On Dec. 1, 2009, the Lisbon Treaty officially came into force, forever altering Europe. The first EU president is Belgium’s center right Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy. Britain’s Europe Minister Chris Bryant stated that Van Rompuy has “a more federalist agenda than other prime ministers in Europe.”
Economists are worried Greece may be the first EU nation to default on its debt. “We could see our first EU-15 sovereign default since Germany had it in 1948,” warned Willem Buiter, a former Bank of England policy maker, on December 9. Greece’s debt is 110 percent of its annual economic output. If Greece falls, all eurozone countries could suffer. These concerns have led the European Commission to renew its attempt to audit member nations. The Commission has tried to seize this authority before, but EU nations blocked it to protect their own independence. Now that view is changing as more politicians believe the EU needs the muscle to prevent member states from descending into the same situation as Greece.
The Vatican is preparing to rid Europe of secularism by replacing liberal Catholic figures with conservative ones. Known as “the Belgian Ratzinger” because of his conservative views, André-Mutien Léonard was appointed archbishop of Brussels on January 18. Many in Belgium fear he will be more involved in Belgian politics than his more liberal predecessor. Catholic newspaper editor Bert Claerhout said that the choice of Léonard was “clearly conscious choice for a totally different style and approach: for more radical decisiveness rather than quiet diplomacy, for more confrontation with the secular society instead of dialogue …” (KERK&Leven, January 18).
Europe will fall to Islam unless its inhabitants embrace Catholicism, said the outgoing archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, in an interview published January 6.
Several recent developments show the governments and people of Europe becoming more right-wing and anti-immigrant. The Swiss public voted on November 29 to ban the construction of new minarets in their country. A parliamentary committee in France recommended on January 26 that the country ban women from wearing a full veil in public buildings, including schools and hospitals. Over 1,000 African immigrants were evacuated from the southern Italian town of Rosarno on January 9 after three days of clashes that left 53 people injured. An antigovernment newspaper called the removal of the immigrants “ethnic cleansing.”
In Germany, politically and racially motivated crimes by the far right increased to a record high of over 20,000 in 2008, according to figures released by the Federal Criminal Police Office (bka) December 17. “There’s a real danger to people’s lives because far-right attacks tend to be very spontaneous, brutal and violent,” said bka president Jörg Ziercke.
An application containing over 100 speeches by the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini became the number-two download application on the Italian version of iTunes following its release January 21—clearly showing the dictator’s popularity among a younger, Internet-savvy demographic.
The European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency published a report on December 9, based on a survey of 23,500 people, stating that many minorities in the EU suffer regularly from racial discrimination. All these developments indicate that right-wing extremism is surging into mainstream Europe.
On January 12, two of Germany’s top military manufacturers—Rheinmetall and man Group—announced their intention to merge their military vehicle production. The resulting combine will produce a new national champion and leading supplier for wheeled military vehicles in Europe. According to MarketWatch columnist David Marsh, the German government “has been providing behind-the-scenes assistance to make sure industry goes in the right direction” (January 18). The new combine “meets the long-held German desire to build industrial companies with world scale in the defense field,” he said. Germany’s corporate revival is just the precursor to a much larger, non-peaceable event.
Relations between crucial allies Israel and turkey deteriorated in January. Turkey accused Israel of humiliating its ambassador after he was summoned by the Israeli deputy foreign minister. The move, initiated by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, followed the airing of Turkish television dramas demonizing Israeli soldiers
as murderers of Palestinian children and depicting Israeli diplomats as child abductors.
Israel’s attempt at tough diplomacy, however, backfired; Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was forced to back down and give a full apology. It was a dramatic display of the crushing limits of Israel’s “toughness.”
Eight people were killed December 27 at anti-regime demonstrations in Iran during the Shiite ritual of Ashura. These were the largest clashes since the protests immediately following the Iranian elections in June. In an attempt to quell the unrest, Iranian authorities arrested several aides to the country’s top two opposition leaders.
Iran has been making headway in securing political influence in Iraq ahead of March 7 parliamentary elections. In January, the head of an obscure Iraqi commission banned more than 500 Sunni candidates from running in the election, allegedly because of their ties to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. While an appeals panel in February decided to lift the ban, any successful candidates will not be able to assume office until a final ruling is made. Also in January, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition announced it will ally with the Iraqi National Coalition (inc), which was formed last August by Iran’s allies in Baghdad in order to cement Iranian political influence in Iraq. Maliki had refused to join the inc when it was first formed. In December, Iranian troops occupied an Iraqi oil well in what appeared to be an attempt by Tehran to put pressure on Maliki to align with the inc. It seems Maliki has caved to Iran. The announcement that his State of the Law will ally with the inc after the elections came shortly after Iran’s foreign minister visited Iraq and met with Maliki and Iraq’s highest-ranking Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The shaky political situation in Iraq is contributing to an upsurge in violence that could complicate U.S. withdrawal efforts. In December, five car bombs killed more than 100 people and injured hundreds more in Baghdad.
Iran and Egypt have bolstered ties in their first round of high-level talks since 1979. On December 20, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak received a two-hour visit from Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. Immediately afterward, Mubarak, who rarely travels because of his failing health, flew to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to discuss Arab-Iranian relations. Cairo’s efforts to coexist with a nuclear Iran indicate a substantial loss of American influence within Egypt and the region at large. Based on Bible prophecy, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has said for over 15 years that Iran would ally itself with Egypt.
Iran’s Mehr news agency reported January 16 that the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan signed an agreement at a summit in Kabul banning the use of each other’s country to harm each other. The foreign ministers also voiced support for a regional solution for Afghanistan.
The Iranian Navy has deployed commandos and warships to the Gulf of Aden, Iran’s naval chief said November 14. In addition to protecting Iranian cargo ships and oil tankers from Somali pirates, a primary reason for the dispatch appears to be to protect Iran’s weapons supply lines to Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Shiite rebels, supported by Iran, have been battling Yemeni and Saudi Arabian forces in the border area of the two countries for several months. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has also been sending Hezbollah fighters into Yemen to assist the Houthi insurgency. Iran, in effect, is fighting a proxy battle against Saudi Arabia. The split between Islamist Iran and more moderate Arab countries, prophesied in the Bible for the end time, is becoming more apparent.
China and Japan announced plans on November 27 to hold their first joint military exercises. They also agreed to future talks on joint training in disaster relief projects and humanitarian operations. A week earlier, during a visit to Japan by the Chinese foreign minister, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said, “I want to build win-win relationships based on a spirit of fraternity and expand them from between Japan and China to the Asian region and the world. Doing so, I believe, will lead to the building of an East Asian community.”
Still, Hatoyama is urging China to increase the openness of the Communist giant’s ballooning military spending. For the last two years, China has announced defense budget increases of more than 17 percent. Hatoyama’s concerns suggest that, beyond the substantial military buildup that China makes known, additional increases are happening behind the scenes. If Tokyo is concerned, the West should really be worried.
China successfully tested its first land-based missile defense system on January 11 with the goal, in part, of deterring the U.S. from defending Taiwan. By destroying one in-flight missile with another, Beijing flexed its growing military muscle and showed its disapproval of the recent sale of 200 U.S. Patriot interceptor missiles to Taiwan.
A few days later, on January 16, Taiwan and China entered into a new phase of economic partnership when three policies went into effect, liberalizing financial ties across the Taiwan Strait. Clearly Beijing wants to increase its influence over Taiwan through economic dependence. It is committed to bringing Taiwan under its wing—though so far, U.S. support of Taiwan has deterred China from using force. Instead Chinese leaders are trying to win Taiwan over gradually through political and economic methods.
Several recent acts of defiance by China provide a glimpse into the mutual antipathy building between it and the West. At December’s Copenhagen climate conference, China resisted pressure to submit to international emissions monitoring and led other nations in refusing the proposals. Many European leaders laid the blame for the conference’s failure at China’s feet. On December 25, China issued an 11-year prison sentence to Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo for “subversion.” Balking at calls for leniency, Chinese courts imposed this unusually severe punishment in response to Mr. Liu’s authorship of articles calling for greater political freedoms. Then, on December 30, Chinese officials executed British national Akmal Shaikh, who was convicted for drug smuggling, despite repeated appeals for clemency by Western governments. The execution provoked a firestorm of anger in Britain and elsewhere.
On January 1, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan entered a common customs union. The move cemented Russia’s control over the two former Soviet satellites. Beginning a customs union is a starting point for a revival of something similar to the ussr, with Russia once again at the head.
Russia emerged as the only clear-cut winner from the January 17 national election in Ukraine. Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich won with 35 percent of the vote, and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko came second, with 25 percent, with a runoff election being held February 7. Stratfor pointed out that “Whichever of these candidates wins, Ukraine will return to the Russian fold …” (January 15).
Russia plans to construct factories in Venezuela to produce ak-103 assault rifles and cartridges. When operational, the proposed facilities will employ over 1,500 people. Venezuela has spent more than $4 billion on Russian weapons in recent years. Critics say Caracas is fueling a Latin American arms race. An emboldened Russia has been fomenting anti-Americanism throughout the Latin American region for several years now.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad enjoyed a warm welcome in Brazil on November 23. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said the world needed to engage Iran, that Iran had the right to develop nuclear power, and that the two nations were renewing “century-long ties.” Ahmadinejad also visited Venezuela on the same trip. Before the trip, he called for an expansion of ties between the two countries, saying, “Collaboration between revolutionary nations like Iran and Venezuela is necessary during this period of time.” Watch for Latin American nations to align themselves with America’s enemies.
Militants attacked a bus transporting Togo’s soccer team African Cup of Nations on January 8, killing three people. The attack raised questions of whether similar attacks could take place in South Africa when it hosts the World Cup this summer. Sports teams are increasingly becoming a target for militants, and the World Cup could be a way for them to push at Western nations.
Zimbabwe’s Joint Operations Command has ordered members of the Zimbabwe National Army to deploy to farms, reportedly a push to remove the few hundred remaining white farmers in the country. This is the final blow in a story the Trumpet has followed for a decade: the Zimbabwe landgrabs. The Plain Truth warned of President Robert Mugabe’s intentions back in May 1980, saying that despite his vows not to interfere with private property, he “has not, down deep, disavowed his Marxist principles.” Now Mugabe’s government has fully applied the “Marxist principles” that the Plain Truth wrote about almost 30 years ago.
aids Free World, a humanitarian group in Zimbabwe, says Mugabe’s zanu-pf party systematically raped opposition supporters during the 2008 elections. Seventy women across 10 provinces reported the atrocities, describing gang rapes and beatings. Some were infected with hiv. Three hundred and eighty rapes were documented according to the 64-page report, surely only a fraction of the true number.
The EU agreed January 25 to help train Somali government forces in Uganda. Spain will lead the mission, which will involve around 100 troops, to help Somalia fight its Islamic insurgency. Watch Europe’s smaller incursions into Africa; they follow a greater plan to secure Africa’s resources.
On December 10, news outlets reported that five Muslim men from the greater Washington, d.c., area were arrested in Pakistan and accused of trying to become terrorists. One of the men has family links to the Virginia mosque once attended by Nidal Hasan, the u.s. Army major who killed 14 people and shot 43 more at Fort Hood, Texas. The Virginia mosque is becoming notorious, since two of the September 11 hijackers also worshipped there. The arrests and the Fort Hood terrorist attack came as doubly bad news for the Army, which is trying to recruit more Arab-American troops with language and cultural skills and more understanding of theaters of combat like Iraq and Afghanistan.
On December 25, a Nigerian agent of al Qaeda ignited a bomb hidden in his undergarments and tried to explode a jetliner over Detroit. The device failed, but Umark Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempted mass murder exposed what U.S. President Barack Obama called a “systemic failure” of the nation’s security system.
On December 30, the cia suffered its worst loss of life since 1983 when a Jordanian man the agency was trying to cultivate as an informant entered Forward Operating Base Chapman in southeastern Afghanistan and detonated a bomb vest in the facility’s gymnasium. Eight Americans (seven agents) were killed in the attack and six more were wounded. Total American war deaths for 2009 hit 304, up from 151 in 2008. Total war deaths, including coalition allies, were 502, up from 286 the previous year.
On January 27, President Obama delivered his first state of the union address. His speech reflected the fact that the U.S. is consumed by its own domestic affairs; only about one sixteenth of the speech addressed international affairs. In contrast to Chancellor Merkel’s bold statement about sanctions the previous day, President Obama barely mentioned Iran in his message. He cited only “growing consequences” for the regime in a passing reference. A January Pew Research study found that terrorism was a concern for the American public, but it ranked third on the priority list after the economy and jobs. Social security, education, Medicare and other domestic issues rounded out the top 13 categories of concern for Americans.
President Obama has also pushed to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law barring admitted homosexuals from joining the military. The Pentagon has begun implementing the directive, with the defense secretary and joint chiefs of staff chairman testifying on “progress” toward open homosexuality in the U.S. military. This came soon after it was published that the president had appointed the first ever transgender individual to a senior government post.
On January 15, it emerged that Britain’s armed forces would be slashed by a fifth in coming years. The number of trained personnel is set to drop from 175,000 to fewer than 142,000 by 2016. The Ministry of Defense budget is likely to fall by 11 percent in that time.
Meanwhile, the Royal Navy has been accommodating pirates. The Daily Mail reported January 16 that the Navy captured 66 suspects last year. None were taken into custody. Suspected Somali pirates were given fuel, food and water and released. In three cases, this happened even though hostages had been found on their boats.