Europe is waiting for a decisive answer from Germany on what to do with Greece. On February 3, European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia announced that he would take the unprecedented step of monitoring the Greek government’s spending. However, apart from issuing vague promises that Greece will not go bust, Europe has not revealed its plan of action. The European Union, however, has jumped on the chance to give itself more powers. It took the unprecedented step of denying Greece its right to vote at an EU meeting in March as a show of disapproval. It has also threatened to invoke Article 126.9 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would force Greece to follow the EU’s program of taxation and spending in order to cut its deficit.
The Dutch government collapsed on February 20 over a disagreement within the ruling coalition over the country’s participation in the Afghanistan war. The Labor Party wanted to keep its campaign promise and bring all Dutch troops home; its coalition partners, the Christian Democrats in the cda and cd, wanted to leave 500 to 600 soldiers in the country as per nato’s request. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands ordered a new election for June 9. One of the biggest beneficiaries will probably be Geert Wilders and his right-wing anti-Islamic Freedom Party. Opinion polls indicate the Party for Freedom would increase its number of seats in the 150-strong parliament from 9 to 24—making it the second-largest party after the Christian Democrats. During local elections at the beginning of March, Wilders’s party came first in one of the two cities where it fielded candidates, and second in the other. Wilders could well be a member of the next government. Watch for more such successes as Europe’s citizens turn further against Islam and immigration.
The Catholic and Orthodox churches must unite in order to defend Europe’s Christian roots, Pope Benedict xvi told a group of Romanian bishops on February 12. As the bishops concluded their regular consultation with the pope, Benedict emphasized the need for them to work with their Orthodox counterparts. This came less than a fortnight after the pope admonished English and Welsh bishops to be generous toward any Anglicans wishing to return to Rome. The Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches are all coming together.
The Catholic Church has been hit by another massive sex scandal, this time in Germany. Around 100 priests and members of the laity are suspected of abuse. “[T]he wall of silence is coming down here in Germany,” wrote Spiegel Online. “It started when Berlin’s Canisius College, an elite Jesuit high school, recently disclosed the sordid past of a number of members of the order who had abused students at the school in the 1970s and 1980s. After that, new victims began coming forward on a daily basis. … A tremor is currently passing through the Catholic Church in Germany” (February 8).
Iran celebrated the 31st anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution on February 11, with large-scale rallies in Tehran and across the country. At the same time, security forces cracked down on anti-government protesters holding opposition rallies.
Meanwhile, on February 7, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered his atomic chief to enrich uranium to a higher, weapons-grade level of purity. Tehran says it is now enriching uranium to 20 percent.
Additionally, Japanese intelligence sources have revealed that a North Korean shipment of 45 tons of yellowcake—enough for several nuclear bombs—that was originally bound for Syria before Israel struck a plutonium plant under construction there in 2007, was reshipped to Iran two years later. debkafile said this revelation suggests Tehran may be secretly hoarding even more enriched uranium from black-market sources.
President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials met with Syrian and Hezbollah leaders in Damascus on February 25. Ahmadinejad also had a meeting with leaders of Palestinian terrorist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Iran and the Persian Gulf state of Qatar signed a memorandum of understanding for defense cooperation on February 24. The fact that Qatar, an ally of the U.S. in its war on terror, is actually strengthening defense ties with the biggest state sponsor of terror demonstrates the unreliable nature of America’s “moderate” Arab allies.
Iran continues to interfere in Iraq. On February 16, America’s commanding general in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, revealed that the two politicians who organized the banning of about 500 Sunni candidates from running in Iraq’s March 7 elections were linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Earlier in the month an appeals panel lifted the ban, a decision that was subsequently overruled by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, despite U.S. Vice President Joe Biden urging Iraqi officials to reconsider. The Maliki government blasted the U.S. for interfering, illustrating just how weak America’s influence in Iraq has become—and how strong Iran’s. As a result, a major Sunni political bloc, the National Dialogue Front, said it would boycott the election.
On the economic front, Iran is seeking to double its trade with Iraq to $8 billion this year, an Iranian official said February 21. Iran is Iraq’s largest trade partner, and has been the biggest investor in its Shiite neighbor since 2003.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has stated that the Lebanese government will officially support Hezbollah in any future conflict with Israel. “I think they’re betting that there might be some division in Lebanon, if there is a war against us,” Hariri said in an interview with the bbc, published on February 10. “Well, there won’t be a division in Lebanon. We will stand against Israel. We will stand with our own people.” Hariri has been considered a moderate in the past—before capitulating to Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian sponsors.
Just two days after Hariri’s statement, the U.S. announced a boost in military aid to Lebanon. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. would provide Lebanon $267 million in military aid. Of course, as U.S. think tank Stratfor points out, “If the United States were to train and equip the Lebanese military, it would run the very real risk of having those trained individuals and all that equipment fall into the hands of one of the many militant groups operating out of Lebanon” (February 17). To avoid this scenario, the U.S. offer reportedly included the development and training of an elite army unit separate from the main Lebanese military, specifically to combat Hezbollah. However, there is no guarantee that Hezbollah would not be able to infiltrate such a force, just as it has the Lebanese Army. The U.S.’s desperation in trying to undercut Hezbollah is evident in that to do so, it is increasing military aid to a government that is openly promising to support the terrorist group in any conflict with Israel.
Thousands of angry citizens from across Japan marched through the streets of Tokyo on January 30 to protest the continued U.S. military presence on Okinawa. At present, around 47,000 U.S. soldiers are stationed throughout Japan, more than half of them at the Futenma Air Station on Okinawa. Claiming the U.S. military base is a major source of noise, pollution and crime, a growing number of Japanese are demanding it be removed. In 2006, Tokyo and Washington agreed to relocate the facility to a less-populated area on Okinawa, but polls show a majority of Japanese want a total end to the U.S. military presence in Japan. The pressure on Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is not just coming from the public. Mizuho Fukushima, who leads Hatoyama’s coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (sdp), said her party may quit the coalition if Japan allows the U.S. to stay in Okinawa. Without the sdp, Hatoyama would be unable to pass legislation. This protest was just another of many indications of a change in the relationship between the U.S. and Japan. The U.S. can no longer count on Japan’s support.
The new leader of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, has begun the process of rebuilding Kiev’s relationship with Moscow. Even before he was sworn in on February 25, Yanukovych announced several pro-Russian defense policies and said nato integration would no longer be a goal for Ukraine. He declared his support for the Kremlin’s plan to create a post-nato European security treaty and renewed a call for a Russian-led consortium to take ownership of Ukraine’s strategic gas transit pipeline network. In response, Russia announced a resumption of diplomatic ties with Ukraine. The message is clear: Yanukovych owes his power and position to the Kremlin, and Moscow expects Ukraine to begin cooperating more wholeheartedly. Rather than launching a “hot” war, Russia has clearly waged a campaign of intimidation, subversion and propaganda. The more pro-European western part of Ukraine may still give the Kremlin some trouble, but the east (and the national government) is now firmly in Russia’s grasp.
China expanded its lead as the world’s foremost agricultural producer in 2008 with its food production jumping 30 percent, according to a February 23 note by the World Trade Organization (wto) secretariat. It is another sign of an unmistakable trend: China continues to grow as an economic powerhouse.
China and Russia spoke out in early March against levying harsher United Nations sanctions on Iran, maintaining that negotiations are the best way to resolve concerns over Tehran’s nuclear program. France, Germany, the U.S. and the UK have presented China and Russia with a proposed set of sanctions targeting Iran’s banking, shipping and Revolutionary Guards Corps. In the coming months, China and Russia are sure to continue to complicate the West’s plans with their reluctance to support any substantial action against Iran.
Beijing and Moscow arrived at an initial agreement on March 4 for a pricing formula for the supply of Russian natural gas to China whereby the price of the gas will be connected to oil prices. Some of the details of the agreement are still undetermined, but talks are progressing quickly. The Xinhua News Agency reported on shortages of fuel used for heating in several Chinese cities during last year’s especially cold winter; the shortages ended after China imported natural gas from Central Asia. Beijing wants to ensure it has sufficient supplies throughout the country this year. Watch for Russia and China to continue to cozy up together economically as a precursor to military alliance.
Argentina is once again pushing its claim to the Falkland Islands. British firms have begun exploring for oil around the Falklands, prompting an angry response from Argentina. The drilling is “illegitimate” and a “violation of our sovereignty,” said Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana, promising that “we will do everything possible to defend and preserve our rights.” On February 11, Argentine authorities boarded a ship they claimed was transporting pipes to the Falklands for the oil excavations. On February 16, the government announced it would prevent ships from traveling through Argentine waters to the Falklands, prompting the Royal Navy to stand by to protect ships traveling there.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handed Argentina a major diplomatic victory on March 2 by backing its demands for negotiation with Britain over the Falklands at the UN. This was a major insult to Britain, and further proof of what the Trumpet has been writing for some months now: that the British and American “special relationship” is over. “This was a spectacular slap in the face for America’s closest ally,” wrote the Telegraph, “at a time when thousands of British troops are fighting alongside the United States on the battlefields of Afghanistan” (March 3). “British possession of these islands has meant British control of one of the great sea gates of the world,” wrote Herbert W. Armstrong in 1982. “God prophesied that, because of disobedience, we should lose these islands in this end time. All have been lost except these Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong and some other incidental islands” (member and co-worker letter, April 21, 1982). Now Hong Kong is gone. The EU threatens Gibraltar. Watch for Britain to lose the Falklands soon—either to Argentina, or the EU.
The EU plans to restart talks with Mercosur, the Latin American trade bloc, this year to cement a free-trade agreement. Mercosur, led by Argentina and Brazil, was engaged in talks with the EU for such a deal in early 2008, but the discussions stalled. The Plain Truth magazine forecast in May 1962, “[T]he United States is going to be left out in the cold as two gigantic trade blocs, Europe and Latin America, mesh together and begin calling the shots in world commerce.”
Few nations would celebrate the birthday of despot-extraordinaire Robert Mugabe. Yet on February 21, China threw the Zimbabwean president a party at its embassy in Harare to celebrate his 86th birthday. China is hungry for resources and has no qualms about dealing with genocidal dictators to get them. Chinese troops have been seen walking the streets of one of Zimbabwe’s biggest cities. Asia and Europe are destined to become locked in a fierce competition over Africa’s resources.
All companies operating in Zimbabwe that have over $500,000 worth of assets must be at least 51 percent owned by “indigenous” Zimbabweans—or blacks—by 2015, according to a law that went into force March 1. The companies affected have 45 days to send the government a plan of how they will accomplish this. Violently removing farm owners from their land has led to catastrophic famines in Zimbabwe. Doing the same thing to business will make things even worse.
The South African anc-led government continues to show solidarity with Iran even as the West grapples with trying to stop the Islamic Republic from becoming a nuclear threat. South Africa’s Speaker of Parliament Max Sisulu met with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Larijani, in Tehran on January 23. Additionally, South Africa has been cultivating a close relationship with Russia. These two countries together possess most of the world’s strategic minerals—some 90 percent of them. Back in 1997, we wrote in our booklet South Africa in Prophecy, “[I]f an African National Congress (anc)-South African Communist Party (sacp)-dominated government in South Africa forges links with the Islamic-Arab crescent in consortium with Russia, only those who bow to radical Islam and a Communist-led anc may get their raw materials!” The relationship between South Africa and Iran is one to watch.
On February 1, the U.S. Defense Department officially scrapped its two-war doctrine. In the past, the United States military has been prepared to simultaneously fight two major conventional wars single-handedly. However, the new Quadrennial Defense Review focuses on non-state threats and reliance on allies, stating, “The United States cannot sustain a stable international system alone.”
Also in early February, Congress approved the federal government to go into debt by $1.9 trillion more. The vote increased the notional cap on federal debt to $14.3 trillion.
On February 18, a Texas man intentionally crashed his single-engine airplane into a government building in Austin, Texas, killing an employee of the Internal Revenue Service, which he was targeting. Less than a month later, a California man dressed in a suit and carrying two semiautomatic weapons calmly walked up to two police officers at the Pentagon and shot them both before being killed in return fire.
News sources reported in February that American forces in Iraq will cease all combat operations on September 1 and transfer all operations to Iraqi forces. Although last year was the third-deadliest for U.S. troops in Iraq, the war has slipped from headlines and from the president’s priority list. President Barack Obama, who campaigned on a promise to pull U.S. troops from Iraq, has only mentioned the war, in passing, three times in his formal speeches, focusing instead on domestic issues such as health care. As the Trumpet has long forecast, America’s involvement in Iraq—and its withdrawal—will only lead to a takeover by Iran.
The Canadian press reported that a new study revealed the average Canadian family’s debt climbed to can$96,100 in 2009. The survey found the average debt-to-income ratio at 145 percent, the highest ratio recorded by the 11-year-old study.
A February Ofgem report estimated that although energy bills for British consumers have doubled over the past six years, they could rise another 25 percent by 2020. The survey also revealed the nation’s energy security situation is deteriorating as fast as its North Sea reserves. By 2015, Britain will be importing three quarters of its gas, which it relies on to generate 40 percent of its electricity and to heat almost every British home.
A February poll found that most British voters believe they are living in a “broken Britain.” Nearly three out of five said they hardly recognize their country, and are deeply pessimistic. The survey showed that 42 percent admitted they want to emigrate.