Tag Archives: United Nations

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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ACROSS THE POND

Queen's 2016 birthday

I’ve not been able to write much recently.   This is due to the fact that we moved house on Sunday.   Or, rather, I should say we moved the big, heavy items with the help of younger men from our church. For a month before that, we were moving small items ourselves.   Now, we still have to clear out our old house.  We have a few more days to do that and then things should get back to normal.  (Why is my wife laughing hysterically . . . ?)

Moving house later in life is more difficult.   Not only is lifting harder, especially after two major back surgeries and my wife’s cancer surgery.   But also we have accumulated more.   So this has been an opportunity to get rid of some things.   We still have a long way to go, though.   We must keep working on it.

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President Obama is in England as I write.  He’s upset a lot of people by urging the British to stay in the EU.   A referendum on the issue is due in two months.

The US president stated that fighting terrorism is more effective within the European Union.   This is debatable – the EU allows freedom of movement within the 28-member organization.   In itself, this encourages terrorism.

It should be noted that Switzerland is surrounded by the EU, but not a member and has not had one single terrorist incident.

It’s also true that the EU is not a security organization – NATO is.   There is no suggestion that Britain leave NATO.

Thirdly, it has always been the case that foreign leaders do not interfere in elections in other countries.   Is a new precedent being set here?   Can Mr. Cameron now come over to Washington and tell Americans not to vote for Trump?

Having said that, President Kennedy over 50 years ago, encouraged the United Kingdom to join what is now the European Union.   The reason is simple – Washington wants a reliable pro-American voice in the world’s biggest single market.

But how would Americans feel if they were part of an Americas Union, bringing all the nations of North and South America together in one bloc?   Would they willingly take orders from Havana and Caracas?   That’s exactly what the Brits are having to do as members of the EU.   Some member countries have lost considerable financial independence, as they have to wait for orders from Berlin.   Germany is the dominant power in the EU.   The Union is a socialist bloc that tries to control every aspect of daily life.   No wonder so many Brits want out.   The president should stay out of the debate and leave it to the British people, who have to subsidize the organization from their taxes each and every day.

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The Obamas arrived in London on the Queen’s 90th birthday.   They will be having lunch with her on Friday.   The official reason for their visit is to honor the Queen.   Mrs. Obama has expressed a desire to see the monarch’s grandchildren and great grandchildren.   A family photo was released this week showing four generations of monarchs sitting together – Queen Elizabeth and future monarchs Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George.   A similar picture was taken in the 1890’s of Queen Victoria with her oldest son, grandson and great-grandson (the future Edward VII, George V and Edward VIII).

No other British monarch has ever lived to be 90.   Nor has any other monarch reigned as long as the Queen.   The Queen’s marriage is also the longest ever royal marriage in history.   It’s interesting to note that out of 40 monarchs, the three most prominent ones have all been women, Elizabeth I, Victoria and Elizabeth II.

Commentators on BBC World yesterday expressed the opinion that the Queen’s longevity and famous devotion to duty owes a great deal to three things – good health, strong faith and Prince Philip, who turns 95 in June.   For the first time, a book on her faith is available for people to read.   It’s title is The Servant Queen and the King She Serves.   Hopefully, it will influence more of her subjects to reject the secular humanism that has brought so many evils into British society and look to Jesus Christ for solutions to their problems.   This is equally true for Commonwealth countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

In contrast to most world leaders the Queen sees herself as a servant.   She is no doubt familiar with the words of Jesus Christ who taught His disciples to be different to the leaders they saw around them.

”But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.   Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.   And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20: 25-28).

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Pat Buchanan has just written a column on “America’s Imperial Overstretch,” comparing the country’s present state to the last days of the British Empire.   Most people today are unaware that when the British monarch was born, the British Empire was the greatest power in the world.   At the start of her reign, Britain was still a very powerful country.   One of its greatest strengths was the Royal Navy. Now, there are so few ships, there are none available to protect the Falkland Islands from Argentina.   Nor are there any to defend Gibraltar.   The governments of the two colonies took the unusual step earlier this month of issuing a joint statement reminding potential aggressors (Argentina and Spain) that the United Nations charter calls for the “self-determination of peoples.”   The populations of both colonies want to remain British but Britain can’t or won’t defend them.

This is the future Americans have to look forward to – imperial decline on a massive scale.

Note Pat Buchanan’s comments:

“Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, this country has been steadily bled and slowly bankrupted. We are now as overextended as was the British Empire in the 1940s.

“And like that empire, we, too, are being challenged by nations that seek to enlarge their place in the sun — a resurrected Russia, China, Iran.   And we are being bedeviled by fanatics who want us out of their part of the world, which they wish to remake according to the visions of their own faiths and ideologies.  (“America’s Imperial Overstretch,” 4/14)

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President and Mrs. Obama arrived in England after visiting Saudi Arabia.  It was clear the Saudis are upset with the United States.   For decades the alliance between the two has been a cornerstone of US foreign policy.   Now that the US is cuddling up to Shi’ite Iran, the Saudis feel betrayed.   As one commentator put it – they don’t like playing the role of a rejected wife as the husband turns his attention to his new mistress, Tehran!   Divorce, however, is not considered an option. It is also the case that many Saudis (maybe most) are more enamored with IS than the US!

RUSSIA’S INTERVENTION IN SYRIA

Putin Syria

A generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia is back in the Middle East.   It cannot be good for America!

Britain dominated the Middle East between the two world wars. After World War II, that domination continued for about a decade. Then, in 1956, the Egyptians seized the British and French owned Suez Canal. The two countries, together with Israel, invaded Egypt in an attempt to reclaim the Canal, but they were stopped by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.     In hindsight, it marked the end of the British Empire. It also resulted in greater US involvement in the region.

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic book in the Old Testament, written during the sixth century before Christ.  It’s a remarkable book because the writer, Daniel, who served two kings of Babylon while Babylon was the greatest power in the world, then served two kings of Persia when it was the Persian turn to attain the status of super power.

His writings predicted the eventual replacement of Persia by Greece and then, in turn, Rome.   These were four of the greatest empires of the ancient world.   Each rose to greatness and each descended into oblivion.   Only their ruins remain.

Daniel put it well when he wrote the following:

“And He (God) changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.” (Daniel 2:21)

God is behind the rise and fall of nations.   He also reveals His prophetic outline “to those who have understanding.”

Just as Great Britain’s period of pre-eminence came to an end, so will America’s.   But, as with Britain, the change took a while to be fully realized.

Russia’s intervention in the Middle East fundamentally changes the balance of power in the region.   Russia, in the form of the Soviet Union, was heavily involved in the area following the British withdrawal.   While the US supported Israel, Jordan and the other conservative monarchies, including the Shah of Iran, Moscow supported Egypt and Syria.   That changed with the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979.   Moscow has not had much clout since.

But now that’s changed.   Moscow is not only involved in Syria, propping up President Bashar al-Assad against ISIS and other groups, it is also involved in Iran and Iraq.   In effect, Russia is backing the Shi’ite arc that starts in Lebanon (Hezbollah) and swings through Syria, Iraq and Iran.   Bible students will remember that this is basically the territory of the old King of the North of Daniel, chapter 11, the Seleucid dynasty that had its origins in the conquests of Alexander the Great.   The rivalry with the Ptolemaic dynasty labeled the King of the South in the scriptures continued for two centuries and constantly threatened the Jews who were in the middle. The terms “King of the North” and “King of the South” refer to their geographical location in relation to Jerusalem and the threat they posed to the ancient capital of the Jews.

The same chapter prophesies that these two powers will be revived in different form prior to Christ’s return and will once again threaten the Jewish nation of Israel.

So it’s interesting to see Russia getting involved.

Vladimir Putin had this to say at the United Nations just a few days ago:

“An aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and the lifestyle itself.   Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty, and social disaster.   Nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life.   I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realize now what you have done?”

President Putin was talking about the United States and the consequences of American intervention in the Middle East.

Discussing this speech on PBS’ McLaughlin Group, conservative columnist Pat Buchanan had this to say:

“We are responsible for the disaster in the Middle East by our interventions.”

The mess the US and its allies created in the Middle East is affecting peoples around the world.   The Lansing State Journal carried the following front-page headline today:   “Eager for Syrians to arrive”, referring to Lansing, Michigan, welcoming Syrian refugees in the coming days and weeks.   Europe has been invaded by hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom are refugees, over the last few weeks. Australians are also seeing Syrian refugees arrive in their country.   This could pose a serious security threat to western nations.

President Obama said the following at the UN:   “The strongmen of today become the spark of revolution tomorrow.   You can jail your opponents, but you cannot imprison ideas.   You can control access to information, but you cannot turn a lie into truth.”

What the US president was saying was intended as a warning to President Putin and the Arab dictator he intends to keep in power, President Assad of Syria. The latter is a ruthless dictator (the former is simply a dictator who can be ruthless; there’s a difference). The US position on Syria is that Assad must go. That now seems highly unlikely.   When Mr Obama refers to “ideas” that cannot be suppressed, he is referring to democracy and the “moderate” resistance to Assad. However, recent history shows that democracy is not the winner when dictators in the Middle East are overthrown. Rather, Islamic extremism or chaos, and usually both, result.

Putin, unfettered by ideological constraints, instinctively knows that.

Russia is in Syria to stay.

This could pose a problem for Israel now that the Russian bear is on its border.

It could also weaken the Russians.   Mr. Putin must remember that it was Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 that brought down the Soviet Union, which he has described as the greatest disaster of the twentieth century.

What it will mean for Russia is not clear at this time.   However, it is clear what it means for the United States.   Just as an American president’s decision in 1956 precipitated the fall of the British Empire, so an American president’s inaction over Syria and cozying up to Iran, with the resultant weakening of ties with traditional allies in the region, has directly led to America’s decline in the Middle East.

 

OBAMA’S AFRICAN VISIT

Barack-Obama-Kenya

Only an African-American president could say it and get away with it!

President Obama on his visit to Kenya and Ethiopia was able to pointedly criticize African leaders for their corruption, human rights abuses, abuse of power and unwillingness to ever relinquish office.

Nobody could accuse him of racism.

Mr. Obama said things that have long needed to be said.

In contrast to his speeches on the Middle East, which are always filled with controversy and generally seem to make things worse, his speeches in Nairobi and Addis Ababa could only upset Africa’s corrupt leaders.   Ethiopian primary school teacher, Hikma Lemma had just one regret:  “He took too long to come.”   (“In Ethiopia, a cry for basic freedoms,” USA Today, July 28th.)

Things will not change quickly.  Indeed, they may not change at all, but it was still good to hear the president address these basic issues.

“Ethiopia jails the most journalists in Africa after Eritrea, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.   Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the country’s human rights record.   And in May, the State Department expressed concern over how the elections that month could result in all seats being won by the ruling party and its partners.   The department noted lingering ‘restrictions on civil society, media, opposition parties, and independent voices and views.” (ibid, USA Today).

At the start of his African trip, Mr. Obama spoke candidly to Kenyans, warning them against the twin evils of corruption and tribalism.  He could have addressed both issues in any of Africa’s 54 countries and his listeners would generally have applauded him. Only the leaders would have sat stone-faced and emotionless, probably wishing they had invited the Chinese leader to visit instead of the American president.   China, much more involved in Africa, does not comment on human rights abuses or corruption.

Boldly, Mr. Obama even addressed the persecution of gays in Africa. Most African governments deny that homosexuality even exists in their countries.   Certainly, all governments are guilty of a double standard in this regard.   At least one country has a prominently displayed sign in its airport warning “perverts and sexual deviants” to stay away, but saying nothing about the many prostitutes offering themselves in all the hotels.

In Addis Ababa, Mr. Obama addressed delegates of the African Union, whose headquarters are in Addis Ababa.   Introducing him was the Chairwoman of the AU, who did not always tell the truth. She criticized the United Nations because Africa is the only continent that does not have a permanent representative on the Security Council.   In actual fact, neither South America nor Australia are represented, either.

The US president expressed incredulity that any president would want to serve indefinitely.  He said he is looking forward to retirement and being able to go places without a massive security detail.  He said it was particularly difficult to understand when so many African presidents have so much money, another reference to corruption, enabling leaders to amass great wealth while their people go hungry.   Unwillingness to leave office is also linked to corruption – African presidents fear being investigated for corruption when they stand down.

Underscoring his points was the absence of the current AU Chairman Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, one of the richest men on earth.   Mr. Mugabe has been president of his country since independence in 1980, presiding over a number of rigged elections.

Mr. Obama mentioned, too, that Americans don’t want to keep on sending Africa free food, but would rather teach Africans how to farm more efficiently.   He could have added that the continent would do well to encourage western (white) farmers to remain in Africa, as their farming skills produce greater crop yields.   Zimbabwe was once the grain basket of Africa – it’s people now go hungry because Mr. Mugabe evicted the white farmers.

Western reporters were also guilty of not telling the whole truth. Much was said during coverage of the African visit about what America is doing for Africa, with some focus on a program to help those with AIDS, a disease that, in Africa, is transmitted almost exclusively by heterosexuals.   Not once did I hear mention of the fact that the program was the initiative of George W. Bush, Mr. Obama’s predecessor.   With this one single program, he did more for Africa than any other president.

It would be nice to think that, with this one single visit to Africa, President Obama might accomplish something else on a grand scale – the end of corruption, together with real progress toward greater democracy.   The two together would boost the living standards of the entire continent.

It remains to be seen whether his visit will make a difference.   But his candid comments were certainly a good start!

 

RECORD NUMBERS OF REFUGEES REACHING EUROPE

Syrian refugees in London

One of the great ironies of the last fifty years is that the peoples who supposedly rose up against their colonial masters and achieved independence have been moving en masse to the very countries they rebelled against!

This exodus of people from Africa and the Middle East has increased in recent months with increased turbulence in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Iraq.   Eritreans are also moving to Europe to get away from that country’s brutal dictatorship.   Many flee by land to Libya, then cross to Italy by sea.   Over 400 died today when their boat capsized, a fairly regular occurrence.

The Europeans, it seems, cannot do enough to help resettle all these refugees.   The United Nations is criticizing, claiming they are not doing enough.   It should be realized that the U.N. is dominated by people from the same areas of the world as the refugees.   As failed states rapidly fall apart, people want to seek refuge in western Europe.

It should be noted that the six countries all mentioned above are Islamic.   The problems these countries face are deeply rooted in the Muslim religion.   People flee from these lands, but when they arrive in their new countries, what do they want to do?   They want their new countries to embrace Islam!   They have clearly learned nothing. At the same time, they want to make everybody else’s lives miserable.

So, what should western countries do?

The first priority of every government is national security.   Who is to say that, amongst all those fleeing Islamic lands, there may be some who want to get to Europe, North America and Australia, in order to stage terrorist acts?   It’s not only possible, it’s actually quite likely.

The perception of increased threats to security is fueling the growth of right-wing political parties in some European countries.   This poses a serious threat to liberal democracy and the cohesion of the western alliance.

At the same time, the sheer numbers of people in transit constitutes the equivalent of an invading army.   If the cultural identity of nations is to be preserved, something must be done to stop the invasion.

But what?   What can be done?

Clearly, European rule of these nations cannot have been so bad, if the native peoples are now moving to the former rulers for “freedom.”

Perhaps a solution is for those same western European nations to seize a small coastal area of the troubled countries, establishing an enclave, or “colony,” which would enable those citizens who want to flee to the West to remain and live under western rule?   This is, after all, what Hong Kong was all about.

Of course, this is not going to happen.   The United Nations would throw a fit, screaming “colonialism.”   As they cannot say anything positive about any of the countries taking in the refugees, perhaps they should open up the United Nations building and all available surrounding land to house them and feed them – at their own expense, of course.