As Americans celebrate Thanksgiving today, federal, state and local officials are on high alert in the New York-Washington corridor for the possibility of catastrophic al Qaeda attacks. The heightened threat assessment comes as terrorists coordinated horrifying attacks in India’s financial capital of Mumbai, killing 101 people, wounding at least 287, and taking numerous hostages, including as many as eight Israelis. Let’s be praying for our security forces and leaders over the next few days. Let’s also be praying for the authorities in India, and for the victims of these evil attacks, and their families.
Thanks so much for your prayers and patience. I haven’t updated the blog for more than a week and I apologize for that. As you know, I was just in Israel for a week. In Jerusalem, I had the privilege of speaking at a conference on the Iranian nuclear threat, and had the privilege of speaking at several Israeli congregations on how to live for Jesus Christ as servant leaders in the midst of the critical leadership crisis now affecting all the nations of the epicenter. After that, I traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, where we were shooting part of the Inside The Revolution documentary film overlooking the famed Blue Mosque. We had a great time with our U.S. and Turkish film crew (there was even a Starbucks nearby), and I am feeling very good about how the production is going. We still have a number of interviews still to do, but Lord willing we should wrap up principal photography by early January. The current plan is to have the film completed by summer 2009 and to release it in time for the September 11th anniversary. I will keep you updated as we go. Meanwhile, I finished the final chapter of the Inside TheRevolutionmanuscript while in Jerusalem. The book is now typeset and going through one more round of copy editing. Lord willing, it releases on March 10th of next year. All that to say, I just got back from more than two weeks on the road. It’s good to be home with my wife and boys, and celebrating Thanksgiving together as a family. May the Lord bless you and your family as you reflect on God’s goodness and mercy as well.
(Jerusalem, Israel) — Israel is unlikely to launch massive airstrikes to neutralize Iran’s nuclear weapons program before the U.S. inauguration on January 20, 2009, barring dramatic new intelligence that points to an imminent Iranian attack.
That’s my sense of things here after spending nearly a week on the ground.
Last Thursday, I had the honor of addressing the World Likud Congress (pro-Israel political activists from the U.S., Africa and Europe) here in the holy city. I was on a panel of Israeli and Iranian experts on the threat posed to the Jewish State by the Ayatollah Khamenei, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the current regime in Tehran. While I agreed with much that my fellow panelists said, I was struck by their lack of urgency for Israel to take action. One said that Israel shouldn’t strike unless its leaders can be absolutely certain that by doing so Iran will not be able to build the Bomb for at least another ten years. Another suggested Israel should not infuriate the incoming Obama administration by launching attacks on Iran without a clear green light from the new President.
I respectfully disagreed. First, let’s be clear: there is almost no scenario by which the Bush administration is going to launch attacks on Iran in the next sixty days or so and thus hand an on-going war to a new American President. Second, the Obama administration has made it crystal clear that it is not going to make neutralizing Iran’s nuclear threat via military means a priority, much less a top priority. Just the opposite: Obama intends to launch “unconditional” negotiations with Tehran. So waiting for the U.S. to “take the lead” is a non-starter at this point. Third, Israel faces an existential threat from Iranian nuclear weapons and it cannot afford to wait much longer. Once Iran has the Bomb, six million Jews here will be in supreme peril. There will never be a “perfect” time to strike Iran, and Israeli leaders will never be able to be certain ahead of time just how long their attacks will push Iran back from getting the Bomb. But is not buying five more years of security — if ten are not possible — still worth it? Fourth, Israel should never surrender its national security decision-making process to Washington. Did Jerusalem wait for the U.S. to act against the enemies of the Jewish people in 1967? Did Jerusalem wait for the U.S. to bomb Iraq’s nuclear facilities in 1981? Fifth, more than ever, Israel leaders like “the sons of Issachar” described in I Chronicles 12, “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”
As I’ve written previously, war with Iran will be horrific at many levels. I do not wish for it. Indeed, I am praying passionately for the peace of Jerusalem, as the Bible teaches me to do. But the notion of Iran’s genocidal, apocalyptic leaders getting weapons of mass destruction in their hands is completely unacceptable. I am, therefore, resigned to the possibility that there may now be no other option but for Israel to launch preemptive strikes, since it is increasingly clear Washington won’t.
As I have no influence on such decisions, I am focusing on helping Israelis prepare for the next war. For much of the past week I have been with my Joshua Fundteam here in Israel, working with local Jewish and Christian leaders to stockpile emergency relief supplies. I have also had the privilege of preaching at two Israeli congregations to encourage local believers here to continue walking with the Lord, loving their neighbors, praying without ceasing, and girding themselves for the dark days that very well may lie ahead. More on that in my next dispatch.
Al Qaeda is preparing for catastrophic new attacks
Tensions in the epicenter are running high as the world watches closely to see if Israel is going to launch preemptive strikes against Iran during this window between the U.S. elections and the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama on January 20th, or if Iran will use this window to launch preemptive strikes against Israel. I make no predictions about what will happen. My team and I continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the entire region. We’re praying for a peaceful regime change in Tehran and Damascus and for a respite from all the wars and rumors of wars. We have great faith that this can happen. But we don’t pretend to know exactly how events will play out. Thus, we are continuing to prepare for the worst case scenarios.
* an apocalyptic, prophetic war in the Middle East involving Israel and Iran
* another “regular” but horrifying geopolitical war in the region as a follow-up to the Second Lebanon War in 2006
* catastrophic al Qaeda attacks in the U.S., Europe and/or in the Holy Land
Most of our Joshua Fund team is on the ground in Israel right making preparations to provide more food, clothing, medical equipment and other emergency relief supplies to those who need them now, and those who could be victims of coming wars and terrorist attacks. I leave for Israel tomorrow to join them and, Lord willing, will send updates during that trip.
That said, here are the key stories my team and I are tracking today:
* REPORT IDENTIFIES UK TERRORIST ENCLAVES: Secret enclaves of al-Qaeda extremists based in London, Birmingham and Luton are planning mass-casualty attacks in Britain, according to a leaked Government intelligence report
* OLMERT AT RABIN MEMORIAL: WE MUST GIVE UP PARTS OF JERUSALEM: “If we want to keep Israel Jewish and democratic, we need to give up parts of the homeland we have dreamed about for generations and [mentioned] in our prayers, even Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and to return to a 1967 Israel with certain amendments,” he said. “The decision must be made now. The moment of truth has arrived. There is no escaping it, but [the opportunity] can be missed. If, God forbid, we dither, we will lose the support for the idea of two states. There is no need to expand on the alternative…Rabin will win.”
** NOTE: I have not yet been able to confirm the Israeli news report last week that an earthquake in Iran may have been triggered by a possible Iranian nuclear test. At this point, I lean strongly towards the view that this was an inaccurate report, but I will let you know if I find out more one way or the other.
President-elect Obama will have many challenges to solve when he takes office on January 20th. But Russia and Iran may be the most serious and the most difficult.
The news out of Moscow this morning is that Czar Putin is plotting to return next year as President of Russia. “Russian President Dmitry Medvedev could resign from his post in 2009 to pave the way for Vladimir Putin to return to the Kremlin,” reports Reuters this morning, based on a report in a Russian newspaper. “Medvedev Wednesday proposed increasing the presidential term to six years from four years, a step the newspaper said was part of a plan drawn up by Vladislav Surkov, who serves as Medvedev’s first deputy chief of staff. Under the plan, Medvedev could implement changes to the constitution and unpopular social reforms ‘so that Putin could return to the Kremlin for a longer period,’ the newspaper said. “Under this scenario Medvedev could resign early citing changes to the constitution and then presidential elections could take place in 2009,” the newspaper said, citing the unidentified source close to the Kremlin. The paper said Putin, who is currently prime minister, could then rule for two six year terms, so from 2009 to 2021.”
Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today did something out of the ordinary, praising Sen. Obama for his election as the next American President.”I congratulate you on being able to attract the majority of votes of the participants of the election,” said Ahmadinejad. “I hope you make the most of the chance of service and leave a good name by preferring people’s real interests and justice to the insatiable demands of a selfish and indecent minority.”
Congratulations to Sen. Obama. His victory last night was an historic moment, further evidence of how far Americans have come in moving beyond the racial divisions of the past. This is good, and should not be underestimated.
It is now our solemn responsibility to pray faithfully and consistently for him, his wife, his family, and his advisors. We must pray for their safety, their wisdom, and their discernment. This is the right thing to do and honors the Lord. As the Apostle Paul teaches so clearly in I Timothy 2:1, “I urge that entreaties, prayers and petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”
We must also pray faithfully for the safety of our nation, for the peace of Jerusalem, and for the advancement of freedom and security throughout the world, and particularly in the Middle East. I am very concerned about what the next year to 18 months may hold. Vice President-elect Biden warned us that the world will test this young new president. We must therefore pray for peace while we prepare for war.
I’m paying particular attention this morning to how people in the epicenter are reacting to Sen. Obama’s victory. Leaders in Iran are thrilled since the likelihood of decisive U.S. action to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program has just dropped dramatically. Leaders in Iraq, by contrast, are trying not to be worried given that the likelihood of rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces has just increased dramatically.
Palestinians seem to be thrilled, since they see Obama as pro-Palestinian and open to dividing Jerusalem and pressuring the Israelis to make further concessions of “land for peace.” Many Israelis feel quite unsettled this morning, concerned that they will be all alone in the Middle East as the U.S. begins to pack up and go home from Iraq. They are also concerned that Obama and his team do not appear to fully understand or appreciate the seriousness of the threat of Radical Islam. Sen. Obama told us during the campaign that Iran was a tiny country that did not pose much of a threat. Israelis are not convinced he will stand with them in a nuclear showdown with Tehran.
A senior political strategist in Israel emailed me last night with this thought: “The State of Israel is now facing the most unfriendly American administration ever….Israel’s will to live will be tested in ways that will not e pretty. Many of Obama’s foreign policy team and Middle East advisors see Israel as the obstacle to peace. And we can not count on Jewish supporters of Obama to have any standing in setting policy in this administration.” A new poll released yesterday also caught my attention: 46% of Israelis would have voted for McCain, while only 34% would have voted for Obama. That tells us something about the concern from Eilat to Haifa and from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem about losing a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people in President Bush to someone who has not indicated convincing support for Israel in the past.
I know many of you are very worried about the direction of our country. I certainly understand this sentiment, but as I wrote yesterday, let us not lose heart. The Lord knew who would win. He allowed it to happen. He has a plan. He has a purpose. And now He is calling us to serve Him faithfully — to do whatever He tells us to do, to go wherever He tells us to go, to say whatever He tells us to say. Now is the time to draw close to Christ, to advance His kingdom, and prepare for His return. He is, after all, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Now is certainly no time to forget, or to be discouraged.
Whoever wins the American presidency today will face enormous global challenges, particularly in the epicenter. The Iranian nuclear threat. Russia’s growing military alliance with Iran. Osama bin Laden and the continuing al Qaeda threat. The Hamas and Hezbollah threats. The volatility in nuclear-armed Pakistan. The possibility of revolutions or coup attempts in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Libya’s new pursuit of Russian arms and nuclear technology. The list goes on and on. Given their profound policy differences, how the U.S. deals with these serious challenges will depend largely on whether Barack Obama or John McCain takes the oath of office on January 20, 2009.
As for my family and me, while we have a strong preference for who wins, we know the outcome of this election is in the hands of the Lord. Two verses give us particular comfort today:
* Daniel 2:21 — “It is He [the God of heaven]…who removes kings and establishes kings.”
* Job 42:2 — “I know that You [the God of Israel] can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”
It is the Lord God who will ultimately decide who will lead the American nation through turbulent times ahead. He also decides who will lead Israel, Iran, Iraq, and all the other nations of the epicenter and the world. His will cannot be thwarted. Let us, therefore, pray that His will would be done. Let us also pray that we are faithful in blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, as He has commanded us in the Scriptures.