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Iran Expert: “This is a Full rebellion, Not a Fuel Protest,”

By David Sidman November 21, 2019 , 11:47 am

Men of Persia, Lud, and Put Were in your army, Your fighting men; They hung shields and helmets in your midst, They lent splendor to you Ezekiel 27:10 (The Israel Bible™)

Central Bank in Iran burns down (credit: screenshot)

While most mainstream media outlets are calling the mass uprisings in Iran mere ‘protests’, Alireza Nader, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) told Foreign Policy that Tehran is acting to censor their brutal suppression of the protestors from reaching the cloud saying: ” “The regime wants an internet blackout so they can massacre their way out of this.” However, the Iran expert is pessimistic about the Islamic Republic’s ambitions adding: “But there is no way out. Even if this round is crushed, there will be more of this. There is no more oil and increasing isolation. So I don’t see any way for the regime to get out of this.”

Nader added that the reform to hike gas prices was carried out as the regime had no other option saying: “They did the reform because they are broke.” Explaining Iran’s catch 22, the FDD fellow explained that “People can’t afford a 300 percent increase in gas prices, but the regime didn’t have any other choice.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has reported that at least 106 people have died as a result of the government’s brutal crackdown on the anti-regime protestors reports Bloomberg. The organization also said in a statement that: “the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed.”

Iranian proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Quds forces in Iraq are all dealing with the same type of mass uprisings in those countries. The protests in Lebanon started after Beirut decided to tax texting on the popular Whatsapp app.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10209

Jordan, EU, Bernie Sanders Triggered by Trump’s Acknowledgement of West Bank Settlements as Legal

By David Sidman November 19, 2019 , 12:17 pm

They prepared a net for my feet to ensnare me; they dug a pit for me, but they fell into it. Selah. (Psalm 57:6)

Jordan, whose Waqf mercenaries act as custodians in the Temple Mount slammed the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jewish Presence in Judea and Samaria as legal under international law.

Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, blasted the White House’s decision, claiming that settlements “kill the two-state solution”, the most widely accepted blueprint for Middle East peace. “Entrenching the occupation and its injustice, and violating the resolutions of international legitimacy will not achieve peace, and will not guarantee security and stability,” he said in a statement, according to state media. “Nothing changes the illegal reality of settlements that the international community is unanimous in condemning,” Safadi added.

Democratic 2020 Presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders accused Trump of “isolating” the US with his most recent statement. Sanders tweeted on Monday: “Israeli settlements in occupied territory are illegal. This is clear from international law and multiple United Nations resolutions. Once again, Mr. Trump is isolating the United States and undermining diplomacy by pandering to his extremist base.”

Meanwhile, the European Union didn’t take too kindly to Pompeo’s historic statement either. The EU’s vice-president Federica Mogherini contradicted Pompeo’s conclusion stating:

“The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory is clear and remains unchanged: all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace, as reaffirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 2334. The EU calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power. The EU will continue to support a resumption of a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, the only realistic and viable way to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10207

The Enneagram is Getting More Popular Among Christians. That’s Bad.

Bad.

By Tom Gilson Published on October 31, 2019 • 237 Comments

Tom Gilson

My friend Dan told me recently he was thinking of leaving his church because they’d spent nine consecutive sermons on the Enneagram. Since then the same topic has popped up in at least four different places. I’ve done some research, and I’m alarmed at what I’m discovering.

The Enneagram is a personality test, much in the same vein as the Myers/Briggs Type Inventory, or the DiSC test. It claims to do more than they do, though. I’d heard of it long ago, and I did enough work on it then to have serious doubts about it on technical grounds. Research on its validity — essentially, whether it reliably measures what it claims to measure — was unimpressive, to say the least. My friend Jay Medenwalt has details on that.

That in itself ought to be of concern to Christians using it. “Validity” is psychometric tech-speak. Functionally, you could say another word for it is simply “truth.” An invalid instrument is one whose purported results aren’t quite telling the truth, in one way or another. That’s not to suggest the test’s creators were practicing deceit, only that the test results can’t be entirely trusted. Still it matters.

Yet Christians use it. My friend’s church is a fine one by every measure I’ve known. I’ve never attended it, but my son met his wife there. The mission group Cru, with which I served for 34 years, has taught “Going Deeper with the Enneagram.” One Cru staff seminar called it “awesome.” InterVarsity has apparently used it, too. Maybe they’re not so much in tune with psychometrics.

And honestly, I’m not a total stickler for validity myself, as long as tests like these are used appropriately. The popular DiSC test also lacks strict validation last time I checked. Still, I’ve found it useful as a conversation starter. I’ve used it to get team members talking with each other about their strengths, weaknesses, and relational styles. I put emphasis on starter there, though. I don’t encourage them to dwell too long on their test scores as if they told the complete and lasting truth about themselves.

The Enneagram’s Occult Origins

My friend Dan was up to speed on these matters. He had all of it in mind when he told me about the Enneagram being taught at his church. But then he dropped a bombshell: the Enneagram was birthed out of an occult vision.

I looked into that, checking Marcia Montenegro’s website for my main source of information. (More than one knowledgeable friend has informed me she’s the go-to Christian thinker on this.) Turns out the occult-origin story is controversial, but the information I read makes it seem more than likely it’s true.

Says Montenegro:

A simple investigation into the Enneagram reveals that its theories of personality are based on esoteric teachings and an occult worldview. The clear origin and purpose of the Enneagram is to initiate a Gnostic spiritual awakening to one’s alleged true divine Self, which is in itself an occult initiation. This is the claim and goal of virtually all occult and New Age teachings.

Montenegro calls it the GPS: “Gnostic Path to Self.” Gnosticism was a secret-knowledge heresy that plagued Christianity in its first few centuries. It still lives on in various cults and occult groups today.

Further Research on Origins and Effect

And yet I still had to ask whether this concern might be overblown. The New Testament’s teaching on “food offered to idols” (Romans 14:14-23 and 1 Cor. 10:23-32) tells us it’s not an item’s origin but its content that matters. What also matters is the confusion it might create for onlookers. But setting that aside, the more I looked into it, the more the content itself appeared problematic.

Even if it seems “eerily accurate,” as some people have said, it’s not worth staking any decisions on it.

Amazon only appears to offer one book on it written especially for Christians, which is not self-published: The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Christopher L. Heuertz, with a foreword by Richard Rohr, published by Zondervan. Richard Rohr calls himself Christian, but he teaches an unorthodox universalist/evolutionary mysticism instead. That sets the book off to a bad start.

The “Sacred” Enneagram?

In a book trailer, author Heuertz describes the book in terms that continue to raise issues. He says the Enneagram “found me” and gave him “clarity” on “what it looks like to find our way home.” This is giving a human-created instrument of dubious origins way too much spiritual credence.

There’s more. It’s about “excavating essence,” for “self-liberation,” he says. It does what we can’t do for ourselves, which is to “self-observe.” It’s even “sacred,” he says, because it “moves beyond personality quirks … tethering us to our eccentricities and our foibles.” It’s about “nine inward journeys, nine inward paths back home to God.” It can help us “find our way back to the source of love that authentically defines us for who we are.”

That just about tipped it over the top for me. All this God intends to do for us through His Word, through prayer, through service, and through authentic, transparent Christian community. Not through an invalid self-report questionnaire, and not through one of “nine paths to God”! And especially not one with occult origins.

Still, I wanted to look at the book itself. On page 50, Heuertz seeks to answer Christian concerns about the Enneagram. The attempt is not, shall I say, very heartening:

Its role in bringing about a transformed life bears out its holy validity. And thanks in large part to the great work done by Father Richard [Rohr] and others to bring a Christian perspective to this ancient tool, evangelical seminaries and churches everywhere are incorporating the Enneagram into their curriculum.

I have serious trouble seeing how Rohr has influenced evangelicals with “a Christian perspective.” This is undiscerning at best. (I’ll leave it at that, to be as charitable as possible.)

Not Recommended

That answered my final question. I have to agree with my friend Dan, with Marcia Montenegro, and others who’ve raised serious concerns about the Enneagram. It doesn’t have psychometric validity, it has occult origins, and it doesn’t fall in the potentially innocent “meat offered to idols” category. Its main proponents in the Christian realm appear to be using it for purposes God clearly intended to be fulfilled in other ways.

So I’ve decided I’ll never use it, and I strongly advise others not to use it, either. If you’ve used the Enneagram, even if you come to different conclusions about its spiritual origins and impact, you should at least know that your “number” comes out of poorly developed testing practices. Even if it seems “eerily accurate,” as some people have said, it’s not worth staking decisions on it.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10204

Hong Kong campus protesters fire arrows as anti-government unrest spreads

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong protesters shot arrows and hurled petrol bombs from a barricaded university on Sunday at police who fired tear gas and water cannon in some of the worst violence in the Chinese-ruled city since anti-government unrest erupted five months ago. 

Several protesters took up positions on the rooftops of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, armed with bows and arrows, as unrest spread across the territory’s central Kowloon district. 

Police said a media liaison officer was treated in hospital after being hit by an arrow in the leg and another officer’s visor was struck by a metal ball although he was not hurt. 

Protesters, who were sprayed with the blue liquid from water cannon, stripped off and hosed each other down to wash it off. 

Police fired tear gas to try to break up protests on Nathan Road, a major thoroughfare in Kowloon’s Mong Kok district, which was strewn with loose bricks, and in Yau Ma Tei district, where successive volleys of gas canisters temporarily cleared the streets. Clashes intensified during the night. 

“Rioters continue to launch hard objects and petrol bombs with large catapults at police officers,” police said in a statement. “Police warn that the violent activities in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University have escalated to rioting.” 

Chinese soldiers in a base close to the university were seen monitoring developments with binoculars, some dressed in riot gear with canisters on their chests, Reuters witnesses reported. 

Chinese troops in shorts and T-shirts, some carrying red plastic buckets or brooms, had emerged from their barracks on Saturday in a rare public appearance to help clean up debris. 

The presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers on the streets, even to clean up, risks stoking controversy about Hong Kong’s status as an autonomous area. 

Protesters are angry at perceived Communist Party meddling in the territory, whose freedoms were guaranteed when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Beijing denies interfering and has blamed foreign influences for the unrest. 

Huge fires had lit up the sky at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Saturday night and into Sunday morning after protesters threw petrol bombs. In the university courtyard, Joris, 23, said students fired arrows to protect themselves. 

“The protesters have been reacting to the police. We haven’t fought back as much as we could. I would be prepared for jail. We are fighting for Hong Kong,” the civil engineer told Reuters. 

The campus is the last of five universities to be occupied by activists, who have used the site as a base to block the Cross Harbour tunnel, which connects Kowloon to Hong Kong island. 

A police truck, deployed to clear the bridge above the tunnel, retreated in reverse after being set ablaze. 

“We are not afraid,” said third-year student Ah Long, who did not give his full name. “If we don’t persist, we will fail.” 

The violence has posed the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012. Xi has said he is confident Hong Kong’s government can resolve the crisis. 

Chinese troops have appeared on Hong Kong’s streets only once since 1997, to help clear up after a typhoon last year.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10202

154 Nations Reject Israel’s Biblical Connection to Temple Mount

By David Sidman November 18, 2019 , 10:49 am

“But I have installed My king on Tzion, My holy mountain!” (Psalm 2:6)

A view of the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Shutterstock.com)

The United Nations gave preliminary approval for a resolution that calls the Temple Mount by its Muslim name exclusively: Haram al-Sharif reports JPost.

The resolution passed at the UN’s Fourth Committee in New York City in an overwhelming turn-out of 154-8. The vote featured 14 abstentions as well as 17 absences. It was one of eight Anti-Israel resolutions approved last week. An expected 15 more anti-Israel resolutions are anticipating approval as well. The UN General Assembly will commence its final vote on the resolution next month.

Ironically, the resolution reaffirmed “the special significance of the holy sites and the importance of the City of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions.”

Although only Israel and the United States were the only ones to vote against all eight resolutions, Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Nauru joined them in voting against the Jerusalem texts.

All of the twenty-eight EU member states backed the resolution

Some of the resolutions related to both past and future Israeli ambitions to annex territory in Judea and Samaria reading: “The occupation of a territory is to be a temporary, de facto situation, whereby the occupying power can neither claim possession nor exert its sovereignty over the territory it occupies,” a resolution stated. That same resolution recalled “the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of land by force and therefore the illegality of the annexation of any part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” It also stated “grave concern at recent statements calling for the annexation by Israel of areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Acting US Deputy Representative to the United Nations Cherith Norman Chalet responded to the resolution saying: “We are disappointed that despite support for reform, member states continue to disproportionately single out Israel through these types of resolutions”. She added that“it is deplorable that the United Nations – an institution founded upon the idea that all nations should be treated equally – should be so often used by member states to treat one state in particular, Israel, unequally.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10200

We Are Going To War”: Has The Final Apocalyptic Conflict Between Israel and Her Enemies Now Begun?

On Tuesday, terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired hundreds of rockets at Israel in retaliation for Israel’s targeted killing of the senior commander of Islamic Jihad in Gaza.  Many of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, but quite a few got through, and some even reached as far as Tel Aviv.  Following those rocket attacks, Israeli tanks and aircraft pounded Islamic Jihad positions in the Gaza Strip, and Israeli officials are pledging to continue to respond to any additional attacks.  Unfortunately, it certainly sounds like more attacks are coming.  According to Islamic Jihad’s Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhala, his organization is “going to war” with Israel.  The following comes from the Times of Israel

We are going to war. [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has crossed all the red lines in assassinating Al-Quds Brigades Commander Baha Abu al-Ata. We will respond forcefully,” PIJ Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhala told the Dar al-Hayat Arabic-language news site.

Israeli officials felt that they had no choice but to kill Baha Abu al-Ata once they had a clear opportunity to do so.  According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he was an “archterrorist” and was “the main instigator of terrorism from the Gaza Strip”.  The Israeli people are fed up with the endless rocket attacks, and so it makes sense that Israel would target the man that initiated so many of those attacks.

But to Islamic Jihad, Baha Abu al-Ata was a greatly beloved hero, and his death sent shockwaves throughout the entire Middle East.  Once news of his death got out, terrorists in Gaza fired “more than 200 rockets into Israel”

Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip sent a barrage of more than 200 rockets into Israel Tuesday and vowed further revenge after the Israeli military carried out a pair of targeted airstrikes on senior Islamic Jihad commanders, killing one in Gaza and missing the second in Syria.

An Israeli airstrike killed Baha Abu al-Ata, 42, and his wife as they slept in their home in eastern Gaza Tuesday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, said. Conricus added that Abu al-Ata was responsible for a number of recent rocket attacks on southern Israel and claimed he was actively planning new attacks.

In response to those rocket attacks, IDF tanks and planes absolutely pummeled Islamic Jihad military outposts…

Israeli tanks attacked three Islamic Jihad military posts in the Gaza Strip Tuesday afternoon.

An IDF spokesperson stated: “A short while ago, IDF tanks targeted three PIJ military posts in the Gaza Strip.”

The Israeli Air Force has also bombed numerous Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza in response to the firing of dozens of rockets by the terrorist organization.

And IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told the press that the Israelis are “prepared for several days of battle” if it comes to that.

We shall see what happens, but it appears that we may be looking at a conflict that will last a whole lot longer that just a few days.

Islamic Jihad is promising a campaign of revenge that will “have no borders”, and it is being reported that Israel’s enemies are considering “opening a second or third front in the north”

DEBKAfile’s sources report that when Israel’s security cabinet was convening in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning, so too were senior officials in Tehran, Damascus and Beirut. They were discussing whether to punish Israel by opening a second or third front in the north.

The Palestinian Jihad also maintains armed forces in Syria and Lebanon, who may be conscripted in both countries for strikes against northern and central Israel in solidarity with their brothers in Gaza. The Gaza headquarters initially reacted to the death of its leader by announcing that their retaliation “would have no borders.” Then, after firing some 50 rockets, Jihad stated that as yet “unprecedented retaliation” was still to come, suggesting that Israel faced attacks from additional borders.

Of course every time Israel’s enemies escalate the conflict, Israel is going to hit back even harder.

And if this conflict escalates enough, it could pull in the Iranians and all of their close allies in the region.  In recent years, Islamic Jihad has actually forged very close ties with Tehran.  The following comes from the Jerusalem Post

PIJ is important for Iran because Tehran’s regime often argues that it is the center of “resistance” against Israel and the US. In order to weave a narrative of “resistance,” it must show that it is actually doing something against Israel. Since Iran doesn’t like to sacrifice its own Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members, it works through other groups. In Lebanon it supplies Hezbollah with precision guidance for its rocket arsenal; in Gaza it has relations with PIJ and also with Hamas.

At some point, Israel will find itself fighting against Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran all at the same time.

Could it be possible that we are right on the precipice of that war?

Without a doubt, many on both sides of the conflict are eager to achieve final victory.  For example, on Tuesday one activist group in Israel was openly calling for war with Hamas

The group’s activists were seen hanging signs around the country reading, “Bibi – Give Us TheOrder!”

“The time has come for Israel to achieve victory over Hamas and all the terror organizations in Gaza,” said Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg. “Peace is made with defeated enemies, and that’s the only way to restore quiet to the south. Today’s assassination of a senior Gazan terrorist was a step in the right direction, and now we need to take the next step and defeat the terror in Gaza once and for all.”

If rockets were constantly being fired at my family and friends, I think that my patience would be gone too.

There simply is not going to be lasting peace in the region as long as the status quo exists.  Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian government have all pledged to permanently wipe Israel off the map, and the Israelis are going to respond to every attack against them by hitting back extremely hard.

Whether it happens today, tomorrow or at some future time, the truth is that a major war is coming to the Middle East.

And once that war happens, none of our lives will ever be the same again.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10197

Russian Submarine Breaches Israel’s Territorial Waters, Flees after Being Spotted

By David Sidman November 12, 2019 , 10:25 am

I will incite Egyptian against Egyptian: They shall war with each other, Every man with his fellow, City with city And kingdom with kingdom. Isaiah 19:2 (The Israel Bible™)

Russian nuclear submarine (courtesy: Shutterstock) 

A navy patrol boat spotted a Russian submarine three months ago about 8 miles from the coast of Israel reports Ynet. Israel’s territorial waters stretch 12 nautical miles offshore.

The IDF refused to comment on whether or not the sub compromised Israel’s security interests and also wouldn’t comment on the duration of the sea craft’s presence.

After identifying the submarine, Israel’s naval officers contacted their Russian counterparts, activating the naval coordination mechanism through via the General Staff Planning Division. The mechanism is similar to that of the armies which has been battle tested in Syria. The submarine left the area westward into the depths of the Mediterranean.

A Russian submarine’s presence in Israel’s territorial waters can entail long-term consequences. That’s because the sub is a vessel used for intelligence gathering. Russia has gone to great lengths to intervene in the region following Syria’s civil war.

In a rather vague statement, the IDF spokesman responded to the report saying: “Sometimes, naval targets are noticed by the Navy that might be perceived to be a foreign military vessel.”

In 2018, Breaking Israel News reported on a Russian military plane carrying 14 servicemen was shot down over Syria. Moscow blamed Israel who claimed that it was a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that did it.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10195

Israel is at war with Islamic Jihad. Tehran weighs opening northern fronts as punishment for Al-Atta killing

By two targeted assassinations in Gaza and Damascus, Israel on Tuesday, Nov. 12, went to war against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Baha Abu Al-Atta, chief of the northern Gaza command, was killed in an IDF bombing raid on his home in Gaza city; Akram Al-Ajouri’s home in the Maze district of Damascus was struck by two rockets. Some sources say he escaped; others that he was injured. Al Ajouri was the liaison officer between the Palestinian Jihad in Gaza and the Iranian Al-Qods Brigades and its chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
The Islamic Jihad’s first response was a wide-ranging rocket barrage against key towns in central and southern Israel, including Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gedera, Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv, after announcing that “there were no borders.” Iron Dome downed some 20, including the rockets targeting Tel Aviv.

DEBKAfile: The IDF initially relayed messages to Gaza City that the slaying of Abu Al-Atta did not portend a new wave of targeted assassinations against Palestinian terrorist leaders, in the hope of persuading Hamas to stay out of it and let Jihad act on its own. This was intended to avert a major conflagration. This hope was largely unfounded because it is not in the power of Hamas or Egypt or even Israel to determine how far this incident escalates but Tehran.  DEBKAfile’s sources report that when Israel’s security cabinet was convening in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning, so too were senior officials in Tehran, Damascus and Beirut. They were discussing whether to punish Israel by opening a second or third front in the north.
The Palestinian Jihad also maintains armed forces in Syria and Lebanon, who may be conscripted in both countries for strikes against northern and central Israel in solidarity with their brothers in Gaza. The Gaza headquarters initially reacted to the death of its leader by announcing that their retaliation “would have no borders.” Then, after firing some 50 rockets, Jihad stated that as yet “unprecedented retaliation” was still to come, suggesting that Israel faced attacks from additional borders.

Any Egyptian or UN efforts to mediate de-escalation would be irrelevant in these circumstances since neither has access to this extremist Palestinian terrorist group or its Iranian masters. And Hamas can hardly afford to stand aside in the event of a multi-front conflict erupting and is likely to be drawn into backing a fellow Palestinian terrorist organization.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10193

Turkey: Erdogan’s Campaign against the West

by Giulio Meotti
November 9, 2019 at 5:00 am

“Europe is a cultural continent, not a geographical one… It is its culture that gives it a common identity. The roots that have formed it, that have permitted the formation of this continent, are those of Christianity. […] In this sense, throughout history Turkey has always represented another continent, in permanent contrast with Europe. There were the wars against the Byzantine empire, the fall of Constantinople, the Balkan wars, and the threat against Vienna and Austria. That is why I think it would be an error to equate the two continents.” — Pope Benedict XVI, Le Figaro Magazine, 2007.• In Germany, Turkey controls 900 mosques out of a total of 2,400. These Islamic centers not only serve members of the Turkish diaspora, but also stop them from assimilating into German society. Speaking with Turks in Germany, Erdogan urged them not to assimilate, and called the assimilation of migrants in Europe “a crime against humanity.”• Erdogan has also been expanding Turkey beyond its borders – starting with Cyprus, the Greek Islands, Suakin Island (Sudan) and Syria.• Mosques, migrants and the military are now Erdogan’s new weapons in his threats against the West.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “has earned the title of Caliph” according to Turkish journalist Abdurrahman Dilipak.

Erdogan is the head of NATO’s second-largest army; he has spies throughout Europe through a network of mosques, associations and cultural centers; he has brought his country to the top of the world rankings for the number of imprisoned journalists and has shut the mouth of German comedians with the threat of legal action. By keeping migrants in Turkish refugee camps, he controls immigration to Europe.

The worse Erdogan behaves, the greater his weight in Europe. In a 2015 meeting, Erdogan reportedly was “openly mocking” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other “senior European leaders”, as Juncker asked Erdogan to consider how he was treated “like a prince” at a Brussels summit.

According to George Friedman:

“Turkey now is the 17th largest economy in the world, it is larger than Saudi Arabia, it has an army and military capability that is probably the best in Europe, besides the UK and they could beat the Germans in an afternoon and the French in an hour if they showed up.”

Turkey’s 2018 military budget increased to $19 billion, 24% higher than 2017, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Erdogan has placed Turkey’s military — once a bastion of Turkish nationalism and secularism — under his political authority. While Europe is pacifist and refuses to invest in its own security or, like Germany, support NATO’s budget, Turkey is belligerent.

Ever since his Justice and Development Party (AKP) became Turkey’s dominant political force in 2002, for Erdogan, elevating the public role of Islam has been more than a slogan. At public gatherings, the Turkish president has made the “rabia“, a hand gesture of four fingers raised and the thumb hidden, to protest the overthrow of Egypt’s Islamist then President Mohamed Morsi by Egypt’s military. Erdogan evidently sees himself as a global Islamic leader with national elections to win. Through four million Turkish Muslims in Germany and vast communities in the Netherlands, France, Austria and beyond, Erdogan does indeed have enormous influence in Europe.

As a leader of the Ummah [Islamic community], Erdogan challenged the leader of Christianity. In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a famous lecture at Germany’s University of Regensburg, where he diagnosed Islam as inherently flawed. During his address, the Pope quoted a 14thCentury Christian emperor:

“Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.

The Muslim world erupted in anger. In an apology tour of Erdogan’s Turkey, Benedict XVI reversed his firm position of just two years before and supported Turkey’s joining the European Union. The year before becoming Pope, then-Cardinal Ratzinger had said that Turkey should never join the European Union. “Europe is a cultural continent, not a geographical one,” Ratzinger said to Le Figaro.

“It is its culture that gives it a common identity. The roots that have formed it, that have permitted the formation of this continent, are those of Christianity. […] In this sense, throughout history Turkey has always represented another continent, in permanent contrast with Europe. There were the wars against the Byzantine empire, the fall of Constantinople, the Balkan wars, and the threat against Vienna and Austria. That is why I think it would be an error to equate the two continents.”

Ratzinger said the something similar in another instance, that “Turkey in Europe is a mistake”:

“The European continent has its own Christian soul and Turkey, which is not the Ottoman Empire in its extension but still constitutes its central core, has another soul, naturally to be respected”.

Both Benedict and Erdogan understood that Islamic Turkey has been the nemesis of Christian Europe — from October 7, 1571, when Europe inflicted a catastrophic defeat on the Ottomans at the Battle of Lepanto, until September 12, 1683, when Europe again defeated the Turks at the outskirts of Vienna, the city they had historically tried to capture as a base for the conquest of the rest of Europe.

It was in the half-century that followed the fall of Constantinople in 1453 — the great Eastern Christian center, whose collapse marked the end of the Byzantine Empire — that Christian Europe started to expel the Ottoman Turks from the continent. Now it seems as if Erdogan, by other means, is trying to pursue a historic Turkish revenge on Europe. Erdogan is seemingly using this ideology of conquest to cement his internal and external power.

Erdogan’s most powerful tool in his relations with Europe has been migrants. “You cried out when 50,000 refugees were at the Kapikule border”, Erdogan said in 2016, referring to the border with Bulgaria. “You started asking what you would do if Turkey would open the gates. Look at me — if you go further, those border gates will be open. You should know that”.

Last month, during his military operation against the Kurds, Erdogan repeated the same threat:

“Hey EU, wake up. I say it again: if you try to frame our operation there as an invasion, our task is simple: we will open the doors and send 3.6 million migrants to you.”

Europe, unable to control its own borders, is stalling.

Since he came to power, Erdogan, in a building spree, has reportedly built 17,000 mosques (one fifth of Turkey’s total). The largest is located in Camlica, the Asian shore of Istanbul. From Mali to Moscow, by way of Cambridge and Amsterdam, Erdogan is ceaselessly active in “diplomatizing” his religion. The “biggest mosque in the Balkans” is Turkish and is located in Tirana, Albania. “The largest in West Africa” was built by Erdogan in Accra, Ghana. “The largest in Central Asia” he built in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The “largest mosque in Europe” will be his new Turkish mosque in Strasbourg. He is planning to open Turkish schools in France.

Erdogan has empowered Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), which now has 120,000 employees and a budget the size of twelve other ministries combined. In 2004, with 72,000 employees, the Diyanet was about half that size. This is the religious network with which Erdogan has a foot in European affairs.

In Germany, Turkey controls 900 mosques out of a total of 2,400. These Islamic centers not only serve members of the Turkish diaspora, but also stop them from assimilating into German society. Speaking with Turks in Germany, Erdogan urged them not to assimilate, and called the assimilation of migrants in Europe “a crime against humanity“. He apparently wants them to remain part of Turkey and the Ummah, the global Muslim community.

Last year, Austrian authorities announced the closure of several Turkish-controlled mosques after “children in a Turkish-financed mosque re-enacting the first world war battle of Gallipoli.” According to The Guardian:

As many as 60 Turkish imams and their families face expulsion from Austria and seven mosques are due to be closed under a clampdown on what the government has called “political Islam”.

Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, said the country could no longer put up with “parallel societies, political Islam and radicalisation,” which he said had “no place in our country”.

Erdogan, however, knows that against Europe, numbers are on his side. “Make not three, but five children. Because you are the future of Europe,” Erdogan told the Turkish diaspora. Eurostat, the official statistics agency of the European Union, shows that in terms of birthrates, Turkey is ahead of Europe. In one year in Turkey, more than 1.2 million children were born, while only 5.07 million children were born in all of the EU’s 28 member states. What would Europe look like if 80 million Turks joined the EU?

Already in 1994, when Erdogan was campaigning to become the mayor of Istanbul, he talked about “the second conquest of Istanbul“. (The first conquest was the defeat of Christian Constantinople in 1453.) According to the exiled Turkish novelist Nedim Gürsel, Erdogan, when he was mayor of Istanbul, took it upon himself to commemorate the Turkish conquest of Constantinople. “Celebrating a conquest that took place more than five centuries ago may seem anachronistic, I would even say absurd, to European leaders”, Gürsel writes. “For Erdogan, the capture of Constantinople is another pretext for challenging the West and giving back to its people its repressed pride”. Last January, Erdogan chose the tomb of an Ottoman forebear to pledge a victory over Syria.

“You will not turn Istanbul into Constantinople”, Erdogan said after the Christchurch massacre. Erdogan is obsessed with history and takes it far more seriously than Europeans do. “We will change Hagia Sophia’s name from a museum to a mosque”, Erdogan said earlier this year. The Hagia Sophia, built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in AD 537, was for 900 years the greatest cathedral in Christendom – until 1453 when the Ottoman Empire defeated the Byzantines and took over Constantinople; then it became one of Islam’s greatest mosques. In 1935, President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk turned it into a museum; Erdogan has pledged to turn it back into a mosque, and recited a Muslim prayer in the formerly Christian site.

Erdogan has also been expanding Turkey beyond its borders – starting with Cyprus, the Greek IslandsSuakin Island (Sudan) and Syria. “We are a big family of 300 million people from the Adriatic to the Great Wall of China”, Erdogan said in a recent speech from Moldova. The borders of Turkey, he stated in Izmir, span “from Vienna to the shores of the Adriatic Sea, from East Turkistan (China’s autonomous region of Xinjiang) to the Black Sea”.

To expand his country’s influence, Erdogan is also using Turkey’s military. “Not since the days of the Ottoman Empire has the Turkish military had such an extensive global footprint”, the journalist Selcan Hacaoglu reports. The Turkish-American political scientist Soner Cagaptaytitled his new book, Erdogan’s Empire.

Mosques, migrants and the military are now Erdogan’s new weapons in his campaign against the West.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10191

China in the Middle East: From Observer to Security Player

By Emil Avdaliani November 10, 2019 

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,339, November 10, 2019

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: There is much debate both within and without China over whether or not its economic interests in the region will force it to play a more active security/military role in the Middle East. In fact, recent political and economic trends in the region indicate that a shift in China’s approach to the Middle East along these lines has already started.  

So far, most Chinese cooperation with Middle Eastern countries has focused on energy and economic relations. But things are changing. Recent developments indicate that Beijing is now strengthening its ties to Middle Eastern countries in areas such as defense, culture, and the toning down of mutual criticism.

China has concluded partnership agreements with 15 Middle Eastern countries so far, but several warrant special attention—particularly Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is now China’s largest trading partner in West Asia, and Beijing is Riyadh’s largest trading partner in the world.

This is not an isolated case. China is also the UAE’s largest trading partner. More than 200,000 Chinese nationals reside in the UAE, and the Dubai Port is a vital global shipping and logistics hub for Chinese goods.

Moreover, the UAE and Saudi Arabia recently voiced their intention to introduce Chinese-language studies into their national educational curricula. Notably, both states (as well as others in the Middle East) not only abstained from criticizing China over its alleged persecution of the Uighur population in Xinjiang but even defended it.

In the last decade, as Chinese fears have grown over the safe operation of sea lanes, the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait have come under increased Chinese attention. The gaining of influence in and around geographical choke points for global trade and oil and gas shipment has become pivotal to Beijing’s foreign policy in western Eurasia.

No wonder Egypt features so strongly in China’s investment agenda. Billions of dollars have been invested by Beijing in Egypt. China is helping Egypt build a new administrative capital in the desert outside Cairo as well as a Red Sea port and industrial zone in Ain Sukhna. Egyptian president Sisi has made at least six trips to Beijing since 2014, compared to just two to the country’s traditional security partner, the US.

The growing connections between Middle Eastern states and China are sensitive for the West. The US’s evolving international position has led it to discard some of its responsibilities in Eurasia, which has had the effect of causing small countries to revisit their relationships with the US and consider the rising China.

Another interesting Middle Eastern partner for China is Iran. Tehran wishes to establish relationships with global powers to balance US pressure. Its growing partnership with Moscow fits this paradigm, as does its increasing closeness with Beijing.

Iran could prove much more important to China than other Middle East states. Its growing isolation from the West is likely to continue in the coming years, which will push it to work ever more closely with China. Iran’s strategic location and human resources, as well as its intention to serve as a civilizational center of gravity for neighboring states, could divert American military and economic capabilities away from the South China Sea, which would work in Beijing’s favor.

Iranian troops or their allies are operating in many countries around the Middle East, and the Iranian navy is active in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. All of this dilutes US power across the Eurasian continent. Moreover, Iran’s location can enable China’s Belt and Road Initiative to pervade the region, whether on land or sea (the Caspian and the Persian Gulf).

China publicly rejects any notion of its seeking military or security dominance in the Middle East. Beijing understands that it still lacks the knowledge, networks of contacts, and necessary authority (on a par with Western authority) to proclaim its geopolitical aims in the troublesome region. Despite this, westerners often take it for granted that China is in fact seeking domination in Eurasia. After all, why would the country want to spend billions and station hundreds of soldiers either in the Middle East or elsewhere in Eurasia?

There is a grand debate within China itself on whether Beijing’s economic interests in the Middle East could force it to become a more active security/military player in the region. Though there are hopes that this can be avoided, there are already signs pointing in this direction.

Beijing recently announced its intention to take part in anti-piracy initiatives in the Persian Gulf following incidents with oil tankers. With the US diminishing its presence in Eurasia overall, China will have to address the geopolitical vacuum. Spending billions will not solve every problem, but economic development of the region could forestall tensions for some time.

It is likely that China will have to increase its presence in Western Eurasia. Concrete steps have already been taken: Beijing opened a base in Djibouti and set up military installations on the border with Afghanistan and in Tajikistan.

As China grows its position in the region, it will need partners to manage inter-state conflicts. Russia is a likely choice, but Moscow, like Turkey and Iran, will not be particularly interested in sharing military/security positions in the Middle East that were gained by waging war in Syria and working in concert to constrain the American position.

Overall, it can be argued that Beijing will continue to be extremely careful not to become too involved in the region. As far as China is concerned, Russia and the US can keep responsibility for security in the region. What is crucial for Beijing is multipolarity, and it will pursue that principle assiduously.

But as time goes on, China will find it increasingly difficult to stay above the fray in the Middle East. It will have to become more responsive to rising challenges to its businesses and sea and land trade routes.

This will inevitably lead to greater insecurity between the US and China. Top US officials have already warned about China’s efforts to gain influence in the Middle East, which could undermine defense cooperation between the US and its traditional regional allies in the region. The Middle East is thus transforming into yet another arena of competition between the US and China.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10189