Germany—new Mideast peacemaker?
The Palestinians have a backup plan if they don’t like United States President Donald Trump’s efforts to negotiate peace. Just like much of the rest of the world, they have a backup leader of the free world to fall back on: Germany.
An unnamed “senior Palestinian minister close to President Mahmoud Abbas” told Al-Monitorthat they were willing to work with Mr. Trump, according to a June 18 article.”But should Trump disappoint, like others in the international community,” he said, “we have decided to opt for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in conjunction with French President Emmanuel Macron, to take the lead in preventing a deadlock in the peace process.”
This official reportedly said that the Palestinian Authority already has close contact with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and that Chancellor Merkel is now equipped to actively and independently assert German influence in Israel and the broader Mideast.
Al-Monitor paraphrased the official as saying that Germany wants to be part of “a Western-Arab coalition against terrorism, to uphold the Iran deal and to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process based on a two-state solution.”
Ever since German reunification in 1990, the Trumpet has forecast that Germany will form an alliance with a group of Middle Eastern countries. The outlines of this alliance can already be seen in Germany’s pattern of arms dealings with predominantly Sunni powers. It’s only a few steps away from a formal “Western-Arab coalition.”
Al-Monitorsaid Germany is planning “an ‘EU Marshall Plan’ for Israel and the Palestinian Authority in close cooperation with the Arab League.”
Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in December 1996: “Europe is moving not only to be a cosponsor in the peace process—they want to gain control of it!” Further back still in July 1971, the Trumpet’s parent magazine, the Plain Truth, referred to “new calls for Europe to assume a greater role in the Middle East, including the peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli confrontation.”
Bible prophecy is the source for this analysis. It warns that Germany is a counterfeit peacemaker that will betray Israel’s trust. The same prophecies that describe a “Western-Arab coalition” also state that this coalition will turn against the State of Israel and its allies.
Europe hit by bank failures
Spain’s sixth-largest bank, Banco Popular, was bought by Santander Group on June 7 at a cost of just €1. The bank had run out of money, and bond holders had lost €3.3 billion before the Santander rescue. Then, on June 25, Italy bailed out two of its troubled banks, in its biggest ever bank rescue. The nation set aside €17 billion, the equivalent of its entire annual defense budget, to rescue Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca.
The bailout pushes Italy’s debt up to 133 percent of gross domestic product, at a time when the nation needs to be reducing its debt burden.
The bailouts demonstrate that Europe’s financial problems aren’t fixed, and that there is still plenty of room for trouble in the bloc’s economic system.
French election could transform EU
French President Emmanuel Macron came from nowhere to win 360 out of the 577 seats in the national legislature after a two-stage election held on June 11 and 18.
Macron founded his La République en Marche(Republic Onward) party just last year. Now he is president and his party holds one of the largest majorities in France’s history. A brand-new party coming from nowhere doing so well shows that voters are radically dissatisfied with France’s traditional parties and with the entire political system.
Macron’s victory also made another dubious record: For the first time in modern French history, turnout at a legislative election fell below 50 percent in both rounds of voting.
Macron wants to strengthen the eurozone, giving it its own finance minister and parliament, as well as shared debt and a banking union with shared deposit insurance. However, this plan needs German support because it requires German taxes to subsidize other members of the eurozone. At the very least, it gives other eurozone countries some access to the German credit card.
France’s economy has major problems. Every time France has pushed for eurozone shake-up, Germany has refused to budge until France gets its own house in order. It doesn’t want to be stuck bailing out a dysfunctional French economy.
Macron aims to use his majority to push through changes in France that Germany has been demanding for years, confronting France’s restrictive labor laws. France’s trade unions will protest, but with his majority, Macron can probably make these changes. Then he will turn to Germany.
Sunni states cut off relations with Qatar
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5. The four Sunni states also blockaded land, sea and air traffic with Qatar, which is the world’s top producer of liquefied gas.
These nations presented a list of 13 demands to Qatar and threatened to expel the country from the Gulf Cooperation Council (gcc), a union that Qatar cofounded 36 years ago.
Qatar is accused of meddling in its neighbors political affairs, funding terror and supporting terrorism-sponsoring Iran.
Qatar relies on the Gulf Arab states for 80 percent of its food. This severing of ties is intended to hurt Qatar and pry the nation out of Iran’s grip. But it could have some unintended consequences.
With Qatar losing support from these other nations, Iran is poised to increase diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar. An Iranian Foreign Ministry official told Al-Monitor that Iran has “enjoyed good relations with Qatar from before. … [Iranian President Hassan Rouhani] assured the Qatari emir that he could count on Iran for foodstuff and using Iran’s airspace for Qatari planes” (July 3).
Al-Monitor wrote on July 3 that Saudi Arabia and its allies calculated that the United States would unreservedly support their isolation of pro-Iranian Qatar. But the matter isn’t so simple, from an American standpoint. Qatar is host to Al Udeid Air Base, America’s largest air base in the Middle East and home to its biggest concentration of military personnel there. On June 9, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Saudi Arabia and its allies to ease its blockade on Qatar. Five days later, the U.S. signed a $12 billion weapons deal with Qatar.
The Saudi-led effort to punish Qatar and, by extension, undermine Iran, might fail spectacularly and weaken a union that has striven to counter Iran’s regional belligerence and hegemony.
Iran operating large-scale missile production
Iran’s largest opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (ncri), recently revealed more evidence of Iran’s march toward nuclear weaponry.
In its June 20 report, the ncri identified 42 independent missile centers involved in the production, testing and launching of missiles. More than half of these are storage facilities, missile launch pads and training centers for deployment brigades. Fifteen of the sites are missile manufacturing plants with multiple weapons factories.
“The regime has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build each one of the centers underground and inside mountains, which sheds light on the magnitude of the resources allocated to its missile program overall,” the report noted.
The ncri revealed more evidence of Iran receiving help from North Korea, a regime that deceived the world about its own nuclear weapons program until it detonated its first nuclear test in 2006.
Iran’s missile centers are strategically spread across the nation in a way that “clearly reveals [Tehran’s] missile objectives towards western and southern borders,” the ncri reported. Launch centers in the south are well within range of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman—two of the region’s most crucial waterways. Tehran has threatened these shipping lanes.
The ncri says the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, often called the “nuclear deal,” did not slow Iran’s push for nuclear weapons: It accelerated it. That is just what Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry forecast, with the aid of Bible prophecy, in his October 2016 article “America’s Deadly Nuclear Deal With Iran.”
Israel threatened from the north and east
On June 26, 27 and 28, Syrian government forces fired mortars that struck in Israeli territory in the Golan Heights. Israel Defense Forces immediately closed off the area to traffic and fired back at Syrian forces.
Syria claimed the mortars were errant fire, but the quick succession of explosions indicate otherwise. Analysts say this development is an indication that Iran, via its proxies, is changing tactics and using Syria to increase its military pressure on Israel.
Hezbollah is Iran’s terrorist proxy in Lebanon. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said during a Quds (Jerusalem) Day celebration on June 23: “The Israeli enemy must know that if an Israeli war is launched against Syria or Lebanon, it is not known that the fighting will remain Lebanese-Israeli or Syrian-Israeli. … [T]his could open the way for thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of fighters from all over the Arab and Islamic world to participate.”
Iran has over 100,000 battle-tested ground troops in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon who answer directly to Qassem Suleimani, its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force leader. One Hezbollah officer told Newsweek: “Since we went into Syria, we became much stronger.” He added, “What was Hezbollah before? We were defenders. Now, we’ve learned how to attack offensively” (July 3).
When the Islamic State is defeated, Iran’s Shiite warriors will be free to attack Israel from the north and the east.
These developments might presage terrible violence in Jerusalem. This violence is prophesied in Zechariah 14.
Russia and China plan military events, cooperation
Russia and China announced on June 7 that they will hold “enormous” and “important” joint military activities from 2017 to 2020.
“This year, we plan to hold very large, enormous, important events,” Chinese National Defense Minister Chang Wanquan said to Interfax during a meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu.
Shoigu said, “Our experts have prepared a road map for development in the military sphere between Russia and China in the years 2017 to 2020.”
Chang spoke of the personal role that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have both played in boosting military cooperation between the two countries.
“In recent years, under the personal guidance of our heads of state, the level of cooperation and trust between the armed forces of China and Russia have continuously increased,” he said, adding that the “scope of our cooperation is constantly expanding, and the trend of developing military cooperation has maintained a good trajectory.”
Shoigu attempted to frame the military cooperation as a defensive necessity that positions Putin and Xi as the guardians of the planet. “It is important that Russia and China are ready to defend the world with mutual efforts and strengthen international security,” he said.
Alexander Korolev, research fellow at the Center on Asia and Globalization, said that since the Cold War’s end 25 years ago, Moscow and Beijing have “progressed from a relationship of ‘good-neighborliness’ to ‘constructive cooperation,’ and then to ‘comprehensive strategic partnership,’ and further on to ‘comprehensive strategic partnership and coordination.’”
So much groundwork is now laid in the Russo-Chinese partnership, particularly in the realm of military cooperation, that if Moscow and Beijing decide to boost it to the next level—a formal alliance—they will need to take only minor steps. See the prophetic significance in our booklet Russia and China in Prophecy.
Why is Russia buying so much gold?
Since May 1, the Central Bank of Russia has added 700,000 troy ounces to its national gold reserve, pushing Russia’s total gold holdings up to 1,707 tons. This is a 56 percent increase over its holdings in 2000, when Vladimir Putin came to power, and gives Russia the seventh-largest gold hoard on the planet.
Russia is among the nations stockpiling gold in an effort to reduce their economic dependency on the United States dollar. “According to our estimates, there will be a downward trend in the dollar exchange rate in the next 15 years,” financial expert Philip Klinkmüller told Sputnik Germany. “In the long run, it cannot be guaranteed that the dollar will remain a global reserve currency” (June 9).
While Sputnik News is a state-media outlet known for spreading propaganda, it cannot be denied that Russia, China and Germany are increasing their gold reserves. Since 2000, China has increased its own hoard by 74 percent, and Germany has brought 300 tons of gold formerly stored in the vaults of the U.S. Federal Reserve back to the German Central Bank in Frankfurt.
While the U.S. allegedly has the largest gold reserves, when you divide America’s M2 Money Supply by the market value of its gold reserves, you find it holds only 2.2 percent of its money supply in gold. Meanwhile, China holds 2.8 percent, Germany holds 3.9 percent, and Russia is swiftly approaching 10 percent holdings.
If the world plunges into a second Great Depression, Americans could wake up and see the dollar dislodged from its position of global primacy by currencies backed by more than paper.
India enters SCO, boosts Russia’s power
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (sco) held its 17th summit on June 8-9 and added two notable nations to its membership: India and Pakistan.
Analysts have viewed this Eurasian political, economic and security bloc as an organization dominated by China, with Russia in a second-tier leadership position. But bringing India in is expected to boost Russia’s power in the group.
For decades, India and Russia have cooperated on a range of issues, including combating terrorism and increasing bilateral trade. Russia is India’s primary military partner and its top arms supplier. Now that India is an sco member, Russia and India can overcome the largest hindrance to their bilateral commerce: a shortage of connectivity. The two are expected to prioritize development of the International North-South Transport Corridor.
The India-China relationship is strained, hindered by border disputes and differences over China’s Belt and Road initiative.
Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has identified Russia, not China, as the main power that will lead an end-time power bloc of Asian nations. The sco could be a tool Russia uses to leverage the power of this group.