Prophecy News Watch – June 20_ 2008 Keeping You Informed of World

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Prophecy News Watch – June 20_ 2008 Keeping You Informed of World Powered By Docstoc
					Prophecy News Watch – June 20, 2008 Keeping You Informed of World Events from A Biblical Perspective

1. Where is the United States in Prophecy? Senate Housing Bill Requires eBay, Amazon, Google, and All Credit Card Companies to Report Transactions to the Government Hidden deep in Senator Christopher Dodd's 630-page Senate housing legislation is a sweeping provision that affects the privacy and operation of nearly all of America’s small businesses. The provision, which was added by the bill's managers without debate this week, would require the nation's payment systems to track, aggregate, and report information on nearly every electronic transaction to the federal government. FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey commented: "This is a provision with astonishing reach, and it was slipped into the bill just this week. Not only does it affect nearly every credit card transaction in America, such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express, but the bill specifically targets payment systems like eBay's PayPal, Amazon, and Google Checkout that are used by many small online businesses. The privacy implications for America's small businesses are breathtaking." "Privacy groups like the Center for Democracy and Technology and small business organizations like the NFIB sharply criticized this idea when it first appeared earlier this year. What is the federal government's purpose with this kind of detailed data? How will this database be secured, and who will have access? Many small proprietors use their Social Security number as their tax ID. How will their privacy be protected? What compliance costs will this impose on businesses? Why is Sen. Chris Dodd putting this provision in a housing bailout bill? The bill also includes the creation of a new national fingerprint registry for mortgage brokers. "At a time when concerns about both identity theft and government spying are paramount, Congress wants to create a new honey pot of private data that includes Social Security numbers. This bill reduces privacy across America's payment processing systems and treats every American small business or eBay power seller like a criminal on parole by requiring an unprecedented level of reporting to the federal government. This outrageous idea is another reason to delay the housing bailout legislation so that Senators and the public at large have time to examine its full implications." From the Senate Bill Summary:

Payment Card and Third Party Network Information Reporting. The proposal requires information reporting on payment card and third party network transactions. Payment settlement entities, including merchant acquiring banks and third party settlement organizations, or third party payment facilitators acting on their behalf, will be required to report the annual gross amount of reportable transactions to the IRS and to the participating payee. Reportable transactions include any payment card transaction and any third party network transaction. Participating payees include persons who accept a payment card as payment and third party networks who accept payment from a third party settlement organization in settlement of transactions. A payment card means any card issued pursuant to an agreement or arrangement which provides for standards and mechanisms for settling the transactions. Use of an account number or other indicia associated with a payment card will be treated in the same manner as a payment card. A de minimis exception for transactions of $10,000 or less and 200 transactions or less applies to payments by third party settlement organizations. The proposal applies to returns for calendar years beginning after December 31, 2010. Back-up withholding provisions apply to amounts paid after December 31, 2011. This proposal is estimated to raise $9.802 billion over ten years. US N-weapons parts missing, Pentagon says The US military cannot locate hundreds of sensitive nuclear missile components, according to several government officials familiar with a Pentagon report on nuclear safeguards. Robert Gates, US defence secretary, recently fired both the US Air Force chief of staff and air force secretary after an investigation blamed the air force for the inadvertent shipment of nuclear missile nose cones to Taiwan. According to previously undisclosed details obtained by the FT, the investigation also concluded that the air force could not account for many sensitive components previously included in its nuclear inventory. One official said the number of missing components was more than 1,000. The disclosure is the latest embarrassing episode for the air force, which last year had to explain how a bomber mistakenly carried six nuclear missiles across the US. The incidents have raised concerns about US nuclear safeguards as Washington presses other countries to bolster counter-proliferation measures. In announcing the departure of the top air force officials earlier this month, Mr Gates said Admiral Kirkland Donald, the officer who led the investigation, concluded that both incidents had a “common origin” which was “the gradual erosion of nuclear standards and a lack of effective oversight by air force leadership”.

Mr Gates added that the Pentagon was evaluating the results of a “comprehensive inventory of all nuclear and nuclear-related materials [conducted] to re-establish positive control of these sensitive, classified components”. Adm Donald briefed Congress on the results of his investigation on Wednesday. Bryan Whitman, Pentagon spokesman, declined to comment on the classified report. A senior defence official said the report had “identified issues about record keeping” for sensitive nuclear missile components. But he stressed that there was no suggestion that components had ended up in the hands of countries that should not have received them. But Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, said the revelation was “very significant and extremely troubling” because it meant the US could not establish the positive control referred to by Mr Gates. “It raises a serious question about where else these unaccounted for warhead related parts may have gone,” said Mr Kimball. “I would not be surprised if the recent Taiwan incident is not the only one.” A senior military officer said the military leadership, including Adm Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, was “deeply troubled” by the findings of the Donald report. Israel's broad American base Many observers attribute U.S. support for Israel to the financial and political clout of the American Jewish community. In fact that is only a small part of the story. For the last 60 years, non-Jewish Americans have overwhelmingly sided with the Jewish state rather than its enemies. Washington's pro-Israel stance in the Middle East reflects the wishes, above all, of American gentiles. Israelis and American Jews seeking to drum up American support for the Jewish state are pushing on an open door; American gentiles were promoting the return of the Jews to the Holy Land long before Theodore Herzl's 1896 book, "The Jewish State," launched the modern Zionist movement among Jews. John Adams "longed" for a Jewish state. In 1891 more than 400 American leaders, including Chief Justice Melville Weston Fuller of the Supreme Court, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and the editors or publishers of several leading newspapers signed a petition to President Benjamin Harrison calling for the United States to use its diplomatic weight to promote the establishment of a free Jewish state in Palestine.

American evangelicals support Israel in part because of beliefs about Bible prophecies, but liberal Christians and their secular fellow citizens often share this commitment without such belief. Steeped in the language and the ideas of the Old Testament, religious and secular Americans alike have long seen a unique bond between themselves and the Jews. Both peoples, Americans have believed, have a special mission from God. The Jews brought monotheism to the world; Americans are bringing liberty. God led the ancient Hebrews through the Red Sea and over the Jordan into a land flowing with milk and honey; God also, Americans have generally believed, brought our ancestors into the New World to a promised land. The United States and Israel have both been powerfully shaped by a history of conflict and confrontation with those they displaced: Indians in America, Palestinians in Israel. The American pioneers believed that the failure of the Indians to "improve" the wilderness with towns and farms justified America's westward expansion; as Israeli pioneers built flourishing towns on barren hills and turned desert wastelands into fertile fields, many Americans felt that Israelis had a similar right to use land the Arabs had neglected. In recent decades, support for Israel has intensified among "Jacksonian" voters in the U.S. heartland. Jacksonians are populist-nationalist voters who favor a strong U.S. military and admire victory - especially total victory. The sweeping, overwhelming triumph of Israeli arms in 1967 against numerically superior foes from three different countries resonated powerfully with them. Since then, some of the same actions that have hurt Israel's image in most of the world have increased its support among Jacksonians. When rockets launched from Gaza strike Israel, the Israelis respond with greater firepower, greater destruction, and greater casualties. In much of the world, this is seen as excessive retaliation. Jacksonians, however, see Palestinian rocket attacks and suicide bombings as dishonorable terrorism and believe that the Israelis have an unlimited right, even a duty, to retaliate with maximum force. For many Americans, Israel, despite its power and its victories, remains an endangered David surrounded by Goliaths. The fact that Arabs and the larger community of one billion Muslims support the Palestinian cause deepens the belief. Although the image of a solitary Israel surrounded by an anonymous mass of pan-Arab armies bristling with Soviet weaponry disappeared with the end of the Cold War, it was soon replaced by the perception of a besieged Jewish state amidst a sea of intolerant pan-Islamism. Israel's international isolation does not bother Jacksonians; if anything, it reinforces its underdog status and makes American support more likely. Both the Old and New Testaments say that the "world" often stands against God's chosen people; the more Israel is attacked, the more many Americans feel duty bound to defend it.

The breadth and depth of America's sympathy for Israel need not be an obstacle to peace. In fact, if Palestinian and Arab leaders understood American culture better they could act so as to increase their American support and begin to shift American policy. Ending terrorist attacks against civilians would be a significant step in this direction, as would improving conditions for Christian minorities in Arab countries. But there is one thing that both supporters and opponents of Washington's Middle East policies need to understand. The roots of U.S. support for Israel lie outside Washington and beyond the American Jewish community. The Arabist views of professional foreign policy élites have indeed often been overruled, but not because of the actions of a small, undemocratic lobby. Wise or foolish, U.S. policies toward Israel reflect the values, hopes, and fears of the majority of American gentiles. Extreme weather likely to become commonplace across US, climate report says Droughts will get drier, storms will get stormier and floods will get deeper with a warming climate across North America, U.S. government experts said in a report billed as the first continental assessment of extreme events. Events that have seemed relatively rare will become commonplace, said the latest report from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, a joint effort of more than a dozen government agencies. "Heat waves and heavy downpours are very likely to further increase in frequency and intensity," the report stated. "Substantial areas of North America are likely to have more frequent droughts of greater severity. Hurricane wind speeds, rainfall intensity and storm surge levels are likely to increase. The strongest cold season storms are likely to become more frequent, with stronger winds and more extreme wave heights." There has been an increase in the frequency of heavy downpours, especially over northern states, and these are likely to continue in the future, Thomas Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center, said in a briefing Thursday. For example, Karl said, by the end of this century rainfall amounts expected to occur every 20 years could be taking place every five years. Such an increase "can lead to the type of events that we are seeing in the Midwest," said Karl, though he did not directly link the current flooding to climate change. The report itself noted that "intense precipitation (the heaviest 1 percent of daily

precipitation totals) in the continental U.S. increased by 20 percent over the past century while total precipitation increased by 7 percent." Shifting dangers But the report cautioned that preparing for weather that has been relatively common can leave people vulnerable as extreme events occur more and more. "Moderate flood control measures on a river can stimulate development in a now 'safe' floodplain, only to see those new structures damaged when a very large flood occurs," the report said. At the same time heavy rains increase, there'll be more droughts, especially in the Southwest, Karl said. "When it rains, it rains harder and when it's not raining, it's warmer — there is more evaporation, and droughts can last longer," he explained. The Southwestern drought that began in 1999 is beginning to rival some of the greatest droughts on record including those of the 1930s and 1950s, he added. Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said there has been a trend toward increasing power in hurricanes since the 1970s in the Atlantic and western Pacific, a change that can be linked to rising sea surface temperatures. There is a statistical connection between rising sea surface temperatures and hurricane activity, Meehl said, but linking changes in hurricanes to human actions will require more study. Hotter days more often More easily attributed to human impact, through release of greenhouse gases, is an overall increase in temperatures, he said. It's not getting as cold at night as it did in earlier decades and there are fewer nights with frosts, a trend expected to continue into the future, Meehl said. "A day so hot that it is experienced only once every 20 years would occur every three years by the middle of the century," under the mid-range projections of climate models, the report said. Other future projections cited in the report include:

* Sea ice extent in the Arctic Ocean is expected to continue to decrease and may even disappear in summer in coming decades; * Precipitation, on average, is likely to be less frequent but more intense; * Droughts will likely be more frequent and severe in some areas; * Hurricanes will likely spawn increased precipitation and wind; * The strongest cold-season Atlantic and Pacific storms are likely to create stronger winds and higher extreme wave heights. How Iran would retaliate if it comes to war Pressure is building on Iran. This week Europe agreed to new sanctions and President Bush again suggested something more serious – possible military strikes – if the Islamic Republic doesn't bend to the will of the international community on its nuclear program. But increasingly military analysts are warning of severe consequences if the US begins a shooting war with Iran. While Iranian forces are no match for American technology on a conventional battlefield, Iran has shown that it can bite back in unconventional ways. Iranian networks in Iraq and Afghanistan could imperil US interests there; American forces throughout the Gulf region could be targeted by asymmetric methods and lethal rocket barrages; and Iranian partners across the region – such as Hezbollah in Lebanon – could be mobilized to engage in an anti-US fight. Iran's response could also be global, analysts say, but the scale would depend on the scale of the US attack. "One very important issue from a US intelligence perspective, [the Iranian reaction] is probably more unpredictable than the Al Qaeda threat," says Magnus Ranstorp at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm. "I doubt very much our ability to manage some of the consequences," says Mr. Ranstorp, noting that Iranian revenge attacks in the past have been marked by "plausible deniability" and have had global reach. "If you attack Iran you are unleashing a firestorm of reaction internally that will only strengthen revolutionary forces, and externally in the region," says Ranstorp. "It's a nightmare scenario for any contingency planner, and I think you really enter the twilight zone if you strike Iran." Though the US military has since early 2007 accused Iran's Qods Force – an elite element of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – of providing anti-US militias in Iraq with lethal roadside bombs, and of training and backing "special groups" in actions that the US government alleges have cost "thousands" of lives, US commanders have played down

Iran's military capabilities. Even Admiral William Fallon, who publicly opposed a US strike on Iran before he resigned in April, dismissed Iran as a military threat. "Get serious," Adm. Fallon told Esquire in March. "These guys are ants. When the time comes, you crush them." But that has not kept Iran from rhetorical chest-beating, with an active military manpower of 540,000 – the largest in the Middle East – dependent on some of the lowest per capita defense spending in the region. Iran "can deal fatal blows to aggressor America by unpredictable and creative tactical moves," the senior commander Brig. Gen. Gholam Ali Rashid said in late May. "It is meaningless to back down before an enemy who has targeted the roots of our existence." Iran's supreme religious leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei also warned of far-reaching revenge in 2006. "The Americans should know that if they assault Iran, their interests will be harmed anywhere in the world that is possible," he said. "The Iranian nation will respond to any blow with double the intensity." Analysts say Iran has a number of tools to make good on those threats and take pride in taking on a more powerful enemy. "This is not something they are shying away from," says Alex Vatanka, a Middle East security analyst at Jane's Information Group in Washington. "They say: 'Conventional warfare is not something we can win against the US, but we have other assets in the toolbox,' " says Mr. Vatanka, noting that the IRGC commander appointed last fall has been "marketed as this genius behind asymmetric warfare doctrine." "What they are really worried about is the idea of massive aerial attacks on literally thousands of targets inside Iran," says Vatanka, also an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute. "Their reading of America's intentions in that scenario would be twofold: One is to obviously dismantle as much as possible the nuclear program; and [the other], indirectly try to weaken the [Islamic] regime." Any US-Iran conflict would push up oil prices, and though Iran could disrupt shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf, its weak economy depends on oil revenues. But nearby US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Gulf provide a host of targets. Iran claimed last October that it could rain down 11,000 rockets upon "the enemy" within one minute of an attack and that rate "would continue." Further afield, Israel is within range of Iran's Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, and Hezbollah claims its rockets – enhanced and resupplied by Iran since the 2006 war to an estimated 30,000 – can now hit anywhere in the Jewish state, including its nuclear plant at Dimona.

Closer to home, Iran has honed a swarming tactic, in which small and lightly armed speedboats come at far larger warships from different directions. A classified Pentagon war game in 2002 simulated just such an attack and in it the Navy lost 16 major warships, according to a report in The New York Times last January. "The sheer numbers involved overloaded their ability, both mentally and electronically, to handle the attack," Lt. Gen. K. Van Riper, a retired Marine Corps officer who commanded the swarming force, told the Times. "The whole thing was over in five, maybe 10 minutes." During the 1990s, Iranian agents were believed to be behind the assassinations of scores of regime opponents in Europe, and German prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Iran's intelligence minister. Iran and Hezbollah are alleged to have collaborated in the May 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in revenge for Israel's killing of a Hezbollah leader months before. Argentine prosecutors charge that they jointly struck again in 1994, bombing a Jewish community center in the Argentine capital that killed 85, one month after Israel attacked a Hezbollah base in Lebanon. With some 30,000 on the payroll by one count, Iranian intelligence "is a superpower in intelligence terms in the region; they have global reach because of their reconnaissance ability and quite sophisticated ways of inflicting pain," says Ranstorp. "They have been expanding their influence.… Who would have predicted that Argentina would be the area that Hezbollah and the Iranians collectively would respond?" Past examples show that "Tehran recognizes that at times its interest are best served by restraint," says a report on consequences of a strike on Iran published this week by Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. But Iran could target the US, too, depending on the magnitude of any US strike. "Iran's capacity for terror and subversion remains one of its most potent levers in the event of a confrontation with the United States," says the report, adding that "success" in delaying Iran's nuclear programs could backfire. If "US and world opinion were so angered by the strikes that they refused to support further pressure against Iran's nuclear ambitions, then prevention could paradoxically [eventually ensure] Iran's open pursuit of nuclear weapons," concludes the report. And the long list of unconventional tactics should not be taken for granted in Tehran, says Vatanka, noting that the Islamic system's top priority is survival.

"So the Iranians have to be careful," says Vatanka. "Just because the US doesn't have the will right now, or the ability to produce the kind of stick that they would fear, doesn't mean the way of confrontation is going to pay off for them in the long run."

2. Israel - God's Timepiece Israel Mulls Plans for Military Strike Against Iran In Belief That Sanctions Have Failed The Israeli government no longer believes that sanctions can prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. A broad consensus in favor of a military strike against Tehran's nuclear facilities -- without the Americans, if necessary -- is beginning to take shape. Dani Yatom, a member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, was invited to attend a NATO conference in Brussels last year. While reviewing the agenda, Yatom, a retired major general, was surprised to see that the meeting was titled "The Iranian Challenge" and not "The Iranian Threat." When a speaker with a French accent mentioned that a US military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities would be the most dangerous scenario of all, Yatom said, politely but firmly: "Sir, you are wrong. The worst scenario would be if Iran acquired an atom bomb." Yatom, 63, has spent most of his life in the military. He was a military adviser to former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and, in the mid-1990s, was named head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency. Nevertheless, Yatom, a member of the Labor Party, is not some reckless hawk. Unlike most Knesset members, he flatly rejects, for example, a major Israeli offensive against the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But Yatom's willingness to strike a compromise ends when he is asked what he considers to be the best response to the Iranian nuclear program. "We no longer believe in the effectiveness of sanctions," says Yatom. "A military operation is needed if the world wants to stop Iran." When Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister, expressed similar sentiments 10 days ago, they were viewed, especially in Europe, as the isolated opinions of a card-carrying hardliner seeking to score points with the electorate in a bid to succeed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In truth, however, there is now a consensus within the Israeli government that an air strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities has become unavoidable. "Most members of the Israeli cabinet no longer believe that sanctions will convince President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to change course," says Minister of Immigrant Absorption Yaakov Edri.

The one question over which Israel's various political groups disagree is the timing of an attack. The doves argue that diplomatic efforts by the United Nations should be allowed to continue until Iran is on the verge of completing the bomb. That way, Israel could at least argue convincingly that all non-military options had been exhausted. The hawks, on the other hand, believe time is running out. They stress that there is now a "favorable window of opportunity" that will close with the US presidential election in November, and that Israel can only depend on American support for as long as current US President George W. Bush is still in charge in Washington. They are convinced that the country cannot truly depend on any of the candidates to succeed Bush in office. Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, has already said that he favors direct negotiations with Tehran. And even if Republican John McCain wins the race, politicians in Jerusalem do not expect him to be ordering an attack as his first official act -- despite his performance, at a campaign appearance last year, of the Beach Boys' song "Barbara Ann" with the lyrics: "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran." President Bush, however, has recently been sending out signals that are suspiciously reminiscent of the run-up to the Iraq war. Then, as today, he insisted that "all options are on the table." And then, as today, he sought to appease the Europeans by saying that all diplomatic channels would be exhausted first. But during his recent visit to Slovenia, Bush said: "There's a lot of urgencies when it comes to dealing with Iran, and the Israeli political folks ... if you go to Israel and listen carefully, you'll hear that urgency in their voice." An Iranian nuclear bomb would overshadow all other threats that Israel has faced during the 60 years of its existence. As costly as its wars have been, and as horrific the suicide bombings of radical Islamists may be, they can never pose a serious threat to the existence of the Jewish state. But a single nuclear strike would have devastating consequences for this small country, which is only about half the size of Switzerland. In fact, international strategists commonly refer to Israel as a "one-bomb country." Jerusalem's military leaders claim that Tehran could curtail every Israeli military campaign - in the Gaza Strip, for example -- with only the credible threat of a nuclear strike. Despite its military strength, they say, the country would be practically defenseless. Even worse, the mere existence of an Iranian nuclear bomb, the government in Jerusalem believes, would trigger an exodus of the educated elite that could spell disaster for the country, both economically and culturally. "Iran would be in a position to destroy the Zionist dream without even pressing a button," says Ephraim Sneh, a retired general and cabinet minister for many years. All experts agree that the Iranian bomb doesn't yet exist. Nevertheless, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to threaten the Jewish state with destruction at every opportunity. "If the enemy thinks they can break the Iranian nation with pressure, they are wrong," he said last week.

Even the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, voiced in a recent SPIEGEL interview his concern that Iran is sending out the message that it could "build the bomb in a relatively short period of time." And no one knows better than the Israeli leadership just how much power lies in the mere belief that a country has nuclear weapons. After all, Israel itself has used this belief as a deterrent for the past 40 years. It is believed that an estimated 100 to 200 nuclear warheads have been produced at the Dimona reactor in the Negev Desert. Israeli historian Benny Morris, who is not normally considered a hardliner, recently suggested using the weapons: "If the issue is whether Israel or Iran should perish, then Iran should perish." Jerusalem has already demonstrated that it is not only prepared for, but also technically capable of, frustrating the nuclear ambitions of a hostile country. In 1981, the Israelis bombed Iraq's Osirak reactor. Flying in tight formation to avoid being detected by enemy radar, eight F-16 fighter-bombers traveled 900 kilometers (560 miles) from Israel to Iraq, where they dropped 16 thousand-kilo bombs, destroying the reactor. Victor Ostrovsky, a former Mossad agent, revealed that the Israelis had paid a French technician working in the reactor to plant a transponder there. The second time was on Sept. 6, 2007, when Israeli F-16 fighter-bombers entered northern Syrian airspace along the Turkish border and destroyed a suspected nuclear site in eastern Syria. Before the attack, a group of special forces soldiers were reportedly dropped off on the ground to mark the target for a laser beam. To this day, the government in Damascus claims that the site was not a nuclear facility. However, images the Mossad has obtained of the building's interior allegedly reveal similarities with the North Korean reactor in Yongbyon. Iran could be next. In a recent letter to Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak wrote that Tehran is not far from the "point of no return" at which the Israelis believe it could no longer be prevented from developing a bomb. Israeli intelligence officials believe that Iranian weapons engineers could have enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear warhead by 2009. In reaching this conclusion, the Israelis are expressly contradicting the assertion, put forward in a report by US intelligence issued last December, that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003. "The Iranians resumed the program at full speed in 2005," says Yossi Kuperwasser, the director for intelligence analysis with Israeli military intelligence at the time. While the Europeans continue to pin their hopes on diplomacy and are convinced that a negotiated solution that would allow Tehran to save face is still possible, the Israelis already view the UN sanctions regime as a failure. Russia and China, they say, sabotaged the boycott from the very beginning, and even the Europeans have only half-heartedly supported sanctions.

According to the Israelis, companies from Austria and Switzerland have recently signed agreements for the delivery of natural gas with Tehran, and even the German government has only slightly limited trade with the mullah-run regime. "The Iranians don't even feel the sanctions," says Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. According to Hanegbi, the international community will have to unite if it hopes to achieve anything -- "and soon." German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been reticent on the issue. During a visit to the ranch of US President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas last November, Merkel promised to "take another look at economic contacts between German companies and Iran" and push for additional restrictions. But there was little left of that resolve when Bush met with Merkel last Wednesday at Schloss Meseberg, the German government guesthouse outside Berlin. Her only comment about another round of UN sanctions was that she would "not rule them out." As one of her fellow Christian Democrats admits pessimistically, "Merkel is no longer pursuing this issue with any great enthusiasm." Politicians in Berlin have noted with concern signs of the next war brewing in the Middle East. Former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who travels regularly to Jerusalem and Washington for political talks, warns that Israel could see the Bush presidency as its last chance to gain American support for a military strike. "Politically speaking, the window for action is now, in the last months of George W. Bush's term in office," Fischer wrote recently. "The Middle East is headed for another major confrontation." Others share this sense of unease. Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg, a foreign policy expert and member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), says that he has "the unsettling feeling that the contemplation of a military option against Iran is gaining a new dynamic in Israel." He wants to see Berlin use its close relations with Jerusalem to deter it from launching a military strike. This political offensive would not be without risk. "By issuing this warning, we are taking even more responsibility for (guaranteeing that) our favored approach will yield results," says Ruprecht Polenz, the chairman of the German Bundestag's Committee on Foreign Affairs. In other words, if Iran continues to pursue its nuclear program, the West will have to close ranks with Jerusalem. "Under no circumstances can the impression be created that Israel would be left alone with the possibility of an Iranian atom bomb," says Polenz. Israel's main ally, the United States, is still at odds over what constitutes the right strategy on Iran. The Bush administration is divided. Vice President Dick Cheney "would still want an attack," says Flynt Leverett, a former official in the US State Department and now a Middle East expert with the New America Foundation. However he believes the secretary of state favors a different approach: "Condi Rice is buying time to get the president through his term."

Bruce Riedel, a Middle East expert who spent many years working for the CIA, says it would be "very difficult for this administration to start a war with Iran. There would be public uproar and congressional uproar." But the situation is different from Israel's perspective, says Riedel. "There is some risk that Israel thinks it has limited time to act and it has a green light from American politicians." Besides, the Israeli Air Force is known for its "inventive solutions to military problems," says Riedel, who has strong contacts to Israel, referring to the feasibility of such an attack. "Israeli military planners tell me it is mission doable." This is why Riedel sees an Israeli military strike, with the US government's consent, as the most likely attack scenario. But the consequences, according to Riedel, would not differ from those of an American attack. "An Israeli attack will be seen as a US attack. Iran will retaliate against both Israel and the US." The consequences, says Riedel, would be fatal. "We will see a Middle East in flames." Nevertheless, in Israel it is no longer a matter of whether there will be a military strike, but when. It is clear that the attack would be exclusively an aerial strike. Jerusalem recently received approval from Washington for a purchase of F-22 stealth bombers. The centrifuges used to enrich uranium at the Natanz nuclear facility are apparently the main target. According to Israeli information, the centrifuges are kept above ground and are thus easier to destroy. The reactor in Bushehr is seen as another possible target. And the Iranian air defenses? "We know that Iran's air defenses are not among the world's best," says former Mossad chief Yatom. "They can be overcome." Nevertheless, many Israelis still hope that the Americans will do the job for them. "It could still be the case," says Yatom, "that George W. Bush wants to guarantee himself a place in the history books with this last act." Jordan pushes for possible merge with West Bank to stop Hamas threat Jordan has quietly let the Bush White House know it is concerned over the prospect of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank. Officials said the Hashemite kingdom has been urging the administration to link any Palestinian entity in the West Bank with Jordan. They said an independent Palestinian state would soon be dominated by Hamas and threaten the kingdom. "This is not a new message, but it has been repeated on more than one occasion to the United States amid its effort to set up a Palestinian state by 2009," an official said. On June 12, Jordan's military court sentenced three Hamas operatives convicted of conspiring to attack Israeli and Jordanians. The Hamas operatives, sent to jail from between five and 15 years, were said to have targeted Israeli businessmen and Jordanian intelligence

officers. One of the three defendants, Ayman Naji Al Daraghmeh, said he was ordered to attack targets in Jordan by a Hamas leader in Syria. The leader was not identified. Officials said Jordan's King Abdullah has warned the administration that a Palestinian state in the West Bank would fuel the Islamic opposition and could lead to an attempt to overthrow the kingdom. They said Hamas has already made significant inroads in Jordan in wake of its takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Jordan has urged the United States to link any Palestinian entity in the West Bank to Amman. They said Abdullah has proposed a merger of the West Bank and the East Bank, an arrangement that lasted from 1949 to 1967. "The only acceptable scenario for us is the merger of Jordan and all the West Bank," another official said. Some officials have raised the prospect that a Palestinian state in the West Bank would result in a Jordanian backlash. They said such a backlash would include a sealing of its western border and a downgrading of relations with Israel. Major Israeli military exercise possible rehearsal for bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Several American officials said the Israeli exercise appeared to be an effort to develop the military's capacity to carry out long-range strikes and to demonstrate the seriousness with which Israel views Iran's nuclear program. More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters participated in the maneuvers, which were carried out over the eastern Mediterranean and over Greece during the first week of June, American officials said. The exercise also included Israeli helicopters that could be used to rescue downed pilots. The helicopters and refueling tankers flew more than 900 miles, which is about the same distance between Israel and Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, American officials said. Israeli officials declined to discuss the details of the exercise. A spokesman for the Israeli military would say only that the country's air force "regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel." But the scope of the Israeli exercise virtually guaranteed that it would be noticed by

American and other foreign intelligence agencies. A senior Pentagon official who has been briefed on the exercise, and who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the political delicacy of the matter, said the exercise appeared to serve multiple purposes. One Israeli goal, the Pentagon official said, was to practice flight tactics, aerial refueling and all other details of a possible strike against Iran's nuclear installations and its long-range conventional missiles. A second, the official said, was to send a clear message to the United States and other countries that Israel was prepared to act militarily if diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from producing bomb-grade uranium continued to falter. "They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know," the Pentagon official said. "There's a lot of signaling going on at different levels." Several American officials said they did not believe that the Israeli government had concluded that it must attack Iran and did not think that such a strike was imminent. Shaul Mofaz, a former Israeli defense minister who is now a deputy prime minister, warned in a recent interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot that Israel might have no choice but to attack. "If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack," Mofaz said in the interview published on June 6, the day after the unpublicized exercise ended. "Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable." But Mofaz was criticized by other Israeli politicians as seeking to enhance his own standing as questions mount about whether the embattled Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, can hang on to power. Israeli officials have told their American counterparts that Mofaz's statement does not represent official policy. But American officials were also told that Israel had prepared plans for striking nuclear targets in Iran and could carry them out if needed. Iran has shown signs that it is taking the Israeli warnings seriously, by beefing up its air defenses in recent weeks, including increasing air patrols. In one instance, Iran scrambled F-4 jets to double-check an Iraqi civilian flight from Baghdad to Tehran. "They are clearly nervous about this and have their air defense on guard," a Bush administration official said of the Iranians. Any Israeli attack against Iran's nuclear facilities would confront a number of challenges. Many American experts say they believe that such an attack could delay but not eliminate Iran's nuclear program. Much of the program's infrastructure is buried under earth and concrete and installed in long tunnels or hallways, making precise targeting difficult. There is also concern that not all of the facilities have been detected. To inflict maximum damage,

multiple attacks might be necessary, which many analysts say is beyond Israel's ability at this time. But waiting also entails risks for the Israelis. Israeli officials have repeatedly expressed fears that Iran will soon master the technology it needs to produce substantial quantities of highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. Iran is also taking steps to better defend its nuclear facilities. Two sets of advance Russianmade radar systems were recently delivered to Iran. The radar will enhance Iran's ability to detect planes flying at low altitude. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, said in February that Iran was close to acquiring Russian-produced SA-20 surface-to-air missiles. American military officials said that the deployment of such systems would hamper Israel's attack planning, putting pressure on Israel to act before the missiles are fielded. For both the United States and Israel, Iran's nuclear program has been a persistent worry. A National Intelligence Estimate that was issued in December by American intelligence agencies asserted that Iran had suspended work on weapons design in late 2003. The report stated that it was unclear if that work had resumed. It also noted that Iran's work on uranium enrichment and on missiles, two steps that Iran would need to take to field a nuclear weapon, had continued. In late May, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran's suspected work on nuclear matters was a "matter of serious concern" and that the Iranians owed the agency "substantial explanations." Over the past three decades, Israel has carried out two unilateral attacks against suspected nuclear sites in the Middle East. In 1981, Israeli jets conducted a raid against Iraq's nuclear plant at Osirak after concluding that it was part of Saddam Hussein's program to develop nuclear weapons. In September, Israeli aircraft bombed a structure in Syria that American officials said housed a nuclear reactor built with the aid of North Korea. The United States protested the Israeli strike against Iraq in 1981, but its comments in recent months have amounted to an implicit endorsement of the Israeli strike in Syria. Pentagon officials said that Israel's air forces usually conducted a major early summer training exercise, often flying over the Mediterranean or training ranges in Turkey where they practice bombing runs and aerial refueling. But the exercise this month involved a larger number of aircraft than had been previously observed, and included a lengthy combat rescue mission. Much of the planning appears to reflect a commitment by Israel's military leaders to ensure that its armed forces are adequately equipped and trained, an imperative driven home by the difficulties the Israeli military encountered in its Lebanon operation against Hezbollah.

"They rehearse it, rehearse it and rehearse it, so if they actually have to do it, they're ready," the Pentagon official said. "They're not taking any options off the table." Terrorists admit cease-fire in Gaza will be used to rearm, prepare for battle The Gaza cease-fire agreed to yesterday by Hamas and Israel is a "victory" for Palestinian "resistance" and will be used by local terrorist groups to rearm and prepare for battle against the Jewish state, top Gaza-based terror leaders told WND. "We are humiliating the Israelis. They kept threatening to make a huge operation in Gaza, but they were the ones who begged us to go into the cease-fire," said Muhammad Abdel-Al, a leader and spokesman for the Hamas-allied, Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees terror group. Along with Hamas, the Committees took responsibility for firing nearly 30 mortars and rockets from Gaza into nearby Jewish communities Wednesday, lightly injuring one Israeli woman just hours before the truce went into effect. "The rocket attacks prove we are not going into this cease-fire from a weak point but from a point of force and power," Abdel-Al said. Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas' socalled military wing, told WND his group will use the truce to rearm itself. "The hudna (temporary truce) will be used for more training, arming. ... We don't have any intention to stop from bringing in weapons from the Sinai into Gaza," said Abdullah. He called the cease-fire "one more sign of the collapse of the Israeli army, that this big Israeli army with the so-called best air force in the world didn't succeed to stop the rockets, and they accepted the truce." The term "hudna," dates back to Islam's founding in the 7th century, when Muhammad declared a 10-year hudna with the tribe that controlled Mecca. Later, after rearming, Muhammad attacked the tribe, claiming it had broken the truce. In 1994, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat invoked Muhammad's hudna when he justified the launch of the second intifada during the Oslo peace process. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy noted in 2003 that Hamas had agreed to 10 cease-fires in the previous decade and returned freshly armed after each one. "It is important to note," the institute said, "that all cease-fire offers have been presented at a time when Hamas needed a moment to step back and regroup after an organizationally exhausting confrontation with a more powerful foe (either Israel or the PA)."

Israeli security officials have warned in briefings to the Knesset that Hamas would use the truce to rearm itself and strengthen its forces for an ultimate Israeli military incursion into Gaza. The officials said more Israeli troops would likely die fighting in Gaza because of the off-time Hamas is likely to use to prepare itself for battle. The Gaza cease-fire officially went into effect at 6 a.m. Jerusalem time yesterday. Israel has said it will hold off all military operations in Gaza in exchange for a complete cessation of Palestinian rocket attacks and violence. Hamas, for its part, reportedly instructed its members to refrain from carrying out any attacks. If the truce holds through the weekend, Israel said it would ease its blockade of Gaza by allowing a larger number of shipments to enter and may open border crossings closed in recent months. In a statement issued as the truce went into effect, Hamas' military wing warned Israel the cease-fire was "not in anyway a free gift" and said it is ready to resume attacks: "[Hamas'] Qassam Brigades is fully ready to launch a military strike that would shake the Zionist entity if they did not abide by all the items of the calm deal and the Zionist enemy would be responsible for any foolish act they may commit," the statement said.

3. A Revived Roman Empire? Europe - What Next? A mere two years ago, the British author and thinker Mark Leonard published a book titled "Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century." Today, one wonders to what degree Europe will even participate in the 21st century. It's not just the deadly blow struck by Ireland's rejection Thursday of the Lisbon Treaty reorganizing the European Union. I've spent six of the past eight years in the capital of the European Union, and I've noticed over this period a steady loss of self-confidence in Europe, a turning inward and a growing pessimism about the future. For all the focus on the ills of the American economy, few Europeans feel they are about to inherit the world. Germany's economy is riding high these days, but it is exceptional, and even Germans fear it may be temporary. The pleasure Europeans take in the weak dollar and the high euro is a welcome distraction from deeply rooted fears that the Asian giants are overtaking and out-competing Europe in the international economy. Europe's big neighbor also causes angst. Every day some European official pleads for a common energy policy to confront predatory Russian monopolists, but every day the Russians cut a new deal

favoring one European interest at the expense of another. Europeans worry about immigration and cultural identity much more than they did when I arrived here. Most elections in Europe these days have immigration and assimilation issues as a subtext, and most people I talk to doubt Europe will be able to integrate the new immigrants. Even secularists worry that what they call "Christian" Europe is being undermined by the endless flow of Muslims and Muslim culture -- hence the outcry early this year at the archbishop of Canterbury's modest suggestion that sharia law be accommodated in Britain. More surprising, perhaps, is the continuing challenge to European unity. The European Union remains a miraculous organization, and no one should ever bet against its continued progress. But the big European powers jealously guard their prerogatives in matters of foreign policy, especially and understandably when it comes to putting troops in harm's way. To compound matters, the consensus here is that Europe is bereft of strong leadership. Gordon Brown is seen as weak. Angela Merkel is locked in her grand coalition. Many Americans and Italians like Silvio Berlusconi, but most Europeans outside of Italy do not. When as a typical American I point to the refreshing new leadership of Nicolas Sarkozy, outside of France I get mostly silence or scowls. In Britain and Germany, Sarkozy is viewed as all flash and in it for France, not for Europe. Self-interest is seen everywhere to be trumping the common interest. The Lisbon Treaty was supposed to solve some of these problems. It would have created two potential leaders to represent Europe on the world stage: a president and a foreign minister. Names being bandied about for the two jobs, from Tony Blair to Sweden's Carl Bildt, made it possible to imagine Europe taking a stronger role in the world, even amid all the doubts. To Euro-enthusiasts across the continent, the new constitution was the answer to Europe's malaise and the next step toward global leadership. But what now, since the treaty is dead? All of this is bad news for the United States. In a world of rising great powers, of which two happen to be autocracies, the United States needs its fellow democracies to be as strong as possible. A unified, independent, capable Europe is in American interests, even if we may disagree at times. I would much rather see Europe run the 21st century than Vladimir Putin's Russia or Hu Jintao's China. The danger of this latest blow to European confidence is that our allies, including Britain, could gradually sink into global irrelevance. Already there are voices in London welcoming it. The Financial Times's Gideon Rachman believes that the majority of Europeans, if not their leaders, prefer irrelevance and are right to do so. It's better than having to be like the

United States, with responsibilities all over the globe. After all, "being a superpower can be a burdensome and bloody business," he writes. Europe's weakness is a kind of "nirvana." Rachman is certainly right that many Europeans prefer it this way. Europe has started to settle into a role akin to the chorus of a Greek tragedy, endlessly commenting and pronouncing judgment on the actions of the protagonists -- "O Oedipus, by reckless pride undone!" -- but with little or no effect on the outcome of the drama. And perhaps Europe -the Europe lacking in leadership, the Europe now lacking a new treaty -- is the way it is because that's what the people really do want. If so, the 21st century, decidedly not run by Europe, will be a very tricky time for the United States. EU Blames Ireland, Moves On A week after Irish voters rejected the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, its leaders are still in a bewildered state over how to resolve their crisis. At the E.U.'s two-day summit in Brussels, which ended on Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy used the Treaty deadlock to say there was no point in continuing accession talks with Croatia and Turkey until the current 27 members could agree on their future. "Without the Treaty of Lisbon there won't be any enlargement," he said. "You can't say no to reforms and yes to enlargement." The Lisbon Treaty is designed to streamline E.U. decision-making now the club has expanded to 27 members, but the Irish referendum — the only such vote in the E.U. — has thrown the entire project in disarray. Sarkozy and other E.U. leaders are now pinning hopes of salvaging the Treaty on another referendum, perhaps in a year's time. Officially, the bruised Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Brian Cowen was treated with sympathy at the Brussels summit, and there was universal recognition that the Irish vote had to be "respected". But behind the scenes, Cowen — tellingly banished to the far end of the family photograph of E.U. leaders — was alternately cajoled and bullied to run another vote. Yet there is no guarantee a second vote would win. The referendum got nixed thanks to a bewildering array of mostly unrelated objections, including abortion, neutrality, tax sovereignty, economic prospects, the loss of an Irish E.U. commissioner and the deregulation of the taxi trade. Indeed, an E.U. survey of 2,000 Irish 'no' voters said the main reason they rejected the Treaty was that they did not understand it. None of this makes Cowen's task any easier. He will now report back to the leaders at their October summit with either a roadmap charting a way out of the mess or a confirmation that another vote is pointless and the Treaty must be declared dead.

But there are other options available. Ireland could be offered additional guarantees of its sovereignty. Such "explanatory protocols" would involve no changes to the Treaty's text, and therefore little or no need for other governments to ratify the document. "Once reratification has been completed in the 26, it would be entirely appropriate for the Irish government to call for a second referendum," says Daniel Gros, Director of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS). But he warned that stakes would be much higher. "This referendum would be about a different question: does Ireland wish to join the 26 with the Lisbon Treaty in force? At this point, another 'no' would effectively mean that Ireland would leave the E.U." If that doesn't work, much of Lisbon could be imposed by stealth. Creative legal minds would ensure that the most pressing institutional changes — like an E.U. foreign minister and an 'External Action Service' — are implemented without a daunting new treaty that would involve the assent of pesky voters. Or else the E.U. could simply plow on with what it has under the existing treaties. This last option has been decried as a recipe for gridlock. Yet studies have shown that the 27 member states still function well with machinery designed for 15. Last December, Helen Wallace of the London School of Economics published research showing that E.U. enlargement has barely changed day-to-day work: the European Parliament produced as much legislation in 2006 as it did five years before, the European Commission has maintained its work rate, and there has been no significant rise in non-compliance cases at the European Court of Justice. As for E.U. leaders, they are still capable of dealing with real life issues, as they showed in Brussels after their recriminations over the Irish vote. They announced a relief package for farmers, fishermen and others affected by soaring oil and food prices; they agreed to scrap diplomatic sanctions against Cuba imposed in 2003; and they implicitly threatened more sanctions against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's regime. Which suggests that even without the Lisbon Treaty, reports of the E.U.'s death are somewhat premature.

4. Gog/Magog War Moscow Looks To Expand Military Presence In Central Asia Earlier this month, Russian media quoted Russian Air Force commander Colonel General Aleksandr Zelin as saying Moscow will deploy more personnel and equipment -- including more aircraft -- to its air base in Kant, outside the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.

And last week, the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, ratified an agreement with Tajikistan on the mutual use of military forces. The document was first signed in November 2006 and has already been approved by the Tajik parliament. Military and political experts both in Russia and Central Asia say the timing of Russia's ratification of the bilateral agreement with Tajikistan and its plans to reinforce the Kant air base are not coincidental, and show Moscow's seriousness about fortifying its influence in Central Asia. Vladimir Mukhin, a Moscow-based journalist and expert on military affairs, says that while Central Asia is an important region in terms of energy resources and geopolitics, Russia "has apparently come to the conclusion that military cooperation is the first and the most important step in regaining influence in the region." Mukhin adds that "Military and military-technical cooperation is -- should be -- of foremost importance in former Soviet countries. The security and sovereignty of these countries depend on the level of their military integration and military-technical cooperation because all armaments in the CIS are Russian-made weaponry [leftover from the Soviet era]. And Russia still produces and exports these armaments." With some 7,000 troops from Russia's 201st Motorized Rifle Division, the military base in Tajikistan is the largest Russian deployment outside its borders. The air base in Kant hosts some 400 personnel and is reportedly equipped with Russian Su-25, Su-27, An-24, and Il-76 aircraft as well as Mi-8 helicopters. The base was established in 2003. Sources at the base have denied reports that additional reinforcements will be sent there by Russia. But Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha, a Russian, has reportedly confirmed the imminent reinforcement at Kant, even suggesting that the additional troops and equipment will increase the significance of Russia's military presence in Central Asia. Russia The 'Most Realistic Partner' Some Central Asian governments are welcoming the increased Russian military presence in their region. According to the Russian presidential office, the "further expansion of militarytechnical cooperation" was high on the agenda earlier this month when President Dmitry Medvedev met with his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, in St. Petersburg. Ismoil Rahmatov, an expert on political affairs at the Strategic Studies think tank in Dushanbe, says that "after a few years of courtship with other world players -- the U.S.,

Europe, and China -- Central Asian countries have realized that Russia is their most realistic partner." Rahmatov notes that while China shares a border of more than 570 kilometers with Tajikistan and the United States is "the most powerful country in the world and it provides significant assistance" to Tajikistan, "all their aid can't come close to the assistance the Tajik people get from Russia -- [that is], the money Tajik migrants make in Russia. Russia is the only country that has always been-- and will be -- by Tajikistan's side." According to the Tajik expert, there were times -- especially after the terrorist attacks against the United States in 2001 -- that Central Asian countries were willing to expand their cooperation with the West and to decrease their dependency on Russia. However, such cooperation did not meet all of their expectations, and two main reasons are suggested for their general disappointment in cooperating with the West. First, most of the Western aid was conditioned on an improvement of human rights and the implementation of democratic changes in Central Asia, something the mainly authoritarian governments of Central Asia were not looking to make anytime soon. The second reason is the great geographical distance between the West and Central Asia. Millions of families in Central Asia depend heavily on their seasonal jobs at construction sites, markets, and factories in Russia for their livelihood. Their physical connections to Europe, China, and the United States pale in comparison. Wider Regional Cooperation To Come? Some observers say Russia and Central Asian countries are entering a new phase in their relationships -- both in the framework of bilateral cooperation with Moscow and in the framework of regional treaties, such as the CSTO, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec). Uzbek President Islam Karimov recently suggested that the CSTO and the Eurasec should merge to create a "powerful union capable of becoming a counterbalance to NATO and the EU." That's because none of the numerous regional organizations set up in the region after the collapse of the Soviet Union have united the "newly independent states," with most such organizations -- particularly the CSTO and the Eurasec -- having been dismissed as ineffective talk shops. And while Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's idea to form a Central Asian union has

received some acceptance, it is opposed by Uzbekistan and faces far too many hurdles to become a reality any time in the near future. So, with multiple but unsatisfying regional organizations to turn to, Central Asian countries seem to be welcoming Russia back with open arms -- though they haven't yet closed their doors to greater ties with the West. Not far from the Russian air base in Kant, Kyrgyzstan hosts a U.S. military base at its Manas International Airport that has some 1,000 personnel. The base reportedly contributes $50 million to the Kyrgyz economy every year and is one of the greatest sources of foreign currency for the impoverished country. There are also some 200 French troops stationed in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, and the country gets significant financial aid from the United States and the EU, including funds for constructing a bridge linking Tajikistan with Afghanistan and funds to train its border guards. And Uzbekistan, which closed a U.S. military base on its territory in 2005, recently allowed its reuse by NATO forces involved in Afghanistan and is reconsidering its "current state of affairs" with the United States. Even Turkmenistan, which was a reclusive country with few ties to the West, has greatly opened itself up and has even been cooperating with NATO in recent months under President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. All prime reasons why Moscow undoubtedly believes it has no time to lose in expanding its ties -- including militarily -- with all the Central Asian countries. Understanding the New Russian Threat The rise of the newly aggressive Russia carrying out international assassinations, threatening its neighbors, distributing weapons to America's enemies, confronting US forces and seemingly bent on resurrecting all its old bad habits baffles many who thought that the Cold War had ended with the fall of Communism. Many Americans have been taught to associate Russian warmongering with Communism. Understanding the real history of the USSR, Russian Communism and particularly the KGB which is running the show these days, is crucial to understanding the new Russian threat. (For the purpose of simplicity, the various incarnations of the KGB, including the historic NKVD and the modern FSB will all be referred to as the KGB) In what is called the July 20 plot of 1944, a number of high ranking German officers sought

to assassinate Hitler and take control of Germany to avert disaster. (Of passing interest is the presence of the head and former deputy head of German military intelligence among their number. ) We know about this plot primarily because it failed. In March 1953 a similar plot took place in the Soviet Union to kill Stalin and take control of the USSR. The plot involved much more high ranking figures than its German equivalent, including the man in control of the Soviet secret police, Beria and first secretary of the Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev. We don't know about this plot, primarily because it succeeded. What drove them to act was Stalin's own plan to unleash the USSR's largest purge and mass murder that would exceed Hitler while at the same time destroying the entire political and military leadership of the USSR in one stroke, consolidating complete and perfect control over much of the world. The conspirators who killed Stalin in 1953 knew about the plan and instead they poisoned Stalin at his own home, likely with rat poison, and watched him die slowly and in great agony. The man who had brought them together and who boasted of personally killing Stalin was Beria, a brilliant and evil figure who headed the Soviet secret police. Beria had his own plan as well for a KGB coup that would put him in power afterward. Beria's attempted KGB coup was aborted with the use of the Russian military. Beria was executed and Khrushchev took power while slowly liberalizing Russia. However, Khrushchev himself was overthrown in 1964 with the help of the KGB and in 1971 the actual head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov took power. While Andropov attempted to reform the Soviet Union, the system had decayed too far to make that possible. Andropov was shot in the kidney, however, by the wife of a former Soviet Interior Minister whom he had helped put away. The bullet did not kill him, but it did severely damage his health leading to his eventual death by renal failure. A third KGB led coup brought down Gorbachev and wittingly or unwittingly ended the Soviet Union. In its place came a chaotic free market system and the renaming of the KGB into the FSB. Much of the KGB disintegrated and turned into the new Russian mob that spread across Russia and around the world. This was however a very different KGB than the old Cheka or the NKVD that had once terrorized the Soviet Union and the world. Where the Cheka had been fiercely Communist and ideological, it had for the most part been purged by Stalin. Successive purges of the KGB based on political loyalty turned it into an organization based on patronage. The KGB typically recruited family members, with fathers and sons, husbands and wives, serving together in the KGB (as in the case of Putin and his own father).

Along the way the new KGB had lost any real attachment to Communist ideology. It had become a family business and it structure was virtually identical to that of organized crime. It saw Communism as an obstacle to its members' main occupation, business. The KGB's Russian members were Russian nationalists who favored a strong authoritarian government along with a limited amount of capitalism under an oligarchic system in which they were the new oligarchy. Putin, who took power in the 4th KGB coup, was perfectly representative of this New Guard of the KGB. The son of a KGB family, Putin was Michael Corleone, with an academic and business background, who knew that Russia and the KGB had to change with the times, but whose idea of reform was very different from the West. The fourth KGB coup was a bloodless consensual coup as Yeltsin having been humiliated and defeated by Bill Clinton over Yugoslavia agreed to step down in deference to the creation of a new strong and authoritarian Russia, non-Communist, but strongly nationalist and expansionist. And that is the Russia we face today. Under Putin the KGB has taken control of Russia's major industries and used them to generate great personal and national profits while spreading influence abroad. Bribery and protection money form a major section of Russia's economy and political assassinations are commonplace. The old Yeltsin era businessmen have either been purged or sworn allegiance to Putin. Every aspect of Russia from the press to religion has been centralized and independence is discouraged, punished and suppressed. The new Russia is a totalitarian state ruled by the new guard of the KGB as robber barons. They have spread their influence across the West, from Putin cronies like Alisher Usmanov who is one of the richest men in England to Lukoil which controls much of the gas stations across America's Northeast to the Russian emigre media which is now nearly wholly controlled from Moscow. Across the third world, Russia is busy providing weapons, building ports and bases and creating an anti-Western alliance based around its own oil and gas resources, that unites oil producing Latin American nations with leftist governments such as Venezuela with Arab OPEC nations to form a common front against America and Europe. On its own borders Russia is doing its best to push back NATO expansion while preparing for its own great project to reclaim the lost territories of the USSR, not in the name of Communism, but in the name of greed, power and Russian nationalism. The old rivalries with England and the US have been resumed and the KGB is active everywhere that Russian trade goes. The KGB's New Guard have learned from Communism's failures and they don't intend to

repeat the same mistakes. They respect the achievements of the USSR but their goal is to build a great Russian Empire ruled by themselves. They are the crime syndicate which now rules Russia and is expanding across the world. Fueled by the energy boom, they have a great deal of wealth and while the system they run is corrupt and incompetent, it is not nearly as corrupt or incompetent as the old Communist system was. The West defeated the USSR through trade. The New Russia intends to defeat the West through trade and it is doing it. But not only through trade. The profits of trade are going to fuel a new Russian war machine and where Russian trade goes, the KGB goes as well, buying influence and public officials, from the former German Chancellor who now openly works for Russian oil interests to a newly minted member of the New York State Assembly with a background in the Russian security services. The Cold War is back but it is no longer about Communism, if it ever really was except briefly into the 20's. It's about power. It's about wealth. And it's about national greatness. The long held Russian belief in their own destiny to rule the world has come to the surface again and the bear is once again set to rampage across the world.

6. The Rise of Islam Prisons become recruiting ground for radical Muslims A former British National Party activist who converted to Islam in prison is trying to radicalise young prisoners, the BBC can reveal. Inmate Stephen Jones is being held in a segregation unit at Whitemoor Prison, Cambridgeshire, the BBC has been told. Jones was put there after being suspected of recruiting for groups allied to al-Qaeda. The case has raised concerns that some radical Muslims are using prisons as a recruiting ground. The BBC has been told that Jones has been held in segregation at Whitemoor for about three weeks with two other Muslim prisoners. Sources have told the BBC he was caught attempting to radicalise a number of fellow inmates after he himself converted to Islam. 'Potential threat'

The BBC understands that intelligence sources believe that he is being paid by an al-Qaedainfluenced group. It is thought to be the first time that an inmate has been punished by being held in segregation for activities of this kind. When Whitemoor Prison opened in 1992, 14% of its prisoners were Muslim, now the figure is about 30%, the BBC has learnt. Steve Gough, vice-chairman of the Prison Officers Association (POA), said the organisation had been worried about the situation for a number of years. "This shows what we've been saying. If you can get someone that's so right wing converted then a normal prisoner is going to have absolutely no chance," he said. "Those people come inside and they're dealt with as normal prisoners, kept on normal locations and they can radicalise." The POA believes extremist Muslim prisoners should be kept apart from mainstream inmates who are often vulnerable to exploitation. Youth worker Sulaiyman Matthews, an orthodox Muslim who is working against extremism, said he had talked to prisoners on their release and many of them were angry and had been radicalised. Mr Matthews said the British public needed to know the "potential threat". The government said it was working to improve its awareness and understanding of extremism and radicalisation to maximise public protection.

7. Increase in Knowledge/New Technologies Keeping an Eye on Your Living Room If there’s one thing technology has done – for better or worse – it’s make spying a whole lot easier. Cameras and microphones have decreased in size to the extent that it’s now possible to embed them in the tiniest objects (think the head of a pin). Meanwhile, wireless technology has allowed investigators to quickly receive information and monitor areas more covertly. With that in mind, it makes sense that one company is working to bring spy technology to living rooms everywhere.

Designed as a household security device, the WiLife Spy Camera Starter Kit claims to be the “world's first ever networked spy camera that delivers professional-grade video security in a package that is easy to setup and affordable”. At $329.99, the kit may not seem that cheap, but, in comparison to other surveillance equipment, it’s certainly on the lower end. The kit includes WiLife software, a USB receiver and the main component – a video camera disguised as a fully functioning digital clock. After installing the software and plugging the receiver into the USB port of a computer, the user sets up the “clock” in the area of a home they wish to monitor. The clock plugs into a standard wall receptacle, can be adjusted to the ideal camera angle and transmits video surveillance to the receiver. WiLife, a designer of PC-based digital surveillance systems for home or light commercial use, claims its surveillance cameras are the most powerful, non-industrial security cameras available. The Spy Camera features high-resolution color video along with digital motion detection – powered by a built-in 400 MHz processor. The Spy Camera uses its own system of transmitting video from the camera to the Internet and therefore requires no additional wireless networks. An individual can connect up to six different clocks/cameras to the system (the starter kit only includes one but they also can be purchased separately for $249.99) and monitor and record video on a computer screen. As stated above, the Spy Camera is designed for use in households and small businesses. Employers can use it to keep their eyes on a small group of employees and parents can use it as that ultra-trendy surveillance accessory: the nanny cam. Certainly, the system offers a far better method of private surveillance than hiding cameras around the office or embedding cameras in teddy bears. For one, the camera will almost always stay in place and provide a pretty good view. Second, and probably more importantly, it has less chance of being discovered. Both these benefits make the WiLife Spy Camera a practical option for home or business monitoring. But a person can also probably imagine a thousand other uses for the WiLife Spay Camera – most of them a little more devious than checking on a babysitter or watching employees. While technology like the WiLife Spy Camera may be useful to certain security ends, the technology can be very easily abused. And with invasive videos being posted online by the thousands every day, the potential for abuse has grown even greater. While the technology itself is certainly not to blame, one has to wonder if the increasing availability of devices like the Spy Camera Starter Kit facilitates, and maybe even encourages, questionable spying practices. U.S. School District to Begin Microchipping Students Schoolbags A Rhode Island school district has announced a pilot program to monitor student movements by means of radio frequency identification (RFID) chips implanted in their schoolbags.

The Middletown School District, in partnership with MAP Information Technology Corp., has launched a pilot program to implant RFID chips into the schoolbags of 80 children at the Aquidneck School. Each chip would be programmed with a student identification number, and would be read by an external device installed in one of two school buses. The buses would also be fitted with global positioning system (GPS) devices. Parents or school officials could log onto a school web site to see whether and when specific children had entered or exited which bus, and to look up the bus’s current location as provided by the GPS device. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has criticized the plan as an invasion of children’s privacy and a potential risk to their safety. “There’s absolutely no need to be tagging children,” said Stephen Brown, executive director of the ACLU’s Rhode Island chapter. According to Brown, the school district should already know where its students are. “This program is a solution in search of a problem,” Brown said. The school district says that its current plan is no different than other programs already in place for parents to monitor their children’s school experience. For example, parents can already check on their children’s attendance records and what they have for lunch, said district Superintendent Rosemary Kraeger. Brown disputed this argument. The school is perfectly entitled to track its buses, he said, but “it’s a quantitative leap to monitor children themselves.” He raised the question of whether unauthorized individuals could use easily available RFID readers to find out students’ private information and monitor their movements. Because the pilot program is being provided to the school district at no cost, it did not require approval from the Rhode Island ethics commission.

8. Christian Worldview/Issues Parents Sentenced to Three Months in Prison - The Crime? Homeschooling The parents of a homeschooling family in the German state of Hesse have each been sentenced to three months in prison for the crime of homeschooling their seven children. According to a staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the sentence was issued to Juergen and Rosemarie Dudek after the federal prosecutor, Herwig Muller, said last year that he was dissatisfied with the fines the couple had already paid for homeschooling their children.

As reported by WorldNetDaily (WND), staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, Mike Donnelly, was appalled by the decision. "Words escape me, it's unconscionable, incredible, shocking." He then affirmed, "They will appeal of course." He concluded by summarizing the actions of the prosecutor: "You guys are rebelling against the state. We're going to punish you." Homeschooling is illegal in Germany under a law dating back to the Hitler era. Homeschooling families in the country have faced increasing persecution in recent years, with police in several cases physically transporting children to school and even removing one teenager from her parent's care. A spokesperson for the German homeschool advocacy group, Netzwork-Bildungsfreiheit, commented on the mandatory public school attendance laws, which deem homeschooling families to be in breach of the state's criminal code. "It is embarrassing the German officials put parents into jail whose children are well educated and where the family is in good order," wrote Joerg Grosseleumern. "We personally know the Dudeks as such a family." WND also reported that Judge Peter Hobbel, who originally imposed the fines on the parents, criticized the school system for denying the requests of the parents to have their "private school" recognized. In a previous WND article, it was noted that the Dudek's wrote a letter to the HSLDA regarding a new law that gives German authorities the right of "withdrawal of parental custody as one of the methods for punishing 'uncooperative' parents." The law is essentially enacted when "child abuse" is suspected. Conveniently, German courts have consistently deemed homeschooling a form of child abuse. "The new law is seen as a logical step in carving up family rights after a federal court had decided that homeschooling was an abuse of custody," read the letter signed by Juergen Dudek. In a blog, Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, attempted to defend these new developments, saying the government "has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion." Arno Meissner, the chief of the government's local education department, has also promulgated the government's intolerance of homeschooling families, confirming they will continually rely upon the mandatory school attendance law.

Courts to overturn parental discipline? A father in Canada grounded his daughter from a school trip because she disobeyed his orders to stay off the Internet, but a court overturned the punishment. According to Agence France-Presse, Justice Suzanne Tessier in Quebec Superior Court ordered the grounding for the 12-year-old girl lifted, prompting the father's lawyer, Kim Beaudoin, to warn, "Parents are going to be walking on egg shells from now on." The father had ordered his daughter, who was not identified by the report, to remain off the Internet. She didn't, chatting on websites her father had tried to block and then posting "inappropriate" pictures of herself online using a friend's Internet portal. As punishment, the father refused to let her go on a scheduled school trip, so the 12-yearold went to Canada's judicial system to get her way. Beaudoin told AFP the punishment was for her own protection, and he is pursuing an appeal. "She's a child," Beaudoin said. "At her age, children test their limits and it's up to their parents to set boundaries." The lawyer said she'll try to "re-establish" parental authority and to make sure the judge's opinion doesn't set a precedent. "I think most children respect their parents and would never go so far as to take them to court, but it's clear that some would and we have to ask ourselves how far this will go," Beaudoin said. Court records indicated the 12-year-old's violation of her home's Internet rules was just one in a list of instructions that she had violated. But Tessier said the punishment was just too much.

9. Other Events To Watch RBS issues global stock and credit crash alert The Royal Bank of Scotland has advised clients to brace for a full-fledged crash in global stock and credit markets over the next three months as inflation paralyses the major central banks. "A very nasty period is soon to be upon us - be prepared," said Bob Janjuah, the bank's credit strategist.

A report by the bank's research team warns that the S&P 500 index of Wall Street equities is likely to fall by more than 300 points to around 1050 by September as "all the chickens come home to roost" from the excesses of the global boom, with contagion spreading across Europe and emerging markets. Such a slide on world bourses would amount to one of the worst bear markets over the last century. RBS said the iTraxx index of high-grade corporate bonds could soar to 130/150 while the "Crossover" index of lower grade corporate bonds could reach 650/700 in a renewed bout of panic on the debt markets. "I do not think I can be much blunter. If you have to be in credit, focus on quality, short durations, non-cyclical defensive names. "Cash is the key safe haven. This is about not losing your money, and not losing your job," said Mr Janjuah, who became a City star after his grim warnings last year about the credit crisis proved all too accurate. RBS expects Wall Street to rally a little further into early July before short-lived momentum from America's fiscal boost begins to fizzle out, and the delayed effects of the oil spike inflict their damage. "Globalisation was always going to risk putting G7 bankers into a dangerous corner at some point. We have got to that point," he said. US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank both face a Hobson's choice as workers start to lose their jobs in earnest and lenders cut off credit. The authorities cannot respond with easy money because oil and food costs continue to push headline inflation to levels that are unsettling the markets. "The ugly spoiler is that we may need to see much lower global growth in order to get lower inflation," he said. "The Fed is in panic mode. The massive credibility chasms down which the Fed and maybe even the ECB will plummet when they fail to hike rates in the face of higher inflation will combine to give us a big sell-off in risky assets," he said. Kit Jukes, RBS's head of debt markets, said Europe would not be immune. "Economic weakness is spreading and the latest data on consumer demand and confidence are dire. The ECB is hell-bent on raising rates. "The political fall-out could be substantial as finance ministers from the weaker economies rail at the ECB. Wider spreads between the German Bunds and peripheral markets seem assured," he said.

Ultimately, the bank expects the oil price spike to subside as the more powerful force of debt deflation takes hold next year. World population to hit 7 billion in 2012 The world's population will reach 7 billion in 2012, even as the global community struggles to satisfy its appetite for natural resources, according to a new government projection. There are 6.7 billion people in the world today. The United States ranks third, with 304 million, behind China and India, according to projections released Thursday by the Census Bureau. The world's population surpassed 6 billion in 1999, meaning it will take only 13 years to add a billion people. By comparison, the number of people didn't reach 1 billion until 1800, said Carl Haub, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau. It didn't reach 2 billion until 130 years later. "You can easily see the effect of rapid population growth in developing countries," Haub said. Haub said that medical and nutritional advances in developing countries led to a population explosion following World War II. Cultural changes are slowly catching up, with more women in developing countries going to school and joining the work force. That is slowing the growth rate, though it is still high in many countries. The global population is growing by about 1.2 percent per year. The Census Bureau projects the growth rate will decline to 0.5 percent by 2050. By then, India will have surpassed China as the most populous country. The Census Bureau updates projections each year on a variety of global demographic trends, including fertility and mortality rates and life expectancy. U.S. life expectancy has surpassed 78 years for the first time, the National Center for Health Statistics announced last week. The new Census report comes amid record high oil and gasoline prices, fueled in part by growing demand from expanding economies in China and India. There is no consensus on how many people the Earth can sustain, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. He said it depends on how well people manage the Earth's resources.

Today, industrialized nations use a disproportionate share of oil and other resources, while developing countries are fueling population growth. There are countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East where the average woman has more than six children in her lifetime. In Mali and Niger, two African nations, women average more than seven children. "There's still a long way to go in the developing world," Frey said. "A lot of it does have to do with the education of women and the movement of women into the labor force." In the U.S., women have an average of about two children, which essentially replaces the population. Much of the U.S. population growth comes from immigration. Hizbullah sleeper cells activated in Canada? US and Canadian intelligence agencies warned Thursday that Hizbullah attacks on Jewish targets around the world could be imminent. ABC News quoted intelligence officials as saying that Hizbullah had activated sleeper cells in Canada, and that top terror operatives had left Lebanon for the US, Canada and Africa. According to the officials, Hizbullah wants to avenge February's assassination of its operations head Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, for which the Shi'ite group holds Israel accountable. Israel has repeatedly denied the allegation. There was no reliable intelligence regarding the possible targets of such an attack, the sources told ABC News, adding, however, that Hizbullah operatives had recently been seen conducting surveillance on the Israel Embassy in Ottawa and on several Toronto synagogues. "There are concerns Hizbullah might be ready to do something along those lines," ABC quoted a senior US counterterrorism official as saying. CIA and National Security Agency officials quoted by the report said British and Canadian agencies began receiving a flow of intelligence on February 17, only a few days after Mughniyeh's funeral, regarding a possible Hizbullah attack. "They want to kill as many people as they can, they want it to be a big splash," former CIA intelligence officer Bob Baer, who claimed he met with Hizbullah leaders in Beirut last month, was quoted by ABC as saying. "They cannot have an operation fail and I don't think they will. They're the A-team of terrorism."

According to officials quoted by the report, up to 20 suspected Hizbullah members have been under surveillance and their activities are being coordinated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. "Hizbullah would not carry out an attack in the West, or wherever this attack is going to occur, without approval from Teheran," Baer was quoted as saying.

Blessings, Kade Hawkins

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