With ISIS on the rise, what do we need to know?
ISIS—a name that inspires fear, a group that is gaining momentum. Horrors unheard of are plaguing the Middle East, and ISIS may be responsible for the worst among them. And yet there is so much we don’t know about ISIS:
- Where did ISIS come from?
- How is ISIS distinguished from other terrorist groups?
- Could ISIS play a role in the end times?
- What does ISIS mean for Israel?
- What impact could these events have on the United States?
- How should believers respond?
In The ISIS Crisis, authors Charles Dyer and Mark Tobey answer these questions and more. Drawing from history, current events, and biblical prophecy, they guide readers through the matrix of conflicts in the Middle East. Then they explore the role of ISIS in all of these matters. Finally, they encourage Christians to look to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
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About the Author
CHARLES DYER (B.A., Washington Bible College; Th.M. and Ph.D., Dallas Theological Seminary) served as provost and dean of education at Moody Bible Institute before becoming Professor-at-Large of Bible at Moody and host of The Land and the Book radio program. Before coming to Moody, Charlie served for 20 years in multiple administrative and faculty roles at Dallas Theological Seminary - ultimately serving as Executive Vice President under Chuck Swindoll. In addition to his role as host of The Land and the Book radio program, Charlie is an Old Testament scholar and an authority on Middle Eastern history and geography. He also serves as Associate Pastor of Grace Bible Church in Sun City, Arizona. Charlie has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East for more than 30 years, leading more than 80 trips. He is the author of numerous books, including A Voice in the Wilderness, What's Next?, The New Christian Traveler's Guide, Character Counts: The Power of Personal Integrity, and Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus. His most recent book is The Isis Crisis. Charlie and his wife, Kathy, have been married for more than 40 years and have two grown children.
MARK TOBEY (Moody Bible Institute; Dallas Theological Seminary) is a pastor, freelance writer, and editor. Previously he served in publishing and as an adjunct professor of pastoral studies. Mark is co-author of Strike the Dragon with Dr. Charles Dyer and is a collaborator for The Trouble with Jesus Study Guide with Dr. Joe Stowell. He and his wife, Tracy, have three children.
Read an Excerpt
The ISIS Crisis
By Charles H. Dyer, Mark Tobey, Jim Vincent
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2015 Charles H. Dyer and Mark Tobey
All rights reserved.
THE WAR TD END WAR
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
GEORGE SANTAYANA Spanish Philosopher
After the release of a video showing the beheading of journalist James Foley in August 2014, President Barak Obama stood before the nation and declared, "One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the twenty-first century."
President Obama expressed our collective rage and horror over this brutal execution of a Western hostage by an ISIS soldier. And yes, we all agreed: ISIS must be stopped.
Yet, since then, there have been more beheadings. Shocking reports of children and women being brutalized and murdered at the hands of these terrorists have rattled even the most apathetic among us. Reports on nightly newscasts have chronicled confusing details of ISIS gaining more and more control over key regions of the Middle East. How can something like this be happening in such a civilized, highly sophisticated world?
As strong as President Obamas words may have been at the time, they did not answer all our questions ... or calm all our fears. What's more, the media's attempt to make sense of it all leaves most people dazed and bewildered. And our questions go unanswered. Where in the world did a group like this come from? And how can they be stopped?
ISIS has threatened to send its soldiers to attack the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries. When will they make their way into my neighborhood? Are they already here?
Fear feeds off lack of understanding and an ignorance of the truth. That's why it's so important for everyone to understand the origin and motives behind ISIS and to be best prepared for a very uncertain future.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
To understand the rise of ISIS, we need to travel back in time a hundred years. Our journey takes us to Europe in the dark days of World War I, the "war to end war." Events from the front lines dominated the news, but political intrigue and shifting alliances slinked through the power corridors of London, Paris, and Moscow. Treaties and secret agreements were forged that unknowingly created problems that would cripple the Middle East for the next hundred years ... and led to the rise of ISIS.
World War I pitted the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Russia, and later the United States) against the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire). The conflict centered in Europe and quickly degenerated into a brutal war of attrition that ultimately claimed the lives of nine million soldiers and seven million civilians. Advances in technology multiplied the number of dead and wounded as each side developed more efficient and effective weapons, including submarines, airplanes, and poison gas.
The Allied powers needed to find a way to break the stalemate in the trenches of Europe. Their solution was to attack Istanbul (part of modern-day Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire. If they could get the Ottoman Empire to collapse, they could outflank the remaining Central powers. The plan was brilliantly conceived, but poorly executed. It failed, and the war dragged on. And that's when the Allies made the first of three crucial agreements that ultimately changed the course of the Middle East.
A PROMISE TO THE ARABS
In 1962 the cinematic grandeur of Peter O'Toole riding across the Arabian Desert in Lawrence of Arabia captivated moviegoers. The film is a highly dramatized yet essentially true story of how British army officer T. E. Lawrence encouraged the Arabs to side with the British and fight against the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence did lead Arab forces on an attack to capture the port of Aqaba. He also tried to convince British officials that Arab independence would benefit England.
To help enlist Arab support, the British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, wrote a letter to Abdullah bin al-Hussein, who would later become the first king of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In that letter McMahon expressed British approval for an independent Arab state extending across most of the Middle East. "I am empowered in the name of the Government of Great Britain to give the following assurance and make the following reply to your letter: Subject to the above modifications, Great Britain is prepared to recognize and support the independence of the Arabs within the territories in the limits and boundaries proposed by the Sherif of Mecca."
T. E. Lawrences personal efforts, coupled with this letter from the British High Commissioner, persuaded the Arabs to side with the British against the Ottoman Empire. The die was cast. The promise was made. Arabs accepted at face value the British promise to reward them for their assistance by guaranteeing independence and rightful control over much of the Middle East.
A PROMISE TD THE JEWS
The British faced many problems during World War I. German submarines patrolled the waters around Great Britain, threatening to choke off the sea-lanes, which were the island's lifeline. The Germans also cut off Britain's access to acetone, a solvent used in the production of cordite, the main propellant in bullets and shells. The Germans controlled the production of acetone, so Britain had to find an alternative way to manufacture it. They could very well have lost the war had not the Jewish chemist Chaim Weizmann developed a fermentation process that allowed the British to produce their own acetone.
Weizmann was the right man at the right time for Britain and, so it seemed, for the Jewish people as well. In addition to being a chemist, he was also one of the leaders of Zionism in Britain, a movement committed to establishing a Jewish state or homeland within the boundaries of Palestine. His acetone discovery brought him to the attention of David Lloyd George (Minister of Munitions) and Arthur Balfour (First Lord of the Admiralty) and placed him in a remarkable position of influence. The three developed a friendship that continued after Lloyd George became prime minister and Balfour became foreign secretary.
Weizmann suggested to both men that a permanent Jewish homeland in Palestine had many benefits. It would provide security for the Jewish population already living there, and it would provide a safe haven for Jews trying to escape the war-tattered surroundings of Eastern Europe. A Jewish homeland would benefit the other people of the Middle East by bringing European modernity and scientific advance to an otherwise very backward region of the world. And, he added, the announcement of a Jewish homeland might also help persuade America to join the war effort on the side of the European Allies.
Weizmann proved persuasive.
On November 2, 1917, Arthur Balfour sent a letter to Baron Rothschild, another leader of Britain's Jewish community, detailing Britain's official position on the subject of establishing a permanent Jewish homeland in Palestine. "His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
Jews in Palestine and around the world celebrated and eagerly anticipated the end of the war when Britain would make good on its promise. Unfortunately, the British had now promised parts of the same land to the Arabs and the Jews. To make matters worse, Britain had little intention of honoring either promise.
THE SECRET AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE ALLIES
Imagine selling the same home to two different families—making promises to both that are mutually exclusive and that can't possibly be fulfilled. That's exactly what happened to the land of Palestine. It was promised to the Jews and to the Arabs, as both groups already were claiming ancient and even prophetic rights to those territories.
Britain's duplicate promises to the Arabs and Jews are partly responsible for many of the misunderstandings in the Middle East. But it was the third agreement—one the Allies hoped to keep secret—that is most responsible for today's crisis in the Middle East and eventually the rise of the ISIS crisis.
Britain and France decided to quietly carve up the Middle East among themselves!
In May 1916 the British, French, and Russians reached an understanding. Should they succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire, they planned to divide it among themselves, with most of the territory going to the British and to the French. The agreement was to remain secret. But after the Russian revolution of 1917, the new communist government published all the documents in an effort to embarrass the British and the French.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement, as it was known, carved up much of the Middle East into British and French spheres of influence. The agreement, which was largely adopted during the 1920 San Remo conference following World War I, effectively canceled out or modified much of what had been promised to the Arabs and the Jews. That agreement, more than anything else, fundamentally altered the landscape of the Middle East in two major ways.
COLONIAL INFLUENCE, WESTERN IDEALS
First, the Sykes-Picot Agreement laid the groundwork for aggressive European colonial influence in the Middle East. Each country was allowed to establish direct or indirect control over its designated area of influence. Britain wanted to control an area that would give it a clear path to the oil in the Persian Gulf and to its empire in India. France initially wanted a clear path to the oil fields around Mosul, but they settled instead for control of greater Syria, along with a major share of the Turkish Petroleum Company. These spheres of influence are the reason the second most prominent language spoken (after Arabic) in Lebanon and Syria is French ... while in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, it is English.
The second way the Sykes-Picot Agreement shaped all subsequent events in the modern Middle East was through trying to impose the Western ideals of nations and nationalism on a region defined by ethnic and religious loyalties. Look closely at the following map of the Middle East, "Middle East Boundaries Set by the Sykes-Picot Agreement." Many of the borders between Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are little more than straight lines drawn on a map. The borders of these countries were determined by European cartographers with little or no consideration for geographical or ethnic boundaries—completely ignorant of the subtle distinctions related to religious or tribal loyalties. In short, the countries created were totally artificial, a recipe for unending conflict and intensifying frustration toward the West.
A prime example is Iraq. Most of us have grown up assuming there must have always been a country named Iraq. There wasn't. Prior to World War I the region was actually divided into three separate provinces in the Ottoman Empire, each named after a principal city—Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra. And each region was dominated by a different group: the Kurds in the north, the Sunni Arabs in the center, and the Shiite Arabs in the south.
Britain pushed to have the three provinces cobbled together into the country of Iraq.
Consequently, the area has been a tinderbox of ethnic conflict and racial tension ever since. Iraqi president Saddam Hussein (1979—2003) led a Sunni-dominated government that oppressed the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south. More recently the Shiite-dominated government of Nouri al-Malaki oppressed the Kurds and the Sunnis. And it was the Sunni opposition to Malaki's government that encouraged so many Sunnis to support ISIS.
In an ironic twist of fate the Great War—the "war to end war" —ultimately plowed, planted, and cultivated the land of the Middle East in a way that has caused it to yield a never-ending crop of conflict. But to understand how ISIS grew to become one of the most prolific products of that garden, we need to move forward in time to the late 1970s—a time with eerie parallels to what we're experiencing today.CHAPTER 2
THE RISE OF THE MUJAHIDEEN
History teaches, perhaps, very few clear lessons. But surely one such lesson learned by the world at great cost is that aggression, unopposed, becomes a contagious disease.
PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER Address to the nation following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
America struggles to get back on its feet after pulling its troops home from a long, divisive war. A sputtering economy keeps unemployment above acceptable levels. Prices for food and fuel rise exponentially, putting greater strain on already stretched family budgets. A dysfunctional relationship between the president and Congress threatens the United States' ability to move forward. US hostages are being threatened by Islamic radicals in the Middle East. And a belligerent Russia takes full advantage of the situation to invade one of her neighbors.
In many ways that sounds like today's headlines from Google News. But it is actually a description of 1979. A year that brought stagflation, the partial nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian Revolution, the Iran hostage crisis, and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. And because of those last three events, 1979 might also go down as the year that gave birth to modern Islamic fundamentalism.
A YEAR DF TURMOIL
In the Middle East, 1979 careened through highs and lows like a rickety wooden roller coaster. In the spring of that year, Israel and Egypt signed a historic peace treaty, the culmination of the Camp David Accords negotiated between then president Jimmy Carter, Israel's president Menachem Begin, and Egypt's president Anwar Sadat. Egypt emerged as the first Arab state to make peace with Israel, officially recognizing Israel's right to exist as a nation. Less than two years later, members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad assassinated Sadat in a public display of violence and terror.
While Egypt was playing nice with Israel, the country of Iran was starting to unravel. Eight years after celebrating the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire, the Shah of Iran was forced from his throne and a new Islamic theocracy led by the supreme spiritual leader, Ruhollah Khomeini, was installed. By year's end, Time magazine would select Khomeini as "Man of the Year" for 1979. In an ironic twist, this stern and ominous symbol of Islamic intolerance followed the previous year's selection of Anwar Sadat—the man of peace.
A FRAGILE DANCE
In spite of the turmoil in Iran, the overthrow of the Shah might have been little more than a minor historical footnote for most Americans had it not been for what happened next. The deposed shah was allowed into the United States for medical treatment, and Iran demanded his extradition to face charges of murder. America refused, and with Khomeini's blessing, a large group of Iranian students took over the US embassy and held hostage fifty-two American diplomats and citizens for 444 days.
Americans held their breath. Who were these people? How did they compromise our security? And why do they hate us so much? Americans sat bewildered, angry, and in shock. The Iran hostage crisis—and a botched rescue attempt—symbolized the helplessness of the current administration. That debacle by the Carter administration contributed to Ronald Reagan's mammoth defeat of Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election.
While Iran was turning to religious extremism, Iraq moved closer and closer toward a different type of extremism. In 1979 Saddam Hussein formally assumed absolute control over Iraq. The Ba'ath party, a stepchild of the Nazis, was the ruling party in Iraq, rising from the philosophical ashes of National Socialism. The following year Hussein invaded Iran, igniting the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. The delicate dance continued as the United States quietly helped support Iraq as a counterbalance to the rising Iranian threat. Then two years after the Iran-Iraq war ended, Hussein invaded Kuwait.
Excerpted from The ISIS Crisis by Charles H. Dyer, Mark Tobey, Jim Vincent. Copyright © 2015 Charles H. Dyer and Mark Tobey. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents:
1. The Origins of ISIS (Where did they come from?)2. ISIS among Jihadists3. ISIS and the End Times 4. The Centrality of Israel5. What Does it Mean for us?