Jan 8, 2008

President Bush Heads to the Epicenter

By Joel C. Rosenberg

(Washington, D.C., January 8, 2007) -- Politically, Americans are focused today on the New Hampshire primaries. But geopolitically, the eyes of the nations are fixed on Israel and her neighbors, the epicenter of the momentous events that are shaking our world and shaping our future.

President Bush leaves today for Israel and the West Bank where he will spend two days meeting with Prime Minister Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas. He will then fly to Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt for meetings with President Hosni Mubarak. From there, he heads to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait. I suspect he will also make an unannounced visit to Baghdad.

The trip comes at an important time for the Bush administration. On the positive side, violence in Iraq has plummeted dramatically in the wake of the U.S. military "surge." Violence in Israel is at a seven-year low. Lebanon has not imploded, as has been feared for much of the past year. Syria has not retaliated against Israel for the fall airstrike that took out a North Korean nuclear facility under construction. Severe internal divisions are surfacing within Iran's government, and there are fresh reports that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be losing favor with the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

That said, the big question is: What will 2008 hold?

The recently-released National Intelligence Estimate on Iran notwithstanding, top Israeli officials I have spoken with are convinced Iran most certainly is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, and could have a workable device by 2010. President Bush is saying publicly that he is convinced Iran remains a serious threat to U.S. and allied interests in the Middle East, and that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to another Holocaust.

"If I were an Israeli, I would take the words of the Iranian president seriously, and as President of the United States I take them seriously," Bush said yesterday during an interview on Israeli army radio. He also vowed to defend Israel if Iran were to attack the Jewish state.

In one of the most dangeorus provocations by the Iranian regime of late, "five armed Iranian speedboats approached three United States Navy warships in international waters in the strategic Strait of Hormuz on Sunday, then maneuvered aggressively as radio threats were issued that the American ships would be blown up," reported the New York Times. "The confrontation, which ended after just under 30 minutes without damage, shots fired or any injuries, took place during daylight on Sunday as the three American ships were entering the Persian Gulf....Defense Department and military officials said that as the Iranian boats neared the American vessels, a radio threat was issued that the American ships would explode. The verbal warnings broadcast over the internationally recognized bridge-to-bridge radio channel said, 'I am coming at you, and you will explode in a few minutes,; an American official said."

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has clearly chosen to ally himself with the radicals of the region, notably Iran, Syria and Sudan, and is selling these and other regimes billions of dollars worth of advanced weapons systems. And, of course, the 60th anniversary of Israel is coming May 14th, raising the possibility that Islamic jihadists and/or their state sponsors may be planning new attacks for this year.

Given that Psalm 122:6 instructs us to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem," let us pray faithfully that President Bush's peace mission to the region is fruitful and effective. Let's pray that he is able to strengthen the resolve of the Reformers in the epicenter to become even more unified in fighting the Radicals. Let's pray that he is able to encourage the Israeli people who feel very much alone in a dangerous neighborhood right now. Let's pray that moderate forces within the Palestinian society feel strengthened to find a peaceful coexistence with the Israelis and have the courage to oppose the Hamas extremists. Let's pray for Christians in the region to be strong and courageous amidst intense persecution (seven churches and Christian sites were attacked in Iraq over the weekend) and to find practical ways to show the love of Jesus Christ to their neighbors and their enemies. Let's also pray for the President Bush's safety, as jihadists would love to make him the next Benazir Bhutto.