October 23, 2010



The Week in Review

October 22, 2010 | From theTrumpet.com

Talking to the Taliban; Merkel on multiculturalism; sanctions, so-called; the French fray; buying out Britain; and China’s comprehensive calculations.
 

Middle East 

The leaders of Iran and Venezuela made yet another show of solidarity and defiance against the West during a two-day visit to Iran this week by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told his Venezuelan counterpart that they would defeat their common foes, saying Iran and Venezuela were part of a revolutionary front from Latin America “stretching all the way to East Asia.” “The enemies of our nations will go one day,” he said. While such statements could easily be dismissed as mere rhetoric, the two countries’ status as major oil-exporting countries and opec members—together with the revelation last month that they are working closely together on nuclear research and that Venezuela is supplying Iran with uranium—gives their threats more weight. Chávez said the two leaders also signed several new agreements aimed at boosting industrial cooperation. 

Afghanistan’s new High Peace Council on Thursday offered to make concessions to bring Taliban fighters to the negotiating table. The 70-member council, proposed by President Hamid Karzai, was formed last month to seek a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban. Qiyamuddin Kashaf, the spokesman for the council, appealed to Muslim nations for help in brokering a peace deal and said inducements to get Taliban fighters to work with the government could include jobs, homes and cash. He said the peace council was focused on seeking an “honorable” way for militants to return to mainstream society. “This honorable return involves position, house, salary and self-respect. They want concessions and we will give them,” he told a news conference. A top nato representative confirmed Thursday that the Afghan government had opened channels with some “significant Taliban leaders.” The Taliban issued a statement the same day denying the talks. The Taliban, operating from a position of strength, certainly won’t agree to peace talks without some pretty heavy concessions. The Karzai government’s approach, however, amounts to an effort to buy peace and is destined to fail. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. is looking to include Iran in formulating a solution for Afghanistan. On Monday, an Iranian representative joined officials from the U.S. and other countries at a security conference on Afghanistan held in Rome. U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke acknowledged that Iran, given its shared border with Afghanistan, has a role in the “peaceful settlement of this situation in Afghanistan.” This is the second time Iran has participated in an international conference discussing Afghanistan with the U.S. As theTrumpet.com has pointed out before, Iran has a strong presence in Afghanistan—aiding both sides in the conflict in order to enhance its own regional position. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, for example, maintains links with Afghan minorities opposed to the Taliban and also provides support to those fighting U.S. and nato troops. This does indeed give Iran considerable sway in efforts to determine the future of Afghanistan. But, says Stratfor, “By publicly recognizing Iran’s role in the conflict, the United States could be reaching out again in back-channel negotiations for an understanding with Tehran on the more critical bilateral issue: Iraq” (October 18). Continue to watch as Iran—the head of the prophesied “king of the south”—continues to consolidate its position in the region. 

Europe 

France’s protests continued and turned violent this week. Britain has warned its citizens to stay away from the protests for safety reasons. One in four gas stations in France is out of fuel as protestors shut down oil refineries and airports. Youths led the way in rioting, with overturned cars and attacks on police reported in several cities. The protests were triggered by a bill currently under debate in the French Senate that would raise the French pension age from 60 to 62. Europe’s financial crisis continues to put society under pressure.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that multiculturalism has “totally failed” at a meeting of young Christian Democratic Union members on October 16. She said immigrants were holding back the German economy. At the same meeting, the Bavarian prime minister and Christian Social Union chairman, Horst Seehofer, said the two parties were “committed to a dominant German culture and opposed to a multicultural one.” These are major statements coming from a nation that has apparently renounced nationalism for the past 65 years. “Simply put, Germany is returning to history,” writes U.S. think tank Stratfor. “It has spent the past 65 years desperately trying not to confront the question of national identity, the rights of minorities in Germany and the exercise of German self-interest” (October 19). “All of Europe, indeed, much of the world, is coping with the struggle between cultures within their borders,” it writes. “But the Germans are different, historically and geographically. When they begin thinking these thoughts, the stakes go up.” 

Germany and France agreed on budgetary reforms for the European Union at a meeting in the French town of Deauville on October 18. The reforms aim to prevent another economic crisis by creating a system of punishments for nations that break the EU’s budgetary rules. The two nations will push for these reforms to be agreed by the whole EU at a summit on October 28-29 in Brussels. The reforms, if approved, would mean that the southern European governments would have access to less capital, making it harder for them to catch up to Germany economically. The reforms will help cement Germany’s position as the leading economy in Europe. They would require the Lisbon Treaty to be revised, which would cause a major headache for Britain’s Conservative Party, which has promised a referendum on all future EU treaties. Watch for Germany to consolidate its position at the head of Europe, and for Britain to shift to the outside. 

Saudi Arabia has issued an intelligence alert about a plot by al Qaeda in Europe. On October 17, French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux stated, “I can tell you—and it’s not information that’s been made public yet—that even a few hours, a few days ago, there was a new message, from the Saudi services, indicating to us that al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula was certainly active, or expecting to be active, in Europe, especially France.” This alert comes just weeks after the U.S. issued similar warnings for Europe. 

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced on October 19 that Britain would withdraw all of the 20,000 troops it has stationed in Germany by 2020. “The presence of the British military has played an important role in demonstrating alliance solidarity, and has also been a symbol of steadfast UK-German friendship,” read Britain’s new strategic defense and security review. “But there is no longer any operational requirement for UK forces to be based there, and the current arrangements impose financial costs on the UK, disruption on personnel and their families and opportunity costs in terms of wider army coherence.”

Asia 

Washington has concluded that Chinese businesses are bypassing United Nations sanctions against Iran, and aiding the Islamic Republic in its quest for nuclear weapons and more advanced missile technology. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior U.S. official told the Washington Post on October 18 that U.S. intelligence believes several Chinese companies are providing restricted materials and technology to Tehran’s military programs. According to the official, several Chinese banks have been involved in such activities with Iran, before and after the latest round of UN sanctions. “China now is the only country with a major oil and gas industry that’s prepared to deal with Iran,” the U.S. official said. “Everyone else has pulled out. They stand alone.” With Iran poised to take the influential post of presidency of the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (opec) in 2011, oil-thirsty China has more reason than ever to seek good terms with Tehran, even if it’s at the expense of Beijing’s relationship with Washington. As China’s drive for resources surges on, Beijing will be less and less concerned about abiding by the agendas of Western nations. 

China has cut off some shipments of rare earth minerals to the United States and Europe, according to anonymous industry sources cited on October 19 by the New York Times. As the Trumpet has warned, China’s control of over 95 percent of the world’s rare earth production vests it with great power. Earlier this month, China used rare earth minerals to force Japan into a humiliating surrender in a territorial dispute. Now the U.S. and Europe may be the new target. As in the situation with Japan, China is denying the accusation, saying the country is simply implementing tougher environmental standards on the rare earth mining industry. One nation especially concerned about the situation is Germany, whose high-tech export-driven economy relies heavily on importing rare earths from the short list of nations that produce them. Berlin will be hosting a special conference on the rare earth situation next week, with high-profile speakers from around the world. Continue to watch for these kinds of incidents as global competition for resources intensifies. 

The Japanese Defense Ministry announced plans on Thursday to add six more submarines to its 2011-2015 defense procurement plan, which would bring its fleet up to 22 from the current 16. The new submarines would boost Japan’s fleet to its largest size since 1976, when Tokyo first began its defense program. The news comes amid rising tensions between Japan and China in the East China Sea, and reflects Tokyo’s increasing concern about Beijing’s mushrooming assertiveness in the region. Bible prophecy reveals, however, that the militaries of China and Japan, along with other Asian nations, will soon put aside their differences and unite. To understand more, read the fourth chapter of our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy, called “Japan’s Place in the Future.” 

Anglo-America 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the La Niña weather pattern is likely to cause varied conditions in different parts of the country this winter. While the Pacific Northwest will benefit from lower temperatures and increased precipitation, the Southwest and Southeast will probably be warmer and drier than usual, aggravating existing drought conditions. The Northern Plains and the Ohio and Tennessee valleys could see high levels of storminess and flooding. 

A Canadian military commander was sentenced to two life sentences on Thursday after he was convicted of being a sexual predator and murderer. Col. David Russell Williams, 47, was in command of the Canadian military’s busiest air force base, and began committing the crimes, which included 80 break-ins, several years ago. The horrific secret perversions of a respected, married leader reflect a greater moral sickness in our society. 

On Wednesday, a news analyst, Juan Williams, was fired from taxpayer-funded National Public Radio. In a debate with conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly, Williams was saying that people should not be stereotyped. In the process, he admitted that when he boards a plane and sees people wearing clothing that identifies them first and foremost as Muslim, he worries. Williams went on to caution O’Reilly against using inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims in general. In a surprising move, npr called Williams two days later and fired him after an Islamic advocacy group called for action against him. The firing caused heated debate in the country over whether politically correct orthodoxy had gone too far. 

American security agencies are fearful that a U.S. company’s plans to use Chinese cell phone tower components could allow Beijing to eavesdrop on communications. The arrangement by Amerilink Telecom Corporation is with Sprint and Chinese manufacturer Huawei. “If Huawei builds the components for our cell towers in the U.S. 4G network, then every cell tower is a potential listening post for Beijing,” said Edward Timperlake, the Pentagon’s former director of technology assessment. The episode highlights America’s increasing vulnerability due to its heavy reliance on technology.