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Terror Tactics
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 1, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Thursday's suicide bombing in Israel was planned and perpetrated by Fatah's al Aksa's Brigade.
More attacks are sure to come.

The terrorist dressed up as an ultra orthodox Jew who was hitch-hiking. The driver thinking someone needed help, did not think twice about lending a hand.

This was not the first time terrorists disguised themselves as ultra religious Jews. The difference is that this time the terrorist got very close - so close that he was in the car with his "enemies" and waited about ten minutes before detonating himself and killing everyone in the vehicle.

We know this tactic. Terrorists use disguises.
Terrorists will dress up as funky Israeli clubbers to get close to young people in clubs. Terrorists will dress like religious Jews to kill true religious Jews. They will dress like settlers and soldiers.

The better the disguise, the more successful the attack.
And the terrorists are getting better and better at disguise.



The True Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 31, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Now that the new Palestinian government has been sworn in, the gloves are off and the "real" Hamas is emerging.

For example, yesterday Mahmoud al Zahar, the Hamas government's foreign minister, pulled a one-two punch.

In response to Canada's withdrawal of support for the Palestinians al Zahar said that it was no big deal because Canada did not contribute that much in the first place.

Then he proceeded to lambast the United States saying "America is committing big crimes against the Arab and Islamic countries." He said "This new decision will intensify the gap between the American people, American interests and the Middle East in general."

Sound familiar?
Mahmoud al Zahar was giving voice to a point of view held by much of the Arab and Muslim world.
The words were spoken by a Palestinian - but they echoed the sentiments that emanate from Syria and Iran. The clear indication is that the Palestinians, the Hamas-led Palestinians, have chosen sides.

Let the games begin.



Congratulations All Around
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 30, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Bush called. Blair called. Kofi Annan called.
The usual and the obvious obligatory congratulatory calls and messages came ringing through Ehud Olmert’s office after the Israeli election.
Nothing exceptional, nothing especially exciting.

The calls that didn't come in, however, convey more interesting reactions.
Amir Moussa, the head of the Arab League did not call, but he did release an official statement.
The message he sent was that the Arab League rejects the path of Ehud Olmert.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister, did not call with congratulations either. Like Amir Moussa, he had a message for Israel.
The gist of the message was that Israel cannot determine the borders of an Arab country.

Sorry Hamas, sorry Arab world, but unless you accept the right of Israel to exist, unless you negotiate with Israel, that is exactly what Israel - de facto - is doing and will continue to do.
And I highly doubt that any Arab entity will reject whatever land Israel chooses to give.



The Real Winners
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 29, 2006

I'm Predicting:

The big winners and losers in Israel's election are obvious.
Kadima - winner. Likud - loser. Labor - in the middle.
But the biggest winners are Avigdor Lieberman's party Yisrael Beitaynu (Israel Is Our Home) and Rafael Eitan's party Gimlayim (The Elderly/Retired).

Why is Avigdor Lieberman such a big winner?
This immigrant from the Former Soviet Union, this former guard at the Prime Minister's office is now the leader of the right, he is the opposition leader. He is the man.

Why is Rafael Eitan such a big leader?
The Gimlayim, with a platform based on social issues and aid to the elderly pulled in 8 seats and that makes them the swing for the coalition. Eitan is a former Mossad spy cum master handler. He was responsible for the capture of the Adolph Eichman, the Nazi who coordinated the plan that took the Jews to their death during the Holocaust. Eitan is also the spy who directed, and bungled, the Jonathan Pollard operation.

More than Olmert, more than Peretz, a retired spy and a former security guard will be setting the agenda for Israel's future.

Keep your eye on these two - they are wily.



ALL ABOUT THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 28, 2006

Column:

The votes are in. The election is over. The outcome holds no surprise.

The placards have been replaced. The jingles have morphed into trivia-game tunes. Campaign t-shirts are washed, folded and placed in drawers as forgotten keepsakes.

Has this election proved anything to Israelis, has the world learned anything new about Israel? Has anything changed?

Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, no matter where you sit on the map of Israel, this election has forced everyone - citizens of Israel and citizens of the world - to admit that Israel is one strong and stable democracy.

Israel is here to stay. Israel will not be wiped off the map. Israel will not be deterred, not by Hamas, not by Iran, not by international pressure, not by pressure from the United States.

David Ben Gurion's vision has been laid to rest. Trumpeldor, Jabotinsky and Yitzhak Shamir have taken up residence alongside the legendary Ari Ben Canaan - their dreams for the people and the State of Israel will be read about, no relived. Israelis no longer have the need for what was once considered an essential component of Israeli life. Israeli revisionism has fallen by the wayside. Israeli socialism is dead. Israeli communism is buried. Ariel Sharon lies in a convalescent home. And Israel has entered a new stage, Israel is a mature democracy.

The rise of Kadima symbolizes the end of ideology.

The rise of Kadima underscores the end of traditional Israeli political parties.

Kadima continued to thrive, to surge forward, fulfilling the prophecy and promise behind it's name - Kadima, forward, onward - even though founding father Ariel Sharon no longer leads the party or the country. And, with all due respect, even if Ehud Olmert, were to suddenly, politically, disappear Kadima and the country would continue to thrive. Today, Israel is politically stronger than it was a year ago. Today, Israel is politically stronger than it was yesterday. And tomorrow it will be stronger still.

Israel is a more mature Israel. Israel is a stronger Israel. Israel is a psychologically healthier Israel. Israel is making decisions about the future based on the needs of Israelis and not the needs of the United States or of the Palestinians. The fence. The withdrawal from Gaza. Cessation of peace talks. Israelis are inwardly-focused, they are not looking elsewhere for acknowledgment, for permission, for approbation or for solutions to the bane of every sovereign society - those everyday issues confounding and confronting every citizen of any country.

The fact of this new election, that it took place at all, that the front runner party remained front runner despite the limitations of its charismatic leader sheds new understanding on Israel as a democratic nation. Israel is a stable, middle-of-the-road, non-ideological, real-politik democracy. It does not matter if Kadima stays in power one year or four years. It doesn't even matter if Kadima cobbles together a broad or a narrow coalition, national unity or majority wins - what matters is that there is a party that has carved out a realistic center and that political platform touches most Israelis.

Israel's national leaders can no longer be described as right wing or left wing. Israel's leaders of today are centrists. And today's centrists are different than previous centrists.

Never has Israel been so clear about abandoning its past with its strong and strident ideological bent. Never has Israel been so clear about appealing to the masses and never have the masses been so willing to break with past allegiances and mesh.

Clearly there are problems with this new Kadima-led era.

Kadima has no history upon which to draw. Other centrist movements failed, their time had not yet come, the people were not ready or able to throw them their support. Kadima has no party infrastructure to assist in governing and must build an infrastructure, top to bottom and bottom to top, if they hope to remain in power for any length of time. Kadima must gain even more strength from the masses, they have to do what Sharon did - and did masterfully - and galvanize Israelis. Kadima must find "the" issue that will rally Israelis - the fence?, borders?, the economy? - "the" issue. And Kadima needs to prove that they are not just a flavor of the month, a passing fancy, a blip on the radar of Israeli politics. They need to prove that they are seriously different from Labor and from Likud. They need to be seriously different and definitely better.

This election was not about the legacy of Sharon. This election was truly all about the future of Israel.



Palestinian Message to Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 27, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh both had messages for the Israeli people on the eve of their election.

Abbas said that Israel must recognize the new Palestinian leadership.
Haniyeh, extending his hand to end the violence, said that Hamas is not interested in a "whirlpool of blood."

Good PR for Hamas, but what about reality?
Both men, through their messages to the people of Israel, placed the burden of peace on Israel - deflecting it from themselves, from their shoulders, from their people and politics.

Israel is doing the right thing by shunning Hamas.
Palestinian leadership still does not recognize that Hamas was and is still a terrorist organization and will continue to commit acts of terror as long as they are an organization.
Until Palestinian leadership accepts the truth, Israel cannot deal with them.



Get Out & Vote
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 26, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

What is the most important campaign issue for Israel's Tuesday election?
Not safety, not security.
Not Hamas or Israel's future borders.
Not even the economy.

The main issue, right now, is getting people to the polls.
That is the immediate goal and clarion call of all parties - Get Out And Vote.
A poor showing will hurt almost every party, especially the mainstream big parties Kadima, Labor, and Likud.

What will keep people away from voting booths?
Apathy coupled with indecision.
A lack of realistic, clear options coupled with an ingrained fear of the future.

Sharon carved out the middle, legitimized its voice and gave it direction.
But no one can guarantee that this vision will bring a better future for Israelis.



Israeli Polls Are Lie
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 25, 2006

I'm Predicting:

The polls for the Israeli elections on Tuesday will be off - really off.
Don't count on exit polls being correct either.
It's not that polls lie, it's the people who lie.

Here's why:

There will be a very low (only about 60%) voter turnout.

A large portion of people who responded to polls will not go to the voting booth even if they say they will.

Kadima, the leading party, is brand new.
People cannot "go home" to their original party.

All party numbers have been seesawing these past few weeks.
Up one day and down the next translates into no perceptible movement in any direction.

20% of Israelis are still undecided.

They will not swing the winner's place, but they will affect the number of parliamentary seats.

Without polls we know one thing for sure - Kadima will win.
But how big a win? 33seats? 43?



Hamas Interior Minister
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 24, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

People all around are doing their utmost to put a positive spin on Hamas.
Not Hamas people.
They tell it like it is.

Saeed Seyam is the new Palestinian Interior Minister and Chief of Security in the Palestinian Authority.
He outlines his mission:
"The day will never come when any Palestinian would be arrested because of his political affiliation or because of resisting the occupation."
He outlines his job description:
"Saeed Seyam did not come to the government to revive any security cooperation or to protect the occupation and their settlers. I came to protect our people and their fighters, to protect their trees, their properties and their capabilities."

Interpret these words in the spirit in which they were spoken.
Hamas wants to destroy Israel.
Hamas will do nothing to prevent attacks against Israel.
Hamas will facilitate attacks against Israel.



China Pres Will Meet Bush
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 23, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Big news. Hot off the press.
The President of China, Hu Jintao, will visit the White House on April 20.

This is not an official state visit.
President Hu will visit Yale ... and Seattle ... and ... well, by the way ... he will also have an informal meeting with President Bush in the White House.

The US agenda for this little tete a tete is: terror, Iran and North Korea, and human rights.
On each of these issues China wields huge influence.

The Chinese agenda is one single issue: more export to the United States.
China is really only interested in expanding their trade, and that is a serious irritant to US manufactures and US politicians, including George W. Bush.
Last year the US trade deficit with China hit a new record at $202 billion.
The United States is a Chinese cash cow.

China is the only country that the United States still sees as a serious threat. China is impervious to US pressure.
Oh to be a fly on the wall at that meeting.



Iran Gives: Here's Why
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 22, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz revealed that Iran transferred $1.8 million to Islamic Jihad last month.
The money went from Iran through Syria to Gaza.

Now no one should be surprised that Iran gave Islamic Jihad the money.
The surprise is that Iran gives away very little money away and $1, 800,000 is a lot of money and a very large increase in Iranian funding. So why did they do it?

Reliable threat assessment conducted over the past month points to the probability that Iran and Syria will attempt to attack Israel before the March 28 elections. The assumption is that a large terror attack will destabilize Israel.
The assumption is wrong.

Terror does not destabilize Israel, terror unifies Israel and makes Israel more defiant.
As opposed to giving 1.8 million in humanitarian aid, Iran gave it to murder Israelis.
The truth: Iran does not care about Palestinians, Iran cares about killing Israelis.



Internet in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 21, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

There are an estimated 500,000 people in Syria in defiance of the government.
What are they doing?
They are going on-line, they are the internet users of Syria.

The vast majority of Syrian internet users keep themselves so cloaked in secrecy that the government does not know who they are and cannot track what they are viewing. And what are they viewing? Many of them are viewing anti-government material.

A strong and vibrant anti-Syrian movement exists within Syria. Participants risk life and limb, literally, or will be subject to long prison terms not just for writing critically of the government, but even for reading critique written by others.
Sites like "all4syria" and "champress" and "heretics blog" would never make it onto government sponsored media.

The numbers are significant.
These are the people who represent the future of Syria. The question now is how to move them from readers to actors on the stage of Syrian reform.

The internet might be the most powerful force for revolt in Damascus.



Justice In Time
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 20. 2006

Column:

Israel watched and waited. Israel prepared and Israel persevered. And it all came together on March 14th.

March 14th. The day that United States and United Kingdom peacekeepers fled for their lives, afraid of being kidnapped or killed by Palestinian terrorists. The day that United States and United Kingdom peacekeeping forces said enough to fear and uncertainty as they watched colleagues disappear, taken hostage, their fates unknown, wondering if they would be next.

March 14th. The day that the Israeli army led a daring raid on the Jericho prison abandoned by Americans and the British, left solely guarded by Palestinian jailers. The day that Israel entered the prison and took captive five members of the PFLP, the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The day that five men responsible for the murder of Israeli Minister of Tourism Rechavam "Ghandi" Zeevi exchanged a Palestinian prison for an Israeli prison.

For the Israelis, it was worth the wait.

And now, Israel is claiming that under Israeli law they will bring the assassins to trial. Israel is claiming that the men who planned the assassination of Zeevi, in October of 2001, in a Jerusalem hotel corridor, will be brought to justice under Israeli jurisdiction.

The Palestinians disagree.

The Palestinian Authority claims that putting these men on trial - again, in Israel - is a violation of an agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinians. They claim that putting these men on trial in Israel violates Annex IV of Oslo 2 which states that "no person can be tried twice for the same offense." The Palestinians argue that it is double-faced for Israel and the United States to demand that Hamas honor previous agreements if they themselves intend to flaunt this agreement.

The Palestinians are right. And they are wrong.

Four of the men now in Israeli hands were tried by the Palestinians. True, it was a middle of the night trial that lasted all of twenty minutes, but they were, technically, tried and found guilty. The fifth man, Ahmed Saadat, was never tried by the Palestinians. He went to prison because he feared for his life, feared that Israel would capture him or target him. He went to prison because it was the safest place to be. Ahmed Saadat is the head of the PFLP. Ahmed Saadat never, ever, went on trial for the assassination of Rechavam Zeevi.

Ahmed Saadat is fair game. As for the other four, while Israel may not bring them to trial for the assassination, they can certainly try them for a host of other related crimes.

The Palestinian Authority is famous for revolving-door-justice. And that is the reason that the prison was watched over, not guarded, but monitored by the Americans and the British. The only reason these men were even in prison is because the United States and the United Kingdom demanded that they be brought to justice and then took up surveillance posts outside the prison doors. The prisoners still used their cell phones and were often visited by high level PA leaders and nobody knows that they were really behind bars, but they were, at least physically, in prison.

In fact, Saadat was actually elected to the Palestinian Parliament in the Hamas-led government, from prison.

And now Saadat is claiming that he wants to sue the United Kingdom for not properly protecting him in the prison.

The United Kingdom was not there to protect Saadat inside the prison, they were there to prevent his escaping from the prison. And he is not the one who escaped. They, the prison-watchers, escaped, pulling out because the situation was too dangerous for them, the peacekeepers. Saadat was captured.

So Israel waited, the United States and the United Kingdom watched, and the Palestinians will be punished for their crime. It was inevitable. Time was on the side of justice.



Hamas' Goal
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 19, 2006

I'm Predicting:

"We and the Zionists have a date with destiny."

That was the comment of Khalad Mashal, the chief of Hamas' politburo.

Mashal is the most senior political leader within Hamas.

"Being in power is only a means to an end for Hamas."

"Power is not our ultimate goal."

"If it becomes one, let power go to hell. It will not hold us back from our targets which we hold dear."
So what is the ultimate goal of Hamas? The destruction of Israel.

It is their raison d'etre. To think otherwise is to be deceived.
But some countries don't seem to care. Over the next week many countries are going to begin giving humanitarian aid to Hamas.

And it will all start with Japan.



Haniyeh Is A Terror Leader
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 18, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

CBS's David Hawkins just interviewed Ismail Haniyeh, the future prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.
Haniyeh said he never participated in or ordered any terrorist attack. The exact quote, in translation, goes: "I've never sent anyone on a suicide mission."

If the future Palestinian leader isn't a classic example of guilty by association - who is?
Haniyeh admits that Hamas perpetrates terror - but not by his orders.
Haniyeh says that he is not involved in the terror perpetrated by Hamas - only he is one of the key leaders of Hamas.

Unless Haniyeh has tried, actively and forcefully tried, to encourage Hamas to reject terror and violence then he - personally - represents a terror organization and that means, unequivocally, that he is a terrorist leader.

Haniyeh can say whatever he wants - it is his deeds that determine what he is. Hamas still embraces terror, Haniyeh is their leader, ergo, Ismail Haniyeh is a terrorist.



The World: Like An Old Film
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 17, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Some times world events are so out of whack, perceptions are so far from reality, it makes me feel as if we're living out scenes from old movies.

Read what Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said on Thursday after his meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem:
"We have agreed to work together to prevent and to stop illegal arms trafficking in the region, including in Palestine and Iraq."
I am flabbergasted.

Russia and Syria are partners in arms trade.
Russia and Syria provide most of the illegal weapons in the region.
Russia and Syria are the reason that many terrorists in Iraq have weapons.
Russia and Syria are why Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have weapons.

I am reminded of that famous scene in Casablanca where the local police commissioner is ordered by the Germans to close down Rick's Cafe ... he says, "I am shocked, shocked to see that there is gambling going on ..."
Then he asks for his winnings.



Iran's Point of No Return
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 18, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Is Iran ready to produce a nuclear bomb right now? Can they do it tomorrow?
No, they can't.
But each step they take, each unchecked technological development, brings the day Iran has a bomb closer and closer.

Right now, Iran might be 5-10 years away from having a nuclear bomb. But the "point of no return" is a month to a few years away.
That point was confirmed by Robert Joseph, a senior U.S. State Department official, at a House of Representatives discussion on Iran.

That point is too close for comfort.
That is why it is so important to address the problem head on and immediately. At the "point of no return" it will be impossible to turn back Iranian technology.
The best policy is to keep them at bay, to make certain that Iran is just that far away from developing the next step.
If Iran is permitted to develop energy alternatives the "point of no return" will have been reached.

Verification. Spot inspections. Involvement. Iran must be stopped.



Mixed Messages
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 15, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The United States is sending out mixed messages about Hamas.

At last week's AIPAC (American Israel Political Action Committee) convention, government official after government official promised not one dollar to Hamas.
But then on Sunday, on her way to Indonesia, Condi Rice said: "We are looking at ways to even increase our humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people during this period of time, but there are important choices that the Palestinian people face concerning the Road Map and the Quartet requirements."

We already know that the United States has earmarked over $120 million to the Palestinian Authority for special projects in a direct contribution channeled through the United Nations.

I guess that when officials promise to give not one dollar – they mean it literally.
Not one dollar - several hundred million dollars.
Silly us.



Mubarak Blackmails EU
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 14, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak all but threatened a group of European Union foreign ministers who had informally gathered in Salzburg yesterday.

Mubarak, a rather imposing man, informed the foreign ministers that not giving aid to the Palestinians will create terror. His exact words were:
"The aid is used by the man in the street to buy medicine and to send his children to school. If this money is cut, terrorism will grow and all the people will suffer."

Mubarak did not stop there. He asked the EU representatives to move on and accept Hamas.
"Hamas was elected by the Palestinian people and Israel must recognize that it can form a new government. The renunciation of Hamas of violence and its recognition of preceding engagements is for a second stage."

Mubarak is a wise and wily man. He knows that his words carry weight and he weighs each word. That he is seen as the key to getting to Hamas.

If Mubarak manages to sway the EU then Hamas and terror will have won by changing the West's perspective on who terrorists are and what terror is.
If that happens, terror will have become an acceptable tool of Western politics.
We cannot let that happen.



PASSING THE HAT FOR HAMAS
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 13, 2006

Column:

Hamas is hurting for money.

It takes a lot more to run a country than it does to run soup kitchens and day care centers. Donor nations once willing and even anxious to support terrorist activities are not at all eager to cover the costs of Palestinian municipal salaries.

And so Hamas finds itself in the rather uncomfortable position of having a country to lead, but no means with which to lead. Digging for dollars won't work - the United States has, at least publicly, sworn off feeding more money into the Palestinian economy as long as it is Hamas-led. Yearning for yen is pointless - the Japanese couldn't care less about the past, present or future of the Palestinians. Shopping, some would say schnoring, for shekels has actually proven somewhat successful - surprise, surprise, and Israel has turned over some tax money to the new government. Digging for dinar is a wasted effort - the Jordanians are adopting a wait and see attitude for now, paying close attention to their neighbor but from a comfortable political and financial distance. Running after rubles might eventually help - the Russians have been wishy washy on the matter.

With no where else to turn, Hamas has appealed to two old friends. And both friends, both Iran and Saudi Arabia, have made promises to help. Iran and Saudi Arabia have promised the Hamas-led Palestinian government that they will pick up the financial slack necessary to run their government. Iran and Saudi Arabia have promised to step in and fill the vacuum created by the dis-investment of the West from the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

The proverbial checks - Saudi riyal (SAR) and Iranian rial (IRR) - are in the mail. But Hamas' problems are not nearly over. Saudi Arabia and Iran are both big on promises but very bad on follow through. And neither of these countries has an impressive track record for helping out the Palestinians.

They've given before, surely, but never enough. Last year, when the Palestinian Authority was in severe financial distress, Saudi Arabia helped out with $33 million. Nice, but that hardly comes close to the $1.5 billion with a "b" that the Palestinian government needs to simply pay off their bills this year.

And the coffers are receding rapidly. The PA has already returned $30 million given them by the United States and is about to return another $20 million, money that the United States is demanding back because it was inappropriately used, because it was allocated to improper activities.

Just think about it. The United States Congress passed a law preventing United States funding from going to the Palestinian Authority. And even with that law, the US still managed to give the PA $50 million - almost twice what Saudi Arabia, friend and ally of the Palestinian Authority, gave.

Iran's past investment in Hamas has been bang for the buck. Small sums, paltry sums, money used for stimulating and supporting terror. Focused allocations. Hardly the stuff that underwrites a national budget.

And now Iran has pledged financial assistance - but at what price to Hamas?

Official Iranian representation has just come to the Palestinian Authority. The Supreme Shiite Council has been established by Iran in the city of Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government. Red flag alert! Why? Because Palestinians are not Shiites, Palestinians are Sunni Muslims.

There is no history of Shiite Islam in the region. Until now Sunnis in the region have always referred to Shiites as heretics and that is by no means a term of endearment.

The reality is that the links between Hamas and Iran are purely political. The links are certainly not religious and even now, despite Iran's pledge, they will not be financial. The strongest link between these two nations is their hatred of Israel. Next comes their shared disdain for the West and everything Western. Other than that, Hamas and Iran have very little to almost nothing in common.
Actually, Hamas' entire religious and political gestalt is diametrically opposite Iran's. The best example of this is internal Iraqi violence. Today, just as they have for centuries, Shiites and Sunnis regularly mass murder one another.

Iran gives nothing for nothing. Iran may be promising Hamas financial aid, but what they are really doing is trying to move the Palestinian people from a Sunni orientation to a Shiite orientation. And there's more. Iran wants support within the Organization of Islamic States (OIS), the group of 57 Muslim countries that broadly unites the Muslim nations of the world. Until now Iran has been a pariah in the OIS and they are hoping that their show of Palestinian sympathy will go a long way with other Muslims in the organization. And for that, they are willing to pay.

But is all this worth it for Hamas?

It is. Here's why: Iran's promise of financial aid was used by Hamas as a fulcrum to try to urge Saudi Arabia to step forward and offer support. Saudi Arabia, like the Palestinian Authority, is Sunni. And it would be a great embarrassment if the Shiites stepped forward and fellow Sunnis were not forthcoming in an effort to help Palestinian Sunnis.

Muslim countries are not accustomed to helping the Palestinians. That has always been the role undertaken by Western nations.

Right now, I doubt that Iran and Saudi Arabia will follow through and truly support the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. They do, they do. They don't, they don't. That whole issue is less of a burning issue for me than this: Will the United States and the West stick to their principles and not give to the PA? Can the United States and the West watch a people and a government, even a Hamas led government, flounder and not reach out with a helping - financial - hand?



Underground In Iran
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 12, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The Sunday Telegraph of Britain just unveiled that Iran has completed an underground Command Control Center deep underneath Teheran.
No one should be surprised.

The Command Control Center is connected to a series of tunnels that lead to and from various ministries and religious centers above ground.
Certainly, by building the complex below ground the Iranians thought that it had a better chance of going undetected.
But the real reason for an underground command complex in Teheran is to protect Iran's leadership from an assault and to allow the leadership to continue to direct and govern even if under attack.
Iran is preparing for an attack by the West.

In many ways Iran is a backwards society, but in just as many ways they are a highly sophisticated scientific society.
We must never lose sight of the whole Iranian picture.



EU is Spineless
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 11, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Is the European Union about to take a stand against Hamas?
If you listen to what member nations are saying, the answer would be yes.
If you watch what member nations are doing, you probably will come away unconvinced.

EU foreign ministers met on Friday. They declared that the European Union will cut all aid to the newly-controlled, Hamas-led, Palestinian Authority: "unless it seeks peace by peaceful means."
The EU spokesperson went so far as to say: "we will not go soft on our principles."

I find these statements hard to believe. As a general observation, the EU usually goes soft when it comes to principles. Specifically, when it comes to the Palestinians, the actions of the EU to date can best be characterized as spineless. They are certainly not a united front when it comes to the Palestinians. Several European Union member nations have already declared their desire to support humanitarian activities within the PA and to give Hamas time to prove themselves as political, not terrorist, leaders.

We must wait and see.
Actions really do speak louder than words.



Politically Unwise Abbas
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 10, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently declared that he hopes acting prime minister Ehud Olmert becomes the next Israeli Prime Minister.

This was truly the utterance of a foolish politician.
No foreign leader should poke their nose into the workings of a stable democracy.
Of course, Abbas was stating the obvious.
Olmert will certainly be the next Israeli prime minister but in making that politically unwise statement Abbas has achieved exactly the opposite of what he stated.

Israel's Labor Party is the ideal pro-peace partner for the Palestinians. Now Labor is perceived to have been stabbed in the back by the ruling Palestinians. So why vote for Labor? Labor will now lose electoral support.
On the other side of the spectrum, Likud has run with the Abbas statement saying: see, we told you, even Abbas realizes that Kadima is leftist.

Labor loses. Kadima loses. Even if Likud wins this round, they are losers.

So now I'm wondering.
Abbas probably does not want an agreement with Israel.
Is he smart enough to have done this all intentionally?
Nah ... no way.



Iran & the Security Council
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 9, 2005

I'm Predicting:

The United States is talking about presenting Iran before the UN Security Council for discussion, pressure, censure.
Bad Idea.
At best, the plan will fail - and Iran will just ignore the Security Council.
At worst, the plan will backfire - and Iran will forge ahead paying no heed even to those countries who have begun to make some headway.

Yesterday, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns testified before Congress saying that the by next week the Security Council will deal with Iran. The United States may want to turn up the pressure, but the United States has never been good at reading or understanding Iran.
Russia can read the Iranians.
Also yesterday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that putting pressure on Iran will not work.

In that Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council they have veto power. If Russia doesn't want something to happen, it's not about to happen.
Wake up America, you are not running this show.



Iranian Syrian Nexus
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 8, 2006

I'm Predicting:

A recently issued press release from the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA)touted a series of projects to be jointly run by Iran and Syria.

The projects included joint oil and gas pipelines and a link-up of electricity lines and railway lines.
The press release also had Iran expressing interest in co-operation in technical and scientific areas.
According to some sources, the transfer of weapons was also discussed.

Why is this interesting?
Because both these countries are being isolated by the rest of the world and now they are looking to hook-up and join forces. Because this union provides both countries with strength, security and cover under fire that neither one has alone. Because, most importantly, this union provides each country with alternative energy in the event of an American or Western strike.

This is a brilliant tactical response.
Anticipate future vulnerabilities and attacks and be pre-emptive, be prepared.

Iran and Syria are perfect partners against the West.
Be on the look out for more Iran/Syria links.



Hamas Sees Itself as Liberal
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 7, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas has told al Qaeda to butt out, to take a hike, to leave them alone.
Unofficially and politely, but firmly, never-the-less.

Here's what happened:
A video of al Qaeda's inimitable number 2 man, Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, was circulated over the weekend.
The video had Zawahiri proclaiming and sermonizing on morality, on Islamic fundamentals and on the chosen path for newly-elected political Hamas.

In response:
One Hamas spokesman said: "Hamas believes that Islam is completely different to the ideology of Mr. al Zawarhiri."
Another Hamas spokesman, this one in Gaza, said: "Our battle is against the Israeli occupation and our only concern is to restore our rights and serve our people. We have no links with any group or element outside Palestine."
On al Jazeera Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said: that Hamas was elected through its moderate approach to Islam, which did not compare to al Qaeda's exclusionary tactics. "We are not a movement that labels people infidels or that abandons them. We are a movement that lives the realities of the people and that uses wisdom ... to turn them to Islam."

Did you ever, even in your wildest dreams, think that Hamas would be labeled as "liberal" ?!



NEW BEST FRIENDS: CHINA & IRAN
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 6, 2006

Column:

Of all the countries in the world, which country poses the biggest threat to the United States? Without a doubt, the answer is China.

Of all the countries in the world, which country poses the largest challenge to the United States? Without a doubt, the answer is Iran.

China and Iran. Opposite ends of the world. But combined, they might just be able to accomplish some good - certainly for themselves but also for the rest of our world.

Now, finally, China has chosen to enter the Iranian nuclear power fray. And Iran is paying attention.

China's involvement with Iran became public when the assistant minister of foreign affairs for China paid a visit to Iran. While there he met with significant players in Iran's nuclear and security apparatus. His visit was important enough to warrant a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The meetings took place between February 24th and February 26th. Both the Iranian and Chinese spokesmen confirmed that nuclear issues were discussed. They both confirmed that China wanted to make certain that Iran's nuclear issues were resolved within the framework of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). And then China expressed the hope that all concerned parties would reach a compromise solution.

But China didn't stop there.

On Sunday March 5th, while speaking at the annual meeting of the National People's Parliament, China's foreign minister Li Zhaoxing issued a plea to Iran to resume meetings and talks on their nuclear program immediately. The Chinese foreign minister urged the Iranians to restart their discussions so as to resolve the problem diplomatically.

The "or else" was left hanging mid-air.

For months I have maintained that the Chinese have clout with the Iranians that is second to none. The Chinese have credibility with the Iranians. The Chinese share mutual interests with the Iranians. The Chinese have standing that no other nation on earth can claim.

China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
China has a $70 billion a year commitment to import oil from Iran.
China and Iran are partnering on several other projects in energy development. China is the pre-eminent world leader in the anti-America campaign today

The impact of a China - Iran nexus of Iran is very powerful. And, making it palatable to the rest of the world is the idea that China is urging Iran to act responsibly.

What's the difference between China and American or China and Europe or even China and Russia when it comes to requesting that Iran cease and desist from their nuclear program until the IAEA can get back in and monitor the inner happenings of their program? Why will China succeed where every other country has tried, been laughed at, booted out and failed?

The difference is that unlike all the other nations, China is a very special and enormously larger client of Iran's. China buys oil from Iran. China buys lots and lots and lots more oil from Iran.

For Iran, China is the perfect intermediary. China is not an anti-Muslim state nor are they a Muslim state. Most important, China is not in the pocket of the United States. Iran knows that China can, has and will again stand up to the United States. Iran knows that China will not bend if they do not want to bend. Iran knows that China's vote in the UN Security Council is totally self-motivated. China is not a country that wants or will tolerate coddling or cajoling. China stands alone. China owns the image Iran has been trying to project.

And right now China understands the dangers of Iran going nuclear. They want the IAEA back in and they want discussions continued. Why? Because they do not want their own oil flow jeopardized. Self-motivation and self-interest at its best. But that's all right. Iran knows why China has chosen to get involved. Iran understands China's reasons and accepts them for everything they are worth.

And China's involvement with Iran is worth - a lot.



Al Qaeda Unites The Muslims
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 5, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Al Qaeda needs to show a Muslim world that is strong and united in The War Against The West.

Two recent world events have presented al Qaeda - as if on a silver platter - with the opportunity for open battle.
Event # 1: the twelve editorial caricatures depicting Mohammad
Event # 2: the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian election

Zawahiri, one of al Qaeda's undisputed top guns, has offered us true insight into the way al Qaeda views these world events.

About the caricatures Zawahiri said:
"They did it on purpose and they continue to do it without apologizing, even though no one dares to harm Jews or to challenge Jewish claims about the Holocaust nor even to insult homosexuals."

About Hamas Zawahiri said:
the previous Palestinian leadership has "sold Palestine." He said "recognizing those people (Jews) is against Islam's principles. They (previous Palestinian leadership) are criminals in the Islamic balance." "Palestine is not their property that they (the PA) can give up."

Zawahiri is not deluded. Zawahiri is not confused.
Zawahiri is perpetuating a theme of US versus THEM.
Al Qaeda needs the Muslim world to be united against the West, against the US and Israel.
The West needs to truly understand the al Qaeda message.



Hamas is in Denial
By Micah Halpern

Saturday, March 4, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday the Hamas diplomatic team concluded their meetings with Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
Hamas came away pleased.
They feel as if Russia is mentoring them, big brother style.

I have come away perplexed.

One member of the delegation, Ezzat el Resheq, told Reuters that Hamas would consider an extension of the ceasefire with Israel if Israel "ended its aggression, assassinations and arrests and freed Palestinian prisoners."
The "ball is in Israel's court" said el Resheq.

To be polite, I'll just say that Hamas is in a delusional state of denial.
The ball is exclusively in Hamas' court.
Israel got out of Gaza.
Israel recognized a future Palestinian State.
Has Hamas forgotten all that?
It is time for the Palestinians to reform.
Hamas must reject violence.
Hamas must recognize Israel and join the civilized nation of the world.

After that happens, the ball will be in play. Will Russia be there to referee?



Showdown in DC on Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 3, 2006

I'm Predicting:

There is going to be a showdown in Washington.
The subject: Hamas.

The United States has already declared that it will be "NO DEAL" with Hamas. They have demanded the return of $50 million that was improperly allocated. $30 million has already been returned. $20 million more is on the way.

And yet, official US spokespeople and political appointees are talking about granting aid to the Hamas-led PA in the form of humanitarian gifts.
And the US has so far pledged $150 million in development aid plus $84 million in aid projects through the United Nations to the Palestinians for this year alone.

Secretary of State Condi Rice proclaims that US money cannot go to the Hamas-led PA and then slides right into a statement about a Palestinian aid project that must be supported - like immunizations.

Members of The International Relations Committee of the House were livid at the responses they got when they heard State Department testimony describing the status of funding for Hamas.

The US cannot have it both ways.
Get ready for serious fireworks.



Jordan Knows
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 2, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

A terrorist suicide attack was thwarted by Jordanian authorities yesterday.
This is not the first attack the Jordanians have prevented.
Since January Jordan's secret intelligence service has intercepted and defused several other potentially devastating attacks.

Jordan knows that they are high on the al Qaeda list of targets.
Jordan does not want a repeat of the horror of November 2005 when 60 people were killed by terrorists while attending celebrations at three hotels.
Jordan knows that al Qaeda wants to depose their monarchy and so the monarchy has declared war against al Qaeda.

Why haven't other Muslim countries declared war on al Qaeda?
Because they believe that terror serves an important purpose.
Because they believe that terrorists can be used as a calming agent to control their own "streets."
Because anti-West, anti-America, anti-Israel rage instigated by terror organizations will be vented on the "street" and not directed back home.

Jordan knows better.
Jordan knows that terrorists destroy everyone they touch.
Jordan knows that no good can ever come of terror or terrorists.
Why don't other Muslim countries know that?





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