In a region of radicals, a reformer is rising. (Here’s my Fox News column on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who today turns 33.)


Over the years, I have written a series of profiles of moderate Muslim leaders who are pursuing important reforms in their countries yet rarely receive the level of media attention that the radicals do. Such profiles have included:

  • Jordan’s King Abdullah II (see herehere, here and here)
  • Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (see here, here, here and here)
  • The leaders of Azerbaijan (see here)
  • The leaders of Morocco (see here)

In recent months, I have found my attention turning time and time again to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Today, on the occasion of his 33rd birthday, Fox News Opinion has published a new column of mine looking at Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a, “MBS.”



Amidst so much war and terrorism in the Middle East, there is actually remarkably good news coming out of Saudi Arabia.

A reformer is rising, pursuing the most dramatic economic, social and foreign policy changes in the history of the kingdom.

His name is Mohammed bin Salman. Widely known simply as “MBS,” he’s young. On August 31st, he will turn just 33 years old. Yet he has already amassed tremendous power. In January 2015, he became Defense Minister. In June 2017, he was named Crown Prince, and thus heir to throne.

With the blessing of his father, King Salman, he’s moving quickly to expand women’s rights, diversify the country’s oil-based economy, confront violent Islamism and even advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“We are…reverting to what we [once] followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions,” MBS told a conference of investors in Riyadh. “We want to lead normal lives, lives where our religion and our traditions translate into tolerance, so that we coexist with the world and become part of the development of the world.”

Radicals like Hamza bin Laden – son of the late terrorist mastermind – accuse MBS of being too moderate and working too closely with Washington. ISIS leaders despise MBS and have threatened to launch attacks in the kingdom. Iranian proxy forces in Yemen have fired more than 100 missiles at Saudi Arabia since 2015 and drawn MBS into a deadly and expensive war.

Liberals attack MBS for not being moderate enough. Human Rights Watch argues that “since [MBS] has ascended to power, there’s been an intensified repression of dissent.” Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says she is “very alarmed” by recent Saudi decisions, and Tweeted that Ottawa is “gravely concerned” about the state of civil society in the kingdom.

Yet consider 21 impressive reforms MBS and his team have advanced already….

[To read the rest of the column — including a description of these 21 reforms — please click here.]



BREAKING: Putin orders biggest war games in nearly four decades in September.


“Russia will next month hold its biggest war games in nearly four decades,” Reuters is reporting.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted by Russian news agencies on Tuesday as describing the scope of the war games, which will take place from September 11 through 15.

“The exercise — called Vostok-2018 (East-2018) — will take place in central and eastern Russian military districts and involve almost 300,000 troops, over 1,000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets, and all its airborne units, agencies quoted Shoigu as saying. It will be the biggest military exercise since 1981….”

BBC News is reporting that “Russia has intensified its military training amid tension with Nato. Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine in 2014 triggered Western sanctions and a heightened Nato presence near Russian borders.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes, “The September 2017 war games in Belarus and parts of western Russia, dubbed Zapad 2017, triggered concerns in neighboring NATO nations already wary of Moscow’s intentions after its illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and military interference in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.”



Here’s what books I’m reading these days. How about you? I’d love to know.


(Jerusalem, Israel) — Earlier this week, I was asked by some folks on Twitter what I’ve been reading this year. Here’s my list, as well as a more extended list of what I’ve been reading since we moved to Israel (exactly four years ago this month). 

Typically, I’m working on several books at once — a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, along with my daily Bible reading. Many of these I’ve devoured as audio books. I love to download books on my iPhone and listen when I’m driving in the car, flying back and forth to the U.S., whatever. Even a quick trip to the grocery store lets me listen to another 10 minutes of a book, each way. What a great way to use time wisely and get to books I’d otherwise have no time to get to. I highly recommend the practice.

So, what are you reading? I’d love to know. Please post your recent list on my Facebook page or on Twitter. And don’t forget to tell me what city/country you’re writing from. Thanks!


  • Spymaster by Brad Thor — Odd as this may sound, I don’t read much fiction. So, in recent years, I’ve been sampling more. Way overdue reading anything by Thor, a #1 NYT best-selling novelist, so thought I’d get his latest.
  • Into The Hands Of Soliders: Freedom and Chaos In Egypt and the Middle East by David Kirkpatrick — Not sure I’ll agree with all of this NYT journalist’s conclusions, but he lived through the Arab Spring as bureau chief in Cairo so I’m curious what he has to say.
  • Desiring God by John Piper — One of my sons recommended this to me a few years ago. Never got to it. Wish I had. Loving every page.





UPDATED: Israel and Gaza moving towards full-blown war. Hamas breaks cease-fire. 200+ rockets and mortars fired at Israel since Wednesday night. 11 Israeli civilians injured. IDF retaliating. Palestinians in Gaza suffering under Hamas tyranny. Here’s the latest. #PleasePray


(Jerusalem, Israel) — Pray it doesn’t happen. Pray that civilians on both sides of the border are spared the horror. But all signs suggest a major new war is about to erupt between Israel and Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza.

It has been exactly four years since the last full-scale war between Israel and the terrorists of the Gaza Strip. In August of 2014 (the month my family and I moved to Israel), some 4,594 rockets and mortar rounds were fired at civilians in the Jewish State by Hamas and its allies. The Israeli military retaliated fiercely, bombarding the Strip with hundreds of strikes on terrorist facilities. IDF ground forces made numerous incursions into the Strip. In the end, Israeli chose not to launch a complete invasion and occupation of the Strip, but many on both sides of the border suffered and great damage was caused during the conflict.

Since then, a shaky truce has persisted. The Egyptian government of President el-Sisi deserves credit for actively working behind the scenes to persuade Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups to stand down. 


Yet in 2018, there has been a dramatic escalation:

So far, Israeli officials have chosen not to mobilize reservists and launch a full-scale ground and air operation against Gaza. But Hamas and their terror allies are clearly trying to provoke such a war. 

Why? That’s anyone’s guess. These evil leaders are determined to rob, kill and destroy. They have trapped — enslaved, really — the people of Gaza in a brutish environment. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Palestinians people of Gaza have priceless beachfront property along the Mediterranean. They have smart, industrious people. They have natural gas reserves right off the coast that foreign petroleum companies are willing to help them develop if there only was peace. Israel, it should be noted, has not occupied the Strip since August 2005. Thus, for the last thirteen years the people of Gaza could have been building a free and thriving and prosperous society. Instead, they find themselves suffering under a wicked tyranny that is engaging in hundreds of war crimes (i.e., shooting at innocent civilians in Israel from schools, hospitals, playgrounds and other civilian centers in Gaza.) Hamas can’t provide enough food or cooking fuel. They only provide a few hours of electricity every day. That means even people with air conditioners suffer in blazing desert heat most days without being use them. 

Israel has a right to defend her people. But these terror attacks and this humanitarian disaster cannot go on.

The world needs to focus like a laser on pressuring Hamas to stop attacking Israel, surrender their weapons, and let the Palestinian Authority reassert control and begin to rebuild with Egypt’s help, and the help of wealthy Gulf countries.

The people of Gaza need help. They are people created in the image of God — a God who loves them. They deserve so much better. Let us pray for quiet and calm on the border, to be sure. Let us pray war that war will be averted. But let’s not stop there. Let’s pray for more — for the complete political, economic and spiritual liberation of the Palestinians of Gaza. It cannot come too soon.

In region divided by terror & politics, Evangelical leaders call for global prayer for peace and “supernatural unity” between Israeli and Palestinian Christians. (Here’s the Christian Post’s coverage of the 2018 Epicenter Prayer Summit.)


>> To listen to or watch any of the messages from the Summit, please click here.

(Jerusalem, Israel) — The Christian Post just published an excellent story on the 2018 Epicenter Prayer Summit, and I commend it to your attention.

Here is the article in full

Influential Christian leaders Ronnie Floyd and Anne Graham Lotz were among some 800 believers who attended a conference in Jerusalem and offered prayers for “supernatural unity.”

“We prayed boldly that peace may reign in Jerusalem and in the most volatile region in the world. And we prayed for supernatural unity that overcomes the most entrenched barriers and divisions,” Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, told The Christian Post on Thursday.

The Epicenter Prayer Summit in Jerusalem was led by The Joshua Fund on July 11 and 12. Joshua Fund founder Joel C. Rosenberg revealed on his blog that participants included those from the U.S., Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other nations. The event came in the midst of high tension in the region, with hundreds of rockets being fired at Israel from Gaza.

Floyd, who is also the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Lotz, author and daughter of the late evangelist Billy Graham, both spoke at the event, as did pastors and leaders of local Jewish, Israeli Arab and Palestinian Arab ministries.

“The heartbeat of the conference was to come together in unity, seeing walls coming down between all true believers in Jesus through the power of prayer. All of this is so we can be used in a powerful way to communicate the Gospel to all peoples,” Floyd explained.

The pastor reflected that everywhere around the world, people “allow language, race, culture, ancestry, nationality and anything that might make us different from someone else to divide us.”

“Sadly, this is painfully visible in the region of the world where Jesus was born. Yet that’s exactly why Jesus came, to bring down the barriers between people and between us and God. Bringing people together around the Word of God and the person of Jesus Christ is the key to overcoming divisions between people from diverse backgrounds,” he stated.

“The testimonies from Jewish and Palestinian believers in Jesus Christ were particularly powerful and encouraging to each of us. The Gospel is more powerful than any barrier we can build.”

Tensions on the Gaza border with Israel flared up in May, when dozens of Palestinians were killed during violent protests over the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, a decision that has divided many in the region.

Floyd revealed that the differences on the issue “were certainly understood,” but explained that the conference “was not meant to address political issues.”

“It was meant to remind ourselves that the Gospel transcends these issues and brings us together as one. The vision was to stay focused on the Gospel and its advancement across the Middle East and beyond, knowing prayer and awakening are the key,” he added.

Rosenberg, who is a best-selling author, said in opening remarks at the prayer summit that believers need to examine just what it means to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

“How do make sure not to simply pray for one group who live here to the exclusion of the others? How can we encourage one another to pray for Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, and for all who live in the Epicenter?” he posed.

“This is exactly what this Summit is for — learning to pray for all the souls of this extraordinary city and region, from Scripture, with real faces before us, and with purpose and great power.”

Lotz, who leads Angel Ministries, spoke from Daniel 9, calling on people to pray in a way that moves Heaven and changes nations, families and individuals.

“If prayer is hard for you, it’s because prayer is hard, OK? One of the things that helps me is if I can find a model prayer in Scripture after which I can pattern my prayers….Daniel was a man who prayed so powerfully and so effectively that God answered his prayer and a nation was changed,” she said.

Lotz also spoke of the importance of trusting in the faithfulness of God.

“God is faithful. What testimony can you give of the faithfulness of God in your life? I can tell you, just as God has been faithful to Joel Rosenberg, and just as God has been faithful to Ronnie Floyd, and just as God has been faithful to Billy Graham, and me; just as God has been faithful to your grandmother or your pastor, God will be faithful to you,” she continued.

“You know how I know that? Because God is faithful. He can’t be less than Himself, can He?”

Floyd told CP that he believes that progress was made on important topics.

“For those of us visiting from America, it moved us to see and hear firsthand about the challenges our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters face. This was personally challenging and an important reminder of the cost of following Jesus. We have to stand in unity and solidarity with believers around the world, especially in places where they face persecution for their faith,” the pastor said.

“I believe for those located in the Middle East it was also refreshing and encouraging to know Christians in the West are praying with and for them. Time will bear the testimony of this fruit.”

As for the prospects of peace in Israel, given the continued turmoil in the region, Floyd noted that peace begins with prayer.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” he said, citing Psalm 122 in the Bible.

“This is what we did throughout the conference. While we always support efforts to establish peace in Israel and Palestine, our confidence is not in any man-brokered deal. We place our confidence in the Prince of Peace and His soon return, who will establish unending peace not only in Jerusalem but in the whole earth.” 

U.S. absolutely right to impose sanctions on Turkey for refusing to release Evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson. Please pray for a breakthrough. Here’s the latest on case that highlights a NATO member’s turn to the dark side.


(Jerusalem, Israel) — Readers of this column know I have been warning for years that Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Erdogan is taking his country steadily, even aggressively, away from its long-time alliance with the West and into the arms of Russia and Iran. (for examples, see here, here, here, here, and here.)

After years of denial by the Obama administration that there was any serious problem, Washington is finally beginning to pay attention to Erdogan’s march to the dark side. 

  • On July 26, President Trump warned Erdogan (pronounced, “Air-do-wahn”) to immediately release American Evangelical Christian Pastor Andrew Brunson from a Turkish prison or face “large sanctions.” 
  • The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!” wrote the President in a Tweet.
  • At a conference on international religious freedom held in Washington, Vice President Mike Pence also spoke out publicly against Turkey.
  • On July 29, Erdogan angrily rejected the White House warnings. “We will not step back when faced with sanctions,” Erdogan said. “They [the U.S.] should not forget that they will lose a sincere partner.” While the pastor has been released from prison, Brunson is still under house arrest and Turkey refuses to drop the charges against him. 
  • On August 2, President Trump kept his word and imposed sanctions on Turkey, targeting Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu because they “serve as leaders of Turkish government organizations responsible for implementing Turkey’s serious human rights abuses.”
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is actively engaged in trying to release the pastor, stating: “It’s pretty straightforward. Pastor Brunson is an innocent pastor and they need to let him a return to the United States.”

Please pray for Mr. Brunson, who:

  • Is pastor of a legally-recognized church in the city of Izmir.
  • Has served the Lord in Turkey since 1993.
  • Has already been in prison for nearly two years (since October 2016).
  • Faces a sentence of up to 35 years if convicted in Turkish courts.

“It is really hard to stay in jail and be separated from my wife and children,” Brunson said at a recent court hearing. “The disciples of Jesus suffered in his name. Now it is my turn. I am an innocent man on all these charges. I reject them. I know why I am here. I am here to suffer in Jesus’ name.”

Please pray for U.S. officials, as well, to have the wisdom to know how best to handle Erdogan, ostensibly a NATO ally but increasingly an opponent and steadily emerging as an enemy of the West.

To that end, it is worth reading a recent Wall Street Journal editorial — “Sanctions For The Sultan” — that captures the geopolitical challenge quite well:

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become increasingly unreliable as an ally over the last decade, yet he has suffered few consequences from his NATO partners. That changed Wednesday when the Trump Administration followed through on its threat to impose sanctions on Turkey for taking an American hostage.

The U.S. Treasury announced sanctions against Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu for the “unfair and unjust detention” of American pastor Andrew Brunson. The action was taken under the Global Magnitsky Act, so Messrs. Gul and Soylu are now in a class with the likes of Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov and former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh in being subjected to potential asset freezes and travel restrictions.

Pastor Brunson led a Presbyterian congregation in Izmir for more than two decades. He was jailed on trumped-up terrorism charges after a failed 2016 military coup. Turkey’s modern sultan may see Mr. Brunson as leverage to get the U.S. to extradite a Pennsylvania-based imam who Mr. Erdogan believes masterminded the coup. The Turks also hold NASA scientist and Turkish-American citizen Serkan Golge, who was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison in February for alleged terrorist ties.

Mr. Trump has tried private diplomacy with Mr. Erdogan, and last month he threatened sanctions if Mr. Brunson wasn’t released. A Turkish court released him to house arrest, but he continues to face charges. Mr. Trump had no choice but to impose the sanctions once he had threatened them.

All of this marks a new low in U.S.-Turkey relations, and the potential for additional U.S. sanctions if there’s no solution won’t help Mr. Erdogan as he tries to stabilize a falling currency and stop capital flight. The lira has lost almost 25% of its value this year and hit another low Wednesday.

If Mr. Erdogan thought the U.S. President didn’t mean what he tweeted, he now knows better. A more serious breach would damage U.S. interests in the region, but failing to respond to hostage-taking would damage them too.