This week’s headlines have been alarming. Terrorists maim and murder innocent victims with two bombings at the Boston Marathon. The horror of an abortion clinic comes to light in the heart-wrenching trial of an abortion doctor. Meanwhile, parents grope for answers after their 6- and 7-year olds were killed by a mass murderer. North Korea continues to threaten nuclear war. Iran pursues nuclear terrorism.
What is causing all this evil?
Some blame certain ideologies. Some blame certain groups of people. Some blame simple misunderstandings. But they continue to overlook the actual cause of these horrific events. In his recent Key of David program, Gerald Flurry uncovers the original source of this evil—and why it is accelerating.
London is the world’s greatest financial center. The financial services it houses are vital to Britain’s economy, no matter how unpopular its bankers may be. More than one tenth of the government’s income comes from taxes on the financial sector. It is just about the only industry in Britain which sells more to the rest of the world than it imports. Britain is uniquely dependent on its finance industry—more so than any other major power.
Without London’s financial services, Britain’s tax revenues, exports, and the economy would collapse.
Yet Britain’s “friends” in Europe seem determined to destroy, or at least cripple, London.
On Tuesday, the European Parliament voted to impose a cap on the amount of money bankers can receive in bonuses. This is socialist legislation that will do the opposite of its intended task and will damage the EU as a whole.
This cap has been in the works for several months. Britain has opposed it at every turn and at every turn been defeated. Its approval marks a watershed moment in Britain’s relationship with Europe.
“Whether or not you think there is a concerted assault on Britain, the fact is that for the first time in EU history a major country has been overridden in a field where it is the dominant player and has a vital interest,” writes the Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. “The rules of the game are that Germany is never threatened on the car industry, nor France on agriculture. This principle has been breached. It is a declaration of economic war.”
And don’t forget, this is an economic war on an industry vital to Britain’s economy. The EU is attacking the financial health of the nation.
The bonus cap interferes with pay in private companies in a way that most thought ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall. A banker’s bonus is not allowed to be any more than his salary, though this limit can be raised to twice his salary with the explicit approval of shareholders.
This may still seem like a huge amount. But surely it is for individual companies to decide what they pay their staff, not the government and least of all the European Union.
The reason why bankers receive so much of their money in a bonus is that it’s related to performance. If they do well, they get a lot of money. If they don’t, they lose out. And if they appeared to be doing well at the time, but were later found out to be engaging in some dodgy practices, there are ways for banks to get the bonus money back. Salaries are much harder to raise and lower and much harder to recover in cases of malpractice.
Under EU caps, bankers will receive higher salaries instead of the bonuses, and be rewarded whether the bank does well or not. Star performers who are capable of earning a lot of money—and therefore large bonuses—will go elsewhere.
“Not to put too fine a point on it, the bonus cap is a piece of economic lunacy that reflects tellingly on why it was a huge mistake giving the pointless hybrid parliament in Brussels any legislative powers at all,” wrote Britain’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “This is a vengeful and self-defeating attempt to pick on London. We don’t try to cap the pay of oil executives or football players. I can see why people rage about what happened with the banks, but this is an attempt to knock London off its perch, and we’re not going to let it happen.”
The trouble is, within the EU, there’s not much Britain can do to stop it.
And this isn’t Europe’s only attack on London. Eleven EU nations plan to introduce a financial transaction tax. This means specific trade industries must pay whenever they buy or sell shares, bonds and other financial instruments. Here, Britain succeeded in blocking this at the EU level. But Europe still found a way to make it hurt.
If shares in a company that has signed up to the transaction tax, like France or Germany, are sold in London, Britain would be required to collect the tax and pass it on. The same would be true for trades in New York. But the EU can legally force Britain to hand over the taxes. If America refused to hand the money over, there’s little the EU can do, bar sending gunboats up the Hudson. Some parts of the world will refuse to cooperate with Europe, and business will leave Britain.
How the EU will collect this tax is unclear. But it is already obvious that the EU would be cutting off its nose to spite Britain. France introduced a financial transaction tax last August. Its finance industry is now dying, and the tax has raised only a third of the amount the government predicted it would. The director of the French debt agency Maya Atig said that any extra revenue raised by the tax would be lost, because the government has been forced to pay more to borrow money as a result. French newspaper Les Echos quoted an anonymous banker saying the tax was “a weapon of mass destruction that is going to ruin our financial sector.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron called the tax to be adopted by 11 EU states next year “sheer madness.” The European Commission’s original analysis is that the tax would slow the EU’s economic growth by 1.75 percent, and cause half a million people to lose their jobs.
The tax forces traders to hand over a huge amount of money. Terry Smith, chief executive of Tullett Prebon, the world’s largest broker of European government bonds, stated at a recent meeting of the Bruges Group that his firm earned around £50 million (us$76 million) a year in fees for brokering those bonds. The amount of tax its clients would have to pay under the new system is €600 million ($783 million). It increases the cost of trading in these bonds tenfold.
That tax, as France has found, will have a huge effect on bond markets. Traders won’t actually pay €600 million—they’ll simply trade in something else, trade somewhere else, or not trade at all.
“Some in London appear to hope that by closing their eyes to the proposal it will go away,” they said.
Typical of the EU, these proposals are chaotic. Some provisions of the financial transaction tax may be illegal. And the European Commission has not given many details on how it will force other countries to collect the tax.
Bankers also seem confident that they can get around the bonus cap. The Telegraph’s cartoonist paints a picture: “We can’t give you a huge bonus,” he shows a banker saying, “but the bank would like to buy your tie for £3 million.” It is doubtless banks will have less entertaining—but more practical—ways of getting around the cap.
Still, bankers in Britain will know they’re not welcome. The EU has shown it’s out to get them. Business will begin to seep away to freer countries. And now the EU has set the precedent of interfering in Britain’s financial industry, its laws will only get worse.
Britain bears some of the blame for this situation for becoming so dependent on financial services. It created a strategic weakness that Europe is now exploiting.
The government’s solution appears to be to court Germany for help. That may work for a time. German politicians are starting to wave olive branches in Britain’s direction.
But Europe’s attack on London shows it is not Britain’s friend. Britain’s EU membership has steadily weakened it.
“Britain is going to look back on Monday, January 1, 1973, in all probability, as a most tragically historic date—a date fraught with ominous potentialities! For that date marked the United Kingdom’s entry into the European Community,” wrote Herbert W. Armstrong at the time (Plain Truth, March 1973).
Already, many in Britain are looking back at that date with regret. By going after Britain’s finance industry, the EU threatens to wreak havoc on Britain’s whole economy. Bring down London and you bring down the UK.
Mr. Armstrong was right, and soon the whole country will look back on its EU membership as a tragic mistake. The European Union is not really Britain’s ally, and this attack on London proves it.
Reports emanating from weekend talks between Germany’s Chancellor Merkel and Britain’s Prime Minister Cameron reveal the increasingly irreconcilable differences in the separate visions that these leaders have for the future of the European Union.
It has been rather agonizing at times watching the inevitable unfold in relations between these two nations. Ultimately, Britain was always destined to either leave or be thrust out of the European Union. It’s just taken a painfully long time for the inevitable to occur. Yet, last weekend’s talks between these two leaders only served to emphasize the deepening rift between the two. It’s just a matter of time before the bust-up occurs.
The differences between the German vision for the EU and that of Britain run to the core objectives that German elites have had for Europe since the closing stages of World War ii. Germany’s view of the EU has been as a means to a clearly identified end—the imperial dominance of the Continent by Teutonic power—this time by economic means rather than, at least initially, by military aggression.
A review of this issue in the Trumpet archive will reveal that we have consistently publicized its reality, supported by the views of some of the most articulate secular observers of Germany’s objectives. Indeed, as our mentor, Herbert Armstrong, preached, published and broadcast for over half a century—from the latter years of World War ii to his death on Jan. 16, 1986—the biblical prophecies have declared this for over three millennia. And it is not possible to break any Bible prophecy (John 10:35; 2 Peter 1:19). They are guaranteed to happen, underwritten by the eternal Word of God!
But just as the prophecies demonstrate that Germany is destined to head one final resurrection of the old Holy Roman Empire, so the same source declares that far from being part of that entity—revealed under its present cloak of European union—Britain and its fellow Israelitish nations are destined to be enslaved by it.
Following the recent meeting between Angela Merkel and David Cameron, think tank Stratfor mused that “in the long term, the countries’ conflicting goals for Europe will cause them to push in opposite directions” (April 17).
This is simply a situation where “east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet.” Whereas the Holy Roman approach is universalist and collectivist, the Anglo-Saxon approach is embedded in the sanctity of national sovereignty.
“London wants to restore some power to national governments in the European Union. The British government believes the European project has moved too far from its original purpose of creating a European common market and is now threatening the sovereignty of its member states” (ibid).
Of course the late Margaret Thatcher saw this coming decades ago. As the Berlin Wall was breached on Nov. 9, 1989, Helmut Kohl, the German chancellor at the time, recalls her saying: “We beat the Germans twice, and now they’re back.” She later declared, in the wake of the formation of the EU, “Well, you have not anchored Germany to Europe, but Europe to a newly dominant Germany. That is why I call it a German Europe.”
Given the current scenario in Europe, only the ignorant would deny that reality.
One interesting aspect of Stratfor’s analysis of the Merkel/Cameron meeting relates to the western democracies of Europe that have a close affiliation with Britain—ethnically, politically and culturally, and in particular with respect to their individual monarchies.
Of these EU member nations, Stratfor observes: “Were the United Kingdom to leave the bloc, other countries—particularly the Nordic countries, which have a close political relationship with London—could follow” (op. cit.).
That is a pertinent observation and it is directly in line with the vision of the EU that Herbert Armstrong held.
As we have pointed out in the past, if the prophecy that the nations of Israel will be enslaved by this northern power in the future (Daniel 11) is all-embracing—that is, if it includes the Israelite nations of northwestern Europe in addition to Judah and the Anglo-Saxon nations—then, as Mr. Armstrong showed, the final 10 nations which dominate Europe must be drawn from the Gentile nations of east and west Europe!
In a co-worker letter dated Sept. 20, 1979, Mr. Armstrong stated: “[I]nstead of the coming ‘resurrected’ Holy Roman Empire including such nations of Israelitish ancestry as Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the 10 nations to compose it may include such nations—now Russian satellites—as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia. … It does seem that the nations of Israelitish ancestry, in western and northwestern Europe, would likely be excluded from the coming 10-nation ‘Roman Empire’” (emphasis added).
To see an observation from a respected think tank deduce the prospect that “Were the United Kingdom to leave the bloc, other countries—particularly the Nordic countries, which have a close political relationship with London—could follow,” is very interesting indeed.
Herbert Armstrong gained this understanding from the biblically revealed identity of the Israelite nations combined with the prophecies for those nations’ future in the days just ahead. Stratfor gained it from a simple understanding of geopolitics. As usual, Herbert Armstrong was way ahead of his time.
As Stratfor concludes, the real point is—and it’s one that underlines the biblical prophecies for these times portrayed by Herbert Armstrong—“in the long run, the United Kingdom’s and Germany’s strategies are irreconcilable. As a result, London and Berlin will continue pursuing opposing goals, even if some agreements are reached in the short term” (op. cit.).
Those opposing goals have a ring of history about them. Since Count Otto von Bismarck accomplished the unification of Germany in 1871, those opposing goals have led to one inevitable result—WAR!
To hide one’s head in the sand, as do most foreign-policy exponents, and deny that this will be yet again the inevitable result of the “irreconcilable strategies” of London and Berlin, is simply a major denial of reality.
I first heard Herbert Armstrong prophesy this result over 50 years ago. I heard our editor in chief reiterate it 23 years ago. For half a century I have studied this phenomenon and written multiple thousands of words reporting on the trend. My bookshelves are replete with the very best of published analyses on the phenomenon. Now it is becoming a reality, day by day. Yet still it’s hard to break through the blinding stupor which seems to prevent the masses, and in particular the leaders of the masses, from seeing it.
I simply have no truck with those who are willingly ignorant of the obvious, and continue to state a contrary case based on an overwhelming absence of knowledge on the subject.
The sad fact is that most will feel its terrible effects before their blindness is removed—the effects of the rule of an enslaving tyrant, one more time, before a merciful God intervenes to cut short those inevitable effects (Matthew 24:22).
Then will follow a miraculous time. A time when the nations of Israel will be joined in peace by their old and ancient enemies—enemies that enslaved them both in ancient times and modern—old Assyria in its modern garb as the German peoples, and Israel’s ancient nemesis, Egypt. Any previous “irreconcilable differences” will simply be eliminated! (Isaiah 19:23-25).
What a time that shall be!
To learn more about the prophecies of that great time of coming universal peace, read our booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like.
In March, Detroit became the largest city in American history to be placed under the supervision of an emergency manager. On March 14, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Kevyn Orr as the city’s financial manager. Governor Snyder told the media the state was intervening in Detroit because the city’s finances had reached “a true crisis point.” Orr is a bankruptcy lawyer who helped one of Detroit’s automakers, Chrysler, restructure its finances after it went bankrupt in 2009. In his new role, Orr has the power to control all city spending.
Detroit was once synonymous with wealth and prosperity. About a century ago, it boasted the fourth-largest population of any city in America. That figure has dropped from the millions to only 700,000—40 percent of whom live in poverty. Automakers and other manufacturers have left the city, along with jobs and citizens. Over the past decade, 25 percent of the city’s population has fled. But Detroit’s crises have not just been economic; its families have been obliterated. By some estimates, three out of every four Detroit families have only one parent. This social wreckage has contributed to an unbelievable state of affairs in the city. Nearly half of all Detroit adults are functionally illiterate. In about one in three households, no one has worked a job in the last 12 months.
Detroit is an indication of what is ahead for cities across the country. American families are already disintegrating, and social structures are crumbling. The Bible prophesied this would happen due to rampant sin. It also forecast the next step: American cities experiencing financial collapse, social upheaval, violence, riots and burning.
Farrakhan to gangs: Protect us
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan stated on February 24 that Chicago’s gang members could serve a better purpose by training to become soldiers to protect his group’s assets. “[W]e know you love to shoot, but you’re killing yourselves,” the controversial leader said. “All your weapons are illegal, and you’re using them like savages.” Instead of fighting other gangs, Farrakhan suggested that gang members are “natural soldiers” who could be instructed in “the science of war” to protect the Nation of Islam’s property and assets. Such violent rhetoric is pushing the nation toward a period of violence and intense racial strife.
Unclaimed corpses online
For the first time, the Cook County medical examiner’s office in Chicago has posted photos of unclaimed bodies on its website in an effort to identify them. As drug cartels and street gangs spread throughout the city, the death toll has risen to a point where it is becoming hard to identify all the dead. The program is generating controversy because of the graphic images, but for the sake of people whose loved ones are missing and have been murdered, officials believe the ends justify the means. It is a chilling picture of the sad state to which one of America’s great cities has descended.
Food stamps for everyone!
Thanks to the Obama administration’s drive to get more citizens enrolled in the food stamps program, more Americans are now receiving this aid than ever. On March 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released new statistics showing that throughout 2012, the program averaged 46,609,072 people enrolled each month, with a record-breaking 47,791,996 drawing benefits in December.
At the end of the Clinton administration, only 1 in 16 Americans needed food stamps; now the number is almost 1 in 6. U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady and others insist that the growing number of recipients are “forced to subsist” on the handouts. That claim is undermined by the fact that the Obama administration is actively encouraging more Americans to sign on to the program—even paying for advertising to boost participation. It makes no economic sense, especially for a cash-strapped government, but this administration is doing its part to increase government dependency.
That’s one way to cut the budget
In anticipation of looming budget cuts, the Department of Homeland Security has started releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants held in local detention centers. In Pinal County, Arizona, Sheriff Paul Babeu said on February 26 that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had released more than 500 detainees in his county alone. Though numbers have been disputed, a spokesman for Babeu claimed that immigration officials plan to release nearly 10,000 illegal immigrants. This unexpected influx of illegal immigrants will likely fuel a rise in crime. The biblical book of Isaiah foretells a time when foreigners burn the cities of end-time Israel.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first visit to Africa on March 24 highlighted China’s increasing influence over African resources. Considering that Xi was officially sworn in as president a mere 10 days prior to the visit, the trip also showed where China’s economic focus lies.
Xi’s tour sent him from Tanzania to South Africa, then on to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The choice of nations was not coincidental. All three nations are serving to further China’s trade dominance of the African continent and thus to propel the Chinese economy to new levels.
Some African nations will advocate China’s actions as an effort to foster mutual economic growth and encourage independent, sustainable development for their nations. However, examining China’s involvement will show that it is the one getting the better end of the deal. Any benefits to the Africans are coming as a side benefit to China’s purposes.
The first stop on the president’s tour was Tanzania, where he spoke before Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete in Dar es Salaam. Since the African country’s departure from British rule in 1961, China has invested in over 100 vital economic initiatives, many of which have been agriculture-based. These initiatives have helped Tanzania build a more solid economic foundation. Why the generosity from China? The truth is, Sino-Tanzanian relations benefit Tanzania short-term, China long-term.
In building Tanzania’s infrastructure, China plays the “good Samaritan,” helping a poor nation that lacks the means to construct roads and railways across the nation. But what do these roads and rails carry? Raw goods that flow straight to the docks, onto a ship, and off to China.
China is Tanzania’s largest trading partner and second-largest source of investment. Bilateral trade reached us$2.47 billion in 2012, up 15.2 percent from the year before. China has exploited Tanzania’s lack of basic consumer goods, exporting necessary items for Tanzania’s day-to-day functioning in exchange for the nation’s valuable minerals.
China was once a small economic power itself. It was embraced as a friend, a nation that could replace the European influence. Most African nations have not awakened to the fact that since China has grown to become the second-largest economy on Earth, it is capable of throwing its weight around and making demands.
The second nation the Chinese president visited was South Africa, meeting with President Jacob Zuma. Last year, trade between these two nations was a massive $59.9 billion. That equates to nearly a third of all Sino-African trade.
While there has been much trade between China and South Africa, it hasn’t come without some resistance to Chinese advancements in the nation. According to the South African Institute of Internal Affairs, “Chinese investment in S.A. is smaller than S.A.’s into China. Despite the strong Chinese appetite for S.A. mining resources and the attractiveness of its open market, S.A.’s significantly more complex socio-economic structure … has largely constrained the expansion of Chinese interests in Africa’s largest economy” (Aug. 29, 2010). Xi’s tour through South Africa is another indication of China’s intensifying desire to loosen South Africa’s constraints and to increase Beijing’s investment in the country.
One nation that will undoubtedly see more of China in the coming months is the Democratic Republic of Congo.
China imported 5.4 billion tons of oil from the Democratic Republic of Congo last year. While this is a comparatively small amount—only 2 percent of China’s imports—there is room for expansion. The Democratic Republic of Congo has one of the largest and deepest ports in West Africa. The only thing this underdeveloped nation needs is capital.
The recently elected Chinese president’s visit to these three nations sheds light on the booming economic power’s broader strategy for Africa. Chinese imports from Africa are skyrocketing. 2012 saw China import an immense $113 billion worth of materials from Africa. It holds the title of Africa’s largest trading partner.
China is growing. It consumes more raw materials than ever because of its industrial and economic boom. It is gazing hungrily at resource-rich Africa and planning its future expansion. China has an important role to play in the fulfillment of prophecy in the latter days. Read Russia and China in Prophecy and see for yourself what China is planning to do with the resources it is devouring.
Falklanders make voice heard
On March 10-11, the debate on whether the Falkland Islands belong to Argentina or Britain went to the polls in a referendum. Ninety-two percent of eligible voters showed up, and 99.8 percent voted to remain a British overseas territory. Argentina is suffering terrible economic woes, so the government is trying to distract the population by focusing on the Falklands. It may not have the islanders’ support, but it does have America’s support, which has repeatedly called on Britain to sit down and talk to Argentina about the islands. Britain wants the fate of the islands to remain in the hands of the islanders. As Britain loses its allies, and the cost of defending the islands keeps rising, expect British support to waver as well.
Falklands on pope’s radar
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner met with Pope Francis on March 18, becoming the first head of state to converse with the new pontiff. Kirchner asked the pope to intervene in the dispute over the Falklands. Before Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope, he made statements to the effect that the British were usurpers who wrongfully took the Falklands from Argentina. Expect the world’s first Latin American pope to strengthen alliances between Europe and Latin America, at the expense of Britain and the United States.
End of an era
World leaders paid their last respects to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on March 8. Chávez’s death has left the country in uncertainty. Venezuela is deeply divided, and Chávez’s death could usher in big changes for the government in Caracas. Both opposition leader Henrique Capriles and incumbent Nocolas Maduro are seen as being more friendly to the Catholic Church, which Chávez had suppressed within the country. Following Pope Francis’s election, Maduro credited Hugo Chávez for swaying Jesus to inspire the College of Cardinals to elect the first South American pope. “Some new hand arrived and Christ said, ‘Now is the opportunity for South America,’ it seems to us,” Maduro said. Regardless of the election outcome, Bible prophecy says that soon, Europe and Latin America will draw much closer—cemented together by the Catholic Church.
EU moving in on Africa
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso met with the chairman of the African Union (AU) on February 20 to emphasize the importance of strengthening EU-AU ties. Barroso stressed Europe’s commitment to the economic development of African nations and cited the EU intervention in Mali as an example of joint EU-AU security policy. Expect the emerging European empire to continue pushing south and east into North Africa and the Middle East.
U.S. losing ground to China on Africa trade
Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware warned on March 7 that America is losing ground to China on African trade. He called for an early renewal of trade benefits for Africa as part of a broader strategy to counter growing Chinese investment and influence. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs said in a report, “China, which has made dramatic inroads across the continent in recent years, may undermine or even counter value-driven U.S. goals in the region.” He said that this should be “a wake-up call for enhanced American trade and investment.” Meanwhile, Scott Eisner, vice president of African affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the United States “probably has a small window in the next couple of years before China, India and Brazil take over all the ownership on the continent and trade relations are theirs to own.” Keep watching the race for African trade; global struggles for natural resources are prophesied to intensify in the near future.
Arming the Middle East
Germany exported €1.42 billion (us$1.88 billion) worth of weapons to the Arabian Gulf during 2012, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported February 22. In 2011, that figure was only €570 million ($751 million). Two thirds of those exports went to Saudi Arabia, an increase of 900 percent. The rest went to Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. More than €1 billion went to border security equipment for Saudi Arabia. The newspaper claimed it received the data after a formal question from Germany’s Left Party.
Earlier in the month, German media reported that the government had given Saudi Arabia permission to buy €1.5 billion ($2 billion) worth of patrol boats, enough to buy 60 to 150 vessels.
Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote as early as 1994 that Saudi Arabia would be among several Middle Eastern countries to ally themselves with Germany. His forecast was based entirely on biblical prophecy, since back then, German arms trade with Saudi Arabia was almost non-existent. In the entire decade of the ’90s, Germany sold the Saudis 36 reconnaissance tanks and 100 diesel engines. Now, Germany is using strategic arms sales to build an alliance of anti-Iranian nations across the Middle East. The explosion of its arms trade in the region is gaining the attention of the world—and should strengthen readers’ faith in the accuracy of the Bible’s prophecies. For more information on this alliance, see our article “Next in Line, Please” in the December 2012 Trumpet.
Naval presence encircling Iran
Germany has deployed the frigate Hamburg to the waters off Iran’s coast. Both the choice of vessel and its patrol zone are significant. The Hamburg, Germany’s latest and most advanced air-defense frigate, reportedly employs stealth technology and sensors that can detect stealth-equipped targets. The Hamburg has joined Carrier Strike Group Eight, which sails with the uss Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. Its mission includes war games with the U.S. Navy, according to German-Foreign-Policy.com, the second time the Bundesmarine has joined the U.S. Navy for such a function. German-Foreign-Policy.com claims, “Experts believe that German war ships will practice this function more often in the future” (March 5; translation ours). This is in keeping with the defense strategy of German elites: to gradually encircle Iran and to bide their time until they are ready for a swift reaction to Iran’s ongoing push against Europe.
Political party calls for EU superstate
The European Commission should expand its powers to become a fully fledged European government. That’s the position of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (spd) in a draft of its manifesto that was reported by the German media on March 9. Germany’s second-largest party reportedly wants to transform the European Union into a superstate, with its new government elected by the European Parliament. It also recommends adding a second chamber to the parliament that would represent national (formerly sovereign) governments. The spd could do well in Germany’s September elections. Current polls show Angela Merkel and her allies receiving 45 percent of the vote, and the spd and its ally receiving 43 percent, so it is currently too close to call. Regardless, all of Germany’s major parties are pro-EU. Watch for this type of vision of a European superstate to become more popular.
Euro crisis brings down governments
Protests triggered by rising energy prices forced Bulgaria’s government to resign on February 20. “The people gave us power, and today we are returning it,” Prime Minister Bojko Borisov said—just a day after insisting that he would not step down. “I will not participate in a government under which police are beating people,” he said. “Every drop of blood is a shame for us.” Bulgaria’s currency, the lev, is pegged to the euro. Bulgaria has been planning to join the euro in 2015. Although protesters voiced other grievances against the government, many of the country’s problems trace back to the euro peg. Combined with local factors, the social problems that arose from the ongoing euro crisis are to blame for bringing down the Bulgarian government.
Just a week after Bulgaria’s prime minister was forced to resign, the prime minister of Slovenia was also forced out of office. Defectors from his own party joined with the opposition to force Janez Jansa out of office in a no-confidence vote. Alenka Bratusek, leader of the largest opposition party, succeeded Jansa, becoming Slovenia’s first female prime minister. Slovenia is a eurozone member and is struggling with its banking system and economy. The fall of the government is another example of the destabilizing power of the euro crisis. The chain reaction has affected several countries already, and will continue to spread as long as Europe suffers from staggeringly high unemployment rates.
A Middle East ‘peace pipe’
Iranian and Pakistani officials met on March 11 for the groundbreaking ceremony of a controversial gas pipeline that defies U.S. sanctions. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari shook hands and prayed together following the announcement of the deal. When it is completed in late 2014, the “peace pipeline” will run the 700 miles from Assaluyeh in southern Iran to Nawabshah in Pakistan. Iran will then be able to pump 750 million cubic feet of natural gas per day into Pakistan, meaning plenty of cash for Iran. Iran has the second-largest natural gas reserve in the world, yet international sanctions hinder its ability to sell the resource. For President Ahmadinejad, the pipeline is a lifeline serving to sidestep the sanctions.
Supplying Hamas with missiles
Iran successfully tested two types of short-range missiles in military operations on March 9 during a three-day drill by ground forces in the country’s southwestern province of Khuzestan. The two missile types were the Fajr-5 and the Nazeat-10.
The Fajr-5 made global headlines when a number were launched in the missile barrage from Gaza into Israel in November. Hamas forces in Gaza readily admit they get weapons from Iran. The Fajr-5 can travel about 45 miles; the Nazeat-10 can reach up to 62 miles.
In 2008, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead to stem Gaza-based attacks, but Hamas came back stronger than ever in 2012, using rockets such as the Fajr-5. Israel’s response, Operation Pillar of Defense in late 2012, again failed to wipe out the enemy.
Watch Iran and its allies. Missiles developed and tested in Iran invariably find their way to the Gaza Strip, where they are launched not at practice targets, but at Jews.
Women fear Tahrir Square
After two years of the “new Egypt,” sexual harassment in the country has increased beyond pre-revolution levels. Egyptian women are now walking city streets in fear of attack and exploitation in a way they never did before. It is yet more evidence that Egypt’s “new and improved” government is a far cry from the democracy the Western world hoped for.
Since February 2011, 531 acts of sexual harassment have been reported in Cairo. Some victims blame President Mohamed Morsi and claim that their attackers are sent by people seeking to quell any uprising against his administration. Women make up a large portion of protesters; if they can be frightened off the streets, protests will lose numbers and their momentum will slow. In December, soldiers were caught on camera stripping a female protester and dragging her through the streets. Scenes such as this have become more common in post-revolution Egypt.
As the current administration pushes a more radicalized agenda, watch for the women in the country to suffer under more oppression. This abuse should be setting off alarm bells worldwide that the Egyptian democracy project has failed.
Arab Spring fever stirs
Protests were held in Bahrain on February 4, the second anniversary of the beginning of unrest in the small Middle Eastern nation. The day of protesting, demonstrations and street fighting led to the death of a 16-year-old and numerous arrests as police attempted to suppress the uprising. Numerous Shiite
opposition factions have been protesting in an attempt to pressure the ruling Sunni monarchy into relinquishing some of its political power. The king has made some concessions, and talks between the monarchy and opposition factions began on February 10, but so far there has been little headway.
This tiny nation serves as a strategically both to neighboring Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and to the United States, which uses the country to launch
operations in the Persian Gulf. Just 150 miles or so across the Gulf, Iran would like nothing more than to see the Sunni government overthrown and a more pro-Iranian Shiite government take control. This could upset the balance in Saudi Arabia and ultimately force America’s military presence out of Bahrain. The tiny island nation may be small, but it is perfectly placed to help tip the scales in the Middle Eastern balance of power.
The truce is over
On March 11, Pyongyang officially nullified its 1953 truce that ended the Korean War. The North’s intensifying provocations appear due in part to the desire of Kim Jong-un—who recently rose to power—to prove himself worthy to his hardline military. In February, Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear weapons test, prompting the UN to impose new sanctions on the isolated rogue state. The North responded by threatening preemptive nuclear attacks on South Korea and the U.S. In 2010, North Korean artillery killed four South Koreans, and also sunk a South Korean ship, killing 46 sailors. Pyongyang was only slapped on the wrist for those incidents; it appears to believe it can antagonize again without retaliation from the U.S. If North Korea increases its provocation and America continues to struggle for an effective response, it may signal to China—and Russia, Iran and other nations—that they too can afford to push the U.S. around.
To patrol the Mediterranean
The Russian Navy plans to resume a permanent presence in the Mediterranean Sea, a source in the General Staff said on February 26. It is slated to begin in 2015. President Vladimir Putin has been rebuilding Russia’s influence in its former Soviet periphery and beyond; Moscow’s plan for the Mediterranean reflects an intensification of these efforts.
Stealth frigate launches amid tensions
China launched the first ship in a new class of stealth missile frigates, the country’s state media reported on February 26. The launch comes during ongoing disputes between China and neighboring nations over Beijing’s maritime claims. The People’s Liberation Army Navy is building 20 Jiangdao-class frigates to replace less-advanced models and to boost China’s ability to conduct patrols and escort vessels in parts of the South China and East China seas, disputed water that Beijing claims. China has made no attempt to disguise its goal of extending its navy’s global reach, and nations of Asia are taking note. China launched its first aircraft carrier last year, and the navy has injected its fleet with a growing number of nuclear submarines and ultra-modern surface ships. The West is concerned about China’s mushrooming naval might, and rightly so.
On March 13, China’s parliament formally elected Xi Jinping as the nation’s new leader, placing the final seal of approval on a generational transition of power. Xi’s appointment as president came four months after he was appointed as both chairman of the Central Military Commission and general secretary of the Communist Party, giving him all three top offices—party, army and state—through which he is expected to rule for the next decade. Xi has demanded complete loyalty from the military and other officials, and has scorned any turn toward Western-style political liberalization. China has been traveling in this direction for some time, in one sense. But its new president/military ruler could use his consolidated powers to take China toward unprecedented belligerence.
‘You and I are good friends’
On his first foreign trip as president on March 22, Chinese President Xi Jinping honored Russia, highlighting the importance of Beijing’s warming ties with Moscow. The visit signaled that Russia and China want to boost their collective power as a geopolitical and financial counterweight to Washington. Russian President Vladimir Putin has long worked to diminish America’s international power, and China is irate about the U.S.’s expanded military and economic presence in its backyard. Moscow and Beijing have joined forces to thwart Western-backed measures in the Syrian war, and Russia has loyally backed China’s support of North Korea. Putin said Xi’s visit “will give Russian-Chinese ties a new and powerful impulse.” Xi replied that he and Putin “always treat each other with an open soul. … You and I are good friends.” Watch for Russia and China’s lockstep movement across the global stage to continue, and for it to give European nations more impetus to rally behind Germany.