Christians shouldn’t sit on the sidelines in the #SyriaCrisis. Here are 4 things we can do.

cairo-2silhouetteWhen it comes to the crisis in Syria, Christians should not sit idly by on the sidelines and watch others make moves we agree or disagree with. The Scriptures indicate we can and should play an active role in times of trouble — our top priorities should be to learn, pray, give and go.

1. LEARN“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,” we read in Proverbs 1:5. It is important that we learn all we can about what is happening in Syria and throughout the Middle East through the lens of geopolitics and economics. But it’s also vital that we learn to see the region through what I call the “third lens,” the lens of Scripture. Only then can we truly begin to understand what the enemy is doing, what God is doing, and what we should be doing as followers of Jesus Christ. To track the latest developments in the region, you can use this blog, or follow on Twitter (@JoelCRosenberg). Here’s a link to my books about the Middle East. Here’s a link to Bible prophecy books I recommend about the future of the Middle East.

2. PRAY —  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” we read in Philippians 4:6-7. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” How are you doing in terms of praying during this Syria crisis? We need to be praying daily — indeed, several times a day — knowing that our God is a prayer-hearing, and prayer-answering God, a wonder-working God. Let’s look to Him and trust Him more, especially in such dark times. Specifically, we need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Syria that God would give them great courage and boldness in the midst of war and persecution. We need to pray that God would have mercy on all the people of Syria, comforting them in their sorrow, healing their physical and emotional wounds, and giving them wisdom to know where to go to be safe from harm and to receive the food, clothing, shelter, and medical care their need. We need to pray that the Gospel of Jesus Christ be communicated clearly, powerfully, compassionately and consistently to all the people of Damascus and Syria, and praying that all Syrians would turn away from Islam to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who alone can and will forgive them, protect them, heal them, comfort them, encourage them, and provide for their every need. We need to pray for our leaders to have wisdom to know the right course of action. Whether we agree with them or not — whether we like them are not — we are to pray for wisdom and discernment so our leaders can distinguish truth from error, fact from fiction. We are to pray for patience and for courage for our leaders, so they don’t act rashly, but that they act with determination when the time is right. We are to pray that they govern well, protecting life and liberty, above all. We should also pray that they turn to the God of the Bible in prayer, as well, to receive “wisdom from above” and not earthly wisdom (see James chapter three)..

3. GIVE — Jesus said, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21). As we look at the traumas in Syria — but also in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq — it is important we Christians who have means seek opportunities to give to others. We should give to ministries that are caring for the poor and needy in the Middle East, feeding widows and orphans and refugees and war survivors, sharing the Gospel with them, teaching the Word of the God, encouraging Arab pastors, providing Bibles and other evangelistic literature and DVDs, assisting with Arab Christian conferences, and standing with the Arab Church in a variety of other ways. The Joshua Fund is one such organization. Our mandate is to mobilize Christians around the world to bless Israel and her neighbors — including Syria — in the name of Jesus, according to Genesis 12:1-3. For security reasons, we can’t often describe exactly the projects we’re investing in, but everything I have just mentioned are efforts The Joshua Fund is involved with — if you would like to give a secure, online, tax-deductible financial contribution to such work via The Joshua Fund, you can click here and learn more.

4. GO“Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded…” (Matthew 28:19-20) At the moment, of course, it is too dangerous for the average Christian to go to Syria to help proclaim the Gospel, make disciples and encourage the Church. For that we need to depend on the local Church in the region and ministries that serve the local Church. But you and I can go to our friends and neighbors and small group Bible studies and home fellowship groups and Sunday School classes and other groups. We can go and share this material with others. We can go and tell them that Christ loves the people of Syria, and all the people of the Middle East, and that we must, too. You can go and lead them in prayer, and encourage them to invest financially in God’s work in the epicenter. You can go to our websites — www.joshuafund.net and www.epicenterconference.com to and encourage others to go there, too, to find other ways to bless people in that war-torn region. You can go to Facebook and Twitter and tell other people about these resources.

The point is: Christians are not to be passive. We are to be engaged in God’s work, especially in times of wars and rumors of war. We are to learn, pray, give and go — and to lift  up the name of Jesus in everything we do. May God bless you as you serve him at this critical time.

Remember:

  • “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” (Psalm 122:6)
  • “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity,” the Apostle Paul wrote in I Timothy 2:1-3. “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:1-3)
  • “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
  • “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
  • “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).
  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  • “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
  • “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3)
  • “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:5-8).
  • “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”‘” (Luke 18:9-14).
  • “‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins’” (Mark 11:22-25).
  • “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14).
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President calls for Congressional vote on military action in Syria. How should the US respond to Assad regime? Experts fall into four basic camps.

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>> UPDATE: More than 110,000 dead in Syria conflict; Among victims 40,146 civilians including 4,000 women, 5,800 children, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says

>> UPDATE: Kerry: Samples from Syria tested positive for sarin

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UPDATED: (Washington, D.C.) — President Obama on Saturday announced that the U.S. should take military action against the Assad regime in Syria, and that he believes he has the Constitutional authority to move forward, but that he wants a Congressional discussion, debate and vote to authorize the use of force.

“Over the last several days, we have heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard — I absolutely agree,” said the President, addressing reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House.

Congress is expected to return to Washington from its summer recess on September 9th.

Thus, U.S. military force will be delayed at least until then. If Congress votes “no,” as the British parliament just did, would the President move forward anyway?

For now, the nation’s representatives in Washington will weigh in on this question: How should the U.S. and the free world respond to the deliberate and escalating use of lethal chemical weapons by the Assad regime in Syria?

Most political leaders, military experts ,and Middle East analysts seem to fall into four basic camps:

* Camp #1 says: Do nothing — Some say Syria was a hornet’s nest before Assad’s regime killed more than 1,400 civilians by nerve agents, including at least 426 children, and it will be hornet’s nest for years to come. They see the Assad regime as evil. They argue that over 100,000 people have already been killed, even without chemical weapons. They concede it’s all a tragedy, but they believe no vital national interests are at stake for the U.S. and they believe that nothing we can do to help at this point so we should not get involved. Proponents of “do nothing” include liberals, libertarians, and some conservatives — and, of course, the British parliament:

* Camp # 2 says we need all-out war to force regime change — Others are calling for the U.S. and Western allies to bring overwhelming military power to bear in Syria in order to bring down the evil Assad regime once and for all. They call for aggressive bombing and missile strikes, not for the purpose of punishing Assad, but to crush him and his government and remove them from power. To be clear, they advocated such a policy even before this latest deadly chemical weapons attack. Now they believe the case for regime change is even stronger. They believe the post-Assad government would be a more moderate, pro-Western regime. They are not worried that al Qaeda or other jihadists might come to power. Perhaps the most prominent advocate of this approach is Sen. John McCain, who said on MSNBC the other day, “If it [a U.S. strike in Syria] isn’t aimed at regime change, what is it aimed at?” Other prominent advocates of regime change are nationally syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, and WSJ columnist Bret Stephens, who wrote: “Should President Obama decide to order a military strike against Syria, his main order of business must be to kill Bashar Assad. Also, Bashar’s brother and principal henchman, Maher. Also, everyone else in the Assad family with a claim on political power. Also, all of the political symbols of the Assad family’s power, including all of their official or unofficial residences. The use of chemical weapons against one’s own citizens plumbs depths of barbarity matched in recent history only by Saddam Hussein. A civilized world cannot tolerate it. It must demonstrate that the penalty for it will be acutely personal and inescapably fatal.” Sen. Lindsay Graham doesn’t simply advocate regime change, but also U.S. ground forces in Syria.

* Camp #3 says we should use limited, pinprick missile strikes to “send a message” to the Assad regime — This is President Obama and French President Hollande’s policy. Consider recent news reports. “French and US presidents Francois Hollande and Barack Obama want to send the Syrian regime a ‘strong message’ to condemn the alleged use of chemical weapons, the presidency said Friday,” reported Agence France Presse. “‘Both heads of state agreed that the international community cannot tolerate the use of chemical weapons, that it should hold the Syrian regime accountable for it and send a strong message,’ a statement said.” That said, the message would be limited. The White House is considering a few hours — or, at most, a few days — of pinprick missile strikes, not aggressive, heavy airstrikes. “President Obama is considering military action against Syria that is intended to ‘deter and degrade’ President Bashar al-Assad’s government’s ability to launch chemical weapons, but is not aimed at ousting Mr. Assad from power or forcing him to the negotiating table, administration officials said Tuesday,” reported the New York Times. “A wide range of officials characterized the action under consideration as ‘limited,’ perhaps lasting no more than one or two days. The attacks, which are expected to involve scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, would not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, which would risk an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe and could open up the sites to raids by militants, officials said.” The White House has been crystal clear it absolutely does not support regime change in Syria. “The Obama administration and its allies wouldn’t be angling to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad in a military attack, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday,” reported Politico. “‘The options that we are considering are not about regime change,’ Carney told reporters at his daily briefing. ‘That is not what we are contemplating here.’ Rather, any response would be about responding to Syria’s violation of international law in its use of chemical weapons. But, Carney said, ‘it is not our policy to respond to this transgression with regime change.'”

* Camp #4 says we should use aggressive military action to severely punish the Assad regime for using lethal chemical weapons, but don’t go all the way to regime change — Others say it is absolutely in the U.S. national interest to severely punish any rogue regime that uses weapons of mass destruction to purposefully kill innocent civilians, and to send a strong warning to any regime considering using WMD in the future. They do not believe the objective of the U.S. and Western allies should be regime change because they fear al Qaeda or other Radical jihadists could come to power as a result. But they reject  the Obama team’s concept of limited “pinprick” strikes as limp-wristed and a demonstration of Western vacillation and weakness. Thus, they call for a much more aggressive, robust air campaign, specifically to take out Assad’s military units that were responsible for chemical weapons attacks. They call for the destruction of the Syrian air force. And they recommend training and arming “vetted” rebels, those who are not jihadists and would be supportive of the West. On August 27th, some 66 prominent leaders — some liberals, some conservatives — released an open letter calling for airstrikes with “meaningful consequences.” These leaders included Sen. Joe Lieberman, Middle East expert Dr. Fouad Ajami, Governor Tim Pawlenty, and former White House strategist Karl Rove, and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol (who prefers regime change, but would settle for this) . They wrote: “The objectives should be not only to ensure that Assad’s chemical weapons no longer threaten America, our allies in the region or the Syrian people, but also to deter or destroy the Assad regime’s airpower and other conventional military means of committing atrocities against civilian non-combatants.  At the same time, the United States should accelerate efforts to vet, train, and arm moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition, with the goal of empowering them to prevail against both the Assad regime and the growing presence of Al Qaeda-affiliated and other extremist rebel factions in the country.”

I am with Camp #4, with a few qualifications and clarifications.

  • We should not send U.S. ground forces into Syria.
  • We should not be trying to force regime change — I, too, am concerned that we could inadvertently bring al Qaeda or other Radical jihadists to power.
  • We should be very cautions about arming rebels — if we truly can find rebel forces who will fight the Assad regime AND fight al Qaeda and the jihadists, then I could be for helping them, but I’m worried about Western arms falling into the hands of Radicals.
  • All that said, I don’t believe in doing nothing — the West absolutely must punish a rogue regime that uses of weapons of mass destruction to kill innocent civilians with impunity, or we are sending a message to all rogues that it’s open season, and we should expect Radicals to use WMD more often, against more targets, and to kill more people.
  • We should only act in this case with Congressional authorization — the country is divided, but a healthy, open discussion and debate in Congress and a quick vote on a resolution authorizing force would be best.
  • When Libya engaged in terrorism in the mid-1980s, President Reagan didn’t overreach by launching a policy of regime change — rather, he launched a bombing campaign to severely punish Khaddafi. [For more on this, see “’86 Attack on Libya: A Template for U.S. Action Now”]
  • Former U.S. General Jack Keane makes a compelling case for decisively taking out Syria’s air force and air capabilities. “The most vulnerable military capability he has, Bret, is his air power,” Keane told Fox News’s Bret Baier. “There’s 20 air fields, only six of them are primary. He only has about 100 aircraft. We can take down those air fields, the aircraft on them. Also, the munitions, the fuel, the warehouses that the Iranians and Russians are using to resupply them, we can do all of that. That would be a significant degradation of his capability, and something he isn’t bargaining for. He is not expecting to lose his air power over the use of chemical weapons.”

Last point: While in principle I support “aggressive military action to severely punish the Assad regime for using lethal chemical weapons,” I am deeply concerned about the Obama administration’s ability to craft or implement such a policy. The administration has no clear, principled, compelling, much less effective policy in the Middle East. The White House can’t seem to pull together widespread bipartisan Congressional support, or international support, for any level of military action. It has made all kinds of conflicting, weak and vacillating statements. Meanwhile, it is leaking constantly about how little it plans to do in Syria.

The American people deserve much better. So do our allies in the region, Israel and Jordan, included.

More than ever I am praying for the Lord to give mercy  and wisdom to our leaders, and the leaders in Israel and the epicenter. I’m praying for mercy for the people of Syria, and for courage and boldness for the Christians in the region. The Lord is sovereign. He is holy and powerful. Ultimately, the Judge of the earth will do right. I am not counting on Washington for peace and justice in the Middle East. I’m counting on Christ.

Kansas Governor Brownback has invited me to Topeka to speak about “Damascus Countdown.” Please join us at the State Capitol on Sept. 7.

damascuscountdown(Washington, D.C.) — Governor Sam Brownback and his wife, Mary, have invited me to speak about my novel, Damascus Countdownat an event at the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka, and I am honored to accept.

The event is the 3rd Annual Kansas Book Festival. It is free and open to the public, and will take place on Saturday, September 7th. I am scheduled to speak at 1:30pm in the House Chamber (details here).

I’ll be discussing why I wrote the book, and the latest developments and trend lines in Syria, Iran and the broader Middle East. The event will last about an hour, including Q&A, and will be followed by a book signing.

Governor Brownback and I first met and became friends when he served here in Washington, first as a Congressman, and then as a U.S. Senator. During his tenure, Brownback served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. He is a great friend of Israel and took a serious interest in issues related to Iran, Syria, Sudan, and the threat of Radical Islam.

“The 3rd Annual Kansas Book Festival will feature more than 25 locally and nationally-known authors who will give presentations throughout the day on their most recent books. The festival’s goal is to promote literacy and a love for reading among Kansans of all ages by hosting this day-long festival, awarding grants to libraries across the state and encouraging children to become writers through their annual writing contest. You can find more information, including the 2013 schedule, by visiting their website at www.kansasbookfestival.com.”

>> Follow the latest news & analysis on Twitter — @JoelCRosenberg

>> To listen to the latest podcast of Syria & other Middle East develop, please click here.

>> To learn more about The Joshua Fund — and/or make a tax deductible contribution to bless Israel and her neighbors with food, clothing, medical supplies, and other humanitarian relief, including war preparations; to provide humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing Syria; and to educate Christians around the world about how to be a blessing to the people of the epicenter — please visit our website, www.joshuafund.net.

 

U.S., British release intel reports of Syrian chemical attacks. (Read full texts.) More than 1,400 killed, including 426 children. Now what?

Secretary Kerry briefing reports on the U.S. intelligence findings from Syria.

Secretary Kerry briefing reports on the U.S. intelligence findings from Syria.

(Washington, D.C.) — The U.S. and British governments have released intelligence documents summarizing evidence that the Assad regime used lethal chemical weapons against civilians.

The U.S.  intelligence report indicates more than 1,400 Syrians were killed in the most recent and largest attack, including 426 children.

The British intelligence report indicated that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on at least 14 occasions, escalating to the most recent and wide scale murders.

Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters, “history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency, these things we do know.”

That said The British parliament has already rejected the case for military strikes. The French say they are ready to help. But a new poll puts President Obama’s approval ratings on foreign policy at an all time low — and 80% of Americans want Congressional approval if the President chooses to move forward with a limited strike.

So what happens now?

“Secretary of State John F. Kerry made a forceful case Friday for U.S. military intervention in Syria, saying that U.S. intelligence has information pinning responsibility squarely on the Syrian government for what he described as last week’s indisputable chemical weapons attack on rebel strongholds on the outskirts of Damascus,” reported the Washington Post. “In a speech at the State Department, Kerry said U.S. intelligence has ‘high confidence’ that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the attack based partly on knowledge of regime officials’ conversations about it and the tracking of movements of regime personnel before and after the Aug. 21 strike.”

“We know that for three days before the attack, the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons personnel were on the ground in the area, making preparations,” Kerry said. “And we know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons.”

Kerry said that U.S. intelligence knows that the rockets containing the poison gas were launched “only from regime-controlled areas and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods,” the Post reported. “The attack killed at least 1,429 Syrians, including at least 426 children, Kerry said. Citing ‘many disturbing details about the aftermath’ that are now known to U.S. intelligence, Kerry said: ‘We know that a senior regime official who knew about the attack confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime, reviewed the impact, and actually was afraid that they would be discovered.’ An intelligence assessment released by the White House as Kerry spoke said the government has ‘high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the attack’ and that the regime used ‘a nerve agent.'”

Politico reports that “Kerry promised that any U.S. military action undertaken by President Barack  Obama would not resemble the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or the  international coalition assault that toppled Muammar Qadhafi in Libya in  2011. Also Friday, the National Security Council is briefing all lawmakers from key  congressional committees on Syria, multiple Hill aides said. The committees involved in the calls include the House Foreign Affairs  Committee, House Armed Services Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee  and Senate Armed Services Committee. The House panels and Senate panels are  being updated in separate calls. One Senate aide said the call is similar to the one held Thursday evening for  congressional leaders and top lawmakers on national security and foreign  affairs.”

“After a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war,” Kerry said. “Believe me, I am, too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility.” He said that “history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings.”

“Kerry spoke after French President Francois Hollande said Friday that his country is prepared to act in Syria despite Britain’s surprise rejection of military action, potentially making a nation that turned its back on Washington during the war in Iraq the primary U.S. ally in a possible strike against Syrian forces,” noted the Post.

A new NBC News poll finds:

  • Only 41% of Americans approve of President Obama’s handling of foreign affairs — “an all time low.”
  • “Nearly 80% of Americans believe President Barack Obama should receive congressional approval before using force in Syria”
  • “50% percent of Americans believe the United States should not intervene in the wake of suspected chemical weapons attacks by Syrian President Bashar Assad
  • “But the public is more supportive of military action when it’s limited to launching cruise missiles from U.S. naval ships — 50% favor that kind of intervention, while 44%oppose it.”
  • “58% agree with the statement that the use of chemical weapons by any country violates a ‘red line’ that requires a significant U.S. response, including the possibility of military action.”

>> To read the four-page U.S. intelligence report, please click here.

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>> To read Damascus Countdown –a New York Times best-selling novel about Syria, Iran, Israel and weapons of mass destruction — please click here.

>> To learn more about The Joshua Fund — and/or make a tax deductible contribution to bless Israel and her neighbors with food, clothing, medical supplies, and other humanitarian relief, including war preparations; to provide humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing Syria; and to educate Christians around the world about how to be a blessing to the people of the epicenter — please visit our website, www.joshuafund.net.

>> Kansas Governor Brownback has invited me to Topeka to speak about “Damascus Countdown” and current events in Syria. Please join us at the State Capitol on Sept. 7.

Israeli leaders tell military, civil defense forces: Be ready for all scenarios.

Israeli PM Netanyahu and IDF Chief Gantz at a military ceremony (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli PM Netanyahu and IDF Chief Gantz at a military ceremony (photo: Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post)

>> BREAKING: British PM Cameron loses stunning vote in parliament — now says Britain will not participate in a military strike on Syria, if one should come.

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(Washington, D.C.) — Israeli leaders on Thursday warned Iran and Syria not to test the might of the IDF, even as Israeli military and civil defense forces were told to be ready for all scenarios.

“Refusing to be drawn into a public screaming match with Syria and Iran, Israel’s  leaders on Thursday ignored apocalyptic threats and repeated the mantra voiced  continually since Sunday: Israel is not involved in the Syrian crisis but will respond fiercely if attacked,” reports the Jerusalem Post. “Prior to holding another round of security  consultations in Tel Aviv about the situation in Syria, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on camera and in his own voice what his office has been saying in  his name throughout the week.”

“At present there is no need to change daily routines,” Netanyau said. “Despite the low assessment regarding Israel’s involvement in what is going on in Syria, we decided to deploy Iron Dome  batteries as well as our other intercept systems. We are not involved in the  civil war in Syria. But I would like to reiterate, if anyone tries to harm Israel’s citizens, the IDF will respond with great strength.”

“Netanyahu’s remarks came a few hours  after Mohammed Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said a US strike on Syria would lead to the ‘imminent destruction’ of Israel,” noted the Post. “The theme of Netanyahu’s comments were expanded upon later in  remarks IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz made at a ceremony for the  fallen sailors of the Israeli navy.

Gantz said: “The IDF is at the start of challenging days. We have no part in the events taking place nearby to us, but in the event that fire is directed in Israel’s direction, it’s clear to every leader in our region and in the whole world that the price [for the attacker] will be heavy and the losses of the enemy will be stinging and difficult….We’ve analyzed the various implications from every possible development… and we are prepared for every scenario. Our capabilities to gather [intelligence] and to attack are most  advanced, and our defenses — in the air, sea, and land — are ready and staffed by the best of our soldiers and commanders, conscripts and reserves.”

Meanwhile, “at a meeting with representatives from government ministries and emergency  services, Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan instructed attendees to  increase their readiness and widen communications with local  authorities,” reports the Jerusalem Post in a separate article. “He also asked local government representatives to examine  the readiness of public bomb shelters.”

“Although the security evaluation is that the chances of Israel  being attacked are low, the security forces and home front protection  organizations are prepared for all scenarios,” he said at the end of the meeting, which concluded on Wednesday evening.

“On Thursday, the Home Front Command extended the opening hours for gas mask distribution centers, to  cope with the massive demand of recent days,” the Post noted. “Anxious Israelis have  flooded the centers, anticipating an attack on Israel in response to any strike  by the US and its allies on Syria over the regime’s probable use of chemical  weapons. The centers, based in Israel Postal Service offices, will now be  open each day from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., but the number of centers will not  increase. Gaby Ofir, the former director-general of the Homeland Security  Ministry, said that ‘the number of gas masks in Israel today is not  sufficient.'”

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>> To read Damascus Countdown, a New York Times best-selling novel, please click here.

>> To learn more about The Joshua Fund — and/or make a tax deductible contribution to bless Israel and her neighbors with food, clothing, medical supplies, and other humanitarian relief, including war preparations; to provide humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing Syria; and to educate Christians around the world about how to be a blessing to the people of the epicenter — please visit our website, www.joshuafund.net.

>> Kansas Governor Brownback has invited me to Topeka to speak about “Damascus Countdown” and current events in Syria. Please join us at the State Capitol on Sept. 7.

Podcast: I’m interviewed about the moral complexities of a U.S. strike on Syria & how we should pray.

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(Washington, D.C.) — We’ve just posted the latest podcast on my website, at www.joelrosenberg.com. It’s a 19 minute interview I did yesterday on a nationally syndicated radio program.

During the program, I discussed the following questions:

  • are the U.S, British and French about to launch military strikes against the Assad regime in Syria?
  • before any strikes occur, is it important to wait for the U.S. report detailing credible evidence of chemical weapons attacks in Syria, and the Assad regime’s responsibility therein?
  • will Syria and/or Iran fire missiles at Israel, and what precautions are the Israelis are taking?
  • who are the good guys and who are the bad guys in the Syrian conflict?
  • what are the moral complexities of getting involved in this fight?
  • if the U.S. does use military force in Syria, does “regime change” have to be the objective, or could something less sweeping be done?
  • how Christians should pray at this moment?

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UPDATED: Iranian leaders vow Israel will be destroyed if Syria is attacked. What will Iran conclude if Assad used WMD & West does nothing?

Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei (left) and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (right).

Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei (left) and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (right).

>> UPDATED TWEETS (8/29):

  • “We need to pray for the President. Does he have solid evidence of chemical weapons attacks & Assad regime complicity? If not, then patience.”
  • “U.S. should not strike w/out solid, compelling evidence that Assad regime used chemical weapons. But with such evidence, we must act.”
  • “If US needs to strike #Syria, the goal should not be regime change. The goal is to punish the Assad regime severely for murdering w/WMD.”
  • “Khaddafi used terror in ’86. Reagan didn’t seek regime change. He bombed Libya. Sent powerful message. Details. http://millercenter.org/newsroom/news/reagan-libya.”
  • It is in the US national interest to prevent rogues from using weapons of mass destruction & punish any rogues who uses them.”
  • “If US doesn’t punish the use of WMD to kill innocent civilians, we are opening Pandora’s box. We’re signaling weakness, inviting terror.”
  • “Iran’s leaders are watching. If Assad used WMD & US does nothing, Iran will conclude it’s open season. The gates of Hell will be unleashed.”
  • “To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it.”
  • “Evil, unchecked, is a prelude to genocide.”

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ORIGINAL POST:

(Washington, D.C.) — “Starting this fire will be like a spark in a large store of gunpowder, with unclear and unspecified outcomes and consequences,” Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the U.S. on Wednesday. “The US threats and possible intervention in Syria are a disaster for the region. And if such an act is done, certainly, the Americans will sustain damage like when they interfered in Iraq and Afghanistan.”On Thursday, the Iranian Supreme Leader’s warning were echoed by the commander of the Revolutionary Guards.

“An American attack on Syria will result in the destruction of Israel and have severe repercussions for the US and its allies, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards said,” reported the Times of Israel. “A possible war in Syria ‘will result in the imminent destruction of the Zionist regime of Israel,’ General Mohammad Ali Jafari said late Wednesday, according to a report Thursday in the state-sponsored Iranian Tasnim News Agency,” the Times noted.

“The American ‘proxy war scenario’ in Syria has failed, so Washington and the West have resorted to a “direct military threat,” which, if carried out, will have ‘severe consequences,’ he added. The remarks from Jafari came at a time of intense international debate over a possible US-led strike on Syria, and followed bellicose statements from other high-ranking Iranian officials. Iran is a major backer of the Syrian government….Military intervention in Syria by the US and its allies will “cost them dearly,” the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, General Hassan Firouzabadi, said Wednesday evening. ‘If the US attacks, the Zionists will burn,’ he said, according to Israel’s Channel 2 news. He added that Israel would be the “sole beneficiary” of military escalation in Syria, which would have ‘far-reaching, grave consequences….Any new military operation could prove to be a disaster not only for the region but also for humanity …and only the Zionists would benefit from that,’ Firouzabadi said. The Syrian civil war, he added, had been ‘imposed’ on the country from outside forces.”

LATEST HEADLINES:

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>> To read Damascus Countdown, a New York Times best-selling novel about how the prophetic destruction of Damascus might unfold, please click here.

>> To learn more about The Joshua Fund — and/or make a tax deductible contribution to bless Israel and her neighbors with food, clothing, medical supplies, and other humanitarian relief, including war preparations; to provide humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing Syria; and to educate Christians around the world about how to be a blessing to the people of the epicenter — please visit our website, www.joshuafund.net.

>> Kansas Governor Brownback has invited me to Topeka to speak about “Damascus Countdown” and current events in Syria. Please join us at the State Capitol on Sept. 7.

Are we praying for our leaders at this time of crisis? Or are we sniping at them? A few thoughts on the importance of prayer.

Are you praying?

Are you praying?

As Christians, we are commanded in the Scriptures to pray for our leaders.

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity,” the Apostle Paul wrote in I Timothy 2:1-3. “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Whether we agree with them or not — whether we like them are not — we are to pray for wisdom and discernment so our leaders can distinguish truth from error, fact from fiction. We are to pray for patience and for courage for our leaders, so they don’t act rashly, but that they act with determination when the time is right. We are to pray that they govern well, protecting life and liberty, above all. We should also pray that they turn to the God of the Bible in prayer, as well, to receive “wisdom from above” and not earthly wisdom (see James chapter three).

How are you doing this week? Are you praying faithfully for President Obama and his national security and foreign policy team? Are you praying for leaders in Congress, and in our military? Or are you sniping at them?

Weighty decisions lie before our leaders. When it comes to the situation in Syria (and Iran, and Egypt, and elsewhere in the epicenter), the fate of many lies in the balance. With more than 100,000 dead, we are looking at the potential of genocide underway. On top of that, now we see reports that perhaps chemical weapons may have been used to murder men, women and children with poison gas. The situation is complicated. There are competing interests at stake and high stakes. The Assad regime is evil. But so are the al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood rebels fighting against them. What is the best path forward? How should our leaders proceed?

I am encouraged to see many people telling me they are praying seriously and faithfully.

Yet in tracking my email and Facebook and Twitter traffic, I see many people sniping at our leaders, taking potshots at them, and making snarky, cynical, unkind, un-Christian statements.

Is that you? Hopefully not. But if it is, make a change. Ask the Lord to forgive  you for disobeying him and having an ungodly approach towards  your government leaders. He will forgive you (see I John 1:9).

Start praying daily — indeed, several times a day — for your leaders, according to the Scriptures. Our God is a prayer-hearing, and prayer-answering God, a wonder-working God. Let’s look to Him and trust Him more, especially in such dark times.

Remember:

  • “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” (Psalm 122:6)
  • “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
  • “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
  • “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).
  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  • “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
  • “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3)
  • “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:5-8).
  • “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”‘” (Luke 18:9-14).
  • “‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins'” (Mark 11:22-25).
  • “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14).

Evidence: Intercepted calls, satellite imagery & first-hand doctors accounts point to Assad regime role in chemical attacks, officials say.

Does the evidence prove President Bashar al-Assad and his regime are guilty?

Does the evidence prove President Bashar al-Assad and his regime are guilty?

(Washington, D.C.) — Is the President of the United States certain chemical weapons were used to kill innocent civilians in Damascus last week, and is he certain that the Assad regime was, in fact, responsible for the attack? Is the evidence clear and compelling? Will such evidence stand up in the court of public opinion? The U.S. administration thinks so, and will make the evidence public soon.

We are told such evidence will include:

“The Obama administration believes that U.S. intelligence has established how Syrian government forces stored, assembled and launched the chemical weapons allegedly used in last week’s attack outside Damascus, according to U.S. officials,” reports the Washington Post. “The administration is planning to release evidence, possibly as soon as Thursday, that it will say proves that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bears responsibility for what U.S. officials have called an ‘undeniable’ chemical attack that killed hundreds on the outskirts of the Syrian capital. The report, being compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is one of the final steps that the administration is taking before President Obama makes a decision on a U.S. military strike against Syria, which now appears all but inevitable.”

I’m looking forward to seeing this report. It is important that the American people have a chance to examine the evidence that has led the administration to be so certain that chemical weapons were used, and that the Assad regime was, in fact, responsible.

There are many Americans who deeply distrust this administration. There many who distrust the American government as a whole these days, and not without cause. No country should casually launch military attacks, certainly not the leader of the free world.

That said, it is worth noting that President Obama was a strong opponent of using military force in Iraq over the alleged threat of weapons of mass destruction. So while the President has very little credible with a large percentage of Americans who deeply disagree on all or most areas of policy, it is important to at least consider the notion that Mr. Obama has been a long-time skeptic of U.S. intelligence claims about WMD in the Middle East and the need to use force to deal with such threats. He has also been disinclined to involve the U.S. militarily in Syria for the last two years.

I deeply disagree with this administration on many issues. But I refuse to be a cynic. I refuse to disbelieve anything that comes out of their mouths. I will listen carefully on each and every issue. If the evidence is clear and compelling, I want to see it with honest eyes and make a fair and well-reasoned conclusion. If the Assad regime really did use chemical weapons to murder innocents, then I believe they should be punished severely — in part so that no Syrian government ever uses chemical weapons again, and in part so that no government uses chemical weapons in the future.

Along these lines, I’m interested in an exclusive story in on the Foreign Policy blog this morning, describing intercepted telephone calls.

Key excerpts from the Foreign Policy article:

  • Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they’re certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime — and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days….
  • American intelligence analysts are certain that chemical weapons were used on Aug. 21 — the captured phone calls, combined with local doctors’ accounts and video documentation of the tragedy — are considered proof positive. That is why the U.S. government, from the president on down, has been unequivocal in its declarations that the Syrian military gassed thousands of civilians in the East Ghouta region….
  • However, U.S. spy services still have not acquired the evidence traditionally considered to be the gold standard in chemical weapons cases: soil, blood, and other environmental samples that test positive for reactions with nerve agent. That’s the kind of proof that America and its allies processed from earlier, small-scale attacks that the White House described in equivocal tones, and declined to muster a military response to in retaliation.
  • When news about the Ghouta incident first trickled out, there were questions about whether or not a chemical agent was to blame for the massacre. But when weapons experts and U.S. intelligence analysts began reviewing the dozens of videos and pictures allegedly taken from the scene of the attacks, they quickly concluded that a nerve gas, such as sarin, had been used there. The videos showed young victims who were barely able to breathe and, in some cases, twitching. Close-up photos revealed that their pupils were severely constricted. Doctors and nurses who say they treated the victims reported that they later became short of breath as well. Eyewitnesses talk of young children so confused, they couldn’t even identify their own parents. All of these are classic signs of exposure to a nerve agent like sarin, the Assad regime’s chemical weapon of choice. 
  • Making the case even more conclusive were the images of the missiles that supposedly delivered the deadly attacks. If they were carrying conventional warheads, they would have likely been all but destroyed as they detonated. But several missiles in East Ghouta were found largely intact. “Why is there so much rocket left? There shouldn’t be so much rocket left,” the intelligence official told The Cable. The answer, the official and his colleagues concluded, was that the weapon was filled with nerve agent, not a conventional explosive.
  • In the days after the attacks, there was a great deal of public discussion about which side in Syria’s horrific civil war actually launched the strike. Allies of the Assad regime, like Iran and Russia, pointed the finger at the opposition. The intercepted communications told a different story — one in which the Syrian government was clearly to blame.

UPDATED: Strike could come as early as Thursday, US officials tell NBC News. Iran warns Israel will be ‘first victim’ of U.S. attack on Syria. Netanyahu vows to hit Syria hard. US developing target list. But WH says goal is not regime change.

The alliance between Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is closer than ever.

The alliance between Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is closer than ever.

LATEST UPDATES:

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(Washington, D.C.) — An Iranian-Syrian alliance preparing for a war with Israel involving weapons of mass destruction?  An Israeli Prime Minister threatening to strike? An American President vacillating over what to do even as the situation gets more and more dangerous by the hour? Sounds like a scenario ripped from the pages of my recent political thriller, Damascus Countdown. Unfortunately, this scenario is playing out in real life and in real time in the heart of the Middle East.

Here are the latest developments:

  1. Though no final decision has yet been made, a Western military strike on the Assad regime in Syria could happen within days — “Western powers have told the Syrian opposition to expect a strike against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces within days, according to sources who attended a meeting between envoys and the Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul,” reports Reuters. “The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days, and that they should still prepare for peace talks at Geneva,” one of the sources who was at the meeting on Monday told Reuters.”
  2. The Pentagon says it is ready — “The U.S. Defense Department has presented military options to President  Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, without outlining them,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Defense officials have said the U.S. is considering cruise-missile strikes from navy ships in the Mediterranean.  ‘We are ready to go,’ he said.”
  3. Iran warns Israel will be the “first victim” of retaliation if the U.S. and other Western allies attack Syria — “A senior Iranian lawmaker said Israel would be the first casualty of any U.S.-led strike on Syria, according to regional media reports,” reports the Washington Beacon. “Hossein Sheikholeslam, the director general of the Iranian parliament’s International Affairs bureau, claimed the United States would not dare attack Syria but said that if it does, ‘the Zionist regime will be the first victim.'” The lawmaker added: “No military attack will be waged against Syria. Yet, if such an incident takes place, which is impossible, the Zionist regime will be the first victim of a military attack on Syria.” The Beacon adds: “Iran has been one of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chief allies. It has sent Hezbollah reinforcements to battle rebel forces and acted as Assad’s chief defender in the Middle East….Mohammad Esmayeeli, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, claimed Washington is not ready for any new military invasion. He said that if the Obama administration does decide to launch an attack, Moscow will support Damascus. Russia has consistently thrown its support behind Assad, providing him with advanced weapons and blocking concrete action at the United Nations.”
  4. Israel is on full alert, and Netanyahu warns he is ready to hit Syria hard if threatenedIsraeli military forces and civil defense authorities are on full alert, looking for any sign that Syria is about to attack, especially with chemical weapons. Netanyahu warned Israel will hit hard if a Syrian threat is detected. “The State of Israel is ready for any scenario. We are not part of the civil war in Syria but if we identify any attempt whatsoever to harm us, we will respond and we will respond in strength,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday after a meeting with his security advisers, his second in as many days.
  5. The White House has made no final decision, but is looking specifically at how to prosecute an attack, what targets to hit, and what weapons systems to use — The New York Times is reporting that “President Obama is considering a range of limited military actions against Syria that are designed to “deter and degrade” the ability of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to launch chemical weapons, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. Although no final decisions have been made, it is likely that the attacks would not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, even though the Obama administration says the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian military is the trigger for the planned attack. They said any effort to target chemical sites risks an environmental and humanitarian disaster and could open up the sites to raids by militants. Instead, the American assault would be aimed at military units thought to have carried out chemical attacks, the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks and the headquarters overseeing the effort, the officials said.” The Times also notes: “An American official familiar with the military planning said that the initial target list has fewer than 50 sites, including air bases where Syria’s Russian-made attack helicopters are deployed. The list includes command and control locations as well as a variety of conventional military targets, official said. Like several other military officials contacted for this report, the official agreed to discuss planning options only on condition of anonymity. Planners said that although suspected chemical weapons depots are seductive targets, they are too risky. ‘That is a hairy business,’ the official said. ‘Our interest is in keeping the chemical weapons secured. You hit a bunker that holds chemical weapons and all of a sudden you have chemical weapons loose.'”

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>> To read Damascus Countdown, a New York Times best-selling novel about how the prophetic destruction of Damascus might unfold, please click here.

>> To learn more about The Joshua Fund — and/or make a tax deductible contribution to bless Israel and her neighbors with food, clothing, medical supplies, and other humanitarian relief, including war preparations; and to educate Christians around the world about how to be a blessing to the people of the epicenter — please visit our website, www.joshuafund.net.

>> Kansas Governor Brownback has invited me to Topeka to speak about “Damascus Countdown” and current events in Syria. Please join us at the State Capitol on Sept. 7.