1. Getting ready for U.S. to leave
As the war in Afghanistan wears on, Kabul is seeking to accommodate both the Taliban and neighboring Iran. America, pushed into a corner, is accepting the prospect of greater Iranian and Taliban involvement.
The U.S. intelligence community agrees that the Taliban is maintaining its strength; America’s intensified military campaign has inflicted only fleeting setbacks on the insurgency. Military officials say the Taliban appear confident they can outlast the U.S. troop buildup, which is scheduled to diminish in July.
Conceding this reality, Afghanistan’s new High Peace Council on October 21 offered to make concessions to bring Taliban fighters to the negotiating table. The 70-member council was formed last September to seek a negotiated end to the war. Its spokesman said inducements to get Taliban fighters to work with the government could include jobs, homes and cash.
The U.S. is also looking to include Iran in forging a solution for Afghanistan. On October 18, an Iranian representative joined officials from the U.S. and other countries at a security conference on Afghanistan in Rome.
Iran has a strong presence in Afghanistan—aiding both sides in the conflict in order to enhance its own regional position. “From the U.S. perspective, a settlement in Afghanistan underwritten by Iran and Pakistan could create the conditions conducive to a Western military withdrawal from the country,” reported Stratfor (Oct. 26, 2010).
Afghanistan’s president seems quite happy with Iranian involvement. Hamid Karzai admitted on October 25 that Iran has supplied his office with millions in cash over the past several years—intended to buy the government’s loyalty and promote Iran’s interests. Karzai called the cash “official aid” and said he would continue to ask for Iranian money.
Karzai then lashed out at the U.S., accusing it of exporting killing to Afghanistan by using private security companies. In a heated session with nato commander Gen. David Petraeus and other officials, he stormed out, saying he didn’t need the West’s help.
These actions speak volumes about Karzai—a supposed American ally. Like the Taliban and Iran, Karzai sees the day of the American withdrawal nearing and is preparing for it.
2. Cost of broken homes
On November 4, Britain’s Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith revealed that children who come from broken homes are nine times likelier to commit a crime than those raised in stable families. Speaking before an audience at a family counseling service, Duncan Smith made what the Daily Mail called “the strongest defense of marriage made by a major government figure in years” (Nov. 4, 2010).
“It is important that we recognize the role of marriage in building a strong society, especially if we want to give children the best chance in life,” he said.
According to Duncan Smith, family breakdown costs the nation ₤20 to ₤40 billion a year. However, adding hidden costs such as “social breakdown, addiction, crime, lost productivity and tax revenues” could put the figure over £100 billion, he said.
“Lone-parent families are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than two-parent families,” he said. He stated that “Only 30 percent of young offenders grew up with both parents.”
Speaking of the opposition party, Duncan Smith said, “Sadly, the last government seemed determined to undermine marriage—for example, by removing references to it from official forms.” The last government replaced “broken homes” verbiage with phraseology like “reformed families,” and ordered the word marriage deleted from official documents because it implied “presumption of someone’s sexual orientation.”
3. Guttenberg: The military is for using!
In May, German President Horst Köhler resigned amid a chorus of criticism after he said Germany may have to deploy its army to safeguard its economic interests. Six months later, Germany’s most popular politician said he agrees with Köhler.
“I ask myself to this day what was so bold about (Köhler’s) comment,” said German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg on November 9 in Berlin. “I would have liked to see somewhat more support from us all on this question.”
Köhler had stated that the military should step in when regional instability threatens Germany’s trade, jobs and income. Guttenberg re-opened the debate, warning that growing demand for natural resources could lead to new conflicts. “The raw materials needs of emerging powers are constantly growing, and thus competing with our requirements,” he said. “I think in particular of what is happening today with rare earths”—a reference to China’s monopoly on the valuable minerals. Guttenberg also targeted piracy as potentially requiring military intervention, calling it “a serious challenge to our economic performance.”
Guttenberg seeks to create a newly assertive Germany. His policies will make the army efficient and capable of fighting overseas. Now he is arguing that Germany should use it.
4. Japan: nationalism on the rise
Around 5,000 Japanese nationalists assembled in Tokyo on November 6 to demonstrate against China. It was the latest of many signs that China’s expanding economic clout, political assertiveness and military might are provoking a nationalistic backlash in Japan.
The protest was the third since early September, when a Chinese fishing boat rammed a Japanese patrol ship near disputed islands in the East China Sea. A video of the collision was leaked to YouTube on November 4, showing that it was a deliberate act of Chinese aggression—and enraging the Japanese.
Tokyo is also disputing with Russia over the Southern Kuril Islands, which both nations claim. When Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the islands in November—a first for any Russian leader—Japan denounced the trip. Russia’s foreign minister responded that the islands are “Russian land” that the president “can visit whenever he chooses to.”
These provocations are stirring up nationalism and jingoism in Japan partly because only two decades ago, Japan was the rising star of Asia. Now it sees that China has taken its place. More and more Japanese desire a stronger military in response. The Defense Ministry announced October 21 that Japan’s navy plans to add six submarines to its fleet. Tokyo’s governor said Japan would be able to confront China if it had nuclear weapons.
Back in 1971, Herbert W. Armstrong predicted Japan would awake from its postwar slumber: “Japan today has no military establishment …. But we should not lose sight of the fact that Japan has become so powerful economically that it could build a military force of very great power very rapidly.”
Today’s tensions, while prodding Japan to develop its military power, will not remain. Despite the hostility, Japan and China are increasingly dependent on each other economically. China has surpassed the U.S. to become Japan’s most important trade partner. In 2009, China consumed a record 19 percent of Japan’s exports, and Japan bought 22 percent of its imports from China.
Bible prophecy reveals that Asian nations will soon put aside their differences to unite against a common enemy. Japan’s economic cooperation with China, alongside America’s waning influence in the region, will ultimately lead Tokyo and Beijing to a powerful military alliance, just as Mr. Armstrong foretold.
5. America votes for change—again
In midterm elections on November 2, Americans handed congressional Democrats a drubbing.
In the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats were up for election, Republicans won more than 60 seats and a comfortable majority. In the Senate, where a little more than a third of the 100 seats were contested, Republicans retained all 41 of their seats and won six more from Democrats.
President Obama conceded that the election represented a “shellacking” for Democrats, but refused to admit that it reflected a repudiation of his liberal agenda.
Exit polls indicated voters felt both parties were out of touch, a phenomenon apparent in the success of the “Tea Party,” which arose largely because many voters felt abandoned by the Republican Party.
Seventy percent of Americans now believe America is on the wrong track. Almost as many believe it is facing a “crisis” in leadership. Approval ratings for Congress are at near-record lows.
The Financial Times reported that the election showed deep divisions across the political map, producing the most polarized Congress in recent history. Nine out of 10 African-Americans voted Democrat, and 8 out of 10 whites voted Republican. Similarly wide gulfs separated the old from the young, and people from small towns versus city dwellers.
Now, politicians from both parties are digging in for what will assuredly be two years of nasty gridlock.
No amount of change in human government will fix what is already broken. Soon, we can expect the accelerating pace of prophetic events to fully expose the fact that mortal men cannot solve the colossal problems facing America.
France’s protests turned violent in October. At one point, one in four gas stations in the country ran dry as protestors shut down oil refineries and airports. Youths led the way in rioting, overturning cars and attacking police in several cities. The protests were triggered by a bill that raises the French pension age from 60 to 62, which ended up passing into law on November 10. Meanwhile, protestors in Greece sent mail bombs to embassies in Athens, and leaders outside of the country, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Expect this kind of lawlessness to cause Europe to clamp down harder on its citizens.
In Brussels on October 29, EU leaders agreed on budgetary reforms aimed at preventing another economic crisis. Under the new German-designed initiative, which EU member states were pressured to accept, the Lisbon Treaty will be revised to create new rules and mechanisms to protect the euro. The initiative is bound to tighten Berlin’s stranglehold on the European Union. “This mechanism will function like the International Monetary Fund (imf) for Europe, and with it, Berlin … would be planted firmly in the driver’s seat,” Stratfor wrote. Berlin “would have control over both the financial life and death in the eurozone” (Nov. 4, 2010).
The new European External Action Service (eeas), or diplomatic core, formally entered service Dec. 1, 2010. Emerging details reveal how it will massively expand Europe’s global profile. The eeas’s annual budget is $9.2 billion—over double that of the British Foreign Ministry. The eeas will employ around 7,000 people; the British Foreign Office employs 4,863. Conservative mep Daniel Hannan wrote in the Daily Mail that “the EU means to signal to other countries that it, rather than its 27 constituent members, should now be their first port of call. To a remarkable degree, it has already succeeded” (Nov. 1, 2010).
Incumbent Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was reelected on November 11. The day before, Iraqi political parties had agreed to a framework for a new government, ending eight months of gridlock following inconclusive elections March 7. Rival political parties have reached a power-sharing deal wherein Maliki, a Shiite, remains prime minister and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani retains the presidency; the position of speaker goes to Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni. This is a victory for Iraq’s Iran-backed Shiites, with Maliki, whose National Alliance actually won fewer seats in the March election than the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, staying in power. Moreover, it represents a major victory for Iran and a defeat for the U.S. As the Independent wrote on November 11, “The U.S. campaign to promote its favored candidate, Iyad Allawi, as president appears to have failed spectacularly. … Iran has outmaneuvered the U.S. in shaping the new government to its own liking.”
The U.S. has labeled an Iranian anti-government militant group as a terrorist organization, in a major concession to Tehran. On November 3, the U.S. State Department placed Jundallah, a Sunni-Balochi rebel group, on its list of international terrorist entities. Voice of America points out the irony that “Although Iran is on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, the Departments of State and Treasury designated one of the Tehran government’s most radical opponents as a terrorist organization” (Nov. 3, 2010). The U.S. decision represents “a huge gesture toward Iran,” Stratfor wrote. “Washington likely made the move in hopes of reaching an understanding on the balance of power in the Persian Gulf region after U.S. forces exit Iraq” (Nov. 3, 2010). This is just one more demonstration of the leverage Iran has over America in the region.
On October 31, Sunnis in the Bahraini government lost control of parliament. The second round of the country’s legislative elections gave Shiite and independent candidates a parliamentary majority in the Persian Gulf kingdom. The Shiites comprise the majority of Bahrain’s population and the results are a major blow to Sunnis, who had dominated the last two parliaments. The election sweep by the Shia is another indicator of growing Iranian-Shiite influence in the Persian Gulf region.
Nigeria’s secret service said on October 26 that it had intercepted 13 containers of weapons from Iran that were possibly destined for the Gaza Strip. Rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives camouflaged as building materials were seized in the Nigerian port of Lagos after being unloaded from an Iranian ship. Israeli defense sources believe this may be part of a new smuggling route from Iran to Hamas in Gaza, via Africa.
Washington has concluded that Chinese businesses are bypassing UN sanctions and aiding Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons and more advanced missile technology. A senior U.S. official told the Washington Post on October 18 that U.S. intelligence believes several Chinese companies are providing restricted technology to Tehran’s military programs. With Iran taking on the influential post of presidency of opec, oil-thirsty China has more reason than ever to seek good terms with Tehran.
On November 10, a UN report claiming that North Korea is sharing illegal nuclear technology with Iran, Myanmar and Syria was submitted to the Security Council. The report says Pyongyang is using “multiple layers of intermediaries, shell companies and financial institutions” to “circumvent” UN sanctions.
Finance ministers of the world’s 20 biggest economies voted on October 23 to grant emerging market countries like China, India and Turkey more weight in the International Monetary Fund (imf). China emerged as the key winner, gaining 6 percent more voting power, making it the third-largest voting member of the imf. The Wall Street Journal called the agreement “belated recognition of the old Western economies’ fading place in the Great Scheme of Things.” As China’s massive growth forges on, the global balance of power will continue to shift.
China desires increased cooperation with Russia within the G-20 framework, Chinese President Hu Jintao said at a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on November 11. Hu explained that the aim would be to use the body to advance the interests of emerging economies. The two sides agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation within various forums. Expect the Russo-Chinese strategic partnership to gain momentum, culminating in full-scale alliance.
Moscow has earmarked $63.4 billion for national defense and security in 2011, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin announced November 8. The budget marks a significant increase over Russia’s 2010 defense budget of $41.5 billion. The 2011 budget, the largest ever for Moscow, allocates $14.9 billion for new arms purchases.
Venezuela will make an $800 million investment in the South Pars gas field, an Iranian official said on October 24. The South Pars gas field, located in the Persian Gulf, is the world’s largest and is shared by Iran and Qatar. Hamad Akbari, the Iranian energy project’s coordinator, says Venezuela’s investment will comprise 10 percent of total financing for this phase of the project. Caracas’s agreement is just one in a string of deals between Venezuela and Iran; the Latin American Herald Tribune reported that bilateral trade between the two is more than $5 billion a year.
News of another series of mass rapes has emerged from the Democratic Republic of Congo. On November 5, UN spokesman Maurizio Giuliano announced that 600 girls were raped along the border between Congo and Angola during a large-scale expulsion of illegal immigrants during the previous two months. “What worries us is that rape seems to be becoming endemic in several parts of Congo,” he said. “We fear it’s becoming part of the routine.” The UN’s presence seems to have done nothing to stem the problem.
On October 27, law enforcement officers arrested Farooque Ahmed in Virginia. The Pakistani-born Ahmed was plotting to bomb Washington, d.c., metro subway stations. The week prior, shots were fired at both the Marine Corps Museum in Virginia and at the Pentagon, two events that the fbi confirmed were linked. Shots were also fired at a Marine Corps recruiting station in Chantilly, Virginia. Some wonder whether the uptick in these events is a result of a statement earlier this year by Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud that terrorists should begin to target American cities.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the La Niña weather pattern is likely to cause varied problems throughout the U.S. this winter. While the Pacific Northwest will benefit from lower temperatures and increased precipitation, the Southwest and Southeast will probably be warmer and drier than usual, aggravating existing drought conditions. The Northern Plains and the Ohio and Tennessee valleys could see high levels of storminess and flooding.
The Daily Mail reported on October 11 that Britain is the “jobless capital of Europe,” with one in eight adults living in a house where no one is working, more than in any other country in Europe. In the worst areas, as many as 84 percent of people are on welfare.
Also in Britain, children are attacking their parents. The charity Parentline Plus received 22,537 telephone calls in a two-year period, from June 2008 to June 2010, from parents who are struggling with their children. About 14,000 dealt with verbal abuse, and almost 7,000 with physical abuse, usually children attacking mothers.
On October 15, it emerged that the first entire parish has voted to leave the Church of England and return to the Roman Catholic Church, and a fourth Church of England bishop announced that he would become Catholic. “I don’t feel I have any choice but to leave the church and take up the pope’s offer,” John Broadhurst said.