May 11, 2018 – USA Takes a Hit
In the days leading up to when the American Embassy is expected to relocate to Jerusalem, tensions have continued to ratchet up in the Middle East.
President Trump’s announced decision on May 8, 2018 to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with the Iran pleased both Israel and Iran’s major rival, Saudi Arabia, but not Iran, obviously, or others.
On May 8, 2018 Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also released the following official response from Prime Minister Netanyahu.
“Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran… we said that rather than blocking Iran’s path to a bomb, the deal actually paved Iran’s path to an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs … Since the deal, we’ve seen Iran’s aggression grow every day- in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Yemen, in Gaza, and most of all, in Syria, where Iran is trying to establish military bases from which to attack Israel.”
Mere decades ago, Iran and Israel were on friendly terms; but no more. Iran, in conjunction with Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas, is not wavering in its stated goal to ultimately wipe Israel off the map.
Two days later, on May 10th, the Times of Israel newspaper reported that,
“Some 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military bases by Iranian forces in southern Syria just after midnight on Thursday, with some of the incoming missiles being intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the army said, amid sky high tensions on the northern border.”
It was in retaliation for a recent Israeli attack. According to a CNN article posted on April 9, 2018, “Russia blames Israel for strikes on Syrian airbase”,
“The Syrian conflict has developed into a complex proxy war, which in recent years has included Israeli strikes on Iran-linked targets.”
To better understand the Israeli and Sunni Saudi viewpoint, read the New York Times August 27, 2017 article titled, “Iran Out to Remake Mideast With Arab Enforcer: Hezbollah.”
Russia considers itself an ally of Syria’s President Assad as well as a friend of Israel and so, for the most part, has been pretty restrained in its comments.
Prime Minister May, Chancellor Merkel and President Macron released this Joint statement following President Trump’s announcement.
“It is with regret and concern that we, the Leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom take note of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States of America from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”
The TV program DW News on May 10, 2018 reported that, according to a new poll, these days Germans currently mistrust the USA more than Russia.
Fox News posted on May 1, 2018 that,
“The U.N. nuclear agency says it believes that Iran had a “coordinated” nuclear weapons program in place before 2003, but found “no credible indications” of such work after 2009.”
The three leaders of Europe agree with the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s conclusions about Iran’s nuclear program rather than with America and Israel.
Photo Credits: Israeli Soldiers by Nayef Hashlamoun, License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; Hezbollah Flag by Paul Keller, License: CC BY-NC 2.0.
April 18, 2018 – In the Middle East, Dates Can Matter Much
Seventy years ago, in the spring of 1948, the nation of modern Israel declared her independence. This year the celebrations are expected to be bigger than ever, thanks to America’s current President. Here is the reason.
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs first alerted the world on February 25th that the United States planned to officially relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary.
In actuality, some staff was expected to move to an interim location like the present Jerusalem Consulate. A permanent embassy in Jerusalem is said to be still in the planning stage and will take time to complete.
According to a USA Today March 4, 2018 story, President Trump was even considering being in Jerusalem for the occasion.
Guatemala announced plans to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as well.
Multiple Dates, Take Your Pick
The nation’s Independence Day will be observed in Israel on the 19th of April this year. For Israelis, the day actually began at sunset on Wednesday the 18th. And a torch-lighting ceremony Wednesday night kicked off the festivities.
But, on the Roman calendar, the 14 of May marks Israel’s 70th anniversary — not the earlier date corresponding to the Hebrew days and months.
The San Diego Union Tribune newspaper covered this in its article, “Date of U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem shows how even the calendar is complicated in the Middle East“. The article said,
“And to complicate things further, Palestinians observe the day of catastrophe on May 15, the first day of the new state’s existence rather than May 14, the day independence was declared.”
According to the newspaper, a Palestinian official tweeted that relocating the US embassy on May 14th would add “insult to injury.”
Past and Present
Jerusalem, along with the territory surrounding it, is a problem beyond any human ability to permanently solve.
For starters, the predominately Muslim Palestinians, at best, regard the Israeli Jews as intruders in the land where the Palestinians resided in 1948 and still view as theirs. To them, it is and was a big world out there, and the Palestinians don’t see why they should have to be the ones uprooted.
Israeli Jews, on the other hand, see the situation quite differently. Their families who migrated to the area after suffering waves of terrible massacres in other nations over many centuries — including the millions of Jews transported to the death camps of World War II — felt having their own homeland again was crucial to survival. And if not there, where?
Jewish and Christian students of the Bible also look at the territory as the very place God Himself promised and gave to the Israelites long ago.
Other issues add more layers of complexity to the long drawn out on-again off-again negotiations. Several, like land division, continue to be front and center.
Entwined with the entire process, have been the struggles for political power — by those seeking to be on top individually, as a governing entity, and on the greater global stage.
Control of the sites sacred to each of the three main religions has remained one of the negotiating topics. No surprise there.
However, a bigger issue is the unspoken but infinitely more complicating matter of each group’s beliefs about the end time. If you want to learn more about that, read our ITN article, “August 25, 2014 ‑ Middle East”.
Photo Credits: Old City by Etienne Valois, License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Poster photo by Benjamin, License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Banksy Dove photo by Neil Ward, License: CC BY 2.0.
March 6, 2018 – More Key European Votes
On Sunday March 4, 2018, the Italians held their national election. The day before Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) voted to continue its “grand coalition” with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
Germany’s national elections took place last September. The Chancellor’s first attempt to form a governing coalition, without the SPD, failed. More about this is covered in our previous article, November 20, 2017 – Again, Europe Votes
Since the coalition negotiations, clear winners and losers have emerged.
The SPD gained several key cabinet positions formally held by the CDU. And, its pro-EU stance should have even more of an impact in the upcoming government.
Angela Merkel retains the chancellorship but is not expected to be the CDU candidate next time around, and Martin Schulz resigned as SPD’s party head.
DW TV News thought the SPD vote to continue the coalition might be close. Instead, the Yes votes outnumbered the Nos by 66%. Some say the SPD saw it had to agree to avoid the risk of sliding into political oblivion.
A February poll, conducted by INSA in Germany, indicated the far right Alterative for Germany (or AfD) has bypassed the SPD. It’s now the second most popular party in Germany. The CDU-CSU partnership still holds the top spot. Five months ago, AfD was in third place.
The political limbo is considered over in Germany. But it’s just starting in Italy.
Days before the election Wall Street Journal’s Niki Blasina stated, “the March 4 election in the eurozone’s third-largest economy could have serious repercussions for the European Union.” Blasina remarked that,
“The challenges facing the EU are particularly acute in Italy, fractured electorate, a migration crisis, weak economic recovery, anger at legacy parties and dissatisfaction with the EU.”
As with Germany’s past election, no single party won the majority of votes.
The alliance of former Prime Minister Berlusconi’s center right party with with two far right parties — the eurosceptic, anti-immigration League (aka Northern League) and the smaller Brothers of Italy — received the most votes.
One of the three openly promotes what once was. A February 24, 2018 NY Times article titled, Anti-Fascist Protesters Rally in Italy as Mussolini’s Heirs Gain Ground, stated the Brothers of Italy are the “modern heirs of the party that rose from the ashes of Mussolini’s Fascists.”
Another party, the Five Star Movement (M5S) received almost as many votes as the three allies combined. If it formed a coalition with another party, some believe it could effectively govern. But who with? And what really represents the Five Star’s attitude toward the European Union — the strong Exit-the-EU line of the past or the softer tone expressed in the recent campaign?
The rest of the world will just have to wait to see the make up of Italy’s next government.
Photo Credits: Flags by futureatlas.com, License: CC BY 2.0; Chancellor by GlynLowe Photoworks, License: CC BY 2.0; Italian Wall by federico maccagni, License: CC BY-NC 2.0
February 19, 2018 – The State of the Western World
In the Bible, in the book of Revelation written two thousand years ago, we are told that leaders of 10 nations will get together shortly before Christ’s return and be led by one individual. They will take on their roles suddenly. But the exact date and how it will happen are not given.
However implausible that might sound, given the kind of conditions we have in the world, these days its fulfillment is plainly within the realm of possibility.
For one thing, the threat of terrorism lives with all of us now. On February 5, 2018, the US TV show, CBS This Morning, reported that pre-event security drills for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea had tried to anticipate everything conceivable. They ranged from terrorists taking athletes hostage on a bus and then trying to ram a stadium, to a chemical bomb exploding in a trashcan or an overhead drone carrying explosives, plus other threats not specifically mentioned.
Who can deny that the world has changed much since September 11, 2001. A recent movie and a TV show further help demonstrate the times in which we live.
The London Has Fallen movie was released in 2016.
In it, UK Prime Minister James Wilson dies suddenly, so arrangements are hastily made for the Western world leaders to attend his funeral in London.
As the US President arrives at St Paul’s Cathedral, a series of coordinated attacks by terrorists disguised as the Queen’s Guardsmen, London Metropolitan Police, and other first responders kill the other Western leaders, damage or destroy well-known landmarks, and cause widespread panic.
The same year, the American TV series titled Designated Survivor began.
According to an October 5, 2016 ABC News post, What It’s Like to Be Part of a Real-Life ‘Designated Survivor’ Plan,
“It’s the unthinkable doomsday scenario: a catastrophic attack on U.S. soil that wipes out the president, Congress and the upper levels of government, and leaves behind the “designated survivor” to run the country.”
As the first episode unfolds, viewers learn the night of the annual State of the Union Address an explosion in the capital building has claimed the lives of the President and everyone else in the line of succession — except for the individual tapped to be the Designated Survivor.
ABC News wrote,
“It’s the stuff of dark thrillers, but the writers of ABC’s most talked-about new show, “Designated Survivor,” are working off real-life protocols.”
ABC News added,
“When Clarke activated the continuity of government system during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, President George W. Bush was in the air on Air Force One, Vice President Dick Cheney was rushed to an underground bunker and then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert was asked to leave Washington, D.C.”
Other governments undoubtedly have similar plans in place to guarantee some sort of national continuity in such a crisis.
Take Away Message
From February 16 to 18, 2018 an International security conference, attended by many world leaders, was held in Europe. The US Embassy in Germany posted the following,
“From Friday until Sunday, more than 30 heads of state and government and over 100 cabinet ministers from across the globe came together at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) for discussions on major international security challenges.”
The conference title was “To the Brink and Back?”, according to DW TV. At the end of the final day at the conference, chief DW correspondent, Melinda Crane, was asked by a DW TV news anchor, “What is the overall feeling; what has been achieved?
Crane cited some of the numerous topics discussed and informed viewers that it wasn’t at all clear that we’d come to the brink and back.
The world is every bit as dangerous as it was.
Yes, the movie, London Has Fallen, and the TV series, Designated Survivor, are both fictional. But numerous news headlines of the past few years already provide stark evidence that a horrific event of this kind can, indeed, happen in today’s world.
Photo Credits: Blansky art photo by Chris Devers, cropped, License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; London Fallen Poster photo by junaidrao, License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Pentagon Attack, USCG photo by Telfair H. Brown, License: CC BY 2.0