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Secret Talks
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Those in the know knew, but they were quiet about it for these past two years. And those who did not know were no less wise without the knowledge.

I am referring to secret talks between Israel and her Arab neighbors. The talks have focused on how the region can confront Iran and save the Middle East from falling into crisis.

And then, on Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman gave an interview during which he outlined the pros and cons of the talks and explained why Arab countries are engaged in these unofficial dialogues with Israel.

Liberman said: "For the first time there is an understanding there that the real threat is not Israel, the Jews or Zionism. It is Iran, global jihad, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda."

He continued: "There are contacts, there are talks, but we are very close to the stage in which within a year or 18 months it will no longer be secret, it will be conducted openly."

"I have spent more than a few years of meetings and talks with them. As far as they are concerned, there is only one red rag and that is Iran," he said.

"You have to understand that if in Bahrain outlaws Hamas or Hezbollah, it's not because of Israel. When the presidential candidate in Egypt, General al-Sisi, outlaws the Muslim Brotherhood, it's not because of Zionism. They understand that we are on the same side of the divide."

"I think that they too are stewing in their own juice and reaching an awareness that there will be no choice but to move from the secret stage of the dialogue between us to the open stage of the talks."

The winds of the Middle East might be changing.


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Elections in Egypt May 26-27
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 15, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

On May 26th and 27th Egypt is scheduled to have democratic elections.

Last July Egypt ousted their democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood party. Since then an interim government has been in place. That temporary government was supported by the military. And it was the military, together with public outrage at the Muslim Brotherhood, which ousted Morsi.

Now the former leader of that military, Abdel-Fatteh al-Sissi, has collected the 25,000 signatures necessary to run for president in the May elections.

We have always assumed that al-Sissi will run and that he would be a shoe in. But nothing is certain until it happens - and in the Middle East nothing is certain until the dust settles which can take a good few weeks.

Elections in Egypt are five weeks away and campaigning has yet to really begin.

We hope for a fair election and that whoever the winner is will propel Egypt towards a future that is more stable and free.

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Iran Drills on Iraqi Border
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian media has been reporting on two very interesting pieces of information.

The first is that Iran has called off the move to position part of their naval fleet in the Atlantic. The decision was made because, at this point, they need to keep their ships closer to home.

The second is that the Iranian border patrol has embarked on a four day exercise involving drones, balloons, armored vehicles and 4,000 border guards. The drill will take place along the Iraqi border, covering five Iranian provinces.

Aside from the obvious need for preparedness, this drill is sending a direct message to Iraqi militia groups and smugglers warning them not to cross into Iran.

Iran is warning Iraqi leadership to make certain that their side of the border is secure. Or else!

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Al Qaeda Threatens Entire Middle East
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

I was pleased to see that Egypt arrested Wael Ahmed Abdel Fattah on terror charges and charges of being affiliated with a terror organization.

Abdel Fattah, who worked for an oil company, went to Syria and fought alongside the al Qaeda affiliated group al Nusra in their battle to oust Syrian President Assad. Al Nusra is also locked in a bitter struggle against other rebel groups in Syria.

The natural outgrowth of an al Qaeda fighting force in Syria is to pop up, to sprout, to infiltrate surrounding countries. And now these al Qaeda groups have new, well trained fighters with battle experience.

Another outgrowth of al Qaeda groups fighting in Syria is the realization that even those leaders who supported ousting Assad - like the Egyptians, have now been turned into the targets of the rebels groups they were supporting in Syria.

The complexity and multi-layered underpinnings of the war in Syria are only now beginning to be understood by the world. The repercussions will be felt for a long time.

The Middle East is an extremely complicated region. And yet, for decades, world leaders chose to describe it in the most simple of terms. Now they must face the truth - the Middle East no longer fits the simple narrative they imposed upon it.

Al Qaeda is setting their sights on every single country in the Middle East. And after that, they intend to conquer the West.

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Syrian Update
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 12, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Syria has been on the back burner for most media outlets these past few weeks. Yet, there are still important developments that warrant our attention.

The process of the disposal of non-conventional weapons by Syria had come to a halt, but is now back on track.

And Assad has continued to solidify control over more and more of Syria.

Most importantly, rebel forces continue to fight one another more than they are fighting Assad. Over the past 36 hours 68 rebels have been killed by other rebels. The fighting is taking place in the area around Bukamal which is situated in Eastern Syria, near to the border with Iraq. Bukamal just happens to be the site of Syria's rich oil reserves.

The conflicts are between an al Qaeda breakaway called the Islamic State of Iraq and between the Levant and an al Qaeda affiliate called Al Nusra. There were times when the forces worked together, but for the past 18 months they have been viscously battling each of over.

They are battling over the question of who has the greater faith.

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If Deal Goes Thru Bibi Might Fall
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 11, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Rumors abound about a deal that will put the Israeli /Palestinian peace talks back on track. But not all concerned parties are in favor.

The deal, according to Al Arabiya, a usually reliable media source, goes like this: Israel agrees to free more prisoners and temporarily freeze construction; Palestinians extend the April 29th talk deadline and stop all UN advances for membership; the United States frees Jonathan Pollard.

All is fine - except. Except that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition might just fall apart.

Coalition member Naftali Bennett of Bayit Yehudi (The Jewish Home Party) said in response to the deal: "If any proposal freeing Israeli murderers is put before the government, the Bayit Yehudi will object, and if it will pass - the Bayit Yehudi will leave the government which frees murderers with Israeli citizenship. Enough is enough."

Bennett continued: "I hope to see Pollard freed from prison soon, but not through immoral deals like the one currently being proposed."

Bennett has 12 of the 68 seats in the Netanyahu coalition. A coalition requires 60 seats out of 120 members of Knesset. If Bennett and his party pull out, the government falls. When the government fails, Bibi Netanyahu is out.

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Israel Launches Satellite
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 10, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday, Israel launched another advanced satellite into space.
This Israeli satellite is named OFEK 10.

The new satellite joins OFEK 9, which is already in orbit.

Each OFEK satellite takes 90 minutes to circle the globe. The satellites are evenly spaced and now, every 45 minutes, Israel has real time pictures of what is happening.

This addition to Israel's satellite system brings with it significant improvement to Israel's security. Now Israel can better monitor what is happening in places of concern. They can, for example, watch and see in real time if Iran is moving missiles and if so, where.

Israel was the seventh country in the world to launch satellites.
Today that club is still very small. Only twelve countries possess the satellite technology. They are: United States, Russia, China, France, Italy, Britain, India, South Korea, Japan, Ukraine, and Iran and Israel.

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Peres Visits China
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 9, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli President Shimon Peres is on an official three day offical visit to China. Peres is the first Israeli Presidential visit to China in ten years.

Yesterday Peres met with Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday. Their meeting lasted two hours.

There is no doubt that the two presidents spoke about Iran's nuclear technology and the threat it poses to Israel, the region and the world. They also spoke about Palestinian / Israeli negotiation and probably about Syria.

It appears that Peres was moderately successful in convincing his Chinese counterpart of the dangers Iran poses. But never the less, Xi Jinping stressed that China is in favor of talks and negotiations with Iran.

With that, Peres tried to make sure that China will help make certain that, in the course of negotiations, Iran does not quietly slip into a position in which they actually do have nuclear weapons.

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Palestinians Say They Have Given Too Much
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 8, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

As talks between Israelis and Palestinians wane and as US Secretary of State John Kerry and his associates scamper around trying to inject some sense of life into the negotiations, the Palestinians have called a meeting of the Arab League.

The Palestinian Authority will ask the Arab League for political and financial support. They will, of course, get the necessary votes for the money - but that does not mean that they will actually get the money. Promises made by the Arab League are notorious for being fulfilled in small, slow notoriously trickles and they almost never pay in full.

Palestinian pundits and talking heads are busy explaining away their current strategy and the decision to run and join UN agencies and sign on to international treaties.

One standard argument is that Palestinians cannot be expected to give up any more. They have already given up 82% of historic Palestine and their new state will only be on 12% of the land.

Here is where they are so wrong: Historic Palestine is way more than the land Israel is situated on. The Palestinians are referring to Israel as if to say that all of Israel was once theirs and they are giving all that up and accepting only a measly 12%. In reality, historic Palestine was Trans-Jordan which is far larger than the State of Israel as it exists today.

While I do not believe that the Palestinians should go to Jordan, I do think that it is essential to realize that their dream is not historical. History and all pretense of history aside, the fact is that the Palestinians want the land on which Israel, the Jewish State, is situated.

History mitigates the Palestinian rather than strengthening the claim.

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