Thursday, March 20, 2014

In The News: Golan Heights Tension Mounting - Isaiah 17 Back In Focus

First, a quick update on the Ukraine:

 Ukraine's government said Wednesday it has begun drawing up plans to pull its troops from Crimea, where Russia is steadily taking formal control as its armed forces seize military installations across the disputed peninsula.
In a warning to Moscow, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden declared the United States will respond to any aggression against its NATO allies, which include neighbors to Russia.
Standing side by side with a pair of Baltic leaders in Vilnius, Lithuania, Biden said the U.S. was "absolutely committed" to defending its allies, adding that President Barack Obama plans to seek concrete commitments from NATO members to ensure the alliance can safeguard its collective security.

"Russia cannot escape the fact that the world is changing and rejecting outright their behavior," Biden said, after meeting in Vilnius with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvian President Andris Berzins.
Ukraine's military, which is heavily outnumbered in Crimea, has come under increased pressure since the region was nominally incorporated into Russia on Tuesday. National Security and Defense Council secretary Andriy Parubiy said Ukraine will seek U.N. support to turn Crimea into a demilitarized zone as it seeks to relocate armed forces to the mainland.
Earlier Wednesday, masked Russian-speaking troops seized control over Ukraine's naval headquarters in the city of Sevastopol. A Ukrainian navy commander was also detained during that operation.
The several hundred militiamen who captured the base in Sevastopol met no resistance. Sevastopol is also the home port of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, and tens of thousands of Russian-led troops are now patrolling Crimea.
It came a day after a confrontation between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian militia left two dead.
The Russian-speaking troops, who arrived on the base after the storming, wore helmets, flak jackets and uniforms with no identifying insignia. By afternoon, they were in full control of the naval headquarters, a set of three-story boxy white concrete buildings with blue trim. It was not immediately clear how many, if any, Ukrainian servicemen remained on the base.

A senior Russian diplomat says Moscow may change its stance in the Iranian nuclear talks amid tensions with the West.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted Wednesday as saying by the Interfax news agency that Russia didn’t want to use the Iranian nuclear talks to “raise stakes,” but may have to do so in response to the actions by the United States and the European Union.
The statement is the most serious threat of retaliation by Moscow after the U.S. and the EU announced sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis.

Israeli warplanes attacked Syrian military positions Wednesday in retaliation for a bombing the previous day, in the most serious confrontation between the two foes since the Syrian conflict erupted three years ago.
Syria said one of its soldiers was killed and seven were injured when three army positions near the town of Quneitra were struck on the Syrian side of the cease-fire line between the two countries in the Golan Heights.

Israel said that the targets were an army training facility, a military headquarters and an artillery battery, and that the raid was a response to a bombing along the line Tuesday that injured four Israeli soldiers.

The attacks sent tensions soaring in the already strained area, where Syrian troops and militia allies are battling rebels with a variety of allegiances who are intent on unseating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Stray shells have struck Israel on a number of occasions and Israel has retaliated with artillery strikes to deter the fire, but this was the first direct confrontation between the two militaries across the line.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, said Israel did not know whether the Syrian army, its ally Hezbollah or the rebels they are fighting may have been responsible for planting the bomb. But Israel holds the Syrian army responsible, he said.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon went further, accusing Syria’s government of collaborating with “terrorists” to plant the bomb and warning that the situation could escalate if there are more attacks.

Addressing the Israeli cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also directly blamed Syria. “Our policy is clear. We hurt those who hurt us,” he said. “Syrian elements not only allowed but also cooperated in the attacks on our forces.”
Syria’s military command issued a counterwarning, accusing Israel of seeking to escalate tensions in order to take attention from the Syrian government’s recent advances against rebel fighters.

The presumption is gaining ground in Israel that the bombing attack on an Israeli Golan position Tuesday, March 18, injuring four paratroops, may not have been the work of Hizballah, but of al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant–ISIS, which is revealed now to have to have infiltrated the Syrian Golan as well as Sinai.

ISIS Sinai cells are plotting a big coordinated operation to strike Egypt and Israel simultaneously. The other is that Syrian military intelligence is arming and funding Iraqi al Qaeda and some its commanders are working directly for Syria.
These clandestine links have been developing for some time and were picked up by anti-terrorism agencies watching the serpentine relationships evolving on the Syrian-Israeli border.

They discovered that the Assad regime had decided to use ISIS as a surrogate for hitting the IDF on the Golan.

To help ISIS, the Syrian government has opened its border with Iraq to allow the jihadists to set up operational headquarters on the side of the border and enjoy free passage between the two countries.

Western agencies say that if Assad is willing to use Iraqi jiahdists against Syrian Islamist rebels, he would have no qualms against using them as his hirelings for striking Israeli military targets on Golan.

ISIS fighters gained access to Golan through the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border intersections before taking a route which cicumvented Jebel Druze.

As the Syria-Israel border heated up in the wake of Tuesday’s attack on an IDF patrol and Israeli retaliatory strikes on regime army positions, IDF reservists trained this week for scenarios they might face in a hypothetical operation in Syria.

Though the Yiftah Brigade’s exercises were not tied specifically to this week’s events, the growing uncertainty in the border area adds urgency to grueling training to prepare for combat against jihadist groups, Hezbollah, and the Syrian army.

According to the Ynet news site, the brigade, part of the new Bashan Division based on the Golan Heights, trained on Hummers designed to mimic tanks after doing an exercise in their Merkava 3 tanks seven months ago in the Negev training base Tze’elim.

Top-ranking government officials allotted ten billion shekel ($2.89 billion) to the IDF's budget in preparation for an armed conflict with Iran, Ha'aretz reported Wednesday.
The report cites "senior militaryofficials" and three unnamed Knesset MKs as stating that the huge sum - the same as in 2013 - has been relegated within the IDF treasury for preparations for an attack on the Islamic Republic in 2014.

The report also interprets statements from IDF representatives and "government officials from the political echelon" as the IDF receiving direct orders from Netanyahu and Ya'alon over the issue.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and IDF Spokesperson's Office both declined to comment. 

While Ya'alon was adamant about the US taking the lead in attacks against Iran in the previous Knesset term, and took up the issue with then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak, he recently criticized the US and the West for remaining complacent about the outcome of ongoing talks.

"Everyone knows Iran is lying," Ya'alon noted. "But the pampered West is satisfied with postponing conflict [with Iran over the nuclear program]." He added that it may be possible to stall Iran "until next year - or even after this term - but eventually, it will explode." 

The People's Liberation Army's General Political Department has ordered the army and armed police across the nation to discuss combat readiness and effectiveness, the army's media outlet PLA Daily reported on Tuesday.
The PLA Daily said the across-the-board discussions are aimed at instilling the concept of combat readiness, adding that the discussion will be the army's prime political task this year.
The PLA General Political Department has required military officers to learn about modern military technology and IT systems and to analyze what it takes to win a modern war.
The discussions will entail weeding out military practices that run counter to the "combat-readiness standard" and studying the Communist Party of China Central Military Commission chairman Xi Jinping's remarks on national defense and army building, according to the PLA Daily.
Xi, who leads the country's reform on national defense and the armed forces, said that military reform should be guided by the objective of building a strong army at a key military reform meeting on Saturday.
With "being able to win battles" as the focus, Xi said at the meeting, the reform should target key problems in strengthening combat preparedness and weak links in honing combat effectiveness.

Will this be the year when the Fed's quantitative easing program finally ends?  For a long time, many analysts were proclaiming that the Fed would never taper.  But then it started happening.  Then a lot of them started talking about how "the untaper" was right around the corner.  That hasn't happened either.  It looks like that under Janet Yellen the Fed is quite determined to bring the quantitative easing program to a close by the end of this year.  Up until now, the financial markets have been slow to react because there has been a belief that the Fed would reverse course on tapering the moment that the U.S. economy started to slow down again.  But even though the U.S. middle class is in horrible shape, and even though there are lots of signs that we are heading into another recession, the Fed has continued tapering.
Of course it is important to note that the Fed is still absolutely flooding the financial system with money even after the announcement of more tapering on Wednesday.  When you are talking about $55,000,000,000 a month, you are talking about a massive amount of money.  So the Fed is not exactly being hawkish.
But when Yellen told the press that quantitative easing could end completely this fall and that the Fed could actually start raising interest rates about six months after that, it really spooked the markets.
The Dow was down 114 points on Wednesday, and the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries shot up to 2.77%.  The following is how CNBCdescribed the reaction of the markets on Wednesday...

Despite a seemingly dovish tone, markets recoiled at remarks from Yellen, who said interest rate increases likely would start six months after the monthly bond-buying program ends. If the program winds down in the fall, that would put a rate hike in the spring of 2015, earlier than market expectations for the second half of the year.
Stocks tumbled as Yellen spoke at her initial post-meeting news conference, with the Dow industrials at one point sliding more than 200 points before shaving those losses nearly in half. Short-term interest rates rose appreciably, with the five-year note moving up 0.135 percentage points. The seven-year note tumbled more than one point in price.

Most people don't realize this, but the greatest period of economic growth in all of U.S. history was when there was no central bank.
We don't need a Federal Reserve.  In fact, the performance of the Federal Reserve has been absolutely disastrous.
Since the Fed was created just over 100 years ago, the U.S. dollar has lost more than 96 percent of its value, and the size of the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger.  The Fed is at the very center of a debt-based financial system that has trapped us, our children and our grandchildren in an endless spiral of debt slavery.
And now we are on the verge of the greatest financial crisis that the United States has ever seen.  The economic and financial storm that is about to unfold is ultimately going to be even worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Things did not have to turn out this way.
Congress could have shut down the Federal Reserve long ago.
But our "leaders" never seriously considered doing such a thing, and the mainstream media kept telling all of us how much we desperately needed central planners to run our financial system.
Well, now those central planners have brought us to the brink of utter ruin, and yet only a small minority of Americans are calling for change.
Soon, we will all get to pay a great price for this foolishness.  A great financial storm is fast approaching, and it is going to be exceedingly painful.

On Monday the U.S. government took steps to seize the US-based assets of Russian lawmakers and anyone else that the US government deemed complicit in supporting the Crimean secession movement.
We’ve seen the U.S. government do this in countless cases surrounding drug and financial crimes, and sometimes even against foreign leaders like Saddam Hussein and Manuel Noriega.
What makes this particular instance so unprecedented and terrifying is that President Obama went so far as to issue a new Executive Order to give himself the authorization to do so, because the laws of the United States are such that our government is not allowed to simply take someone’s bank assets, home or business without due process.
Here’s the kicker.
The new Executive Order doesn’t just apply to just Russians or foreigners. It gets blanket coverage, so even American citizens could now face asset forfeiture if their actions are deemed to be “contributing to the situation in the Ukraine.”
Be careful what you say. Be careful what you write. President Obama has just given himself the authority to seize your assets.

As part of a fiendish effort known as FATCA supposedly aimed at extracting an extra billion or so dollars from U.S. taxpayers each year, the Obama administration is bypassing Congress to impose a far-reaching new tax regime on the world, and domestically on the United States. Experts and analysts say the scheme could destabilize the U.S. financial system and potentially even spark another economic crisis due partly to executive-branch mandates on American banks; yet the IRS and the U.S. Treasury are moving full-speed ahead in spite of major concerns raised by lawmakers and others over their authority to do so. Critics are referring to the whole plot as “fiscal imperialism.”
Among other schemes, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA for short, seeks to coerce financial institutions and governments all over the world into becoming de facto extensions of the IRS. It will also turn U.S. banks and the IRS into agents of foreign tax collectors if the administration gets its way. Passed by Democrats and signed by Obama in 2010 as part of an unrelated “jobs” bill, enforcement of the vast and unimaginably complex taxation scheme has been delayed several times. It is set to go into effect this summer, but experts and policymakers are warning of a broad array of potentially devastating consequences.
The most serious concerns expressed thus far include the potential for massive damage to the U.S. economy; destabilization of American banks; an end to financial privacy and constitutional protections; the emergence of a truly global taxation regime under international institutions such as the OECD; potentially hundreds of billions in compliance costs according to some estimates; a growing wave of U.S. citizens forced to renounce their citizenship; and much more. However, because foreign governments want an incentive to cooperate with the controversial FATCA regime — and many have laws protecting privacy and human rights that must be violated to comply — the Obama administration has a big problem, too.

Last Friday, U.S. officials announced plans to relinquish control of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which manages Internet infrastructure to the so-called “global community.”

Despite denials from the administration, the consequences of that move do indeed include the possibility of the Internet falling under U.N. control. That reality has been pursued for years by pro-censorship factions led by Russia and China. As such, enormous questions exist about the future of the Internet under the stewardship of international interests—questions that the Obama administration seems wholly unconcerned with.

The consequences of relinquishing control of the Internet involve more than censorship. U.S. security could be jeopardized as well. “Under invariably incompetent U.N. control, it could mean a hostile foreign power disabling the Internet for us,” former Bush administration State Department advisor Christian Whiton warned. He also sounded the warning on the possibility that any U.N. control of the Internet could engender taxes. “While the Obama administration says it is merely removing federal oversight of a non-profit, we should assume ICANN would end up as part of the United Nations,” Whiton said. “If the U.N. gains control what amounts to the directory and traffic signals of the Internet, it can impose whatever taxes it likes. It likely would start with a tax on registering domains and expand from there.”

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