Bags of money, camouflaged “building materials,” an EU-wide tax, the Ring of Fire, voting on marijuana, and the 2010 election Truth-O-Meter
Afghanistan’s president openly admitted on Monday that Iran has supplied his office with millions of dollars in cash over the past several years. President Hamid Karzai’s confirmation came the day after the New York Times reported that Karzai’s Chief of Staff Umar Daudzai receives a secret, steady stream of cash from Iran intended to buy his loyalty and promote Iran’s interests in the presidential palace, according to Afghan and Western officials. “Iran uses its influence to help drive a wedge between the Afghans and their American and nato benefactors, they say” (October 23). President Karzai’s response to the story was to confirm the payments, openly admitting that his office gets “bags of money” from Iran—up to nearly a million dollars twice a year. During a news conference on Monday, he said the money was “official aid” and said he would continue to ask for Iranian money. At the same time, Karzai lashed out at the United States, accusing it of exporting killing to Afghanistan by using private security companies. On Sunday evening, Karzai reportedly had a heated session with nato commander Gen. David Petraeus and other Western and Afghan officials, during which he stormed out, saying he didn’t need the West’s help. Karzai’s open acceptance of what amounts to Iranian bribes and his virulent verbal attacks on his U.S. benefactors speak volumes of the orientation of Afghanistan’s current leader—a supposed ally of America.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday the Washington Post ran a story saying that the U.S. intelligence community is agreed that the Taliban is maintaining its strength in Afghanistan. The report said the intensified military campaign against the Taliban has failed to inflict anything more than fleeting setbacks on the insurgency and that the Taliban are maintaining their resilience and ability to reestablish and rejuvenate themselves. U.S. military and intelligence officials, citing the latest assessments of the war, said that Taliban insurgents have been adept at absorbing the escalated airstrikes and raids, and they appear confident they can outlast the American troop buildup, which is scheduled to diminish next July. While the surge of U.S. forces into southern and southwestern Afghanistan has resulted in the Taliban falling back in these areas, this is likely a strategic withdrawal rather than a defeat. Stratfor concludes that “the one thing that is fairly clear is that the Taliban do not face strategic defeat” (October 28). This is clearly one more war that the U.S. will not win.
Nigeria’s secret service said on Tuesday that it had intercepted 13 containers of weapons from Iran that were possibly destined for the Gaza Strip. Rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives camouflaged as building materials were seized in the Nigerian port of Lagos after being unloaded from an Iranian ship. Israeli defense sources believe this may be part of a new smuggling route from Iran to Hamas in Gaza, via Africa, Haaretz reports. The Nigerian State Security Service was tipped off by customs officials who were offered a bribe by the clearing agent to screen the containers outside the port at an off-dock terminal, according to Nigerian media. Iran was previously caught smuggling arms by sea in November 2009, when a vessel was intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea carrying weapons to Syria or Lebanon, and in September this year, when an arms shipment to Syria was seized at an Italian port.
Portugal and Ireland may be on the verge of introducing a new round of financial crises in Europe. The EU Observer reports that the two nations’ financial problems are deepening. Portugal has been unable to adopt austerity measures, and markets have reacted nervously. Ireland announced Wednesday it would double its previously announced budget cuts. “EU officials have also been forced to deny that the new round of cuts are not being dictated by Brussels,” the EU Observer said.
Meanwhile, partially due to Europe’s financial crises, EU leaders are ready to amend the bloc’s Lisbon Treaty. “Initially horrified at the Franco-German demand for a wholesale re-writing of the EU rulebook only a year after the Lisbon Treaty had been approved, other leaders are now warming to the idea of a ‘limited’ tweaking of the treaty in a way that they hope will avoid major political fallout,” the EU Observer reported. If EU leaders agree to amend the treaty it will be interesting to watch Britain’s response. Before ratifying any changes, the Cameron government may have to put the issue before the British public, the majority of which opposes the Lisbon Treaty. If the British public rejects the changes promoted by suits in Europe, Britain, as the Trumpet has long forecast, may be forced to opt out of the European Union.
The European Commission has summoned the boldness to call for a separate EU-wide value-added tax. This would enable the European Union to directly tax citizens from member states and raise its “own resources.” Other options could include a financial sector tax, profits from emissions controls, an air travel tax, an energy tax and/or a corporate income tax. Expect the EU to operate less and less like an agreement between states and more and more like a single superstate.
Chinese state media reported on Thursday that China is boosting its naval surveillance fleet to increase protection of its maritime claims. The announcement comes in the midst of fierce territorial disputes between China and neighboring countries, including Japan. One inspection ship has already been added to the fleet and another 36 will soon take their place alongside it. The number of law-enforcement vessels that China already owns is unknown because of Beijing’s poor transparency, but earlier in October, state media placed the number around 50. Meanwhile, reports from Tokyo last week said that Japan’s navy plans to add six new submarines to its fleet in response to China’s increasing belligerency in the South China Sea. Although, the situation between China and Japan looks tense, Bible prophecy reveals that the militaries of those two nations, along with other Asian nations, will soon put aside their differences to unite against a common enemy.
Moscow plans to enlarge its Black Sea fleet by 18 vessels, according to a source in Russia’s naval command. The 18 new vessels will include at least six submarines and six frigates, and two giant loop-landing ships. The news, published October 25, follows a landmark April agreement between Moscow and Kiev in which Ukraine agreed to extend the lease on Russia’s Sevastopol base by 25 years in exchange for a discount on gas prices. Only one year ago, Ukraine had said that Russia would be expected to close Sevastopol as soon as its old lease expired in 2017. The lease renewal agreement underlined Ukraine’s shift back toward Russia after the election of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich. The increasing cooperation between Moscow and Kiev makes plain that, through use of its military presence and economic influence, Russia is quickly expanding its sphere of influence. For centuries, Russia was an empire, and it is now working overtime to regain that status. To understand the global ramifications of this trend, read Russia and China in Prophecy.
Finance ministers of the world’s 20 biggest economies voted on Saturday to grant emerging market countries like China, India and Turkey more weight in the International Monetary Fund (imf). Analysts expect the decision to deter G-20 nations from devaluing their currencies, and to make developing nations more willing to address the trade imbalances causing currency volatility and threatening an increase in protectionism. China emerged as the key winner, gaining 6 percent more voting power in the imf, behind the U.S. and Japan. The Wall Street Journal called the agreement “belated recognition of the old Western economies’ fading place in the Great Scheme of Things.” As China’s massive growth forges on, the global balance of power will continue to shift. To understand more about the global trade disputes currently underway and where they are leading, read “This Means War” from the Trumpet’s December 2010 issue.
The Asia-Pacific Ring of Fire spewed death and destruction in several areas this week. On Monday, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck off Indonesia’s coast. The quake triggered a massive tsunami that swamped coastal regions, killing 343 people. One day later Indonesia’s Mount Merapi erupted, blasting smoke and ash high into the sky and killing another 34 people. On Thursday, Merapi erupted for a second time, although 40,000 people had been evacuated by that time. Also on Thursday, in Russia’s Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, two volcanoes blanketed the region in dust clouds. No deaths have been reported, but schools were closed and flights to and from the region were diverted.
Venezuela will make an $800 million investment in the South Pars gas field, according to an Iranian official. Hamad Akbari, the Iranian energy project’s coordinator, said on Sunday that Venezuela’s investment will comprise 10 percent of total financing for this phase of the project. The South Pars field, located in the Persian Gulf, is the largest gas field in the world and is shared between Iran and Qatar. Caracas’s agreement to invest in the field is just the latest of a string of deals between Venezuela and Iran. The Latin American Herald Tribune reports that bilateral trade between Tehran and Caracas stands at more than $5 billion annually.
As Americans head to the polls on Tuesday for midterm elections, billions of dollars are being spent on thousands of political ads trying to galvanize and influence potential voters. The vast majority are focusing on domestic concerns within the United States, reflecting a wide ignorance and lack of concern for the growing dangers in the world beyond America’s borders. Another concern is the truthfulness of the ads, as they vilify the opposition and aggrandize the candidate in question. This year, fact-checkers at PolitiFact.com have researched the front-runners’ campaigns and compared them to reality. The Truth-O-Meter’s needle is at “Barely True.” PolitiFact editor Bill Adair said that over the past three years and 2,500 Truth-O-Meter queries, his organization has found about 20 percent of them to be “True.” In the campaign home stretch since September began, the fact-checkers have found a ridiculously low 10 percent truth in the candidates’ claims.
One item Californians will see on their ballots is whether to legalize “recreational” marijuana. Some who support open marijuana use say it will help curb violence in the rampant drug war in Mexico, but Mexican authorities are challenging that assumption. Regardless, the fact that mind-altering drugs might come into accepted use in California is a signal of where the nation is heading and who is leading the way.
On Wednesday, fbi and law enforcement officers arrested Farooque Ahmed in Virginia. The Pakistani-born Ahmed was plotting to bomb Washington, d.c., metro subway stations. Last week, shots were fired at both the Marine Corps Museum in Virginia and at the Pentagon, two events that the fbi confirmed this week were linked. Shots were also fired at a Marine Corps recruiting station in Chantilly, Virginia. Some wonder whether the uptick in these events is a result of a statement earlier this year by Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud that terrorists should begin to target American cities.
Also this week, in an unprecedented move, the serving head of Britain’s foreign intelligence service mi6 spoke out for the first time to warn the public about a rise in al Qaeda plotting attacks against British targets from overseas havens. “The dangers of proliferation of nuclear weapons—and chemical and biological weapons—are more far-reaching” than the threat of terrorism, John Sawers said, and “the risks of failure in this area are grim.”An Associated Press survey of economists indicates that the economy will barely improve next year, and unemployment will recede slightly. Employers and consumers are likely to remain cautious, and households will save rather than spend, the respondents indicated. Unemployment at the end of 2011 is expected to drop from the current 9.6 percent to 9 percent. In July, economists had thought it would drop to 8.7 percent. Before that, they expected 8.4 percent. The AP said that some believe unemployment won’t drop to the historical average of 6 percent or lower for another seven or eight years.