German troops to be stationed in Jordan
Germany will move its main air base for the Middle East from Incirlik, Turkey, to Azraq, Jordan, Germany’s cabinet agreed, June 7.
The Incirlik base has been essential to the German military’s ongoing fight against the Islamic State, but tensions with Turkey provoked German officials to pull out.
Jordan is an obvious choice for an alternative. Despite its proximity to regional crises, the Sunni majority country has managed to avoid the chaos triggered by the Arab Spring. A base in Jordan would be relatively stable and could potentially extend Germany’s reach at least another 600 miles into the Middle East.
The move involves some 270 personnel, about half a dozen German Tornado reconnaissance jets and a refueling plane.
The foundation of a relationship has already been laid. Late last year, Germany announced $88.6 million worth of grants and loans to Jordan, increasing its total pledged assistance to the country to approximately $529 million. The grants and soft loans are designed to support Jordan’s sanitation and water sectors. The Germans have made numerous similar nonmilitary investments over the years, including cooperation in solar thermal power plants and railways.
Germany is Jordan’s second-largest bilateral donor after the United States—a milestone German officials celebrated with a statement last year.
According to the Jordan Times, “Supporting Jordan in overcoming the refugee crisis has been a crucial part of Germany’s funding of projects in the kingdom, the statement said, indicating that Berlin has supported Amman with more than €1.12 billion since the beginning of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2012” (Nov. 17, 2016).
But of course, as the presence of the German military in the region proves, Germany knows that the problems of the Middle East will not be solved with grants and soft loans.
Wherever Germany’s Middle Eastern base ends up, Germany will use the opportunity to forge new military relationships with the nations there and to increase its ability to project power in the region.
NATO joins anti-Islamic State coalition
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed on May 24 that the military alliance will join the international coalition fighting against the Islamic State.
Stoltenberg made the announcement two days after the terrorist attack in Manchester, England, and one day before a key nato summit. “This will send a strong political message of nato’s commitment to the fight against terrorism,” he said.
Stoltenberg said that the alliance will now increase its awacs (Airborne Warning and Control System) flight time, information sharing and air-to-air refueling. Germany currently provides a third of the manpower for awacs reconnaissance flights and will in the future contribute even more heavily. Stoltenberg said nato will also provide “a better platform for coordinating the activities of nato, nato allies and other partners in the coalition in the fight against terrorism.”
Previously, France and Germany opposed such intervention as they feared that increased nato involvement in Syria and Iraq might escalate the conflicts or, if nothing else, harm ongoing peace talks.
While nato will abstain from any direct combat missions, Spiegel warned that nato’s involvement in the Mideast will eventually lead to just that.
“In reality, nato is entering a dangerous slide with this decision,” Spiegel Online wrote on May 24. “It already has been approved, for example, that the flight hours of the awacs reconnaissance aircrafts will be extended to better coordinate the machines of the alliance in the Syrian airspace. The control of concrete combat operations is then no longer far away.”
With nato increasingly becoming more European than American, this development will likely help bring Europe, especially Germany, much closer to the Middle East.
Germany to support Lebanon
In April, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri visited Europe to request up to $12 billion in investments for his impoverished, refugee-flooded nation and his beleaguered government.
“In Germany, Hariri seems to have found a receptive ear,” wrote Lebanese affairs commentator Tony Badran (Tablet, May 9).
Lebanon today is little more than an Iranian outpost. Iran’s proxy, the Hezbollah terrorist and political group, has a stranglehold on the nation’s government. But Bible prophecy indicates that end-time Lebanon will be aligned not with Iran but with Germany.
Last year, Germany gifted $411 million to Lebanon, making it the nation’s second-largest benefactor after America. While humanitarian concerns factor into Germany’s support, it is also possible Germany sees strategic benefit in a relationship with Lebanon that could draw it out of Iran’s sphere of influence.
Iran ‘forcefully’ develops missile capabilities
The head of the aerospace division of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced May 25 that construction is complete on Iran’s third underground ballistic missile factory.
Fars News Agency quoted Gen. Amir-Ali Hadjizadeh as saying, “Step by step we are developing our defensive capability. … We will continue to further develop our missile capabilities forcefully. It’s normal that our enemies, that is to say the United States and Israel, are angry when we show off our underground missile bases because they want the Iranian people to be in a position of weakness” (May 25).
Iran’s announcement came during the week of United States President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip.
Just four days earlier, while visiting Saudi Arabia on May 21, President Trump said Iran “is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region” and isolated Tehran as “the government that gives terrorists … safe harbor, financial backing and the social standing needed for recruitment ….
“[A]ll nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”
Whereas the Obama administration tried to appease Iran with multiple concessions that culminated in the nuclear deal implemented in January 2016, the Trump administration has condemned the nuclear deal and chastised Iran with strong words and even strong actions, such as air strikes in Syria.
Nothing, however, appears compelling enough to change Iran’s status as the world’s foremost terrorist-sponsoring nation. Two months after the nuclear deal was implemented, Iran conducted what state television called a “missile revolution,” illegally test-firing several ballistic missiles marked with the words “Israel must be wiped out” in Hebrew. Four days after President Trump’s threats, Iran responded with more belligerent rhetoric and military advancements.
Iran’s reelection of “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani will likely not change Iran’s destabilizing behavior either. The supposedly pragmatic Rouhani said defiantly on May 22: “Iran does not need the permission of the United States to conduct missile tests.”
It seems nothing can intimidate Iran or its radical leaders. But something soon will. Our editor in chief Gerald Flurry discussed that power in his article “The Whirlwind Prophecy” and his free booklet The King of the South.
North Korea-Iran weapons link exposed
On May 2, Iran attempted to launch a Jask-2 cruise missile from a “midget” submarine in the Strait of Hormuz. The only other country that operates “midget” submarines, which can travel and hide in shallow water, is North Korea. The submarine appears to be based on a North Korean design, a further indication that the two rogue nations are collaborating on their missile and nuclear programs.
Despite the launch’s failure, the fact that it occurred in the strategic Strait of Hormuz caused additional worry for American analysts.
Intelligence reports claim Iran’s submarine “was based on a Pyongyang design, the same type that sank a South Korean warship in 2010,” according to Fox News (May 5).
The Trumpet has monitored cooperation between these two rogue nations for years. In a recent update to his booklet The King of the South, editor in chief Gerald Flurry asks, “Why were Iranian officials present for North Korea’s illegal nuclear weapons tests? Are the Iranians outsourcing their nuclear program, or at least parts of their nuclear bombs? It certainly appears that way. The Iranians are watching these tests for a reason.”
Mr. Flurry has called the nuclear deal with Iran “the worst foreign-policy blunder in American history.” This assessment would be further confirmed if it turns out Iran simply made its nuclear program partly a joint venture with North Korea.
Iran and Hamas: back together
Iran has reportedly agreed to resume funding the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, following a six-year divorce and weeks of negotiations between Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (irgc).
The London daily Asharq al-Awsat reported on May 30 that Iranian support for Hamas was conditional upon Ismail Haniyeh (a pro-Iranian figure) becoming the new political leader of the movement. Haniyeh was installed into that office a week before the reconciliation.
Relations between Iran and Hamas fractured at the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011 when the Palestinian terrorist organization condemned Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom Iran supports.
After Haniyeh became Hamas’s new leader, irgc Quds Force Gen. Qassem Suleimani wrote him a letter saying, “We await to strengthen our bond with Hamas, the ally of the resistance axis …. We emphasize that we continue to insist on the victory of the resistance … until the ground, the sky, the sea for the Zionists turns into hell.”
“Quds” is the Arabic name for Jerusalem, and Suleimani, arguably one of the most powerful and influential men in Iran, seems to have a green light from the Iranian regime to intensify his focus on the namesake of the armed force he leads.
NK missile launch a worrying milestone
A successful missile test on May 14 marked a milestone in North Korea’s missile program, and possibly for its nuclear program as well.
The weapon, a mid-to-long-range Hwasong-12 missile, was launched from the western part of the nation. State-run media said it reached an altitude of 1,312 miles and flew 490 miles before falling into the Sea of Japan near Russia. Experts say that if the missile had been fired with the typical, more lateral trajectory rather than with such a lofty arch, it could have traveled some 2,800 miles.
That places the United States Andersen Air Force Base in Guam within the missile’s range.
After the launch, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the Hwasong-12 can carry “a large-size, heavy nuclear warhead.”
“North Korea’s latest successful missile test represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile,” wrote aerospace engineer John Schilling on the 38 North blog, published by the U.S.-Korea Institute. “It appears to have not only demonstrated an intermediate-range ballistic missile (irbm) that might enable them to reliably strike the U.S. base at Guam but, more importantly, may represent a substantial advance to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (icbm)” (May 14).
Since taking over North Korea in 2011, Kim Jong-un has often threatened to develop a nuclear-capable icbm that can strike the U.S. mainland 4,800 miles away.
Writing for National Interest on May 16, Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said the launch “means Pyongyang’s quest to develop an icbm is progressing more quickly than previously thought.” Many Korean watchers have been skeptical about Kim’s claim that his military was in the “late stages” of developing such a weapon. “There are far fewer skeptics today,” Klingner said.
Mira Rapp-Hooper, an Asia and nuclear expert at the Center for a New American Security, said May’s launch means “an icbm may be only a year or so away.”
State, local gov’ts hiding trillions in debt
Puerto Rico filed for bankruptcy on May 3, defaulting on $123 billion—the biggest bankruptcy in the history of the American public bond market. Puerto Rico’s public pension plans will run out of money this year. This debt crisis is similar to what is happening on the mainland.
A May 15 Hoover Institution report showed that “unfunded liabilities of U.S. state and local pension systems are at least $3.8 trillion, or 2.8 times more than the value reflected in government disclosures.”
Accounting standards were adjusted in 2014 and 2015 to better reflect the financial health of local and state governments, but a serious flaw remained. These governments were allowed to plan for a 7.6 percent return on their pension fund investments. But safe investments yield only around 2 percent per year over 10 years. A 7.6 percent return is possible only through risky investing. These standards allow states not to disclose their full pension debts for what they are: actual debt.
The report used a mortgage to illustrate what is happening. Imagine you want to take out a mortgage on a house and need to disclose all your assets and liabilities, such as debt. You have a $100,000 debt due in 10 years. But you only have $50,000. Because you are investing that $50,000 in the stock market, you plan to get a rate of return more than triple what most people receive. If you succeed, you’ll double your money in 10 years and be able to pay your debt in full. So on your mortgage application, you don’t tell the bank you’re $50,000 in debt. If you did this, it would be financial fraud. But the government gets away with it.
The $3.8 trillion debt is going nowhere unless governments take painful measures—the kind that make angry voters vote politicians out of office. When this debt bubble bursts, Puerto Rico’s $123 billion won’t even be remembered.
Will Moon bring back ‘Sunshine’?
South Korean liberal reformer Moon Jae-in was sworn in for a five-year presidential term on May 10, following a landslide victory in a historic snap election. Moon replaces the impeached former president and brings an end to almost 10 years of conservative leadership in Seoul.
The son of North Korean refugees, Moon served as chief of staff to President Roh Moo-hyun from 2003 to 2008, a government that pursued a “Sunshine Policy” toward the North. This approach expanded South Korea’s dialogue and engagement with North Korea.
But today, North Korea’s missile and nuclear capabilities have significantly advanced, and a range of United Nations sanctions have been levied on the North, obstructing economic cooperation. Yet Moon has criticized his predecessors’ tough stance against North Korea and is expected to soften it.
By contrast, the Trump administration has said America’s “era of strategic patience” with the North is over and pledged to apply maximum pressure on the Kim regime. The opposing views on how to deal with Kim Jong-un’s regime could strain the alliance between South Korea and the United States.