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Russia Sells Guns to Syria
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 1, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

You can usually tell the character of a nation by the people they sell weapons to.

Russian Chief of Staff General Yuri Baluyevsky just finished a trip to Syria. He met with Syrian Chief of Staff Ali Habib as well as numerous other military and political leaders.
Russia is selling weapons to Syria.

Last year the Russians sold Syria SA-18 missiles. The SA-18 is designed to be shoulder mounted and portable. But the ones that Russia sold have been tailored and altered for 4x4 truck mounts. We don't know exactly what else has been sold to Syria.

A Baluyevsky source said: "We regard this as a very important visit on the strategic level."

Russia is playing both sides of the fence. They want to calm tensions yet they provide weapons and resources to the most problematic countries in the world. That list includes Iran.

The bottom line is that Russia cannot be trusted because the only reliable export they have is weapons.
But there is a silver lining.
Like any other weapons dealer, the Russians can be bought.
So, let us buy them.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 31, 2006


Some people are calling it 20/20 hindsight. I am calling it 100 percent blindsight.

When the most powerful country in the world admits to having been way off base and taken completely by surprise by an event as significant and far reaching as the Palestinian election, some really hard questions must be asked. And perhaps, some really hard heads should begin to roll.

Condi Rice has admitted to having had a very false read on the pulse of the Palestinian people. The United States secretary of state has said that she was surprised, that no one she knew anticipated the election of Hamas.

Well, Condi, you should have been reading what I write.

I took a quick glance at the material I have analyzed, written about and published in the past year and discovered that I warned that if allowed to run Hamas might very probably win the Palestinian election over 40 times. Forty times, at least, I wrote of the dangers that would result if Hamas was permitted to enter the mainstream political fray without first being forced to disarm. I've written long pieces, short pieces, thought pieces and predictions.

Not to toot my own horn, but the writing was on the wall the entire time. All that was required was a lifting of blinders and an examination of the facts. What happened instead was that the United States so yearned for, so wanted a stable democracy for the Palestinian people that some of the brightest minds the democratic world has to offer convinced themselves that everything would turn out all right despite the obvious realities on the ground.

Over the past year I have noted a definite change in United States policy towards Hamas. When talk of Hamas running for political office first began circulating both the president and the secretary of state and their spokespeople expressed the conviction that Hamas must trade their weapons for a soap box, that the two cannot co-exist. US foreign policy stated clearly that politics and violence do not go hand in hand. Choose one or the other, they said to Hamas, you cannot have both. That was a year ago when the voices coming out of Washington, D.C. were responsible and mature.

But that changed. As Hamas became more solidly rooted in their decision to actively participate in the Palestinian election I heard a very different tone coming from the White House. I heard milder, more conciliatory policy emanating from D.C. New terms were used, new parameters were being set up. Everything was linked to "after the election." "After the election it will be calm" they said. "After the election Abbas will confront Hamas" they not only said but began to believe.

And then the United States of America, the republic for which we stand, withdrew all objection to Hamas running in the election. The Palestinians would say, in essence, "who are you to determine our democracy" and "butt out of our internal issues" and the United States complied.

The United States should have continued to insist that Hamas could not run unless it declared that it was no longer committed to violence. It owed at least that much to the world. The United States was a major sponsor of this election and should not have been so easily swayed by the foolish self righteousness of Palestinian leaders. The United States had committed not only to sponsoring the future of the Palestinian people but to building a nation for the Palestinian people. Palestinians, leaders and citizens alike, needed a course in Civics 101, not a polite nod in the direction of civil unrest and anarchy.

Democracy does not mean that everyone gets the right to run. But Hamas did run. And Hamas won. And now the Palestinian Authority will be witness to a struggle unlike any other in their troubled history. Hamas and Fatah will fight it out over four areas of control. Security forces. Money. Education. Communication resources.

Whoever controls these four areas will control not only the present but the future of the Palestinian Authority. Until now, Fatah was in control and they are not willing to cede anything, nothing at all. But Hamas thinks otherwise. The battles will be verbal as well as physical. The fighting will be fierce, fiercest of all for control of security forces. In the Palestinian Authority, arms talk. The security forces will be guns for hire, just as they have always been, the only difference will be the force they answer to.

There will be total anarchy and lawlessness. I should put that into perspective. There will be even less control and more lawlessness than there was before the election.

Condi, are you paying attention?

Israel Won't Pay Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 30, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Every month Israel turns over about $43.5 million to the Palestinian Authority.
The money is taxes and import fees that Israel has collected.

Now that Hamas is in control, Israel will not turn over the money.
Israel cannot sponsor the terrorists bent on their destruction.

But the money belongs to the Palestinian Authority.
So what should Israel do? My suggestion is that Israel open escrow accounts and deposit the monies there. When terrorists are no longer in charge of the PA, the tax money and import fees should be turned over and properly delivered.

Israel has the moral right to protect itself.
This is a perfect example of that right.

Clinton and Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 29, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Former president Bill Clinton is offering us a perfect example of the myopia and weakness that characterized United States foreign policy during his tenure and that continues to hamper US foreign policy even today.

Clinton offered his thoughts on the landslide victory of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislature election.
Commenting on Hamas' call for the destruction of Israel, Clinton said:
"I think there's a way to work through this, yes. I think there's a way to get them into that, I mean I hope there is."

The lessons of Arafat and his leadership seem wasted on Clinton.
Words are irrelevant, it is actions that count in the world occupied by Arafat and Hamas.
Arafat was the most visited head of state to the Clinton White House. Arafat told Clinton exactly what Clinton wanted to hear but proceeded to do whatever he, Arafat, wanted to do. Again. And again. And again.

Now Hamas has hired spin doctors to spin their image.
We must use our eyes, not our ears, to evaluate the true Hamas message

Palestinian Civil War
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 28, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Tensions will rise in the Palestinian Authority.
Tensions will rise to the point where a near civil war is a distinct possibility.

The tables will be turned.
Just as Hamas refused to disarm when Fatah ruled, the lawless, armed gangs of Fatah followers will refuse to disarm when Hamas rules.
First there will be skirmishes.
Next there will be firefight.
After that comes civil war.

Had Abbas disarmed Hamas they would never have won the elections. Hamas only had a few thousand men with arms in Gaza and just over a thousand in the West Bank.
Abbas could have done it easily, but he did not want violence and feared the prospect of civil war on his watch.
But it will happen anyway.
And Abbas will go down in history as the most irrelevant piece in the entire Palestinian puzzle.

Hamas: No Hope, No Future
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 27, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Hamas just trounced Fatah in the PA elections. No surprise.

Get ready for a new Palestinian Authority under Hamas.
There will be less corruption.
There will be more public services.
Women's right will be severely curtailed.
Life in the Palestinian Authority will mimic life in Iran.

There is no going back.
This was the first Palestinian election in ten years and there will not be another election unless there is a revolt.
And revolt, or civil war, is a likely scenario, indeed.
There will be a huge anti-Hamas backlash when policies are implemented and religious police begin surveillance.

For the West it is a huge step backward - there were high hopes for this election. For Israel there is a clear read on the desires and beliefs of their neighbors.
The only upside of this entire election for anyone other than Hamas is that Israel will be better able to defend Israelis. But at what cost to the world?!

Abbas Will Not Crack Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 26, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

It was supposed to be a magic day. It wasn't.
It was supposed to be the day Palestinian people said yes to democracy. They did not.
It was the day that the Palestinian people democratically elected Hamas to power.
It happened because the United States, the Europeans and even the Israelis let it happen.
Shame on them all.

There were high hopes for the Palestinian elections. Misplaced hopes. No matter how you count it, no matter the final numbers, the true winners are Hamas. This avowed terrorist organization is now a real player in Palestinian politics. And Hamas is still sworn to the destruction of Israel and the perpetration of terror.

The US, the Europeans, Israel were saying that after the elections Abbas will crack down on Hamas. It's just another fantasy. If Abbas did not crack down before the elections, what incentive, what power, what clout do they think he has to do it now - after the people have spoken, after Hamas had such remarkable success in the elections.

This entire scenario was mis-played by the US, Israel and the entire West.
The world will suffer the ramifications of the Palestinian election of 2006.

Hamas Should Not Be Running
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 25, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Today is the day for Palestinian elections.

And Condi Rice has just only just cautioned the Palestinian people to be aware when they go to the ballot box because "terrorism is not the pathway to peace."

Where has she been this entire time? Where has she been?

Why did the United States allow Hamas to join the ballot in the first place?

The Bush administration, it seems, has a very childish conception of democracy. Even in democracies there are exceptions, the President should know that.

The limits of democracy are set by the need to preserve the democratic spirit.

A democracy cannot and should not be voted out of existence even if the masses desire, through their election choice, to do so.

That was the lesson learned from Hitler's election and his rise to power.

Democracies must defend themselves from anti-democratic forces and tendencies. Racist parties, parties preaching violence and parties that promote the destruction of others (Israel) should be banned from democratic election.

Hamas should not be on the ballot today.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 24, 2006


The Double Standard Myth is circulating, once again, in the Middle East.

According to the Myth, Western countries show preferential treatment to Israel over Arab countries of the Middle East. According to the Myth, it is unfair for Western democracies to put pressure on Arab countries and not exert the same pressure on Israel. According to the current incarnation of the Double Standard Myth, Israel should be held to the same standard as Iran on the issue of nuclear capability.

There is a double standard, that is no myth. But it is simply a matter of geography. No comparisons would be made between Israel and the Arab countries of the Middle East except for the fact that Israel, to the chagrin of her neighbors, is located in the Middle East. Location, location, location, nothing more.

Vice President Cheney recently returned from a very successful trip to the Middle East. While there, he met with leaders of moderate Arab countries principally, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Topics for discussion between the vice president and the Arab leaders included the Iranian nuclear threat, the upcoming and imminent Palestinian and Israeli elections and finally, the general world wide terror threat.

In the course of the discussion the Egyptians could not help but agree that there would be serious problems with alarming repercussions if Iran came on line with nuclear power and armaments. And then they let loose with the Myth. Then they said, outright and to Cheney's face, that it was unfair to constantly harangue Iran when nothing is being said about Israeli nukes. Israel is a threat to region, they said. They said everyone knows that Israel has nuclear weapons.

And then the Egyptians let loose again two later days. This time they were speaking to German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeirer. Only the German foreign minister wasn't about to let the Egyptians set the agenda on the issue of nuclear capability. In his response to a press question about the Double Standard Steinmeirer said: "This excuse which you call 'double standard' does not justify allowing us to see a nuclear power which will worsen the situation." In other words, even if I accept the thesis, even if I buy into the myth ... Iran should still not have nuclear capabilities.

The Double Standard is a seriously problematic argument.

Not that Iran cares about world opinion, but she has used the argument as a way to rationalize her behavior. The Double Standard is also used with frequency throughout the entire Arab and Muslim world. The argument suggests that Iran, or any other country for that matter, requires nuclear weapons as protection from Israel because everyone knows that Israel has nuclear weapons and everyone knows that Israel wants to invade and destroy the Arabs and nuclear weapons is the way to achieve that goal. Everyone knows that, right?

So Iran needs nuclear weapons to use as a nuclear deterrent.

The problem with the entire discussion, with the whole equation, with the basic premise of the myth is that it requires a comparison between Israel and Iran. And there is no comparison between Israel and Iran. There is no parallel. There is no possible way to draw any conclusion from any comparison.

Israel has no territorial claims period, actually, Israel is ceding territory.

Iran is a dictatorship, controlled by a handful of religious fanatics who easily, quite eagerly, threaten the region.

Israel is a stable democracy run by an elected and responsible leadership accountable to the people. The government is answerable to its parliament and its supreme court and the people can and will oust a party that does not fulfill its obligations.

Iranian leadership is not accountable to anyone and is immune to international pressure and internal popular opinions. Their sole responsibility is self-perpetuation. They must stay in power or they, as leaders, cease to exist and once they are out of power the people will not follow. So they need to create threats where there are none, they need to stoke the flames and create situations so that they can be seen as the defenders of their nation.

The threat that Israel and the West present to the Arab and Muslim world is truly a minimal threat. And it is a very precise threat. Israel will strike Iran only if her very existence is at stake, not threatened, at stake. And it will be a surgical strike, a strike intended to have a colossal effect but to cause minimal damage. Those who believe that Iran needs nuclear weapons in order to challenge Israel do not understand the real value of arms. It is precisely because Iran has convinced herself, and others, that Israel is a threat that Iran cannot be allowed the opportunity to develop a nuclear arsenal.

Almost everyone - inside and outside the region with the exception of Syria - wants a regime change in Iran. And yet, no one is threatening the existence of Iran. No one. Talk about double standard.

Hamas Recognize Israel?
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 23, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Over the weekend the London Arabic paper al Shark al Awsat ran an interview with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Geit. The content shocked me.

The interview quotes Egypt's foreign minister as saying that after the Palestinian election this week Hamas will recognize Israel. He said this in light of the cease fire that has been in place over the past few months asking: "with whom was the agreement - a ghost."

I understand his point.
Hamas already had an agreement with Israel so it will be easy for them to normalize relations once they have power in the Palestinian government.
The problem is that Hamas has not even hinted at this.
Actually just the opposite, there have been consistent and constant messages from Hamas as to how they will cut off all relations with Israel.
There have even been Hamas religious leaders forbidding their worshippers from voting because the end result will be to force relations and compromise with Israel.

We'll see, it's only a matter of days.

Syria's Rants
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 22, 2006

I've Been thinking:

Bashar Assad, the president of Syria, has accused Israel of assassinating Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat in November 2004.
Assad made this claim while addressing a Syrian lawyer's convention.

Crazy? Well, that's open to debate.
But there definitely is a method to Assad's madness.
Assad wants to circle the wagons and deflect attention from himself within the Arab and Muslim world.
Pressure is being brought upon Assad to cooperate with the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri.
He is lambasting Israel in the hopes of gaining Muslim sympathy.

This accusation cannot and will not create a stir - not because the world is not amenable to anti-Israel conspiracy theories, because this source is not credible.
Those who already believe the theory will continue to believe it, but Assad will not convince a single additional person.

Israel's Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz put it bluntly. He said. "Assad is an ophthalmologist who cannot see."

China, Russia & Iran
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 21, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

As of now it appears highly doubtful that the United Nations Security Council will address the issue of Iran and nuclear capability.

The Iranians know that they are now safe from censure and pressure.
They are not afraid. Here's why:
* Simply enriching uranium for a reactor is not a violation of the nuclear proliferation treaties.

* Of the permanent members on the Security Council it is unlikely that China will vote to place sanctions on Iran, they run up a $70 billion a year oil bill with Iran.

* Russian is invested in Iran to the tune of 10's of billions of dollars. The new Iranian reactor is being helped along with $1 billion from Russia and they just sold $1 billion in missiles to Iran.

With the UN out of the picture, is there any way to get through to Iran?
There is. There is just one way.
Pressure must be brought on Iran from nations that do business with her.
The United States, and Great Britain, has no credibility in this matter.

Iranian President Visits Syria
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 20, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Guess who is visiting Syria on a 2-day business trip?
The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that's who.

Iran and Syria are strategizing and analyzing.
They are figuring out how to deal with the UN and with the Western pressure that is being brought upon them both.
They are determining who they can trust and who they should just ignore.
They are evaluating responses in anticipation of the scenarios that might arise.

Syria and Iran do not speak the same language. They have vastly different religious beliefs. They need translators. Actually, they have little in common.
They are united in their desire to eliminate Israel.
They are united in their support for the Palestinians.
They are united in their distain for the West especially the United States.
They are united because they are both in the crosshairs of the UN and the West and they are now going to be called to task for their unjust deeds.

This working meeting is about strategy and about creating a game plan to outsmart the West. They just might pull it off.

Good For Tibi
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 19. 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset, has responded to the assertion made by the President of Iran about the Holocaust.

Tibi said the idea that the Holocaust is a figment of Jewish imagination is "absurd, dangerous and morally problematic. Nazism was a crime against humanity ..."
This is the same Tibi who recently declared that Israel should not be a Jewish state, because it is offensive to the non-Jews who live there.

Iran is planning an international conference of Holocaust deniers. People from around the world who subscribe to this warped sense of reality will go to Teheran, pal around and share ideas.
Tibi thinks that the strong tendency towards Holocaust denial in Muslim culture is "absurd" because denying the Holocaust is blatantly false.
To deny an obvious historical fact is self-deceiving, even when it helps your political cause.

Ahmed Tibi is being intellectually honest.
That is worth mention.

More Reactors For Iran
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 18, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has just allocated $250 million for 2 new nuclear reactors.
For nuclear reactors, $250,000,000 is not nearly enough.

The cost of a new reactor is over $1 billion. That is the price the Russians put up to sponsor Iran's first nuclear reactor.

The new reactors are scheduled to be located in southern Iran in the provinces of Khuzestan and Bushehr.
All this is happening despite the fact that the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are getting closer to agreeing on the dangers Iran is presenting through her nuclear energy program.

Despite their enormous investment in Iran, even Russia is beginning to view Iran as a danger because the Iranians are non co-operative.
The lone holdout is China.
China is heavily dependent on Iranian oil.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 17, 2006


I am here to say, loud and clear, plain and simple, that no matter what happens on January 25th, Hamas has already won in the Palestinian election.

If Hamas wins the 30% of the Palestinian electorate that they are expected to win, a percentage that puts them in a close race with the governing Fatah, it will be a big win. If Hamas wins even more than 30% of the electorate, if they outstrip Fatah, it will be an even bigger win.

Whatever happens, just being on the ballot, is a win for Hamas. Becoming the plurality is one of their dreams come true. Their other dream, of course, will never come true. That dream is the elimination of Israel.

So what happens if/when Hamas actually wins in the Palestinian elections scheduled for January 25th? The Palestinian people, as we have come to know them, will disappear. Hamas will create a new Palestinian culture, a more religious, less economically developed culture, a safer place for Palestinians to live, a more dangerous spot on the world map.

It sounds ridiculous, even absurd, it seems counterintuitive, even beyond belief, but in certain ways, a victory for Hamas also benefits those Palestinians who are non-Hamas supporters. Why? Because a victory for Hamas is a victory of extremists over corruption.

The Palestinian Authority, since its inception, has been a hotbed of corruption, ineptitude and greed. It is a legacy handed down by founding father Yasser Arafat and embraced by his successor Mahmoud Abbas.

Simply put, casting a vote for Hamas is voting to oust corrupt Palestinian political leaders. For the Palestinian voter this election is not about Israel, it is not even about a Palestinian state. Only Westerners think otherwise. For Palestinians, January 25th is a day devoted to very personal and very local issues. It is a day to say "ENOUGH" to monies that were misappropriated, to billions of dollars in foreign aid that never trickled down to the people, to leaders who stole and pocketed gargantuan sums intended for the people. It is a day of empowerment.

A vote for Hamas on election day is a vote to end the true legacy of Yasser Arafat.

A vote for Hamas on election day is a vote to censure the United States, Europe and all Westerners involved in policy decisions that ignored the people of the Palestinian Authority and, instead, trusted in Palestinian leadership.

The United States and her allies are truly to blame for much of the economic plight of the Palestinian people. Where were the bean counters? Where was the demand for fiscal accountability? The EU and the US just threw money at an ephemeral entity called the Palestinian Authority and hoped that it would some how, some way find its way and do some good. Instead, it found its way under Fatah mattresses and into Fatah cookie jars.

Abbas has already said he will not run again. In truth, it does not matter one little bit what Abbas does. Abbas has been irrelevant from the beginning. Abbas has played little role in forging any change for the people he promised to protect.

A vote for Hamas on election day is a voting turning the Palestinian Authority into an entity akin to a Little Iran.

The biggest difference between true Iran and Little Iran is that Iran had educational, scientific and technological infrastructures in place before they had ruling religious leaders. The Mullahs did not rip that down that infrastructure and so a thriving economy continues. Palestinians have never reached that level of advancement.

So what will the Palestinian Authority look like after Hamas wins 30% or more of the Palestinian popular vote on January 25th? How will the Palestinian state be run?
* Educational institutions and curriculum will have no chance for reform, Israel will never be seen as a neighbor or written into texts
* Science and tech schools will be replaced with religious schools
* There will be no chance of economic growths and gains in the new generation.
* Attitudes toward the West will boomerang
* Religious police will be instituted and anyone who does not conform to fundamentalism will be punished publicly
* A female dress code will be instituted and enforced
* TV and radio will revert to Muslim-only programming
* Culture and tone will be exclusively Muslim
* There will be an exodus of wealthy, successful, future-oriented liberal Palestinians
* The situation will spiral down
* Palestinians will get more safety on the streets and less corruption. There will be no more kidnappings. Anyone who breaks the law will be publicly humiliated and even executed.

After the election there will be a proud public display of a change in policy and attitude toward Israel and the West.

And then there will be an inevitable attack. Israel will counter attack and search out leaders, even political leaders and cut off major sections of this new state. Israel will react in the way they know best, they will cut the Palestinians off and protect themselves.

For Israel, Palestinians under Hamas will be more dangerous in the short run, but much more manageable. It will be much clearer for Israel to understand the new state of Palestinians and Palestine and to create a strategic response to the new threat facing them. Actually, they have already worked out the scenarios. Israelis like security to be black and white and very clear cut. A Hamas led Palestine is the textbook example of a clear cut situation.

That is what will happen when/if Hamas wins the Palestinian election.
And the United States is to blame.

Cheney Visit to Mid East
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 16, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Vice President Cheney is on a trip to visit Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The United States is putting its own interests ahead of regional issues.
The vice president's trip is doomed to fail.

Here's why:
The United States wants-
Moderates to be elected in the upcoming Palestinian elections --- NO chance
More pressure on Syria to cooperate in the Harriri assassination ---NO chance
Lower cost oil and higher daily output from Saudi Arabia --- NO chance
More pressure on Iran in order to curtail nuclear development --- NO chance
Liberalizing regional governments and improving human rights --- NO chance

Egypt and Saudi Arabia have already been enormously cooperative on the issue of terror intelligence and information and they have already pressured Syria.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia will not stick their neck out on these other issues until they get more of what they want from the United States.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia want the United States to stop pushing liberalization.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia will argue that almost everything is out of their hands and not in their control.

Good luck.

Freed Accidently in Iraq
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 15, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Phil Sands is one lucky man.
On December 26th the British freelance journalist was kidnapped in Iraq.
He was held for five days.
Sands wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle as well as the Dubai paper Emirates Today. The Chronicle just released his story.

In Iraq, it is unusual for kidnappers to free their hostages.
The only way to actually save lives is to find exactly where hostages are being held and raid the place.

Phil Sands was freed by accident.
US forces raided the farmhouse where he was being held and stumbled upon the hostage.
The US forces were there on another mission.
What a goof.
Had they been looking for him, they probably never would have found him.

Lebanon & Al Qaeda
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 14, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Lebanon arrested 11 men, all connected to al Qaeda.

The arrested men were plotting attacks.
Attacks against the Lebanese.
Attacks against Western targets in Lebanon.
Attacks against Israel.

Lebanon also captured a boatload of weapons en route to terrorists.

Al Qaeda is trying to get a foothold in Lebanon. That is not unusual.
What is unusual is that al Qaeda is succeeding in their efforts in Lebanon.
It is a problem that must be addressed.
It is a problem for Lebanon, for Israel, for the West.
It is a problem for all liberal Muslim countries.
It is a problem that will not go away on its own.

The Saudis Had 2 Interesting Guests
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 13, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The Saudis hosted two important guests this week.
President Assad of Syria and Muqata al Sadr of Iraq came to visit.

Bashar Assad is facing tremendous international pressure to cooperate with the investigations concerning the role Syria played in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Lebanon.

Muqata al Sadr is the radical Shiite leader who led the uprising last year.

It seems that Saudi Arabia is trying to play peacemaker.
Saudi Arabia tried to influence Assad to cooperate with the investigation.
Saudi Arabia wanted to convince al Sadr that a continued period of Shiite quiet in Iraq is essential. The Saudi king wanted to emphasize how important cooperation, that it is the best way forward for everyone. The Sunni Saudi king extended his hand to show that Sunnis and Shiites can get along.

Saudi Arabia has its own agenda.
They know that the less trouble there is in the area, the more they will be left alone. The more they are left alone, the less pressure put on them to change their style of leadership and government.

The PA Will Cancel Elections
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 12, 2006

I'm Predicting:

There is almost no doubt in my mind that the Palestinian Authority will postpone their upcoming parliamentary elections. I have been saying this for 6 months.

Why? Most important is that Fatah, the established Palestinian leadership, is having a hard time getting votes and it looks very doubtfully that they can win a significant plurality over Hamas.
According to the latest polls Hamas will gain by 31% to Fatah's 35% - almost a dead heat.
The same polling, a short while ago, had Fatah gaining 36.7% and Hamas gaining only 21.6%.
Poll increases in the final stretch of an election are significant signs of great gains.

Fatah does not want Hamas to win.
Neither does the United States, Israel, Europe and even the Muslim world.
A Hamas victory will mean a more radical Palestine.

Current PA leadership is paralyzed. They need the time to gain support by promising a safer future, by providing social services and by providing jobs.
If not, we will see another cancelled election.
If not, we will see Hamas in power.

Wake Up Europe
By Micah Halpern

WednesdayJanuary 11, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Finally. It is starting to happen. At least partially.
Europe has awakened to the threat from Iran and her nuclear plans.

The foreign ministers of England, France and Germany are - at long last - going to discuss how to pressure Iran to cease and desist in nuclear development.

This Iranian problem must be solved peacefully. About that there is no question. The threat of invasion hangs in the air.
It is highly unlikely that the United States will invade Iran.
Israel might, but only as a last resort.
That leaves Europe.

The free world must unite and start applying serious pressure on Iran.
Up until now, Iran has perceived everything - short of the threat of an Israeli attack - as bluster. So they act the way they act and talk the way they talk.

After the free world is united, support from the Muslim world can be solicited.
Everyone must be drafted into the effort to influence and reign in Iran.
Time is slipping away.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 10, 2006


Ask any American over the age of fifty who the greatest United States president of the 20th century was and the answer will be Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR, there was no other.

FDR, the man who commanded world respect from a wheel chair. FDR, the president who brought the free world into War against evil, wounded, weary, depleted but triumphant. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the United States president who died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage, soon after being sworn into office for his fourth term.

FDR was a giant of a president. And who succeeded him? A little man, a man whom the country knew little about. Slight in stature and slight in reputation, Harry S. Truman was called to take over the presidency on April 12th, 1945. How could anyone fill the shoes of FDR? Certainly, how would this man from Missouri, this son of a farmer, this haberdasher survive the weight now being placed upon his slight shoulders?

People, especially people who live in democracies, get nervous about changes in governments. But in a democracy, change - after a leader's stroke, after an untimely death and even after an assassination, is conducted as an orderly transition of power and that is one of the beauties of a democracy, it is one of the building blocks that form a strong foundation for a government of the people, by the people and for the people. An orderly transition of power in times of disorder and disarray is what defines a working and healthy democracy.

In the end, this little haberdasher earned his place among the giants of world leadership. As president of the United States Harry S. Truman forced a Japanese surrender and dropped the bombs on Japan that ended the War. He brought Congress the 21 Point Plan that became immortalized as the Fair Deal. He created the Truman Doctrine that aided Greece and Turkey in warding off unwanted Soviet influence. And it was under the presidency of Harry S. Truman that the Marshall Plan was created, rebuilding war torn Europe.

So, too, with Israel.

Devastated by the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the country, in shock and in mourning, carried on. The government carried on. The people carried on. And this time, in the wake of the debilitating stroke that signals the end of the political life of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, they will do the same.

Anyone who looked at Sharon knew he was a ticking bomb, a walking health risk a man who flirted precipitously with an oncoming stroke or heart attack. A man of his age, his size, his weight, under all that professional pressure, it was just a question of time, it was inevitable, and it happened. Sharon, the mighty, has fallen. But the country has not.

Do not confuse a country in the throes of personal despair with a country in the throes of a power vacuum. There is no power vacuum in Israel.

Democracies do not shift in large pendulum swings. And Israel is a stable democracy. Democracies experience slight variances from side to side. And one of the great contributions Ariel Sharon has made as Israeli prime minister is that he has given a significant voice to the massive majority in the middle of Israeli politics. And because Sharon so aptly gave power through voice to that middle, there need not even be a slight swing of the pendulum in any direction as the government makes the transition from the reign of Sharon to the reign of the next Israeli prime minister and leader.

Transition of power in Israel is already, however serendipitously, in place. New elections are scheduled for March 28th. The economy is growing. The army and security systems are working at peak performance levels.

Do not worry about Israel.

Democracies move on despite the pain. Despite all the emphasis that we place on the leader, the president, the prime minister, democracies are much bigger than our leaders alone.

Democracies are about principles and about people. One of the classic characteristics of the anarchist, the assassin and the terrorist is the inability to comprehend democracy. Those who oppose democracy truly believe that if the head of state is murdered, the government topples. That is the case only in totalitarian regimes and even then it is not so clear.

Harry S. Truman is famous for having believed that "the buck stops here." The phrase is catchy, but when it comes to the transition of democratic leadership, "the buck" is passed in the best sense of the term.

National Trauma Can Be Cathartic
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 9, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Where were you when Ronald Reagan was shot? What do you remember about the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated?

National trauma is often also nationally cathartic.
It mandates reflection.
It serves as an impetus for dialogue about a nation's past goals and future vision. It is a time for collective evaluation.
It is a time to question who you are as a people and what you are as a nation.

It happened, in Israel, after the Rabin assassination.
It is exactly what is happening in Israel today.
I wish Sharon a full recovery and yet I know that because of his stroke Israelis are taking a realistic look at their past and trying to identify their vision for the near and distant future.

Nerves are raw but real discussion and analysis occurs.
I call it assessment and re-assessment.
The end result is repair and rejuvenation.

Sharon Tutored Bush
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 8, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Israel and the United States have a big brother/little brother relationship. In almost every sphere, the US is the big brother, Israel the little brother. Not so in the sphere of world terror.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was the perfect partner for the United States in confronting the world wide threat of terror. Even as the Israeli prime minister lies in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem this essential dimension of his leadership must be emphasized. Actually, from Sharon's point of view it was Bush who became partner, not the other way around.

Sharon and Israel saw terror as a world threat way before 9-11.
Sharon and Israel adopted a philosophy of zero tolerance before most American leaders had even heard the name Osama bin Laden. Sharon and Israel are the architects who constructed the lingo, the attitude and the operational style that the United States used in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Israel created the model, the United States built upon it.

Sharon and Bush saw eye to eye on the threat of terror. There are only a few leaders in the world that did not equivocate when it came to terror. It was a bond the two shared.

Ariel Sharon was the older, more experienced coach, tutoring his protege in the intricacies of the world in which terrorists live. George Bush, the younger, stronger, faster athlete recognized the threat, mastered the new techniques and then directly confronted the terror.

A good coach takes pride in the achievements of his star athlete.

Sharon Leagcy: Kadima's Future
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 7, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The Israeli elections are scheduled for March 28.
The elections were called because the Knesset and the government no longer reflected the direction Prime Minister Sharon was plotting. The Knesset could not stop him but neither could Sharon effectively move ahead.

The reality is that the masses in the country are exactly on Sharon's wavelength - smack dab in the middle.
The average Israeli is not an extremist and Sharon's party, Kadima, reflects just that thinking.
The alternatives to Kadima reflect the extreme sides of the political spectrum with Labor on the left and Likud on the right.
Sharon took from both ends and formed a middle, not a mushy middle, a real solid middle with a practical set of goals and aspirations.

We do not hear about the middle very often, but that is because it is not colorful. We cover the extremes, we cover the extremists, they are more entertaining. But Sharon gave voice to the middle. Now that voice will become the loudest, boldest, clearest voice in politics exactly because the man who gave it life is out of political power.
That will be the political legacy of Ariel "Arik" Sharon.

After Sharon
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 6, 2006

I'm Predicting:

One of the beauties of a stable democracy is a non-threatening process of succession. Neither the society nor the foundations upon which it is built are at risk of collapse.

The fact that most observers and many pundits do not know who the players are and are therefore making bizarre pronouncements concerning possible successors to Ariel Sharon is to be blamed on the fact that they cannot see past their own superficial perceptions and analysis.
Democracies always have a plethora of good people. Not as good, perhaps, but good.

Sharon will be missed.
But there will be no power vacuum.

The March elections guarantee that. A look at the polls underscores my point.
Last week, after Sharon's minor stroke, Kadima would garner 42 seats.
In today's polls, under Olmert, they would get 40 seats.
Under Shimon Peres they would get 42 seats.
Under Tzipi Livni, they would get 38.
Not bad, especially because Likud drops down one seat to 13 and Labor drops a seat putting it at 18.

The realistic centrist movement that Sharon created will not evaporate.
It struck a strong cord in Israeli society.
Kadima will, as its name implies, continues to move forward --- just slower.

Sharon, Big Shoes to Fill
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 5, 2006 #2

I've Been Thinking:

I have been reminding myself ... Israel is a stable democracy, not a banana republic.
Israel will not spin into revolution or loose sight and direction.

Ariel Sharon set something in motion. Something that Israelis accept and believe in - he began the process of "reshaping the borders to better secure the country."

There is no one political person who can fill his big shoes. But they will fill smaller ones.
Things will move ahead, but they will move more slowly.

Bibi Netanyahu -- he may be leader of Likud, but he is not trusted by Israelis and will only gain slightly by this situation. He should not be considered a possible PM.

Ehud Olmert -- is now the temporary PM. He is no Sharon. But he may inherit the reins. He has experience. Israelis either love him or hate him or love to hate him.

Amir Peretz -- leader of the Labor party. He is a non issue.

Unknown possibilities -- it will be a horse race for political control. I do not expect any political unknowns to break from the gate.

Ariel Sharon: A Mythic Man
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 5, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

At this point I cannot even begin to conceive of an Israel without Ariel Sharon as its prime minister.
I will not predict the future, but I will recall the past. I will recall Ariel "Arik" Sharon's legacy to date.

Sharon, both as politician and as military man was a larger than life figure - not just in size but in vision. He always saw things differently than other leaders and trusted his own instincts over the advise of others.
Sharon was a mature leader, not just in years but in understanding. His greatest strength was problem solving, finding new and unique ways to solve those issues plaguing his people, his country, his own career.
Sharon had a charming personality, full of humor and a belly rippling laugh. He used his charm, not charisma but charm, to convince the masses of ... why he was correct ... why he changed his stance ... that always uppermost in his mind was a safer Israel.

If Ariel Sharon is no longer a presence in the Middle East it will be a great loss to the entire region. Ariel Sharon envisioned a future that only he could actualize. Ariel Sharon, man of mythic proportions.

Sharon's Health
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 4 2006 #2

I'm Predicting:

The health - or ill health - of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon must be measured in gargantuan terms.
Ariel Sharon's physical presence has ramifications not only for Israel, not only for his newly created Kadima party, but for the entire Middle East.

Ariel Sharon's character makes him a leader's leader ... because of his charisma, because of his past, because of his ability to get out of Gaza.
Ariel Sharon can do things that no other Israeli leader would dare and that no one else could succeed at doing.
Ariel Sharon radiates an attitude that says "don't mess with me."

If poor health forces Sharon out of politics, the entire Middle East will spin.
No one on the political horizon in Israel commands the respect and political strength of Sharon in Israel.
No one on the political horizon in Israel commands the respect and political strength of Sharon in the Arab world.

Voting in East Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 4, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The White House spokesman has issued a statement about Arabs in East Jerusalem and their participation in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections slated for January 25.

The Palestinian Authority is saying that if the Palestinian Arabs of East Jerusalem are not able to vote, there will be no election.
The White House says "we believe that people must have access to the ballot."

Once again, the White House has shown how little it really understands.
Here is the problem:
The area known as East Jerusalem is either still in dispute or it is under Israeli control.
Hamas and other vehemently anti-Israel parties are running in the election.
If the Arabs of East Jerusalem vote, Israel will effectively be allowing sworn enemies, bent on Israel's annihilation, to stand for election in an area Israel controls.

The issue is less about voting and more about the election and Hamas.
In recent local elections the problem was avoided - Hamas did not run and Arabs of East Jerusalem were allowed to vote.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 3, 2006


It's time for a reality check.

Despite the all-is-good-and-getting-better attitude adopted by most of the world - Palestinians and Westerners alike - the situation in Gaza is not good. The situation is bad, very bad. And it is not about to get better.

Wake up, world, look at the facts. Face the realities.

Gaza is a pressure cooker. Gaza is boiling up and over. Why are people so intent on deluding themselves? Why are they so insistent on convincing themselves that after January 25th, the date chosen for Palestinian Authority elections, things will be better? Why do they think that Palestinian leader Abbas will be better able, better persuaded, better moved to act on the 26th than he was on the 25th? The United States is waiting until after January 25th before forcing Palestinian Authority leadership to take action against Palestinian terror groups. Why?

The elections are not the panacea everyone wishes them to be. The elections will be the true reality check. After the election it will be made clear to everyone what the Palestinian people want. Peaceful co-existence and an end to terror will not be on their agenda. Au contraire, my friends, au contraire.

Let's look at the facts, the real events, of the past few days. Just the other day, in Gaza, a self described "Italian peace worker" on a fact finding mission was kidnapped. The hostage was the last person to walk out of a meeting on his way to a waiting mini van. The group was in Gaza to learn more about the situation in Gaza. They may have learned more than they hoped for.
Two white cars sped up, threw the Italian in and screeched away. In the mini van, among the participants in that meeting, was a deputy of the European Parliament. Was the parliamentarian the intended hostage? Did the hostage takers take the last man out because he was easiest to grab? We don't know. We will never know.

What were the demands of the kidnappers? I laugh out loud as I write this. The kidnappers demanded an investigation into Yassir Arafat's death. They also wanted the removal of all corrupt Fatah leaders. The group claiming responsibility for the hostage-taking was Al Aqsa Brigade-Sunni People. And yes, Al Aqsa is part of the Fatah and accountable to Abbas. The Italian was eventually released.

The government of Italy has been seen as very sympathetic to the Palestinians and in their statement they said only that they were grateful for the safe release of their citizen.

Soon after a group of Palestinian terrorists broke into the United Nations compound in Gaza. Five of the intruders pummeled the security guard while the others blew up the bar of the UN compound. The compound is on the beach, the compound openly serves alcohol, the UN compound is a hangout for Westerners.

There has been no United Nations statement about the explosion.

The situation in Gaza - reality vs perception - is encapsulated in the hostage taking of the Burton family. Kate Burton, a 25 year-old British relief worker and her parents were kidnapped. Burton worked for Al Mazan, a Gaza human rights group. Nobody knows who took them. No group claimed responsibility. The British were furious. Pleas went out asking whoever had the Burton family to free them. Two full days later they were released. And then the Burton family issued a formal statement. They wrote: "We are in good health and have been treated extremely well through the ordeal." In a very short interview with the BBC Kate Burton said she "could not say a bad word about her captors." Her tune has changed a little since. Burton was quoted in the Times as saying she "felt stabbed in the back."

What a warped sense of reality.

If you are thinking Stockholm Syndrome, stop. This is not a scenario in which captives begin to sympathize with their captors. This sympathy was there way before the events began. And despite the personal ordeal, the sympathy persisted. And Kate felt compelled to make it public.

It is almost as if the kidnapping itself was a tool that would help the Palestinian cause. Only it backfired. The British and Palestinian leadership were very embarrassed by the entire episode. And the Burtons thought they were making it better for the poor Palestinians by telling the world that they "were treated extremely well." Treated well by whom? By nameless, kidnapping, murdering terrorists.

Any Westerner is fair game in Palestinian Gaza. Media, business, aid worker. Anyone.

For journalists, it makes covering Gaza an extremely difficult chore.

As a journalist, if you happen to see reality differently than official and/or powerful Palestinians would have you see it, not so subtle pressure is put on you not to present that reality. James Bennett of The New York Times escaped a kidnapping outside a hospital in Gaza. Terrorists tried to push him in to a waiting car. He successfully resisted. You didn't read about it at the time because he did not write about it. He was told by Palestinian leadership that he misunderstood the events. Period. End.

Gaza. Upside down reality.

Iran V Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 2, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has just said that they will respond with a "crushing" blow if attacked by either Israel or the United States.

There is no doubt that Iran has the weapons ability to strike at Israel and at southern Europe. Talk about attacking the United States is groundless.
So why do they do it?
Bluster. To save face in the Muslim world. A propaganda tool to gain support.

Here we see the difference between democratic nations and totalitarian nations.
Israel, the United States and the West are not considering attacking Iran.
They are considering ways of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power with all that entails.

If there were to be a Western strike on Iran, the targets would not be people or populated areas, the targets would be missile silos, energy facilities and labs.
The counter threat by Iran against Israel is against all of Israel.
"Israel will suffer greatly. Israel is a very small country within our range."

The West must stop Iran before they get online with their nuclear program.
The entire situation could escalate very quickly, very easily, very dangerously.

Russian Missiles Hit Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 1, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Israel's head of Military Intelligence just charged that the missiles shot into Israel by Hezbollah are Russian-made and that Hezbollah got the missiles from Syria.

Russia responded by saying that it was impossible. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "there are no and can be no grounds..." "The system of Russian weapons export is one of the safest." "The arms export control system we have developed is one of the strictest and most reliable in the world. It rules out any possibility of misuse of weapons."

Israel's Intel Chief knows how it happened. He said that Russia sells to Syria with the promise that Syria not transfer the weapons.
Russia must trust the Syrians more than the Israelis trust them.

Those missiles got fired into Israel. It is easy to trace because missiles do not totally destroy on impact and every missile manufacturer has very distinct characters. On several occasions in the last year high level Israelis, including the prime minister, met with Russian leaders asking them to stop supplying Syria and Iran. All to no avail.

Something is wrong.
Just because Syria promises not to transfer missiles does not mean they do not get transferred. I would not be surprised if Syria argued that Hezbollah is a branch of the Syrian Army.
We know that Hezbollah is trained and paid by Syria.

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