On Watch in Washington August 13, 2014
August 13, 2014
Israel and the Hamas militant group accepted an Egyptian cease-fire proposal Sunday, clearing the way for the resumption of talks on a long-term truce to end a month of heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip that has taken nearly 2,000 lives.
The announcement marked the second time in less than a week that the bitter enemies had agreed to Egyptian mediation. A similar three-day truce last week collapsed in renewed violence over the weekend.
The truce took effect at midnight (2101 GMT), preceded by heavy rocket fire toward Israel. In Cairo, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the cease-fire would allow humanitarian aid into battered Gaza neighborhoods and the reopening of indirect talks on a more lasting and comprehensive deal.
Hamas is seeking an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade against Gaza, while Israel wants Hamas to dismantle its formidable arsenal of rockets and other weapons.
Palestinian negotiators accepted the proposal early Sunday after meeting with Egyptian officials throughout the weekend. Israeli officials concurred later. Both delegations are back in Cairo.
Qais Abdelkarim, a member of the Palestinian delegation, said indirect talks with the Israelis would begin Monday “with the hope of reaching a lasting cease-fire.” The goal, he added, was to end the blockade, which he called “the reason for the war.”
The recent fighting has been the heaviest between Israel and Hamas since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007. More than 1,900 Palestinians have been killed, including hundreds of civilians. On the Israeli side, 67 people have been killed, including three civilians. Nearly 10,000 people have been wounded and thousands of homes destroyed.
The fighting ended in a three-day cease-fire last Tuesday. Egypt had hoped to use that truce to mediate a long-term deal. But when it expired, militants resumed their rocket fire, sparking Israeli reprisals. The violence continued throughout the weekend, including a burst of fighting late Sunday ahead of the expected cease-fire.
The Israeli military reported some 30 rocket attacks from Gaza on Sunday. Palestinian medical officials said seven people were killed in Israeli airstrikes, including the bodyguard of a Hamas leader, the medical officials said.
Israel had walked away from cease-fire talks over the weekend. “Israel will not negotiate under fire,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Sunday, warning that his country’s military campaign “will take time.”
Last week’s talks failed in part because Israel rejected Hamas’ demand for a complete end to the blockade. Israel says the closure is necessary to prevent arms smuggling, and officials do not want to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.
A senior Palestinian negotiator acknowledged that the Palestinians would make more modest demands this time around. He said they will seek an end to the bloodshed in Gaza and an easing – but not an end – to the blockade.
“We might not get everything we want, particularly on freedom of movement. But we believe the Israelis and the world have gotten the point that Gazans should live normally and things should be much better than today,” the negotiator said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal Palestinian deliberations.
Israel says Hamas must disarm. Hamas has said handing over its arsenal, which is believed to include several thousand remaining rockets, is out of the question.
The blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the impoverished territory of 1.8 million people for jobs and schooling. It has also limited the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.
An Egyptian crackdown on smuggling tunnels along Gaza’s southern border has made things even tougher by robbing Hamas of its key economic pipeline and weapons conduit. Gaza’s unemployment rate surpasses 50 percent, and Hamas is unable to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of workers.
An easing of the blockade could mean an increased role for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces were ousted by Hamas seven years ago. Officials said the rival Palestinian factions were already exploring options that would give Abbas, who now governs in the West Bank, a foothold in Gaza, including the likely control of its border crossing with Egypt.
At a minimum, Israel will want guarantees that the rocket fire will stop. A 2012 cease-fire promised an easing of the blockade but was never implemented – in part because of sporadic rocket attacks by various armed factions in Gaza.
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Hamas could get the blockade lifted by accepting longstanding international demands to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
“They want to get legitimacy as a terrorist organization without accepting the requirements of the international community,” she told a news conference.
In the West Bank, Palestinian health officials said an 11-year-old boy was shot and killed Sunday by Israeli forces in a refugee camp near the city of Hebron.
Witnesses and relatives of the boy said Israeli security forces opened fire at Palestinian stone-throwers. They said the boy was standing on the road in front of his home at the time.
The military said its forces encountered a “violent riot” and opened fire. It acknowledged that the boy was killed in the violence and said it was investigating.
The current Gaza war escalated from the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of its members in the West Bank. Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from God. (Contributor: Mohammed Daraghmeh for NBC and Associated Press – Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem, Sarah El Deeb in Cairo, Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Daniel Estrin and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)
“Cease-fire” means that the firing of guns and rockets should cease for the agreed-on time period — usually aimed at negotiating terms for a permanent cessation of hostilities. If so, then the last two declarations have failed before they began. In short, Israel will not let itself be destroyed, and Hamas will not relent in its do-or-die determination to utterly wipe out the Jewish state. It appears that Hamas wants no restraint on its goal of eradicating Israel, while Israel wants to live and move and trade and do commerce and educate its children in peace, without a sword over its head. Pray for U.S. leaders to maintain our committed relationship to Israel’s well-being, which seems at times to be wavering.
“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.” (Prov 12:22)
“Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; nor are there any works like Your works. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name. For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God.” (Psalm 86:8-10)
Predicting whether Obamacare survives its latest battery of court challenges could be as easy as looking at the judges making the decisions — and the presidents who appointed them.
A Washington Times analysis of the votes cast by dozens of federal judges in appellate courts since the 2010 law was enacted shows that while Democratic and Republican appointees were evenly represented in the cases, they differed dramatically in how they ruled.
Democratic appointees ruled in favor of Obamacare more than 90 percent of the time, while Republican appointees ruled against it nearly 80 percent of the time.
Legal scholars said that’s not so much a result of party labels as that those labels represent competing judicial philosophies, which is what’s playing out in the rulings.
Two separate legal challenges to President Obama’s health care law met with skepticism Thursday from a federal appeals court panel dominated by Obama’s latest appointees. All three…
“When the result is that judges appointed by each party issue opinions that promote that party’s political goals, it can appear that the judges are trying to promote ‘their’ party’s political ends, even though that is not what’s happening,” said Michael F. Cannon, director of health policy at the Cato Institute and chief architect of a lawsuit that challenges where Obamacare’s subsidies may flow.
A review of substantive federal appellate opinions through August 1 shows that since 2011, only two of the 30 Democratic-appointed judges or justices to rule on the merits of a case decided against Obamacare. Among Republican nominees, just six of the 28 to rule backed Mr. Obama’s health law.
Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a George W. Bush appointee on the 6th Circuit, and Laurence H. Silberman, a Reagan appointee on the D.C. Circuit, came down in favor of the administration during the battle over the law’s “individual mandate,” which requires almost all Americans to hold health insurance or pay a penalty.
“Those guys are old school,” with a firm commitment to judicial restraint, said Randy E. Barnett, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center viewed as the leading legal light behind the challenge to the individual mandate.
Mr. Barnett said conservatives are starting to realize that such restraint does not always serve their interests.
Among Democratic appointees, the main exception was Judge Frank M. Hull, a Clinton appointee who ruled against the administration in the 11th Circuit case that led to Obamacare’s 2012 showdown before the Supreme Court.
Ultimately, conservatives were devastated when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., appointed in 2005 by Mr. Bush, broke ranks from the other Republican-appointed justices and upheld the law’s individual mandate under Congress’ taxing authority.
Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the chief justice may have weighed a persistent Republican-Democrat split over Obamacare.
“It’s hard to think that wasn’t at least on his mind,” he said.
Other legal scholars say Republican judges who rule against Obamacare reflect the anger that surrounds how the law was passed in 2010.
Democratic majorities had pushed bills through each chamber with no Republican support, meaning that when Republican Scott Brown won a special election to the Senate, Democrats no longer had the filibuster-proof majority in the upper chamber needed to pass a fully reconciled bill. Instead, they had to improvise and cut corners to get anything through.
“Now you’re crying to the courts, ‘Oh, we screwed up. Fix it for us,’” said David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University.
Americans got a perfect look at the political and ideological split just last month when the appeals court in the District of Columbia ruled that Obamacare can only pay subsidies in some states — on the same day that an appeals court in Richmond ruled the opposite way.
The D.C. case was 2-1, with two GOP-appointed judges ruling against Mr. Obama and a Democratic appointee ruling in its favor. The Richmond court panel, meanwhile, had three Democratic appointees, and all three ruled in favor of the Obama administration.
The rulings hinged on whether the law specifies whether subsidies could be paid to all residents or only to those in states that set up their own health exchanges rather than relying on the federal government.
Drafting error or otherwise, what should be a simple fix to a hastily passed law is not an option, as the Republican House majority still wants to repeal Obamacare outright.
“If the Affordable Care Act had been passed like the civil rights acts had been passed — with bipartisan support, and then with bipartisan support in the country — some judges [would] bend over backward to try to go along with that,” Mr. Barnett said.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill recognize how closely appeals court rulings are tied to the parties that nominated the judges hearing the cases.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat furious at the way Republican-appointed judges were ruling, used the so-called “nuclear option” last year to change Senate rules and make it easier to confirm Mr. Obama’s appeals court nominations.
A chief target was the powerful D.C. appeals court, where Mr. Reid’s adding of three more Democrats could turn out to have shaped in advance the outcome of an en banc rehearing of the subsidies case.
With competing rulings, the cases are likely headed to the Supreme Court, and would be the third major Obamacare challenge to reach the justices.
In the most recent case, decided in June, five Republican-appointed justices struck down part of the administration’s contraceptive mandate, ruling that closely held corporations cannot be forced to pay for employees’ contraceptive coverage if the company owners have religious objections. The four Democratic-appointed justices had backed the administration.
But in a sign that judges aren’t always so closely tied to party affiliation, just four days earlier the court ruled unanimously that Mr. Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional.
“When the case is easy,” Mr. Bernstein said, “you’ll get 9-0 opinions regardless of politics.” (Contributor: By Tom Howell Jr. for The Washington Times)
There is a potential trap here that intercessors must avoid. A shallow response is to think that if we elect the “right” candidates so that the “right” judges are appointed, then the country’s problems will be solved and our “land” will be healed. Some of us have heard sincere “conservative” friends say, “Just wait until November [elections]. Then everything will be okay.” But everything will not be okay. Intercessors will not stray from Scripture but be first to embrace a spirit of repentance, seeking the correct heart posture to “Go and make disciples of all nations…” Pray for a widespread awakening and extended mercy to the nation. If our country is to hear the truth, the Church must speak forth.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov 14:34)
“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet 4:17)
Neel Kashkari, the Republican candidate for governor of California, just recounted in The Wall Street Journal his week on the streets of Fresno posing as a homeless man looking for work. At the end of his op-ed, Mr. Kashkari lamented that he didn’t need a higher minimum wage, paid sick leave or a health care plan. What he needed was a job.
Mr. Kashkari made the important point that all of those government benefits, especially extended unemployment benefits, are work disincentives that may actually block job creation.
To be sure, there are signs that employment in the country is rising more rapidly these days. The February-to-July period was the first six-month stretch of consistent employment gains above 200,000 since 1997. That came without any new programs from the federal government to “create jobs.” Even more surprising, those gains overlapped a quarter in which gross domestic product (GDP) actually contracted.
So what drove the increase? University of Chicago professor Casey Mulligan put his finger on it: “Major subsidies and regulations intended to help the poor and unemployed … reduce incentives for people to work and for businesses to hire.” Guess what happened when federal emergency job assistance ended? Job increases were the best in 17 years.
Economists tend to focus primarily on the demand for labor in analyzing employment trends, giving short shrift to the supply of labor. Indeed, given the harsh winter weather and first-quarter drop in real GDP, it’s hard to believe that the demand for labor increased significantly in February and March, but is there anything about the supply of labor that could explain the improvement in employment?
Well, there is a very good reason to believe that extending unemployment benefits to a maximum of 99 weeks in recent years held back the labor supply. Rather than taking a job, extended unemployment benefits made it easier for potential workers to lengthen their job searches, hold out for higher-wage positions, or just choose not to work.
However, supply-side theory would also suggest that as extended unemployment benefits expired at the end of last year — despite major handwringing from the president and Democratic leaders — workers would go back to work. They did. Technically, this would be visible as an outward expansion of the supply-of-labor curve. Without the crutch of continued unemployment benefits, workers are willing to take jobs, even at a somewhat lower wage. They know that work is its own virtue.
Now, if the demand for labor is steady, what would be the implications of an increased labor supply? Here, as the supply curve shifts, economic analysis would suggest that wages might fall somewhat, but the level of employment would increase. Guess what? Since the month after extended unemployment benefits expired, the number of employed workers has increased, the employment-to-population ratio has increased (59 percent in July versus 58.8 percent in February), and the civilian labor force has increased (to 156 million in July from 155.7 million in February). Average hourly earnings growth remains sluggish at only 0.2 percent per month over the past six months, but at least wages have risen modestly while employment gains have increased markedly.
The lesson here is that if you pay people not to work, you get less work. In fact, this is a universal problem. Record-breaking increases in recent years in food stamps, disability benefits and various forms of welfare have reduced incentives to work and earn. However, it’s clear over the first half of the year that lower unemployment subsidies have generated higher employment, which helps explain why employment growth accelerated and the unemployment rate fell another half-percentage point when overall GDP growth slowed to a near 1 percent pace.
Rep. Paul Ryan has the right idea to solve the wrong-way incentives generated by big government. He would block-grant all the transfer-assistance programs and send them back to the states. Importantly, Mr. Ryan wants to restore lower eligibility requirements and reduce benefit-assistance time limits. Plus, he would expand the earned-income tax credit to ease the transition from welfare to work without prohibitive increases in marginal tax rates.
Policymakers should listen to Mr. Ryan, and they should carefully observe what’s been happening with lower government employment assistance and higher jobs growth.
As Mr. Kashkari pointed out, many in our country just want to work. They just need a job, which is the greatest form of welfare. For a change, though, let’s get policies that actually increase the incentives to work and earn. The whole country will benefit. (Contributor: By Lawrence Kudlow and Robert Sinche for The Washington Times – Larry Kudlow is CNBC’s senior contributor. Robert Sinche is a longtime Wall Street economist.)
People who treat the Bible casually often believe that work is the result of sin, not realizing that God created work in the Garden as a gift to mankind, an avenue of stewardship. Today’s work ethic has become distorted, often mired in class warfare between management and labor. While unemployment benefits create a bridge to survival, they are not intended to stifle the quest for work or make citizens dependent on government. Pray for renewal in the Church to lead the way in benevolence and care for those who are truly poor. Pray for restoration of a national view that sees work as a holy occupation.
“He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” (Prov 19:17)
“… and when [the apostles, the pillars] … perceived the grace that had been given to [Paul], they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles…. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I (Paul) also was eager to do.” (Gal. 2:9-10)
“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thess 3:10)
After an absence of 90 years, the ancient institution of the caliphate roared back into existence on the first day of Ramadan in the year 1435 of the Hegira, equivalent to June 29, 2014. This astonishing revival symbolically culminates the Islamist surge that began 40 years ago. A Western analogy might be declaring the restoration of the Hapsburg Empire, which traced its legitimacy to ancient Rome.
Whence comes this audacious move? Can the caliphate last? What will its impact be?
For starters, a quick review of the caliphate (from the Arabic “khilafa,” meaning “succession”): According to canonical Muslim history, it originated in the year 632, on the death of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, then spontaneously developed, filling the nascent Muslim community’s need for a temporal leader. The caliph became Muhammad’s nonprophetic heir. After the first four caliphs, the office became dynastic.
From the start, followers disagreed whether the caliph should be the most able and pious Muslim or the closest relative of Muhammad. The resulting division came to define the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam, respectively, causing the profound schism that still endures.
Alarm, Ridicule for Declaration of Islamic State
An al-Qaida breakaway group’s formal declaration of an Islamic caliphate across the stretch of territory it controls in Syria and Iraq sparked celebrations among the group’s followers Monday…
A single caliphate ruled all the Muslim lands until 750, but then two processes combined to diminish its power. First, remote provinces began to break away, with some — such as Spain — even creating rival caliphates. Second, the institution itself decayed and was taken over by slave soldiers and tribal conquerors, so that the original line of caliphs effectively ruled only until about 940. Other dynasties then adopted the title as a perquisite of political power.
The institution continued in an enfeebled form for a millennium until, in a dramatic act of repudiation, modern Turkey’s founder, Kemal Ataturk, terminated its last vestiges in 1924. Despite several subsequent attempts to restore it, the institution became defunct, a symbol of the disarray in Muslim-majority countries and a yearned-for goal among Islamists.
Matters remained for 90 years, until the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) issued a declaration in five languages (English version: “This Is the Promise of Allah”) proclaiming the founding of a new caliphate under “Caliph” Ibrahim. Caliph Ibrahim (aka Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim), about 40, hailing from Samarra, Iraq, fought in Afghanistan and then Iraq. He now claims to be leader of “Muslims everywhere” and demands their oath of allegiance. All other Muslim governments have lost legitimacy, he claims. Further, Muslims must throw out “democracy, secularism, nationalism, as well as all the other garbage and ideas from the West.”
Reviving the universal caliphate means, announces “The Promise of Allah,” that the “long slumber in the darkness of neglect” has ended. “The sun of jihad has risen. The glad tidings of good are shining. Triumph looms on the horizon.” Infidels are justifiably terrified for, as both “east and west” submit, Muslims will “own the earth.”
Grandiloquent words, to be sure, but also ones with zero chance of success. ISIS has enjoyed backing from states such as Turkey and Qatar — but to fight in Syria, not to establish a global hegemony. Nearby powers — the Kurds, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel (and eventually maybe Turkey, too) — regard the Islamic State as an unmitigated enemy, as do nearly all rival Islamic movements, including al Qaeda. (The only exceptions: Boko Haram, scattered Gazans, and a new Pakistani organization.) The caliphate already faces difficulty governing the Great Britain-sized territories it conquered, troubles that will increase as its subject populations experience the full misery of Islamist rule. (Its apparent capture of the Mosul Dam on Aug. 3 portends unspeakable crimes, including the denial of electricity and water, or even unleashing catastrophic floods.)
I predict that the Islamic State, confronted with hostility both from neighbors and its subject population, will not last long.
It will leave a legacy, though. No matter how calamitous the fate of Caliph Ibrahim and his grim crew, they have successfully resurrected a central institution of Islam, making the caliphate again a vibrant reality. Islamists around the world will treasure its moment of brutal glory and be inspired by it.
For non-Muslims, this development has complex and double-edged implications. On the negative side, violent Islamists will be more encouraged to achieve their hideous goals, leaving a wake of carnage. On the positive side, the caliphate’s barbaric zealotry will have the salutary effect of awakening many of those who still sleep to the horrors of the Islamist agenda.
Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. (Contributor: By Daniel Pipes for The Washington Times)
Prayer focus: IFA respects Daniel Pipes’ reporting. His Middle East views and clear stand for Israel’s survival are balanced. This article on Muslim history explains the new rise of exceptionally brutal and barbaric Islamist terrorist atrocities in Iraq and elsewhere. The demon-inspired war on Christians in Iraq is now “old news.” This article’s final sentence is the key to our intercession: “On the positive side, the caliphate’s barbaric zealotry will have the salutary effect of awakening many of those who still sleep to the horrors of the Islamist agenda.” Pray that God will prompt world opinion to rise up and condemn this militant and murderous evil sect. The devil overplays his hand. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertullian, Second-century Church Father). God is watching, and heaven keeps careful records. The final chapter is coming. Intercede with fervor.
“And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’ And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:
‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.’” (Rev 11:15-18)
The militant Islamic State group could launch a direct attack on U.S. soil, warned South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, who urged President Barack Obama to do more to counter the group that has taken large parts of Iraq and Syria.
“Mr. President, be honest with the threat we face,” Graham said in a Fox News interview on Sunday. “They are coming.”
The Republican senator, who is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, identified the militants as a “direct threat to our homeland.”
The U.S. has launched limited airstrikes at terrorist installations in northern Iraq to defend American personnel. The militants, formerly known as ISIS, continue taking cities in Iraq, threatening the central government and forcing thousands of Christians to flee their homes.
A senior U.S. official said that the U.S. is also sending arms to Kurdistan forces in Iraq who are fighting back against the Sunni militants. American military has also been helping facilitate weapons deliveries to the Kurds, providing logistic assistance and transportation to the north.
Close to 20,000 minority Yazidis have been rescued in northern Iraq, though tens of thousands reportedly remain stranded on mountains hiding from the Islamic State.
Christians have also been driven out by the thousands, with Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai calling on the international community to intervene and stop the ongoing persecution.
“We renew the patriarchate’s call to the Arab League, the United Nations, the Security Council and the International Criminal Court to put a stop to ISIS’ attacks and those of other fundamentalist organizations against the Christians of Mosul and the villages of Ninevah in dear Iraq, and allow the return of those Christians to their homes and properties with dignity, securing for them a decent life in their home countries with all the rights of citizens,” AINA quoted Rai as saying during Sunday Mass in Diman, north Lebanon.
On Saturday, Obama confirmed that U.S. forces have conducted airstrikes against terrorist forces outside the city of Erbil, and explained that the White House is pursuing a broader strategy in Iraq.
“We will protect our American citizens in Iraq, whether they’re diplomats, civilians or military. If these terrorists threaten our facilities or our personnel, we will take action to protect our people,” Obama said.
“More broadly, the United Nations in Iraq is working urgently to help respond to the needs of those Iraqis fleeing from areas under threat. The U.N. Security Council has called on the international community to do everything it can to provide food, water and shelter. And in my calls with allies and partners around the world, I’ll continue to urge them to join us in this humanitarian effort.”
Responses to the president’s strategy have been mixed. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, has backed Obama and highlighted the importance of the humanitarian effort to help the refugees, and called on Iraq to develop a stronger, more-inclusive government.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein of the Democratic party, who serves as the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned that it will take strong action to defeat the Islamic State, however.
“It takes an army to defeat an army, and I believe that we either confront [Islamic State] now or we will be forced to deal with an even stronger enemy in the future,” Feinstein said on Friday after the airstrikes were announced. “Inaction is no longer an option.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, has also warned that the militants are “getting stronger all the time” and growing in numbers.
“They have attracted 1,000 young men from around the world who are now fighting on their side,” McCain explained. “This ISIS is metastasizing throughout region. And their goal, as they’ve stated openly time after time, is the destruction of United States of America.” (Contributor: By Stoyan Zaimov for Christian Post Reporter)
Is God forcing the U.S. government, led by President Obama, to take a strong, open stand against this emerging, dangerous brand of hyper-militant, Islamist terrorism? We are reportedly bombing northern Iraq jihadists selectively but not effectively. President Obama shows typical restraint. Media outlets remind us regularly that he was raised in Muslim culture, heard daily the call to prayers of the imams, and for many years sat under the ministry of a hate-filled minister who openly supported the rise of Hamas. Yet, he is America’s twice-elected president, and we are enjoined in Scripture to pray for him. Let us do so fervently, committing him to God’s grace and mercy. Pray that he will be enlightened by the Holy Spirit with the truth of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus…” (1 Tim 2:1-5)
[Jesus prayed,] “… You, [Father,] have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:2-3)
The United States would consider expanding military and political support for Iraq if Haider al-Abadi assumes the duties of prime minister and leads a multisectarian government, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday.
The gesture of support, which was made after a meeting with their Australian counterparts here, is intended to encourage Iraqi politicians to coalesce around Mr. Abadi and to form an inclusive government. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has resisted the choice of Mr. Abadi, producing a high-stakes political battle in Baghdad.
But neither Mr. Kerry nor Mr. Hagel provided details about what additional support might be provided, and it remains unclear whether the Obama administration would be willing to expand airstrikes or provide additional teams of American military advisers to help a new Iraqi government roll back the gains made by Sunni militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“We are prepared to consider additional political, military and security options as Iraq starts to build a new government,” Mr. Kerry said.
Even as the political struggle in Baghdad escalated, the United States’ allies announced modest military steps in support of the American effort in northern Iraq.
David Johnston, the Australian defense minister, said that his country would drop humanitarian aid by air to thousands of besieged Yazidi civilians on Mount Sinjar.
British officials said the Royal Air Force would deploy a “small number” of Tornado aircraft to carry out surveillance missions in support of the airdrop mission.
The decision to use the planes to improve reconnaissance of the situation follows an episode in which a British airdrop was aborted at the last minute because the pilots feared the loads could injure those waiting on the ground.
“We are providing humanitarian assistance,’’ the British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said on Monday. “This is not simple — getting it in is very challenging, getting people off that mountain is even more challenging.”
While some lawmakers from the Conservative Party of Prime Minister David Cameron clamored for the recall of Parliament to debate a tougher response, Mr. Hammond rejected the idea. “We don’t envisage a combat role at the present time,” he said.
The George W. Bush administration helped bring Mr. Maliki to power and the Obama administration acquiesced as he maneuvered to secure a second term. But American officials have opposed a third term for the Iraqi prime minister, who has been criticized for his authoritarian tendencies and for aggravating sectarian tensions.
The United States is calculating that a new prime minister will be able to establish an inclusive government that would grant Sunnis more of a voice in the political system, and thus make them less tolerant of ISIS militants.
On Monday, Mr. Kerry warned that the United States and the international community would cut off its support for Iraq if Mr. Maliki employed security forces to extend his rule. Having brandished the stick, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel on Tuesday offered a carrot: the possibility, albeit vague, of expanded support.
The United States “is prepared to intensify its security cooperation as Iraq undertakes and makes progress toward political reform,” Mr. Hagel said.
So far, the Obama administration has committed itself to a containment strategy to prevent ISIS fighters from advancing on Erbil and Baghdad, while also providing some protection to Yazidi civilians who have sought refuge on Mount Sinjar.
The question on the table, which Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel did not address on Tuesday, is whether the administration would be prepared to use air power and send military advisers to help a new Iraqi government and perhaps Sunni tribes try to break ISIS’ hold on northern and western Iraq.
The Kurds have asked the Obama administration to send or facilitate the delivery of arms — including antitank weapons, armored vehicles and ammunition — as they contend with the ISIS militants, who use seized American weapons.
And on Monday, Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville, the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Washington that the Kurds needed weapons to destroy some of the vehicles that ISIS has acquired, as well as “longer-range weapons” to counter the militants.
Mr. Hagel provided no hint as to whether the Pentagon would soon provide weapons to the Kurds. Rather, he said, the American military was helping to transport weapons from the Iraqi government’s stocks to Kurdistan.
The Central Intelligence Agency is already supplying some weapons to Kurdish pesh merga fighters, although it remains unclear what kind of arms, and how many, are being provided.
During their meetings here with Mr. Johnston and Julie Bishop, the Australian foreign minister, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel signed a so-called force posture agreement that provides for the rotation of United States Marines in northeast Australia.
The number of Marines is set to rise to 2,500 from 1,150, and the accord also provides for closer cooperation in other areas, like missile defense.
They also discussed the problem of Western citizens who volunteer to fight on the side of ISIS or other extremist groups, and then return home.
The Australian public has been gripped by a photograph of an Australian boy in Syria holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier. The image was posted on the Twitter account of his father, who left Australia to join ISIS. Ms. Bishop said that the photograph pointed to the danger that Westerners may become radicalized while fighting with militant groups abroad.
“This image — perhaps even an iconic photograph — is really one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photographs ever displayed,” Mr. Kerry said.
Thirty-eight Australian citizens and residents died when a jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine last month. A Group of 20 meeting is scheduled for November in Australia, and Mr. Kerry said that the question of whether President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would be invited will be determined by how Russia deals with the Ukraine crisis “in these next days and weeks.” (Contributor: By Michael R. Gordon and Alan Cowell for The New York Times)
Two prayer points: First, according to polls, Americans want a statement of support from the administration for the thousands of Christians persecuted, driven from their homes, and violently murdered by ISIS terrorists in northern Iraq. The list of countries inviting these helpless refugees to find safety continues to grow, but there has been no word of welcome from the U.S. government. Pray for Christian leaders to speak out, urging elected representatives to show compassion. Give thanks for Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), who literally pled for such in the House every day before its recess. Second, U.S. leaders need wisdom and restraint in further committing military resources to Iraq, as current forces are extended, and recent cuts have reduced our strength. Pray accordingly.
Scripture: Read and pray through Isaiah 59. Seek the Lord, and make application as led by the Holy Spirit. For space, we will not reproduce the text here, but the spirit and context are appropriate for intercession.
The Israel army is about to begin field testing two tunnel-detection technologies, which may provide a solution to what has become a vexing problem and terrifying fear for Israel’s southern residents, Israel’s Channel 1 News reported Monday.
The proposed systems – which were tried and rejected in 2005 – have worked in laboratory conditions, according to Channel 2 News, and are supposedly able to detect both already-dug tunnels, as well as those in progress.
One of the systems, priced at roughly NIS 1-1.5 billion (USD 380-428 million) includes a metal plate extending down some 30-40 meters into the groundwater layer beneath the sandy, clayey soil.
The system would take upwards of a year-and-a-half to implement, along the 65-kilometer border, the army said.
The steel plates would be rigged with electronic monitoring devices that would broadcast a signal if they were disturbed, according to the report.
Even veteran Israeli residents of towns and farming villages abutting the coastal enclave, used to the 15-seconds or less they have to seek shelter in the event of rocket or mortar attacks are concerned over the prospect of terror welling up from below.
“The threat of a tunnel being under our doorsteps has taken that fear to a new level,” a resident of Kibbutz Alumim told The Algemeiner last week.
A social worker by profession, 49-year-old British-born Esther Marcus — ironically enough — wrote a children’s book entitled, “Color Red,” meant “to help kiddies deal with the situation; help them cope with Red Alert sirens,” meant for rockets raining down.
But, now, with the diabolical possibility of terror tunnels from below opening up, literally, beneath kindergartens, “now I need to come up with a story to help them cope with tunnels!!! that’s a challenge!”
A number of soldiers have died and others have been wounded in firefights with dozens of Hamas terrorists attempting to infiltrate Israeli villages through the tunnels, and there have been at least two abduction attempts against soldiers, including that of Givati Brigade officer Hadar Goldin.
A Hamas official last Thursday bragged that the terrorist group has more, hidden, tunnels dug from Gaza beneath Israel, beyond the 32 the IDF destroyed during Operation Protective Edge.
“Israelis must feel the pain of the Palestinians,” said Abu Laith, a nom de guerre for a Hamas Izzadin al-Qassam commander, who spoke with the London Times.“They must understand that, if there is no security in Gaza, they will not have any security, either,” he said and noted that the Islamist group has more tunnel ready to use for infiltrations.
“We have more tunnels, and will be able to get back into Israel again,” he threatened, although he admitted that “some of the tunnels were partially collapsed,” according to Israel’s NRG news.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Ministry of Defense is investing millions of shekels in research programs designed to locate tunnels from Lebanon into Israel.
“There is a lot of talk about it and concern,” according to one anonymous source who spoke with Israel’s Channel 2 News last week.
Since the IDF’s discovery and detonation of the terror tunnels from Gaza, jittery Israelis are wondering if their hostile neighbors to the north, across the border in southern Lebanon, might be planning the same tactic.
The issue first came to the public’s attention during the 2006 war against Hezbollah, when the Shi’ite terrorists popped out of well-concealed, planned and equipped tunnels to attack IDF soldiers – often with lethal results.
While that northern network of tunnels didn’t reach into Israel – as far as in publicly known, “I can tell you that the issue of tunnels from Lebanon to Israel is really disturbing the security echelon,” one geologist at Tel aviv University said, adding that “There’s been a lot of talk about it and concerns.”
Another source close to the project acknowledged that “the defense establishment does not want to repeat the mistakes about tunnels in the Gaza Strip,” he noted that officials “want to find a quick solution and not get caught with their pants down.” (Contributor: The Algemeiner.com)
As we see it, Israel has no choice but to continue its offensive until Hamas is fully defeated and the tunnel system shut down, or Hamas is deflected from its stated mission to kill all Jews and eradicate the Israeli nation. Christians know by biblical authority that God’s ancient covenant people will not be destroyed by present-day foes. Still, the battle rages. Free world leaders ought to condemn such rabid and vehement hatred. Yet it is a fact that Israel deals with daily. Pray that the U.S. will not “officially” turn its back on Israel. Pray for peace and for Israel’s reconciliation to Messiah Jesus.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.’ For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, ‘Peace be within you.’” (Psalm 122:6-8)
“… Moses … put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is [only] taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Cor 3:13-17)