"Today when I heard that President Obama has called for the release of my husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini, I wept." (Naghmeh Abedini)
The family and supporters of an American-Iranian pastor imprisoned in Iran for over a year have welcomed Barack Obama's public acknowledgement of the need for his captors to release him.
Saeed Abedini's plight has just been highlighted by the US President at a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. The event opened with light banter, but quickly turned to serious matters.
President Obama talked about the role that faith has always played in progressing the human condition, which led him to expound on how important it is to uphold freedom of religion - not just in the United States, but to promote it everywhere as a key objective of U.S. foreign policy.
Barack Obama concluded his address at the Prayer Breakfast by honouring two Americans whose faith remains resolute in the face of persecution - Korean missionary Kenneth Bae, and Pastor Saeed.
"We pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini... And as we continue to work for his freedom, today, again, we call on the Iranian government to release Pastor Abedini so he can return to the loving arms of his wife and children in Idaho."
While several social media users expressed the view that the government's unequivocal support was a long time coming, the American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ) - the lobby group representing the Abedinis - published a statement simply welcoming the President's endorsement of Pastor Saeed's freedom.
"...we're hopeful that this new level of engagement by our government - President Obama publicly calling on Iran to release Pastor Saeed - will bring even more attention to the unjust treatment of a U.S. citizen who has been imprisoned for more than a year simply because of his Christian faith," wrote Executive Director, Jordan Sekulow.
Pastor Saeed's wife, Naghmeh Abedini, also shared her reaction to President Obama's speech. Mrs Abedini, who recently celebrated another birthday without her husband, turned to Facebook to thank all those who have supported her fight to free her husband."All I could see was each of you standing with us through your prayers, by calling your government officials, signing petitions, and sending the kids and I Bible verses and encouraging us not to give up and to continue.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Each prayer and each voice counts. God Bless you all, Naghmeh."
- Rhema Media
The United Nations has withdrawn an invitation to Iran to attend the much-anticipated Syria peace conference, reversing a decision announced on Sunday.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose decision to invite Iran had threatened to unravel the Syria talks less than 48 hours before the scheduled start, issued a statement yesterday rescinding the invitation.
The United States had said it was surprised by the invitation because Iran had not agreed to conditions for the talks, to be held on Wednesday in Montreux, Switzerland.
Mr. Ban contended he had been privately assured by the Iranians that they would respect the conditions. But in their public statements Iranian officials said Iran had been invited with no such conditions attached.
“Given that it has chosen to remain outside that basic understanding, he has decided that the one-day Montreux gathering will proceed without Iran’s participation,” Mr. Ban’s spokesman said in the statement.
- RBG News
Professor Stephen Hoadley comments on the deal between Iran and Israel that will see Iran neutralize it’s highly-enriched uranium stockpile in exchange for billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions relief.
There is mixed reaction to the interim nuclear arrangement that Iran has come to with world powers.
Iran has agreed to curb its controversial uranium-enrichment nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions on the regime. President Hassan Rouhani says years of punitive sanctions are starting to crumble; and Iranians are trumpeting the deal between Tehran and six Western governments as a victory for the newly-elected President, who has the support of the country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in this matter.
President Rouhani is calling it a breakthrough and, coming as it does after a decade of failed diplomacy and rising tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions, New Zealand's Minister of Foreign Affairs tends to agree. Murray McCully says it is the most positive development in 10 years of nuclear talks with Iran. However, he points out there is more work to be done for a long-term solution, as this deal only lasts six months.
Not everyone is celebrating the agreement, dismayed at the human cost. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) declared that today, the United States betrayed one of its own.
ACLJ has been working for more than a year to secure the release of US citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini from Iran. The American Iranian Christian was in the country building orphanages when he was imprisoned in September 2012, purportedly for threatening national security. He spent 13 months in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison and was recently moved to the even worse conditions of Rajai Shahr prison.
ACLJ's legal team had urged that Pastor Saeed's pardon as a pre-condition of negotiations between the US and Iran, and thus found the weekend's agreement to be hypocritical and ironic. A spokesman described it as "reprehensible" that the Obama Administration could agree to provide humanitarian relief to Iran even as Pastor Saeed continues to languish in an Iranian prison for his faith.
In a press release, ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow stated that by failing to secure Pastor Saeed's release as a condition of any deal, "the Obama Administration sends a troubling message to the Iranian government that Americans are expendable."
Meanwhile, Pastor Saeed's wife continues to campaign for her husband's release, and pray that God is bringing many people to Himself through the situation. From their home in the US, Naghmeh Abedini has lobbied politicians tirelessly, organised prayer vigils, and shared her personal journey via blogs and social media. While her heartbreak at the latest development is evident, Naghmeh remains unshaken in her belief:
"Obama makes deals with Iran with no mention of Saeed. Although I am extremely disappointed at this administration, my hope and trust is in Jesus. He is still in control." (Naghmeh Abedini, Facebook post)
- RBG News
Iranian leaders have received a heroic welcome on their return from Geneva where a deal has been sealed on the country's nuclear programme.
But while the agreement worked out between six world powers and Iran is being hailed on both sides as a break-through - a Middle East expert is comparing it to Chamberlain’s deal with Hitler in 1938.
Under the deal, Iran retains its right to enrich uranium - but at a level that ensures it cannot make nuclear bombs - in return for an easing of economic sanctions.
Iranians see an economic light at the end of their sanction-plagued tunnel, while the West hopes it has hit pause on Iran's nuclear programme.
Iranians believe they have got everything they demanded, but CNN's Reza Sayah says it is not that clear cut.
"Some of the biggest sanctions that remain are those that have to do with oil exports and banking restrictions - but even so, Iranian leaders are depicting this agreement as a win for themselves."
Sayah says what has been achieved is some degree of trust between the sides to build on over the next six months as a more permanent agreement is thrashed out.
Reuters correspondent, Fredrik Dahl, who covered the talks, says Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has changed the landscape in negotiations since his election in June, and this is a significant breakthrough.
"Both sides - the six world powers lead by the US, and Iran - have described this as a very important first step."
But Middle East Forum Director, Daniel Pipe, disagrees - describing the agreement as a foreign policy disaster.
Pipes' says Barack Obama has made many foreign policy errors in the past five years, but this ranks as one of his worst ever steps.
"The wretched deal offers one occasion when comparison with Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938 is valid. An overeager Western government, blind to the evil cunning of the regime it so much wants to work with, appeases it with concessions that will come back to haunt it. Geneva and Nov. 24 will be remembered along with Munich and Sep. 29.”
With the U.S. government forfeiting its leadership role, he says, the Israelis, Saudis, and perhaps others are left to cope with a bad situation made worse.
According to Israel National News, Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, reacted sharply to the deal in his weekly cabinet meeting.
"Implications of this agreement threaten many countries - including, of course, Israel."
Netanyahu says Israel is not bound by the agreement. "What we achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement; it is a historic mistake."
INN says earlier this month Israeli public opinion overwhelmingly supported an Iran strike.
Reporter, Tora Dvorin, said the Israeli government has consistently rejected the "bad" deal, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday had said "all options are on the table" when it comes to a possible response.
“War has now become a much more likely prospect,” says Pipes.
- RBG News/NewstalkZB
An Iranian Christian was flogged on Wednesday (Oct. 30), according to rights groups, after a court in Rasht, Iran sentenced him and three other Christians to 80 lashes for drinking wine as part of a Holy Communion service.
The family of an imprisoned American Iranian Pastor is pleading for immediate intervention.
The firm representing Naghmeh Abedini and her husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini - a U.S. citizen jailed in Iran because of his Christian faith - says his life is in grave danger. Pastor Saeed had been in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison for more than a year, and was recently transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj, which has been described as a place beyond the reach of human rights watchdogs where people are sent to disapear.
In a press release, ACLJ's Jordan Sekulow said Saeed Abedini's family became aware of the development on Monday when a relative arrived at Evin Prison for the regular weekly visit, and was told that Pastor Saeed had been moved to Rajai Shahr, about an hour-and-a-half's drive away. The family member travelled there only to be told that Pastor Saeed is not permitted visitors.
It's understood that Pastor Saeed is being held in a deadly cell block with violent prisoners, "who don't hesitate to attack their cell mates," according to Loes Bijnen, a Dutch Diplomat. Describing Rajai Shahr in 2005, Mr Bijnen said of the other non-political prisoners, "They have nothing to lose: many of them are condemned to death anyway. Murders or unexplained deaths are a regular occurrence."
The abrupt transfer of Pastor Saeed from Evin Prison's strict conditions to the harsher confines of Rajai Shahr appears to make little if any sense, considering the pardoning of 80 of Saeed Abedini's fellow political prisoners in September. That historic move was taken as a positive sign not just for Pastor Saeed, but for Iran's human rights progress and diplomatic relations with the West. However, this setback in the battle for Pastor Saeed's freedom comes as anti-American protestors marched against President Hassan Rouhani's outreach to the United States.
"Going to Karaj is a severe punishment. Once in there one stops to be a human being." (Loes Bijnen, 2005)
Understanding it as a direct threat to Pastor Saeed's life, his wife and ACLJ are urging US President Barack Obama to renew the push for his release. A Facebook campaign has been helping Naghmeh Abedini to raise support, and an online petition has garnered just over 32,000 signatures at this stage.
- RBG News
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is ready to act "alone" to stop Iran making a nuclear bomb.
According to Voice of America, Prime Minister Netanyahu told a UN General Assembly meeting, held at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday (US Time), that Israel won't allow Iran to get nuclear weapons.
Mr Netanyahu doesn't believe that Iran intends to change, saying that new President Hassan Rouhani serves the Islamic hardline regime, as was the former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Netanyahu challenged Hassan Rouhani about seeking nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only, alluding to the uncovering of a secret centrifuge facility in 2002, and an enrichment facility in 2009. He says those buildings exist, so Iran can develop nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu links Iran's President Hassan Rouhani to past militant attacks.
- RBG NEWS/Newstalk ZB
Davina William has a round-up of today's news, including President Bashar al-Assad's assurance he will comply with a UN resolution on Syria's chemical weapons; a worsening outlook for asylum seekers missing-presumed-drowned near West Java; and the return home of Team New Zealand.
Shine TV bulletins are broadcast hourly every weeknight between 6:30pm and 9:30pm, on Sky 201, Freeview 25, or www.shinetv.co.nz
Iran and major powers have agreed to reach an agreement on the disputed nuclear program within a year.
Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, says the talks, which included a landmark encounter with US Secretary of State, John Kerry, were very good and substantive.
Mr Zarif says Mr Kerry was very positive and very committed to leading the process himself on the American side.
Voice of America reporter, Margaret Besheer, says although positive Secretary Kerry was also cautious:
“…we hope very, very much, all of us, that we can get concrete results that will answer the outstanding questions regarding the (nuclear) program,” said Kerry.
Besheer says Minister Zarif stated that as the process moves forward, sanctions imposed against his country for its nuclear program must be lifted.
Mr Kerry said if Iran takes rapid measures to cooperate with international monitoring of its nuclear program, Washington could begin lifting sanctions within months.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, says the next meeting is scheduled for October 15th and 16th in Geneva “to hopefully move this process forward.”
However, Joel Rosenberg, NY Times best-selling author of "Epicenter" and "Inside The Revolution", believes Iran’s new President - although working hard to convince the world his government only desires peace and security and in the Middle East – is also working hard to make Israel look and feel more isolated than ever before.
Rosenberg says calling for a lightning round of nuclear negotiation is a strategic move by Hassan Rouhani to beguile the world and buy enough time to build Iran’s nuclear weapons arsenal.
According to the Jerusalem Post, in his first extensive speech on nuclear arms since assuming office, Rouhani called for a ‘nuclear-free zone’ in the Middle East, targeting Israel as the only country in the region that had not yet signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, requesting that it do so ‘without delay’” - even though Israel has never threatened to wipe Iran “off the map.”
Rosenberg says Rouhani is striving to make himself and his regime sound friendly, moderate, reasonable and rational - and so far his strategy "is working like a charm."
- RBG News/NewstalkZB