Chaos in Kiev: As truce collapses, Ukraine forces killing protestors. Will pro-Putin forces prevail?


Map of Kiev, Ukraine (credit: AFP)

Map of Kiev, Ukraine (credit: AFP)

(Washington, D.C.) — The chaos in Kiev is going from bad to worse.

  • The brief truce has already collapsed.
  • The killing of Ukrainian protestors by government forces has resumed.
  • Some Western reporters and analysts are suggesting the regime’s hold on power may be slipping.
  • Others, however, are convinced the pro-Putin forces will crush the protestors no matter how many are killed.

Here is some of the latest coverage.

New York Times headline: “Ukraine Leader Strains for Grip as Chaos Spreads.”

“Ukraine spiraled deeper into disarray on Wednesday as the government of President Viktor F. Yanukovych and several thousand grimly determined protesters, along with their supporters in Russia and Europe, faced off in a confrontation over the fate of this fractured country of 46 million,” reports the New York Times.

“As measures of the turmoil, the authorities announced a nationwide ‘antiterrorist operation’ to keep guns and power from what it called extremist groups, and they dismissed the country’s top general,” noted the Times. “But very late in the day, they declared that a truce had been reached with political leaders of the opposition, who confirmed that overnight. The party website of an opposition leader, Vitali Klitschko, said the opposition had received assurances that there would be ‘no assault’ on the main protest site, though it was uncertain that a pause in the conflict would hold, particularly among more determined street fighters. The agreement was announced after indications — including the deployment of paratroopers to help protect military bases — that the Ukrainian authorities were concerned about maintaining control, particularly in the country’s west.”

However, the truce has not held.

“A shaky truce crumbled in Kiev Thursday morning, when gunfire erupted at the city’s Maidan, or Independence Square, which has been ground zero for anti-government protesters,” reports CNN. “At least 20 protesters died, said Oleg Musiy, head of the protesters’ medical service. A police officer also was killed, the interior ministry said. It’s unclear what prompted the gunfire. But CNN crews at the scene reported that as security forces were moving away from the area, a group of protesters pursued them, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails….”

“Protesters grabbed the wounded by their clothes or limbs, and carried many of them to a hotel lobby at one end of the square that had been converted into a triage center,” noted CNN. “Bodies, covered in bloodied sheets, lay on the floor. Orthodox priests prayed over them. Medical workers had no chance to save many of those who died, said Olga Bogomolets, a doctor. ‘They were shot directly to their hearts, their brain and to their neck,’ she said. As police hastened their withdrawal, demonstrators rushed to fortify their barricades, which they then reignited. The tent city was once again in their hands. It’s unclear exactly how many people died Thursday. Speculation ran rampant. Various figures were thrown around. No one wanted a repeat of Tuesday, when 28 people died — police and protesters alike. It was the deadliest day of the protests, which began in November when Yanukovych reversed a decision to sign a trade deal with the European Union and instead turned toward Russia.”


Ukraine is on fire. People are dying in the streets. Why? At the core, it’s a battle against Vladimir Putin.

Kiev is on fire as the battle between pro-Putin forces and anti-Putin rebels intensifies.

Kiev is on fire as the battle between pro-Putin forces and anti-Putin rebels intensifies.

Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych (left) and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych (left) and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

>> Ukraine crisis: Police storm main Kiev ‘Maidan’ protest camp (latest coverage from BBC News)

(Washington, D.C.) — While Vladimir Putin stage-manages a dazzling Olympic extravaganza in Sochi, a deadly backlash against the Russian Czar has broken out in neighboring Ukraine.

Kiev is on fire. Dozens are dead. Hundreds are wounded. The country is on the verge of all-out civil war. And there appears to be no end in sight.

On one side is Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and his pro-Putin government.

Last fall, Yanukovich abruptly rejected a trade agreement that would have strengthened ties between the former Soviet republic and the European Union. Instead, Yanukovich lurched in the other direction, choosing closer ties to the Kremlin, a decision sealed by a $15 billion package of loan guarantees and discounts on natural gas purchases that Putin offered to sweeten the deal and draw Yanukovich away from the West.

On the other side are Ukraine’s civilian protestors. 

They hate the memories of Soviet domination, fear the Kremlin, desperately want Ukraine to remain an independent nation, want closer ties to Europe and the U.S., and are determined to stop Putin and the Kremlin from seizing control of their destiny.

The showdown has been brewing for months, but it has now erupted into violent clashes in Kiev and other cities as Yanukovich’s forces are now attacking the protestors with live ammunition, water canons and the like. What’s more, the western region of Lviv has just declared autonomy, threatening to split the country in two, or potentially trigger a civil war.

The key to understanding what’s really happening is understanding who Putin is, what he wants, and why the Ukrainians fear him.

In 2005, the former KGB agent turned Czar-wannabe delivered a major address in which he said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century,” adding that “for the Russian people, it became a real drama. Tens of millions of our citizens and countrymen found themselves outside Russian territory. The epidemic of disintegration also spread to Russia itself.”

What Putin wants is to restore the glory of Mother Russia. If he could rebuild the Soviet Union, he would. Short of that, he wants to bring former Soviet satellite states like Ukraine back under Russian control. The people of Ukraine are fighting back, but the U.S. and E.U. are doing precious little to help them.

Worth noting is a recent analysis by John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations: “Putin might not actually be seeking to re-create the former Soviet Union’s boundaries but he is clearly bent on bringing the ‘near abroad’ back under Russian hegemony. Putin is playing old-fashioned power politics, declaring Moscow’s sphere  of influence, while the West has essentially stood idle. Ukraine is the biggest prize. Putin openly endorsed incumbent Viktor Yanukovych for president in the 2010 Ukraine presidential election. And one can only guess at how much of Moscow’s resources went into propaganda, voter suppression and bribery — or even darker arts.

“Given Ukraine’s size, strategic location  and potential for Westernization, there is no doubt America should  strongly and visibly oppose Putin’s policy,” Bolton notes. “Instead of developing a strategy, however, both the Obama administration and Congress are merely discussing potential sanctions against Kiev’s current government….What independent-minded Ukrainians really need is NATO membership — the sole realistic way to induce Moscow to scale back or cease its predatory conduct — and the only effective shield for countries unfortunate enough  to border Russia. In 2008, however, the alliance failed  dismally when timorous Western Europeans blocked the path to NATO  membership for both Ukraine and Georgia. Leaving space between NATO’s  eastern edge and Russia’s border all but invited Moscow to take  advantage of the vacuum we ourselves created. Indeed, shortly after his  inauguration, Yanukovych did Russia’s bidding by taking NATO membership  off the table. NATO’s 2008 mistake also convinced  Russia, a few months later, that it could safely invade Georgia,  dismember it and ultimately orchestrate a pro-Moscow government. By contrast, NATO’s admission of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all sharing borders with Russia, has brought them at least a measure of respite from aggressive cyber-warfare and other Moscow interference.”

Likewise, George Weigel wrote in National Review Online that “it is self-evident that Ukraine’s future looms large in the strategic master plan of Russian president Vladimir Putin, which involves nothing less than the reconstitution of the USSR, de facto if not de jure, in a reassembly of the former ‘Soviet space’ as an exclusively Russian sphere of influence. In advancing that grand design, Putin has not been fastidious about either his modus operandi or his partners. Armenia was cajoled, then threatened, then bribed and bullied into backing off its plans to pursue integration into the European Union. Those tactics having worked with the small fry, Putin then turned the screws on the biggest prize, Ukraine, threatening to wreak economic havoc in that country if the government of President Viktor Yanukovych did not retreat from longstanding plans to sign an association agreement with the EU at a summit in Vilnius this past November. Yanukovych’s cave-in to that pressure launched the Maidan [protest] movement, with all that has followed.”


Here’s a useful analysis published by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday — “Ukraine Gets Ugly”:

The protests in Ukraine took an ugly turn Tuesday as thousands of demonstrators rioted in Kiev, torching cars and buildings and hurling bricks and Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with rubber bullets and stun grenades. At least 18 people were confirmed dead as we went to press, and scores were injured in the latest clashes over the Yanukovych government’s Russian rapprochement.

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming the violence on “connivance on the part of those Western politicians and European structures” supposedly encouraging Ukraine’s more extreme protesters to “further escalation and provocations against the legitimate authority.” That echoes President Vladimir Putin’s familiar accusations of Western “meddling” in former Soviet satellites.

Hardly. The devolution of what started in November as a peaceful pro-European movement is a grim illustration of what can happen when the West fails to get involved.

The protests began three months ago after President Yanukovych scrapped an agreement for closer ties between Ukraine and the EU, opting instead for a $15 billion package of cheap loans and gas from Russia. As part of that package, Moscow announced Monday that it will buy $2 billion of Ukrainian eurobonds. Kiev has imposed intermittent crackdowns on the demonstrators and Mr. Yanukovych’s ruling party has pushed through laws restricting public gatherings.

Meanwhile, the pro-Europe forces have pleaded for Western support to little effect. Opposition leaders Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Vitali Klitschko met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday to ask for sanctions against Yanukovych officials with assets in the EU. Berlin declined, even as it gave rhetorical support to the protest movement, and it offered no information on any forthcoming aid from Germany or the EU to counter Moscow’s billions.

The EU’s eastern members have been urging a sweetened deal for Ukraine that would include money and a pathway to full EU membership, which was not contained in the original offer that Kiev rejected in November. EU and U.S. officials have refused and said Ukraine will only receive more Western ties and money once it earns them through economic and political reforms. For the Yanukovych government, the calculus is clear: The potential Russian retaliation for such reforms dwarfs the benefits of any Western rewards mooted so far.

Without more U.S. and EU help, Ukraine’s pro-Western democrats will never achieve their goals and could wind up dead. That brings us to Tuesday’s bomb-throwers. Even as Moscow was accusing the West of having instigated the riots, journalists and peaceful activists in Kiev were reporting that the provocateurs were working on behalf of the Yanukovych regime to justify another crackdown.

Late on Tuesday evening, government police forces and Yanukovych-hired thugs tried to force their way through the barricades around Independence Square. Once again, Mr. Putin’s man in Kiev has proved he is willing to turn to violence to save his skin. The U.S. and the EU have vaguely threatened sanctions against President Yanukovych, his inner circle and his supporters among the oligarchs. If not now, when? The longer the U.S. and the EU dither on the sidelines, the uglier Ukraine’s crisis will get.

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Damascus Countdown will be the most chilling, pulse-pounding thriller you read this year. It will be banned and burned in Tehran and Damascus, but it should be required reading in Washington and Jerusalem. Joel Rosenberg is a good friend and a great writer and he is spot on. Nothing threatens our national security more than the mullahs of Iran and the tyrants in Syria building and deploying weapons of mass annihilation, and an American President who doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stop them in time. I’ve warned about this for years. Now Joel paints an eerie, terrifying, page-turning picture of a worst-case scenario coming to pass. You have to read this book, and then pray it never happens.”

– Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate

“Joel, thanks so much for sending me a signed copy of Damascus Countdown. Loved getting it. I’d actually already pre-ordered it for my iPad! Just started it and it’s fantastic – intense action, blistering pace, and freaking eerie how close it is to real events in the Mideast, especially with Iran so close to the Bomb and Syria melting down! You’re damn good, Joel. Exceptionally good! You always keeps me riveted, my friend. Keep up the great work!”

– Rush Limbaugh, radio host and #1 New York Times best-selling author

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– Reza Kahlili, former CIA operative in Iran and best-selling author of A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran

President praises King Abdullah as two discuss peace talks, Syria & new financial assistance.

President Barack Obama greets Jordan's King Abdullah II at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, Rancho Mirage, Calif., Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin/Times of Israel)

President Barack Obama greets Jordan’s King Abdullah II at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, Rancho Mirage, Calif., Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin/Times of Israel)

(Washington, D.C.) — President Obama held a working dinner with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Rancho Mirage, California, on Friday evening to strengthen the vital U.S.-Jordanian alliance and discuss the dangerous and fast-moving environment in the epicenter.

The King is a key player in the region and the stability of Jordan is vital to peace. Please pray for the King, for his family and his advisors, and for all the people of Jordan as they face enormous challenges in a very dangerous neighborhood.

The official word from the White House was that the meeting focused primarily on new U.S. economic assistance to the Hashemite Kingdom given the seriousness of the refugee crisis. There are presently some 571,457 Syrian refugees living in Jordan. This represents nearly 10% of the Jordan’s population and is putting enormous strains on the small Middle Eastern nation that has no oil and few other natural resources.

The Jordanian media, however, suggested a good deal of the dinner focused on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Jordan’s role in helping both sides sign onto the “framework agreement” the President and Secretary Kerry are crafting and pushing so hard.

“I am cautiously optimistic, even with the major challenges that America has been working tirelessly to improve the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians” the King said, adding that US’s relentless efforts to bring the partners closer over the past month “gave us hope,” reported The Jordan Times. Interestingly, the King also noted that “our national interests in these issues are of paramount importance,” hinting that there are sensitive elements of the peace talks that the King is discussing with Mr. Obama that isn’t being publicly reported.

In turn, President Obama spoke highly of His Majesty and the vital role Jordan plays in the region as a key American ally. “I think it’s fair to say that we have very few friends, partners and allies around the world that have been as steadfast and reliable as His Majesty King Abdullah, as well as the people of Jordan,” the President said. “In a region that obviously is going through enormous changes, the friendship between our peoples has been a constant.”

“President Barack Obama intends to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Jordan and to renew an agreement ensuring a minimum level of annual U.S. aid through 2019 as the kingdom copes with a flood of Syrian refugees,” reports Bloomberg news. “Obama unveiled the offers yesterday while he welcomed Jordan’s King Abdullah II to California for a meeting on issues including the civil war in Syria. The leaders met as U.S. officials review options for dealing with the Syrian conflict, which has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing into Jordan, threatening the kingdom’s stability.”

Details about U.S. aid to Jordan (from the Bloomberg story):

  • “The people of Jordan have been very generous” in taking in Syrian refugees, Obama said at Sunnylands, the Annenberg Estate in Rancho Mirage, before beginning talks with Abdullah. “It puts a great strain on the resources of Jordan.”
  • The meeting was the first of three Obama is holding with Mideast allies, seeking to reassure them of support as peace talks on Syria stall and the U.S. presses Iran to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. Obama meets next month in Washington with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then, at month’s end, flies to Saudi Arabia to see King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
  • Last night’s meeting between Obama and Abdullah, both 52, overlaps the deadlocked talks in Geneva between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the opposition. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Beijing on Feb. 14 that Obama had asked his administration to “to think about various options that may or may not exist” to make progress….
  • The loan guarantee, which requires congressional action, would follow an initial $1.25 billion loan guarantee authorized last year. It would help Jordan borrow money to pay for costs associated with refugee growth and the loss of natural gas from Egypt.
  • Signing another five-year funding agreement would give Jordan a degree of certainty as it struggles with economic and social challenges. Jordan receives $660 million a year from the U.S. under a five-year memorandum of understanding reached in 2008, with $360 million for economic support and another $300 million for military assistance.
  • On top of that, Congress last year allocated $340 million to Jordan through overseas contingency funds. The five-year agreement is set to expire at the end of September.

Details about King Abdullah II’s trip to the U.S. (from the Bloomberg story):

  • For the Jordanian king, it’s the highest-level meeting on a U.S. visit that also has included talks in Washington with Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, congressional leaders and appropriators, and leaders of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
  • Kerry, who has been pressing for progress in talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, is also to meet next week with senior Emirati officials in Abu Dhabi.
  • Obama’s meeting with the Jordanian king is part of a weekend visit to California by the president, who stopped earlier in Fresno to discuss the state’s drought with local officials.
  • While the Jordanian monarch was in in the U.S. capital earlier this week, Eric Schultz, an administration spokesman, said the president chose Sunnylands because it allows a chance for an intimate discussion “out of the swirl of Washington.”

Additional coverage:


Syria desperately needs prayer, food, and peace. Death toll tops 140,000. “Unspeakable” crimes committed against children. Peace talks break down.

syria-refugees-infographic(Washington, D.C.) — The humanitarian disaster in Syria just keeps getting worse, the death toll keeps climbing, the destruction keeps spreading, the nation’s children are being subjected to unspeakable crimes, and now the latest round of peace talks in Geneva have broken down without progress.

Please pray urgently:

  • for peace 
  • for the immediate end of this horrific civil war
  • for the bodies and souls of the Syrian people
  • for the international relief organizations trying to get food and other supplies to suffering people amidst so much fighting and danger
  • for Christian relief organizations will have wisdom to know how to bless and care for the suffering people of Syria
  • for wisdom for government leaders, NGOs and Christian groups to know how to care for the 2 million-plus Syrian refugees who have poured into neighboring countries
  • for pastors and evangelical Christian leaders around the region and the world will be moved by the Lord to  mobilize more pray for Syria, and moved to invest in this important work.

The Joshua Fund is helping where the Lord opens a door, but I concede it is a drop in the bucket as the needs are enormous and overwhelming.

“More than 140,000 people, over 7,000 of them children, have been killed in Syria’s uprising-turned-civil war, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday,” Reuters reports. “The pro-opposition Observatory said the period since the ‘Geneva 2’ peace talks for Syria began last month had been the bloodiest of the nearly three-year conflict.”

“The death toll is now at 140,041, according to the Observatory, which is based in Britain but has a network of activists across the country. Among the dead were 7,626 children and 5,064 women,” the article notes. “The revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began as peaceful street protests but transformed into an armed insurgency after a fierce security force crackdown. It has since descended into a civil war with sectarian dimensions. The Observatory’s toll could not be independently verified by Reuters. The United Nations said last month it would stop updating its death count in Syria as dangerous conditions on the ground made estimates impossible to update with accuracy. The Observatory said all those cases included in its count were those it could document with either names and identification documents, or pictures and videos. It said the fate of tens of thousands more people remained unknown.”

A recently-released UN report paints an especially grim picture of the situation for Syria’s children — excerpts:

  • Syrian children have been subjected to “unspeakable” suffering in the nearly three years of civil war, with the Government and allied militia responsible for countless killings, maiming and torture, and the opposition for recruiting youngsters for combat and using terror tactics in civilian areas, according to the first United Nations report on the issue.  
  • “Violations must come to an end now,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in the report, which was released yesterday to the Security Council. “I therefore urge all parties to the conflict to take, without delay, all measures to protect and uphold the rights of all children in Syria.”
  • The report, covering the period from 1 March 2011 to 15 November 2013, lists a raft of horrors that Syria’s children have suffered since the opposition first sought to oust President Bashar al-Assad, ranging from direct commission of abuse, including sexual violence, to more general violation of their rights from school closures and denial of access to humanitarian aid.

Agence France Presse reported that “a second round of peace talks between Syria’s warring sides broke off Saturday without making any progress and without a date being set for a third round, the UN mediator said.”

“I think it is better that every side goes back and reflects on their responsibility, (and on whether) they want this process to continue or not,” Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters in Geneva.

“Speaking on the final day of a second round of talks that have been mired from the start by blame-trading over the violence ravaging Syria, he apologised to the Syrian people for not making progress,” AFP reported.

“I’m very, very sorry,” he said.

AFP also reported that according to Brahimi, “the two sides now at least had reached agreement on an agenda for future talks — if they happen — something they had failed to do throughout the past week.”

“At least we have agreed on an agenda. But we also have to agree on how we tackle that agenda,” Brahimi said, adding: “I very much hope there we will be a third round.”

>> To learn more about The Joshua Fund’s work to bless Israel and her neighbors — including Syria — in the name of Jesus, please click here.

Is Palestinian leader Abbas a shrewd negotiator, or an obstacle to peace? Latest headlines raise questions.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (Photo by AP)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (Photo by AP)

(Washington, D.C.) — We all want to see peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. The question is: How do we get there?

As President Obama meets today with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in California, it is believed that much of their focus will be how to persuade Israel’s leaders to make deeper concessions to the Palestinians by the end of April, and then deeper-still concessions to conclude a comprehensive final peace treaty by the end of 2014.

But one of the challenges the President and His Majesty need to wrestle with is the refusal of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to make serious concessions.

Is Abbas merely playing the shrewd negotiator, repeatedly saying “no” in hopes of extracting further Israeli concessions?

Or does Abbas not want to ever make serious concessions, hoping instead that the U.S., the E.U., and the rest of the world force Israel to make far deeper concessions or risk having Israel be blamed for the breakdown of the talks, thus triggering a wave of international boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (giving a victory to the “BDS” movement)?

Put another way, is Abbas the “key to peace,” or an obstacle to peace? There are plenty of analysts on each side of that divide. We may actually find out the answer soon, but as we pray for peace, let us pray faithfully for the Palestinian leadership.

In the meantime, it’s worth reading the latest story from the region:

“The Palestinian Authority has informed US Secretary of State John Kerry that it will not accept his framework peace proposal as it currently stands,” reports the Times of Israel. PA officials who spoke to the Times “claimed that the Obama administration’s current proposal, which is intended to serve as the basis for continued talks on a two-state solution, includes pretty much everything Israel demanded — almost down to the last detail — but does not address vital requirements from the Palestinian side.

“Israeli officials have voiced numerous objections of their own to the reported terms, with Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon quoted as describing the security aspect of the document, for instance, as ‘not worth the paper it’s printed on,'” noted the Times. “The Palestinian officials detailed to The Times of Israel what they said were the main clauses of the framework proposal. Peace talks resumed last July and are due to end in April unless Kerry can persuade the two sides to continue negotiations. Israeli officials have indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is inclined to accept the framework terms, on the basis that they are non-binding and that he can express objections to them, though this has not been confirmed. Netanyahu is to meet with President Barack Obama in Washington on March 3.”

According to the Times, “central clauses of the framework deal as presented by Kerry, and rejected by the PA, the Palestinian officials said, are as follows”:

  • Borders: The peace agreement is to be based on pre-1967 lines, but will take into consideration changes on the ground in the decades since.
  • Settlements: There will be no massive evacuation of “residents.”
  • Refugees: Palestinian refugees will be able to return to Palestine or remain where they currently live. In addition, it is possible that a limited number of refugees could be allowed into pre-1967 Israel as a humanitarian gesture, and only with Israeli acquiescence. Nowhere is it written that Israel bears responsibility for suffering caused to the refugees.
  • Capital: The Palestinian capital will be in Jerusalem.
  • Security: Israel has the right to defend itself, by itself.
  • The Jordan Valley: The IDF will retain a presence in the Jordan Valley. The length of time the IDF will remain will depend on the abilities of the Palestinian security forces.
  • Border crossings: Israel will continue to control border crossings into Jordan.
  • Definition of the countries: Two states will result, “a national state of the Jewish people and a national state of the Palestinian people.”

To read more details about Palestinian objections to the “framework agreement,” please click here.


Determined to make Mideast peace, Obama to meet Jordan’s King Abdullah II today. This is 1st of 3 meetings with key Mideast leaders in coming weeks.

President Obama and Jordan's King Abdullah II.

President Obama and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

(Washington, D.C.) — As readers of this blog know, I’ve been writing a series of columns on “Who To Watch” in the epicenter in 2014. First on my list was Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

There are many reasons, but among the most important is that the King is emerging as a critically important player in the Mideast peace process.

Hot in pursuit of a comprehensive peace deal by the end of this year, President Obama today begins the first of three rounds of meetings with key Middle Eastern leaders scheduled over the next few weeks.

  • First up,  the President meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah II today in Palm Springs, California.
  • Second, the President will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on March 3rd.
  • Third, the President will meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah at a summit expected to be held in Riyadh later in March.

Mr. Obama’s top priorities:

  1. Create maximum leverage to persuade (some critics would say “force”) Israeli and Palestinian leaders to sign onto Secretary Kerry’s “framework agreement” by April.
  2. Nail down a comprehensive final peace treaty between the Israelis and Palestinians by the end of 2014, with active Jordanian and Saudi assistance.
  3. Allay Israeli, Saudi and Jordanian fears that the U.S. isn’t doing enough to stop Iran from getting The Bomb (especially in light of recent reports the Israelis and Saudis are secretly preparing to hit Iran’s nuclear facilities).
  4. Discuss the crisis in Syria and how best to make peace in that imploding country.

Few Americans spend much time thinking about Jordan or her King. Why then in the 51 year old monarch emerging as such an important player? Here’s the brief version:

  • Any peace deal that might be struck between the Israelis and Palestinians will be predicated on the stability of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the security the King’s military and intelligence services can provide to make sure a Palestinian state would be peaceful and not radicalized.
  • If the King is overthrown by Radical Islamists, all the assumptions undergirding the current peace process would collapse.
  • Removing Jordan’s moderate, pro-Western monarch is a top priority of the jihadists.
  • The King’s father — the late-King Hussein — negotiated and signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.
  • King Abdullah II was the originator of an Arab peace plan that eventually was refined by the Saudis as the “Arab Peace Initiative” and was ratified by the entire Arab League.
  • The King has a great deal of trust with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, something the President doesn’t have himself.
  • The King is well known and liked on Capitol Hill among key House and Senate leaders, both Democrat and Republican.
  • The King also has a good working relationship with American Jewish leaders, some of whom he met with in Washington this week to discuss the latest developments in the peace process.
  • The President visited Jordan in March 2013 as part of a Mideast trip that included stops in Israel and with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah. [Read text of press conference.]

Understanding Jordan is not a high priority for most Americans, but for anyone interested in the epicenter it should be.

As I pray for the peace of Jerusalem in accordance with Psalm 122:6, I pray especially for the King, as well as the other key players in the region at this delicate, challenging time.


  • “President Barack Obama will launch a new round of Middle East diplomacy Friday in a plush oasis in the arid California desert, hosting a Valentine’s Day summit with Jordan’s King Abdullah II,” reports Agence France Presse. “Obama and the king will swap the piles of snow in Washington for the Sunnylands retreat at the Annenberg estate in Palm Springs, to discuss issues including the pitiful torrent of refugees pouring into Jordan from Syria.”
  • The meeting will be the first of a trio of meetings between Obama and key Middle East leaders in the coming weeks.
  • On March 3, the US president will sit down at the White House for his latest encounter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made no secret of his skepticism over an interim deal that Washington and other world powers reached with Iran on its nuclear program.
  • Then at the end of March, he will travel to Saudi Arabia, for what is likely to be a sharp personal reminder that Saudi King Abdullah shares Netanyahu’s doubts about Obama’s strategy of testing the sincerity of an Iranian diplomatic opening.
  • Obama and his royal guest will sit down in California just two days after the US president admitted that Syria was “crumbling,” while his Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the civil war-splintered country as an “apocalyptic disaster.”
  • Jordan has borne the brunt of much of the humanitarian overflow — nearly 600,000 Syrian refugees have now crossed its borders, straining its infrastructure and finances.
  • Obama has all but admitted that his policy is failing in the expressed US aim of sparking a political transition in Syria leading to the exit of President Bashar al-Assad.
  • But he frequently notes that the United States is the largest aid donor to Syrian refugees. Washington has so far donated $1.7 billion to the cause, according to the US Agency for International Development.
  • But there are no signs that the Obama administration believes that a new US policy — or a change in its reluctance to either to do more to arm opposition rebels or to commit direct US military resources — would bring an end to the crisis any closer.
  • Obama will also discuss US efforts to broker a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians with the Jordanian monarch, who strongly backs US efforts.


Listen to new podcast: 3 revolutions underway in the Muslim world 35 years after Islamic Revolution in Iran.

podcast(Washington, D.C.) — This week marks the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

In a new podcast, I talk about the importance of this game-changing moment in the Middle East. I also explain that there is not simply one revolution underway — there are actually three revolutions in motion in the Islamic world today.

The podcast runs about 11 minutes. In it, I explain these three revolutionary forces — the Radicals, the Reformers, and the Revivalists — and briefly describe who they are and what they want.

Hope you find it helpful.

Wall Street Journal: “Scary 1929 market chart gains traction. If market follows the same script, trouble lies directly ahead.”

stockmarket-chart(Washington, D.C.) — I hope there is nothing to this. But I thought I ought to share it with you anyway.

“There are eerie parallels between the stock market’s recent behavior and how it behaved right before the 1929 crash,” says a columnist writing for the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch. “That at least is the conclusion reached by a frightening chart that has been making the rounds on Wall Street. The chart superimposes the market’s recent performance on top of a plot of its gyrations in 1928 and 1929. The picture isn’t pretty. And it’s not as easy as you might think to wriggle out from underneath the bearish significance of this chart.”

“I should know, because I quoted a number of this chart’s skeptics in a column I wrote in early December,” notes Wall Street analyst Mark Hulburt. “Yet the market over the last two months has continued to more or less closely follow the 1928-29 pattern outlined in that two-months-ago chart. If this correlation continues, the market faces a particularly rough period later this month and in early March. (See chart, courtesy of Tom McClellan of the McClellan Market Report; he in turn gives credit to Tom DeMark, a noted technical analyst who is the founder and CEO of DeMark Analytics.)”

“One of the biggest objections I heard two months ago was that the chart is a shameless exercise  in after-the-fact retrofitting of the recent data to some past price pattern,” Hulburt notes. “But that objection has lost much of its force. The chart was first publicized in late November of last year, and the correlation since then certainly appears to be just as close as it was before. To be sure, as McClellan acknowledged: ‘Every pattern analog I have ever studied breaks correlation eventually, and often at the point when I am most counting on it to continue working. So there is no guarantee that the market has to continue following through with every step of the 1929 pattern. But between now and May 2014, there is plenty of reason for caution.’ Tom Demark added in interview that he first drew parallels with the 1928-1929 period well before last November. ‘Originally, I drew it for entertainment purposes only,’ he said—but no longer: ‘Now it’s evolved into something more serious.'”….

To read the rest of the column, please click here.

>> Please click here to read Implosion: Can American Recover From Its Economic & Spiritual Challenges In Time?


Israel takes step towards becoming a gas exporter.

Israel-naturalgasplatform“Israel has taken a step closer to becoming a natural gas exporter after Australia’s Woodside Petroleum Ltd signed a deal to take a 25 percent stake in the huge East Mediterranean Leviathan gas field,” reports Ynet News. “The Australian company, considered a leader in the booming liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector, signed a preliminary agreement on Thursday to buy a quarter of the Leviathan field off the coast of Israel for up to $2.55 billion.”

Excerpts from the article:

  • Leviathan is estimated to hold about 19 trillion cubic feet (540 billion cubic meters) of natural gas, enough to supply all of Europe for over a year.
  • The field is being developed by US-based Noble Energy Corp, which will remain the project’s lead partner with a 30 percent stake, while the other groups involved, Israel’s Delek Group, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration, will each sell one-quarter of their stakes to Woodside.
  • “Woodside is one of the leading companies in the world in the … development of LNG facilities. The company brings with it rich experience … and will be a significant boost for the Leviathan partnership,” Delek Drilling and Avner said in a statement. 
  • Woodside sees the Leviathan project as an important part of its strategy to diversify outside of Australia. It is also considering projects in Myanmar and Ireland. 
  • Despite the prospect of lucrative gas exports, analysts said Leviathan would initially serve Israel’s domestic market.
  • “Leviathan will be initially developed as a domestic gas project with gross production of 800 million cubic feet per day and first gas expected in 2017,” Bernstein research said on Friday in a research note. 
  • Once domestic supplies are up and running, Bernstein said that Woodside’s involvement in the project meant that exports in form of LNG would become more likely. 
  • “There will be up to 9 trillion cubic feet of gas exports. Although it remains uncertain whether gas exports will be as LNG or pipeline, Woodside’s involvement increases the probability of a floating LNG scheme.” 
  • Analysts said the Leviathan field may also hold significant oil reserves of up to 720 million barrels, and that drilling was expected to begin in 2015.

To read the rest of the story, please click here.