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Is Jordan next? Will it fall to the Islamic State? King Abdullah knows he is in a winner-take-all war with ISIS. Does Washington?

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2015 at 9:50 am
The Warrior King?

The Warrior King?

Here is the new op-ed I just wrote for the FoxNews.com Opinion page.

Jordan’s King Abdullah is in a winner-take-all war with the Islamic State

By Joel C. Rosenberg, special for Fox News Opinion, February 17, 2015

With the barbaric murder of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh — the Jordanian pilot locked in a cage and burned alive by operatives of the Islamic State, for all the world to see — Jordan’s King Abdullah faces the most dangerous moment since ascending to the throne in 1999.

ISIS jihadists in Syria and Iraq have publicly threatened to invade Jordan and “slaughter” Abdullah, whom they denounce as a “tyrant.” Extremists inside Jordan took to the streets last summer shouting, “Down, down with Abdullah!” The latest ISIS propaganda video attacks the king as an “ally of the crusaders.” One figure in the video proclaims, “all Arab tyrants should…be burned.”

While Jordan has remained a source of calm in the region, the roots of radical Islamic extremism run deep there. A Jordanian, Abu Musab Zarqawi, was the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq — the precursor to ISIS — before he was killed by a U.S. airstrike on June 7, 2006. Today, an estimated 2,000 Jordanian nationals are fighting with ISIS. What happens when they come back to Jordan?

Meanwhile, 1.3 million people, mostly Muslims, have fled Syria and are currently residing in Jordan. Some 600,000 are contained inside refugee camps. The rest are freely moving about the country. How many are plotting against the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and how advanced and sophisticated are their plans?

The good news is that King Abdullah understands full well that he is in a winner-take-all showdown with ISIS, which he describes as “a Third World war.” As a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, the king sees himself as a moderate Arab reformer. He believes Islam is the answer to the challenges facing his region, but he does not believe violent jihad is the way forward. He has built good relations with the West, maintains a solid peace treaty with Israel, and has worked hard to protect Christians in Jordan. But he is acutely aware that the jihadists are gunning for him. Indeed, upon hearing the news of the pilot’s murder, he immediately cut short his visit to Washington and returned to Amman to launch an “earth-shaking” military response to ISIS.

The urgent question right now is whether American leaders fully understand just how catastrophic it would be for Jordan to fall to ISIS, and whether they are truly committed to taking all measures necessary to crush ISIS and stand firm with Jordan, one of our most important Arab allies.

Friends and enemies alike have pointed out that President Obama has been indecisive and inconsistent in responding to the turmoil caused by the extremists. U.S.-led airstrikes have slowed the jihadist advance in Iraq, but ISIS is steadily expanding its control of Syria. Yet inexplicably, the White House has failed to set forth a clear strategy to defeat the Islamic State in either Iraq or Syria, even as the rest of the neighborhood — from the shores of Tripoli to the Hindu Kush — is falling apart before our eyes.

Obama is now asking for congressional authorization for his half-hearted war on ISIS. Yet his very request shows how unsure and unserious he is. Congress should pass a resolution authorizing the use of “all means necessary” to defeat the enemy. But the president’s draft explicitly rules out any serious use of ground forces, even if America’s military leaders deem them essential.

Obama specifically refuses to put an adequate number of U.S. special forces and technical advisers on the ground to help Iraqi forces retake their country. Last month, retired four-star U.S. Army General Jack Keane testified before Congress that at least 10,000 U.S. special operators are needed in the theater to prosecute an effective war against ISIS. Thus far, the administration adamantly disagrees.

At the same time, President Obama refuses to directly and adequately arm the Kurds in their fight against ISIS, despite their heroic efforts on the battlefield. Obama should be providing Jordan and the Iraqis far more arms and other resources to fight ISIS, but he hesitates.

Meanwhile, he exhibits a dangerously dysfunctional attitude toward two key American allies in the region, namely Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Like Jordan’s King Abdullah, both Netanyahu and al-Sisi clearly see the grave threat posed by the Shia brand of radicalism advanced by Iran and Hezbollah, and the similarly ominous threat posed by the Sunni brand of violent extremism advanced by ISIS, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Netanyahu and Sisi are quietly but actively working together – and with Jordan – against these threats. Yet Obama’s public disdain for the Israeli and Egyptian leaders in the midst of a hot war is both counterproductive (the Egyptians are now turning to Moscow for help) and risks undermining the trust and confidence of Jordan’s leaders, as well as that of other Mideast allies.

With so many other major challenges in the Middle East at present, it would be easy for American policy-makers to overlook Jordan’s importance — easy, but a mistake. Jordan is the cornerstone of any future Arab-Israeli peace plan. If it fell to ISIS, Jordan would quickly become a launching pad for terrorist attacks against America and its allies.

Fortunately, the American people instinctively understand the magnitude of the threat posed by ISIS. In a recent survey 74 percent of Americans said they worry ISIS will launch a “catastrophic terrorist” attack inside the U.S. if they are not defeated soon. Nearly as many Americans (72 percent) worry ISIS will soon try to launch a massive attack against the State of Israel. At the same time, 65 percent are afraid ISIS “will also try to overthrow the King of Jordan – an important, moderate Arab ally of the United States – and use Jordan as a base camp to launch terrorist attacks against America and Israel.”

Not surprisingly, therefore, Americans want President Obama and congressional leaders to work closely with America’s most trusted allies in the Middle East – including Jordan — to crush ISIS quickly and decisively. God help us if the president does not start making the right moves before it is too late.

Joel C. Rosenberg is a New York Times best-selling author of novels and non-fiction books about the Middle East. His latest political thriller, The Third Target, centers on an ISIS plot to attack the U.S., Israel and Jordan.

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ALSO WORTH READING:

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THE THIRD TARGET stays on Publishers Weekly best-seller list for 5th straight week. With ISIS dominating global headlines, readers are asking about a sequel. Here’s an update & my current speaking schedule.

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2015 at 6:59 pm
Register today for the April 19th event.

Register today for the April 19th event.

As readers of this blog know, the Islamic State, ISIS, and ISIL were not household words or concepts in 2013 when I began writing a new political thriller about this Radical Islamic jihadist movement plotting mass casualty attacks in the Middle East and the West.

By the time I handed in the manuscript in the summer of 2014, however, ISIS was on a jihadist rampage across the epicenter and dominating global headlines.

With interest in — and concern about — ISIS growing rapidly in the U.S. and Canada, Tyndale House Publishers decided to move up the release of The Third Target to January 6, 2015, from its original planned release in March.

The international geopolitical thriller — the only novel about ISIS of its kind on the market — immediately hit all the major hardcover fiction best-seller lists, including the New York Times. It is currently the #1 best-selling novel in the Christian publishing industry. And we have just learned that The Third Target has hit the Publishers Weekly hardcover fiction best-seller list for the 5th week in a row.

Many readers are asking me, “Is this the first book in a series?”

It is — and I’m glad to announce that I began writing the sequel to The Third Target today here in Israel.

My editors would like the manuscript by May. Tyndale hopes to release the next book early in 2016. So I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.

I also have several speaking commitments that I need to fulfill over the next few weeks. Among them:

I hope to see you at one of these events. In the meantime, please keep praying for America, Israel and our Arab allies at this critical moment.

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Egypt’s President el-Sisi orders military strikes after ISIS beheads 21 Egyptian Christians. Details & analysis. [Register today for special simulcast on April 19th: “Do Christians In The Mideast Face Genocide?”]

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2015 at 9:16 am
ISIS jihadists prepare to behead 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya. (source: screen capture from new ISIS video)

ISIS jihadists prepare to behead 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya. (source: screen capture from new ISIS video)

>> On Sunday evening April 19th, I’m doing a special simulcast event for churches: “Do Christians In The Middle East Face Genocide? How Serious Is The Threat of ISIS & Radical Islam? What Can Christians In The West Really Do To Make A Difference?” With so much interest in these topics, I hope your church or small group Bible study will take advantage of this special event. Please register today.

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UPDATED: Much of the West remains asleep or lethargic concerning the threat posed by the Islamic State, even as the movement’s gruesome killing spree continues unabated.

The latest: an Islamic State affiliate has beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who were working in Libya, according to a new ISIS video released on Sunday. “In the video, militants in black marched the captives, dressed in orange jump suits, to a beach the group said was near Tripoli,” reported Reuters. “They were forced down onto their knees, then beheaded.”

“The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church,” read a caption on the five minute video, Reuters noted.

President Obama spent eight hours golfing on Sunday.

But Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi vowed to “avenge” the “criminal killings.” He immediately ordered the Egyptian air force to bomb ISIS sites in Libya, and he announced that more attacks against the jihadists were coming. He also called for a seven-day period of mourning for the murdered Christians.

“These cowardly actions will not undermine our determination” said el-Sisi, who also banned all travel to Libya by Egyptian citizens and said his government reserves the right to seek retaliation, reported the Associated Press. “Egypt and the whole world are in a fierce battle with extremist groups carrying extremist ideology and sharing the same goals.”

The AP report noted that “the killings raise the possibility that the Islamic militant group — which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq in a self-declared caliphate — has established a direct affiliate less than 500 miles (800 kilometers) from the southern tip of Italy. One of the militants in the video makes direct reference to that possibility, saying the group now plans to ‘conquer Rome.'”

“All crusaders: safety for you will be only wishes, especially if you are fighting us all together,” states one of the jihadists on the ISIS video. “Therefore we will fight you all together. The sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.”

A few thoughts on these horrific new reports:

  • My heart is grieving for the growing number of ISIS victims from Syria to Iraq to Jordan to Egypt and Libya and beyond.
  • Let us pray for the families and friends of all who have been murdered.
  • Let us pray for the safe and quick release of all those whom ISIS is holding captive.
  • Let us pray for the Egyptian Church — to be brave, bold, courageous witnesses for the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to be faithful lights amidst such terrible darkness.
  • Let us pray for Egyptian President el-Sisi to know best how to deal with this crisis.
  • Let us pray for President el-Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as they continue to form a quiet but fiercely determined alliance to protect their people from Radical Islam, as I wrote about yesterday.
  • Let us also understand that ISIS is a demonic movement. This is not mere terrorism. These barbarians are making blood sacrifices to their god. They must be stopped.
  • I will continue to pray faithfully for President Obama to have a change of heart and mind, to truly come to understand the magnitude of the threat Radical Islam — from Iran to ISIS — poses to the American people and our allies.
  • But I also believe that with the gathering storm of Radical Islam building, 2016 cannot come fast enough.
  • We need new leadership — but we must choose very carefully and prayerfully.
  • We are not simply looking for a leader who will revive America’s economy and put tens of millions of unemployed and under-employed Americans back to work in good, high-paying jobs that can support their families.
  • We are not simply looking for a leader who will get America’s fiscal house in order, and stop borrowing massive amounts of money from the Chinese.
  • We are not simply looking for a leader who believes in the Judeo-Christian values America was founded upon, and will operate according to the Constitution, and will defend the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — in that order.
  • We are not simply looking for a leader who understands the moral and spiritual dangers facing America, and the need for God’s grace and mercy and a Third Great Awakening.
  • We are looking for all these qualities, but we are looking for more.
  • We need a War President — someone with a well-developed understanding of the rising threats we face from Radical Islam to Russia, someone who believes in “Peace Through Strength,” someone who is building around him or her a team of wise and experienced foreign policy and national security advisors, someone with a plan to rebuild America’s military, someone who will rebuild our tattered global alliances, someone who will defeat ISIS and neutralize the Iran nuclear threat, someone who isn’t trigger-happy but is ready to use force when necessary, someone who will lead the free world from the front, not from behind.
  • We are not facing a jayvee squad, and we cannot afford a rookie.

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Amidst Obama retreat from Mideast, three regional leaders are forming a quiet but fiercely determined alliance against Iran & ISIS. Israeli PM Netanyahu, Jordan’s King Abdullah II & Egyptian President el-Sisi face high stakes. Will they succeed?

In Uncategorized on February 15, 2015 at 4:28 pm
King Abdullah and PM Netanyahu.

King Abdullah and PM Netanyahu.

President el-Sisi and King Abdullah II.

President el-Sisi and King Abdullah II.

Something curious is happening in the Middle East.

Amidst President Obama’s repeated moves to withdraw American military power and influence from the Middle East and “pivot” to Asia, three regional leaders in the epicenter are forming a quiet, unexpected but fiercely determined alliance.

Why? To protect their people against two existential threats, one posed by the Shia Radical Islamists of Iran, the other posed by the Sunni Radical Islamists of ISIS.

Who are they?

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu;
  • Jordan’s King Abdullah II; and
  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

They are meeting secretly. They are talking regularly by phone, as well as with other leaders in the region from Saudi Arabia to the Gulf. Their senior advisors are also in regular contact, coordinating moves to counter their most serious enemies. They are not waiting for Washington. Indeed, they often see the White House and State Department as less than helpful, and sometimes opposed to — or not truly understanding — their national and shared interests.

As 2014 began, I wrote a series of columns about why we should keep our eye on these three (for a sampling, see here, here, here, here, and here.) As 2015 begins, I hold to this analysis. These men are critically important players who are actively trying to shape the future of the Middle East for the better, and who are trying to work closely with the U.S. despite resistance from the White House.

NETANYAHUPrime Minister Netanyahu declared war on Hamas last summer amidst a jihadist rampage sweeping the region.  An experienced expert in battling jihad, few leaders have warned about the overall threat of Radical Islam — and specifically about the Iranian nuclear threat — not just to Israel but to the U.S. and the world more clearly or consistently than he.

“To defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power would be to win the battle and lose the war,” Netanyahu told leaders at the UN last September. ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree. They share the same fanatical creed….The Nazis believed in a master race. The militant Islamists believe in a master faith….Militant Islam is on the march. It’s not militants. It’s not Islam. It’s militant Islam….Allowing Iran to reach nuclear capabilities will pose the greatest threat to us all.”

He leads the most faithful and trusted ally America has in the Middle East (and arguably in the world), yet he is persona non grata in the White House, and far closer to his colleagues in Amman and Cairo.

ABDULLAHKing Abdullah II has declared war on ISIS and launch repeated rounds of airstrikes after a Jordanian pilot was burned alive by ISIS. He is pro-Western and has worked closely with the U.S. military and intel community for years.

What’s more, the King and his top advisors are also actively engaged in trying to deconstruct and delegitimize the theology of Radical Islam. In 2005, the King issued the “Amman Message,” a public call for Muslims to reject violent extremism, promote tolerance and moderation, and project innocent human life, based on a “Reformer” interpretation of Islam. Since then, some 552 Muslim leaders, scholars and clerics in 84 countries have signed the document in agreement. He has also worked hard to protect Christian minorities in Jordan.

The King, perhaps America’s most trusted and faithful Arab ally, has the best relationship with Obama of the three — yet it is far from what it should be. The President reportedly was not even planning to meet with His Majesty on his recent trip to Washington, and apparently only changed his plans after learning of the Jordanian pilot’s death. Even then, they met for less than 20 minutes.

El-SISI — President el-Sisi has declared war on the Muslim Brotherhood and other brands of jihad. In the summer of 2013, he and the Egyptian military brought down the Brotherhood that was strangling Egypt and was trying to impose Sharia law. He declared a ferocious war on the lawless jihadists operating in the Sinai desert, shut down many of the smuggling tunnels connecting the Sinai to the Gaza Strip, and committed himself to cutting off the arms and money flowing to the Hamas terror group operating in Gaza.

Most recently, he delivered a major speech in Cairo on January 1, 2015 challenging Muslim leaders to reform Islam and rescue it from the Radicals. “Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants – that is 7 billion – so that they themselves may live? Impossible!” el-Sisi told scholars at Al-Azhar University, the Harvard of Sunni Islam. “We are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world is waiting for your next move….I am saying these words here at Al Azhar, before this assembly of scholars and ulema (learned men) – Allah Almighty be witness to your truth on Judgment Day concerning that which I’m talking about now.”

Yet while el-Sisi has forged excellent working relations with Abdullah and with Netanyahu (especially important during the 2014 war with Hamas), the Obama administration refuses to treat el-Sisi as partner and ally of the United States. Instead, it condemned removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power and called for Mohammed Morsi to be put back into power. (Morsi is the man who famously said during a campaign speech, “The Koran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our path and death in the name of Allah is our goal.”)

Meanwhile, the Obama team has refused to dispense more than $500 million in promised aid to Egypt. A top Egyptian official said U.S-Egyptian relations were in “turmoil” in 2013. The situation remained so bad that in the summer of 2014 el-Sisi declined an invitation from President Obama to come to meet him in Washington.

Two U.S. officials told me of a meeting they had with President el-Sisi in Cairo last year. The Egyptian leader told them he had a better working relationship with Netanyahu than with President Obama.

True, Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, and signed a separate peace treaty with Jordan in 1994. But that has not always meant the countries worked closely together. Indeed, there have been times of much stress and tension in each of these relationships.

But times are changing. The rise of the Radicals, and the retreat of Mr. Obama, is bringing these three leaders together in unexpected ways.

Each sees his country in grave danger from the forces of Radical Islam.

Each has chosen to boldly and aggressively engage in military action against the Radicals to protect their people, despite widespread criticism at home and abroad.

Each is also increasingly speaking out publicly about the nature of the threat — the poisonous, genocidal theology of the jihadists — and each is calling on the world both to understand the threat and help them first contain and then defeat Radical Islam before it is too late.

Yet to their astonishment, Netanyahu, King Abdullah and el-Sisi have come to realize that President Obama and his administration do not fully appreciate the magnitude of the threat, and that the Obama team is not fully committed to taking decisive action to neutralize the threat.

Will this alliance succeed to stopping Iran, ISIS and other Radicals? Only time will tell. But it’s an important — though very sensitive partnership — and one the U.S. should be assisting, not resisting.

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Is the President asking Congress to truly declare all-out war on ISIS? Does he have a strategy to win? Unfortunately, no. Here’s my analysis.

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2015 at 12:50 pm
The President, VP, Secretary of State and Defense Secretary announcing the dangerously inadequate new approach towards ISIS. (Source: Getty Images/WSJ)

The President, VP, Secretary of State and Defense Secretary announcing the dangerously inadequate new approach towards ISIS. (Source: Getty Images/WSJ)

President Obama has just submitted his request for Congress to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State. Does this mean the President is finally getting serious about waging an all-out war to crush the Radical Islamic force commonly known as “ISIS” or “ISIL”? Does he have a strategy to win.

I wish the answer was yes. Unfortunately, I am not convinced. As with his Iran policy, the President appears to want to look like he is taking serious actions, without actually doing anything decisive to solve the grave problems we face.

Let me explain.

First, some facts:

  • “The Obama administration has informed lawmakers that the president will seek a formal authorization to fight the Islamic State that would prohibit the use of ‘enduring offensive ground forces’ and limit engagement to three years,” reports the New York Times. “The approach offers what the White House hopes is a middle way on Capitol Hill for those on the right and left who remain deeply skeptical of its plans to thwart extremist groups.”
  • “The sharpest debate is likely to focus on the prohibition of ‘enduring offensive ground operations,'” notes the Times, adding that “the omission of any language setting geographic boundaries appeared to anticipate the possibility of attacking the group should it gain a foothold in Lebanon or Jordan, which has fought off sporadic attacks from Islamic State fighters. It could also be used to address future threats from small bands of violent Islamist militants in Libya, Yemen and other Middle Eastern and North African countries that have ‘rebranded’ their identities to take the Islamic State name, and benefit from its notoriety, American officials said.”
  • To read the President’s draft resolution to authorize the use of military force (AUMF), please click here.

Second, some analysis:

  • Yes, in keeping with the U.S. Constitution, Congress should absolutely pass a resolution to authorize use of “all means necessary” to defeat ISIS.
  • But this isn’t what the President has requested. The President is not seeking the use of all tools to defeat this barbaric enemy.
  • Rather, his request specifically rules out use of ground forces, even if that is what our commanders deem necessary to protect us from ISIS.
  • Six months into his campaign of limited bombing runs against ISIS, the President and his team have still not developed a serious and comprehensive strategy to truly defeat the Islamic State and protect the American people and our allies from the scourge of Radical Islam.
  • Indeed, the Obama administration refuses to name our enemy “Radical Islam.”
  • This AUMF request is another example of the President engaging in half-measures and trying to “lead from behind” in face of sheer evil, an enemy that is beheading Americans, engaging in genocide, and threatening our security and that of our allies.
  • Tragically, by not taking firm and decisive action against our enemy, the President is foolishly creating conditions for “the gathering storm” of Iran, ISIS and other Radical Islamic to kill many Americans at home and abroad.
  • The President’s policy is also putting our allies such as NATO, Israel, friendly Arab states (like Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Morocco), and others at severe risk of being attacked by ISIS.
  • In The Third Target, I paint a worst-case scenario of what could happen if an American President doesn’t take decisive action against ISIS. I pray what I have written does not come to pass. Indeed, I hope that the debate over the AUMF resolution will help persuade President Obama to take wise and courageous steps to defend America and our allies before it is too late.

Third, some experts:

A growing number of experts on both sides of the aisle say the President has seriously and consistently misunderstood the nature of the ISIS threat, has repeatedly mishandled the situation, and has not shown prudent leadership in Iraq, Afghanistan or throughout the Middle East.

In this context, I commend the following to your attention.

  • “America’s Strategy Deficit,” a must-read op-ed by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal.
  • “National Security Threats,” a recent U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with three expert witnesses: General Jack Keane (ret.), former Vice Chief of the U.S. Army; General James Mattis (ret.), former commander of CENTCOM; and Admiral William “Fox” Fallon (ret.). I watched the entire hearing and highly recommend all of it. But most important was General Keane’s testimony on how al Qaeda/ISIS has grown four-fold in the past six years. (CSPAN video)
  • “National Security Strategy,” a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with three additional expert witnesses: Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, and Madeline Albright. They focused on the Iran nuclear threat, the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the ISIS threat. Kissinger and Shultz are particularly helpful while Albright says that global climate change is the most serious threat facing U.S. national security. (CSPAN video)
  • UPDATE: “Napoleon famously said that in warfare if you vow to take Vienna—take Vienna,” notes a new Wall Street Journal editorial published on Thursday. “President Obama ’s version of that aphorism might be—on the way to Vienna stop to summer in Salzburg, only use air power, and if the fighting isn’t over in a couple of years call the whole thing off. How else to interpret the amazing draft of a resolution that Mr. Obama sent to Congress Wednesday requesting an authorization to use military force against Islamic State? The language would so restrict the President’s war-fighting discretion that it deserves to be called the President Gulliver resolution. Tie me down, Congress, please. Instead of inviting broad political support for defeating ISIS, the language would codify the President’s war-fighting ambivalence.”

Yes, I am critical of the President’s policies. But I refuse to be a cynic. I am praying for him and believe he is smart enough to change direction. The Bible is full of stories of kings whose hearts and policies were changed by the living God. Mr. Obama has two more years in office and we need him to make important course corrections before it is too late. Please join me in faithfully praying for the President and his senior advisors.

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“The Third Target” is now the nation’s Number One best-selling novel in Christian market. Timely thriller about ISIS threat to U.S., Israel & Jordan hits national best-seller lists for 4th straight week.

In Uncategorized on February 10, 2015 at 3:57 pm

TheThirdTarget-smallThe Third Target — a new international political thriller about the threat ISIS poses to the U.S., Israel and Jordan — has landed on several national best-seller lists for the fourth week in a row.

With the ISIS threat dominating global headlines, the novel is currently #12 on the Publishers Weekly hardcover fiction best-seller list. That is up from #13 last week. It debuted at #4 on the PW list last month.

The novel is on the USA Today list for the fourth-straight week, which combines all genres of best-sellers, from hardcover fiction to paperback to children’s and business books.

The Third Target has also now become the nation’s #1 best-selling novel in the Christian market, according to the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association. It is also the #3 book overall in the North American Christian bookselling market, behind two non-fiction titles.

The novel also recently hit the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post hardcover fiction best-seller lists.

Thanks so much to everyone who is reading the book and telling their friends about it. Please continue to post your reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Good Reads, other online book sites and other social media sites, including at the “Epicenter Team” page on Facebook. And please keep praying for the U.S. and our allies to develop a decisive strategy to contain and then defeat ISIS, before they launch new and potentially catastrophic terror attacks.

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Rick & Karen Santorums’ new book reveals how their faith and love were tested by their daughter’s disability. Lynn & I can’t wait to read, “Bella’s Gift.”

In Uncategorized on February 8, 2015 at 8:03 pm
Can't wait to read it -- releases Tuesday.

Can’t wait to read it — releases Tuesday.

If you will allow me, I’m going to post a story here that is not about ISIS, Iran or Israel. It’s not about Radical Islam, or the Middle East, or even about politics.

It’s a story about something much more important — the value of a single, precious life and the heart of a family faced with a choice they never expected.

This is a story about one family’s painful, stressful, immensely challenging journey into the world of having a seriously disabled child. It’s about the enormous pressures that raising a special needs child puts on a marriage (indeed, many couples in this situation get divorced.) It’s about a family’s battle with a medical system that urged the couple to abort their baby, or give up on her from the moment she was born. Ultimately, it’s about this family discovering what an amazing and beautiful gift their little girl really is to them, and to so many others — a gift from a loving and sovereign and Almighty God.

This is the story of Rick and Karen Santorum and their seven children, and the amazing arrival of little Bella.

Lynn and I had dinner with Rick and Karen and some of their friends just before Christmas. We got to hear about the book and how hard it was to write. We also got to see first hand how excited they were about the opportunity to tell the story. Now, because we’re in Israel, we have not had the opportunity to get a copy of Bella’s Gift yet. But we’re so eager to read it, and we hope you will be, too. [order it here]

In the meantime, here’s a fascinating article in today’s Washington Post about why the Santorums decided to tell the story. I commend it to your attention. And when you think of it, please pray for Bella, and her family, and for the many families out there who are raising special needs kids. They are unsung heroes, and they need all the prayers and encouragement and support they can get.

Santorums’ new book reveals how faith and love are tested by a daughter’s disability

By Karen Tumulty and Colby Itkowitz, Washington Post, February 7, 2015

Over and over, Rick Santorum has watched the old video of himself at a presidential candidate forum in Iowa. He can read in his strained expression the struggle that was going on in his mind as he tried to figure out how to answer a challenge put to the Republican contenders: “Bare your soul.”

The shadow on Santorum’s soul was the memory of a time when he hadn’t loved his own child as a father should. Could there be a more grievous sin for a champion of the pro-life movement?

When his turn came to speak, the former senator from Pennsylvania choked on tears and described the birth of his youngest, Isabella Maria Santorum. She has an extra 18th chromosome in every cell of her body, a condition deemed by doctors to be “incompatible with life.”

Until Bella was 5 months old and near death on a gurney in an emergency room, Santorum said, he had deluded himself into believing that “the best thing I could do was to treat her differently and not love her” as he had his six older children.

He had put up his guard, convinced “it wouldn’t hurt as much if I lost her. I remember holding that finger, looking at her and realizing what I had done,” he said. “I had seen her as less of a person.”

The 2,500 religious and social conservatives who were in that Des Moines church three years ago sat in silence, captivated.

Which was not the reaction at his home in Virginia, where his wife was nursing Bella through another harrowing weekend.

Karen Santorum was livid that Rick had violated their agreement to keep the details of their disabled daughter’s condition out of the glare of his 2012 presidential campaign. Worse was the clumsiness with which he had done it.

“That is what was so hurtful. He expressed it in a way that it could be misinterpreted as him not loving Bella, when in fact he did, but he was grieving in the way that he did because he was deflecting,” Karen recalled in an interview alongside her husband.

The Santorums have written a raw and revealing book, “Bella’s Gift,” to be released on Tuesday. The couple say it was intended as a guide for other families in their situation, providing the type of support that they often found lacking.

“By accident, it’s almost a marriage book,” Karen added. “We didn’t sugarcoat anything. We just said it the way it was.”

Theirs has been a shared journey, but one in which they initially found themselves on different paths.

The Santorums each started with a different interpretation of God’s will. Hers was a conviction that providence had put a challenge before them, one that they should fight to overcome. His was an acceptance that it was out of their hands, and that they should come to terms with that.

He was out of step with others in his family as well. There was the time that Rick and his teen daughter, Elizabeth, were putting together a crib for newborn Bella. Rick told Elizabeth to save the box, in case they needed it to send the bed back to the store, because “we just don’t know how long Bella is going to be here.”

He wrote: “I wish I could take those words back, because I’ll never forget the way she looked at me, as though I had not only hurt her but condemned Bella myself. My feisty Lizzie grabbed the box and tore it up as she started to cry.”

“Bella’s Gift” is an un­or­tho­dox volume to put out as Santorum gears up for a second presidential bid.

It is not a campaign manifesto with 10-point policy proposals or grand visions for his party. And it is somewhat off-message, given Santorum’s declaration that he will pivot from social issues to economic ones for 2016.

The book takes him back to old territory — the morality of abortion — which is an option chosen by many facing what their family did.

“Bella gave me the ability to talk about the dignity of every human life without talking about abortion, because there is a bigger issue,” Rick said.

The Santorums wrote their chapters separately, often late at night in their bedroom. Karen got the desktop, leaving Rick to work on the laptop.

As of last week, he still hadn’t read some of the sections she wrote, not wanting to expose himself again to the feelings of that time. “It’s just hard. It’s tough to read sometimes. But I’ve read most of it,” he said…..

[To read the rest of the article, please click here.]

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BREAKING: ISIS targets Jordan, burns pilot alive & releases gruesome video. King Abdullah will meet with President tonight, then cut U.S. visit short to return to Jordan.

In Uncategorized on February 3, 2015 at 10:08 pm
New video shows ISIS burning Jordanian pilot alive. (Photo source: Fox News)

New video shows ISIS burning Jordanian pilot alive. (Photo source: Fox News)

Once again the Islamic State has shown just how evil and barbaric it truly is, and this time it is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan that is in the crosshairs.

ISIS jihadists have burned alive the Jordanian fighter pilot it was holding captive. Today they released a 22 minute video of this savage act for the world to see.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II — denounced as “an ally of the crusaders” by ISIS terrorists in the video — was in Washington on Tuesday for several days of meetings with White House and Congressional leaders. He is now cutting his visit short to return to Amman to manage the crisis. But before he leaves, at 6pm eastern, the King will meet with President Obama to discuss the crisis and how he plans to respond.

“Those who doubted the atrocities committed by ISIS now have the proof,” Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said on state TV, according to CNN. “Those who doubted Jordan’s power will soon see the proof as well. (Al-Kasaesbeh’s) blood will not be shed in vain.”

King Abdullah condemned the murder of the pilot, who he said was “killed in defense of his religion, his country and his (Islamic) nation.” The King then said, “It is the duty of the sons and daughters of Jordan to stand together and show the mettle of the Jordanian people in unity, determination and resolve.”

  • Please pray for the Lord to comfort the family and friends of this pilot.
  • Please pray for the King and his advisors to have wisdom how best to respond.
  • Please pray for this doesn’t cause the Jordanian people to abandon the fight against ISIS — Jordan is one of our most important Arab allies and we need the King and his people to be actively engaged in this monumental fight.
  • Please also pray that President Obama, his administration, and Congress will give their full support to the people and government of Jordan at this critical hour. Jordan needs to know just how must America values them and that we will stand faithfully with them against ISIS.

As readers of The Third Target know, I am deeply concerned that ISIS is plotting major attacks not only against the U.S. and Israel, but also Jordan and other Arab allies in the Middle East. I will write more on all this tomorrow, but right now I think the best thing for Christians around the world to do is to pray for the people and leaders of Jordan.

Here is the latest news as of 5pm eastern, midnight Jordan/Israel time: “A new video that surfaced on the Internet Tuesday shows ISIS burning alive a Jordanian pilot the terror group has held since December — an act that reportedly has prompted Jordan to ready the execution of an unknown number of terrorist prisoners,” reports Fox News.

“The 22-minute video, which Jordan said is authentic, brought a grisly end to speculation into the fate of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, 26, who was captured when his plane crashed during a bombing mission in Syria Dec. 24,” Fox News reported. “The video, which reports said could have been made more than a month ago, shows the pilot standing in a cage with a line of fuel leading to him, which is then ignited, causing him to burst into flames. Islamic State had previously sought to trade Al-Kaseasbeh for Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman who is in a Jordanian prison for her role in a 2005 suicide bomb attack that killed 60 people in Amman.”

“It’s just one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organization,” said President Obama, who planned to meet Tuesday evening with Jordan’s King Abdullah, who was in Washington. “And I think it will redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of the global coalition to make sure that they are degraded and ultimately defeated.”

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Bipartisan support for new Iran sanctions growing, despite Obama’s feverish effort to block them & isolate Netanyahu.

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2015 at 6:48 pm
(Source: Washington Post)

(Source: Washington Post)

(Naples, Florida) — President Obama made three key points regarding the Iranian nuclear threat in his State of the Union address.

First, the President believes his policies are working to prevent Iran from advancing its highly-dangerous nuclear program. “Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material,” the President declared.

Second, the President believes that a truly good and effective diplomatic deal with Iran is not only possible but within reach. “Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran, secures America and our allies — including Israel, while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict,” he told the Joint Session of Congress and the nation.

Third, the President vehemently opposes any effort by Congress to impose new economic sanctions on Iran in order to increase the pressure on Iranian leaders to give up their nuclear-weapons ambitions. “New sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; making it harder to maintain sanctions; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again,” Mr. Obama insisted. “It doesn’t make sense.  And that’s why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.”

The President is wrong on each and every point — the President hasn’t halted Iran’s nuclear progress, the Iranians have made it clear repeatedly they have no intention of signing an agreement giving up their nuclear program, and the only hope for a peaceful settlement of this issue is torqueing up economic sanctions to try to force Iran to give up its program.

Even the liberal media is pointing out the utter nonsense of the President’s claims. And now — despite the White House’s declaration of war not on Iran but on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — bipartisan support for new and tougher economic sanctions on Iran is growing.

Consider the following:

  1. The Washington Post fact-checked the President’s speech and gave him “three Pinocchios” for saying his policies have “halted the progress” of Iran’s nuclear program. “Words have consequences, especially in a State of the Union address,” noted the Post. “The president could have claimed that we’ve slowed the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of the most dangerous nuclear material.’ But instead he choose to make sweeping claims for which there is little basis. Thus he earns Three Pinocchios.” The Post noted that Iranian uranium enrichment has continued to grow every year Mr. Obama has been in office. Iran now has enough nuclear material to produce eight atomic bombs. (see chart)
  2. Ten Democrat Senators sent the President a letter on Tuesday, January 27th, saying they fully support a new sanctions bill and want the President to sign it. “We remain deeply skeptical that Iran is committed to making the concessions required to demonstrate to the world that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful by March 24 – the deadline agreed upon for a political framework agreement,’ the Senators wrote. “Considering Iran’s history in nuclear negotiations and after two extensions of the Joint Plan of Action, we are concerned that Iran is intentionally extending the negotiations to improve its leverage at the negotiating table….We are Democratic supporters of the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2015 – a bill that would impose sanctions on Iran…if Iran fails to reach a comprehensive agreement by the June 30 deadline….We believe that this bill, as introduced, is reasonable and pragmatic, respects the nuclear negotiating timeline, and sends a strong signal to Iran and to the international community that endless negotiations under the interim agreement are dangerous, unacceptable, and could leave Iran with a threshold nuclear weapon capability.”
  3. The Senate Banking Committee passed the Iran Sanctions Bill on Thursday by a bipartisan vote of 18 to 4. Twelve Republicans and six Democrats on the committee voted for the very bill the President threatened to veto.
  4. There is a growing sense on Capitol Hill that Democrats support this sanctions bill, and that even if the President vetoes it, there may be 67 votes to override his veto. Republicans have 54 votes in the Senate and they seem unified at this point (though Sen. Rand Paul has not been good on this issue in the past). The GOP would then need 13 Democrat votes. With ten having signed the letter to the President, only three more would be needed. Senator Bob Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who is a co-author of the bill, says a vote should be taken soon if Iranian leaders drag their feet and aren’t willing to sign a serious deal. What’s more, he told reporters that if a vote is held at the right time, “I believe it would have broad bipartisan support.” As one reporter put it: “The 18-4 committee vote suggests there may be the 67 required votes in the chamber to overturn a veto.”
  5. The President refusal to increase pressure on Iran is precisely why he opposes Netanyahu addressing a Joint Session of Congress on March 3rd — but it is a patently hypocritical position given that the President just deployed British PM David Cameron to lobby Members of Congress to vote against new sanctions. Consider this article that explains how the President is working to sabotage the sanctions bill.

The President does not understand the gathering storm that is building in Iran. He is enraged by Mr. Netanyahu, not by a Radical Islamic power building nuclear weapons capability. Let us pray his eyes are opened soon. The stakes are very high.

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With Iran & ISIS threats rising, why is President Obama turning against Israel? Analysis. (Also: in new video, ISIS threatens to “reach America” & behead President Obama)

In Uncategorized on January 29, 2015 at 4:40 pm
Screen shot of new ISIS video (source: MEMRI/Daily Mail)

Screen shot of new ISIS video (source: MEMRI/Daily Mail)

(Naples, Florida) — Iran’s radical Shia leaders are moving closer and closer to building nuclear weapons and the long-range missiles to hit the U.S., Europe, Israel and our Arab allies.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists just this week attacked, killed and wounded Israelis on the Lebanon border.

Meanwhile, the ISIS threat is growing. They have doubled their territory in Syria, are threatening to behead a Jordanian pilot and a Japanese man, and in a newly released video, ISIS threatens to “reach America” and behead President Obama in the White House. (Please for these hostages to be released quickly and safely. Pray, too, for Jordanian and Japanese leaders to know how best to resolve the situation.)

What’s more, a new Fox News poll finds that 84% of Americans fear ISIS will soon launch terrorist attacks inside the United States. This is an increase of 10 points from a recent survey we conducted finding 74% fear “catastrophic terrorist attacks” by ISIS inside the U.S. if we don’t take decisive action to stop them.

Yet, the big news this week is that the President Obama and his senior advisors at the White House are livid at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. A senior White House advisor recently called Netanyahu a “chickensh–.” The President and his team are “outraged” not at the Islamic Radicals who threaten our country and our allies — Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc — but at Israel’s leader for accepting Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address a Joint Session of Congress on March 3 to discuss the existential threat posed by Iran, ISIS and Radical Islam.

Now we learn that an Obama political strategist is actively working to defeat Netanyahu in the March 17th Israeli elections. Why? Because the President cannot stand Netanyahu and hopes to have a new Israeli leader who is more pliable and willing to make far greater concessions to her enemies. Why? So Mr. Obama can finally ram through an “historic” peace treaty to end the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all — a deal to divide Jerusalem and roll Israel back to her indefensible pre-1967 boundaries.

This is both surreal and dangerous. The Obama administration fundamentally misunderstands the nature and threat of evil. They are acting as if Israel and her leaders pose a greater threat to peace in the Middle East than Iran or ISIS. And if this administration does not change course, America is going to be blindsided by threats our leaders don’t see coming.

A new poll we conducted for the release of The Third Target indicates many Americans think the President is going to turn against Israel in his last two years in office. This week’s behavior by the President reinforces those fears.

The McLaughlin & Associates polling firm asked 1,000 likely American voters the following question: “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘For the past six years, President Obama’s relationship with Israel has been strained at best. He and his advisors don’t simply disagree with Israeli policies. They seem to have a visceral dislike for the Israel’s leaders. Recently, a senior White House official used a vulgar term to describe the Prime Minister of Israel to a reporter. I believe we are watching a train wreck in U.S.-Israeli relations, and after the mid-term elections – when the President no longer faces elections — I am worried that President Obama will abandon Israel and turn U.S. policy harshly against her’?”

  • 47.4% agree
  • 38.4% disagree
  • 14.2% don’t know/refused to answer

Let’s be clear:

  1. Speaker Boehner was absolutely right to invite Israel’s Prime Minister to address Congress and the nation about the threat Radical Islam poses to America, Israel, our Arab allies and Western civilization and what we all need to do to protect ourselves.
  2. As an expert in battling Radical Islam and the leader of our most trusted ally in the Middle East, Mr. Netanyahu was absolutely right to accept this invitation.
  3. The Speaker should have properly notified the President in keeping with established protocol, and Israel’s Ambassador should have discussed the speech with Secretary Kerry.
  4. But the repeated efforts by this administration over the past six years to belittle, dismiss, ignore, undermine and at times humiliate the State of Israel, her people, her leaders, and her legitimate security concerns are appalling and indefensible.
  5. No wonder Americans fear the President will completely turn against Israel over the next two years.
  6. President Obama is playing with fire. When it comes to Israel and the Jewish people, the God of the Bible says very clearly, “I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I will curse.” (Genesis 12:1-3) The Lord is warning individuals, nations and leaders that they will be held accountable for how they treat His Chosen People. America is in enough trouble already. Now is no time to turn against Israel. The President may not be facing the voters again. But he will face God. Let us pray Mr. Obama softens his heart and becomes a great friend and ally of Israel — and soon.

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A NEWS STORY SEEMINGLY RIPPED FROM THE PAGES OF THE THIRD TARGET:

“Islamic State militants have threatened to behead Barack Obama and turn the U.S. into a Muslim province in the latest gruesome video to emerge from their self-styled caliphate,” reports the U.K. Daily Mail. “The footage shows a black-clad jihadist standing over a Kurdish soldier who, in a sickening climax to the video, has his head cut off.”

“Before the hostage is executed, the ISIS fighter warns the U.S. president: ‘Know, oh Obama, that we will reach America. Know also that we will cut off your head in the White House and transform America into a Muslim province.'”

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