Pence Issues Turkey Ultimatum: “Choose Between Remaining NATO Member Or Buying Russian S-400”

wo days after we reported that the US had halted delivery of equipment related to the stealthy F-35 fighter aircraft to Turkey as part of the ongoing rift over Erdogan’s plans to move forward with taking delivery of the advanced Russian S-4000 anti-air defense system, on Wednesday the US escalated the war of words with its NATO ally when Vice President Mike Pence threatened Turkey’s future role in the NATO alliance, warning it against “reckless decisions,” like following through with the purchase of the Russian-made air defense system.

Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our @NATO alliance?,” Pence tweeted on Wednesday, after making similar remarks at a NATO summit in Washington.

Vice President Mike Pence

@VP

Replying to @VP

.@POTUS has made it clear that we will not stand idly by while @NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries that threaten the cohesion of our alliance.

Vice President Mike Pence

@VP

Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our @NATO alliance?

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Despite repeated warnings from the US, Turkey has refused to drop its scheduled purchase the Russian weapons system, which is scheduled to be delivered in July. After the Pentagon halted deliveries of the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet and related equipment to Turkey and halted training of Turkish pilots, Ankara remained defiant with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu telling the NATO summit that the purchase was “a done deal.”

Cavusoglu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are currently meeting head-to-head at the summit to discuss the F-35 dispute.

As RT reports, the Turkish FM said that operating the two weapons systems at once “will not be a threat” to the F-35 or other NATO systems. US lawmakers and military officials disagree and have repeatedly warned that Turkey’s deployment of the S-400 would give the Russian system opportunity to learn how to track and spot the F-35, with potentially deadly consequences for the jet in future conflicts.

Despite the escalating war of words, the US has thus far failed to lure its NATO ally away from the Russian system and to Raytheon’s more expensive Patriot missile system, despite offering it to Ankara at a knock-down rate earlier this year.

Complicating matters, Turkey is a core partner in the F-35 program, which is US’ most expensive military project to date, and is responsible for the procurement of several components of the ultra modern fighter jet. If both sides cannot reach a deal, the US will need to find new suppliers for parts of the fighter’s fuselage, landing gear, and cockpit displays.

So far both Erdogan and Trump have kept a low profile on the topic, refusing to get dragged in and escalating the F-35 delivery matter into a full-blown political crisis which if left unchecked could result in a political fiasco similar to that which unfolded last summer, when Turkey’s detention of US pastor Brunson led to brief US sanctions being imposed against the Asian nation and which culminated with a recession in Turkey and its currency plunging to all time lows. (Click to Source)

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U.S. halts F-35 equipment to Turkey, protests its plans to buy from Russia

APRIL 1, 2019 / 12:32 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has halted delivery of equipment related to the stealthy F-35 fighter aircraft to Turkey, marking the first concrete U.S. step to block delivery of the jet to the NATO ally in light of Ankara’s planned purchase of a Russian missile defense system.

U.S. officials told their Turkish counterparts they will not receive further shipments of F-35 related equipment needed to prepare for the arrival of the stealthy jet, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Monday.

The Pentagon confirmed the Reuters report that the equipment delivery had been stopped.

“Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended,” Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has refused to back down from Ankara’s planned purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system that the United States has said would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft.

The disagreement over the F-35 is the latest of a series of diplomatic disputes between the United States and Turkey including Turkish demands that the United States extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, differences over Middle East policy and the war in Syria, and sanctions on Iran.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the next shipment of training equipment, and all subsequent shipments of F-35 related material, had been canceled. The aircraft is built by Lockheed Martin Corp.

A Pentagon official had told Reuters in March that the United States had a number of items it could withhold in order to send Turkey a signal that the United States was serious about Ankara dropping its ambition to own the S-400.

Turkish officials in Ankara were not immediately available for comment. Turkey has said it will take delivery of the S-400s in July.

NATO SUMMIT

The U.S. decision on the F-35s was expected to complicate Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s visit to Washington this week for a NATO summit. On Sunday, Erdogan suffered one of his biggest electoral losses in decades in local elections.

“Certain Russian weapon systems are seen as inherently threatening to the United States regardless of who is operating them and for what purpose,” Andrew Hunter, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said.

“Because Turkey is not just an F-35 purchaser, but an industrial partner, blocking delivery of these systems represents a major escalation by the United States as it threatens to impose serious costs on both sides,” Hunter said.

Reuters reported last week that Washington was exploring whether it could remove Turkey from production of the F-35. Turkey makes parts of the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays. Sources familiar with the F-35’s intricate worldwide production process and U.S. thinking on the issue last week said Turkey’s role can be replaced.

The United States and other NATO allies that own F-35s fear the radar on the Russian S-400 missile system will learn how to spot and track the jet, making it less able to evade Russian weapons.

In an attempt to persuade Turkey to drop its plans to buy the S-400, the United States offered the pricier American-made Patriot anti-missile system in a discounted deal that expired at the end of March. Turkey has shown interest in the Patriot system, but not at the expense of abandoning the S-400.

Turkey has engaged with U.S. negotiators in recent days about buying the Patriot system, a person familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity. The system is made by Raytheon Co.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in March said that despite some issues, Turkish pilots were continuing their training at an air base in Arizona on the F-35, each of which costs $90 million, and that Ankara was expecting the aircraft to arrive in Turkey in November.

By halting jet deliveries, the Pentagon could subsequently delay training of Turkish pilots. Two additional jets are scheduled to arrive in Arizona in April and a significant delay could impact Turkey’s November target date for operations.

U.S. lawmakers also have expressed alarm over Turkey’s planned purchase of the Russian system. Four U.S. senators last week introduced a bipartisan bill that would prohibit the transfer of F-35s to Turkey until the U.S. government certifies that Ankara will not take delivery of the S-400 system.

Following news of the halt, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, one of the bill sponsors, said she was glad to hear the administration was “to delay the transfer of F-35 equipment to Turkey to help ensure U.S. military technology and capabilities cannot fall into the hands of the Kremlin.” (Click to Source)

Reporting by Mike Stone and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; editing by Will Dunham, Howard Goller and Lisa Shumaker

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The Russians Just Did A Fly-By Of Area 51

Russia’s specially equipped Tu-154M Open Skies aircraft is doing a grand tour of America’s most sensitive military installations out west.

BY TYLER ROGOWAY – MARCH 29, 2019

The Russians are operating their Tu-154M aircraft configured for surveillance flights sanctioned under the Open Skies Treaty that allows member countries to conduct surveillance flights over each other’s territory relatively unimpeded. The aircraft are equipped with imaging equipment with specific limitations and monitors from the country being surveilled are onboard the flights to make certain the party complies with the parameters of the treaty. This latest series of Russian Open Skies flights are being conducted out of Great Falls, Montana and are covering a slew of strategic points in the western part of the United States, including the highly secure Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR) in southern Nevada, home of Area 51.

The mid-day flight on March 28th, 2019 appears to have originated out of Travis AFB, located near San Francisco, and continued on something of a highlights tour of American military installations in California and Nevada. It flew south over central California, passing near bases like Naval Air Station Lemoore and headed out over the Channel Islands. It then headed directly over Edwards AFB before meandering around Fort Irwin and on to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake before hooking a right and heading toward Creech AFB in Nevada. It then headed north, directly into the NTTR—the most secure airspace in the United States along with Washington, D.C.

FLIGHTRADAR24

This is the medium altitude imaging portion of the flight that the Tu-154M flew.

FLIGHTRADAR24

It flew directly over Edwards AFB.

FLIGHTRADAR24

Then to Fort Irwin and the National Training Center.

FLIGHTRADAR24

It then headed up over Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.

FLIGHTRADAR24

It then turned east and flew directly over Creech AFB, the heart of America’s unmanned aircraft operations.

After it flew over Creech AFB, it headed up to Yucca Flat, where one of America’s nuclear weapons assembly plants is located, and a secretive airstrip that specializes in test flights of unmanned aircraft, as well as other sensitive Department Of Energy installations. It then headed over the pockmarked Nevada Test Site. Area 51 sits just to the east of this location. The aircraft’s panoramic cameras can collect fairly wide swathes of imagery along the Open Skies aircraft’s flight path.

The voyage continued north, with Tonopah Test Range to the east, before heading northeast towards Salt Lake. It passed somewhat near Dugway Proving Grounds on its way back to Great Falls, but it’s not clear if the aircraft was collecting imagery at that time. If it was, it was doing so at double the altitude as before. The Tu-154 flew at an altitude of around 14,000 to 15,000 feet for the part of its trip over Nevada and California, before climbing out to above 30,000 feet after exiting the NTTR and heading back to its temporary base of operations in Great Falls.

FLIGHTRADAR24

FLIGHTRADAR24

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A flight before this one saw the Tu-154 check out Salt Lake and Hill AFB, Las Vegas and Nellis AFB, pretty much all of San Diego, and up the Southern California coast, which has plenty of military bases and weapons storage areas. It then flew directly to Plant 42 in Palmdale before climbing up and heading to Travis AFB to land and refuel.

These are Russia’s first Open Skies missions over the U.S. for the year. The U.S. has already flown a number of Open Skies sorties over Russia in February.

PAPAS DOS/WIKICOMMONS

Russia Tu-154M configured and certified for Open Skies flights.

Open Skies almost became a thing of the past when the U.S. accused the Russians of abusing the agreement and not offering equal treatment as defined by its terms. The U.S. also claimed that the equipment on Russian’s newest Tu-214ON Open Skies plane didn’t meet the limiting requirements of the treaty. Many think that the Russians get far more out of Open Skies than the U.S. as their satellite imaging and general reconnaissance capabilities are more limited than those of the U.S. military. You can more about this situation here.

Just as it looked like Open Skies was crumbling, there was a sudden about-face and the flights resumed, with an especially high profile U.S. sortie over Ukraine occurring in January.

OSCE.ORG

OSCE.ORG

The Russians definitely have a ton of new intelligence data to pore over after yesterday’s missions. We’ll keep an eye on the Tu-154M’s movements out of Great Falls to see if it flies any more missions over some of America’s most sensitive military installations in the days to come.  (Click to Source)

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

Author’s note: The Tu-154M used for Open Skies missions is only equipped with optical sensors. The mention about radar was removed/corrected for accuracy purposes.

 

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The United States converts S.Arabia into a nuclear force under the “Agenda of the Century” and the Turkey-Iran Prevention

 

The US offers Saudi Arabia the secrets of nuclear technology just like Russia does with Turkey, creating an awe-inspiring rival in the Middle East that becomes dangerously “radioactive” in view of the developments of the Age Agreement for which first has informed pronews.gr

An agreement aimed at “lasting peace” between the Sunni Arab states and Israel and the simultaneous isolation of Shi’ite Iran and Turkey’s imperial aspirations.

US Energy Minister Rick Perry has secretly approved six licenses to companies to deploy nuclear-related technology, related services and technical assistance to Saudi Arabia, reveals a document that was brought to the attention of the Reuters news agency yesterday .

The Donald Trump government implicitly seeks to conclude a much broader agreement to make US nuclear technology available to the United States.

Saudi Arabia is known to seek at least two nuclear power stations. Companies from different countries – the USA, South Korea, Russia – are competing for the project. Which or who the sponsor or sponsors is expected to be revealed by Riyadh this year.

Permissions signed by Perry (“810 Authorizations”) allow US companies to start preparatory work with a view to an agreement, but not to dispose of equipment to be installed in a plant, he explained a source informed of the licenses that were approved, subject to not to be named.

The fact that the permits were signed, the Daily Beast news site first revealed.

According to the Ministry of Energy, the companies were those that the Trabble Government has asked to keep the authorization approvals secret.

US parliamentarians are deeply worried that if the US shares nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia, it could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Saudi Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman had told CBS last year that the kingdom would develop nuclear weapons if Iran did so, which Riyadh considers his main rival in the region.

In addition, the kingdom reacts to the American claim that any sale accompanied by two clauses would prevent it from acquiring material suitable for the construction of nuclear weapons secretly: a ban on uranium enrichment and the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

Congressional concerns over the sale of nuclear technology and the availability of know-how in Saudi Arabia intensified in early October 2018, after Jamal Kassogi, a self-exiled journalist in the United States, was murdered in the consulate of the kingdom in Constantinople.

Authorizations were approved after November 2017, but it is unclear in the document the Reuters saw if some of them were signed after the killing of Casagi.

Democratic MP Brad Sherman has asked US Secretary of State Mike Pombeo to publish the names of the companies that received these licenses by mid-April. Pompeo replied that he would examine it.Sherman also complained that the Government of Trab is trying to avoid Congress in the availability of nuclear technology in Saudi Arabia. Pompeo argued that the government is working to ensure that any agreement on the transfer of nuclear technology does not increase the risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Last month, Democratic MPs complained that White House executives are defying warnings that they may violate the law by working with former officials and the group

IP3 International to promote a multi-billion dollar deal to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.

It is ignored if IP3 International is among the licensed companies.

It is noted that Moscow first revealed for the first time that Mr Trump promotes the “Agreement of the Century”, an agreement between the US, Israel and the Arab states, provides for a plan to resolve the Palestinian and Syrian “Israeli mold” and an attack on Iran, something that has been sounding for a long time, but no one confirms it.

It is an agreement that, if achieved, will change the face of the Middle East. For this reason, “diplomatic fever” prevails in all European capitals, Moscow, Washington and throughout the Middle East.

This US government decision is part of the “Solution of the Century” of the pro-Israeli US plan in the Palestinian, ie the implementation of Israeli plans for full annexation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Jerusalem-West Bank) by Israel, but also full recognition of the Palestinian state. (Click to Source)

New Turkey-Iran-Qatar axis is rising in Middle East, and it has Saudi Arabia furious

Published time: 22 Mar, 2019 16:34

A new alliance being formed by Qatar, Turkey, and Iran, with the potential to receive the backing of Russia and China, is a major concern to the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

The aftermath of over eight years of war in Syria has changed the regional dynamics in a way almost certainly never envisioned by the United States and its allies. Through leaked documents, we have known for some time now that Washington’s interim goal was to, at the very least, destabilise the Assad government in the hopes of scaling back Iranian influence. (Its ultimate goal was quite clearly regime change, which was very close to fruition during at least one stage of the war).

This anti-Assad strategy has, of course, backfired to the point where Iranian-backed forces have essentially amassed along the Syria-Israel border, threatening Washington’s most beloved ally in the region. The other notable – and realistically, most important – development is that Russia, not the United States, emerged out of the rubble of Syria as the major power-broker and military tactician.

However, it seems as though the aftermath of Syria is just the beginning of a tectonic move in a massive direction away from the status quo. Eight years on since the war in Syria broke out, and we are now beginning to see some other major concrete shifts within the regional alliances which has Washington’s traditional allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, starting to tremble.

As of now, Qatar, Iran, and Turkey are forming a regional alliance, which is irking Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States – and they only have themselves to blame. After Saudi Arabia led a coalition of nations that attempted to bully Qatar into submission and accept a long list of inconceivable demands in June 2017, Qatar soon found it could rely on some key partners to weather the Saudi-led storm. These partners are now openly forming a new alliance, which will upend the entire balance of power in the Middle East.

The strengthening of ties between this axis of nations is quite remarkable, when one considers that they each held completely paradoxical positions regarding the Syrian conflict. The horror of this shift from a Western perspective can be seen brilliantly in an Asia Times article entitled ‘America’s Syrian humiliation is worse than it looks’.

When Saudi Arabia blocked Qatar’s only land border and the UAE in turn blocked shipments from its ports to Doha, Qatar quickly found friends in Oman, Turkey, and Iran to bypass this nonsensical blockade. Qatari flights were rerouted over Iranian airspace and Turkey upped the ante on its military presence in the country as a sign of strength and commitment. Eventually, daily life in Qatar could continue quite reasonably. This is not to say that Qatar didn’t experience difficulties, particularly regarding oil prices, real estate prices, tourism, and the slowdown in economic growth. Then again, Qatar was able to draw from its reserves to counter the effects, minimising the damage done by its neighbours.

By the end of 2017, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan had all increased bilateral trade with Qatar, benefitting all four countries. In the less than six months since the ‘Qatar crisis’ had begun, trade between Iran and Qatar reportedly increased by 117 percent. At the time, experts studying the crisis predicted that commercial relations between the two countries would remain intact, even following the closure of the Saudi-led Qatar crisis.

Iran, Qatar, and Turkey also signed a land transportation pact in August of that year which would help reduce the cost and transit period for the exchange of goods. Seeing as Saudi Arabia effectively blockaded the flow of goods into Qatar, it should not be hard to see that even this agreement alone bore major significance.

Qatar for its part has invested heavily in Turkey, well over $20 billion in total. As explained previously by Al-Jazeera, this is the second-highest in terms of value by any country, demonstrating the importance these two nations have given to each other.

By most accounts, the Gulf States need Turkey on their side in order to contain Iran. A recent report published by Middle East Eye revealed how Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt hatched a plan with Israel to scale back the regional influence of Turkey and Iran, with Turkey deemed to be the biggest military threat to these Gulf states’ interests.

As it transpires, the Qatar-Turkey-Iran axis could potentially provide a major buffer to the so-called Arab NATO, which will be headed by Saudi Arabia. While Saudi Arabia appears to have managed to bring Pakistan on side, it still remains that Pakistan shares a border with Iran and relies heavily on China, another key ally of Iran. Islamabad’s anti-Iran stance can therefore only stretch so far.

The fact is that this alliance on the face of it will likely bear the support of Russia and its military will also be of a major concern to the anti-Iran alliance. As it stands, Russia, Iran, and Qatar provide over half of the world’s known gas reserves. Not to mention that Iran and Qatar share the world’s largest gas field, another major concern for the Saudi-led bloc.

Saudi-owned media has already voiced its opposition to this newfound alliance, which can be seen most openly in an article in Al Arabiya entitled ‘How Iran, Turkey use Qatar to undermine regional security and US interest’. According to Al Arabiya, there is a “risk” of Qatar “breaking away from the Arab orbit and posing a serious threat to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.” The Qatar-Iran entente, “previously concealed, is out in the open,” the article also notes.

To put it simply: Qatar has irrevocably joined with Ankara and Tehran against its former Arab allies,” the article’s sources surmise. “It has conclusively positioned itself in a regional alliance that pursues geopolitical dominance by driving instability.”

Qatar is “playing with fire” the article states. At around the same time, Qatar had called for a new alliance to replace the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), further demonstrating this shift in perspective.

According to Russian think tank Katehon, the new Qatar-Iran-Turkey axis is already well underway and has the power to control Asia, west India and Pakistan and challenge the “demonic trio” of the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

Do not underestimate the role of small Qatar in this triple alliance with latent empires,” the think tank is cited as saying. “The fact is that the huge financial resources, as well as the successful geographical location of the emirate, allow it to resist even the all-powerful Saudi Arabia, which also claims regional domination.

Thus, international pressure and economic restrictions prompted three completely different states, despite geopolitical differences, to begin rapprochement in the economic sphere. How this will turn out in the future depends primarily on the actions of the United States, which, undoubtedly, will try to break up the emerging triple alliance.” (Click to Source)

 

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Serious “Leak” from Joint Chief Meeting Between US and Russia in Austria

NEWS DESK  – 

An unusual and very serious “leak” of information has taken place after a meeting in Austria between the top Generals of the US and Russia.

According to Joint Staff Spokesman Col. Patrick S. Ryder, the “official readout” of the meeting is as follows:

“Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. met with Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov today in Austria.

The two military leaders discussed the deconfliction of Coalition and Russian operations in Syria, and exchanged views on the state of U.S.-Russia military relations and the current international security situation in Europe and other key topics. In addition, they also discussed efforts to improve operational safety and strategic stability between the U.S. and Russian militaries.

Both leaders recognize the importance of maintaining regular communication to avoid miscalculation and to promote transparency and deconfliction in areas where our militaries are operating in close proximity.

In accordance with past practice, both generals have agreed to keep the details of their conversations private.”

 

However, after the meeting, sources in a position to know say the discussions mentioned above were NOT the only issues talked about.

According to the sources, the Russia military expressed grave concern to the US Generals about what Russia sees as the greatest existential threat to Russia:  if radical socialists in the United States take power in the upcoming elections.

If that should happen, the Russian Generals told the US they would immediately call for an all-out nuclear attack on America before these socialists do the same to Russia!

The Russian Generals made clear that radical Socialists inside the US have already stated they intend to declare war on Russia for the made up crime of interfering in their 2016 presidential election — which they have hysterically likened to the Empire of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor that drew the United States into World War II.

The sources also say the US Generals expressed their belief President Trump will be re-elected in 2020 because he is directly confronting the Socialist menace in the USA, and the American people know their freedom would vanish under a Socialist government. (Click to Source)

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Report: “11 Christians Killed Every Day for Their Faith”

by Raymond Ibrahim

  • One of the most noteworthy trends concerns the “shocking reality of persecution against women…. In many places, they experience a ‘double persecution’ — one for being a Christian and one for being a woman.”
  • Another trend that should send an alarm is that, “For the first time since the start of the World Watch List, India has entered the top 10” — meaning Christians there are now experiencing “extreme persecution.”

Last year, Christians were persecuted more than ever before in the modern era — and this year is expected to be worse: “4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons,” according to Open Doors USA in its recently published World Watch List 2019 (WWL) of the top 50 nations where Christians are persecuted. “On average, that’s 11 Christians killed every day for their faith.” Additionally, “2,625 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned” in 2018, and “1,266 churches or Christian buildings were attacked.”

Whereas 215 million Christians faced persecution in 2018, 245 million will suffer in 2019, according to Open Doors — a 14% increase, that represents 30 million more people abused for their faith. This means that “1 in 9 Christians experience high levels of persecution worldwide” (note: all quotations in this article are from the WWL 2019).

One of the most noteworthy trends concerns the “shocking reality of persecution against women.”

“In many places, they experience a ‘double persecution’ — one for being a Christian and one for being a woman. Even in the most restricted circumstances, gender-specific persecution is a key means of destroying the minority Christian community.”

Last year’s WWL provided more specific numbers: “At least six women every day are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage to a Muslim man under the threat of death for their Christian faith…”

Another trend, one that should send an alarm, is that, “For the first time since the start of the World Watch List, India has entered the top 10” — meaning Christians there are now experiencing “extreme persecution”:

“Christians have been targeted by Hindu nationalist extremists more each year. Since the current ruling party took power in 2014, attacks have increased, and Hindu radicals believe they can attack Christians with no consequences. The view of the nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith — including Christianity — is viewed as non-Indian. Additionally, in some regions of the country, converts to Christianity from Hinduism experience extreme persecution, discrimination and violence.”

The most obvious trend remains unchanged:

“Islamic oppression continues to impact millions of Christians. In seven out of the top 10 World Watch List countries, the primary cause of persecution is Islamic oppression. This means, for millions of Christians — particularly those who grew up Muslim or were born into Muslim families — openly following Jesus can have painful consequences. They can be treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against for jobs or even violently attacked.”

Not only is that responsible for the persecution Christians face in seven of the ten worst nations; 38 of the 50 nations making the list are Muslim-majority.

Among the worst persecutors are those that rule according to Sharia. In Afghanistan (ranked #2), “Christianity is not permitted to exist” because it “is an Islamic state by constitution, which means government officials, ethnic group leaders, religious officials and citizens are hostile toward adherents of any other religion.” Similarly, in Somalia, (#3), “The Christian community is small and under constant threat of attack. Sharia law and Islam are enshrined in the country’s constitution, and the persecution of Christians almost always involves violence.” In Iran (#9), “society is governed by Islamic law, which means the rights and professional possibilities for Christians are heavily restricted.”

While the forms persecution and actors behind them vary, many seem connected to Islam. For example, “Under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws, Christians continue to live in daily fear they will be accused of blasphemy — which can carry a penalty of death.” In Libya (#4), Yemen (#8), Syria (#11), Iraq (#13) war has given rise to Islamic militancy and general lawlessness, both of which prey on Christian minorities.

In Muslim nations where Christians make up a minority, a significant quantity of churches might be needed to meet their numbers — the visibility of which may offend Muslim sensibilities. Thus in Egypt (#16), where Christians number at least 10% of the population (possibly even double that):

“Severe restrictions on building or securing places for worship prevent Christians from congregating, in addition to hostility and violence toward believers who do gather. In recent years, Islamic extremist groups have targeted Christians and churches in numerous violent and deadly acts of persecution.”

“The spread of radical Islam across sub-Saharan Africa” is another growing and troubling trend. For example,

“Nigeria’s score for violence [99.9%] has stayed as high as possible, primarily due to the increased attacks on Christian communities by militant Fulani herdsmen. These attacks claimed the lives of hundreds of believers during the reporting period, and villages and churches burned to the ground. Additionally, in parts of northern Nigeria, Christians are treated as second-class citizens.”

Some WWL’s findings are surprising. Although Orthodox Christians are the majority of its population, the Russian Federation is #41, and the “source of persecution” is, again, “Islamic oppression”: “Christians in parts of Russia dominated by Islam report the highest level of persecution.”

Despite the role of religion, North Korea (#1) remains the worst nation, where “never-ending pressure and violence” is directed against Christians:

“The primary driver of persecution in North Korea is the state. For three generations, everything in the country has focused on idolizing the Kim family. Christians are seen as hostiles to be eradicated.”

As difficult as it is for Christians identified by the Kim regime, there may be some eventual relief for them and those in other communist nations (such as China, #27): cults of personalities might last so long, but in the Arab and Muslim world, where, sadly, there seems to be little or no education to respect religious differences, the weight of the dominant religion continues to permeate all of society. (Click to Source)

Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Could the Ukraine Conflict be the Start of WW3? Here’s the Background on This Brewing Crisis

By Brandon Turbeville

 

While many are concerned with possible flare-ups in places like Syria, Israel, or the South China Sea, another area where there is the distinct potential for a third world war has always been and still remains to be Ukraine.

While the Western media rarely reports on Ukraine except to remind its readers and viewers that Russia “illegally annexed” Crimea and destabilized democratic Ukraine, the fact is that the area is a powder keg that could bring about direct clashes between Russia and the US or NATO.

Although Syria still retains much of the spotlight in the Western press, Ukraine happens to be yet another repeat of the NATO method of using color revolutions and proxy fighters to destroy a central government in order to replace that government with a puppet of their own choosing.

Russian resistance, however, has confounded those plans at least in the east of the country and what has taken place subsequently has resulted in a  proxy war between Russia and the United States. To make matters worse, that proxy war is taking place on Russia’s border, making the situation that much more dangerous for the rest of the world.

Russian “aggression”

Western media’s incredibly frightening hysteria and fear-mongering over “Russian meddling,” “Russian spying,” “Russian military involvement” and pretty much anything Russian whatsoever are occasionally highlighted by distorted claims pretending to show that Russia is acting aggressively or has ever acted aggressively in Ukraine.

For Western mainstream media and for Western governments, Russia’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine are nothing more than another example of Russian aggression that is growing worldwide. Virtually the entire Western world is engaging in neo-McCarthyism, this time moving full speed ahead without even the benefit of having at least some credible evidence to back up its case.

Thus, when Russia seized a number of Ukrainian sailors and military ships in the Sea of Azov, the Western media was alight with claims of Russian aggression. Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko declared martial law and called on the rest of the world to support Ukraine militarily. Donald Trump subsequently canceled a planned meeting with Vladmir Putin citing his concerns over the Russian action against Ukrainian forces.

But the story of Russia and Ukraine is much more than the recent incident in the Sea of Azov and it is much different than the way in which Western media has presented it. Given the fact that the Russians and Americans are so close to coming to blows in Ukraine, it is incredibly important to understand the facts surrounding the crisis, not merely the propaganda coming out of the mouths of politicians and major corporations.

Before we take a look at the Sea of Azov incident, we must first correctly orient ourselves to the backstory that brought us to this point.

What happened in Ukraine?

As the U.S. pushed harder and harder in Syria in order to overthrow the secular government of Bashar al-Assad, it was simultaneously pushing eastward in Europe toward one of its major goals, the encirclement of Russia. This saw the U.S. pushing for Ukraine to become yet another Russophobic member of NATO while then-President Viktor Yanukovych had argued that Ukraine should indeed be part of an agreement to defend Europe but not one that Russia was excluded from since Russia is also part of Europe.

Yanukovych attempted to tip-toe his way through a tug of war by the European Union and Russia the former looking to threaten, bully, and ultimately consume the country and the latter looking for genuine cooperation and defense against the European Union/NATO bloc pushing ever closer to its borders. For Yanukovych, the offer was between greater cooperation with Russia on trade and economics or greater cooperation with the EU on those issues which would ultimately see Ukraine flooded with migrants, Soviet-style domination, and the loss of national sovereignty.

This was on top of the fact that the agreement with the EU would have seen Western-backed destabilization agents like Yulia Tymoshenko released from prison and thus likely set loose on the Ukrainian political scene to wreak havoc and weaken the ability of Ukraine to govern itself.

In other words, Russia was offering a carrot while the EU was offering two bloody sticks.

Yanukovych chose Russia.

Protests erupted in Ukraine

Soon after, in 2013, Ukraine began seeing mass demonstrations demanding the ouster of Yanukovych and his “corrupt” government. The protesters rallied against “government corruption,” lack of “dignity,” and “violation of human rights.” Yanukovych was indeed corrupt and, like virtually every government on the face of the earth, there were violations of human rights. However, “Government corruption” and shadowy claims of human rights violations tend to be the hallmark of Western-backed color revolutions which the Euromaidan protests turned out to be.

The Western press howled in its support of the protests (one sure sign the “activists” are not genuine, organic representations of the people) and suddenly painted Yanukovych as a “strong man,” who oppressed the Ukrainian people and yet another dictator who needed to be taken out to protect “democracy.”

The protests grew in size and so did the violence. Before long, it was all out war between the “protesters” and the “security forces” of the government. As has been seen in other successful and attempted color revolutions in the past, snipers appeared on the rooftops firing at police (most likely in order to prompt the police to fire at the “protesters”) as well as indiscriminately into the crowd.

Soon, the Ukrainian government was facing “rebels” and militias of thugs and literal neo-Nazis actively fighting against security forces and terrorizing anyone who dared disagree with them. Many may immediately dismiss the idea that the U.S. was funding Nazi militias in Ukraine given that, in 2018, anyone to the right of Karl Marx is labeled a Nazi. In this context, however, the term is not being used lightly.

Yanukovych was soon overthrown after a “parallel government” was formed by protesters, violence increased to the point of leaving many dead, and Yanukovych finally relinquished control.

A network of NGOs (and George Soros) funded the destruction of Ukraine

Both the US government and its network of NGOs, including those operating and funded by George Soros, were hard at work before, during, and after the Euromaidan protests. As William F. Jasper wrote in his article, “George Soros’ Giant Global Footprint In Ukraine’s Turmoil,” for the New American,

Billionaire investor/activist George Soros has a giant footprint in Ukraine. Similar to his operations in dozens of other nations, he has, over the past couple of decades, poured tens of millions of dollars into Ukrainian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), ostensibly to assist them in transforming their country into a more “open” and “democratic” society.

Many of the participants in Kiev’s “EuroMaidan” demonstrations were members of Soros-funded NGOs and/or were trained by the same NGOs in the many workshops and conferences sponsored by Soros’ International Renaissance Foundation (IRF), and his various Open Society institutes and foundations. The IRF, founded and funded by Soros, boasts that it has given “more than any other donor organization” to “democratic transformation” of Ukraine.

The International Renaissance Foundation’s Annual Report for 2012, the latest available, states that, “IRF provided UAH 63 million in funding to civil society organizations — more than any other donor organization working in this field in Ukraine.” The “UAH” reference used above refers to the Ukraine Hryvnia, Ukraine’s currency, which is worth about 0.11 $US, or 11 cents in U.S. currency. That translates into roughly $6.7 million that IRF provided to Ukrainian groups in 2012; not a huge sum, by comparison to many other political and social campaigns, but more than merely “significant.” In the cash-starved Ukraine, Soros’s dollars go a long way toward seducing and co-opting all legitimate political opposition into the Soros-approved “progressive” camp. (source)

According to the IRF’s own website, this one Soros conduit has funneled over $100 million into Ukrainian NGOs over the years:

Over the period from 1990 to 2010 the International Renaissance Foundation provided more than $100 million in support to numerous Ukrainian non-government organizations (NGOs), community groups, academic and cultural institutions, publishing houses, etc. (source)

The IRF website and annual reports make clear that the Soros funds are targeted at promoting Ukrainian “partnership” with, and “integration” into, the EU. Soros has provided many millions more through his other “philanthropic” spigots. However, Soros’ influence in Ukraine extends far beyond the traceable funding he provides to activist Ukrainian NGOs, academics and think tanks. Equally, if not more, important is the influence he exerts on global opinion through his massive propaganda network (including Project Syndicate and other Soros megaphones) and his direct personal contacts with presidents, prime ministers, parliamentarians, central bankers, media executives, and Wall Street titans.

John McCain and Victoria Nuland were involved

US government officials also played a direct role in supporting the overthrow of Yanukovych. Notorious warmonger John McCain was on hand to cavort with neo-Nazis and visited the Maidan, sharing the stage with Oleg Tyahnybok. McCain promised American-style democracy but only after the country would see Yanukovych replaced and austerity measures introduced by the implementation of the EU’s “bailout” package known as the “Association Agreement.”

Victoria Nuland was just as legendary in her support for the color revolution. US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Nuland participated in the protests (all while Obama claimed that the Ukrainian people should have the deciding role in choosing their government) by literally handing out cookies.

Prior to this, Nuland had bragged about the US spending $5 billion over the past ten years to support “democracy” and the creation of around 40,000 NGOs to help spread Western “democracy” in Ukraine. Of course, this “democracy” is simply a code word for neo-liberal economics coupled with authoritarian rule.

Nuland was probably most famous for her “F*ck the EU” comment that had been taped and acquired by Russians and exploited throughout the media. The statement was merely a disagreement between the US and the EU as to who would be the new leader of Ukraine, with Nuland and the US demanding that “Yats,” aka Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk would be the one. Needless to say, “Yats the rat” became Kiev’s new leader and he immediately set to work to implement the IMF-style neo-liberal austerity policies desired by both the EU and the US.

Obama himself would later admit, during the course of an interview, that the US had “brokered a deal” to impose a new leader in Ukraine.

Ukraine was divided

Ukraine has scarcely had its own identity more than a few a decades. The country itself is a relatively new creation that became fully independent during the period in which the Soviet Union was falling apart. The territory that makes up the country has, particularly in the 20th Century, seen tragedy after tragedy of the most horrible kind.

During the period of Soviet rule, the brutal Communist regime held control over Ukraine with the most heavy-handed totalitarianism possible. As was the case with the USSR, Ukrainians were starved, oppressed, and slaughtered wholesale. It is under Soviet rule that the tragedy of the Holodomor took place.

It was the horror of Communism that made many Ukrainians, particularly in Western Ukraine, greet the Germans as liberators. But the Nazis only brought more authoritarianism, more work camps, and more wholesale slaughter. Thus, Ukrainians were caught in the crossfire of a war on their own territory between two of the most psychopathic bloodthirsty regimes of the 20th Century.

It is important to understand the history of Ukraine as well as the geography and demographics of the country in order to understand the current makeup of the country.

Ukraine straddles the cultures of both Europe and Russia. It’s fairly simple to understand and the dividing line can easily be drawn using the Dnieper River. Generally speaking, Ukraine west of the river is more European in its value system and Ukraine to the east of the river is more akin to Russia. Kiev sits slightly on the Western bank of the Dnieper river.

Despite the tragedies that befell Ukraine, this is where loyalties and affinities lie. Remember, the country itself is not even 30 years old.

Because of this, Ukraine, by historical standards, has not yet had an opportunity to develop a deep-seated national identity. It is still coming to grips with its own identity. Even many of Ukraine’s millennials would have been born into the Soviet Union. Thus, Ukraine’s national identity is, by and large, either European or Russian.

Meanwhile in Eastern Ukraine

While Yanukovych was embattled by angry mobs and neo-Nazis in Kiev, the protests were largely supported by the population of West Ukraine, at least at first. This may have been partly due to ignorance as to whom was behind the protests, legitimate frustration with the government, and a desire on the part of many to become and remain Western European as well as the horrific legacy of Russian rule during the Soviet Union.
That being said, the Eastern part of the country was not keen on the idea of becoming subject to National Socialism which views Russians as essentially a sub-species. This negative view of Russians would also encompass Eastern Ukrainians since they are, for all intents and purposes, Russian inasmuch as Western Ukrainians are Eastern Europeans.
Note: To be clear, while sentiment on the Western side of Ukraine is definitively more Western European, this does not imply that Western Ukrainians are Nazis, national socialists, or even in favor of the Western-backed coup. It is simply to point out that the Western Ukrainian identity is culturally more Western European than that of the Eastern half which is culturally more Russian. 
Many East Ukrainians simply refused to go along with the new Western puppet regime and fascist thugs who were literally calling for the extermination of Jews, Russians, and Eastern Ukrainians. But Western-backed neo-Nazis would not take no for an answer and, having gained control of the Ukrainian government, began an intimidation campaign that, at first, saw bullying and thuggery but eventually moved to violence and murder.

Then the violence culminated.

The violence of the neo-Nazi militias culminated in the now infamous May 2, 2014 Odessa trade union hall where pro-regime (now that Yanukovych had been toppled and replaced) “militants” chased dissidents into the Odessa Trade Union Hall where the building was set ablaze and the dissidents burned alive.

Outside, as the hall burned, neo-Nazis mocked them by calling them potato beetles and spray painted the hall with swastika symbols and tributes to the Galician SS (the Ukranian command of the German SS during WW2). Writing for Consortium News, the late Robert Parry wrote in his article, “Burning Ukraine’s Protesters Alive,”

In Ukraine, a grisly new strategy bringing in neo-Nazi paramilitary forces to set fire to occupied buildings in the country’s rebellious southeast appears to be emerging as a favored tactic as the coup-installed regime in Kiev seeks to put down resistance from ethnic Russians and other opponents.

The technique first emerged on May 2 in the port city of Odessa when pro-regime militants chased dissidents into the Trade Unions Building and then set it on fire. As some 40 or more ethnic Russians were burned alive or died of smoke inhalation, the crowd outside mocked them as red-and-black Colorado potato beetles, with the chant of “Burn, Colorado, burn.” Afterwards, reporters spotted graffiti on the building’s walls containing Swastika-like symbols and honoring the “Galician SS,” the Ukrainian adjunct to the German SS in World War II.

This tactic of torching an occupied building occurred again on May 9 in Mariupol, another port city, as neo-Nazi paramilitaries organized now as the regime’s “National Guard” were dispatched to a police station that had been seized by dissidents, possibly including police officers who rejected a new Kiev-appointed chief. Again, the deployment of the “National Guard” was followed by burning the building and killing a significant but still-undetermined number of people inside. (Early estimates of the dead range from seven to 20.)

In the U.S. press, Ukraine’s “National Guard” is usually described as a new force derived from the Maidan’s “self-defense” units that spearheaded the Feb. 22 revolt in Kiev overthrowing elected President Viktor Yanukovych. But the Maidan’s “self-defense” units were drawn primarily from well-organized bands of neo-Nazi extremists from western Ukraine who hurled firebombs at police and fired weapons as the anti-Yanukovych protests turned increasingly violent.

But the mainstream U.S. press in line with State Department guidance has sought to minimize or dismiss the key role played by neo-Nazis in these “self-defense” forces as well as in the new government. At most, you’ll see references to these neo-Nazis as “Ukrainian nationalists.” (source)

Yes, Neo-Nazis

Another part of this series will discuss how the United States provided their whole-hearted support of the efforts of the neo-Nazis in Ukraine.

The resistance forms

With all of this in mind, it should be clear to anyone why Eastern Ukrainians saw this coup and the use of the “National Guard” as an existential threat. For Eastern Ukrainians, it was no longer a question of politics, ideology, or foreign meddling, it was very much a question of life and death. For this reason, many Eastern Ukranians, particularly in the regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, formed their own militias to defend themselves and their communities from the threat of possible extermination and definitely the threat of totalitarian oppression and even deeper-seated corruption.

These Eastern Ukrainian militias did battle with their Western counterparts on Eastern territory for some time. Soon, however, the Ukrainian military was called in to back up the “National Guard” forces. The battle that ensued saw much more than small arms fire. Instead, it included shelling, missiles as well as regular Ukrainian military vehicles. In other words, a civil war was taking place.

Conclusion

While the situation in Ukraine might be described as a “civil war,” the truth is that the crisis should be more accurately referred to as a proxy war. Here, the United States and NATO are operating in and controlling the West while Russia operates in and works closely with the East. Like in Syria, the United States and NATO used proxy forces to destabilize and replace a central government with a puppet of their own choosing and, also like in Syria, the US and NATO have come up against Russian resistance that has scuppered their plans to enact control over the entire country. One other similarity to Syria is that the Russian position has been purely defensive in nature. The major difference between the situations in Syria and Ukraine, however, is that, due to Ukraine’s proximity to Russia itself, Russia is much more willing to go to greater lengths to defend itself and its interests. (Click to Source)

This article is Part 1 in a series dedicated to the issue of Ukraine. 

 
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“Wars And Rumors Of Wars”: The U.S., Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, India And Pakistan All Move Closer To Military Conflict

 

Humanity never seems to learn.  During the 20th century, at least 108 million people were killed during all wars combined, and you would think that after so much bloodshed humanity would never want to go down that road again.  And in this century, an enormous amount of American blood has already been shed in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.  Unfortunately, the drumbeats of war are starting to get louder once again.  Very angry talk often precedes military conflict, and right now there sure is a lot of angry talk going on.

Before we get to the U.S., let’s talk about India and Pakistan.  They are both nuclear powers, and thanks to a horrific terror bombing last month, they are once again on the verge of war…

Pakistan’s prime minister offered to hold talks with India, even as he warned New Delhi to refrain from launching any attacks on his country following last week’s suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Imran Khan said he hoped “better sense” would prevail after the attack on a paramilitary convoy that killed at least 40 Indian troops. But he warned in a televised speech Tuesday that if India attacks, “Pakistan will not merely think of retaliation, but rather, we will retaliate.”

In fact, it is being reported on Twitter that Pakistan has even “begun its logistics preparations for possible war with India”…

#BREAKING: Pakistan has begun its logistics preparations for possible war with India, has put hospitals along the frontier on stand-by mode – @timesofindia

Of course most Americans don’t even know that this is happening.

Sadly, the truth is that most Americans couldn’t even point out where Pakistan and India are on a blank map of the world.

But Americans should at least be concerned that the U.S. could soon be entering a new war.  President Trump has repeatedly threatened to use the U.S. military in Venezuela if the Maduro government does not step down peacefully, and that is definitely not going to happen.

In fact, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino had said that if the U.S. wants regime change in his country, they are going to have to do it “over our dead bodies”…

Trump has refused to rule out US military action in Venezuela. He raised the pressure on Monday, issuing a warning to the Venezuelan military.

He told them that if they continue to support Maduro, ‘you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything.’

Padrino rejected Trump’s threat, branding the US president ‘arrogant.’

If foreign powers try to help install a new government by force, they will have to do so ‘over our dead bodies,’ Padrino said.

And could it be possible that U.S. troops are already being positioned for an invasion of Venezuela?  That is exactly what Cuba is claiming…

Cuba said Wednesday that the U.S. is secretly moving special forces closer to Venezuela as part of a plan to practice military adventurism in the country under the guise of “humanitarian intervention.”

In a release from Granma, the Cuban government’s official press, Havana officials say that between Feb. 6 and 10 there has been military transport from the U.S. to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations without the knowledge of those countries.

Of course the U.S. is claiming that Cuba already has troops inside Venezuela and is helping to prop up the Maduro regime.  And that is probably true.  So if the U.S. decides to invade Venezuela, we could find ourselves fighting a war with Cuba also.

In addition, John Bolton is talking as if regime change is on the agenda for Nicaragua too.  Just check out what he just posted on Twitter…

The Ortega regime has sentenced three farm leaders to 550 years in prison for their roles in protests in 2018, where Ortega’s police forces reportedly killed 300 activists. As President Trump said Monday, Ortega’s days are numbered and the Nicaraguan people will soon be free.

And previously Bolton had collectively referred to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba as “the Troika of Tyranny”…

The US has repeatedly backed the uprising against the left-wing government, and last November Bolton made a keynote speech calling for the “crumbling” of what he called the “Troika of Tyranny” – Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba – saying the states represented a “a sordid cradle of communism in the Western hemisphere.”

On Monday, Trump name-checked the same three countries, saying their “great potential” would be unlocked with the collapse of socialism.

On top of everything else, Russian President Vladimir Putin is warning that U.S. that we could soon be facing “a Cuban Missile-style crisis”…

Vladimir Putin has said that Russia is militarily ready for a Cuban Missile-style crisis – if Donald Trump is is ‘foolish’ enough to want one – and that his missiles could reach the US faster that theirs could hit Moscow.

Putin has said he does not want an arms race with the United States, but that he would have no choice but to act if Washington deployed new missiles in Europe, some of which he says would be able to strike Moscow within ten to 12 minutes.

When I hear people call President Trump “a Russian asset”, I just have to laugh.

Our relations with the Russians are going downhill very rapidly, and Trump and Putin are much more likely to start World War 3 than they are to sit down and have a beer together.

And the Russians continue to prepare for the coming war with the United States by creating impressive new weapons systems.  For example, they just completed tests on a new intercontinental nuclear torpedo known as “the Poseidon”…

The 24 m long UUV armed with a nuclear warhead is designed to navigate autonomously with a maximum speed of 107 kt and detonate near an enemy coastal city, generating a tsunami wave, Russian state media reported.

“On its way to a target, ‘Poseidon’ will be able to avoid and overcome any anti-submarine barriers and other enemy defence systems due to the fully automated operating system. All together, the intellectual and performance characteristics of the vehicle will make it invulnerable and secure a guaranteed target destruction,” an unnamed defence industry source told Russian state media.

We do not have a similar weapon, and we have absolutely no way to defend against it.

We live at a time of “wars and rumors of wars”, and over the last several decades the nations of the world have armed themselves to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction that would have been unimaginable in previous eras of human history.

We literally have the technology to wipe ourselves off the face of the planet, and let us pray that cooler heads prevail before it is too late. (Click to Source)

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The Prophetic Impact Of A U.S. Withdrawal From Syria

magogallianceaug202018

BY BRITT GILLETTE/END TIMES BIBLE PROPHECY FEBRUARY 19, 2019

Back in December, President Trump said the United States will soon withdraw military forces from Syria. In a video tweet, he announced American military personnel are “all coming back, and they’re coming back now.”
He never provided a timeline for withdrawal. However, Department of Defense officials claimed the withdrawal would take 30 days. A week later, President Trump changed the timeline from 30 days to 4 months.
And since then, John Bolton, President Trump’s national security advisor said certain conditions could leave American troops in Syria for months or years to come. Nevertheless, the U.S. withdrew some equipment in mid-January.
So which one is it? Will they stay or will they go? As of now, it’s unclear when or if American forces will completely withdraw. But if they do, the implications will be significant. A U.S. withdrawal will create clear winners and losers.
The Winners
U.S. troops and their allies in Syria currently control about one-third of the country. Their presence provides a check on the actions of others in the region. If the U.S. pulls out, it’s uncertain their current allies can maintain control of that territory. In all likelihood, it will be divided among other competing interests. Here are the leading candidates:
Russia – If the U.S. pulls out of Syria, one of the biggest winners will be Russia. Russia is a longtime ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s relationship with the Assad family goes back to the Cold War era and the days of the Soviet Union. With vital naval and air bases in Syria, Russia can’t afford to see Assad toppled. This is why Russia entered Syria in 2015 with thousands of ground troops and air support. Russia’s entry turned the tide of the Syrian civil war.
Because of this, Assad owes his survival to Russia. This means, without U.S. influence in Syria, Russia alone will decide its future. The U.S. won’t have any leverage when it comes to shaping post-war Syria. This will make Russia a big winner in the Syrian conflict. It secured its only naval and air bases in the Mediterranean. It also expanded its role in Syria as well as its Middle Eastern sphere of influence.
Iran – Iran is another big winner. If the U.S. leaves, Iran and Russia will be the most powerful forces left. As Assad’s two closest allies, they’ll have a free hand to do whatever they want. Iran has long sought to dominate the region, if not directly, then through the use of proxy armies such as Hezbollah. A U.S. withdrawal gives Iran a clear path to the Mediterranean. Iran will have a corridor to transport troops and weapons to regional allies (such as Hezbollah) in both Lebanon and Syria.
This also gives them the ability to position their own military forces and intelligence assets on Israel’s border. Since first entering Syria in 2015, the U.S. has worked to disrupt Iranian activities from areas it controls (either directly or through allies). If the U.S. leaves Syria, these activities will stop. This will only enhance Iran’s power and influence.
Turkey – Turkey also wins big from a U.S. withdrawal. Turkey already controls territory in northern Syria. In Syria, the U.S. allied itself with Turkey’s longtime enemy, the Kurds. Kurdish forces control large areas of Syrian territory, including areas along the Turkish border. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would love to remove them, but the U.S. presence in Syria has held him back.
The risks associated with an attack on the Kurds are too great. Any incident between Syrian and U.S. troops will trigger a crisis. But if the U.S. leaves, all that changes. The risk of an accidental military conflict with the U.S. disappears. Turkey will be free to attack Kurdish forces.
The Losers
Russia, Turkey, and Iran are the clear winners. But a U.S. withdrawal will also create losers. Two in particular stand out:
The Kurds – The Kurds are a Middle Eastern ethnic group living in an area covering parts of northern Iran, northern Iraq, northern Syria, and southeastern Turkey. Each nation has long seen the Kurds as a threat to break off and form their own nation. Due to a long history of conflict, Turkey views the Kurds as a terrorist group and a threat to Turkish national security.
Despite protests from Turkey, the United States allied itself with the Kurds to fight Islamic State terrorists. To date, the alliance has been successful. It severely diminished the Islamic State presence in Syria. The alliance has also protected the Kurds from a Turkish attack. All that will change if the U.S. withdraws from Syria. Abandoned, the Kurds will almost certainly face a Turkish invasion.
Israel – While the Kurds face a potential conflict with Turkey, by far the biggest loser when it comes to a U.S. withdrawal from Syria is Israel. Removing U.S. forces from Syria will have huge implications for Israeli security.
A U.S. pullout means a permanent presence of Iranian forces on Israel’s border. This means Iran can directly supply Hezbollah and other terrorist groups with advanced weapons and rockets that can reach deep into Israeli territory. The presence of Iran and its proxy groups in Syria poses a mortal threat to Israel.
While Iran could directly attack Israel now, it would almost certainly be destroyed by an Israeli counterattack. But if Iran attacks Israel through proxy groups such as Hezbollah, it can claim it had no hand in the attack. This only increases the likelihood of war.
Russia is no friend of Israel either. Russia has a history of anti-Semitism and aligning itself with Israel’s enemies. As the region’s sole nuclear power, Israel is Russia’s key obstacle to spreading control and influence throughout the oil rich Middle East.
Meanwhile, Israel’s longtime ally Turkey is breaking ties with its secular past. Erdogan is pushing Turkey toward a more antagonistic stance when it comes to the U.S. and Israel. In short, post-war Syria is more of a threat to Israel than the pre-war Assad regime.
It’s not a stretch to imagine all three of these nations – Russia, Iran, and Turkey – uniting in opposition to Israel. And right now all three are consolidating power on Israel’s northern border. In doing so, they’re setting the stage for the fulfillment of a 2,600 year old prophecy.
Where We’re Headed
Long ago, the prophet Ezekiel described an invading force that will form in the last days. In Ezekiel 38-39, he describes this force in detail. Ezekiel said invaders will come from the north of Israel, and a man named Gog will lead them (Ezekiel 38:2-6). Here are the nations who will join Gog, followed by their modern day names:
Rosh = Russia
Magog = Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan
Persia = Iran
Cush = Sudan
Put = Libya
Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Beth-togarmah = Turkey
Notice anything? That’s right. The three most powerful nations on the list – Russia, Iran, and Turkey – now reside in Syria. If U.S. troops pull out of Syria, their absence will pave the way for further influence in Syria from these three nations. They’ll consolidate their power until every square inch of the nation becomes a de facto province of one of the three. On February 14, the leaders of Russia, Iran, and Turkey met in Sochi, Russia to devise a joint plan to wipe out terrorists in Syria.
Their military forces are now cooperating in Syria. This puts their joint military forces right on Israel’s border. And not just any border – Israel’s northern border. Ezekiel said this invasion force will come from the north (Ezekiel 38:15; Ezekiel 39:2). So now we have the three most powerful nations in Gog’s invading force cooperating with each other and stationed on Israel’s northern border. Is this mere coincidence? I don’t think so.
Never before have the military forces of these three nations been on Israel’s northern border at the same time. And never in the history of the world, have the three cooperated militarily. Until now… The Bible said this would happen, and here we are.
The stage is now set for the fulfillment of the Ezekiel 38-39 prophecies. Eventually, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the other nations in the Gog of Magog alliance will send an overwhelming invasion force against Israel (Ezekiel 38:8-9). The world will not come to Israel’s defense (Ezekiel 38:15-16). But God will. He’ll put His full power on display and supernaturally destroy Israel’s invaders (Ezekiel 38:18-23).
So what does this mean? It means you should expect more and more events in Syria to align with Ezekiel’s account. Expect this alliance to get closer. Expect Israel to become more isolated. And expect the other nations Ezekiel cited to join Russia, Iran, and Turkey.
Most of all, recognize we’re in the last days (Ezekiel 38:8; Ezekiel 39:25-29), and live your life in expectation of the soon return of Jesus Christ. (Click to Source)
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