Tag Archives: Syria

PARLIAMENT VS THE PEOPLE

After a mass operation to withdraw the whip from Tory Brexit rebels, Boris Johnson is far short of a working majority.’ Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

In 1642, King Charles I closed down parliament.  It was the trigger for a civil war that ended when Charles was beheaded in 1649.

It also effectively ended royal power.

Today, if the current divisions in Britain result in another civil war, it will be parliament vs the people.

Ridiculous, some may say.   Parliament represents the people.

Not any more.

Not since 2016, when a referendum in the UK showed the majority of people wanted to leave the European Union.   However, the majority in parliament (about 70%), don’t want to leave the EU and they have been fighting to keep Britain in at every opportunity.

Britain’s new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is committed to delivering on Brexit, to giving the people want they want. The deadline is October 31st.   He got the Queen’s permission to close parliament from September 9th, an act that enraged members of parliament.

Now parliament has voted to tie his hands behind his back.   He now cannot leave without a deal.   The Europeans may not give him more time, which means he would have to accept the deal they have already offered, a deal which keeps Britain bound to Europe indefinitely.

Normally, an election would have to be held to resolve the issue.   All  Mr. Johnson needs is a simple majority.   But the opposition Labor Party (and others) do not support an election, knowing they would lose.

Mr. Johnson’s hands are tied.

Sensing that this could mean Britain will NEVER leave the EU, financial markets and the British currency were up, a clear indication of where they stand.

A successful Brexit will be a blow to globalization.   Mike Pence, US Vice President, has just visited and expressed his support, including that of President Trump.

A writer for the London Times this morning predicted that in just two weeks Jeremy Corbyn will be PM and then the economy will crash!

This is a dreadful time for the British people.   “But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them:    “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” (Matt 12:25).

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CORBYN’S NEW ECONOMY                                                                                  by Jim Pickard and Robert Shrimsley”

“A Corbyn government promises a genuine revolution in the British economy.   Labour’s leadership intends to pursue not only a fundamental change in ownership and tax but a systemic effort to embed reform in a way that future parties will struggle to unpick. “We have to do what Thatcher did in reverse,” says Jon Lansman, founder of the Corbyn support group Momentum.   “We have to take decisive steps to both achieve a significant redistribution and create a constituency of an awful lot of people with an obvious stake in a continuing Labour government.”   Labour has announced plans to nationalize rail, water, mail and electricity distribution companies, in addition to higher taxes on the rich.   At the heart of everything is one word:   redistribution.    Redistribution of income, assets, ownership and power.   The mission is to shift power from capital to labour, wresting control from shareholders, landlords and other vested interests and putting it in the hands of workers, consumers and tenants.   “We have to rewrite the rules of our economy,” says Mr. McDonnell.   “Change is coming.”     (“Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to rewrite the rules of the UK economy,” Financial Times, 9/5)

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US ECONOMY — SIGNS OF IMPENDING RECESSION

It can be hard to know when isolated announcements become something more.   Since last November General Motors has cut several thousand factory jobs at plants across the Midwest.   In early August US Steel said it would lay off 200 workers in Michigan.   Sales of camper vans dropped by 23% in the 12 months ending in July, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of workers in Indiana, where many are made.   Factory workers are not the only ones on edge.  Lowes, a retailer, recently said it would slash thousands of jobs.   Halliburton, an oil-services firm, is cutting, too.

In any given month, even at the height of a boom, more than 5m Americans leave a job; nearly 2m are laid off.    Most of the time, however, overall employment grows.   But not all the time.   America may or may not be lurching towards a recession now.   For the time being employment and output continue to grow.   But in the corners of the economy where trouble often rears its head earliest, there are disconcerting portents.  (The Economist)

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ISLAMIC VIEW ON TRUMP, JOHNSON AND ISRAEL

Fatah Revolutionary Council member Dr. Hazem Abu Shanab, the former Palestinian ambassador to Pakistan, said in an August 18, 2019 interview on Alhadath Alyoum TV that U.S. President Donald Trump will be re-elected in 2020 because American society has turned to extremism the same way that Israeli society has favored extremist parties for the past 18 years.   He added that the situation is similar with Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom, and the TV host, Sayyed Ali, said:   “We are creating a Hitler worse than Hitler.” (MEMRI #7431, 8/25)

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FIGHTING FOR GERMANY

“Recently a party represented in the German parliament (Bundestag) published its program for the military.   The program is no secret.   The voters going to the polls in 2 German states on September 1 could know this program.   Up to 28 percent of the voters have chosen the party with this program.   It wants to further militarize Germany.

“The 28 percent party is calling for a radical “restoration of the German Bundeswehr (the German armed forces).”   The military draft should be reinstated and the number of troops “be raised to 23,000 soldiers” – as a “first step.”   An additional 50,000 man reserve would be necessary.   The German military, it literally states, “would be authorized to intervene domestically.”

“The “foreign duties” of the Bundeswehr should be exercised “in every corner of the earth.”   In Europe:   it lays “claim to a military commanding role” – because of “Germany’s geographic situation and economic prominence.”  The highest command level will be a German “General Staff.”

“Germany should also be in command of the European NATO.

“And finally, being the commanding nation, Germany must insist on “participation” in NATO’s “nuclear capabilities.”   In other words, Berlin should have a finger on the trigger of France’s, and eventually also the USA’s nuclear weapons and be in a position to wage also NATO’s nuclear wars.”   (German Foreign Policy, 9/3)

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GERMAN ELECTIONS:   AFD SURGE IN SAXONY AND BRANDENBURG – BBC * 2 Sep 2019

Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party surged in elections in two eastern states, but not enough to oust the ruling coalitions there.   The centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel lost votes in Saxony but still came top with 32%, ahead of AfD’s 27.5%.    In Brandenburg, the state surrounding Berlin, the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) won with 26.2%, while AfD got 23.5%.    AfD is shunned by the other parties.   In both states the other parties will now discuss forming new coalitions – perhaps including the Greens – which will exclude AfD.

The SPD – nationally in government with the CDU – plunged dramatically to 7.7% in Saxony.   Support for AfD grew when it campaigned against Mrs. Merkel’s admission of nearly a million non-EU migrants in 2015.   AfD also drew on discontent in the former communist east over Germany’s closure of loss-making businesses, including coal mines.

AfD’s slogan “let’s complete the change” harked back to the 1989 “Wende” (change), which many eastern Germans see as unfinished business.   Despite huge investment from the richer west, for many people the economic restructuring did not transform their lives as they had hoped.

“We’re satisfied in Brandenburg as well as in Saxony,” AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland said, adding that his party had “punished” Mrs. Merkel’s conservatives.   But despite the gains, the result may disappoint AfD as the party had hoped to come top in Brandenburg, the BBC’s Damien McGuinness reports from Berlin.

The CDU state premier of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, said, “I’m very happy with the result,” but added that opposition messages had made an impact on social media.   “The filter bubble on the internet is so powerful, and in 20 months you cannot reach everyone,” he told broadcaster ARD.    The CDU-SPD national coalition is due to last until federal elections in 2021, and a collapse could trigger a snap election or result in a minority government.

Mrs. Merkel herself plans to step down as chancellor in 2021, having already resigned as CDU leader at the end of last year.   (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49544781)

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ISRAEL AND IRAN ARE AT WAR

Israel and Iran are at war.  Israeli strikes this week in southern Syria, western Iraq and eastern Lebanon – and possibly even Beirut – confirm it.

This war is a very 21st-century affair.   For now it involves only small circles among the Israeli and Iranian populations.   Parts of the air force, intelligence services and probably special forces are active on the Israeli side.   The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its expeditionary Quds Force and proxy politico-military organizations in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are engaged on behalf of Iran.

The war marks a hinge point in Middle Eastern geopolitics.   For the past decade and a half, the region has been engaged mainly with internal strife:   civil wars, insurgencies and mass protests.   These are now largely spent, leaving a broken landscape along the northern route from Iran to Israel.   (Jonathan Spyer, Middle East Forum, 8/28)

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ISRAEL FACES SERIOUS ESCALATION IN WAR WITH IRAN

The fact that Israel has found it necessary to attack targets so far from its traditional area of military operations close to its immediate borders is indicative of the alarming escalation that has taken place in recent months in the threat Iran poses to Israeli security.

Earlier this week, in Lebanon, an Israeli drone was reported to have bombed a Palestinian base that is said to be funded by Iran. Israeli warplanes were also reported to have bombed Iranian military bases on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus.

The very idea of Washington sitting down with the Iranians at a time when it is continuing to threaten the security of its closest Middle Eastern ally would be unconscionable.

The reality is that there can be no meaningful dialogue between Washington and Tehran on a future deal so long as Iran remains committed to its long-standing policy of seeking the wholesale destruction of the Jewish state.   (Con Coughlin, Gatestone, 8/29)

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CALL FOR AMERICAN THEOCRACY

The Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA) held its 2019 annual convention on July 5-7 in Philadelphia.   Just as with last year’s conference – also held in the nation’s birthplace — there was no shortage of extremist speakers sharing the podium.   But in contrast to 2018, this time the focus was squarely on the Islamist charge into the political sphere.   Speakers claimed that Islam required believers to gain political power, impose an Islamic doctrine on America, and fundamentally reshape American society.

Ayman Hammous, executive director of the Muslim American Society (MAS, the American affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood), stated that “Islam is needed at the spiritual level, at the social level, at the political level.”   Movita Johnson-Harrell, a state representative from Pennsylvania, called on Muslims to “occupy every space of this world.”   (Martha Lee and Benjamin Baird, Middle East Forum, 8/2)

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GERMANY AND FRANCE TO BOOST MILITARY PRESENCE IN SAHEL

 

(Own report) – Berlin and Paris have announced an initiative to increase the militarization of the Sahel. The initiative is called the “Partnership for Security and Stability in the Sahel,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel explained last Sunday at the G7 summit in Biarritz. According to Merkel, within this framework “troops and police forces” from five regional countries should be “reinforced nationally.”  For this purpose new financial means will be made available, French President Emmanuel Macron explained. This project is the EU’s third attempt to control tensions and conflicts in the Sahel with increased militarization. With much fanfare, the EU had launched the EUTM Mali training mission in 2013 and strengthened the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali MINUSMA with soldiers from Europe. In 2017, Germany and France had promoted the establishment of the “G5 Sahel” intervention force. The conflicts had increased each time and have already spread beyond Mali to other countries, some even involving ethnic massacres.   (German Foreign Policy, 8/28)

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NON-RELIGIOUS MAJOR FORCE IN DNC

The Democratic National Committee passed a resolution Saturday claiming nonreligious people are “the largest religious group” within the party, noting these people “overwhelmingly share the Democratic Party’s values.”

The resolution came forward at the DNC’s summer meeting in San Francisco, and it was pushed through with unanimous consent.   The lobbying group Secular Coalition of America praised its passage as the first time a major American political party has “embraced nonbelievers,” according to Fox News.

The resolution states that nonreligious people make up 25 percent of the national population and 35 percent of people under the age of 30.   Of these, 70 percent voted for  Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections, the document notes.   It continues that these people “have often been subjected to unfair bias and exclusion in American society,” asserting that many religious Americans have sought to infringe on their rights.”  (American Truth Today, 8/30)

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US MILITARY’S MOST OVERWEIGHT MEMBERS ARE IN THE NAVY

Sailors need remedial physical training

That could be one just one of many conclusions drawn by a recent Department of Defense study that found the Navy earned the dubious honor of surpassing all other branches in its rate of obese personnel.   The overall rate of fat service members is also up from recent years, with the percentage of personnel weighing in at obese standards climbing to over 17 percent, according to a Health of the DoD Force study.   That number spiked to over a quarter of service members over the age of 35.   For the Navy, the overall number of obese personnel was a shocking 22 percent.  The other branches reported the following frequency of obesity: Air Force: 18 percent; Army: 17 percent; Marine Corps: 8.3 percent.

While the Marine Corps was the least overweight of the bunch — a characteristic partially attributable to the Corps having the youngest average age of personnel — the Marines reported the highest rate of knee and back injuries.

“The Department of Defense, our nation’s largest employer, spends about $1.5 billion annually in obesity-related health care costs for current and former service members and their families, as well as costs to replace unfit personnel,” a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed.   Overweight and obese active duty military also cost DoD $103 million per year in the form of 658,000 lost workdays, the study found.

A 2018 RAND Report that analyzed rates of both obese and overweight troops painted a grim picture of the military’s physical fitness standards.  The study, featuring roughly 18,000 randomly selected participants across each of the service branches, reported that almost 66 percent of service members are considered to be either overweight or obese, based on the same BMI measurement standard used in the DoD study.    Broken down by service, the 2018 report lists the Army as the branch accounting for the highest percentage of overweight troops, with 69.4 percent of soldiers falling under this category.  The Army was followed by the Coast Guard (67.8 percent), Navy (64.6 percent), Air Force (63.1 percent) and Marine Corps (60.9 percent).

(https://www.militarytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2019/09/03/this-branch-takes-the-cake-as-the-us-militarys-fattest/)

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ALTERNATIVE VIEW

Over thirty years ago, Jeremy Paxman presented an above average in-depth news program on BBC2 called Newsnight. I used to watch it when I got home late from visiting or giving an evening Bible Study. Mr. Paxman, of Jewish descent, lives in England, but has the insightfulness of an outsider.

I’ve recently spent time reading two of his books: “On Royalty” (2006) and “The English” (1998).   I was surprised to see the following in the latter, on page 94. I reproduce it for your interest.

“Nineteenth century missionaries sent out to convert the colonized peoples of the world sincerely believed they were spreading the word from a New Jerusalem in England.   It was only a short step to the crackpot belief propounded by Edward Hine in a lecture in Chelsea in 1879 that Great Britain was Israel, the Americans the lost tribe of Manasseh, the Irish the Canaanites, and that Jacob’s Stone was really in Westminster Abbey.   It was, his followers claimed, the only explanation for the extraordinary success of the English people. According to this theory, the Jews of ancient Israel had been captured by Assyrians led by King Sargon, had migrated across Europe and eventually emerged as the Anglo-Saxons.   As late as the 1960s, an American, Herbert W Armstrong was repeating the “chosen people” theory:

‘Certainly there can be no mistaking the identity!   Take a map of Europe, lay a line due northwest of Jerusalem across the continent of Europe until you come to the sea, and then to the islands in the sea.   This line takes you direct to the British Isles! Proof that our white, English speaking people today – British and American – are actually and truly the Birthright tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh of the ‘lost’ House of Israel.’

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QUOTE

“Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade the sphere of private life,” Lord Melbourne, British prime minister, friend and mentor to Queen Victoria.

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US AND UK OUT OF COMMISSION

“In the United States and the United Kingdom – two of the world’s oldest democracies – national governments are at a standstill.   This, for better or worse, could be the future of politics.   It will be a system in which things have to get worse before they can get … worse.    Perpetual political gridlock: it won’t be pretty, and for many it may be painful.

“Both the US government’s shutdown and the UK’s Brexit have become problems with no exit.   Every strategy offered fails for lack of legislative support or national leadership.   The American and British political classes look intellectually exhausted and clueless about a path forward.”  (Gridlock is the new normal,” by Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, 1/17/19)

The above about sums it up.   The two nations that have dominated the world for as long as anybody can remember are essentially out of commission.

What will this mean?

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AMERICAN WITHDRAWAL FROM MIDDLE EAST

Middle East Chaos Will Escalate Following the Departure of the Americans:   If America departs the Middle East, then the region will become a free-for-all for others.    

The National Interest * January 17, 2019, by Tanya Goudsouzian: a Canadian journalist who has covered Iraq and Afghanistan for over fifteen years.  She is former Opinion editor of Al Jazeera English Online.

The inexorable direction of the U.S. administration is towards less intervention, less engagement, and fewer “dumb wars in the Middle East.”   Although Pompeo may trumpet steadfastness, the U.S. president can pivot on a dime.

The smart money is on disengagement from the region and anyone who thinks subsequent administrations will rush back in will probably be disappointed.

In filling that vacuum in Syria, expect the Russians, the Iranians and the Turks to rush in or stay in.  They have kept their eyes on the prize; to them, it’s not just about Syria but the whole region.

. . . Europe must also understand the consequences of yielding significant Western influence in the region.

. . . More Russian territorial influence means less European territorial influence.   More Chinese trade crowds out European trade.   Iranian ideological expansion displaces Arab cultural norms. All mean “less Europe,” and certainly more instability.

. . . America’s departure will not be leaving the region to itself, but to a free-for-all for others.   And to put it bluntly, the others may not (and probably do not) share the vision or values of the European experiment.    If Europe is unwilling to “up its game” when the Americans withdraw, then it may find the only thing worse than U.S. hegemony is everything else

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TRUMP THREAT TO ISRAEL

“The strategic reality facing the new chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, will depend largely on one factor – the political situation in the United States.   More precisely, it will depend on the vagaries of U.S. President Donald Trump.    At the outset of 2019, the Trump administration continues to convey uncertainty and instability.   The amount of news generated by the president in one week, like this past one, is equivalent to several months’ worth with previous presidents.

“Trump hunkered down in the White House, telling interviewers that he hadn’t emerged in months, forgetting for a moment his frequent trips.   He’s up to his neck in the crisis resulting from the government shutdown, continuing with his promises to build his wall on the Mexican border.   But the latest crisis is only a symptom.   The deluge of headlines in recent days included the following.

“The FBI investigation into Trump began right after he was sworn in two years ago, on suspicions he was a spy or acting on Russia’s behalf.   There was a report he was considering an American withdrawal from NATO, an idea whose very mention sends shivers down the spines of strategic experts, Democrats and Republicans alike.   There was also news of a secret plan initiated by the national security adviser, John Bolton, for attacking targets in Iran.”  (“A wild card thousands of miles away,” by Amos Harel, Haaretz, January 18)

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US-EUROPEAN TRADE WAR

“Transatlantic trump trading” was the title of today’s Brussels Briefing, by Jim Brunsden.

“Ideally trade negotiations between countries should begin on a note of hope:   the desire to deepen economic ties, nurturing prosperity and friendship among their peoples.

But optimism and positivity are not the words that first come to mind when thinking about the talks about to start between the EU and US.

Brussels is expected today to publish its plans for negotiations with Washington that were conceived last year as a way to divert Donald Trump from initiating a full blown transatlantic trade war.”

Things aren’t looking good.   Expect a full-blown trade war between the two trading superpowers.

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BREXIT

The PM has pulled out of a scheduled appearance at Davos next weekend to handle her crisis at home.   (Politico)

Mrs. May has ruled out any further delays on Brexit.   Speaking with Holland’s PM, Mark Rutte, she convinced the PM that there would be no attempt to prolong Brexit beyond March 29th.

The Labour Party’s leader, Jeremy Corbin, gave a strong anti-EU speech, finally making it clear where he stands on the issue.

Leo Varadkar, Irish Prime Minister, is a major obstacle to Brexit.   Brexiteer Lord Lamont says that his refusal to amend the “Irish backstop” makes it impossible to reach agreement on other issues.

From Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail, 1/19/19:

“Current events in Britain’s Parliament are making politics in both Israel and America look positively sane and tranquil by comparison.

Around the world, jaws are dropping at the UK’s convulsions over leaving the European Union.   This resembles not so much a divorce as an amputation without anesthetic using blunt knives and a broken saw, with the surgeons throwing punches across the operating table.

“This week, the deal struck between Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU over the Brexit terms was thrown out by an enormous majority in the House of Commons.

Although this was the largest prime ministerial defeat in British history, Mrs. May survived a motion of no-confidence the following evening.”

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LA PUBLIC SCHOOLS STRIKE

LA teachers are on strike, demanding more pay and smaller classes. Sometimes, there are up to 35 pupils per class.

That’s definitely too many.   By comparison, there are 26 in one of my grandchildren’s schools.   The others are in the mid-twenties.  Private schools keep theirs down to 20, which is why their children receive more attention.

One reason for the mess in Los Angeles is that the schools are overwhelmed by immigrants.   One school reported on this week is 70% Hispanic, only 10% white.

It’s impossible for schools to keep up with the demand on their services.

Immigration is a major focus of Brexit – most people voted for Brexit because they wanted less European immigrants in the country.   It’s the same thing here in the US – most people want to keep the country as it is, and not allow other cultures to dominate.   Those at the bottom have to compete with new immigrants who are willing to work for less.

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And finally . . .

 

SYRIAN WITHDRAWAL RISKS ISIS REBOUND

U.S. Soldiers observe Turkish forces in the distance while on patrol outside Manbij, Syria, August 7, 2018.  These independent, coordinated patrols are to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS in the region. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nicole Paese)

Wednesday US President Donald Trump announced that America had beaten ISIS and would soon depart from Syria.   The decision involves 2,200 US military personnel.   The news that ISIS had been beaten came as a surprise to allies and enemies alike.

Later in the day, the following was posted by germanforeignpolicy.com:

(Own report) – “German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ brief visit to Baghdad is accompanied by reports that the IS militia (Islamic State) is regaining strength.   Maas was in the Iraqi capital yesterday for talks with Iraq’s new Prime Minister to emphasize Berlin’s push for obtaining stronger influence in Iraq.   He also promoted a billion-euro deal with Siemens and listened to his Baghdad counterpart’s call for Iraqi refugees to return to their homeland.   According to reports, Iraqi authorities are not only responsible for the slow reconstruction of Sunni regions, but Sunnis are being also detained arbitrarily, tortured or condemned to death without proof of guilt. “This is not just revenge on the IS,” explained a senior intelligence officer, “this is revenge on Sunnis.”   Observers warn that this will refill the ranks of the still existing IS in clandestinity, which has again “taken the offensive.””

“As Christmas and the New Year approach, Islamic State (ISIS) supporters have begun to produce posters threatening terror attacks against Christians and inhabitants of Western countries during the holiday season.   Some of the posters threaten impending attacks, particularly by lone operatives, as retaliation for ongoing airstrikes on the organization’s strongholds in eastern Syria, by the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.   Others warn Westerners not to leave their homes on Christmas, while some posters specifically threaten attacks in New York City and London.”   (MEMRI, 12/20)

President Putin praises move to withdraw from Syria, saying that there is no need for US troops to be in the country.   So, why do Russian troops need to be there?

Two headlines from Thursday’s Wall StreetJournal:

“US Pullout could boost ISIS in Syria.”                                                         “Quick exit would add to struggles of Kurdish-led force fighting militant group.”

Additionally, President Trump is to pull 7,000 troops out of Afghanistan.

TWO FOREIGN GIRLS KILLED BY ISIS IN MOROCCO:   Two Scandinavian tourists, aged 24 and 28, were beheaded in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains by men claiming allegiance to ISIS.

BREAKING NEWS: (Friday AM)

ISIS threatens Drone Attack on New York City 

ISIS has issued a chilling new threat to plague the US and the EU with drone attacks.   It comes after a drone near London’s Gatwick Airport caused travel chaos with hundreds of flights cancelled.  

The extremist group widely used drones bought over the counter when it was defending its so-called Caliphate in Syria and Iraq.   Some were used for spy missions while others were adapted to drop grenades and bombs.

Gun cops deployed at Gatwick are continuing to work with elite Army troops and MI5 spooks as they hunt the drones and last night said shooting them down was a “tactical option.”   The saboteur has been playing cat-and-mouse with cops after shutting down Britain’s second busiest airport by drones over the runway 50 times since Wednesday night.  Sharpshooters are today continuing to try to bring down the device – while MI5 spooks were called in to track down the suspect.   Experts say the skilled drone operator – feared to be a lone-wolf green protester – could be controlling the industrial scale craft from up to five miles away.  (Similar claims are in UK tabloids, The Sun and Daily Mail)

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FOUR-YEAR DROUGHT PLUNGES CENTRAL KAROO FARMERS INTO FINANCIAL DISTRESS

CAPE TOWN – Farmers in the central Karoo say they are in financial distress due to a four-year drought.  Farmer’s organisation, Agri Central Karoo, says it’s the worst and longest drought in living memory.   Producers have been unable to grow crops or feed for their livestock.   Agri Central Karoo manager Dêan Gous says the region has only been receiving light rain of two to three millimetres at a time.   He says downpours of at least 20 millimetres are needed.  Gous says farmers are forced to buy expensive feed, while many are being turned away by banks and the co-op.  “My main concern is the people’s cash flow.  We’re past the stage of banks helping us, so now people must dip into their investment money and pension funds.”  He welcomes the Western Cape government’s intervention and drought relief but warns that production cannot be sustained.  “This is not enough . . .  so the main thing is people are decreasing their numbers on the shelves.”  (https://ewn.co.za/2018/12/21/four-year-drought-plunges-central-karoo-farmers-into-financial-distress)

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30,000 JOBS LOST IN WESTERN CAPE AGRICULTURE SECTOR DUE TO DROUGHT — The Western Cape Economic Opportunities Department says the drought has had a massive impact on the agricultural sector

CAPE TOWN – The Western Cape Economic Opportunities Department says the drought has cost about 30,000 jobs in the agriculture sector.  That is 1.5% of all jobs in the Western Cape. Agri Central Karoo says the area is experiencing the worst and longest drought in living memory.  Farmers say they are finding it impossible to farm due to low rainfall. The Western Cape Economic Opportunities Department says the drought has had a massive impact on the agricultural sector. MEC Beverley Schäfer says it has a large impact on jobs and economic growth in the province:   “We’ve already seen a R5.9 billion drop in gross value add, which is about 25% of the value of agriculture production and a 20% decrease in production in general.”   Agri Central Karoo said on Thursday that due to the drought farmers are unable to grow crops or feed their flocks.   Agri Central Karoo manager Dêan Gous says more assistance is needed from the government. Schäfer says they are doing their best and adds that since November support to the farmers in the Central Karoo has increased.   Schäfer says the government is supporting 563 farmers and is spending R8.1 million per month.  (12/21)

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Russia’s Vladimir Putin warns about growing threat of nuclear war

If the US puts intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Russia will take countermeasures, Putin said at his end-of-year press conference.  He warned the “threshold” for the use of nuclear weapons was getting lower.

An attempt to lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons could potentially result in an all-out nuclear war, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned during his traditional end-of-year press conference on Thursday.  It is the first such event since the beginning of Putin’s new presidential term in May and the fourteenth for him in total.

“There is a tendency to lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons,” he said.  “In the West, there is this idea of using low-yield nuclear weapons.  The use of such weapons could lead to a global disaster,” the Russian leader stressed.

Putin pointed at the US intention to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.   He said that if the US puts intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to take countermeasures.

The Russian leader also warned against developing tactical nuclear warheads and conventional long-range ballistic missiles.   According to him, both are dangerous, because they increase the threat of an incidental nuclear war.

“We are currently observing the collapse of the international system for containing weapons,” he added.

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A global credit ‘heart attack’ is just months away

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

20 December 2018 — 11:36am                                                                   Surging borrowing costs for companies in the US and Europe threaten a recession within months and resemble events leading up to the global credit “heart attack” in August 2007.

Risk spreads on American high-yield debt have jumped since early October.   Credit experts say this is the delayed fallout from months of double-barrelled monetary tightening by the US Federal Reserve.

The US central bank is raising interest rates and at the same time shrinking its balance sheet by $US50 billion  a month, perhaps draining more liquidity from global financial markets than intended.

Simon Ward from Janus Henderson said his leading indicator for the health of US companies – the cash supply available to non-financial business (M1) – has turned starkly negative for the first time since the Lehman crisis.

This points to a sharp slowdown next year. “When this measure of cash contracts it means companies plan to cut back,” he said.

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The deal with the EU will turn us into captives                                 By Boris Johnson 19 Nov 2018 — 11:45 PM

Well, it seems my predictions of last week were, if anything, too optimistic.  If MPs vote for this deal, we are bowing our neck to the yoke.

We are preparing to take colonial rule by foreign powers and courts. We are handing over colossal sums of money for nothing.   We are giving up the hope of new free-trade deals. We are giving up the right to vary our laws.   We are betraying Leavers and Remainers alike: we are poised to abandon any UK influence in Brussels, and yet we are signally failing to take back control.

In fact, we are surrendering control to the EU – and this 585-page fig-leaf does nothing to cover the embarrassment of our total defeat.

Boris Johnson argues that the Brexit deal will turn Britons into captives.

In the protocol on Northern Ireland, there is a note almost of malice, as though the EU is punishing us by the surgical severing of part of the UK.   From one convoluted paragraph to the next, you can follow the plot to amputate Northern Ireland and keep it in the EU – run by the EU, but with no influence in Brussels except via Dublin.

Today, No 10 continues to brief that there can still be a future Canada-style free-trade deal and that one day we can still take back control of our laws and our tariffs. But from the Treasury you hear a very different message: that this is the end-state providing the blessed “certainty” that business has been craving.

They can’t both be right – so which is it?   Is the Government serious about staying in the customs union and single market, or is it serious about democracy, free trade and Brexit?   After two years of this tragedy, I think we all know the answer to that one.

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YELLOW VEST RIOTS SPREAD

  • Across Western Europe, ordinary citizens feel ignored and condescended to by their political, business, academic, and media elites.   Against the will of most of these citizens, their leaders are gradually surrendering their nations’ sovereignty to the EU.
  • Also against these citizens’ will, their nations have been flooded with Muslim immigrants who embody a major cultural challenge, have caused massive social unrest, and represent a devastating economic burden.
  • Although it is increasingly obvious that taxpayer-funded Islamization is leading Western Europe down the wrong path, the EU, which stands foursquare behind this disastrous development, refuses to reverse course.
  • Perhaps the question should not be why Western Europeans are rioting but why they did not start rioting a long time ago.

(By Bruce Bawer, Gatestone, 12/18)

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Australia recognises West Jerusalem as Israeli capital .    Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that his government will recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

BBC * 15 Dec 2018                                                                                              However, he said Australia’s embassy would not move from Tel Aviv, until a peace settlement was achieved.

He added Australia also recognised the aspirations of the Palestinians to a state with a capital in East Jerusalem.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contested issues between Israel and the Palestinians.

US President Donald Trump drew international criticism last year when he reversed decades of American foreign policy by recognising the ancient city as Israel’s capital.   The US embassy was relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.

 

MAY SURVIVES NO CONFIDENCE VOTE

Bible prophecy shows that Europe and the Middle East are to be the main focus of end-time events.   Recent and future developments show continuing upheaval in both regions.

In a parliamentary system, there is provision for a vote of no confidence in the prime minister.   Mrs. Theresa May survived a vote this week.   200 MPs supported her, with 117 voting against.

The fact that she has survived to see Brexit through to completion, however, is not necessarily a good thing.   Mrs. May has been racking up the frequent flyer miles flying around to European capitals in pursuit of a “deal,” a deal that will keep the UK close to Europe after the people voted to leave it!

The Europeans have said that they will not offer anything better than the deal they offered a few weeks ago, a deal that will, effectively, make the United Kingdom a vassal state of the European Union.   Some deal!

Why is the British prime minister so intent on a “deal” that will enslave the country for decades to come?   Why can’t England walk away from the EU, which is what the voters voted for in the referendum of 2016?   Doesn’t anybody have any recollection of how the United Kingdom was a successful trading nation prior to the EU?   Clearly not – as they don’t think that Britain is up to it any more!

As the game picture at the top of this article shows, there is a great deal of negativity in the UK right now.   Positive voices are few and far between.   (The game resembles the London Underground map.)

The only hope left is if the country ends up with “no deal” on March 29th.   Then, she will be free to pursue other trade deals with nations around the globe.

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GERMANY MOVING IN A NEW DIRECTION

Britain isn’t the only country finding it hard to break away from a super-power.

Germany, too, is feeling “impotent rage at not being able to declare independence from America.”   These words are the opinion of Andreas Kluth, editor-in-chief of Handelsblatt Global.   His article on the subject appears in the Economist special edition, predicting trends for 2019.   The title of the article is “The epiphany of German weakness.”

“In 2019 Germany will face a crisis:  not an economic or political one, but an intellectual and psychological crisis that could be just as wrenching.   For the first time, the German public at large will fully absorb what Berlin elites have known for years:   Germany has no viable foreign or security policy to survive the passing of Pax Americana.”

Since World War II, Germany has submitted herself to the leadership of two other western powers.   First, the United States.   Through membership of NATO and other international institutions, Germany has played a vital but secondary role in international affairs.   Secondly, to France, through the European Union.

Mrs. Merkel is leaving office at a time when these two pillars are crumbling.   The United States, under Donald Trump, has “nullified every assumption that Germany … made since 1945.”   Germany, now under great pressure from the US to contribute more to western defense, can actually now break free from US dominance and go her own way.   But in which direction should she go?   Mrs. Merkel’s successor will have to pave a new path for the country.

At the same time as relations with Washington are changing, so are relations with neighboring France.   Mr. Macron, the French president, began his presidency 18 months ago with a bold new vision for Europe.   This vision is now in ruins as the people revolt against his leadership and the economy is seriously threatened by continued riots.   At the very least, Mr. Macron will have to focus his attention more on France itself; there will be little or no time for Europe.

This coincides with Brexit, which will see the United Kingdom leaving Europe.

So, out of the Big 3, only one is left able to lead the European project. And that country is Germany.

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US PULLING OUT OF MIDEAST?

A second article in The Economist’s “The World in 2019,” predicts “The end of American hegemony” in the Middle East.   This process began a few years ago.

“In 1972 Anwar Sadat expelled Soviet military advisers from Egypt, setting the state for decades of American dominance, and much violent disappointment, in the Middle East.   In 2013 President Barack Obama surrendered America’s hegemony when he refused to take military action against Syria’s use of poison gas, and later sought a nuclear accommodation with Iran.   Donald Trump, by contrast, has lobbed missiles at Syria and menaced Iran.   But as he swings between threatening to crush foes, and getting out entirely, the latter instinct will dominate.   Sometimes events, his advisers or domestic politics may compel him to take action.   But Mr. Trump will mostly prove even more detached than Mr. Obama.”   (Article by Anton LaGuardia, deputy foreign editor, The Economist.)

American detachment from the Middle East will likely result in continuing conflicts in Yemen, Libya, Syria; it could also mean no deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians; and we will likely see Iran strengthened both domestically and regionally, with Hezbollah posing a greater threat to Israel.

American detachment will also see Russia filling the gap, with European nations desperate to halt Russian encroachment into the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PROPHESIED EVENTS SPEEDING UP UNDER TRUMP

When President Trump was elected, many Christians thought this would mean a delay in prophesied end-time events, as America was “made great again”.

The opposite seems to be the case.

As Sky News put it following Mr. Trump’s announcement that the United States is pulling out of the Iran deal, the president’s proclamation sent an “earthquake” through the Middle East.

Rather than delaying prophesied events, Mr. Trump is speeding them up, laying the groundwork for rapid escalation.

Consider the following:

  1. The growing rift between Europe and America.   Less than a month after French President Emmanuel Macron paid a seemingly highly successful visit to Washington, DC, the French today condemned America over the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, calling the decision “unacceptable.”   Earlier in the week, France, Germany and the UK all expressed support for the Iranian deal, refusing to support the US.

It should be emphasized that it is not Europe distancing itself from America; it’s America that keeps on making decisions that are taking the country down a new path of isolationism.

It’s America that is changing, not the rest of the world.   But changes decided in Washington are going to have a profound effect internationally.

Just today, European Union boss Jean-Claude Juncker is capitalizing on America’s decision to call once again for a United States of Europe with its own, single, unified military.

At some point, prophecy shows that ten nations in Europe will unite to form a formidable military, political and economic alliance.   You can read about this in Revelation, chapter 17.   “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.” (Rev.  17:12-13)

  1.  Pressure from the US on Berlin to build up the German military.

After two world wars that were started by Germany, you would think nobody would want to rearm the country that lies at the heart of Europe.   And that has been the case with every Administration since World War II.   But now it’s changing, as President Trump feels that the Germans must spend more on the defense of the western alliance – which may not be an alliance much longer!   Building up its military will leave Germany in the perfect position to lead the ten nation revival of the Roman Empire.

  1. Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, thereby recognizing the city as the “eternal capital” of Israel.   No other major nation has followed America in this.   This is just one decision that has changed the Middle East dramatically.

The Old Testament Book of Zechariah is a Millennial prophecy, which speaks to us today.   It contains prophecies which could not have been fulfilled until the restoration of the Jewish nation exactly seventy years ago. Note chapter 12, verses 2 & 3.

 “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem.    And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.”

Judah is the biblical name for the modern nation of Israel, whose population is mostly Jewish, people who are descendants of the ancient tribe of Judah.

Given time, conflict around Jerusalem will involve more nations. Note Zech 14:2:  “ For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle.”

  1. US support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has emboldened Israel to strike at Iran in Syria.   It’s worth remembering that it was Netanyahu who warned President George W Bush about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, calling on Washington to do something.   That did not work out well.   Could we see greater intervention by the United States in a rising conflict between Israel and Iran?   Iran this week attacked Israel for the first time.
  2. Add to this, the growing conflict between Shia and Sunni Islam, with the US clearly supporting Sunni Muslim countries (notably Saudi Arabia) against Shi’ite countries (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon).
  3. The decision to tear up the climate change treaty, signed in Paris.   Mr. Macron tried to change President Trump’s mind, but failed.   People may criticize the US president for many things, but he’s certainly fulfilling his election promises, including this one.   The rest of the world remains committed to the treaty.
  4. Trade is another area of growing conflict, as President Trump puts “America First.”   Here certainly the US has many grievances on unfair trade practices, but, again, it adds to the growing sense of divergence, as the US moves in a different direction from the rest of the world.   Other nations continue to support globalization as a way to universal prosperity.

This growing trade war could even backfire on the US, if China decides to divest itself of US dollars. The result would be a serious downward pull on the greenback’s international value.

Even in less important areas, there has been significant change.   For the first time, royal wedding planners had to announce that no politicians will be invited to next week’s wedding.   This was the only way out of inviting the US president to a wedding where the bride is an American.   But the alternative was a massive demonstration outside the church, thereby giving the British a security headache.

It’s not that all the changes are wrong.   As an article headline in the Wall Street Journal put it:   “Everything about Trump is bad, except for all his policies.”   Rather, it’s the combined effect that all the changes are making that has sent an earthquake around the world. The aftershocks will be with us for some time.

Many Christians will no doubt continue to believe that Trump is going to reverse America’s fortunes and usher in a new glorious age, but it seems more likely that the radical departure from previous policies is only going to speed up the prophesied events that culminate in the return of Jesus Christ.

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CBS this morning showed a few minutes of an interview with the Pope, to be broadcast in its entirety on “60 Minutes” this Sunday.  This morning, the pope was talking about the Jewish seventh day sabbath being a day of rest.  He actually used the terms “seventh day” and “sabbath.”

IMMINENT MISSILE ATTACK ON SYRIA

“Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap. (Isaiah 17:1) 

By an amazing coincidence, I have been reading a book on “Munich” while the current crisis in Syria has been building up.

At Munich in 1938, Hitler and Chamberlain met to discuss Hitler’s claims on German Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.   Chamberlain famously gave in to his demands. The former British PM described Nazi Germany’s annexation of the area of German-speaking Czechoslovakia in 1938 as “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of which we know nothing.”

Similar words could be spoken today about Syria.

At the time of writing this article, President Trump is deciding on how to react to Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its own people. If the US does nothing, nobody else will.   In 1938 Neville Chamberlain, as British Prime Minister, was the leader of the western world; today it’s President Trump.   Less than a year after Chamberlain’s famous appeasement toward Hitler, Britain and Germany were at war.   It had become all too clear, even to Chamberlain, that Hitler was intent on global conquest.

There’s been plenty of evidence that Russia has similar territorial designs.   The Russians took control of part of Georgia a few years ago; this was followed by the conquest of Crimea and of eastern Ukraine.   Domination of Syria makes them the most powerful voice in the Middle East.  This role is growing – last month, Putin met with the leaders of Iran and Turkey in Ankara.  These three are now in a de facto alliance while Turkey remains officially in NATO.

Geoffrey Wawro, a professor at the University of North Texas, wrote a book called “Quicksand” (2010), on “America’s pursuit of power in the Middle East.”   Reviewer Rick Atkinson sums the book up well, writing that Wawro reveals “how an extraordinary tale of idealism, politics, force and miscalculation began and unfolded over the last century.”

The more the US got involved, the more the US was sucked in; hence the title “Quicksand.”   Why should we expect any other outcome following action in Syria?   Could US intervention lead to war with Russia?

“There was no reason for war in 1914, beyond the murder of an archduke in Bosnia.   As AJP Taylor said of 1914:   “Nowhere was there a conscious determination to provoke a war.   Statesmen miscalculated [and] became prisoners of their own weapons.   The great armies, accumulated to provide security and preserve the peace, carried the nations to war by their own weight.”   I wonder what Taylor would have said of Trump’s “Get ready, Russia” tweet.” (“Look at Syria and you can see all the elements that have led to world wars,” Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, April 12th.)

A miscalculation now could be fatal for the US, Russia and Syria.

SYRIAN COMPLEXITIES

Syria is a perfect illustration of the complexity of modern warfare and the geopolitics that complicate everything.

Syria was established after World War One and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.   After “the war to end all wars,” the Treaty of Paris carved out a number of new countries from the ruins of the Turkish ruled empire.   The treaty was aptly described as “the peace to end all peace” by a British general who saw a future of never-ending conflict in the region.   A century later nothing has improved.

Before World War One, Mesopotamia was a sleepy backwater of no interest to anyone.   The same could be said of Syria.   Bible students know that this had to change to fulfill apocalyptic prophecies about Israel (the Jews) and its neighbors.   The prophesied Jewish national homeland was established exactly seventy years ago, in May 1948.

Syria was a Mandated territory of the League of Nations.   France was given the mandate; Britain was given Iraq and Jordan to administer, again under a Mandate from the League.   Palestine was also a League of Nations mandated territory, given to the British.

After World War Two, the French left Syria.   It soon fell under the Soviet sphere of influence.   From 1970 Syria has been the home of a Russian naval base, the only one Russia has on the Mediterranean. The Russians are not going to give it up.   And they will support President Assad as long as it is in their interest to do so.

The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 helped Russia to gain further influence in the region.   By removing Saddam Hussein from power and arranging an election in Iraq, the majority Shi’ites came to power, altering the balance of religious and political power in the Middle East.   Iran is the leading nation of Shia Islam.   An arc of Shia Islam now exists, from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, roughly the same territory of the ancient biblical King of the North. Russia is heavily involved with the Iranians and Syria.   Turkey is now also with them, wanting to stop its Kurdish minority from breaking away.   The Turks are not Arabs, so this does not present a conflict for them.

Syria is not majority Shia.   Assad’s support comes mostly from his Alawite clan, a branch of Shia Islam, which amounts to only 11% of the population.   The Sunnis do not want to be ruled by Assad. Neither do the Sunnis in Iraq want a Shia government over them.  This is why ISIS formed, to “protect” Sunnis from Shi’ites.

It’s all very complicated.

No wonder the president is taking his time.

If he does nothing, he will be seen as weak against Syria and the Russians.  If he does something, innocent lives will be lost, but Assad will remain in power and Russia will continue as its benefactor.

A further complication came today when the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced that Moscow has “evidence” the video of the gas attack was performed by actors.   How does the West prove the film was real?

It seems like a no-win situation for the United States.

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European Immigration:   Nuns Out, Terrorists In                                                          by Douglas Murray, April 13, 2018 (Gatestone Institute)

  • When the same Home Office that forbade Sister Ban even to enter the country discovered that the young male Iraqi was in Britain, he explained clearly that he had been trained by ISIS.  He told the Home Office officials that the group had trained him to kill.   The Home Office promptly found him a place to live and study, and treated him as the minor he said he was but most likely was not.   He subsequently told a teacher that he had “a duty to hate Britain.”
  • Last year the Institute of St. Anselm (a Catholic training institute for priests and nuns, based in Kent) closed its doors because of problems it had getting the Home Office to grant visa applications for foreign students.   One nun last year was apparently denied entry to the UK because she did not have a personal bank account.
  • So, those who flee ISIS are turned away, while those who are trained by ISIS are welcome.