World Watch Today

Saudi Arabia's dangerous financial troubles

Steven LeBlanc06102016

Saudi Aramco – 12.5 million barrels per day– Saudi Aramco is by far the biggest energy company in the world, generating more than $1 billion a day in revenue

I am watching Saudi Arabia—Population of 32 million — Saudi Arabia is on the verge of its most significant change in decades.  The Kingdom is in financial trouble and is seeking to avert internal chaos.  Changes coming to this desert Kingdom have the potential to reshape not only the Middle East but also the entire world.

Saudi Arabia—and Aramco (the state owned oil company)—holds the world’s second largest proven crude oil reserves. Since the Saudi government nationalized Aramco, the company has become the tiara of the kingdom and the key catalyst behind Saudi Arabia’s economic wealth.  But now the combination of low oil prices and regional chaos directly threatens Saudi Arabia’s survival.  Saudi Arabia is not in disastrous straits at the moment; it has sufficient reserves—dollar reserves– to sustain the country for a few years. However, if these reserves do run out, it will face a mammoth political storm.  Saudi Arabia has gone through almost $100 billion in reserves the last few years. Reserves now stand at roughly $650 billion. It is bleeding foreign currency reserves and is seeking to stanch the “bleeding”.

The Saudis have been spending lots of money to keep the Arab world—from totally collapsing.  Many Arab states have either crumpled or been severely weakened. Saudi Arabia now confronts at least two key external challenges: Iran and the Islamic State—to fight them both costs vast amounts of capital.

Saudi Arabia has to spend a lot of money to keep up with its proxy war against Iran—its great enemy in the region.  Remember Saudi Arabia is Sunni—Iran is Shiite.  These nations do not fight each other directly but instead they wage expensive proxy conflicts throughout the region. When protests began in 2011 against the Iranian-backed regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Saudis used their oil wealth to back rebel groups, most of which are to erratic degrees jihadist, in order to attack the Assad regime.  All of this costs money.

In Bahrain, the Saudis intervened when protests by the Shiite majority population, also backed by Iran, imperiled the pro-Saudi Sunni monarchy. The Saudis are also involved in a military war in Yemen, where Iran is sponsoring Houthi rebels. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the Iranians appear to have the upper hand.  Other than fighting proxy wars, Saudi Arabia also supports Arab states in battling economic havoc, including Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, and Egypt.  As well, the Royal Family is attempting to lead a Sunni Arab coalition against Iran—and using their dollar reserves to buttress those relationships.  This is putting a tremendous strain upon Saudi foreign currency reserves.

So what is the strategy to build up cash reserves?  The Wall Street Journal reports the following:

“The planned initial public offering of oil colossus Saudi Aramco has kicked off a scramble among banks for a role in a deal that could generate $1 billion in fees and help define success or failure on Wall Street for years to come.

By virtually any measure, Saudi Arabian Oil Co., as it is formally known, is one of the largest enterprises on earth. Saudi Arabia has said the state-owned company could be worth $2 trillion to $3 trillion—roughly equal at its midpoint to the total market value of every other publicly traded oil and gas company in the world, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Ever since Saudi Arabia indicated in January that it’s eyeing a public listing for Aramco, senior bankers at the world’s largest financial institutions have been swarming around the company’s headquarters in the coastal city of Dhahran seeking to ingratiate themselves with officials in the kingdom and win a piece of the biggest investment-banking deal ever.”

This strategy to take the nationally owned Saudi oil giant Aramco public is a clear demonstration of just how serious the Saudi financial crisis is.  So I am watching closely the upcoming public stock offering of the biggest oil company in the world (oil colossus Saudi Aramco).  And, always keeping in mind that Saudi Arabia is prophetically significant–We believe Saudi Arabia is home to the descendants of Ishmael: “He (Ishmael) will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

The leader of German, right-wing party speaks about Muslims

The leader of German, right-wing AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) party speaks about Muslims–

She is rising in popularity in Germany–take the time to watch this video clip–Steven LeBlanc

Bloody Europe, and a new Austrian president

Steven LeBlanc
05 13 2016

Norbert Hofer (on the right), the Freedom party’s presidential candidate, celebrates with supporters in Vienna—on his way to the Presidency of Austria…he should win the run-off election to be held later in May.

Europe has always been a bloody continent. Real Europe is the story of war after war, after war. Here in America we simply don’t appreciate that Europe’s persona is one of ethnic, political and religious conflict that plays out again and again.  Prophecy tells us in the very near future, war will come again to Europe.

History tells us that Europe was a nightmare of a place to live in between 1914 and 1950.  The first half of the twentieth century was a slaughterhouse over on the continent, from Normandy in France to Auschwitz in Poland—From London, England to Stalingrad in Russia. Europe is the blood lands—it is the world’s great death-zone, where 100 million people have died in the last 100 years.  The two great European conflicts involved collateral impact that included war dead, concentration camps, disease, malnutrition, starvation, rape—all of these horrors that are linked to the two world wars; and remember these wars started in Europe.

And don’t ever forget in the 1930s and 40s ethnic hatred reached heights never before seen in Europe.  In 1933 nine million Jews lived in the 21 countries of Europe that would be occupied by Nazi Germany during World War 2.  The “killing factories” -–the death camps that systematically murdered Jews, Poles, Russians, Gypsies, Slavs, Belarusians, Ukrainians and many others, including the physically disabled, these killing camps were situated in Europe. Just in Europe alone, 40 million people died during World War 2.

At the end of the war (1945)—25 million people in the Soviet Union and a further 20 million in Germany were homeless—remember the war destroyed houses and apartment complexes by the thousands.  Millions of people lived outside or in shattered buildings, sometimes living in the holes they dug.

In the book of Daniel we see an end-time Europe that is partly strong and partly brittle.  The divisions we are seeing within the European Union today regarding refugees, the jihadist threat—the economy, showcase that biblical reality of disagreement and division within Europe:

Daniel 2:40-43: “And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron; just as iron crushes and smashes everything, it shall crush and shatter all these.  As you saw the feet and toes partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but some of the strength of iron shall be in it, as you saw the iron mixed with the clay. As the toes of the feet were part iron and part clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with clay, so will they mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.”

The reason I write these things is because Europe is floundering, Europe is in trouble—Europe is overwhelmed with political disagreement, unemployment challenges, refugees and lack of stability—this is the type of setting that foreshadows major political change.

Speaking of change…in Austria the anti-immigration far-right party (the Freedom Party) triumphed in the first round of presidential elections; its leader is Norbert Hofer who ran on an anti-immigrant and anti-Europe platform, winning 36.4 per cent of the vote.  Mr. Hofer is now poised to win the second and final round of presidential voting on May 22.  The Austrian presidency is a largely ceremonial role, but Mr. Hofer’s stunning success will be seized upon as evidence that the Freedom Party can win political supremacy in the 2018 general elections.  Leaders in many European capitals are very concerned that the Austrian election results will be duplicated in their countries.

If you recall, in the regional elections in Germany some weeks ago, anti-migrant feeling propelled a far-Right party to its best ever result (The Alternative for Germany party).  More in my next blog concerning the rise of far “Right” parties in Europe.  Brittle Europe just became even more, unsteady.

Modern day Babylon, Brussels and a jihadist haven

Steven LeBlanc
04 26 2016

European Muslims protesting

Europe is an end-time Babylon.  It is where you find a mix of ethnic groups (there are 87 distinct ethnic groups in Europe), and at least 23 different languages are spoken; Europe is a patchwork of political parties, and a mix of Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists.  The current hub of this modern day Babylon is Brussels, Belgium, a city of about 1.4 million.   It is nearly impossible to explain to an American, but Belgium is a country of six governments, Brussels has a city with 19 mayors, and the city is the de facto headquarters to the European Union and NATO.

Belgium, wedged in between Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and France, has spawned a top-heavy number of jihadis.  “The maximum number of Belgians who at one point were active in Syria or Iraq has climbed to 516,” Belgian Arabist and author Pieter van Ostaeyen said in his blog. “At this point Belgium is, per capita, by far the European nation contributing the most to the foreign element in the Syrian war.” It is said that Belgium’s Muslim population stands at nearly 800,000.  This is huge for such a small country.

Belgium has always been a confusing country.  Even the security services in the city of Brussels are confusing, (a Babylon within a larger Babylon).  With a population of 1.4 million inhabitants, the local police force is divided up into six police corps spread over 19 boroughs. Sharing security information in that setting is slow and inept.  At times the government of Belgium simply grinds to a dead stop.  The nation went without a cohesive government for a record 541 days in 2010 and 2011.

Belgium is both fractured and dangerous…especially the capital city of Brussels: Just look at the timeline regarding the number of attacks in Western European cities over the past two years and their relation to Brussels, it becomes clear just how much of an outsized role the country is playing:

• On May 24, 2014: An attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels killed four—an Israeli couple, a French, and a Belgian employee of the museum were shot dead by French ex-Syria jihadi Mehdi Nemmouche.

• On Aug. 23, 2015: The man who tried to commit a terrorist attack on board the Thalys train says he found his Kalashnikov and the ammunition in a park near Brussels Midi. The Moroccan Ayoub El Kahzzani got on the train at the Brussels station and initiated the attack shortly afterward.

• On Friday, Nov. 13, 2015: At least two French terrorists living in Brussels traveled to Paris to cause carnage in the heart of the city. The killing spree took the lives of 130 and injured hundreds.

• Two of them were French citizens and brothers living (and born) in the Molenbeek suburb in northwest Brussels, a third was a Belgian who left for Syria a year ago. The first brother is called Brahim Abdeslam, who killed himself using an explosive belt in a café at the Rue Voltaire. A second brother, Mohamed Abdeslam, was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the plot but has since been released. The third was Salah Abdeslam, 26, who was arrested in Molenbeek after a dramatic shootout last week.

• In March 30 People died in Brussels when terrorists attacked the airport and a Metro station—the Maelbeek metro station in Brussels.

Many of the terrorists have ties to the Brussels borough of Moleenbeek—I was in Molenbeek just one week ago—it is within greater Brussels; its population is around 95,000, 80% are Muslim. Molenbeek has high levels of petty crime: muggings, drug dealing and burglaries. Molenbeek has been allowed to become a breeding-ground for jihadism. Muslim youth turning to jihadism are given the excuse that they are victims of social and economic exclusion—this is the argument of the political left socialists that are so dominant in many European countries. Behind many of the attacks is ISIS.

Since March 2014, the Islamic State has carried out or inspired at least 29 deadly assaults targeting Westerners around the world, killing more than 650 people, according to a New York Times analysis of such attacks.

We estimate that ISIS has carried out or inspired roughly 76 terrorist attacks in 21 countries outside Syria and Iraq. ISIS has gone global, and has not only found a fertile recruiting ground among some of Europe’s most angry youth, the group is also taking advantage of the geopolitical storm it helped create in Syria. The single biggest story in Europe over the past 18 months has been the refugee crisis, as millions stream into the continent to flee Middle East wars. In 2015, more than 1.3 million migrants entered Europe; there’s little sign of a slowdown in 2016, with 155,000 people having arrived by sea this winter.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s de facto leader, is at her political low point for allowing over 1.1 million refugees into Germany. This did not go over well with millions of German citizens. Chancellor Merkel then orchestrated a deal with Turkey to continue housing Syrian refugees outside of the European Union. The deal, which hinges on giving Turkish citizens visa-free travel throughout Europe, is causing outrage across Europe. Europeans are angry and fearful about letting another 76 million people (that is the population of Turkey) from a largely Muslim country travel freely throughout Europe.

Europe is approaching its breaking point. And it brings us back to the issue facing Europe in 2016…will the European Union begin to fracture? Terrorist strikes in European cities, the refugee crisis, high unemployment throughout much of Europe, all these factors are working to drive a wedge in the European Union of nations.

Remember HISTORY reveals THAT Democracy in Europe is a fragile thing—we take it for granted. Eventually, in the not too distant future, we will see a tyrant come to power ON THE CONTINENT— and democratic Europe will give way to a dictatorship. At first this man will appear reasonable and charismatic, inspiring hope, but soon after drawing support from other European leaders he will pursue an expansionist agenda. His dictatorship will encompass much of Europe—Europe will become an economic goliath –and in a blitzkrieg like strike this BEAST of Europe will move troops into the Middle East fighting against and subduing a Middle East leader labeled as the King of the South (Daniel 11:40-43). Terrorist attacks in Europe will lead to greater disagreement among the EU-28 member states. The nations and citizens of Europe will disagree on how to handle the Muslim extremist threat within their borders—A turbulent year ahead for Europe.

Deep Fissures in Europe

Steven LeBlanc

Angela Merkel’s popularity in Germany and the rest of Europe is in decline

So many areas of disagreement exist between EU member states.  Will this polyglot consisting of 28 nations, where 25 different languages are spoken, survive as a united entity?  For certain we see in this super state a modern tower of Babel.  The EU today is on thin ice; it continues to be both a political and economic giant, but a wobbly giant ready to keel over.  Remember, the population of the European Union is over 510 million, nearly 200 million more than the United States and don’t forget the EU’s GDP is larger than the American GDP.  Europe’s economy and its refugee crisis impact the whole world; it is a mistake to think of Europe as an impotent antiquated place that plays a minor role in the world.

Europe today is being pulled apart.  Topping the list of disagreements is the refugee crisis.   Germany is pressing member nations to take in more refugees; Poland, Austria, Hungry and Italy are aggressively saying no to Angela Merkel of Germany in this request.  Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann announced his country would only accept a limited number of asylum-seekers each day — an announcement that led to border closures up and down the Balkans – The relationship between Chancellor Merkel and Austrian Chancellor Faymann is frigid.  Border controls and border fences have been implemented all over the continent, as nations take individual measures to blunt the flow of refugees.  Hungary, Austria, Slovenia and Macedonia have all built a fence to stop the surge of refugees coming up through Greece and the Balkans.  This is something that Germany did not want (fences erected at borders).  The Chancellor believes fences will only encourage nationalistic behaviors and distrust between European nations.

Chancellor Merkel of Germany wants to see a Europe that helps the refugees, a Europe that will not be divided over the goal of free and easy travel within the European Union Schengen zone, the European free movement area that allows easy trade and travel between European countries.

As summer approaches Austria is preparing to close its border with Italy, a move that raises the prospect of tens of thousands of migrants being stuck in Italy, creating a similar nightmare that has developed in Greece.  Angela Merkel is often described as a leader of rectitude, but the rest of Europe sees her embrace of the refugees as an attempt to spread her compassionate blunder across the entire European Union.

Related to the refugee crisis is the question of what does Europe do about terrorism.  Here is an area of great disagreement between Germany and France.  Earlier in the month before a joint meeting of French and German officials, French President François Hollande said in an interview with the German newspaper Bild, “Our two countries must agree to a budgetary effort on defense. And to act outside Europe. Let’s not rely on another power, even a friendly one (a reference to America), to do away with terrorism.”  Hollande believes Europe has a responsibility to fight against ISIS, Germany takes a much more passive approach– determined not to get drawn into the Middle East mayhem.

The horror of World War 11 still hangs over the German people; they will not be quick to enter into another war with ISIS or any other nation.  As well, it was France and Belgium that were attacked by terrorists not Germany.  Since the Germans have not been attacked in the same way they are more sanguine.

There are two Europes. One, the Europe such as France, Hungary, Austria and Poland, who are frightened about the jihadist threat, and the other Europe is the Germany of Europe that does not want to overreact to the Middle East crisis, including the Jihadist threat. France is acknowledging that Europe cannot simply rely on the U.S. to fight wars with the jihadists. Germany does not want to be pressured by France to get entangled in the Middle East chaos.  France believes that the Middle East chaos is already here in Europe, and we need to do something about it right now, and that German leadership needs to wake up to that reality.

The division between France and Germany is growing and it is significant. The deep fissures within the European Union are also reflected in the forthcoming Brexit decision.  Will Britain leave the EU? Germany wants Britain to remain in the Union. But that discussion is for another day.

In the book of Daniel we see an end-time Europe that is partly strong and partly fragile.  The divisions we are seeing within the European Union today regarding refugees and the jihadist threat showcase that biblical reality of disagreement and vulnerable European alliances: Daniel 2:40-43:

“And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron; just as iron crushes and smashes everything, it shall crush and shatter all these.  As you saw the feet and toes partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but some of the strength of iron shall be in it, as you saw the iron mixed with the clay. As the toes of the feet were part iron and part clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with clay, so will they mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.”

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