December 17, 2011

The Week in Review

December 16, 2011 | From
An uneasy conclusion to the War in Iraq; Iran takes a drone, threatens the world’s oil supply; Germany dominates Europe, but not without a few headaches of its own; and Putin blows off the opposition.

- Video

Middle East
NATO ends mission in Iraq: A press release issued by nato on Monday read: “The North Atlantic Council has decided to undertake the permanent withdrawal of the nato Training Mission–Iraq personnel from Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011, when the current mandate of the mission expires.” For seven years, by Iraq’s own invitation, nato has supported Iraq’s efforts to train cohesive military and police forces. Now, despite nato’s willingness to continue the mission, the Iraqi government has unceremoniously denied nato that opportunity. As the press release states, “Agreement on the extension of this successful program did not prove possible despite robust negotiations conducted over several weeks.” Thisnato withdrawal is but one more step toward emboldening the increasingly aggressive push from the biblical king of the south, Iraq’s neighbor Iran, against the rising king of the north in Europe.
Iraqis rally in support of U.S. withdrawal: Thousands of residents of Fallujah, the Iraqi city that was once a hotbed of insurgency, took to the streets on Wednesday in support of the U.S. withdrawal from their country. All U.S. troops are to be out of Iraq by December 31. Those who demonstrated in Fallujah made their stance clear that they want U.S. troops out of Iraq sooner rather than later. As America’s presence there shrinks, Iraq’s neighbor to the east is more than willing to fill the void. Based on scriptural prophecies, the Trumpet has forecast a dramatic increase in Iran’s influence over Iraq for nearly two decades.
Islamists look to win in second round of Egyptian elections: The second round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, held on Wednesday, is expected to give the Islamists the upper hand in Egypt’s new parliament. Official results are expected Saturday or Sunday. Though the military will officially remain in charge until presidential elections are held mid-2012, it will find it difficult to resist the popular mandate that the new parliament will have.
Hamas builds rockets in Sinai: The terrorist group Hamas has built rocket production facilities in the Sinai Peninsula because it believes Israel will not attack it in Egypt, Israel’s Jerusalem Post reported December 11. Israel thwarted an attack by Hamas from the Sinai on December 8 by bombing several senior terrorists in Gaza. Because Israel won’t attack Hamas targets in Egypt, it is trying to stop attacks while they are being planned in Gaza. The Post also reports that Hamas has smuggled advanced weapons stolen from the Libyan military into Gaza, including Russian-built shoulder-to-air missiles. Hamas’s position in Egypt will only improve as the Muslim Brotherhood—its parent terrorist organization—rises. Hamas is cementing its connections with the Brotherhood. A senior Hamas source said the group has added “a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood–Palestine” to its official name, according to the Londonbased al-Hayat newspaper. Even without being openly hostile to Israel, Egypt is already damaging Israel’s security by allowing Hamas to operate with impunity.

Rally shows Hamas’s strength: Tens of thousands of Gazans turned out in Gaza City on Wednesday for an anniversary rally of the ruling Hamas. It was a show of strength for the Islamic movement ahead of Palestinian general elections, tentatively set for the spring. Speaking at the rally, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh spoke about the Palestinian desire for all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, including what is now Israel. Clearly, with such thinking on the Palestinian side, a peace agreement with Israel is impossible.
The push of the ayatollahs: Iran has ratcheted up its defiance toward Western powers in recent weeks as it seeks to cement its role as the head of the increasingly Islamist Middle East. On December 5, Iran announced it had shot down an unpiloted United States spy drone that was in Iran’s airspace, and said the drone sustained only slight damage. American officials say the craft crashed on its own due to a malfunction, but no one disputes the fact that the U.S.’s sophisticated surveillance technology is in Iran’s possession. On Sunday, Iran said it will not return the drone to the U.S., and called America’s drone mission an “act of war.” On Monday, Iran said it was “reverse-engineering” the American technology and announced plans to file a lawsuit against Washington, in U.S. courts, over the U.S.’s “invasion” of Iran’s airspace. Also on Monday, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security Committee said that Iran’s military will “soon” practice its ability to shut down the Strait of Hormuz. “Soon we will hold a military maneuver on how to close the Strait of Hormuz,” said Parviz Sarvari to Iran’s isna news agency. “If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure.” In a Sunday statement channeling Iran’s defiance directly toward Europe, an Iranian official said the EU “definitely” will not impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports because such a move would harm the global crude market. But Iran underestimates Europe. Soon, Bible prophecy foretells, Europe will put a violent stop to Iran’s jeering and defiance.
Political instability in Kuwait: Tensions have escalated in Kuwait as allegations of corruption and greater calls for reform have gripped the oil-rich Gulf state in the wake of the uprisings throughout the region in other Arab countries. Recent strikes by airline and oil industry employees threaten to disrupt oil transportation and further pressure the ruling emir. Last month, protesters stormed the parliament building infuriated by allegations of financial corruption by the government. Last week, “Kuwait’s ruler dissolved parliament … and set the Gulf nation toward elections, citing ‘deteriorating conditions’ amid an increasingly bitter political showdown over alleged high-level corruption. The decision by the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, comes less than a week after he named a new prime minister and parliamentary sessions were put on hold” (Associated Press,December 6). On Tuesday this week, the new prime minister, Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah, formed a new cabinet. As a result of the ongoing political turmoil, it is the eighth cabinet since February 2006. The country must conduct elections within two months. The United States will be watching the result closely. Kuwait had been planned as a stationing area for U.S. troops as they withdraw from Iraq. Pressured by the prospect of Iran filling the vacuum in neighboring Iraq, watch for Kuwait to become increasingly dependent on Saudi Arabia, a key nation of the biblically prophesied Psalm 83 alliance, for its security.
Berlin—political turmoil: Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing increasing divisions in her coalition government at a time when she can ill afford them. On December 12, a senior member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, Justice and Consumer Affairs Minister Michael Braun, was forced to resign from office in the wake of publicity surrounding allegations of his involvement in bad property deals. December 14, the general secretary of Chancellor Merkel’s coalition partner, the Free Democrat Party, stepped down. Christian Lindner, an ally of the economy minister, Merkel’s Vice Chancellor Philipp Rösler, resigned over Free Democratic Party (fdp) ructions concerning the EU’s permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism. Divisions within the fdp run deep and forced the resignation of former party head, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, from the fdp general secretary’s position some months ago. His replacement, Rösler, will be seeking someone who can watch his back to replace Lindner. To top it all off, German President Christian Wulff returned from a tour of the Middle East on December 13 facing increasing pressure to explain a questionable loan he received before becoming president. Each of these situations is being hyped by Germany’s liberal press. Chancellor Merkel could become distracted at a time when she and her government need both political focus and party unity to ensure that the goal of swiftly attending to the euro crisis is not compromised. Already the markets are reacting negatively to perceived divisions within Germany and other nations in the wake of last Friday’s fiscal compact deal. Merkel’s grasp on coalition unity is clearly slipping at a most dangerous time in both German and EU politics.
Documents reveal secret plot to form post-WWII Nazi army: The Vatican, ex-Nazis and Spanish leaders secretly plotted in the 1950s to build a post-World War ii military force to counter Russia’s feared encroachment into West Germany, according to recently disclosed documents that went up for auction last week. The explosive documents are the first ever to emerge detailing postwar plans by the Catholic Church, ex-Nazis and members of Franco’s Spain to form a secret army of ex-Nazis and Spanish soldiers that would be stationed in Spain and North Africa. The documents, uncovered by Alexander Historical Auctions, reveal that fears of Russian expansion into West Germany and all of Europe were so intense after the war that the plans to form the rogue army were nearly brought to life. The biggest bombshell is a 1952 letter to the Vatican official who would later become Pope Paul vi written by a priest and co-conspirator of former Nazi Lt. Col. Otto Skorzeny, a crony of Adolf Hitler. The letter is stamped with a church seal, and full of praise for its recipient, then deputy of foreign affairs for the Vatican, for the financial support he channeled to Nazi refugees living in Spain. Even before the Nazis were defeated at the end of World War ii, world educator Herbert W. Armstrong predicted that they would go underground. The Vatican-Nazi plot to form a secret army detailed in these newly revealed documents was never carried out, but that does not mean that Germany didn’t plan and achieve another method of resurgence. Today, in 2011, even a cursory look at the rapidly-changing face of Europe reveals that the plotting was successful.
Germany’s parliament comes out swinging: German lawmakers from Angela Merkel’s coalition wrote a paper demanding that they have more say in agreements made with European partners, Reuters reported December 12. It called this “a warning shot to the chancellor that all major deals to save the eurozone must go past them first.” Specifically in relation to the eurozone, Reuters notes: “Germany’s parliament already holds greater sway in EU decisions since its Constitutional Court made it a requirement that the Bundestag be consulted on changes to the eurozone bailout fund” (December 12). With Europe’s crisis continuing to deepen weekly, any delay in concluding a treaty governing fiscal union worsens the situation. If this process that German legislators are holding out for is approved, Germany will be able to hold the eurozone nations to ransom till it negotiates treaty conditions that benefit Germany to the detriment of all others. In fact, if the German parliament activates this power granted to it by its own Constitutional Court—a power that no other EU member possesses—and it delays action on a fiscal-union-enabling treaty, it will not just be Europe that Germany is holding to ransom. It will be the whole world! The obvious pattern in the EU is there for all to see: What Germany wants, Germany gets.
EU nations struggle to approve new deal: Several European states will struggle to pass the new pact agreed last week, showing that even without Britain the European Union is still too big to move quickly. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ireland will all struggle to pass a new treaty, it emerged as the leaders returned to their national parliaments. Some of these nations have not completely made up their minds on the treaty and could still opt out. Even eurozone nations could cause problems. Ireland may have to hold a referendum, by law—but it won’t be sure until it sees the final text. For Finland, the problem is the changes to the voting process for the European Stability Mechanism. Under the new pact, decisions will be approved by qualified majority voting. The Finnish Parliament’s Grand Committee ruled that two thirds of Finland’s parliament must agree for it to give up its veto. The opposition parties have already said they won’t do this. Under Poland’s constitution, the changes must be approved by two thirds of parliament. If not, it must have a referendum. Ratification may require a referendum in Denmark, though that is not yet clear. The Swedish Parliament might not approve it. Even with Britain excluded, the EU still cannot make decisions quickly. Expect a core group of 10 nations to emerge in Europe. And as the EU shrinks, in order to respond to economic and military threats, expect it to become more totalitarian.
Guttenberg—in the footsteps of Stoiber: When Edmund Stoiber, the former prime minister of Bavaria and federal politician, stepped down from political office in 2007, he was invited to join the EU bureaucracy heading up the High Level Group of Independent Stakeholders on Administrative Burdens. This body is tasked with reducing red tape in EU institutions. He holds that position, under a strengthened mandate concluded in October last year, till December 2012. Now, his fellow Christian Social Union (csu) member Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg—previously holding the posts of economics minister in the German government, followed by that of minister of defense before resigning all political positions—has also been invited to take up a bureaucratic post in the EU. Guttenberg’s return to the spotlight, following eight months away from its glare, has been rapid following his appearance at the Halifax International Security Forum, the return of his wife to an active television role in Germany, and the release of his bestseller book—all in the space of days in late November. Rumors circulate that Guttenberg may be planning in the wings to create a new political party from which to reenter German politics by election year 2013, and some voices are signaling their support for such a move. Focus reported last week that “The former district administrator and csu-rebel Frau Gabriele Pauli can imagine setting up a new party with ex-Minister Guttenberg.” Pauli further commented, “In Germany, the population would be prepared to consider serious alternatives to the established parties. … The country needs leaders with charisma, and Guttenberg had the great trust of the population” (December 9). In the meantime, two once powerfully influential German politicians, Edmund Stoiber and Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, bide their time in their roles as EU bureaucrats.
European businesses move cash to Germany: Although Europe’s political leaders have struggled to implement concrete preparations for the eurozone’s imminent transformation, leaders in the more dexterous business sector are taking action, Bloomberg reported Friday of last week. Grupo Gowex, a Spanish Wi-Fi provider, is transferring cash to Germany because it anticipates that Spain will leave the euro. Schroders, one of the UK’s largest fund managers, is avoiding banks that clear through vulnerable eurozone countries and is instead choosing to work only with banks that clear through Germany. German machinery company gea Group AG, meanwhile, is setting maximum amounts that can be held at any one bank. Germany’s central bank reported taking in €11.3 billion (us$15 billion) from non-banks in September of this year, according to newly released data. Those capital inflows allowed Germany to transform a €47.3 billion deficit in its August balance of capital flows into a surplus of €700 million in September. Interviews with more than 20 European executives revealed that, in addition to moving their money to Germany, Europe’s companies are also prepared to transfer their headquarters from southern Europe to northern if the eurozone is restructured in the way they anticipate. Europe’s political leaders are in survival mode, wrangling to resolve the region’s sovereign debt crisis. But the actions of Europe’s more nimble business leaders provide an unmistakable indication of who the continent is looking to for stability and leadership: Germany.
Al Qaeda planning attacks in Germany: German police arrested a computer expert December 8 whom they believe is the fourth member of an al Qaeda cell whose other members were arrested last April. “The arrest shows that al Qaeda doesn’t plan on giving up despite the serious setbacks it has suffered in recent months,” writes Spiegel Online (December 13). In a letter written two weeks before he was arrested, the al Qaeda suspect wrote: “I am training some youths from Europe who are clean when it comes to security matters,” saying that he planned to “leave behind brothers who will carry on with the work.”
Russian protests pose little threat to Putin: On Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin delivered his first detailed comments about demonstrations against him, which culminated in a massive anti-Kremlin rally in Moscow last Saturday drawing tens of thousands of people. In Thursday’s 4½-hour tirade broadcast on Russian tv, Putin made plain that he was determined to return to the Russian presidency in March, accused organizers of the protests of striving to weaken Russia with help from Western powers, and rejected calls for a re-run of the parliamentary election. “I know that students were paid some money—well, that’s good if they could earn something,” he said. Putin also said Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who plans to run against him for the presidential seat, would be a “worthy, strong competitor.” But Prokhorov’s presidential bid is only a design by the Kremlin to give Russia’s elections a veneer of legitimacy, without actually threatening Putin’s victory. Despite the uprisings, and despite the Western media’s desire to portray Putin as a weakening figure, the prime minister remains Russia’s most popular politician, and he is on track to comfortably win next year’s presidential election.
Beijing reduces holdings of U.S. debt: China bought less U.S. Treasury debt in October and Beijing’s overall foreign holdings decreased for the first time since July, the Treasury Department reported Thursday. The decline in total holdings still left China at high levels, indicating that foreign demand for U.S. debt remains robust. Despite Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. debt this summer, U.S. treasuries are still generally viewed as a safe investment. But this is mostly due to intensifying worries about the European debt crisis. Once Europe unifies, Beijing will be free to pull out of the greenback, and the dollar’s status as a safe haven will vanish.
Japan plans jet purchase to keep Russia, China in check: Japan is planning to buy dozens of F-35 joint task fighters to replace its aging fighter fleet, Business Insider reported on Thursday. The upgrade is viewed as a response to Russia and China, which wander into Japanese territory with increasing frequency. At present, Japan scrambles F-15 jets to chase off the Russian and Chinese fighters from its airspace, but the older jets are reportedly losing parts midflight. The state-of-the-art F-35 harnesses stealth ability and technology that will significantly bolster the Japanese military.
Africa/ Latin America
Islamists work to turn region in sub-Saharan Africa into “new Somalia”: An offshoot of al Qaeda is working to turn the whole of Africa’s Sahel region into a “new Somalia,” a panel of experts has warned. Jerome Spinoza, head of the Africa bureau in the French Ministry of Defense, said the sub-Saharan Sahel region, which spans from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, was a particular Islamist target. This region covers parts of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, southern Algeria, Niger, northern Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, northern Ethiopia and Eritrea. Spinoza pointed to the possibility of a transcontinental link between Boko Haram militant Islamists in Nigeria and al-Shabaab in Somalia. He then called for a joint response from the international community and suggested that the European Union take more concrete action in the region.
Vatican works to improve relations with Chile: During a visit to Chile this week, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Dominique Mamberti met with top officials of the Chilean government. They discussed topics of mutual interest, such as the defense of life from conception to natural demise, the adherence to the principles of international law, the protection of the environment, and the positive contribution Catholic institutions to Chilean society. A communiqué made public on Tuesday explains that during the meetings, “satisfaction was expressed at the excellent state of bilateral relations between Chile and the Holy See.”
America marks the end of the Iraq war: President Barack Obama announced this week that the long, divisive Iraq war has reached its formal end. The last American troops in the country are expected to depart for home in the coming days. With Iraqi democracy in its infancy, however, major questions about the country’s future security remain unsettled. Now that America is leaving, it is now certain that Iran will take over. Trumpeteditor in chief Gerald Flurry predicted this situation all the way back in December 1994.
U.S. authorities probing alleged cyberattack plot: Officials from Washington are investigating reports that Iranian and Venezuelan diplomats in Mexico were involved in planning cyberattacks against U.S. targets, including nuclear power plants. Secretly recorded footage of Iranian and Venezuelan diplomats being briefed on the planned attacks was aired last week in a documentary on the Spanish-language tv network Univision. In response to this national security threat, Sen. Robert Menendez called for hearings in the new year about Iranian activities in Latin America. “If Iran is using regional actors to facilitate and direct activities against the United States, this would represent a substantial increase in the level of the Iranian threat and would necessitate an immediate response,” stated Menendez. Despite this call for a hearing, it is unlikely that the United States will do anything more than talk about the Iranian threat.
Marriages at record low: A record low of Americans are currently married, a Pew Research Center analysis of census data revealed. Fifty years ago, nearly three-quarters of adult Americans were married. Today, it is barely one half—51 percent. More people are opting instead for co-habitation or living alone, and the number of single parents is also increasing. Those who do marry are waiting longer than ever as well, with the median age for brides being 26½ years, and for grooms, closer to 29 years. A Pew survey in 2010 found than 4 in 10 Americans believe marriage—the institution that has underpinned stable societies throughout history—is becoming obsolete.

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