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Will Coronavirus Reshape the Middle East?

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Oil prices are plummeting, and for Middle Eastern nations that rely on oil revenues to support their economies, this is very bad news. Iraq’s 2020 budget assumes that oil’s average price for the year will be $56 (U.S. dollars) per barrel (The Spectator, April 4, 2020), yet oil has dropped to less than $20 per barrel (as of this writing) and continues to show weakness. The grounding of national Arab airlines due to a drastic reduction in travel and cancellation of annual pilgrimages and other celebrations will further decrease national revenues.

Some nations in the region, like Iran, were slow to react to the pandemic, and several major leaders have now died from the virus. Officially, Iran has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world—yet unofficial reports suggest the death rates are far higher than reported. Woes and concerns of collapse extend far beyond Iraq and Iran. The Spectator paints a bleak picture of the region: “Yemen is at high risk of collapse. Lebanon has defaulted on its external debt and is functionally bankrupt. Syria is destroyed. Libya has fallen apart. The demographic displacement produced by conflict in these countries provides an ideal environment for viruses to spread; as does Gaza, one of the most densely-populated places on the planet.” Saudi Arabia and some of the UAE nations may pull through the pandemic in the best shape.

The people of these nations are suffering, even as their leaders are working to manage this crisis. Once the pandemic passes, the balance of power may shift across the Middle East. Iran, for instance, is increasingly looking toward China for assistance. What many fail to remember today is that God guides the course of history (Job 12:23; Daniel 4:25). The Bible predicts that a “king of the South” will arise in the Middle East at the end of the age (Daniel 11:5). Could a strong leader—capable of leading the whole region—rise from the ashes left by this pandemic? Current events in the Middle East could be setting the stage for his arrival. For more details on this sobering topic, read or listen to The Middle East in Prophecy.