After failed talks with Russian officials over the intensifying military conflict in Syria, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyib Erdogan issued his “final warnings” to Moscow.
“We are making our final warnings,” Erdogan said on Wednesday. “We did not reach the desired results in our talks (with Russia) . . . . A (Turkish) offensive in Idlib is only a matter of time.”
On Thursday, Turkish troops with heavy weapons entered northern Idlib while Turkish artillery shelled Syrian army positions. The Russian air force came to the aid of the Syrian army, bombing Turkish positions in the region. Fifty Syrian soldiers and members of Iranian-backed Shiite militias were killed in the battle and Turkey lost two soldiers. The Turkish military and their Islamist rebel allies also destroyed five tanks and four armored vehicles belonging to the pro-Assad troops.
Two Turkish soldiers were killed in a Russian airstrike, bringing the total Turkish military casualties in Syria to 16. More than 50 Syrian soldiers were killed in retaliation.
Towards this end, Turkey has been supporting the rebel effort to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Russia established a significant military presence in Syria to prop up the regime. Idlib in northwest Syria is the rebels’ last stronghold.
In a recent speech, Erdogan emphasized the existential importance of the Turkish military operation in Syria.
“The fight for freedom of the Syrian people is a fight for survival for Turkey’s 82 million people,” Erdogan said.
Rabbi Pinchas Winston, a prolific end-of-days author, emphasized that to understand current events, it is important to identify the nations in a prophetic/historical context.
“What is called Turkey today is a thin veneer over what is still the Ottoman Empire,” Rabbi Winston told Breaking Israel News. “Russia is clearly playing the role of Edom.”
Rabbi Winston explained that Edom, the descendants of Esau, were separated into several nations, each epitomizing a different archetypal characteristic of their forefather.
“The arrogance of Esau became Russia under the communists,” Rabbi Winston said, citing the decidedly anti-religious aspect of communism. “The ultimate arrogance is when a man becomes an atheist and says there is no God; there is only me.”
“What you have to ask yourself is are the events unfolding in front of us a distraction or are they the main event. Even if it is a seemingly small event, it could contain within it the sparks that will cause a much larger event to burst into flame.”
Russia and Turkey have faced off militarily in at least a dozen wars since the 16th Century with Turkey losing all but one of the wars. But this is not deterring Erdogan’s expansionist plans for northwestern Syria. Turkey wants to create a 20-mile buffer zone inside Syria along the 500-mile border and resettle up to two million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it currently hosts, effectively occupying the region. Even though there is a long history of conflict between the two countries, the sparks o Gog and Magog may be contained within the current conflict.
“It is known that the Gog and Magog will come from the north,” Rabbi Winston said. “The Hebrew word for ‘north’ (צפון:tsafon) also implies ‘hidden’.”
Therefore prophesy, O mortal, and say to Gog: Thus said Hashem: Surely, on that day, when My people Yisrael are living secure, you will take note, and you will come from your home in the farthest north, you and many peoples with you—all of them mounted on horses, a vast horde, a mighty army. Ezekiel 38: 14-15
Rabbi Winston noted that a war between Turkey and Russia was predicted to be the precursor to the pre-Messiah War of Gog and Magog. This was emphasized in a teaching from the 18th century Rabbinic sage known as the Vilna Gaon who singled out Russian aggression as a precursor to the Messiah.
“When you hear that the Russians have captured the city of Crimea, you should know that the times of the Messiah have started, that his steps are being heard,” the Vilna Gaon told his followers just before his death in 1797. It should be noted that in 2014, Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.
“And when you hear that the Russians have reached the city of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul), you should put on your Shabbat clothes and don’t take them off, because it means that the Messiah is about to come any minute.”
The Prophet Ezekiel hinted at Russia as being a leader in the Gog and Magog War, even though Russia did not exist in Biblical times.
O mortal, turn your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. Prophesy against him. Ezekiel 38:2
In this verse, the Hebrew word for ‘chief’ is רֹאשׁ (Rosh), which clearly hints at ‘Russia.’
“Erdogan’s aggression towards mega-power Russia is, on its face, illogical,” Rabbi Winston said. “Everything is from Hashem (God, literally, ‘the name’) but when world leaders begin to act illogically, that is Hashem playing an even larger direct role in events.”
Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with the second largest standing military in the organization, after the U.S. Turkish persecution of the Kurds, whose militias they consider to be terrorists, has set them at odds with the U.S., who have relied heavily on Kurdish assistance in the fight against Islamist terrorism in the region.
Russia has been offering some of its most sophisticated weapons like the S-400 anti-air system in an attempt to lure Turkey away from NATO but has so far not succeeded. In a complete turnaround from the Cold War alliance, in 2019 Turkey signed a contract to buy Russia’s advanced S-400 anti-air missile system that had been designed specifically to counter U.S. air assets. The U.S. responded by canceling a deal in which Turkey was to receive 100 F-35 combat aircraft.
The Turkish incursion into Syria has created an even greater humanitarian crisis in the war-torn nation. The UN announced that over 800,000 people were driven from their homes.
Turkey’s expansionism could bring it into conflict with Israel in much the same way that the Iranian military presence in Syria has done.
The U.S. State Department has come out on the side of Turkey.
“We stand by our NATO Ally Turkey . . . and fully support Turkey’s justified self-defense actions,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on February 2.