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US Sanctions Iran For using Child Soldiers
By Micah Halpern

Thursesday October 18, 2018

I've Been Thinking:
Iran trains 12 year old soldiers to go to fight in Syria.

The US Treasury Department is now imposing sanctions on the network that sponsors this activity.

The Bonyad Taavon Basij network is the organization that supports the Basij Resistance Force, a paramilitary force that works for Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Treasury said in a statement.


This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij's efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC's direction," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

A Treasury Department statement said: "Normal governments don't have revolutionary arms that support revolution and wreak havoc with their neighbors. They don't recruit indoctrinate and use child soldiers."

This is a significant step. It is trying to protect children and at the same time stating the importance of human life.

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Selling His Olympic Gold
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 17, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Gal Fridman is Israel's only Olympic gold medalist.

Israel's gold medalist is having a difficult time making ends meet, so he is selling his medal.

Fridman won the gold in 2004 in windsurfing. In 1966 he won a bronze medal in the Olympics in Atlanta. Today, he coaches windsurfers and world competitors. He makes a living as a wedding and bar/bat mitzvah photographer.

In an ironic twist, the home of Fridman's parents was robbed in 2005. Their safe was cracked and, among other items, their son's two Olympic medals were taken. The medals were later found, discarded, on the Tel Aviv beach.

After they were found, Gal Fridman said: "no amount of money could replace this medal."

Times change and situations change. Now Fridman needs to sell his prized possessions.

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Teachers Strike in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 16, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Teachers are striking in Iran.

That is a very bad sign.

Teachers are striking in over 12 cities - especially Iran's largest cities. They are striking because, they say, their pay is too low. Iranian teachers make 4million rials per month. That large number converts to only $100 on the black market exchange rate. It is the black market rate that represents the real value of the dollar, not the official rate which is artificially determined.

Teachers in Iran, like everywhere, dedicate themselves to creating an exciting future for their students. Across the world they are abysmally underpaid … in Iran even more so.

The Coordinated Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran asked teachers not to strike. Instead, they said, come to your schools and simply do not teach. The teachers chose to ignore that option.

Iran has underestimated the importance of their own teachers and, in so doing, is putting their future at risk.

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US: No To Syrian Help If Iran is Still There
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 15, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced yesterday that if any scintilla of an Iranian presence remains in Syria, the United States will not pay one single dollar toward reconstructing the country.

Pompeo made his point very clearly while delivering an address to members of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).

He said: "The onus for expelling Iran from the country falls on the Syrian government, which bears responsibility for its presence there."

And then Pompeo continued: "If Syria doesn't ensure the total withdrawal of Iranian-backed troops, it will not receive one single dollar from the United States for reconstruction."

This is a sine qua non for US involvement. That means Syria has to make a decision. Iran does not have the money to rebuild Syria and the Iranians have aggressive intentions there.

This move by the United States may successfully oust Iran from Syria.

If so - Kudos to Pompeo and to Trump!!

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Druze Show Support for Assad
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 12, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

A small group of Druze living in the Israeli Golan Heights went to the border with Syria. Once at the border the used their megaphones to call to their relatives on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

The Druze contingent brought pictures of Syrian President Assad and posters showing their support for the Assad regime.

This village the Druze chose for their demonstration is named Majd Al Shams. It is the shouting mountain on the border, the place where Druze come and speak to relatives on the other side of the border.

Druze, by religious doctrine, are loyal to their local state. It is very unusual to have a Druze community in Israel showing support for a leader from another country.


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Israel & UAE Amb Sit Together
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 11, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

According to the Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz a remarkable event happened recently in Washington DC.

At a dinner for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs the Israeli and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ambassadors were seated together. Also there was the Egyptian ambassador.

Yousef al Otaiba of the UAE and Ron Dermer of Israel spoke to each other at the event.

It should be clear that the thaw between Israel and some Arab countries is real. A year ago this meeting would have happened - but it would have happened behind closed doors. Now it is done in public.

This is a major step forward.
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