Category: Kings of the East

IS CHINA HELPING SAUDI ARABIA GO NUCLEAR?

BY JNS | MIDDLE EAST

The recent normalization deals between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have fundamentally shifted the region’s alliances. Both Gulf countries maintain close ties with Saudi Arabia, and speculation abounds as to whether or not the Saudis will be the next country to formalize ties with the Jewish state. While Israel may be on the verge of cementing a close alliance with major Sunni Arab states in the face of a common enemy with Iran, at the same time, concern is also growing about a possible nuclear race in the region with China’s help.

A recent report in The Guardian indicates that Chinese geologists say Saudi Arabia may have enough uranium ore reserves for the domestic production of nuclear fuel. At the same time, a Wall Street Journal report said that Western officials have grown concerned about nuclear cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia in the construction of a facility for extracting uranium yellowcake from uranium ore. This facility is being built with the assistance of two Chinese companies. Similarly, The New York Times reported that Western intelligence agencies are “scrutinizing” the Saudi’s work with China to develop nuclear expertise as a cover towards the development of a nuclear weapon.

Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told JNS that the Saudi-Chinese relationship has existed for many years already. In the 1980s, Saudi Arabia reached out to China because it wanted to obtain Chinese missile technology.

“They acquired from China some of the longest-range ballistic missiles in the Middle East,” he said. “So we have been there.” But Saudi nuclear capability, even if for peaceful purposes, could still place the Saudis at the threshold of nuclear military capability, which has Israel greatly concerned.

Gold said “one of the challenges for diplomacy is to try and make some of the moderation in Saudi behavior more permanent, and I don’t think we’ve done that. As much as Saudi interests have changed, it is a reversible change. We have to make sure that it has a higher degree of permanence.” While Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has demonstrated an interest in moderation by creating distance from the extremist Wahhabi ideology of many of Saudi Arabia’s top clerics, it remains unclear whether or not his influence will hold.

According to Gold, Israel and Saudi Arabia “need to take the mutual threat we both face and create a basis for a quasi-alliance, but I’m not sure we are there yet. Relationships with countries you don’t have diplomatic relations with are usually held very tightly in the hands of whoever is the leader. The question is how you make it permanent.” That question could be answered soon if reports are true that Saudi Arabia will eventually sign a normalization agreement with Israel. Making such diplomatic relations permanent “could be an agenda item for the U.S. and Israel to work on after the American elections,” said Gold.

‘Chinese companies less hostile’ towards developing nukes

So why did the Saudis turn to China, of all countries, for assistance with its nuclear program, especially since China has helped Pakistan and Iran in the past? According to Saeed Ghasseminejad, a senior Iran and financial economics adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the Saudis probably have two reasons to go to Chinese companies.

“First,” he told JNS, “if they decide to move towards military nuclear capabilities, China and Chinese companies will be more accommodating or at least less hostile towards such a move.”

“Second, the Kingdom is trying to diversify, if not realign, its strategic foreign partnerships,” said Ghasseminejad. “Working with China on this strategic project is another sign that China and Saudi Arabia are strengthening their bond.” Bin Salman has said that he would not pursue the nuclear option unless Iran achieved the bomb, which it still has not; however, he has started working on nuclear capability nonetheless. Why?

“In 2015, [former President Barack] Obama signed a deal with Tehran that gave Tehran a patient pathway to a nuclear bomb and gave it an industrial large-scale nuclear capacity, which could quickly turn into a military program,” recounted Ghasseminejad. “The Democratic Party still insists that the [the deal] is the golden standard of nuclear non-proliferation agreements, and they want to go back to it. Saudi Arabia, as a longtime U.S. ally that does not chant ‘Death to Israel,’ obviously wants at least what Iran got.” “Also,” he added, “for decades, Riyadh and Washington had a deal where Saudis bought U.S. goods and weapons, and helped Washington in managing the oil market, and Washington defended Saudi Arabia.”

However, Ghasseminejad said that recent U.S. actions by both the Obama and U.S. President Donald Trump have made the Saudis more cautious of solely relying on the United States. “Obama actively tried to undermine the Saudis in favor of Tehran, and Trump did nothing when the clerical regime targeted the heart of Saudi’s oil industry,” he said.

He went on to explain that if an administration run by 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden “will offer Tehran the same patient pathway to a nuclear bomb, and neither Republicans nor Democrats guarantee Riyadh’s security, then the kingdom probably perceives that having nuclear capability is an option, if not the best option, to deter the Islamist regime in Tehran from further and more severe aggression in future.”

Saudi Arabia is having a ‘Shah-moment’

Israel is naturally concerned after it warned the Obama administration that the nuclear deal with Iran would start a Middle East arms race, that now its worries are coming to fruition. Now, Saudi Arabia believes that it needs nuclearization to counter Iran. Who is to say tomorrow it won’t be pointed at Israel?

“Israel is right to be concerned,” said Ghasseminejad. “The Middle East today is full of unstable governments, radicalized societies, apocalyptic militants and messianic politicians.”

Ghasseminejad noted that while the Saudis may currently be a friend of Israel, “MBS is having his Shah-moment.”

As Ghasseminejad described, in the 1960s, the Shah decided that “modernizing the country required weakening the monarchy’s traditional allies and broadening the middle class as the support base for a modern monarch. It was an absolutely successful plan that modernized the country at a fast rate but led to a political disaster. Two decades later, the clergy turned on him and the middle class left him alone and joined the revolution.”

“MBS is following the same plan,” observed Ghasseminejad. “He may succeed in avoiding the Shah’s fate, but it is also possible that he won’t. As a result, it is essential to make sure the conservative kingdoms of the region will not be replaced with a radical Islamist regime, and if they do, their successor will not get their hands on nuclear weapons.”

What happens when the Middle East goes nuclear? Will there be a way down from the ladder at that point? “A nuclear Middle East will be a ticking nuclear bomb,” said Ghasseminejad. “Some may hope that the imminent threat of a nuclear Armageddon will curb the apocalyptic urges of religious fundamentalists in the region. That is a gamble no sane person should accept.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10930

2020 VISION: AS HURRICANE LAURA STRENGTHENS TO A CATEGORY 4, CHINA FIRES WARNING MISSILES AT US AND BLM TERRORISTS SET KENOSHA ON FIRE

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, we are living in the biblical last days, that is an unarguable and inescapable conclusion we present to you today. Further, as bad as things are right now, and as crazy and confusing as it all seems, it will get worse by a factor of 10. Let’s do a quick headline review so you can see what I mean. 

by Geoffrey Grider August 26, 2020

The eye of Hurricane Laura was 235 miles southeast of Galveston, Texas, as of 10 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, and was moving northwest at 16 mph. Hurricane Laura is one, nasty woman.

 

There are so many things happening right now that it is impossible to keep them all straight in your head, but that’s what we’re here to help you to do. We are doing that because we want you to fully understand the uniqueness of this prophetical year of 2020, and what it likely means for our short-term future. When a Category 4 hurricane like the monstrous Laura winds up being the least of your problems, that puts you smack dab in the middle of the NTEB end times radar.

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” 2 Peter 2:3,4 (KJB)

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, we are living in the biblical last days, that is an unarguable and inescapable conclusion we present to you today. Further, as bad as things are right now, and as crazy and confusing as it all seems, it will get worse by a factor of 10. Let’s do a quick headline review so you can see what I mean.

These Are The Headlines For August 26, 2020:

  • Why a Houston-Area Hurricane Could Be ‘America’s Chernobyl’ As Hurricane Laura makes its way toward Texas, a dogged Houston attorney and hydrologist warns that a bad-enough hurricane could turn southern Texas into what he calls a Chernobyl-scale disaster area. That’s because a major shipping channel is filled with exactly the wrong dominos to trigger a cascade failure, from debris to volatile petrochemical ships, all the way to the population centers.
  • China fires missiles in South China Sea ‘in warning to US’ after plane entered no-fly zone: Beijing has launched two medium-range missiles into the South China Sea in a scathing warning to the United States, as tensions between the superpowers soar, triggering World War 3 fears in the region. The move came on Wednesday morning, one day after China said a US U-2 spy plane entered a no-fly zone without permission. A source close to the Chinese military is understood to have told local media the missile launch was intended to send a warning to the United States.
  • 2 people shot to death during protest over Kenosha shooting: Two people were shot to death during another night of Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha in a possible vigilante attack carried out by a young white man who was caught on cellphone video opening fire in the middle of the street with a semi-automatic rifle.

“I just killed somebody,” he could be heard saying at one point Tuesday night. Sheriff David Beth said that investigators had reviewed footage and that he was confident a suspect would be arrested soon.

As you can see, and this is literally less than 1% of today’s headlines, things are bad and trending worse. You will note that none of those headlines mention COVIDmandatory masksmassive unemployment, or forced vaccinations, but all those things are happening or about to happen as well.

Christian soldiers, I hope you are prayed up and ready for battle, because it’s here. “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” 2 Timothy 2:3 (KJB

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10868

Image Shows Chinese Submarine Entering Mysterious Cave Facility At South China Sea Base

The rare satellite image shows a Chinese nuclear submarine entering into the mysterious submarine cave system at Yulin Naval Base on Hainan Island.

BY TYLER ROGOWAYAUGUST 19, 2020

 China’s massive Yulin Naval Base on Hainan Island is one of the greatest strategic interests in the region. It is home to China’s nuclear ballistic missile submarine fleet—the backbone of its second-strike deterrent—as well as other submarines. It sits at the northern edge of the highly contentious South China Sea. To its east is the gateway to the open Pacific and Taiwan. The most intriguing feature of this facility is the mysterious submarine cave built into the side of a mountain that dominates the southern end of the installation. Although I have seen satellite images of the roadway barges removed from the opening, we have never seen one with a submarine actually using it, until now.

You can read all about Yulin Naval Base, its submarine cave, and the very high level of strategic interest the U.S. and allied regional players put on it in this past article of ours

The image was taken by Planet Labs, but first appeared on Radio Free Asia’s social media channels. We were alerted to it via a post from @DRM_Long. Interestingly enough, not one other submarine is visible in the satellite image. The docks are completely empty. This also seems exceedingly rare based on our monitoring experience. 

The docks that usually host a number of submarines are completely empty. 

It isn’t clear exactly what type of submarine is seen in the image, but our best guess would be a Shang class/Type 093 nuclear attack submarine. The type seen is really beside the point, what’s important is that we finally get to see this James Bond-esque feature in action. 

As for where all the other submarines are, we have no clue. Tensions are exceedingly high in the region and the U.S. has massively upped its presence there. Meanwhile, Taiwan has gone on elevated alert as China executes war games nearby. While some of those drills could and likely do involve submarines based at Yalin, it’s also possible that others have moved inside the mountain, as well. Why exactly remains unclear. 

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10849

U.S. warned ‘China might initiate’ military hostilities

Would align with its practice of attacking in ‘self-defense’

By WND Staff
Published August 16, 2020 at 12:25pm

Things soon could get worse for the United States internationally, with a warning that China could initiate military action in line with its practice of attacking in “self-defense.”

The suggestion comes from Lawrence Franklin, the onetime Iran desk officer for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in a column at the Gatestone Institute.

Franklin noted Chinese military journalists have gone public with their recommendation that the People’s Liberation Army prepare immediately for an attack from U.S. forces in the South China Sea.

“One expert at Zhejiang University’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies, Shi Xiaoqin, claims that the U.S. is deliberately trying to provoke China. They also suggest the regime reinforce Chinese installations on reefs claimed by China,” Franklin wrote.

In fact, at the Think China site, Yu Zeyuan declared, “Academics say that China should stand ready to defend attacks on its reefs.”

He said China-U.S. relations is “on a downward spiral and the U.S. gearing up for battle.”

The article said academics think China should station fighter jets on airbases in the Spratly Islands.

One claim was that “it looks very likely that the Trump administration may make an unexpected move and suddenly decide to initiate a military conflict with China in the South China Sea by November.”

The report said another Chinese military academic, Chen Hu, “also wrote on 24 July that with two U.S. aircraft carriers loitering in the Indo-Pacific, bombers stationed in Guam, and surveillance planes conducting frequent runs around China, the intention of the U.S. is no longer a show of strength through training, but more of preparing for battle.”

In fact, the U.S. has carriers in the region because of China’s expansion of territory irrespective of international norm.

Franklin said that if such ideas “gain traction,” U.S. military commanders in the South China Sea “should plan for the possibility that China might initiate hostilities in keeping with its doctrine of preemptive retaliation, a seeming attempt falsely to claim ‘self-defense.'”

Franklin wrote: “The leaders of China’s Communist Party (CCP) also see that nothing was done by anyone, including the U.S., to stop China’s grab of Hong Kong this year — 27 years early. This paralysis of the West must have looked to the CCP like a green light to keep on grabbing.”

He noted that Chinese writer Zheng Hao, “who assesses that it is possible that U.S.-Chinese tensions in the South China Sea could escalate into a ‘hot war,’ cites U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s July 13 statement that the South China Sea is ‘not China’s maritime empire’ as indicative of the Trump administration’s hostile intent. Zheng appears to be especially concerned about the July 7 U.S.-Japan naval exercise, which included an operation by the U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and two warships of the Japanese Maritime Defense Forces. Zheng laments that the 2018 draft of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea has not yet been signed by the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China.”

Franklin suggested a way to avoid a clash is for the two nations to use a crisis prevention plan that was adopted in 2014, which includes notification requirements and “rules of behavior” intended to keep air or naval encounters non-violent.

“So far, there is no public acknowledgement that either China or the U.S. is employing the crisis prevention mechanism,” Franklin said. “One recent sign of efforts by both sides to avoid a military incident was the Pentagon’s August 7 announcement that U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and his Chinese counterpart, Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe, held a 90-minute teleconference last week.”

Franklin said China’s “hostile intent” has been creating conflict.

Among the incidents: China’s appropriation of Hong Kong, an attack on northern India, an extensive military base build-up in the South China Sea, an attempted appropriation of the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands and a ‘fishing fleet’ of 250 vessels showing up near the Galapagos Islands, off Ecuador.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10836

China increases military drills as tensions with US heat up

By Brad Lendon, CNN

Updated 4:09 AM ET, Tue August 11, 2020

Hong Kong (CNN)China is stepping up military drills around East Asia as a war of words with the United States heats up over Washington’s military activities and the visit of a US cabinet secretary to Taiwan.

One Chinese think tank even says the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) may consider live-fire exercises near the US island of Guam.

Beijing has stepped up the pace of its war games in recent weeks, after the US sent two aircraft carrier strike groups on rare dual-carrier exercises in the South China Sea twice in the month of July.

But the visit of US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to the self-governed island of Taiwan this week has added fuel to the smoldering tensions. Azar is the highest-ranking US official to visit the island — which Beijing regards as Chinese territory — in decades.

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Azar’s presence in Taipei is “a serious breach” of US commitments on Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Monday afternoon.

“We urge the US side to abide by the one-China principle and the provisions of three China-U.S. joint communiques, stop official interactions and contact of all kinds as well as the upgrading of substantive relations with the island, and handle Taiwan-related issues in a prudent and proper manner, so as not to seriously damage China-US cooperation in major areas as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Zhao said, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Chinese warplanes cross line

On Monday morning, China sent fighter jets across the median line in the Taiwan Strait, which Taiwan said its warplanes warned off. The Chinese jets were also tracked by Taiwan’s land-based anti-aircraft missiles, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said.

Though still in international airspace, the Taiwan Strait median line has been an informal but largely respected dividing line for Beijing and Taipei. According to Taiwanese and US government reports, Beijing’s warplanes have only crossed it intentionally three times since 1999 — once in March 2019, in February of this year, and again on Monday.

A story from state-supported Global Times, appearing on the official English language website of the PLA, showed Beijing’s displeasure with Washington over Azar’s visit to Taiwan.

“The PLA operation is considered a strong response to the US move, which broke a diplomatic bottom line of China-US relations,” the story said.

It goes on to say if Washington doesn’t back down, more moves by the PLA may be necessary.

“If the US goes further, the PLA could take more countermeasures, including live-fire missile drills east of Taiwan island and near Guam,” the story says, citing Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

Maj. Randy Ready, spokesman for the US Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, said the US military “won’t speculate on hypothetical exercises that may or may not take place in the future.”

Chinese military stages several drills

The mention of possible exercises off Guam, home to the important US military installations of Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Station Guam, comes after a busy few weeks for the PLA.

“Ground and naval forces of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been on concentrated schedules in amphibious landing and maritime exercises in the past weeks and will continue to do so in the weeks to come,” a Global Times report said.

Recent drills include a mock beach assault in Hainan province on the South China Sea; a sea-crossing and landing with amphibious assault vehicles in Guangdong province; sea-crossing assault drills in Fujian province; and flights of missile-armed bombers and fighters over the South China Sea.

The PLA has live-fire exercises planned for this week and next, according to another Global Times report.

Those drills will be off Zhoushan, an island on China’s east coast south of Shanghai.

“The PLA drills come amid the increasingly frequent provocative military activities made by the US near the island of Taiwan and in waters in the South China Sea,” the Global Times report says.

In a Xinhua interview, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last week accused Washington of sending 2,000 military flights over the South China Sea in the first half of this year. That would be a rate of almost 11 a day.

Ready, the Indo-Pacific command spokesman, would not confirm Wang’s assertion on the number of US flights.

“There has been no significant change to our military operations in or around the South China Sea,” Ready said. “Though the frequency and scope of our operations vary based on the current operating environment, the U.S. has a persistent military presence and routinely operates throughout the Indo-Pacific, including the waters and airspace surrounding the South China Sea, just as we have for more than a century.”

Wang contends otherwise.

“The US keeps increasing and showing off its military presence in the South China Sea,” Wang said, calling it part of a plan to “destabilize” the 1.3 million square mile region, most of which China claims as its sovereign territory and where it has been fortifying man-made islands with military facilities and equipment.

Analyst: China working up to something

Military analyst Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, said it would not be surprising to see Chinese military exercises that make a strong statement to both Washington and Taipei.

“It is apparent from the increasing complexity of China’s maritime exercises that they are working up to something,” Schuster said, adding that he expects an important exercise in the fall.

“They probably will do an air-naval strike exercise east of Taiwan. If Xi (Chinese President Xi Jinping) wants to send a threat, it may include a ballistic missile launch into the waters west of Guam,” Schuster said.

The fact the Guam possibility appeared in a story on the PLA’s official English-language website gives it credence, he said.

“I am sure the idea is on the table since the Chinese military would not publish such bombastic rhetoric on its initiative,” he said. “Someone of authority in the Communist Party or PLA feels that way and is pushing for it.”

Despite all the rhetoric being played out in the media, military leaders in Washington and Beijing have been talking.

China risks paying ‘high cost’ for South China Sea intimidation, Japan defense chief says

Last week, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Wei Fenghe, by phone.

“Both leaders agreed on the importance of maintaining open channels of communication and developing the systems necessary for crisis communications and risk reduction,” a statement from the US Defense Department said. Wei, according to China Military Online, urged “the US side to stop wrong words and deeds, enhance maritime risk control and prevent dangerous action” that could exacerbate tensions

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10821

BUBONIC PLAGUE: CHINA QUARANTINES REGION WHILE SECOND CASE DIAGNOSED IN NEW MEXICO

It shall become a fine dust all over the land of Egypt, and cause an inflammation breaking out in boils on man and beast throughout the land of Egypt.  Exodus 9:9 (The Israel BibleTM)

by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz | Aug 10, 2020 | Biblical News

While the WHO declares that there is nothing to worry about, China is sealing off entire villages and a man died in New Mexico from a rare form of the plague that once killed off half the world population.

China sealed off several villages in Inner Mongolia in a second attempt to contain the spread of a new outbreak of bubonic plague. A man died in the region’s city of Bayannur from multiple organ failure after contracting the disease. Authorities in Bayannur said: “The place of residence of the deceased is locked down, and a comprehensive epidemiological investigation is being carried out.” Thirty-five contacts of the man have been sent into quarantine. The statement added: “Currently, there is a risk of the human plague spreading in our city.” Last Thursday another person died from circulatory system failure due to infection with bubonic plague.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is “carefully monitoring” a case of bubonic plague in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region, but says that it is “not high risk”.

In a seemingly unrelated case, a man in his 20s died of the septicaemic plague in New Mexico last week. This was the second case of septicaemic plague in New Mexico in less after a man in his 60s was diagnosed with bubonic plague in New Mexico’s Santa Fe County last month.

Septicaemic plague is the rarest of the three plague varieties which include bubonic plague. Like bubonic, septicaemic plague is spread by bites from infected fleas or by direct contact with animals. Animals carrying the disease can include rodents, wildlife, and pets. There is also a risk from household pets returning home after being allowed to roam and hunt outside.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), septicaemic plague can be treated promptly with antibiotics. Symptoms include the sudden onset of fever, chills, headache and weakness. In most cases, there is also a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit, or neck areas.

Bubonic plague is a highly infectious and often fatal disease. The Bubonic Plague is a dark shadow in China’s collective unconscious. The Third Pandemic is the designation of a major bubonic plague pandemic that began in Yunnan province in China in 1855, spreading to all inhabited continents. Ultimately more than 12 million people died in India and China from the plague. Europe and Asia were hit by three waves of the Bubonic plague resulting in over 200 million deaths. 

The strong reaction to the recent outbreak is understandable. Bubonic plague in the 14th century, also known as the Black Death, was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia and in Europe. If untreated, the disease has a 100 percent mortality rate, and the pneumonic form can be fatal within 12-24 hours.

Bubonic Plague is making a comeback with close to 50,000 human cases being diagnosed in the last two decades. It is now categorized by the World Health Organization as a re-emerging disease. The last outbreak of bubonic plague in the U.S. was in 1924 and was centered in Los Angeles.

An outbreak of Bubonic Plague in Madagascar in 2017 nearly got out of control before the WHO stepped in, delivering nearly 1.2 million doses of antibiotics and released $1.5 million in emergency funds. 

In July, celebrity doctor Dr. Drew Pinsky predicted that Los Angeles was in danger of an outbreak of Bubonic Plague in what he termed an imminent “apocalypse.” Dr. Drew blamed the growing population of homeless people and the lack of a rodent control program. 

The sixth plague in Egypt, boils, may very well have been bubonic plague, whose characteristic symptom is boil-like skin lesions that form black ulcers.

It shall become a fine dust all over the land of Egypt, and cause an inflammation breaking out in boils on man and beast throughout the land of EgyptExodus 9:9

The connection between Bubonic Plague and Egypt was proven in 2010 when scientists traced the plague to ancient Egypt. Ancient cultures lived close to their livestock, and the plague was transferred from the animals by fleas. While exploring ruins in Egypt, Egyptologists found 3,000-year-old remains of Nile rats and used fine sieves to discover the remains of fleas, both carriers of the plague.

The plague of שחין (shechin; boils), as are all the plagues that struck Egypt before the Exodus, is prophesied to return in the end-of-days by Zechariah.

As for those peoples that warred against Yerushalayim, Hashem will smite them with this plague: Their flesh shall rot away while they stand on their feet; their eyes shall rot away in their sockets; and their tongues shall rot away in their mouths. Zechariah 14:12

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10812

The New Silk Road and the Maghreb Region

By Dr. Mordechai Chaziza August 4, 2020

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,676, August 4, 2020

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Ever since the launch of the BRI in 2013, Beijing has shown great interest in the Maghreb region as an entry point to European and African markets. Beijing has prioritized commercial relations over political influence in the Maghreb. While the current BRI map does not officially include the Maghreb region (by design, as the BRI is more a loose brand than a strict program), Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) have been signed between China and every country in the Maghreb, demonstrating that China is expanding its foothold in the region.

China’s most significant 21st century diplomatic and economic activity is the launching of the new Silk Road project, dubbed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI, a sprawling network of trade and commercial ties between China and various world regions, is the flagship foreign policy of the Xi Jinping administration and the Chinese Communist Party. The BRI seeks to open up new markets and secure global supply chains to help generate sustained Chinese economic growth, thereby contributing to social stability at home.

The BRI has both a maritime and a land-based component: the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) and the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB). The sub-branches of the SREB (a series of land-based infrastructure projects including roads, railways, and pipelines) and the MSRI (ports and coastal development) would create a multinational network connecting China to Europe and Africa via the Middle East. This is intended to facilitate trade, improve access to foreign energy resources, and give China access to new markets.

The geographic scope of the BRI is continually expanding, covering more than 123 countries and 29 international organizations along six economic corridors. The BRI covers two-thirds of the world’s population, 40% of global GNP, and an estimated 75% of known energy reserves. The total cost of the initiative is not yet known, but according to some estimates, $8 trillion will eventually be invested.

Over the past two decades, Beijing has gradually consolidated its economic presence in the Maghreb countries (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania) in terms of trade, investment, and infrastructure projects. China has become active in these countries, focusing on bilateral relations while also working within the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF).

In 2018, the Maghreb accounted for 7.6% of China’s imports from Africa, while Chinese exports to the Maghreb amounted to 14.7% of its overall exports to Africa. According to the China Global Investment Tracker, trade between China and the five Maghreb countries reached nearly $23.5 billion in 2019. China’s investments and contracts in the Maghreb region between 2005 and 2019 stood at $29.6 billion, with Algeria (the most crucial partner) receiving the lion’s share of $23.6 billion.

Beijing’s growing economic cooperation with the Maghreb region is driven mainly by the BRI, although its political, financial, and cultural connections to the region remain relatively shallow. China’s footprint in the Maghreb encompasses, but is not limited to, trade, infrastructure development, ports, shipping, financial cooperation, tourism, and manufacturing. China can be expected to expand and deepen these connections in the coming years, given the Maghreb’s strategic geographical location.

While China is gaining a foothold in the Maghreb, it cannot match US or European dominance in the region. The Maghreb countries have historically had close relations with France, the former colonial power, and the EU, and remain dependent on both. France and the EU continue to exert significant political, economic, security, and cultural influence in the region. China—unlike the US and Russia, which tend to see the Maghreb region as an extension of the Middle East—views  it as a discrete group with its own characteristics. When dealing with the Maghreb, Beijing considers each country’s relations with its neighbors.

In strategically ramping up engagement with Maghreb countries like Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, Beijing is setting up the region to play an integral role in its Silk Road strategy. Thus, most BRI engagement in the Maghreb is tied to economic and commercial relations, allowing the affected countries to increase trade volume, foreign investment, tourism revenues, and manufacturing bases. China is also showcasing its development model, which seeks to combine authoritarianism with economic growth. Beijing’s growing role in the Maghreb is likely to have far-reaching economic and geopolitical consequences for countries in the region.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10809

World War 3 warning: China risks ‘all out war’ with US over Taiwan – ‘Very worried’

WAR will break out between China and the US in the South China Sea if Beijing violates the alliance agreement between America and Taiwan, an expert has claimed.

By BILL MCLOUGHLIN

PUBLISHED: 16:57, Tue, Jul 21, 2020 | UPDATED: 20:31, Tue, Jul 21, 2020

Beijing wants to bring Taiwan under its control within the One China policy but experts have warned this could be the final ingredient to spark a war between Beijing and Washington. The South China Sea has seen both sides increase their military presence with many experts claiming a misstep in the region could spark a devastating clash. Michael Auslin, a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in California has pinpointed Taiwan’s authority as the one scenario which could “precipitate” a full-scale conflict.

He said: “Taiwan is a different story.

“Everyone recognises that could precipitate a full out war with China if the US chose to uphold its commitments to Taiwan, which are ambiguous.

“But everyone is on a hair-trigger when it comes to the South China Sea.”

The US signed a mutual defence pact with Taiwan in order to stop China from taking over the region in 1979.

The island, however, stands within China’s ‘nine-dash line’ policy.

Under this policy, Beijing claims any territory or island chain as its own.

Like Taiwan, several island chains such as the Paracel and the Spratly archipelago are therefore claimed by Beijing.

China and the Philippines have clashed over the sovereignty of the Paracel Islands causing the US to increase its naval presence in the region.

Such is the tense of state of affairs in the area, the US sent the USS Nimitz and Reagan to the waters.

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo also declared the US would not stand by and allow China to grow its naval empire in the South China Sea.

Although neither state desires a conflict, Mr Auslin added the huge build up of forces could well cause the US and China to “stumble into a conflict”.

He added: “You have all these contested islands, you’ve had collisions, you’ve had intimidation, you’ve had a worsening of relations.

“Neither Beijing nor Washington will choose war, but I am very worried they could stumble.”

China’s navy is forecast to become the largest in the world by 2035.

Although US Navy vessels are more advanced, the growing mass of the People’s Liberation Navy may well shift the balance of power in the South China Sea, experts have warned.

David Ochamenek, a former military planner in the US Defense Department has claimed any conflict with Beijing in the region is becoming less favourable to the US.

Now involved in developing war game scenarios, Mr Ochamenek has stated over the next decade, more victories will develop for China.

He said: “So let’s say it was 2005.

“If we were to run a scenario for 2010, Chinese capabilities weren’t fully mature, and what you would see was a stand-off, not a clear-cut victory or defeat for either side, but still there were surprising numbers of casualties and losses to the United States.

 “The lethality of Chinese forces was growing dramatically.

“As we advance the clock forward, and start to look at the balance in 2020, 2025, 2030 typically we were finding clear-cut victories for China.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10765

The China-Iran Deal: A Trial Balloon with a Clear Message

By Dr. James M. Dorsey July 22, 2020

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BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,655, July 22, 2020

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Hobbled by harsh US sanctions and a global economic downturn, Iran has discovered a new weapon: hot air in the form of a cooperation deal with China that carries messages to its opponents. China, albeit far less economically impaired, sees virtue in this arrangement too.

A proposed 25-year humongous China-Iran cooperation deal has proven to be good business. Reams of articles, analyses, and commentary by pundits are ensuring that the two countries’ messages are delivered loud and clear.

Beijing and Tehran have provided evidence to keep the story alive: Numerous agreements signed by Presidents Xi Jinping and Hassan Rouhani during the Chinese leader’s visit to the Middle East in 2016 would, if implemented, expand economic relations between the two countries by a factor of 10 to $600 billion and significantly enhance military cooperation.

Those agreements, which signaled a potential Chinese tilt toward Iran, were concluded at a time when a significant easing of US sanctions against Iran was anticipated as part of the 2015 international agreement, which curbed Iran’s nuclear program.

Those hopes were dashed when President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed crippling sanctions. China has since by and large abided by the US restrictions.

Iran appeared this month to put flesh on the skeleton of a Beijing-Tehran deal by leaking a purported final draft of a sweeping 25-year partnership agreement that envisions up to $400 billion in Chinese investment to develop Iran’s oil, gas, and transportation sectors. The problem is that there is nothing final about the draft. It is little more than a trial balloon.

That is just fine as far as Tehran and Beijing are concerned, even if both would like to cooperate on a far grander scale if geopolitical circumstances permitted it. For now, there remains a long negotiation path to the conclusion of an agreement. It is certainly not yet ready for implementation.

That does not mean that there is no upside to be had immediately, however.

By fueling talk of an imminent agreement, Iran is signaling Europe and a potential Biden administration after the US November presidential election, American and European policies might drive the Islamic Republic into Beijing’s arms. It also allowed Iran to take a swipe at Saudi Arabia by suggesting that when the chips are down, it will be Tehran, not Riyadh, to which China will turn.

China capitalized on Iran’s hot air by amplifying its messages toward the US and the kingdom. Officially, China limited itself to a non-committal on-the-record reaction and low-key semi-official commentary.

FM spokesman Zhao Lijian, an exponent of China’s newly adopted more assertive approach to diplomacy, was exceptionally tactful in his comment. “China and Iran enjoy traditional friendship, and the two sides have been in communication on the development of bilateral relations. We stand ready to work with Iran to steadily advance practical cooperation,” Zhao said.

Writing in the Shanghai Observer, a secondary Communist party newspaper, Middle East scholar Fan Hongda argued that an agreement, though nowhere close to implementation, highlights “an important moment of development” at a time when US-Chinese tensions have allowed Beijing to pay less heed to American policies.

In saying this, Fan was echoing China’s warning that the US was putting much at risk by ratcheting up tensions between the world’s two largest economies and could push China to the point where it no longer regards the potential cost of countering US policy as prohibitively high.

China’s response also amplified its message to the Gulf States. Scholars with close ties to the government have suggested that the economic downturn, which affects China’s economic ties to the region, could persuade Beijing to further limit its exposure if the Gulf States fail to find a way to come to grips with Iran in a way that would dial down tensions.

“For China, the Middle East is always on the very distant backburner of China’s strategic global strategies … COVID-19, combined with the oil price crisis, will dramatically change the Middle East. [This] will change China’s investment model in the Middle East,” said Niu Xinchun, director of Middle East Studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), widely regarded as China’s most influential think tank.

In July, in an interesting twist that could signal China’s appetite to play the Iranian card soon, Iran dropped India as a partner in the development of a rail line from its Indian-backed deep-sea port of Chabahar because of delays in Indian funding. The Trump administration had exempted Chabahar from its sanctions regime.

Iranian transport and urban development minister Muhammad Eslami recently inaugurated the track-laying for the first 628 kilometers of the line, which will ultimately link Chabahar to Afghanistan. Iranian officials said Tehran would fund the rail line itself, but both China and Iran have expressed an interest in linking Chabahar to Gwadar, the Chinese-backed Arabian Sea port, some 70 kilometers down the coast in Pakistan. The economic downturn as a result of the pandemic has revived doubts about the viability of Gwadar, a crown jewel of the approximately $60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China’s single largest BRI-related investment.

In an indication that the US does not see a potentially game-changing China-Iran deal as imminent, the Trump administration has stuck to its long-standing policy so far.

“The United States will continue to impose costs on Chinese companies that aid Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” said a US State Department spokesperson.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10762

US MILITARY DEPLOYS FORCES TO ASIA SURROUNDING CHINA

O mortal, turn your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. Prophesy against him Ezekiel 38:2 (The Israel BibleTM)

by David Sidman | Jul 22, 2020 | US-Israel Relations

Washington is deploying its military forces throughout Asia for a potential confrontation with China, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday. The message was communicated in an effort to outline the military aspect of Trump’s hardening stance against Beijing reports WSJ.

Speaking via videoconference  from the Pentagon to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Esper added that Washington would continue sending Navy ships into the region to challenge China’s expansionary policies. It should be noted that the U.S. has now officially rejected China’s claims of sovereignty in most of the South China Sea

 Esper added that the US would continue selling arms to Taiwan so that it can defend itself against an increasingly belligerent China.

Esper noted that based on China’s actions in Hong Kong, Taiwan has no reason to believe that Beijing will honor its commitments vis-a-vis the defunct “one country, two systems” model. He then reaffirmed his country’s commitment to executing freedom of navigation exercises in both the Taiwan Strait as well as the South China Sea.

Regarding Washington’s commitment to Taiwan’s defense, Esper noted that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) activities in the region are destabilizing and “increase the risk of miscalculation.” He used Hong Kong as an example.

Esper recalled how in 1997, Bei Jing pledged to honor Hong Kong’s Basic Law and implement the “one country, two systems” model in the semi-autonomous region. However, following the draconian new national security law enforced against Hong Kong, Esper added that “I don’t think anybody in Taiwan believes that at this point China has any intention whatsoever of living up to its ‘one country, two systems.’”

The defense secretary stressed that Washington’s policy has been consistent since the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979. Esper then recalled how in 1982, the Reagan administration established a policy of selling weapons to Taiwan “based entirely on the threat posed by the PRC.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10756