After the election, look out
Are sanctions against Iran working? Will renewed efforts to resume inspections and negotiations deter Iran’s nuclear program?
A big no, and a bigger no—if recent election results are any measure.
Talk about Iran’s nuclear capacity has been tough lately. America and Europe cranked up sanctions against the country, and Western leaders expressed hope in signs that the pressure is working.
But then came Iran’s March 2 parliamentary elections. The results did not signal a people hoping to make peace—but a people bunkering down for war. The power of the hard-liners grew, shifting Iran away from democracy toward full-out totalitarianism.
This was Iran’s first vote since the presidential ballot in 2009 that provoked accusations of fraud and massive protests that embarrassed the government. In the time since then, the regime has worked to unify its key institutions and lay the groundwork for cementing its power. And for this election, it left little to chance. A body of clerics and jurists vetted all candidates for their loyalty to the Islamic establishment before they were allowed to run. Leading reformist groups (those that didn’t eliminate themselves by voluntarily boycotting the election) were banned.
But there was more at work here than just a heavy thumb. The fact is, Iran is on the rise. The “Arab Spring” has boosted the country’s clout regionally, and its influence is now heavy in Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Among many Iranians, national pride is swelling.
One point of pride is the nation’s nuclear program. The regime’s defiance against Western pressure to stop it is rallying Iranian support. Some analysts say it is, in fact, preparing the people for battle.
Election results seem to bear that analysis out. Voter turnout was impressive: 64 percent—far higher than the 50 percent in the 2009 election—higher even than America’s last presidential election.
And whom did Iranian voters empower? “The staunchest anti-Western political camp in the country,” reported Today’s Zaman (March 11). Of the parliament’s 290 seats, loyalists of Ayatollah Khamenei took three fourths. Several are Revolutionary Guard members. “Iranians have chosen those who would respond in the harshest manner to intimidation by the West,” explained Hasan Kanbolat, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies in Ankara.
The reformists are simply no longer an institutional force within the parliament. Conservatives dominate, and though they differ on some points, their support for Khamenei is virtually unconditional. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has been perceived as diverging from the ayatollah, lost considerable leverage within the parliament this election; observers say he will serve out the remainder of his presidency as something of a lame duck.
The ayatollah has always been the ultimate authority, but Iran’s political system is actually quite a complicated mixture of democratic and theocratic elements that have constrained him. The latest election marked a big step toward eliminating those constraints. As Asia Times put it, it was a “critical milestone” helping the regime to “institutionalize the shift toward maximum regime unity” (March 9).
“More than three decades after its founding, the Islamic Republic appears to be eschewing the populist democratic model for the classic authoritarian system marked by minimal popular participation and a dominant state,” wrote Times analyst Mahan Abedin. “This significant shift will have profound consequences across a wide range of political and economic factors, in addition to adding greater rigor and robustness to the country’s foreign policy” (emphasis added throughout). As if Iran’s foreign policy wasn’t rigorous and robust enough.
“The net outcome of the latest elections is simple: Iran’s theocratic nature will become more pronounced,” wrote Osama Al Sharif in the Gulf News. “Khamenei can now turn Iran into a full-fledged theocracy with undisputed clerical powers vested in him” (March 10).
It is a remarkable development. For two decades, the Trumpet’s editor in chief has forecasted that Iran would take a leadership role within the Middle East. He said that it would be driven by its radical religion, and that its aggressive foreign policy would increasingly provoke other nations. He has maintained that outlook even as Western leaders have placed their faith in the strength of Iran’s not-insignificant reformists. He repeatedly drew attention to its terrorist activities. He predicted Iran’s infiltration into Iraq even before the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein. He predicted its rising influence in Egypt years before President Mubarak was pried loose.
The reason for the consistency in his analysis was its basis in biblical prophecy, which he explains in his booklet The King of the South. The fact is that God, thousands of years ago, foretold the role Iran is vaunting itself into today, and God is bringing that prophecy to pass.
Now, just look: Iran is stronger than it has been for decades, even centuries. Though the founder of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, set the country on its present course, it has been Khamenei who has overseen the biggest surge in power. When he took over after Khomeini’s death in 1989, Iran was weak, depleted, beaten down from nearly a decade of warring with Saddam’s Iraq. Today, Iran is the most powerful nation in the region, and Khamenei is the most powerful man.
Sanctions, efforts to resume inspections and negotiations—these have done and will do nothing to stop this nation from fulfilling this important prophesied role. What is that role? Study the prophecy: This increasingly authoritarian nation, now certain to assume a foreign policy of greater rigor and robustness, is about to spark a nuclear world war!
Palestinians forging unity government
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal met in Egypt February 23 to discuss the formation of a new Palestinian government. The two men were in Cairo, where they met with Murad Muafi, the head of Egyptian intelligence. Mashaal approved a unity deal with Abbas, which was originally signed between the two on February 6; it has Abbas heading an interim unity government ahead of general elections for both Palestinian territories. Unity is an important part of a greater Palestinian strategy for the Palestinians to receive international recognition as a sovereign state. Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority agree that Israel has no right to exist and should be destroyed. If and when the Palestinians cobble together some form of unity government, it will only lead to more conflict and increased bloodshed as they present a stronger opposition to Israel.
Islamists take parliament
Muslim Brotherhood member, Ahmed Fahmy, was elected leader of the Shura Council, the upper chamber of Egypt’s parliament, on February 28 as Islamists took control of both houses of parliament. The Brotherhood control 58 percent of the seats on the council, and 47 percent of seats in the lower house. The ultra-conservative Al-Nour has around a quarter of the seats in both houses.
The lower house of parliament was quick to lay out its intended foreign policy. “Revolutionary Egypt will never be a friend, partner or ally of the Zionist entity, which we consider to be the number one enemy of Egypt and the Arab nation,” says a motion it approved on March 12. The text also calls for Israel’s ambassador to be expelled, gas exports to be stopped, and Egypt to establish its own nuclear program. Parliament doesn’t have the power, yet, to enforce this declaration, so it is mostly symbolic. But it does show where Egypt’s new leaders want to take the country. Egypt “will deal with that entity as an enemy, and the Egyptian government is hereby called upon to review all its relations and accords with that enemy,” says the motion. The declaration was quickly supported by Iran.
Extremist alliance saps government
Thousands of jihadists poured onto Islamabad’s streets on February 20 chanting “death to America,” demanding holy war against the West, and heaping scorn on Pakistan’s government. The gathering was of concern to the U.S. State Department because it represented a coalescing of some 40 anti-American parties—previously at odds with each other—but now unified under a new banner: the Defense of Pakistan Council (dpc). The Islamists at the rally have been central to the success of the Taliban, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. In the past they’ve often clashed with each other over how best to wage anti-Western jihad. Now, however, their shared hatred for U.S. involvement in Pakistan, and frustration with Islamabad’s Western cooperation, has persuaded them to set aside their grievances with each other and to unite. The Pakistani government is becoming powerless against the rising America-loathing force that is the dpc. The dpc is now planning to field its own candidates in Pakistan’s general election expected later this year.
An alliance begins to bud
Iranians want to invest in Egypt’s industrial and tourism sector, taking advantage of the increasing tensions between America and Egypt, Arabic news channel Al-Arabiya reported February 22. Delegations from Iran and Egypt have met to discuss improving ties. Some in Egypt’s Islamist bloc want Egypt to end ties with Israel and instead strengthen them with Iran, Cairo University economics professor Dr. Mustafa al-Nashrati said. He also said Iranian investors are especially interested in Egypt’s oil and gas industry. They are struggling to find markets to invest in because of sanctions, and Egypt is the Arab world’s biggest market. Investors also foresee an increasing number of tourists traveling from Iran to Egypt. Expect a flourishing trade and diplomatic relationship to develop between Iran and Egypt.
Israel warns: Missiles will reach Europe, U.S.
Iran is spending billions of dollars developing missiles that could reach the U.S. and Europe, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told cnbc on February 22. “We estimate that in two to three years they will have the first intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the east coast of America,” said Steinitz. “Their aim is clearly not only to be able [to] threaten Israel and the Middle East, but to put a direct nuclear ballistic threat to Europe and to the U.S.” This program shows that Iran is aiming to be more than just a regional power.
Bailout: Undemocratic, unsustainable
With Greece just weeks away from running out of cash, eurozone finance ministers agreed on a new €130 billion (us$170 billion) bailout deal on February 21. The deal continues to undermine Greece’s sovereignty. It gives the European Union and the International Monetary Fund an “enhanced and permanent” position in Greece. Greece’s repayments must be deposited into an escrow account until Greece rewrites its constitution to make debt repayments the first priority for government spending.
Still, the bailout cannot possibly be sustainable. A “strictly confidential” report on Greece’s economy obtained by the Financial Times warned that Greece will need €50 billion more before 2020. The bailout simply buys the EU more time to prepare a grand plan before Greece is forced out of the euro entirely. The crisis was designed as a vehicle to give more power to Germany. It has already forced Greece, Portugal and Ireland to surrender major powers to the EU. It has pushed European leaders to begin consolidating the divided nations of the eurozone into a superstate.
The fine print of the new treaty gives the EU power to seize Greece’s gold reserves. The modifications being forced into the Greek constitution give Greece’s creditors, mainly European banks and the European Central Bank, the authority to take gold from the Bank of Greece. The blog ZeroHedge noted: “While many market participants would expect that Greece’s gold reserves would be on the table in the debt agreement, it is the somewhat covert and untransparent way that this is being done that is of concern to Greeks and to people who believe in the rule of law” (February 23). Greece has around 111.6 tons of gold, worth roughly $6.3 billion. But other piigs nations (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) have much more: 3,234 tons among them—just less than Germany, owner of the world’s second-largest gold reserves. Gold is instrumental in backing currencies. Greece’s gold is one of few assets it still has that could give a new drachma any value. Perhaps the EU is readying plans to create a gold-backed currency of its own.
Yea or nay, EU will proceed
Ireland will hold a referendum on the treaty on fiscal union agreed by 25 out of 27 EU nations in January, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny announced February 28. The referendum won’t stop the new treaty—it goes into force once 12 nations have approved it. Though Ireland won’t stop the EU moving forward, a no vote could spark more division within the Union. If EU nations have to leave Ireland behind, they’ll be further down the road to the 10-nation superstate that the Trumpet has long predicted based on Bible prophecy.
Europe’s exclusive new club
The “Berlin Club,” a new group of 10 EU nations dedicated to closer integration, was formed March 20 after German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle invited his counterparts from the 10 most pro-European nations to Berlin. Westerwelle aims to “create a kind of ‘club’ committed to developing formulas that, in these times of crisis, will revive the ideal of a united Europe,” according to Spanish newspaper ABC. The foreign ministers of Poland, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Austria, Luxemburg and Spain were present; their counterparts from Denmark and France were invited but couldn’t make it. The group will meet at least four more times and publish its conclusions after these meetings. The Trumpet has long forecast that a closely integrated group of 10 nations would emerge out of the EU. The Berlin Club isn’t necessarily this group, but it is yet more proof that European elites see that the only way to integrate more closely is to create a small group of around 10 nations—and Germany is taking the lead.
Thou must keep Sunday
Trade unions across Europe held small protests on March 4 calling for governments to force companies and shops to shut on Sunday, with Catholic preachers supporting the campaign from the pulpit. Religious groups and trade unions, organized under the banner of the European Sunday Alliance, helped organize protests in 12 EU countries. Much of the activity took place in Italy, where a law allowing businesses to choose their own opening hours was only passed in December. The newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, Avvenire, hailed a new “holy alliance” between the Catholic community and trade unions. Watch for the Catholic Church to eventually force Sunday observance on all in Europe.
Putin’s promise: A powerful military
As he campaigned to return to the Russian presidency, Vladimir Putin pledged on February 20 that Russia will obtain over 400 new modern intercontinental ballistic missiles (icbms). The announcement was partly a response to concerns by some Russian officials that the nation’s icbm arsenal could be slashed by more than half by 2020, as 400 of them pass their maximum service life around that time. But Putin’s pledge went beyond just assuaging those worries. “Within the next decade, the armed forces will receive more than 400 [icbms], eight ballistic missile submarines, about 20 general-purpose attack submarines, over 50 surface ships and some 100 military-purpose spacecraft … 600 modern aircraft, including fifth-generation fighters, more than a thousand helicopters, 28 regimental sets of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, 38 division sets of Vityaz air defense systems, 10 brigade sets of Iskander-M tactical missile systems, more than 2,300 modern tanks, some 2,000 self-propelled artillery systems and guns, as well as more than 17,000 military vehicles,” he said.
Meanwhile, reports emerged in February saying American President Barack Obama is considering hacking the U.S. nuclear arsenal from 8,500 ready-to-use warheads down to as few as 300. This radical reduction would leave the U.S. with fewer nuclear missiles overall than Russia plans to build in the next 10 years.
U.S. satellites are in their sights
China is working on an anti-satellite space weapon program and Russia is also developing technologies to disable U.S. satellites, the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency told a Senate committee on February 26. Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess presented the dia’s report, which cautioned that China has already successfully tested a direct ascent anti-satellite weapon missile, destroying one of its own satellites. The report said as few as two dozen anti-satellite missile attacks could seriously damage U.S. military operations.
Asia military spending to pass Europe
Military spending in Asia will overtake that of Europe for the first time this year, a London-based think tank said March 7. The warning by the International Institute for Strategic Studies is based in part on unprecedented increases in military spending announced by Russia and China, both of which plan to double their defense budgets by 2015.
Beijing’s official defense spending will increase by 11.2 percent in 2012, pushing it above $100 billion for the first time, the government announced on March 4. Over the last 20 years, China’s defense budget has risen by an average of 16 percent each year to become the world’s second-biggest, behind the that of U.S. China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, is the world’s largest, boasting over 2 million personnel. A decade ago China and Japan spent around the same amount on defense, but now Beijing spends more than three times as much as Tokyo. Analysts also believe Beijing’s actual military spending is two to three times larger than the figures China officially reports. China accounts for around 30 percent of Asia’s military spending.
India’s military spending is growing by an average of 10 percent each year. India has overtaken China to become the world’s biggest importer of weapons, according to a report published March 21. Between 2007 and 2011, India accounted for 10 percent of demand in global arms markets, more than any other nation, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Japan, which has the most modern armed forces in the region, is boosting its spending to maintain its qualitative edge. The shifting scales of continental military spending will force European leaders to ramp up their own defense budgets in the months ahead.
Russia, China, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan
Us vs. world
Military officials from China, Russia, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan met in Astana on February 29 to discuss cutting the number of troops and amount of weaponry deployed along the borders they share. The delegates also discussed the development of an information communication network between the four Asian nations. The four countries, all members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, are becoming less concerned about the threat each poses to the others, and more focused on cooperating with each other. A reduction of arms along their shared borders would free up military resources for these nations to position elsewhere.
Latin America, Africa
The pope vote
Pope Benedict xvi made his first state visit to Mexico in March, meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderón. The Vatican described it as a courtesy visit amid a pastoral trip to Mexico and Cuba. Many political observers had been arguing, however, that the pope’s real purpose was to bolster President Calderón’s pro-Catholic National Action Party (pan) just as Mexico’s political campaign season was kicking into gear. “The party closest to the Vatican, the pope and Catholic religion, is the pan,” political analyst Gabriel Guerrain told the New York Times. “They would have the most to benefit.” The Vatican clashed with an anti-clerical Mexican government for most of the past century, until the pan came to power in 2000. pan presidential candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota comes from a highly conservative, private-sector guild and has the support of an important coalition of ultra-rightist forces. This coalition is rumored to include El Yunque, a secret society allegedly wanting to “defend the Catholic religion and fight against the forces of Satan, even through violence,” and to “establish the kingdom of God on Earth.” Regardless of which candidate wins in July, expect the pope and his Vatican hierarchy to keep meddling in the politics of not just Mexico, but all of Latin America.
Orders from on high
The Vatican ordered a Catholic university in Peru in February to immediately bring its regulations in line with church directives or risk losing its endorsement. The Pontifical Catholic University of Peru roused the Vatican’s ire by denying the archbishop of Lima a seat on its board of directors. The archbishop is a member of the highly secretive and conservative Opus Dei organization. The university is often torn between progressive and conservative currents, and so did not want an Opus Dei member wielding influence in the organization. Expect Pope Benedict and his Vatican hierarchy to continue pushing their views on institutions across both Europe and Latin America.
Christians on the run
An estimated 700,000 Sudanese, most of them Christian, must leave the country for South Sudan under a law passed by the north after South Sudan voted to secede. The law states that any deemed ethnically South Sundanese must leave the north or apply for “alien residency.” This is despite the fact that many—some studies even say most—of them have lived their whole lives in north Sudan. This is just one example of persecution of Christians by Sudan’s Islamic government. Back in 2010, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir warned: “If South Sudan secedes, we will change the constitution …. Sharia and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language.” Across the Middle East and North Africa, Christians are under attack. Expect this kind of persecution to lead to a violent clash between radical Islam and Roman Catholicism.
Arch-rivals again at war
Ethiopian military forces entered Eritrea on March 15 and attacked Eritrean military posts. Ethiopian government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said Ethiopia waged the assault because Eritrea was training “subversive groups” that have carried out attacks inside Ethiopia. Analysts believe these unnamed groups are radical Islamist terrorist outfits, and say Ethiopia’s decision to strike at them suggests that the threat they pose is serious. Last year, as the West was endorsing the “democratic” uprisings sweeping through North Africa and the Middle East, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry warned that Iran and radical Islam would emerge the victors. In April, he predicted that Libya and Ethiopia would become victims of radical Islam. “Why would Iran be so interested in getting some measure of control over Libya and Ethiopia?” he wrote. “They are on the two seas that comprise the most important trade route in the world! … Watch Libya and Ethiopia. They are about to fall under the heavy influence or control of Iran, the king of the south.” Ethiopia’s decision to attack Eritrea’s terrorist training posts shows that, despite UN sanctions, the Islamist problem in Eritrea is growing. Expect the pressure on Ethiopia to intensify until the nation falls under the influence or control of radical Islam.
A ticking time bomb
New statistics show there are 2.8 million unemployed young people in South Africa. The country’s unemployment is now above 40 percent if you count working-age people who have given up on finding work, making it the only country in the world that has fewer employed workers than people on welfare, according to economist Mike Schüssler. Such worrying figures have fueled speculation that the country faces the possibility of greater social upheaval in the near future. “This is a crisis. We call it a ticking bomb,” Cosatu’s general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, warned in February. “We think that one day there may be an explosion.” Bible prophecy predicts that rioting and chaos will soon erupt in South Africa and across the Anglo-Saxon world.
How to win an election in London
Trying to pull ahead in a tight race to become mayor of Britain’s capital city, former mayor Ken Livingstone adopted a surprising tactic: appealing to Islam. Speaking at the Finsbury Park Mosque on March 16, Mr. Livingstone promised that if elected, he would “make sure that every non-Muslim in London knows and understands the words and message” of Mohammed’s last sermon. “That will help to cement our city as a beacon that demonstrates the meaning of the words of the prophet,” he said. Until 2003, Finsbury Park Mosque was run by radical cleric Abu Hamza, who promoted jihad and praised the September 11 suicide bombers, and is now run by an association set up by Muslim Brotherhood activists. In 2002, Britain’s Guardian reported that 1 million of London’s 7 million inhabitants were Muslim. It shows how powerful Islam is becoming in the UK that a candidate appeals to Muslim radicals to boost his political fortunes.
British criminals hate history?
Around 70,000 protected historical buildings in England have been physically harmed by crime, according to a report commissioned by English Heritage published March 19. Of these, 30,000 suffered substantial damage. Nearly 19 percent of all listed buildings have been hit by crime, with 5.3 percent targeted by metal thieves. Last November, the War Memorials Trust estimated that one monument was vandalized each week. The report sheds more light on Britain’s high crime rate. As the Trumpet has long warned, Britain’s disregard for its history is one of the causes of its decline. Now, because of that decline, that history is being destroyed.
U.S. to slash 4 in 5 nukes?
Military officials are in discussion with the White House over potentially sharp new cuts to America’s nuclear force. According to the Associated Press, the administration is closely considering reducing the number of America’s deployed weapons by 80 percent. If such cuts are adopted, America would have fewer deployed weapons than China. There are several probable reasons the administration is considering such drastic action, one of which is that economic constraints may be finally forcing the government to take more drastic measures to control the deficit.
Pain at the pump
Gas prices hit a new record at the beginning of March, with the average cost of a gallon of gas being $3.73. February’s record-high gas prices followed the records set in January. In total, Americans use about 334 million gallons per day—an amount that has plummeted since the 2008 peak of 398 million. Current gasoline usage is dropping to levels not seen in 12 years—even with 31 million more vehicles on the road now than in 2000. Why are prices soaring as demand is dropping? First, U.S. consumers no longer set the price of fuel: Gasoline is traded in the global marketplace, and Americans are competing directly with consumers in Asia and Europe. Second, and more ominously, global credit is expanding and the dollar is losing value. To stave off another economic collapse, the Federal Reserve is printing and lending money at record rates, trying to increase demand and thus get consumers and businesses spending again. Yet all the money printing and debt expansion is driving up prices of all kinds of commodities—including gasoline—because it is eroding confidence in the dollar, decreasing its purchasing power.
Dry, drier, driest
Texan farmers are anticipating small yields this year due to an ongoing severe drought, the Associated Press reported March 13. The drought began in October 2010, parching hundreds of thousands of acres and causing the worst one-year dry spell in Texan history. Since then, at one time or another, more than 75 percent of the state has experienced “exceptional” drought—the most severe classification. Agricultural losses are estimated at more than $5 billion so far, with this year’s crop damage yet to be tabulated.
As if relations with Pakistan weren’t bad enough
A U.S. soldier murdered 16 Afghan villagers on March 11. President Obama called Afghan President Hamid Karzai to express his condolences, and nato officials apologized for the shootings. The relationship between the United States and Afghanistan was already shaky. In February, six U.S. soldiers were murdered by Afghan soldiers who were supposedly their allies. The killings were apparently carried out in retaliation for Americans burning copies of the Koran at Bagram Air Field. America’s international image is being damaged, and this will likely hasten an early U.S. withdrawal in 2013.