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The Pope and Islam
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 1, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The Pope's visit to Turkey is a historic and significant step forward in Catholic/Muslim affairs.
To only focus on Muslim critique of the trip is to miss the true purpose of the Pope's visit.

The Pope actually prayed in the Blue Mosque in Turkey. The official Vatican spokesperson said that he meditated, that he took off his shoes and replaced them with a set of white slippers. He was seen moving his lips in the Mosque.
Those gestures, silent as they were, resonate loudly.

The Pope understands Islam, he understands that Allah and God are one and the same. He is upset because he sees that in Islam religion is sometimes used as an excuse for oppression and abuse. He is upset because to his way of thinking violence should not be part of religion.

Those Muslims who actually watched the Pope and listened to what he did say found a leader who is enormously open. They saw a Pope who is reaching out to an Islam of peace not an Islam of war.

Al Qaeda called this trip the act of a Crusader intent on destroying Islam. Actually it was a trip intended to help Islam discover its true path and then destroy al Qaeda.

My Plan For Iraq
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 30, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Is there any way for Iraq's Sunni and Shiite populations to live together - perhaps not in perfect harmony but at least without killing each other?
There is, I have the plan.
No magic wand and no magic bullet, it won't even require years of re-education.
All it requires is a restructuring of government.

My plan:
Iraq needs to divide into cantons or provinces that are woven together by a very weak and very loose central or national government.
Yes, a weak central government.
The wealthier provinces will help the poorer provinces through a tax.
There will be no national army.
Locals will police themselves - this is very important, it means that Shiites determine law and order in Shiite neighborhoods and Sunnis determine law and order in Sunni neighborhoods.
Local, local, local, everything must be local.

Empower on the local level and keep national supervision to the very minimum. Small changes can bring about big success.

Finally A Wise Move
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 29, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Sometimes, silence is golden.
Especially in diplomacy.

George Bush is coming to the Middle East and meeting with regional leaders.
Ehud Olmert has not requested a meeting with George Bush.
Actually, Olmert has requested not to have a meeting with George Bush.
It is one of the smartest, most savvy, political moves Olmert could have made.

Meeting Bush now would be disastrous for Israel.
Bush would pressure Israel even more on the Palestinians.
If they don't meet, Bush doesn't have to pressure.
If they don't meet, Olmert can send messages saying that the Palestinians must contain the terror.
If an Israeli/Palestinian summit were called now, it would only turn out bad for Israel.

From the point of view of the White House the real purpose of this regional trip is to get support and feedback about Iraq.
Iran is next on the agenda, the Iranian issue is gaining more and more prominence in regional talks.
Israelis and the Palestinians and even Lebanon are only a sidebar.
Another big item agenda deserves another big trip.

Doomed Rapprochement
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 28, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Despite the intense United States pressure, the new movement towards rapprochement between Israelis and Palestinians is doomed to fail.

The Palestinians cannot give Israel what it wants - security.
They cannot control the terror.

The Israelis will not give the Palestinians what they want - a state.
They will not grant a Palestinian State until there is at least some semblance of quiet and accountable leadership.

So what will happen?
Here's a clue:
Both the leaders of the Popular Resistance Committees and Hamas have publicly said that a ceasefire will allow time to recuperate, re-arm and re-organize.

As a rule, cease fires only helps the terrorists.

By Micah Halpern

Monday November 27, 2006


Over two hundred Shiites in Iraq are killed by Sunnis. The next day, Sunnis are doused with kerosene as they leave their mosque. Human, Sunni, torches. Burned alive. And Americans hold their heads in their hands and lament. A collective American voice wails: What have we done, what have we done to the people of Iraq?

The answer, America, is NOTHING!

There is no correlation between the presence of the United States of America in Iraq and Sunni/Shiite violence. Sunnis and Shiites - in Iraq and throughout the Muslim world - have been going at it for years. For hundreds and hundred of years. For centuries, for generations. Since just after the time of the prophet Mohammed.

The question we should be asking is not - what have we done. The question is - why are they doing this to one another.

Americans call it "sectarian violence." Americans think that they are the cause, or at least, an exacerbating factor in the on-going ever-increasing violent relationship that exists between the Muslims of Iraq. Iraqis know otherwise. The Muslim Arab world knows otherwise. The only reason Americans know about the violence at all is because America is there. American media is there. And if and when the United States of America and all other Western nations leave Iraq, and when all Western media leaves Iraq, the violence will continue. It just won't be on the front pages of Western newspapers. It won't be the cover story of Western magazines. It won't be the lead story on the evening news. But it will still go on.

The dispute between Sunnis and Shiites began with a discussion about the successor to Mohammed. Who would take over after the death of the prophet Mohammed? Who was the true successor? Sunnis said that Mohammed's brightest disciple should be the rightful heir and inheritor of the Islamic mantle. Shiites said a relative would be the best heir, that Ali, the son-in-law of Mohammed, the husband of his daughter Fatimah, was the best person for the job and that every subsequent successor should be a blood relative. The Shiites won out.

From that day to this Shiites and Sunnis are separated not only in ideology, but also in tradition and law. Shiites became much more confined in their understanding of Muslim law and in the traditions of Islam. Sunnis became more liberal in law. Sunnis make up 90% of Islam while Shiites are a mere 10%. But they are a very loud, very local, very aggressive 10%. Sunnis have their extremists, too, but they are a very small minority within Sunni tradition.

There is more separating Sunnis and Shiites than uniting them. This is not about Protestants and Catholics. They are not co-religionists. The mind set of Sunnis and Shiites is beyond Western comprehension, sectarian violence is a new concept for us. Sunnis and Shiites are not united. They actually see one another as heretics. They each have more in common with Jews than they do with each other. And they will continue to murder one another for the foreseeable future. They are sworn enemies.

It is wrong to believe that had the United States and Western allies not invaded Iraq there would be no discord, no internal violence. Just wrong. This is not about American policy, it is not about the role of the United States in the region. This is about internal Muslim conflict. When Zarqawi, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq was alive, he killed far more Shiites than Westerners. Shiites were his enemy long before the United States made it to his hit list and they will remain on the Sunni hit list long after.

This is one problem that the West cannot resolve. The best the West can do is to prevent a wholesale massacre. Rather than throw up their arms in despair or bury their heads in guilt Americans can open their minds and learn more about Islam and Islamic societies. Sunnis, Shiites, they can both be friend or foe of the West.

The less we know about them, the less we understand about them, the less successful we will be in our fight against them. Know your enemy, it's not just a platitude. It's the only way to win the war.

Ceasefire For A Moment
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 26, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

A ceasefire has been declared.
The Palestinians have agreed to stop firing kassam rockets at Israel.
Israel has agreed to pull out of Gaza and to stop targeting Palestinian leaders.

Is peace finally on the way?
Not quite.
Abbas and Olmert spoke, but there is no clear understanding as to how to handle violations of the ceasefire.
It is not a question of "if" violations happen, but "when" they happen.
The ceasefire is temporary, it will save lives, but policing the cease fire is just as important.

President Bush and Secretary of State Condi Rice will be in the region on Wednesday. They will be in Jordan. Elliot Abrams, the senior person U.S. person in the Middle East will be in Israel on Tuesday.
So far, there have no changes in itinerary, so far there are no plans for a Summit.

But you never know.

Russia Again
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 25, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The Iranian News Agency just reported that Russia is making good on a deal to deliver Surface-to-Air Missiles.

The missile is called the TOR-M1.
It is a highly sophisticated weapon.
It can fire on 2 targets at the same time.
It can identify and track 48 different targets.
Russia is delivering 29 units to Iran right now.
The entire package is costing the Iranians about three-quarter-of-a-billion dollars.

Yes the United States knows.
Yes the United States is up in arms, but is there anything the U.S. can do?
Yes there is, the U.S. must be very firm with Russia.

Russia must start paying the price for playing both sides. Until now Russia has been rewarded on the one side, verbally chastised on the other.
The time has come to financially squeeze Russia into submission.
If Russia wants to reap the benefits of friendship with the U.S. they have to tow the line.

Take Lebanon Back
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 24, 2006

I'm predicting:

"We are hostages of Iran Syria and Israel."
"The powers of Hell will not win."
These are the words spoken by mourners at the funeral of Pierre Gemayel.
The people of Lebanon are very upset.

But are they upset enough to reclaim Lebanon?
But are they upset enough to take back their own country?
That is the question.

Traditionally and historically the Lebanese are a passive people.
That explains why Hezbollah and Syria have been able to run roughshod over the Lebanese for so many years. But there comes a time when enough is just too much. There are rumblings. We might just be witnessing a civil awakening in Lebanon and the first steps toward a public rejection of Syria and Hezbollah.

The situation calls for more than speeches and rhetoric.
It calls for an organized physical ousting of the intruders from the land and the politics of Lebanon.
The powers of Hell have kidnapped the good people of Lebanon.
And they want out.

Grim Future in Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I'm Predicting:

The assassination in Lebanon of Pierre Gemayel was predictable.
Unfortunately, it portends for a grim future.
It resonates with symbolism.

The facts:
Gemayel was a Christian
Gemayel opposed Syrian involvement in Lebanon
Hezbollah supports Syrian involvement in Lebanon

The symbolism:
Gemayel was the perfect target.
He was young, and he was a minister in a weak government.
He was the son of Amin, a former president of Lebanon.
He was named after his grandfather, Bashir, a former Lebanese president who was assassinated the day he took office.
He was assassinated the day before Lebanon's Independence Day.

The future:
Tensions between pro-Syrian and anti-Syrian camps will now boil over.
Lebanon is always on the brink of civil war.
Incidents like this one bring that brink just a little bit closer.

By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 22, 2006


There is a new production playing out in the Middle East. I call it The New Syrian/Iraqi Nexus. It's not a very good production, but it certainly bears watching. Here is a synopsis.

Act I:
Every month about one hundred terrorists sneak across the Syrian/Iraqi border into Iraq. Their mission is to destabilize Iraq, to attack Western targets in Iraq and to eliminate local Iraqis who participate with Westerners in the process of rebuilding Iraq. The success rate of these terrorist infiltrators is pretty high.

Could Syria stop these terrorists from using the border as a sieve through which they slip through so effortlessly? Of course. But rather than stop them, Syria encourages them. Syria gives a wink and a nod and when necessary, Syria gives a shove. Syria gets perverse pleasure out of seeing the United States and Iraqi backed allies squirm. Right now, Syria is smiling, Syria is pleased.

Act II:
Iraq's leading comic was recently assassinated. The material for his act came from daily life, he told jokes about "the situation." He had introduced a new comic genre to the Iraqi public, caustic Iraqi humor. He poked fun at the United States. He made fun of local corruption, of the police. He had audiences laughing at bureaucracy and at religious leaders. He was the hit of the Iraqi version of Comedy Central. And like on Comedy Central his audience was young. And his audience watched him more than they watched the news, and his audience got their information from him more than they got it from the news.

And in the now classic style of the faceless Iraqi assassination, he was gunned down in his car. He was a comedian. He wasn't a politician, he wasn't a leader, he was a comedian. Actors die a hundred deaths, but none of them are supposed to be fatal.

Act III:
Walid Moallem, Syria's Foreign Minister, just wrapped up a multi-day trip to Iraq. He came with a proposal. Two simple requests. Syria will work to seal the border with Iraq, if - if, Israel starts re-negotiating on the issue of the Golan Heights with the ultimate goal of an eventual withdrawal. A total eventual withdrawal. And Syria would like to see a timetable set for the U.S. withdrawal from the region.

After the United States withdraws from the region, Syria will back the United States, not just in Iraq, but also in Lebanon. Why? Because if the United States is no longer in Iraq, tensions will be reduced and there will be less violence in Iraq. And if the United States is no longer in the region, there would be less violence in the region. So says Syria.

My review:
Syria should know, since Syria backs, sponsors or initiates a good portion of the violence.

But here's where the whole production falls apart. Syria is not dependable. Syria makes commitments, but does not live up to them. There is nothing to convince me that this time will be any different. Syria is talking about wanting calm in the region, but Syria's actions tell me that Syria does not really want calm in the region.

Most of the killing in Iraq today is termed "sectarian violence." It is a euphemism for Muslims killing Muslims. It has absolutely to do with either United States policy or presence in Iraq. Absolutely nothing.

And to date, on regional issues, Syria has bucked the system. Syria advocates disorder not order, Syria advocates violence not calm, Syria advocates assassinations not negotiations. During the last days of this summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah a meeting of the Arab League was convened in Cairo. Syria disagreed with the Arab League's stance on Hezbollah and the war against Israel, so Syria boycotted the meeting. The meeting was dedicated to rebuilding Southern Lebanon and the League chastised Hezbollah for breaking the fragile status quo. And Syria disagreed. And Syria boycotted.

Syria is a real problem. But Iraq needs more allies in the region in order to stabilize internally. In the eyes of Iraq Syria is a strong potential ally. And that's why the President of Iraq, Jalil Talibani, is visiting Iran and meeting with Ahmadinejad. Iraq is reaching out across the border asking a neighbor for help. Syria is not to be trusted. Iraq is desperate.

Iraq may indeed get support from Syria, but the price will be the destruction of Iraq's new found democracy and Western orientation.

And with that, I say, The End.

Very Porous Borders
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 21, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has just made public some important information:
In January 2006 they caught about 400 foreigners coming over the Egyptian border smuggling prostitutes and drugs.
The Israeli army estimates they caught about 40% of the cross-border activity.

Here's the big question:
If 60% of contraband that does not pose an existential threat to Israel makes it through the border, what percentage of weapons makes it through?
The answer:
A shockingly high percentage of weapons gets in across the border.

Israel is deeply concerned about the Gaza border between Egypt and the Palestinians.
But their concern appears to be misplaced.
The border between Israel and Egypt is obviously very porous and the amount of weapons and contraband sneaking across is frightening.
Terrorists remain in Gaza.
Weapons spread everywhere.

Lieberman's Solutions
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 20, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Politicians speak their own language.
Sometimes, they just want to grab a headline.
Sometimes they just want to let out a little kernel of information. Sometimes they actually have insight into a situation.

Avigdor Lieberman, the new addition to Olmert's government is a character.
He loves to get a rise out of people. He also has some important insight on how to resolve the problem of Palestinians shooting kassam rockets at Israel.

He has 2 suggestions:
# 1: Israel takes back the control of the Egyptian - Gaza border, which would inhibit the flow of weapons now entering through that border
# 2: send Hamas leaders to "paradise" the euphemism is a not-so- cute way of concealing an ugly policy of targeting

For a long time Israel had a policy of targeting Hamas leadership.
They targeted its political leadership and they targeted its religious leadership.
But now Hamas leadership is in power.
That's a different situation.

It might work. But the United States is pressuring Israel to meet with the future Palestinian unity government, not target and kill them.
That's a problem.

Iranian Nuclear Plant Since '67
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 19, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

A little background: Iran got its first nuclear reactor in 1967, it has been up and running in Teheran ever since.
It is a light water 5 mega-watt system that has reached the end of its safe life and must be shut down and replaced.
Most people didn't know that.

So, Iran is building several other replacements.
The biggest will be a 40 mega-watt heavy water installation at Arak, about 100 miles south of Teheran.

Iran sees this whole entire international uproar as an exaggeration.
We would call it a tempest in a tea pot.
They call it an anti-Muslim campaign orchestrated by the United States which is in Israel's proverbial pocket.

For the International community, especially the U.S., the problem with the Iranian nuclear program is not about moving from one system to another - it is about Iran's lack of transparency and compliance. Iran just doesn't get that.

For Iran it is all about honor and independence. They argue that if they have had a reactor since '67, and if they are allowed by treaty to produce and experiment with nuclear technology, why are they a pariah now for simply doing what they should be entitled to do it?

Is the teapot half empty, or is it half full?

UN Versus Israel
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 18, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Sometimes the United Nations does great good.
But other times, the United Nations makes big mistakes.

Friday night's decision to create a committee to investigate how 19 Palestinians were killed by an errant Israeli shell was an improper decision.

The decision passed in the General Assembly 156-7 with 6 abstentions. $120,000 was allocated to house the investigators in Israel.
Former President Jimmy Carter is the name that most people are suggesting to head the group.

Here is the problem:
Hamas deliberately places kassam factories in residential settings and hides their leaders among residents to discourage Israel from hitting back.
But Israel is defending itself from terrorist attacks.
Mathematically, when attackers are hiding under the cover of civilians there is always a possibility of mistakes and the closer to civilians you are, the higher the chance of mistakes.
And missiles do not always fall according to plan.

19 Palestinians should not have died.
But it was not the intention of Israelis.
It is the objective of Hamas.

Iran Forked Out $120 Million
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 17, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

In a highly unusual move, Iran has actually made good on a promise to donate money.
Typically, Iran is all talk no action when it comes to monetary pledges.

But Iran actually donated the $120 million to the Hamas government that it has been promising for almost a year now.
We know that the money came through because the announcement came from the Palestinians, not from the Iranians.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar proudly announced that:
"Iran has so far given $120 million to the Palestinian government and they have told us that they will provide more financial help."

Iran is notorious for making empty promises. By coming through with the donation Iran is signaling that it believes it can now make a serious impact on Palestinian society.
Iran wants a foot in the Palestinian door in order to begin Shiite outreach within the Palestinian Authority.
They recently opened an outreach center in Ramallah.

There is no history of Shiite in the region but that will not stop Iran.
This is not a freebie.

A New Terror Flick
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 16, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

There is a new terror film out.
It takes place at the Paris airport.

The plot of the documentary movie involves smuggling a brick of clay onto an airplane. It was a remarkably easy thing to do. If the characters in the movie could carry it off, almost any half-witted terrorist could carry it off.

Back to reality, there is currently a case being brought by six Arab employees at the real Paris airport. The six were fired because they could not adequately explain their travels to terror-centered parts of the world.

They claim they were fired because they were Arabs.
They will lose the case.
Even in France.

The film makes a point about how sensitive airport work is.
No one says you have to work in an airport and no one says that you cannot travel to Afghanistan.

However, if you do work in an airport and you do travel to Afghanistan, you had better have a good explanation.
Or find work elsewhere.

Money At The Border
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 15, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The financial boycott against Hamas is still working.
There is little doubt in my mind that the most effective tool for clamping down on terror is cutting off their money. That includes Hamas.

Yesterday, a Palestinian deputy minister wanted to cross from Egypt into Gaza. He declared that he was carrying 2 million Euros of aid that he had collected in Saudi Arabia. The Egyptian border guard told the minister that he would need approval. The border is controlled by Egyptians on their side, Gazans on their side and EU representatives and Israelis who monitor what happens. That is why the minister was not allowed to procede.

Meanwhile on Sunday the Arab league in Cairo met and agreed that they had to try to break the boycott and get promised monies that are sitting in Arab Banks to the Palestinians. They said that $100 million had managed to get to the PA during the past year.

In June the Palestinian Foreign Minster successfully brought in 20 million Euros showing just how porous the Egyptian-Gazan border really is.

Pressure from the boycott is the only way that the Palestinians might be empowered to oust Hamas from power.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 14, 2006


Okay. So now that we know for sure that control of both the House and the Senate has returned to the Democrats the panic is beginning to set in.

Everyone wants to know: what effect will this mid-term election change have on Middle East policy? what changes can we expect vis a vis the United States and Israel? how will this impact on the fight against terror?

The short answer is very little, very little, very little.

I'll explain. Iraq aside, U.S. policy in the Middle East is not a pendulum that swings from side to side. There are subtle changes and slow movement but nothing that would constitute seismic shifts in loyalty, policy or procedural guidelines. True enough, Congress sets an important tone on foreign affairs because Congress pays the bills and provides the aid. But the president, lame duck or not, still has two years left on his commitments. The president knows that this election was not won or lost for his party on the issue of Middle East policy.

I do not see any changes in Congress on that level. Congress, including the new faces in Congress, is not interested in changing their Middle East orientation. Even if they wanted to, these newly-elected mid-term rookies could never make it happen.

Next. Support for Israel is rock hard on the Hill and on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Period end. I do not see any change in tone. I do not envision any change in aid - moral or financial.

Moving right along. The fight against terror will not slow down. Neither will the push to have Iran slow down on their nuclear plans and programs. They are too important. Red, blue, chartreuse or fuchsia, everyone agrees that these are two very important wars we are waging and we cannot afford to lose even one battle.

Arabic press coverage and the media releases that the Muslim world is sending out would have you think that the entire United States was just turned upside down. We know better.

The Iranians have said that now there might be a chance to actually move ahead with discussions about their nuclear energy program. They said that there is less of a chance of conflict with the U.S. after the mid-term elections. We know better.

Syria is jumping with glee. They think that now there will be a smarter i.e. less involved U.S. policy in the Middle East. We know better.

Everyone in the Arab world is hoping for a new policy. But it won't happen. Policy will continue to move along in much the same way it moved when the Republicans were in power. New faces, new representation, but much of the same policy.

That includes a very complicated relationship with Saudi Arabia. It means a very mixed relationship with Egypt. It means prodding Jordan. And it means whispering into the ears of moderate countries like Bahrain and Qatar and hoping that they will get off the fence and really recognize Israel.

On Iran there will be no change. Iran is a safe issue and all American support a tough attitude toward Iran's nuclear policy.

Iraq is a short term issue and not a long term issue. But still, there will be no real change. I do not see even this new Congress advocating for a total pull out of Iraq. I see them making a big deal out of a small and prophylactic removal of troops. The United States cannot just pack up and leave and every responsible politician knows that. The impact of an abrupt U.S. departure from Iraq would result in a living nightmare with a ripple effect all through the Middle East.

The House and Senate have changed. But we will feel that change only on domestic issues.

Olmert - Rice - Bush
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 13, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is in town.

He is having a handful of 1-on-1's and some 2-on-1's.
There will be a Rice - Olmert meeting and a Bush -Rice - Olmert meeting.

Several of the agenda items are important, but no-brainers.
Iran- both sides agree.
Lebanon and Hezbollah - both sides agree.
Captured Israeli soldiers - both sides agree.
Hamas - well, that's a sticky point.

About Hamas:
The US wants Israel to calm down and act more diplomatically concerning the Hamas-led government. They want a little less stick and a little more talk. Rice already said it is better to have Hamas in the government than on the streets.

The problem is Hamas. Hamas does not want to talk to or recognize Israel, not the opposite.
So what is the US really asking of Israel? Not to make a difficult situation harder for US policy. That is their bottom line.

Do not think for a moment that this is about Israel's issues or best interests.
The United States is interested only in the best interests of the United States.
When the content of these meetings is leaked to the press there are going to be some very disappointed people - on both sides of the Atlantic.

Russia & Iran
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 12, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Ali Larijani, head of Iran's nuclear program met with Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
It was a much anticipated meeting.
The United States and Israel hoped that Russia would talk some sense into Iran.

After the meeting Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: "We will push for our common goal - the resumption of talks with six nations."
For Russia the only answer can only be diplomatic.

Russia is too heavily invested in what happens in Iran.
Russia helps provide weapons and know-how to Iran.
Russia is building Iran's nuclear power plants.
Russia wants to make certain that the situation in Iran does not spin out of control.

Russia is most definitely not an impartial broker in these negotiations.
Russia is most definitely not willing to jeopardize a huge client in the name of making the US and Israel happy.

Let's get real.

MI5 & Terror Threats
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 11, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

MI5, Britain's equivalent of the CIA, just acknowledged that there were thirty terror threats in the region.
MI5 disclosed that they have a list of 200 groups and 1600 people being watched very carefully.

It shouldn't be.
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, says that England has to be prepared.
She is right about that.

England is definitely on the terrorist list of next places to strike.
The reasons are so clear - the increasing size off the Muslim population in England plus the ease with which the terrorists acted during the recent terror scares in London.

I am glad to see that England is waking up to this new reality.

Iran Is Just Wrong
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 10, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is elated about the shift in power in Washington.
They actually believe that there will be a change in policy that will reduce the chance of conflict between their nation and the United States. Look at some of their comments.

English-language Iran News said: "Most Americans have finally caught up with the rest of the world in rebuking the irresponsible, militaristic, arrogant, belligerent and entirely destabilizing policies of the Bush administration."

The conservative daily Siyasate Rouz agreed: "Regarding Iran and other opponents of America's policies around the world, there will be tangible changes but because Republicans are still in power in the White House, we cannot call it a major change in America's foreign policy."

And another quote: "Washington's attitude toward the Middle East, especially Palestine, will change. And of course because Democrats are very close to the Zionist regime (Israel), it will increase diplomatic pressure on regional countries."

Iran has no idea how the United States functions.
Do they actually think that when confronted with a threat like Iran's nuclear capabilities any US leader would be anything other than assertive?
Obviously, they do.

The Last Dictator Visits Iran
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 9, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Guess who recently visited Teheran to meet with Iran's Ahmadinejad?
You guessed it, Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarusia.

The ostensible purpose in meeting was to boost trade for their mutual defense. Then they were strategized on how to unite against the United States. Ahmadinejad called Lukashenko "brave" for the way he confronted the U.S.

Lukashenko is a tyrant, a throw back to the previous century.
Hitler is one of his heroes.
The White House has called him the last dictator.

The union between Iran and Belarus is deeply troubling. This alliance provides the financially strapped Lukashenko with weapons and monies and access to weapons in order to confront the U.S. and the West from home, right smack in the heart of Europe.

This is a union that was expected.
It falls to us to monitor this relationship carefully.

By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 8, 2006


Everyone is weighing in on the Saddam Hussein trial. Everyone. Everyone has something to say.

Voices in the Arab world are saying that Saddam Hussein's trial is all about the United States' mid-term elections. That the trial is another example of U.S. imperialism. They are saying that the United States has killed far more people than Saddam ever killed. Some voices are even turning the prosecutorial tables, calling for George Bush and his accomplices to be brought to trial, in Iraq, for the damage they have done the Iraqis. That's what they had to say about the trial. And then came the verdict. Oy vey.

Those same voices from the Arab world heard the verdict and now they are waiting for the real explosion, the real eruption, the real backlash. They are angrier now than they were before. The ignominy of the trial, they feel, pales in contrast to the arrogance of the verdict. Who are they to sit in judgment of an Arab leader? These people see this verdict as the highest form of U.S. meddling into local affairs, affairs that are absolutely none of their business.

Then there is Europe. Europe is generally upset by the role the United States is playing in Middle East and this trial of Saddam Hussein only exacerbates an already bad situation. Europeans fear the repercussions of what they see as a faulty policy. What really disturbs Europe, what disturbs them more than anything else is the fact that Saddam Hussein is now on death row, that the punishment meted out to Saddam is death by hanging. The overwhelming policy of Europe and the overwhelming sentiment of Europeans pits them against the death penalty.

Like the Arab world, European leaders and European public opinion seems to be more up in arms about principles and punishment than they were about the trial.

They are missing the point, all of them.

The trial of Saddam Hussein is not about his punishment. It is certainly not about mid-term elections or U.S. imperialism or faulty United States foreign policy.

This trial and all future trials of Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi henchmen are about catharsis and justice.

This trial and all future trials are about taking responsibility for history and about assuming accountability for the future.

The trial of Saddam Hussein is best understood in the context of history. Taking Saddam's life will not bring back any of the thousands upon thousands of men, women and children he butchered, bludgeoned and beheaded. That is why this trial and no trial that follows will ever be about revenge.

Public participation in the trial of Saddam Hussein, through the media coverage, allows Iraq as a society to begin to cope with the horrors of the past. The trial was broadcast specifically so that people could watch and hear. Could cry or clap or scream or punch their fists through walls or cower in corners, or wail or dance. This publicly transmitted trial allowed those victims of Saddam, victims who are still alive, to begin the personal process of recovery.

The new Iraq is confronting the old. The new Iraq is taking charge, setting the record straight. The new Iraq is meting out justice to those who perpetrated the injustice. And then the new Iraq will move forward with purpose and with pride.

Even if Saddam had never been captured, this trial should have taken place. Even if.

Think back to the Nuremberg Trials, the trials that took place in the aftermath of World War II. Certainly, there are differences between Saddam's trial and the Nuremberg trials. Most notably, Nuremberg was an international tribunal. But the purpose of the trials was to have a legal historical record of the events and to attribute blame to people who were part of the process. Germany could be made accountable for the events that transpired in their country because of the Nuremberg Trials.

Think back to the Adolph Eichmann trial. The objective of Eichmann's trial was to have an official protocol of the history of the events in which he participated, they are in the court record.

These atrocities perpetrated by Saddam Hussein are now and forever more on the record. And that is the real reasons for trials against the Butcher of Baghdad. Not about creating a good defense. Not about conviction. Not about his punishment. About creating a record.

The purpose in trying Saddam Hussein is to confront the past in order to allow for a future. A future without the persecution and injustice that marked Saddam's rule.

Different societies deal differently with the fall of a tyrant. So the Kurds celebrated. The Shiites danced. The Sunnis promised revenge for Saddam. That's okay, it is expected.

From this point on, I expect there to be more trials and more trials and more trials. Most will not be internationally covered. But they should be locally covered. Part of the transition towards empowerment for the people or Iraq is the recognition that the system works to protect them not to harm them.

When citizens feel safe about their present and confident that their children have a future they will take the initiative, stand up and do the right thing. It's about moving on.

Condi And Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 7, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Condi Rice surprised me. In a pro-democracy forum she responded to a question about spreading U.S. style democracy when the results are antithetical to US interests.

She said of Hamas: "I am not so sure that it is better to have these groups running the streets, masked with guns rather than having them have to face voters and having to deliver."

Here is the problem. Those roaming the streets are not in office.
And those in office are not stopping the violence on the streets.
When armed and masked men are on the streets, they should be arrested for illegal activities.
But now the armed men are the police - and now they have the protection of the government, they are the government.
That makes all the difference in the world.

What a silly and unrealistic comment about Hamas.
Where was she before the election, where was she when she had the opportunity to stop them from running?
Once the barn door is open, it's too late, Condi.

Next Summer, War With Syria
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 6, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The Israeli High Command is expecting another war next summer.
This time the war will be between Israel and Syria and Hezbollah.

This is very frightening. Israel has yet to really review the lessons of this past summer's war with Hezbollah and here they are, anticipating another.

Why is the High Command so convinced another war is being planned?
They think that Syria and Hezbollah think that Israel is in a weakened state of security.
They think that, at the same time, the Syrians and Hezbollah think of themselves as being at the perfect point of attack, building up the arms that they used so effectively this past summer.

The Israeli High Command is concerned about how to quickly update and improve their systems for a new and ever-present threat.
They have reason to be concerned - a country should always be prepared.
Very prepared.

North Korea's Rhetoric
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 5, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Be prepared - North Korean rhetoric is going to get even more and more radicalized.

Here is what the North Koreans called the United States:
"fanatic warmongers who destroy peace and security on the Korean Peninsula."
Here is what the North Koreans called the Japanese:
"political imbeciles."
Put in the proper context, the Japanese do feel a serious threat from North Korea and they are powerless to confront it.

The United States has only one real secret weapon against the North Koreans: the threat of military force.

North Korea has learned an important lesson from the standoff with Iran.
North Korea is calling everyone's bluff.

Finally, Mulsim Self-Critique
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 4, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Once again there is a crack in the wall of Muslim unity and as usual it fell on deaf ears in the West.

A Jordanian Prince said that the riots and the response of the Muslim world over the cartoons that depicted the Prophet Mohamed showed the basic instability of the Muslim world.

Are you paying attention?
Do you get the significance of what is being said?
I hope you get it, because the decision makers and policy players sure don't or they would have reacted big time.

That observation is a gargantuan step forward.
The vast majority of leaders in the Muslim world came out condemning the decision made by the Danish Courts that the cartoons were not illegal.
Now someone of importance in the Arab and Muslim world is offering insight and self-criticism.

Now that's news.

They Want Siniora Dead
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 3, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

There has been a flurry of diplomatic dialogue and a round of news reports about assassinating Lebanese leadership and toppling the Lebanese government.

Condi Rice said it. Tony Snow said it.
They said Hezbollah, Syria and Iran want Fouad Siniora dead.

Hezbollah and Syria have both denied the accusation. But that means very little. It would not be the first time that any of these three sponsored a political assassination, and then denied it.

Here is why they really do want Siniora out, if not actually dead:
Lebanon is actually beginning to take charge of its own destiny.
Lebanon wants Hezbollah and Iran in their place and controlled and they want Syria on the other side of the border.

Mainstream Lebanese now realize that they now have a perfect opportunity try to make things work internally.
They have started to capture weapons, they are reporting on smuggled weapons, they are joining the fight.
This is only a start - but without Siniora it would come to a complete stop.

Missiles From the West Bank
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 2, 1006

I'm Predicting:

A communique was sent out yesterday, 4pm Israel time.

It was sent by the Salah a Din Brigades of the Popular Resistance Committees.
It announced that the group had launched a Nassar -1 missile from Nablus into the Jewish settlement of Migdalim in the West Bank.
The Israeli army confirmed the missile strike.

Why is this significant? Because it is a first.
The first time missiles of this sort have been shot into the northern part of the West Bank aka Samaria.
The first time that Palestinians have applied the lessons they learned from Hezbollah in ways of fighting Israel.

The official statement read: "This is a present to martyrs and their souls, to the injured and the prisoners, and it is the first step towards exterminating the Zionists through the missiles of the Palestinian resistance."

The Palestinians take this very seriously. So should we.
It is only the beginning, a trend is emerging, just as I predicted 6 months ago.

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