Current Events

Angela Merkel in America

The Associated Press reported on January 4:

“President Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, two allies looking to boost their mutual interests, conferred Thursday on issues ranging from war and energy problems to the economy and global warming. In Washington for an Oval Office meeting with Bush, Merkel’s visit came just days after Germany assumed the presidencies of the 27-nation European Union and the G-8 industrialized nations. The U.S. has high expectations that, given its position, Germany will advance American interests, including boosting security in Afghanistan and advancing peace in the Middle East…

“Being seen to have friendly relations with Bush carries some risk for Merkel, given the president’s unpopularity in Europe. But she minimizes them by publicly raising points of difference such as her stance that the prison camp at Guantanamo should be shut down, as she did on her 2005 trip to Washington. German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said in Berlin that Merkel will underline her support for putting the so-called quartet–the United States, the EU, Russia and the United Nations–at the center of a revived Middle East peace effort.

“Bush has stressed that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a top priority although he has not conducted the kind of personal diplomacy engaged in by Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to travel to the Middle East soon.”

The German tabloid Bild reported on January 5 that Rice will “report” to Merkel after her trip to the Middle East.

With the stepping down of Britain’s Tony Blair this year, many view Merkel as emerging as the top ally of the United States. Such a development would undoubtedly tremendously increase Germany’s influence in the world. However, such “friendly” relationship will not last, as the Bible clearly reveals, but, in the meantime, it might foster Germany’s prophesied leading role in the world. The German tabloid, Bild Online, wrote on January 9, in light of Germany’s presidency of the European Union: “We are EU!”

The World Condemns US Actions in Somalia

Reuters reported on January 10:

“U.S. forces hunting al Qaeda suspects launched a new air strike on southern Somalia on Wednesday, a Somali government source said, as international criticism mounted over Washington’s military intervention… The U.S. actions were defended by Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf, but criticised by others including new U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, the European Union, and former colonial power Italy… Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema said Rome opposed ‘unilateral initiatives that could spark new tensions in an area that is already very destabilized.’… Monday’s attack on a southern village by an AC-130 plane firing automatic cannon was believed to have killed one of three al Qaeda suspects wanted for the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, a U.S. intelligence official said.”

Austria’s News Networld added that France condemned the U.S. attacks, stating that they only complicate matters and make the area less secure. It added: “Only Tony Blair defended the U.S. air strikes.”

Chirac Condemns the USA

AFP reported on January 5:

“French President Jacques Chirac has unleashed a torrent of criticism against the US-led war in Iraq, saying the conflict, which he fiercely opposed, had boosted the spread of terrorism. In a wide-ranging New Year’s foreign policy speech Friday, Chirac fired a broadside at what he called Washington’s ‘adventure’ in the Middle Eastern country, torn by sectarian strife almost four years after the invasion. ‘As France had foreseen and feared, the war in Iraq has sparked upheavals that have yet to show their full effects,’ Chirac [said].

“He said the conflict, which the United States still describes as part of the ‘war on terror’ it launched in 2001 following the September 11 attacks, had ‘offered terrorism a new field for expansion.’ Chirac said it had ‘exacerbated the divisions between communities and threatened the very integrity of Iraq’. ‘It undermined the stability of the entire region, where every country now fears for its security and its independence.’… The French leader attacked the ‘pitfalls of unilateralism’ in foreign affairs — a scarcely veiled reference to Washington’s decision to launch the Iraq war without United Nations backing.”

U.S. Debacle In Iraq Continues

AFP reported on January 10:

“US President George W. Bush took the blame for strategic blunders in Iraq, ordered 21,500 more US troops into battle, and warned Baghdad’s leaders to do more to shore up ebbing US support. ‘If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises’ to fight sectarian violence, he cautioned, ‘it will lose the support of the American people, and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people.’ Bush, in a prime-time televised speech from the White House, said his new push aimed to crush terrorists, insurgents and rogue militias and help Iraq’s security forces take control of the entire country by November. ‘The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people, and it is unacceptable to me,’ he told a war-weary US public nearly four years into the conflict. ‘Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.’… ‘We must expect more Iraqi and American casualties,’ said the president, whose poll numbers have plummeted as the US toll has climbed to more than 3,000 dead and many thousands wounded… The new plan will cost 5.6 billion dollars for the new US troops and about 1.2 billion in new spending aimed at shoring up Iraq’s battered economy, civil society, infrastructure and judicial system, the White House said.”

Der Spiegel Online reported on January 11:

“130,000 US soldiers haven’t been able to bring peace to Iraq. Now George W. Bush has admitted his error — and is sending in a further 21,000 troops. The US President is thus almost completely ignoring the recommendations of the Baker Commission… More blood, more money — that was Bush’s message. An extra 21,000 soldiers are to be sent to bring the situation in Baghdad and in Anbar province, a Sunni stronghold, under control. Bush named his strategy ‘The New Way Forward’ — but it seems suspiciously similar to all the previous failed attempts to stabilize Iraq.” In a related article, AFP wrote on January 10:

“Democrats wasted no time in slamming President George W. Bush’s latest strategy for Iraq, although rifts emerged among them about how best to respond to his plan to send fresh US troops to the war-torn country. Minutes after Bush in a nationally-televised speech outlined a last-ditch effort to salvage Iraq, Senate’s number two Dick Durbin repudiated the plan, and said it was time to pull US troops and let Iraq save itself. ‘It is time for the Iraqis to stand and defend their own nation. The government of Iraq must now prove that it will make the hard political decisions, which will bring an end to this bloody civil war,’ Durbin said. ‘Tonight President Bush acknowledged what most Americans know: We are not winning in Iraq, despite the courage and immense sacrifice of our military. Indeed the situation is grave and deteriorating,’ Durbin said, delivering the Democrats’ official response to the Bush speech. ‘Escalation of this war is not the change the American people called for in the last election,’ he said.”

However, will the Democrats actually DO something to prevent President Bush’s plans from being carried out? This appears very unlikely. As Der Spiegel Online remarks correctly, “The Democrats are just as divided over how to proceed over Iraq as Bush’s own party. Only one interest unites them: Until the presidential elections in 2008, it has to remain Bush’s war.” The German tabloid, Bild Online, predicted on January 11 that the Democrats will not show enough backbone to vote against providing the monetary support which Bush requests.

And so, the U.S. debacle in Iraq will continue…

Europe Unhappy With Russia

The pipeline “fiasco,” caused by Russia, affecting large parts of Europe, has been temporarily solved. But serious doubts about Russia’s arrogance and Putin’s intentions remain. Here is what transpired this week:

Der Spiegel Online reported on January 8, 2007:

“The conflict between Moscow and Minsk [Poland] over energy prices worsened on Monday, with potentially serious consequences for Western Europe. Russian pipeline operator Transneft shut down its… pipeline, which is the source of 20 percent of Germany’s oil imports…”

Great Britain’s The Times wrote on January 9: “The move raised further questions over whether Western Europe can trust Mr Putin for its energy supply. Experts said that Russia had a deeply entrenched habit of manipulating oil and gas supplies as a substitute for diplomatic policy…

“Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, told The Times last night that Germany will use its six-month EU presidency to improve energy security on the Continent. In her first interview with a British newspaper she signalled that she would take a harsher line towards Russia than her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder.”

Der Spiegel Online added on January 9:

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso have criticized Russia for shutting down a pipeline pumping oil to Europe. Russia’s move has dented its image as a reliable energy supplier, said Merkel… The latest energy spat between Russia and [Poland]… highlights how ruthless and arrogant Russia has become with its energy policy…

“Financial Times Deutschland writes… ‘the Russian move again shows how uncompromisingly hard the Kremlin is in enforcing its economic interests. Riding the wave of high world market prices for oil and gas, the Russian leadership has developed frightening arrogance. For the EU, which still regards Russia as a strategic partner, the warning signs are unmistakeable.’… Business daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘The case of Belarus harbors a lesson for western Europe: Russia is once again showing how irresponsibly it is handling its increased global role.’…

“The conservative Die Welt writes: ‘The Europeans must act together — not just because that makes them stronger. Also because Europe increasingly has to counter energy-hungry competitors such as China…'”

Der Spiegel Online reported on January 11:

“The… oil pipeline, connecting Russia with Germany and Central Europe, is open once again. Following a three-day suspension of supplies, the Russian operator of the pipeline said that oil began flowing again at about 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. The resumption of crude oil to Europe via Belarus comes a day after Moscow and Minsk reached an agreement in the tiff which had led to the pipeline’s closure…

“European concerns about the reliability of Russia as an energy supplier were heightened by the pipeline closure. One year ago, a dispute with Ukraine over natural gas prices led to an interruption of supplies to a number of European countries… European worry about Russia’s reliability as an energy supplier had already been high. Moscow has raised gas prices to a number of former Soviet states in recent years leaving the impression that it was using fuel prices as a foreign policy tool. In December, Russia more than doubled the price Belarus has to pay for natural gas to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters not long after Belarus began distancing itself from a proposal to reunite with Russia.”

Even though the problem seems to be solved temporarily, justified doubts about Russia’s reliability as an energy supplier remain.

These developments might be very interesting “forerunners” of a Biblical prophecy, stating that the end-time German or Austrian leader of a united Europe will respond with great fury to “news from the east and the north”–i.e., Russia, China and other Far Eastern countries (Daniel 11:44).

Mubarak Speaks Out on Saddam’s “Barbaric” and “Illegal” Execution

ABC News reported on January 5, 2007:

“Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said pictures of the execution of Saddam Hussein were ‘revolting and barbaric’ and that experts considered his trial under occupation illegal. In his first comments on the execution, which took place on the first day of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice, last Saturday, Mubarak told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth the timing was ‘unreasonable.’

“In the interview, he said he had written to President Bush asking him to postpone the execution, arguing that it would not be helpful at that time. He did not say how Bush responded. ‘Then the pictures of the execution were revolting and barbaric, and I am not discussing here whether he deserved it or not.

“As for the trial, all experts in international law said it was an illegal trial because it was under occupation. ‘Also, there was a conspiracy to carry out the execution before the end of the year,’ he added. Mubarak and Saddam were friendly in the 1980s but fell out over the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Mubarak had advised the United States not to invade Iraq to overthrow Saddam, saying that it would lead to chaos.”

Will Israel Attack Iran With Nuclear Weapons?

Great Britain’s The Sunday Times reported on January 6, 2007:

“Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons. Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear ‘bunker-busters’, according to several Israeli military sources. The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb. Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open ‘tunnels’ into the targets. ‘Mini-nukes’ would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout…

“The plans, disclosed to The Sunday Times last week, have been prompted in part by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad’s assessment that Iran is on the verge of producing enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons within two years… The Israeli government has warned repeatedly that it will never allow nuclear weapons to be made in Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has declared that ‘Israel must be wiped off the map’. Robert Gates, the new US defence secretary, has described military action against Iran as a ‘last resort’, leading Israeli officials to conclude that it will be left to them to strike… Scientists have calculated that although contamination from the bunker-busters could be limited, tons of radioactive uranium compounds would be released… Some sources in Washington said they doubted if Israel would have the nerve to attack Iran…”

Israel Denies Report

AFP reported on January 7:

“Israel has drawn up plans to destroy Iranian uranium enrichment facilities with a tactical nuclear strike, a British newspaper said Sunday in a report rejected as ‘absurd’ by the Jewish state. The Sunday Times quoted several Israeli military sources as saying that two of the Jewish state’s air force squadrons are training to use ‘bunker-busting’ bombs for a single strike. ‘This is absurd information coming from a newspaper that has already in the past distinguished itself with sensationalist headlines that in the end amounted to nothing,’ retorted an Israeli official. ‘To think that we will launch an atomic attack against Iran, and on top of that that we would reveal it in advance to a foreign newspaper is doubly ridiculous,’ the official, who asked not to be named, told AFP. The Sunday Times — which in 1986 first revealed Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal — said the plans involved sending conventional, laser-guided missiles to open up ‘tunnels’ in the targets before ‘mini-nukes’ with a force the equivalent of one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb are fired in.”

Germany Alarmed Over Israel’s Alleged Intentions

Der Spiegel Online reported on January 8, 2007:

“The British Sunday Times has reported that Israel is preparing for a nuclear strike on Iran’s atomic weapons facilities. Planted or not, the story should serve as a wake-up call for the West… Germany’s papers Monday expressed alarm at the report and called on the West to stand firm on Iran so that Israel would not feel pressured into taking matters into its own hands. “The business daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘It’s not easy to believe Israel’s denials (that it is planning an attack), because top Israeli politicians and military officers regularly threaten Iran with violence. Deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh said in November he did not want to rule out a military option against Iran as ‘a last resort.’ In October Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent a similar warning to Tehran… The Israeli public is being systematically prepared for a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities… there is a reckless consensus: that the Iranian regime can not be dissuaded from developing the bomb using diplomatic means alone.”

“The left-of-center daily Berliner Zeitung writes: ‘Israeli politicians have not ruled out a pre-emptive strike against Iran in theory, and the fact that Israel has already bombed a foreign nuclear installation, in Iraq in 1981 — albeit with conventional means — speaks for the validity of the Sunday Times’ report. On the other hand, the obvious question is whether the article was deliberately planted in the media. Officially Israel is following a policy of ambiguity as to the existence of Israeli nuclear weapons. Recently, however, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert included the country in the ranks of the nuclear powers. Before that, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates had classified Israel as a nuclear power. Is the new report a new attempt to threaten Tehran with the bomb, without doing so directly — and also to test the reaction of the West?’

“The conservative daily Die Welt writes: ‘The headlines about Israel’s alleged attack plans against Iran can be clearly seen as a weapon of psychological warfare. Israel profits from such news: It makes the Iranians aware of the consequences of their policies and puts the world under pressure to not simply accept Iran’s nuclear program… It is irrelevant if the story is true or not. The only important thing is whether one believes Israel is ready to use force. The Israeli government has been making it clear to the world for months that it will not accept an Iranian nuclear bomb and will stop at nothing to prevent it. It is obvious that a military strike could be a last resort after other efforts have been exhausted. No state will simply look on as a regime which wishes its destruction arms itself. And Iran wants to wipe Israel from the map. Israel will act if the major powers fail to keep Tehran from developing the bomb. However, it is doubtful that the conflict could be solved with a single military strike… A protracted and bloody conflict is much more likely. This in turn can not be in the interests of the Americans and the Europeans. For this reason, they should deter the Israeli government from acting by itself. This however means resolutely confronting Iran and, if necessary, acting against Tehran even without a United Nations mandate. In short: (The West) cannot allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons under any circumstances.'”

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