Iran behind oil facility attacks in Saudi Arabia
Coordinated attacks on Sept. 14 raised new fears about the stability of Middle Eastern oil production, posing an immediate threat due to the global economy’s dependence on a reliable and inexpensive oil supply.
Iranian-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have been at war with Saudi Arabia since 2015, claimed responsibility, but it’s strongly suspected that Iran itself is the true actor behind the scenes. The Sept. 14 attacks mark the most successful in a string of incidents dating back to May 2019 against Saudi oil interests. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo implicated Iran on the day of the attacks with the following unequivocal statement via Twitter:
“Teheran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif [Iran’s president and foreign minister] pretend to engage in diplomacy . . . Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”
According to geopolitical analyst George Friedman, the attack was a crucial political play by Iran: “Not only did it demonstrate that the Saudi oil industry was vulnerable to Iranian attack but the attack significantly reduced Saudi oil production, inflicting real pain. It is not clear how long it might take to bring production back online . . . If it takes time, the financial impact will hurt” (“The Geopolitics of Iran’s Refinery Attack,” Geopolitical Futures, Sept. 16, 2019).
Friedman also cites America’s reduced dependence on foreign oil as a new reality Iran is seeking to exploit. The thinking goes that if America is able to largely supply its own oil needs, then it has less incentive to protect the rest of the world’s oil supply as in decades past. This could contribute to the growing political alienation of the United States from other Western nations. By underscoring this point, Iran may be seeking to create a political wedge between America and other nations to diminish America’s global influence, which has kept Iran in check, particularly in delaying its development of nuclear weapons and its avowed intention to destroy Israel.
U.S. President Donald Trump authorized America’s use of its emergency oil reserves the day after the attacks. That same day, however, he threatened via Twitter that the United States is “locked and loaded” to respond to the assault with force. It remains to be seen how far Iran will test those words and how President Trump will respond.
Hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia is borne out of the divide in the Muslim world between the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam. There has long been a struggle for dominance between Shiite Iran or Persia and the Sunni Arab nations.
End-time prophecy from the book of Daniel describes a worldwide political struggle in the end times between the “king of the North” and the “king of the South.” Note that Daniel 11:40 says, “At the time of the end, the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind . . . He shall enter their countries, overwhelm them, and pass through.” Bible prophecy attests to a coming war in the Middle East!
The northern power, originally in Syria to the north of Israel, shifted in ancient times to Rome and in the end-time will be a revival of the Roman Empire centered in Europe.
The southern power, originally centered in Egypt, seems to refer to an end-time Islamic power to the south of Israel. This kingdom of the South may well again be centered in Egypt, which is now Sunni Muslim and the most populous Arab nation, or perhaps Saudi Arabia, the homeland of Islam, or some other neighboring state. It could likewise spring up from a terror network like ISIS or al-Qaeda taking over the governments of Arab nations. Others think Iran will lead this southern power, as it could if it came to dominate the countries south of Israel (and Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons no doubt plays into its desire to dominate the Islamic world).
Yet Iran is located far to the east of Israel, and it might instead be part of another power bloc of Asian nations in that direction. Revelation 16:12 mentions a coalition of “kings from the east” marching into the Middle East as the war progresses. Of course, Iran does not have to be part of the southern power bloc to be part of its rise. The threat it poses to the Sunni Arab countries could push them into emerging as a regional power.
Only time will tell where current events will lead. To learn more about the history and future of this region, be sure to download or request our informative study guide The Middle East in Bible Prophecy. (Source: Geopolitical Futures.)
Study changes narrative on “gay gene”
New research has overturned the longstanding myth of the “gay gene” supposedly discovered in 1993. The gay gene has been lauded as proof that homosexuality is natural and must be accepted as such. However, a new analysis of nearly 500,000 genomes has debunked the idea of a single “gay gene” and found that only “up to 25% of sexual behavior can be explained by genetics” (Jonathan Lambert, “No ‘Gay Gene’: Massive Study Homes in on Genetic Basis of Human Sexuality,” Nature, Aug. 29, 2019).
The gay gene has become entrenched in mainstream culture, even inspiring pop anthems such as Lady Gaga’s 2011 hit song “Born This Way” to celebrate the false idea that homosexuality is predetermined from birth—with upbringing, interactions with others and personal choices playing no role in sexual orientation—so that the homosexual lifestyle must be accepted.
However, the increasing push for “tolerance” defies even that concept, as the conversation has now dramatically shifted from homosexuality towards all manner of newly invented orientations and “gender identities,” including “gender fluidity.”
The standard now advocated by the ever-widening LGBTQ community is that anyone should be able to choose any sexual orientation or gender identity they desire at any time, even changing from moment to moment, without judgment. Yet few acknowledge that this completely contradicts the narrative of being born gay that made accepting homosexual lifestyles a moral imperative to begin with. Shaky science, elevated by political and media voices pushing the false and disempowering idea that sexual lifestyle is beyond people’s control, has led to moral confusion for an entire generation.
Even the authors of the recent study are unwilling to let go of the premise, explaining that “nonheterosexual behavior is polygenic” (“Large-Scale GWAS Reveals Insights Into the Genetic Architecture of Same-Sex Sexual Behavior,” Science, Aug. 30, 2019). In other words, they replace the idea of a single “gay gene” with the unverifiable claim that there are many genes associated with homosexual behavior. They report that they’ve found small influences on sexuality from several different genes but that altogether the effect is not enough to predict people’s sexuality from their DNA.
It’s no wonder that people find themselves in such confusion and denial as society drifts farther away from God and the Bible. God is the author of male and female sexuality. And He declares through Scripture that sexual relations outside of monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is sin. This truth accords well with scientists now reporting on finding no proof of homosexuality being predetermined by one’s genes. (Source: Nature, Science.)
Study: family meals are rare and quiet
What was once a normal part of everyday life for millions of people—the family dinner, full of conversation—is now becoming a rare occurrence. A new study reveals that one third of families in the United Kingdom sit in silence during the family meal.
“Dinner, or any other meal for that matter, in the average suburban home is supposed to be a time for the family to come together, spend some time with each other, and share what is going in their lives. That is, at least, the general belief or notion that has persisted culturally for ages. Alas, it seems ‘the times they are a-changing’—according to a new survey of 2,500 U.K. parents, a third of families sit in complete silence during meal time” (John Anderer, “Dinner and No Conversation: Third of Families Sit in Silence While Eating, Shock Survey Reveals,” StudyFinds.org, Sept. 13, 2019).
The study showed that many parents reported simply not knowing what kinds of topics to talk about with each other or their children. It’s also not hard to imagine how technology use (smartphones or tablets) at the dinner table would account for such quiet time.
The study also found that many families are not even eating together more than a few times a week: “Just sitting down at the dinner table together as a family is a struggle for many as well. The survey . . . found that four in 10 parents don’t even eat dinner at the same time as their children on most days. Additionally, one in 10 never eat dinner at the same time as their families” (ibid., emphasis added).
One psychologist explained just some of the benefits of conversing with loved ones around the dinner table: “‘There is evidence showing that stimulating conversation at mealtimes builds children’s confidence and self-esteem and [these] in turn actually boost academic performance,’ Dr. [Linda] Papadopoulos explains. ‘In fact, they are beneficial to the whole famil[y’s] mental well-being, a time for everyone to unload. So it’s a good idea to try and make them part of your weekly routine’” (ibid.).
To learn more about the incredible benefits that flow from a healthy family life, send for or download a copy of our free study guide Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension. (Source: StudyFinds.org.)
Ban of e-cigarettes on the horizon?
E-cigarettes are relatively new in the tobacco world. Inhaling an aerosolized solution or vapor that includes nicotine, now known as “vaping,” has been on the rise while traditional cigarette smoking has been declining over the last decade.
“New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday [Sept. 15] he will push for a ban on some electronic cigarettes amid a health scare linked to vaping—a move that would follow a similar ban enacted by Michigan and a call from President Trump for a federal prohibition on certain vaping products” (Scott Neuman, “New York Set to Join Michigan in Banning Some Electronic Cigarettes,” National Public Radio [NPR.org], Sept. 16, 2019).
Contributing to the attraction of vaping is the assortment of flavors added to the tobacco. Flavors like bubblegum, strawberry watermelon and pink lemonade are popular among teens. Gov. Cuomo wants to start by banning such flavored tobacco.
Since e-cigarettes are relatively new, there are no long-term studies showing the impact of vaping on health. Yet as information comes out, the dangers of vaping seem more evident. “The push at the state and federal levels to ban certain vaping products comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said . . . [in early September] that 380 confirmed or probable cases of lung disease associated with e-cigarettes had been identified in 36 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with six confirmed deaths” (ibid.).
“New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement Tuesday [Sept. 17] that the high numbers of vaping use among young people is nothing short of a ‘public health crisis’” (Doha Madani and Janelle Griffith, “New York First State to Enact Ban of Flavored E-Cigarettes Amid Deaths Linked to Vaping,” NBC News, Sept. 17, 2019).
Cigarette smoke was tied to cancer in the 1960s, but substantial regulations on the tobacco industry did not come until much later. No doubt we will see further regulation of e-cigarettes. In any case, we should all avoid substances and practices that are seriously damaging to health and lead to addictions. (Search at our website ucg.org for “Smoking and Health: The Often-Overlooked Key.”) (Sources: National Public Radio, NBC News.)
Anti-Semitism at U.S. colleges grows to record levels
A shocking and sad new report recently revealed that students who are openly supportive of Israel are being harassed at rates never seen before. The findings come from the AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization that monitors anti-Semitism—hostility or prejudice against Jews—across more than 400 college campuses in the United States (amcha meaning “your people” in Hebrew, connoting grassroots among the common people).
The group has tracked around 2,500 anti-Semitic incidents since 2015 and reported that levels have risen 70 percent in just the last year:
“Anti-Semitic harassment on college campuses aimed at pro-Israel students jumped by 70 percent in the past year, the highest levels ever seen, according to a new study showing that the endorsement of anti-Israel causes by students and professors has created an unsafe environment for Jewish students . . .
“AMCHA found in its latest report that while examples of classical anti-Semitism decreased overall, there has been a major spike in students being targeted for hate speech and violence due to their open support for the state of Israel” (Adam Kredo, “Report: Anti-Semitic Harassment at U.S. College Campuses Hits Historic Levels,” The Washington Free Beacon, Sept. 17, 2019).
The Bible warns of rising tensions between people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds in the last days. It also refers to animosity against the Jewish people and other descendants of ancient Israel. To learn more about where such trends are heading, read our eye-opening study guides Are We Living in the Time of the End? and The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy. (Source: The Washington Free Beacon.)