Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Casey Pops Predictions for 2018 : Part 3 (Merkel, China, North Korea, and Iran)
MY PREDICTIONS FOR THE WORLD IN 2018. I feel sure that, like most of us, my real hope is that there will still be a world at the end of 2018. Being an optimist, I am pretty sure there will be, so let's look at the problems we Earthlings will have to face in the coming year. • • • 9. MRS. MERKEL, GERMANY AND EUROPE WILL REMAIN JOINED AT THE HIP. There is a lot of doom and gloom in the German media these days about the end of the Merkel era but little is being written about the unpleasant possibilities as her replacement. • UK Daily Express wrote on December 15 that French Socialist Pierre Moscovici, the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, admitted that the feeling around Europe is fragile in Germany. Speaking to Bloomberg, he said: “There is something interesting about the election itself. That you can have full employment, you can have a huge success economically and still people wandering and a split vote. And also an extreme right party coming in inside Parliament which is the first time since World War 2. That proves that the feeling among the voters is still very fragile about Europe and about the economy.” But, Moscovici said he backs Mrs Merkel to continue to lead Germany forward : “Yes there is a caretaker Government, but there is a Government and there is a strong leader who is Mrs Merkel.” • Matthew Goodwin, a Professor of Politics, has a different take on the German political crisis : “The populist and centre-right are thriving because they understand that voters are not solely concerned about GDP and economic growth. Austria’s sharp rightward turn is merely a symptom of a much broader challenge to the EU that is deep and growing. Like Kurz and Strache, across the continent, an assortment of conservative, Eurosceptic and populist parties are seeking to take control of the EU project and push it in a fundamentally different direction, if not bring it down altogether.” • There we have the dimemma -- European elites are determined to push for "ever greater union" while populist-nationalist parties are gaining support for a greatly reduced or non-existent European Union. Handelsblatt, the German business daily that is no friend of Merkel, wrote on December 28 : "German voters and Christian Democrat lawmakers are weary of Angela Merkel and want a new generation to take over the chancellor’s party. As the year draws to a close and with no government coalition in sight more than three months after September’s election, Angela Merkel is facing increasing pressure from her own ranks to promote a new generation of leaders. It’s time to 'get ready to pass the baton,' one member of the Christian Democratic Union told Handelsblatt. It’s widely understood that Ms. Merkel, who has held power since 2005, will not run for a fifth term as Germany’s chancellor in the next election in 2021. Polls show that actually, more and more voters would like her to bow out even earlier." • The poll by YouGov published durign the Christmas holidays found that just 36% of respondents want Merkel to stay at the helm until 2021. Nearly half of those surveyed voters called for a change at the top before the end of the legislature. The number of voters who would like Merkel to step down before the next election has increased by 11% in just two months. And to compound the Chancellor’s predicament, regular voters who call for change are joined by some senior politicians. • Wolfgang Kubicki, the vice-chairman of the FDP – the pro-business party that torpedoed the coalition talks in November and brought the country into uncharted constitutional territory -- challenged the CDU/CSU bloc to bring in new leaders to improve its results in future elections. He said the CDU would have a better chance of forming a coalition with his party, the FDP, as was customary in past decades, rather than with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). • The 37-year-old Jens Spahn, a member of the CDU presidium, a deputy finance minister and a long-time protégé of the influential former finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who bowed out after the election, was named by a British newspaper last year as a possible chancellor candidate, and Merkel included Spahn, a staunch conservative, in her negotiating team for the exploratory coalition talks with the SPD due to start on January 7 and continue for one week. She passed over long-serving cabinet members such as Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, 63. “This is the first clear signal to a younger generation,” one party member told Handelsblatt, adding that the government, the party and the CDU’s parliamentary group in the Bundestag have to promote new faces in order to “increase the pool of potential successors.” • A new generation is already emerging within the conservative bloc -- Saxony gave more votes to the populist Alternative for Germany party (AfD) than to the CDU, which then named a new young leader, Michael Kretschmer, who is 42. In Bavaria, one of Germany’s wealthiest states, the aftermath of the election brought down the influential state premier Horst Seehofer. He will cede to his finance minister, Markus Söder, at the state election next fall. One CDU lawmaker told Handelsblatt : “All of Merkel’s critics have pinned their hopes on Spahn, but he won’t make it to the top on his own.” So there’s mounting pressure on the Chancellor, including from her parliamentary group, to groom potential successors, preferably among parliamentary leaders or state premiers and ministers in federal government. Many CDU lawmakers believe political heavyweights like de Maizière or Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, 59, should make room for younger hopefuls. • If the first round of exploratory talks with the SPD is successful, a party congress will decide whether the SPD should enter into formal coalition talks with Merkel's center-right bloc. And in the end, the SPD base will be given a vote on the negotiated coalition agreement – which means SPD members will have a veto on Merkel’s coalition. If they reject it, Merkel would have no choice but to face new elections or lead a minority government – an option she has so far rejected. • That may sound ominous for Chancellor Merkel, but it isn't necessarily. Current polls show she would win a snap election, and while a minority government, though unheard-of in postwar Germany, is an option that has worked in many other Western countries. But both cases would see her weakened. • In her New Year's address to the German people, Chancellor Merkel said : “The world is not waiting for us.” Merkel said she is committed to quickly building a stable government for Germany in the new year, mentioning that “some speak of a rift that goes through our society.” She returned to her customary position, asking people to focus on the common ground and “respect” each other, saying that "we become more aware of what holds us together, that we again emphasize common ground, that we endeavour to have more respect for others, these are my wishes for the new year.” Merkel called bothe the "fears and the doubts" in Germany "a motivation for me.” • Many people in Germany are angry that Mrs Merkel allowed more than a million migrants to enter the country in 2015-16. But, the question that is in the minds of every German voter and of every European is this -- if Angela Merkel were to leave politics tomorrow, who would repalce her. The answer is 'nobody.' The sad truth is that in the immense 350-million people EU and in the elites of the other 27 EU nations, there is nobody with the political stature or the economic clout to replace Chancellor Merkel. • I predict that she will form another grand coalition with the Socialists and go on to serve out her term until 2021, leading the EU along its current inconclusive and unpopular Globalist path. • • • 10. TRUMP WILL FORCE CHINA TO CONFRONT NORTH KOREA OR FACE WIDE SANCTIONS. China always votes for and promises at the UN Security Council to follow all NK sanctions, but in reality, we are once again seeing that China's actions are far removed from its promises. • According to Chinese customs data, Beijing has stopped selling oil products to its largest trading partner, North Korea. China had previously refused to buy coal or iron ore from the Kim regime, but, in December, US satellites showed Chinese ships trading for oil with North Korean vessels just recently, raising questions about the Chinese commitment to denying North Korea energy supplies in accordance with U.N. sanctions. Reuters reported that : "China did not export gasoline, jet fuel, diesel or fuel oil, nor did Beijing import any coal or iron ore," citing Chinese customs data. It was the second straight month China did not export any diesel or gasoline to Pyongyang, according to the report. China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said : "As a principle, China has consistently fully, correctly, conscientiously and strictly enforced relevant UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea. We have already established a set of effective operating mechanisms and methods." • The UN sanctions, implemented earlier this year, were meant to dramatically limit oil products to North Korea as retaliation for their nuclear and missile testing. But, South Korea says US spy satellites have caught Chinese ships selling oil to North Korea thirty times in the last three months. According to SK government sources, the satellites have pictured large Chinese and North Korean ships illegally trading in oil in a part of the West Sea closer to China than South Korea. The satellite pictures even show the names of the ships, according to a SK government source : "We need to focus on the fact that the illicit trade started after a UN Security Council resolution in September drastically capped North Korea's imports of refined petroleum products." The US Treasury Department placed six North Korean shipping and trading companies and 20 of their ships on sanctions list on November 21, when it published spy satellite images taken on October 19 showing a ship named Ryesonggang 1 connected to a Chinese vessel. The US Treasury noted that the two ships appeared to be illegally trading in oil from ship-to-ship to bypass sanctions. Ship-to-ship trade with North Korea on the high seas is forbidden in UNSC Resolution 2375 adopted in September, but such violations are nearly impossible to detect unless China aggressively cracks down on smuggling. This means that any oil embargo imposed on the North in the event of further provocations will probably be futile as long as illegal smuggling continues. • And, Reuters reported on December 31 that South Korean authorities have seized a Panama-flagged vessel suspected of transferring as much as 600 tons of oil products to North Korea in violation of international sanctions. The Lighthouse Winmore, a Hong Kong-flagged vessel suspected of transferring oil to North Korea in defiance of international sanctions, was the second seizure to be revealed by South Korea within a few days, as the UN steps up efforts to squeeze essential oil supplies to the North following its nuclear or ballistic missile tests. The ship, KOTI, was seized at Pyeongtaek-Dangjin port, the official told Reuters, without elaborating, due to the sensitivity of the issue. The port is on the west coast, south of Incheon. The ship can carry 5,100 tonnes of oil and has a crew mostly from China and Myanmar, Yonhap News Agency reported, adding that South Korea’s intelligence and customs officials are conducting a joint probe into the vessel. • It is not clear that the Chinese government is deliberately permitting these illegal ship-to-ship sales, but it seems unlikely that China is unaware given the sheer volume." The fact that the trades take place in international waters gives the Chinese government plausible deniability, and this is highly likely to be the reason China is allowing the trades to continue -- because, given how tightly the Chinese government keeps track of its trade, it is highly unlikely that Beijing is unaware of the smuggling. • Why is China allowing these trades to go on? Why tell the world they are obeying UN sanctions while still selling oil to the North on the sly? BECAUSE a complete cut-off of oil to the NK regime would lead to the Chinese government's worst nightmare -- hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of refugees would begin to cross over the Chinese border with North Korea. China may feel that it is in its own best interest to appear to adhere to UN sanctions while selling to NK the petroleum that prevents the risk of chaos erupting on the border. • Will this satisfy President Trump and his South Korean and Japanese allies in the region? Not likely. North Korea is the most heavily sanctioned state in UN history, and the consequences for ordinary people have been catastrophic. The UN Food Program estimates that 18 million people are at risk of starvation because of Kim's warped obsession with building nuclear weapons and a drought that severely cut food production this year. Even North Korean soldiers who have recently defected have shown signs of malnutrition, and South Korean media report that the Kim regime is giving soldiers time off to search for food. Kim Jong-un has made it clear that he doesn't care about his own people's lives. And, there is a real danger that if the regime begins to collapse, Kim will launch his missiles in a spasm of violence and death that would seal the fate of his regime -- and take many innocent people with him. • In late December, China blocked a US effort at the UN Security Council to blacklist six foreign-flagged ships, a UN Security Council diplomat told Reuters. China’s Foreign Ministry, responding to a question from Reuters on the blocking, said Beijing always fully and strictly implemented Security Council resolutions, but : “At the same time, any measures taken by the Security Council must have a basis in conclusive and actual proof. China will continue to participate in the work of the relevant Security Council sanctions committee on this principle.” China also denied reports it had been illicitly selling oil products to North Korea in defiance of UN sanctions, after US President Trump said he was unhappy that China had allowed oil to reach the isolated nation. Russian tankers have also supplied fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months by transferring cargoes at sea, breaching UN sanctions, sources told Reuters. • And on Tuesday, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Chinese officials continue to supply North Korea with needed supplies such as oil and promise to give the Hermit Kongdom more nuclear missiles, according to a secret government document obtained by an American journalist and published Tuesday by the Free Beacon, whose national security reporter, Bill Gertz wrote : “The document, labeled ‘top secret’ and dated September 15 -- 12 days after North Korea’s latest underground nuclear blast -- outlines China’s plan for dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue. It states China will allow North Korea to keep its current arsenal of nuclear weapons, contrary to Beijing’s public stance that it seeks a denuclearized Korean peninsula. Chinese leaders also agreed to offer new assurances that the North Korean government will not be allowed to collapse, and that Beijing plans to apply sanctions ‘symbolically’ to avoid punishing the regime of leader Kim Jong-un under a recent UN resolution requiring a halt to oil and gas shipments into North Korea.” In return, Gertz says China only asked North Korea to halt its current nuclear testing program, while waiting for times to become “ripe” to make genuine moves toward “denuclearization.” Gertz added : "In the context of Beijing’s assurance that it will not allow the North Korean regime to collapse, such denuclearization might mean nothing more than China promising massive retaliation in the event the regime is attacked." Gertz quoted the document : “Your department should at the same time seriously warn the Korean authority not to overdo things on the nuclear issue. Currently, there is no issue for our country to forcefully ask Korea to immediately and completely give up its nuclear weapons. Instead, we ask Korea to maintain restraint and after some years when the conditions are ripe, to apply gradual reforms and eventually meet the requirement of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.” • Gertz said he obtained the Chinese government document “from a person who once had ties to the Chinese intelligence and security communities.” President Trump has not yet responded to these revelations, and neither the CIA nor the Chinese Embassy in Washington would talk to Gertz. Trump said last year that he had been “going easy” on China. This could be a game changer, and it may explain North Korea's sudden annnouncement on Tuesday that it will reopen cross-border communications with South Korea in a sign of easing animosity between the rival nations. NK dictator Kim Jong-un ordered the border hotline at the village of Panmunjom to be reopened for talks later Wednesday, Reuters reported, citing North Korean state media. The announcement comes a day after South Korea proposed high-level talks with Pyongyang to find ways to cooperate on next month’s Winter Olympics -- the olive branch coming after Kim expressed desire to send this own athletes to the Pyeongchang Games. Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification, made the announcement on Kim Jong-un's behalf, according Seoul's Unification Ministry. Ri said North Korea will try to engage with South Korea in a "sincere and careful" manner by "upholding the will of the supreme leader." • However, North Korea had not responded earlier to the South’s olive branch proposal, except that Kim said during his New Year’s Day address that he is willing to send a NK delegation to the Winter Olympics and “sincerely” hoped the games “will be a success.” It was the first time the despot expressed interest in sending athletes to the games after repeated calls from South Korea. • Many analysts and media outlets are reading this new opening as a sign that North Korea is cooperating with the South in working toward improved ties, there’s no guarantee that tensions will ease. And, given the Chinese document published on Tuesday by the Washington Free Beacon, it is entirely possible that Kim Jong-un is trying to divert attention away from the Chinese-NK nuclear cooperation by hoisting the Olympics Games flag for the international community to watch. • One Kim comment did not pelase President Trump, who tweeted : "North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.' Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" • I predict that President Trump and his diplomatic and military advisors will not be sidetracked by anything that either China or North Korea put out as propaganda or try to keep hidden as their real intentions. In 2018, the US will use the UN Sexurity Council to continue to choke off supplies to NK. The US will also force China to either come clean and help stop the NK nuclear program or face more sanctions on its banks and commercial groups -- this time including cutting back on the ability of Chinese businesses to access the US market. If these measures do not work, I predict that there will be a US embargo in the international waters around China and NK to prevent sanctioned supplies being ship-to-ship traded. President Trump and the US want a diplomatic solution. China is the main block to that happening. In 2018, Trump will force China to be part of the solution or part of the problem. Fasten your seat belts. • • • 11. TRUMP AND MIDEAST ALLIES WILL REJECT NUCLEAR DEAL AND ISOLATE IRAN. While the New Year protests in Iran will not bring down the Ayatollah-led theocracy; it will shine a light on the economic, social and religious dictatorship that enforces a strict form of shia Islam on people who are increasingly angry at the repression and their own depravation while the regime spends all its resources on exporting terrorism all over the Middle East and beyond. • WND srote on January 2 : "This regime is terrified." The current protests in Iran have spread to more than 80 cities, far surpassing the scope of the last protest movement in 2009. AND, the reports coming out of Iran show protests : "Pictures and videos...starting to look more like a full-on revolution than a protest movement, but American and European news agencies continue to be slow to react, describing the historic protests as mostly about the country’s weak economy and chastising President Trump for cheering them on. Experts on Iran and its history and politics say the media are "woefully under-reporting the depth of what is really going on in Iran." They cite the AP’s description of the protests as “over economic issues,” that seem to suggest that there is little justification for Iranians taking to the streets en masse chanting “death to the dictator,” while burning in effigy the image of Supreme Islamic leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. • Twitter and other social media are full of videos coming out of Iran that show people rallying around the idea of freedom and democracy. One video cited by WND features "a young woman, her long black hair fluttering in the wind, standing in a public square silently waving her hijab on the end of a stick, as if to say 'I will no longer be forced to cover my head in public against my will.' She was reportedly arrested and detained." In another video, protesters are seen chanting “Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic.” [Note the absence of the word “Islamic” from the nation’s official name, says WND.] • Michael Ledeen, an Iran expert and foreign policy scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the true story of the Iranian people’s struggle has yet to get widely reported in the West : “The demonstrators are not chanting ‘give me money,’ or ‘give me lower inflation.' There’s none of that....They are in the streets because they want an end to the Islamic Republic." Ledeen explained to WND that 70% of Iranians are under 35 so those young people have no memories of pre-Islamic Iran, but : “They know Iran has been free from time to time in its history and they want a government that speaks for them, and they’re enraged this terrorist regime has given away billions to invade Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories with their Islamic ideology. So they say don’t talk to us about religion, talk to us about Iran, we are your people and act on our behalf, not spreading your religion to other countries. They now know this regime will not do that, cannot do that, and that they need a new regime, and they knew they could not do that as long as Obama was in the White House, because he wanted an alliance with this regime. But we have a new administration in Washington now and Trump is much better on this issue.” • President Trump took to Twitter on New Year’s Day to say : “The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the “brave Iranians” taking to streets to protest a regime that “wastes tens of billions of dollars spreading hate. I wish the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom,” he said in a Facebook video. And, as we might expect, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel urged “all sides (to) refrain from violent actions.” • Iran has help in extending their influence throughout the Middle East from Russia and China, who must be wondering if they picked the wrong horse. Leeden says : "The regime is frightened, it has closed every school in the country and that’s because they’re terrified of meaningful numbers of people gathered in one place in city after city.” That is what makes this movement different from the one in 2009 -- it is nationwide in more than 80 cities, it is not just students but families, and it is calling out the Ayatollah Khamenei. • Leeden says : "It’s enough. This regime has to come down. I’m so encouraged seeing our political leaders calling for regime change. Trump has made some strong statements, and Tillerson has, too.” One converted Christian -- a crime punishable by death in Iran -- says : "At its heart this protest movement is a call for religious freedom, they are tired of this Islamic regime, because what most people don’t understand is the history of Persia is of a more secular nation. Islam conquered Persia, and it is once again the Persian people wanting to break from the yoke, and that’s what it is, the yoke of Islam, and wanting to be governed democratically." According to Open Doors, which tracks persecution of Christians worldwide, Iran is No. 8 on the list of the world’s worst regimes for religious persecution. • And, this time, President Trump is making a difference. A Chirstina pastor says : "“Look at the contrast. Obama says we don’t interfere and in 2011 he’s meddling in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria and Yemen. So we don’t interfere in Iran but let’s interfere and destabilize all these other nations. What a contrast with Trump coming out in support of the Iranian people and making a call for freedom of the Iranian people....The economics and all that stuff is secondary. This is about freedom of religion, freedom for them to live their lives free of the religious police...to break off the yoke of Islam....Even secular Iranians, if you talk to them, will say they are tired of being repressed in the name of Islam....They may be agnostic or not religious but they will say they are tired of Islam, which should be a lesson for us in America. Instead of glorifying Islam, instead of always apologizing for it, we ought to be more like the Iranian people and say let’s get rid of it." • The US State Department issued a formal condemnation of the Iranian government following two days of protests, calling the regime “a rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos” while announcing support for protesters. The French Israeli TV outlet i24 tweeted : "#Iran protests: this might be #Rouhani's chance to force the economic reform he's been long clamoring for, @MeirJa tells @talexander_i24 11:32 PM - Dec 28, 2017." • It may be that we are witnessing is the beginning a regime change operation in Iran, similar the Syrian civil war. Iranian protesters attacked police stations, according to news agency and social media reports, as security forces struggled to contain the unprecedented challenge. Demonstrations continued for a fifth day, and President Hassan Rouhani made a televised call for calm, saying Iranians had the right to criticize but must not cause unrest. Hundreds have been arrested, according to officials and social media. Online video showed police in the capital Teheran firing water cannon to disperse demonstrators, in footage said to have been filmed on Sunday. The government said it was temporarily restricting access to the Telegram messaging app and Instagram. There were reports that internet mobile access was blocked in some areas. • President Trump has frequently attacked the Obama nuclear deal of 2015 between the United States, Iran and international powers meant to curb Teheran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. President Trump went further earlier this year to decertify the accord, a move which did not kill the deal entirely, but provided Congress with a 60-day window to reimpose sanctions. Trump did not call for Congress to reinstate nuclear sanctions on Teheran. Republican lawmakers and foreign policy hawks have long called Iran a threat to regional security, and to the United States. Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen said on Sunday that the President’s emphasis on human rights is important : “I think the focus there is incredibly important. Many of us have spoken for years about the oppression that occurs in the Middle East by many, many governments, and certainly, we have great disagreements with Iran who still supports terrorism, obviously oppresses their own people. We certainly should be on guard for human rights violations. And I think we should be supportive of more freedoms in that country.” Former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, a fierce opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, commended Trump for siding with protesters : “I think the most dramatic change has already occurred. You have President Trump, members of his administration, taking the side of the demonstrators. 180 degrees the opposite of what Barack Obama did in 2009.” Vice President Pence, who lambasted Obama in 2009 for his initial response to those protests, said he and Trump support Iran’s “peaceful protestors. The time has come for the regime in Tehran to end terrorist activities, corruption, & their disregard for human rights." • The Washington Institute wrote an article on Tuesday that stated : "None of this is to say that the Islamic republic is on its last legs -- far from it. But for a regime that prides itself on control and recalls well what brought Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi down, the protesters flocking to the streets cannot be a happy sight. Some demonstrators are even chanting for a referendum -- an echo of the referendum that the new regime held two months after the 1979 revolution to provide itself legitimacy." TWI continued : "No doubt, one of the reasons Khamenei allowed Hassan Rouhani to win the 2013 presidential election and complete the nuclear deal was his understanding that the 2009 crackdown and subsequent economic downturn had eroded his regime's legitimacy. It was important to restore a sense that change was possible, and when the Iranian public has a chance to express its views, it typically votes for liberalizing society at home and normalizing relations abroad." Dennis Ross, the author of the TWI article, concluded : "In June 2009, I was serving in President Barack Obama's administration as the Secretary of State's special advisor on Iran and was part of the decision-making process. Because we feared playing into the hands of the regime and lending credence to its claim that the demonstrations were being instigated from the outside, we adopted a low-key posture. In retrospect, that was a mistake. We should have shined a spotlight on what the regime was doing and mobilized our allies to do the same; we should have done our best to provide news from the outside and to facilitate communication on the inside. We could have tried to do more to create social media alternatives, making it difficult for the regime to block some of these platforms. At the time, Obama had captured the imagination of the world. He would have found it relatively easy to mobilize support for the human and political rights of the Iranian public....The United States should not be silent. The administration should matter-of-factly, without hype, take note of the protests and call attention to the economic grievances of the demonstrations, which are surely compounded by Iran's adventurism in the Middle East. The protestors are asking why their money is spent in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza -- and the administration should be putting out the estimates of what the Islamic republic is actually spending. On Hezbollah alone, Iran is estimated to provide more than $800 million a year -- and their costs in sustaining the Assad regime come to several billion dollars. The European Union, and especially the French and Germans, has been largely silent so far. It will not respond to Trump's calls but should be encouraged, nonetheless, to stand up for the human rights of those engaging in peaceful protest and who are now facing a tougher crackdown from the regime....The more the Iranian regime believes that its foreign adventures may shake its foundations on the inside, the more tempered its behavior is likely to become." • I predict that the momentum has begin to shift and will continue in 2018 as the US, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia form the core of a determined effort to bring the repressive and terroristic Iranian theocracy into line with civilized norns of behavior, or strangle its autocrats with severe sanctions resembling those used on North Korea. Russia and China will protest but stand by without acting, because they know that the days of the 1979 Iranian Revolution are fading into the history book reserved for all tyrannies. • Let's make a prediction about Donald Trump, too, since 2018 will be his year to make or break his presidency. American Thinker's Patricia McCarthy wtore an article on December 28 titled "Trump: The Unlikeliest Churchillian." McCarthy first frames her comparison : "Comparing the late Prime Minister Winston Churchill to President Donald Trump is guaranteed to elicit scorn from intellectuals, for one was a prolific man of letters, while the other speaks in the vocabulary of the common man. One was a journalist and scholar, while the other is a builder, deal-maker, and master persuader...And one smoked and drank prolifically, while the other abstains from both." But, says McCarthy : "beneath the veneer of literary styles, there are obvious historical similarities between Winston Churchill's becoming prime minister and Donald Trump's shocking election to the American presidency. It is hard to watch the film Darkest Hour, about those terrible days in May 1940 when Churchill became prime minister. At that moment in time, it seemed that the UK would have to surrender to Hitler. Three hundred thousand British troops were trapped on the beach at Dunkirk without any apparent means of rescue. Hitler was on the march and had taken Norway and Belgium; France had capitulated to the Germans without a fight." Then comes McCarthy's insightful analysis : "Chamberlain resigned, and Churchill accepted King George VI's appointment to the position of prime minister, but the king, and both parties of Parliament, loathed Churchill. They, both sides, also knew he was the only man to lead at that moment in time. Neville Chamberlain's unfortunate good-will gesture at Munich had been a disaster. Only Churchill realized and had incessantly warned about the evil that was Hitler's regime. FDR, hoping to avoid US intervention in the war, was not helpful or forthcoming with military aid just yet. Roosevelt eventually rose to the occasion but had not fully discerned the evil that Hitler represented to the world. Churchill did. FDR was not the wartime leader Churchill was. To the horror of our 2016 establishment, Donald Trump was elected. He has been as loathed as Churchill was when he took on the PM job as the catastrophe at Dunkirk was unfolding. Like Churchill, Trump is a bit reckless with his opinions and his speech. Churchill regularly offended people on both sides of the political spectrum, as does Trump. Churchill was innovative, imaginative. He devised the civilian boat rescue of all those soldiers at Dunkirk. It worked. Trump has, in a year, defeated ISIS, although the media are loath to report that." • We can all agree with Patricia McCarthy when she concludes : "Who is wise? History proves that Churchill was -- and so is Trump. Churchill knew only too well that he was hated by his naysayers in both houses of Parliament. Trump knows the same. He may even be cagier than Churchill. Trump has survived for years in the cutthroat world of New York and global real estate. He is quite likely more savvy about the ways of the world even than Churchill." The Churchill strategy "of building up the spirits of the English people by exaggerating their success worked. They were ready, willing, and able to defend their island nation. They were behind Churchill one hundred percent -- just as Trump's supporters are behind him. Support for Churchill shocked his naysayers just as the "deplorables" who voted for Trump offend the left and the NeverTrumps. Just wait. Let's see who comes out on top....Trump may just be our Churchill. They certainly share some personality traits. Churchill's love of England saved England. Trump's love of America may save us as well." You can access McCarthy's article at < http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/12/trump_the_unlikeliest_churchillian.html#ixzz52ZcipKac >. It is well worth reading -- several times. • • • To summarize, here are my predictions for 2018 -- it is President Trump's job to make them happen. 1. THE DEMOCRATS WILL BE MUCH WEAKER BY 2018 YEAR-END AND THE GOP WILL RETAIN ITS MAJORITY IN CONGRESS. 2. THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA WILL CHANGE ITS PROGDEM AGENDA OR DIE IN 2018. 3. OBAMACARE WILL BE REPEALED, BUT NOT REPLACED ENBLOC. 4. TRUMP WILL GET A CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH ON THE RUSSIA DOSSIER FROM MUELLER. 5. HILLARY AND THE DNC WILL BE UNDER MULTIPLE FBI / DOJ INVESTIGATIONS. 6. TAX CUTS WILL SPEARHEAD THE TRUMP ECONOMIC GROWTH PLAN. 7. TRUMP WILL DO A DEAL FOR DACA "DREAMERS" IN EXCHANGE FOR A WALL AND A BIGGER BORDER SECURITY BUDGET, WHILE DOUBLING DOWN ON DEPORTING ILLEGALS WHO ARE CRIMINALS. 8. TRUMP'S MOST IMPORTANT CHANGE IN AMERICA IS HIS SUPPORT FOR CHRISTIANITY AND ITS VALUES.9. MRS. MERKEL, GERMANY AND EUROPE WILL REMAIN JOINED AT THE HIP. 10. TRUMP WILL FORCE CHINA TO CONFRONT NORTH KOREA OR FACE WIDE SANCTIONS. 11. TRUMP AND MIDEAST ALLIES WILL REJECT NUCLEAR DEAL AND ISOLATE IRAN.