November 26, 2011

The Week in Review

November 25, 2011 | From
Arab League threatens Syria, Russia threatens U.S. missile defense, hunger threatens Zimbabwe million, and bacteria threatens Europe.

Middle East

Deadly clashes in Egypt: Some 41 people have died and more than 2,000 wounded in violent protests in Egypt since Saturday, according to the country’s Health Ministry. The protesters believe the ruling military council—the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces—isn’t doing enough to hand power back to the people. On Friday of last week, the Muslim Brotherhood kicked off the wave of protests when tens of thousands of Islamists marched through Tahrir Square. A few remained overnight in tents, and when police tried to remove them the next day other protesters supported them, leading to fights between police and protesters that spread to other cities. The clashes continued despite the ruling military council promising to speed up the transfer of power to civilian rule. On Tuesday, a deal was struck between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military that would allow the transition to civilian rule to occur on a timetable favoring the Islamist group. This is precisely why the military had sought to hold on to power—to prevent an Islamist takeover. It was agreed that presidential elections will be held by July, six months earlier than originally planned by the army, and a new government formed. A truce between security forces and protesters brought some calm to the streets on Thursday, but a “million-man march” is planned for Friday, which is likely to see a resumption of violence. The clashes have jeopardized parliamentary elections due to begin Monday, but if the elections do go ahead, “the new crisis will benefit the Islamists, possibly widening their projected margin of victory,” Real Clear World reports. Whatever the immediate outcome, expect the Muslim Brotherhood to come out on top.

Muslim Brotherhood on the rise in Egypt and Libya: On Sunday, the Jerusalem Post reported on a survey showing that Islamist parties are the most popular in Egypt. According to the unofficial poll, conducted on the social-networking website Facebook, in parliamentary elections 38 percent of Egyptians will vote for the Freedom and Justice Party, which is the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party and the largest and best organized of all political forces in Egypt. An additional 12 percent said they will vote for the Al-Nour party, a Salafi Islamist party. The poll indicated that secular and liberal parties are the least popular in Egypt. The most popular secular party was projected to receive only 2 percent of votes. In Libya, after being outlawed for decades, the Muslim Brotherhood conducted its first public meeting on Libyan soil on November 17 and called for a sweeping national reconstruction effort. Reuters reported on the landmark conference, saying, “As Libya emerges from a bloody civil war, many observers believe the next elections could pit religious political groups against secular parties, with better-organized Islamists such as the Brotherhood having a tactical advantage.” Islamists are the most popular and best-organized political force in both Egypt and Libya, and their power in both nations is poised to rapidly increase.

Iran makes strides toward diplomatic relations with Egypt and Libya: Senior Iranian officials have made it known that Tehran is ready to resume full diplomatic ties with Cairo as soon as Egypt is ready. “Resuming relations would allow the Iranian government to grant aid in tourism and all other fields,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said during a meeting with an Egyptian Sufi delegation on a mission to bridge gaps between Islamic sects in Iran. “The Mubarak regime prevented Iran from establishing relations with Egypt, creating a gap between the two peoples and tarnishing the image of Iranians and Shiites.” Iranian officials have been just as bold in regards to Libya. Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi sent a message to the head of the Libyan transitional government on Sunday renewing a previous offer to assist the North African nation with reconstruction projects. Earlier this month, Vice Chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council Abdel Hafiz Ghoga expressed his appreciation to Iran for the supports it has already given to Libya. He announced that a delegation of Libyan officials will visit Tehran in the near future to discuss expansion of ties and cooperation between the two Islamic states. It is clear the Iranian regime is intent on fully exploiting the “Arab Spring” toward its own ends.

Radical Islamists plot to turn Ethiopia into Islamist state: A group of Wahhabi Muslims is plotting to turn Ethiopia into an Islamic country governed by sharia law, according to plans recently discovered by the Ethiopian government. “We have found evidences and pamphlets [which] were publicly distributed during the month of Ramadan calling on the Muslim community to stand up against all non-Wahhabi Muslims and followers of other religions,” said Mersessa Reda, the director general at the Ministry of Federal Affairs of Ethiopia. In a recent press conference, the Ethiopian government expressed concern over the increasing incidence of violence against moderate Muslims and Christians by radical Wahhabi Muslims. Now that both Egypt and Libya are moving into the Islamist camp, expect Iranian-backed radicals to make a move for control of Ethiopia.

Arab League threatening sanctions on Syria: As violence escalates in Syria, the Arab League has turned against the ruling Assad regime and said it is prepared to adopt sanctions against the country. Syria was suspended from the Arab League earlier this month. Saudi Arabia and Qatar—which fear Iran’s growing power in the region and its alliance with Syria—are leading the Arab League efforts against Syria. “Saudi’s problem is Iran. Going after Syria today ensures you remove Iran from the picture. There is an attempt to create a new Sunni bloc in the region,” said analyst Safwat Zayaat. We can expect Saudi Arabia’s efforts to split Syria’s alliance with Iran to be successful, as Bible prophecy indicates that Syria will join an Arab coalition in the end time.

Yemen’s president promises to quit: Violence in Yemen continued on Thursday after President Ali Abdullah Saleh pledged to step down a day earlier. Tens of thousands took to the streets to protest the promise of immunity from prosecution that Saleh obtained and questioning whether the president would really step down, after saying on previous occasions that he would and not following through. Under the agreement, Saleh has apparently agreed to transfer power to Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi within 90 days, within which time an election will also be held. Amir Taheri, writing for the New York Post, says that further political chaos in the country “would only suit al Qaeda and the pro-Iran Houthi group, which both wish to divide Yemen into two halves. The northern half would become part of Iran’s hoped-for ‘Islamic’ empire, while the south would make up for the bases that al Qaeda lost in Afghanistan and Iraq. Plunged into chaos, Yemen could become a second Somalia, just across the water in the Horn of Africa” (November 24).

Italy may court Israel: There are signs that committed papist Mario Monti, Italy’s interim prime minister by appointment of the nation’s president, is keen to step up Rome’s diplomacy in Israel. The technocracy that has taken over the governing of Italy in the hope that it can last till official elections in 2013 has made an interesting choice for the head of its Foreign Ministry. Frankfurter Rundschau reported last week that “The career diplomat Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, who will be foreign minister for the new Italian government under Premier Mario Monti, was ambassador of his country in Israel between 2002 and 2004. In this function he was contributing significantly to better the relationship between the EU and Israel” (November 17; translation ours). Terzi di Sant’Agata was also directly involved in opening doors for right-wing Italian politician Gianfranco Fini and an entourage of right-wing Italian bedfellows for a high-profile visit to Israel in 2003. Fini, with the aid of Ambassador Terzi di Sant’Agata, is well capable of massaging relations with any future leaders of Germany and Israel to gain papal access direct to Jerusalem in the future.


Leaked: Germany’s latest plan to dominate Europe: Germany wants highly indebted eurozone countries to be subject to automatic sanctions and a European Monetary Fund to manage the bailouts, according to a German Foreign Office memo leaked to the Telegraph. Germany is plotting to make these changes in such a way that they don’t trigger a referendum in the UK. Under the proposal, nations that violate the Stability and Growth Pact could be taken before the European Court of Justice. If a nation receives a bailout, the European Union should have the power to veto its budget before it is presented to the national parliament, the document says. If that nation cannot stick to the terms of the bailout, “it can have concrete budgetary measures imposed upon it.” The memo also says that Germany wants the changes to EU treaties to affect mainly the eurozone in order to try to prevent the changes triggering a referendum in the UK.

German government receives Irish budget: Another leak appears to demonstrate the power over national budgets that Germany has already. Reuters reported November 17 that the Bundestag budget committee received details of Ireland’s budget before the Irish Parliament did. The possibility that Germany gets to see the Irish budget before the elected representatives of the Irish people raises important questions about who really runs Ireland. “The old EU is finished,” writes Der Spiegel. “Old Europe, that construct of unity housed in imposing buildings in Brussels, that visionary collection of ideas about peace, freedom and prosperity, the Europe of big words and impenetrable treaties, the Babylonian monster that spits out tons of paper in 23 languages every day, meddles in everything and tries to spoon-feed its citizens. That Europe no longer exists. There are many other big thinkers in the most influential nations of the European Union, people who are hard at work developing plans for a European house, one that will be better, more democratic, more unified and more impervious to crises than today’s Europe.” It is right in many ways. The big thinkers of Germany and the Catholic Church are hard at work developing plans for a new Europe. It will be bigger and grander, in its way, than the EU. But look at its beginning. It will not be democratic.

France has de facto lost its AAA rating: France’s cost of borrowing has risen to the point that it has effectively lost its triple-A rating, even if the ratings agencies haven’t downgraded it yet. “France isn’t trading like a aaa,” said strategist for Newedge Group in London, Bill Blain. “The market has made its judgment already.” Glendevon King Asset Management’s Nicola Marinelli agreed. “France is not a aaa at all,” he said. “French banks are very exposed to eurozone periphery. If they were to market these loans at current levels, there would be huge losses.” On Tuesday, the interest rate on a 10-year government bond was 3.5 percent—around halfway between fellow aaa country the Netherlands and Aa1-graded Belgium. French borrowing costs are about 1 percentage point higher than in the UK and over 1½ percentage points higher than in Germany. Rates may climb above 5 percent, said analysts at Credit Suisse Group AG. Ratings agency Moody’s warned that the rising interest rates and slow growth threatened France’s credit outlook and that the nation faces “significant downside risks.” France’s economic woes show it is not in the same economic league as Germany. If France loses its aaa rating, the crisis will get much worse.

Belgium moving toward danger zone: Belgium’s cost of borrowing rose to its highest level for nearly 10 years after the latest coalition talks failed. Belgium continues to set new records for the longest a country has gone without being able to form a government, and it is making the markets nervous. Its debt level is about the same as its gdp—the third highest in the eurozone. Without a government, it can’t do much to solve its problems. The euro crisis continues to affect more and more nations.

Hungary asks for IMF loan: Hungary asked the EU and the International Monetary Fund for a “precautionary” rescue, the two organizations reported November 21. Hungary already entered into a €20 billion imf bailout program in 2008.

European Commission plans for great integration: The European Commission presented its proposed solution to the eurozone crisis on November 23: more integration and a common European government bond. Eurozone members would have to submit their budgets to the EU for approval. The Commission would have the power to cut off funding to nations that break the rules. It would even be able to send inspectors to nations “experiencing severe difficulties”—even if the nation hasn’t asked for them. “National parliaments should know that when they take a decision they are also responsible for the consequences of these decisions on others …. In a monetary union we need to acknowledge this level of interdependence,” said Commission President José Manuel Barroso. Germany, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker all criticized the plan. European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn looks forward to having the power the new plans would give him. “Rest assured, I will make full use of all these new instruments from day one of their entry into force,” he said.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria spreading through Europe: The world could soon be faced with the “unthinkable scenario of untreatable infections,” warned the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ecdc) on November 17. Around 25,000 people in the EU die each year because of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. In some countries, half of all blood poisoning caused by K. pneumonia was resistant to their most powerful antibiotics. Across all of Europe, 15 percent of K. pneumonia is resistant to carbapenem. “The situation is critical. We need to declare a war against these bacteria,” the ecdc’s director said. E coli is also growing resistant in some places. In Italy and Spain, between a half and a quarter of all E coli infections are resistant to fluoroquinolones—a key antibiotic in treating the disease. Bacteria that carry an enzyme for destroying carbapenems are also spreading. The problems caused by overuse of antibiotics could potentially reach devastating proportions.


Medvedev says Russia might target U.S. missile defense sites: Russia will station new missiles aimed at American missile defense facilities in Europe if the U.S. ignores Russian protests and proceeds with its planned shield, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday. Even though Washington insists that the purpose of these defense systems is to ward off potential attacks from Iran, Russia views them as a threat to the Kremlin’s nuclear forces. In a bold statement apparently designed to rally nationalistic votes in upcoming elections, Medvedev said Russia will deploy missiles in its westernmost region and other locations if Moscow and nato fail to reach an agreement concerning the U.S.-led missile defense plans. “The United States and its nato partners as of now aren’t going to take our concerns about the European missile defense into account,” Medvedev said, adding that if the Western powers continue to “stonewall,” Russia will retaliate. As the U.S. continues to succumb to financial and moral ailments, Russia and other Eastern giants will become increasingly bold in their defiance toward Washington.

Russia hopes India will “soon” become SCO member: Moscow hopes India will soon gain full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (sco), Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on November 17, after meeting with his Indian counterpart. The sco is an Asian security bloc led by Russia and China, which also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. “Russia supports the resolution of the issue of India’s transfer from observer status to full membership in the sco as soon as possible. We have expounded on this position repeatedly and expect to achieve progress in the issue soon,” Lavrov said. Since its inception in 2001, the sco has fostered significant unity among its member nations, but the years ahead will prove even more significant for the Asian bloc if it adds India and its 1.17 billion people to its roster.

Next man on the moon may be Chinese: Since its genesis in 1992, China’s manned space program has grown with breathtaking speed. On Tuesday, analyst Kate Lanau said, “If all goes according to plan, the next astronaut on the moon will be Chinese.” In 2003, China launched its first astronaut into space, becoming one of only three nations capable of human space flight capabilities. In 2007, China came under international criticism after shooting down one of its orbiting satellites as a demonstration of its powerful anti-satellite technology. In 2010, Beijing launched more satellites than the U.S. for the first time. Then, in September of this year, China crossed another milestone by launching the Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace,” space module into the night sky. International space politics expert Michael Sheehan explained the launch, saying the Chinese are “trying to place themselves in the category of superpower. The Tiangong-1 launch is a step in that direction.” On November 3, an unmanned spacecraft successfully docked with Tiangong-1, making China the third nation after the U.S. and Russia to demonstrate independently developed space-docking capabilities. China claims that its space program is peaceful, but because the program is operated by the nation’s military, many analysts are skeptical. Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, said, “If there’s a [Chinese] satellite in orbit, it’s hard to tell whether it’s taking imagery for crop rotation or targeting.” China’s space program is rapidly rising as nasa trudges through a long period of inactivity and transition. The contrast will hasten the decision of smaller Asian nations to abandon the sinking U.S. ship and begin to look to Beijing.

Africa/Latin America

One million need food assistance in Zimbabwe: One million Zimbabweans, a full 12 percent of the nation’s rural population, will not be able to meet their minimum cereal needs during the 2011/12 season, according to a report by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (zimvac), a government-led consortium of UN agencies, official bodies and non-governmental organizations that conducts annual food security assessments. The report notes that the drought-prone southern and western regions of the country have been hit the hardest, particularly the Masvingo and Matabeleland North and South provinces, where subsistence farming is the sole source of income for most rural households. The World Food Program says about $42 million is needed to get people through the lean season until the March harvest begins.

European and Latin American leaders agree to strengthen ties: European and Latin American leaders met in Brussels this week and agreed that the two continents should continue to strengthen links in spite of ongoing financial trouble. “I think that this moment is crucial for Europe and Latin America and more cooperation is needed between Europe and Latin America; we must work jointly for economic growth in both continents,” said Antonio Tajani, vice president of the European Commission. Tajani reminded Latin American officials of just how important EU investments are to their countries and then dogmatically stated that Europe would emerge from this crisis stronger than ever. “Currently in the midst of the crisis some countries look upon us with certain arrogance, thinking the European Union is over. I disagree profoundly. Europe will emerge differently but stronger, with greater cohesion, and even more competitive,” he said. Tajani is right in this regard. Europe will emerge stronger from this crisis, and Latin America will stand at its side in the new world order. Herbert Armstrong long prophesied that the alliance between Europe and South America would grow strong. The most significant factors that will cement this connection are religion and language.


Budget cuts leave British frigate almost armless: The British Frigate hms Westminster had only four missiles when it was sent to patrol the area close to Benghazi in March, according to Royal Navy officers. The ship, they say, was “dangerously under-defended.” It had just two rounds of Seawolf missiles—missile interceptors that are fired in sets of two. Britain’s budget cuts continue to leave the nation at risk.

Super committee fails to agree on deficit reduction plan: Officials from the congressional super committee charged with finding ways to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next decade announced on Monday that they would not be able to make any proposals before their Thanksgiving deadline. Democratic officials were unwilling to cut entitlements in the run-up to 2012 federal elections and Republican officials were unwilling to raise taxes. As a result, the Dow Jones industrial average lost almost 250 points as investors despaired over debt problems both at home and abroad. This failure may expose the U.S. sovereign rating to more downgrades, with ratings agencies saying they will wait till the end of the year to make their review. “It is just a matter of time before the government’s rating is cut,” Steve Ricchiuto, Mizuho Securities’ chief economist, said in a report. The American people lack the political will to make the budget cuts necessary to get their economy back on track. Expect the United States to soon enter a time of unprecedented economic turmoil.

Rate of STD infection up: Cases of sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in the U.S., according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday of last week. More than 1.3 million cases of chlamydia were reported last year—the largest number ever reported. The number of new gonorrhea cases also increased to a total of 300,000.

America’s declining spycraft leads to public humiliation: Terrorist group Hezbollah has captured several American spies and disrupted the cia’s operations in Lebanon, writes the Associated Press, citing current and former American officials. In June, Hezbollah’s leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah claimed they’d uncovered two American informants who had infiltrated the terrorist group. The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon denied this, but the officials who spoke to AP this week said that this did happen. The officials said the cia’s counterintelligence abilities has been eroded as the agency shifted from outmaneuvering rival espionage agencies to rooting out terrorists. “We were lazy and the cia is now flying blind against Hezbollah,” abc’s Good Morning America quoted an anonymous source as saying. “We’ve lost the tradition of espionage,” it quoted a former official still consulted by the U.S. intelligence community as saying. “Officers take short cuts and no one is held accountable.” The decline of the cia is just another part of America’s decline in the Middle East and around the world.

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