A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, February 15, 2016

As Turkey, Russia, and the Saudis Teeter at the Brink, an Uncomfortable Coincidence (?)

Today was the President's Day holiday in the US and I normally wouldn't be posting, but want to note something about the rapidly escalating tensions between Turkey and Russia as Turkey (and Saudi Arabia, which has moved troops and aircraft to the Incirlik Air Base near Adana) both threaten to cross the border if the YPG Kurds take the town of A‘zaz along the border, and Turkey has been shelling the Minaq (Menakh) airfield south of A‘zaz for the third straight day, that airfield having been taken by YPG fighters a few days ago. After a day when two hospitals were bombed in A‘zaz (and two more in Idlib), it's easy to come up with nightmare scenarios involving a direct clash between Turkey and Russia. The YPG already controls Tal Rif‘at and the Menakh airfield between that town and A‘zaz.
If you weren't already worried about worst-case scenarios, take a look at the map at left. Imagine a triangle with one side formed by the line from A‘zaz to Tal Rif‘at. And about 20 kilometers to the east, you will find a town called Dabiq.

Sound familiar? You may recognize it from the name of ISIS' English-language magazine, Dabiq. I also did a post back in 2014 on the subject, noting that while the field of Dabiq (Marj Dabiq) near the town was the site of two key battles in 717 and 1516, it also plays a role in Islamic apocalyptic eschatology, as the site of a final apocalyptic battle between the "Romans" and the Muslims, according to a tradition attributed to the Prophet. In a version from the Sahih Muslim: "Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The Last Hour would not come until the Romans would land at al-A'maq or in Dabiq" and going on to describe the last battle. Al-A'maq is identified with a valley near Antioch (Antakya) in the Turkish Hatay near the Syrian border.

Both sites were along the dividing line between Byzantium and Islam during the rise of Islam, just as both sites lie along the Syrian-Turkish border today. So it's all just a historical coincidence and not a sign of the imminent apocalypse, surely.

Isn't it?

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