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American pastor freed; ‘tenacious’ Trump team thanked


Reported by Jody Brown (OneNewsNow.com) | Friday, October 12, 2018

Andrew Brunson released (Oct 2018)An American pastor who has been held in prison by the Turkish government for two years should be on his way home to the U.S. by the end of the day.

The bottom line: Pastor Andrew Brunson, a North Carolina native, is free to leave Turkey and return home. In his own words today: “This is the day our family has been praying for – I am delighted to be on my way home to the United States. My entire family thanks the president, the administration, and Congress for their unwavering support.” (Image shows Brunson arriving at home on Friday after his release.)

Brunson, 50, had suffered for his faith in prison and then house arrest at the hands of Turkey, America’s NATO ally, since October 2016. During a hearing today, a Turkish court convicted him on an alleged “terror charge” before releasing him; a charge of espionage against him was dropped. He had faced charges that could have resulted in 35 years in prison.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins attended today’s hearing this morning.

“The prayers of thousands were answered today when Pastor Brunson was released by the Turkish government and told he could go home to the United States. Those prayers – combined with the unwavering resolve of President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Brownback – brought tangible help to Pastor Brunson and hope to those around the globe who are being persecuted because of their faith.

“Pastor Brunson was also well represented legally by our friends at the American Center for Law and Justice,” Perkins adds, “and we commend them and their attorneys for the outstanding work they did on behalf of Pastor Brunson.”

The American Center for Law and Justice had been working in the U.S. and abroad to secure Brunson’s release. “President Trump and his team have been tenacious in seeking the release of Pastor Brunson,” says Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.

“We’re grateful to the President, members of Congress and diplomatic leaders who continued to put pressure on Turkey to secure the freedom of Pastor Brunson. The fact that he is now on a plane to the United States can only be viewed as a significant victory for Pastor Brunson and his family.”

Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters, also is crediting the Trump administration for its role in obtaining the pastor’s release. He singles out the president, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Ambassador Sam Brownback, and Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina). “[They] refused to take ‘no’ for an answer for this man’s release,” says Johnson. “This administration stayed true to its citizen.”

“May the Lord strengthen Pastor Brunson and his family as they work to turn the page on this difficult chapter in their lives,” Johnson adds. “And may God protect and give peace to our other brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to endure hardships and severe persecution around the world because of their faith in Him. Let us never forget them!”

Dede Laugesen, director of Save the Persecuted Christians, strikes a similar tone in her remarks today.

“This has been a long road of persecution for Pastor Andrew Brunson,” says Laugesen. “We are joyful and so thankful for Pastor Brunson’s long-awaited freedom. We praise God for this wonderful turn of events and thank the many people who worked on his behalf, including high-ranking officials within the Trump administration and influential and committed attorneys.

“Despite the joy we feel today, we must never forget there are millions of Christians who are not free to believe in Christ. Many remain jailed, persecuted in their own communities or even shunned in their own homes. We pray all will someday experience the freedom Andrew Brunson is savoring today.”

Background

Today’s was the fourth hearing of the case against Brunson. The evangelical pastor had been accused of terror-related charges and espionage, facing up to 35 years in jail if convicted. Brunson, who had lived in Turkey for more than two decades, rejected the charges and strongly maintained his innocence. He was one of thousands caught up in a wide-scale government crackdown that followed a failed coup against the Turkish government in July 2016.

Prosecutors accused Brunson of committing crimes on behalf of terror groups, linking him to outlawed Kurdish militants and a network led by a U.S.-based Turkish cleric who is accused of orchestrating the coup attempt. The U.S. maintained he was being held unjustly and had repeatedly called for his release.

Brunson told the court he is “an innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey.” He again denied accusations that his church – a small congregation in the Izmir Resurrection Church – aided Kurdish militants, saying he had handed over a list of Syrian refugees whom the congregation had helped and adding that Turkish authorities would have identified any terrorists.

“We helped everyone, Kurds, Arabs, without showing any discrimination,” he said.

William Devlin, an evangelical pastor from New York spoke to reporters outside the Turkish prison, saying hundreds of thousands of Christians were praying for Brunson’s release.


Associated Press contributed to this report.

South African Farmer Reports on What Is Really Happening in His Country Regarding Land Seizure


A “no entry” sign is seen at an entrance of a farm outside Witbank, Mpumalanga province, South Africa, July 13, 2018. (Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters/Newscom)

When a recent report on the uncompensated seizure and redistribution of farmland held by white farmers in South Africa drew the concern of President Donald Trump, his South African counterpart told him to “stay out of our issues.”

Subsequent reports have raised questions about how extensive the land expropriations are and the level of violence associated with the seizures.

The African National Congress is the longtime ruling party in South Africa, and it is currently headed by that country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa drew U.S. media scrutiny after Tucker Carlson, on his Fox News Channel show, reported Aug. 22 that Ramaphosa had begun “seizing land from his own citizens without compensation because they are the wrong skin color.”

Carlson condemned the land seizure as “racist” because the South African government is largely black and the farmers in question are white, and he urged the U.S. State Department to condemn the move as well.

After Carlson’s program aired the segment, Trump tweeted his reaction and asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “look into the matter.”

In a subsequent speech, Ramaphosa responded to Trump’s tweets by saying, “Stay out of our issues, and we will not get involved in your issues in America.”

Trump’s tweet generated a lot of attention and discussion about what’s really going on in South Africa.

The African National Congress has proposed expropriation of farmland without compensation, but no such changes have been made yet to the South African Constitution.

Uncompensated expropriation means the government could force farmers to give up some or all of their land without any payment in return.

The Daily Signal spoke with a white South African farmer regarding the current political climate in his country, as it relates to the safety of white farmers and their land.

For his safety, the pseudonym Paul Engle will be used in lieu of his real name.

Engle owns and operates a 50-acre macadamia nut farm in the northeastern part of South Africa. He grew up in South Africa and has been operating the farm for more than five years.

“The history of the situation is that, obviously, white farmers were privileged during apartheid,” he said, referring to South Africa’s system of apartheid, the racist segregation of blacks and whites under white-minority rule. “They were given farms or access to farms.”

South Africa’s apartheid ended in 1994, and the country has been governed by the black majority since then.

The South African publication Farmer’s Weekly reported that in 1994, there were 120,000 commercial farms in operation. Today, that number has shrunk to 35,000.

Engle said nearly 100,000 farmers have moved off the land, some because of concerns about crime, while others simply retired and their sons have chosen not to work the land. “They don’t want the struggles. They don’t want the hassle,” he explained.

He said that many of those vacated farms have been sold, largely to those who were pushed off the land during apartheid. But the reclaimed land is not being farmed, and it’s no longer producing commercial crops.

This loss of productivity is an increasing concern among South Africans, in terms of the overall economic stability of the nation.

“So, the breadbasket just keeps shrinking, which means that the very people who want the land are the ones who are going to suffer, because as food supplies decrease, the prices increase, which means more food must be imported,” Engle explained, adding:

I think where the situation is at the moment is, white farmers—and unfortunately, those are the guys that know how to farm—they have the resources, the know-how, the technology, after having been there for generations.

That sector of our economy is dwindling. And then of course more pressure is coming on now, as the government is talking about expropriation without compensation. So it is a very delicate, vulnerable part of the fabric of South Africa.

Joshua Meservey, a senior policy analyst on Africa and the Middle East at The Heritage Foundation, says it’s unlikely that the government would seize land from all white farmers. It’s more probable that land would only be taken from some farms or portions of farms, he said.

Engle said that at the beginning of the year, Ramaphosa asked for a report to be compiled that would essentially give voice to all South Africans on the topic of land expropriation.

“All across the nation they had meetings speaking to communities, businesses, agricultural sectors, all aspects of society,” he said. “Then that was going to be written up in a report to go back to the government to say, ‘This is what the nation is saying [about expropriation].’”

The report was due to be completed by the end of August, but it has yet to be released. Earlier this month, however, Ramaphosa said the African National Congress would not wait for the report, but would go ahead with the expropriations process.

South African news outlet News24 reported on Aug. 1 that Ramaphosa said “the ANC would propose an amendment to the Constitution to Parliament, outlining conditions for expropriation of land without compensation.”

Engle explained that this statement was made by Ramaphosa, not as the president of South Africa, but as the leader of the African National Congress. “He is making it as a political statement, rather than as a decision of government,” he said.

He said that in the northeastern province of Limpopo, a government minister has already started the process to take away two commercial farms and that the secretary of the African National Congress has declared white farmers can only own 12,000 hectares—about 25,000 acres—and they must hand over the rest of their land to the state.

Ramaphosa now appears to be backtracking somewhat on some of his more radical statements, according to Engle. The South African leader said, “We are not going to steal and grab land,” News24 reported Aug. 3.

Engle told The Daily Signal that the rhetoric and actions of the country’s political leaders have been inconsistent on the issue.

This has been “causing a lot of unrest in the country,” Engle says. “It’s not as if Ramaphosa is driving the ship and there is one voice. There are multiple voices.”

Engle described the political motivation for the land expropriation. The “ANC has become unpopular because they have not managed the country well. It appears that Ramaphosa was pushed down the road of land expropriation without compensation by the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters, the extremist party led by Julius Malema].”

He said the African National Congress has been the ruling party for more than 20 years, but during that time the nation has seen an increase in crime and a radical decline in the quality of health care and education.

“They don’t manage the crime. They don’t manage the corruption, and they don’t manage the incompetency,” Engle said.

The people of South Africa have begun to lose faith in the African National Congress. The land-grab rhetoric is an attempt to win back lost popularity, he said.

“They are talking about change in education, land, and health so they can gain favor. It is very political. They are motivated by politics, by wanting to stay in power,” Engle said. “I do not see a pure heart of, ‘Let’s help the nation. Let’s help the poor. Let’s help our people.’ It is all politics.”

The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Economic Freedom states that “South Africa’s economic growth has decelerated because of declining global competitiveness, growing political instability, and weakened rule of law that in 2017 caused the country’s investment-grade credit rating to be downgraded to junk status, denting investor confidence.”

Heritage’s Meservey added: “One of the problems with the expropriation-without-compensation proposal is that it presupposes the deeply corrupt South African government—which has already made a hash of previous land-reform efforts—could manage this new process competently and justly. That’s a dubious proposal.”

Despite the politics, Engle said he thinks “most South Africans, white South Africans, realize that there has got to be some form of expropriation.”

“We have to be giving back, but it cannot be at the expense of the economy, and it cannot be done illegally … . I think there is a realization that [expropriation] needs to be done, because it will lead to the peace of the country,” he said. “And there are a lot of poor people. They need a piece of their own land that they can farm and raise some chickens on, particularly around the cities.”

When asked about safety concerns, Engle shrugged. “Yeah, I mean, where we are is very safe … but there is always that sense of, it could happen, it could happen at any time.”

“But there is no escalation of crime against white farmers. It is not any more than it has been since 1994. The crime on the farms, the murders and so forth, is not necessarily political. It is just that farmers are a soft target,” he explained.

“Often, it is the workers that are disgruntled because they have not gotten what they want, or maybe the farmer has been harsh on them. Maybe he has been racist towards them. It’s kind of payback; so, that does happen.”

Crime and corruption are not unknown in South Africa’s history, but the political climate is quite distinct now. “It feels like South Africa is spinning out of control,” Engle said.

He expressed uncertainty as to where his county is headed. There’s a genuine concern that South Africa will go down the same road as neighboring Zimbabwe, falling into political corruption and economic ruin.

Robert Mugabe, the longtime former president of Zimbabwe, also engaged in land expropriation without compensation. Once white farmers in the former Rhodesia began losing their land—and sometimes even their lives—the Zimbabwean economy collapsed.

Engle said it remains to be seen what will happen in South Africa, but added he is praying for a miracle because “it will take a miracle to turn it around.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Portrait of Virginia Allen

Virginia Allen

Virginia Allen is an administrative assistant at The Heritage Foundation.

 

 

 

Exclusive: Iran moves missiles to Iraq in warning to enemies


PARIS/BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more there to deter attacks on its interests in the Middle East and to give it the means to hit regional foes, Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources said.

FILE PHOTO: A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran September 27, 2017. Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via REUTERS

Any sign that Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. It would also embarrass France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the three European signatories to the nuclear deal, as they have been trying to salvage the agreement despite new U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.

“The logic was to have a backup plan if Iran was attacked,” one senior Iranian official told Reuters. “The number of missiles is not high, just a couple of dozen, but it can be increased if necessary.”

Iran has previously said its ballistic missile activities are purely defensive in nature. Iranian officials declined to comment when asked about the latest moves.

The Iraqi government and military both declined to comment.

The Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar missiles in question have ranges of about 200 km to 700 km, putting Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh or the Israeli city of Tel Aviv within striking distance if the weapons were deployed in southern or western Iraq.

The Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has bases in both those areas. Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani is overseeing the program, three of the sources said.

Western countries have already accused Iran of transferring missiles and technology to Syria and other allies of Tehran, such as Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Iran’s Sunni Muslim Gulf neighbors and its arch-enemy Israel have expressed concerns about Tehran’s regional activities, seeing it as a threat to their security. Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the missile transfers. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that anybody that threatened to wipe Israel out “would put themselves in a similar danger”.

MISSILE PRODUCTION LINE

The Western source said the number of missiles was in the 10s and that the transfers were designed to send a warning to the United States and Israel, especially after air raids on Iranian troops in Syria. The United States has a significant military presence in Iraq.

“It seems Iran has been turning Iraq into its forward missile base, the Western source said.

The Iranian sources and one Iraqi intelligence source said a decision was made some 18 months ago to use militias to produce missiles in Iraq, but activity had ramped up in the last few months, including with the arrival of missile launchers.

“We have bases like that in many places and Iraq is one of them. If America attacks us, our friends will attack America’s interests and its allies in the region,” said a senior IRGC commander who served during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The Western source and the Iraqi source said the factories being used to develop missiles in Iraq were in al-Zafaraniya, east of Baghdad, and Jurf al-Sakhar, north of Kerbala. One Iranian source said there was also a factory in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The areas are controlled by Shi’ite militias, including Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of the closest to Iran. Three sources said Iraqis had been trained in Iran as missile operators. The Iraqi intelligence source said the al-Zafaraniya factory produced warheads and the ceramic of missile moulds under former President Saddam Hussein. It was reactivated by local Shi’ite groups in 2016 with Iranian assistance, the source said. A team of Shi’ite engineers who used to work at the facility under Saddam were brought in, after being screened, to make it operational, the source said. He also said missiles had been tested near Jurf al-Sakhar.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon declined to comment.

One U.S official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Tehran over the last few months has transferred missiles to groups in Iraq but could not confirm that those missiles had any launch capability from their current positions.

Washington has been pushing its allies to adopt a tough anti-Iran policy since it reimposed sanctions this month.

While the European signatories to the nuclear deal have so far balked at U.S. pressure, they have grown increasingly impatient over Iran’s ballistic missile program. France in particular has bemoaned Iranian “frenzy” in developing and propagating missiles and wants Tehran to open negotiations over its ballistic weapons.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that Iran was arming regional allies with rockets and allowing ballistic proliferation. “Iran needs to avoid the temptation to be the (regional) hegemon,” he said.

In March, the three nations proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its missile activity, although they failed to push them through after opposition from some member states.

“Such a proliferation of Iranian missile capabilities throughout the region is an additional and serious source of concern,” a document from the three European countries said at the time.

MESSAGE TO FOES

A regional intelligence source also said Iran was storing a number of ballistic missiles in areas of Iraq that were under effective Shi’ite control and had the capacity to launch them. The source could not confirm that Iran has a missile production capacity in Iraq.

A second Iraqi intelligence official said Baghdad had been aware of the flow of Iranian missiles to Shi’ite militias to help fight Islamic State militants, but that shipments had continued after the hardline Sunni militant group was defeated.

“It was clear to Iraqi intelligence that such a missile arsenal sent by Iran was not meant to fight Daesh (Islamic State) militants but as a pressure card Iran can use once involved in regional conflict,” the official said.

The Iraqi source said it was difficult for the Iraqi government to stop or persuade the groups to go against Tehran.

“We can’t restrain militias from firing Iranian rockets because simply the firing button is not in our hands, it’s with Iranians who control the push button,” he said.

“Iran will definitely use the missiles it handed over to Iraqi militia it supports to send a strong message to its foes in the region and the United States that it has the ability to use Iraqi territories as a launch pad for its missiles to strike anywhere and anytime it decides, the Iraqi official said.

Iraq’s parliament passed a law in 2016 to bring an assortment of Shi’ite militia groups known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) into the state apparatus. The militias report to Iraq’s prime minister, who is a Shi’ite under the country’s unofficial governance system. However, Iran still has a clear hand in coordinating the PMF leadership, which frequently meets and consults with Soleimani.

Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and Jonathan Landay in Washington; editing by David Clarke

Iran moves ballistic missiles to Iraq

Tehran’s move likely to exacerbate tensions with Washington

Published: 16:37 August 31, 2018 Gulf News

Reuters

Paris/Baghdad

Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shiite proxies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more there to deter attacks on its interests in the Middle East and to give it the means to hit regional foes, Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources said.

Any sign that Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

It would also embarrass France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the three European signatories to the nuclear deal, as they have been trying to salvage the agreement despite new US sanctions against Tehran.

According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.

“The logic was to have a backup plan if Iran was attacked,” one senior Iranian official said. “The number of missiles is not high, just a couple of dozen, but it can be increased if necessary.” Iran has previously said its ballistic missile activities are purely defensive in nature. Iranian officials declined to comment when asked about the latest moves.

The Iraqi government and military both declined to comment.

The Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar missiles in question have ranges of about 200 km to 700 km,.

The Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has bases in both those areas.

Quds Force commander Qassem Sulaimani is overseeing the programme, three of the sources said.

Western countries have already accused Iran of transferring missiles and technology to Syria and other allies of Tehran, such as Al Houthis in Yemen and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Gulf neighbours and its arch-enemy Israel have expressed concerns about Tehran’s regional activities, seeing it as a threat to their security.

The Western source said the number of missiles was in the 10s and that the transfers were designed to send a warning to the United States and Israel, especially after air raids on Iranian troops in Syria. The United States has a significant military presence in Iraq.

“It seems Iran has been turning Iraq into its forward missile base,” the Western source said.

The Iranian sources and one Iraqi intelligence source said a decision was made some 18 months ago to use militias to produce missiles in Iraq, but activity had ramped up in the last few months, including with the arrival of missile launchers.

“We have bases like that in many places and Iraq is one of them. If America attacks us, our friends will attack America’s interests and its allies in the region,” said a senior IRGC commander who served during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The Western source and the Iraqi source said the factories being used to develop missiles in Iraq were in Al Zafaraniya, east of Baghdad, and Jurf Al Sakhar, north of Karbala. One Iranian source said there was also a factory in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The areas are controlled by Shiite militias, including Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of the closest to Iran. Three sources said Iraqis had been trained in Iran as missile operators.

The Iraqi intelligence source said the Al Zafaraniya factory produced warheads and the ceramic of missile moulds under former president Saddam Hussain. It was reactivated by local Shiite groups in 2016 with Iranian assistance, the source said.

A team of Shiite engineers who used to work at the facility under Saddam were brought in, after being screened, to make it operational, the source said. He also said missiles had been tested near Jurf Al Sakhar.

The US Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon declined to comment.

One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Tehran over the last few months has transferred missiles to groups in Iraq but could not confirm that those missiles had any launch capability from their current positions.

Washington has been pushing its allies to adopt a tough anti-Iran policy since it reimposed sanctions this month.

While the European signatories to the nuclear deal have so far baulked at US pressure, they have grown increasingly impatient over Iran’s ballistic missile programme.

France in particular has bemoaned Iranian “frenzy” in developing and propagating missiles and wants Tehran to open negotiations over its ballistic weapons.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that Iran was arming regional allies with rockets and allowing ballistic proliferation. “Iran needs to avoid the temptation to be the [regional] hegemon,” he said.

In March, the three nations proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its missile activity, although they failed to push them through after opposition from some member states.

“Such a proliferation of Iranian missile capabilities throughout the region is an additional and serious source of concern,” a document from the three European countries said at the time.

A regional intelligence source also said Iran was storing a number of ballistic missiles in areas of Iraq that were under effective Shiite control and had the capacity to launch them.

The source could not confirm that Iran has a missile production capacity in Iraq.

A second Iraqi intelligence official said Baghdad had been aware of the flow of Iranian missiles to Shiite militias to help fight Daesh militants, but that shipments had continued after the group was defeated.

“It was clear to Iraqi intelligence that such a missile arsenal sent by Iran was not meant to fight Daesh militants but as a pressure card Iran can use once involved in regional conflict,” the official said.

The Iraqi source said it was difficult for the Iraqi government to stop or persuade the groups to go against Tehran.

“We can’t restrain militias from firing Iranian rockets because simply the firing button is not in our hands, it’s with Iranians who control the push button,” he said.

“Iran will definitely use the missiles it handed over to Iraqi militia it supports to send a strong message to its foes in the region and the United States that it has the ability to use Iraqi territories as a launch pad for its missiles to strike anywhere and anytime it decides, the Iraqi official said.

Iraq’s parliament passed a law in 2016 to bring an assortment of Shiite militia groups known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) into the state apparatus. The militias report to Iraq’s prime minister, who is a Shiite under the country’s unofficial governance system.

However, Iran still has a clear hand in coordinating the PMF leadership, which frequently meets and consults with Sulaimani.

North Korea Sends Hostile Letter, Then Mattis Announces New War Games


Reported By Steven Beyer | August 28, 2018 at 1:17pm

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has announced that the United States will ramp up military exercises with South Korea just days after North Korea sent a hostile letter to President Donald Trump. The United States had previously suspended military exercises with South Korea as a good faith measure when North Korea decided to start the denuclearization process.

However, Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, “We took the step to suspend several of the largest military exercises as a good faith measure. We have no plans to suspend anymore.”

He followed up his comment by saying, “We’ll make decisions on that in consultation with State.”

Mattis also told reporters that he’s working with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and that the diplomatic efforts are all “riding on [Pompeo’s] shoulders.”

In June, Trump announced he was suspending “war games” with South Korea and that when it comes to North Korea and denuclearization, Kim Jong Un “wants to get it done.”

The president also said of Kim, “I do trust him.”

On Twitter, the president said at the time of the decision, “We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith — which both sides are.”

Mattis’ announcement comes days after Trump announced that he was canceling Pompeo’s trip to the Korean peninsula.

“I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, at this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the president said via Twitter.

It was later reported by the Washington Post that North Korea had secretly sent what many believe to be a hostile letter to Trump. In addition, North Korea’s state-run newspaper accused Washington on Sunday of plotting to “unleash a war”  with “a smile on it’s face” while denuclearization talks were ongoing.

Moreover, North Korean media accused the United States of sending special forces and a nuclear submarine to the Jinhae Naval Base in South Korea.

However, the New York Times reports that American negotiators have “confronted” the North Koreans over facilities that they believe to be nuclear. North Korea has since called the accusations “fiction” and led to the “derailing dialogue” between the U.S. and North Korea.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Steven is a husband, father, and follower of Jesus. You can find him enjoying listening to or playing jazz piano, enjoying the Disney parks, or hiking the Arizona landscape.

Obama’s Favorite Country, Iran, To Imprison Couple For Christianity – Here’s The 411


Remember when Obama took the National Prayer Breakfast as an opportunity to rage against Crusades and Inquisitions?

And if you think Obama had a point in suggesting the Crusades were evidence that Christianity was ‘mean to Muslims’ it’s possible you’ve forgotten a few of history’s actual details, seen here:

DEAR PATRIOTS: Let’s Play, ‘Spot The BS’, In This PRO-TERRORISM Meme

With Iran’s attitudes towards Christianity, no WONDER he liked Iran so much.

Strange, isn’t it, that these original arrests were during Obama’s super-amazing negotiations with Iran? And that those charges never came up?

Jeff King, the president of Washington, DC-based International Christian Concern, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that each member of the congregation was sentenced to a year in prison.

“Getting information on the arrests of Christians is incredibly challenging given the heavily censored nature of Iran,” King said. “But based on the cases we have been tracking, this is the first time this year that we’ve seen a jail sentence being given based on the charge of ‘inclination to the land of Christianity.’ This could be interpreted as a reference to Israel, the birthplace of Christianity and also a country that Iran has adopted a very aggressive stance towards.”

While Christianity is legally recognized in the Islamic Republic, the US State Department has classified Iran as a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 “for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
[…] “Iran does not discriminate against or persecute any recognized religious minority,” said Alireza Miryousefi, head of press for the Iranian Mission to the UN. “Including the large Christian community inside Iran, who are free to worship in the many churches that can be found across Iran. In fact, as is the case with Iranian Jews, Iranian Christians are constitutionally guaranteed parliamentary representation. Major cities such as Tehran and Isfahan are home to large Christian communities with centuries-old churches.”
Source: Jerusalem Post

Hey guys, should we believe Miryousefi?

Yeah. That’s what we thought, too.

What’s behind this?

Some suggest the sentancing is could be backlash for those sanctions that were reinstated.

Jeff King, president of the Washington D.C.-based International Christian Concern, told FoxNews.com: “Iran’s regime is under a great amount of pressure right now.

“Poor economic conditions combined with the harshness of their Islamic rule has led to massive unrest that has defined the country for months.

“There are many reports that this has contributed to the government’s ever-increasing dependence on hardline Islamic ayatollahs, who naturally see Christianity as a threat to their power. For this reason, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing an increase in Christian persecution.”
Source: FoxNews

Either way, it wouldn’t be the first time Obama praised an oppressive regime for their great ‘tolerance’.


Remember Indionesia, where he spent some of his childhood?

Speaking before thousands in the city that helped raise him, President Obama on Wednesday cited this country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy as a model in an Islamic world often governed by unelected autocracies.

He also praised Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation – for a “spirit of tolerance that is written into your constitution, symbolized in your mosques and churches and temples, and embodied in your people,” a quality worthy for all the world to emulate.
Source: WashingtonPost

Like Bernie Sanders’ praise of Venezuela, Obama’s praise of Indionesia’s great ‘tolerance’ did not age well.

Jakarta’s Christian governor has been sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy, a harsher-than-expected ruling critics fear will embolden hardline Islamist forces to challenge secularism in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.
Source: Reuters

Turkey’s Currency Plummets After Trump Sanctions Hit for Jailing American Pastor


Reported By Hanna Bogorowski | August 7, 2018 at 9:37am

Turkish currency, the lira, hit a record low Monday after efforts by the country’s central bank to curb the drop by reducing the amount of foreign currency it holds in its reserves and their efforts to bolster the banking sector failed.

The currency has fallen nearly 30 percent this year already and is currently down 3.8 percent against the U.S. dollar, with $1 buying about 5.277 lira, according to The Wall Street Journal.

After months of decline, the lira fell 2.2 points on Sunday after policymakers in Turkey announced adjustments to the reserve policies of the central bank — CBRT — that were supposed to result in giving the banking sector $2.2 billion in liquidity.

The CBRT claimed it would do this by lowering the “upper limit for the FX maintenance facility within the reserve options mechanism” by 5 percentage points to 40 percent, per a statement on its website.

This helped temporarily, the Financial Times reported, but the lira continued to fall.

Recent actions by the CBRT have alarmed investors who are increasingly concerned by the amount of control Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds over monetary policy, The Wall Street Journal said.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office announced Friday that it would be looking into Turkey’s duty-free access to the U.S. market, which came after Turkey hit the U.S. with tariffs on U.S. goods in response to American tariffs on steel and aluminum.

U.S. President Donald Trump also hit Turkey with sanctions on Wednesday over the country’s bogus detainment of an American pastor.

“Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately,” Mnuchin added.

Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu were the targets of the sanctions because they played a large role in imprisoning Brunson and “serve as leaders of Turkish government organizations responsible for implementing Turkey’s serious human rights abuse,” the statement reads.

Improving relations with the U.S. and raising interest rates, two things Turkey has so far declined to do, would help stabilize the country’s currency, analysts told The Wall Street Journal.

Turkey’s inflation rate also hit a 14-year high in June, reaching 15.39 percent.

How Religious Freedom Erodes, One Step at a Time


Religious liberty faces new threats both in the United States and abroad. (Photo: kharps/Getty Images)

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the formation of a new Task Force on Religious Liberty at the Department of Justice. The action came on the heels of a ministerial summit on religious freedom, which explored how religious freedom is under attack around the globe.

At the summit, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, highlighted the problems that arise when governments try to enforce conformity to a single view of what is sacred. Governments do far better, they argued, to honor every individual’s freedom to determine that for themselves. That is the path to pluralism—and peace.

Increasingly, however, that is the path less traveled. Too many nations are following paths leading to the decline of religious freedom.

That awful journey often begins with the social ostracization of religious minorities. In Saudi Arabia, for example, official textbooks teach students to compare Christians and Jews to dogs and pigs.

The next step economically disenfranchises religious minorities, denying them employment and education. In Egypt, for instance, Coptic Christians face extreme prejudice when looking for work—be it with the police force or the military, or even a professional soccer team.

Next comes the criminalization of minority religious beliefs. In Pakistan, for example, a Catholic woman named Asia Bibi currently sits on death row for allegedly blaspheming Muhammad.

Ultimately, the path away from religious freedom ends in violence, which may come from either the state or civil society groups. Last year in India, Hindu vigilantes killed a 12-year-old Muslim boy for allegedly slaughtering a cow that they consider sacred.

These ugly doings can occur anywhere that activists promote the punishment of nonconformists, the government does not intervene to protect minorities, and the majority of citizens stay silent. And recent developments in America suggest it can happen here.

In Colorado, Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, gladly served gay customers for two decades. But when his religious beliefs led him to decline creating a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding, the state’s civil rights commissioners compared him to a Nazi and slaveholder.

Tim Gill, the multimillionaire Rolling Stone calls the “megadonor behind the LGBTQ rights movement,” announced he would bankroll a push to add sexual orientation to nondiscrimination laws in states across the country. His professed goal: to “punish the wicked,” that is, those who don’t conform to the new cultural orthodoxy.

Indeed, America is moving rapidly from the “social marginalization of nonconformists” stage to the next stage: excluding them from economic opportunities. When hearing the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor seemed to endorse economic disenfranchisement when she told Phillips: “Then don’t participate in weddings.”

In a growing number of cases, firefighters, military pilots, farmers, entertainers, and tech CEOs have lost jobs, promotions, and access to markets because they refused to bow to the new orthodoxy. And at least three states and two cities have terminated the contracts of religious adoption agencies because the agencies believe every child deserves both a mom and a dad.

Those who believe in the value of religious freedom must teach new generations how to defend it. These efforts should be bipartisan and ecumenical, including people from both sides of the same-sex marriage issue.

To be effective, we must defend the right of those with whom we disagree to express their beliefs. At the same time, both government and civil society must oppose demonizing religious minorities, speaking out against the rising volume of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim acts of violence reported by the Justice Department.

The courts should continue to protect dissent from orthodoxies, be they religious or secular. This includes respecting each individual’s freedom to decide what is sacred to them.

One of the greatest American legal and political traditions is that those on both sides of controversial issues may live out their views. And, while government may have a position on each of these issues, our courts have never forced anyone to affirm those positions in violation of their conscience.

Congress can also help uphold religious freedom—for instance, by passing legislation that protects adoption agencies who believe every child deserves both a mom and a dad and to shield those who hold traditional views on marriage from federal sanctions.

America’s Founders resisted the temptation to determine what is sacred for us and to force conformity to a single orthodoxy. They enshrined religious freedom in our Constitution.

Yet today, that freedom is under assault. All Americans must respond by standing up for one another’s freedoms to think, to speak, and to act according to what each of us finds sacred. This is how to ensure our country stays on the path of religious freedom that leads to peaceful pluralism.

Commentary By

Portrait of Emilie Kao

Emilie Kao is director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.

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