The Week in Review

Libya’s “now what?”, Merkel faces coalition demolition, young enthusiasm for an old pope, quantifying China’s race to arms, and a quake on the coast.

Middle East

Qadhafi on the run: Now what? It appears Libya is close to falling to the anti-regime rebels, with much of Tripoli now under their control and leader Muammar Qadhafi reportedly having fled the capital. With the rebels having met comparatively little resistance as they swept through Tripoli, some are warning that Qadhafi loyalists may resort to guerrilla warfare. Most, however, concede that he is gone. But what exactly does this mean? “It appears that those who wanted Qadhafi supplanted by an unknown that is known only to include virulently anti-American Islamists are about to get their wish,” wrote the National Review Online on Sunday. Victor Davis Hanson writes that things will now get interesting: “As for outcomes, there are many scenarios, but these two may be the most likely: either a sort of on-again-off-again chaos until a military-backed clique or strongman emerges and the same old cycle resumes, or some sort of constitutional system in a decidedly Islamic context …. In the latter case, we could expect the new state’s foreign policy to be anti-Western, friendly to China and Russia, virulently and actively anti-Israel, and more accommodating with Iran and its subsidized terrorist appendages.” Daniel Pipes fears that Western forces may have “brought civilization’s worst enemies to power”: “The nato intervention in March 2011 was done without due diligence as to who it was in Benghazi that it was helping. To this day, their identity is a mystery. Chances are good that Islamist forces are hiding behind more benign elements, waiting for the right moment to pounce, as roughly happened in Iran in 1978-79, when Islamists did not make clear their strength nor their program until the shah was well disposed of.” As editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in May, an Islamic takeover of Libya “is imminent.”

Arab-Jew violence escalates: Terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired some 150 rockets into Israel last weekend after a new round of Palestinian-Israeli violence erupted. On August 18, the Popular Resistance Committees (prc), an alliance of militant groups in Gaza, carried out a raid into Israel from the Sinai that left eight Israelis dead. Israel retaliated with air strikes targeting militants in the Gaza area, and Hamas announced August 19 that it was ending its truce with Israel. Gaza terrorist groups proceeded to launch scores of rockets and mortars into southern Israel, killing one civilian and wounding dozens. A temporary ceasefire was agreed on Monday, but rocket fire has continued through the week. The prc said talk of a more permanent truce was “out of the question. We have an open account with the enemy until it leaves Palestinian soil.” Though the prc ostensibly is independent of Hamas, it is funded and supported by it, according to the Israel Defense Forces, and operates as a terrorist arm of the Gaza-ruling group. The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, is seeking to take advantage of the situation. “An independent Palestinian state is the remedy for violence,” said PA spokesman Husam Zomlot. “It would control its borders and prevent such deterioration from happening.” Watch for continuing Israel-Palestinian clashes to eventually lead to international, particularly European, involvement in the region in a peacekeeping capacity.

Tensions rise between Egypt and Israel: Another casualty of the August 18 terrorist attack, launched from Egyptian territory, has been the Israel-Egypt relationship. In response to the Israeli military accidentally killing five Egyptian security personnel in its pursuit of the perpetrators of the attack, Egypt threatened on Saturday to remove its ambassador from Tel Aviv, prompting Israel to issue a rare public statement of regret over the killings. This, apparently, was not enough for Egyptian leaders. A group of Egyptian politicians, including presidential hopefuls, responded by publishing a statement in local newspapers saying that “Egypt after the January revolution is not like Egypt before.” They said the deposed Mubarak regime had been replaced “by a strong popular will that does not know weakness or complicity and understands how to achieve retribution for the blood of the martyrs.” That “strong popular will” is strongly anti-Israel. A recent poll shows that 70 percent of Egyptians want to amend or cancel the peace agreement between the two countries. The rising anti-Israel sentiment in Egypt could also be seen in the social media responses to the deaths of the Egyptian security personnel. After a 23-year-old Egyptian climbed to the top of the building that houses the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and replaced the Israeli flag with an Egyptian one, Facebook, Twitter and Egyptian blogs were awash with praise for his exploit and anti-Israel sentiment. “There is evidence that Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are working together to refocus the energy of the Arab Spring onto Israel and the Palestinian question and away from the purely domestic issues that were the initial inspiration,” Courcy’s Intelligence Brief reports. Coordination between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood has increased since Mubarak was deposed. On August 17, Khalid Mishal, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, visited Cairo to meet both with representatives of the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood’s controller general. As Egypt moves more strongly against Israel, watch for it to also cement ties with Iran. And therein lies the danger to Israel.

Iran protects centrifuges inside mountain: Iran is moving its centrifuges to a secret site inside a mountain, the head of Iran’s nuclear program, Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, told Iranian state television on August 21. The uranium-enrichment machines are being moved to Iran’s Fordo plant, buried inside a mountain near the city of Qom. The plant was built in secret, its existence only revealed to the world in September 2009. “Carrying out the process in Fordo could provide greater protection for Iran’s uranium-purifying centrifuges against any U.S. and Israeli air strikes,” writes Reuters. Last month, Iran revealed it was starting to use a new type of centrifuge that could enrich uranium five to six times faster than the old type. On Sunday, Davani also announced that Iran was negotiating with Russia about the construction of new nuclear power plants.

Germany gives economic aid to Jordan: Jordan will receive €99 million (us$143 million) in economic aid from Germany following the signing of two agreements by German Ambassador Ralf Tarraf and Jordanian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Jaafer Hassan on August 22. Hassan noted that Germany, one of Jordan’s biggest donors, gave it the equivalent of $320 million in economic aid between 2002 and 2010, not including EU grants. Under the new agreement, Germany will give Jordan a cheap loan of €90 million and a €9 million donation. The Bible prophesies that Germany will ally with a group of Middle Eastern nations, including Jordan. With Syria in turmoil and Saudi Arabia growing fearful of Iran, we can see this alliance now coming together.


Merkel loses support in Germany: German Chancellor Angela Merkel is struggling to keep her coalition together in the wake of trenchant opposition to eurozone bailouts. After Merkel discussed European policy with her party on August 23, the parliamentary leader of the chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union (cdu), Volker Kauder, announced that the parliament would probably approve the latest changes to Europe’s bailout fund. If it does, it means Merkel will avoid an embarrassing end to her chancellorship on September 23, the likely date of the parliament’s vote. But just the fact that the support of her party was in question shows what a difficult position she is in. One of Merkel’s most outspoken critics, cdu parliament member Klaus-Peter Wilsch, says, “I know from personal conversations that there is great dissatisfaction among 30 to 40 conservative mps.” The Spiegel Online wrote that the cdu is “falling out of love with Merkel.” So is the German public. Reuters reports: “Manfred Guellner, head of polling group Forsa, said sentiment towards Merkel had undergone a change over the past weeks, pointing to a survey published in Cicero magazine in late July which showed 61 percent of Germans now believe Merkel will not win a third term in 2013.” Guellner stated: “The fact that a strong majority don’t expect her to stay in office is completely new.” Twenty percent of Germans have “no faith” in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ability to handle the financial crisis, and 55 percent have “little faith,” according to a poll released by tv station ard on August 19. Merkel is also being criticized for a lack of vision. “Policy seems to be formed day by day,” the editor and publisher of Die Zeit said. “It’s always reactive, not proactive. There is no leadership from Merkel, and that is the gist of the problem.” As Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in his most recent article, “The German people are upset, and if this crisis doesn’t end soon—and it won’t—Merkel is probably going to go, perhaps even this year.”

Finland puts new Greek bailout in doubt: The second Greek bailout, agreed on July 21, is under threat as eurozone nations argue about collateral for the loan. Greece agreed on August 16 to put €600 million in an escrow account as collateral for Finland’s part of the bailout. If Greece doesn’t pay Finland back, Finland gets the €600 million, plus interest. Austria, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Slovenia responded by throwing a tantrum. Finland got a collateral agreement and we didn’t, they complained. We want one too. But Greece can’t keep putting money inside escrow accounts. It is short of cash, which is why it needs a bailout in the first place. So on August 22, Germany said that Finland’s deal must be approved by the whole eurozone. Finland shot back by saying if it doesn’t get collateral it will not sign up to the bailout. To make matters worse, the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, published in its monthly report on Monday that the bailout deal might break German law. “Unless there is a fundamental change of regime involving a far-reaching surrender of national fiscal sovereignty, it is imperative that the ‘no bailout’ rule—still enshrined in the treaties—should be strengthened by market discipline, rather than fatally weakened,” the Bundesbank said. Rating agency Moody’s warned that the issue could cause the whole bailout package to unravel. Marc Ostwald, strategist for Monument Securities, warned that Germany could soon have a constitutional crisis, saying, “This has all the makings of the revolt that unseated Helmut Schmidt [in 1982], and indeed has political echoes of the inefficacy of the Weimar regime.” Germany is facing a political crisis, and just like in the days of the Weimar Republic, people will look for a strongman to bring them out of it.

German president condemns ECB: German President Christian Wulff has said the European Central Bank (ecb) should not be buying debt from struggling EU nations such as Spain and Italy. “I consider the sizeable purchase of individual states’ bonds by the European Central Bank to be legally questionable,” he said on August 24. He warned that the ecb’s policy allowed these nations to avoid taking the steps needed to fix their finances. The ecb, he said, has gone “way beyond the bounds of their mandate.”

Merkel tells Serbia to give up Kosovo: Angela Merkel has told Serbia that it must give up northern Kosovo and essentially recognize Kosovo’s independence before joining the European Union. “If Serbia wants to achieve candidate status it should resume the dialogue [with Kosovo] and achieve results in that dialogue, enable [EU police mission] Eulex to work in all regions of Kosovo and abolish parallel structures and not create new ones,” she said during her tour of Balkan countries on August 22 and 23. Stratfor points out: “In the minds of the general Serbian public, dismantling the parallel administrative structures is tantamount to relinquishing sovereignty.” Serbs believed they had overcome the last hurdle before becoming an EU candidate member when they captured Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic. But now that Croatia is well on the path to EU membership, the EU no longer needs Serbia in the Union to keep it under control. Serbia “is now surrounded on all sides by EU member countries, candidate countries or potential candidate countries, severely limiting its ability to cause problems that could extend much beyond its immediate region,” writes Stratfor.

Pope visits Spain for World Youth Day: Pope Benedict xvi visited a gathering of 1.5 million young people during the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day in Spain. “I’m very struck by the rapport—so evident during the pope’s visit to Britain—that Benedict has established with young people,” wrote Damian Thompson, a lead writer for Britain’s Telegraph (August 22). The success of the day shows the growing popularity the Catholic Church has in Europe. The pope also used the occasion to reach out to the Anglicans that he is trying to draw into the Catholic Church. He chose James Bradley, a deacon of the Ordinariate—a former Anglican—to sing at the opening of the mass. Watch for the Catholic Church to grow in popularity and influence in Europe.


Pentagon: China narrows gap with modern militaries: China made substantial gains last year in its military buildup, bringing the People’s Liberation Army (pla) closer to matching modern militaries, according to a Pentagon report made public on Wednesday. “During 2010, China made strides toward fielding an operational anti-ship ballistic missile, continued work on its aircraft carrier program, and finalized the prototype of its first stealth aircraft,” the report highlights. The Pentagon said that while the pla still lacks some key military capabilities, it is “steadily closing the technological gap with modern armed forces.” According to the report, Beijing will be able to project military power and sustain modest-sized naval and ground forces “far from China” by 2020. Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for East Asia Michael Schiffer said, “The pace and scope of China’s sustained military investment have allowed China to pursue capabilities that we believe are potentially destabilizing to regional military balances, increase the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation, and may contribute to regional tensions and anxieties.” Schiffer said China is poised to become a regional military power by 2020. Some analysts are dissatisfied by the gentle tone the report takes in its discussion of the pla’s buildup, which is softer than that taken in previous Pentagon reports and even echoes Chinese propaganda in some sections by saying that the pla’s buildup is harmless. “The report takes exquisite account of Chinese sensibilities, even when this leads to mischaracterizing and minimizing the China threat,” said China specialist Steven Mosher. “This does a disservice to the truth as well as to our country.” But the tone was not soft enough for China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, which on Thursday condemned the Pentagon’s report as an alarmist “cock-and-bull story.” As China’s might increases, its defiance is intensifying, and the U.S.’s softening stance toward the pla’s rise will only make Beijing more defiant still.

China supports the Palestinians’ UN statehood bid: On Thursday, China announced that it supports the Palestinian plan to seek full membership of the United Nations next month. China’s Foreign Ministry said its special envoy on the Middle East told Palestinian leaders that Beijing and the people of China have always supported “the Palestinian cause” and respected the Palestinians’ “right for independence.” Negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders regarding the terms of Palestinian statehood have been on hold since 2008. As an alternative, the Palestinian Authority is now seeking UN recognition of an independent “Palestine” in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the areas Israel captured in the Six Day War of 1967. Even with China’s support, a Palestinian state is not expected to gain full UN membership next month, but rather become a non-member state.

Africa/Latin America

Vatican ambassador gives Rwanda a fond farewell: Vatican representative to Rwanda, Ivo Scapolo, pledged more collaboration between Rwanda and the Catholic Church during his farewell address to President Paul Kagame on Tuesday. Scapolo, who has been the Vatican ambassador to Rwanda for the last three years, was recently reassigned to Chile. Speaking to journalists shortly after this meeting, Scapolo said his visit to the president was evidence of the good relations between the Catholic Church and the state of Rwanda. Both the ambassador and the president agreed that the Catholic Church and the Rwandan government should hold periodic meetings to further enhance their working relationship. As the power of the Vatican increases on the world scene, expect more nations in Africa and Latin America to increase their collaboration with Rome.

Venezuela asks for its gold back: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced last week that he is repatriating his country’s gold reserves from Britain, the U.S. and Canada. The move may be the largest gold transfer in modern history. According to the Financial Times, Venezuela holds the world’s 15th-largest gold stockpile, most of which is stored at the Bank of England. Now, Chávez is asking for it all back—more than 200 tons’ worth. He has asked depositories in the U.S. and Canada to release smaller amounts as well. That means over 17,000 400-ounce bars will need to be moved. Some experts say it will be a logistic nightmare. According to Chávez, however, it is worth it. With the U.S. dollar in free fall, gold may be beginning to replace it as the world’s reserve currency. As the economic turmoil continues in America and Britain, and as the dollar and pound continue to be devalued, expect other nations to follow Chávez’s example and take their money and run.


New group of Euroskeptic Conservative MPs to form: Seventy-one Conservative members of Britain’s Parliament have said they will attend a meeting on September 12 to discuss the formation of a new Euroskeptic group, the Daily Telegraph reported August 20. The mps were responding to a letter from three mps that stated that it has “become clear that events in the European Union are going to dominate British politics in the coming years across a wide range of policies. We think it might be helpful if we set up an informal group of like-minded mps who could come together to talk, receive regular quality topical briefings, exchange ideas and, indeed, provide support and helpful advice to the government. The political objective of the group would be to reverse the process of ever closer union.” Watch for opinion in Britain to continue to harden against the EU.

Finances more of a struggle in UK than in recession: Families in Britain are struggling more with their finances than they were during the recession in 2009, according to Markit’s Household Finance Index. August’s index figures reached a new low. “Households reported the sharpest deterioration in their finances since the survey began, exceeding even that seen during the worst point of the recession,” said senior economist at Markit, Tim Moore.

3,000 a day go to hospital because of alcohol: During 2009/10, 1.1 million people a year went to hospital in England with alcohol-related problems, according to a report published on August 25 by the North West Public Health Observatory. That averages out to 3,000 a day. In 2004/5, the average daily figure was only 2,100. These numbers include conditions wholly related to alcohol, such as liver disease, and also conditions caused by alcohol in some cases, such as stomach cancer and unintentional injury. The rapid rise in these figures over the last 10 years exposes the growing problem of alcohol abuse in Britain.

Few British children read for fun: Only two thirds of British children read outside of class at least once a week, a survey of over 18,000 8-to-17-year-olds by the National Literacy Trust has found. That doesn’t sound too bad, until you realize that the study counted glancing at a text message as reading. When asked, Which of these do you read outside of class at least once a month? nearly 60 percent said they read text messages or magazines, and around half said they read e-mails, websites and social networking sites. Only 45.8 percent said they read fiction books, and a mere 35.2 percent read nonfiction. Given the likely overlap between those two last groups, the figures suggest that around half of British children do not regularly read books outside of class. The study also found that the older children got, the fewer books they read. The study also revealed girls enjoyed reading and read more than boys. Reading is a vital skill that must be taught and encouraged in children, particularly given the manifold electronic distractions competing for young people’s attention.

America’s fourth, fifth and sixth wars: At least five suspected militants were killed this week in the latest U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s volatile tribal region. According to a report by the Conflict Monitoring Center, 51 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed at least 443 people since the beginning of the year. The military action the United States is taking against Taliban targets in Pakistan could even be considered a fourth American war. In fact, the U.S. government is currently using military means to combat terrorism in six Middle Eastern nations: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. Yet, Washington still lacks the political will to confront the biggest state sponsor of terror, Iran. Like the many-headed Hydra of ancient Greek mythology, the beast of Islamic terrorism can only be defeated by destroying its dominant head. By attacking the auxiliary heads, America is only exhausting its military and its economy with endless wars.

Obama administration sets new debt record: When Barack Obama took the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2009, the national debt was $10.6 trillion. Numbers just out this week reveal that the national debt now exceeds $14.6 trillion. This means the federal government increased its debt by more than $4 trillion in just 945 days. That is an increase of approximately $3 million a minute—the fastest rate of increase of any American presidential administration.

Earthquake rattles America’s capital: A 5.8-magnitude earthquake hit the East Coast on Tuesday, rattling buildings from Florida to Maine. The quake, which hit just southwest of Washington, d.c, disrupted flights and cut grid power to one nuclear power plant. Otherwise, it appears to have caused relatively little damage overall, except it apparently opened a crack on the top of the Washington Monument. The frequency and severity of earthquakes is increasing worldwide. Several devastating earthquakes have recently hit Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, Haiti, China and Japan. There is a warning in the earthquakes themselves. The Bible warns that earthquakes are one way that God tries to move people to seek Him.