Tag Archives: Bahrain

THE DEATH OF FREEDOM

A person does a cartwheel in Oxford Circus during rush hour as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

We have less freedom today than we have had in over 400 years.   And we’ve all consented to this loss of freedom.

Freedom of assembly and the freedom to worship have both suffered.  Even the freedom to go out for a meal or a drink.    Nor can we shake a friend’s hand or give a hug.   Again, with our consent.

As one British paper put it:  “It is no exaggeration to say these are the most extreme powers ever used against citizens in peace time Britain.”

It’s understandable.  We want to live.  We want to survive the coronavirus.

But will we ever get these freedoms back?

Most importantly, what will be the next crisis that makes us so quick to jettison our freedoms?

MR       

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“A heart attack is occurring in the economy”  (Sky News comment, 3/20)

This was a comment about the British economy, but it describes every country right now.   So, let’s take a look at some of the economic consequences of coronavirus.

Argentina’s new government will today publish GDP figures for last year, with economists warning that the covid-19 pandemic could be about to send the country into a deep recession.   GDP is forecast to have contracted by 2.1% in 2019.   But what matters now is the dire situation to come.   One former central banker predicts that the country’s economy could shrink by up to 4% in 2020.   Though weighed down by high inflation and heavy debt, President Alberto Fernández’s government is implementing fiscal stimulus measures worth billions of dollars.   Its treasury minister, Martín Guzmán,  warns that the covid-19 crisis means that it is now impossible to say when, and how, Argentina can return to growth.   That was Mr. Fernández’s primary goal when he took office just four months ago, an aim that looks harder by the day as infections mount in the country.     (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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For years Germany has run the tightest of fiscal ships, frustrating many in the euro zone and beyond.   Then came covid-19.   Today the Bundestag will approve a €156bn ($168bn) supplementary budget for 2020, under which Germany will issue new debt for the first time since 2013.   The borrowing breaks Germany’s “black zero” balanced-budget policy and exploits an emergency rule in the constitutional “debt brake.”   Yet it is just one part of Germany’s response.   The government has expanded Kurzarbeit support (in which the state partly covers the lost wages of workers who have their hours cut), extended various loan guarantees and even earmarked funds for direct investment in companies.   The package amounts to a potential €750bn, and more may follow.   The scale of the response has surprised observers—but at European level less is happening.   Germany, and the euro area’s other hawks, remain implacably opposed to debt mutualization.   (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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Today’s meeting of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee should have been the first with Andrew Bailey in the chair.   But the new governor found himself presiding over an emergency meeting last week, amid what he described as “borderline disorderly” market conditions.   In common with other central banks, the Bank of England is aggressively easing monetary policy to react to a rapid economic slowdown due to the spread of covid-19.   Despite interest-rate cuts, £200bn ($232bn) more quantitative easing (amounting to some 10% of GDP) and more direct support for private-sector lending, the bank is more worried about undershooting its inflation target than overshooting it. Today’s consumer-price statistics show inflation running at 1.7%, below the 2% target.   More monetary easing is likely, but with interest rates already at 0.1%, an all-time low, fiscal policy will have to do most of the heavy lifting.  (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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Coronavirus lockdown measures implemented in the UK may trigger an economic downturn that could kill more people than the virus itself, a new study warns.

Philip Thomas, a professor of risk management at Bristol University, says that a fall in GDP of more than 6.4% could lead to a devastating recession in which “more years of life will be lost . . . than will be saved through beating the virus,” reports The Times.  (The Week, 3/25/2020)

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The worst outbreak of Coronavirus in the Middle East, so far, is in Iran.  Thousands have died and tens of thousands have been exposed to the virus.   An overlooked developing crisis parallel to Iran’s is the situation of the country’s neighbors across the Persian Gulf.

Beyond the civilian element affecting Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE; tens of thousands of American military personnel are also stationed in these countries.   Once facing the Iranian threat and ISIS, they are now involved in combating the invisible enemy:   Covid-19.      (Greg Roman, MEF, 3/20)

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This is an emergency, track everyone:   If there were ever a time to set concerns about privacy aside, this is it.   Giving public health authorities access to everyone’s location data gives them a better chance of tracking down people who have been in contact with confirmed cases – and helps ensure that those who are already sick stay in quarantine.   Right now, governments need all the help they can get.   Give them the data.   Debates about the privacy implications can wait.

China is in this camp. So are other countries in Asia, like South Korea and Taiwan, that have had better success containing the epidemic – although it’s still too early to say whether access to mobile phone location data was the deciding factor.   (Gzero, 3/25/2020)

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A SURPRISING LETTER FROM HOLLYWOOD

Dear Mr. President, @realDonaldTrump

I wanted to thank you for ur recent decorum, sincerity, & care towards us.   You’re taking charge & leading in a manner needed & wanted for this country.   I highly commend you for ur boundless energy & willingness to solve problems.   Thank you!

— Kirstie Alley (@kirstiealley) March 24, 2020

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TO THE POINT

  • LAGOS — A jihadist group ambushed and killed around 70 Nigerian government troops in Borno state, in the north-east of the country.   The guerrillas used rocket-propelled grenades to attack a vehicle full of soldiers; they also took several captive.  The group they belong to split off from Nigeria’s homegrown Boko Haram in 2016, and now considers itself an Islamic State affiliate. (The Economist, 3/25/2020)
  • BERLIN – A court in eastern Germany convicted eight far-right extremists who were accused of planning to violently overthrow the state.   The regional court in Dresden on Tuesday convicted one of the men on a charge of forming a “terrorist organization” and the other seven of being members of the group, called Revolution Chemnitz.   Five of the man were also found guilty of a serious breach, while one was convicted of bodily harm.  The court sentenced the defendants to prison terms that ranged from 27 months to 5 ½ years.  (Lansing State Journal, 3/25/2020)
  • UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations on Tuesday to adopt a “wartime” plan including a stimulus package “in the trillions of dollars” for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.   He said in a letter to the Group of 20 leaders that they account for 85% of the world’s gross domestic product and have “a direct interest and critical role to play in helping developing countries cope with the crisis.”  (Lansing State Journal, 3/25/2020)
  • LONDON – Prince Charles has coronavirus.  Prince Charles, 71, is displaying mild symptoms “but otherwise remains in good health,” a spokesman said, adding that the Duchess of Cornwall, 72, has been tested but does not have the virus.   Charles and Camilla are now self-isolating at Balmoral.   Buckingham Palace said the Queen last saw her son, the heir to the throne, on 12 March, but was “in good health.”   The palace added that the Duke of Edinburgh was not present at that meeting, and that the Queen was now “following all the appropriate advice with regard to her welfare.”
    A Clarence House statement read:   “In accordance with government and medical advice, the prince and the duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland.  “The tests were carried out by the NHS in Aberdeenshire, where they met the criteria required for testing.  “It is not possible to ascertain from whom the prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.”
  • Germany is the only country in Europe to have currently rejected China’s offer of support in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. According to China’s President Xi Jinping, he informed Chancellor Angela Merkel that the People’s Republic of China “is willing to provide help within our capabilities,” if Germany “is in need.”   Over the past few days, Beijing has sent aid supplies and – in some cases – teams of doctors to provide practical on-site assistance to several European countries including Italy, Spain and France.   Berlin has ignored the offer of support, even though there is, for example, a glaring shortage of respiratory protection masks in Germany.   More than 80 percent of Germany’s registered doctors are complaining that they cannot procure sufficient protective clothing.   Serious accusations for failing to take preventive measures are being raised against the German government, which has been emphasizing that it is “well prepared.”   Leading German media are denouncing China’s aid as a “propaganda campaign” and accuse the country of being “the cause of the pandemic.”  The only thing missing is the use of Trump’s label of a “Chinese virus.” (German Foreign Policy, 3/24/2020)
  • A growing number of businesses and individuals worldwide have stopped using banknotes in fear that physical currency, handled by tens of thousands of people over their useful life, could be a vector for the spreading coronavirus.   Public officials and health experts have said that the risk of transferring the virus person-to-person through the use of banknotes is small.   But that has not stopped businesses in the US from refusing to accept currency and some countries from urging their citizens to stop using banknotes altogether.   (Times of Israel, 3/20/2020)

 

IRAN VS US – IS THIS THE START OF WW3?

Iranian mourners lift a picture of slain military commander Qasem Soleimani during a funeral procession in the capital Tehran on January 6, 2020.    (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Some years ago, an expert on the Middle East was being interviewed on a TV news program.   He expressed the opinion that World War 3 started in 1979 when the Iranian revolution took place and the ayatollahs came to power, overthrowing the pro-western Shah of Iran.   It was a major failure of US foreign policy, under the leadership of President Jimmy Carter.

Of course, WW3 did not begin then, in the full sense of the term.   But the enmity between the US and Iran that soon followed the revolution lay the foundation for what will eventually become WW3.

Is it going to be soon?

This is not looking probable, as Iran clearly is not up to war with the US.   Crippled by US-imposed sanctions, it does not have the technology to ruinously attack US bases in the Middle East.   It will resort to using “proxies and allies” (BBC News).   This period is being compared to the “phony war” at the start of World War II.   They hope that by keeping up the pressure, they can make Donald Trump a one-term president, just as they did Jimmy Carter.

Little realized is that President Trump has talked about how he would like the US to withdraw from the Middle East.   At the same time, Iran wants the US to leave.   What seems most likely at this time is that isolated terror attacks on US (and allied) bases will wear the US down and result in a withdrawal.

Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” scenario between the West and the Islamic world not only fits the Daniel 11 scenario, but seems very likely as the Islamic world increases its strength and the West continues to decline.

Iran has also started to develop nuclear weapons.  The treaty that held them back in their development has now been torn up and they are free to acquire them as soon as possible.   When this happens, in a few years time, it will be time to start talking about World War 3!

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POST-ASSASSINATION CONSEQUENCES

Eight men were killed when American drones struck a convoy in Baghdad’s international airport.   One of the deaths could shape the Middle East for years.  Qassem Suleimani was one of the most powerful figures in the region.   For 20 years he commanded the Quds Force, the foreign legion of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s long arm in the Middle East.   He gave it reach by nurturing, training and mobilising militias from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Palestine.   They shared the Islamic Republic’s ideology and could be used to strike its regional foes, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and their American backers.   In America, Republicans and Democrats agreed that Mr. Suleimani had blood on his hands, but many worried that killing him was a dangerous escalation.   Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has promised “severe revenge.”   Iraq’s prime minister said the assassination would light the fuse of a regional war.   (The Economist,1/3/2020)

Following the USA’s assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and other high-ranking Iraqi and Iranian military personnel, demands are being raised in Baghdad to expel the foreign troops, including the Bundeswehr.   The Anti-IS Coalition troops, stationed in Iraq, must leave the country, the Iraqi parliament ruled yesterday.   The German government insists on keeping German troops in Iraq to be able to maintain its options for gaining influence in that country.   Berlin had earlier already rejected calls to end its deployment for security reasons.   Camp Taji near Baghdad, where 27 German soldiers are currently stationed, had already come under missile fire in June.   The camp could become a possible target for retaliatory strikes by Iran or pro-Iranian militias.   Whereas the German government euphemizes the assassination of Soleimani as “a line of action undertaken by the United States,” the chairman of the SPD parliamentary group officially called it a “violation of international law.”   A government advisor spoke of “state terrorism.” (German Foreign Policy, 1/6)

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“There will be dead Americans:”   former CIA chief issues warning to Trump as Iran crisis deepens                                                                                Tens of thousands have mourned Soleimani in Iran, as US-Iran tensions have spiked.                                                                                                                           by Clark Mindock, New York

A former top CIA official has warned there will be “dead civilian Americans” as a result of the targeted air strike that killed an Iranian general.

Michael Morell, a former acting and deputy CIA director, said the killing of Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani would spark a “harsh retaliation” from the Iranian government, and that US citizens would be targeted.

“Soleimani was an evil genius.  He had a lot of American blood on his hands.   The world is a better place without him.   The problem is that comes at a very high cost,“ Mr. Morell, who served during Barack Obama’s presidency, told CBS.

“Number one, there will be dead Americans, dead civilian Americans, as a result of this.   Possibly over the next few days in any place where Iran has its proxies, Iraq is the most likely place, but also Lebanon, Bahrain, other places in the Middle East.“

In the days after Soleimani’s assassination at a Baghdad airport, American officials have claimed that US citizens are now safer.     (The Independent, 1/5/2020)

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Millions of Zimbabweans pushed into hunger by drought, spiraling economic meltdown                                                                                                        3 Jan 2020

HARARE – Millions of Zimbabweans pushed into hunger by prolonged drought and economic crisis face an increasingly desperate situation unless adequate funding for a major relief operation materializes quickly, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has warned.    With nearly eight million people – half the population – now food insecure, WFP plans to double the number of people it assists – up to 4.1 million – but needs more than US$200 million for its emergency response in the first half of 2020 alone.    “As things stand, we will run out of food by end of February, coinciding with the peak of the hunger season – when needs are at their highest,” said Niels Balzer, WFP’s Deputy Country Director in Zimbabwe.   “Firm pledges are urgently needed as it can take up to three months for funding commitments to become food on people’s tables,” Balzer added.   Years of drought have slashed food production in Zimbabwe, once an African breadbasket.   This year’s maize harvest was down 50 percent on 2018, with overall cereal output less than half the national requirement.   By August of 2019, WFP was forced to launch an emergency lean season assistance program to meet rising needs, months earlier than anticipated.  Since then, food shortages have become ever more pronounced. This month, maize, was only available in half of the markets WFP monitors countrywide.

Zimbabwe has seen drastic price increases – bread now costs 20 times what it cost six months ago, while the price of maize has nearly tripled over the same period.

(https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/international/millions-of-zimbabweans-pushed-into-hunger-by-drought-spiraling-economic-meltdown-39881934)

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IMMIGRANTS FORMING CLANS

“For decades, police turned a blind eye to extended criminal families, in part to avoid being accused of racial discrimination.   This has made the present-day challenge all the more difficult as clan structures have solidified, parallel societies have formed, and the enemy has grown.” — Deutsche Welle, February 3, 2019.

“There are now half a million people across Germany who belong to a clan . . .   Clans behave in their German surroundings as if they were tribes in the desert.   Everything outside the clan is enemy territory and available for plunder.”   (Ralph Ghadban, a Lebanese-German political scientist and a leading expert on clans in Germany, The German Times, October 2019)

(Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 1/4)

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Global Apathy Toward the Fires in Australia Is a Scary Portent for the Future
by David Wallace-Wells, New York magazine

The response to what’s transpired in Australia — again, over a period that has stretched into months — is unfamiliar, to me at least, and not in a good way.   Those California fires transfixed the world’s attention, but while the ones still burning uncontrolled in Australia have gotten some media attention outside the country, in general they have been treated as a scary, but not apocalyptic, local news story.

The global response to the bushfires has suggested, unfortunately, something more like the opposite:   that no bind of tribal alliance or allegiance is strong enough that we won’t discard it, if discarding it allows us to see the suffering of those living elsewhere on the planet as insignificant to our own lives.

(http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/12/new-south-wales-fires-in-australia-the-worlds-response.html)

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HARRY AND MEGHAN QUIT

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced Wednesday that they are to quit as senior royals.   Instead, they will work toward financial independence, splitting their time between the UK and North America.   The announcement came after they had spent six weeks in Canada.  They pledged their loyalty to the Queen, the Commonwealth and their patronages.

Although it’s only a coincidence, last month, Harry’s Uncle, Prince Andrew, was forced to quit his duties within the royal family due to a scandal.

It is known that Prince Charles wants a slimmed down monarchy. These developments will make it easier for him to achieve his goal.

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TO THE POINT

  • Khamenei’s Defense Advisor General Dehghan:   If Trump’s Logic For Killing Suleimani Was Valid, Then The Iraqis Have The Right To Kill One Million Americans (MEMRI, 1/8)
  • Dearborn, MI – Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni Eulogizes Qasem Soleimani:   He Brought Hope To The Marginalized And Fear To The Enemies Of Islam

(MEMRI, 1/8)

PROXY WAR PITS SAUDIS AGAINST IRAN

Shia-Houthi rebels                                                 Shia-Houthi rebels

The Middle East continues to dominate the headlines.

A proxy war is taking place in strategically located Yemen, between Iran and Saudi Arabia, backed by the US.

The country’s Sunni president was overthrown in January by Shia Houthi rebels from the north.   Supported by Iran, they are moving south, establishing control over a wider area.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of ten Arab countries in an attempt to restore the Sunni led government to power.   The US backs Saudi Arabia, but, as usual, it’s more complicated than that. AQAP (Al Qaeda in Yemen) is also fighting the Houthis.   Even Islamic State, a long way from home, is involved.

It gets messier.

Last week, the 22-nation Arab League met in Sharm el-Sheikh.   In a final communiqué, the 22 nations pledged to form a unified military force to deal with regional security issues.   This primarily means Iran.

The Sunni-Shia conflict is widening and now pits all 22 Arab nations against Iran.

The war in Yemen could also get worse. Most non-Yemenis have flown out of the country, rescued in aircraft sent to the country by their home governments.

Yemen is very important to the Saudis, who neighbor them to the north.   Saudi Arabia is feeling increasingly encircled by Iranian proxies, to the south in Yemen, to the north in Iraq and Syria and also Hezbollah in Lebanon

There is a growing fear that the war could spill over into Saudi Arabia, which has a small Shi’ite population. It could also affect Oman, which has been an oasis of peace under its current leader, Sultan Qaboos.   Bahrain, too, which is the regional naval base for the US Fifth Fleet, could be seriously affected. It’s Sunni king walks a tightrope ruling over a majority Shi’ite population, estimated to be about two thirds of the total number of Bahraini citizens.

Iran has effectively declared war on Sunni Islam. The country is aiding the Iraqi majority Shi’ite government against ISIS.   The US has been helping bomb the rebels, thereby risking accusations of being an Iranian proxy.   But, further south, the US is supporting the Sunnis in Yemen against Iran.

No wonder everybody is confused.   And no wonder our domestic news channels tend to avoid getting into this.   To fully understand the situation, you need a degree in history, another in geography and a third in comparative religion!

Suffice it to say, it’s a real mess.

Interestingly, this week Senator Rand Paul has entered the US presidential campaign.   His isolationist message will inevitably appeal to voters anxious to get out of the Mideast and leave the Sunnis and Shi’ites to fight to the (very) bitter end.  (One opinion poll today shows him leading over Hillary Clinton.)

However, it’s not as simple as that.   The Bible shows us that, out of this quagmire, will come a regional leader who will attack Europe.   A revival of the Roman Empire (the King of the North) will then have to intervene in the region.  You can read about this in the last few verses of Daniel, chapter 11 (verses 40-44).

We can already see the Europeans waking up to the seriousness of the threats coming from the nearby Middle East.   A 25,000 strong rapid reaction force has been established to deal with further Russian aggression.   But it can also be used to deal with problems that arise in the Middle East that may threaten Europe.

The Middle East is not going to calm down.   The problems in the region are only likely to worsen in the future, as we near the time of Christ’s return.