Announcing the 2017 Epicenter Conference: “What does the Future Hold for Israel and Her Neighbors?” (Register today)

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Aug 142017
 

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What does the Future Hold for Israel and Her Neighbors?

Join The Joshua Fund and me on Friday evening, October 6 and Saturday, October 7 for the 2017 Epicenter Conference, being held this year in Southern California.

Come an hear from Jewish, Arab and Palestinian pastors and ministry leaders as they share the story, in real time, of how the Gospel is advancing and is uniquely being shared in Israel and in the neighboring nations.

This is the first Epicenter Conference we’ve held in four years — register today and join us for a fascinating and spiritually powerful event.

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NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN WITH NORTH KOREA: How did we get to the point that Pyongyang may have 60 warheads? Disastrous deals cut by Presidents Clinton and Obama. Here are the facts.

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Aug 122017
 

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While a preemptive North Korean nuclear attack on the U.S. and/or America’s Pacific allies sounds like a plot ripped from my 2008 novel, Dead Heat, it may no longer be a fictional scenario.

U.S. intelligence agencies are now convinced that “North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power,” reports the Washington Post, based on a confidential analysis by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“The United States calculated last month that up to 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong In,” notes the Post.

This week, Pyongyang threatened to attack the island of Guam with ballistic missiles that could be armed with nuclear weapons. With 160,000 residents and two U.S. military bases, the Pacific island territory now appears to be in Pyongyang’s crosshairs.

President Trump immediately warned the leaders of North Korea not to dare even consider attacks against the American people or their allies, saying they would experience American “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” the President added. “Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path.”

We need to pray for peace, and for our leaders to have wisdom to know how best to contain the North Korean threat and ratchet down tensions. We need to pray that countries like China will use their considerable leverage to persuade the North Koreans to back down. As a protective measure, the U.S. needs to be urgently bolstering its naval and air assets in the Pacific theater, as well as its missile defense assets, closely coordinating both defensive and offensive capabilities with allies like South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan, among others.

At the same time, we need to reexamine the disastrous nuclear deals both President Clinton and President Obama made with North Korea. Both men promised the American people that their diplomacy would make us all safer by persuading Pyongyang not to pursue nuclear weapons or the long-range ballistic missiles to deliver them. Both could not have been more wrong. Such serious misjudments have helped get us to this exceedingly dangerous moment.

In October of 1994, President Bill Clinton cut a deal with North Korea in which Pyongyang agreed to “freeze and gradually dismantle its nuclear weapons development program,” reported the New York Times.

“This agreement will help achieve a longstanding and vital American objective — an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula,” Mr. Clinton told the American people.

“This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world,” Mr. Clinton added. “It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community.”

In return, the Clinton administration gave North Korea $4 billion in energy aid.

In addition, the Clinton deal gave North Korea two nuclear power plants, for which American taxpayers helped foot the bill.

“This is a good deal for the United States,” Mr. Clinton said at the time. “North Korea will freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program. South Korea and our other allies will be better protected. The entire world will be safer as we slow the spread of nuclear weapons.”

But Mr. Clinton and his senior advisors couldn’t have been more wrong.

In February of 2012, President Obama was similarly duped.

Mr. Obama agreed to a deal in which Pyongyang promised (again) not to build nuclear weapons and stop testing long-range ballistic missiles.

In return, the Obama administration agreed to give North Korea 240,000 metric tons of food.

Experts warned the Obama team at the time that “it is naïve at best for the administration to herald a North Korean ‘commitment to denuclearization’ after the many years of North Korean actions definitively proving the contrary.”

Less than a month later, Pyongyang tested another long-range rocket in clear violation of the agreement, and a humiliated Mr. Obama had to suspend the food aid program.

Clearly, the policy of “strategic patience” (read: “do nothing and hope for the best”) run by Mr. Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been a colossal failure.

If all this weren’t bad enough, it’s made worse by the fact that the insane Obama nuclear deal with Iran was essentially patterned — and sold — after the Clinton deal with North Korea. As I warned in this Fox News interview and elsewhere (see here and here), the ayatollahs in Tehran are working closely with Pyongyang on nuclear and missile technology. They’re also watching how the U.S. and the world powers handle a nation aspiring to become a nuclear armed power. So far, they’re learning the West can be played for fools, and a small but aggressive nation can build a nuclear arsenal without much fear of being stopped.

Developing…..

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PROVOCATION: Putin sending 100,000 troops to borders of NATO states — expels US diplomats — as tensions with the West spike. Here’s the latest.

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Aug 102017
 

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Though much of the world’s attention is understandably riveted right now on North Korea and their chilling nuclear threats against the U.S., tensions with Russia are also spiking and require urgent attention.

Consider just a few key developments that have occurred in recent weeks:

  • Moscow is gearing up for massive war games later this Fall that could put upwards of 100,000 Russian troops on the borders of the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Each of these countries are NATO members. Each lived for decades under the cruelty of Soviet occuption. Each are increasingly worried Putin may be interested in seizing them and putting them once again under Russian hegemony. It’s a concern I share but am concerned not enough leaders in the West do.
  • If such provocations weren’t enough, Vladimir Putin has just expelled 755 American diplomats from Russia, effective September 1st.
  • Putin has further “ratcheted up military provocations against NATO forces across Eastern Europe” by sending Russian warplanes to make “provocative flybys of NATO ships and aircraft,” by deploying “new military hardware to its Kaliningrad exclave, a territory nestled between the Baltic countries and Poland, which are all NATO members” and by conducting “cyber warfare attacks on the electoral processes of multiple NATO countries, including, but not limited to, the U.S., Germany and France,” according to a U.S. defense analyst writing in Newsweek,
  • All this, of course, comes after decisions by Putin to invade and seize Crimea and Eastern Ukraine since 2014.
  • To reassure our NATO allies that we will stand with them and honor Article V — NATO’s mutual defense pact stating that an attack against one NATO member is considered an attack against all — President Trump gave a major (and very good) address in Warsaw, Poland, on July 6th, which I would commend to your attention. Poland is a key NATO partner and one of America’s closest allies in Eastern Europe.
  • On July 31st, Vice President Pence visited Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, where he addressed NATO forces and met with leaders from all three Baltic States. This was also an excellent speech which I would encourage you to listen to or read. (here is audio and the text of the speech)
  • Then, Vice President Pence visited Georgia, which was invaded and partially occupied by Russia in 2008, and Montenegro, NATO’s newest member, where he rightly denounced Russian “aggression” and “occupation.”
  • What’s more, Congress has overwhelmingly passed — and President Trump has just signed — new economic sanctions on Russia to respond to Moscow’s efforts to interfere with American elections in 2016. The Senate vote was 98 to 2 in favor of the sanctions. The House passed the measure 419 to 3.
  • At the same time, as I recently wrote about from Berlin, President Trump is wisely continuing to press every NATO member to keep its commitment to invest at least 2% of its annual GDP on defense. Currently, only five countries are keeping that critical pledge — the U.S., Greece, Estonia, the U.K., and Poland. That said, Romania has just announced it will be the 6th country to hit the 2% mark. What’s more, Latvia and Lithuania have just announced they are dramatically increasing their defense spending and will both hit the 2% target by 2018. Other countries are beginning to step up, as well.

We need to be praying for U.S. and NATO leaders to have the wisdom and courage to bolster their forces in the Baltics and dramatically increase their deterrence against Moscow throughout Eastern Europe. We don’t want to see a scenario in which an emboldened Czar Putin feels tempted to invade anyone else.

I’ve been keeping an especially close watch on such developments as I finish editing the manuscript of my new political thriller, The Kremlin Conspiracy, which is scheduled for release in North America on March 6th. More on this soon.

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Excerpts from the New York Times story on upcoming Russian war games:

  • “Russia is preparing to send as many as 100,000 troops to the eastern edge of NATO territory at the end of the summer, one of the biggest steps yet in the military buildup undertaken by President Vladimir V. Putin and an exercise in intimidation that recalls the most ominous days of the Cold War,” the New York Times recently reported.
  • “The troops are conducting military maneuvers known as Zapad, Russian for ‘west,’ in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad,” the Times noted. “The drills will feature a reconstituted armored force named for a storied Soviet military unit, the First Guards Tank Army. Its establishment represents the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union that so much offensive power has been concentrated in a single command.”
  • The Times story added that “the move is part of a larger effort by Mr. Putin to shore up Russia’s military prowess, and comes against the backdrop of an increasingly assertive Rssia. Beyond Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election in support of the Trump campaign, which has seized attention in the United States, its military has in recent years deployed forces to Syria, seized Crimea and intervened in eastern Ukraine, rattled the Baltic States with snap exercises and buzzed NATO planes and ships.”

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Turkey continues moving to the dark side: Erdogan cuts major military deal with Russia.

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Jul 272017
 

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Turkey is continuing its steady, dangerous march to the dark side.

The latest troubling developments:

  1. This once-loyal and trustworthy NATO ally is now planning to buy an advanced, state-of-the-art military system from Czar Putin amidst growing political, economic and military ties between Russia and Turkey.
  2. Turkey’s leader is calling on millions of Muslims to “flock” to Jerusalem and go to the al-Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock (on the Temple Mount) as often as possible, ostensibly to overwhelm Israeli security and to insist on Islamist sovereignty over the holiest site in Judaism, thus potentially provoking more unrest and even violence.

Last year, I warned that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pronounced “Air-doh-wahn”) entered office poses as somewhat of a moderate but is emerging as an Islamist Radical and a serious and growing challenge to the U.S. and the West.

“Driven perhaps by visions of restoring Turkey to the power and glory of the Ottoman Empire at its peak, Erdogan is aggressively fashioning himself into a brutal dictator,” I noted. “He’s cracking down on Internet freedom. He’s seizing churches. He’s seizing media outlets that speak out against him. He’s using the crisis in Syria not to go after ISIS — as he claims — but to bomb the Kurds who are at war with ISIS.”

Things have not gotten better over the past year.

I’ll write more on the tense situation in Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and Jordan in the days ahead.

For the moment, let’s focus on the new Turkish military deal with the Russians.

“There is no harm in Turkey’s missile defense system purchase from Russia, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said in response to U.S. top general’s concerns over the issue, adding that the two countries have already signed a deal for the delivery of the S-400 missiles,” reports the Daily Hurriyet, a leading Turkish news outlet.

“Why will it cause tension? A country should be in search for the ideal ways for its own security,” Erdogan said, addressing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers in parliament on July 25….

“We have now taken steps with Russia about this issue. Deals have been inked. In God’s will, we will see S-400 missiles in our country and precede the process with joint production,” the Turkish leader said.

More excerpts from the story:

  • Turkey was not able to cooperate with the U.S. over the missile system, the president noted, adding that this was why Turkey was seeking alternatives.
  • Erdoğan’s remarks came days after U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chair, claimed that Turkey and Russia could not agree on the procurement of the missile defense system.
  • “It would be a concern, were they to do that, but they have not done that,” Dunford reportedly said at a security forum in Aspen, Colorado on July 23, when asked about media reports on Turkey purchasing the Russian system.
  • The U.S. general called the reports “incorrect.”
  • However, his remarks contradicted with former statements by Turkish and Russian officials….
  • Russian presidential aide Vladimir Kozhin said late June that Moscow and Ankara had agreed on the delivery of the S-400 mobile systems but that the Kremlin had not approved a loan for the deal.    
  • The S-400 system was introduced in 2007 and can carry three types of missiles capable of destroying ground and air targets, including ballistic and cruise missiles. It can track and engage up to 300 targets simultaneously and has an altitude ceiling of 27 kilometers.

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Tensions spiking after two serious terrorist attacks in Israel, including one on the Temple Mount. Please pray for calm.

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Jul 222017
 

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Tensions are flaring again in Israel and the disputed territories in the wake of two shocking sets of murders by Radical Islamists terrorists:

  • Last night, a Jewish grandfather and his son and daughter — having Shabbat dinner and celebrating the birth of a new grandson — were savagely stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist who broke into their home.
  • One week ago, three Palestinian terrorists smuggled firearms onto the Temple Mount and launched a surprise attack against three Israeli Druze police officers, killing two of them before they were stopped.

Please pray for comfort the families and friends of those who were murdered. Pray for healing and comfort for those who were wounded in the attacks.

Please pray, too, for wisdom for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to know best how to calm the situation before it explodes into widespread violence, as well as for the U.S. administration, Jordanian leaders and other regional leaders who have influence.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas could start by denouncing these terrorist acts, and working harder to arrest terrorists and prevent future attacks.

At the same time, there needs to be a quick consensus on how best to prevent violence on the Temple Mount. Israel needs to work closely with the Jordanians and Palestinians on this. After the attack on the Temple Mount last week, the Israelis installed metal detectors and are now requiring every Muslim who wants to go up on the Mount to go through those detectors. This is already required of all Jews and Christians who want to visit the holy site. Yet Palestinian leaders are denouncing the move and demanding the Israelis remove the metal detectors. Other Arab and Islamic leaders are doing the same.

Why? Metal detectors are used to protect visitors to Mecca, the Vatican and in sensitive religious and political sites all over the world. If there is a better way, fine, make the case. But to criticize Israeli leaders for trying their best to protect a site sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians in the wake of a terrorist attack is nonsensical and hardly creates and atmosphere conducive to peace and security.

Developing….

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Dispatch from Berlin: President Trump deserves credit for pushing NATO to increase defense spending in face of growing threat posed by Russia.

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Jul 222017
 

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(Berlin, Germany) — Over the past few days, I’ve been in Berlin for a series of meetings with my 20 year old son, Jacob.

We’ve visited the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Pergamum Museum (housing priceless archaeological treasures from the Middle East, including the famed Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon), and a memorial built to honor the Jews murdered during the Holocaust. We also saw a section of the Berlin Wall. Neither of us had ever been to the German capital before and I must say it’s been a bit surreal to be in a city that was once the epicenter of such evil and yet is now safe, and free, and the capital of a major American (and Israeli) ally.

In between meetings, I’ve been working on the edits of the manuscript for my latest international political thriller, The Kremlin Conspiracy, which releases next March. In that novel, a new American President faces an increasingly dangerous and volatile Russian leader who is plotting a military attack against the NATO alliance.

More on the novel in due time. For now, let me make a few comments on the actual American President and how he is handling NATO and the Russia threat.

Readers of this blog know that last year I was quite critical of then-candidate Donald Trump. One of my concerns was that Mr. Trump did not appear serious about strengthening NATO to protect America and our European allies from the grave and growing threat posted by Vladimir Putin and the Russian military. Indeed, Mr. Trump made numerous comments during the campaign highly critical of NATO. He also suggested he might not honor Article 5, the mutual defense pact that says an attack on one NATO member will be regarded as an attack on all, and that all members will come to that member’s aid.

Six months into the new administration, however, I need to commend President Trump. Pundits may criticize his tactics, but the facts are clear: the President has persuaded most NATO leaders to significantly increase their annual defense spending. He has chosen a Vice President, Defense Secretary, CIA Director, Director of National Intelligence and other senior national security officials who are serious about the threat of Russia and serious about strengthening NATO. The President has also wisely proposed a $93 billion increase in U.S. defense spending and (finally) made it clear he supports Article 5.

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This is a big deal. Previous efforts by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to persuade NATO to increase military spending failed. Indeed, for many years, defense budgets in most NATO countries — including the U.S. under Mr. Obama — were declining precipitously, even though Russian defense spending has grown 23% since 2000.

Consider the facts:

  • NATO just announced it will increase defense spending by $46 billion in 2017.
  • This represents a 4.3% increase.
  • In fact, 25 of the 28 NATO members have announced they are increasing their annual defense budgets.
  • Currently, only 5 of the 28 members spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense, even though in 2014 all the NATO members promised to do so. These five are the U.S., Greece, Estonia, the U.K., and Poland. (To see what each country spends, click here.)
  • That said, Romania has just announced it will be the 6th country to hit the 2% mark, and other countries are finally moving towards that goal.
  • What’s more, Latvia and Lithuania — two Baltic states who (along with Estonia) feel deeply threatened by Putin — have just announced they are dramatically increasing their defense spending and will both hit the 2% target by 2018.

“We are moving in the right direction when it comes to burden-sharing and defense spending,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.

Even Germany — whose leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, has been highly critical of President Trump’s insistence that each NATO member pay its fair share — has decided to increase its military budget. (see here, here, and here.)

“Germany, under fire from U.S. President-elect Donald Trump for not meeting NATO’s defense spending goal, is boosting military budgets,” reports Reuters. “German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen….said Germany was boosting military spending by nearly 2 billion euros in 2017 to 37 billion euros, or 1.22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). It is due to reach 39.2 billion euros by 2020.”

President Trump is absolutely right to call out NATO countries for making a public commitment to mutual defense spending of at least 2% of GDP yet not doing their fair share. The European countries that comprise NATO have large, modern economies. They have a combined annual GDP of some $20 trillion. They face a serious and growing threat not only from Russia but from the Islamic State and other radical Islamist terror groups. They can afford to more. They’ve promised to do more. Yet right now they are leaning heavily on the U.S., which invests 3.61% of GDP on defense spending — almost double its fair share — and is in the process of investing substantially more.

One last point for now: Radical Islam is not the only threat we face in the West. Radical Russian nationalism and imperialism may prove to be an even more serious threat, especially given that Moscow has nuclear weapons while the violent Islamists do not (yet). Thus, while I’m encouraged that the Trump-Pence administration is persuading NATO to finally move in the right direction, I remained deeply concerned that most NATO leaders are insufficiently concerned by the magnitude of the threat posed by Vladimir Putin and the Russian military. Putin has invaded and occupied parts of Georgia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine in recent years. Putin is selling arms to the ayatollahs in Iran, and has sent military forces into Syria to bolster the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a mass murderer who is presiding of the destruction of his entire country. Do we really believe Putin’s aggression has run its course? A recent study by the RAND Corporation found that the three Baltics States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are currently so poorly defended by NATO troops that Moscow could launch a surprise attack and capture at least two of them in just 60 hours.

I will write more about such concerns in the weeks and months ahead. But given my time here in Berlin, I thought it would be worth bringing up some of these topics now.

ARTICLES WORTH NOTING:


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Jan 252012
 

In a race, no time can be wasted. Runners pace themselves, knowing that winners only win by a fraction of a second. For Christians running life’s race, the clock is also relentless. Once gone, time cannot be reclaimed. The Bible teaches believers to “redeem the time, for the days are evil.” Time must be used wisely, because for each of us, one day time will be no more.