They say ‘peace,’ but there’s no peace
Since the Oslo Agreement in 1993, the Middle East peace process has chalked up a long history of wasted efforts and failed policies. The latest attempt, negotiations to establish a Palestinian state, followed the same negative narrative.
In negotiations, Israel said the Palestinians must not use the United Nations to establish statehood. The Palestinians said Israel has no right to construct more buildings in areas critical to negotiations and disagreed to a border Israel could legitimately defend. Israel has seen what happened in Gaza, and wants its future border with a Palestinian state to be defensible. The Palestinians wouldn’t budge, despite Israel showing willingness to give up the entire West Bank and parts of Jerusalem itself.
On April 23, Israel’s counterpart in negotiations, the Palestinian Authority, exposed its true disdain for Israel: Mahmoud Abbas formed a unity government with Hamas. The move drew swift condemnation from Israel. Hamas is recognized by much of the world, including the U.S., as a terrorist organization. The Hamas charter itself is rife with anti-Israel hatred. For example, Hassan al Banna, a man respected by Hamas as a forefather, said, “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.” Yet Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas assured the international community that the unity government with Hamas will recognize Israel and renounce violence. Looking at Hamas’s history, such a notion is ludicrous—and Abbas knows it. But he also knows that with the failure of the peace process, his political party has come dangerously close to losing funding from America and Europe. He needs to convince his financial backers that there is still hope of peace—even when there clearly isn’t.
Much of the international community has sided with the Palestinians in blaming Israel for the latest breakdown in negotiations. But shouting loud over Abbas’s promises of peace are the “death to Israel” chants that still emanate from the Hamas haven of the Gaza Strip. The simple facts of the negotiations—and that Abbas and the plo allied with radical, bloodthirsty Hamas—suggests otherwise. The Palestinians want more than a state; they want to eradicate the Jewish nation.
Syria: The gas they didn’t get
Despite the removal of some of Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons from Syria, the rebel-held village of Kafr Zeita sustained a chemical weapons attack on April 11 that killed at least two people and injured dozens more. Ironically, the attack occurred just days before the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that 86.5 percent of Assad’s declared chemical weapons have been shipped to the Syrian port city of Latakia to be diluted. Even though the international community removed Assad’s most heinous chemicals, it failed to prevent Assad from using the ample supply of chemicals he has left. In the April 11 attack, government forces used chlorine. Because of its heavy industrial usage, chlorine isn’t considered a weapon of mass destruction the same way as sarin or mustard gas. As such, chlorine wasn’t even placed on the list of chemicals that Assad was told to give up.
Rising tide: al Qaeda taking control of Iraq
Iraq is experiencing the worst violence it has seen in six years. More than 1,400 people died in the first two months of 2014. Even when thousands of soldiers and security personnel were deployed in the lead-up to national elections on April 30, the violence didn’t abate. The day before the elections, 15 people were murdered when two bombs exploded in a market in al Saadiyah. In the week leading up to the election, 160 people were killed by al Qaeda attacks across the nation. The terrorist group continues to prove itself capable of avoiding detection and carrying out assaults across the country. The violence is testimony to the inescapable fact that Iraq today is less safe than it was at the start of the U.S. intervention. Al Qaeda is taking control, and is making its presence felt.
The EU’s military satellite program
The European Union launched its Sentinel-1A satellite from French Guiana on April 3, beginning the rollout of its advanced fleet of Earth-monitoring satellites. Once the Sentinel-1A’s sister satellite, the 1B, launches, the pair will be providing radar images of any place on the Earth within three to six days. They are part of the Copernicus project, which aims to provide the EU an extensive view of the Earth’s surface. “There is no Earth-observation project as big as this,” said Prof. Anne Glover, the EU’s chief scientific adviser.
Any system designed to study the Earth in detail for scientific reasons is also very useful militarily. The publicity for these launches focuses on the environment, global warming and disaster response, but the EU admits, in the small print, that these satellites have “intelligence” and even “military” applications. “There’s no doubt that Copernicus promises exciting new applications for land management and environmental science,” said Ben Hayes of the civil liberties group Statewatch. “But it’s already abundantly clear that the new system will also be used for military operations and surveillance purposes, some of which are highly controversial.”
Copernicus was initially known as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and was designed to support “environmental security.” However, as a European Parliament document noted, this mission was adjusted ever so slightly: It now aims to support “the environment and security” (original emphasis). The system’s declared military uses include “EU peacekeeping operations”—i.e., European military missions, as well as “border monitoring outside the EU” and resource monitoring. The latest Sentinel satellite will serve these purposes.
Copernicus is just one of many satellite projects underway within Europe. In assembling this man-made constellation, the EU and individual European nations are extending their military power and diminishing their reliance on the United States for accurate satellite data.
EU leaders say that once the Copernicus and Galileo satellite systems are complete, they will be the most advanced systems in operation. Galileo is Europe’s attempt to copy America’s Global Positioning System so it can use satellite navigation without relying on America. Satellite navigation is essential for modern precision-guided weapons.
Sentinel 1A is not a particularly special intelligence-gathering satellite, but it marks an important first step. Space is an important theater for any aspiring military. Watch for the EU to continue to expand on this frontier.
For more details on Europe’s space program, see “The Quiet Space Race.”
Ukraine on the brink of war
The crisis in Ukraine continues to dominate Europe’s news, as Russia keeps the country perpetually on the brink of war. In eastern Ukraine, Russia appears to be in the early stages of repeating its takeover of Crimea. Masked gunmen have taken over government facilities in several cities. As in Crimea, some of these armed intruders may be current or former Russian special forces soldiers. In some areas where these gunmen have appeared, the Ukrainian government has completely lost control.
Meanwhile, unmasked Russian soldiers continue to mass along Ukraine’s borders. They could invade at any moment, using the pretext of protecting eastern Ukrainian protesters from Ukrainian soldiers.
Few European leaders expect Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade and take over eastern Ukraine; however, few expected him to actually invade Crimea as he did, so they are extremely uneasy about what his next move will be.
Meanwhile, the European Union is a mess. Ukraine is proving that even when confronted by the threat of a major war on its doorstep, Europe’s government cannot act quickly. European nations near Russia, especially its former Soviet satellites, are demanding a firm response, but nations further west don’t want to jeopardize their economic ties with Russia.
The deputy head of the EU’s external action service, Maciej Popowski, said at a meeting of EU defense ministers in Luxembourg on April 15 that Europe was getting a “wake-up call,” and added, “Now we need to get serious about defense.” The EU’s foreign minister, Catherine Ashton, asked the group, “If Ukraine is not a trigger to get serious about spending, about pooling and sharing, about smart defense, then what more do we need to get real?”
But so far, the EU is only talking about getting real. Eastern Europe and Scandinavia are taking some action. Finland is forming closer links with nato, conservative Swedish politicians are pledging to boost annual defense spending by nearly $1 billion if they are reelected, and Norway’s defense chief wants to expand its military personnel.
Eastern Europe has looked largely to nato and the EU for help, and received nothing. Poland asked nato to station 10,000 soldiers on Polish soil. It received a handful of fighter jets.
One of the biggest outcomes of the crisis in Ukraine will be a sustained push from Poland as well as other countries in Central and Eastern Europe to make the EU a meaningful militarily alliance that they can actually rely on. These crises have exposed the EU’s weakness and given Eastern Europe a strong incentive to help fix that weakness. They know they could be next.
Vatican plays peacemaker in Venezuela
After two months of violent protests and 39 deaths, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro agreed on April 10 to meet with the opposition headed by Henrique Capriles. It was his first major effort at reconciliation since protests broke out in February. Whom did the government ask to mediate? The Vatican. In an April 9 letter, the government invited Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, to act in the talks. Parolin served as apostolic ambassador to Venezuela from 2009 to 2013, during which he experienced all the church-state tension that came with Hugo Chávez’s 14-year socialist revolution. The Venezuelan government squabbled often with Parolin and the country’s conservative Catholic hierarchy. Now, both the opposition and the current government are turning to the Vatican to help broker power. As this situation plays out, watch closely for the Vatican to play a bigger role in Venezuela’s future, and for it to dominate the most Catholic region on Earth. To learn how the Bible foretold this trend, read “Is Venezuela on the Verge of a Roman Catholic Spring?”
Australia’s auto industry rolling off the cliff
Toyota Australia announced on February 10 that it will end vehicle manufacturing Down Under by the end of 2017. With this announcement, Toyota joined the mass exodus of foreign companies that have been Australia’s sole carmakers. After Toyota leaves, every new car in Australia will be imported. That’s dire news for this industrialized nation, which will become the only G-20 economy besides Saudi Arabia without a major auto industry.
The ripple effect goes much further than the 2,500 staff Toyota will lay off. Richard Reilly, chief executive of the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers, said, “[M]ultinationals are only here because of the car companies, so when they go, the multinationals will generally go as well.” Thus, Australia’s car-parts industry will probably lose at least 30,000 jobs. Trade unions estimate that 50,000 jobs will disappear in the entire auto industry. Other experts believe that after all is said and done, as many as 200,000 jobs relying indirectly on the vehicle-manufacturing industry will be threatened—including the heavy mining equipment industries. Even what little is left of Australia’s shipbuilding industry could be threatened. These losses are expected to slash roughly $19 billion from the Aussie economy.
The danger to Australia also goes far beyond the initial turmoil of lost jobs. From a national security perspective, there could hardly be a bigger blow against Australia’s ability to defend itself. During World War ii, Australia was able to convert its manufacturing base to produce war matériel. With the looming death of the automobile industry, that option will be off the table, and the nation will be much more vulnerable. Many nations throughout history have learned the hard way the dangers of being dependent on foreign materials and weapons for fighting wars.
Tension rising in Falklands
Military maneuvers by British forces in the Falkland Islands in April touched a raw nerve in Argentina, as the dispute over the coveted isles continues.
The drills, held April 14-27, were part of routine, biannual exercises Britain has conducted for years, according to the United Kingdom Foreign Office. This year, they proved particularly irksome to the Argentine government, which summoned the British ambassador to Argentina to protest Britain’s “new show of military force.” Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner accused the British of using the Falklands as a “nato military nuclear base in the South Atlantic.”
On April 2, Kirchner commemorated the 32nd anniversary of Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands by unveiling a new 50-peso banknote. The bill displays a map of the Falklands on one side and on the other, Antonio Rivero, who led a rebellion against the British in 1833.
All but three of the islands’ 2,563 residents who participated in a 2013 referendum voted to stay British, but Argentina has kept the pressure on for a takeover. American support for Britain is waning. With the odds against them—including probable pressure from the Vatican and its Argentine pope—expect the British to finally lose the Falklands.
Bible history and prophecy show that the Falklands are actually part of the global empire God bestowed on Britain. The Bible also prophesied that God would remove those blessings from Britain to teach the importance of obedience.
Kim Jong-un ‘reelected’
North Korea’s state-run news agency announced on April 9 that Kim Jong-un had been “reelected” by the nation’s parliament to continue as the nation’s supreme leader. The parliamentary session followed an election in March for which officials said 100 percent of North Koreans in Kim’s district went to the polls, and not a single person declined to vote for Kim. That’s because the voters’ choice was only a “yes” or “no” for just one candidate. Casting a “no” vote in North Korea is asking for persecution that might include being thrown into a concentration camp with your family.
After the death of Kim Jong-il in 2011, Kim Jong-un took control of the country, and many analysts thought the country’s government would become saner; after all, Kim Jong-un had received a Western education, and was an outspoken fan of James Bond films and Michael Jordan. It is now clear that, under Kim Jong-un’s rule, nuclear-armed North Korea has never been less unpredictable or more oppressive to its people.
The world rolls its eyes when these reports emerge, but no power is willing to bring an end to the suffering the Kim dynasty inflicts on its people. The reason for this lies just west of North Korea and flies a red flag with yellow stars.
To better understand the significance of this situation, read “Why China Refuses to Deal With North Korea.”
Putin’s milestone weapons sale to China
Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the sale of Russia’s latest S-400 Triumf air defense guided missile system to China on April 30.
Beijing first tried to buy the advanced anti-aircraft weapon system back in 2011, but negotiations stalled; Russia wanted to ensure it could provide an ample supply of the high-tech systems to its own military before selling them to any other nation, and it was also concerned that China would copy the technology. But now, in the aftermath of Moscow’s occupation and annexation of the Crimean peninsula, Putin has new impetus to shore up Russo-Chinese ties, economically and militarily. This newfound impetus has reshuffled his priorities and trumped his other concerns.
Thus, China stands poised to buy enough of the systems to equip up to four battalions of the People’s Liberation Army. Such a quantity, according to the military news website Huanqiu.com, would give China a strategic advantage in both the Taiwan Strait and the airspace above the Diaoyutai/Senkaku islands, which lie at the center of an increasingly tense dispute between Beijing and Tokyo.
Alignment among the major Asian powers is accelerating. After Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, China and India made it clear that they supported Putin. Putin thanked Beijing and Delhi for their support and soon after took steps toward massive new energy deals with both of the Asian powerhouses. Besides fuel and weapons, Russia also possesses military know-how, which Putin appears increasingly willing to share with his Asian neighbors. This willingness was on full display at the end of May when Russia and China held joint naval drills in the East China Sea. Moscow’s increasingly eastward gaze has sobering implications. To know what results to expect from it, read “Asia Stands With Putin.”
Russia’s very special dollar-value menu
It’s amazing how far a dollar goes when you are Vladimir Putin. Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom gave the government of Kyrgyzstan a one-dollar bill on April 10 in exchange for full ownership of the KyrgyzGaz energy corporation. The symbolic payment means Russia is also now responsible for repaying the $40 million in debts the Kyrgyz energy company owes, but to Vladimir Putin, this is chump change.
Even if the debt had been uncomfortable for Putin to shoulder, he would still have taken it on, because the takeover of KyrgyzGaz represents a great step forward in his goal to transform Kyrgyzstan, a former republic of the Soviet Union, into something akin to a client state to Russia.
Last year, Russia promised to donate more than $1 billion in weapons to the Kyrgyz Army, including tanks, helicopters, air defense systems and training programs. A few days later, Kyrgyzstan cleared the way to sell its massive, Soviet-legacy Dastan torpedo plant to Russia.
Also last year, after Russia had spent years pressuring Kyrgyzstan to kick America out of the Manas Air Base, Putin finally got his wish. Now, he is moving Russians in to take over this strategic hub. Manas was America’s last military base in Central Asia and the primary supply facility for U.S. operations in Afghanistan. For 12 years, it was the largest manifestation of American power in Central Asia. Now Putin is transforming it into an international logistics hub run by Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft.
With all the headlines going to Russia’s belligerence in Crimea and now eastern Ukraine, few have noticed Putin’s gradual takeover of Kyrgyzstan. That’s because the Kremlin is conquering Kyrgyzstan not with soldiers, but with battalions of businessmen. From Ukraine to Kyrgyzstan, Putin is rebuilding Russian power in the former Soviet periphery. To understand how, why and what is ahead, read our new reprint article, “The Prophetic Significance of the Ukraine Crisis” (theTrumpet.com/go/RA1995).
Antibiotic resistance threatens global plague
Diseases that were once treatable are becoming killers again, the World Health Organization (who) warned on April 30. The organization said the over-prescription of antibiotics has enabled the rise of untreatable superbugs.
“For organism after organism, we’re seeing this steady increase in resistance rates,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc), told Reuters. “We don’t have new drugs about to come out of the pipeline. If and when we get new drugs, unless we do a better job of protecting them, we’ll lose those also” (Sept. 16, 2013).
In its most comprehensive report to date, the who said that several strains of infectious bacteria were able to resist even the strongest antibiotics. The world’s last line of defense against some bugs is failing. Even “last resort” drugs are losing their potency, the who reported.
“The world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill,” said Keiji Fukuda, the who’s assistant director-general for health security.
Among the report’s key findings was the global spread of drug-resistant gonorrhea, which could soon become a killer again. Extremely resistant forms of the disease have been identified in Australia, the UK and several European countries. The cdc said in February that another tough strain of drug-resistant gonorrhea was on the rise, especially among homosexual men living in the western U.S.
Each year, more than 2 million Americans develop serious bacterial infections that show antibiotic resistance, the cdc reported in 2013, and at least 23,000 die from the infections—more than the number of aids deaths in the U.S. each year.
Startlingly, hospitals are a major source of these deadly infections. The who noted an alarming rate of resistance to carbapenem antibiotics, which is the strongest weapon against life-threatening infections caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae (a major culprit of hospital-acquired infections like pneumonia and blood infections).
Additionally, the cdc reported in the past that widespread use of antibiotics in food production to promote animal growth has also caused many resistant strains of bacteria.
The booklet The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse details what the Bible says about the future of global pandemics and why they will be virtually unavoidable. Request a free copy.
West Africa’s Ebola pandemic: unclean meats
On May 3, health authorities in Guinea reported that the country has seen 231 Ebola infections, including 155 fatalities, since February.
The highly contagious Ebola virus spreads through direct contact with infected people, infected blood and bodily fluids, and environments contaminated by such fluids. Ebola outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90 percent, and recuperating patients may still spread the disease through bodily secretions up to seven weeks after recovery.
In its initial stages, Ebola shuts down the victim’s immune system and causes fever, headaches, muscle pain and weakness. In its advanced stages, it causes vomiting, diarrhea, organ failure and both internal and external bleeding. Since it was discovered in 1976, Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people. It has no known cure. The bbc reported that the United States government funds research for a cure mostly out of fear of bioterrorism.
The outbreak was denoted by West African foreign ministers as “a serious threat to regional security.” It spread from Guinea’s rural areas to the capital Conakry. It then leaped national borders to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia. All the victims had recently traveled to Guinea. Guinea’s northern neighbor, Senegal, closed its border with Guinea at the end of March in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.
In its desperate measures to prevent further spread of this deadly disease, Guinea prohibited public funerals. But more significantly, it imposed a ban on the selling and consumption of a local delicacy that carries the virus: bats. Fruit bats are the natural hosts of the Ebola virus.
By banning the consumption of bats, Guinea essentially followed legislation given to the ancient nation of Israel found in Leviticus 11. Bats are specifically forbidden in verse 19. Could these health laws have been revealed for the purpose of preventing crises like the Ebola pandemic in West Africa?