World Watch Today

Israel Cyber Attacks Iran

Iranian security has uncovered evidence of the Duqu computer virus — found to be infecting computers at Iranian nuclear sites. The virus is called, “Son of Stuxnet” by cyber experts. Duqu appears, based on its code, to have been written by the same authors as the Stuxnet virus that was used to cripple an Iranian nuclear-fuel processing plant.

Both virus’ are widely believed to be the work of Israel and the United States. Experts who looked at the program were awed at its ability to penetrate Iran’s highly protected security system without the malware being detected.

Duqu secretly penetrates computer systems.  The virus then creates “hidden” weaknesses that can be exploited to destroy the networks at any time its creators believe is best. The Duqu Trojan Horse records every keystroke used on a system, allowing it to learn passwords to systems inside the network, making future penetration much easier.

Israel and Iran have been at war for some time.  Iran uses proxy terrorists to strike civilians.  Israel uses assassination and sophisticated cyber-war tactics to attack Iran.

The question is:  Will the war escalate to include aircraft strikes and troop clashes.

The Bible tells us that there is a spirit war going on in a parallel world that we do not see.  After Daniel had been fasting to seek greater understanding, God sent an angel to speak with him (Daniel 10:10–12). The angel gave Daniel an explanation about why it had taken him so long to answer Daniel’s prayers. “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia” (vv. 13–14).

Later, this same angel relates further details of the unseen spiritual world. “Then he said, ‘Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth. No one upholds me against these, except Michael your prince’” (vv. 20–21).  Michael is the prince watching over Israel (Daniel 12:1).

Clearly, this passage is speaking of spirit wars. It is describing the struggle that goes on behind world affairs in the spirit world. That Prince of Persia (Iran) exists today.  Satan is stubborn in his pursuit to stir up trouble against Israel.

Steven LeBlanc

ISRAEL'S NEW DEFENSE

Israel’s new “Iron Dome” mobile short-range missile defense system was used in a combat operation for the first time in April, Israeli officials say.  A battery located near the southern coastal town of Ashkelon brought down what was thought to be a Grad rocket fired from the Gaza Strip.

The firing of an anti-tank missile against an Israeli school bus has again prompted a strong Israeli response, with reports that a number of Palestinian civilians have been killed in air strikes.

At first sight, this engagement by the Iron Dome system appears to be a game-changer in the struggle between the Israelis and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza.

The Israelis have tried various means, ranging from air strikes to a full-scale ground operation to re-enter the Gaza Strip, but none of these efforts have permanently halted the rocket fire.

Iron Dome represents a different approach to the missile threat.  It is a very expensive system – each interceptor missile costing some $70,000 (£43,000) a shot with much of the funding may well come from US military aid.

Military and technological measures only tackle the symptoms of the problem.  As so often in the region, it is the underlying political situation that is the real issue. And this looks to be as intractable as ever.  Jerusalem will be the flash point of a final battle where the nations battle Christ.

“For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (Zechariah 14:1–2).

Israel to Strike Iran?

An Israeli attack on Iran is now, once again, back on the front burner.  Wars and rumors of war describe the talk that is going on in the Middle East. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet—Matthew 24:6.

Reports in the Israeli press reveal that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are pressing members of Netanyahu’s cabinet and Israeli security chiefs to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear stations.

According to Haaretz, the liberal Israeli daily newspaper, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently convinced ultra-hawkish Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to support an air attack against key Iranian targets.

Last week Israeli Air Force pilots engaged in a large-scale joint exercise with the Italian Air Force. The drills focused on long-range refueling. The only need for Israel to require its fighters to refuel mid-air is a possible attack on Iran.

On Thursday, Israel’s Home Front Command conducted a major drill in the Tel Aviv region simulating a long-range enemy missile strike on Israel’s population centers. Iran has warned that if Israel strikes, missiles will fall on Israeli cities.

The British newspaper The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the British military is “accelerating” preparations to take part in a US-led strike on Iran. A strike on Iran is not certain, but the obvious preparations have Israelis talking.

If Israel attacks, Iran would use its proxies against US and Israeli targets across the region.  Hezbollah, in southern Lebanon, would strike Israel, leading to what would end up being an Israeli war against both Syria and Lebanon. Iran’s allies in Iraq and Afghanistan could launch attacks against US forces in the region. Oil prices would soar (in the range of $150 to $180 per barrel).

Israel is not alone in talking about military action against Iran. Among the state department documents disclosed by WikiLeaks was one where Saudi Arabia called for action to chop what it called “the head of the snake”.

Don’t expect Washington to support a strike by Israel.  America is trying to decrease its footprint in the Middle East, a war with Iran will send oil prices much higher—and after Afghanistan and Iraq Americans do not want to be involved in another war.

Israel has long veiled its plans for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

But the last week has seen the most intense speculation in years that Prime Minister Netanyahu is losing patience with Israel’s policy of waiting on Iran to comply with international rules.

Steven LeBlanc

Will the eurozone crisis cause the UK to leave the EU?

In Europe, the headlines this week were dominated by whether Greece will be forced out of the common currency, the euro. But as doubts over Greece’s future in Europe lead the news coverage, this may soon be overshadowed by the growing prospect of an exit from the EU by another member state, the United Kingdom. While it is commonly understood in Europe that the British commitment to the European Union is at the best of times tepid, what is clear now is that as a result of a the financial crisis engulfing those countries who share the euro as their currency, a new type of union is emerging. The exact nature of the new ‘Europe’ may not be completely clear, but the growing sentiment is that it will be one that does not include Britain.

This week the German news magazine Der Spiegel online edition ran an article entitled, ‘EU Summit Paves the Way for a Split Continent.’ Observing that the response to the crisis in the eurozone has led to a growing division within the EU, the magazine recounted the following regarding the recent summit of European leaders: “… when it finally ended in the early morning hours of Thursday…[i]t revealed the contours of a new Europe – a divided Europe, with a new border running between those countries which belong to the common currency area and those which do not. In the future there will be two Europes within the European Union.”

Common wisdom now seems to recognize that this division within Europe will lead to a ‘core’ Europe consisting of those countries who accept that to maintain a common currency requires the adoption of German policies for the whole of Europe as well as a general recognition of Berlin’s dominance. Labeling this core group “Merkel’s Europe”, Der Spiegel went on to say: “This new Europe has a nearly hegemonic leader, namely Germany. It has a goal, the stability of the euro. And it has a principle that reads: Those who botch their finances stand to lose a portion of their sovereignty.”

That the current economic crisis within Europe is leading to an increasingly divided Europe was also affirmed by the Financial Times this week. In an editorial by regular columnist Wolfgang Munchau, the point was made that in order to save the euro, policies will have to be adopted which diverge from the interests of those members, like Britain, that have stayed out of the euro currency: “The needs of market integration are different for a monetary union in trouble than for a wider club of countries primarily interested in free trade.”

Noting that the policies needed to save the euro will lead to the appointment of a central European government overseeing finances and economics, Mr. Munchau goes on to comment: There is no need for non-eurozone members to establish similar structures among themselves, let alone to subject themselves to a regime run by – and in the interests of – the eurozone.”

This will inevitably force a choice on countries like the UK as to whether they will subject themselves to a European Union run, and increasingly appropriate for, only those countries that are part of the common euro currency. It will become even more difficult for Britain when, if what Der Speigel reckons is the case, the eurozone countries will now be forced to essentially fall into line with German leadership. In such a situation, Britain will find itself in a European Union run by Germany, which will lead to a difficult choice, as Mr. Munchau concludes: “For Britain, Sweden, Denmark and other non-eurozone countries the question is no longer simply whether they should join the euro, or not. It is whether they want to remain in an organization with which they will have increasingly less in common.”

The external pressure posed on Britain to exit the EU which may be brought about by recent developments is aided by the growing skepticism about Europe within British politics. CNBC.com this week reported on a rebellion amongst Conservative members of parliament in which a number of high profile members of the party backed a vote to authorize a referendum on Britain’s continued membership in the European Union. Speaking of the increasing chorus of discontent in Britain over the European Union, the article quoted one member of parliament as saying: “there’s always been a general euroscepticism, but it has hardened.” Combined with developments inside the EU that are pushing it in the direction of becoming a centralized,  German dominated organization,  such sentiment will make it difficult, if not impossible for Britain to stay in the EU.

Eye on Europe

Latest European debt deal fails to solve strain on European unity

Since the euro-zone’s leaders met in July, market instability has continued based mainly on fears of a Greek default and concerns over rising bond yields for euro-zone countries on the fringes of solvency. Thursday night Europe’s leaders met again with the intention of finding a solution.  A hopeful, three-pronged approach to the market concerns was agreed, namely that (1) the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) would be more than doubled to 1 trillion euros (at the July meeting of euro-zone leaders the EFSF was increased to 440 billion euros); (2) banks holding Greek debt are to accept a write-off of 50% of debt (increased from the 20% proposed at the July meeting), and (3) European banks will be required to raise 106 billion euros in new capital by June 2012.

Though markets have reacted well to the deal, as with everything EU, it takes time for the summit-level agreements to filter down and be ratified by the individual euro-zone countries. Until that takes place, the deal is theoretical. Also theoretical is the increase in the size of the EFSF. Funding for the EFSF cannot come solely from the euro-zone countries themselves. To do so would raise their debt limits to such a level that many of them would suffer downgraded ratings meaning increased government borrowing costs. So the head of the EFSF is turning to China to discuss its terms for buying EFSF bonds.

The latest agreement among euro-zone leaders however has not resolved some of the key issues which strain the seams of the European project. The first issue is who takes the losses when debt has to be written down? European banks (mainly French and German), as well as the European Central Bank, are the largest holders of Greek debt. In the event of a default by either Greece or another ailing euro-zone economy, experts have predicted that some banks may not survive (nine banks failed the stress tests conducted earlier this year). Presently there is no European agreement on how those banks’ depositors will be protected in the event of such a default.  However, this issue is not being discussed because national leaders know that it implicates fiscal transfer between nations.

The second issue is the economic agenda. In northern European countries there is a strong preference for austerity, after all Germany implemented painful labour market reforms in the mid-2000s causing unemployment to soar to around 13% but ultimately leading to its stronger export position now. By contrast, in 2001 at the time of joining the euro, Greece went on a spending spree increasing wage levels and worrying little about labour market competitiveness.  But in the south, the Mediterranean countries need growth to be able to service their debt. Under the heavy hand of their rescuers they have been implementing austerity measures aimed at reducing their budget deficits and ultimately debt, but the spending cuts are unpopular and killing growth. As austerity kills growth, demand for unemployment benefits swells and imperilled government coffers are again depleted making the climb back to surplus all the more difficult.

The third issue is how to ensure fiscally responsible behaviour in the future. Germany wants to implement disciplinary measures imposing fines on governments running budget deficits. But such punishment is regarded as useless by some who argue that financially penalizing an indebted country only exacerbates the problem. Others don’t miss the opportunity to point out Germany’s hypocrisy since after its accession to the euro, it was cavalier (as was France) in its flouting of the agreement amongst euro-zone members to not exceed the agreed maximum debt to GDP ratio. Of equal concern is the effectiveness of this approach. While rigid discipline might punish profligate behaviour by spendthrift governments, what of those countries whose economies have collapsed for other reasons? Both Ireland and Spain had relatively well managed public spending but were crucified by the 2008 property crash.  It doesn’t appear that the sort of rigid discipline Germany wants would be universally useful to stamp out rampant debt accumulation in the south.

National leaders seem reluctant to tell voters what they don’t want to hear – that is that if the euro unravels, everyone will suffer.  As an export-lead economy, Germany benefits from the increased competitiveness of the currency which is due to the presence of the Mediterranean countries in the euro. If they were to leave, the value of the euro would shoot up leaving Germany’s exports uncompetitive. Likewise, the south does not seem to realize that they don’t have a choice but to stay either. If they were to leave, their currencies would be so highly devalued that inflation would skyrocket leaving them in a potentially worse situation than they currently find themselves in under austerity.

This all leads to the inevitable conclusion that Europe needs empowered and strong decision makers for all of Europe. National politics, riven with ideological divisions, and cultural rivalries amongst states, has meant that domestic governments have become ineffective for making decisions which require coordination of multi-national interests. It remains to be seen how long it will take leaders and voters to accept the inevitability of a more powerful and centralized European government.

Eye on Europe

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