Tag Archives: Aden

RUSSIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST

putin

While US media has been focussed on alleged Russian hacking of the US electoral process, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has strengthened its role in the Middle East.

The morning that America suffered a major setback in the Middle East, American news networks led on two deaths – those of actresses Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds.   Tragic though these deaths were, developments in the Middle East put America where Great Britain was exactly six decades ago.

Before World War Two, the British Empire was the dominant power in the region.   Britain withdrew from Israel in May of 1948. Immediately, the Jewish nation was invaded by five neighboring Arab nations.   Miraculously, Israel survived. In those early days, it was not helped by the United States.

In 1952, as a direct consequence of defeat against Israel, Egypt’s King Farouk was overthrown by the military.   The new leaders soon seized the Anglo-French Suez Canal.   Together with Israel, these countries invaded Egypt but were soon stopped by US President Eisenhower.   This single event led directly to the dismantling of the British Empire.   In 1958 the pro-British King of Iraq was overthrown.   Britain was losing its remaining influence in the area. The country fought a war against rebels in Aden, withdrawing from the protectorate in 1967.

It was a gradual decline, with one setback after another.   Now, the UK does not play any major role in the Middle East.

Since Britain, America has been the dominant power in the region. During the time of the Soviet Union, the US and the USSR were rivals in the area, with Moscow backing Egypt and Syria.   Later, Egypt switched sides and allied itself with the United States, but Moscow retained its influence in Syria.   Iran was in the US sphere of influence until the Shah was overthrown in 1979.

The region has seen never-ending turmoil since the fall of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire after World War One.   That turmoil shows no sign of ending.

The recent war in Iraq has left a big mess in the region.   At its root is the almost 1,400 year sectarian conflict between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. Until the US invasion of Iraq, the country was dominated by Sunni Muslims, even though the majority of people were Shia Muslims (the reverse is the case in Syria).   Following the US backed election in Iraq, the majority Shia now rule the country. This development has altered the religious balance in the region and is causing repercussions everywhere.   ISIS was formed to protect Sunni Muslims from the now dominant Shia.

In Syria, Sunnis have been trying to overthrow the Alawite (Shia) minority regime of President Assad for five years.   Enter Moscow. Russia’s backing of the Syrian president has enabled Assad to win. The US showed a great deal of weakness, refusing to get involved even when the Syrian government crossed the line and used chemical weapons on its own citizens.   Now, after months of fighting in Aleppo, the biggest city of the country, Assad is firmly in power and Russia is sponsoring “peace talks” with the rebel factions in the country.   The US is not invited to the peace talks. Russia now controls Syria.   To accomplish this, the country needs Turkey’s help. The two are pushing for peace in the country. Turkey, the second most powerful military power in NATO, is now working with the Russians to bring peace to the Middle East.

That’s two set-backs for Washington in just a few days.

A third set-back is in Israel.   The outgoing administration in Washington did not veto the latest UN vote against Israel, condemning the country for building new settlements for Jewish settlers in the West Bank.   Friction between the US and the only western style democracy in the region is unsettling, to say the least. This set-back may only be temporary as a new President takes over in the US in just three weeks, but that gives a few days for further negative developments.   Even the British have criticized America’s condemnation of Israel.   The State Department seems set on causing rifts with US allies in the final days of the current Administration.

Keep in mind, too, that Syria borders Israel on the Golan Heights.   What happens in Syria may affect Israel.   Perhaps that’s why Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Moscow in June, the fourth time in a year that he sat down with President Putin to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

The tables have been turned once again in the region.   Over sixty years ago, the UK was the dominant power in the region; since then, it’s been the US.   But now Russia is arguably the dominant power in the area.   The Russians are in alliance with the Shi-ite Muslims in Iran and Syria; they are also working with Sunni Turkey, which ruled the whole area prior to 1919.   At the same time, it seems that Israel’s prime minister is more comfortable with Putin than with Obama, with whom he’s had a serious exchange of heated words in recent days.

There’s even a fourth development that puts Russia ahead. Following the hacking scandal, President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the US; President Putin made it clear that he will not expel any Americans. This is a triumph for Putin in the propaganda war with America.

What lies ahead?   Remember that the Middle East is the primary focus of Bible prophecy with Jerusalem at the epicenter.

In the nineteenth century, there was no indication that the Jews were about to become an independent nation again.  Their period of self-rule ended with the Romans before the time of Christ.  Their rebellion against the Romans in the first century AD led to the Diaspora, a dispersion that scattered the Jewish people throughout the Roman Empire and left them scattered until fairly recently.   Bible prophecy showed that the Jewish nation would be restored and that happened in 1948.

Exactly a century ago, British and Australian forces entered Jerusalem in the continuing war with the Ottoman Turks.   At this point in time, a Jewish nation became possible.   The British were given a mandate to administer Palestine by the League of Nations.   This was an impossible task as Palestinians and Jews clashed repeatedly.   Eventually, the League’s successor, the United Nations, divided the territory up between Jews and Palestinians, the latter never accepting their loss of land.

 

 

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VICTORY OVER ISIS WILL NOT END ISLAMIC TERRORISM

Daniel Craig Spectre

In the latest James Bond movie, “Spectre,” an evil organization is trying to take over the world, but 007, once again, stops them.

It’s the most successful movie at the box office right now.

Millions around the world have already seen it; millions more will in the weeks to come.

The question is:  why do people believe this is credible, but won’t accept an evil organization really IS trying to take over the world and, at present, well on the way to success?

I’m referring, of course, to ISIS. Also Al-Qaeda, which, through an affiliate in Mali, has staged the latest terrorist attack today in Bamako.   An ISIS affiliate, Boko Haram, attacked a market yesterday in northern Nigeria, killing almost 50. These terrorist attacks are now a daily occurrence.   It seems likely that Al-Qaeda and ISIS are competing with each other, to see who can kill the most people.  Whoever wins will get the most recruits – people will want to join the one who is winning!

Both organizations believe that Islam shall rule the world.   They also have an eschatological interpretation of their religion, which is telling them to stir things up at this time, which they, like many Christians, believe is the end-time.   (Be sure to read Graeme Wood’s article “What ISIS really wants” in the March 2015 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.   It’s available online.   I quoted from it in a blogpost at the time.)

It’s not just religious people who write articles warning about ISIS and others.   Niall Ferguson, my favorite historian and a non-believer, wrote a very good article this week for The Australian newspaper, likening what is happening now to the fall of Rome.   Commenting on the Paris attacks, he observed:  “this is exactly how civilizations fall.”   (“Paris attacks:   fall of Rome should be a warning to the West.” The Australian, November 16th).  Ferguson had this to say about Muslims in Europe:

It is doubtless true to say that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Europe are not violent.   But it is also true the majority hold views not easily reconciled with the principles of our liberal democracies, including our novel notions about sexual equality and tolerance not merely of religious diversity but of nearly all sexual proclivities.   And it is thus remarkably easy for a violent minority to acquire their weapons and prepare their assaults on civilization within these avowedly peace-loving ­communities.

Conservative columnist Mark Steyn wrote:

“Among his other coy evasions, President Obama described (last week’s) events as “an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share.”

“But that’s not true, is it?   He’s right that it’s an attack not just on Paris or France.   What it is is an attack on  the west, on the civilization that built the modern world – an attack on one portion of “humanity” by those who claim to speak for another portion of “humanity.”   And these are not “universal values” but values that spring from a relatively narrow segment of humanity.   They were kinda sorta “universal” when the great powers were willing to enforce them around the world and the colonial subjects of ramshackle backwaters such as Aden, Sudan and the North-West Frontier Province were at least obliged to pay lip service to them. But the European empires retreated from the world, and those “universal values” are utterly alien to large parts of the map today.

“And then Europe decided to invite millions of Muslims to settle in their countries.   Most of those people don’t want to participate actively in bringing about the death of diners and concertgoers and soccer fans, but at a certain level most of them either wish or are indifferent to the death of the societies in which they live – modern, pluralist, western societies and those “universal values” of which Barack Obama bleats.   So, if you are either an active ISIS recruit or just a guy who’s been fired up by social media, you have a very large comfort zone in which to swim, and which the authorities find almost impossible to penetrate.”   (“The Barbarians are inside – and there are no gates!”   Steynonline, Friday November 13th)

Nothing has yet been done to change immigration rules.   President Obama was on the defensive when the issue came up – he said it was un-American to discriminate against Muslims, though that’s exactly what was done from the founding of James Town (in 1607) until the 1965 Immigration Act that was sponsored by Senator Edward Kennedy.   In the 1952 Immigration bill that became law, members of any organization that called for the overthrow of the US government and constitution, was forbidden to enter the country.   At the time, communism was the threat.   Today, it’s radical Islam. Both the religion and the Koran threaten the US.

Islam means “submission” – all members of the faith must submit to Allah and Sharia Law.   According to a recent poll of Muslims in the United States, 51% of American Muslims believe Sharia should be the law of the US.   In the same poll, 25% felt it justified to use violence against Americans.   In other words, their faith comes before America, intolerance before tolerance.

It was clear from what the President said that his agenda is to get as many into the country as possible, while bending over backwards to stay out of any conflict with radical Islam.   Obama is not the only one.   President Hollande of France declared war on ISIS after last week’s terror attacks, but his government remains committed to taking in 30,000 more Syrian refugees in the weeks to come.   Multiply that by 5 to get a US equivalent of 150,000.   The US is taking 10,000.

France is interesting.   The country has arguably been more successful assimilating Muslims than any other.   10% of the French population is Muslim, immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa and their offspring.   Only 10% of these Muslims go to the mosque every week.  Muslims seem to be more secularized than in other countries.

But, perhaps that’s the problem.

When a devout Muslim moves to the West, rather than appreciating his newfound freedom, he will see the West as totally degenerate. Whereas Muslims are in submission to Allah, the West is in submission to the god of materialism and the pursuit of licentiousness.   They are two diametrically opposed ways of life.

The surprise is that so few, comparatively speaking, resort to extremism.

Although attitudes are hardening throughout the West and right-wing movements are gaining support, a lot of people are still clueless at the threat from radical Islam.   More than one victim in Paris remarked on how they still believe in the basic goodness of people.   They would do well to heed the words of the prophet Jeremiah who wrote:   “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9).   We are likely to see far more evil acts perpetrated by ISIS in the near future.

Which brings us back to James Bond.

We must not confuse real life with movies.   If and when ISIS is defeated, it does not mean the end of violent Islamic extremism. Other organizations will arise that will likewise threaten the peace and security of the West.   Radical Islam is here to stay.   It’s an idea whose time has come!

The final words are from Niall Ferguson, who quotes Bryan Ward-Perkins, who wrote “The Fall of Rome” in 2005:   “The end of civilization came within a single generation.”   The West could fall much quicker than that faced with the serious threat of radical Islam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SINGAPORE LOSES ITS FOUNDING FATHER

Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore is one of the greatest success stories of the modern world.

The modern history of the country started in 1819, just under 200 years ago.  The British were looking for a strategic location to base their growing merchant and naval fleets and to thwart Dutch regional influence.

The then Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolan in Sumatra, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, landed in Singapore after surveying neighboring islands.   A colony was soon founded with a population of only 150. Today, the population is almost 5.5 million.   Singapore’s success was based on free trade, which made it a vibrant commercial center, attracting merchants from all over Asia, the Middle East and the United States, as well as Great Britain, which dominated the globe in the nineteenth century.

The port city saw its greatest period of growth after the British opened the Suez Canal in 1869.   Control of vital sea-gates around the globe contributed to the dominance of the British Empire.   It was possible for British vessels to sail from England to Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus in the Mediterranean, before continuing their journey through the Suez Canal and Aden, then on to points east, including Singapore.   The naval base at Singapore enabled the British to dominate the Far East and Australasia.   Singapore was a vital sea-gate, one of the arteries of empire.   Many believe this fulfilled the prophecy in Genesis 22:17 that Abraham’s descendants would “possess the gates of their enemies.”

Everything went well until the Japanese attacked the city the day after Pearl Harbor.   Once regarded as an impregnable fortress, the city surrendered on 15th March, 1942.   It remained under Japanese occupation for three-and-a-half-years.   Looking back, it was a major turning point in the decline and fall of the British Empire, perhaps the biggest single turning point.   It showed that the seemingly invincible British, a white race that ruled the greatest empire in history, could be defeated by a non-white peoples considered backward and inferior.

After the defeat of Japan, the British returned, but it was impossible to return to the pre-war order.   New political parties were formed that campaigned for independence.

In 1963, the people of Singapore voted to join the new Malaysian Federation, which the British had created six years earlier.   Only two years later, Singapore, an island of mostly Chinese immigrants, had to leave the Moslem dominated federation and go it alone.

In 1965, at the time of independence, the total Gross National Product of Singapore was only $1 billion.   Fifty years later, it’s $300 billion.   Per capita income has grown from less than $500 per year to well over $55,000, second only to Japan in East Asia.   The island state has been transformed in fifty years from a Third World outpost to a thriving city-state that belongs proudly to the First World of wealthy, affluent countries.

This achievement was the work of one man, Lee Kuan Yew, the longest serving prime minister in the world (from 1959 to 1990). Singapore’s former prime minister died at the weekend.   The man who cried when the federation broke up and Singapore had to go it alone, had a clear vision of what was needed – a free enterprise system which would become a regional financial center.   This does not mean that government was not involved.   He was mildly authoritarian, with restrictions on freedom of speech and the press.   He also oversaw massive public housing projects, which contributed to a rising standard of living for the people. The US could learn from its medical system.

He leaves behind a wealthy, efficient and honest administration – one of the modern world’s greatest success stories.   Other developing nations, struggling to survive in the contemporary world, could learn a great deal from Singapore and the man who built its modern economy.

Singapore is also symbolic of Asia’s growing might, accompanied by the decline of its former imperial master Great Britain, and the West in general.

The world has changed a great deal in the fifty years since Singapore became an independent republic.   It’s experience should give many nations pause for thought and reflection.