Monday, November 8, 2010

The Week in Review

Holy war in the Middle East; who is on Washington’s terrorist list, and who is sharing a military; the court that trumped British law; and more political change you can’t believe in.

Middle East
On the last day of October, 58 men, women and children were killed and 80 wounded in Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church. Terrorists had taken hostage an entire congregation; when Iraqi forces stormed the building, the terrorists detonated their explosives. Iraq’s al Qaeda node, the Islamic State of Iraq (isi), claimed responsibility for the assault, the deadliest against Iraq’s Christians on record. The isi made no attempt to conceal the religious motivations behind its attack, calling Our Lady of Salvation an “obscene nest of the polytheists [infidels]” and a “base for their struggle against the religion of Islam.” The isi also said its attack “marked a beginning of a campaign to eliminate Christian minorities from Iraq.” On November 1, Pope Benedict xvi denounced the isi’s attack as “ferocious’’ and called on the international community to increase efforts to bring peace to the region. Three weeks earlier, the pope delivered an unscripted homily in which he said “terrorist ideologies” “must fall.” The attack on Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church in Iraq will give the pope further cause to speak out against Islamic extremism.
The United States has labeled an Iranian anti-government militant group as a terrorist organization, in a major concession to Tehran. On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department formally placed Jundallah, a Sunni-Balochi rebel group active in Iran, on its list of international terrorist entities. The Iranian opposition faction is blamed for several lethal attacks within Iran in recent years. Voice of America points out the irony that “Although Iran is on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, the Departments of State and Treasury designated one of the Tehran government’s most radical opponents as a terrorist organization” (November 3). Tehran had previously accused the U.S. of backing Jundallah and has demanded that Washington regard it as a terrorist group. The U.S.’s sudden about-face represents “a huge gesture toward Iran,” Stratfor says. “Washington likely made the move in hopes of reaching an understanding on the balance of power in the Persian Gulf region after U.S. forces exit Iraq” (November 3). This is just one more demonstration of the leverage Iran has over America in the region.
Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (aqap) is thought to be behind an alleged plot to send explosive devices to Jewish religious sites in the U.S. via cargo planes. On October 28, two packages originating in Yemen and bound for the U.S. tested positive for explosives, one in the United Arab Emirates and one in the UK. The packages contained the explosive material pentaerythritol tetranitrate (petn), hidden in printer cartridges. Yemeni officials said on October 30 that about 26 packages were involved in the foiled plot. The close call demonstrates the ease with which terrorists can transport bombs around the world. Even though this attempt failed, it succeeded in severely disrupting two U.S.-based shipping corporations and generating widespread fear.
On Sunday, Sunnis in the Bahraini government lost control over the parliament. The second round of the country’s legislative elections gave Shiite and independent candidates a new parliamentary majority in the Persian Gulf kingdom. The Shiites comprise the majority of Bahrain’s population and the results are a major blow to Sunnis, who had dominated the last two parliaments. The election sweep by the Shia is another indicator of growing Iranian-Shiite influence in the Persian Gulf region. Bahrain is considered the main banking hub for the Persian Gulf and is a center for Islamic finance. Shiite populism in Bahrain is not a good thing for America, which has its 5th Fleet stationed in the country and is trying to contain Iranian-Shiite hegemony. 

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed a dramatic new military agreement on November 2 with both nations striving to cut costs. Britain and France will create a joint expeditionary force, share aircraft carriers and work together on improving their nuclear weapons. The treaty means that in certain situations, British soldiers could take orders from a Frenchman, and vice versa. The expeditionary force will include around 5,000 soldiers from each nation, including air, land and sea forces. “The nuclear agreement was in some ways the most surprising,” writes the New York Times, “since it committed the two nations to sharing some of their most carefully kept secrets. Although the two leaders emphasized that France’s ‘force de frappe’ and Britain’s similar, submarine-based ballistic missile force would remain separate and under the sole control of each government, they agreed to establish joint research centers, one in France and one in Britain, to further research on their stockpiles of nuclear warheads.” A leading article in the Independent notes that “the principle of seeking allies across the Channel, rather than across the Atlantic, has now been set, and that marks a historic shift.” Expect Britain to continue to look to Europe for its defense—a trend that is destined to backfire.
Emerging details about the new European External Action Service (eeas), or diplomatic core, due to formally enter service on December 1, reveal how it will massively expand Europe’s global profile. The eeas’s annual budget is ₤5.8 billion—over twice as much as the British Foreign Ministry—and is projected to rise to ₤8.3 billion. (And this while Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office is struggling to cut its budget by 24 percent.) The eeas will employ around 7,000 people; the British Foreign Office employs 4,863. So the European Union will soon have a diplomatic core better staffed and funded than that of the UK. Conservative mep Daniel Hannan writes in the Daily Mail that “the EU means to signal to other countries that it, rather than its 27 constituent members, should now be their first port of call. To a remarkable degree, it has already succeeded.” “The official launch of the eeas represents a significant ramping up of the EU’s ambition to be a global power,” he says. The EU is edging closer to becoming a superstate—a trend the Trumpet has prophesied for years.
Anglicans who leave for Rome may still be allowed to use Church of England buildings, according to William Fittall, secretary general of the General Synod. “It would be a matter for the local Anglican bishop concerned whether he was content for that to be the case,” he said on November 3. That means Catholic and Anglican churchgoers could soon worship in the same building. The Church of England already rents its buildings out to other groups, such as Methodists and Baptists. This is yet another step that brings the Anglican Church closer to being swallowed up by Rome. For more on this trend, see our January Trumpet article “The Church That Swallowed a Church.”
Protestors in Greece have been mailing explosives across Europe. These mail bombs have been addressed to embassies in Athens, and even to leaders outside of the country, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Expect this kind of lawlessness to cause Europe to clamp down harder on its citizens.
The European Court of Human Rights has forced the UK to overturn a centuries-old law banning prisoners from voting. Back in October 2005, the court ruled that banning prisoners from voting breached their human rights. British laws against prisoners voting go back to the 14th century. Yet on November 2, after government lawyers unsuccessfully tried to avoid compliance with the European court ruling, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he had no power to resist the ruling, and had to surrender to Europe. It shows how little power Britain has left when unelected officials from a foreign country can strike down laws made by a supposedly sovereign parliament. 

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency announced plans on Thursday for Beijing to “strengthen exchanges and cooperation with its neighboring countries to further deepen their mutual understanding and friendship.” Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue explained that the cooperation between China and its neighboring nations has been enriched and expanded in the last few years as a result of cultural exchanges: “In 2009 alone, there are about 21.7 million visitors coming from northeast, southeast and south Asian countries. Besides, more than 160,000 foreign students studying in China in 2009 were from Asian countries.” Hu also said that Beijing attaches particular importance to the young citizens of its neighboring nations. One facet of China’s expanding international influence, which primarily targets young people, is its network of Confucius Institutes. These educational centers scattered across the globe promote Chinese culture and language, and are typically connected to a university in the host country. The Chinese government has built around two Confucius Institutes per week since the first was opened in late 2004, bringing the global total to more than 500. As China’s soft-power diplomacy and its hard-power buildup continue to push the nation forward, the whole of Asia will solidify into a global power.
China’s Commerce Ministry announced on Tuesday that it will reduce rare earth export quotas for 2011, following a 40 percent slash in export quotas this year. The rare earths are a group of 17 metals with luminescent, magnetic and other properties integral for electronics and other technology, and China contributes around 97 percent of their total global supply. Although a ministry spokesman said the reduction is intended as a green initiative to help save the environment, some analysts view the squeeze as a method for Beijing to give a competitive edge to Chinese manufacturers using rare earths.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ignited a diplomatic dispute with Japan on Monday when he visited the Southern Kuril Islands, which are claimed by both Moscow and Tokyo. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan denounced Medvedev’s trip—the first ever by any Russian leader to the islands—as “extremely regrettable.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded to Kan’s statement saying the islands are “Russian land” which the Russian president “can visit whenever he chooses to.” The row follows on the heels of a separate Japanese territorial dispute with China, and comes only two weeks before Medvedev is scheduled to visit Japan for a regional summit. Having witnessed Japan’s behavior in the recent spat with China, Moscow sees Japan as an easy target. “Japan’s foreign policy is in complete disarray,” says Alexander Panov, the head of Russia’s diplomatic academy. Despite the current situation, prophecy reveals that the bickering between Asian nations will soon be set aside as they join together against powers of the West. 

Latin America
American officials discovered their second-largest stash of drugs in California on November 3. They found 30 tons of marijuana in a warehouse in San Diego near the Mexican border. The warehouse was connected to a similar building in Mexico via a fully ventilated 600-yard-long tunnel. Authorities have found 75 such tunnels over the last four years.
Five Americans have been killed in the past week in the city of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. All killed were from El Paso, the American city just across the border. This shows just how dangerous the Mexico border area is becoming. 

Americans cast their votes in midterm elections on Tuesday. cnn reported that the economy was the most important issue on 52 percent of voters’ minds, with another 8 percent citing the deficit as their most critical factor. Just over half disapproved of the president’s handling of his job. The Democrat majority dwindled to a 186-seat minority in the House of Representatives, with Republicans winning 239 seats. Democrats maintained their majority in the Senate, 52 seats to 46. msnbc reported that the Republican Party has indicated it will use its increased voting power to tear down President Barack Obama’s agenda. msnbc also reported that 32 percent of “Tea Party” candidates won their races. The pendulum swing to the right illustrates how empty-handed is the American electorate that voted in Republicans in 2010 to replace the Democrats from 2008, who replaced the Republicans from 2006 and 2004.
The U.S. Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it would institute a $900 billion “quantitative easing” policy in which it would print up money and buy $75 billion in long-term treasury bonds each month until the end of June 2011. Reuters reported that “the measure pushes the dollar firmly onto a downward path and raises the risk of inflation.” The dollar has slid on the news against the euro, the pound and the yen, and dropped to a 28-year low against the Australian dollar. The Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard commented that the plan risks a currency war that could accelerate “the demise of the dollar-based currency system, perhaps leading to an unstable tripod with the euro and yuan, or a hybrid gold standard.” Additionally, foreign nations are beginning to wonder if the Federal Reserve’s money printing is designed not to just lower the value of the dollar and increase exports, but also to monetize the national debt.
On Thursday night, a senior cabinet minister revealed the staggering cost of Britain’s broken homes. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith stated that children who come from broken homes are nine times more likely to commit a crime than those raised in stable families. He said that the collapse of marriage has caused soaring crime rates, doubled the chances of living in poverty and cost Britain as much as £100 billion per year, the Daily Mail said, roughly the same cost as the country’s massive National Health Service. The Mail added that it was “the strongest defense of marriage made by a major government figure in years.” In a jab against the opposition party, Duncan Smith said, “Sadly, the last government seemed determined to undermine marriage—for example, by removing references to it from official forms.” According to the Mail, the last government replaced “broken homes” verbiage with phraseology like “reformed families,” and ordered the word marriage deleted from official documents because it implied “presumption of someone’s sexual orientation.”