The Geneva nuclear treaty with Tehran offers the West new opportunities and could change the world. But secret documents suggest it is the hardliners in Iran who stand to profit the most from the new opening. The clear losers are Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Rarely has an international agreement triggered such widely divergent reactions as the Iran deal reached in Geneva, with proponents touting it as a solution to the world’s problems while opponents paint doomsday scenarios. Still, it is only a temporary, six-month deal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called it a “breakthrough.” United States President Barack Obama said that for the first time in years “we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program. And key parts of the program will be rolled back.”
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called the deal “a turning point.”
An enthusiastic crowd all but crushed chief negotiator Mohammad Zarif upon his return to Tehran, after a deal had been reached with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. The foreign minister deserved a gold medal for his diplomatic skills, the Iranian newspaper Arman Daily wrote enthusiastically, noting that the world had come a step closer to global peace “without Iran having to abandon its principles.”
The deal evoked a completely different reaction in Saudi Arabia and Israel. Abdullah al-Askar, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the influential Shura Council, spoke darkly of what he called Iran’s “evil agenda.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fumed that the deal was a “historic mistake,” saying: “the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world.”
Trade and Industry Minister Naftali Bennett, a hardliner in the Israeli cabinet, even went so far as to paint an apocalyptic scenario, saying: “If in five years, a nuclear suitcase explodes in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the agreement that was signed this morning.” Of course, there are also those who draw an analogy to the 1938 Munich Agreement and liken Iran to Hitler’s Germany, accusing the West of choosing appeasement once again. So is the Geneva deal a work of God or a deal with the devil? Or is just an agreement complete with human weaknesses that could, ironically enough, end up benefiting the agitators on all sides?
Iran’s Return to the World Stage
A week after the surprising compromise, the consequences of the interim agreement are gradually emerging — consequences for international politics, war and peace in the Middle East, the balance of power between Sunnis and Shiites in the region and for both the ruling class in the Iranian theocracy and its subjects.
The deal amounts to a tectonic shift in the Middle East, the kind of watershed moment in global policy that only happens once every few years. The Geneva agreement marks the return of Iran to the world stage, and its transformation from a pariah to a potential partner of the United States and Europe. At the same time, it also foreshadows the presumed decline in the importance of two powers that have been viewed as difficult but indispensable partners of the West: Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The monarchs of the House of Saud have always seen themselves as the keepers of the holiest sites in Islam, the masters of Mecca and Medina, which has led to their claim of being the leading power in Sunni Islam. The Shia, the other main denomination of Islam, is treated as heretical in Saudi Arabia, where Shiites make up about 10 percent of the population and are oppressed by those in power. The Saudis have been mistrustful of their big neighbor to the east since their country was founded in 1932. But they have always had good relations with their strategic partner, the United States, a distant power to which they supplied the oil critical to its survival and from which they bought billions in armaments in return.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan was a symbolic figure in this political marriage of convenience. For 22 years, he served as the kingdom’s ambassador in Washington, where, next to his Israeli counterparts, he was probably the most influential diplomat. The prince was on good terms with former First Lady Nancy Reagan and on a first-name basis with her husband, then President Ronald Reagan. He smoked Cohiba cigars with Bill Clinton. And according to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Bob Woodward, former President George W. Bush told him about the impending US invasion of Iraq before informing Secretary of State Colin Powell. The close relationship between the two countries survived the 9/11 terrorist attacks largely intact, even through 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi rulers remained a stabilizing factor in the Middle East, working hand-in-hand with the White House.
A Rift Between Saudi Royals and White House
This began to change when the storms of the Arab spring brought turmoil to Middle Eastern autocracies. Riyadh was displeased when the US government did nothing to prevent the overthrow of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak in early 2011. On the other hand, the Saudis would have no objection to the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a member of the Alawite denomination and close ally of both the Shiite theocracy in Tehran and the Iranian-funded militant Hezbollah group in Lebanon. Riyadh was sharply critical of President Obama’s decision not to follow up on the threat of military strikes against Damascus, widening the growing rift between the Saudi royal family and the White House.
For a war-weary United States, there is also another reason why the Middle East is no longer a top priority. Thanks to new technologies like fracking, the country is not as reliant on foreign oil as it once was and could in fact attain true energy independence within a decade. The US’s old friend, 64-year-old Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief since 2012, also recognized the change when he noted that his country would make a “major shift” away from its alliance with Washington.
However, Riyadh and Washington did agree on one thing until recently: that Iran, with its presumed nuclear weapons program and its aggressive former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, represented the greatest threat to the Middle East. But then moderate politician Hassan Rohani, 65, was elected Iran’s new president in June. Rohani appointed the cosmopolitan diplomat Mohammad Zarif, 53, who earned his doctorate at the University of Denver, as his new foreign minister.
Benefits for Both Sides
When an easing of the nuclear dispute was in the offing a few weeks ago, the Saudi rulers did everything they could to obstruct an agreement. But their lobbying was to no avail. The members of the UN Security Council and Germany wanted the deal, and the United States, after 34 years of having no diplomatic relations with Tehran, recognized that the prospect of rapprochement would give it more options in the Middle East. An interim agreement would benefit both sides: Iran, through the lifting of some of the ruinous sanctions against the country, and the West, through the freezing of the Iranian nuclear program. The agreement represents a six-month reprieve for both sides, and it offers the hope that something far more extensive could follow: a permanent agreement that drives away the specter of an Iranian bomb and allows Tehran to become a constructive power with the ability to defuse crises once again.
The Saudis are the losers in this historic shift. It’s also possible that the West will become more public in its criticism of their regime. So far, Riyadh’s rulers have been largely unopposed in their aggressive efforts to spread their rigid form of Wahhabi Islam. Unlike Iran, for example, Saudi Arabia strictly forbids the public practice of other religions. And while the Saudi rulers have fought al-Qaida domestically, they have never renounced violence beyond their borders. According to documents leaked by WikiLeaks, in 2009 then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Saudi Arabia a “critical financial base” for funding terrorism.
In the Syrian civil war, the royal family is reallocating its funding for the rebels fighting the Assad regime, so that Islamists who want to turn Syria into a fundamentalist country are now receiving more Saudi money than the moderate regime opponents. And women are still not permitted to drive or vote in Saudi Arabia.
Is Saudi Arabia Seeking to Become a Nuclear Power?
The fear of isolation is pushing Riyadh to embark on dangerous adventures. According to intelligence sources, the regime, with Pakistan’s help, has recently begun pursuing its own nuclear weapon. In the 1990s, the Saudis spent millions of dollars on a project to develop an “Islamic” nuclear weapon. This may explain why the only person Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear program, invited to tour his laboratories was the then Saudi defense minister. Now Riyadh is reported to have secretly requested nuclear know-how and hardware from Islamabad that would give it the option of becoming a nuclear power itself in a few years. (By Spiegel Staff for Der Spiegel Online)
Prayer focus: This is a lengthy article, covering international headline news following the Geneva talks on Iran and its “nuclear options.” This focus will be in the news for months to come. It is an extremely tense time for the Middle East and for the United States. Pray that the result of these talks will be fruitful and that God will uncover deception and bring truth to the light. In the aftermath of the talks, Iran and the U.S. presented very different reports of what was decided. Israel has been left with insecurity about whether the U.S. will continue with the full support our country has always given. Pray that Iran’s true intentions will be exposed, even though Iran has stated it intends to produce uranium only for peaceful means. But who can believe a regime so ungodly and evil as to call for Israel’s destruction? It appears that President Obama has more confidence in Iran’s integrity than any of Iran’s neighbors does, particularly Saudi Arabia. Thus we must remain alert and pray with discernment. Some analysts predict the inevitability of war. Let us intercede for God’s restraining hand on all nations, while we pray for peace and rest for Israel.
“Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand all.” (Proverbs 28:5)
“Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure.” (Psalm 2:1-5)
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.’” (Psalm 122:6)
The Geneva deal is creating surprising new alliances. The backward-looking, theocratic Saudi monarchy and modern, pluralistic Israel have discovered mutual interests. The two countries allegedly even have coordinated attack plans, in which Israeli fighter jets would not only be allowed to fly through Saudi Arabian airspace in the event of an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, but could also depend on logistical support from Riyadh.
The mood in Israel itself is mixed. President Shimon Peres responded to the results of the negotiation with cautious optimism. Many Israelis view Netanyahu’s maximum demands that Iran completely abandon its nuclear program as unrealistic, and they also don’t believe that Tehran poses a direct threat.
Nevertheless, a majority takes Iran’s threatening gestures very seriously. As much as the Israelis acknowledge Rohani’s moderate statements, they also pay close attention to the words of Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful man in Tehran. Just a few days ago, Khamenei referred to Jews as “rabid dogs” and essentially denied them the right to their own country in the Middle East.
Critics of the Geneva agreement paint a nightmare scenario in which the release of about $7 billion (€5.15 billion) in previously frozen funds will relieve the pressure on the Iranians, pressure that had created a desperate economic situation in the country and forced Tehran to the negotiating table. It will be psychologically almost impossible to develop a new and possibly even tougher sanctions regime, even if the Iranians are unwilling to make any further concessions or fail to live up to their current promises. American oil companies and French automakers, to which Tehran is holding out the prospect of attractive terms, are already vying for contracts. In Germany, machine-building companies anticipate billions in new orders.
According to Western intelligence sources, the leadership and not the Iranian population would be more likely to benefit from an easing of sanctions. The Revolutionary Guards have managed to successfully circumvent trade restrictions with a network of front companies. The paramilitary organization, which answers directly to religious leader Khamenei and controls large parts of the economy, acts like a state within the state, subject to no rules but its own.
Will Funds Be Diverted to Front Companies?
The seemingly harmless-sounding National Development Fund (NDF) also plays a key role. According to the Iranian budget, some 26 percent of Iran’s oil and natural gas revenues — still several hundred million dollars, despite the Western boycott — will go to the NDF this year. The fund allegedly uses the money for peaceful purposes, but Western intelligence agencies report that the NDF, since its founding in 2010, has transferred more than $3 billion to two organizations on both European Union and U.S. watch lists. The first one is Energy Novin, a subsidiary of the Iranian nuclear authority, which is also involved in questionable aspects of the nuclear program, and the second is the Quds Force, a unit of the Revolutionary Guards known for its dubious foreign military missions. The Quds Force is currently fighting on the side of Syrian dictator Assad, for example.
The unfreezing of Iran’s bank accounts will likely be a bonanza for the NDF, which could divert the funds into hostile channels, or use them to establish other front companies. The Geneva deal deprives the West of the ability to blacklist new organizations or individuals, because the parties to the agreement assured Tehran that they would impose “no new nuclear-related sanctions” for six months. Whether President Rohani is familiar with any such plans to “divert” the billions is questionable. Iran is anything but a monolithic nation. Rather, it is one with many centers of influence, with the threads of power all leading to the supreme religious leader.
Optimists believe that Khamenei will call off the Revolutionary Guards, at least for the next few months. He expressly welcomed the Geneva deal. Hardly any of the more reactionary elements are currently opposing the moderates. On the other hand, Rohani is proceeding very cautiously — too cautiously for many — with his reforms. Nevertheless, he has released 11 opponents of the regime from prison, and journalists have been given somewhat more latitude to voice their criticism.
The principle of hope still prevails. The way in which the “scaremongers” are being addressed reveals the extent of the shift to date. British Foreign Secretary William Hague, for example, warned Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz not to “continue to sabotage” the nuclear deal. (Contributors: By Ronen Bergman, Erich Follath, Julia Amalia, Heyer and Christopher Schult for Der Spiegel Online)
More Reading: An Israel / Germany Alliance – The Trumpet
Pray fervently for God’s restraining hand on Iran, an evil regime that seeks more power to create grief for Israel and extend its influence toward global prominence. Some analysts believe Iran got much more from the Geneva “deal” than it deserved; and with President Obama lobbying the U.S. Congress to give Iran major relief from economic sanctions that have served to keep it under control, some of his closest allies and party members are voicing concerns that the president may be opening the door to a “henhouse” for a voracious “fox.” This explains Israel’s deep concerns, since an unrestrained Iran, with the nuclear power it craves, could vent its full hatred toward Israel. Intercede with confidence, knowing that God is able to restrain every predatory intention. It is edifying to note below what God once did to the most powerful king on earth in his day.
“[Nebuchadnezzar] spoke, saying, ‘Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?’ While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.’
“That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever:
‘For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Daniel 4:30-35)
China’s announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone last weekend made Seth Cropsey’s commentary “America Has No Military Strategy for China” extremely timely. He is absolutely correct on two key statements. First, an escalation between China and Japan would be disastrous and, even more importantly, the United States has no strategy for a conflict with China. Secretary Cropsey notes that the AirSea Battle concept is the “sole U.S. preparation” but that it is not a strategy.
While no set of actions can guarantee continued peace between China and the United States, carefully considered national and military strategies will reduce the probability of a conflict. The United States National Strategy makes that an explicit goal. In his November 2011 address to the Australian Parliament, President Barack Obama stated U.S. National Strategy would: “continue our effort to build a cooperative relationship with China. … all of our nations have a profound interest in the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China.”
This year, Tom Donilon, the National Security Advisor, clarified and reinforced the Administration’s determination to continue its rebalance to Asia.
“To pursue this vision, the United States is implementing a comprehensive, multidimensional strategy: strengthening alliances; deepening partnerships with emerging powers; building a stable, productive, and constructive relationship with China; empowering regional institutions; and helping to build a regional economic architecture that can sustain shared prosperity.”
Thus, the United States has a clearly articulated national strategy to encourage peaceful growth in the region. Unfortunately, as Cropsey noted, the United States has failed to express a coherent military strategy to support its national strategy.
Deepening the confusion concerning U.S. military strategy is the tendency of many observers to assume that CSBA’s paper, AirSea Battle: A Point-of-Departure Operational Concept, expressed the U.S. military strategy for a conflict with China. The paper postulated that in the “unthinkable” case of a war with China, U.S. efforts would include a “executing a blinding campaign against PLA battle networks, executing a suppression campaign against PLA long-range, principally strike systems, seizing and sustaining the initiative in air, sea, space and cyber domains.” This paper stated it was not proposing a strategy but only a concept for overcoming China’s area denial/anti-access capabilities.
Perhaps the biggest weakness of the ASB concept is that it scares our allies without deterring China. Since most ASB technology is top secret, U.S. officials are unable to discuss it with our allies. As a result, many allies assume the United States will follow the plan described in CSBA’s paper and initiate immediate, extensive attacks on Chinese territory. Our allies are obviously concerned that China will see such attacks as emanating from allied territory and respond in kind. In short, U.S. allies are being asked to offer bases without any knowledge of what actions the U.S. intends to take from those bases. Not a great way to reassure allies. Unfortunately because this operational approach relies heavily on cyber and space capabilities, it creates the unintended consequence of raising the value of a first strike. Thus it is escalatory. In a crisis, both militaries will know that the one that strikes first will achieve significant tactical and operational advantages.
ASB also fails to deter China. Because it is apparently dependent upon space and cyber systems, China may well feel it can degrade those systems enough to defeat the operational approach. Further, China may well believe the United States cannot afford ASB or at very least will not field the capabilities for a decade or more. A military strategy that offers a relative inexpensive defeat mechanism or a window of vulnerability has little deterrent value.
To eliminate the confusion and reassure other nations, the United States needs to go beyond simply declaring that ASB is not a strategy. It must clearly state U.S. military strategy for a possible conflict with China.
What Should a Military Strategy Do?
The first and most important function of a military strategy is to support the national strategy. Therefore, any military strategy must encourage or, at very least, not discourage the continued growth and integration of China’s economy with that of the global economy. A U.S. military strategy for Asia must achieve five objectives:
1. Deter China from military action to resolve disputes while encouraging its continued economic growth;
2. Assure Asian nations that the United States is both willing to and capable of remaining engaged in Asia;
3. Ensure access for U.S. forces and allied commercial interests to the global commons;
4. Achieve victory with minimal risk of nuclear escalation in the event of conflict; and
5. Be visibly credible today.
Ideally, a military strategy would also provide guidance for matching limited defense resources to appropriate force structures and equipment buys. Given the fact that China has a thermonuclear arsenal, a military strategy must emphasize deterrence and, if that fails, should escalate in a deliberate, transparent way. (Read more on this report.)
T. X. Hammes served 30 years in the Marine Corps and is now a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at the National Defense University (NDU). (Contributor: By T.X. Hammes for Real Clear Defense)
First, let us pray that, in God’s mercy, the unthinkable never happens for the U.S.: to find our country in direct conflict with China. How do we break that prayer focus into acts of intercession that we all can grasp and pray for in intelligent, “bite-size” pieces? Our U.S. Constitution was set up to guide a nonaggressive, non-militaristic nation whose federal government would be strong in defense but with no plans to invade and conquer other lands. Now, though our country has strayed from its constitutional ideals, let us pray for God to raise up, through wise use of our voting rights, morally upright, fiscally conservative men and women to return our nation to its original ideals, living life in the fear of God and with “malice toward none.” Pray that our national intentions will be peaceful, only defending our land and freedoms when necessary.
“ If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18)
“Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14)
“Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.” (Psalm 119:165)
It turns out that there were actually two Arab awakenings.
There are the radical revolutions you’ve read about in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Libya, none of which yet have built stable, inclusive democracies. But then there are the radical evolutions that you’ve not read about, playing out in Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf monarchies. The evolutions involve a subtle but real shift in relations between leaders and their people, and you can detect it from even a brief visit to Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The Gulf leaders still have no time for one-man, one-vote democracy. But, in the wake of the Arab Spring, they’re deeply concerned with their legitimacy, which they are discovering can no longer just be bought with more subsidies — or passed from father to son. So more and more leaders are inviting their people to judge them by how well they perform — how well they improve schools, create jobs and fix sewers — not just resist Israel or Iran or impose Islam.
And, thanks in large part to the Internet, more people are doing just that. The role of the Internet was overrated in Egypt and Tunisia. But it is underrated in the Gulf, where, in these more closed societies, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are providing vast uncontrolled spaces for men and women to talk to each other — and back at their leaders. “I don’t read any local newspapers anymore,” a young Saudi techie told me. “I get all my news from Twitter.” So much for government-controlled newspapers.
Saudi Arabia alone produces almost half of all tweets in the Arab world and is among the most Twitter- and YouTube-active nations in the world. By far, those Saudis with the most Twitter and YouTube followers tend to be Wahhabi fundamentalist preachers, but gaining on them are satirists, comedians and commentators, who poke fun at all aspects of Saudi society, including — usually indirectly — the religious establishment, which is no longer off limits.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who in Gulf Arab terms is a real progressive, remains widely popular, but his government bureaucracy is seen as unresponsive and too often corrupt. That’s why Saudi Twitter users have recently created these Arabic hashtags: “If I met the King, I would tell him”; “From the people to the King: education is at risk” and “#What Would You Like to Say to the Minister of Health?” (after repeated hospital mishaps).
There were torrential rainstorms when I was in Saudi Arabia 10 days ago and the Saudi newspaper, Al-Sharq, published a cartoon with three men answering this question: Why did all the streets of Riyadh flood? The government official answers: “The streets didn’t flood. That’s just a vicious rumor.” The sheikh answers: “It’s all because of the sins of the girls at Princess Nora University.” The citizen says: “It’s because of corruption” — but then the cartoon shows an arm labeled “censorship” coming from off the page to snip off this comment. That is in a Saudi paper!
In the United Arab Emirates, a government official was recently embarrassed when he was captured on a cellphone video, after a traffic accident, beating the other driver, an Asian worker, with the rope from his headdress. The video went viral across the Gulf.
People are losing their fear — not to revolt, but to demand clean accountable governance. Last week, a Saudi friend shared with me a video that went viral there on What’sApp that was posted by a poor man whose roof leaked during the rainstorms, even into his baby’s bassinet. He can be seen stalking around his rain-soaked house, saying: “I am Saudi. This is how I live. … Where is the minister of housing? Where are the billions the king has given for housing? … Where are my rights? … I feel like being in my home and being in the street are the same.”
I heard many of these stories during group conversations with young Saudis and Emeratis, who I found to be as impressive, connected and high-aspiring to reform their countries as any of their revolutionary cohorts in Egypt. But they want evolution not revolution. They’ve seen the footage from Cairo and Damascus. You can feel their energy — from the grass-roots movement to let women drive to the young Saudi who whispers that he’s so fed up with the puritanical Islam that dominates his country he’s become an atheist, and he is not alone. Saudi atheists? Who knew?
Talk about reform — in Dubai, the government has set a strategy for 2021, and each of the 46 ministries and regulatory agencies has three-year Key Performance Indicators, or K.P.I.’s, they have to fulfill to get there, ranging from improving the success of Dubai 15-year-olds in global science, math and reading exams to making it even easier to start a new business. All 3,600 K.P.I.’s are loaded on an iPad dashboard that the ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, follows each week. Maryam al-Hammadi, 48, the director of government performance, strikes fear in the heart of every minister in Dubai because each month she ranks them by who is making the most progress toward achieving their K.P.I.’s, and Sheikh Mohammed gets the list. You don’t want to be at the bottom. Hammadi showed me the dashboard and explained that Sheikh Mohammed is demanding that “every government agency perform as well as the private sector in customer satisfaction and service.” The public will get an annual report.
Again, this is not about democracy. It’s about leaders feeling the need to earn their legitimacy. But when one leader does it, others feel the pressure to copy. And that leads to more transparency and more accountability. (Contributor: By Thomas Friedman for The New York Times)
How to pray? It may help if we remember the storyline in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Tevye and Golda watch their daughters grow up in a Jewish home, then break away from religious and social traditions dating back thousands of years. One daughter marries a revolutionary; one is baptized into a Christian church. How can such things be? The fundamental discovery—for them, for today’s Middle East countries, and for us in the West—is that constant change is now permanent. And so, the basic question is, will the technology serve us or will it rule our lives? In our own country and culture, even among evangelical Christians, questions loom, ‘Where are we going?” and “Are we passing our values to the next generation?” (In general, we are not.) The technology, including the social media, is neutral, just as tools are neutral. Will they be used for good or evil purposes? What a Muslim primarily needs is not Western culture, but the Gospel, as do the Ayatollahs, as do the Saudi princes, and the street beggars, and the Islamist fanatic before he blows himself up for the promise of a heaven he will never see. Pray that in this rush toward modernity and eternity—often so aimless—the people, young and old, will hear the question, “What will you do with Jesus, who is called Christ?” (Matt. 27:22)
“ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16).
“Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them,
and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will have no end. The children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You.” (Psalm 102:25-28)
A pregnant woman has had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers.
Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child to be taken from her womb.
The council said it was acting in the best interests of the woman, an Italian who was in Britain on a work trip, because she had suffered a mental breakdown.
The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still in the care of social services, who are refusing to give her back to the mother, even though she claims to have made a full recovery.
The case has developed into an international legal row, with lawyers for the woman describing it as “unprecedented”.
They claim that even if the council had been acting in the woman’s best interests, officials should have consulted her family beforehand and also involved Italian social services, who would be better-placed to look after the child.
Brendan Fleming, the woman’s British lawyer, told The Sunday Telegraph: “I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job.
“I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented.
“If there were concerns about the care of this child by an Italian mother, then the better plan would have been for the authorities here to have notified social services in Italy and for the child to have been taken back there.”
The case, reported by Christopher Booker in his column in The Sunday Telegraph, raises fresh questions about the extent of social workers’ powers.
It will be raised in Parliament this week by John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP. He chairs the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, which wants reform and greater openness in court proceedings involving family matters.
He said: “I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme.
“It involves the Court of Protection authorising a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed. I worry about the way these decisions about a person’s mental capacity are being taken without any apparent concern as to the effect on the individual being affected.”
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is an Italian national who come to Britain in July last year to attend a training course with an airline at Stansted Airport in Essex.
She suffered a panic attack, which her relations believe was due to her failure to take regular medication for an existing bipolar condition.
She called the police, who became concerned for her well-being and took her to a hospital, which she then realized was a psychiatric facility.
She has told her lawyers that when she said she wanted to return to her hotel, she was restrained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Meanwhile, Essex social services obtained a High Court order in August 2012 for the birth “to be enforced by way of caesarean section”, according to legal documents seen by this newspaper.
The woman, who says she was kept in the dark about the proceedings, says that after five weeks in the ward she was forcibly sedated. When she woke up she was told that the child had been delivered by C-section and taken into care.
In February, the mother, who had gone back to Italy, returned to Britain to request the return of her daughter at a hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court.
Her lawyers say that she had since resumed taking her medication, and that the judge formed a favourable opinion of her. But he ruled that the child should be placed for adoption because of the risk that she might suffer a relapse.
The cause has also been raised before a judge in the High Court in Rome, which has questioned why British care proceedings had been applied to the child of an Italian citizen “habitually resident” in Italy. The Italian judge accepted, though, that the British courts had jurisdiction over the woman, who was deemed to have had no “capacity” to instruct lawyers.
Lawyers for the woman are demanding to know why Essex social services appear not have contacted next of kin in Italy to consult them on the case.
They are also upset that social workers insisted on placing the child in care in Britain, when there had been an offer from a family friend in America to look after her.
An expert on social care proceedings, who asked not to be named because she was not fully acquainted with the details of the case, described it as “highly unusual”.
She said the council would first have to find “that she was basically unfit to make any decision herself” and then shown there was an acute risk to the mother if a natural birth was attempted.
An Essex county council spokesman said the local authority would not comment on ongoing cases involving vulnerable people and children. (Contributor: By Colin Freeman for Telegraph)
This story comes out of England and relates to intricacies in British law the details of which we do not know. The prayer focus, however, is general and universal, which is to pray for a resurgence of family care and authority in such matters and a lessening of “Social Services” interference. In this case, it was the removal of a baby from the womb without the mother’s or family’s knowledge or permission; in our own U.S. proceedings, the principle could be applied to our Social Services, where children have been declared truant, with attempts made to remove them from the home, because the family is teaching them in its own legal home school. Pray that “State as owner” of its citizens will revert to “State as servant” of its citizens.
“God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity. But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” (Psalm 68:6)
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:27-28)
It will be two weeks until China can claim complete success, but its most ambitious space effort to date got off to a smooth start with a successful early morning launch on December 2nd of the Chang’e-3 lunar mission. Carried into space by an enhanced Long March-3B rocket from a base in south-west China, a six-wheeled lunar rover is scheduled to be set on the surface of the moon in mid-December. It will be China’s first attempt at a soft landing on an extraterrestrial body.
If one wished to compare the international space race to Aesop’s famous fable about the tortoise and the hare, the only reasonable choice would be to cast China as the plodding but determined turtle. When China for the first time put a human in space, in 2003, it was achieving something the Soviets and Americans had already done more than 40 years earlier.
It has now been more than 40 years since America first put men on the surface of the moon—and then safely returned them to Earth. Yet the name China has given to its new rover may hint at a desire to stop playing the tortoise’s role: it is called Yutu, or Jade Rabbit.
The name is taken from a white pet rabbit belonging to Chang’e, the moon goddess in Chinese folklore, and was chosen because it is “a symbol of kindness, purity and agility” and “reflects China’s peaceful use of space”, according to Li Benzheng, deputy commander of China’s lunar programme.
Once deployed, the rover will attempt to survey geological structures on the lunar surface, look for natural resources and set up a telescope. China says it expects the solar-powered rover to operate for at least three months.
Previous Chinese lunar missions included Chang’e-1, which launched in 2007, entered into lunar orbit, and then made a controlled impact on the lunar surface in 2009. Chang’e-2 was launched in 2010 and continued operating far beyond its design lifetime. Part of its task was surveying work, including identification of the landing spot for the Yutu, in an area known as the Bay of Rainbows. It was then directed out of lunar orbit to become the first Chinese object sent through the solar system towards deep space.
Mr. Li has warned publicly of the difficulty of a successful soft landing for the Chang’e-3 mission. “So far 129 moon explorations have been carried out by different countries and only 51 of them succeeded, so there are risks in our mission,” he said on November 28th at a press conference.
Future plans are even more ambitious. China has already announced that by 2020 it intends to conduct a Chang’e-5 mission to gather samples from the moon and return them to Earth. Officials have been fuzzier about the timeline, but no less clear about their intention to attempt future missions to Mars. There has also been talk of establishing bases on both the moon and Mars, and even of growing vegetables there. (Contributor: T.P. for Economist)
The realization that a Communist regime like China is advancing in the field of technology can be overwhelming and can cause a great deal of anxiety to those who are aware that such a nation is capable of great damage to those who are weak. We Americans are being challenged at every turn these days as to where we stand—in God’s arms or in the world’s embrace. Pray that the United States will cry out to the Lord for His wisdom and covering in the days, months, and years to come. Pray that the thousands if not millions of Christians in China would rise up and take a stand for national repentance while there is yet time. Pray that American Christians would also rise up and take their rightful place as the leaders who are needed in order to overcome darkness. Pray that we will be a nation that puts its trust in the Lord.
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4).
“He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7).
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
Every day, my friend Laura brightens up my Facebook news feed. A gifted writer and mother of three precocious children, she relays their conversations, poignant moments, and hilarious activities with style and wit. I love her children: the deep thoughtfulness of her son, her daughter’s sass, and the smushy cheeks on her baby. I have never met them.
Another friend likes to talk about her “redneck kids” — her terminology. After hearing about her boys’ desire to wake up in the wee hours to go duck hunting and her children’s plan to shoot the Elf on the Shelf with a BB gun, I’m inclined to agree.
I’m from the East Coast but recently transplanted to flyover country. I’ve met good folk here but my heart still is with my loved ones in Virginia and my lifelong friends in DC. Many of them are only now just having children, and I may never get to hold their newborns or attend first birthday parties or cry with my friends on their babies’ first day of school. While in the past I would have depended on Christmas newsletters and the occasional phone call to feel even a small part of their families’ lives, I now benefit from daily updates on social media. I treasure the little glimpses I get into their daily routine.
But two friends recently told me something disturbing that makes me rethink our approach to social media updates. One friend confided that her 6-year-old daughter asked her mother to stop talking about her on Twitter. Another friend’s 7-year-old asked to be consulted before parents posted personal information on Facebook.
All the ways we miss the point
Two different child-free friends posted a Slate article on their walls last month headlined “Why We Post Nothing About Our Daughter Online.” My first reaction was that it was funny that childless folk were weighing in on a debate reserved for parents. My second was that I, too, used to have lofty ideals about how little I planned to post about my children on the internet. My third, however, was that this article — and many other warnings about internet privacy — miss a very key point.
Much of the debate over a child’s privacy on Facebook and other social networking sites focus on the tangible: the future employer reading about toddler exploits, the prom date laughing at the picture in the tub, concern over biometrics and data mining, hyperventilation over child predators. Warnings on posting cell-phone pictures or FourSquare updates include the possibility of geotagging one’s locations and fears over burglary or kidnapping or worse.
The emphasis on protecting children from predators makes my blood boil from the ignorance. Thirty percent of sex offenders against children are family members and the overwhelming number are people otherwise known to the child. Only ten percent of child molesters are complete strangers. Our overprotection of children has far-reaching consequences beyond just keeping them safe: creating a culture of fearful children who jump at their own shadow, a breakdown of community as a child learns to not run to neighbors or law enforcement personnel for help — not to mention never allowing the Little League coach to walk him home. The emphasis on keeping our children safe from predators has negatively impacted the image of men in the eyes of our society. Men walking alone with their children or pushing them on swings in the park are briefly detained and questioned after concerned citizens call the police — a laughable result given how much modern society emphasizes complete co-parenting regardless of gender.
We have come to a point where we have denied our children physical freedom.
Our children have never been safer. And because of this, I let my 2-year-old run around at Walgreen’s (respectfully, of course) as I queue in line for a prescription. I can hear her even if sometimes I don’t see her. I have had more than one person come up to me and warn me she could be snatched away without a thought.
We have come to a point where we have denied our children physical freedom. no longer designed to challenge and harden a child’s capabilities for free thought. Children are strapped into strollers or jammed into a baby carrier on walks, with no freedom to run ahead and discover nature’s miracles on their own. We completely absolve them of personal responsibility and waylay their confidence, not giving them the opportunity to even walk up to the fast food cashier and pay for their own meal and drink, not allowing them to set foot in a public bathroom without eyes on them at all times, paper towels protecting the toilet seat, an extra squirt of sanitizer even after 30 seconds of good hand washing.
Which makes our online practices all the weirder
But even as society jealously guards our children’s well-being in the physical realm, we overdo the freedom in the digital realm. our children’s well-being in the physical realm, we overdo the freedom in the digital realm. More than middle schoolers with iPhones and Facebook accounts, what we do from the day our children are born completely disregards their integrity as little people in their own right. Yes, we have complete and utter control over those little people, but that gives us even more of a mandate to respect their personal boundaries.
Why is it now okay to detail every childish exploit in excruciating detail? Go into the nuances of our daughter’s potty training and talk about the time she talked back to you and got grounded? Look at the Facebook page of almost any mother with young children and you will see mostly pictures of her children detailing their embarrassing moments, their successes, their failures, their terrible-two-tantrums on the floor, the burgeoning ideas about God and the way the world works.
How much longer until that child shuts down and stops verbally exploring the world, afraid of being, in his eyes, ridiculed for his insight?
So let’s think about the two children I mentioned above. At 6 and 7-years-old, children are already feeling a loss of privacy and control over their public lives. I as a mother might think it’s cute to post a hilarious comment my son makes, but that comment was made in earnest. By six, my son will likely be aware that I posted about what he said, and will overhear friends confide in me the next day at lunch: “That was hilarious what you posted on Facebook! I shared it with all my friends too.” How much longer until that child shuts down and stops verbally exploring the world, afraid of being, in his eyes, ridiculed for his insight?
Our children are becoming our accessories. Especially for the stay-at-home mother, who may have had a successful professional career and is now feeling the sting of the lack of recognition and praise that comes with the territory of raising tiny self-absorbed humans, our children are our last realm of pride and accomplishment — or so it seems when one is in the trenches with toddlers. We wear their successes as badges of honor — adorable badges of honor with just the right flavor to make us look better in our friends’ eyes. We are becoming the narcissistic toddlers who do not care about who we step on to extend that feeling, that amazing feeling, of being the center of the universe (or, in Facebook terms, gaining even more likes and shares after you relate the time your baby took his diaper off and made wall art with the contents).
We are becoming the narcissistic toddlers who do not care about who we step on to extend that feeling, that amazing feeling, of being the center of the universe.
Why do we do this? One answer is the lack of real community for new mothers. I can personally attest to how isolating it is to have babies back-to-back, move across the country, and leave your career and child-free life behind. Postpartum depression rates are higher than the conventional statistics imply. The pressure to breastfeed makes any perceived failure on that front worse. Add in mothers who go through real, desperate struggles that few others can understand, and there is an overwhelming compulsion to share and share some more. Witness the responses to “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” and the outpouring of support coming from her sharing. But how many people pointed out that this mother is basically letting her entire personal community know that her minor child has severe and possibly threatening mental illness? Very few, in fact. And, even as the original article was written anonymously, the author very quickly came out from under the veil. Now her son is marked for life.
Avoiding idle gossip
Even lesser concerns, of course, portend this oversharing. The growth of the much maligned ‘mommy blog’ is a testament to the incredible desire to know one is not alone with the baby who nurses all day, the toddler who pulls hair, the preschooler who suddenly decides he wants to be back in diapers. These mothers have done a great service to the other moms out there, making us laugh and cry and finally, finally feel good about our desire to just send the kids to a babysitter and have a stiff drink. But at what cost to their own children?
I succumbed to the siren call of online posting about a week after my eldest was born.
Who am I to judge? I, the one with the lofty ideals of not posting information about my children online, succumbed to the siren call about a week after my eldest was born. I have found immense comfort in being able to type up a two-sentence pithy observation at the end of a long day. And, even as I previously limited my posts about children to Facebook (a service that gives only an illusion of privacy), I have now begun instagramming and tweeting and my academic parenting blog has more and more references to the exploits of my own little ones. Why? To be honest, I see the plaudits and recognition afforded to other “moms like me” who humorously detail life with children — you name the funny blog, I’ve probably read it.
They will be the first to tell you they haven’t made much money off their excursions into the blogosphere but I suspect they have gained more fulfillment: not only can they feel good about staying home with their children, but they can also fight that descent into obscurity that often happens when devoting one’s life to family. And I, whether it’s self-centered or not, desire that recognition. It’s hard to love one’s job, as someone once told me, when your job is currently kicking and screaming on the floor.
But when we think of “jobs” we think of careers that are entirely wrapped up in our own lives. Child rearing is a special and unique vocation. It’s the art of letting our kids forge their own identities—identities that are influenced by us, but ultimately distinct from our own. It’s hard to do that when they’re defined from an early age by broadcasting the mistakes they made so that their parents have a never-ending font of meaningless status updates. The freedom to hide our harmless mistakes from the world at large is a matter of simple human dignity. It is both amazing and disconcerting that so many of us don’t think to extend this dignity to those innocent children that trust us to take care of them. (Contributor: By Jennifer Doverspike for The Federalist)
Pray for parents in the united States that are using the media platforms to speak about their children. Pray for the children who are at the age of being able to articulate their feeling but not having the wisdom that comes with age. Pray that they maturely process the words and emotions that are sometimes conveyed on a public platform, and which—once released—can never be withdrawn. Godly wisdom is a need for all of God’s children, both young and old. Pray that more families will take a closer look at what needs to be addressed in wise use of public forums.
“There is that speaketh rashly like the piercings of a sword; But the tongue of the wise is health.” (Proverbs 12:18)
“Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23)
“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36-37)
A systematic review and meta-analysis of 36 Chinese studies by Dr. Yubei Huang and his colleagues in the prestigious journal, Cancer Causes Control, last week reported a significant 44% increased breast cancer risk among women with at least one induced abortion (IA), compared to women without IAs. The risk increased with number of IAs (a dose effect), an important measure of a cause-effect relationship, with two and three IAs raising risk by a statistically significant 76% and 89%, respectively. Earlier studies also found a dose effect.
Huang’s team cited and supports a 1996 review and meta-analysis, led by Joel Brind, Ph.D. (Baruch College, City University of New York) and colleagues at Penn State, who found a 30% risk elevation for women with any history of IAs. Huang’s team agreed with criticism from Drs. Brind and Vernon Chinchilli in the British Journal of Cancer concerning two high profile Shanghai studies.
In his analysis of the Chinese study (below), Brind called it a “game changer.” He exclaimed, “Not only does it validate our earlier findings from 1996, but its findings are even stronger, for several reasons.”
Significantly, Brind argued ObamaCare insurance funds abortion and contraceptive steroids (i.e. the Pill) which will be disastrous for women’s health.
Huang’s team said their results differed from those of a 2004 meta-analysis by Dr. Valerie Beral and her colleagues. Their paper, which claimed there was no link, received harsh criticism in seven medical journals from four experts independently of one another.
Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, said, “Our organization and the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute (which Dr. Brind co-founded) are among the groups that collaborated on an amicus brief in three lawsuits against ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate. Last month, a federal appellate court cited the brief which reports the World Health Organization’s classification of the Pill as a Group 1 carcinogen; and the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear those lawsuits.” Read more Abortion-Breast Cancer Studies (Contributor: Professor Joel Brind for Christian Newswire)
Offer thanks to the Lord that there are many qualified scientists and researchers who are seeking the truth about the real danger caused to women who have abortions. Pray that these findings will accelerate legislation that will cause abortion to become illegal due to its “deadly nature” both to the unborn child as well as to the mother. Pray that more medical leaders will stand up, practice, and promote the truth of these findings.
“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” (Psalm 25:5)
“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7)