IRAN: King of the Middle East

Proof that Iran fulfills a role prophesied by Daniel millennia ago
SPIRALING TENSIONS.Fire and smoke billow from a Norwegian–owned tanker believed to have been attacked by Iran in the Gulf of Oman.
-/AFP via Getty Images

In 1994, Watch Jerusalem editor in chief Gerald Flurry warned that Iran was about to rise and dominate the Middle East. He said Tehran would lead a powerful and dangerous alliance of Islamist states and organizations, and would increasingly push against the West, especially Europe.

Twenty-five years later, it is clear this forecast was spot on.

“Iran remains the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism,” states a United States annual report on terrorism, released November 1. In 2018, despite severe financial crisis, Iran funneled almost $1 billion into various terrorist organizations. These groups “serve as proxies and expand its malign influence across the globe” (ibid). Iran today also has major influence in key Middle Eastern states, especially Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

How did Mr. Flurry know Iran would emerge to lead a radical Islamist alliance of nations and organizations? The answer revolves around a prophecy in the biblical book of Daniel. “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him; and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow, as he passes through” (Daniel 11:40).

Written in the sixth century b.c.e, this is clearly a prophecy for “the time of the end.” But is it really possible that an ancient prophecy, now 2½ millennia old, could accurately describe 21st–century Iran? Can we prove that Iran today really is the “king of the south” forecast in Daniel 11:40?

Daniel 11

First, consider the broader context of this prophecy. The book of Daniel is a book of prophecy. The first prophecy comes in chapter 2, and every subsequent chapter contains forecasting about future world events. This book details prophecies about ancient Greece and Persia, as well as the Roman Empire.

The remarkable reality that many of Daniel’s prophecies have already been fulfilled can be proved through archaeology and historical records. Though many people question the authenticity of the book and claim Daniel did not write it, the evidence behind this criticism is weak. To prove Daniel’s authenticity, read “Can We Trust the Book of Daniel?” on page 18.

The documented fulfillment of many of Daniel’s prophecies should give us confidence that those yet to come to fruition can also be trusted.

For now, let’s consider the prophecies in Daniel 11 that lead into the crucial prophecy in verses 40-44. That these earlier prophecies have come to pass is thoroughly documented by archaeology and history.

In verses 5 through 39, Daniel describes what occurs between two kingdoms following the death of Alexander the Great. The first, the “king of the south,” was known as the Ptolemaic kingdom and was ruled from Egypt. The second, the “king of the north,” represented the Seleucid Empire and was ruled from modern-day Syria.

Daniel 11 forecasts major wars between these two kings. The prophecy is strikingly detailed and includes forecasts about palace intrigue (one king attempting to win over the other through a political marriage) and most stunning of all, the exploits of the Syrian kingdom under the leadership of Antiochus Epiphanes. Daniel 11 not only foretold the emergence of Epiphanes, it forecast his travels into Egypt and even his horrific attack on the Jews in Judea.

All this biblical prophecy—of the Ptolemies, the Seleucids and Antiochus Epiphanes—was subsequently recorded in secular history. (Request Proof of the Bible for a commentary on how secular history aligns with Daniel’s prophecy.)

Doesn’t the fact that most of the prophecies in Daniel 11 have already been fulfilled make the prophecy in verses 40-44 more credible?

The prophecy in verse 40 states explicitly that it is for the “time of the end.” The Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdoms have long vanished. This means there would have to be a new “king of the south” and “king of the north.”

But who is this end-time “king of the south”?

Policy of Push

Daniel’s prophecy says explicitly that the king of the south will push the king of the north. Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon says push means “to strike—used of horned animals,” or “to push with the horn.” It is “used figuratively of a victor who prostrates the nations before him.” It also means “to wage war with anyone.” Push implies violence, conflict and force.

“The stage is being set for an Islamic group of nations to be led by Iran as the prophesied king of the south, which will push at the king of the north, the European Union,” wrote Mr. Flurry in July 1998. “Iran’s main strategic aim is to be the dominant power in the Middle East.”

Consider Iran’s behavior. Can anyone deny that it dominates the region and is extraordinarily pushy?

Iran is actively destabilizing nations that have significant Shiite populations. Every such nation is currently embroiled in domestic conflict.

In Lebanon, Iran has a direct hold on Hezbollah, the largest and best-equipped terrorist organization in the world. Hezbollah readily admits that both its patronage and decision-making comes from Tehran. It has grown so powerful that it dominates the Lebanese government. Right now, Hezbollah has more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, many of which have precision-guided capabilities, pointed at Israel.

In Syria, the government of Bashar Assad is directly supported by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force and other Iran-backed proxies. Between 2012 and 2017, Iran spent $100 billion trying to keep Assad in power. If not for Iran’s backing, Assad likely would have fallen from power years ago—before an estimated half a million people were killed.

In recent years, Iran has increased its presence in Iraq by exploiting America’s withdrawal and the imperative to battle the Islamic State. In late 2016, Iran cemented control over Iraq when the Baghdad parliament voted to accept Popular Mobilization Units (pmu) into its national security force. These units were answerable to Iran—and today, they are fully integrated within the Iraqi security services. Thus, Iran has profound influence over Iraq’s military. Moreover, many of these same Iran-backed militias influence various parties in Iraq’s parliament.

In Yemen, the Houthis, a Shiite sect in the northwest of the country, continue to wage war against the government. They are propped up and led by Iran. After the Houthis captured Yemen’s capital in late 2014, Iran claimed victory. At the time, Mohammed Sadeq al-Hosseini, adviser to former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, stated, “We in the axis of resistance are the new sultans of the Mediterranean and the Gulf. We in Tehran, Damascus, [Hezbollah’s] southern suburb of Beirut, Baghdad and Sanaa will shape the map of the region. We are the new sultans of the Red Sea as well.”

Iran is also working to destabilize Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia, both of which have large Shiite populations. It additionally seeks to bridge the Sunni-Shiite divide by funding the Palestinian group Hamas, which is committed to the destruction of Israel.

Iran is one of the pushiest nations in the world—a remarkable fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy!

Steve Hercus, Edwin Trebels/Watch Jerusalem

Iraq, Then the Red Sea

In addition to revealing the foreign policy of the king of the south, Daniel 11:40-44 reveal the identity of the nations that are allied with Iran.

In July 1992, Mr. Flurry wrote, “the king of the south could rule Iraq or Iran or both countries. But it is looking more now like Iran may produce this king.” At the time, other regional strongmen—such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and Muammar Qadhafi in Libya—all appeared more powerful than Iran.

Despite this, Mr. Flurry warned explicitly that Iran would eventually dominate Iraq. The title of his December 1994 article was “Is Iraq About to Fall to Iran?” In it, he wrote: “The most powerful [Muslim] country in the Middle East is Iran. Can you imagine the power they would have if they gained control of Iraq, the second-largest oil-producing country in the world? If so, there seems to be little doubt that Iran would lead the king of the south (Daniel 11:40).”

Nearly 10 years later, right after America invaded Iraq, effectively inviting Iran to become the regional power, Mr. Flurry reiterated his forecast. “It may seem shocking, given the U.S. presence in the region right now, but prophecy indicates that, in pursuit of its goal, Iran will probably take over Iraq,” he warned in June 2003.

The current protests in Iraq are proof of Iran’s dominance of Baghdad, and that Iraq is aligned with the king of the south. Since October 1, Iraqis have been protesting government corruption and poor living conditions. Gradually, as Iraqis realized that Iran was preventing the dissolution of their government, the protests took on a powerful anti-Iran tone. The Iraqi people know Iran is in control of their nation!

In early 2019, Qassem Suleimani, a major-general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, intervened in Iraq’s politics to ensure that pro-Iran politician Adel Abdul Mahdi became Iraq’s prime minister. On October 31, Suleimani visited Baghdad and told Iraq’s political parties to keep supporting the prime minister even as thousands of Iraqi protesters called for his downfall. Suleimani even demanded the government use more force to put down the protests. “We in Iran know how to deal with protests,” he told Iraqi officials, according to Haaretz. “This happened in Iran, and we got it under control.”

According to the news site New Arab, the Iran-backed pmu have deployed snipers on rooftops to help quell the protests. Iraqi security sources revealed that militiamen clad in black shot protesters on the third day of unrest, a day that saw more than 50 people killed, 70 percent of whom died from head wounds. On November 5, Sima Shine, senior research fellow at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, stated that Suleimani might even send in Iranian forces to quell the violence.

Iraq is now clearly part of the “king of the south” coalition. Biblical prophecy reveals other nations that will join.

“But he [the king of the south] shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps” (Daniel 11:43). This verse shows that Egypt, Ethiopia and Libya are all part of the Iran-led Islamist alliance that is the king of the south. The Soncino commentary defines “at his steps” this way: “Either joining his army or placing themselves at his beck and call.” Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon says these nations are “in his company.”

Why would Iran want to gain control over Libya, Egypt and Ethiopia? To answer this question, look at a map of the Middle East, including the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. These countries “are on the two seas that comprise the most important trade route in the world!” explained Mr. Flurry in April 2011.

Over 300,000 tons of shipping, including 3.8 million barrels of oil, pass between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean every day. About 20,000 vessels pass through the Suez Canal and Bab el-Mandeb each year—an average of 55 per day. About 15 percent of all global maritime trade and nearly 10 percent of global seaborne oil passes through the gates of the Red Sea. Almost all trade between Europe and Asia is seaborne and travels through the Red Sea.

That amounts to almost $700 billion worth of trade per year—trade that Iran, if it controlled that route, could delay, sabotage or stop dead in the water. That is a potent economic and geopolitical weapon!

Libya is only a short boat ride from the shores of Europe, and will give Tehran a strategic stronghold in Europe’s soft underbelly.

“If a coastal foe can menace shipping transiting this narrow seaway,” Foreign Policy wrote, “it would disrupt the shortest, most convenient sea route connecting Europe with South and East Asia. Doing so would carry significant economic and military repercussions” (Oct. 25, 2016).

Tehran knows that if it can control the nations along the Red Sea, it will have a chokehold on trade to Europe. This is why Iran is advancing its missile and drone fleet: It is equipping itself to monopolize trade through those seas.

Using Daniel 11:40-44 as a guide, we can expect Iran to build influence in Egypt and the other Red Sea nations. Tehran is already deeply entrenched in Yemen (via the Houthis), making it the gatekeeper of the Red Sea. Iran could gain influence in Egypt, perhaps through a relationship with a resurgent Muslim Brotherhood. While the Brotherhood is Sunni and Iran is Shia, that closer relations are possible is evidenced by Mohamed Morsi’s short presidency in 2012, when Iran–Egypt relations greatly improved.

NO SECRET. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech with proof of a “secret” Iranian nuclear program.
JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

It is not hard to envision Iran using its presence in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea region to control the flow of oil out of the Middle East. The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has threatened as much. On Jan. 17, 2017, the Iranian state-sponsored Tasnim News Agency published an article that said boldly: “Today, all the arteries of oil transport—from Bab el-Mandeb strait to Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz—are under Iranian control, by means of Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, and within range of Iranian missiles” (translation memri).

Controlling the Red Sea and the southern Mediterranean will give Iran the leverage to make the push prophesied in Daniel 11:40!

At the same time, controlling the southern Mediterranean will give Iran greater access to Israel, positioning it to attack and pursue its designs on Jerusalem.

Iran is open about its ambition to conquer Jerusalem. The first official charter of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, written in December 1981, states, “Now the Iranian nation eagerly awaits the establishment of the Jerusalem Army.” This is also known as the Quds (Jerusalem) Force, the segment of Iran’s armed forces led by Suleimani and actively involved in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

Zechariah 14:1-2 say that in “the day of the Lord”—just before the coming of the Messiah—East Jerusalem will be captured by this radical power. Iran’s sleeper cells in the West Bank will likely play a large role in this Islamic takeover of East Jerusalem. Because of this threat, Israel’s Shin Bet security service closely watches the West Bank for undercover Iranian operatives. Prophecy indicates that Iran’s inroads into the West Bank will be stopped in part by Israel and in part by the “king of the north.”

In 1995, Mr. Flurry warned: “The most precious jewel of Iran’s plan is to conquer Jerusalem. This would then galvanize the Islamic world behind Iran. They will go far in their ambition, but never fully conquer Jerusalem.”

Israelis are right to be alarmed by the behavior of Iran and its Islamist allies!

How Will It End?

Daniel 11:40-44 make no mention of the United States. This prophecy is about the king of the south and the king of the north, or a German-led European power. Verse 40 says this European superstate will attack Iran with the force of a “whirlwind.”

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon says the Hebrew word for whirlwind is “used of the commotion of a storm or a tempest; to sweep away in a storm.” (Read Mr. Flurry’s article “How Iran Will Be Conquered” for a description of this whirlwind.) Europe will utterly defeat Iran and its radical Islamist allies!

How will this great clash end? The prophetic vision continues into Daniel 12. These verses show it will lead to catastrophic world war, or “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time” (verse 1). Many other Bible prophecies also warn of this nightmarish period.

This period of chaos and war will last for 3 1/2 years and will ultimately engulf the entire world (verse 7). At the end of this period of terrible tribulation, God will intervene in world affairs in a powerful way. He will usher in a new age of peace and prosperity for all men. This is the wonderful new world prophesied by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah (among others).

In Daniel 12:9, God tells the prophet, “Go thy way, Daniel; for the words are shut up and sealed till the time of the end.” We are now living in “the time of the end.” We can now understand Daniel’s prophecies. What you are reading now is part of that understanding!

It is easy to look at Iran and its radical Islamist allies and become hopeless. Israel is truly surrounded by hate. But this prophecy in Daniel 11 and 12 is filled with hope. About this horrible time, Daniel 12:1 says, “[A]nd at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” God says that a group of people will be saved. There is a way of escape.

What is this way? Verse 3 says that the people who escape “turn the many to righteousness.” Verse 10 says those who are saved “shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined.” God blesses and protects those who remember Him; those who obey His laws and support His work.

Can we appreciate how special it is to understand the events prophesied to occur in the Middle East right before the coming of the Messiah? This push from the king of the south actually announces the dramatic climax when the Messiah will rule this Earth!

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