With events in the Middle East are moving so rapidly, the plot of my next novel feels like it could unfold at any moment. Let’s pray it does not as it is a worst-case scenario — ISIS with chemical weapons and plans to commit genocide.
THE THIRD TARGET will be released on January 6, 2015 in hardcover, ebook format, and as an audiobook.
Here’s a brief description: “When New York Times foreign correspondent J. B. Collins hears rumors that an al-Qaeda splinter cell — ISIS — has captured a cache of chemical weapons inside Syria, he knows this is a story he must pursue at all costs. Does the commander of the jihadist faction really have the weapons? If so, who is the intended target? The U.S.? Israel? Or someone else? With tensions already high, the impending visit of the American president to the region could prove to be the spark that sets off an explosion of horrendous proportions. Knowing that terrorist forces are already trying to bring down two Arab governments in the region — Iraq and Syria — can Collins uncover the truth before it’s too late? Or will the terrorists succeed in setting their sights on the third target and achieving genocide?”
More details soon.
I hope you will pre-order the book, and also let your family and friends know about it.
In the meantime — and most importantly — please pray faithfully that the U.S. and our allies will work together to stop ISIS and crush it before it’s too late. Thanks and God bless you.
Today is the deadline to end nuclear negotiations with Iran. Not surprisingly, the international community and Iran have not struck a deal. good, bad or otherwise. Now, another seven months has been added to the discussions. Also not surprising.
Now we face several very serious questions.
Is there any hope of ever concluding a solid, useful deal — or is Iran just running the clock?
Will the lack of a deal cause the U.S., Israel, or any country to take preemptive military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities?
From my vantage point, I think the evidence is clear: Iran’s current leaders have absolutely no intention of curtailing much less dismantling their illegal nuclear program. They are gaming the world community as they make significant advances towards The Bomb.
As serious, a former CIA chief now says he doesn’t believe U.S. intelligence is prepared to catch Iran in building a Bomb in the current environment. “The former head of the Central Intelligence Agency warned Thursday that without an ‘invasive inspections regime’ attached to any deal, ‘I am unwilling to guarantee American intelligence can sufficiently verify the agreement on its own,'” reports Roll Call.
An exceeding dangerous moment is coming, largely due to the weakness of Western leaders, our own included.
Is war coming, or is there another way forward? I don’t want to see the U.S. or Israel or any other country have to go to war to destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities. But we dare not allow the genocidal mullahs in Tehran to have the capacity to build nuclear weapons, much less the weapons themselves.
On Wednesday, two Evangelical Christian leaders and I published an op-ed laying out criteria by which we — and many — Christians will be assessing 2016 presidential contenders.
The following is an article by a Washington Post columnist who has reviewed the op-ed and found intriguing the high priority we place on carefully evaluating a candidate’s approach towards Israel, Radical Islam, Iran and the future of U.S. foreign policy and national security policy. Worth reading….
By Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, November 19, 2014
We have often stressed how critical national security is to Christian conservatives and therefore how important it will be in the GOP presidential primaries in 2016. More proof of that comes in an op-ed by three prominent Christian conservative leaders.
Joel C. Rosenberg, a former senior adviser on two U.S. presidential campaigns, Penny Nance, CEO and President of Concerned Women for America, and Ralph Reed, the founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, write in the Christian Post: “Abroad, Americans see respect for our country evaporating. Our enemies don’t fear us. Our friends don’t trust us. Americans are deeply concerned about the rising threats from Russia, China and Radical Islam, as well as a porous — and dangerous — southern border. With a shrinking military and a weak and indecisive president in the White House, Americans see our enemies moving aggressively into a vacuum of Washington’s own making, putting our own security and that of our friends and allies in grave danger.”
It is noteworthy that two of their seven criteria for picking a president concern foreign policy:
NATIONAL SECURITY — Does the candidate have demonstrated wisdom and proven experience on defense and foreign policy issues? What does he or she believe constitutes America’s most vital national interests, those essential to protect and defend? Does he or she truly believe in a policy of “Peace Through Strength” and have a credible plan to rebuild the military, and a plan to protect our borders and national sovereignty? Does he or she have a solid team of qualified, seasoned advisors, especially on matters related to the defense, the Middle East, Russia, Asia, and energy? . . .
ISRAEL AND RADICAL ISLAM — Does the candidate have a clear and coherent view of U.S. vital interests in the Middle East, including a demonstrated, consistent, long-standing support for Israel and a solid understanding of why Israel matters to the U.S.? Does the candidate have a clear understanding of the urgency of the threats posed by Iran, ISIS, and Radical Islam more broadly, and a serious approach towards dealing with such threats? Does he or she have proven wisdom and experience in dealing with the Middle East issues, or is the candidate too new to the foreign policy arena?
The wording for the last criteria is telling and bears emphasis. They don’t want someone who has suddenly come up with an acceptable position on Israel in time for the presidential race. They want someone with “demonstrated, consistent, long-standing support for Israel.” It is not enough to understand threats; a viable candidate must have a “serious approach” to addressing them (no, for example, we don’t win over dictators by trade or incur goodwill by shutting down Gitmo) and “proven wisdom and experience” on the Middle East. A candidate “too new” to foreign policy need not apply.
Let me translate that into some specific terms (my words, not theirs):
If you have bounced around on whether the Islamic State is a serious threat or not, you’re in trouble with these people.
If you want to cut the military or can’t decide if we need more spending on defense, you are going to face a skeptical crowd.
If you think we can live with a nuclear Iran, forget about it.
Are you a Johnny-come-lately in the army of pro-Israel Americans? You’re in for a rough ride.
If you want to dismantle proven anti-terror tools, you better have a really good reason.
If you haven’t cracked a briefing book by now, let alone held a national security position, you will likely flop.
And if you have yet to assemble a sophisticated national security team it may be too late.
The trio is smart, I think, to set forth these criteria. There is no one road to becoming an effective commander in chief, although some executive experience is a big help. (Ronald Reagan was a governor. Dwight D. Eisenhower was a general. George H.W. Bush was an ambassador, CIA director and vice president.) But what matters is the candidate’s depth of understanding, consistency of thought,world view and experience.
Leaders in the value voters community like Rosenberg, Nance and Reed are serious in their foreign policy views and will be exacting in their examination of candidates. No one is going to coast by on talking points or charm.
Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.
Five innocent people, including three Americans with dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, were murdered in Tuesday morning’s horrific terrorist attack in Jerusalem. The continued violence in Israel and constant turmoil in the Middle East makes a clear and comprehensive foreign policy agenda a must for any serious presidential candidate in 2016.
In a piece in today’s Christian Post, Penny Nance, Ralph Reed and I explain why support for Israel should be a centerpiece of that foreign policy. We also outline six other crucial positions that Evangelical Christian voters will be looking for in the next President.
One relevant excerpt reads: “ISRAEL AND RADICAL ISLAM — Does the candidate have a clear and coherent view of U.S. vital interests in the Middle East, including a demonstrated, consistent, long-standing support for Israel and a solid understanding of why Israel matters to the U.S.? Does the candidate have a clear understanding of the urgency of the threats posed by Iran, ISIS, and Radical Islam more broadly, and a serious approach towards dealing with such threats? Does he or she have proven wisdom and experience in dealing with the Middle East issues, or is the candidate too new to the foreign policy arena?”
Here is the full article — please post your comments on the “Epicenter Team” page on Facebook and on Twitter, and please share with others.
Now that the mid-term elections are over, the political class is pivoting its attention to 2016. Most Americans aren’t yet focused on electing our next president, but make no mistake: the potential candidates are already heavily engaged in running for that job.
One sign of the early activity is that the “Evangelical Primary” is already in full swing. According to network exit polls in 2012, self-identified evangelical Christians comprised 51 percent of all the votes cast in Republican presidential preference primaries and caucuses. So no one seeking the GOP nomination in 2016 can afford to ignore this vital and dynamic constituency. There is simply no viable road to the presidency for a Republican candidate who fails to win strong support from voters of faith.
The 2014-midterm elections confirmed the persistent and enduring potency of the evangelical constituency in American politics. According to a post-election survey by Public Opinion Strategies, Christian conservatives and Evangelicals comprised 32 percent of the electorate, voting 86 percent Republican and 12 percent for Democratic candidates. They were the largest and most vibrant single voting bloc in the midterm electorate, larger than the African-American vote, Hispanic vote, union vote, and “gay” vote combined.
For that reason, Republicans eyeing the White House are actively courting Evangelical Christian leaders and grassroots activists and have been for months. They know Evangelicals dominate the vote in early caucus and primary states like Iowa and South Carolina. Thus, a candidate in 2016 that can win over and hold the trust and enthusiastic support of the bulk of Evangelicals would likely win those states, and much of the South and Midwest, and have a clear shot at the Republican nomination.
Evangelicals, therefore, must choose wisely. We have a unique opportunity to help preserve our nation’s liberty and prosperity for future generations by choosing the right nominee and turning out en masse at the polls. But who and what are we looking for exactly? Space does not permit a comprehensive list here, but we believe it is important right up front to set forth some basic principles that should guide our selection process.
It has been said that a great leader, in addition to having solid moral character and being above reproach, has two essential tools: a compass, and a magnet. We wholeheartedly agree.
Great leaders have a clear sense of direction. They know where to go, and they are going to the right place. They understand the enormous challenges that lie ahead. They also have both a broad vision and a carefully thought-through plan to achieve it.
Yet great leaders do not merely have a compass. They also have a magnet, a winsome capacity to draw people onto their team, persuade them to follow, and inspire them to play their part in implementing the plan. Such leaders can connect with factory workers and business owners, with young people and seniors, singles, couples and parents, people of faith and those for whom faith is not a central part of their lives. Indeed, we would argue that this intangible quality of empathy and the ability to connect with voters is essential not only to winning elections, but to governing. It’s not enough to have thoughtful positions on key issues if the majority of voters don’t believe you care for them and have their best interests at heart.
Now more than ever, our ship of state needs a great leader at the helm who has the wisdom, experience, and deep personal resolve to steer our nation back to greatness.
A recent CBS News poll found 65 percent of Americans believe the U.S. is on the wrong track. A mere 29 percent believe we are on the right track. The reasons are clear enough. At home, Americans see millions unemployed or underemployed. They see stagnant wages, factories closing, and jobs moving overseas. They see families disintegrating, a plague of violent crime and drugs, a relentless assault against faith and traditional values, a $17 trillion-plus national debt that is rapidly climbing with no apparent end in sight, and a culture of scandal, ineptitude, and incompetence in Washington. No wonder average Americans feel abandoned and exasperated.
Abroad, Americans see respect for our country evaporating. Our enemies don’t fear us. Our friends don’t trust us. Americans are deeply concerned about the rising threats from Russia, China and Radical Islam, as well as a porous — and dangerous — southern border. With a shrinking military and a weak and indecisive president in the White House, Americans see our enemies moving aggressively into a vacuum of Washington’s own making, putting our own security and that of our friends and allies in grave danger. And if this were not enough, they fear the future of their children will not be nearly as bright as it was for them.
There is no question that America is in a state of decline. But the situation is actually more serious than that. The United States faces outright collapse if we do not soon make fundamental and serious changes at home and abroad.
There are several reasons, but consider just one: our fiscal situation. As 80 million-plus Baby Boomers begin to retire, we face upwards of $55 trillion in unfunded entitlement liabilities on top of the nearly $20 trillion national debt. When it comes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the politicians in Washington have made the American people promises regarding retirement income and benefits they simply do not have the money to pay for unless they impose massive tax increases and borrow unprecedented amounts of money from foreign governments. Yet such actions would destroy jobs, suffocate our economy, and undermine our national sovereignty. And when those bills come due, how will we also pay for a strong American military or maintain any of the federal government’s other essential services?
That said, most Evangelicals understand that not all of our daunting challenges can — or should — be solved by Washington. Some important matters need to be handled at the state and local level. Others can best be solved by businesses, churches, families, and other civic institutions.
Above all, America needs the help of Divine Providence. We have faced enormously difficult times in the past. Yet, by the grace of Almighty God, we have also seen Great Awakenings in American history. The first game-changing series of spiritual revivals occurred in the U.S. in the 1700s. Another took place in the 1800s. During these eras, Americans who had been drifting from spiritual matters and thus seeing increases in alcoholism, crime, and other social troubles, suddenly turned back to a deep faith in Jesus Christ and returned to church in massive numbers. They once again became passionate about raising healthy families, educating their children, caring for the needy and vulnerable among them, and building strong, vibrant, healthy communities without an over-dependence on government. They realized afresh that a self-governing society needs to be made up of self-governing individuals and families. And in the wake of these Great Awakenings came the greatest era of business entrepreneurship, technological innovation, economic growth, social reform, military might, and religious devotion the world has ever seen.
Today, we need a new Great Awakening. To truly get America back on the right course, we urgently need to humble ourselves and pray — faithfully and consistently — for God to give our country a series of spiritual, social and sweeping national revivals that will truly transform individuals, families and our culture. The challenges we face as a nation are simply too great to be solved by our own efforts. We need God’s help.
In the meantime, we must faithfully do our part. There are vital matters that leaders in Washington — and particularly the American president — are uniquely called upon to handle in our constitutional form of government. Thus, the process of choosing our next leaders is all the more important, and we must approach the process with the utmost care and sobriety.
For one thing, given such high stakes, we cannot afford another inexperienced, untested president. We simply do not have the luxury of choosing someone who gives great speeches but has little or no record of solid leadership and proven results.
Rather, at this moment in history, we need a president with broad national and international experience, a leader who:
Truly understands and can explain the increasingly precarious position in which America finds itself;
Will lay out a bold but realistic set of reforms at the federal level to lead American renewal at home and abroad;
Will focus Washington like a laser on the urgent priorities for which the federal government has clear Constitutional authority, and entrust the rest to the States and the American people in keeping with the 10th Amendment;
Will set aside petty partisanship and politics-as-usual sniping and bring the people, Congress, and the States together behind honest, principled, commonsense solutions;
Can inspire and encourage the American people through the long and challenging process of reform, and simultaneously rebuild trust with our friends and allies around the world;
Truly understands that America was built with the help of Divine Providence, needs God’s help to rebuild and revive this “shining city on a hill,” and will not be afraid to speak to the importance of religious faith and freedom in the history of the American Experiment.
Specifically, Evangelicals will be evaluating each candidate for president on at least seven critical sets of issues:
LIFE— What position does the candidate hold on the issue of protecting innocent human life, in the area of abortion as well as euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, and the rationing of care to the elderly, disabled, and infirm? Does he or she agree with the signers of the Declaration that the right to life comes before the right to liberty, and that these rights are endowed to us by our Creator, not by the state? Does he or she have proven, consistent experience championing the rights of the unborn? And will he or she continue to champion a culture that respects the sanctity of innocent human life, from conception to natural death?
MARRIAGE— What position does the candidate hold on the vital social and enculturating institution of marriage? Does he or she have proven, consistent experience defending and promoting marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman? And as president, how will he or she not only defend but esteem and encourage the institution of healthy, lasting, natural marriages going forward? Does the candidate understand that poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and a host of social pathologies are to a great extent a reflection of the decline in marriage and the disintegration of the family?
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY— Does the candidate truly understand why the issue of religious liberty was so important to our Founding Fathers and the future of the country? Does he or she have proven, consistent experience defending religious freedom? As president, how will he or she advance this issue in light of current and growing assaults?
NATIONAL SECURITY— Does the candidate have demonstrated wisdom and proven experience on defense and foreign policy issues? What does he or she believe constitutes America’s most vital national interests, those essential to protect and defend? Does he or she truly believe in a policy of “Peace Through Strength” and have a credible plan to rebuild the military, and a plan to protect our borders and national sovereignty? Does he or she have a solid team of qualified, seasoned advisors, especially on matters related to the defense, the Middle East, Russia, Asia, and energy?
ISRAEL AND RADICAL ISLAM— Does the candidate have a clear and coherent view of U.S. vital interests in the Middle East, including a demonstrated, consistent, long-standing support for Israel and a solid understanding of why Israel matters to the U.S.? Does the candidate have a clear understanding of the urgency of the threats posed by Iran, ISIS, and Radical Islam more broadly, and a serious approach towards dealing with such threats? Does he or she have proven wisdom and experience in dealing with the Middle East issues, or is the candidate too new to the foreign policy arena?
ECONOMIC GROWTH— Does the candidate have a realistic vision of how to revive the growth of the American economy and family incomes by unleashing free market forces and job growth? Does he or she have a bold, yet carefully thought-through tax reform plan? Has the candidate and his team subjected their plan to economic modeling and truly understand the implications of what they are proposing? At the same time, does the candidate have a plan for America to achieve energy independence; a serious approach to reforming and strengthening Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; a credible plan to reduce the size and scope of the federal government, balance the federal budget and stop borrowing from foreign countries; and a principled plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with family-and-freedom-friendly health care reforms?
THE RULE OF LAW— Can we trust this candidate to truly govern according to the entire U.S. Constitution? Does he or she have a deep understanding of the importance, in particular, of the First and Second Amendments? Does he or she have a deep and convincing commitment to clean up the scandals in Washington and restore the rule of law in America, based upon the U.S. Constitution? Can we trust this candidate to appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court and the federal courts, and to urgently reform the IRS, the Justice Department, Homeland Security, and the Secret Service to ensure justice and domestic tranquility, according to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution?
To be clear: it won’t be enough this time around for a candidate to simply have the “right position” on issues that matter to Evangelicals. We will need to see longstanding leadership on these issues. And we will need to see specific reform proposals.
With the threats facing the country so great, it is political malpractice for a candidate to present himself as a serious contender for the American presidency without having developed thoughtful, credible reform plans to protect America and lead an American Renewal. Any candidate who is considering throwing his or her hat into the ring must take the time to carefully develop their analysis of the nation’s challenges and their plans for keeping our ship of state from listing or breaking up. As the campaign unfolds, voters have the right to hear the candidates lay out their reform proposals, and the responsibility to evaluate those proposals carefully.
That said, effective governance requires more than men and women with solid experience and the right ideas. It also requires men and women with the demonstrated ability to lead in three key areas:
TEAM-BUILDING: Does the candidate have a team of political advisors, strategists, pollsters, and policy advisors who have a proven record of winning, and does he or she listen to wise counsel? Are they surrounded by seasoned and respected advisors who can help them govern the nation and oversee the implementation of these reforms if they win?
FUND-RAISING: Is the candidate capable of assembling a team of major donors, bundlers, and grassroots supporters who can truly fund a winning national campaign? Barack Obama raised $1 billion in 2012. Anyone who hopes to win the presidency in 2016 will have to raise a similar amount.
COMMUNICATIONS: Does the candidate have the wherewithal to earn the nation’s trust to be the next president of the United States in word and deed? Does he or she have the ability to connect with voters who might not have considered voting conservative or Republican in the past? Is their rhetorical and personal style one of offering hope as opposed to pessimism? In this high-speed, high-tech media culture, does he or she consistently demonstrate the ability to truly and effectively communicate a powerful message of American Renewal at home, and American leadership abroad, or at least give evidence of the ability to grow more effective as a communicator during the course of the campaign? Can he or she learn quickly from mistakes, and make course corrections on the move? What’s more, can the candidate withstand the pressure cooker environment of a national campaign, maintain message discipline and a positive approach, and not crack under pressure?
What happens if several candidates emerge that seem equally qualified and compelling based on these criteria? Then we must go deeper and examine their record and proposals on other critical issues that matter to us, from education reform, to how best to deal with immigration matters, to how to revitalize manufacturing and revive America’s cities, to how best to reform welfare and give people an incentive to work, and so forth.
Given the nature of a free society and the rambunctious quality of our democracy, it is highly unlikely that Evangelicals — or any other single constituency — will line up behind a single candidate from the beginning. Reasonable people of good will often disagree, and some will have longtime personal or political relationships with candidates that impose a measure of loyalty and fidelity. This is all to the good. There is much to recommend Evangelicals having a presence and voice in more than one campaign. Indeed, attempting to “anoint” a single candidate early on without regard to the conservative issue positions, solid character, and personal faith of others may be impossible.
We should also remember that Evangelicals are not, as the Washington Post infamously labeled them some years ago, “poor, uneducated, and easy to command.” They are not bleating sheep who docilely and obediently take orders from leaders. To a great extent, the “Evangelical choice” will be determined by the political marketplace, at the grassroots, driven by candidate performance and who consistently makes the most compelling case for their candidacy and their vision for the country.
Evangelicals should be prudent as well as principled. They would do well to remember the Bill Buckley rule of voting for the most conservative candidate who can actually win. We cannot wait for a perfect candidate. None exist. Thus, we must not set our standards unattainably high. Yet we must be careful not to set our standards too low, or allow ourselves to be sloppy — or too hasty — in how we vet the candidates. The white heat of a campaign has a way of helping voters see more clearly the essence of a candidate’s character and ideas. So we must watch and listen carefully, and pray for wisdom and discernment. And then, when the moment is right, Evangelicals need to coalesce behind a specific candidate, and do everything we can to help him or her win the White House and get this great country back on track.
So, as we begin the search, what are Evangelicals looking for exactly?
We need a leader with unimpeachable moral character, deeply-held core principles, and both the experience and the wisdom to pursue them in the face of intense opposition and despite repeated setbacks. We need to seek a leader with a clear vision and a convincing plan. We need leaders with an outsider mentality but a clear understanding of how to govern. That is, we need someone with a good compass and a clear road map.
But we also need someone with a magnet. We need a candidate who is able to persuade people to follow, someone able to communicate effectively amidst a hostile media environment. We need someone able to recruit and build a team, keep them encouraged and motivated, funded and focused, even as the team keeps growing and growing, and even as the complexities and challenges of the team mount exponentially throughout the campaign.
Now more than ever, America needs a great leader at the helm. We need someone equipped with two essential tools: a compass and a magnet.
Let the search begin.
# # #
Joel C. Rosenberg, a former senior advisor on two U.S. presidential campaigns, is the New York Times best-selling author of numerous books including, Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic & Spiritual Challenges In Time?
Penny Nance is CEO and President of Concerned Women for America (CWA), the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization with more than 500,000 participating members across the country.
Ralph Reed is the founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a senior advisor on multiple presidential campaigns, former executive director of the Christian Coalition, and author of numerous best-selling books including, Awakening: How America Can Turn from Economic and Moral Destruction Back to Greatness.
There are a range of different categories of nominated books. Please browse through all of them and vote for your favorites, whatever they are. Please use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media to let friends know about the awards and get them involved, as well. Thanks again!
On the eve of the conclusion of the nuclear negotiations, Iran’s “Supreme Leader” is again calling for the “elimination” of Israel. Here are the nine points he is making.
November 24th is the deadline.
By then, the international community’s negotiations with Iran over its illegal nuclear program are set to conclude.
But there are four big problems.
First, Iran is giving no evidence that it willing to make any significant concessions. It refuses to reduce its capabilities to enrich uranium to military/bomb grade, much less eliminate them all together.
Second, the U.S. and the Western powers look like they are ready to make major concessions. Indeed, even extending the negotiations (for a second time) will be a major gain for Iran.
By Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz, op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, published on Nov. 12, 2014
Let’s assume the Iranian nuclear talks in Vienna fail to conclude a final agreement by Nov. 24, the already extended deadline under the interim Joint Plan of Action signed in January. Iran’s clerical regime has refused to give much ground in key areas, and the Obama administration has, so far, been unwilling to meet Iranian demands. If the White House doesn’t end November with a cascade of concessions leading to a deal, there are four paths forward. None is appealing. Two might be effective—but the president is unlikely to choose either one.
The deadline is approaching with dwindling hope for a deal in part because Iran has already gotten so much that it wants. During the 2012 negotiations leading to the interim deal, the White House accommodated Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ’s red lines against reducing enrichment capacity and foreclosing an industrial-size program.
Iran thus got its wish to continue programs for uranium enrichment, long-range ballistic missiles and centrifuge development. Iran further refused to accept intrusive U.N. or other inspections, balked at dismantling the heavy-water reactor at Arak, and declined to discuss past weaponization research. It also won agreement that any restrictions on its nuclear program would be of limited duration. Tehran has treated the U.S. concessions to its demands as permanent—effectively making further diplomatic advances contingent on greater Western “flexibility.”
Washington keeps trying to tiptoe around Mr. Khamenei’s red lines. Take the recent American suggestion that Iran disconnect all “excess” centrifuges and cascade piping used in uranium enrichment at Iran’s Natanz facility—and retire around 14,000 first-generation machines into storage under United Nations safeguards. That plan is likely a nonstarter: Mr. Khamenei has adamantly opposed any reduction in enrichment capacity.
If there is no final deal this month, other scenarios arise.
First: The White House could give up on diplomacy and pre-emptively strike Iran’s nuclear sites. Although this option could seriously, even terminally, damage Tehran’s nuclear program, it is highly unlikely. Mr. Obama is too cautious to do something so aggressive. His entire political agenda and moral philosophy on American disengagement from the Muslim Middle East would collapse after a bombing raid.
Second: The administration could give up on the current talks and default back to sanctions, but again trying to undercut their seriousness, as the president attempted to do in 2011 and 2012. Congress imposed the most economically painful measures—targeting Iran’s oil exports, central bank and access to the Swift interbank system—over his objections. The president has always hoped that “rationality” would take hold in Tehran, that the regime would see the economic benefits that come with good behavior. The Islamic Republic has enjoyed an economic reprieve, thanks to Mr. Obama’s decision last year to de-escalate sanctions pressure by blocking new congressional action and giving billions of dollars in direct sanctions relief as part of the interim deal.
Third: New, even more biting sanctions could be enacted, causing Tehran considerable pain. Current energy markets, with a declining price for crude, offer ample room for Congress to threaten sanctions against any country’s central bank involved in buying Iran’s oil exports, or in giving Tehran access to oil revenues now being held overseas and available only for trade with Iran’s five main oil buyers—China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey. But could the sanctions take effect fast enough?
We don’t know the Islamic Republic’s timeline for a bomb. The U.S. needs intelligence sources inside the upper reaches of Iran’s nuclear establishment to know how advanced the regime is with building triggering devices—and it is clear, from official discussions of past National Intelligence Estimates, that the Central Intelligence Agency hasn’t had such sources.
Through the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspections, the U.S. has measured the regime’s advance in producing uranium and plutonium, which is technically the hardest and most expensive part of building weapons, and can calculate accordingly. Given these advances, new sanctions would have to hit like a tidal wave over the next year to bring greater Iranian flexibility and openness to renewed negotiations.
The wiser bet is that sanctions—though important in restoring the U.S.’s negotiating leverage—will fail without other forms of coercion. And Ayatollah Khamenei, if he isn’t otherwise deterred, may well respond to new, economy-crushing sanctions by accelerating the nuclear program, presenting Mr. Obama with the choice he most dreads: launch militarily strikes or accept Iran as a nuclear state.
Which brings us to option four: The White House could try to reinforce new sanctions with the credible show of military force to intimidate the Iranian regime. President Hasan Rouhani has rather pleadingly confessed in speeches and in his memoirs that the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 scared the clerical regime and led him to advocate, as Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003-05, a tactical pause in the regime’s nuclear aspirations.
To achieve a more lasting impression now would require a significant military operation. Only one target would serve that purpose: Bashar Assad. Syria is Iran’s most helpful ally among Arab states. Taking Mr. Assad down would let Tehran know that America’s withdrawal from the Middle East and President Obama’s dreams of an entente with Iran are over.
Taking out Mr. Assad is unavoidable if Washington is serious about stopping the radicalization of Syria’s Sunni population and getting their help in defeating the radical Islamic State, also known as ISIS. And such an about-face by Washington would be shocking—perhaps paralyzing—in Tehran. Yet it is hard to imagine Mr. Obama taking such action.
Which means that Washington and its European allies will most likely angle for another extension of the talks. Ayatollah Khamenei may accept. The Iranian economy, despite the oil-price drop, has been noticeably improving since the interim deal was concluded in January—and the continuation of the talks poses no threat to further nuclear progress.
It is doubtful, though, that things will remain static. Ayatollah Khamenei has no intention of “freezing” Iran’s nuclear advance. The weapons program has developed massively on his watch, and in his eyes it is probably essential for the survival of the revolution. Another one of the program’s founding fathers, President Rouhani—in whom the Obama administration has put so much hope—almost certainly agrees that retreat is not an option.
For the White House, seeking another extension is probably appealing. The only question, then, is whether Mr. Khamenei will agree to it, and how many more billions in reduced leverage it will cost us. This fearful diplomacy will lead inevitably, as it did with North Korea, to the bomb.
Mr. Gerecht, a former CIA Iranian-targets officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Mr. Dubowitz is the foundation’s executive director and heads its Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance.
“His Majesty King Abdullah holds talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Amman on Thursday.” (Photo courtesy of Royal Court/AFP/Jordan Times)
(Central Israel) — Radical Islamists are trying hard to ignite a “Third Intifada,” engulf Jerusalem in violence, and blow up relations between Israel and Jordan, twenty years after the two countries courageously signed a peace treaty.
A close look at events here in recent weeks suggest that without much prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, wise leadership, patient diplomacy, and the grace of God, the Radicals could very well succeed.
But they haven’t yet. With violence in and around Jerusalem spiking, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Amman on Thursday evening for emergency talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Secretary of State John Kerry. The goal: to find a way to de-escalate tensions — quickly and carefully.
The three leaders also held a conference call with Egyptian President al-Sisi.
Initial reports indicate the meetings went well. All four men know the most grave threats to the region are Iran and ISIS and that they need to work together to survive. None want to allow the Radicals divide them at this critical time. But each knows events could spin out of control.
Please keep praying for peace.
Pray for these leaders and their families, for wisdom and protection.
Pray also for the Lord to show Christians how best to serve these leaders and help them work for peace and security for everyone in the epicenter, Jews, Muslims and Christians.
In the meantime, here is a timeline of the latest developments:
October — Anti-Israeli riots and violence erupt on Temple Mount.
October 8th — “With the opening of the Temple Mount to visitors…dozens of masked Palestinians threw rocks and shot fireworks towards the police forces stationed in the Mughrabi Gate area, lightly injuring three officers,” reported the Jerusalem Post.
October 30th — Israeli officials then briefly closed the Temple Mount to all visitors to reestablish order, while Fatah declared a “day of rage” in Jerusalem. “Police commander Edri also decided to restrict Friday Muslim prayers on the Temple Mount to men over the age of 50 and women of all ages,” reported Haaretz. “His decision was based on intelligence information that Palestinian youths intend to disturb the peace at the conclusion of the prayers.”
October and November — Increased Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israelis, using knives and cars.
November 5th — The government of Jordan suddenly recalled its Ambassador to Israel.
“Jordan has expressed growing alarm over Israeli actions in Jerusalem culminating in last week’s one-day closure of the sacred compound housing Al Aqsa mosque — a move that infuriated the Jordanian king, who is its official custodian,” reported Reuters. “Tensions over the compound, the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest place in Judaism, have fueled daily clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in Jerusalem in recent weeks. Jordan’s government spokesman, Mohammad al-Momani, said Israeli security forces raided the compound’s main mosque on Wednesday, describing this as ‘a dangerous escalation.'”
Haaretz reported: “Jordan’s ambassador was not recalled on a whim. The move was coordinated with the United States, in talks held in Paris between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, and follows a long list of what Jordan says are Israeli efforts to Judaize all of Jerusalem and seize control of the holy sites on the Temple Mount. The formal explanation for Jordan’s move is derived from Israel’s obligation to consider Jordan’s preferred status with regard to the holy places, and coordinate any steps taken there with Amman.”
November 6th — Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called King Abdullah II to reassure him that the status quo agreement with Jordan regarding the Temple Mount would not change. “Netanyahu undertook to ensure the maintenance of the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during a phone conversation with King Abdullah II of Jordan on Thursday,” reported Haaretz. “The phone call was initiated by Netanyahu. A statement published by the Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu also undertook to preserve the special status of Jordan regarding the Temple Mount and the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, as specified in the peace agreement between the two countries. “Both leaders called for the immediate cessation of violent actions and incitement,’ Netanyahu’s bureau said. During the conversation, King Abdullah told Netanyahu that Jordan stands in absolute opposition to any action that infringes on the holiness of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, endangers it, or presents a change in the status quo. The Jordanian news agency Petra reported that Netanyahu promised Abdullah he would move to decrease the tensions in Jerusalem.”
November 9th — King Abdullah II canceled Jordan’s participation in a planned event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty. The King “ordered two of his ministers — the Minister of Water and the Minister of Energy — and some 40 other Jordanian officials not to attend the 20th anniversary ceremony which is scheduled to be held in the Jordan Valley between the two countries,” reported
November 9th — Jordan’s Prime Minister ruled out the notion of canceling or ending the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, but condemned Israeli actions that appear to be changing the status quo agreement regarding the Dome of the Rock and the Islamic religious sites there. “The ongoing tension over Jerusalem’s flashpoint al-Aqsa Mosque compound is inflicting a ‘stab wound’ on the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said on Sunday, though he said Amman would not cancel the 20-year agreement,” reported the Times of Israel. “Israel and Jordan are committed to peace and to respect the peace treaty, but this commitment is not just applicable to one side, it is a commitment by both,” Ensour told reporters in Amman. “Ensour said Israel’s actions at the site were the result of a ‘clear’ policy aimed at changing the decades-long status quo at the site, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews,” noted the Times. “‘The Jordanian government condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the events of recent weeks in Jerusalem, which are not the result of administrative errors or acts by a few extremists but rather a clear government plan to change the realities at the holy places,’ he continued. Months of unrest in and around the plaza have been triggered by Palestinian fears that Israel was preparing to change the status quo to allow Jews to pray there — a suggestion that has been repeatedly rejected by Israel.”
November 12th — The King met with Palestinian Authority leader Abbas and condemns Israel. “Jordan’s King Abdullah II met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday, after which the leader of the Hashemite Kingdom issued harsh criticism against the ‘utterly condemnable’ Israeli ‘provocations’ at the Temple Mount,” reported the Times of Israel, based on Jordanian news services. “‘The King reiterated that Israel’s repeated aggressions, provocative actions in Jerusalem, and targeting of the holy sites, especially the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Al Haram Sharif, were utterly condemnable, adding that the continuation of the settlement policy will undermine all efforts to revive the peace efforts,’ a statement published by the official Petra News Agency said.”
November 13th — Netanyahu met in Amman with King Abdullah and Secretary Kerry.
“His Majesty King Abdullah on Thursday hosted a trilateral meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cool tempers arising as a result of Israeli policies in Jerusalem, which Amman has labelled as ‘provocative,'” reported Agence France Presse and the Jordan Times. “Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi joined the Amman meeting over the phone. According to a Royal Court statement, the three sides also discussed ways to create a climate encouraging the revival of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. Netanyahu, the statement said, ‘reasserted Israel’s commitment to keep the status quo in Jerusalem’s holy sites without change… and respect Jordan’s Hashemite leaders’ historical role as custodians of holy sites in Jerusalem.’ During the meeting, His Majesty emphasised Jordan’s stand on the situation in Jerusalem, reiterating a call on Tel Aviv to take practical steps to keep the situation there intact, especially at Al Aqsa Mosque and its vicinity. Earlier this month, Jordan recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv to protest Israeli practices in the holy city, particularly the repeated violations of the sanctity of Al Haram Al Sharif compound, which houses Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest shrine to Muslims all over the world.”
“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did not attend a meeting among Kerry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II,” reported the Times of Israel. “Kerry said it was ‘not the right moment’ for Abbas and Netanyahu to meet. Kerry said Abbas told him would do ‘everything possible to prevent [further] violence.’ ‘We must create a climate where we can move forward in a positive and constructive way,’ Kerry said at a press conference with the Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh following the summit. ‘There is an urgent need to address these greatest tensions, and an imperative need to uphold the status quo at the Temple Mount,’ he said, adding that the sides must take ‘take affirmative steps to prevent violence and incitement.’….Kerry also praised the ‘enormously constructive role of Jordan in trying to resolve these challenges.’ He said Israel and Jordan, which has custodial rights at the Temple Mount, had also agreed to take steps to ‘de-escalate the situation’ in Jerusalem and to ‘restore confidence.'”
November 14th — Israel’s Ambassador to Jordan praised the King as a moderate leader in the region. “Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Daniel Nevo lauded the Hashemite monarch King Abdullah II on Friday morning as a vital moderator in the region at a time when Israeli-Palestinian tensions were flaring,” reported the Jerusalem Post. “Israel recognizes the importance of King Abdullah as the custodian of Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem,” Nevo told Army Radio. “We have never renounced this [position] – on the contrary, we try to clarify it and collaborate as much a possible….[Abdullah] is very significant in Jordan and to the world, because the king is very harshly criticized when there is tumult.”
There is something very exciting happening in the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) I want to bring to your attention.
You may recall that last June I wrote that Dr. Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Churchin northwest Arkansas, had just been elected to be President of the Southern Baptist Convention, and that he was making prayer for a Third Great Awakening a top priority inside one of the world’s largest evangelical Christian denominations.
True to his word, Pastor Floyd has been traveling to all over the country, preaching on the need for deep repentance and revival inside the SBC.
I just finished it and it is wonderful. I highly recommend it. It only takes 10 to 15 minutes to read, but it is so important. You can read more about it and download it for free by clicking here.
In short, it is a clarion call for Southern Baptists — and all Christians in the United States — to become deeply focused and committed to pleading with God for revival.
In addition to some wonderful history about revival in America, and some great quotes by past Christian leaders, Pastor Floyd gives some very practical counsel to those 46,000 churches under his care, including:
Pray for revival every Sunday morning. “Challenge your church to pause either at sunset on Saturday evening or sunrise on Sunday morning to pray for three minutes for the anointing of God’s power to come upon the worship services of their church,” Floyd writes. “Prayerfully, these 180 seconds of focused prayer will soon begin a true 180-degree change in our churches.”
Devote an entire month to preach God’s Word “on the subject of repentance, extraordinary prayer, revival, awakening, and reaching the world for Christ.” Between January and May of 2015, Floyd recommends that pastors pick a month and “extend passionate calls to your people about each of these topics individually and collectively. During this same period, we would ask those who lead staff teams and chapels of our Baptist entities, conventions, seminaries, and colleges to consider this same emphasis.”
Devote an entire Sunday between January and May just to pray for awakening and revival. He gives links to resources, including an article on “Leading Your Church In A Sunday Morning Prayer Meeting.”
You can now vote again for your favorites in this round until November 15th.
There are a range of different categories of nominated books. Please browse through all of them and vote for your favorites, whatever they are. To see the Historical Fiction Category, please click here. Please use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media to let friends know about the awards and get them involved, as well. Thanks again!
“U.S. warplanes launched airstrikes on what U.S. officials said was a gathering of Islamic State commanders near the militant-held city of Mosul on Friday, in one of the most prominent assaults on the Islamist group’s leadership since the air war started here in August,” reports the Washington Post.
“A spokesman for U.S. Central Command could not confirm whether Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was at the gathering targeted on Friday. The strikes destroyed a convoy of 10 armed trucks, the spokesman, Col. Patrick Ryder, said. According to CENTCOM, the vehicles appeared to be pickups with gun mounts.”
“We cannot confirm if ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was among those present” in the convoy destroyed near Mosul, Ryder said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State.
“Mosul, a city of roughly 1.5 million people, was seized by Islamic State militants in June. Baghdadi declared an Islamic caliphate from that northern Iraqi city in his first appearance as the group’s leader on July 5,” notes the Post. “Their military victory in Mosul granted the Islamic State command over one of Iraq’s largest cities, where they have imposed a strict version of sharia law on the local population, residents say. Baghdadi, an Iraqi born in Samarra, is said to have been working as an Islamic preacher when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. He then turned to militancy and was detained by U.S. forces at Camp Bucca for four years. It was there that Baghdadi is believed to have met and trained with al-Qaeda operatives, eventually rising to lead the Islamic State. His militant group controls vast tracts of land that straddle the border between Iraq and Syria….”