In September elections, Austria’s far right had its best performance since World War ii, with the two leading far-right parties winning a combined 28 percent of the popular vote (article, page 23).
Some German politicians now fear that their country could follow the same path of extremism. The global financial crisis could breed political extremism in Germany, the country’s finance minister, Peer Steinbrück, said on Nov. 11, 2008. If Germans blame unrestrained capitalism for their woes and lose faith in the economic system, he said, they could turn to far-right parties. With Germany in its worst recession for 12 years, this is a real concern (article, page 6).
Europe continues to take cautious steps toward its military goals. In November, the European Union launched its first-ever naval mission off the coast of Somalia to protect UN shipments and commercial vessels from pirates. Twelve EU defense ministers also pledged to support the European Air Transport Fleet. This would ease logistical problems faced by Europe’s military and humanitarian missions worldwide by having members of the group provide planes for missions and resources to maintain the fleet.
In October, the British defense secretary backed French plans to create an EU army. French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants European nations to commit to creating a force capable of deploying 60,000 troops with naval and air support within 60 days. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier have also both publicly called for an EU army.
Meanwhile, Europe continues to expand its power in the Balkans. In October, Germany announced it would put up €7 million to help Kosovo train and equip its own security force. The EU also announced in November that Croatia is still on track to join the Union by the end of 2009 despite the fact that an annual review highlighted the high levels of corruption and organized crime in the country. The report also suggested that Serbia could begin the formal application process in 2009, though it was critical of Turkey’s prospects. Europe is consolidating its conquests in the Balkans.
Poland has adopted a detailed timetable to change its currency, the zloty, to the euro in 2012. It is the credit crisis that, in part, is driving Poland to the euro. “The world crisis has shown that it’s safer to be with the strong, among the strong and to have influence on the decisions of the strong,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk explained. Watch for Europe to use the credit crisis to accrue more political and economic power.
A report released by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point on Oct. 13, 2008, details how Iran has a dual strategy in Iraq of providing military aid to Iraqi militia while giving political support to Iraqi political parties. The report notes that “Iran’s two-pronged approach obscured the importance of Iran’s political influence in Iraq by focusing the international media and U.S. policymakers on Iran’s lethal aid to militia groups.”
Iran’s political influence has come to bear in the year-long negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq over the Status of Forces Agreement (sofa) that would detail the terms of a U.S. military presence in Iraq after the end of 2008, when the UN mandate expires. During most of 2008, Iran worked hard to undermine support for the security pact. As part of its efforts, Tehran used its Shiite allies in Baghdad to repeatedly delay the signing of the sofa. At the same time, Iran sought to turn Iraqi Shiite public opinion against the agreement through the influence of Shiite clerics.
On November 16, however, the Iraqi cabinet approved the sofa, which was then sent to parliament for ratification. The day after the cabinet’s approval, in an about-face the head of Iran’s judiciary praised the agreement. “The change in tone,” wrote Stratfor, “suggests that the agreement has been tweaked to allay Iranian concerns, and it indicates a desire in Tehran to engage in fruitful negotiations with Washington. … To have Iran to give a nod to the sofa at this stage in the game, the United States surely must have offered Tehran something in return” (Nov. 17, 2008).
To get the Iraqis to sign the pact, the U.S. had to make significant compromises. Under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. cannot use Iraqi territory as a launch pad for any attacks on neighboring countries (a key Iranian demand); Iraqi authorities have extensive control over the operations of U.S. forces; U.S. forces must withdraw from Iraq by Jan. 1, 2012, and from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009; judicial immunity for foreign contractors and U.S. soldiers in Iraq is eliminated; and the Iraqis will have the authority to inspect incoming and outgoing U.S. parcels.
Meanwhile, Tehran welcomed the election of Barack Obama as the next U.S. president. Iran expects the policies of an Obama administration to allow it to strengthen its position in the region. Back in June 2003, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry asked whether the U.S.’s removal of Saddam Hussein had “cleared the way for Shiite Iran to rule over Shiite Iraq.” Keep watching as this scenario comes closer to fruition.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called for a snap general election on October 26 after the collapse of coalition talks with the Shas political party. The announcement came a month after Israeli President Shimon Peres appointed Livni to form a government to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who resigned amid corruption allegations. Elections have been set for February 10.
On October 9, in the midst of a worsening insurgency in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the U.S. would be open to negotiation with the Taliban if it meant an end to the war in that country. The previous week, Kabul publicly offered to hold peace talks with the Taliban. This basically is what the Taliban has been fighting for the past seven years: to bring the West to the point of capitulation. This development is a shocking example of what happens when a nation’s pride in its power has been broken (Leviticus 26:19).
Next door in Pakistan, the Islamist insurgency continues to escalate also. On September 20, the biggest terrorist bomb ever in that country exploded in Islamabad, killing 53 people and wounding more than 250. A suicide bomber rammed a truck containing a 1,300-pound bomb into the security gates of the Marriott Hotel, leaving a 24-foot crater and destroying the entire front section of the hotel. While the government vowed to go on the offensive against the terrorists, it is unlikely to be too effective seeing as the populace blames Islamabad’s cooperation with the U.S. for the Islamist insurgency.
Meanwhile, relations between Washington and Islamabad are tense, exacerbated by U.S. cross-border raids into Pakistan and Pakistani forces firing at U.S. helicopters. Tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan are likely to increase.
Russia welcomed America’s new president-elect with President Dmitry Medvedev announcing the day after the election that it will deploy Russian missiles near the Polish border. Europeans are growing nervous as they realize that the U.S. can no longer guarantee their security. As European nations come to grips with this fact, they will rise up to unite into a military power capable of defending itself from eastern aggression.
The Chinese responded to Obama’s election more diplomatically, but still made it clear that they hope to use America’s regime change for their own ends. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told journalists in Beijing on November 5 that the Chinese government urges the Obama administration to oppose Taipei independence and to cease all arms sales to Taiwan. One of Obama’s senior foreign-policy advisers has already claimed that the incoming administration fully plans to continue America’s policy of opposing Taiwanese independence. The Taiwanese are going to be forced into the Chinese mold because America lacks the will to defend them.
India successfully launched its first lunar mission on October 22 as the Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft blasted into orbit. This launch is regarded as a major step for India as it seeks to keep pace with the other spacefaring nations of Asia. As the global economic crisis drives these Asian nations closer together, expect increased cooperation between their national space agencies. Senior Chinese scientist Ouyang Ziyuan has already called for more cooperation between Asia’s space powers. They realize that dominance of outer space leads to dominance on Earth. Russia, China, India and Japan are evolving into a gargantuan space alliance powerful enough to act as a counterbalance to the space programs of both America and Europe.
This developing alliance will be hastened by the growing global economic turmoil. One Russian government official stated in late October that his country is now enacting a plan wherein it will shift its focus on foreign trade from Europe to Asia. “China and India in future will replace Europe as Russia’s main trading partners,” he said. “They are key markets which have been growing more dynamically than the European Union” (The Hindu, Oct. 29, 2008). Russia is also pushing for closer economic relations with former Soviet allies Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Mongolia in an attempt to form a regional power bloc insulated from the economic ups and downs of the rest of the world. Request a free copy of Russia and China in Prophecy for more information on this emerging trade bloc.
Latin America, Africa
Two men that Stratfor called “the brains behind Mexico’s operations against drug cartels” were killed in a plane crash in November. The loss of Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mourino and former Deputy Attorney General Luis Santiago Vasconcelos was a major blow to Mexican President Felipe Calderon. About 4,000 people have died in drug violence this year.
Ties between Europe and South America are strengthening. Brazil’s Defense Minister Nelson Jobim announced in September that a formal deal with France to develop Brazil’s nuclear submarine program may be signed by the end of 2008. Paris also offered to help Venezuela develop a civilian nuclear power program, and the French foreign minister even suggested using Venezuela as a go-between in discussions with Iran.
Not content to leave Venezuela to European influence, Russia agreed to loan $1 billion to Caracas for defense materials and also offered to help it develop nuclear power. Currently, only two South American countries have nuclear power plants: Argentina and Brazil. Now, two major powers are offering to develop nuclear power in a country whose leader regularly refers to the U.S. as the evil empire and its president as Hitler.
After failed economic negotiations between the EU and Latin America’s Andean Community, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have each announced they will pursue individual bilateral trade agreements with the EU. Ultimately, these Latin American countries will establish much stronger relationships with the EU; whether those relationships are formed by individual nations or larger trade blocs remains to be seen, but from Europe’s perspective, there is an advantage to having several small powers becoming dependent on it rather than having to deal with a single, stronger regional bloc.
Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, may find it hard to retain power if the price of oil continues to drop. Venezuela is especially dependent on oil revenue, as it accounts for more than 90 percent of its exports and over half of government expenditure. The Public Policy Center in Caracas said that while there is no chance of an economic collapse this year, “sooner or later the bomb will explode.”
Brazil and Argentina are also facing economic problems as a result of the global financial crisis. Bloomberg reported November 12 that Brazil’s currency had depreciated 30 percent in the previous three months. Argentina’s debt is rising to nearly the levels that caused its 2002 default, and increasing nationalization prevents the private sector from recovering from economic problems on its own.
“An orgy of brutality” across Zimbabwe has killed any hope of dialogue between President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (mdc), according to the mdc. Also, political instability in South Africa continues to mount as the African National Congress (anc), having ousted President Thabo Mbeki, threatens his supporters with banishment also.
America’s financial ship has struck shoal after shoal. In early October, legislators passed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, conceived by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. The fact that it was the largest government intervention since the Great Depression helped inspire fears that taxpayers were financing a $700 billion playground for corruption. Politicians insisted that safeguards were in place (450 pages’ worth) and the $700-billion bad-mortgage fund would keep the nation from sinking into economic oblivion. On November 12, Paulson buried the idea and said the Treasury would instead use the $700 billion to recapitalize banks and financial institutions, including the financing divisions of American automakers, which themselves are now pleading for government money. Stunned legislators called it a dishonest “bait and switch.” Down in the engine room, the U.S. stock market has rocked wildly between 300, 500 and 800 point swings and remains largely unbuoyed by the government’s multibillion-dollar flotation device—further proof that no quick fix can salvage a financial system founded on the unsound fundamentals of credit and debt and built by greed, gambling and dishonesty.
Other bulkheads of the economy, including manufacturing and jobs, are also suffering. In October, government statistics showed that new orders for American manufactured goods fell a surprisingly steep 4 percent, and in November the Labor Department reported 1.2 million jobs lost since the beginning of 2008, equating to unemployment hitting a 14-year high.
In November, homosexuals and their supporters went on the march after citizens voted “yes” on a ballot to overturn the California Supreme Court ruling that legalized homosexual “marriages” in California. Similar bans also passed in Florida and Arizona. This trend does not signal a moral renaissance in America, however. Besides an even more morally liberal House of Representatives and Senate being simultaneously elected, another state supreme court legalized homosexual “marriage”: Connecticut. At the same time, angry homosexuals, who might otherwise be lauding “the will of the people” if the vote had gone their way, staged protests day after day throughout California after the people overturned the state supreme court ruling. They have also filed three lawsuits asking the state supreme court to overturn the people’s decision—which overturned the state supreme court decision. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said, “It’s unfortunate, obviously, but it’s not the end. I think that we will again maybe undo that, if the court is willing to do that, and then move forward from there.”
In November, Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported that a leaked government report states that Britain continues to be a high-priority target for terrorists aligned with al Qaeda. In particular, the report says, Britain faces a threat from British nationals, including Muslim converts.
And finally, two teams of American astronomers published the first photographs in history of planets orbiting stars other than our sun. One planet, Fomalhaut b, 25 light-years away, was photographed by the Hubble telescope. Three others were snapped using telescopes in Hawaii. Although America, Britain and the rest of the world face violent times ahead, these are temporary. Man’s ultimate potential—which lies with the stars and their planets—is not. To learn more about that future, request a free copy of The Incredible Human Potential.