Steps to Freedom, Iran Prisoners Released

VIENNA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The first glimpse of a secretly negotiated U.S.-Iran prisoner exchange came on Saturday in a flurry of early morning electronic filings in federal courts from New York to California as prosecutors dropped sanctions violations cases against more than half a dozen Iranians.

The legal steps were soon followed by Iran’s announcement via state media that it was freeing four Iranian-Americans, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine.

The prisoner swap was choreographed to coincide with a high-level diplomatic gathering in Vienna to seal the lifting of international sanctions on Iran in return for meeting its commitment to curb its nuclear program.

The deal, a major step toward overcoming acrimony standing in the way of any further rapprochement between longtime foes Washington and Tehran, was the culmination of months of diplomatic contacts, secret talks and legal maneuvering.

And, according to an account pieced together by Reuters on previously unreported Obama administration deliberations, the prisoner exchange came close to falling apart because of a threat by Washington in December to impose fresh sanctions on Iran for recent ballistic missile tests.

The nuclear deal signed on July 14 between Iran and world powers was trumpeted by the White House as a signature foreign policy achievement by President Barack Obama. But he also faced criticism for refusing to make the accord contingent on Iran’s release of Americans known to be held by Iran.

In public comments, Obama had insisted as recently as mid-December that linking the Americans’ fate directly to the nuclear negotiations would have encouraged the Iranians to seek additional concessions.

U.S. officials who recounted the complex process that led to the prisoner deal stuck to that assertion but acknowledged that the nuclear deal had opened up a channel of communication about the American detainees that they were eager to use.


Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who developed a close rapport during months of unprecedented talks hammering out last year’s deal, played crucial roles in moving forward on the prisoner issue.

In particular, a conversation with Zarif and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s brother in Vienna once the nuclear deal was clinched last year helped spur efforts toward a prisoner deal, U.S. officials said.

But much of the diplomatic heavy lifting was handled by Brett McGurk, a State Department envoy with strong Middle Eastern experience, who conducted months of secret negotiations with an unnamed Iranian representative, a U.S. official said.

“We have been raising these American prisoners for some time and the nuclear talks gave us the opportunity to raise it face to face,” a senior U.S. official said, adding that the U.S. side would always carve out time to discuss the prisoners on the margins of the nuclear talks.

“The Iranians said they wanted a goodwill gesture on our part as a reciprocal measure. They gave us over time a list of Iranians, mostly dual nationals, that were either imprisoned or convicted or charged in our courts,” the official said. “We whittled down the list to exclude anyone that was charged with crime related to violence, with terrorism.”

But there were some bumps and missteps along the road to Saturday’s prisoner announcement.

The day before the Obama administration was due to slap new sanctions on Iran late last month over the ballistic missile tests, Zarif warned Kerry the move could derail the prisoner deal, U.S. officials told Reuters.

Kerry and other top aides to Obama, who was vacationing in Hawaii, convened a series of conference calls and concluded they could not risk losing the chance to free Americans held by Tehran.

At the last minute, the administration officials decided to delay a package of limited and targeted sanctions, the officials said.

Asked whether Obama was involved in the decision to delay the sanctions, a senior U.S. administration official said: “This absolutely requires the president’s approval and this is something he was briefed on regularly over many months.”


While discussions about the prisoners was occurring, another dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, was detained by the Iranians. “We insisted that he be in the mix as well,” a U.S. official said.

In the end, Iran agreed to release Rezaian, the Post’s Tehran bureau chief held in an Iranian prison for about 18 months;  Abedini, 35, an Iranian-American pastor from Idaho; the former Marine Hekmati; and Khosravi-Roodsari, about whom little is known. A fifth prisoner, American student Matthew Trevithick, was released separately from the other four, a U.S. official said.

“It is confirmed: Saeed is released from Iranian prison,” Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh Abedini, wrote on Twitter even before official U.S. confirmation. The couple had regularly traveled to Iran on Christian mission work until 2009. He was setting up an orphanage in the country in 2012 when Iranian authorities detained him.

Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent and DEA agent, who disappeared in Iran since 2007, was not on the list.  U.S. officials have believed for several years that Levinson died in captivity. Iranian officials had repeatedly denied any knowledge of his disappearance or whereabouts.

“Iran has also committed to continue cooperating with the United States to determine the whereabouts of Robert Levinson,” a U.S official said.

Obama granted clemency to three Iranians charged with sanctions violations as U.S. authorities moved to drop charges or commute prison sentences for five other men, according to court records and people familiar with the matter.

Iranian officials have met recently with some of the prisoners held in the United States to see if they would be willing to return to Iran if a swap was agreed, said a person familiar with the cases who asked not to be identified. It was not known how many of them if any would go back.

The men pardoned were Bahram Mechanic, Tooraj Faridi, and Khosrow Afghahi, according to Mechanic’s lawyer, Joel Androphy. They were accused in 2015 of shipping electronics to Iran. Mechanic and Afghahi were being held without bail in Houston, while Faridi was out on bail. All three are Iranian-American dual citizens and had pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors filed legal motions to abandon other sanctions-related cases in courts in New York, Houston, Los Angeles and Boston.

(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan, Joel Schectman in Washington, Editing by Stuart Grudgings and Ross Colvin)

Security & Economy, Greatest Threats to Americans ~ Rick Joyner


Rick Joyner is a true Christian leader for today.  Founder and Executive Director of MorningStar Ministries and Heritage International Ministries, he has authored more than forty books.  His opinion is sought after by leaders all over the world for his no nonsense, biblical, and common sense approach.

Rick is a true friend to Morningside. We truly respect his prophetic take on U.S. and world events and we understand his prophetic relationship with God.

Here are two recent posts from Rick regarding our economy. .  Don’t forget that Rick Joyner will be here at Morningside, February 16th at 11:30am, for taping of the Jim Bakker Show!   

Rick Joyner 1-2-16 Facepost Post

The 2 biggest issues with the majority of Americans at this time are: #1 – Security, and #2 – the economy. It is likely that they will remain the top two until election, though they may occasionally change which one is on top. I think these are both the greatest threats to us at this time. I want to begin the year both illuminating the reasons for the crises we’re now facing, but also possible solutions, and will start with security because it does not matter how well you’re doing economically if you’re dead.

We will begin with the major sources of security threats:

1) Porous borders

2) Incompetent immigration procedures

3) Rogue nations with or attaining nuclear weapons and other WMD’s

4) Incompetent leaders and strategy at DHS

5) Weakening of U.S. military by cutbacks and the purging of competent leadership

6) Weakening of FBI and Intelligence Agencies

7) Cyber Security

8) Recent systematic attacks on law enforcement

9) Economic attacks intended to weaken the nation

10) Gov. policies weakening the economy and thereby weakening our ability to address the above

Any one of these areas could be the open door through which we suffer a crippling attack. If we are to be secure each of these must be addressed. Please share your ideas.

1/4/16 Rick Joyner Facebook Post

The Dow is off more than 400 points as I write, mostly on the bad news out of China. I warned about this news in my first post of the NY on Jan.2, and how this news of the Chinese slowdown would impact the whole world. The world economy is in a very dangerous place, and our world leaders are mostly politicians, not economists, and don’t understand world economics enough to lead us through what is coming. We are entering into very treacherous waters in many areas now, but I expect the economy to eclipse just about every other crisis as the #1 issue on the minds of people in the not too distant future. We need to not only pray for our leaders, but pray for leaders that can navigate through the times we’re entering.


County employee Named Suspect in San Bernardino Killings

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguen held a press conference late Wednesday night to identify the suspects in the shooting earlier today at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, CA which caused the deaths of 14 people; 17 were injured.  The suspects killed in a shootout with police were identified as Syed Rizwan Farook (28) and Tashfeen Malik (27) .  According to a report by CBSN, the two had been married for two years and have a 6 month old daughter.  

The U.S. born Syed Rizwan was employed with San Bernardino County as an environmental specialist for the last five years.  He had attended a meeting/ party that has been an annual event for the county and reports were that he left angry.  It is still unclear what the disagreement was about or with whom.   

Chief Burguen says both law enforcement and the FBI feel that although first reports were that there were three suspects, they believe the two that went into the building were the same that were killed in the suspects car and the only shooters.

In an interview with his brother-in-law, CBSN reports that Sayed Riswan and Tashfeen  lived in the house in Redlands, CA that is now being investigated and belongs to his mother.  Syed is the name he went by for work and in public but the family called him Riswan.

Speaking on a motive for the case Police Chief Burgeun stated.

“We do not have a motive at this time.  We understand that when these kinds of things happen, information changes frequently at the beginning of the investigation.  We have not ruled out terrorism at this time.  But we do not yet know a motive.”   

In regards to the crime scenes, Chief Burgeun said that for the last couple of hours they have been working on the explosive devices that have been found.

“We feel that all explosives have been found and disposed of and are just now being able to get in there and process the evidence. Some degree of planning went into this attack.”

Both of the suspects had 223 assault rifles and semi automatic handguns in their possession when the gun battle with police took place.

Chief Burgeun concluded the press conference with a message for his community.  

“ We understand that you are scared and concerned but please understand that we are doing everything we can to keep people safe here. If we see a threat  we will be sure to communicate that to the community to protect you and your families.”


2015 Word from the Lord (Pt. 2)

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series 2015 Word of the Lord

Boots on the Ground

This New Year is the time to dress up in righteousness, put your “glad rags” on and be prepared to preach and minister the word of the Lord. It’s also time to put some “boots on the ground,” dig ditches and help build what God wants to build for the days ahead. Morningside is a place of safety and a refuge for the last days. We need to be ready.

A recent guest on our program said, “Everything could change in a day. A Mega-quake may actually be the first domino that will push us into the tribulation period.”

Spiritual warfare is at the door. The church has got to have their boots on – we have to be ready to do some work! Christian soldiers need to have “boots on the ground.” Continue reading

Obedience is Better than Sacrifice

We have been talking a lot on the show about the prophecies of David Wilkerson, some written over 30 years ago.  We now know they’re for today because we can see them coming to pass before our very eyes.  We believe that these prophecies have been illuminated for this time in our prophetic juncture so that God could remind His people of His faithfulness.

The referrals we are making to David’s books and prophecies are not to lift him up, because even he would resist that!  No, we are not flattering anybody – we are simply declaring the word that he prophesied because it rings true with the Bible and with everything going on in our world.

Our use of David Wilkerson’s books and prophecies have caused quite a stir, even a phenomenon on line – the value of anything he has written has skyrocketed to ridiculous numbers!  I wish David were still here to see this happening, but I know he is finally smiling from heaven. Continue reading

The Imminent Judgment of God (Pt. 6)

When I was in prison, I searched every scripture for a pre-tribulation rapture.  I searched and searched.  I read everybody’s book, all the prophetic teachers’ books, and not one of them gave scripture for a pre-tribulation Rapture.  Scofield’s notes were as close as they could get to proving a pre-tribulation Rapture in the Bible and the Scofield notes are not the written Word of God; they’re notes!

Yet, here you have it in plain speak, in Matthew 24. It doesn’t get any clearer than this:

“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.” Continue reading

The Imminent Judgment of God (Pt. 5)

John then told me about a pastor that contacted him and ordered 150 of his books for his church.  This pastor had a Dr. of Theology degree, very strong in the Word, and has pastored for over 40 years in a well-known and well-respected denomination that has preached a pre-trib rapture forever!   John read from his letter:

“Dear John,

I pastor a large Baptist church in North Carolina, and as such I have been taught and have taught for many years that there would be a pre-tribulation rapture. Several weeks ago, a member of my previous congregation called and told me that I just had to read your book. As I told you on the phone, I probably would not have purchased this book at first glance at a book store. But at my friend’s insistence, I ordered it. I did my first reading per the advice of a former college professor who told us to read books like we eat fish, ‘eat the meat and spit out the bones.’ In other words, if you stop reading a book at the first place where you disagree with the author, you will probably never finish, or you will finish very few books. Continue reading

The Imminent Judgment of God (Pt. 4)

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series The Imminent Judgment of God

John went on to talk about how we will know when the Lord is coming again:  “I want to share the revelation that God gave me. And that revelation is in Matthew 24 verse 3. Jesus’ disciples, they wanted to know, ‘When are you coming?’ They corner him on the Mount of Olives. I can just see him. It’s like Jesus is getting ready to go and they know he’s not going to be around much longer. ‘And before you leave, Lord, you’ve got to tell us; what are we supposed to be looking for? What are we going to have to go through?’”

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming in the end of the age?’ When Jesus’ disciples ask this question, ‘What will be the sign of your coming?’ Do you know what they were really asking? ‘Lord, what are we going to see leading up to your coming? What are we going to have to go through leading up to your coming?’” Continue reading

The Imminent Judgment of God (Pt. 3)

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series The Imminent Judgment of God

So many are realizing that just maybe we’re going to go through some things before the rapture. That is an amazing change of heart and mind, especially for pastors. I recently heard from a pastor that changed his mind about the timing of the rapture after preaching a pre-tribulation rapture for 40 years! I know that had to be hard for him, because it was hard for me, too, when God changed my mind after I studied every word of the Bible while in prison. And they say you can’t be rehabilitated!

So now we’re going to talk about the six things that have to take place before the rapture. Jesus told us that He didn’t want us to be caught unaware, that we’re to watch for these signs, signs that are popping all over the place right now. What’s happening in Israel right now is one of the signs of the time. The signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, many are happening right now. The floods, the droughts, the economic woes; all of this stuff is happening now. So, if we were instructed to watch that we would not be caught unaware, then how can these signs not mean anything? Continue reading

The Imminent Judgment of God (Pt. 2)

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series The Imminent Judgment of God

John Shorey made the point that the middle class is disappearing in this country and we now have the very rich and those who are working two jobs at Walmart and McDonalds to make ends meet! John continued to read from Racing Towards Judgment, “God will judge this nation with economic disasters. Critical money problems will strike large and small cities alike.”

Then, David Wilkerson addresses the current issues of our day (in Racing Towards Judgment) that are in our news headlines with chilling accuracy; “There will be violence everywhere. Unheard of violence. Unbelievable violence. Unnecessary violence. Uncontrollable violence. The violence seething beneath the surface for years will explode.” They are saying today, this week, that crime is rising and even death. There is unrest in America, and when all this poverty hits and there is no food, it’s going to explode like crazy! If 50 million people suddenly did not receive their food stamp allocations, we will be seeing violence erupting in virtually every city in America. Continue reading