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Allah's Wrath in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 1, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday at 11:01 local time in Iran, 600 miles south of Tehran, an earthquake struck. It measured 5.8 on the Richter Scale.

When Katrina hit the Gulf Coast Iranian religious leadership was quick to claim that it was Allah's wrath that was wreaking havoc on George Bush and on American sinners.
I have yet to hear the Muslim justification of yesterday's earthquake.
Actually, this was just one of many quakes to hit Iran and I have never heard a Mullah claim that the earthquakes wreaking havoc on Iranians are Allah's way of exacting vengeance on Muslims for their impure acts.

Look at the numbers:
February 2005 an earthquake registering 6.4 killed 612 Iranians.
December 2003 an earthquake registering 6.6 killed 23,000 Iranians and totally destroyed the ancient city of Bam.
Yesterday’s epicenter was only 80 miles away from an urban center.

These are quakes that could easily be turned into mythic lore and legend.
Maybe, just maybe, Allah was sending Iran a message.
Maybe Allah was warning Iran to conform to international nuclear inspections.
Or else.

Hamas Has Been Accepted
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 28, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

It happened.
Rather than ostracizing Hamas, the world has accepted Hamas and is laying out the welcome mat for the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

The US just congratulated the EU on their promise of $143 million in emergency aid to the Palestinians.
Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi just complimented Russia for embracing Hamas.
France ... the United Nations ... the list goes on.

In due course, Hamas will be embraced by the entire Western world, to think otherwise is to misunderstand world diplomacy.
At this point it does not matter that Hamas is a terrorist organization, that fact – by now - has been overlooked.

The free world, Israel included, was outsmarted and outplayed by Hamas.
Rather than pushing Hamas' buttons, bombarding them with the tough language and military strikes that would have forced Hamas to show their true motives and acknowledge their agenda - the annihilation of Israel - Israel permitted Hamas to proceed with a humanitarian platform.

There is no turning back now.

By Micah Halpern

Monday February 27,2006


Mirror, mirror on the wall look closely at Hamas and you'll see Arafat's reflection, after all.

In electing Hamas to lead their government, the Palestinian people have proven to themselves and to the world that they climbed over and moved beyond the legacy left them by Yasser Arafat. The newly-elected Hamas leaders, however, have begun to show the world how very much they themselves learned from the legacy of Arafat and how they are adapting that legacy to their governance.

Hamas watched Arafat, watched him closely, for many years. And Hamas learned the value and saw the rewards of delivering the "double message."

Arafat was the Master of Doublespeak. He would deliver one message to the West and an entirely other message to his people and to the Arab world. Arafat was smiles and soft-spoken to the West, he was a fire breathing hell raiser before Arab audiences. In English, Arafat spoke of "the peace of the brave," in Arabic he called for Jihad. In Washington Arafat told world leaders what they wanted to hear in Ramallah and Beirut and Cairo he told his people what they needed to hear.

Yasser Arafat would say what he needed to say in order to relieve the pressure that was placed on him. Yasser Arafat was an enabler. He enabled Western leaders to delude themselves that "yes," there really was a chance for change, a hope for peace between the Palestinians and Israel. He enabled the Palestinian people to hope for a future when there were no plans for their future.

Hamas has learned the Lessons of Doublespeak. Hamas understands the rewards of Doublespeak. Hamas knows that even though the United States and Europe knew that Arafat was delivering double messages, they felt uncomfortable saying "no" to him in the face of his fancy words. Hamas knows that the United States and Europe want to avoid direct clashes and conflict and so, they choose the path of self-delusion and respond to what they know to be messages meant for their diplomatic ears only and promises never meant to be carried out and fulfilled.

They're new at the game, but they learned from the pro and Hamas is getting very good at delivering the double message. And Hamas has an advantage over Arafat. Yasser Arafat was a one-man-game, he could contradict only himself. Hamas is an organization with several significant mouthpieces carefully choreographed to step on each other's phrases.

This week Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas candidate for prime minister, was quoted as saying: "If Israel declares that it will give the Palestinian People a state and give them back all their rights then we are ready to recognize them."

The statement was promptly rejected by Dr. Salah al Bardaweil, the Hamas spokesman. Bardaweil laid down three conditions that must first be met before Israel could ever be recognized. Israel must return to the borders of 1967, Israel must release all Palestinian prisoners. Israel must allow all Palestinian refugees back into their homes. Only then, he said, can we talk about recognition.

Hanieyh is trying to put a positive, a human face on Hamas. Hanayieh has been chosen to be the soft, kind, conciliatory voice intended for the West. Listen to what he said in describing his movement: "Hamas does not want to throw the Jews into the sea." "We are not war seekers nor are we war initiators. We are not lovers of blood. We are not interested in a vicious cycle of violence. We are oppressed people with rights. If peace brings us our rights then this is good."

About Israel Hanieyh said: "If Israel withdraws to the '67 borders then we will establish a peace in stages." The man who wants to be Palestinian prime minister may have gone a bit overboard with that last statement. There was immediate back-peddling by other Hamas voices. Establishing incremental peace with Israel under only one no-matter-how-impossible-to-fulfill a condition, it appears, is considered too huge a concession for Hamas.

The man deserves credit for his efforts. Haniyeh is trying to resuscitate the reputation of Hamas in capitals across the world. Haniyeh is the man whose mission it is to have the Western world view Hamas in the most human of ways. Haniyeh's mission is to have Western leaders see what they want to see and overlook the content of statements made by other Hamas leaders to other audiences.

It is time for the West to open their eyes. This game of internal rejection, these Hamas imposed caveats reveal the true character of Hamas leadership. Hamas is out to dupe the world and the diplomatic world is playing along. Once again, the West is letting itself be duped.

C. David Welch, the US Undersecretary of State for Near East Affairs, is responding to Hamas' double message by, literally, buying into their message. Welch is trying to convince Israel to give more money to the Palestinians and has promised that the United States will continue to give monies for the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people.

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert voiced his displeasure and disagreement. Shaul Mofaz, Israel's Defense Minister, clearly explains the situation. According to the principles set out by the Quartet, Hamas must disarm, recognize Israel, reject terror and change its charter before it can be received into the world community. "... they have not accepted any of the four rules, and this indicates their (Hamas') true intentions."

We do not want to repeat the mistakes made during the Arafat era. We should not. The Western world is smarter than that. Look, don't just listen.

Isaiah Berlin commenting on Machiavelli said, "To know the worse is not always to be liberated from its consequences, nevertheless it is preferable to ignorance."

Russia - Iran Agree on Nukes
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 26, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

We saw it coming.
Iran and Russia have announced a partial compromise on the issue of nuclear power. They have come up with a short term resolution that will also begin the process of easing the tensions that have sparked between Iran and the West.

Let's put this in perspective:
Russia is highly invested in the development of energy in Iran.
Russia is heavily invested in Iranian oil field development.
More important is the Russian investment in nuclear development -Russia is a billion dollar investor in Iran's nearly complete Busher nuclear facility.

While this agreement pleases other Western countries the agreement itself is based on mutual self-interest, not on world or even on regional stability.
The fact that a byproduct of this agreement results in regional or perhaps even world stability is nearly irrelevant to the parties (even though Russia has a slightly more enlightened vision of world affairs than does Iran).

Russia and Iran are in agreement that a mutual agreement is in their own best national and financial interests.
Yes, the agreement will be violated BUT within the context of an agreement and that point is crucial to our understanding of future events.

Mutual benefit - the only way to begin to resolve a diplomatic problem with Iran.

Russia & Iran: The Good News
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 25, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Most people have never heard of Sergei Kiriyenko.
S-E-R-G-E-I K-I-R-I-Y-E-N-K-O, a name to remember.
He is the head of Russia's Atomic Energy Agency.

Kiriyenko and a team of Russians arrived in Teheran on Thursday for serious talks concerning Iran's nuclear enrichment program.
The Russians are recommending a compromise. The Russians are recommending that they supervise Iran's uranium enrichment in Russia or even in Teheran.

The mere fact of Kiriyenko's presence at such a meeting means that the negotiations are not purely diplomatic, that they are not only window dressing for the world. Kiriyenko's presence signals a working meeting, a rational, practical, effort dealing with the process of enrichment and the issue of nuclear energy.

This is an important step.
This may be the first step in the resolution of what can easily become an international incident.
This is good news.

Iraqi Violence
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 24, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The current wave of violence pounding Iraq is misunderstood by Western minds and hearts.

Tensions, violence, even persecution and mass murder are all part of the long-standing history of Shiite/Sunni relations.
This latest round is not new and it will certainly not end just because of a governmental agreement in Iraq.
This is not the first flare-up since the US invaded Iraq. What is truly amazing is that there have not been a greater number of violent outbreaks these last years.

Westerners think that Muslims are Muslims and they all share religious values and principles, that they are united. They do not.
Shiites and Sunnis have killed one another for centuries specifically because of the differences between them.
Shiites believe that Sunnis are heretics and have abused and destroyed Islam. Sunnis believe that Shiites have bastardized the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

Shiites and Sunnis will not live together in peace.
They cannot.
Their doctrines will not allow for peace without mutual benefit.
If the West wants to bring about change the West must create a scenario that is mutually beneficial to both Muslim sects.

The Daggers Are Out In Jordan
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 23, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Israel and Jordan have had some words. Literally.

In an off-the-record briefing Yair Naveh, the general in charge of Israel's Central Command, said that Jordan's stability was uncertain.

Jordan was not happy.

But given the issues in the region and the population of Jordan - a majority of whom are Palestinians, the comment by the Israeli general should not have come as a surprise.

The reality is that now that Hamas is in power Palestinians across the Jordan River are looking carefully at the Hashemite (i.e. Jordanian) Kingdom.

Some Jordanians are even thinking of ways to overthrow the King.
Certainly, al Qaeda is plotting to overthrow King Abdallah.
And anyone in Iraq with a desire to hurt the West would use Jordan as a stepping stone.

Why take it out on Naveh? Because it is easier to shoot the messenger than to confront the problem head-on.
Jordan is well aware of the threats against the empire.
They are acting upon and reacting to those threats.
They will do everything to protect the regime.
But the Jordanians want to keep things quiet, they do not want to make this into a public issue.

I have faith in Jordan's king ... but the daggers are out.

Muslims and Holocaust Denial
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 22, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

David Irving, The Holocaust Denier, was just sentenced to 3 years in an Austrian prison for writing and promoting the falsehood that there were no gas chambers in the Auschwitz.

The Muslim world sees a double standard here.
The Muslim world is up in arms because of Irving's sentence.
The Muslim world wants to know where the sacrosanct value of freedom of expression is?
The Muslim world is equating Irving's crime with the 12 Danish caricatures of Mohammed that have caused a stir throughout Europe and the Muslim world.

There is no parallel.
Irving was found guilty of distributing false information, blatant lies, knowing that they were not true in order to achieve a personal goal - Holocaust Denial.
The caricatures were a political critique, a bold gesture in response to a situation in which artists were personally afraid to draw and depict The Prophet.

Irving was selling a false product.
The drawings were editorial comment.

Courting Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 21,2005


Hamas. Diplomatically speaking, either you're with them - or you haven't yet decided what to do about them.

Most of the Western world is struggling with the moral issues raised by recognizing Hamas, terrorists elevated to the status of democratically elected leaders of the Palestinian people. Most of the Muslim world is vying for opportunities to court Hamas, to curry favor with Hamas, to cut deals with Hamas. Muslim countries that virtually abandoned the Palestinian people under the leadership of Arafat and Abbas have embraced the new Hamas leadership.

For their part, Hamas has begun a diplomatic scurry for arms, power and recognition.

Iran, no surprise here, wants a close relationship with Hamas and has already played host for a two day visit. More important than friendship, Iran is interested in sponsorship. They want to pick up the financial slack, crucial for the future of any Palestinian state that the Western world has been threatening to discontinue.

Iran and Hamas are in total sync over the role of Allah in the unfolding of the events that led to the Hamas victory.

Khalad Mashal the diplomatic leader of Hamas has said about the triumphant rise to political power of Hamas, "this victory was a blessing by the almighty, meant to spare the blood of the oppressed and reward the martyrs." And the Ayatollah Khamenei, the undisputed religious leader of Iran, said of the Hamas/Iran nexus "such support will boost the link between Muslims and Palestinians and have great influence on the world, while also boosting the morale of those facing Israel's systematic belligerence." And then the religious leader called the political victory a "sweet surprise, and proof Allah's promises materialize."

And they both agree on the way to handle Israel. "The only way to succeed is to continue to resist the occupation," Khamenei said. And more: "The Palestinian people knew voting for Hamas marks the continuation of fighting against the Zionist occupation regime."

But words don't pay the bills. And while Iran is saying all the right things, while Iran is offering verbal support, encouragement and endorsement, Iran is famous for making fancy promises but not following through on their commitments - especially when it comes to money. The Palestinians need a lot of money. We will know soon enough if Iran really does step in and delivers the large sums of money the Palestinian government truly needs.

Syria. Venezuela. No big surprises there either. Syria has already hosted Hamas and Venezuela is looking for a new friend. Egypt. Jordan. Turkey. That comes as a bit of a surprise. These are supposed to be Western-leaning countries, they are supposed to be forward thinking. And they have each experienced firsthand the horrors of terror inflicted upon their citizens.

Egypt knows the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism and yet they are suggesting a "wait and see" approach with Hamas. The greatest threat facing Egypt comes from the Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological model for Hamas and the group that provides more religious support to Hamas than any other group in the world. And yet the same Egyptian leaders who successfully negotiated the cease fire between Israel and Hamas have just suggested to US Secretary of State Rice that the United States gives Hamas time to moderate their attitude toward Israel and the West.

Jordan has invited Hamas for a visit, but only if their diplomatic mission is led by the number two diplomatic man, Abu Marzouk, and not by number one Khaled Mashal. In other words, Jordan will not permit Khaled Mashal, the chief diplomat for Hamas entry into their country. Jordan considers Mashal a destabilizing force, an irresponsible leader and a terrorist. Jordan is allowing itself to enter into a diplomatic relationship with Hamas by making a distinction, perhaps rationalizing a distinction, Hamas as a movement and Hamas as elected leadership. Without a doubt this is an important distinction, but certainly, Hamas is hardly a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Turkey has just finished a sit-down with Hamas. The meetings took place in Syria. Turkey is trying to straddle the fence. They are a democracy but they are also a Muslim state. Turkey confronts a serious consistent fundamentalist Islamic threat and understands just how powerful and destructive the Islamic movement can be to their democracy. Turkey has urged Hamas to follow the path of the Palestinian Authority prior to their ascension to political power and to recognize Israel and to understand their new role as national leaders and regional players. Even Saudi Arabia, a nation that does not itself recognize Israel, has urged Hamas to continue in the footsteps of the PA and recognize Israel.

Russia. On the surface it would seem somewhat surprising, even perplexing, to learn that Russia has extended a welcoming hand to Hamas. But Russia is all about economics and the hand it extended was holding a business contract.

For Russia the entire relationship with any government, and Hamas is no exception, is about weapons and money. Russia needs new markets willing to serve as dumping grounds for the antiquated weapons it still owns. Hamas wants guns. Honestly, Hamas wants anything and everything connected to weapons including helicopters and armored vehicles. Hamas has actually already placed an order with the Russians for two M-17 helicopters and seventy armored vehicles. Russia will sell to anyone and suffer no pangs of remorse. They have cut deals with Syria, they have curt deals with Iran, they area cutting deals with Hamas.

Friends. Money. Guns. Status. Hamas would be happy to have it all. But above all comes ideology. And Hamas has done nothing, nothing at all, to suggest even the smallest modification in their ideological foundation. And that, my friends, does not bode well for our future.

No More Money for Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 20, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Last month, Israel turned over $43 million to the Hamas led Palestinians.
This month, the Israeli cabinet voted not to deliver the money.
The United Nations had registered a protest over Israel's decision, saying that Israel is violating the Road Map.

Israel has also begun a campaign to isolate Hamas. This campaign is neither covert nor subtle. Israel has a very good set of reasons to isolate Hamas.

Reality has set in, not just for Israel but for other Western nations.
On Friday, for example, the United States asked the PA to ante up $50 million saying the monies were not properly used.
The US statement is clear, but not trend setting.

Significant Western nations, including the US, will not be so quick to sever all financial ties with Hamas i.e. the Palestinians.
Why? Because the only influence and clout the West has over the Palestinians is the ability to provide financial aid. If the West pulls that aid, they will have little to no influence. And that important vacuum is sure to be filled by Iran.

Ever here the phrase: Put your money where your mouth is.

New British Law Will Fight Terror
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 19, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The British House of Commons has passed a law making it illegal to "glorify terror."
Significant legislature or fancy rhetoric?

The fact that the House of Commons put this law into writing is significant, very significant. It is another essential tool enabling democratic countries in the fight against terror.

Students of British law will know that Britain already has a law prohibiting the fostering of terror. Is this new law redundant?
There is a nuanced difference between this new law and the old law.
This law deals with glorifying terror in the past and in the present while the old law speaks only of past acts.

Doesn't this law limit freedom of expression? It does, but it limits a personal freedom in order to protect the masses by allowing authorities to clamp down on the sermonizers and charismatic motivators of terror in England.

Freedom has it limits.
The primary role of a democracy is the preservation of that democracy.
This new law honors and upholds the democratic principles.

Russia Sells Guns
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 18, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Why is Russia so eager to embrace Hamas?
The answer is shockingly simple.

Today's Russia is in the business of expanding its market.
And Russia has only one significant export.
Weapons - old, new, antiquated even nuclear weapons.
That is what Russia has and that is what Russia is selling.

So who's buying?
Iran. Syria.
And new to the market, Hamas.
Russia needs to court and then cement relations with potential customers.

Russia knows how dangerous it is to trade in weapons. So to assuage their business conscience they ask each party to sign an agreement not to use the weapons for terror or for acts of war.

Yeah, right.

How Trustworthy Is Iran?
By Micah Halpern

Friday, February 17, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a signator on the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.
And now they are asserting their membership.
They will use the treaty as a way to protect themselves from Western aggression.

Iran is not the only problematic country to sign the Treaty.
North Korea was also a signator and went on their merry way and developed nuclear weapons.

The problem is the Treaty.
The Nuclear Proliferation Treaty actually allows members to explore alternatives for nuclear energy and it allows them to develop nuclear energy alternatives - that includes uranium enrichment. It does not include HIGHLY enriched uranium which has only one use. The litmus test determining if a country is moving from energy to weapons is administered by the IAEA.

The treaty also talks about "trustworthiness."
That is a little harder to quantify.
We need to acknowledge the weaknesses of the Treaty.
We need to say simply but emphatically: "Iran is not trustworthy."

Denmark Says No
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 16, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The Danish government has said that they will not apologize for the Muhammad-inspired cartoons originally published in Danish newspapers.

I agree with their decision.
They are 100% correct.
The Danes did nothing wrong.
The Danish government has no influence over, responsibilty for or power to control their press - it is a free press.

The Danish government said that an apology would do no good.

Once again, 100% correct.
It would appear that the only act that would appease radical Muslims would be a disappearing act. Have this Denmark disappear and become an Islamic state.

100% not likely.

Hamas Is Welcomed
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 15, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Venezuela has welcomed Hamas leaders "with pleasure."
That is their quote, not mine.

International acceptance of the rogue Hamas-led Palestinian state has begun.
It works this way:
Established host countries welcome new leaders, they extend their government's support, they share ideas and brainstorm about ways to expand horizons, they network.
It's called diplomacy.

This process is frightening.
Hamas' chief diplomat is Khaled Mashal. Mashal does not live in the PA, he lives in Damascus. Why? Because the chief PA diplomat is a terrorist and according to treaty he is not permitted entry into the Palestinian Authority.

I couldn't make these things up.

Hamas on High Alert
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 14, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The times, they are a changing.

A member of Hamas has been kidnapped.
OK, he was kidnapped by members of Fatah, but the shoe is just about almost on the other foot.

The kidnapped man is thought to have shot and killed a Palestinian policeman in a recent shootout.
Palestinian Authority police grabbed him to make a point: Don't mess with us.

Hamas is now on high alert.
They want their guy back.

Stay tuned.

What Took So Long?
By Micah Halpern

Monday Februaray 13, 2006


I have reached the outermost limits of my patience with the current, uncontrolled, rioting in the Muslim world.

Everyone following the story knows that political cartoons depicting not Allah, but his disciple Muhammed, originally published in Denmark sparked the recent upheaval. But did you know that the cartoons were originally published on September 30th? September 30th!

So what took so long? And why riot in the first place?

It took so long because the press in most Muslim countries is an arm, an extension, a mouthpiece of and for the government. It is newspapers that, at the behest of their governments, stoke the flames of hatred, creating an "Us versus Them" conflict. That's how and often why papers get sold in many Muslim countries. It took so long because it wasn't until now that Muslim governments needed to create a global conflict of cultures. It is the Muslim world against the West.

So why now? Because tensions are rising and rising and rising between the Muslim world and the West. The situation is escalating because of Iran and because of Iraq. And also because of Syria. The West is isolating the Muslim world and the Muslim world is beginning to feel the effects of this growing isolation. And even though they refuse to admit it publicly, Muslim leaders know, individually and collectively, that isolation will not help their economies grow or their people prosper. And they want to lash back.

That is why they are rioting. It is a way to involve "the people." Rhetoric doesn't do it the way rioting does.

And now, any individual Westerner, any Western agency or industry or visitor or humanitarian aid worker is in jeopardy on Muslim soil. And all Westerners will remain in jeopardy until the situation is resolved.

I don't see a resolution happening anytime soon. There is no reason for Muslim leadership to appease the West anytime soon. Maybe, not ever. Certainly, not as long as cartoonists and caricaturists have freedom of depiction in Western democracies.

The careful observer will see that all Muslim reaction to the cartoons and all resulting, responsive, rabble-rousing rioting is not equal.

Even in the liberal pro-Western countries of Egypt, Jordan and Turkey governments came out against the cartoons and subsequent protests were permitted.

The monarchy of Jordan demanded that Denmark deliver an apology for the offensive acts. Turkey, a democracy did the same. A democracy cannot reign in a free press, that can only happen with a free market. (Parenthetically, Turkey is now suffering democratic growth pains on this very issue. For the past six months the government of Turkey has been embroiled in a legal battle with a native Turkish writer that the government is prosecuting for defaming the country.) The violence due to rioting in these countries was kept in relative check. Secret police complimented by a more obvious police presence maintain the relative order in the fray.

The point is that only in a totalitarian state does the government control the press. Muslim critique of the Danish cartooning is totally out of line. Their reaction reflects a misunderstanding of the basic principles free thought.

Syria is the perfect example. In Syria one cannot protest in the streets without government sponsorship and that comes along with a support staff - police and security services including the secret police. The Syrian government most definitely sponsored the anti-Western riot in Damascus. Their motivation is clear. The United States is on their case and Syria needs to respond, to retaliate. The cartoons fell right into their lap. It was the right excuse at the right time to release pent up frustration and anger and hostility. What motivates Syria motivates, to a greater or lesser extent, almost every other Muslim country.

The crux of the issue is this: In democracies political cartoon and caricatures are part of freedom of the press. They cannot be censored. Any person and every idea can and probably will be lampooned. Sometimes it is in bad taste, sometimes it is inappropriate but sometimes it is on target and funny.

In this case, I thought some of the cartoons funnier than others. My personal favorite was the one about running out of virgins. The follow-up in France Soir lampooning the reaction was, to my way of thinking, on target and funny. It depicted Moses, Jesus and Buddha on one cloud, Muhammad on another. The three were consoling Muhammad, telling him that they had all been poorly lampooned and recovered. The managing editor of France Soir was fired by his Egyptian-French owner for allowing the cartoon.

The European Arab League website has posted a series of cartoons depicting Anne Frank in bed with Hitler. Tasteless and ridiculous? Offensive and inappropriate? Such is life. The cartoons were so popular that the website shut down from server overload.

Muslim countries and leaders will calm their citizens when they feel their ends have been achieved. Iran will keep their rioters roused longer than the other Muslim countries. It's not the people who need to learn to understand cartoons in the spirit of free debate. It's the leaders who need to learn that not every move by the West should be stored away only to be brought out when they are in need of an opportunity for conflict.

Israel's National Pastime
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 12, 2006

I've Been Thinking

Archeology is a national pastime for Israelis.
Historical finds are front page news stories in Israel.
It is as if the nation proclaims its right to exist through historical facts on the ground.

Before any building takes place in Israel, a highway a hotel or even a swimming pool, a salvage dig is required to ascertain that no great historical find will be destroyed in the process.

Just recently, while constructing a highway near the ancient Philistine city of Gat, a remarkable, 6000 year old archeological site was unearthed. The site was filled with pottery, sculpture, jewelry, icons. Everything was in mint condition.

What's my point?
Sometimes, we loose track of the fact that amidst the drama and conflict surrounding contemporary Israel a tremendous ancient history lies buried.

Hamas Gets Blessings
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 11, 2006

I'm Predicting:

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has reassured English Parliament, the Palestinian people and Palestinian leadership that: "none of us have any interest whatever in, as it were, punishing the Palestinian people for giving the wrong answer in the elections ..."

Thank you, Jack Straw, for putting your cards on the table.
In other words, Britain is promising to aid to the newly elected Hamas Palestinian Authority.
The unmentioned, silent, caveat is that monetary aid will be cut off to the Palestinians if it is used to fund terrorist activities.

I am predicting that most of the European Union will follow suit.
As opposed to first having the newly-elected Palestinian Authority prove itself and then offer support, support will be forthcoming until such time as the PA proves itself unworthy of support.
The old Palestinian leadership used its money to sponsor terror to such an extreme extent that the United States Congress passed a law preventing US dollars being sent to the PA until they changed their ways and proved worthy.

Congress is still waiting.

Annan Condemns Israel
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 10, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan recently condemned Israel's targeted killings of terrorist leaders as "executions without trial."
If only he paid attention to nuance, rather than generalizations, Annan would understand the difference between targeted killings by Israel and executions.

Over the past week Israel has seen a serious increase in terrorist activity. In the aftermath of one attack, Israel successfully captured twelve suicide bombers.
By interrogating these captives Israel receives fresh intel that they can act on immediately in the hope of preventing or subverting the next terrorist attacks.

YES, the terrorists are not tried, but the attacks are NOT vengeance.
They attacks are a way of preventing future attacks and of destroying the command control apparatus of terrorist networks.

Targeted attacks are one of the only tools that a democracy has with which to combat terror.
I wonder. Would Annan prefer that Israel simply play the quiet victim?

Finally 2 Muslim Leaders Raise Their Voices
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 9, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Muslim leaders are beginning to speak out and condemn the wave of "extremist" destruction and anger that has enveloped the Muslim world this past week.
Until now Muslim leaders have been silent, complicit and even sponsors of the riots.

Hassan Wirajuda, the foreign minister of Indonesia - the most populace Muslim country in the world - condemned the violence and called for a stop to the rioting.
Mohammed Usman, a Muslim leader in Afghanistan and a member of the highly respected Ulla Council said "we condemn the cartoon ... but these rioters are defaming the name of Islam."

The rioting in countries with large Muslim populations is divided into three.
* Western democracies like Denmark, Germany, Belgium and France.
The Muslim press and Muslim leaders are using free speech to stoke the flames and ignite anger. These riots are under control because the police are on hand.

* Liberal Muslim monarchies and dictatorships like Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
These governments are protesting publicly to Denmark about the cartoons and have made known their stand permitting them to now tacitly allow rioters to take to the streets under hidden control with the police nearby.

* Harsh Muslim dictatorships like Syria and Iran.
Here the protests are actually organized by the state and controlled by the police. The state controlled press is fueling the public and urging their citizens to take to the streets to protest the West.

This is revolutionary. Muslim leaders do not often go against the mainstream.

Germany Releases 9-11 Terrorist
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 8, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The only person to be convicted for his role in 9-11 was ordered to be released from a German prison yesterday. He was serving a 7 year sentence.

It is quite a saga.
Mounir el Motassadeq from Morocco was arrested, tried, convicted and then released when his sentence was overturned. Then he was tried again, convicted again and now released again.
No reason has been given explaining the release.

The 31 year old Moroccan has been convicted twice for being a member of a terrorist organization. He admits that he was friends with the terrorist cell in Hamburg but will not elaborate on the relationship. We know that his role included paying the tuition for the 9-11 terrorists that allowed them to remain in Germany posing as students but really planning the mother of all terrorist attack against the West.

This reads like a comedy, plays like a circus, and is a real life sham.
Something is wrong in Germany.

Carrot & Stick Iran
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 7, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has spelled out his country's plan for dealing with Iran and with Iranian nuclear aspirations.

Lavroy made two important statements:
"I think that at the current stage, it is important not to make guesses about what will happen and even more important not to make threats."
"...what we must underline is that there are the decisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN Security Council has been informed and will not take any action in the immediate future."

Russia wants to appease Iran.
Russia does not want to threaten Iran or to jeopardize Russian interests in Iran.

The United States believes in applying threats and pressure.
The United States believes in pressuring even to the point of threatening the use of force.

To my thinking, the best way of dealing with Iran right now would be a combination of Russian and United States techniques.
Go with the carrot and the stick method: use Iranian-friendly countries as the carrot applying non-threatening pressure and have the greater international community carry the stick, slamming down hard on Iran if they do not cease and desist.

By Micah Halpern

Monday February 6,2006


Yemen is one of those countries that most Americans really know very little about. It is an Arab country. It is a Muslim country. In really bad movies, really bad guys wearing long robes and carrying long daggers are Yemeni, or Yemenite. Curiosity takes most Americans no further in their understanding of Yemen - unless you are in the business of understanding terror and analyzing the Middle East.

So when twenty-three prisoners escape from a prison located on the outskirts of Saana, the capital city of Yemen, it takes a few days before the story makes it into the news and even then, only a few eyebrows are raised. Until more details emerge. That's when the red flags go up.

The prison is used, almost exclusively, to house security prisoners connected to terrorist activities. Red flag number one. Of the twenty-three escapees, thirteen were directly implicated in the October 2000 attack against the US naval ship the USS Cole. Red flags number two through fourteen. The attack against the USS Cole resulted in seventeen American deaths. These are al Qaeda terrorists. There aren't enough red flags for that.

So how do twenty-three people just up and escape from a security prison holding terrorists? They dug an 80 yard tunnel under the central prison and that's how they escaped. And what day did they choose to make their escape? They chose the day before fifteen of the men were about to begin their trial. Another fifteen red flags let loose.

The most notorious, the scariest, the person we should most worry about among the escapees is Jamal Badawi al Ahdal, the man charged with being the mastermind of the USS Cole attack. Al Adhal was the man who planned to load a rubber speed boat with explosive charges and ram a large United States naval vessel. Rather than sinking the entire vessel, the explosion blew a gaping hole in the starboard side of the ship.

That's what happened in a Yemeni jail only several days ago. Now, flashback three years. That's when terrorists held in another Yemeni jail, men under investigation for their role in the bombing of the USS Cole, mysteriously walked out of the cells and out of the prison. Never caught, never even pursued by Yemeni authorities.

Now we are faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, prisons in Yemen seem to have an open door policy for prisoners incarcerated for terrorist activities, especially terrorist activities against the United States. It is clear that there are powerful, well-placed people in Yemen who aid and abet terrorists especially al Qaeda terrorists. There is no way that twenty-three prisoners escape from a prison without the assistance of people both inside and outside the system. On the other hand, since 9-11 the government of Yemen has been helpful in providing important counter-terrorism intelligence to the United States, information that has proved vital in fighting the worldwide epidemic of terror.

The dilemma is a Western dilemma. In Yemen, this situation poses no conflict of interest, no incongruity, nothing odd.

Yemen is not a full fledged democracy. Since their six month long civil war in 1994 Yemen has held some elections and their parliament has 301 seats made up of six political parties who ran a multi party race. At the same time, in Yemen there is still no free speech and no freedom of the press. There are only two newspapers and they are state organs and the one and only TV station explains government policy.

So however you analyze Yemen, whether there was direct involvement or indirect involvement by the police, the military and the government in the planning and execution of the escape from Saana, it makes no difference. This is Yemen. There are some very important people who wanted to free these terrorists, just the way they freed the other terrorists three years ago, and who do not want to find them or re-apprehended them.

In an Arab state like Yemen if complicity in the act of freeing these terrorist cum prisoners was seen as a mistake or as image damaging to Yemen, if the ramifications on the local, national or international level were thought to be significant, there would have already been publicly punished scapegoats and the officers, leaders and/or involved politicians would have been dressed down in a way that is unique to Middle Eastern governments like Yemen.

But we have seen none of that.

And that is why the West must demand that the escaped prisoners be found, returned and held accountable for their crimes. The West must demand that if people who threaten Western freedom are to be held in Yemeni prisons, that they actually be held in and not allowed to wantonly and conveniently escape. The West must demand that appropriate punishment be meted out all the way up the escape ladder.

One of the best ways to hold Yemen accountable is to continue to plaster this story on the front pages of media across the world. Another is to bring the United Nations into the fray and have them launch an investigation. Yemen should be subjected to the same international pressure that is being placed on Syria in the aftermath of the Hariri assassination.

Yemen must make this situation right. Otherwise, we will witness more of this behavior. Not just in Yemen, but in other Muslim countries from the region. Too many red flags are being raised, too few white flags.

Israel Gives Hamas $43 Mill
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 5, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Israel made an important decision today.
They decided to transfer 200,000,000 NIS (that would be 43 million in dollars) to the Hamas led Palestinian government.

Why? Tax money.
Money that Israel collected this month for products that came through Israeli ports and then went to the Palestinian Authority.
The rest of the Western world is cutting off funding to the Palestinians and Israel, the country with the most to lose, is sending money to the Palestinians.

I am appalled, I am astounded. After the Hamas victory I suggested that Israel put the money in escrow until a responsible party comes to power in the PA.
I think this was a bad decision.
Do not ever give money to your enemy - it is not just bad policy, it is self-destructive behavior.

US Sentences Terrorists
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 4, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

United States courts are starting to hear cases about people aiding terrorists.
On Thursday the US Federal Court for the Southern District of New York sentenced a Lebanese-Canadian man named Naji Antoine Abi Khalil. He was convicted of money laundering and attempting to sell weapons to Hezbollah.

He was selling night vision goggles and infrared scopes for M-16's.
He received 57 months for his offenses.

Abi Khalil had an accomplice who pled guilty last year and is still awaiting sentencing. The name of the accomplice is Tomer Grinberg. He is an Israeli.
Yes, an Israeli was working together with a Lebanese arms dealer to sell weapons to the terrorist organization Hezbollah, the same Hezbollah that regularly attacks Israel.

Try and figure that one.

A Fool in Nablus
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 3, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

A fool is someone who does not learn from mistakes.
A fool is someone who chooses to repeat a mistake hoping for a different result.

A German national who teaches English to Palestinians in the Palestinian Authority is a fool. Yesterday, he was kidnapped from his hotel in Nablus at gunpoint. He has since been freed. The English teacher says he is going to stay put, he is going to continue teaching English. He says that he was not hurt by his kidnappers and that his kidnappers do not represent the Palestinians.

Perhaps, but he WAS taken at gunpoint by masked men who held machine guns to his head and chest and the abduction occurred while he was sitting at a table with Palestinians and the entire hotel staff watched and no one said BOO.

Sound familiar? We saw this same behavior several months ago when a British aid worker and her visiting parents were kidnapped in Gaza. Once again, this is not a case of Stockholm syndrome.

This man is just plain foolish. I am certain he does not represent all Germans.

Hamas Will Declare A State
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 2, 2006

I'm Predicting:

People have a total misunderstanding of the Palestinians Authority.
Post-Hamas victory I have been hearing about democracy, I am hearing that the people have spoken. Horse hockey, that's what I say.

The United States was the most influential party in Palestinian politics pre-Hamas victory. The reason there is no State of Palestine today is because the US said it would not recognize the state unless several conditions were met - like clamping down on terror and working with Israel to find some rapprochement.

Now Bush says it is up to Hamas. He still maintains that the US will not recognize the PA if Hamas does not put down its arms, change its charter and recognize Israel. Bush said: "I have made it clear that so long as that's their policy, that we will not support a Palestinian government made up of Hamas."

But what if the Palestinian Authority does not change ... then what?
Hamas may soon declare themselves a State of Palestine. Unilaterally.
Hamas may want to take the risk and snub the US. If they do, the new Palestinian State will be a pariah, without US support they will never break into the Western world ... but does Hamas really care?

Hamas probably does not want to be part of any club that includes the US of A. Thinking otherwise is another in the growing list of big Western miscalculations.

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