“Author Joel Rosenberg Warns Trump Against Upcoming Meeting with Putin.” (My interview with CBN News.)

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AUTHOR JOEL ROSENBERG WARNS TRUMP AGAINST UPCOMING MEETING WITH PUTIN By Chris Mitchell, CBN News, July 13, 2018

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet face-to-face Monday at the presidential palace in Helsinki – a move author Joel Rosenberg believes is a bad idea.

“Personally, I don’t really want President Trump in the room with Putin. I don’t think we have a lot to say to President Putin,” Rosenberg told CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell. “I don’t believe in walking into the room with a world leader who’s an enemy, who’s a strategic threat, unless you have a specific game plan.”

On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department announced charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking offenses during the 2016 presidential election. In response, congressional leaders urged Trump to call off the meeting.

Rosenberg warns of potentially bigger threat – Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East.

“The challenge with Vladimir Putin is that he wants to expand the influence of the Russian empire…The only place he really has to maneuver is the Middle East. He’s got Iran in his pocket, he’s pulling Turkey into his orbit,” he explained, adding that Syria has also grown closer to Russia in recent months.
 
“He’s trying to flip all of them [Middle East countries] away from the United States, away from the West and into the Russian orbit,” he continued.

So how does Rosenberg advise President Trump to approach his upcoming meeting with Putin?

“Start treating Putin like you do with the Democrats – tough, strong, ‘we’re not going to take your nonsense,” he said. “Stop looking like you’re cozying up to him.”

Rosenberg does not want Trump to pick a fight with Putin, but to remember that he is talking to someone opposed to U.S. interests.

“For some reason President Trump thinks that if he gets in the room with him, maybe he can warm Putin up and Putin will turn out to be a good guy – he’s not. Putin is not a good guy, he’s evil, and so we’ve got to make sure we get out of this meeting that should have never happened in the first place without doing something that’s not helpful,” he said.

Despite his harsh criticism of President Trump’s meeting with Putin, Rosenberg is happy with how he has handled NATO.

“We need to stay on the course that President Trump’s policies are — rebuild American military strength, strengthen NATO, get NATO to spend [more] money on their own defense and stop having Europe make these multi-billion dollar oil and gas deals with Russia.”

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BREAKING: Ceasefire announced after Gaza terrorists launch 200+ rocket & mortar attacks against Israel. Here’s the latest. Please keep praying.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — Yesterday was not an easy one in the Epicenter. Here’s the latest as of 7:30am, Israel time:

  • More than 200 rockets and mortar rounds were fired at Israel by terrorists in Gaza on Saturday, July 14 — the biggest salvo of attacks since August 2014.
  • Tens of thousands of Israeli civilians in the southern tier near Gaza spent most or all of the day in bomb shelters. Many of those are not air-conditioned, and the temperatures were hovering between 90 and 100 degrees yesterday.
  • After hours of back channel diplomacy led by Egypt — and relentless pounding by IDF forces — Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced a ceasefire in the early hours of Sunday morning.
  • The terror groups briefing broke the ceasefire shortly thereafter, firing more rockets and mortars at Israel.
  • The IDF retaliated against these attacks, after the most intensive airstrikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza since the August 2014 war known as “Operation Protective Shield.” The IDF blew up two terror tunnels, an urban terror training center, weapons depots and other terror facilities throughout the Gaza Strip.
  • Meanwhile, over the past three months, terrorists in Gaza have sent incendiary devices over the border and have set more than 1,000 fires in Israel.
  • “The fires have laid waste to over 8,200 acres of forest and agricultural land, with damage totaling tens of millions of dollars,” reports Israel Hayom. “Experts say it will take at least 15 years to rehabilitate the vegetation and wildlife in the scorched areas. When the remote arson attacks began a few months ago, some politicians and military officials dismissed them as a passing nuisance. But the protesters added explosives-laden balloons that ignite upon landing on the Israeli side of the fence to their arsenal, and now Israeli children who come across a stray kite or balloon have to back away and tell their parents to call in sappers.”
  • What’s more, for the past three months, Palestinian terrorists have repeatedly tried to blow up and surge through the security fence that separates Gaza from Israel. Thus far, they have all been stopped by IDF forces. But Hamas leaders are openly calling for their forces to penetrate the fence and murder Israeli civilians living in nearby communities.
  • Since roughly 2:00am local time, the ceasefire has held and the Gaza/Israel border is quiet again. That is, we haven’t had any more rockets or mortars fired. It remains to be seen whether the “kite bombs” and attacks on the security fence will stop.
  • Neither President Trump nor any senior U.S. officials have condemned or even commented the 200+ attacks on Israel. Not sure how to explain that. 
  • Almost no media outlets outside of Israel have covered any of this. That, sadly, is par for the course.
  • Please continue to pray for calm and restored security on the border.
  • Please pray for the Lord to comfort those wounded and those emotionally and spiritually traumatized by all these events.

Again, please follow me on Twitter for updates throughout the day. Thanks.

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UPDATED: 174 rockets & mortar rounds were fired at Israel by Gaza terrorists on Saturday. Here’s the latest, including a list of things for which to pray.

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UPDATED: (Jerusalem, Israel) — Since the early hours of Saturday morning until this very moment as I write this column at 9:00pm (update: 10pm) Saturday night, terrorists in Gaza have unleashed the most intense barrage of attacks on Jewish civilians in southern Israel since the August 2014 rocket war.

So far, more than 174 rockets and mortar shells have hit Israel, reports The Jerusalem Post. The Iron Dome has shot down some 30 of them. But there has been property damage and at least three Israeli civilians have been injured.

Lynn and I are currently hosting a “Prayer & Vision Tour” of Israel with some 210 Evangelical Christians from the U.S., Canada and six other nations. By God’s grace, we have not been in the line of fire but we are all praying for the Lord to show mercy and restore calm to people on both sides of the border. Please join us. 

It grieves us that tens of thousands of Israelis along the southern tier have spent all or much of the day in bomb shelters — many of them not air-conditioned — amidst temperatures hovering between 90 and 100 degrees. It likewise grieves us that Palestinians in Gaza that are not involved in such terrorism at all but live under the slavery of jihadist groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, ISIS and others are suffering through no fault of their own. Many of them don’t have bomb shelters, and don’t even have electricity for more than a few hours a day, much less air conditioning.

The Israeli military has retaliated with at least 40 air strikes so far. Yet the terrorists in Gaza continue to fire at Israeli civilians in rapid and intense bursts. What’s more, as they have for nearly two months, Palestinian terrorists continue to try to blow up and penetrate the security fence that separates Gaza from southern Israeli, drawing fire from IDF forces positioned along the border.

The risk of a major escalation — possibly even a ground war involving Israeli combat forces entering Gaza to suppress the attacks — is rising. No reasonable person on either side of the border wants that. Only the forces of evil do. That said, Israelis cannot live with 90+ rocket and mortar attacks a day and men, and women and children running for bomb shelters over and over again with only 15 seconds before the explosions begin. We need God to intervene before this thing spins out of control.

Please pray, therefore:

  • For the peace of Jerusalem and the entire country.
  • For calm and security to be restored on the Gaza/Israel border and the prevention of another war.
  • For the Lord to show mercy and supernatural physical and emotional healing for those on both sides of the border who are being traumatized by this fresh wave of terror.
  • For Israeli and Palestinian believers to have wisdom to know how best to be a blessing to our nations and to be bold in proclaiming the Good News of God’s love and His offer of forgiveness and eternal life through Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Messiah.
  • For all of those on The Joshua Fund tour to maintain their courage and boldness and to remain faithful in prayer for Israelis and Palestinians as they’ve been doing all week. (I love these folks — they have been such a joy to teach, baptize, pray with, worship, encourage and learn from!)

(Please follow me on Twitter for updates and breaking news.)

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Amidst tensions in Jordan, King Abdullah wins Templeton Prize for advancing moderate Islam and protecting Christians. Here’s the latest, including an excellent story in Christianity Today.

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Life is not easy in Jordan these days.

  • The economy is struggling to grow and create enough jobs under the weight of 1.3 million Syrian refugees, in addition to masses of Iraqi refugees who flooded into Jordan during two wars and an insurgency.
  • The government is trying to house, clothe, feed, educate and provide jobs and health care for millions of people who are not actually citizens of Jordan amidst far too little international aid (aside from the U.S. which has been both generous and consistent).
  • Widespread and angry demonstrations recently brought tens of thousands of Jordanians onto the streets to protest large proposed tax increases the government felt it needed to cover the refugee costs and adhere to IMF-mandated reforms.
  • The Jordanian military and security services have been aggressively fighting ISIS and other radical Islamist groups for years and working overtime (quite successfully, thank God) to keep terrorism from erupting across the country.
  • Jordanians are an incredibly hospitable people, but they feel increasingly frustrated by the economic and social burdens of all the refugees.
  • That said, Jordanians don’t want to become a chaotic mess like Syria or Iraq or Yemen and thus find themselves in a terrible bind on how to move forward.

As I’ve written before, King Abdullah II has not only proven himself to be a wise and resilient captain navigating his country through stormy waters. He has done so in part by making Jordan a model of moderation in the Middle East, a close ally of the U.S. and the West, and a safe harbor for Christians and other minorities where they can feel respected and free to practice their faith without fear of Islamist attacks.

That’s why I was encouraged to see His Majesty awarded with the Templeton Prize for his efforts to advance moderation and a respectful interfaith community. This article in Christianity Today does an excellent job telling the story. 

I love this country dearly and I’d be grateful if you would keep the King and the people of Jordan in your prayers, including the Christian community there. I count a number of Jordanian Evangelical leaders as friends and truly faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. Please also pray for the newly-appointed Prime Minister and government as they try to implement reforms that can grow the economy and improve the lives of every Jordanian. Thanks so much.

By Jayson Casper, Christianity Today, July 1, 2018

For his lifelong commitment to religious peace, King Abdullah II of Jordan recently became the second Muslim ever to win the prestigious, $1.4 million Templeton Prize. And Jordan’s Christian minority is celebrating with him.

“I believe in our king,” said Imad Shehadeh, president of the Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary, following Wednesday’s announcement. “He is a kind, wise, loving, humble, and effective leader.”

Established in 1973, the Templeton Prize is awarded for exceptional contribution to “affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” First given to Mother Teresa, previous winners range from Billy Graham to the Dalai Lama. More recently, Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga and Jean Vanier of L’Arche have won the prize.

But this year, Abdullah was honored as a ruler who has done more promote inter-Islamic and interfaith harmony than any other living political leader, Templeton said.

Islam is the official religion of Jordan, and the constitution guarantees freedom of religion for minorities such as the roughly 2 percent of the population that’s Christian (mostly Greek Orthodox). The Protestant community has commended their king’s efforts for religious unity, though some wish his commitment went even further.

Since assuming the throne in 1999, the 56-year-old son of the beloved King Hussein has rallied scholars against declaring apostasy against fellow Muslims. In 2006, he sponsored the Common Word initiative, inviting Christians worldwide to join Muslims in their joint commandments to love God and love their neighbor. Abdullah is responsible for launching World Interfaith Harmony Week in 2010, generally acknowledged as the first and only UN declaration to cite belief in God.

“Our world needs to confront challenges to our shared humanity and values,” said Abdullah, in videotaped remarks accepting the prize. “They are the very ground of the coexistence and harmony our future depends on.”

For Christians, Abdullah has been a key partner in the Middle East. His Hashemite family has been custodian of Muslim and Christian religious sites in the Holy Land since 1924.

Abdullah provided personal funds to restore the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 2016 and donated land to build churches at the traditional east bank site of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. The Muslim king has also supported efforts to safeguard Christians and their historic churches against the threat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The Templeton Award recognized also Jordan’s history of welcoming refugees. Whether early waves of Palestinians or more recently Iraqis and Syrians, tens of thousands of Christians have found asylum in the country.

“Jordan is very tolerant society and is protective of all its citizens,” said Daoud Kuttab, an award-winning Christian Palestinian journalist who has lived in Jordan for 20 years. “It provides a comfortable and secure haven for Christians and others, despite their small percentage.”

Despite their small presence in Jordan’s population overall, Kuttab said Christians are well-represented in political and economic circles. Nine of 130 parliament seats are reserved for Christians, though according to the US International Freedom Report, they may not run for the remaining 121. Four Christians served in last year’s 29-member cabinet.

Other Christians are more cautious in their praise, shifting focus from religious rights to the political. An evangelical researcher and political consultant, Philip Madanat notes the king has diminished the role of Islamists. Yet if Christians are tempted to gloat, Madanat warns that a lack of political opposition will strengthen the security hand of the state.

The regime—though less so the king—is also irked by secular political development, he said. Madanat cited the difficulties faced by the Civil Alliance, a nascent party seeking registration, which includes the former deputy prime minister Marwan Muasher, a Christian. “Christians are good,” Madanat said, “as long as they stay within their accustomed alliances.”

Christians believe too readily that the Hashemites, Jordan’s ruling family since the British Mandate of 1921, are the only refuge from radical Islam, he also said.

As king, Abdullah is the 41st direct descendent of the prophet Muhammad. Promoting religious harmony is part of the king’s legacy, Madanat believes, but also his international legitimacy.

“The king’s objective is to portray himself as an advocate of tolerant Islam,” Madanat said. “But he is reforming without upsetting society.”

Still, the top-down initiatives do not sufficiently influence the street, he said, though seminars do try to reach the youth. Abdullah has also paved the way for a contested curriculum reform in Jordanian schools, removing verses that speak ill of non-Muslims and adding references to Christian contributions in the Islamic era.

Heather Dill, granddaughter to John Templeton and president of the foundation, positively celebrated these reforms. “King Abdullah offers the world the true definition of a spiritual entrepreneur,” she said, “who holds both the belief and free expression of religion as among humankind’s most important callings.”

Madanat has reservations about tolerance, lest a Western-style multiculturalism creep into Jordan, contradicting his biblical worldview. But he agreed with Dill in regard to freedom of belief, as persecution of converts to Christianity tends to be social rather than official. Jordan also tests a Christian before allowing conversion to Islam, to make sure he is sincere.

Jordan ranks number 21 on Open Door’s World Watch List of Christian persecution. The country assigns personal status to religious courts, which do not recognize conversion from Islam, and may revoke the family rights of apostates.

Even so, Shehadeh advises Christians to be thankful for the privileges Jordan affords their community, and to be patient in seeking rights they find lacking. Under Abdullah, the religion field was removed from official IDs in 2016, though it remains in government records.

King Abdullah II will be formally awarded the Templeton Prize in a public ceremony in Washington, D.C. on November 13.

“Our king has been the first to protect Christians, and deserves this prize,” Shehadeh said. “Congratulations to his majesty.”

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BREAKING: The Trump-Kim Summit in Singapore was definitely “historic.” Will it also prove successful? Here are 7 things you need to know.

Kim-Trump-handshakeThere’s no question the Singapore Summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un has been “historic,” as Mr. Trump noted in his press conference. [Click here for full transcript.] Never before have the most senior leaders of the United States and North Korea ever met face to face, and they have certainly never before shaken hands or embraced each other so warmly.

The question concerns the actual motives and intentions of the regime in Pyongyang.

  1. Is North Korea putting on a big show to buy time to build even more advanced and dangerous nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles?
  2. Or is the Chairman truly serious about completely dismantling and abandoning his nuclear weapons program and long-rang ballistic missiles and determined to make a comprehensive and lasting peace with the U.S., South Korea and his Asian neighbors?

Simply put, the Summit has not answered these questions.

As I wrote in a March 9th Tweet: “Count me skeptical. The chances of North Korea truly giving up its nuclear weapons and ICBM development program are low. More likely, Pyongyang is playing for time to complete missiles that can reach the U.S. But President Trump is right to be willing to explore NK intentions.”

For now, I stand by this view. I’m not a cynic. If the miracle we have long prayed for is coming to pass and Chairman Kim really proves to be serious, we should all rejoice and thank God and all who worked to make this day possible. But we need to be honest: we simply don’t have enough evidence yet to say the danger has passed and peace has come.

The pictures and headlines out of Singapore are remarkable. The details contained in the agreement — so far — are less so.

  • The Japan Times said the agreement “vaguely worded” and “offered no specifics about how the two sides would reach these goals, while also leaving [the term] ‘complete denuclearization’ undefined.”
  • The Wall Street Journal echoed this assessment. “[T]he document, which Mr. Trump described as ‘very comprehensive,’ provided almost no particulars on how to make the denuclearization process quick, verifiable or irreversible—often stated U.S. goals.”
  • The Journal added, “In many ways, the language echoed an agreement signed between North and South Korea in April. It didn’t codify Pyongyang’s unilateral moratorium on nuclear and missile tests, or contain any reference to sanctions relief. It made a general pledge to a security guarantee for North Korea but didn’t offer any specifics or make any mention of the status of U.S. military forces in South Korea.”

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That said, here are seven things you need to know:

  1. President Trump has vowed that he and his team have studied and absorbed the lessons of previous failed diplomatic efforts with North Korea and are determined not to repeat past mistakes. Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama were not able to persuade Pyongyang to truly make peace. Let’s give Mr. Trump sufficient time to prove his deal-making instincts and experience before writing the Summit off as a mere photo-op.
  2. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton — the two advisors working most closely with the President during the Summit and months of negotiations — are smart, experienced and honorable men. They are vilified by the media and the Left. But I know these men and I believe it’s possible that they could actually succeed. At present, they are telling reporters that the Summit will set into motion an accelerated process of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. Let’s be patient and see if this does, in fact, come to pass at all, much less quickly. 
  3. The peace process is like a marathon. The race has finally begun. But the runners have only completed the fifth of 26.2 miles. It’s been a remarkable five miles, but there is a long way to go.
  4. Any final and comprehensive nuclear agreement that the Trump administration makes with North Korea should be submitted to the U.S. Senate for approval as a formal treaty. Many analysts (myself included) made this argument regarding the Iran nuclear deal (in that case, I argued that it should be submitted yet defeated in the Senate). The principle remains the same here. Any agreement that binds U.S. behavior and affects the national security of the American people must meet with approval by two-thirds of the Senators accountable to those people.
  5. If there is one thing that has defined North Korea’s diplomatic process in the past it is the consistent use of deception. In my recent political thriller, The Kremlin Conspiracy, the leaders of Russia and North Korea announce a big “denuclearization” agreement. However, it is a ruse — a deceptive ploy designed to fool the world to lower their collective guard while laying the groundwork for a Russian-North Korean-Iranian nuclear alliance that is planning to attack the United States, Israel and the Western alliance. Could we be seeing this fictional premise play out in real life? (Indeed, I take the premise even further in my next novel, coming out next March.) Perhaps — but let’s hope not.
  6. Some 25 million souls are enslaved by the North Korean regime — with no freedom of speech, no freedom to assemble, no freedom of religion or freedom of the press or any other basic human rights. They don’t have enough food. They don’t have enough fuel. They don’t have enough electricity. Whatever happens, let’s pray faithfully and consistently for their freedom from tyranny and oppression.
  7. Another 51 million souls live in South Korea. They live in a vibrant democracy, a thriving free market economy, and tens of millions have converted from Buddhism and other religions to faith in Jesus Christ over the past half century. Yet they are under the constant threat of attack from the North. The stakes, therefore, are very high. Let us, therefore, be faithful to pray for all the people of Korea — that they would be reunified and that the people of the North will finally enter an era of peace, freedom, spiritual revival and economic growth and opportunity enjoyed by their brothers and sisters in the South.

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Secretary Pompeo’s Iran speech: Tehran hated it. But most Arab & Israeli leaders loved it. So did I. Here’s why.

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(Washington, D.C.) — Iranian leaders hated it. Most European leaders hated it. So did most former advisors to President Obama and Vice President Biden, and most of Washington’s so-called “experts.” But this is hardly news.

What’s fascinating is that most Arab leaders loved it.

I’ve spoken with two very high-ranking Arab officials in recent days about the speech delivered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at The Heritage Foundation on Monday morning. Both made it clear to me how deeply grateful and appreciative their countries are to the Trump-Pence administration for finally taking a bold, decisive, uncompromising position against Iranian aggression. 

One Arab official told me privately: “It’s like the world is sane again.”

After watching Iran be feted and praised and rewarded and appeased by President Obama and his team over the past eight years, most Sunni Arab leaders are rejoicing that the U.S. is finally treating Iran as the enemy that it is and treating the Arab states and Israel as the friends and allies that they are.

Consider a few of the public statements made by Arab and Israeli leaders:

  • UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash — “Secretary Pompeo’s approach on Iran policy is concise and [a] firm strategy.” He added it is the right path forward is for the U.S. and its allies in the region to be “uniting [our] efforts so that Tehran recognizes the absurdity of its incursions and expansion.”
  • Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry — Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry has said it affirms “full support” for the United States’ strategy toward Iran after America’s top diplomat threatened to impose the “strongest sanctions in history” against Tehran if the country’s leadership did not change the course of its foreign and domestic policy.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — “We believe that is the right policy,” Netanyahu said. “We believe it is the only policy that can ultimately guarantee the security of the Middle East and bring peace in our region, and we call on all countries to follow America’s lead here, because Iran is an aggressive force.”

Saudi leaders have not commented publicly — yet. But there’s no question they are cheering Pompeo in Riyadh. No Arab leader has been more clear about the severity of the Iran threat than new Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (aka, “MBS”).

“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” MBS recently told 60 Minutes, who likens Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Adolf Hitler. “He wants to create his own project in the Middle East very much like Hitler, who wanted to expand at the time.”

My own view is that Pompeo’s speech may prove to be the most important address ever delivered by a U.S. Secretary of State. (Can you remember any other? Exactly).

It was smart, concise, clear, principled, and non-belligerent. Pompeo wasn’t calling for war. He said the best case scenario was a real treaty with Iran. But only if Iran changes its behavior. 

What’s more, Pompeo’s speech was immensely unifying. I support the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, though I know it grieved many of our Arab friends. That said, it’s worth making this observation: The more the U.S. focuses on Jerusalem going forward, the more we divide our Mideast allies. The more the U.S. focuses on the Iran threat — and shows real leadership in countering Tehran’s malign influence — the more we bring our Arab and Israeli friends together in common cause against a serious enemy.

I highly encourage you to read and/or watch the full speech. Below are also some note-worthy excerpts you might find helpful. 

“[W]while to some the changes in Iranian behavior we seek may seem unrealistic, we should recall that what we are pursuing was the global consensus before the JCPOA. For example, in 2012, President Obama said, quote, ‘The deal we’ll accept is [that] they end their nuclear program,’ end of quote. That didn’t happen. In 2006, the P5 voted at the Security Council for Iran to immediately suspend all enrichment activities. That didn’t happen. In 2013, the French foreign minister said he was wary of being sucked into a, quote, ‘con game,’ end of quote, over allowing Iran to continue uranium enrichment. In 2015, John Kerry said, quote, ‘We don’t recognize the right to enrich,’ end of quote. Yet the Iranians are enriching even as we sit here today. So we’re not asking anything other than that Iranian behavior be consistent with global norms, global norms widely recognized before the JCPOA. And we want to eliminate their capacity to threaten our world with those nuclear activities.”

TOUGHER SANCTIONS: “First, we will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime. The leaders in Tehran will have no doubt about our seriousness. Thanks to our colleagues at the Department of Treasury, sanctions are going back in full effect and new ones are coming….This sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen to one that rejoins the league of nations. These will indeed end up being the strongest sanctions in history when we are complete.”

MILITARY DETERRENCE: “Second, I will work closely with the Department of Defense and our regional allies to deter Iranian aggression. We will ensure freedom of navigation on the waters in the region. We will work to prevent and counteract any Iranian malign cyber activity. We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hizballah proxies operating around the world and we will crush them. Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East. And I’d remind the leadership in Iran what President Trump said: If they restart their nuclear program, it will mean bigger problems – bigger problems than they’d ever had before.”

SUPPORT FOR THE IRANIAN PEOPLE: “Third, we will also advocate tirelessly for the Iranian people. The regime must improve how it treats its citizens. It must protect the human rights of every Iranian. It must cease wasting Iran’s wealth abroad. We ask that our international partners continue to add their voice to ours in condemning Iran’s treatment of its own citizens.”

OPEN TO NEW NEGOTIATIONS: “We’re open to new steps with not only our allies and partners, but with Iran as well. But only if Iran is willing to make major changes. As President Trump said two weeks ago, he is ready, willing, and able to negotiate a new deal. But the deal is not the objective. Our goal is to protect the American people. Any new agreement will make sure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon, and will deter the regime’s malign behavior in a way that the JCPOA never could. We will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations, and we will not renegotiate the JCPOA itself. The Iranian wave of destruction in the region in just the last few years is proof that Iran’s nuclear aspirations cannot be separated from the overall security picture….Also, in contrast to the previous administration, we want to include Congress as a partner in this process. We want our efforts to have broad support with the American people and endure beyond the Trump Administration. A treaty would be our preferred way to go.”

TWELVE SPECIFIC DEMANDS OF IRAN: “[This] list is pretty long, but if you take a look at it, these are 12 very basic requirements. The length of the list is simply a scope of the malign behavior of Iran. We didn’t create the list, they did. From my conversations with European friends, I know that they broadly share these same views of what the Iranian regime must do to gain acceptance in the international community. I ask that America’s allies join us in calling for the Iranian Government to act more responsibly.”

Pompeo-12demandsforIran

 

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Speaker Ryan is a good man in a cynical town. He deserves tremendous credit for his historic conservative achievements. And he’s absolutely right to put his family first. Let’s keep him in our prayers. A few thoughts.

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(Washington, D.C.) — Life can be funny. You never know who you’re going to meet along the way.

In 1993-1994, Paul Ryan and I worked together as policy analysts for a conservative organization called Empower America. He worked out of one cubicle, primarily as an aide to former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp. I worked in the cubicle next to him, primarily as an aide to former Education Secretary and Drug Czar Bill Bennett.

Everyone in the office could see that Paul — only 23 at the time (I was only 25) — was smart as a whip, creative, highly energetic, devout in his Catholic faith, and the definition of “Midwestern Nice.” There was no question this guy was going to make a major impact if he chose to stay in Washington. I can’t say, however, that in our crystal ball any of us saw he was going to go on become the Vice Presidential nominee in 2012 or unanimously drafted (against his will, mind you) to become the Speaker of the House.

But that’s where he is today — the third highest-ranking elected official in the American government, second in line for the presidency only behind Vice President Mike Pence.

At only 48, Paul deserves tremendous credit for his historic conservative achievements:

  • passing the largest tax cuts and tax reform in U.S. history
  • passing budgets to dramatically rebuild the U.S. military and pay our troops and veterans more
  • creating an environment of true free market reform and economic growth
  • helping reduce unemployment for all Americans — especially black and Hispanic workers — to record lows
  • creating enterprise and empowerment zones in America’s inner-cities;
  • passing some of the strongest pro-life legislation in history;
  • defending religious freedom at home and abroad; and
  • always working tirelessly to strengthen U.S. critically important ties to Israel and our Sunni Arab allies.

That’s just to name a few — and it should be noted that he actually helped craft and pass far more sweeping reforms through the House that were, unfortunately, not passed by the Senate (including the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare.)

What’s more, he helped conservatives retake the House of Representatives from the liberals and hold the majority for several cycles. He’s worked closely and effectively with President Trump even while at times disagreeing with him. He’s set an example of working closely with Democrats whenever he could. And — less noticed — he’s made it a point to consistently visit inner cities, build relationships with black, Hispanic and other minority communities, listen to their concerns and seek ways to empower them in a way that reveals his deepest convictions.

Is there more we could have asked for in a Speaker? I submit the answer is no. Paul would be the first to say he’s made mistakes and this hasn’t been a perfect ride. But the naysayers are asking for perfection and will never be satisfied.

Recently, Paul announced he will retire in January. He’s not just stepping down from being Speaker; he’s leaving Congress altogether. His reasons are clear and admirable: he’s a husband and father first. He’s gotten almost everything done he set out to do when he came to Congress two decades ago. Now his kids are teenagers. He doesn’t want to be a “weekend dad” any longer. He wants to make his wife, Janna, and their kids the center of his life. He wants to move back to Wisconsin to be with family and friends. He wants to travel less, hunt more, and see what God would have him do next.

Bravo. He is absolutely doing the right thing and I couldn’t be happier for his decision or more grateful for the service he’s given the country.

What a joy it was, therefore, to be invited to come over to see him in the Capitol yesterday. I introduced him to my 19 year old son, Jonah; presented him with a copy of my latest political thriller, The Kremlin Conspiracy; and we caught up a bit on old times and what has happened since.

The Speaker is a good man in a cynical town. He’s a humble and honorable leader doing a brutally tough job in an often thankless environment. I was glad to be able to tell him thank you, and honestly tell him that I pray for him and his family and team daily. I hope he’s in your prayers, as well.

God bless you, Paul — finish well — I’m eager to see what the next chapter of life holds for you and your dear family!

SpeakerRyan-presentingnovel

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ALL EYES ON THE EPICENTER: Israel turns 70. US Embassy moves to Jerusalem. 50,000 Palestinians trying to storm Israel’s southern border. Al Qaeda calls for new jihad. Yet tourism at record highs. Please pray. Here’s the latest.

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UPDATED: (Jerusalem, Israel) — Shalom from Jerusalem. Please keep both Israelis and Palestinians in your prayers today and all month. If there was ever a time to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, this would be it for we are in a unique moment in history.

The mood here among Israeli Jews is celebratory — festive, jubilant — as Washington formally moves her Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem today in official recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. The move was timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the modern rebirth of Israel. There are American flags everywhere. Israelis are so grateful for the friendship and alliance of the U.S. and are expressing this openly.

Most Palestinians, however — and particularly Palestinian Authority leaders — are furious with the move. President Mahmoud Abbas and P.A. officials have chosen to boycott all meetings with U.S. representatives for the foreseeable future. [UPDATE: Abbas blasts U.S. Embassy Move: An insult to the world and to the Palestinians.]

The latest rhetoric against Israel by Palestinian leaders and Iranian leaders is as dark as ever. Terrorist attacks against Israel are increasing. What’s more, some radical Islamist leaders are threatening all-out war against the Jewish State. 

That said, it does not feel dangerous in Jerusalem or most population centers in Israel. Tens of thousands of police and security officials are on the streets of Jerusalem and deployed around the country. Most of the attacks are occurring on the southern border with Gaza, the northern border with Syria, and against Israeli settlers in Judea and Samaria (commonly known as the West Bank).

Tourism to Israel is at an all-time high — no tour groups go anywhere near dangerous areas. “An all-time record 3.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2017 — 25% more than in 2016,” reported Globes, a publication which tracks the Israeli economy. “The country from which the largest number of tourists to Israel come is the US — over 700,000 tourists — 21% more than in 2016.” In fact, tourism in 2018 is hitting record-highs, as well.

Lynn and I live in Jerusalem with our sons and we don’t feel worried. We remain on track for welcoming The Joshua Fund tour here in July, and hosting the Epicenter Prayer Summit. Indeed, I’ve also been speaking to numerous Evangelical tour groups that have been visiting here in recent months and everything has been safe and wonderful.

That said, here are the latest developments worth noting. These are among the many reasons we would be grateful for your faithful and ongoing prayers.

  • At this hour, an estimated 50,000 Palestinians in Gaza are participating in a “Day of Rage” against Israel. Many are trying to tear down, burn down, or blow up the security fence that protects our southern border and to storm into Israel en masse
  • Reports in recent days said as many as 100,000 Palestinians were planning to participate. So far it hasn’t got that big — but the violence is real. 
  • “The IDF killed three [Palestinian] terrorists who tried to plant an explosive device in the Rafah area and attacked a Hamas post in the northern strip after shots were fired on soldiers,” reported Ynet News. As of 4pm Israel time, 37 Palestinians had been killed and hundreds more wounded trying to destroy the security fence and penetrate into Israel. 
  • UPDATE: As of 6pm local time, 43 Palestinians have reportedly been killed trying to penetrate Israel’s southern border fence with Gaza.
  • UPDATE: As of 8pm local time, the Palestinian death toll has climbed to 52 people — and the Israeli Air Force struck Hamas targets in Gaza.
  • UPDATE: As of 9am local time on Tuesday, the Palestinian death toll has climbed to 58 people.  
  • UPDATE: IDF calls Gaza riots “unprecedented,” insists it followed rules as dozens killed — “Army spokesman says Hamas sent 12 cells to breach border; adds that despite bribes and threats, it failed to bring out the masses it hoped; blames terror group for high death toll,” reports the Times of Israel.
  • UPDATE: On Friday, “a group of some 200 Palestinians…set fire to the Gaza Strip’s only fuel terminal and a conveyor belt used for raw construction materials. Two conveyor belts which brought animal feed into Gaza were also wrecked, according to the deputy director of the crossing,” reported the Times of Israel. “According to assessments by Israeli and Palestinian engineers, it will take weeks to repair the damage to the pipelines, which brought diesel and gasoline into Gaza. There is no alternative. ‘There’s just no possibility [now] to bring fuel into Gaza,’ said the senior officer from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories liaison unit.”
  • Since President Trump announced in December his intention to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in keeping with U.S. law (originally passed in 1995 and unanimously reaffirmed by the Senate in 2017), the number of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli soldiers and military sites has tripled
  • This month, Iran directly engaged Israel militarily for the first-time ever. The attack came just after Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the Mossad had stolen 100,000 top secret Iranian nuclear warhead documents, and President Trump formally announced his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the deeply flawed and dangerous nuclear deal with Iran. “Iranian forces fired 20 rockets at Israel Defense Forces positions in the Golan Heights on Wednesday night. Four of the rockets aimed toward Israel were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system while the remaining rockets exploded on Syrian territory, the [Israeli] military said,” reported Haaretz. “The Iranian attack prompted the most extensive Israeli strike on Syria in decades; overnight, Israel openly attacked dozens of Iranian military and logistics targets in Syria.”
  • Meanwhile, Ayman al-Zawahiri — the Egyptian-born head of Al Qaeda — has just made a new call for Muslims to wage “jihad” against Israel.
  • UPDATE: Al-Qaida chief claims Tel Aviv is ‘Muslim land’
  • And a top Shia religious cleric in Iran has just vowed that “Tel Aviv and Haifa will be totally destroyed” if Israel continues to behave “foolishly” (i.e., exist and defend herself), repeating yet again the kind of belligerent rhetoric that has characterized the Iranian regime for decades.

That’s where we are at the moment. I promise to keep you posted and encourage you to follow me on Twitter for the up-to-the-minute updates.

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BREAKING: Iran vows “revenge” attacks against Israel. Tehran launches missile attacks on Israel overnight. Israel hits 50+ Iranian targets in Syria. Tensions spiking. Israel tells residents to unlock & prepare bomb shelters. Here’s the latest.

(Jerusalem, Israel) — Tensions between Iran and Israel are spiking dramatically after four major recent events:

  1. Israel stole 100,000 top secret Iranian nuclear weapons documents and then revealed them to the world.
  2. President Trump denounced the fatally flawed Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) and announced the U.S. is withdrawing from the agreement and will impose tough sanctions.
  3. Israel has repeatedly attacked Iranian military bases in Syria, vowing to prevent Iran from building a permanent military presence on Israel’s northern border.
  4. President Trump on Monday will formally move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Overnight, Iran fired dozens of missiles and rockets at northern Israeli towns and military bases. Israel hit Iranian forces in Syria again.

More than ever, I’d ask readers to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and everyone in the region, and to mobilize others to pray, as well. 

While the prospect for a full-blown war is growing, I’m not convinced Iran’s leaders feel the time is ripe to go all-out against Israel. I’ll provide more analysis in the days ahead. But here’s some of the Israeli media coverage worth noting at the moment.

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BREAKING NEWS: President Trump keeps promise to withdraw from dangerous Iran nuclear deal. Will impose severe new sanctions on Tehran. This is the right decision & the President deserves tremendous credit. But pray for peace in the region. Things might get bumpy. Here’s the latest.

Trump-IranDealSpeech

(Jerusalem, Israel) — After a careful policy review by senior administration officials, and consultation with a wide range of U.S. allies, President Donald Trump today kept his promise by announcing the U.S. will terminate the nuclear deal that President Obama and Secretary John Kerry negotiated with Iran.

The President also announced the U.S. will imposing severe economic sanctions on the terrorist regime in Tehran.

  • Read full text of the President’s speech
  • Watch video of the President’s speech

This was absolutely the right decision, and the President deserves tremendous credit.

As I’ve noted previously: “The President should scrap this insane and dangerous deal. 1) It’s not a real treaty signed by both sides. 2) It wasn’t confirmed by the U.S. Senate according to the Constitutional process. 3) The deal does not stop Iran from building or buying an entire nuclear arsenal in the near future. 4) Iranian leaders lied repeatedly through the entire process. They cannot and should not be trusted to keep their word, especially since they continually call for the U.S. and Israel to be annihilated.”

To read fact sheet I wrote in 2015 detailing why deal is so dangerous, please click here.

Most of America’s Sunni Arab allies — especially the Saudis and Gulf emirates — are cheering the decision tonight. So is the government of Israel. That said, most Western Europeans oppose the President’s decision, as do Russia and China.

More than ever, please pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all the peoples of the Middle East. Things might get bumpy.

The Iran nuclear deal decision — along with President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the site of Israel’s capital — are being praised by many here. But both decisions pour gasoline on the fire Iran has been stoking for years as they try to rally jihadists to attack the U.S. and Israel.

The apocalyptic regime in Tehran is by far the most dangerous terror regime in the region. What makes them even more dangerous is that have the full backing of its main ally, Vladimir Putin of Russia.

There may be very challenging days ahead in this part of the world. Iran has been repeatedly humiliated by the U.S. and Israel in recent months as both allies are showing more resolve at pushing back on Tehran’s thus-far nearly unchecked aggression. Tehran is looking for a way to hit the U.S. and Israel — and hard. But this is all the more reason to show firmness and unity. You only get peace through strength.

“The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” the President said at the White House.

“This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” Mr. Trump said, according to a report by the New York Times. “It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”

Excerpts from the official White House news release:

  • President Trump is terminating United States participation in the JCPOA, as it failed to protect America’s national security interests.
  • The JCPOA enriched the Iranian regime and enabled its malign behavior, while at best delaying its ability to pursue nuclear weapons and allowing it to preserve nuclear research and development.
  • The President has directed his Administration to immediately begin the process of re-imposing sanctions related to the JCPOA.
  • The re-imposed sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy, such as its energy, petrochemical, and financial sectors.
    • Those doing business in Iran will be provided a period of time to allow them to wind down operations in or business involving Iran.
  • Those who fail to wind down such activities with Iran by the end of the period will risk severe consequences.
  • United States withdrawal from the JCPOA will pressure the Iranian regime to alter its course of malign activities and ensure that Iranian bad acts are no longer rewarded.  As a result, both Iran and its regional proxies will be put on notice.  As importantly, this step will help ensure global funds stop flowing towards illicit terrorist and nuclear activities.

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