Category: Gog-Ezekiel 38 & 39

Trump Fully Intends to Leave Iran Nuclear Agreement: Report

By Jonathan Benedek May 3, 2018 , 12:30 pm

“For you have said, ‘We have made a covenant with Death, Concluded a pact with Sheol. When the sweeping flood passes through, It shall not reach us; For we have made falsehood our refuge, Taken shelter in treachery.’” Isaiah 28:15 (The Israel Bible™)

US President Donald Trump has already decided to withdraw from the international nuclear agreement with Iran, according to a report by Reuters.

According to one White House official referred to in the report, top aides in the White House are no longer attempting to convince Trump to stay in the deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),

At the same time, Trump’s strategy in leaving the agreement has yet to be fully established.

One White House official mentioned in the report spoke of a scenario that “is not a full pullout” but offered no specifics. The official stressed that Trump was “most of the way there toward pulling out of the deal” and “seems poised to do it, but until a decision is made by this president it is not final.”

Additionally, it is quite possible that Trump decides to extend US participation in the JCPOA due to “alliance maintenance” with European parties to the agreement such as France.

Ultimately, Trump must decide by May 12 whether to extend the sanctions relief or to leave agreement if the E3 allies (United Kingdom (UK), France and Germany) fail in implementing sufficient “fixes” to the JCPOA.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is imploring Trump to stay in the agreement.

Warning of an outbreak of war if the Iran nuclear agreement were to fall apart, Guterres told the BBC, “we should not scrap it unless we have a good alternative.”

Iranian Ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad implied that the regime in Tehran may revert to enrichment levels before the JCPOA was signed if Trump decides to withdraw from the agreement.

“The consequence would be that Iran would in fact be ready to go back to the previous situation,”  Baeidinejad told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9158

Netanyahu says Iran ‘brazenly lying’ after signing nuclear deal, moved documents to a secret location

By Travis Fedschun | Fox News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed new “dramatic” intelligence Monday which he claimed shows Iran is “brazenly lying” about its nuclear weapons program and shows the country is not complying with the vaunted nuclear deal it signed in 2015.

The information was obtained within the past 10 days, Israeli officials told Fox News. Netanyahu said the ‘half a ton’ of files were moved to a “highly secret” location in Tehran after the deal was signed, and contained materials spread over 55,000 pages and 55,000 files on 183 CD’s.

“These files conclusively prove that Iran is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear weapons program,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shows where Iran moved its nuclear weapons files to a location in Tehran after signing the nuclear deal.  (AP)

Netanyahu briefed President Trump about the intelligence on Saturday and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday. European counterparts were made aware Monday prior to the speech, officials said.

Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to exit the Iran nuke deal, which was signed during the Obama administration. And though he has yet to end it, a crucial deadline for re-certifying the deal is on the horizon.

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel April 30, 2018.  (REUTERS/ Amir Cohen)

Netanyahu’s statement also came on the heels of a missile attack in northern Syria that killed nearly 26-pro-government fighters, mostly Iranians, according to a Syria war monitoring group. Israel had no comment on the strike, but there was widespread speculation that Israel was responsible. Tehran has sent thousands of Iran-backed fighters to help President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria’s seven-year civil war.

Israel and Iran are arch-enemies, and Israel has said repeatedly it would not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence in Syria. Iran has already accused Israel of carrying out another airstrike in Syria this month that killed seven Iranian military advisers and vowed revenge.

Pompeo on Sunday ratcheted up the Trump administration’s rhetoric against Iran and offered warm support to Israel, and Saudi Arabia, in the standoff with Tehran.

In this Sunday, April 29, 2018 file photo, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. left. is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv.  (Thomas Coex, AFP via AP)

“The United States is with Israel in this fight,” Pompeo said.

The 2015 nuke deal gave Iran relief from crippling sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Netanyahu has been a leading critic of the agreement, saying it fails to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capability and welcoming Trump’s pledges to withdraw from the deal if it is not changed.

“The nuclear deal gives Iran a clear path to producing an atomic arsenal,” he said Monday.

On Monday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the time when Iran’s enemies can “hit and run” is over.

“They know if they enter military conflict with Iran, they will be hit multiple times,” he said, according to his website. He did not specifically refer to the latest attack in Syria.

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel April 30, 2018.  (REUTERS/ Amir Cohen)

Michael Oren, a senior Israeli official, had no comment on the airstrike in Syria, but warned both Syria and Iran against trying to attack.

“If someone shoots at us, we shoot back and we will shoot back either at the Syrian army or the Iranians, at the origin of the aggression,” Oren said.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9154

Are Natural Catastrophes in Iran End-of-Days Divine Retribution?

By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz April 24, 2018 , 11:30 am

“She shall be remembered of God of Hosts With roaring, and shaking, and deafening noise, Storm, and tempest, and blaze of consuming fire” Isaiah 29:6 (The Israel Bible™)

An Iranian threat against Israel last week was answered immediately from above with a massive sandstorm. If the message was not entirely clear, two days later, the Iranian nuclear reactor was hit by an earthquake at the same time Jews in Israel were celebrating their Independence Day.

Rabbi Yosef Dayan, a member of the nascent Sanhedrin (Biblically mandated court of 71 elders) and a descendant of King David, noted that it should be clear to everyone around the world that this storm in Iran was divine intervention.

“My first reaction when I saw reports of the storm was to thank God because this was clearly straight from Hashem (God, literally ‘the name’),” Rabbi Dayan told Breaking Israel News.

Recent tensions between Israel and Iran came to a head on April 16 when Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qasemi told reporters in a weekly meeting in Tehran that Israel was doomed.

“The Zionist entity will sooner or later receive the necessary response and will regret its misdeeds,” Qasemi said.

Though the Iranian minister’s threat was predicted to come to fruition at an unspecified point in the future, an emphatic divine response immediately followed in the form of an unusual natural phenomenon. On the same day that the foreign ministry predicted Israel’s ultimate demise, a huge sandstorm engulfed an entire province in the center of Iran, battering the region with 60 mph sand-laden winds. There were no injuries or major damages reported as a result of the storm, but even the Iranian media recognized the exceptional nature of the event with headlines calling the storm, “apocalyptic.”

“There are two reasons why Hashem intervenes in this stormy manner: either Israel merits having God punish their enemies or the enemy, in this case, Iran deserves to be punished,” Rabbi Dayan said. “I am not going to judge Israel so I can’t say if Israel deserves miracles. But it is clear that Iran deserves punishment.”

As if the sandstorm accompanying the threats made earlier in the week were not a clear enough indication of divine displeasure with Iran, another natural disaster hit the rogue nation on Thursday. In what seemed like a divine double-down response, at precisely the same time Israelis were joyously barbecuing on their Independence Day, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit Iran just a few miles from the country’s only operating nuclear power plant.

These natural phenomena in Iran did not go unnoticed by Jewish spiritual leaders. Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak, a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Israeli rabbi known for his massive outreach efforts, made a post on his Facebook page that the Iranians would do well to heed. Rabbi Yitzchak wrote:

“The Iranians threatened to explode Israel with an atomic bomb on Independence Day, and within 48 hours they got hit by an earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter Scale in the area of their atomic reactor and an unprecedented sandstorm that turned Iran into a sandbox. Now tell me that we do not have Divine Providence.”

Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, noted that natural manifestations of divine intervention serve a specific purpose in connection to Israel.

“It is the function of Israel to show the world that God is still active in the world,” Rabbi Berger told Breaking Israel News.“Many people believe in God and even believe that God created the world. But most of them don’t believe that God acts directly in the world in relation to our actions.”

“The prophets describe a new reality that will be evident in the time of the geula (redemption),” Rabbi Berger said. “Of course, nothing happens in the world without God’s intervention. But in the end-of-days, this connection between natural events and God’s purpose will be so clear as to be undeniable.”

Rabbi Pinchas Winston, an end-of-days expert, believes that as times go on, such events indicating divine intervention in mundane events will become more prevalent.

“In the later stages of the geula (redemption) the mixture of miracle and nature will increase to the point where it will become so clear it will be undeniable,” Rabbi Winston said. “You can’t conclusively say anything is hashgacha pratit (divine intervention). But the people who are prepared to look at the big picture will be able to connect the dots in a way that makes more sense than trying to explain everything in strictly natural terms.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9145

Russian Missiles Alarm Israel, Stoking Risk of Next Syria Crisis

By David Wainer and Henry Meyer

April 19, 2018, 12:00 AM EDT Updated on April 19, 2018, 9:50 AM EDT

  • Threatened delivery of S-300 air defenses to Assad is red line
  • Israel would likely try to blow them up, says ex-intel chief

Angered by last week’s U.S. attack on Syria, Russia warned that there would be consequences. Only one of them was spelled out: The Kremlin said it may supply its Syrian ally with state-of-the-art air defenses.

If the prospect rings alarm bells among President Bashar al-Assad’s enemies, they’re likely to be loudest in Israel, not the U.S. Israel carries out airstrikes in Assad-controlled Syrian territory much more frequently than the U.S., as it seeks to prevent a military buildup near Israeli borders by Assad’s other key backer, Iran.

Israeli analysts and former defense officials say there’s only one likely response from the Jewish state if the S-300 surface-to-air missile systems are delivered to Syria: An immediate attempt to blow them up.

That would upend the delicate relationship between Israel and Russia, who’ve kept channels open despite supporting opposite sides in Syria. And it could create another dangerous moment with the potential to escalate the seven-year civil war into a wider conflict.

‘What Will Be Done’

Already, multiple global and regional powers have been sucked in. Last week saw the tensest standoff in decades between nuclear rivals Russia and the U.S. On the ground, American and Turkish soldiers occupy separate chunks of the country’s north, while Iranians and Russians fight alongside Assad’s army. In the skies, Israel has for the most part enjoyed freedom of maneuver, thanks to its air superiority — and an implicit green light from Moscow. Both conditions may now change.

Amos Yadlin has firsthand experience of how Israel responds to such threats — and no doubts about how it would handle this one.

A former military intelligence chief, Yadlin was also one of the Israeli pilots who destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981. The deployment of S-300s in Syria has been a concern for two decades, and “at the end of the day, it will happen,’’ he said. “If I know the air force well, we have already made proper plans to deal with this threat. After you remove the threat, which is basically what will be done, we’re back to square one.”

Russia already has sold S-300 systems to Iran over American and Israeli objections. Syria was on track to get them too -– until 2013, when Russian President Vladimir Putin froze the contract in response to pleas from Israel. But Putin said at the time that if the U.S. attacked, Moscow would “think how we should act in the future.”

Russia Reconsiders

That moment arrived with last week’s missile strikes by the U.S., U.K. and France, in response to an alleged chemical attack by Assad’s army.

The Barzah research and development center before and after strikes against Syria on April 14.

Photographer: U.S. Department of Defense via AFP via Getty Images

Hours afterward, Russia’s first deputy chief of staff, Sergei Rudskoi, said his government would “reconsider” whether to supply the air defenses to Assad. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hammered home the message in a BBC interview two days later, saying the plan might be revived because Russia feels it must do “whatever is required to help the Syrian army deter aggression.”

Israel has carried out at least 150 bombing raids in Syria since the civil war began in 2011, according to Zvi Magen, a former Israeli ambassador in Moscow. The latest, on April 9, hit an air base used by the Iranian military; other targets have included arms convoys bound for Hezbollah, the Iranian-armed Shiite group in Lebanon that’s repeatedly fought with Israel. The government and army have a strict policy of not acknowledging or commenting on military actions taken in the neighboring country.

S-300s can fire missiles at six targets simultaneously, and have a range of 200 kilometers (120 miles). That would extend into the airspace of Lebanon, sometimes used by Israeli planes to strike Syria — and even into Israel itself.

‘Exceptionally Advanced’

“It’s an exceptionally advanced system that can cover large swaths of territory,” said Michael Oren, Israel’s deputy minister for public diplomacy and an adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We will always oppose it.”

Given Israel’s likely response, some analysts in Moscow say it makes more sense to use the threatened deployment as a bargaining chip.

Actually delivering the weapons “would fuel tensions in the region and cause major friction with Israel,” said Elena Suponina, a Middle East expert at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, which advises the Kremlin. “It’s enough to provide Syria with other air-defense systems that won’t provoke such a response.”

Even Syria’s current Soviet-designed systems, which have been upgraded over the last 18 months, have inflicted some damage. In February an F-16 was shot down, said to be the first Israeli aircraft lost in action since the early 1980s. And while the Pentagon says that all of the more than 100 missiles fired in last week’s strike reached their targets, Russia says that two-thirds of them were intercepted. A pro-opposition Syrian monitoring group, citing aerial defense officers, made a similar estimate.

Not Invincible

“Syria already has some good short and medium-range systems,’’ said Jeremy Binnie, Middle East and Africa editor at Jane’s Defence Weekly. Add the S-300s, and “they would be able to form a fairly comprehensive, multi-layered air defense umbrella over their country.”

In any attempt to destroy the new weapons, Israel would probably use U.S.-built F-35 stealth aircraft and electronic warfare, he said.

Russian military experts say that while the S-300 is very powerful, it isn’t foolproof.

“There’s no invincible air-defense system,’’ said Viktor Murakhovsky, a former army colonel who’s now a government adviser. “Just like there are no invincible aircraft.’’

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9141

Israel Blamed For Early Morning Airstrikes Over Damascus As Syrian Air Defense Claims Missiles Shot Down

Days after US-led airstrikes hit Homs and Damascus on April 14, Syrian Twitter accounts blamed Israel for alleged strikes on Tuesday morning. The first reports emerged around 1:30am. Al Sura Media claimed fighter jets had targeted Syria’s T4 airbase, where Iranian troops are alleged to be present. On Monday Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem warned that Iran and Israel are nearing open war as tensions are very high in Syria.

by Geoffrey Grider April 16, 2018

Syrian media and locals reported air strikes and Syrian air defense launching rockets in response in the early hours of Tuesday. According to initial reports, the strikes may have targeted Al-Sayrat airbase and rural Homs, as well as areas around Damascus.

“The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.” Isaiah 17:1 (KJV)

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you thought that the US led airstrikes with France and the UK were all that was going to happen in Syria, you would be mistaken. Early Tuesday morning in the Middle East today, as of yet unidentified aircraft fired missiles over Iranian-held military installations in both Homs and Damascus. The Syrian Air Defenses claimed to have shot down 8 incoming missiles from what they say is the Israeli Air Force. Israel and Iran are very nearly at the open war stage of their conflict, and it would seem at this point that a full-fledged regional war is just about unavoidable. 29 days until May 14th…but who’s counting

Days after US-led airstrikes hit Homs and Damascus on April 14, Syrian Twitter accounts blamed Israel for alleged strikes on Tuesday morning. The first reports emerged around 1:30am. Al Sura Media claimed fighter jets had targeted Syria’s T4 airbase, where Iranian troops are alleged to be present.

On Monday Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem warned that Iran and Israel are nearing open war as tensions are very high in Syria.

Syria’s Sana Ajel news claimed anti-aircraft units responded to an attack in Shayrat airbase near Homs. That was the same airbase the US struck in 2017 in response to a chemical weapons attack at Khan Sheikhoun.

Syrian media says the country’s military has confronted an “aggression” and has shot down missiles over Homs. Although no confirmation of who launched the strike, local media has blamed Israel. The Pentagon denied there being new US military activity in the area. Up to 9 missiles were intercepted and destroyed by the Syrian Armed Forces, a military source said. According to yet unconfirmed reports, the missiles entered Syrian airspace from Lebanon. source

Reports of strikes at Shayrat airbase and areas south of Damascus were dismissed as rumors by some commentators online. Syria’s regime is gearing up for a battle with ISIS in Yarmouk in southern Damascus, and some said that the sounds of missiles might be related to that conflict.

However, Al-Mayadeen and other pro-regime channels showed video of a strange light, which they claimed was part of the airstrikes, hovering in the sky.

The Pentagon said that the US was not involved in any strikes Tuesday morning. The last week has seen several reported strikes in Syria. The New York Times quoted an unnamed Israeli military source as saying Israel had carried out an April 9 airstrike in Syria

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9130

FURIOUS: Putin Sends Warships Laden With Tanks And Military Vehicles Sailing To Syria As World Awaits Russia’s Response To Airstrikes

An Alligator-landing ship was pictured cruising down The Bosphorus on Sunday as the world awaits Vladimir Putin’s response to this week’s co-ordinated military action against Syria.  The vessel was spotted on its way to the Russian naval base at Tartus on the north Syrian coast. On its fourth deployment of Russian military equipment to the war-torn country the ship was seen laden with tanks, trucks, ambulances and an IED radar.

by Geoffrey Grider April 15, 2018

Two Russian warships laden with military vehicles have been spotted en route to Syria after Friday’s US-led airstrikes obliterated three suspected chemical weapons sites.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For the past 48 hours, the geopolitical world has been wondering what sort of response Putin was going to have to Friday night’s missile attack on Syrian chemical weapons production by Allied forces. Warship and enormous cargo ships filled with Russian military equipment are at this moment steaming towards Syria. Putin has not said exactly what he plans on doing, other than promises  to “respond with consequences” in a meaningful way. But it looks like he’s getting ready to respond. 

An Alligator-landing ship was pictured cruising down The Bosphorus on Sunday as the world awaits Vladimir Putin’s response to this week’s co-ordinated military action against Syria.  The vessel was spotted on its way to the Russian naval base at Tartus on the north Syrian coast.

On its fourth deployment of Russian military equipment to the war-torn country the ship was seen laden with tanks, trucks, ambulances and an IED radar.

A yellow RoRo Alexandr Tkachenko was also pictured heading for Tartus carrying high-speed patrol boats, a temporary bridge structure and several trucks. The images were posted on social media by Bosphorus-based naval observer Yörük Işık.

They come in wake of Friday’s US-led campaign against Bashar al-Assad’s regime and a chemical weapons attack that brutally murdered 75 civilians.

The blue Project 117 LST Orsk 148 ship was carrying Soviet BTR-80 tanks, Ramaz trucks and a Pelena-1 bomb radar, used to detect IEDs. A second yellow cargo vessel was equipped with a BMK-T boat used for building temporary bridges and an array of other military hardware.

The Russian warships approaching Syria come after the United States outlined new economic sanctions in response to Moscow’s continued support of Assad’s regime in Syria.

Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations, said measures to be imposed on Monday will send a message to Russia after it blocked six UN attempts to investigate its use of chemical weapons.

In Washington President Donald Trump stood by his comments that the strikes he commanded were a ‘mission accomplished’ after he was slated for repeating George W Bush’s controversial use of the phrase during the Iraq war.

Meanwhile French President Emmanuel Macron today insisted the allied forces had not ‘declared war’ on Syria.

He told a French TV station: ‘We have not declared war on the regime of Bashar al-Assad.’ During the two-hour interview he also claimed he had ‘convinced’ Trump to maintain a military presence in Syria after the US leader threatened to pull out of the country entirely.

It emerged that Trump called Mr Macron twice before he shared his intention to strike Syria in a Twitter post. But he failed to call UK Prime Minister Theresa May in the early stages of the operation, giving the French leader the opportunity to claim France is America’s leading ally in Europe.

Vladimir Putin condemned Friday’s strikes as an ‘act of aggression’ that will worsen the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and have a ‘destructive influence on the entire system of international relations.

But Trump has vowed to carry out more if Bashar al-Assad’s regime dares to use chemical weapons again.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson today defended Britain’s decision to stand up to ‘barbarism’ amid criticism of Mrs May for agreeing to the strike without a vote in the House of Commons. Mr Johnson said failure to respond to Assad’s use of illegal chemical weapons against his own people would have undermined ‘civilised values’.

He said ‘so far, thank heavens, the Assad regime has not been so foolish to launch another chemical weapons attack,’ adding that Britain and its allies ‘would study what the options were’ in the event of another attack.

But amid fears of revenge attacks by Russia and criticism of Theresa May for acting without a Commons vote, Mr Johnson stressed there was no intention of getting more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war.

Concerns have been raised that a cyber backlash could see vital services including water supplies, gas networks, banks, hospitals and air traffic control affected

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9126

Saudi Moderation? Prince Muhammad Is on Shaky Ground

By Dr. James M. Dorsey April 12, 2018

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 794, April 12, 2018

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman has dazzled international media and public opinion by lifting some restrictions on women’s rights and holding out hope for the abolishment of others, vowing to return the kingdom to a vague form of moderate Islam that many believe is defined by the social reforms he has already implemented, and curbing the powers of the country’s ultra-conservative leadership. But his top-down approach to social change, which brushes aside Saudi history, rests on shaky ground.

No doubt, Prince Muhammad’s recent reforms have benefitted women and created social opportunity with the introduction of modern forms of entertainment, including the opening this month of Saudi Arabia’s first cinema as well as concerts, theater, and dance performances. Anecdotal evidence testifies to the popularity of these moves, certainly among urban youth.

But Prince Muhammad’s top-down approach to countering religious militancy rests on shaky ground. It involves rewriting history rather than owning up to responsibility, imposing his will on an ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim establishment whose change of heart in publicly backing him lacks credibility, and suppressing religious and secular voices who link religious and social change to political reform.

Prince Muhammad has traced Saudi Arabia’s embrace of ultra-conservatism to 1979. That year, a popular revolt toppled the Shah and replaced Iran’s monarchy with an Islamic republic, and Saudi zealots took control of the Great Mosque in the holy city of Mecca.

While there is no doubt that the kingdom responded to those two events by enhancing the power of Saudi Arabia’s already prevalent ultra-conservative religious establishment, Prince Muhammad is brushing aside Saudi history.

The dominance of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia dates back to 1744, when Muhammad bin Saud, the founder of the Al Saud dynasty, concluded a power sharing agreement with Islamic scholar Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab that lent Bin Saud the religious legitimacy he needed to unify and control Arabia’s warring tribes.

Similarly, Saudi global propagation of Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism significantly accelerated in the wake of the events of 1979 but predates them by almost two decades.

Prince Muhammad’s uncle, King Faisal, who ruled Saudi Arabia from 1964 until his assassination in 1975, embodied the export of ultra-conservatism as a pillar of Saudi diplomacy and soft power. Faisal saw it as a way to create a network of supporters capable of defending the kingdom’s strategic and economic interests while simultaneously catering to the outlook of Saudi Arabia’s religious establishment.

Both the Muslim World League, one of the kingdom’s primary vehicles for the funding of its global campaign, and the Islamic University of Medina were founded in the 1960s. The university served as a citadel of ultra-conservative learning and thought, including the notion that Islamic law dictates unquestioned obedience to the legitimate ruler.

Prince Muhammad has exploited that view to put the religious establishment in its place and legitimize reforms it condemned for decades. In doing so, he not only undermines the credibility of ultra-conservative scholars but also enhances that of both more militant ones and those he has either imprisoned or silenced because they advocated not only social but also democratic reforms like free and fair elections, release of political prisoners, and respect for human rights.

Prince Muhammad’s assertion that Saudi Arabia propagated ultra-conservatism as part of countering communism during the Cold War is not inaccurate, but it ignores the fact that Saudi Arabia felt threatened by Arab nationalism – not simply because countries like Egypt and Syria aligned themselves with the Soviet Union, but also because they questioned the legitimacy of monarchs. Aligning Saudi Arabia with the West, moreover, ensured that the US had a greater stake in the survival of the Sauds.

Born 14 years after the events of 1979, Prince Muhammad’s projection of a kingdom whose liberalism was hijacked by Cold War-inspired policies and errant Islamic scholars jars with the experience of Saudis who are generation older. They recall a process in which post-1979 ultra-conservative social mores were codified into rules, regulations, and laws.

“I was a teenager in the 1970s and grew up in Medina… My memories of those years…are quite different,” said Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist who last year went into self-imposed exile because he feared arrest. “Women weren’t driving cars. I didn’t see a woman drive until I visited my sister and brother-in-law in Tempe, Arizona in 1976. The movie theaters we had were makeshift… You would pay 5 or 10 riyals (then approximately $1.50-$2) to the organizer, who would then give a warning when the religious police approached. To avoid being arrested, a friend of mine broke his leg jumping off a wall. In the 1970s, the only places on the Arabian Peninsula where women were working outside the home or school were Kuwait and Bahrain.”

Prince Muhammad seemed to acknowledge ultra-conservatism’s long-standing and deep-seated shaping of Saudi culture when he was asked about abolishing the kingdom’s system of male guardianship that forces women to get approval of a male relative for most major decisions in their lives. “We want to move on it and figure out a way to treat this that doesn’t harm families and doesn’t harm the culture,” Prince Muhammad said.

Khashoggi traces the formalization of existing social restrictions on women’s rights not to an edict issued by the religious establishment but to an attempt by a 19-year-old princess to elope with her lover. The couple’s drama, ending in public execution in 1977, was described in ‘Death of a Princess,’ a dramatized 1980 British documentary that strained relations between Britain and Saudi Arabia.

The incident marked the kingdom’s first major effort to use its financial and energy muscle to thwart freedom of the press beyond its borders and shape its international image. It also spurred codification of the suppression of women’s rights.

“The reaction of the government to the princess’s elopement was swift: The segregation of women became more severe, and no woman could travel without the consent of a male relative… MBS would like to advance a new narrative for my country’s recent history, one that absolves the government of any complicity in the adoption of strict Wahhabi doctrine. That simply isn’t the case,” Khashoggi said (referring to Muhammad bin Salman by his initials).

Liberals were already warning in the 1970s that the restrictions would tarnish the kingdom’s image. Celebrated poet and novelist Ghazi al-Gosaibi, who served as minister of industry and electricity, urged King Khalid in a handwritten letter in 1980 to shy away from banning the projection of women’s images in the media “so we would not be made an example of rigidity and stagnation in front of the whole world.”

Al-Gosaibi’s warning fell on deaf ears at the time, but it has been heard loud and clear by Prince Muhammad. To put his reforms on solid footing, however, Prince Muhammad will have to acknowledge and confront his country’s demons and pursue structural reform including a revamping of religious education, which is currently limited to shaving off raw ends like hate speech. Structural reform will also have to entail the grooming of a more independent and critical class of Islamic scholars. Such reform is preferable to simply whitewashing the royal family’s role, whipping former allies into subservience, and suppressing any expression of dissent.

“Strangling moderate independent Islamic discourse may succeed in silencing democratic voices within Islam in Saudi Arabia, but it will also create a vacuum for the less moderate discourse that the state has shown it tolerates,” said Abdullah Alaoudh, a post-doctoral fellow in Islamic Law and Civilization and the son of Salman al-Odah, a Saudi scholar imprisoned since September for calling for social as well as political reform.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9123

Rouhani, Erdogan, and Putin’s bizarre love triangle

By Wayne McLean

It appears a new regional security order is encircling Syria as the civil war grinds into its seventh year. This shift was visible last week, when the leaders of Turkey, Iran, and Russia met in Ankara to discuss solutions to the Syrian crisis. The detailed talks covered de-escalation zones, humanitarian concerns, and intra-Syrian dialogue, but the broader motive was to agree on the role of each state once the conflict ends.

A further variable framed the meeting: potential US retrenchment from the region. On the same day as the Ankara summit, Trump told reporters in Washington that he was going to “get out” of Syria “very soon”.

Then yet another variable emerged: Assad’s troops were, according to John McCain, emboldened by Trump’s retreat, leading to a chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held city of Douma.

The horrific attack was significant enough for Trump to assign Assad the puerile nickname “animal”, but the hard reality is that any US response, even military action, will be tokenistic.

The march towards Syrian retrenchment is already set on a path: $200 million has been removed from the US budget for recovery efforts, military plans have been prepared for the quick withdrawal of the 2000 US troops in Syria, and there is little domestic hunger for renewed adventurism, let alone around a conflict this complex.

The takeaway from the Ankara meeting and Trump’s rhetoric is that the regional security order around Syria is in flux, and that US efforts are likely to be replaced by a zone of anti-Western influence stretching from Beirut through to the Caspian Sea.

Turkey’s participation and positioning within this order is arguably the most radical. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has viewed itself as the natural leader of the region, but the neo-Ottoman dream of previous Turkish strategic thinkers, such as Ahmet Davutoğlu, is now dead.

Instead, Erdogan is likely to set aside his grandiose ideational prose in exchange for pragmatism. One prominent example is Turkey softening its anti-Assad position in exchange for concessions along Turkey’s southern border to counter Kurdish groups.

Turkey has another problem, which the group of three can assist it with. The country’s political capital is declining. As a NATO member, it has access to US defence mechanisms on paper, but Trump’s frigidity towards Brussels, combined with erratic grand strategies, has left Ankara isolated and concerned about its place in the European security complex.

The result is an increase in Russia–Turkey security cooperation. For example, after nearly a decade of stuttering, Turkey has committed to purchasing the S-400 missile defence system, and this month commenced construction on the Akkuyu nuclear power plant (Turkey’s first).

In short, by softening its position on Assad, and by aligning its interests closer to Moscow, Turkey regains some security currency in a dangerous neighbourhood as the US presence degenerates.

The intersection of Iranian and Turkish interests is somewhat more complex, but both countries share a common interest in defeating Kurdish forces. From this position, both Moscow and Tehran have been muted about Turkey’s actions in Afrin, as courting Ankara on this front supports their longer-term ambitions for influence on the Mediterranean coast above Lebanon.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, for his part, is happy to see Kurdish groups around the Syria–Turkey–Iran triangle weakened as a result of Turkish actions. This allows it to focus on support for Hezbollah and the consolidation of territory around the Golan Heights. This region is critical because it allows the deployment of short-range missiles capable of hitting Israel, providing a deterrent against Israeli attacks. More broadly, for Tehran, a strong Hezbollah creates a counterweight against Saudi and Wahhabi influences in the north of Syria.

This leads us to Russia. President Vladimir Putin’s largest challenge will be filling any void the US leaves behind.

Conflict and recovery is an expensive business, and discussions of Moscow’s weak economy are often glossed over in analysis. Russia is a state with a GDP on parity with Australia, not with the US or Germany. Granted, it compensates for this across other variables: territory, energy, transit routes, and nuclear capabilities.

But the bottom line is that Russia has only spent around US$2.2 billion in military activities in Syria, while the US has spent $30 billion. An increase in spending to match the US is unlikely.

Consequently, when viewed as a whole, this group of three provides mutual benefits. Turkey maintains Afrin and weakens the cause of Kurdish nationalists around the southern border. Iran gets more reliable access to its interests in the Golan Heights. Russia maintains its presence in Tartus port, which provides a cost-effective way to project power into the Mediterranean and thereby avoid perceived containment by Western forces.

The group of three deals with the apparent deficiencies of each member. Russia can ameliorate costs by burden sharing and delegating military efforts. Turkey no longer needs to appease Western normative sensibilities when engaging Kurds in a security setting. Iran can leave Kurdish security to Turkey and focus on building a Shia-led counterbalance against Israel and Saudi Arabia.

This outcome will comfort neither those recovering from the chemical attacks in Douma, nor Kurdish nationalists. But it is perhaps a glimpse of the types of alliances and compromises that will emerge as the US-led security order winds down.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9116

Russia Says Israel Responsible for Strikes on Syrian Air Base: Report

By Jonathan Benedek April 9, 2018 , 8:00 am

“Who is the King of glory?— Hashem, mighty and valiant, Hashem, valiant in battle.” Psalms 24:8 (The Israel Bible™)

The Russian Defense Ministry reportedly said that Israel was responsible for strikes on a Syrian air base near Homs on Sunday, which left at least 14 people dead.

According to the original report in the Russian news agency, Interfax, the Russian Defense Ministry said that two Israeli F-15 warplanes fired eight missiles from Lebanese airspace and that 5 of them were successfully shot down by Syria’s air defense system.

An Israeli military spokesperson who was asked to respond refused to comment.

Originally, the Syrian government accused the United States of launching the airstrikes.

“An aggression was perpetrated on T-4 air base in several strikes that is most likely to be an American attack,” Syrian state television had said in a news flash.

US President Donald Trump warned on Twitter that there would be a “big price to pay” for an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime over the weekend. However, the US Pentagon denied striking the Syrian airbase.

At this time, the Department of Defense is not conducting air strikes in Syria,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

“However, we continue to closely watch the situation and support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable.”

Later on Monday, the Syrian state news agency, SANA held Israel responsible instead.

“The Israeli aggression on the T4 airport was carried out with F-15 planes that fired several missiles from above Lebanese land,” the news agency said.

Israel has long adhered to a practice of not taking any responsibility for its alleged strikes in Syria. However, Israel broke this routine a few weeks ago when it confirmed that it struck a nuclear reactor in Syria back in 2007.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9112

END TIMES AXIS OF EVIL: Putin Creates Powerful Alliance Between Russia, Iran And Turkey For Control Of Damascus And Syria

Russia, Iran and Turkey have been drawn together in their support of Syria. Putin and Rouhani provide Assad with military support and Turkey has now joined their efforts because it wants to crush US-backed Kurdish forces massing on its border. And Russia helps both countries on energy. It is also building Turkey a $20 billion nuclear power station, which began construction yesterday, and last year Putin signed a $30 billion energy co-operation deal with Iran.

by Geoffrey Grider April 5, 2018

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran met in Ankara for talks yesterday as they cemented their unlikely alliance over Syria in a challenge to US and western influence in the region.

“Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: “ Ezekiel 39:1 (KJV)

EDITOR’S NOTE: For those of you who think we might be putting a little too much emphasis and importance on the upcoming 70th anniversary of regathered Israel, today’s article should clear that up for you. Russia, Iran and Turkey forming an alliance just this week to take control of Syria absolutely leaps off the pages of the Bible. Putin supplies both Iran and Turkey with nuclear and military technology, as well as oil and gas. All three countries are mentioned in the Bible as Gog-Russia, Persia-Iran and Turkey/Meshech and Tubal . And obviously, so is Syria which figures quite heavily in Bible prophecy. We now have a little more than 5 weeks to go until May 14, and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen next. But buckle up because it’s gonna be something big. 

President Putin, President Erdogan and President Rouhani vowed to work together to create a ‘lasting ceasefire’, build a hospital for wounded civilians in Eastern Ghouta and allow refugees to return home.

But the deepening ties between the trio will be a concern to the US as its ability to influence the future of the country and the region wains and President Trump openly mulls pulling troops out.

Russia, Iran and Turkey have been drawn together in their support of Syria. Putin and Rouhani provide Assad with military support and Turkey has now joined their efforts because it wants to crush US-backed Kurdish forces massing on its border.

“The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.” Isaiah 17:1 (KJV)

Putin supplies both countries with sophisticated military equipment. President Erdogan recently signed a $2.5 billion arms deal with Russia for S-400 sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles, which has caused consternation among Turkey’s fellow Nato members.

And Russia helps both countries on energy. It is also building Turkey a $20 billion nuclear power station, which began construction yesterday, and last year Putin signed a $30 billion energy co-operation deal with Iran.

Through these major deals Russia now finds itself in the position of having influence over Turkey as well as Iran. And these two countries in turn exert huge influence beyond their borders.

Turkey controls much of the flow of middle eastern refugees into Europe. It stemmed the influx after signing a deal with the EU in March 2016 – but if it reversed this agreement the political consequences in Europe would be enormous.

Iran has been accused of supplying arms to the Taliban by the government of Afghanistan and is fueling the conflict in Yemen.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is an implacably opposed the Syrian regime and his administration provides significant backing for the rebels fighting it. Trump is also a staunch ally of Israel, most notably announcing the US is to move its embassy to Jerusalem – putting it in direct opposition to Iran, which has threatened to destroy the state.

Under Trump, the US has become a close ally of Saudi Arabia, whose Crown Prince Salman said this week that he recognised Israel’s ‘right’ to its land –  becoming the first Arab leader to ever make such an acknowledgement.

He compared Iran’s Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Hitler.

At the summit on Wednesday Turkey and Russia said they would work together to build a hospital to treat civilians injured in the fighting in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.

The Syrian government has been carrying out an intense bombing and ground campaign against rebel-held areas in Eastern Ghouta which has left thousands of civilians dead or wounded and drawn international condemnation.

Russia and Turkey also said 160,000 refugees who had fled the conflict into Turkey had been able to return home. The Ankara summit at Erdogan’s presidential palace was the second such summit following one in November 2017 in the Black Sea resort of Sochi hosted by Putin.

‘We are determined to take Syria out of this quagmire. There will be no peace in turkey until there is peace in Syria,’ Erdogan said at a press conference in Ankara on Wednesday.

Turkish and Russian forces would work together to build a medical facility in Eastern Ghouta, as well as establishing ‘safe regions on both the Turkish and northern Syrian sides’ with facilities such as bakeries and plots of land to build homes and grow food.

‘It is about constructing houses [in the safe regions] so these people no longer have to live in tents and containers,’ said Erdogan. In a statement from the three leaders, they pledged to ‘continue their active cooperation on Syria for the achievement of lasting ceasefire between the conflicting parties’.

‘There is no military solution option for the crisis in Syria and we need to cooperate to put an end to the war in the country,’ said President Rouhani. ‘We have to follow peaceful methods, we need to help the Syrians go back to their homes as soon as possible.’

A third trilateral summit will take place in Tehran though a date has yet to be announced.

Putin’s two-day visit was his first international trip since securing a fourth term as president of Russia last month. On Tuesday, he and Erdogan revealed the delivery of Russian S-400 missiles would be brought forward to July 2019.

‘We have made our agreement on the S-400s. We have closed this chapter. This job is done,’ a defiant Erdogan told journalists during a press conference, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Putin added: ‘Our Turkish colleagues made a request in the meetings. We will accelerate the process.’ The leaders also made an appearance at the launch of Turkey’s first nuclear power station via video link on the same day.

Russian company Rosatom was granted permission by Turkey’s TAEK atomic energy authority on Tuesday to begin work on the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant’s first unit.  The plant will have a combined capacity of 4,800 megawatts across four reactors.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9108