Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Week in Review

Middle East
After more than two weeks of hanging by a thread, Hosni Mubarak has stepped down as president of Egypt. On Thursday, Mubarak announced he would hand over some of his powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman but that he
would not resign. In his 20-minute speech he also promised to repeal the state of emergency that has been in place for 30 years once the security situation stabilizes. It appeared that both Egyptian and U.S. officials were expecting Mubarak to announce his resignation in the speech. As a result, the crisis has escalated and the Egyptian masses are further infuriated, with reports emerging Thursday night that some protestors were headed for the presidential palace. By Friday evening, as thousands of angry demonstrators marched on vital government facilities, Vice President Omar Suleiman told protesters and the world that Mubarak’s reign had ended. Going forward, Egypt would be run by the Higher Council of the Armed forces, he said.
In addition to the protesters, Egyptian President Mubarak faced immense pressure to step down from the United States, further damaging relations between the two countries. The American ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, has met twice with Mohamed ElBaradei, the opposition leader named by the Muslim Brotherhood and other protest groups to be their spokesman. Meanwhile, on Wednesday several Arab states—including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates—criticized Washington for its handling of the situation in supporting a hasty political transition. Such states are worried of the contagion effect taking hold in their own countries—and also concerned about the rise of an Iranian-influenced Islamist Egypt. Relations between the U.S. and its Arab allies are coming under pressure as a result.
On February 3, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood called on Egypt’s next leader to abolish the 32-year peace treaty with Israel. “After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel,” Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader Rashad al-Bayoumi told Japan’s nhtv. The Israel-Egypt peace treaty is considered the cornerstone of stability for the Middle East, ensuring peace for Israel and Egypt for more than 30 years. Israel has been warily watching the recent developments in Egypt. According to Spiegel last week, “The Israeli government has noted with concern the fact that, even after 30 years of peace, Egypt’s army is still equipped and trained mainly with a possible war against Israel in mind.” Read Joel Hilliker’s latest column, “Israel’s Peace Pact With Egypt Was a Mistake,” for the reason why Israel, having wagered its national security on this pact for a generation, is now far weaker and more vulnerable than if it had never trusted Egypt. The column also discusses where Israel will seek aid from now that its faith in Egypt—and America—has been irreparably damaged.
On February 5, a gas terminal exploded in the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian authorities originally reported that the catastrophe was caused by a leak, but it later became evident that four masked terrorists were responsible for detonating a bomb inside the terminal. The terminal delivers gas to Israel, Jordan and Syria. The main gas artery from Egypt’s Port Said diverts into two pipelines, one heading toward Israel, the other into Jordan. It was the Jordanian pipeline that was hit. Egyptian authorities say gas exports to Jordan may be cut off for up to two weeks. Jordan receives 80 percent of its electricity from this single pipeline. Millions of Jordanians losing their electricity could easily incite the country’s Palestinian majority to intensify government protests. It is not known for sure whether Jordan was the intended target of the February 5 attack. What is known is that Jordan is the only Arab state, apart from ailing Egypt, that remains friendly to Israel—a fact that Iran-inspired terrorists would like to change. Prophecy, however, reveals that Jordan will remain free from Iranian dominance.
Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are working to produce chemical, biological and radioactive weapons to attack the West, according to WikiLeaks diplomatic cables released by the Telegraph on February 1. One cable revealed that India’s National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan warned U.S. senators Russ Feingold and Bob Casey that terrorist groups were trying to get a hold of the ingredients necessary for a dirty bomb. Al Qaeda and other groups are also working to produce a biological weapon. “Al Qaeda bioterrorism plans found in Afghanistan revealed greater advances than was previously known,” stated a cable summarizing a November 2007 arms control meeting between the United States and Japan. Cables also showed that Syria and Iran are continuing to pursue a chemical weapons program. Other cables contained details of where terrorists could get a hold of chemical, biological or nuclear material. Cables also noted instances of individuals attempting to sell or transport nuclear material. The cables showed how Iran could get a hold of dangerous material. Officials in Uzbekistan, for example, had intercepted a railway carriage with radioactive “scrap metal” heading to Iran, according to 2007 cables. These leaked cables show that terrorists stand a good chance of getting hold of terrifying weapons.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented a new plan to save the eurozone at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on February 4. The plan, called the “pact for competitiveness,” calls for a six-point program to be implemented that would have the 17 members of the eurozone coordinate their economic and social policies to save the common currency. It even allows non-eurozone countries to sign up if they wish. Among the points in the plan is adapting retirement ages to a country’s average life expectancy, abolishing automatic wage increases linked to inflation, and bringing corporate tax levels into greater harmony. One of the most blatantly German ideas in the plan is for nations to adopt a “debt brake.” Germany amended its constitution with a debt brake that requires its government to eliminate its structural deficit by 2016. Merkel and Sarkozy intend to convince other eurozone nations of their plan in a specially convened summit of eurozone leaders in March before the EU summit that is to be held later that month. Merkel’s support for the plan amounts to a remarkable U-turn in her policies. She has long denied wanting to bring Germany into closer cooperation with other European countries, especially ones as economically toxic as Greece. It is a brilliant move by Germany to mold Europe into its own image. The terms of the plan boil down to one major principle: If you want more money, become more German. “According to Merkel’s plan, other European countries must adopt the German culture of stability. … If they refuse, Merkel will refuse to provide German guarantees for bailout packages,” writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
On Thursday, the German parliament condemned Alexander Lukashenko, dictator of Belarus, for his political repression and human rights violations. It also welcomed moves by EU foreign ministers to introduce sanctions on Belarus and to freeze Lukashenko’s assets. Speakers from all German political parties said Lukashenko’s repression of opposition parties will no longer be tolerated. Continue to watch Germany attempt to push its influence further into Russia’s neighborhood.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared multiculturalism has failed. He made his statement Thursday during a television interview, adding, “We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him.” Sarkozy joins the ranks of British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spain’s former President Jose Maria Aznar in criticizing multicultural polices for failing to successfully integrate immigrants into Europe. Sarkozy specifically mentioned Muslims, saying that France doesn’t want them praying in the streets.
Angela Merkel received a political blow when Bundesbank president Axel Weber withdrew his candidacy for the presidency of the European Central Bank (ecb). The issue has also led to Weber stepping down from the Bundesbank’s presidency at the end of April this year. Merkel was promoting Weber to head the ecb in order to placate German concerns over the euro crisis. Though Merkel does look weakened by Weber’s move, the truth is, it may actually help her promote her plan to save the euro. Weber’s strict fiscal conservatism made his candidacy controversial. Now that Merkel is free from promoting him, she will be able to pursue her plan more aggressively. This plan, called the “pact of competitiveness” and introduced last week, calls for eurozone economies to coordinate their economic and social policies after the German model to restore confidence in the euro. “For the German position this is a day of bad news, but it will pass,” said Daniela Schwarzer, an analyst at German Institute for International and Security Affairs told Bloomberg. “This will go by as long as Germany keeps up its strong negotiating position on the more important things—the governance mechanisms that have to be put in place in the eurozone.” With or without Weber, Germany’s plan to reshape Europe’s economic policies in its own image will still go strong.
On Wednesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for an increase in weaponry deployed on the disputed Kuril Islands after Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called Medvedev’s November visit to the territory an “unforgivable outrage.” Medvedev called the islands an “inseparable” part of Russia, and Tokyo responded by reiterating Japanese claims to them. The burgeoning military spending throughout Asia is currently the result of disputes between Asian states, but all of that military might will soon be pooled together and channeled against a colossal European enemy.
The anti-virus group McAfee released a study on Thursday detailing hacking efforts originating in China that attacked five multinational corporations in the energy sector. “Starting in November 2009, coordinated covert and targeted cyberattacks have been conducted against global oil, energy and petrochemical companies,” the report said. “Files of interest focused on operational oil and gas field production systems and financial documents related to field exploration and bidding.” The McAfee report traces all of the hacking to servers in Beijing and elsewhere in China. The operation, which the report dubs “Night Dragon,” mirrors previous Chinese intelligence-gathering practices and illustrates the nation’s mushrooming belligerency.
Beijing is stockpiling strategic reserves of rare earth metals in a move that could increase China’s control over the crucial technology-producing resources, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. In recent months, China has built facilities with the capacity to store thousands of tons of the metals. As the Trumpet has warned, China’s control of over 95 percent of the world’s rare earth production gives it substantial power, and its increased reserves will tighten its grip on that market. In January, Beijing nationalized 11 Chinese rare earth mines, effectively consolidating the industry and further strengthening Beijing’s leverage in the rare earth market. With rare earth prices having leaped by 130 percent last year, other nations have increased efforts to mine the metals, but a new mine takes up to 10 years to become operational. Expect an increase in global competition for rare earths in the months ahead as a result of China’s intensifying stranglehold on the metals.
WikiLeaks recently published cables indicating that Libya could well be the next Arab domino to fall to Islamic extremism. Since seizing power in a 1969 coup d’état, Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar Qadhafi, has claimed to use the country’s oil and gas profits to lead Libya as an egalitarian “state of the masses,” but the portrait of Libya sketched in the leaked documents show that Qadhafi’s claims are far from the reality. According to the cables, Qadhafi and his family are corrupt and violent, and have reduced the nation to a gangster state. This has fomented deep-rooted resentment and hatred in the Libyan people—the same species of resentment and hatred that ignited revolution in Libya’s neighbor to the west, Tunisia, last month. For years, the Qadhafi regime has held Libya’s Islamic extremists at bay. But as discontent with Qadhafi’s leadership grows, the voice of Libya’s Islamists will intensify. Libya’s leadership will soon undergo a change that will align the nation with Islamic extremist nations like Iran, as outlined in Bible prophecy (Daniel 11:40-44).
A Somali guerrilla group claimed this week that it killed more than 3,000 Ethiopian soldiers in 2010. The group also vowed to keep fighting until Ethiopia’s Ogaden region becomes an independent Somali state. The Ogaden National Liberation Front is one of the many Islamist-influenced Somali guerrilla groups active in Ethiopia. The Ethiopians have been sending troops to fight against these groups for years, but according to Somali sources, some of these troops have switched their allegiance to the Islamist side. This means that what is now basically a Somali civil war could escalate into an interstate war between an Islamist-controlled Somalia and its eastern neighbor. Biblical passages such as Daniel 11:40-43 foretell of an end-time clash between a German-led Holy Roman Empire and an Iranian-led Islamic caliphate. This passage in particular reveals that the nations of Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia will be allied with Iran when it is overrun by the European empire. Expect an alignment with Iran to occur not only within Egypt, but also in Libya and Ethiopia.
The result of last month’s independence referendum was announced in South Sudan this Wednesday and it was revealed 98.83 percent of the South Sudan’s predominantly Christian population is in favor of breaking away from the Muslim-controlled north. In the wake of this announcement, many north Sudanese Christians are packing up and heading back to their homeland in the south due to fears of an Islamic crackdown. Saints Peter and Paul Parish, the second-largest Catholic Church in greater Khartoum, has already lost about three-quarters of its parishioners. As tensions between Christians and Muslims rise across Sudan and the rest of the Middle East, expect the Vatican to get increasingly involved. Bible prophecy states the world is on the verge of another crusade. For further proof of this, please read our booklet, The King of the South.
In a speech that has infuriated opposition parties, South African President Jacob Zuma told hundreds of supporters on Friday of last week that an African National Congress (anc) membership card could guarantee an automatic pass to heaven. “When you vote for the anc, you are also choosing to go to heaven,” said Zuma. “When you don’t vote for the anc you should know that you are choosing that man who carries a fork … who cooks people.” Zuma then invoked South Africa’s tribal past, suggesting that historical leaders such as Shaka Zulu would have supported the anc. On that point, he may have well been right, but he neglected to mention Shaka Zulu’s history of massacre and genocide. Sixteen years since the end of apartheid, South Africa’s governing coalition is seething with racial tensions, while its president is literally damning all who oppose him.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht, while visiting Paraguay and Uruguay this week, made a clear statement that he desires a wide-ranging economic collaboration pact with the Mercosur regional trade bloc to soon be signed. “I strongly believe in a trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur,” he said. “The moment has come and I’m convinced it can be reached.” EU leaders have been reluctant to sign such an agreement due to fear of a flood of cheap Latin American goods. Now that financial analysts are forecasting increased trade between the Europe and Latin America as a remedy to lift the EU out of recession, however, EU officials want a balanced free trade agreement signed as soon as possible. Expect relationships between the EU and Mercosur to continue to improve as they work toward a gigantic trade bloc that will cause America to become increasingly isolated on the world scene. The Plain Truth, with Herbert W. Armstrong as its editor in chief, wrote as far back as 1962 that “the United States is going to be left out in the cold as two gigantic trade blocs, Europe and Latin America, mesh together and begin calling the shots in world commerce.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that after being the icon of American capitalism for 219 years, the New York Stock Exchange was near an agreement to be purchased by Deutsche Borse AG. The German takeover would create the world’s largest financial exchange. “For New York, the move is symbolic of the city’s fading dominance on the world stage as other countries are drawing investors directly to their markets,” the Journal said. The deal is subject to regulatory approval.
A U.S. Congressman resigned on Thursday after it was revealed that the married two-term Rep. Christopher Lee flirted with a woman using the website Craigslist. Lee is the second congressman representing Western New York to resign after allegations of impropriety.
The United States Department of Agriculture issued a report on Wednesday stating that by the end of this year, America will have only 675 million bushels of corn in reserves—only about 5 percent of the country’s annual consumption. This is the lowest reserve level in a decade and a half. The line between feast and famine is the thinnest it’s been since 1996. The world could be one bad harvest away from chaos. As the world’s largest wheat, corn and soybean exporter, America has a huge impact on global food prices. Indeed, higher food prices are already making it onto store shelves. With global food stores at such low levels, a bad harvest in America could ignite food riots in more places than just Egypt and Tunisia.