Wednesday, March 26, 2014

CBN TV - CBN News Today : March 26, 2014

CBN TV - CBN News Today : March 26, 2014

CBN TV - The Watchman: Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes - March 25, 2014

CBN TV - The Watchman: Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes - March 25, 2014

A Revived Roman Empire?

 
 
The Ukraine/Crimea crises currently in the limelight now seem to be reviving the debate for the need of a centralized Europe. 
Billionaire financier George Soros, also one of the world’s leading investors, reportedly told The Daily Beast that the European Union is in danger of falling apart if it fails to confront Vladimir Putin’s naked aggression in Ukraine, and that European governments should have seized on Russia’s land grab in Crimea to breathe new life into a union that is disintegrating and stumbling towards oblivion.

In a recent interview with the Daily Beast, the billionaire financier said squabbling European nations failed to meet the challenge and continued to act in their own narrow self-interest. Soros claimed that “Europe was totally unprepared for this crisis and Putin outmaneuvered Europe with no difficulty.”

Soros, also described as “a loud supporter at the launch of the Euro currency and a cheerleader for a united Europe” has long insisted that the Euro was being fatally mismanaged. He said it was heart-breaking to see European governments shrug their shoulders while witnessing an unprecedented popular uprising in the name of the European Union. Soros lamented that “Ukrainians have effectively proved that they are willing to sacrifice their lives to get closer to a Europe that is, at the same time, in the process of disintegration.”

With Putin’s troops in Crimea and a referendum on joining Russia due to be held over the weekend, Soros said there was still time for Europe to act: “I would argue passionately that [the European Union] should not be a failed experiment and events in Ukraine are a wake-up call to face that issue. It’s a challenge, and I hope that Europe will respond to it and actually really rediscover its original mission because that’s what got lost in this distortion that has occurred.” Soros also argued that it was more important for Europe to offer positive assistance to the struggling Ukrainian government in the form of financial and technical assistance.

Soros in his latest book ‘The Tragedy of the European Union’ brings out what could be a “game-changer” catalyst to European unity with the telling statement: “Russia has benefited from the fact that Europe is disunited. But now that Russia is emerging as a threat to Europe, it may once again become a force that brings Europe closer together. I pin my hopes on Chancellor Merkel … one must never give up hope.”

It would appear that Soros’ hopes stem from the fact that Germany’s economic strength makes it the Eurozone’s driving force. He however clearly has limited confidence in German interest or passion to lead European unification via the appropriate economic and monetary policies. His cautious optimism about German commitment is also reflected in his book, in which he reportedly blames the Germans for eroding Europe’s fragile union by enforcing policies of austerity, allowing southern European nations to build up debts they will never be able to repay, and doing “just enough” to keep the Euro afloat.

Soros claims that Berlin’s fiscal rigidity has created a two-tier Europe where debtor countries are at a permanent disadvantage. Germany seems to be walking a tight rope where it needs to play an effective role in the EU, while balancing the need to be sensitive to the needs of the German population that may consequently be adversely impacted – such as the management of levels of inflation.

Germany is however showing signs of strong opposition to Putin’s actions in Ukraine and Crimea. In the middle of March, German chancellor Angela Merkel indicated that Europe was willing to increase pressure on the Kremlin, asserting that a referendum orchestrated by Crimea’s pro-Russia parliament would be a “catastrophe,” and indicated that the EU was willing to begin to imposing travel bans and asset freezes on people and firms accused of helping to violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The lingering question now is whether the Europe-wide elections in May are likely to further unite or fragment Europe. Will the elections help the federalist forces to unite Europe or will she become further fragmented? This issue was examined earlier this year in a Prophecy News Watch article: Viviane Reding, vice president of the European Commission and the longest serving Brussels commissioner, called for "a true political union" to be put on the agenda for EU elections this spring.

"We need to build a United States of Europe with the Commission as government and two chambers – the European Parliament and a "Senate" of Member States," she said. Mrs. Reding's vision, which is shared by many in the European institutions, would transform the EU into a “superstate” relegating national governments and parliaments to a minor political role equivalent to that played by local councils in Britain.

José Manuel Barroso, the commission president, also spoke and signaled that the EU would use the centenary of World War One to warn that Euroscepticism, far-Right and populist anti-European parties could bring war back to Europe.

On the other hand, some observers feel that constituent EU countries will be sending a “record number” of politicians to Brussels who are hostile to further EU centralized power. Britain's David Cameon has promised a referendum in 2017 on leaving the European Union altogether in hopes of putting the contentious issue to rest.. In Soros’ view, “That would be a big step forward in the disintegration of the European Union…Britain’s absence would greatly diminish the weight of the EU in the world …” 
Yet others disagree, suggesting that Britain’s departure would be of limited impact as she has always generally resisted strong EU unification policies.  A poll conducted this January found an even 41% supported remaining in the Union while that same 41% was opposed.  The next few years are set to determine Britain's destiny with Europe and possibly the European Union itself.

Perhaps Vladimir Putin’s latest military expansionist actions will have given supporters of a strong and united Europe just the ammunition they need to win over the hearts and minds of EU voters in May. Between now and then, could similar further events happen or even potentially be engineered to facilitate such an outcome?

It promises to be an interesting watch.
     

 

CBN TV - Jerusalem Dateline: Russia, Ukraine and Israel - March 21, 2014

CBN TV - Jerusalem Dateline: Russia, Ukraine and Israel - March 21, 2014

Israel Sets Aside $2.8 Billion For Unilateral Iran Attack After Defense Minister Says We Can't Depend On US

flag of iran
 
 
Despite ongoing talks and negotiations between Iran and the West over the Iranian nuclear program, Israel is taking no chances. Based on recent statements by senior military officers, a whopping amount of at least 10 billion shekels ($2.89 billion) has been set aside by Israel for a potential unilateral military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities in 2014.
These revelations reported by haaretz.com , quote three Knesset members who attended joint committee hearings on Israel Defense Forces plans held in January and February. This decision effectively retains the same budgetary allocation made in 2013 for the possible strike, and reflects the determination of the Israeli government not to be bound by the interim accord that was reached between Iran and the Western nations. And as second-round talks on a permanent accord resumed over the past few weeks in Vienna, Austria, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has continued to reiterate this viewpoint:  “…letting Iran enrich uranium would open up the floodgates…That must not happen. And we will make sure it does not happen.”
The Israeli government decision is based on the stated need to ensure its self defense, even as it becomes clearer that the U.S is not going to lead the campaign against Iran or to be a dependable ally for a military solution against Iran.
Excerpts from a recent report by cbn.com quotes Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon: “Israel will do what it must to defend itself…We thought that the one who needs to lead the campaign against Iran is the U.S…we (now) have to behave as if we can only rely on ourselves…Weakness certainly does not pay in the world, no one can replace the U.S. as the world's policeman. I hope the U.S. will come to its senses."
Ya'alon made these comments with reference to the crisis in the Ukraine as an example of declining U.S. influence globally, given that Russian President Vladimir Putin seems unimpressed with President Obama's warnings.
The latest round of talks involves the European Union, Iran and top diplomats of the six ‘P5+1’ powers(U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany) working towards brokering a permanent accord, thought by analysts and observers to have the potential to become a reality as soon as this July.  
According to Haaretz.com, Iranian media reported that officials with the Iranian delegation said this round of talks will focus on how much uranium enrichment Iran will be permitted as part of a final accord, along with the future of the heavy water plant at Arak and the lifting of sanctions. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Jawad Zarif reportedly wrote in the Financial Times that his country is not seeking nuclear weapons and said the West’s suspicions will threaten Iran’s national security. Zarif said Iran must convince the West that it is not seeking nuclear arms, based on an unpublicized fatwa ostensibly written by supreme leader Ali Khamenei forbidding production of nuclear weapons.
Why is the Israeli government now escalating its rhetoric on potentially striking Iranian nuclear facilities?
For one, indications are that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s fears that a final deal will leave much of Iran’s nuclear capabilities intact. The Times of Israel reported that Netanyahu’s warnings about Iran have been largely ignored, and that a frustrated Israeli leadership now appears to be ratcheting up the pressure on the international community to take a tough position in its negotiations with Iran. 
The “wake-up” call from Israel also comes closely on the heels of evidence that Iran recently tried to facilitate a missile smuggling shipment to anti-Israel groups. The seizure of the shipment did not seem to have impacted the course of the ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear facilities, with the placid Western reception effectively shrugging off the ships’ deadly cargo. The reaction must have been particularly alarming to Israel’s leadership.
According to the Associated Press, Netanyahu said the world’s indifference to the naval raid was “hypocritical,” and he lashed out at Western leaders for condemning Israeli settlement construction while ignoring Iran’s transgressions. “The greater the pressure on Iran,” he said in his speech to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), “the more credible the threat of force on Iran, the smaller the chance that force will ever have to be used.”
Another likely reason for the political sounding of the Israeli alarm bells over Iran is to further rally its citizenry’s support against the Iranian nuclear threat. In a poll 4 months ago reported by the Times of Israel, slightly fewer than half of Israelis backed the use of a military option against Iran’s nuclear program, with the number dropping even further should the US not lend support for such an action. Hardly an emphatic local endorsement that could encourage or embolden Israeli leadership.
Other observers believe that an Israeli strike in the midst of the ongoing diplomacy would be considered inappropriate and would be overwhelmingly unpopular, so by highlighting its concerns now, Israel is just drawing attention to the need for extra caution in just how far the non-Iranian parties go in allowing concessions to Iran in this matter.
The Associated Press recently reported that an Israeli military strike would be extremely difficult to pull off, both for logistical and political reasons. Any mission would likely require sending Israeli warplanes into hostile airspace, and it remains unclear how much damage Israel could inflict on a program that is scattered and hidden deep underground. In addition, it would likely set off an international uproar, derail the international negotiations and trigger retaliation on Israeli and US targets.
It therefore remains to be seen whether Israel will actually take the unilateral action to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities. Current circumstances may not be conducive for that, but chances are that the timing of such an attack will never be conducive, especially with the lack of support from the U.S.
Ongoing diplomatic negotiations may well end up directly or indirectly boosting Iran’s nuclear ambitions, if her capabilities are not adequately put in check. And should Iran at some point decide to use its developed nuclear arsenal against Israel, irrespective of any prior written agreements with the West, it will be too late to undo the damage or manage the consequences of the Israeli response.      
 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Israel Hits Syrian Positions as Officials Warn of Escalation

 
 
          Israeli jets struck a Syrian army training facility, a military headquarters building and artillery batteries, the army said in a e-mailed statement. The strikes were a response to the wounding of four Israeli soldiers by the explosion of a device on the Golan Heights frontier with Syria yesterday, the third such incident along Israel’s northern border this month.
While Israel did not directly accuse the Syrian military of planting the device, its aircraft struck targets linked to “Syrian elements that not only facilitated, but also cooperated with, the attacks on our forces,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet in Jerusalem today.

  
Israel captured the southern Golan from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war, one of three conflicts with its neighbor. It also engaged in a monthlong conflict with Hezbollah in 2006. While Israel has never acknowledged any role in at least three reported airstrikes against Syrian arms transfers to Hezbollah during the past 14 months, it has threatened to do so.
One Syrian soldier was killed and seven wounded in the Israeli strikes, according to an armed forces statement cited by state-run Syrian television. Israeli acts of aggression jeopardize the stability of the entire region, exposing it to “all possibilities,” the Syrian military said.

“It is evident there is a new strategic threat to Israel’s north,” Shaul Mofaz, a lawmaker who was previously defense minister and army chief, told Army Radio. The three years of fighting in Syria have enabled radical Islamic elements to approach Israel’s northern borders, Mofaz said, and the army is having to respond “operationally, organizationally, and in terms of infrastructure and intelligence.”

Yesterday’s attack on Israeli soldiers came four days after an explosive device targeted troops patrolling the border with Lebanon, drawing retaliatory fire at Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia, which is fighting in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad. On March 5, the military said it fired at Hezbollah militants trying to plant an explosive device in the Golan.
“The most likely suspect in these bombings is Hezbollah, retaliating for the air strike against its arms convoy from Syria last month that it blamed on Israel,” Jonathan Spyer, a political scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, said by phone. “But another possibility is jihadist forces fighting with the Syrian rebels, and if that were the case, this would be a worrying new development for Israel.”

Making Putin pay

 
By Marco Rubio, Published: March 19
 
Vladi­mir Putin’s annexation of Crimea is a direct challenge and long-term threat to the post-World War II international order for which the United States and our allies have made great sacrifices over the past seven decades. If Putin is allowed to take land from a neighboring nation through deceit and raw military force without serious consequences, the precedent could have global repercussions, including in Asia.
Some have suggested that Crimea is not worth triggering tensions with Russia, given other interests that are more important. While it is best to avoid conflict whenever possible, history shows that illegitimate aggressions that go unchallenged are a virtual guarantee of even more dangerous conflict in the future.
Fortunately, Putin’s illegitimate actions have united the United States and its allies in the free world in opposition. But while the steps taken so far by President Obama and the United States’ European allies are welcome, they clearly will not be enough in the face of a determined Russian effort to forcibly redraw Europe’s borders. Putin’s annexation of Crimea must be met with immediate and meaningful consequences for his regime and those who benefit from it.
First, U.S. financial leverage toward Russia should be used to greater effect. U.S. visa and financial sanctions on Russian officials should be broadened to include Putin and his network of political and business allies. We should work with our partners in Europe to launch an asset-recovery program to identify the spoils of the Russian regime’s corruption, which often are hidden abroad.
Second, we need to diplomatically isolate Russia. Instead of just canceling one summit meeting or technical talks, Russia should be removed immediately from every international forum not essential to resolving this crisis, including the Group of Eight. The NATO-Russia Council should be dissolved. Russian cooperation on global strategic challenges should not be sought until the people of Crimea are given a free and fair opportunity to decide their fate without outside pressure.
 
Put simply, Russia should no longer be considered a responsible partner on any major international issue. The Russian people should see that Putin’s actions will bring about a decline of Russia’s status as a global power, not a return to supposed Soviet glory.
To this end, Obama should urge U.S. allies to impose an arms embargo on Russia. It is unconscionable that NATO allies would send arms to Moscow even as it violates Ukrainian sovereignty.
Third, I welcome the fact that Vice President Biden is in the region this week to bring a message of reassurance to our allies and partners. I hope those assurances include a specific and clear response to requests by Georgia and Ukraine for lethal military support from the United States. It is shameful that even as Russia attempts to carve up Ukrainian territory, Ukraine’s request for weapons, intelligence sharing and other assistance has been turned down by the Obama administration. We also need to deploy additional military assets and even U.S. personnel to our allies, including Poland and the Baltic states.
Fourth, the Russian invasion of Crimea should dispel the myth that closing NATO’s door to future allies would appease Russian aggression. We must make clear to all interested partners in Europe who wish to join NATO and meet the requirements that the alliance remains open for membership. The president should personally engage his counterparts in advance of the September NATO summit in Wales to ensure that the freeze on expansion is broken.
The president has sufficient tools at his disposal to do most of these things. But his hand would be strengthened if a united Congress gave him the necessary authority to follow through. That is why it was so ill-advised for the administration to push to include a series of controversial and unrelated International Monetary Fund reforms in a bill authorizing economic assistance for Ukraine and imposing sanctions. Instead of sending a clear signal that Congress is united behind the people of Ukraine and sanctions against Putin, it threatens to create unnecessary dissent over these unrelated measures.
I hope that events this week and Russia’s unrelenting aggression will lead Congress to move quickly next week to pass an assistance package to Ukraine and tough sanctions on Russia. Although I remain concerned by the proposed IMF reforms included in the legislation, the need to send a strong bipartisan message of solidarity to the people of Ukraine and a statement of resolve to Moscow far outweighs any misgivings I and others might have.