German President Horst KÖhler unveiled the country’s first memorial to soldiers killed in the post-World War ii military on September 8. While Germany is just one of many countries that memorialize their war dead, this is part of a disquieting trend of military taboos being pushed aside in Germany.
On August 2, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her support for a memorial to Germans who had to relocate from Eastern Europe after World War ii. The Federation of Expellees, a group backed by the German government, is now moving forward with plans for a memorial in Berlin for these dispossessed. On August 24, a statement from the heads of the German and Polish bishops’ conferences also drew attention to “the wrongs and loss of homeland experienced by Germans due to expulsions.” Such developments reflect an increasing tendency to portray Germans as victims in the war. That sense of victimhood in Germany is helping to awaken national pride. Historically, this has had global repercussions; biblical prophecy tells us it will again.
Germany’s ruling political parties agreed on how to implement the Lisbon Treaty on August 18, after weeks of negotiations. The Christian Social Union had wanted to force the German government to seek permission from the parliament and federal council before supporting legislation in Brussels. Instead, the government will have to listen to parliament, but will not be bound by what it says. The resulting bill, backed by all major parties but one, passed through the lower house of parliament on September 8. It represents a significant power grab for Germany, giving it more control over European affairs.
High-ranking EU diplomats meet weekly with Hamas, despite its status as a terrorist group, Hamas told EUobserver in a September 12 interview. “We meet a lot of them from France, from Spain, from Germany, from Italy, from England, from Luxembourg. When they listen to us and we spend a couple of hours with them, they understand what is the real image of Hamas,” said spokesman Ghazi Hamad. Also, Germany has been working with Egypt in negotiations with Hamas to secure the release of Israeli captive Gilad Shalit, according to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Such mediation is being used by Europe, and Germany in particular, as a way to play a larger role in the Middle East peace process.
Pakistani nuclear weapons scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan has admitted assisting Iran in its nuclear program. In an interview broadcast on Pakistani television August 31, Khan described how he and other Pakistani military officials facilitated deals between Iran and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons materials suppliers. Khan told the interviewer that if Iran succeeds in “acquiring nuclear technology, we will be a strong bloc in the region to counter international pressure. Iran’s nuclear capability will neutralize Israel’s power.”
Iran and Venezuela signed three energy agreements on September 6 during a visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to the Islamic Republic. Two of the accords stipulated that Venezuela and Iran will each invest $760 million in the other’s energy sector. The third deal was an Iranian attempt to mitigate the risk of new sanctions from the West by importing 20,000 barrels of gasoline daily from Venezuela. The strengthening relationship between Iran and Venezuela is aimed at countering U.S. interests, both in the Middle East and South America.
In Yemen, government forces have been fighting Iran-backed Shiite unrest since early August. On August 31, the Yemini government summoned the Iranian ambassador over alleged media bias toward the Shiite rebels. Also in late August, security forces claimed to have uncovered six weapons caches belonging to Shiite militants that contained short-range missiles and light machine guns made in Iran. Stratfor reported that “with regional tensions escalating over Iran’s growing influence, the country is developing into yet another hot proxy battleground between the Persians and Arabs” (September 1). This is further evidence of Iran’s efforts to consolidate its power in the region, and also of the division in the Islamic world today that portends a drastic split indicated in end-time prophecy between those Muslim nations that will ally with Iran and those that will ally with a European power.
As U.S. forces draw down in Iraq, attacks within the country are increasing. On August 19, a series of blasts in Baghdad killed 95 people and wounded over 1,000. The explosions struck at the heart of Iraq’s Shiite-led government, damaging the Finance and Foreign Ministry buildings. The Sunnis are sending a message. They don’t like the security and political arrangements currently in place in Iraq, which favor the Shia, and want to remind both the Shia and the Americans of the trouble they could cause should their interests be ignored. They know that once the U.S. leaves, they will have no guarantor. As Washington tries to maneuver its way out of Iraq without the country collapsing in a heap, Iran is watching closely, and will be sure to take advantage.
Major Iranian-backed Shiite groups in Iraq announced a new coalition, excluding Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, August 24 in a major realignment of Iraqi politics. In a strong move by Tehran to grab power in Iraq, its allies in Baghdad formed the new Iraqi National Alliance (ina) in preparation for parliamentary elections on January 16. The two main blocs in the alliance are the largest Shiite party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (isci), and the Al Sadr Trend, led by the anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Maliki has not yet decided whether he will join this new alliance on Iran’s terms or try to cobble together a rival alliance. Regardless, the new Shiite alliance gives Iran a firm hand on the future direction of Iraqi politics.
Hezbollah has been stockpiling chemical weapons in southern Lebanon, according to Kuwaiti newspaper al-Seyassah. The report, published September 3, cited European intelligence sources working with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon who claimed that Iran has flown chemical and biological warfare equipment to Lebanon via Syria. The newspaper said the ammunition dump that exploded in Lebanon on July 14 contained chemical weapons.
The Obama administration has softened its demand that Israel immediately cease all settlement construction as a precondition for resuming peace talks with the Palestinians, Haaretz reported August 27. Now, however, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is maintaining that for peace talks to resume there must be a total freeze of construction in East Jerusalem. The primary impasse is over Jerusalem. This means, regardless of any negotiations, a clash between Palestinians and Jews is inevitable.
Hamas hosted 100,000 youths in Gaza this year at 700 summer camps, according to Arutz Sheva. In addition to being indoctrinated with Islamic ideology, children were given weapons and hand-to-hand combat training, as well as training on how to use explosive belts for suicide missions. Through these camps and other methods, Hamas and other Islamist groups are poisoning the minds of a generation of Palestinian children to hate Israel.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in a letter released August 11 that the Ukrainian president is the cause of sour relations between their two countries. Medvedev kept his attacks narrowly focused on Ukraine’s leaders while embracing the Ukrainian people as a whole. Medvedev was clearly telling the Ukrainians that they need to change their leaders in the election on January 17 in order to have a strong partnership with Russia. Russia is trying to use its historical links to pry Ukraine away from Europe and America. Polls suggest that the January 2010 elections will markedly shift Ukraine toward Russia.
Russian businessman and former Energy Minister Igor Yusufov is poised to buy a German shipyard. State authorities and creditors agreed August 17 to the $56 billion contract, a fraction of the shipyard’s real value. The proposed buyout foresees Yusufov founding a company called Nordic Yards, which will then take over Wadan Shipyard’s operations. Chancellor Merkel expressed support for the transaction. The strengthening liaison between Germany and Russia bodes poorly for the West.
On August 26, the Financial Times reported that Russia is bolstering its relationship with Mongolia. President Medvedev signed a five-year contract to transfer management rights of Mongolia’s railways, previously run jointly by the two countries, to Russia. Moscow is also now poised to mine uranium in Mongolia. These tightening ties with Mongolia, the “land bridge” between China and Russia, is another sign of the rising prophesied Asian superpower.
On August 27, Reuters reported that China had “called on the United States to reduce and eventually halt air and sea military surveillance close to its shores.” The request came in the wake of a series of territorial disputes this year. This is another example of China flexing its military muscle.
China is worried about America’s decision to resort to “credit easing”—essentially, printing money—to try to get out of financial troubles. This may force China to find alternatives to the dollar, according to one official. France, Russia and India have also called for an end of the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency. On September 8, the UN Conference on Trade and Development joined the chorus.
Russian geopolitical clout was bolstered on September 10 when Venezuelan President Chávez recognized two pro-Russian rebel regions of Georgia as independent. Venezuela is the second country after Nicaragua to follow Russia’s lead in recognizing the sovereignty of the two breakaway provinces within Georgia’s internationally acknowledged borders. The rest of the world views South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which rejected Georgian rule in the early 1990s, as integral regions of Georgia. Caracas and Moscow also forged several agreements on energy, trade and defense.
A flight from Cancun to Mexico City was hijacked on September 9. Though there was no loss of life, the effect on Mexico’s tourism industry could be devastating. Tourism had already dropped 18 percent since last year, mostly because of the drug war which has flared in Mexico. Eighteen federal agents were killed in President Felipe Calderon’s home state, Michoacan, in July. On August 20, the U.S. Justice Department announced indictments against 43 members of a major Mexican drug cartel, including Jaoquin Guzman-Loera, Mexico’s “most-wanted man,” a chief supplier of cocaine to drug users in America.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced September 3 that the U.S. would cancel $22 million of aid to Honduras. The State Department said, “Restoration of the terminated assistance will be predicated upon a return to democratic, constitutional governance in Honduras.” Yet officials have also said that President Obama’s administration will not recognize the upcoming democratic elections. Thus continues its support of a man who was illegally seeking to seize dictatorial control over Honduras.
President Obama has found an unexpected—and perhaps unwelcome—supporter for his agenda: Fidel Castro. “The extreme right hates him [President Obama] for being African-American and fights what the president does to improve the deteriorated image of that country,” the former Cuban president wrote in his state newspaper column on August 25. “I don’t have the slightest doubt that the racist right will do everything possible to wear him down, blocking his program to get him out of the game one way or another, at the least political cost.” Clearly, Castro knows a socialist agenda when he sees one.
Venezuelan President Chávez completed what he dubbed an “axis of evil” tour in September. Caracas and Tehran signed three new energy agreements on September 6, bringing the total to 35. On September 10, Chávez arrived in Moscow, meeting with President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin to discuss energy cooperation and arms purchases. In a tour that included visits to Libya and Syria, Chávez sought to decrease his country’s dependence on U.S. oil purchases, thereby diminishing Washington’s influence in Latin America.
The Christian Science Monitor claimed August 20 that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party are targeting Movement for Democratic Change (mdc) opponents in order to diminish the opposition’s clout in the unity government. One mdc official claimed that “Zanu-PF is using the police and the Central Intelligence Organization to harass our members.” In the past year, more than 200 mdc activists have been killed.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced September 2 that he is talking to the Chinese government about investing in Africa. He stated that China’s sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corp., “expressed interest” in investing in the World Bank’s new asset management company that aims to direct money from the private sector to Third World countries in Africa and Latin America. China is not motivated by altruism, however; it is after resources. By investing in these continents, it aims to gain access to more of what it needs to fuel its growing empire.
U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, patriarch of the dynastic Kennedy family and a king of the Democratic Party, died on August 25 of brain cancer. He was 77. The death marked the most recent in a family known for sustaining what some have called a “curse” that has resulted in more than half a dozen deadly tragedies since 1944.
Bloomberg reported September 10 that the U.S. trade deficit increased in July by 16 percent ($32 billion), the most in over a decade. The trade gap with the EU almost doubled to $8 billion.
Postal officials estimate that the U.S. Postal Service will ship about 20 billion fewer pieces of mail this year than in the previous year, its largest drop in its 234-year history. It has a $7 billion budget deficit for 2009.
The Washington Times reported in September that 2.5 million Americans fell below the poverty line last year as millions of jobs were lost, contributing to the highest number of poor Americans since 1998. One in eight Americans now lives on less than $10,991 per year. Another record was set in June, when more than 35 million Americans received food stamps, up 22 percent from a year before and a new all-time record. The program now involves one in nine Americans.
As the American economy lurches, 34 percent of U.S. workers say they have just one week of savings in the bank—or less. Financial advisers say workers should save the equivalent of six months’ salary to be safe.
On September 16, the Senate released its version of a health-care reform bill, a measure that opponents say is hugely expensive and comes at a time when the nation can least afford it. The bill would require all individuals to purchase health care or pay a fine, expand Medicaid, and prohibit insurance companies from charging more to those who have health problems. The bill would cost $856 billion.
California had a hard summer. On August 26, Toyota’s board of directors announced that because of low sales and General Motors’ bankruptcy, it will close the last major auto plant in the state next March. The same day, a gigantic wildfire broke out in California. It grew to become the largest in Los Angeles County history and the 10th-largest in the history of the state. Its largest component blackened 157,220 acres, destroyed 78 homes and killed two firefighters.
In August, British opposition leader David Cameron decried the government’s spending, calling it a “disgrace.” This year alone, the British government expects to borrow £175 billion (us$291 billion)—about 12 percent of gross domestic product and a record for peacetime. In the next five years, Britain is expected to double its national debt to £1.4 trillion (us$2.3 trillion).
Australia’s most important farming region is experiencing its driest weather on record. Its eight-year-long drought is the worst in a century. It has ruined crops throughout the 410,000-square-mile Murray-Darling Basin, which accounts for 40 percent of Australian agricultural production. Agence France-Presse reported that sections of the Murray River “have become little more than stagnant pools” (August 23).