It wasn't long into the new year before radical Islam was again dominating the news around the world.
Several editorial cartoons—originally published in a Danish newspaper last September and later reprinted in several newspapers across Europe and in other parts of the world—led to violence in a number of nations. In Islamic countries, rioters burned embassies as Europeans were threatened and attacked. Dozens of people were killed as Muslims vented their anger at depictions of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, in the cartoons.
Ironically, the reaction to the cartoons forced two earlier threats to the West off the television screens.
After more than a year of silence, the world's most wanted man once again made his presence known Jan. 19. Osama bin Laden's latest audiotape, played on the Qatar-based al-Jazeera television network, warned that further attacks on the United States are being planned.
The warning message came while much of the world's attention focused on Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the destruction of Israel , the United States and Britain and appears determined to see his country acquire nuclear weapons regardless of consequences.
In response, France's president Jacques Chirac made it clear that he would not hesitate to use French nuclear weapons against any nation threatening France with weapons of mass destruction. " France , said Mr. Chirac, regarded its nuclear weapons as part of Europe's ultimate defense, as well as its own," observed the U.S. edition of the Financial Times on Jan. 20.
In other words, France would use its nuclear force to defend Europe from any government-sponsored threat emanating from the Islamic world!
Radical Islam flexes its muscles
Mortimer Zuckerman, editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report, described the growing danger from Iran in his Jan. 30 column in the magazine. " Iran today is the mother of Islamic terrorism," he wrote. " Tehran openly provides funding, training, and weapons to the world's worst terrorists, including Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and
it has a cozy relationship with al Qaeda.
"It has given sanctuary to major al Qaeda terrorists, including senior military commander Saif al-Adel, three of Osama bin Laden's sons, and al Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith. It supports many of the barbaric terrorists in Iraq who are murdering innocent civilians in order to destroy Iraq 's fragile hold on democracy.
"Through its 900-mile border with Iraq, Iran is flooding its neighbor with money and fighters. It is infiltrating troublemakers into Afghanistan, supporting terrorism against Turkey, sustaining Syria, and had a hand in the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.
" Iran today is in the grip of yet a new wave of extremists. Its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a revolutionary firebrand who has directly threatened the West. In his own words, 'We are in the process of an historical war between the World of Arrogance [i.e., the West] and the Islamic world.'"
In a further development, less than a week after Osama bin Laden's latest tape was aired, Palestinians ousted the ruling Fatah party from power in the first election in a decade, giving the militant group Hamas a landslide. Hamas is pledged to use military force to destroy the nation of Israel.
In a sober Jan. 28 editorial, The Washington Post pointed out that "elections in Iran , Iraq , Egypt and now the Palestinian territories have resulted in the defeat of secular and moderate parties and the rise of Islamic parties hostile to U.S. interests."
Public opinion across the Middle East is turning more radical, more anti-American and more anti-Western in general.
A crucial Bible prophecy
The stage is increasingly being set for the final conflict between the kings of the North and South prophesied in Daniel 11:40-45 Daniel 11:40-45  And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.
 He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.
 He shall stretch forth his hand also on the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.
 But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.
 But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many.
 And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.
American King James Version×. The kings of the North and South in ancient times were the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties that succeeded Alexander the Great, ruling primarily over what are now Syria and Egypt . Their repeated clashes negatively affected the Jews who lived between them.
Bible prophecy shows that at the time of the end, just before the second coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, 10 "kings"—leaders of nations or groups of nations—will come together to form a new world superpower (Revelation 17:12-13 Revelation 17:12-13  And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast.
American King James Version×).
In Daniel 7 we read a prophecy of much of the known world being dominated down through the centuries by four great empires— Babylon , Persia , Greece and Rome (Daniel 7:1-8 Daniel 7:1-8  In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head on his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.
 Daniel spoke and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove on the great sea.
 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
 The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand on the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus to it, Arise, devour much flesh.
 After this I beheld, and see another, like a leopard, which had on the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
American King James Version×). The last was to be revived repeatedly down through history, culminating at the time of the end with a final union of these 10 "kings" who "will give their power and authority to the beast" (Revelation 17:13 Revelation 17:13These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast.
American King James Version×), a supreme political and military figure.
This final revival of the Roman Empire is the domain of the "king of the North" that will clash with the "king of the South" at the time of the end—a clash of civilizations as Islam and Europe collide.
Exactly who these individual leaders will be remains to be seen. But events in both Europe and the Islamic world appear to be leading inexorably toward the fulfillment of these end-time prophecies.
Massive change in recent decades
Look at how much the world has changed in the last few decades.
Just before World War II, the British Empire was the world's only superpower. Yet by the end of that conflict Britain was bankrupt and exhausted, unable to retain control of its vast empire. The United States and the Soviet Union had emerged as the dominant military forces in the world, the two superpowers that would rival each other for the next 45 years.
At the same time, Germany and Japan lay in ruins.
Today, the Soviet Union no longer exists while Japan is the second-largest single economy in the world after the United States . Germany ranks as the third-most-powerful economy on its own, but it is also the world's biggest exporting nation and the leader of the 25-nation European Union (EU), which is now the world's biggest trading bloc.
The British Empire, victorious and intact at the end of World War II, no longer exists. Gone, too, are the French and other European empires. Succeeding them are many new countries across Africa and the Middle East that didn't even exist in 1945.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, more new nations came into existence across Asia, many of them Muslim-dominated countries that have added to the growing strength of Islam. Defeat at the hands of Islamic militants in Afghanistan contributed to the collapse of the old U.S.S.R.
As we see, the world has changed dramatically in the decades since World War II. Significant changes are taking place even now, and still greater changes are prophesied to take place in the immediate years ahead.
America finds fewer and fewer friends
The United States has been the dominant nation of the latter half of the 20th century, but today America finds itself increasingly isolated.
The following quote appeared on the front page of the U.S. edition of the Financial Times on Jan. 12. "Britain is in many, many ways the only friend America has got," said the director-general of Britain's biggest business lobbying group, the Confederation of British Industry.
He was lamenting the possible cancellation by the United States of a military contract with a British company that was worth $2.4 billion. He added the words: "[British Prime Minister Tony] Blair personally takes the heat everywhere he goes because of that and we don't see very much coming back." Even Great Britain , it would appear, is increasingly disillusioned with the United States .
One day later the same paper published an article titled "Afghan Mission Threatens Dutch Coalition." The Netherlands , liberated by American, Canadian and British troops from German occupation in World War II, has been a loyal supporter of the United States in the ensuing six decades. But in January considerable public animosity arose to the idea of Holland sending troops to help out in Afghanistan.
Growing antagonism toward the United States brings to mind a prophecy in Deuteronomy 28:25 Deuteronomy 28:25The LORD shall cause you to be smitten before your enemies: you shall go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shall be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.
American King James Version×referring to the nations descended from ancient Israel , predominant among them today being America : "You shall become troublesome to all the kingdoms of the earth." (See our eye-opening booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy for more details.)
Financial clout lacking
Lest you think everything will return to normal after the Bush administration leaves office, ponder the following statement from the book After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order by French writer Emmanuel Todd, a 2002 bestseller in both France and Germany :
"After every defection of one of America 's allies during the diplomatic crisis that preceded the war on Iraq , Washington was unable to force compliance or exact retribution for one simple reason: America no longer has the economic and financial resources to back up its foreign policy objectives. Due to trade surpluses, the real money has piled up in Europe and Asia, while financially speaking America has become the planet's glorious beggar" (p. xxi).
Put simply, every month Americans buy more than they sell—and then have to borrow the money back again just to stay afloat! That's no way for a superpower to conduct itself. This is not going to change with a different administration in Washington. Eventually, as with Britain 60 years ago, economic reality will hit and the United States will no longer be able to maintain superpower status. Another nation or group of nations will step in to fill the gap.
America 's relative economic decline was highlighted on the last business day of 2005 by CNN International, a CNN affiliate that is broadcast from London and seen across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Looking back at the past year on the world's stock markets, the commentators highlighted the fact that Germany and France saw their stock markets grow by 25 percent and Britain 's by 16 percent while the Dow ( America 's industrial market) was actually down by almost one percentage point (0.6%). Not surprisingly, in a year that saw a big rise in the price of oil, the Arab 50 stock markets grew by a staggering 75 percent. The world's wealth is moving away from the United States!
Threatening U.S. interests just a few days into the new year was a report that China was considering diversifying its foreign currency reserves. Any move away from the U.S. dollar would pose a serious concern. In a worst-case scenario, the dollar could go into free fall.
One reason for America's growing budgetary problems is the continuing strife in the Middle East and especially the war in Iraq .
Not only is America increasingly isolated, the country is also increasingly dependent on the goodwill of other nations, many of whom have been enemies in the not-too-distant past. "He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him" is another prophecy found in Deuteronomy 28:44 Deuteronomy 28:44He shall lend to you, and you shall not lend to him: he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail.
American King James Version×;one that describes America 's economic situation today.
Another successful terrorist attack on America by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda would only add to America's economic woes and further erode its leadership role. Just the airing of the Bin Laden tape with its threats of another terrorist attack on the United States was, according to some analysts, the major factor that sent the U.S. stock market plummeting on Jan. 20.
The growing American-European rift
As the United States declines, Europe rises. The 25-nation EU, which expanded from 15 countries to 25 only two years ago, is soon to expand again. Bulgaria and Romania are set to become members within the next year. Turkey and Ukraine have applied for membership, and other smaller nations in the Balkans are interested.
Apart from three members exempted at the beginning, all new member nations are required to adopt the euro as their currency as soon as they comply with the fairly rigid rules on monetary discipline.
The euro has rapidly emerged as a serious rival to the U.S. dollar on the world's currency markets. Many nations around the world now diversify their foreign currency holdings, keeping some of their assets in euros rather than dollars. The euro is currently up to a little over $1.20.
In one important respect, though, the United States still leads— Washington remains the world's foremost military power. The United States is the leading nation in NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which has dominated the Western world for more than 55 years. But will NATO last?
In the last decade NATO has changed considerably, adding new members from Eastern Europe and spreading its wings into other parts of the world, notably Afghanistan. Ironically, it is Afghanistan and the wider war on terror that threaten the cohesion of the Atlantic alliance.
By agreement, the United States is to withdraw some of its military personnel from Afghanistan, to be replaced by British, Canadian and Dutch troops. At least that's the plan. But growing hostility to the plan in Holland could still wreck it.
If that happens, NATO as a united military force will effectively be dead, with its members unable to agree on where to go from here—or exactly what needs to be done to fight the growing threat of Islamic terrorism.
NATO's three English-speaking powers—the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada —will have separated themselves from the nations of continental Europe, a rift essentially ending the world's oldest and most effective military alliance. NATO would perhaps continue on paper, but that's all.
A coming clash of civilizations
With this in mind, it's interesting to note the final paragraph of the Financial Times' Jan. 6 editorial comment on the French threat to use nuclear weapons against any state-sponsored terrorism, a thinly veiled threat against Iran: "This is not the first time France has suggested some eventual 'Europeanizing' of its deterrent. So far this has not gone down well with its non-nuclear European partners, some of whom are allergic to anything nuclear.
"Others would prefer to stay tucked under the US shield. But, if ever the Nato link between the US and Europe were to snap, they might change their mind. That would leave [fellow nuclear power] Britain out on a nuclear limb, for its reliance on US nuclear missiles prevents it ever making such a 'European' offer."
If NATO splits, Europe will be going its own way. France will provide its nuclear force; Germany will be the banker. Then, out of the EU we could see the 10 nations or leaders emerge that will form the final political-military union prophesied in the Bible as the revival of the Roman Empire, the end-time "beast" power.
These trends appear to be set on a collision course with the rising tide of radical Islam.
On the Dec. 25 airing of PBS' news discussion program The McLaughlin Group, U.S. commentator Pat Buchanan made a rather insightful observation: "The London subway bombings and the French riots were the beginning of a clash of civilizations between Europe and Islam."
The outcry and violence over the publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad only underscores the hostility of many Muslims toward the West. This growing clash of civilizations is leading us toward prophesied end-time events foretold long ago in the pages of your Bible. GN