Two weeks ago I noticed something unique, at least in my experience--the entire world is now in play. By this, I mean that every important region and country is simultaneously being disrupted by economic tension, political instability, or international threats. I've never seen such a situation in thirty years of close observation. Recently adding spice to the mix:
1) North Korea, where the top office is now inhabited by a new 28-year-old leader possibly more unhinged than his father, completely untested, untrusted, with reports his detestable government might collapse leaving nuclear weapons twisting in the winds of anarchy--all while the ten million citizens of Seoul watch from a mere thirty miles south of the DMZ. Kim Jong-un, one day after being declared Supreme Leader, threatened that North Korea might "smash the stronghold of the puppet forces" in the south for their "hideous crimes" during the mourning period for his papa. Not exactly Lincolnesque.
2) Iraq, where the bombings between Shia and Sunni escalated the minute U.S. troops left the country; where the quickly-accused Sunni Vice President fled into hiding in Kurdistan, saying "all efforts to reach national reconciliation are now gone;" where the minority Sunni fear genocide in retribution for the Sadaam years; and where Iran looks to create a puppet government in the post-withdrawal vacuum created after our difficult but determined ten-year, trillion-dollar, 4,500 deaths investment on behalf of liberation and independence.
3) Nigeria (my index African country and by far the most populous and oil-endowed), where systematic murders in the north by Islamists (specifically, by the Boko Harem, meaning "Western education is sacrilege") against Christians--including the burning of a church with 35 people inside, the warning of all Christians to leave the north in three days or die, and the coordinated killing of 178 in Kano this past weekend--tilted the country toward civil war, at the same time as the largest worker strikes in recent memory protested the doubling of fuel prices.
4) Russia, where a shocked Putin was loudly booed at a martial arts match, then
demonstrated against by tens of thousands in the streets of Moscow, all before the
upcoming March elections which everyone knows will be corrupted. Add to it this week's
NYT headline, "Western intervention in Arab Spring could end in 'very big war,' Russia warns." As they say in Russia, If Vladimir ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
5) Syria, where President Assad will soon be ex-president Assad, sought by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity after killing 5,000 of his people during the ten-month brutal repression. Will their "huge stockpiles" of chemical and biological weapons be transferred to Hezbollah? Israel calculates that the closer Assad comes to his demise, the greater the threat to Israel--no better way to rehabilitate your image with the Arab street than by lobbing a thousand missiles at the Jews.
6) Egypt, where the Islamist parties garnered 60% in the elections, inducing despair in the secularists, students, women, and the ten percent Coptic Christian population, fearing now the very real possibility of Sharia law. The new parliament will be seated today. Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, dropped out of the presidential elections saying, "The youth feel let down. They don't feel that any of the revolution's goals have been achieved. They got decimated."
7) Japan, where their sixth prime minister in five years, who took office in September with 60% approval, now has dropped to 37%. In addition to the tsunami and Fukushima cleanups, he must deal with the nuclear power dilemma that previously provided 25-30% of Japan's electricity. The country has 54 reactors, 36 of which were providing electricity before the disaster. At present, only 5 are still operating, and they will be shut down for maintenance in May. Many Japanese want a nuclear-free country, but regardless, when summer heat comes and electricity demand peaks, both populace and industry will face a critical energy shortage.
8) Pakistan, the country already known as the most dangerous in the world, did not disappoint its stereotype. In a deepening political crisis, this week the Supreme Court and military ganged up on the Prime Minister, charging him with contempt possibly leading to dismissal--with the President next in line for prosecution. The fifth largest nuclear power (~100 nukes) is already barely governable with a highly volatile citizenry--hotheaded is the word--and this move will do nothing to help its "political and economic disarray...near collapse of the railways and national airline...huge energy shortages...shutdown of industries." (FT) It expelled the U.S. following a miscommunication (both sides to blame) that resulted in U.S./NATO helicopters killing 24 Pakistani soldiers two months ago. Actually, U.S.-Pakistani relations have steadily dissolved over the past eight months since the killing of bin Laden, and, for example, last week Pakistan snubbed the visit of a U.S. diplomat. They cannot contain elements of the Pakistani Taliban, sectarian extremists, or the lawless Northwest Frontier Province--last year there were 41 suicide attacks in the country killing 606 people. Oh, and ex-president army chief Musharraf will soon be back in town and running for office, that is if they promise not to arrest him or assassinate him.
9) Europe, where the never-ending story never ends, appears sliding back into recession. The continuing Eurozone sovereign debt crises was evident in the recent credit downgrades for nine countries including France, causing Germany's Merkel to ask for implementation of new rules "as quickly as possible." The World Bank warned emerging nations to prepare for the worst, that if financial markets denied funds to Eurozone economies, "an escalation of the crisis would spare no one. Developed and developing-country growth could fall by as much or more than in 2008-09." (FT) I doubt many are anticipating this result, but one must nevertheless ponder that the World Bank thought it important to point out the risk.
There are more examples to consider, but perhaps another time. The U.S., for its part, is thankfully seeing some economic clearing of the road ahead, even though unemployment (especially considering participation rates) remains painful and daunting, the real estate market is years away from health, our long-term massive indebtedness has yet to be seriously addressed (we can't even seem to keep the government solvent for more than a couple months at a time), and we are facing an entire year of poisoned political discourse between a weak Republican field and a weak incumbent President. China might have to pull us all through for a few years with some heavy global lifting, even though it too has problems.
The attention, however, rightfully shifts to the true epicenter of world conflict, that frightening feud between the Temple Mount and Tehran. There is war in the wind. If there were sensors on the side of this volcano, all readings indicate it's ready to blow. The frenzy of words, headlines, activity, threats, and shuttle diplomacy in the region is at a high pitch. The Israelis watch their own ticking clock, and when the alarm sounds, best take cover. You really don't want to be fishing in the Strait of Hormuz when the jets fly over.
More on this story soon. In the meantime, here are some headlines drawn from twenty different sources that speak of the gathering storm. The string begins in Nov 2011 following the IAEA report on increasing Iranian nuclear activity. The escalating intensity is evident.
11-04, US Still Looking for Diplomatic Strategy on Iran
11-06, Iran Answers Rumors of Planned Attack: 'Our Wrath on Tel Aviv'
11-06, Iran's Foreign Minister Rejects IAEA Report
11-09, Iran's Nuclear Materials Move Underground
11-09, Iran Threatens 'Street War' in Tel Aviv
11-10, NY Experts Warn, 'Don't Attack Iran'
11-10, Israel Preparing 'Christmas Surprise' for Iran
11-17, Barak: We Cannot Come Off 'Wimpy' on Iran
11-18, Arab Nations Pressing for Iran Strike
11-20, Barak: Iran Will Be 'Unstoppable' in One Year
11-22, US, Britain, Canada Announce New Iran Sanctions
11-24, Iran Claims Arrest of 12 CIA, Mossad Agents
11-25, Former Mossad Head Yatom: Israel Can't Afford Not To Strike
11-27, Iran Threatens to Attack Turkey, Israel if Attacked
11-27, Iran Declares Diplomatic War on Britain, Expels Envoy
11-30, Mysterious Explosion Damaged Iranian Nuclear Site
11-30, Eiland: Attack on Iran not 'Crazy' or 'Irresponsible'
11-30, West Ready to Attack Iran
12-05, U.S.: Iran Situation Urgent, Timeline for Nukes Getting Shorter
12-06, Dubai Sheikh: If Iran Attacks, Israel Will Wipe It off the Map
12-06, Report: Iran's Revolutionary Guards Preparing for War
12-09, Washington Post: Obama Waffling on Iran
12-12, Factory Explosion Kills 7 in Iran
12-23, U.S. Doubles Aid to Israel's Defense Systems
12-27, Ya'alon: Israel Can Prevent Iran from Getting a Nuclear Bomb
12-29, Israel Brings Iranian Soil Samples to Washington
1-01, Iran Claims It Has Produced Nuclear Fuel Rod
1-02, Iran Tests Missile that Can Hit US and Israeli Bases
1-03, Al Qaeda Operating in Jerusalem
1-05, UK Warns Iran: 'Don't Close Strait of Hormuz'
1-06, Thousands of U.S. Troops Land in Israel
1-06, U.S. and Israel Preparing for 'Biggest Defense Drill Ever'
1-08, Iran Says New Enriched Uranium Site Ready for Operation
1-10, Israel Preparing for Nuclear Iran
1-11, Iranian Scientist Killed in Tehran Blast
1-12, Iran: We'll Bring the War to Israel, and 'Beyond'
1-13, Obama Told Netanyahu to Explain Iran Hit
1-15, U.S. Nervous, Sends Army General to Calm Down Israel
1-15, U.S. Pressure? Israel Postpones Massive Joint Drill
1-15, Mossad Trained, Paid Assassins in Iran
1-15, Russia: Attack on Tehran Is Attack on Moscow
1-16, Mossad Worked for Months to Kill Iranian Nuke Scientist
1-16, Lieberman: Time for Action on Iran
1-16, Netanyahu: Iran 'Wobbling'
1-18, Russia Warns Against Iran Attack
1-18, Iran's Al Qods Cells for Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait to Hit Oil and US Targets
1-19, US Pressures Israel to Avoid Iranian Conflict
1-19, Tensions Rise as Iran Is Hurt by Western Sanctions
1-19, USS Abraham Lincoln Sails into Waters off Iran
1-19, Iran Warns Neighbours Against Siding with US as Military Clash Looms
1-19, Iran Bonds with Russia on Nuclear Issue
1-19, Netanyahu Pressuring Europe to Embargo Iran Oil
1-19, Western Intervention in Arab Spring Could End in 'Very Big War,' Russia Warns
1-19, Gillerman: Obama's 'Weak' Leadership Harms Israel
1-19, New U.S. Commando Team Operating Near Iran
1-19, Netanyahu: Iran Has Decided to Become a Nuclear State--Action Needed Before It Is too Late
1-20, U.S. Army Chief: Won't Let Holocaust Happen Again
1-20, 'What We Know Suggests the Development of Nuclear Weapons'
1-20, US Aircraft Carrier in Waters off Iran Amid Threat to Block Strait of Hormuz
1-20, Iran Warns Region Against 'Dangerous' Stance on Hormuz
1-20, Top U.S. General Visits Israel as Iran Tensions Rise
1-20, Barack Obama: Iran's Economy a Shambles after Sanctions
1-20, U.S. Determined to Avert an Israeli Strike on Iran, Be It with a Rebuke or an Embrace
1-20, Poll: 35% of Americans Support Iran Military Strike
1-20, Iran Calls for Israel to Be "Punished"
1-21, Why There Will Be a War in the Middle East this Year
1-21, US-Israel Rift over Military Strike on Iran?
1-22, Israel to Give Obama 12 Hours Notice on Attacking Iran
1-22, Russian FM Warns US, Israel to End War Rhetoric Against Iran
1-23, Great Salt Desert Bunker Could Be Trigger for an Attack on Iran
1-23, US Miffed as Israel Hints at Unilateral Strike on Iran N-sites
1-23, Iran Puts US and Israel on 'Collision Course'
We cannot change the global course of these events, but we can pray for the protection of innocents and justice for the rest. It's always good to remember that the world within our sphere is continuously owed our service, encouragement, grace and love.
The Scriptures preclude fear in over three-hundred passages. The magnificent triad of John 14-16 speak against fear and instead emphasize peace, truth, and love.
No better words for our troubled age.