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A Civil War By Any Other Name
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 1, 2006

I'm Predicting:

"There will never be a civil war because the term doesn't exist in our lexicon, the lexicon of Jihad."

That's a quote from an interview that Palestinian Foreign Minister Ismail Haniyeh gave to the Iranian News Agency (IRNA).
He also said that the United States is an "enemy of Islam and Muslims."

Well I have a linguistic and historical surprise for Haniyah.
The word for civil war is Fitna and it is a concept well known to Muslims.
The classic historical example of Fitna occurred in 656-661 when the Caliph Uthman ibn Affan was assassinated while reading the Koran. This entire period is called the end of unity of the Islamic Ummah (the Islamic nation).

And just look at contemporary history. From 1991 and 2002 100,000 Algerians were killed in a Muslim civil war. Iraqis killed Iranians. The list goes on.

Hamas and Fatah are killing one another on a daily basis and the numbers will just continue to rise. Too much is at stake. Compromise is not in the cards.
Say what you want, Palestinians are on the verge of a civil war.

Crazy Parallel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 31, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Abdullah Badawi, the foreign minister of Malaysia, put forth the case for Iranian nuclear activity at a conference his country hosted for the 110 members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

He said: "Allowing Israel to develop nuclear weapons with impunity - which it does not deny - while others in the region are prohibited from doing so, is a blatant case of double standard."

He said: "In this matter, we must recognize Iran's right to develop such technology for peaceful purposes."

He said: "The time for double standards is over, the time of threats to other nations is over, selective approach to humanitarian issue is over."

What he really said is that the United States and Israel are conspiring against the Muslim world. He said exactly what Iran wants to hear. He played right into the game that Iran has constructed.

It is a game of US, Iran versus THEM, the United States and the West.

Iran makes up the rules for this game and right now, they are winning.

Iran's game is by no means a reality show, it is all and only about perspective.

Iran's perspective.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 30, 2006


Auschwitz is the face of Nazi inhumanity. Birkenau is the gut.

Birkenau is the essence of the Holocaust story. By some fluke of history and nomenclature, that spot of hell on earth called Birkenau - where the massive murders happened, has become subsumed under the rubric of Auschwitz - a political prison for primarily Polish and Russian prisoners.

Auschwitz today looks much as it did fifty years ago, like any college campus, USA. Birkenau is barren, pitted, vast, ghostly. Auschwitz. Birkenau. Buna. Three camps that, to the uninformed, have been lumped together under one immediately recognizable name.

Pope Benedict has just returned from Poland. It was not this Pope's first trip to Poland. It was actually his third trip to the death camp, Selsia, located in the Southern part of Poland and only a short drive from Krakow. It was his first trip as Pope. Benedict is certainly not the first Pope to visit Poland, and he is the second to visit Auschwitz. And yet, this Pope's trip to Poland is historic.

Historic because Pope Benedict is the first Pope to visit Birkenau.

In traveling to Poland Benedict was paying tribute to John Paul II. He was physically illustrating that he, as Pontiff, was building upon the foundation that he, as Theological Advisor to John Paul, had outlined.

In visiting Birkenau, the notorious Nazi murder camp, Pope Benedict sent out a clear message to Christians, to Jews, to the world. The message is that Pope Benedict is continuing in the path set out by his predecessor Pope John Paul II. The message is that this Pope will continue to fight the scourge of hatred against Jews.

The significance of this visit cannot be overstated. Many dignitaries, sight-seers, travelers and students visit Auschwitz, the symbol of the Nazi murder machine. But in reality it was Birkenau, also called Auschwitz II, that was the murder factory. Auschwitz is a tiny facility while Birkenau is enormous. Frames of the barracks of Birkenau continue as far as the eye can see. Birkenau had four gas chambers and crematoria, it was an example of efficient industry, an efficient industry of destruction and death. Auschwitz had a small make-shift gas chamber. It was in Birkenau that the Jews were murdered and imprisoned. Except for one very short time, when the load was too large for Birkenau to handle alone, Auschwitz was where prisoners of war were housed.

It was the act of going to Birkenau that mattered. On this historic trip to Birkenau it was the action of Pope Benedict that spoke volumes louder than his words.

Going to Birkenau is an illustration of the deep and significant understanding that Pope Benedict has of what truly transpired in the Holocaust Kingdom, in Planet Auschwitz / Birkenau, where the basic laws of this world were not in effect and where the only law that mattered was the set of norms devised by the Nazis.

"Poland for the Poles" was a popular anti-Semitic slogan during the Nazi era. On Saturday afternoon, in broad daylight, the day before Pope Benedict set foot in Birkenau, those words of hate rang out - once again, in the streets of Warsaw. The epitaph was directed at a group of Jews. They were directed at Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich as he returned from synagogue.

Rabbi Schudrich is not a native Pole, he is not an old-time Jewish victim. Schudrich is a man with a conscience and a vision, a man dedicated to returning and revitalizing Jewish life to Poland and to Poland's Jews. When he heard the local Pole spew anti-Semitic slogans at his group he did what came naturally - he approached the man and confronted the words of hate. Schudrich saw the ugly head of anti-Semitism rising and went to confront the evil. The rabbi was punched in the chest and pepper sprayed in the eyes.

On Saturday Rabbi Michael Schudrich confronted modern-day evil. On Sunday he stood with Pope Benedict at Birkenau.

There are those who were disappointed by the words spoken by the Pope at Birkenau. There are those who ask why he did not speak of Darfur, why he did not mention anti-Semitism? The reason is clear.

When a Pope speaks his words become policy. The utterances of a Pope are the equivalent of theological law. This Pope, Benedict, has already made public statements about Darfur and anti-Semitism. So has his predecessor. To speak again on these subjects is to run the risk of sending out variant messages. That is why the Pope, every Pope, always reads his presentations, why there is never spontaneity in Papal presentations.

The visit of Pope Benedict to Birkenau was about the evil he has witnessed in the past. It was about God and about God's action and inaction. It was about the Holocaust and the murder of innocents. The person who, as a boy, wore the uniform of Hitler Youth delivered the right message. Like prayer, Pope Benedict delivered the message silently.

Palestinians Can't Unite
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 29, 2006

I'm Predicting:

The talks taking place between Hamas and Fatah Palestinian factions will probably end with a short term agreement - but in the end that agreement will not hold.

Why will the agreement never hold?
Simple, because Hamas and Fatah have such dramatically contradictory perspectives of the world and of their respective roles in the world. That they can never unite.

For example: As Abbas is arranging for Hamas to sit down with him in an intense ten-day negotiation marathon, fighting still continues in Gaza between the factions.

Even better: Palestinian Foreign Minister and Hamas-member-in-good standing Mahmoud al Zahar just cancelled his participation in a Muslim conference in Malaysia.
Why did he cancel?
Because he discovered that Fatah was sending their own representative to the conference, Farouk Kadoumi.

Hamas cannot recognize any option other than their own.
Even fellow Palestinian Fatah is considered by Hamas to be pariahs and collaborators.

Hamas trusts no one, nobody, nothing - other than Hamas

All That Glitters Isn't Gold
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 28, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Mahmoud al Zahar is on a trip.
He is in the Far East to visit several "essential" countries, countries that that are pledging support to the PA.

After a very successful meeting with the foreign minister of Indonesia, al Zahar was handed a briefcase.
According to one report it contained US $90,000 according to another report it was filled with US $251,000. Cash.
Whatever the amount, it is a joke.

Indonesia is the most populated Muslim country in the world.
Such a paltry gift would be an insult and a surprise - except that the money did not come from the government of Indonesia. The money was raised during street rallies. Now that makes a bit more sense.

To put things into perspective, even the Muslims are barely giving money to the Palestinians.
And when they do give, the sums are mostly small and insignificant.

All that glitters is not gold in the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas Rags For Sale
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 27, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Al Jazeera ran an interesting story.
Hamas is raising money by auctioning off the clothing of their "martyrs."

Can you imagine? This is beyond macabre.

Hamas did not come up with this PR stunt to defray the costs of running the Palestinian government.
They came up with the idea because they need to continue to perpetuate the myth of the grandeur of the suicide bomber.
Hamas needs to reinforce the conviction that dying in the act of killing the enemy is glorious, that the martyr's memory will be cherished by the entire Palestinian people for years to come.
It is death and nobility and religious fulfillment in one glorious package.

The message to the people is that anyone who partakes in the work of the "martyr" anyone who watches or bids or succeeds in buying the clothing, is by extension, fulfilling a religious duty.

Jordan Shows Faith in Olmert
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 26, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Things are improving in the Middle East.
Granted you have to look carefully, but there are glimmers of light and hope.

Jordan just leaked that they will, once again, send an ambassador to Tel Aviv.
But doesn't Jordan already have an ambassador in Israel?
They did, but Jordan withdrew their ambassador in protest over Israel's policy of targeting terrorist leaders.
They scaled down their diplomatic relations with Israel to make a point and since then, the Jordanian Embassy in Tel Aviv has been without an ambassador.

Jordan will be sending Ali al Ayid.
This appointment shows the value King Abdullah place on the re-emerging relationship between Jordan and Israel.
Al Ayid was the former spokesman of the Jordanian Foreign Ministry.
Al Ayid was a leading Jordanian diplomat stationed in Washington D.C.
Al Ayid is one of King Abdullah's top diplomatic guns.

This move signals more than just the filling of an ambassadorial post.
This move signals the faith that Jordanian King Abdullah has in Ehud Olmert.

Exporting to China
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 25, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is currently investigating a local arms manufacturer.
The company is called Amit.
Amit builds RPV's, Remotely Piloted Vehicles, drones.

Amit is under investigation for exporting RPV's to China.
Exporting to China from Israel is a major, major No-No.
Israel is still smarting from a diplomatic scuffle with the United States about selling weapons to China, and that was several years ago.
Amit says they were only sending the RPV's for display at an arms show.
That seems highly unlikely.

This kind of mistake can cause a huge rift on the high-middle diplomatic level.
The high-middle diplomatic level is where real work takes place between nations.
A high-middle level diplomatic snafu blocks development and thwarts movement.

It was after a similar blunder that the United States demanded the resignation of the professional head of Israel's Ministry of Defense, he became the sacrificial lamb.
Amit must be reprimanded.
Israel must not tolerate violations that threaten trusted diplomatic relations.

China Is Getting Involved
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 24, 2006

I'm Predicting:

For a year now I have been shouting that China is key.

I have been shouting that the situation in Iran will be controlled only when China decides to get involved.
Well, it looks like China has decided to start getting involved.

Why do I say that?
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel visited China and met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo.
After the meeting the German Chancellor said:
"We talked about Iran and both agreed Iran should not have the capability to make nuclear weapons and should not proliferate weapons of mass destruction."

China knows what to do.
China must make it clear to Iran what they, the Iranians, have to do.
China is not quite there yet, but China is certainly on the way.

US Unable to Influence Iraq
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 23, 2006

I'm Predicting:

The United States will not be able to influence the new democracy in Iraq.

The signs are all there and flashing.
Here is the most recent sign:
The Arab Leagues Boycott Committee (of Israel) just gathered to discuss the status of the Israeli boycott.
Guess which nation was among the 14 nations in attendance?
You got it! Iraq!
Also in attendance were several other US friends and allies including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Morocco.

The official US response to Iraq's joining the Israel boycott was:
"We are disappointed by the decision of the Iraqi government."
Talk about understatement.
The Israeli boycott is the antithesis of all that the US and democracy value.

This past year Israel had a 40% increase in trade with Iraq which translates to an increase of about $300,000. But trade with Iraq could be much more significant.
The United States has failed at conveying to Iraq the true value of freedom.

By Micah Halpern

Monday May 22, 2006


Do you scratch your head and wonder why everything in the Muslim world seems to be upside down and backwards first? Stop scratching. The first step in the process of understanding the Muslim world is for Western-trained minds and Western-sensitive sensibilities to accept the fact that in the Muslim world things run on a different track and to Western thinking, that track definitely runs upside down and backwards first. That's the way it is, was and will probably continue to be in the Muslim world. Especially in the world of the Palestinian Authority.

Take, for example, The Tale of the Monied Belt at the Rafah Crossing. It's not a tall tale, certainly not a fairy tale - though it might one day be retold as such - it's a true tale of the creeping deceit and crumbling decline of the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority.

The tale unfolds as a spokesperson for the Hamas Palestinian Authority is routinely stopped as he passes from Egypt into Gaza at the Rafah Border Crossing. Whoops, thump, thud, something falls to the ground. Something heavy, very heavy.

The check point itself is a study in world diplomacy and distrust. The guards at the gate are a mix of Fatah Palestinians and European Union border agents. Israelis are there, but unseen, in an inside room viewing the procession, entries and exits, on closed circuit cameras.

The Hamas spokesman, Sami Hamad Zuhari, has dropped a belt, a very heavy belt. This particular belt is filled with money, anywhere between 620,000 to 800,000 euros, the accounts vary. By any estimate it is a lot of money, at minimum $850,000 US, at maximum just over 1,000,000 United States dollars.

One insightful follower of the happenings within the Palestinian Authority has quipped that Hamas youth strap bomb belts to themselves, while their leaders strap on money belts.
The international agreements stipulate that anyone bringing in more than $2,000 must inform the authorities twenty-four hours in advance and explain from where the money comes. This is all done in order to prevent money laundering. It is done because the international community fears - correctly - that the Palestinian Authority will become a world center for mafia and drug lords, for blood diamonds and for anything and everything else contraband that needs to be cleaned up and laundered and launched back into the world.

Zuhari, Hamas spokesperson that he is, has skipped the step about notice and accountability. He has not intended for anyone at the border to know about the thousands/million he has acquired, not only how much money he has but even that he has any money at all. He drops his belt accidentally, the border patrol picks it up intentionally.

Wrong time, wrong place, major blunder. Zuhari claims the money is from "friends" that it is intended to "help" the Palestinian Authority. The guards say, "hmmm." The guards say "finders, keepers." The guards put Zuhari in holding and confiscate the money.

And when word gets out that the money is gone and Zuhari is being detained at the border, Hamas springs into action. Rather than pick up the phone and try to iron things out, rather than send another representative immediately over to the border to broker a deal the cavalry is called in to intercede.

Hamas gunmen come to free the money, oh, and also Zurahi.

But this time the border people stand their ground. This time? Yes, this time. Smuggling money through Rafah into Gaza is not an unknown phenomenon. There was another incident, much like this incident, when there was a problem at the border crossing. And that time, much like this times, Hamas activists came to intimidate the Fatah Palestinians and European Union border personnel. That time it worked. The border people fled, abandoning their positions. And Hamas and other Palestinians took bulldozers and destroyed the border crossing, permitting anyone carrying anything to cross at will.

This time, Zurahi is - eventually, let go. But without the money.

Where does this money come from? Zuhari was returning from a trip to Qatar. Qatar had pledged 50 million US dollars to the Palestinians. Logic dictates that Qatar probably fulfilled the pledge with a direct transfer of money wrapped up in a belt to be directly, discreetly, delivered to Hamas coffers in Palestinian Authority accounts to pay the salaries of the 165,000 Palestinian government employees who have not been paid in a long, long while.

Fascinating? You ain't heard nothing yet. The first time Yasser Arafat came to the United States for monetary aid and assistance, soon after he returned to Ramallah after his exile in Tunis, he arrived in Washington D.C. carrying empty suitcases. That's how he thought he would take home the money - cold cash stashed in suitcases.

Why? Why was Sami Hadad Zuhari, an official representative of the ruling Hamas party not allowed to take the money and leave? Why was he not permitted to pick up his belt, stand tall and march over the border into Gaza? Why? Because the European Union Guards at the Rafah Border Crossing are playing by the internationally dictated rules.

And because the Fatah Palestinian guards at the Rafah Border Crossing know that Zuhari will not play by the rules. They know. They know Hamas.

That's the end of this tale. It may soon, also, be the end of the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority.

Near Civil War in PA
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 21, 2006

I'm Predicting:

The Palestinians are closing in on a civil war.

Pressure is building. Stakes are rising. Tensions are escalating.
Gaza gun battles between Hamas and Fatah are an everyday occurrence.

Over the past week there have been two intercepted attempts on the life of Palestinian President Abbas.
Just yesterday, the head of Palestinian Intelligence in Gaza, Tariq Abu Rajab, was seriously wounded in a Palestinian assassination attempt.

This was not the first attempt on the life of Abu Rajab.
Abu Rajab was blamed by Islamic Jihad for collaborating with Israel when one of Jihad's leaders, Abu Youssef al Quqa, was assassinated several weeks ago.
This was payback.

Palestinians assassinating Palestinians.
The situation is going from awful to worse.

Cellphone Violence in PA
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 20, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Twenty Palestinian gunmen stormed Jawal headquarters the other day.
Jawal is the Palestinian Authority cellular phone company.
Imagine storming T-Mobile or Verizon every time you went out of range.

Cell phone service to the twenty Palestinians had been cut off.
Why? Because they had not paid their bills.
The gunmen were outraged that their service was off and came to Jawal to complain.
Rather than express their displeasure verbally, they shot up ten computers and then took their conflict outside to the street.
When they hit the streets there was mayhem and there was more shooting.

This scenario has become routine.
Disputes in the Palestinian Authority are being resolved by guys with guns.
In the Palestinian Authority guns trump justice.
Welcome to the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority.

Hamas Scandal in EU
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 19, 2996

I've Been Thinking:

A mini diplomatic scandal is brewing in Europe and it is all about Hamas.

It seems that Norway permitted entry to two Hamas representatives.
Their names are Salah Mohamed Al Bardawil and Mohamed al Rantisi.
They were invited to Norway by the Norwegian National Palestinian Committee.

The European Union has made a clear policy decision not to permit entry to Hamas representatives.
And in early May Israel had already warned Norway that permitting entry to Hamas would be interpreted as a "political gesture."

The EU permits free access from one member country to another.
So after they left Norway, the Hamas representatives entered Germany.
When they discovered who had come to visit, Germany was livid. In the typically reserved and understated German manner, Germany's Prime Minister Merkel actually called the entire escapade "annoying."

It is against European Union policy and hence German policy to open doors to Hamas.
Will Hamas be frozen out of Europe?
I'll keep you posted.

Iran & Jordan
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 18, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Jordan just hosted a very special guest, Monoucher Mottaki, the Foreign Minister of Iran. This was not just a polite meeting.

Jordan has a definite agenda with Iran.
Jordan needs Iran's help.
Jordan and Iran had a very rocky relationship, they are trying to mend fences.

King Abdullah of Jordan gave the nod to Iran's nuclear aspirations by saying:
"we accept the Iranian peaceful nuclear program in the framework of international relations..."
And then the King put forth a strong request: "Stop supporting Hamas."
Jordan has intercepted weapons originating in Iran making their way to Hamas by couriers trained in Syria in Hamas camps sponsored and funded by Iran.

Hamas is a destabilizing force in Jordan.
King Abdullah needs Iran to fully understand what that means for Jordan.

Hamas and Jordan
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 17, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

There is no love lost between Jordan and Hamas.

Hamas was thrown out of Jordan and even today some of their highest level leaders are still not permitted entry. Most recently Jordan has accused Hamas of smuggling weapons into Jordan in order to then smuggle them across the border to attack Israel.
There have even been public confessions admitting to the smuggling operation.

So when Jordan's Foreign Minister, Adbul Ilah al Khatib, dressed down Hamas publicly, on network TV, it was to be expected - even though it is rare and always surprising to witness public disagreements among Arabs.
Khatib was not pulling any punches. He said that it was time for Hamas to "face up to their responsibilities and act as a government." He said that "they are responsible for the welfare of the Palestinian people."

Good move Jordan. Hamas will collapse only after Arab and Muslim countries start making serious demands on them.
Only then will local Palestinians see their leaders for who they truly are.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 16, 2006


What is this world coming to?

The State Department has announced that the United States of America is normalizing relations with Libya. The United States and Libya? Until recently Libya was considered to be one of the most significant sponsors of terror in the world. The whole wide world. Why would the United States do such a turnabout? Or is it a turnabout? Is this really what it seems?

What this is, is the United States allowing Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Ghadaffi to reposition himself in the Arab world - after, only after, Ghadaffi has taken steps to prove himself to be a kinder, gentler Ghadaffi than he once was in the eyes of the West.

This is really about how Ghadaffi wants to see himself and how he now wants the world to see him. It is part of a plan concocted by Ghadaffi, one of the most wily, most despotic, rulers in the modern world. The brilliance of The Ghadaffi Plan is that while he is the ultimate winner, the Western world also benefits.

The story begins in 1979 when the United States Embassy in Tripoli was set aflame and diplomatic relations between The United States and Libya came to an abrupt and public halt. Libya was an outsider in Arab and world affairs. Rather than adopting a conciliatory or even a wronged attitude, Ghadaffi just took on "attitude" and reveled in the perverse pleasure derived from his outsider status.

Muammar Ghadaffi became the Bad Boy of the Middle East. It was a persona cultivated to perfection. In many ways the Libyan leader was and still is a farcical, even comical character. He is also a thug, a dangerous ruler and one of the most unstable players in the region. And Ghadaffi enjoyed taunting the United States and the West. Sponsoring terror, often in the guise of an ideology of liberation, became one of his favorite games and most powerful tools.

And in 1988 Ghadaffi sponsored a horrific, notorious, act of terror. Pan Am flight #103 was blown up over Lockerbie Scotland murdering 270 people the vast majority of whom were Americans, the majority students from Syracuse University.

As the international terror trial of the Libyan intelligence officers responsible for the terrorist attack was coming to an end and as international pressure was mounting against Libya and Ghadaffi, the Libyan leader made the first of his calculated decisions aimed at improving his image in the world. He made a tactical decision. Muammar Ghadaffi knew he could withstand the pressure and he believed he could turn Lockerbie into a big success. He was right.

Colonel Muammar Ghadaffi became a repentant rogue.

Ghadaffi assumed responsibility for Lockerbie by paying a settlement to the families that totaled approximately $2.7 billion (the exact amount must remain secret as part of the settlement agreement). It was a monetary calculus. Ghadaffi would pay out $3 billion, money he could well afford, and then he had the United States pay for the removal of all of Libya's unstable weapons of mass destruction.

In 2003, Ghadaffi announced that Libya was abandoning their nuclear weapons program. Ghadaffi invited the United States to come in, to box up and to haul out all of Libya's weapons of mass destruction. Sounds impressive. The truth is that most of the Libyan arsenal was comprised of old, former Soviet, materials. The Libyan arsenal was antiquated and rusting. The Libyan arsenal was so far gone that it was at the stage of being extremely dangerous to store. So Libya decided to let the Americans come in and do the dirty work.

And the Americans did it. The materials may have been old, but they were still weapons of mass destruction. And Libya gave them up.

In his own - convoluted and strange - mind, the leader of Libya is not just reaching out to the United States. Colonel Muammar Ghadaffi is making calculated and essential decisions that would help catapult him into a stronger and more stable position of power at home, in the region and in the world.

The payback is big.

Because he voluntarily opened up and threw away his country's nuclear arsenal, Libya, i.e. Ghadaffi can now buy nearly all the conventional weapons any country could possible want without limits and without supervision. And so Ghadaffi becomes one of the most powerful Big Boys in the region.

And because he did all this and because doing all this encouraged the United States to lift the embargo against Libya and because Libya is one of the largest oil producing countries in the world, Libya will now have significantly expanded markets netting Libya, i.e. Ghadaffi tens of billions of dollars in profit. And so Ghadaffi becomes one of the richest Big Boys in the region.

The move was brilliant.

What does the United States get from befriending Libya? The State Department of the United States of America can publicly announce and loudly proclaim to other rogue nations that power and profit is yours, too, if you make the move from pariah nation to accepted friend of the Western world. The United States can point to Libya as an example of a changed country. And the United States can cross their proverbial fingers and hope that North Korea and Iran learn by example.

Colonel Muammar Ghadaffi seized a good business opportunity. The United States has loftier goals.

Chavez & Iran
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 15, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

I am not in the habit of quoting Hugo Chavez the president of Venezuela.
Yet, from time to time, even a pariah dictator like Chavez has important insight.
Sometimes, even a despotic ruler speaks the truth.

Chavez is visiting England.
In a meeting yesterday with Kenneth Livingston, the gadfly mayor of London, Chavez said "if the United States attacks Iran ... oil could reach $100 a barrel or more."
Hugo Chavez is 100% correct.

There is little doubt that any attack on Iran - whether by land, sea or air, will have a significant deleterious short term effect on the price of oil.
And Iran is banking on this.
Iran is convinced that America's addiction to oil will dictate their foreign policy.

Iran is also, probably, 100% correct.

Putin & Abbas
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 14, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Next week Russian President Vldamir Putin will host Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.

The main topic on their agenda is aid to the Palestinians.
The Russian already forked over $10 million USD to the PA last week.
Abbas wants Russia to convince the US to lift the international pressure that is stopping the transfer of funds to the Hamas-led PA.

This mission will fail.
The entire Palestinian financial crisis is problematic.

The Palestinians have their own resources but have chosen not to dip in yet and help themselves out. They have $1.3 billion in accounts and could easily draw several hundred million in interest without touching the principle.
They also have hard assets. They own hundreds of millions of properties and businesses around the world. Those could be liquidated to relieve the pressure.

Palestinians take - they do not give.

Arab League Says No to Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 13, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League, called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He did not have very good news.

Moussa told Abbas that the $70 million the Arab League collected in order to pay out Palestinian salaries will not be forthcoming. Why? Because Arab banks in Cairo and around the world are afraid of the repercussions following a transfer of money to Hamas. They are afraid that the United States will brand the banks as terror co-conspirators.

There ARE other options.

The Quartet suggested asking the Palestinian Authority for the names of those people slated to receive the money and make direct deposits from banks in Egypt. That should not take too long to implement...a few weeks, maybe.

Or cut the checks in the banks and distribute them region by region or mail them.

There ARE ways to solve this problem without punishing the hardworking people deserving of salary.

Instead, the whole situation is being turned into a propaganda tool.

Hamas Might Win
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 11, 2006

I'm Predicting:

The international campaign to isolate Hamas is about to collapse.

Pressure is being placed on Israel to take responsibility for the dire situation in the Palestinian Authority. The international community is warning Israel that if they do not intercede on behalf of the Palestinian people they will be held accountable for the devastation.
It's perverse, it's immoral - but it is happening.

Israel is crumbling under the pressure. Plans are underway to send medical aid. The proposal is being formulated by Amir Peretz, the new defense minister and head of the Labor party. The plan is to quickly transfer $11 million to the Palestinians. The cabinet will vote on the proposal on Sunday.

If Israel determines that there is a real need that need should be met "in kind."
Set up MASH units on the border and treat the sick in secure zones.
Deliver real goods and real services not cash, do not transfer money.

If Israel collapses, so will the rest of the world.
If the world caves in, the entire isolation exercise will be for naught.
If the exercise was for naught, Hamas will have won.

US Pressure on Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 10, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

There is a serious disconnect between United States policy and action.

Speaking at a meeting of the Quartet the secretary of state said that the US was concerned by the situation in the Palestinian Authority, that no one wanted to see the Palestinians suffer, that no one wanted to deal with a government that celebrates when a suicide bomber blows himself up in Tel Aviv, that countries should continue their strong stand against Hamas and force Hamas to accept Israel and to condemn violence.

At the same forum Rice announced that the US was delivering $10 million to the Palestinians for medical - only medical - aid.

Now $10 million is not very much. And when the US gives "aid" to the Palestinians it must be a "transfer in kind" - actual medicine and not cash, otherwise the $$$ might get "lost." Russia just transferred $10 mil to the PA and I can't wait to see if and where it ends up.
The irony is that Palestinian President Abbas actually has access to $1.4 billion but refuses to touch. The money is part of the Palestinian reserves and Abbas does not want Hamas to have any control over the funds.

The United States must be very careful giving humanitarian aid.
The United States must be as careful as Abbas is with PA monetary reserves.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 9, 2006


Forget about the Security Council. Forget sanctions. Forget the threat of military invasion. Think China.

The only way to get through to Iran is through China. The only country in the world with the power to influence Iran is China. The only country capable of halting Iran's nuclear development program is China. China, China, China. The saying goes that one in six people in the world might, one day, visit China, the other five live there.

Why is China the key to Iran? Because China is dependent on Iran's oil. Because China, the largest purchaser of oil in the world, buys from Iran. Because China doles out about $100 billion - yearly - to Iran for oil. Because when China speaks, or even mumbles a suggestion, Iran will and must listen. Because China is a major inside player in Iran's world.

And because China is the only country in the world that can be counted on not to do the bidding of the United States, and to Iran, that is worth more than all the oil in the world. China and only China will not respond to United States pressure, promises or persuasion. China is the only country in the world strong and stable and haughty enough to be totally independent of the United States. And Iran can count on that.

And that upsets the United States. Which gets a rise out of China. Which pleases, by extension, Iran.

So there's money. And there's influence. And there's politics.

China is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. One of the powers of permanent membership is the ability to cast vetoes. And China will cast a veto for anything not in the best interests of the Chinese. So don't count on the Security Council to curb Iran's nuclear activities.

And cutting off China's Iranian oil pipe line is not in China's best interests, so United Nations sponsored sanctions on Iran will not happen.
As for military invasion, it is not a viable option either. The chances of an invasion are very slim, the chances of a successful invasion, even slimmer.

Iran has no alternative options if China were to decide to stop buying oil. China, on the other hand, has many options. There are other places to procure oil in the world. But there is no other client in this world like China - not even any combination of clients can match China's needs and buying capacity. So Iran will do China’s bidding, even putting a halt to their advancing nuclear program if, indeed, China asks them to halt, cutback, cease and desist.

Well, you are asking, what about Russia? Russia, I tell you, is not China. Certainly, as another member of the Security Council the Russians have veto power as equal as the veto of the Chinese. Yes, Russia is also heavily invested in Iran, only to the tune of $30 billion a year in energy development, but that is still a lot of money. And Russia is actually building two of Iran's nuclear power plants at a cost of $1 billion each. But Russia is up for sale, Iran knows that, everyone knows that. It is the Achilles' heel of Russia.

Everything the Russians do has a price tag. Every deal, every project, everything. Russia cannot be trusted. Even in matters concerning Iran, in the end Russia would capitulate to the United States - for the right fee, of course, but there is always a number. In the end, Russia would be a US ally and pressure Iran. Russia might not even realize it yet, but Iran does. Iran knows that fact to be true. You see, Iran understands Russia even better than the United States understands Russia.

So it is all up to China. China, China, China.

China cannot possibly see any benefit from a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. They know that if Iran, a Shiite country, gets nuclear weapons then Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the big boys of the Sunni world, will need nuclear weapons too. China also knows that, bottom line, an arms race in the Mid East will only increase the cost of oil and will destabilize the region.

More than that, China does not trust the religious fundamentalist leadership of Iran. In China's eyes Iran is not predictable. They know that if Iranian uranium enrichment develops past the point of energy development, the 5% level it is at now, it will move to research levels and, inevitably, to arms levels.

China knows the potential dangers. But China will not support either United States or United Nations sponsored sanctions against Iran. So how do we get China to tell Iran to slow down? Not only does China do only what is good for China, China does it all on China's own timetable. So how do we get China to sign on? How does one pressure a giant to move?

We, the West, cannot. Only other Muslim countries can ask China to influence Iran. And African countries. China has recently begun to direct marketing strategies at African countries. And that's a good sign because while the West has little influence with Muslim countries, there is some influence with African nations.

Will it happen? Will Iran's nuclear program be slowed? It will. When will it happen? When China decides to make it happen. When China feels the need to step in and say stop. Not a minute before.

Iran's Real Agenda
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 8, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian President Ahmadinejad is now letting us in on his real agenda.

The Iranian president asserts that the entire nuclear crisis is a political issue and should be resolved politically. He is trying to be politically correct about the whole issue.
The translation of Ahmadinejad's politically correct statement is that the United States is embellishing the impact of the Iranian nuclear situation escalating it into a crisis.

He is right and he is wrong.
Yes, it is a political and diplomatic crisis. Yes, the US is stoking the flames.
But Iran is posing a real threat to the world and that threat is impossible for Ahmadinejad to see.

Iran is pursing rights protected by the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty to develop nuclear energy.
Iran is also refusing to allow for transparency and that is the crux of the problem. That is what has led to this crisis.

Bottom line: Iran is wrong and the United States is stoking the flames.

Hamas is Feeling The Pressure
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 7, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas is beginning to feel United States pressure.
And Hamas is striking back. Sort of.

The pressure:
The US is asking that banks do not to do business with Hamas.
Banks have already begun refusing to transfer Palestinian money to the Hamas -led government for fear of being branded as terrorist banks and blackballed.
The strike back:
Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al Zahar left a meeting with Arab League officials in Cairo and had a press conference. He threatened the banks saying that any bank refusing to transfer Palestinian funds will be boycotted by the Hamas PA.

I'm laughing, the Palestinians are serious.
Even Arab banks have asked Hamas to please take their money and leave.

The End of Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May, 6, 2006

I'm Predicting:

The outcome of student elections often predicts the results of national elections.
There were two recent elections for student government in the Palestinian Authority, one at Al Quds University and one at Bethlehem University.

In both cases Fatah won.
In Bethlehem Fatah won 16 seats and Hamas won only 8 seats.

The pendulum might actually be swinging back toward the middle in the Palestinian Authority. It looks as if Hamas is beginning to lose luster in the eyes of the Palestinian people.
Only time will tell, but if the monies dry up and if international diplomacy continues to lock Hamas out, then Hamas may be ousted from office by the same people who brought them in.

I am predicting that Hamas will have an ugly end in politics.

Iran Found its Own Uranium
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 5, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has made a significant announcement: They have discovered reserves of uranium and they will begin to mine those reserves.

Why is this significant?
Because one of the tools intelligence analysts use to determine the level of Iran's nuclear progress is by monitoring how much of the material needed for nuclear development Iran imports.
Uranium is one of the principle elements required for nuclear development and if Iran no longer has the need to import uranium, intelligence gathering will be more difficult.

How will intelligence analysts monitor Iran's progress now?
They will have to monitor through satellite research only. Unfortunately, satellite pictures will not provide good pictures of the quantity or quality of uranium.

This is a very big step forward for Iran.
This is a very big step backward for the West.

Israel At 58
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 4, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday was Yom Ha'Atzmaut, it was Israel's 58th birthday.
As a country, Israel has much to be proud of and many reasons to celebrate.

Congratulatory calls came in from leaders around the world - the Queen of England, the King of Sweden, the Queen of Holland, the presidents of India, South Korea, the Ukraine and Russia.

Huh? Do world leaders call each other to say congrats on July 4th or on Bastille Day? They do not. But Israel is different.

At 58, Israel as a country is still concerned about its image. The fact that distinguished world leaders called with good wishes was more than nice. These calls signified to Israelis that they are members in good standing of the Community of World Nations.
At 58 Israel is still fundamentally insecure and requires the blessing of others.

My hope is that by 59 Israel will have outgrown this insecurity.
Insecurity gets in the way of sound decision making.

Watching Iran
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 3, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

When it comes to Iran, it's more important to watch what they do than to listen to what they say.

Iran signed on to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaties for one simple reason - it gave them license to enrich uranium without breaking any rules, without opening themselves up to censure, or worse, to examination. And Iran has taken advantage of the situation.

In an interview with the ISNA (Iranian Student News Agency) Gholam Reza Aghazadad, chairman of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said: "Iran has successfully produced enriched uranium up to 4.8%. This level can satisfy Iran's demand to produce nuclear energy fuel."
And then he added: "Purity of more than 5% is not on agenda now."

Can he be trusted? Can Iran be trusted?
All we can do is wait and see, monitor and watch.
The responsibility for monitoring Iran lies with us.

Rice - Be Realistic
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 2, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Condi Rice just said: "We continue to hope that Hamas will take the will of the international community seriously."
Maybe, but very unlikely.

There are three possible scenarios for the Palestinian Authority under Hamas:
They live up to the hopes of Secretary Rice, which is very remote
They erupt into a civil war, which is a possibility
They suspend what little democracy exists, which is most probable

The Clinton Administration failed vis a vis Hamas because they hoped that the PA would be something other than what it was and then assumed that their hope would turn into a reality.

To think that Hamas will change is to be deluded.
Delusions of this sort impairs the judgment of policy makers.
The United States and the West should assume that Hamas will not change.

Policy makers need to be realists, not dreamers.

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