Egypt Bans Hamas
On March 4 an Egyptian court banned the activities of Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas. The ruling cut all official ties between Egypt and Hamas and closed the organization’s offices and infrastructure within Egypt. Hamas operatives currently in Egypt have “now lost any legal cover,” and “should be arrested,” according to the filing lawyer Samir Sabry, reported the Times of Israel.
The Cairo court’s potent ruling came two months after Egypt’s military-backed interim government branded the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. The Brotherhood is Hamas’s parent organization. Incarcerated Brotherhood members face charges that could lead to the death penalty. Now that Hamas is outlawed in Egyptian territory, its members face the same threat.
Since the Egyptian military forced Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi from power last July, Egypt has worked hard to stifle Hamas’s influence in the country by undermining all trade from Egypt into Gaza. Not only did it close its main legal, above-ground crossing with Gaza, but it has also destroyed most of the 1,200 underground smuggling tunnels into the strip. This effectively cuts Gaza off from any trade except the little it can do with Israel.
This ruling will likely push Hamas further into the arms of Turkey and its moderate Arab friends in Qatar. Psalm 83 discusses a mysterious alliance whereby the Gazan region—former territory of the ancient Philistines and now occupied by Hamas—allies itself not with Iran and Egypt, but rather with Turkey and the Arabs located in the Gulf states. It is no surprise that at the same time Hamas’s relationship with Egypt is severed, relations between Qatar and Turkey are warming. In fact, the only reason the Gaza Strip has not collapsed already is because of new sources of help Hamas has received from Turkey and Qatar.
Expect Hamas to continue to grow closer to the Turks and its Arab friends—at the expense of its traditional allies, Egypt and Iran.
Sanctions Against Iran Collapsing
The P5+1 nations (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China) continue their negotiations with Iran over its disputed nuclear program. But the corrosive effects of their first deal are only now becoming visible as they eat away at international sanctions.
The White House has tried hard to pretend as though the sanctions in place are still effective. “I am confident that the sanctions pressure on Iran will continue to mount,” wrote David Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Iran will be even deeper in the hole six months from now, when the deal expires, than it is today.” An White House press secretary official downplayed the sanctions relief provided by the Geneva agreement as being “insignificant economically”—worth a maximum of around $6 to $7 billion. “Iran’s oil exports will remain steady at their current level of around 1 million barrels per day,” he insisted.
In truth, Iran’s crude oil exports have already swollen to 1.32 million barrels per day. Since the sanctions eased, oil-hungry nations such as China, India and Japan have been drinking up the black gold, bringing the value of sanctions relief up to well over $20 billion.
With the structure of international sanctions collapsing, Iran’s immediate future seems secure, with a resurgent economy, a thriving oil market, an intact nuclear program, and an uninterrupted quest to build a bomb.
Britain: Yoo hoo! We Love You, Germany!
Britain welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her whirlwind trip to London on February 27. As the nation rolled out what the press dubbed the “reddest of red carpets,” Merkel became the second-ever German chancellor to address both houses of Parliament; she spoke in the Royal Gallery in the Palace of Westminster, which is literally covered in gold and has to be one of the most impressive venues in the world; she met with Prime Minister David Cameron; she had tea with the Queen in Buckingham Palace. All this for a visit that lasted only six hours.
Cameron desperately wants the German leader’s help. He hopes to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union, and the best person to help with that is the de facto leader of the EU: Angela Merkel.
In her speech to Parliament, Merkel gave Cameron a little hope. “We need a strong United Kingdom with a strong voice inside the European Union,” she said. “If we have that, we will be able to make the necessary changes for the benefit of all.”
The British press is still debating whether Merkel’s support for limited reform is a victory or defeat for Cameron. But the real story here is the way Britain has gone after Germany’s help.
The Bible warns in several passages that the modern nations of Israel (primarily Britain, the United States and Israel) will look to foreign allies to solve their problems instead of looking to God. It compares those nations to a woman seeking lovers—in particular the Assyrians, or Germans (e.g. Hosea 2; Ezekiel 23; Lamentations 1). That metaphor is reflected in Britain’s emotional and showy pursuit of Merkel’s affection. Cameron almost acted like someone trying to impress a girlfriend, laying out the flashiest program possible for the German chancellor.
The Bible prophesies that Britain will continue to look to foreign allies to solve its problems, until it finally learns to put its trust in God and not man.
Merkel Adores Israel—Do Germans Agree?
German Chancellor Angela Merkel led the largest-ever delegation of German cabinet members to Israel on February 25 to conduct bilateral meetings with their Israeli counterparts for two days. The Merkel government signed a number of new agreements with Israel, one of which will allow Germany to provide consular services to Israeli citizens in countries where Israel has no diplomatic presence, mainly in hostile Arab nations. Merkel called the agreement a “sign of trust” between the two nations.
“Israel has closer defense relations with Germany than virtually any other country in Europe,” World Tribune reported German officials as saying.
To cap off the visit, Merkel received the presidential Medal of Distinction, Israel’s highest civilian award, from Israeli President Shimon Peres. This is the first time a European politician has ever received the award.
Merkel’s motivation appears to be an honest desire to make up for what Germany did to the Jews in the past. However, her constituents back home hardly share her moral duty toward Israel. A recent bbc poll showed that only 14 percent of Germans have a positive view of Israel.
This dichotomy between the German chancellor and her people falls in line with a prophecy in Hosea 5. This end-time prophecy indicates that the relationship between Germany and Israel will warm to the point that Israel will go to Germany for help in dealing with the problem of Palestinian terrorism. However, the Bible also indicates that this will lead to a gigantic German double cross. Perhaps this will come at a time when a new German leader will be in power—one who thinks not like Merkel, but like the German public.
China Ready to Swallow Taiwan
China and Taiwan held a landmark meeting on February 11 to establish representative offices (equivalent to embassies or consulates) for closer cooperation between the two nations, which have long been at odds. The agreement, the first of its kind in Taiwan’s history, marks the latest of many significant measures that show the two nations are about to reconcile.
In 1949, Chinese Communists rose up against the ruling party and pushed Kuomintang off the mainland onto the island of Taiwan. The civil war divided China into two nations, China and Taiwan, but Communist mainland China has consistently claimed the right to rule Taiwan. Meanwhile, Taiwan, which is officially called the Republic of China, technically claims sovereignty over the mainland.
Yet in 2008, the Taiwanese voted in China-friendly Ma Ying-Jeou as president, and since then he has made conciliatory overtures toward Beijing. “The two sides of the Taiwan Strait should not quarrel,” Ma said in 2011. “We should instead focus on encouraging and helping each other grow ….” On March 17, despite strong opposition from opposition groups, Ma’s Kuomintang party passed a historic pact that will sharply enhance trade between China and Taiwan.
The warming relationship between China and Taiwan is bad news for the United States and other nations concerned about China’s ascendancy.
For decades, Taiwan remained an outpost of democracy and maintained warm relations with the West. It also served as the best location from which to monitor China, thanks to its proximity and its advanced information technology. Shared language, ethnicity and culture also allows Taiwanese spies to blend into Chinese society during their reconnaissance missions. But now, Taiwan appears to be questioning its role as the eyes and ears for other nations. Reports say Ma has halted the activities of some Taiwanese spy agents operating in China and plans to stop sharing intelligence with the U.S. and its allies.
The Trumpet has long predicted the China-Taiwan reconciliation, which is now gaining great momentum. In 1998, editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote, “How could anyone fail to see that Taiwan is destined to become a part of mainland China?” Establishing representative offices may be a key step toward fulfilling that bold geopolitical prediction. When Taipei refuses China’s increasingly bold advances, Beijing often responds with war games and other threats of force. But under Ma’s Beijing-friendly rule, and despite some Taiwanese protests, such refusals are becoming less and less common. When China completes this reconciliation process, its ability to dominate the Pacific will grow—as will its capacity to persuade other Asian states to rally behind Beijing.
Why Is China Concerned About Japan?
China expressed “serious concern” over Japan’s possession of weapons-grade nuclear material in a February 18 report in the China Daily. Beijing is pushing for Tokyo to return the plutonium to the United States as quickly as possible. “We believe that Japan … should strictly observe its international obligations of nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear security,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. China possesses nuclear weapons; Japan currently does not.
Since 2010, the Obama administration has also been urging Tokyo to return the plutonium, which the U.S. gave to Japan during the Cold War for research purposes. But Japan has strongly resisted. It has been promising to return the material, even as recently as February, but has so far failed to follow through.
The 331 kilograms of plutonium currently stored at Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency is enough to produce 40 to 50 nuclear weapons. In light of the nationalistic shifts underway in Japan, and the growing number of Japanese who view their nation’s World War ii history without remorse, this news takes on great significance. As the U.S. snubs history, turns inward and ignores geopolitical shifts, the barriers established to prevent another world war are being systematically dismantled.
Third Asian Giant Wants a Bigger Role
India reiterated on February 24 that it wishes to play a broader and deeper role in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and that it hopes to become a full member soon. The sco is a Eurasian political, economic and military bloc dominated by Russia and China. It also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The admission of India would greatly extend the sco’s geographic reach and boost the population it represents to just under 3 billion. The expansion could transform the sco’s mission and bolster its geopolitical significance. China and Russia are the regional behemoths driving the cooperation of the East, and the sco appears to be one vehicle they are using to attain that cooperation.
Drug Lord Jailed—What Happens Next?
Mexican authorities arrested Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the Mexican drug baron who headed the Sinaloa Federation, on February 22. Guzmán was the most elusive criminal in Mexico, the most wanted felon of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Forbes magazine’s 67th most powerful person in the world and 701st-ranked billionaire tycoon, and Chicago’s Public Enemy No. 1.
Guzmán was arrested in 1993 for drug trafficking crimes, but he shamed Mexico by running his narcotics business from a maximum-security
prison until his eventual escape in 2001. “El Chapo” consolidated the Sinaloa Federation cartel’s narcotics business into an international enterprise whose tentacles reached throughout the United States and even into drug markets in Europe, Asia and Australia. In Mexico, the Sinaloa Federation controlled the greatest geography of any cartel.
Yet, in spite of his recent arrest, not everyone broke out the tequila in victory celebrations. “It’s like time stood still,” wrote journalist and author Javier Valdez. “There is a feeling of uncertainty, a worry of what could come next.”
Guzmán’s arrest will not solve Mexico’s drug nightmare. The history of the Sinaloa Federation shows that a power vacuum can lead to violent intra-cartel battles for succession, or inter-cartel turf wars. While Guzmán was a significant part of the drug problem, the real problem is human nature and the insatiable drug market north of Mexico.
EU and Brazil want to have secret conversations
The European Union and Brazil announced on February 24 that they will lay an $185 million undersea cable connecting their two continents in order to keep the United States from spying on their communications.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff framed the project in terms of “respect[ing] privacy, human rights and the sovereignty of nations,” and frankly stated: “We don’t want businesses to be spied upon.” Last year, Rousseff canceled a trip to Washington after learning that the U.S. had been tapping her cell phone and e-mail.
The planned cable would stretch some 3,500 miles from Lisbon, Portugal, to Fortaleza, Brazil, and would allow the EU and Brazil to stop relying on America’s undersea cables for their communications.
On the same day, Rousseff and her European counterparts expressed hope for a breakthrough in trade negotiations between the EU and Mercosur, the Latin American economic bloc to which Brazil belongs. The two sides have been working toward a mammoth free trade deal since 2000, but the talks so far have produced few results. Their mutual anger over U.S. spying may prove to be the catalyst they need to jolt the trade deal to life.
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the agreement aims to expand far beyond just Brazil. “It will allow for the completion of an economic area in the long run between Europe and South America.”
The United States is still South America’s largest trade partner, but its position has been sliding, and Europe has been working to take its place—just as the Trumpet’s predecessor, the Plain Truth, predicted in the 1960s.
The Government Wants Your Retirement Money
Many Americans have virtually nothing saved for their retirement. President Barack Obama emphasized this point in his State of the Union speech in January and proposed a dramatic solution: He wants you to trust your retirement money to the government.
The president announced “a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg,” called the myRA plan. He described it as a risk-free investment that comes with a decent return. No risk—decent return?
Here is how the plan works. Anybody who makes less than $191,000 household income can contribute to the myRA. Contributions would be with after-tax money. Once in retirement, withdrawals are tax-free.
If that sounds a lot like a Roth ira, that’s because it is a lot like a Roth ira. The big difference, though, is that in a Roth ira, you can invest in virtually anything you want. With the myRA, you only get one choice. What is it? The only thing you can invest in is government bonds.
The bonds in the myRA will be modeled on the government’s Thrift Savings Plan Government Securities Fund. This fund returned 1.47 percent in 2012. The cumulative return over the past three years is 5.92 percent.
This investment doesn’t even keep up with the rate of inflation. And if interest rates start rising from their historic lows, investors will get massacred.
This plan is so bad that if it were a private company offering this plan to investors, it would be illegal. The myRA violates multiple fiduciary standards required by the government’s own legislation. For example, investment administrators are not allowed to use investors’ money to make loans to themselves or to businesses they are associated with—which is exactly what the myRA does. Additionally, a private company would have to identify potential conflicts of interest and both communicate and address them. President Obama did neither.
So why would the president of the United States promote such a terrible investment that would be illegal if anybody else offered it? It gets down to this: America has largely fleeced the Chinese and Japanese for all it can, so now the government is turning to the last big pool of money left to keep it operating: retirement funds.
With the Federal Reserve saying it has to cut back its money printing, the U.S. government will soon need to come up with an additional $45 billion per month to pay its bills. For the past several years, the Federal Reserve covered the entire U.S. deficit with money printing. It allowed tough budget decisions to be postponed, but now, unless some other source of cheap money is found, a day of reckoning may be imminent.
Hence the new plan to finance the deficit—without politically uncomfortable raising of taxes or spending cuts.
Sadly, in the end it will hurt most the very people the president purports to be helping. The only people likely to invest in such a plan are the poor and middle class. That’s because many of the poor are uneducated, and the middle class is trusting.
Radical Islam explodes in Nigeria
Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram massacred more than 1,300 people in northern Nigeria in January and February alone, marking a bloody surge in its ongoing campaign of violence.
“We are in a state of war,” Nigeria’s Bono state Governor Kashim Shettima said on February 17. He conceded that “Boko Haram are better armed and better motivated than our own troops.” He said defeating the group “is impossible for us.”
Last May, the government declared a state of emergency in the three main affected states and formed a joint task force to stop the terrorists. Though they deployed over 20,000 soldiers, the attacks continued, displacing nearly 300,000 residents from the region.
Boko Haram has links to groups like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (aqim). It is working with one of aqim’s offshoots, the “Signers in Blood,” which took over Northern Mali and carried out attacks in Algeria. Boko Haram’s fighters are well armed, and some believe their weapons are from Muammar Qadhafi’s regime in Libya and/or from the volatile Central African Republic, where Islamists looted millions of weapons from the government before being forced out.
As radical Islam becomes more deeply entrenched across North Africa, the region is breaking out into pockets of unrest and violence. Although America can no longer be relied on to control such outbreaks, one major power is watching this situation closely and is beginning to take action to secure its interests: Europe.