“The Invested Life” book on discipleship now available on audio.

investedlife-smallThe Invested Life: Making Disciples of All Nations One Person At A Time — the book I wrote with my spiritual mentor, Dr. T.E. Koshy — is now available as an audio book from Brilliance Audio. It was a joy to read the book for the audio version, along with my wife, Lynn.

In the book, we make that case that every Christian needs to be able to answer two simple questions:

1) Who is investing in you?

2) In whom are you investing?

In the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20, our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to go and “make disciples of all nations,” beginning with our own. Sadly, the American Church is experiencing an epic failure of discipleship. Most older believers are not spiritually investing in the lives of younger believers. We are failing to model and transmit Biblical truth and Christ-like character and a passion for evangelism and discipleship to the next generations. Thus the American Church is weak and failing and in desperate need of revival. Thus our nation is increasingly at risk not simply of decline but outright collapse, as I write about in Implosion.

In many ways, The Invested Life is a corollary or a companion to Implosion. Put it another way, Implosion describes the sickness. The Invested Life describes the cure.

I’m very grateful to Brilliance for producing and distributing the audio version, and I hope you’ll find it helpful — listening to it when your driving in your car, while working out, with your family, with a group of friends, or by yourself. May Christ bless you as you listen and embark on an invested life of your own, making disciples from different countries one person at a time!

You can find it your favorite local bookstore, or online:

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Close confidante of Netanyahu warns “it’s now or never” for military strike on Iran: Analysis.

Tzachi Hanegbi (right) has been a long-time friend and confidante of Netanyahu.

Tzachi Hanegbi (right) has been a long-time friend and confidante of Netanyahu.

Tzachi Hanegbi — a close, trusted, long-time personal friend and confidante of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — made remarks on Tuesday at a security conference in Tel Aviv that did not make news in the U.S. But they should have.

Hanegbi explained that the time for sanctions and diplomacy and covert options to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat is over, and the time for Israel to use its military option has come.

“It’s now or never,” said Hanegbi, “and the option of never does not exist.”

Hanegbi formerly served as the Minister of Intelligence and as Justice Minister in previous governments. He is currently a Member of Knesset (Likud).

“Israel has to act according to its own imperatives,” he said.

Given how close Hanegbi and Netanyahu are — and given how sensitive the current moment is — it is difficult to believe Hanegbi spoke without knowing the Prime Minister’s mind, and without having his blessing to make such ominous remarks.

I, for one, am praying for peace. I don’t want to see another war in the Middle East. I’m asking the Lord to bring down the regime in Tehran, and sabotage their nuclear weapons projects, and keep Tehran from going to far. But even as I pray for peace, I know Israel is preparing for war.

Consider other indicators that an Israeli first strike may be increasingly close at hand:

  • At the same conference, Israeli Major Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, a former head of IDF Military Intelligence, said that “for all intents and purposes, Iran has crossed Israel’s red line…in the summer, Iran will be a month or two away from deciding about a bomb.”
  • Netanyahu and his inner circle are watching how Iran has been accelerating its building of uranium centrifuges, expanding its nuclear facilities, and possibly building secret new facilities.
  • President Obama is doing nothing after the Assad regime in Syria crossed the Obama “red line” by using chemical weapons against the rebels, killing and wounding many. Are they concluding the White House is serious about dealing with Iran if and when Tehran crosses the “red line”? Hardly.
  • Netanyahu and his inner circle are watching how President Obama is doing nothing to stop North Korea from building — and testing — nuclear warheads and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. Are they concluding the White House is serious about preventing nuclear proliferation? Again, hardly.
  • Netanyahu are his inner circle are watching how President Obama has pulled U.S. military assets out of the Persian Gulf region, claiming budget cutbacks.
  • All this suggests the Netanyahu team believes it is all alone to deal with the Iran problem.

Now, let me be clear: I don’t know if war will happen or not. I hope not. I pray not. But I want to be honest and keep you up-to-date on the latest developments.

The Joshua Fund and I are going forward full steam ahead with our plans for our “Prayer & Vision Tour” in Israel this summer (June 25 to July 7) and the 2013 Epicenter Conference on July 5th in Jerusalem. We have nearly 200 people signed up for the trip — mostly evangelical Christians — are we are grateful for their trust and eager to take them into the Holy Land to pray, study God’s Word, meet Israelis and Palestinians, learn about TJF’s humanitarian relief work, and even participate in humanitarian relief projects. If we need to cancel the trip because war breaks out or is clearly imminent, we will do so — and our guests will receive 100% of their money back. But we won’t be swayed by rumors of war, and we’re impressed with this group that’s signed up because they don’t seemed to be swayed by the rumors either. They know we won’t knowingly take them into harm’s way. But they also know that this is the right time for Christians to stand with Israel and show our love and support by going there and praying for the peace of Jerusalem, as we are commanded in Psalm 122:6. There’s still some room on the trip if you’d like to join us. Click here for more details.

In the meantime, let’s keep praying for peace from wherever we are on the globe. Let’s keep a close eye on the developments in the region. And let’s keep preparing for war, should it break out [see video of how The Joshua Fund is making war preparations].

I’ll be in speaking and ministering in Europe for the next two weeks. While I’m there, I’ll do my best to post blogs and Tweet on a regular basis, as possible. Thanks, and God bless.

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U.S. says Syria used chemical weapons: Countdown to military action against Damascus?

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The U.S. government has just confirmed what the nations of Britain, France and Israel have already said publicly for several days: the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the rebels.

Now there are calls in Washington by members of both parties to intervene in Syria with military force — not boots on the ground but possibly a “no-fly zone” over Syria and arming the rebels to overthrow the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

The problem is this: If the U.S. helps bring down the Assad regime, do we know who will seize power? Can we be certain Iran and Hezbollah won’t take over? Can we be certain al Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood or some other Radical Islamic group won’t come to power? As bad as Assad is, is it possible that we could end up with a regime far more dangerous, and far more likely to use weapons of mass destruction against Israel, against Jordan (to bring down King Abdullah), and/or against the U.S. and our allies

We need to pray for the people of Syria at this critical moment. They have been cruelly treated, and are suffering enormously. And it could get worse. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is desperate. If the world does not take action to stop him, he could decide to attack the rebels with WMD on a much broader scale. It could lead to genocide. But as noted, if the world does take action to stop him, the situation could go from bad to worse.

What’s more, we need to remember that as evil continues to rob, kill and destroy the people of Syria, a day of reckoning is coming. As I’ve noted in the past — and explore in my new novel, Damascus Countdown — there are ancient Bible prophecies that indicate that one day in the future, the city of Damascus will come under divine judgment for all the evil it has done and be utterly destroyed by fire. Could that day be closer than most people think?

Here are the latest developments:

“U.S. intelligence has concluded ‘with some degree of varying confidence,’ that the Syrian government has used sarin gas as a weapon in its 2-year-old civil war, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday,” the Associated Press reported.

“Hagel, speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi, said the White House has informed two senators by letter that, within the past day, ‘our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin….It violates every convention of warfare.'”

“No information was made public on what quantity of chemical weapons might have been used, or when or what casualties might have resulted,” the AP noted. “President Barack Obama has said the use of chemical weapons would be a ‘game-changer’ in the U.S. position on intervening in the Syrian civil war, and the letter to Congress reiterates that the use or transfer of chemical weapons in Syria is a ‘red line for the United States.’ However, the letter also hints that a broad U.S. response is not imminent.”

CNN reports that Members of Congress — both Democrats and Republicans — are calling for the Obama administration to take action against the regime in Damascus.

  • “It is clear that ‘red lines’ have been crossed and action must be taken to prevent larger-scale use,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said in a statement. “Syria has the ability to kill tens of thousands with its chemical weapons. The world must come together to prevent this by unified action which results in the secure containment of Syria’s significant stockpile of chemical weapons.”
  • Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, said the U.S. government — which currently supplies “nonlethal aid” to Syrian rebels — must start “to immediately arm vetted elements of the Syrian opposition.”
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, urged the administration to work for the establishment of a safe zone for Syrian rebels. “Everything that the non-interventionists said would happen in Syria if we intervened has happened,” he said. “The jihadists are on the ascendency, there is chemical weapons being used, the massacres continue. The president of the United States said that if Bashar Assad used chemical weapons that it would be a game changer, that it would cross a red line. I think it is pretty obvious that red line has been crossed.”
  • Later, McCain said the reported use of chemical weapons was only a matter of time and that the United States “should have intervened a long time ago whether Bashar al-Assad was using them or not.”
  • “No one should be surprised that he would do such a thing. We all know he will do whatever’s necessary to hang on to power,” McCain told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday. “And why should, frankly, chemical weapons be a red line when he’s slaughtering and massacring, raping and torturing, his own people?”

More stories to track:

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Israel shoots down drone from Lebanon

israelifighterjetNow the question is how Hezbollah react? With restraint, I pray.

“Israel shot down a drone Thursday as it approached the country’s northern coast,” reports the Associated Press, citing military sources.

“Suspicion immediately fell on the Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon,” AP noted. “The incident was likely to raise already heightened tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, a bitter enemy that battled Israel to a stalemate during a month-long war in 2006. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in northern Israel at the time of the incident, said he viewed the infiltration attempt with ‘utmost gravity.'”

“We will continue to do everything necessary in order to protect the security of the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

“Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said the unmanned aircraft was detected as it was flying over Lebanon and tracked as it approached Israeli airspace,” AP reported. “Lerner said the military waited for the aircraft to enter Israeli airspace, confirmed it was ‘enemy,’ and an F-16 warplane shot it down. The drone was flying at an altitude of about 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) and was downed roughly five miles (eight kilometers) off the Israeli coast near the northern city of Haifa.  Lerner said Israeli naval forces were searching for the remains of the aircraft.”

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U.S.-Israel sign new arms deal, but Obama team refuses to sell bunker buster bombs. What message does that send to Iran?

"Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, right, and Moshe Yaalon of Israel on a helicopter tour of the Golan Heights on Monday." (Pool photo by Jim Watson)

“Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, right, and Moshe Yaalon of Israel on a helicopter tour of the Golan Heights on Monday.” (Pool photo by Jim Watson)

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is on a tour of Mideast allies this week. His first stop was Israel. Then he heads to Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

En route, Hagel announced a $10 billion arms deal — selling advanced weapons systems both to Israel and several Arab countries — apparently to send a message to Iran that the U.S. will protect its friends against Tehran’s dangerous nuclear program.

Yet it was a mixed message, at best. Yes, it’s good the U.S. is helping arm our allies against Iran. But why is the Obama administration refusing to sell Israel the “bunker buster bombs” it needs to truly and decisively neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat? Such a decision tells Tehran that Washington is really not that serious about preventing them from getting The Bomb.

“American and Israeli defense officials welcomed a new arms sale agreement on Monday as a major step toward increasing Israel’s military strength, but Israeli officials said it still left them without the weapons they would need if they decided to attack Iran’s deepest and best-protected nuclear sites,” reported the New York Times.

“The mixed message came as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Yaalon, reaffirmed their commitment to stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, while sidestepping a continuing disagreement between the two countries about how close to allow Iran to get toward such a goal,” noted the Times. “In public, Mr. Hagel again said that Israel had the right to decide by itself how to defend the country, and both officials said military action should be a last resort. But a close adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that ‘the fundamental difference of views on how much risk we can take with Iran is re-emerging.'” 

“It’s all about timetables,” Dore Gold, the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a member of Mr. Netanyahu’s inner circle of strategists, told the Times. “If you say the goal is to halt Iran in the enrichment phase, you don’t have much time. If you are waiting for Iran to weaponize” — the position the Obama administration has taken — “maybe you can give it another year or more.”       

Mr. Yaalon suggested that there was still time, the Times reported. “There are other tools to be used and to be exhausted, whether it is diplomacy, economic sanctions,” Yaalon said.

Excerpts from the Times story:

  • The new weapons sale package includes aircraft for midair refueling and missiles that can cripple an adversary’s air defense system. Both would be critical for Israel if it were to decide on a unilateral attack on Iran.       
  • But what the Israelis wanted most was a weapons system that is missing from the package: a giant bunker-busting bomb designed to penetrate earth and reinforced concrete to destroy deeply buried sites. According to both American and Israeli analysts, it is the only weapon that would have a chance of destroying the Iranian nuclear fuel enrichment center at Fordo, which is buried more than 200 feet under a mountain outside the holy city of Qum.       
  • The weapon, called a Massive Ordnance Penetrator, weighs about 30,000 pounds — so much that Israel does not have any aircraft capable of carrying it. To do so, Israel would need a B-2 bomber, the stealth aircraft that the United States flew nonstop recently from Missouri to the Korean Peninsula to underscore to North Korea that it could reach its nuclear sites.

The Israeli news service Ynet also reported: “Under the agreement…Israel would buy new missiles designed to take out an adversary’s air-defense radars, as well as advanced radars for its own warplanes, new KC-35 refueling tanker planes and — in the first sale to any foreign military — the V-22 Osprey troop transport aircraft, which can take off and land like a helicopter but fly with the speeds and range of an airplane.”

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Canada arrests two in al-Qaeda terror plot connected to Iran

Canadian terror plot foiled. (CBC News)

Canadian terror plot foiled. (CBC News)

>> Boston bomb suspect’s name was on classified government watch lists

>> Russia contacted US government ‘multiple’ times over alleged Boston bombers

Is Iran working with al-Qaeda to plot terrorist attacks on innocent civilians in Canada and the United States? Canadian authorities say yes and they moved this week to arrest two men planning to blow up a passenger train in or near Toronto.

“Police say they have arrested two men accused of conspiring to carry out an ‘al-Qaeda supported’ attack targeting a Via passenger train in the Greater Toronto Area, following a cross-border investigation that involved Canadian and American law enforcement,” reports CBC News. “In a press conference that followed a report by CBC’s Greg Weston, police named the two accused as Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 35, from Toronto. They have been charged with conspiracy to carry out a terrorist attack and ‘conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group.'”

CBC News noted that “the plot is reminiscent of another that was broken up in the summer of 2006, when police arrested 18 people in a massive anti-terrorism sweep in southern Ontario. Eleven of the 18 were subsequently convicted of aiding the group in various plots, ranging from blowing up the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill and the Toronto Stock Exchange with trucks laden with explosives to beheading the prime minister and other politicians. The group never got a chance to execute any of its plans before being arrested when one of its members took delivery of what they thought were three tonnes of fertilizer to be used in truck bombs. Undercover agents had replaced the shipment with harmless chemicals.”

“The news that Canadian law enforcement on Monday arrested two men accused of planning to derail a passenger train in the Toronto area has attracted much attention, in part, because the plotters are also charged with ‘receiving support from al Qaeda elements in Iran,'” reports CNN’s Peter Bergen. “If these allegations are true, it would appear to be the first time that al Qaeda elements based in Iran have directed some kind of plot in the West. And it also underlines the perplexing relationship between the Shia theocratic state of Iran, which the Sunni ultra-fundamentalists who make up al Qaeda regard as heretical but with which they have had some kind of a marriage of convenience for many years.”

Bergen also notes:

  • While there isn’t evidence that al Qaeda and the Iranian government have ever cooperated on a terrorist attack, al Qaeda’s ties to Iran, surprising perhaps to some, stretch back more than a decade.
  • As recently as October, the U.S. Treasury named as terrorists six al Qaeda members living in Iran who it alleged were sending fighters and money to Syria to fight Bashar al-Assad’s regime and were also funding terrorism in Pakistan.
  • Al Qaeda’s Iranian presence began after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan during the winter of 2001 when some of Osama bin Laden’s family and his top lieutenants fled to neighboring Iran, where they lived under some form of house arrest.
  • They included Saif al-Adel, the Egyptian military commander of al Qaeda; Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, bin Laden’s son-in-law and spokesman; and Saad bin Laden, one of the al Qaeda leader’s older sons who has played a leadership role in his father’s organization.
  • Saad helped bin Laden’s oldest wife, Khairiah bin Laden, and a number of his father’s children to move to Iran in 2002.
  • Bin Laden’s sons Ladin, Uthman and Muhammad and his daughter Fatima, who is married to Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, settled in Tehran, the Iranian capital.

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Israeli intel: Damascus used chemical weapons against rebels

“Israel’s top military intelligence analyst said Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons against rebels, and warned his own country may soon become a target,” Bloomberg News reports. “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry questioned whether there’s hard evidence of chemical arms use, telling reporters that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been unable to confirm the reports in a phone call today.”

“The remarks by Brigadier-General Itai Brun, chief of research and analysis for the army’s military intelligence division, could edge the U.S. closer to entering the conflict,” notes Bloomberg News. “President Barack Obama has warned that the use of chemical weapons would be a ‘game changer’ in deciding whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria’s civil war. The U.K. and France have also alleged that President Bashar al-Assad’s troops have used chemical weapons against rebel fighters.”

“To the best of our professional understanding, the regime has used lethal chemical weapons on a number of occasions, including the incident on March 19,” the head of the Research Division at Military Intelligence, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, said at conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, reports Haaretz. “In his remarks to the INSS, Brun addressed the characteristics that led IDF Military Intelligence to this conclusion, photographs taken of the affected areas after the attacks, including depictions of foam coming out of the mouths of Syrians in the area of the attacks. Brun added that the Israeli intelligence community believed that the chemical weapon used was sarin-based.”

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How it went down: The most interesting coverage of the hunt for the Boston terror bombers

Using infrared technology, suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was seen hiding in a boat from above. (Getty Images)

Using infrared technology, suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was seen hiding in a boat from above. (Getty Images)

My wife and three of our four sons and I just got back from a week of vacation out of the country — no email, no Twitter, no Facebook, no blogging, nothing but time playing in the sun as a family. News eventually reached us at sea about the terror attacks in Boston (see video) that killed three and injured 176 others, but we are just learning about the extraordinary week we missed.

Our prayers are with all those affected, including their friends and families and all those law enforcement heroes who have been and are continuing to work on the case. [UPDATE: Shots fired at Denver marijuana holiday rally]

Here is some of the most interesting coverage I’ve seen of the terror drama since getting back a few hours ago:

Excerpts from a remarkable by Bloomberg News:

Minutes before the bombs blew up in Boston, Jeff Bauman looked into the eyes of the man who tried to kill him.

Just before 3 p.m. on April 15, Bauman was waiting among the crowd for his girlfriend to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon. A man wearing a cap, sunglasses and a black jacket over a hooded sweatshirt looked at Jeff, 27, and dropped a bag at his feet, his brother, Chris Bauman, said in an interview.

Two and a half minutes later, the bag exploded, tearing Jeff’s legs apart. A picture of him in a wheelchair, bloodied and ashen, was broadcast around the world as he was rushed to Boston Medical Center. He lost both legs below the knee.

“He woke up under so much drugs, asked for a paper and pen and wrote, ‘bag, saw the guy, looked right at me,’” Chris Bauman said yesterday in an interview.

Those words may have helped crack the mystery of who perpetrated one of the highest-profile acts of terror in the U.S. since the 2001 assault on New York City and the Washington area, one that killed three people and wounded scores.

The Boston area was on lockdown this morning after law enforcement officials killed one suspect in the bombing and were hunting another, following a night of violent clashes between the two men and authorities that killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer.

Is war with Iran unavoidable? Video of my Fox News interview on what lessons Israeli leaders are drawing from North Korean nuclear crisis.

joel-NKcrisis-FoxDoes the crisis in Korea make an Israeli war with Iran unavoidable?

On Thursday, I was interviewed on the Fox News Channel about the situation on the Korean Peninsula and its linkage to Iran. We discussed the challenges President Obama is having in facing his first nuclear crisis. We also discussed how Israeli leaders are perceiving the situation and why this crisis in the Pacific could potentially accelerate Israel’s decision to launch strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

In the Mideast context, the central question is how Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his War Cabinet assess the implications and ramifications of the North Korea nuclear program and the Obama administration’s unwillingness to take decisive action to stop Pyongyang from building nuclear weapons. The more alone Israel feels, the more likely it will be to strike Iran hard and fast.

Here’s the link to the video — it runs just under 4 minutes.

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U.S. intel says Assad’s days are numbered. ‘We just don’t know the number.’ But Syria rebels pledge loyalty to al Qaeda.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The countdown is underway to the fall of the Damascus and the Assad regime. The problem is that most of the rebels are radical Islamic jihadists who could proven even worse than the murderous Assad.

“The question comes up, ‘How long will Assad last?’” said James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, during Congressional testimony on Thursday. “Our standard answer is, ‘His days are numbered. We just don’t know the number.”

“Our assessment is that he is very committed to hanging in there and sustaining his control of the regime,” Clapper noted, even as he warned the Assad regime does possess chemical and biological weapons and could choose to use them. “The opposition is gaining in strength; it is gaining territory,” Clapper said, reported the World Tribune. “At the same time, the regime is experiencing shortages in manpower and logistics.”

“In testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on March 12, Clapper, who heads the intelligence community, said the Assad regime was coming under increasing pressure amid rebel gains.” the Tribune reported. “He said the Syrian military was unable to stop rebel advancements by conventional systems and could resort chemical weapons. ‘We assess that Syria has a stockpile of munitions — including missiles, aerial bombs, and possibly artillery rockets — that can be used to deliver CW agents,’ Clapper said.”

Now comes news that the rebels fighting against Assad have pledged their loyalty to al Qaeda.

“The head of Syria’s jihadist Al-Nusra Front has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, but distanced his group from claims it has merged with Al-Qaeda in Iraq,” reports Agence France Presse. “Al-Nusra’s announcement on Wednesday is likely to bolster assertions by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime that it is fighting ‘terrorists’ who want to impose an Islamic state. ‘The sons of Al-Nusra Front pledge allegiance to Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri,’ Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani said in a recording….Al-Nusra is among the most prominent organisations involved in Syria’s conflict, which erupted in March 2011 with peaceful protests against Assad’s regime but has evolved into a war that has killed tens of thousands. It has gained notoriety for suicide bombings but also won admiration from some insurgents for its reputation as a formidable fighting force leading attacks on battle fronts across Syria.”

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