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Obama vs Bibi
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 3, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

President Obama has responded to Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to AIPAC in anticipation of his speech to Congress.
Obama described the difference between the two sides.

Obama is telling us that Bibi is exaggerating, that he is painting an unrealistic portrait of the situation. Obama said that sanctions have not worked.

His new plan is, in Obama's eyes, the only hope for stopping Iran.
He also says that the entire episode, the brouhaha over Netanyahu's coming to address Congress, is simply a distraction and not permanently destructive.

Obama says: "why not wait if there is a going to be a deal" and see whether or not Iran will actually accept a deal. "Why will we not take a deal?" "There is no good reason not to let the negotiations play themselves out."

The space that separates the Prime Minister and the President is enormous.

The difference comes down to this: do we trust the Iranians or do we not trust the Iranians.

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Sisi Visits Saudi Arabia
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 2, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

With all eyes on Bibi Netanyahu and his trip to Washington DC, other important stories from the Middle East are going almost unnoticed.

Yesterday President al Sisi of Egypt visited Salman, the new king of Saudi Arabia. This visit follows only days after the King of Jordan made the same trip to Saudi Arabia.

The Egyptian / Saudi conversation was very straight forward. These two heads of state see things eye to eye. Egypt wanted to make certain that the new king continues to support him politically and monetarily. And both countries needed to make certain that they share info and intel on terror and Islamic extremists.

I think that they probably decided to create a joint force between their two countries to confront the new challenge from ISIS in Iraq Syria and to control the new tensions emerging from Libya and Yemen.

Salman and al SIsi need to work well together. What they do and say will have tremendous impact on the rest of the Arab world. They can convey a sense of stability - or not.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the two most powerful of all Arab countries. Saudi Arabia is the richest, Egypt is the most populous. They have clout.

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White House Will Exact Revenge on Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 1, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The White House can be very vindictive. They do not take kindly to being publicly humiliated or chastised.

The Administration responds according to its own timetable and in their own way.

So YES, expect that Israel will have an expensive price to pay because Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will be speaking before a joint session of Congress.

There are several tools the White House has immediately at their fingertips.

They can simply drag their feet on requests from Israel - requests for aid, for intel for experts or advice.

They can cut the requests out and trim aid packages.

They can close doors that had been open and not provide info and intelligence about terror threats and movements as well as about Iran.

They can give a cold shoulder to Israeli politicians and diplomats who need to confer with their US counterparts.

When the White House wants to teach Israel a lesson, there are many ways to do it. And right now, the White House wants Israel to know that antics like this one cannot go on without a serious response.

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Iran Hacks Casinos
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 28, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

On Thursday James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Clapper confirmed that Iran hacked Sheldon Adelson's computer system at the Sands Casino Corporation.

Casino computers were non-functioning for several hours.
Adelson is a huge republican supporter and a very big donor to Israel. Actually, he is one of the largest contributors to Israel in the world.

A cyber attack against his hotel, the Sands Casino, is a major attack against a US company. Put this attack together with the North Korean attack on Sony and we see that nations are searching out and striking at US commercial interests - not just at military or governmental interests.

Iran is has become a real powerhouse in cyber hacking. They are certainly in the top ten and maybe even in the top 5 in the world of hacking. The United States, Russia, China, Israel, are the other nations in that league.

When it comes to cyber warfare, I ran is a force to be reckoned with. Beware of more Iranian hacks.

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New ISIS Video
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 27, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The newest ISIS video is five minutes long and it shows members destroying ancient archeological treasures. The video was shot in the Mosul museum. Bearded men with drills and sledge hammers are seen destroying priceless antiquities.

In five minutes we learn exactly what ISIS thinks of ancient history and of other cultures. This is their portrayal of themselves - not someone else with their own biases, analysis or interpretation. ISIS wants everyone to understand that they reject history and culture.

An essential and fascinating side bar to this is that a significant percentage of the ISIS annual budget comes from the sale of antiquities. It is unclear exactly the sum that ISIS earns. But it is certainly in the 10's of millions. Collectors have commissioned their intermediaries to negotiate with ISIS on archeological relics.

It is ironic that, on the one hand, ISIS hates these pagan symbols and destroys them. And on the other hand, they are unearthing new finds and raiding museums and sites to capitalize on the monetary benefit of the pieces.

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Kings Meet
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 26, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday The King of Jordan travelled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to meet their new king, King Salman.

This is an extremely important meeting. Both Jordan and Saudi Arabia are part of the coalition against ISIS. Both have strong relations with the United States.

More than anything else, both monarchies are in the cross hairs of
ISIS. Both know that ISIS wants to take over their kingdoms. And both kings know that there are already individual people and organized groups inside each of their countries who are affiliated with ISIS and with al Qaeda.

I would bet that these two kings agreed to increase their cooperation against ISIS even outside the coalition and to step up and strike ISIS and al Qaeda and to support one another and share information.

Fighting ISIS is a battle of survival. Abdullah and Salman know that very well. In order for their reigns to survive they must defeat ISIS.

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Spain Breaks Up ISIS Recruitment Ring
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 25, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

As part of an ongoing attempt to crack down on ISIS recruitment at its roots, Spain arrested a recruitment ring on Tuesday.
The ring was dedicated to recruiting young women into ISIS. Four
recruiters were arrested and all of them were women.

This is a huge success - but it is still only the tip of the iceberg.
Europe needs to find these recruiters and the websites they use as recruitment tools. The stakes here are very high.

It is not simply that recruits go off and fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It is that they return home with training and the motivation to strike targets in Europe - and there is almost no defense against them.

In the long run, the best way to protect the homeland is to make certain recruits never get recruited. This is not about economic and social issues - an improvement in those areas will not change the minds of highly motivated would-be recruits.

The only way to prevent local Europeans, or Americans or Asians for that matter, from running into the arms of ISIS is to arrest them.
And then shut down the systems of broadcast that they found so enticing

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