Truce Continues To Hold

Hello Friends,

Good news here in the region as the 72 hour truce continues to hold.

As of this hour, there are reports of another 72 hour agreement on the table as Israeli press is reporting that Israel needs more time to come to some type of an agreement.

Some reports here actually are saying talks have in fact, from Israel's point of view - stalled, where other reports say that the Palestinians have agreed to the new truce extension.

Some unconfirmed points have been circulating which include that Hamas has agreed in principle to a 1000 man strong Palestinian Authority controlled force to man the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

This will be the first time the PA has been tangibly been in charge of something in Gaza since 2007 when Hamas kicked the Fatah aligned forces from the Strip.

The Rafa crossing is about six miles long and is essentially at the end of what is called the Philadelphia Route which is an Israeli military controlled buffer zone where Gaza and Egypt's borders meet.

Israel is also apparently trying to push for a formula to allow for select goods to begin to enter Gaza based upon Hamas's gradual demilitarization.

These are all part of the negotiations in Cairo for a lasting ceasefire that would morph into a long-term solution.

On the surface it appears that this does not address the core issues of the conflict – and that we will just be setting ourselves up for another conflict down the road in the future.

That may be, however the sides seem to be seeking a strategy that allows their position to seem victorious to their constituencies while not giving in to their opponent.

What is clear is that the differences between the sides are wide and not close to being bridged.

Gazans continued their efforts to repair electricity, water, and sewage for the 1.8 million inhabitants effected by Israeli strikes from land, sea, and air. An Israeli cabinet meeting on the truce talks scheduled for 12:00 today was cancelled.

Humanitarian supplies continue to make their way in, but not to the numbers sufficient to help the over quarter of a million displaced persons effected by the conflict - now in it's fifth week.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Islamic State and Minorities

Hello All,

Sadly, we have seen the Gaza truce expire and the rockets and airstrikes start up again.

But the story that has finally grabbed the world's attention away from the Hamas/Israel conflict is in Iraq and the effected religious minorities targeted by Islamic State (IS) fighters.

The United Nations says some 50,000 Yazidi members of the religious minority have fled their homes, many climbing Mount Sinjar where there have been conflicting reports of growing deaths from lack of food, water and shelter, to some having been rescued.

There are reports that IS fighters have surrounded the mountain. Many of those on the mountain are facing dehydration, and more than 40 children are reported dead by UN officials – other sources saying that number is more than 100.

US President Barak Obama has authorized aid drops on top of the mountain, declaring that the Iraqi Government has requested US intervention where they themselves can not intervene due to the lack of capabilities, and the President has also given the green light in limited and targeted US airstrikes to defend and save both the people on the mountain, reportedly up to 40,000 in number, from genocide, and American personnel on the ground in Irbil – and potentially in Baghdad.

The United Nations has reported that some individuals have reportedly been rescued off the top and relocated to a safe haven.

The first drops of aid have occurred, and with them, airstrikes upon IS artillery positions threatening the Kurdish fights trying to hold the mountain.

The other major development is that Nineveh inhabitants have, this week, left their homes as that Biblical city fell into the hands of IS with militant Islamic fighters blew up the commonly held burial site of the Prophet Jonah. Nineveh is roughly 250 miles north and west of Baghdad, and is home to a large number of small religious minorities.

Nineveh's fall is a symbolic victory for IS as it is referred to as Iraq's Christian capital, located 30km south-east of the city of Mosul, which rapidly fell to IS fighters in June.

Currently, some estimate that as many as 100,000 people are moving north and east toward the autonomous Kurdistan Region. Kurds are seen as tolerant – with many of their ethnic makeup coexisting in different faith beliefs – although the majority are Muslim. Their armed forces, called the Peshmerga, are well disciplined and have been putting up serious opposition to Islamic State fighters.

Iraq is home to one of the world's most ancient Christian communities, the Chaldean Church, with it's roots going back to the 4th century AD, but numbers have dropped with the rise of sectarian violence since the US-led invasion back in 2003. At that time it is commonly believed that there were 1.5 million Christians present in the area – that number is now dramatically down to as few as 350,000 in the area surrounding Nineveh where 4 mainly Christian villages and towns exist – and they are now on the run.

Pray for our brothers and sisters – and their Christian witness in the face of peril. May god give them strength.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Cooperation Between the US and Iran

Hello Everyone,

Somber news as ISIS militant Islamic fighters in Iraq have reportedly taken a weapons facility tied to Chemical arms in northern Iraq.

With this news we now have a real potential for huge problems.

Should ISIS use Chemical weapons in Iraq or Syria - America will react, and if that use were to occur in Shia areas within Iraq – Iran will get involved.

America has now announced they will engage in limited military actions to assist the Iraqi forces in their push back against ISIS.

But the issue will be how far the American and Iranian cooperation may go.

The two powers – at odds for decades, are now being brought together to affront the common threat.

Neither wish to see the jihadist group carve out their desired caliphate in Iraq.

Up until today, the contact and scope of talks has been secretive and low. But if ISIS use Chemical weapons – this will bring collaboration between the US and Iran.

The two powers have worked with the each other before. And to a degree are doing so now with the nuclear talks in Geneva.

But back in Iraq, after it's 2010 election, current Prime Minister Nouri Maliki was assisted by both the US and Iran to stay in power, despite the fact that his coalition had lost power in the parliament.

In 2001, Iran shared intelligence as the US invaded Afghanistan. After things calmed down, Iran offered to work under US command in rebuilding the Afghan army.

On the outside of this situation, there is yet formed a common strategy on dealing with ISIS, but the sides are at least talking.

The introduction of Chemical weapons would, in all likelihood, will facilitate rapid cooperation on every level with decisive retaliatory steps against ISIS.

Let's pray that this situation will, as best as can, be reversed – and the peoples of Iraq find the path to a unity government that would solidify coexistence and economic prosperity within this oil rich nation of huge significance to the Muslim world.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

ISIS Advances

Hello everyone,

More troubling news for the region today as the Islamist extremist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), supported by other Sunni militant groups and tribes, have continued advancing on the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

The militants are now within about 80 miles of the capital after taking Iraq's second city of Mosul on Monday. Hundreds are reported killed and the militants are carrying out executions of civilians.

There are more territorial gains reported but not independently confirmed.

Iraq forces have finally responded by launching air strikes against Islamist militants advancing on the capital targeting fighters in control of the major cities, Mosul and Tikrit.

Over half a million refugees have fled those cities, many to the Kurdish countryside.

The Kurdish military has moved to protect the oil-rich province of Kirkuk after soldiers of the national army fled.

Some reports have indicated that the up to 30,000 Iraqi forces didn't even put up a serious fight to the hundreds of advancing ISIS forces, but rather fled Mosul.

This advance through the Northern region of Iraq is causing alarm not only in Baghdad but the Western world as well. The Iraqi government says a plan is in place to defend the city.

Hundreds of young men joined up to serve as fighters in Bagdad as the country's most senior Shia cleric urged people to take up arms against ISIS.

There is an audio recording that has emerged of ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani thanking Allah for the victories so far and admonishing his fighters not to become proud of their actions in overrunning large areas of Iraq.

He urged the militants to fight on to Baghdad and not to give up the land that they have captured.

Join me in remembering that there are but a few Christians, mostly Chaldean, who are living in these areas and need our prayerful support for their most frightening and uncertain future.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

There is Talk...

Hello All,

After the collapse of the peace process there is much speculation circulating as to what will happen next with the Israelis and the Palestinians.

There is talk of advancing a law that the head of the largest Knesset faction will be prime minister

There is talk of Israel annexing what is called "Area C" amongst the Palestinian population.

There is talk that Prime Minister Netanyahu is considering an alternative diplomatic move to avoid the inevitable if no progress with the Palestinians is made – a bi-national State of Israel.

Everyone involved in this region understands – Israelis, Palestinians, and those of neighboring states, that they can effect the peace process.

Over the decades since this conflict came about there has been amble interjection from well-meaning international powers who seek to bring peace to this troubled land.

So why hasn't anything given – why aren't the parties closer to reconciliation?

Perhaps the most simplistic and concise answer, and there are probably many answers that could be given here, could be the term 'narrative'.

People are in conflict because their aspirations are contradictory to others - and that is a dilemma worldwide.

We heard Israel's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister remark to the effect that the situation as it stands today, would be preferable to taking risks.

The risk is clear – their respective peoples would implode over poor political choices.

Over the recent years it has been pointed out that economic conditions in the Middle East would blossom, with Israel potentially gaining the greatest, if their was peace; Diplomatically, in trade, tourism, and beyond.

The American Administration has tried to create a situation in which the sides will find the way to a full peace agreement.

Unfortunately that way seems all but lost at the moment.

But the peoples must not give up on hope. Fanaticism can not be accepted. Life must be made livable and secure for all parties.

There must be talk... of hope.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

The Egyptian Horizon

Hello Everyone!

It's great to be back with you keeping you up to date on what's happening in the Middle East.

When one looks ahead on the regional horizon, one upcoming event looms large and that is the upcoming presidential elections in Egypt.

From all indications, Mr Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the former military leader of Egypt is the favourite to win, after he led the overthrow of Mr. Mohammed Morsi last July after huge protests took place against the Islamist President.

Mr. Sisi seems poised be the next leader of Egypt who has come from the military - something that, other than Mr. Morsi's year in office, has been the case since the 1950s.

People both in and out of Egypt are asking many of the same questions... questions like will this be a fair election when there really is no one running against Mr. Sisi.

There is one individual who submitted his petition for candidacy on this past Sunday - the last day of eligibility - to run against Mr. Sisi in the first round of voting due to take place May 26 and 27.

He is a from the political left, Mr. Hamdeen Sabahi, and he has a history of opposition activities, being jailed 13 times.

In a political voting poll back in 2012 he came in third place.

He runs the secular Popular Current party. This was part of the anti-Morsi alliance called the National Salvation Front.

Also, people are increasingly concerned that the steps forward toward democracy made during the Arab Spring are eroding away.

Human rights groups say that the Egyptian interm government authorities, who are backed by the military, are compromising media coverage and free speech - particularly against Mr. Sisi.

Since Mr Morsi was removed from office more than 1,000 people have been killed and thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood with whom Mr. Morsi is associated, been jailed.

The interim authorities have outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group.

One thing is clear, Egypt needs stability, and it needs economic reform.

In both these cases, the military appears to be the one Egyptian institution able to forge headway - albeit in a worrisome way.

Brian Bush Middle East Corespondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Obama and the Saudis

Hello Everyone,

After a pleasant visit to Rome visiting the Coliseum and Pope Francis, US President Barak Obama has now landed in Saudi Arabia.

Awaiting him, will be many critical issues to clarify if Mr. Obama can keep the Kingdoms trust as a key ally in the region.

American-Saudi ties have been strained over several key events in recent years. The King Abdullah has not hidden the fact that he has had displeasure over the ways Mr. Obama has been handling affairs in the Middle East.

The Saudis do not like the inaction, a they see it, of America in dealing with Bashar Assad of Syria and the terrible state of war that country is in.

Things came to a head when President Obama did not make good on military retaliation for the alleged use of Chemical weapons against rebels in a Damascus suburb. Saudi Arabi made public their disappointment in the President for the perceived about face in light of the hundreds of lives lost.

The Saudi's are still adement about military intervention to change the balance of power on the ground in favor of the Rebels.

They in fact, arm some rebels in their fight against the Assad regime.

The White House has said that there is no military solution to the conflict and that political means offer the best way forward.

One interesting thing is that Mr. Obama may use this conflict to pressure Russia in regard to their actions in Ukraine and Crimea.

Russia has been a stalwart supporter of Assad in Syria.

Another issue is Iran. You may recall that the Saudi's removed themselves from sitting at the UN security Council over the revelation that America was conducting secret talks with the Iranians over their Nuclear program – something the Saudis and Israel see eye to eye on. And then there is Egypt...

The Saudis believe the America turned their back on Hosni Mubarak and are largely to blame for that country's instability.

The Saudi's do not want to see militant Islam gain control of Egypt, they have no love for the Muslim Brotherhood, and have been actively supporting the transitional government with billions of dollars in aid when America cut funding to Cairo after the bloody crackdown of protesters raging against Mohammed Morsi's ouster by his Defense Minister (then) General Sisi.

If Mr. Obama plans on asking for the Saudi's support for the Palestinian Israeli peace talks he won't find an ear listening there...

He tried that on his last visit to the Kingdom – and that was when he was loved and admired for the hope of change Mr. Obama brought.

It's definitely a different ballgame now, and one for which we can pray, as the Bible instructs us to, for our leaders in the world.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Syria's Sad Anniversery

Hello Friends,

We are quickly approaching the third anniversary of the Syrian conflict that has claimed more than 140,000 lives.

The UN now says that more than 40% of Syrians are displaced – 9.5 million are refugees.

2.5 million have left Syria to places like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

11,000 children have died, over 1 million are refugees outside of Syria.

The fractional fighting amongst rebel groups continues to compromise the situation further as they fight amongst themselves. In recent days 2000 people have died in Northern Syria due to the most radical elements exacting lives from each other.

Devastation is everywhere. Starvation is rapid. Families separated, villages destroyed.

The UN, in some places, has been suspended some of it's humanitarian missions, citing the dangers to their staff.

Some UN personnel have been killed trying to help people.

It says openly that it does not have enough food to help feed the people under it's care.

Terrorists, Jihadists, and Freedom fighters... pro-government forces all fighting each other in this chaotic the sectarian conflict.

The international community seems out of ideas on what can be done.

The Obama administration, preoccupied with the Crimea Crisis and the Israeli Palestinian peace process, is accused of paralysis.

Russia continues to prop up the Assad Regime.

There appears to be a stalemate – but it is also correct to say that the last year has seen gains for government forces in terms of land controlled.

Hezbollah and Iran, Kurdish separatists and foreign fighters continue to push their agenda and ideology at the cost of human life.

Holms and Aleppo have suffered nearly three years of continues conflict and shelling, leaving streets and homes deserted.

Please remember to pray for the innocents and those who seek to comfort, care, and provide for these Syrians.

Do not loose hope that this horrible situation can end, that peace can prevail, and that God does care about His creation in Syria.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Iran Talks Conclude

Hello Everyone,

After three days of talks in Vienna between world powers and Iran over it's nuclear program, Iran has said the talks have concluded with an agreement on a framework for negotiations on a comprehensive deal.

The atmosphere at the talks was described as positive by Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union Foreign Policy Chief, said representatives from both sides identified issues that need to be resolved.

No doubt there is still much more ahead – with difficult challenges, but the parties are building confidence to move from the interim agreement we are currently in to a permanent one.

So far we have seen Iran reduce it's uranium enrichment (the lowest level in four years according to some reports, for the sanctions relief.

At stake here is a nuclear Iran, which it says it is not interested in.

The world powers want Iran to scale back its sensitive nuclear activities permanently to ensure that it cannot assemble a nuclear weapon.

It also says its nuclear work will continue, and wants an end to the sanctions that have hurt the average Iranian and his country's economy.

Lets be clear, no one is optimistic at present and more talks are set to follow.

From the World Powers point of view the current talks were productive.

The next round of talks will take place, again in Vienna on March 17th, and that technical experts had also begun discussions.

The sides have given themselves six months to negotiate a comprehensive permanent solution, although that deadline will probably not be met and thus can be extended.

Brian Bush Middle east Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Iran Negotiation

Hello Everyone,

Talks and diplomatic negotiation continue regarding Iran and it's nuclear program.

Senior European Union officials have expressed doubt as to if we will be able to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran.

Israel believes that the interim agreement led by US efforts is causing some cracks in the sanctions regime.

Some Israeli Government officials are critical however.

Israel's resolute "zero enrichment" position is possibly thwarting the State's influencing of these negotiations.

With the resumption of the major powers' talks directly with Iran regarding its nuclear project, Tehran it appears, has little incentive to conclude a final agreement.

Maintaining the Status Quo is good for Iran right now.

They have come out today saying that the dismantling of their Nuclear program is off the negotiation table.

Some Israeli analysts are saying Iran is exactly where it wants to be.

They are challenging Israel by standing atop Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's now famous 'red line' from the UN.

The chatter continues that Iran is perhaps weeks or maybe few months away from nuclear bomb making capabilities.

Israeli's say that Iran's reformist faction, along with the Iranian people themselves, are satisfied with maintaining the current positions because of the improvement in their economy since the sanctions were partly lifted.

And as evidenced by these talks, Iran's re-entry into the international community amidst all this dialogue is positive for the new Iranian leadership.

But the fact is that as long as there is a diplomatic process, Israel cannot attack Iran – as it says it will if Iran crosses over that 'red line' of Mr. Netanyahu's.

The reality is, that with this pressure of an Israeli unilateral attack, and at that – a possible US strike if things diplomatically were to fall apart and the Iranians renege on their word - there is no reason for Iran to cooperate too much with the international community.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

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