How Ukraine’s Gas Crisis Fulfilled Prophecy

How Ukraine’s Gas Crisis Fulfilled Prophecy

ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images

Do not overlook the deep significance of this event!
From the March 2009 Trumpet Print Edition

Last August, when Russia invaded the tiny nation of Georgia, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote that “Russia’s attack on Georgia … marks the beginning of a dangerous new era in history” (emphasis mine throughout).

Dr. George Friedman from Stratfor said this about it: “The war in Georgia … is Russia’s public return to great-power status.”

Forcing Georgia back into the Russian sphere of influence was stage one of Putin’s plan to return Russia to “great-power status.” And it was successful, thanks in no small part to Germany’s complicity (For all the details, read “Russia’s Attack Signals Dangerous New Era” from the October 2008 issue.)

For a short while, the Georgia invasion dominated global headlines. A handful of astute analysts captured the magnitude of the event and how it demonstrated the confidence and dark ambition of the Kremlin.

Then the financial crisis of September 2008 struck, and the media began to neglect Russia’s history-altering actions. With world leaders and journalists focused on economic crises, pressure on Vladimir Putin subsided, and the former kgb operative was left alone to concoct stage two of his grand strategy to promote Russia as a global power.

After recognizing stage one of Putin’s plan, Mr. Flurry anticipated what the next stage might be: “Will a crisis occur over Ukraine?” he asked last October. “That area is the breadbasket of Russia, and surely it is willing to wage war over that as well.”

Mr. Flurry got even more specific. “Russia has Germany—and all of Europe—over a barrel. Cutting off part of the flow of gas to a country would wreak havoc on the economy!” he said, implying that a gas crisis with Europe might well be used to carry out stage two of Putin’s plan: to wrest Ukraine from Europe and back into the Russian sphere of influence.

He was right!

Russia’s Memo to Europe

When Russia reduced its natural gas exports to Ukraine on January 1, initial reports indicated that the spat would stay between Kiev and the Kremlin, would be short-lived and would not majorly impact Europeans. European countries, with supply lines and tanks at full capacity, weren’t overly concerned about another mid-winter energy crisis like the winter 2006 debacle.

Early reports were wrong.

Three days after the first reduction, when it was apparent Ukraine was not hurting like Russia had hoped, the Kremlin cut supplies further. Still, that wasn’t enough. The next day, Moscow stopped natural gas shipments through the last large operating pipeline through Ukraine, cutting off all gas flowing to Europe via Ukraine.

Europe was embroiled in a major energy crisis, again. It didn’t take long before the heat and lights went out up and down the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgarian consumers were told to switch off gas stoves, and Slovakia declared a state of emergency. Meanwhile, deep cuts to supply in Greece, Macedonia, Hungary, Croatia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland, France, Germany and Italy affected millions and cost European industry billions.

Tensions soared. Like the homes of countless Europeans, relations between Russia and Europe cooled, fast. For three weeks diplomats and politicians scurried furiously. The Kremlin argued that its beef was with Ukraine, not Europe. That was diplomatic drivel. Moscow was well aware that the EU imports 25 percent of its gas from Russia, 80 percent of which flows through pipelines dissecting Ukraine. When Russia punished Kiev, it knew the pain would resonate across Europe.

Truly, the energy crisis was more than a mere spat between Kiev and Moscow over money. It was a concerted effort by Russia to rope Ukraine and tug it away from Europe and back into the Russian sphere of influence.

“Ukraine hems in the south of European Russia so thoroughly that any hostile power controlling Kiev could easily threaten a variety of core Russian interests, including Moscow itself,” Stratfor analyst Peter Zeihan explained. “Ukraine also pushes far enough east that a hostile Kiev would sever most existing infrastructure connections to the Caucasus. Simply put, a Ukraine outside the Russian sphere of influence transforms Russia into a purely defensive power, one with little hope of resisting pressure from anywhere. But a Russified Ukraine makes it possible for Russia to project power outward, and to become a major regional—and potentially global—player” (January 13). Without Ukraine, Russia’s efforts to become a dominant international power are doomed to failure!

Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin was sending Ukraine—and all of Europe—a message: Ukraine belongs to Russia!

The message took root among some European leaders quickly. Within a few days of the crisis beginning, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso gave Ukraine a fairly blunt warning: “Ukraine says it wants to be closer to the EU. If it wants to be closer, it should not create any problems for gas to come to the EU.”

That must have been music in the ears of Putin.

The Leader of Europe

Considering how Germany led Europe in restoring ties with Russia after the Georgian crisis, it was hardly surprising to see Germany surface as the central player in efforts to find a solution to the gas crisis.

It has become increasingly evident that Germany wields by far the most influence over European policy and effectively dictates EU foreign policy. Perhaps the most important lesson from the Georgian crisis of last August is that Germany is the mediator between Russia and Europe, and the European nation that Russia most fears and respects.

Unsurprisingly, as the gas crisis intensified it became more evident that the solution would undoubtedly run through Berlin. By Saturday, January 17, nearly three weeks after the crisis began, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had reached a preliminary agreement for Russia to restore gas supplies to Ukraine and Europe. Less than 48 hours later, a formal agreement had been signed, and the lights and heat were back on in Europe.

The reconciliation was surprisingly sudden. A myriad of deals and discussions had occurred between every shade of politician and diplomat from Europe, Ukraine and Russia in the 17 days preceding that meeting. They had all failed—until January 17.

So what changed?

Notice what Stratfor reported that weekend. “Two very telling details about [this deal] reveal the future of Ukraine and Russia’s relations with each other, and with Europe.

“First, as we noted while following the negotiations, this energy crisis was never about the big public summits involving the Russian and Ukrainian leaders and the EU, but the behind-the-scenes deals being struck by the real power brokers: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin,Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel” (January 19).

Did you catch that? All the wheeling and dealing between Russia and the EU and Russia and the host of European countries it met with didn’t matter. The solution to the crisis was forged behind the scenes between Russia and Germany!

The date of those meetings won’t be lost on regular Trumpet readers. “On January 16, Putin [conducted a meeting] with Merkel and then returned to Moscow where he met with Tymoshenko—with a deal struck soon after” (ibid.). The solution to Europe’s gas crisis was hatched in Berlin on January 16—in private meetings between leaders from Russia and Germany—and then basically imposed on Ukraine the next day, January 17, in Moscow!

How did Germany assuage the Russians? “The players [Germany, Russia and Ukraine]—and their true roles as power brokers—are important, for they are the only ones who really understand and are willing to commit to what needed to be done in order to get the natural gas flowing again: Return Ukraine to the Russian fold” (ibid.).

Time will likely prove Jan. 16, 2009, a significant date in the Russo-European relationship. That was the date Germany—in a deal akin to its deal with the Kremlin over Georgia a few months earlier—struck a deal with Russia that will see Ukraine return to the Russian fold!

For Germany, the Russian gas crisis was a spectacular opportunity!

By abandoning Ukraine in a deal with Russia, Germany simultaneously cemented its understanding with Russia and its position at the heart of Europe. By securing the agreement that got gas flowing into Europe again, Germany won goodwill from its neighbors, proved its credentials as the central mediator between Russia and Europe, and furthered its case to be the mouthpiece and trendsetter of Europe, the dictator of European foreign policy!

By unilaterally striking a deal with Russia, Germany put other European states in a bind, forcing them to decide what to do about Ukraine. “There are many countries in Europe, like Poland, that were not willing to give up their support of a Western-oriented Ukraine, as Germany seems to have done,” Stratfor wrote. “But many have received their warning from Russia, which has shown it is willing to do more than tinker with energy supplies” (ibid.).

Each European nation is being forced to make the decision: Follow the precedent set by Berlin and release Ukraine to the Russians in return for lights and heat—or oppose Germany, upset Russia, and stand in the dark and cold with Kiev.

How prophetically significant were these events! They cast a bright light on the continued growth of “great power” Russia—on the ultimately doomed effort by Ukraine to escape Russian control—on the location of the dividing line between Russia and Europe—on the shrewd and portentous deal-making between Moscow and Berlin—on the stark need for Europe to aggressively seek energy from other sources—and on the undeniable, inexorable rise of Germany as the leader of Europe. Readers of the Trumpet have been encouraged for years to watch for all of these trends—because each of them was foretold millennia ago in the pages of biblical prophecy!

Why Arabs Wanted Israel to Win

Why Arabs Wanted Israel to Win

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images

From the March 2009 Trumpet Print Edition

As the international community, with predictable unanimity, demanded that Israel immediately stop defending itself against the rain of rockets on its people, some Muslims, deep down, wanted to see the Jews give the terrorists in Gaza a good sound thumping. They hoped for this because they knew Hamas’s survival would be a victory for Iran—and they want Iran put down.

These Arabs have watched with concern as the Hamas-Iran relationship has blossomed over a period of years. Today, Iran is Hamas’s biggest sponsor. It has come to use the organization the same way it uses Hezbollah in Lebanon: as a weapon to advance its own ambitions.

The Iranian-funded makeover of Hamas from being merely one of several competing jihadist groups to becoming the most popular force among Palestinians has instilled fear in Arab states throughout the region. They view that achievement as being of a piece with Iran’s infiltration into Iraq, its influence over Syria, its sway over several Sunni nations in the Persian Gulf, and its authority over Hezbollah, which now has a veto in the Lebanese government. Most of all, these neighboring Arab governments deeply fear Iran’s nuclear program that progresses in spite of all international efforts to stop it. They know the Iranian mullahs want not only to defeat Israel, but also to foment radicalism among Muslims throughout the region in pursuit of their broader revolutionary goals.

That is why they were so anxious about the outcome of the Israel-Hamas war. Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, actually told a group of European foreign ministers that Hamas “must not be allowed to emerge from the fighting with the upper hand.” Even Iranians upset with their government sent hundreds of messages to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Persian-language website; its editor, Menashe Amir, said they demanded for Israel “not to stop the war, to go to the end and to finish Hamas.”

These were unlikely cheers for Israel. But to these people’s chagrin, Israel’s offensive only helped Iran’s cause by igniting sympathy for Hamas within Muslims everywhere. This was the last thing the governments of nations like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia wanted. They bore harsh criticism from their peoples for not doing enough to support Hamas or to stop Israel.

The division of the Arab world into radical and “moderate” camps is growing more pronounced. Iran is doing all it can to claim leadership over the radicals, and the Gaza war provided a plum opportunity. Iran rallied popular opinion with its harsh condemnations of Israeli aggression. It staged mass anti-Israel and anti-American protests. To agitate their less-radical neighbors even more, Iranian leaders hurled insults at Arab leaders who were unwilling to take similar actions, accusing them of complicity with “the Zionist enemy.” Some encouraged the people to revolt against their leaders. In one extreme case, they actually called for assassination. An organization founded and supervised by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard put a million-dollar bounty on President Mubarak. Should someone accept the commission, it wouldn’t be the first Iranian-inspired assassination in Egypt’s history; the Trumpet has speculated for over a decade about whether Tehran might stage a follow-up to its murder of Anwar Sadat in 1981 in order to flip Egyptian politics in its own favor.

Iran’s overall strategy is unmistakable. Gaza is one of several fronts—Lebanon, the West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt—on which Iran is fomenting strife and going on the offensive. And according to a recent report by the French parliament, the Islamic Republic will cross the nuclear threshold this year. Is it any wonder the mullahs chose this moment to unleash Hamas and divert the world’s attention onto a more pressing problem in Gaza?

These concerned Arab leaders recognize what is really going on: Iran is pushing to be the undisputed king of the region, which threatens their own positions. That is why they hoped Israel would press its advantage and deal Hamas a deadly blow.

That, Israel did not do. The beating it inflicted on Hamas will only buy a bit of time. It will not stop Iran from advancing in its broader aims, because neither Israel, nor the U.S.—nor any other nation, group of nations or international body—has shown itself willing to take Iran on directly.

The scenario we see unfolding—Hamas being battered but not eliminated, Israel failing to pursue true victory and suffering increased international scorn anyway, Iran emerging unscathed and able to continue pursuing its broader war—not to mention the possibility of Egypt suddenly becoming radicalized and falling in step with the Iranian regime—is one the Trumpet has forecasted for nearly 15 years.

Rising Up

News of a construction project that has the Trumpet staff excited and inspired
From the February 2009 Trumpet Print Edition

Allow us to share some news about an exciting project we are involved in.

The Philadelphia Church of God (pcg), which publishes this magazine, also sponsors the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation. In addition to supporting projects like the archaeological excavations on King David’s palace in Jerusalem, the foundation stages a concert series for the local community here at our headquarters facility in Edmond, Oklahoma. For several years now, we have brought world-famous performing artists to Edmond from all over the globe, including the Canadian Brass, Vienna Choir Boys and the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet. This past December, we hosted the internationally known 5 Browns to a sellout crowd.

To this point, we have staged those performances in a multipurpose building on our campus. It has served adequately. But earlier last year, when we announced at a King’s Singers concert that we were moving forward with plans to construct a new multimillion-dollar performing arts center, the audience spontaneously broke into a lengthy and spirited applause.

We broke ground on the new structure in January of 2008. Now, a year later, all of the basement work has been completed, and the steel is being erected. Our excitement for the auditorium’s completion—due in about another year—is growing daily.

Many in the community are excited along with us. When Edmond Life and Leisure’s Dr. Clif’ Warren came to review the 5 Browns, he commented on our concert series: “A packed, sellout auditorium of 700 attendees suggests that the success of the quality programming of the Armstrong College arts agenda may portend their crown jewel [Armstrong Auditorium] planned to open next year may outgrow its seating of only 800 well before the building is completed.”

Armstrong Auditorium is made possible by special gifts from members of the pcg and other supporters as a monument to the honor and glory of the living God. Since we believe God’s way of life is that of serving and giving, we are eager to share the benefits of this hall with the community. When it opens in early 2010, we plan to host numerous concerts, lectures, master classes, special educational performances for school children, and other major community activities. This is a gift to the community, and we believe it will prove to be a magnificent cultural jewel in the crown of Edmond.

This building, in a very real sense, will embody the way of togetherness, cooperation and love—of continually striving to put God first in our individual lives and to love our neighbors as ourselves. It represents a way of life that strives for godliness and excellence in all things, that promotes marriage and family, upholds God’s commandments and the laws of men, and upbuilds communities. It’s a way of life filled with robust activity, rigorous accomplishment and exciting opportunity—and one the Prophet Isaiah said will soon spread over all the Earth.

We seek to share that way of life now. This is why we do not ask for money on our television program and why our many magazines and publications carry no subscription price.

We feel that the steel rising up out of the ground in our front yard typifies an effort to build nobleness of character in service to God and fellow man. We will continue, with God’s help, to practice the giving, serving, sharing way of life—to strive, within a world of mounting evils and ills, to show the beauty and hope in God’s creation, the awesome potential in the mind of man that He created, and the joy that the way of give truly brings to all who embrace it.

The Week in Review

The Week in Review

PT/Getty Images

The new American administration makes nice with Iran, takes a threat from Russia and grapples with job hemorrhaging, all in business casual.

Middle East

On Monday, the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, reiterated President Barack Obama’s new approach to dealing with Iran: “direct diplomacy.” “We look forward to engaging in vigorous diplomacy that includes direct diplomacy with Iran,” Rice said in the UN chambers. Though behind-the-scenes diplomacy has been going on for some time, the U.S. now wants to hold public direct talks, and the State Department is considering opening a diplomatic office in Tehran. At the same time, the Pentagon is drawing up plans to pull out the majority of troops from Iraq a year ahead of the agreed date in order to concentrate on Afghanistan. As we have indicated before, the U.S. may actually do a deal with Tehran to assist in its war in Afghanistan. Stratfor reports: “There is no love lost between Tehran and al Qaeda or the Taliban, but Iran has been heavily involved in arming the jihadist insurgency in Afghanistan—hoping to keep the United States too preoccupied to think about regime change in Tehran. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (irgc) also has plenty of intelligence that the United States would appreciate concerning the movements of al Qaeda operatives who travel in and out of Iran under the irgc’s watch. U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus indicated recently that Afghanistan is an issue of mutual interest for Washington and Tehran. And with the U.S. military focus shifting from Iraq to Afghanistan, there is strong potential for a meeting of the minds between these two on how to contain the Taliban and eradicate al Qaeda” (January 27). This of course would boost Tehran’s position in the region, a trend to watch closely due to its prophetic significance.

Moscow continues to lay down the gauntlet to the new U.S. administration. On the eve of President Obama’s inauguration, Kabul released a letter from the Russian president stating Moscow’s readiness to provide military assistance in Afghanistan. The letter—and the timing of it—was a deliberate message from Russia to Obama that the United States had better not stand in the way of Moscow’s expansionist moves or else it will face trouble in Afghanistan. Moscow’s implied threat is not empty: The U.S. is looking to establish alternative supply routes—which require Russia’s cooperation—to decrease its reliance on an increasingly unstable Pakistan. As we wrote on January 16, “Any sort of agreement whereby the U.S. became reliant on Russia to get supplies into Afghanistan would limit America’s ability to curtail Russian ambitions elsewhere” (“U.S. Searches for Alternative Supply Routes to Afghanistan”). In addition, Russia has a great deal of influence within Afghanistan still. “Russia has enough of a foothold in Afghanistan,” says Stratfor, “to make things difficult for Washington should the need arise. … Russia has issued a veiled threat for Obama to ponder in the early days of his presidency. It is a threat that deliberately lacks details about what the Russians can or plan to do in Afghanistan, but it will make Washington think twice about moves that would impede Moscow’s resurgent path” (January 20). This scenario is symptomatic of the great global power transfer that is underway.

Turkey again this week demonstrated its hostility toward supposed ally Israel when its prime minister delivered a lengthy condemnation of Israel at the World Economic Forum in Davao, Switzerland. While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speech may be dismissed by some as a personal tirade, it is part of a growing trend in Turkey. During the Gaza conflict, Turkish leaders were some of the most vocal in criticizing Israel. Turkey’s growing hostility toward Israel should not be dismissed. Turkey’s geographic location and military power make it a pivotal country in the Middle East and give it the potential to cause great harm to Israel. Bible prophecy reveals a critical role for Turkey in the end time. Read “The Israel-Turkey Alliance Is a Trap” in the March Trumpet for more on this.

Europe

This week was a stormy one for Vatican-Jewish relations. In order to foster church unity, the Vatican lifted its excommunication on a group of bishops from the “Society of St. Pius x” (sspx). One of these bishops, Richard Williamson, denies that there was a Holocaust. “Historical evidence is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy by Adolf Hitler,” he said last week. Because of this, the chief rabbinate of Israel broke off all ties with the Vatican, as did the Central Council of Jews in Germany. After some consolatory remarks from the pope, these groups are considering reversing their decision. Holocaust denial in not a policy of the sspx, but it does disagree with the modernization of the Catholic Church. The fact that the Vatican is courting this group shows it is willing to shift to the right. For more information, see our October 2007 Trumpet article “Why the Pope Offends Muslims, Jews and Protestants.”

Violent protests and growing dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the economic crisis have brought down Iceland’s government. On Friday, January 23, Prime Minister Geir Haarde called for early elections due to mass protests. Then, the next Monday, the coalition completely collapsed. Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson asked the Social Democrats to form a new government, ending nearly 20 years of right-wing rule. This new coalition will lead the country until new elections are held in May. Social unrest caused by the credit crisis is certainly a trend to watch. A whole swath of right-wing parties took power in the wake of unrest and economic collapse in the 1929 Depression.

The European Constitution, currently known as the Treaty of Lisbon or the reform treaty, is in the news again. Ireland is having trouble ratifying the treaty, and Poland and the Czech Republic also have reservations about signing it. Now Germany is investigating the impact the EU reform treaty will have on its own national sovereignty. Last week, the EUobserver reported that Germany’s constitutional court is preparing to hear a case brought by Peter Gauweiler, a member of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, who claims the Lisbon Treaty not only infringes the rights of German citizens by allowing the European Court of Justice to supersede Germany’s court system, but also that the treaty allows for the German parliament, the Bundestag, to be trumped by the European Parliament. This week, the court was handed a second complaint, which threatens to delay Germany’s ratification even further. The imperialist EU vision, a German idea from its beginning, is now stalled awaiting the judgment of a German court charged with assessing its legality within Germany itself. Still, as British political economist Rodney Atkinson has said, the Germans are experts at creating a crisis, then posing their own solution to solve that crisis. With the fate of the Lisbon Treaty hanging in the balance, the term crisis may just be one that we hear mentioned more often in coming months.

Hundreds of thousands of French workers went on strike Thursday as unions and opposition leaders protested their government’s handling of the economic crisis. Train drivers, air traffic control operators, teachers, postal workers, bank employees and ski lift operators, to name a few, refused to work. Hundreds of thousands marched on streets, protesting in 200 cities across France and causing massive disruption. In some places, only one in five trains was operating. Despite this, the general strike was very popular. One poll found that almost 70 percent of those surveyed supported, or sympathized with, the strike. More and more, the economic crisis is causing civil unrest, especially in Europe. In the past, such a trend has led to the rise of extremist groups.

Asia

North Korea was clamoring for attention this week as it threatened strong military steps to wipe out South Korea. “Now that traitor [South Korean President] Lee Myung Bak and his group opted for confrontation, denying national reconciliation and cooperation, backed by foreign forces, our revolutionary armed forces are compelled to take an all-out confrontational posture to shatter them,” said a statement from the Korean People’s Army, released Saturday. North Korea also claims to have weaponized enough plutonium to create four or five nuclear bombs. The United States has been engaged in talks with North Korea for five years, yet the Communist nation has shown that it will not give up its nuclear weapons program easily. With a new president in the White House, North Korea is hoping to win economic concessions from America by making more false promises. America simply does not have the will to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons.

Africa

Acknowledging the failure of its economic practices, Zimbabwe’s finance minister announced January 29 that Harare has dropped its control over foreign currencies, allowing businesses to accept and use U.S. dollars, South African rand and currencies of neighboring countries. The finance minister also announced that Zimbabwe would drop price controls that have forced shop owners to sell staples at unsustainably low prices. According to a United Nations report, also released on January 29, only 6 percent of the population is employed, and over half need emergency food aid. This has forced aid agencies to cut cereal rations in half so more people can receive aid. Many citizens—including doctors, teachers, government workers, and bus drivers—went on strike to gain the ability to receive payment in foreign currencies, but the government had held out against the measure until now. The Associated Press reports that Zimbabwe’s leadership will buy foreign currency at a low government rate, then sell it at its inflated black-market value. With the entire country broke and hungry, its “elected” officials continue to drain whatever value the once-prosperous country known as Rhodesia has left.

Anglo-America

Amid the flotsam and jetsam of a national economy broken by greed, state governments are turning to a shady source of funds: gambling. The AP reported Sunday that lawmakers in at least 14 states are now considering proposals to expand slots or casinos. While income and sales tax revenues have fallen, overall gambling revenues have remained comparatively steady, even during the recession. Casinos impoverish lower-income households, provide no long-term economic growth, foster crime, take money from other businesses, and cause gambling addiction problems. Turning to gambling to solve economic problems will only make the problem worse. But, given the state of the economy, some lawmakers think it is worth the gamble.

Monday started a bad week for jobs in the United States when firms including Caterpillar, Sprint Nextel, Home Depot and Texas Instruments cut 60,000 jobs. Tuesday brought pink slips for another 10,000 employees. On Thursday, more than 15,000 more jobs disappeared. Reuters reports that more than 210,000 jobs have been slashed this month, coming on top of 524,000 job losses in December. In all, 11 million U.S. workers are unemployed (more than 7 percent), up 48 percent from a year ago. On Friday, the government reported that the economy has now chalked up its fastest decline in 26 years.

One of President Obama’s first executive orders was to close Guantanamo and the cia’s secret prisons. However, two former Guantanamo detainees have appeared in a video posted to a jihad website. “By Allah, imprisonment only increased our persistence in our principles for which we went out, did jihad for, and were imprisoned for,” Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri, who is the number-two al Qaeda terrorist in Yemen, taunted, identifying himself by his Guantanamo prisoner number. His companion in the video, Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi, another prisoner, is an al Qaeda field commander. On Tuesday, the humiliation continued when Saudi Arabia announced it had rearrested nine Islamist terrorists, including at least two former Guantanamo inmates.

In figures that border on making quantification obsolete, the total cost of the U.S. economic stimulus plan is now $819 billion. President Obama and Congress’s plan includes lower tax withholding for some American workers, more unemployment benefit checks, more food stamp money, and aid to states in the form of public works, plus other spending.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was tape-recorded trying to sell Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, was finally impeached and removed from office on Thursday, bringing a closure of sorts to a scandal that has revealed the ugly underbelly hiding under even democratic governments.

The International Herald Tribune reported Thursday an item that is at once diminutive and significant: President Obama’s approach to his office. In “Obama settles into a more informal White House,” the Tribune noted that his predecessor required a coat and tie to be worn in the Oval Office at all times. Bush did not allow aides and counselors to enter the office, even on the weekend, wearing khakis, button-downs, jeans or other business casual attire. Former President Bush arrived at the office around 7 a.m., and began and ended meetings on time. According to the Tribune, Obama takes a different approach. He wears a sweater and slacks to the office on the weekends and nixes the coat in the Oval Office during the workweek, where he arrives at 9.

Hamas: Gaza Victory Paved the Way to Jerusalem

Hamas: Gaza Victory Paved the Way to Jerusalem

Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

“The Gaza victory has paved the way to Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, the Negev, and the West Bank,” said senior Hamas official Ismail Radhwan at a rally in Qatar to mark the “Gaza victory.” Now that the war is over, many Hamas leaders have made it clear that they want to continue the struggle.

Hamas sees this fight as part of a bigger campaign leading to the capture of Jerusalem. “As we won the Gaza war, so we will win a war aimed at lifting the siege and opening the crossings, as a preliminary to the liberation of the country, the return [of the refugees], the liberation of Jerusalem, and extricating ourselves from the occupation,” said Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashal.

The leaders called for Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank to rise up and join them. “We want an intra-Palestinian dialogue—but in order to provide it with the proper basis, the residents of the West Bank must rise up and resist until victory, as happened in Gaza,” said Mashal.

In Qatar, Mashal announced plans to “create a new supreme national authority, that will represent the Palestinians in [Israel] and outside it, and will include all the national Palestinian forces and all the streams in the Palestinian people ….” At the Qatar rally, speakers criticized both the Palestinian Liberation Organization (plo) and the Palestinian Authority, both of which are led by Mahmoud Abbas.

“In its present state, the plo no longer constitutes a supreme authority of the Palestinians; instead, it has turned into an administration aimed at dividing the Palestinian home,” said Mashal. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called for the PA to “Stand aside and catch your breath,” and to “Join what your people has chosen—jihad and resistance.”

Hamas has become a tool of Iran. Its purpose is to capture Jerusalem and destroy Israel. It will not be negotiated away from that goal. Ceasefires and such deals merely give it time to re-arm.

As we wrote in the latest print edition of the Trumpet “For more than 15 years, Israel’s enemies have used the peace process, which began in Oslo in 1993, to destroy the Jewish state. … The international community overwhelming favors this two-state ‘solution,’ seemingly blind to the obvious fact that a Palestinian state already exists alongside Israel—in Gaza. And it hasn’t solved anything.”

Iran desperately wants Jerusalem. Hamas will use this current peace to rebuild in Gaza, and to branch out to the West Bank. Watch for it to try to dominate the West Bank, either by coming to an agreement with Fatah or by wresting control of it. Hamas wants the West Bank, as it represents a major step toward Jerusalem.

For more information, see our booklet Jerusalem in Prophecy.

Why Obama Worries Israel

Why Obama Worries Israel

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A disturbing look at the new administration’s approach to pursuing peace in the Middle East.

JERUSALEM—While the rest of the world overwhelmingly favored Barack Obama over John McCain during the presidential election last year, Israel was one of the few exceptions.

Now we see why.

The day after Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, the first world leader he telephoned was Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose pathetically weak and corrupt “leadership” in the West Bank is sustained only by the powerful presence of the Israel Defense Forces.

Yet, even though most Palestinians, including those living in the West Bank, now reject Abbas’s legitimacy as president, Western leaders do not, as was clearly evident when the new president made his first diplomatic phone call.

Of course, the Bush administration also clung to the false hope that Mahmoud Abbas could help bring peace and stability to the war-torn region. In his visit to Ramallah last year, President Bush spoke as if Fatah was a refreshing peace-seeking alternative to Hamas, even though Mahmoud Abbas, only a month earlier, had adamantly maintained his refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist as a nation-state.

Still, though, President Bush has been perceived throughout the Arab and Western worlds as being decidedly pro-Israel. Changing this perception is clearly at the top of President Obama’s foreign-policy agenda.

Take the recent war in Gaza, for example. Before the inauguration, President Obama was tight-lipped about Israel’s response to the constant rocket attack coming from Hamas. President Bush, meanwhile, had offered strong support for Israel’s actions in Gaza. He pinned the blamed for civilian casualties in Gaza squarely on Hamas.

When the new president finally weighed in, he positioned himself in the middle of a dispute where there is fault on both sides. “Just as the terror of rocket fire aimed at innocent Israelis is intolerable, so too is a future without hope for the Palestinians,” the president said. “As part of a lasting ceasefire, Gaza’s border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce …” (emphasis mine throughout).

Obama’s selection of former Sen. George Mitchell as special envoy for Middle East peace reflects this same moral-equivalence blindness. Mitchell’s credentials include his appointment as a special envoy mediating the Northern Ireland peace process between 1995 and 2000—a process that led to the ira/Sinn Fein terrorists achieving political power, a triumph for the tactics of terror.

Mitchell is no stranger to the Middle East peace process either, having dabbled in it twice before. In 2000-01, he led a six-month fact-finding mission to examine the cause of Palestinian violence. In this venture, he “won a reputation for evenhandedness,” according to the Los Angeles Times—in effect placing equal blame on the victims and the perpetrators of the violence. The resultant Mitchell report called for step-by-step, reciprocal moves by both parties—a tried and failed formula for peace in the Middle East.

To this point, the Obama administration has chosen not to pursue a diplomatic relationship with Hamas. But when it comes to Hamas’s overlords in Tehran, that is an altogether different matter.

The new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has strongly advocated negotiating with Iran. “We look forward to engaging in vigorous diplomacy that includes direct diplomacy with Iran,” Rice said on Monday in the UN chambers. Speaking of national security being advanced through cooperation with other nations, Rice said “there is no more important forum for that effective cooperation than the United Nations.”

The UN also happens to be a primary vehicle for the vilification and weakening of Israel by Muslim nations—one of the reasons the Bush administration saw the futility of it. A greater U.S. participation in the UN will only provide further legitimacy for the Israel-bashing that goes on there.

The new secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has also spoken on the new administration’s softer approach to Iran. “Diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foreign policy,” Clinton said in her Congressional Confirmation Hearing on January 13. “[O]ur task will be to try to figure out the appropriate and effective pressure that will perhaps lead to us dissuading Iran from going forward.” This is what the U.S.—and the UN—has in actual fact been trying to do for years, to no avail.

For his part, President Obama backed up his inauguration speech promise to the Muslim world that he would “seek a new way forward” by choosing to give his first formal interview as U.S. president to an Arab television station. His message in his interview with the Dubai-based Al Arabiya on Monday sent much the same message as his inauguration speech: that the Muslim world—including Iran—can expect a friendlier, softer approach.

“The Iranian people are a great people,” President Obama said during the interview. He then added this gentle slap on the wrist of their leaders:

Iran has acted in ways that’s not conducive to peace and prosperity in the region: their threats against Israel; their pursuit of a nuclear weapon which could potentially set off an arms race in the region that would make everybody less safe; their support of terrorist organizations in the past—none of these things have been helpful.

In the past? As Amir Taheri quipped at the New York Post, Tehran was running guns to Hezbollah and Hamas even as the president spoke!

Compare the president’s conciliatory tone with the straightforward assessment President Bush gave during his Middle East tour in January 2008. Iran, the former president said,

undermines Lebanese hopes for peace by arming and aiding the terrorist group Hezbollah. It subverts the hopes for peace in other parts of the region by funding terrorist groups like Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad. It sends arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Shiite militias in Iraq. It intimidates its neighbors with ballistic missiles … and it defies the United Nations and destabilizes the region by refusing to be open and transparent about its nuclear programs and ambitions. …Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere.

Though President Bush lacked the will to confront that threat directly, his simple acknowledgment of the threat is now viewed by his successor as being overly harsh and aggressive.

“[A]ll too often the United States starts by dictating,” President Obama said during the interview, using harsher language to rebuke his predecessor than he did when criticizing the Iranian president.

Iran’s response to President Obama’s olive branch offer was predictable. Rather than show any sign of contrition or appreciation for the president’s remarks, the Iranian president upped his demands, calling on the new U.S. administration to show proof of its claims of “change.” He demanded an across-the-board apology from the U.S. and a complete drawdown of U.S. military forces around the world.

On Wednesday, speaking of “crimes” committed by the U.S. against the Iranians during the past 60 years, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated, “Those who speak of change must apologize to the Iranian people.” He went on to demand an end to America’s “expansionist policies” and a halt to Washington’s support of “the Zionists, outlaws and criminals.”

Such demands may be dismissed as posturing—and, indeed, posturing it is. But it is the weakness that Tehran perceives in U.S. policy that is giving it this confidence. It certainly doesn’t put the U.S. in a prime position for negotiations. It is the very threat of force that actually makes diplomacy effective. In the absence of such a credible threat, diplomacy is just empty words at best—dangerous appeasement at worst.

Tehran is eying the opportunity provided by a more flexible U.S. administration with relish.

And with the pressure lifting off Iran, Israel is bound to become increasingly isolated in its opposition to Tehran—and desperate.

These developments perfectly align with what God long ago prophesied in His inspired Word. Based on these sure words, for years now, we have been predicting the collision course the United States and Israel are currently on. And with the anticipated rightward swing in Israel’s upcoming election, what little carryover is left to the U.S.-Israeli alliance is about to disappear.

This will lead to Israel’s desperate turn to the German-led European Union for help, which will lead to the prophesied clash between the German-led European Union and Iranian-led Islamic extremism. For much more about these prophecies, read The King of the South.