for the popular view which tries to cast Gog and Antichrist as two different characters, there is yet another powerful passage in the Book of Revelation which speaks of the final conclusion of the Great Tribulation. Once again, there is the gathering of the gentiles, there is a great earthquake which results in the cities of the earth being destroyed, as well as the mountains being removed:

Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!” Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed… Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. —Revelation 16:16-20

In the following chart, consider the dramatic similarities between Ezekiel’s oracle and John’s description of the Battle of Armageddon:

 

Now, consider the following timelines, where the popular view is contrasted with what I refer to as “the consistent view”:

The Popular View

In the timeline above, the Battle of Gog of Magog concludes either just before or just after the beginning of the final seven years. The problem with this view should be clear. At the conclusion of the Battle of Gog of Magog, there is a massive earthquake whereby all of the mountains will be “thrown down” or “fall down”. If this is the case, how then could Jesus warn the inhabitants of Jerusalem, several years later, to flee to the mountains? This would be impossible. And how could another earthquake level the mountains a second time during the “great earthquake” that takes place at the return of Jesus? Obviously, the popular view has an insurmountable contradiction with Scripture on this point.

The Consistent View

 

Now consider the alternative consistent view. Here, we see that because Gog of Magog and the Battle of Armageddon are seen as concluding at the same time, at the return of Jesus, there is no contradiction concerning the mountains being leveled. Neither is there any contradiction with the commandment of Jesus to flee to the mountains at the mid-point of the tribulation.

The conclusion is simple. Ezekiel was simply speaking of the same invasion, great earthquake and divine intervention that all of the other prophets were speaking of. Divorcing Ezekiel’s prophesied invasion from Isaiah’s, Zechariah’s and John the Apostle’s prophesied invasion simply cannot be reconciled with Scripture.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=4162

Ezekiel, Magog And The Scythians

By Joel Richardson – “The prophecy of Ezekiel 38 and 39, often referred to as the Battle of Gog and Magog is hands-down, one of the most influential end-time prophecies in all of Scripture. But it is also arguably one of the most misinterpreted prophecies. In previous articles, I’ve explained that while many prophecy teachers claim that Ezekiel is speaking of a Russia-led invasion of Israel, the historical record and modern scholarship show that it is in fact a Turkish-led invasion. As previously discussed, the popular but faulty line of reasoning many follow to conclude a Russian-led invasion is as follows:

  1. Magog and the Scythians are one and the same.
  2. The Scythians lived in Russia.
  3. Gog, the leader of Ezekiel’s invasion, comes from      Magog.
  4. Thus Ezekiel’s prophesied invasion is led by a      leader from Russia.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that history tells us that the Scythians were a nomadic migratory people who rarely stayed in one place for very long. The question is not if the Scythians ever lived in the region that has become modern-day Russia, but rather, where did the Magog/Scythian people live specifically in Ezekiel’s day? We are not concerned with where the Scythians lived several hundred or even thousands of years after Ezekiel. Our only concern is to discover where they lived during Ezekiel’s day. Lets review a small sampling of historical sources to see where they placed the Magog/Scythian people during Ezekiel’s day.

Herodotus (484–425 B.C.)

Herodotus, the Greek historian, lived roughly 150 years after Ezekiel. In his day, he placed the homeland of the Scythians in the region extending from eastern Europe to Moldova and the Ukraine. According to Dr. Michael Kulikowski, department head of History at Pennsylvania State University, ‘Herodotus’ Scythians were to be found in a bit of modern Bulgaria and Romania, and across the grasslands of Moldova and Ukraine’ but not Russia. Another essential point is that while Herodotus also discusses Meshech and Tubal, two of the regions that Magog is ruler over, and placed them squarely in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey).

Pliny The Elder (d. A.D. 79)

Pliny the Elder, a first-century Roman military commander, author, naturalist and philosopher, referred to the Turkish city of Hieropolis as the heartland of Magog. Hierapolis was an ancient Greco-Roman city in Phyrgia near Laodicea. Hieropolis was also known as Scythopolis, (City of Scythes) which the peoples of that day referred to as Magog. One would think that this would be crucial information to consider and mention, yet in the numerous popular books and treatments of Gog and Magog I’ve reviewed in my studies, I have never once seen this important historical reference cited.

Hippolytus (d. 235)

Roughly a hundred years after Pliny, Hippolytus, one of the most important Christian theologians of the early third century, spoke of Magog. In his work known as ‘The Chronicon,’ Hippolytus also connected Magog to Asia Minor – modern-day Turkey. One would also think this to be a crucial reference to cite. Hippolytus is one of the most prolific early Christian writers concerning the last days. Yet again, in the many popular works arguing for a Russian Magog correlation, I have never once seen it mentioned.

Maimonides (d.1205)

Maimonides, also known as Rambam, the revered Jewish sage, in ‘Hichot Terumot,’ also identified Magog as being in the modern nation of Turkey.

John Wesley (1755)

In fact, this connection between modern-day Turkey and Magog was well-known among Christian theologians for centuries. In his ‘Explanatory Notes’ on Ezekiel 38 and 39, John Wesley says the following:

Magog is, at least, part of Scythia, and comprehends Syria, in which was Hierapolis taken by the Scythians, and called of them Scythopolis. It is that country, which now is in subjection to the Turks, and may be extended thro’ Asia minor, the countries of Sarmatia, and many others, under more than one in succession of time. And in the last time under some one active and daring prince, all their power will be stirred up against Christians.

Modern scholarship

It is because of this fact, ignored by virtually all modern-day popular prophecy teachers, that the homeland of the Scythians during Ezekiel’s day was in western Asia Minor, that so many modern scholar place Magog in Asia Minor or specifically in the ancient Kingdom of Lydia (Western Turkey). In a previous article, I re-created maps from several of the best modern-day Bible atlases, showing how they each placed Magog in the region of modern-day Turkey.

  1. 8th century B.C.: Scythians migrate south out of      the Caucasus.
  2. 7th century B.C.: Scythians invade Asia Minor.
  3. 7th century B.C. (in Ezekiel’s day), Scythians      founded Scythopolis near Laodicea.
  4. Late 6th century B.C.: Scythians driven into      Europe by the Persians.
  5. 4th-3rd centuries B.C.: Scythians spread north to      European and Russian Steppes.

Through consulting a wide range of ancient sources, including Assyrian records, scholars today acknowledge that before Ezekiel’s day, the Scythians had pushed down out of the Caucasus and invaded Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey. There they dominated and settled the city of Hierapolis, also known as Scythopolis, in the western Anatolian Kingdom of Lydia, which was for many years known as Magog. Sometime after Ezekiel’s day, a Persian invasion pushed the Scythians out of Asia Minor, west and north into Europe around the Black Sea. Eventually they would reach Russia. But this was hundreds of years after Ezekiel’s day.

In conclusion, Ezekiel spoke of a Turkish-led invasion of Israel. Genuine students of the Scriptures who make it their goal to always seek truth, even when it is in conflict with their own traditions, will recognize the flaws with this view. It is imperative that students of the Bible take the time to study Ezekiel’s prophecy. In my newest book, ‘Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist,’ not only do we examine many essential, but often-ignored historical, geographical and exegetical elements of the passage, but even more importantly, its application and relevance for the Church and the world today.

As the days the prophets warned us of draw ever closer, it is imperative that every Christian believer pay careful attention to the roadmap and many prophetic warnings so clearly laid out before us. The Lord has given us this roadmap; it is our duty as his students of the Scriptures not only to make ourselves aware of it, but most importantly, to follow it.” Source – WND.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=4090

Ethiopia And Sudan In Bible Prophecy

By Joel Richardson – “Open up nearly any English translation of the Bible and you will find numerous references to ‘Ethiopia.’ Many of these references place Ethiopia in a negative light. In the book of the prophet Ezekiel, for example, we find a prophetic oracle against Ethiopia, Egypt, Arabia, Libya and Turkey (Lud):

“A sword will come upon Egypt, and anguish will be in Ethiopia; when the slain fall in Egypt, they take away her wealth, And her foundations are torn down. Ethiopia, Put, Lud, all Arabia, Libya and the people of the land that is in league will fall with them by the sword.” (Ezekiel 30: 4-5)

Later in the infamous Gog of Magog oracle of Ezekiel 38 and 39, Ethiopia is included among the alliance of nations that are prophesied to invade the nation of Israel:

“Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords; Persia, Ethiopia and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet.’” (Ezekiel 38: 3-5)

All of the nations of Ezekiel’s Gog oracle are destroyed. Is Ethiopia thus destined to be decimated by God?

Far from it. The truth is that the modern-day nation of Ethiopia is largely unrelated to the Ethiopia mentioned by Ezekiel. The translation of ‘Cush’ as ‘Ethiopia’ is actually quite misleading. Yet as a result of this widely used, but faulty translation, the poor Ethiopian people today, one of the most ancient, noble and largely Christian cultures in the earth, have gotten a seriously bad rap.

How did this confusion come about? The Hebrew word translated as Ethiopia is ‘Cush.’ Cush was the son of Ham and grandson of Noah. Many of Cush’s descendants settled in the region of southern Egypt, from Aswan to the place where the Nile River meets the Blue and White Nile rivers. The confusion comes from the historical name swap between Ethiopia and Abyssinia. The region the Bible refers to as Cush became known as Nubia, which the Greeks called Aithiopia. But today this region is southern Egypt and Northern Sudan. On the other hand, the ancient region of Abyssinia was much more southeast. This is where modern Ethiopia is now located. In others words, ancient Abyssinia is modern Ethiopia and ancient Aithiopia is modern-day North Sudan.

Because of this confusion, many students of prophecy are awaiting the Christian majority nation of Ethiopia to join with the Islamic alliance described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 [ICA: See related article here]. But a correct understanding of the name Cush points us to North Sudan, not Ethiopia.

Modern Day North Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and surrounding nations. The grey oval around the three Nile rivers represents ancient Cush, which most Bibles translate as “Ethiopia.” The Green nations of Ethiopia and Eritrea were called Abyssinia in ancient times and do not correlate to the biblical Cush.

But the judgment prophecies of Ezekiel concerning Cush/Ethiopia do not merely point us to the Sudan in general, but specifically North Sudan. From the perspective of biblical prophecy, this is all very significant. The recent cessation of South Sudan is a significant development, bringing greater clarity to Ezekiel’s prophecies. The biblical region of Cush was centered at Meroe where the Nile river meets the White Nile and the Blue Nile, roughly 75 miles northeast of the city of Khartoum, the capital city of North Sudan. Today, an ideological and military Islamist alliance is already forming against Israel, which includes the Islamic nation of North Sudan and Libya. These two nations represent the southern branch of Ezekiel’s Gog alliance.

But while North Sudan is well-known as an Islamist stronghold, South Sudan has a significant Christian population. And beyond having a large Christian population, like Ethiopia, South Sudan also has a large number of believers whose faith has many distinctly Messianic-Jewish characteristics. Many of these Christian groups trace their roots back to the early Messianic Jewish communities. And many of these Messianic believers are also supporters of Israel who would have no part in an invasion of the Jewish state.

While this may seem a bit academic, there are actually a few essential lessons here. First, it is imperative to accurately understand what nations and regions the ancient names in Scripture are pointing us to. Beyond this, an accurate understanding of what the prophets are actually saying helps the church as we seek to join with the Lord’s purposes. Understanding these prophecies will help Christians determine where to allocate their time, resources, energy and money. Where we direct our intercessory prayers and which missionaries and ministries we choose to support should all be influenced by what we believe the Lord is doing today in the earth. It is imperative that the church aligns its purposes with what the Lord is doing in the earth now.

Today the new nation of South Sudan is deeply in need of prayer, rebuilding and overcoming the effects of war. Beyond this, the ravaging effects of decades of United Nations miseducation has devastated families and actually ruined the faith of tens of thousands. Meanwhile, both South Sudan and Ethiopia are at the front lines of the radical Islamic agenda to exterminate the ancient African Christian communities. While some students of prophecy today, due to the outdated and misleading translations found in most Bibles, are simply sitting back waiting for Ethiopia and South Sudan to join a forthcoming anti-Zionist, Islamist invasion of Israel, those who know the truth will understand that now is the moment for the global church to rise up and stand with these beautiful shining gems that are the Christian communities of South Sudan and Ethiopia.” Source – WND.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3980

The Century Of Islam’: Iran Preparing Army Of Global Terror Operatives For Islamic Messiah, ‘Islam Will Defeat All World Powers’

By REZA KAHLILI – “The Quds Forces, a special Iranian unit of thousands of operatives tasked with exporting Iran’s Islamic revolution, are being told to step up preparations for terrorism for the coming of the last Islamic messiah and the destruction of the West.

Ali Saeedi, the Iranian supreme leader’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards, emphasized during a Friday sermon in Tehran that the Islamic republic must directly confront America so that the necessary environment is created for the reappearance of Mahdi, the Shiite’s 12th imam, who will kill all infidels and raise the flag of Islam in all corners of the world.

‘In three points of history, God directly confronts the will of unruly humans in which, of course, the Right will overcome the False,’ Saeedi said, according to the Sepah News, the Guards’ official publication. ‘The first point in history was during the era of pharaoh, the second era was Bani Abbas, and the third is our current era in which it seems that God has willed us to enlighten the world with the coming of Imam Mahdi.’

Saeedi, ‘Many of the signs [necessary] for the coming have taken place during the previous years; however, the main sign will take place right before the coming.’

There are five levels of readiness that have to be prepared for the coming, he said: ‘Individual readiness, the readiness for creating the environment, systematic readiness, the readiness in the region and the international readiness. This means Occupy Wall Street must take place, the Americans must lose hope with the Democratic Party and others, and lose faith in the U.N., while at the same time the unraveling in the Middle East, which was not ripe before, must have taken place before the coming.’

This is the first time a high-ranking Iranian official has stated on the record that the Quds Forces are not only involved in the region, but also internationally for a final confrontation with the West.

‘The Revolutionary Guards are one vehicle for preparation for the coming, and in the current Islamic Awakening [the Arab Spring] in the region and on international arena, the Quds Forces play a major role in preparing the readiness of the human force needed for such an event,’ Saeedi said. ‘The chief commander of the Guards and the supreme leader’s representative are tasked for preparing the individual readiness, regional readiness as well as international readiness for the coming.’

In another Guards’ weekly publication, Sobhe Sadegh, a front-page analysis explains that the opening of Iran’s geopolitics and the empowerment of its Islamic power are a reality in which Iran’s influence has expanded not only in the region, but also in Africa, Latin America, Eastern Asia and even in Europe and America.

As was the fall of socialism and the Eastern bloc, the analysis promises, so will be the fall of the capitalism and liberal democracy.

The analysis refers to the statements of the founder of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini:

‘I say with all certainty that the 21st century will be the century of Islam.’

‘I say with all certainty that Islam will conquer all key entrenchments of the world.’

‘I say with all certainty that Islam will defeat all world powers.’

‘I say with all certainty that the 21st century is the century where the oppressed will be victorious over the oppressors.’

While the Quds Forces have recently expanded their operations in shipment of explosives to Latin America, Africa and other places in the world, and at the same time have put terror cells on high alert for terrorist acts, the Islamic regime in Iran has expanded its nuclear program in which over 11,000 centrifuges are now running at two facilities, increasing its enriched uranium stock.

As of the last report in May by the IAEA, Iran had enough enriched uranium for six nuclear bombs, and despite all negotiations and recent sanctions, the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced days ago that there will be no turning back from the nuclear path.” Source – WND.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3800

DOES BIBLE PROPHECY FORETELL THE DESTRUCTION OF DAMASCUS?

Joel Rosenberg post….

Earlier this year, a prominent Member of Congress asked to meet with me in Washington, D.C. I thought the topic was going to be the possible coming war between Israel and Iran. Instead, the official asked, “What are your thoughts on Isaiah 17?” For much of the next hour, therefore, we discussed the coming judgment of Damascus according to Bible prophecy, and how this scenario could possibly unfold in the coming years in relation to other Bible prophecies and current geopolitical trends in the Middle East. Here is a brief summary of what I said.

There are actually two key Biblical prophecies that explain that at unspecified time in the future, the city of Damascus will be completely destroyed — judged by God — and will not be inhabited again.

* Isaiah 17:1-3 — “The oracle concerning Damascus. ‘Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city and will become a fallen ruin. The cities of  Aroer are forsaken; they will be for flocks to lie down in, and there will be  no one to frighten them. The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, and sovereignty from Damascus….’”

* Jeremiah 49:23-27 — “Concerning Damascus. ‘Hamath andArpad are put to shame, for they have heard bad news; they are disheartened. There is anxiety by the sea, it cannot be calmed. Damascus has become helpless; she has turned away to flee, and panic has gripped her; distress and pangs have taken hold of her like a woman in childbirth. How the  city of praise has not been deserted, the town of My joy! Therefore, her young men will fall in her streets, and all the men of war will be silenced in that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts. ’I will  set fire to the wall of Damascus, and it will devour the fortified towers of Ben-hadad.’”

These prophecies have not yet been fulfilled. Damascus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth. It has been attacked, besieged, and conquered. But Damascus has never been completely destroyed and left uninhabited. Yet that is exactly what the Bible says will happen. The context of Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49 are a series of End Times prophecies dealing with God’s judgments on Israel’s neighbors and enemies leading up to — and through — the Tribulation.

How exactly will Damascus be destroyed? When will exactly it be destroyed? What will that look like, and what will be the implications for the rest of Syria, for Israel and for the region? The honest answer is that the Bible does not say. I’m currently writing a novel entitled, The Damascus Countdown, that envisions how these prophecies could come to pass. This will be the third and last in the novel series that includes The Twelfth Imam and The Tehran Initiative (both out now in paperback and ebook). Lord willing, I will finish the manuscript by the first week of August (it’s about 90% finished already) and it will release early next year (probably in March). In the meantime, I am tracking events in Damascus and Syria very closely [i.e,, see blog posts: “Will Syria Implode?”; “More than 1,000 Syrian leaders attend premiere of Damascus film]. I am also praying much for the Lord Jesus Christ to have mercy on the people of that great city. The innocent blood shed by the Assad regime is reprehensible, and heart-breaking and is setting the stage for a terrible judgment. The believers in Christ there are being horribly persecuted, but some are still boldly preaching the Gospel and teaching the Word of God. Let’s pray that they reach all of the people of Damascus and Syria before the judgment comes.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3711

Magog- Joel Richardson

Really good study by Joel Richardson on the identity of Magog. Keep looking up!

http://www.wnd.com/2012/06/the-truth-about-gog-and-magog/

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3685

Russia, China, Iran plan to stage in Syria “biggest Mid East maneuver”

 

Middle East military tensions around Syria shot up again Monday, June 18, with the news reported by the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars that a joint Russian-Chinese-Iranian exercise is to take place in Syria.

It was described as “the biggest of its kind ever staged in the Middle East” with 90,000 personnel, 400 air planes and 900 tanks taking part.
As part of its preparations, Beijing is reported to have asked Egyptian authorities to permit the passage through the Suez Canal in late June of 12 naval ships heading for the Syrian port of Tartus, where Moscow maintains a naval and marine base. debkafile reported earlier this week that Russian naval vessels with marines on board were heading for Tartus. The Iranian media did not itemize their contribution to the joint exercise.
debkafile stresses that this would be the first time that substantial Russian and Chinese military strength has ever been deployed in Syria or anywhere else in the Middle East. It means that the two powers are prepared to parade their unabashed partnership with the Iranian and Syrian armies for the shared purpose of obstructing US-European-Arab military intervention in Syria. A large-scale Russian and Chinese military presence in the embattled country would expect to deter the United States from leading a military operation against Bashar Assad and his regime.
No date was attached to the report but the exercise may possibly take place before the end of the month

The large-scale maneuver was announced in Tehran on the first day of the nuclear crisis talks in Moscow between Iran and the six world powers, their third attempt to resolve the crisis by diplomacy. However, Russian and Iranian sources close to the talks were pessimistic about progress. An Iranian delegation member complained the atmosphere was harsh and unconstructive. A Russian source saw no way of bridging US-led Western differences with Tehran when the parties reconvene Monday.
debkafile also notes that the big joint Russian-Chinese-Iranian exercise “at sea, air and land on Syrian soil,” ws released for publication shortly before US President Barack Obama was due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Mexico.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3674

Israel gas finds launch navy into troubled waters

 They come to take a spoil! Ezekiel 38 & 39

When Israeli economists contemplate their country’s untapped natural gas finds far out in the Mediterranean, they dream of energy independence and lucrative export deals.

Those charged with Israel’s defense, however, worry that the navy – small and long a middling priority in budgets – may be hard put to protect the multinational drilling platforms and rigs out at sea.

“We will do our best, but without a major boost to our capabilities, our best will not be enough,” a senior military planner said in one of a series of Reuters interviews with Israeli decision-makers on the subject.

That all spoke on condition of anonymity indicates concern that such doubts over security might scare off investors and, perhaps, even encourage sea-borne attacks by Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese guerrilla movement hostile to Israel and to its exploration of gas fields also claimed by Beirut.

There are internal political considerations, too. With Middle East instability spiraling, Israel’s Finance Ministry is poring over an unwieldy plan for fiscal cuts combined with new spending on national security. The navy is lobbying for cash but is loath to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly.

Maps and other dry facts speak amply.

The huge gas fields centered 130 km (80 miles) from the port of Haifa in northern Israel, along with Yam Thetis, the existing gas-production rig just off Ashkelon in the south, make for a body of water covering 23,000 square km (9,000 square miles) – more than Israel’s territory on land.

Guerrilla raids from the north appear the main threat, with Palestinian Hamas militants penned in Gaza to the south and rumbling discontent from the Lebanese government over Israel’s drawing of a maritime border unlikely to take a military turn.

Providing rapid response in an emergency would strain the Israeli fleet of three corvettes – which have a crew of about 70 and can carry helicopters – 10 other missile boats and fast patrol vessels, and three diesel submarines, not least given their existing roles of enforcing the Gaza Strip blockade and the occasional foray through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea.

“You would need to have at least two missile boats in the vicinity of the rigs at all time,” said a senior officer.

Another declined to give a specific number, saying only the navy required “several” new vessels to meet future missions.

TALL ORDER

That would mean major expansion of the fleet – a tall order, not least as Israel bought another submarine for $335 million in March.

Visiting Israeli joint defense headquarters in Tel Aviv reveals the navy’s junior status, its cramped command centre overshadowed by the marbled tower of the well-funded air force.

The navy also faces skepticism from an Israeli cabinet stiff with former army generals and a finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, who is a civilian expert on maritime security.

In the spirit of what Israelis mordantly call their “ad-hocracy”, an unwillingness to spend on things that seem less pressing, the government may not agree with naval commanders about the urgency of protecting gas fields which are years away from being fully exploited and operational.

One of the handful of gas development projects under way, Tamar, has finished a well 70 km (45 miles) from Haifa. An underwater pipeline will run from there to a production rig that will be erected next to Yam Thetis, 25 km (15 miles) from Israel’s southern coast, by July 2013.

Another project, Leviathan, is 130 km (80 miles) off Haifa – a remoteness from shore that would itself appear to provide protection from guerrilla raids – and is not expected to produce gas before 2017. A number of firms hope to find undersea oil reserves, as well as the gas.

Robin Mills, head of consulting at Manaar Energy in Dubai, predicted an eventual increase in such activity off Israel and Cyprus, with several new exploration wells supported by supply ships and pipe-laying vessels.

“It won’t be like the North Sea, but not a negligible presence either,” Mills said. “I wouldn’t say the security discussion is premature.”

Asked about prospects for protecting the gas fields, a senior Finance Ministry official said only: “This is one among the Israel Defence Forces’ various missions. We are confident that the IDF will successfully rise to it.”

MISSILES, DIVERS, DRONES

Like its foreign counterparts, Israel’s navy prides itself on a spit-and-polish proficiency, especially in carrying out missions of strategic importance. The officers who spoke to Reuters chafed at the idea that, in a fix, they might be forced to call on NATO powers which sail the Mediterranean, such as the United States.

The Israeli navy has fended off a variety of threats over the decades, including at long range. Last year it captured anti-ship missiles which Israel said were destined for Palestinian guerrillas in the Gaza Strip. From there, the weapons could potentially have been used to blow up Yam Thetis.

Citing intelligence assessments, the navy fears Hezbollah guerrillas in boats could fire similar missiles against Israeli targets in the northern gas fields. Other scenarios include remote-controlled flying bombs crashing into rigs, or miniature submarines striking from below. A separate possibility is of gunmen approaching the platforms in civilian vessels or with divers’ gear, then storming aboard to kill or capture the crews.

“We designated these kinds of attack as having a ‘reasonable likelihood’ of occurring,” one Israeli officer said.

Anthony Skinner, Middle East analyst at London political risk consultancy Maplecroft, voiced doubt about the imminence of any such incident. He argued Hezbollah has a role as a reserve reprisal arm of its patron Iran, should the latter’s controversial nuclear facilities be bombed by the Israelis.

“Were Hezbollah to target gas platform and production rigs, such an attack would likely provoke a robust response from Israeli forces, which may in turn precipitate a broader conflict. One of Iran’s key cards against Israel would be removed from the table,” Skinner said.

But merely menacing the energy assets could have value in the eyes of Hezbollah and its allies: “It is altogether conceivable that Hezbollah will seek to deter or frustrate Israeli extraction. Iran too does not want Israel to be able to exploit massive oil and gas wealth in the Mediterranean,” Skinner said.

MUTUAL DETERRENCE?

Though outgunned by Israel, Hezbollah guerrillas fought its army to a standstill in a border war in 2006 and have since maintained a tense standoff while making clear they are honing their military capabilities for any new conflict.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, indicated in a speech last July that any attack on Israeli offshore gas facilities would be in retaliation for an attack on Lebanon.

Israel’s navy says that in addition to enhancing its own fleet it expects stepped-up air force patrols of the gas fields and espionage further abroad.

“If there is a Hezbollah guy training in South America to attack a gas platform, we want to know about it,” an Israeli officer said, speaking hypothetically.

There is hope for stop-gap measures such as unmanned, machinegun-equipped naval patrol boats that can travel long distances and remotely challenge suspect vessels. Navy officers also hint at the development of electronic counter-measures that would allow gas rigs to block incoming guided missiles.

“The IDF knows how to provide a response for all of Israel’s military needs,” said Ohad Marani, a former Finance Ministry director-general and now CEO of ILD Energy, which plans to begin drilling the first of two new offshore wells in June.

Texas-based Noble Energy, the main foreign company developing the gas fields with Israel and its maritime neighbor Cyprus, declined to discuss security measures for the platforms.

One of the Israeli officers said the rigs had private guards who coordinate closely with the navy. But they have not yet held sufficient joint emergency drills, the officer said, citing reluctance to disrupt work that costs around $1 million a day.

“Noble was the only company crazy enough to work with us,” the officer said. “We don’t want to be inconsiderate.”

That leaves the hope that Hezbollah will shrink from the geographical, and geopolitical, hurdles of strikes at sea.

“The targets are so distant, and if they miss, then they hit the water and get no effect whatsoever,” an Israeli officer said, channeling Hezbollah thinking. “And if they do get the target, then they hurt Americans and Filipino crewmen rather than just Jews. So maybe they’ll think it’s not worth it.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3603

Israel, Cyprus gas finds spur Mediterranean race

Israel’s biggest gas discovery, potentially turning the fuel importer into an exporter, is prompting a race by nations from Lebanon to Turkey to tap similar deposits in disputed waters of the East Mediterranean.

Noble Energy is developing the Leviathan and Tamar fields off Israel that hold about 30 trillion cubic feet of gas, more than triple the UK’s remaining reserves and worth about $670 billion at today’s prices. The Houston-based company also is behind the Aphrodite discovery off Cyprus.

With the US estimating the region holds about 122 trillion cubic feet of gas, enough to supply the world for one year, Lebanon and Turkey stepped up prospecting. Territorial disputes will have to be resolved first or the potential will remain untapped.

“All sides are looking at the eastern Mediterranean in a new light, but at the same time border disputes remain very important,” said Charles Gurdon, managing director of London- based risk assessor Menas Associates. “In the end, most of these cases will have to go to international arbitration.”

Countries in the region will have to temper disputes over maritime borders and sovereignty before companies such as BP, Total and Royal Dutch Shell can realize its potential as an export hub, according to the Observatoire Mediterraneen de l’Energie, an industry group.

“Joint exploitation of resources may change the whole political situation for the benefit of the region,” said Sohbet Karbuz, an oil and gas director at OME. “Energy can also become an extension of politics by other means.”

The Lebanese-Israeli maritime border remains undefined

Lebanon and Israel have no defined maritime border, while Turkey doesn’t recognize the Greek Cypriot-led government of the Republic of Cyprus and relations with Israel have soured since Turkish activists died on a Gaza-bound flotilla two years ago. Tensions boiled over when Turkey sent an exploration vessel accompanied by warships and jets to stop Cyprus drilling for oil and gas last year.

“The sides are implacably opposed, whether it’s northern and southern Cyprus, whether it’s Turkey and Cyprus, whether it’s Israel and Lebanon,” said Gurdon at Menas, which advises Exxon Mobil Corp., BP and Chevron Corp. among others. “In the end, people want to determine where the territory starts and stops.”

Cyprus will award permits covering 12 offshore blocks south of the island in its second licensing round, open for bids until May, according to Solon Kassinis, director of the energy service at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism. Turkey also plans to start drilling for oil off northern Cyprus later this month, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said in Istanbul today.

Egypt is planning to hold a licensing round in the Mediterranean after the Leviathan and Aphrodite discoveries, Gurdon said in a presentation in London today.

Gas discoveries in the Mediterranean abundant

The East Mediterranean could become the “second North Sea” following Cyprus’s first offshore gas discovery last year, Kassinis said.

“The Lebanese have systematically refused to talk to us about border issues, whether territorial or maritime, and have unilaterally submitted their claims to the UN,” said Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman. “We therefore have no choice but to submit our own claims to the UN as well, but the preferred solution is obviously direct negotiations.”

The North Sea, where Britain and Norway pump most of the oil and gas, is the world’s sixth-largest supplier of crude. While it still holds more than 26 billion barrels of oil equivalent resources, extraction peaked at the beginning of the last decade, UK government data show.

Israel, Cyprus considering pipeline

As North Sea production declines, energy producers are looking to other regions, including the Mediterranean, to meet rising gas demand as countries seek alternatives to Russian supplies.

Cyprus is working with Israel, 480 kilometers south across the Mediterranean Sea, on the potential construction of a pipeline to connect their gas fields. The link would allow the countries to meet domestic demand before liquefying the fuel for export, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on February 16.

Israel is examining plans to ship liquefied natural gas, or LNG, as far as Asia after 2018, said Gerry Peereboom, a director at Noble Energy. Israel may also pump gas to Egyptian LNG plants, said Raafat El-Beltagy, deputy chairman of Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Co. LNG Exports

“Israel is now in the position to decide whether they’ll allow the companies that hold these gas resources for export to the international market,” said Richard Quin, an analyst on the Middle East and North Africa at Wood Mackenzie Consultants Ltd. “The challenges of exporting LNG from Israel are quite substantial. It could easily be a decade for exports actually to happen.”

The Aphrodite field spans waters between Cyprus and Israel. Noble and other international oil companies have stayed away from northern Cypriot waters as tensions with Turkey persist, maintaining divisions that have split the island since Turkey invaded the north in 1974. Turkey has said development projects should await resolution of Cyprus’s political status.

“The issue of Turkey remains absolutely critical, because Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus’s rights” to award licenses, Menas’s Gurdon said. “Turkey may adopt gunboat diplomacy and it may be difficult for Cyprus to search for and develop fields which are close to northern Cyprus.”

The European Union, which only recognizes the Republic of Cyprus, has withheld elements of Turkey’s EU membership talks as it calls on the country to acknowledge the island nation and help resolve its ethnic divisions. Turkey has said it’s open to collaboration to exploit the region’s resources and market the fuel abroad.

Turkey seeks to maintain status as energy gateway

“Potential cooperation may at last bring peace and stability to the region,” said Ayse Berris Ekinci, acting deputy director for energy at Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Turkey represents the safest, most feasible and affordable gateway for the eastern Mediterranean natural gas resources to the European markets.”

Turkey’s state oil producer Turkiye Petrolleri AO struck an agreement with Shell in November to explore off the city of Antalya, away from Cypriot waters. Turkey has also received interest from companies including Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron, Total and ConocoPhillips to explore in its east Mediterranean waters, according to the Energy Ministry.

Cyprus is due to take over the EU’s rotating presidency on July 1, potentially boosting its clout in negotiations. The island’s Aphrodite discovery is only 65 kilometers from Israel’s Leviathan field, the world’s biggest offshore gas find of 2010. The Tamar field off Israel, discovered a year earlier, is due to start output next year.

“The latest discoveries will certainly be a source of dialogue between the countries,” said Rob West, a London-based oil analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. “It’s just not clear whether the dialogue will involve disputes over resource entitlement or rather cooperation.”

Claims over gas fields in the region’s Levant Basin extend to Lebanon, Israel’s northern neighbor and 100 miles across the sea from Cyprus.

Lebanon has said some Israeli fields may stretch into its waters and has asked the United Nations to intervene to prevent a conflict over exploration areas as the country gears up for its first offshore oil and gas bidding round this year. Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006, has repeatedly pledged to protect the nation’s offshore resources.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3435

Israel Strikes Oil Off Tel Aviv Coast

Israel has struck oil again, this time off the Tel Aviv coast. Developers maintain the find includes 100 million barrels of oil, worth $10 billion.

Modiin Energy and Adira Energy discovered an estimated 128 million barrels of oil and 1.8 trillion cubic feet of gas in their Gabriella and Yitzhak licenses, in shallow water less than 15 miles northwest of Tel Aviv.

Officials called the find “significant” and added, “Surveys conducted in recent months found oil in the target strata. The potential oil reservoir is 128 million barrels of oil, and the contingent reserves are an additional 120 million barrels.”

“Bottom line, there is oil. It’s 100 percent. Secondly, the quantities are commercial,” said Tzachi Sultan, controlling shareholder of Modiin.

The Gabriella license is near shore in shallow water. “At a time of soaring oil prices, this is good news for IDB, Modiin, Adira, said Chaim Gavriella, CEO of the IDB  holding company that owns most of Gabriella’s shares.

The oil was defined as “ high quality” and reportedly can be extracted even easier than the gas.

The amount of oil is estimated to meet Israel’s needs for 18 months, in addition to other energy finds in the Tamar and Leviathan fields off the Haifa coast. Companies developing those fields say there is enough gas and perhaps oil to turn Israel into an exporter.

Sultan said drilling will begin by the end of the year and that it will take approximately five years for the first well to start producing oil.

Adira CEO Jeffrey Walter was ecstatic. “I said that I came to find oil and gas and was laughed at. I was told that there is no oil here. They were wrong,” he told Globes.

The discoveries of oil and gas are expected to provide thousands of new jobs for engineers and others needed to work on infrastucture, and the forecast ability of Israel to be self-sufficient could eventually lead to a large decline in domestic fuel prices and a stronger shekel.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3252