Israel’s war with Iran has begun. The opening shot was fired last Shabbat probably as a reference to the famous Islamic saying that they will kill the Saturday keepers first, then the Sunday keepers. So far, Israel’s allies are only making statements of support. The U.S. said Israel has the right to defend itself, but eventually the U.S. and its Arab allies will be pulled into the King of the North’s morass.
Read while you listen!
Thank you for listening!
Theme music by Mishkanim.
Arch-enemies Iran and Israel crossed a line this weekend that both have been warning about for years: a direct confrontation between their militaries. It started when Iran made a drone incursion into Israel early Saturday which spiraled into a major confrontation that included the downing of an Israeli fighter jet and an extensive attack on Iranian military assets in Syria — the first known time that Israel has used force against Iran.
Air raid sirens wailed over the communities of the Beit Shean Valley in the lower Galilee. The Israeli army released a video showing the incursion, after which the drone was shot down by Apache helicopters. The drone was “an advanced, low-signature model Israel has never before captured,” according to Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar who is second in command of Israel’s air force.
The drone was only in Israeli airspace for 90 seconds before being shot down. Israel retaliated by launching four F-16 fighter jets to bomb the Iranian drone control site in Syria. One jet was shot down over Israeli territory by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles. The pilots ejected and were injured, but survived. The jet crashed next to a high school in the Galilean kibbutz community of Hardouf. The school was empty early on the weekend morning. In retaliation, Israel carried out what the army called “a large-scale operation” into Syria targeting 12 Syrian and Iranian military sites, including two Iranian military bases, three weapons depots, six Syrian military bases, and Syria’s largest air force base, east of Palmyra, where Israel obliterated 54 runways and a control tower..
Syrian state television described the attack as a new “Israeli aggression” in the form of explosions close to the Syrian capital of Damascus. A community Facebook page that tracks attacks there reported strikes on military sites near the suburbs of Kiswah and Dimas.
The Iranian foreign ministry denied Israel’s claim that it had intercepted a drone, saying the claim was “ridiculous.” Iran’s story was that the drones had been “on a routine mission” over eastern Syria for operations against remaining Islamic State pockets in the area when the Israeli warplanes struck the control center at the Tiyas airport, the military air base also known as T4, located about 55 miles southeast of Homs.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “Iran’s calculated escalation of threat and its ambition to project its power and dominance, places all the people of the region — from Yemen to Lebanon — at risk.”
In an official statement, Hezbollah, announced that the downing of the Israeli jet represents “the start of a new strategic era.” The last time Israeli and Syrian forces engaged in direct combat was in June 1982, when Israel entered south Lebanon to uproot Palestinian guerrillas using the area as a staging ground for attacks into Israel.
Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli air force general who once headed Israel’s military intelligence, said the downing of the plane Saturday in northern Israel raised the possibility that “Syria may have used a long-range missile that Israel has been worried about” because it now means Israeli jets are exposed and vulnerable within Israeli borders.
This is exactly why the U.S. built an air defense base in the Negev, the building of which was just another provocation and escalation toward war with Iran. Israel has been warning that Iran was more than an advisor in Syria, but that it was building permanent bases from which it can attack Israel. This past weekend, Iran proved Israel’s point.
These latest developments may be a way to test Israel’s declared ‘red lines’ and resolve to push back against clear provocations. From an Iranian perspective, the drone that entered into Israeli air space was designed to send a signal to Israel that it will not accept further Israeli strikes against its targets in Syria. Another message from the Iranians was that they can enter Israeli air space and will continue to do so unless Israel stops its cross-border raids.
In the view of Iranian-born Israeli Middle East commentator Meir Javedanfar, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard acted independently when making the decision to send in a drone and thereby invite an Israeli response. “The Iranians are refusing to acknowledge that they lost a UAV or that they suffered any other loses in the Israeli reprisal,” he said. “Iran will coordinate with Syria, but they are bent on maintaining a military presence in the country and are willing to fight for it. They are not ready for war, but they are also not going to wither away. They are going to put up a fight to see how far they can go.” Javedanfar’s further analysis is that ‘It’s now a grave situation’.
Some analysts think the Israeli retaliation was not strong enough. Dr. Martin Sherman of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies said, “We could be on the cusp of a very serious conflagration. These are the bitter fruits of mismanagement of the 2006 Lebanon war that left the Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, intact. Their arsenal has now swollen to the point that they have become a grave strategic threat. The Iran nuclear deal and the Obama administration’s failed policy enriched the regime in Iran. Backing away from confrontation in the past actually backed us into this confrontation. It’s now a grave situation and Iran is not likely to be deterred or scared off. Our reaction was not strong enough. Destroying a few Iranian positions does very little. We have not deterred Iran or Hezbollah until we diminish their will to engage.”
The Iranians are intent on continuing to establish military bases in Syria. They view the Mediterranean Sea as Iran’s western strategic border as they continue to rebuild the ancient Persian empire, and they are determined to establish their and their proxies’ presence on the Golan Heights border.
From a domestic political perspective, this drone incursion was Iran’s premeditated act to distract from their own domestic problems, including the acute economic chaos resulting in the recent upheaval and now the women’s protests. A confrontation with Israel is a good distraction. War machines are made from domestic and economic problems.
If Israel’s response was not strong enough, it may soon be. Israel has now boosted its air defense in the North and has created, just in January of this year, what is being dubbed a ‘missile corps’. While the army refused to comment on the reports of this military increase, witnesses reported seeing a convoy of missile-defense batteries heading north near the Israeli-Arab city of Baka al-Gharbiya. Other witnesses posted photos of several trucks carrying the batteries on central highways in northern Israel.
Israeli officials believe that within a decade there will be more than 1,000 precision-guided missiles in Lebanon and they want to be prepared. Israel is entering a new era in which Hezbollah possesses precision-guided rockets covering most of Israel’s territory, and this is what prompted the prime minister, the defense minister, the chief of staff and the IDF spokesperson to take every opportunity to threaten Lebanon with war with what they hope will be an equally capable regiment of soldiers trained in the art of missile warfare.
Israel now needs to stockpile missiles with a range of 150 kilometers to cover targets from southern Lebanon all the way to Damascus. Its stockpile of American surface-to-surface Lance missiles ended up rotting in Israel’s warehouses. Yes, missiles have expiration dates and most of Israel’s Lance stockpiles are expired. Nuclear weapons are the only ones that do not expire. However, the carrier missiles expire.
There are 237 villages in southern Lebanon with thousands of targets. The first barrage will destroy the rockets and regular launchers at Hezbollah’s control and command posts. Hezbollah is already capable of firing more than 1,200 missiles, some of them accurate, in the first barrage. Israel’s response, therefore, must be immediate.
Most concerning for Israel, and where future clashes could erupt, is the border it shares with Syria in the Golan Heights. The Syrian side of the Heights has been controlled by Iran-backed rebels for several years, a situation that arose in 2010 because of Obama’s meddling in Syria.
Assad, emboldened by last week’s downing of Israel’s F-16 fighter jet, has given way to him blustering about war with Israel which, for Assad, will begin at Golan. But, Assad likely will not do this with just the Syrian army alone, but will probably be backed by Hezbollah, Iran-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militias and even Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Ofer Zalzberg, the senior analyst for Israel at the International Crisis Group, believes that a direct war with Iran is not likely. Instead, he says the next war will be with Hezbollah once again, as it was in 2006. Ofer is missing the fact that since 2006, Iran has become Hezbollah’s backer and commander. Hezbollah is now a division of the Iranian army. A war with Hezbollah is a war with Iran.
Iranian troops on Golan’s border also will mean that Iran has engaged Israel directly.
The air strikes were part of what the Israel Defense Forces refer to as the “war between the wars,” aimed primarily at undermining the efforts of organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah to empower themselves. When he presented the IDF’s annual intelligence assessment last month, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot raised the possibility that the many IDF successes during these interim campaigns could push the enemy to try to respond in a way that could bring the region to the brink of war. That’s essentially what happened over the weekend.
The early stages of the coming King of the North war may appear to be a similar war to the one with Hezbollah in 2006, but it won’t remain that way. Iran will, at some point, muster its troops from Syria and Lebanon in a massive attack on Israel.
Iran is stepping forward its readiness for war. The country unveiled its latest missile this week: A new, homemade nuclear-capable ballistic missile. The unveiling came during military parades held over the weekend, a move that experts view as a bid to bolster the hardline ruling regime as dissidents continue efforts to stir protest. The new weapon is a medium-range missile that appears to share similarities with North Korean technology that can strike Israel even when fired from Iranian territory. This raises concerns about an impending attack from Tehran against Israel that could further inflame the region.
Iranian military leaders bragged the ballistic missile “can be launched from mobile platforms or silos in different positions and can escape missile defense shields due to their radar-evading capability. Concerns that this nuclear-capable technology could be shared by Iran with its terrorist proxies are fueling longstanding concerns among the Israelis that an attack is imminent.
Can Iran really go to war with Israel right now? No one knows. The chance of winning a war comes from surprise attack. Daniel 11:40-45 seems to indicate that Iran’s sweep through the Middle East will be sudden, even though not unexpected.
Iran’s latest test of Israel is simply a retaliation for the provocation received in recent years from Israel. Before a nation can go to war, it requires reconnaissance missions like this drone incursion to test the enemy. Does Iran have all that it needs now to ensure it won’t be defeated when it attacks?
The recently completed east-west corridor that strengthens Iran’s resolve to the West – Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia are “the West” in Iranians’ minds – and their recent accomplishments in building military bases in Syria only bolster their determination to continue building toward war. The timing of their attack is in God’s hands.
Israel views Syria’s regime as the weak link in the Iranian-Shi’ite axis. Assad was warned this week to keep that in mind when weighing whether or not to let Iran set up military bases or transfer precision missiles to Hezbollah.
Israel’s first red line was turning Syrian into a “forward” military base for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, including intelligence, naval and air-force bases. The second red line was Syria enabling Iran to upgrade Hezbollah’s missile capabilities by turning those missiles into precision weapons that would constitute a much greater threat to Israel than they currently are.
Red lines have been drawn all over the Middle East starting with Obama. So many of these red lines have been made and broken that they no longer mean anything. The problem with red lines in the West is that they keep announcing what those are. I’m sure Iran has red lines, but they don’t announce them quite so much. This makes it difficult to know what will trigger their coming attack and to know when they will attack.
Today there is no difference between Syria and Lebanon, Steinitz said, and the Syrian army and Hezbollah are two arms doing Iran’s bidding.
Israel believes it is only a matter of time to the next clash with Iran in Syria. Israeli officials believe Israel and Iran will directly square off in Syria again and the next round could be very soon. Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told a Saudi newspaper, “If Iran keeps threatening and carrying out offensive activities against Israel from Syria, we’ll teach it a lesson it will never forget.”
Israel is now on war footing with Iran, expecting more attacks. Officials believe Iran is eager to have another round. Warnings after Saturday’s clash were strong, but intentionally vague because Israel sees many possible scenarios. The likelihood of another clash is high because nothing has changed on the ground, and Iran remains fully committed to taking over and controlling all of Syria and the rest of the Middle East as well.
Analysts say that Israel could plan a large-scale offensive designed to physically limit the Assad regime’s ability to fire anti-aircraft at Israeli jets in the future, and demonstrate to the Syrians and the Iranians what a full scale Israeli aerial assault can do to their militaries.
Iranian hardliners are using the incident to boost the image of Hezbollah by saying there are new rules of engagement regarding Syria, and that Israel will be increasingly deterred. It is becoming clear that Iran’s strategy is to use Hezbollah as a distraction to keep Israel busy on its own border while Iran builds its position in Syria where it plans to later draw Israel into Syrian territory, for a direct confrontation. This will keep Israel away from the Iranian border, yet will allow Iran to engage with Israel.
This tells us that Iran wants a war with Israel and is using Syrian territory as the collateral area, putting Syrians and Damascus in harm’s way. So, now we know how Isaiah 17:1 will be fulfilled.
Isa 17:1 The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.
Iran’s plan is to use Syria as its battleground. Damascus most certainly will become a ruinous heap. President Bashar Al-Assad will rue the day that he ever allowed Iran to have hegemony in Syria.
Bashar Al-Assad sees it differently. He, apparently, is blind to Iran’s plan to throw Damascus under the war bus. Syrian officials are claiming Assad’s forces caught Israel off guard and that they still have more “surprises” in store. The drone incursion had the effect on Israel that Iran was looking for.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Soussan boasted Tuesday that “the aggressor [Israel] will be greatly surprised because it thought this war [the Syrian civil war] – this war of attrition Syria has endured for years – had made it incapable of confronting attacks” and that “God willing they will see more surprises” whenever they try to attack Syria again.
The hostilities came to an end because President Vladmir Putin of Russia put an end to it. He called both sides telling them to stand down. Both sides accepted his decision. That’s the apparent conclusion to be reached from the chain of events this past weekend.
On Saturday afternoon, after the second wave of bombardments by the Israel Air Force against Syrian targets and Iranian installations in Syria, senior Israeli officials were still taking a militant line and it seemed as if Jerusalem was considering further military action. Discussion of that ended not long after a phone call between Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Russian Foreign Ministry objected to Israel’s violation of Syrian sovereignty, but didn’t seem to be concerned about the invasion of Iran’s drone into Israel’s air space. Putin totally ignored the event that provoked the eruption – that infernal Iranian drone into Israeli airspace. Putin asked Netanyahu to avoid moves that could lead to “a new round of dangerous consequences for the region.”
That’s like telling a woman to lay down, shut up and cooperate with her rapist!
The Russians are concerned about their situation on the T-4 base near Palmyra. Their soldiers and advisers are serving there under Iranian control. Of course, this was the base from which the anti-aircraft missile was fired and the one that was later bombed by Israel.
This Iranian attack did not happen in a vacuum. Russia most certainly knew, and perhaps even planned the event, as a test of Israel’s resolve. The quiet after the Putin-Netanyahu phone call shows once again who’s the real boss in the Middle East. While the United States remains the region’s present absentee – one without a coherent American foreign policy – Russia is dictating the way things are going. Moscow has invested too much effort and resources in saving Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in recent years to allow Israel to foil its investment. We can assume messages of this nature were conveyed during the phone call with Netanyahu.
Another reason for Russia trying to quiet the situation is that I believe the Russians and Iranians are not yet ready for a full scale war. They are close, but still a little bit outside their window. They want to ensure that the Middle East won’t erupt into full scale battles yet while still testing Israel’s resolve and strength.
Also, it’s doubtful that Netanyahu is eager to confront the Russians. His confrontation with the Iranians is probably enough.
A rare vulnerability was exposed during the IAF raid that allowed the hit on the Iranians and Syrians. The downed plane was unexpectedly exposed at the high altitude it was flying in a manner that allowed the surprise hit by the Syrian missile. From Iran’s perspective, it was an impressive success in the first operation that the Revolutionary Guards conducted in this region by themselves, without relying on emissaries like Hezbollah and local militias – and that is really what this operation was about. Iran needed its own success against Israel without others who might turn and run at some point, as allies sometimes do. Iran’s success was immediately translated into an attempt to establish a new balance of power through declarations that it would no longer allow Israel to conduct air strikes in Syria as it pleases.
Another reason for this Iranian test was to warn Israel about using bombs to stop advanced weaponry being shipped to Hezbollah in Lebanon via that east-west corridor. What will happen the next time such a convoy sets out from a Syrian or Iranian base? Will Israel respond to that? If so, it’s taking a calculated risk.
The area surrounding Assad’s camp suffered serious damage from the weekend bombardments, with almost half the Syrian army’s air defense batteries destroyed. But it seems that from the Iranian and Syrian perspective, the symbolic importance of taking down an Israeli plane made up for this.
On the Israeli right, some are advocating finishing teaching the Syrians a lesson so that Israel will be able to battle the Iranians directly, even on their territory. This, some say, is a dangerous idea that Israel would do best to avoid. As the situation stands, Israel must display strength and determination, but dare not get drawn into illusions about unlimited military strength. It seems that the leadership in Jerusalem understands this.
Now, let’s take a look at the U.S. and global economy. I find it very interesting that the two big elements of the coming Great Tribulation are war and economic destruction. We have the threat of both happening as we speak. Is this the precursor to the Great Tribulation and Messiah’s arrival? I don’t know, but I know the signs of His coming and will continue to be a watchman on the wall as along as I can. Hopefully, along with others of this generation, I will live to see the blessed Great Tribulation start and finish.
And yes, I just called the Great Tribulation a blessed event because that’s what it is to those who believe in Yeshua the Messiah.
In a scene right out of the Wall Street movie Margin Call, HNA, China’s largest real estate conglomerate which holds billions of dollars in U.S. real estate, has begun its firesale of U.S. properties. HNA is marketing commercial properties in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Minneapolis valued at a total of $4 billion as the indebted Chinese conglomerate seeks to stave off a liquidity crunch.
HNA’s massive debt load has now resulted in massive defaulting on real estate loans and is driving the company to sell assets worldwide. According to Real Capital Analytics estimates, HNA owns more than $14 billion in real estate properties globally. The problem is that the company has a lot more debt than what it is worth. At of the end of June, HNA had 185.2 billion yuan ($29.3 billion) of short-term debt — more than its cash and earnings can cover. The company’s total debt is nearly 600 billion yuan or just under US$100 billion. This means that the HNA fire sale is just beginning and it could cause the global real estate market to tip over.
Determining whether a real estate market will collapse requires looking into many complicated areas, but red flags should go up when large companies begin to fall under the weight of their own debt. Mismanagement is to blame for HNA. The sale of $4 billion of assets in the USA could hurt the commercial real estate market short term. The situation that is beginning to hurt the market the most, and one which bears watching, is rising interest rates on mortgage loans.
U.S. mortgage applications fell again this week to their lowest in five years as interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate home loans jumped to their highest in four years. Buying a home is an emotional process, but adding a 1,000-plus point drop in the stock market makes buyers really start to sweat – and decide to wait until later. Last week’s wild ride in the markets and another rise in interest rates were likely the cause of the 4.1 percent drop in mortgage application volume this week.
Purchase applications fell 6 percent for the week, although they were still higher by 4 percent from last year. Potential buyers are already facing a market with a record low supply of homes for sale, which in turn is causing prices to rise far faster than normal. High prices and mortgage loan problems was at the heart of the 2007 real estate bubble bust that led to the downfall of Countrywide, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, and other major banks. So, keep watching.
Speaking of banks… Something very serious is happening with them – they’ve almost stopped lending, but not to consumers – to each other!
The plunge in “InterBank Lending” was so sudden and so substantial that it looks as though it is actually a plan. It looks like the Bankers are intentionally choking the US Economy as I reported last week and that they’re doing so at levels far worse than what took place during the “Fiscal Crisis” of 2007-08.
The interbank lending market is a market in which banks extend loans to one another for a specified term. Most interbank loans are for maturities of one week or less, the majority being overnight. Such loans are made at the interbank rate (also called the overnight rate if the term of the loan is overnight). This interbank lending helps to keep the flow of currency moving. Interbank lending is kind of like the Gulf Stream in the Gulf of Mexico. Once the Gulf Stream stopped, everything in the Gulf began to die. Same thing with interbank lending.
A sharp decline in transaction volume in this market was a major contributing factor to the collapse of several financial institutions during the financial crisis of 2007. So here, we have a repeating pattern because the bankers have lots of tricks up their sleeves for when they decide to collapse their house of cards.
Banks are required to hold an adequate amount of liquid assets, such as cash, to manage any potential bank runs by clients. Banks that can’t meet these liquidity requirements need to borrow money in the interbank market to cover the shortfall. The banks with excess liquid assets above and beyond the liquidity requirements lend the money to other banks in the interbank market – for a price, of course.
So, now that you know how important it is to YOU that banks have liquid assets in case of bank runs, it should scare you that the interbank lending came to a virtual halt during the last week of December. In fact, going all the way back to 1973, interbank lending has never been this low. Not even in the “Recession” of 2008-2009!
This situation is not the sort of event that arises by itself. No, it takes malicious intervention to make banks stop lending money to each other. It takes collusion. And because economies rely on this particular bank practice for the flow of money to continue, this stoppage could be significant. It could collapse the economy if it lasts too long.
Banks which need liquidity to meet regulations and cash requirements will now have to get their cash from somewhere else. The easiest place is the Stock Market. They can sell stock. In fact, that is what might have happened on February 2nd when the Stock Market fell 666 points.
Here is what makes it appear that the banks selling off stock to cover their liquid asset requirements is actually what happened. One month into the collapse of InterBank Lending (from the last week of December 2018), the Stock Market fell, but it was not because of worries by the general public, otherwise we would expect to see a rise in the price of Gold. It is well established that when Investors are worried about the future, they buy Gold. But they weren’t buying gold.
On Thursday February 1 – the day before the 666 Drop in Stocks, gold closed at $1,349.46, which marked the high for the week. Friday opened with the price of gold slightly down at $1,345.35, and then it pulled back to end the week at $1,333.39. The price of gold went down as stocks went down. There was a huge sell off, but people were not buying gold.
On Monday, February 5 – the first open market day since the 666 point plunge, The Dow Jones industrial average plunged more than 1,100 more points as stocks took their worst loss in six and a half years. Between Friday and Monday, those two days of steep losses erased the market’s gains from the start of this year and ended a period of record-setting calm for stocks. But again, gold wasn’t phased. Gold closed at $1339.41, up a measly six dollars and two cents ($6.02) from the Friday before! The cash from the Stock Market sell off had to go somewhere, but where?
Here are some options:
1) Banks are selling-off their own Stocks to get cash to sustain themselves (very bad sign) OR . . . . .
2) Someone is pulling huge amounts of cash out of US Banks and are scrambling to survive. (Much worse), or
3) The Bankers have decided they don’t like the new Trump administration, and the American nationalism that has followed, and are deliberately choking the American economy to force a Globalist Agenda upon President Trump and the America people. The agenda? When the economy breaks, the globalists will claim that globalization is the world’s only hope.
It is the bankers, not the governments of the world, who want a world without borders.
Inflation seems to be on the rise. U.S. consumer prices rose considerably more than expected in January, fueling fears that inflation is about to turn dangerously higher.
The Consumer Price Index rose 0.5 percent last month against projections of a 0.3 percent increase across the board. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, the index was only up 0.3 percent against estimates of a 0.2 percent increase. Federal Reserve policymakers have a goal of 2 percent inflation, which they believe is a sign that the economy is strong but not moving too quickly. The gauge is not the central bank’s most closely watched measure — that would be the personal consumption expenditures index — but still could figure into decisions on interest rates.
The report indicated that price pressures were “broad-based,” with rises in gasoline, shelter, clothing, medical care and food.
Markets reacted sharply to the news. The Dow opened more than 100 points lower, but reversed those losses after the first half-hour of trading. Government bond yields also turned higher, with the benchmark 10-year note most recently trading near 2.88 percent, a gain of about 3.8 basis points.
Most individual measures with the CPI showed gains, with a spike in fuel oil of 9.5 percent and a gain of 5.7 percent in gasoline leading. Gasoline is up 8.5 percent over the past year while fuel oil has surged 22.5 percent.
Food prices rose 0.2 percent, with food away from home up 0.4 percent, its biggest gain in a year. Fruits and vegetables increased 0.5 percent, with fruit up 1.9 percent and vegetables down 1.2 percent.
The jump that stood out the most was the 1.7 percent jump in clothing costs.
I haven’t reported in awhile on how Muslims are affecting Europe. That’s next on the agenda.
Catholic France is home to the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe, with the latter estimated at five million out of a population of 67 million, and President Macron aims to do something to redefine Islam in France. Talking about the 100,000 new asylum claims filed in France last year, he made a distinction in his speech between economic migrants and refugees fleeing persecution. He has been consulting experts on ways to “reorganize”, or reform, Islam in France, with an emphasis on training imams, stopping foreign funding, and reducing the influence of Islamic states on the religion in that country. Macron aims to finalize plans by the end of June.
Macron also said he wants to reform the main Muslim organization in France, the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM). At the same time, however, he insisted he respects strict separation of religion and the state.
Macron put forward a new immigration proposal last September when he announced he wanted “a complete overhaul” of his country’s policy. He insisted on the need to stop foreign financing of Islam in France, much of it coming from Morocco, Algeria and Turkey. Those countries in particular contribute to the financing of Islamic associations, mosques and prayer rooms. They also send imams to France, while many French imams are trained in Morocco. Private individuals in Islamic states also finance mosques and groups in France.
Figures are hard to come by, but a document published by the French Senate in mid-2016 said that over the previous year Morocco, Algeria and Saudi Arabia had respectively accounted for $7.4 million, $2.4 million and $4.6 million in funding, used to maintain mosques, pay imams and finance associations.
There are now an estimated 8.4 million Muslims in France. A 2011 Institute of Demographic Studies report said 80 percent are originally from former French colonies in North Africa, 9.3 percent from sub-Saharan Africa and 8.6 percent from Turkey.
The CFCM was established in 2003 by then-interior minister – later president – Nicolas Sarkozy, as an association falling under the interior ministry, tasked to represent Muslims and regulate their religious activities in the country.
CFCM president Ahmet Ogras told French media he has met with Macron on various occasions and said the impetus for reform was coming from Muslims, not Macron. Ogras, a dual French-Turkish citizen who took the helm last July, added that CFCM needs to modernize and change, to truly represent French Muslims. He did not elaborate, beyond saying it was too bureaucratic and needed to be more flexible in its operations.
Orgas also said, “Everyone must stick to their role,” in a Reuters interview.
“The Muslim faith is a religion and, as such, takes care of its own household affairs. The last thing you want is the state to act as guardian,” said Ogras.
He also added that both Macron and Orgas want the council’s reforms to be in place in time for its next elections for CFCM president, to be held next year. Usually, nearly 4,000 voters representing 995 places of worship cast their ballots in 25 regions, although changes to voting procedures are also being examined.
Orgas urged Macron not to meddle in the organization of France’s second-largest religion. The CFCM was fromed in a bid to defuse concern about radical preachers and foster a more homegrown form of Islam that would fit better with France’s traditional separation of church and state affairs.
Macron has been under pressure to deal firmly with radical preachers and mosques since a wave of attacks in which Islamist militants killed more than 230 people in France since 2015.
The official rule in France is strict separation between religion and state, with the former considered a strictly private matter. The rule has been used to justify bans on the wearing of Muslim veils by public service employees as well as any wearing of fully concealing head-to-toe veils in public places.
Emergency search-and-arrest powers introduced in the wake of the November 2015 attacks that killed 130 people in Paris have since been made permanent under tougher security legislation. Several mosques have been shut and imams expelled.
Macron’s reform plans were slammed by core members of the hardline leftist party who argued that the centrist government would be jeopardising the state’s secular principles by meddling in the religious affairs of French Muslims.
France could become a prototype for how Western nations will deal with the ever-increasing Muslim population who always demands that their host countries change to fit the Islamic way of life.