New CENTCOM commander, U.S. Marine General James Mattis (AFP/File/Joel Saget)
“Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis has been picked to take over U.S. Central Command, the Pentagon announced Thursday. Mattis would replace Army Gen. David Petraeus, who is now in Afghanistan as the U.S. and NATO’s top military officer there. The shake-up comes as the American public questions whether the fight in Afghanistan can be won, and the Defense Department is reeling from losing its top war commander, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal. As head of CENTCOM, Mattis would oversee U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as across the Middle East, including Iraq and Iran….” [To read more of this AP/Navy Times story, please click here]
STOP IRAN — A non-profit group called Citizens United announced this week the launch of a national TV ad urging President Obama to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons while there is still time. David N. Bossie, the group’s president issued a press release saying, “from the first days of his presidential campaign through today, President Obama has displayed a dangerous naiveté when it comes to the threat that Iran poses to our allies in the Middle East and to the United States itself. History demonstrates that sanctions are not a cure-all for regimes bent on destroying other peaceful nations. The President must step up to this challenge before Iran has the opportunity to develop nuclear weapons.”
“It’s something like a holy war on haircuts,” reports ABC News.“Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has issued a directive banning ‘decadent’ hairstyles for men, restricting barber shops to only certain kinds of cuts. The primary target: spiky, gelled hairdos associated with rebellious youths, corrupted by Western influence. It’s a style that was commonly seen on the front line of last year’s post-election protests….”
In the last 24 hours, he has done interviews on ABC, CBS, and CNN, speaking directly to the American people, and I think he’s been doing a good job. During a 20 minute interview, Katie Couric asked Netanyahu why 71% of Israeli Jews dislike President Obama. Wisely, Netanyahu did not take the bait. He conceded there are disagreements, but he certainly did nothing to exacerbate underlying tensions. Rather, he noted that he had invited the President to visit Israel and looked forward to extending hospitality to the First Family and give them a chance to get to know the Israeli people. The President said he is ready to visit Jerusalem. Let’s hope he carries through.
In other events, Netanyahu met with U.N. Secretary General Ki Ban Moon. He also met with U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Gates. The PM is in New York today, and is expected to fly to Cairo on Friday to meet with the ailing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who is reported to have cancer.
Most interesting to me was an answer the PM gave to Larry King towards the end of their hour-long conversation last night. King asked Netanyahu if he ever has the chance to relax. Netanyahu said yes. On Saturday — the Sabbath — he rests and relaxes and he noted that one thing he looks forward to is reading the Bible for an hour an half with his youngest son, who recently won a contest on Bible knowledge. He said the time refreshes him spiritually and that he and his son are learning a great deal from God’s Word. I really appreciated the PM’s remarks and it reminded me of Psalm 119:97-100, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.”
The last few weeks have provided a fascinating insight into U.S.-Israel relations and how the leaders of both countries see the Iran nuclear threat. Yesterday’s Oval Office meeting was important, but it needs to be put in context with recent statements by CIA Director Leon Panetta and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Let me explain.
If this was the first meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, it would have been great. The President was warm and friendly. He reaffirmed the “special relationship” and “unbreakable bond” between the U.S. and Israel. He said he trusted the Prime Minister and appreciated the steps Mr. Netanyahu is taking towards peace and security. Netanyahu publicly invited Obama to come to Israel and meet there, and Obama smiled and said, “I’m ready.”
The problem is that this wasn’t their first meeting. It was their fifth, just the first to go well.
President Obama wasted the past 14 months. He has treated Netanyahu like he was the head of BP oil rather than the leader of our most faithful friend and ally in the epicenter. Thus, President Obama came into the Oval Office meeting yesterday on defense. Jewish support for him in the U.S. has plummeted over the past year as the White House and State Department have treated Israel with unprecedented hostility. Fewer than 1-in-10 Israelis believe President Obama is pro-Israel because of the administration’s long string of deeply unfriendly statements and actions.
By sharp contrast, Congress has been impressively bipartisan in its strong support of Israel and in its criticism of the White House for being so antagonistic towards Israel generally and Netanyahu in particular.
The good news: President Obama and his team seem to have gotten the message and changed their tune. In public, at least, the administration is trying to repair the damage they have done and reaffirm the importance of strong and healthy U.S.-Israel relations.
One example of a step in the right direction: the President just signed tough new economic sanctions on Iran, which received huge bipartisan votes in Congress. This is good.
The challenge: these sanctions are too little, too late.
Moreover, behind the smiles of the two leaders, nothing decisive was said about how to stop Iran from getting the Bomb. And time is running out.
CIA Director Leon Panetta said on June 27 that it would take Iran a year to convert the uranium they currently have to weapons grade, and another year to produce a deliverable bomb.
In remarks at the Aspen Institute last week, Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed with Panetta and said this was consistent with his own assessment that Iran could have the Bomb within one to three years. “The Israelis believe this is an existential threat, in its truest definition, and that has been very much on my mind, obviously, throughout this whole issue of Iran and its development of nuclear weapons,” said Mullen. “I believe strategically they [Iran’s government] continue to pursue it [nuclear weapons]. They’ve not complied with the NPT. They’ve not complied with the IAEA…They’ve been given every chance to do this and they have not, and I believe they will not comply with international norms here….I think it’s incredibly dangerous for them to achieve this capability, destabilizing in the region….It generates great potential for a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The place is unstable enough. We don’t need that. At the same time, I believe a strike against Iran also will be, should something like that occur, incredibly destabilizing.”
During his Q&A session, Admiral Mullen indicated that the U.S. believes Iran has not yet made a final decision to build nuclear weapons, while the Israelis believe Iran has made that decision.
CIA Director Panetta says he believes the new round of economic sanctions imposed on Iran will cause pain, but will not force Iran to stop its development of nuclear weapons. “I would agree with that,” said Mullen. This is important news that is getting overlooked by the mainstream media.
So the question remains: if sanctions aren’t going to stop Iran from getting the Bomb, and Iran is dangerously close to building the Bomb, what is President Obama prepared to do next? Will he take military action. I don’t believe he will. Will the President support the Israelis taking military action? That remains to be seen.
The Wall Street Journal today published an editorial properly lauding Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia for his efforts to convince the government of Morocco to stop expelling followers of Jesus Christ from their country. In recent months, Morocco has unfairly and unwisely expelled more than 100 Christian workers (U.S. citizens, as well as those from other countries). These are people who love the people of Morocco and are seeking to bless them in real and practical ways, motivated by the teachings of the Bible. I commend the editorial, Expelled in Morocco: A U.S. ally mistreats American Christians, to your attention. Please continue to pray for the Lord to change the heart of King Mohammed VI and his advisors and allow these faithful and loving Christians back into the country. Please also pray that the Lord would build and strengthen His church inside of Morocco because of this persecution. After all, Jesus said, “I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” The Lord Jesus loves the people of Morocco and He will not forget about them. Let us not forget them either.
Mosab's case has attracted international attention. This photo was taken on the set of a CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour.
By God’s grace and the prayers of evangelical Christians around the U.S. and around the world, Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of the founders of Hamas, won his court case Wednesday after the U.S. government relented and decided to grant him political asylum.
Mosab called me yesterday to tell me the good news. He asked me to pass on his heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been praying faithfully for him, including those who participated in the 2010 Epicenter Conference over the weekend. At the conference, we showed an exclusive interview with Mosab on how he moved from jihad to Jesus. Tens of thousands of Christians prayed for the Lord to protect him, grant him favor with the U.S. authorities, and give him courage and boldness to continue being a witness for how the Lord Jesus Christ has completely changed his heart and given him a deep love for the U.S., Israel, as well as his fellow Palestinians.
The U.S. government had threatened to deport Mosab as a “threat” to the United States given his past involvement in Hamas. If this had happened, Mosab could have been sent back to the West Bank where he would have faced almost certain assassination by Hamas terrorists. But at a hearing near San Diego yesterday, the judge essentially acknowledged that Mosab had truly renounced Islam, become a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, renounced Hamas, renounced violence, and become a double-agent for the Israeli intelligence services. In so doing, Mosab helped the Israelis thwart scores of terrorist attacks and arrest scores of terrorists, and thus save hundreds of innocent Israeli, Palestinian and American lives.
Supporting Mosab has been dozens of Congressman and Senators; former CIA Director James Woolsey; and Gonen Ben Itzhak, Mosab’s “handler” in the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service agency (similar to our FBI). Since coming to the U.S. a few years ago, Mosab has been outspoken about the evils of Hamas and Radical Islam, and outspoken about his love for Jesus. His book, Son of Hamas, tells of his transformation from jihad to Jesus and hit the New York Times best-seller list this spring.
Thanks again to everyone who has been faithfully praying for Mosab. Please continue to pray for his safety, his spiritual growth, and for the Lord to give him wisdom where to live now, and how to invest his time for God’s kingdom.