WorldWatch

From the March 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

Political earthquake in Spain

Politics are shaking all across Europe. Upstart parties are gaining popularity at the expense of established rivals. In every country, though local issues have played a major part in each election, an overarching trend is clear: Any party that accepts austerity in return for a bailout is doomed. Austerity is breaking the entire political system of southern Europe. And it is also turning people against the source of the austerity demands: Germany.

Elections on December 20 revealed that this rolling political earthquake has not spared Spain. The incumbent center-right Popular Party lost its majority and sustained the biggest drop in support for a ruling party in over 30 years. Meanwhile, the center-left Socialist Party experienced its worst result ever in post-dictatorship Spain, winning only 22 percent of the vote.

Two new parties are now storming up behind the front-runners. Left-wing party Podemos (“We Can”) received 21 percent of the vote, even though it was only founded in March 2014. Ciudadanos (a libertarian-style party) stood in its first national election in 2014 and won 3 percent of the vote. This time, it won 14 percent. Both parties have come from nowhere to become major political players in just over a year.

The poor performance of the leading parties means that Spain has no logical coalition going forward. The new parties have little incentive to form any kind of coalition with the old. Spain is in limbo, heading for an incredibly rickety coalition, a minority government, or new elections.

“Our message to Europe is clear,” said Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias Turrión. “Spain will never again be the periphery of Germany. We will restore the meaning of sovereignty.” This is exactly the type of rhetoric that is popular in southern Europe right now.

This doesn’t mean Europe is facing an immediate revolt against German hegemony. But any new crises could trigger a major power struggle. Mainstream politicians have learned from Greece and now Spain that submitting to German austerity probably means destroying your political career, and perhaps even taking your party down with you.

How these two forces will interact remains to be seen. Germany may win an open victory. Or the two sides may reach a compromise. Faced with radical Islam, America in retreat, and an aggressive Russia, they may find a way to put aside these differences.

But it may get very bad for the Union before it gets better.

“Watch closely,” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in February 2011. “Germany will use this crisis to force Europe to unite more tightly. In the process, some eurozone countries will be forced out of the Union. When that happens, the pundits will say European unification is dead, that the European Union has failed. Don’t listen to them!

“Every country that leaves the EU puts us one step closer to seeing the German-led 10-nation European superstate! [Revelation 17].”

Europe considers an army in response to the migrant crisis

Europe is considering what amounts to a thinly disguised European army in response to the migrant crisis and the terrorist attacks in Paris. Called the European Border and Coast Guard, the force would be armed and have its own ships, helicopters and drones. Most importantly, it could deploy anywhere in Europe without approval from the host nation.

Such a dramatic expansion of the European Union’s power is a hard sell, which is probably why the plans put forward by the European Commission call for a small force of approximately 1,500 personnel.

But approving even this small force would equate to a huge political step. A Europe where a central government sends armed forces into different countries at will is not a Europe of sovereign nation states. It’s the beginning of a federal superstate.

Nations that are party to the Schengen Agreement have already given up control of their borders. If approved, this plan would see them give up the right to control which armed forces enter their country.

Once approved, the European government could relatively easily increase the size of this proto-European army.

The migrant crisis will continue. Regardless of whether this measure is adopted this time around, it reveals Europe’s instincts in reaction to crisis. As these crises keep hitting, look for this smaller, more tightly knit superstate to emerge—and for it to field its own military.

U.S. bows to Russia, again

“Assad’s days are numbered.” “Assad needs to go.” “I’m confident Assad will go.” These are all crystal-clear statements from United States President Barack Obama. Over the past five years, he and his administration have made these statements repeatedly.

And here is an equally clear and completely contradictory statement from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, made Dec. 15, 2015: “The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change.”

With that, America officially and completely reversed its position regarding Syrian President Bashar Assad. Why? In order to appease Russia.

“The U.S. stands ready to work with Russia,” Kerry told reporters in Moscow, adding that the world is better off when “the United States and Russia pull together in the same direction.” In other words, America will let Russia have its way.

“Today I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching,” President Obama famously said back in 2012. “The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable, and if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences, and you will be held accountable.”

Assad has crossed that red line again and again. America was reduced to threatening an “unbelievably small, limited” military intervention (Kerry’s own words). More than three years later, Assad is still in power, and President Obama and Kerry are happy to let him remain there. Those “red lines” became the most talked about symbol of U.S. weakness in recent years.

It was this weakness that gave Russia an opening in the Middle East. After America started wavering and hedging and blurring its red lines, Russia swooped in with a sham agreement on removing Assad’s chemical weapons, and America came out looking foolish.

And Assad is still using chemical weapons on his own people. Last year, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons reported several incidents between March and May that “likely involved the use of one or more toxic chemicals.”

When a red line is so easily erased, and “Assad needs to go” evolves into “Assad can stay,” it means the United States has lost the pride in its power. And the rest of the world has taken note. Just look at Russia.

Behind China’s short trading week

China’s shortest trading day in its 25-year history was January 7, with automatic circuit breakers kicking in to stop trading less than 30 minutes after the session started. Chinese stocks fell 7 percent, and markets around the world followed suit.

Those circuit breakers were introduced in December to prevent extreme volatility. In this year’s first full trading week, they were triggered twice: on January 4 and 7. Instead of calming the market, they produced the opposite effect. Investors panicked to sell stocks before the market closed.

Aftershocks of the Chinese market drop spread rapidly to Europe and the United States. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor’s 500 both fell more than 2 percent on January 7. Amazon and Apple stocks fell 3.7 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

Markets “are in a panic over what’s happening in China,” said Derek Halpenny, European head of global markets research at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi ufj in London. “People are saying, ‘Whoa, growth is way worse than we were expecting this year.’”

Asian neighbors were the same. Japan’s Nikkei dropped 2.3 percent on January 7. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 2.8 percent.

What caused the instability in the Chinese markets? Different analysts proposed a number of reasons. A six-month ban on major shareholders selling stakes in listed companies ended. The manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index had been hovering around 48 (below 50 is a contraction) for six months. Growth rates for gross domestic product fell below 7 percent (and some suspect lower).

Stratfor indicated that the announcement that China’s foreign exchange reserves dropped from $3.4 trillion to $3.3 trillion is the story behind the volatility.

China’s recent stock problems could mean that a repeat of China’s August currency devaluation is likely to come around again.

Keep your eyes on the way China handles its currency. To see where it could lead, read “Currency War: Dragging the World Toward World War iii” (theTrumpet.com/go/13073).

Russia and India draw closer

Russia and India signed 16 defense, energy and political agreements on December 24 as Indian leader Narendra Modi visited Moscow to bolster one of the most robust military relationships on the planet.

Since Soviet times, Russia has been India’s number one defense partner, and vice versa. From 2010 to 2014, Russia supplied 70 percent of India’s weapons imports, and India accounted for 39 percent of Russia’s weapons exports.

Modi has often said he views Russia as one of India’s most reliable partners and has said that he wishes to further deepen Russo-Indian ties. During his time in Moscow, Modi underscored his personal admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin: “Despite the various global problems, despite the confrontation against Russia, you have raised your country, your state to a qualitatively new level,” he said.

During the 2014 brics summit, Modi said: “Even a child in India, if asked to say who is India’s best friend, will reply it is Russia because Russia has been with India in times of crisis.”

This shift in India aligns with the Bible’s prophecy of a massive Asian alliance developing in our day. To learn more, request a free copy of Russia and China in Prophecy (theTrumpet.com/go/rcp).

Iran goes ballistic

In October and November, Iran tested two ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear payloads. When the United States and the United Nations verified the tests in December, they found Iran guilty of violating a 2010 United Nations Security Council resolution that forbids Iran from even developing ballistic missile infrastructure—an infraction that warrants the punishment of economic sanctions.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the White House was scheduled to announce plans for new sanctions on Iran on December 30. Instead, it announced an indefinite delay of the imposition of those sanctions.

Critics attributed the Obama administration’s irresolution to fiery rhetoric from Iran.

President Hassan Rouhani warned, “If [the] U.S. continues its illegitimate interference with Iran’s right to defend itself, a new program will be devised to enhance missile capabilities.” He directed his defense minister “to continue with greater speed and seriousness the plan for production of various missiles needed by the armed forces within the approved defense policies.”

Then, on January 6, Iran unveiled a new underground cache of Emad precision-guided missiles in footage it displayed on national television.

Meanwhile, both opponents and proponents of the nuclear deal—Republicans and Democrats alike—urged the Obama administration to implement the promised sanctions as a way to ensure that Iran will not cheat in the nuclear deal the U.S. agreed to in July.

In early January, seven House Democrats wrote a letter to President Barack Obama saying, “Inaction from the United States would send the misguided message that, in the wake of the [nuclear deal], the international community has lost the willingness to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its support for terrorism and other offensive actions throughout the region.”

“If the president’s announced sanctions ultimately aren’t executed,” commented Rep. Mike Pompeo, “it would demonstrate a level of fecklessness that even the president hasn’t shown before.”

These events are exposing the true nature of the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Iran. To understand the spiritual reason, request America Under Attack.

The exodus of Middle Eastern Christians

“If the situation does not improve, Christianity is on course for extinction in many of its biblical heartlands within a generation, if not before.” That was the assessment of a Vatican agency in its October 2015 report, “Persecuted and Forgotten?”

In the foreword to the report, the archbishop of Aleppo, Syria, Jean-Clement Jeanbart, said that Middle Eastern Christians “are facing the rage of an extremist jihad; we may disappear soon.”

The report noted that 80 percent of all religious persecution in the world is against Christians. It quoted British Prime Minister David Cameron saying in 2014 that Christianity “is now the most persecuted religion around the world.” Cameron was echoing statements German Chancellor Angela Merkel made in 2012.

The report reviewed persecution in 22 countries during the “catastrophic” period between October 2013 and July 2015. In 15 of those countries, persecution of Christians had worsened since 2013. As a consequence, Christians have fled the Middle East by the thousands.

The Vatican report estimated that Christianity in Iraq is on course to disappear “possibly within five years—unless emergency help is provided at an international level on a massively increased scale.” It also noted a “huge exodus of Christians from other parts of the Middle East, such as Syria, combined with increasing pressures on [Christians] in Saudi Arabia and Iran.”

In 2002, the number of Christians in Iraq was estimated to be 1 million. In 2006, that number dwindled to 700,000. It is now below 300,000. The report estimates that between 60,000 and 100,000 Christians leave each year, and “many, if not most, of those who remain want to leave Iraq.”

This mass Christian exodus from the Middle East has coincided with the dramatic rise of Islamic extremism. In March 2011, the Trumpet noted, “For the Vatican, the rise of militant Islam is an ideal discussion point with Europeans, millions of whom are alarmed by the encroachment of Islam on the Continent.”

“Radical Islam has gained momentum in its war on Christianity. Don’t expect it to let up on its assault. What we should expect, however, is for the Vatican to begin to respond. … [T]he persecution of various Christian churches and Catholic sects … will drive these groups into the protective arms of the mother church, the Catholic Church. The more these daughter churches seek protection, the stronger the Vatican will become in defending its spiritual family” (ibid).

As Archbishop Jeanbart said, “We are confronting one of the most important challenges of our 2,000-year history. We will fight with all our strength and act with all available means to give our people reasons to stay and not to leave.”