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Palestinians Mourn Saddam
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 1, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Nowhere outside of Baghdad has Saddam Hussein been mourned more than in the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinians set up mourning tents at various locations and the people came in droves - 700 mourners in Jenin. The Palestinian numbers are shocking compared to the several hundred Iraqi mourners who visited Saddam's new grave. In the tents the Palestinians shouted death to Maliki, death to Bush and death to al Sadr. They grieve the loss of a strong powerful Sunni leader.

Why did the Palestinians so love Saddam?
He gave Palestinians pride. He challenged the United States. He bombed Israel. He attacked Iran.
Palestinians have three great enemies and Saddam Hussein hit them all.
Even on the gallows Saddam cursed the Persians (Iranians), the United States and the Shiites and he blessed the Palestinians.

All this goes to the mindset and mythos of the Middle East.
First and foremost the Middle East is about internal Islamic conflict after that it is about external US involvement and finally it is about the plight of Sunnis and the Palestinians.

Don't mix up Arab priorities. The Arab world has a clear agenda, recognize it.

4 Senators in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 31, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Over the past two weeks 4 United States Senators have visited Damascus Syria.

They were not sightseeing.
These four senators - three democrats and one republican - represent 4% of the senate, they represent almost 10% of the states in the US.

First was Bill Nelson of Florida, next Chris Dodd of Connecticut, next John Kerry of Massachusetts and lastly the Republican, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

The senators all spoke with Syrian President Assad and all came out with the impression that Assad was willing to talk peace with Israel and to help the United States in the war in Iraq.

These leaders are not political novices but they act like novices. They have learned nothing from the lessons taught us by Yasser Arafat.

Politics is played with one set of rules in the United States and played with an entirely different set of rules in the Middle East.

Assad will say anything to any US leader if it will get him out of the dog house or if it will add to the problems of Unites States or Israeli leadership - the people responsible for penning him in.

Senators, Assad is not to be trusted.

Assad cannot deliver, he is a very weak leader, he himself hangs on only because of a carefully crafted balancing act.

A Muslim Holiday
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 30, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Every now and then I use this space to explain something not found in the news, but essential in understanding Islam and the Middle East.

Around the world for the next four days Islam will celebrate the festival of Eid al Adha, literally translated it means the Feast of the Sacrifice.
The holiday is also known as Eid al Khurban, the Festival of the Sacrifice.

The holiday takes place the 10th -13th of the Islamic month of Hajji.
Hajj means pilgrimage and this feast marks the end of the pilgrimage.

The essence of the holiday is the story of Abraham - known in the Koran as Ibrahim, and Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to Allah.
It is an exact mirror of Genesis 22 with Ishmael replacing Isaac.

During these 4 days Muslims are encouraged to sacrifice an animal and share the meat with fellow Muslims. Family members and friends are visited. No Muslim, especially the poor, is to go without sacrificial meat during this holiday.
While sacrificing the animal Allah's name and a supplication are recited.

Eid al Adha symbolizes the great faith Ibrahim had in Allah and the covenant that Allah made with Ibrahim and Ishmael.
The story resonates.

Finally The US Comes Clean
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 29, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Finally, the truth was acknowledged by the State Department.
Only 34 years and one hour too late.

Yesterday the US State Department released documents and message intercepts that 100% implicate Yasser Arafat in the murders of Cleo Noel, the United States Ambassador in Sudan, his deputy George Curtis Moore and the deputy ambassador to the Belgium embassy.

For year "people in the know" knew. But the United States never said a word. The documents show that Arafat actually sent a message to the terrorists and that the terrorists were dropped off in official Fatah cars.
Arafat was so central to the operation that when the message from him to the terrorists was intercepted, the US intelligence people on site rushed to warn the parties, but it was too late.

The now declassified document clearly lays blame on Arafat. "The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the head of Fatah."

Shame on Arafat.
Shame on the United States for turning a blind eye to justice.

Arms Race in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 28, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

If anyone has any doubt about which side Egypt is on in the intra-Palestinian conflict listen to this.

Egypt just transferred 2000 AK-47 rifles and 20,000 magazines with an additional 2 million bullets to --- Abbas and his Fatah units.
They were given the weapons to defend themselves against Hamas.
They were given with Israel's knowledge.

The arms race is now up and running in Gaza.
Fatah versus Hamas.
Iran and Hezbollah are trying to outfit Hamas while Egypt and the United States and even Israel are trying to help Fatah.

Egypt sees Hamas as a serious threat.
In Egyptian eyes Hamas does not play by the rules, so Egypt is helping Fatah topple them.
It's that simple.

Don't Execute Saddam--Yet
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The Appeals Court in Iraq has upheld the November 5th ruling by the lower court stipulating that Saddam Hussein be executed within 30 days.
The Appeals Court is making a serious mistake.

It is a mistake because Saddam Hussein was tried and convicted for perpetrating a mass murder that took place in 1982 that killed 148 Shiite Muslims in the northern town of Dujail.
Just one incident involving one case of mass murder.
Saddam Hussein is guilty of tens of thousands more incidents of mass murder.

The only way to actually right the wrong that Saddam perpetrated on the Iraqi people is to try him for every event and enter every event into the court record and convict him of every murder.
This mass murderer must be held accountable for more than one single event.

Executing Saddam Hussein now is cathartic, but short sighted.
The present government needs to come into its own and get out from the beneath shadow of Saddam.
They must confront the evil and acknowledge all the murders.
And then Saddam Hussein should be executed.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 26, 2006


When in Rome, do as the French do.

We all know that won't work. So why is the president of the United States trying to impose an American-style democracy on the nation of Iraq?

When in the Arab world, think like an Arab, act like an Arab, play the game like an Arab would. Iraq has many strengths, underscore them. The region offers many natural resources, utilize them. Arab culture and customs are clearly defined, understand them. Use the history and the conflicts of the Arab world as a model to create a stable Iraq.

How do you solve the problem of Iraq? Not by trying to unify a nation that does not want to be unified. You solve the problem of Iraq by allowing the people of Iraq their individuality, by capitalizing on the hatred and division already within the country and by allowing Iraq to be divided - locally divided. By encouraging the various tribes that comprise Iraq to live in and rule their own local regions, by allowing them to create their own local governments. By emphasizing the differences, not by universalizing them. By creating one nation, under Allah, divisible for all.

The objective should not be unity. That will never succeed, it will instead promote further discord and further weakening of a very fragile national ego. A realistic objective is one that provides an infrastructure through which Iraqis can live peaceably side by side one another, not intermingled among each other. The goal of this Iraq is to have Iraqis live next to one another without murdering each other. Literally. Unification places power in the hands of the biggest and the strongest group. In this case, that would be Shiites and giving the Shiites ultimate power in Iraq would be a grave mistake. Literally. It would mean the systematic, cold-blooded massacre of Iraq's Sunni population.

Right now, it's one big jumbled mess of a country. The Kurds want independence. The Sunni population of Iraq feels disenfranchised. Once upon a time, even though a minority, the Sunnis ruled. Today they are an oppressed minority. Shiites are now attacking Sunnis because they can, because for years they were the victims and now they want their oppressors to suffer.

Revenge has a long history in the Arab world. Revenge is culturally accepted in the Arab world. Honor prevails. Honor killing is part of the culture. It is acceptable behavior, you kill for the honor of your family, for the sake of the tribe. The on-going, out-of-control killing on the streets of Iraq is motivated by honor and revenge.

Shiites are killing because they can. Because they are now in power and this is payback for decades of oppression. The Shiite mantra is we did not start this dispute, do not ask us to stop it. If Shiites are allowed to maintain ultimate control in Iraq the killing will continue. The only way to stop the killing is by separating the populations. Creating local governments in Iraq will save lives. Sunnis will never have as much power as they once had, but they will have control over their own lives, their own lands, their own property.

Call it power sharing, Iraqi-style. The only way to solve the problems in Iraq is to convince Sunnis and Sunni leaders that their only hope for power is through the control of their own areas. Maliki must be convinced of this also. No administration and no authority will be able to bribe them into submission. And then the Shiites must be told that they no longer have all of Iraq to rule, rape and ravage.

Sounds good on paper, but how do you actually make this happen? You make it happen by using the region's natural resources - other Arab countries. Employ regional powers to help. This conflict is bigger than just Iraq. The fighting in Iraq extends to families and tribes throughout the Arab world. Local religious disputes link to larger, regional disputes. They stretch farther and sink deeper than parochial American interests can ever imagine. Use the festering animosity between Saudi Arabia and Iran to pressure the people of Iraq into a plan that will save them from self-destruction and provide them with a future.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are arch enemies. Iran is Shiite and Saudi Arabia is Sunni. Iran is Persian and Saudi Arabia is Arab. There is no way that Saudi Arabia will permit Iran to take over in Iraq through Shiite proxy. Iraq shares a 500 mile border with Saudi Arabia, that's the distance from Boston to North Carolina, from New York City to the Florida state border. What happens in Iraq directly affects Saudi Arabia. The United States has no true clout in Iraq, the United States has a presence. Saudi Arabia and Iran have the clout.

Nothing happens quickly in the Middle East, that is another part of the culture. But change can be affected. Iraq can be saved from itself, but Iraq must want to be saved. Iraq must be convinced.

Do it right. Do not force Iraqis to unite, force Iraqis to take responsibility for their own lives.

I just need someone to listen.

Saudi Ambassador For Health & Home
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 25, 2006

I've Been thinking:

The Saudi Ambassador to Washington left the United States very, very quickly.
Something happened.

Background: The former Ambassador is a very thoughtful person. At home he was head of Saudi Military Strategy. Before coming to the US he was ambassador in London. He is a member of the royal family, he is a prince.

We don't know why he was called back, but I have some educated guesses:
Was it a scandal? Probably not.
Was it a personal health issue? Probably not.
Was he needed elsewhere? Probably.

There are 3 types of Saudi emergency, 3 important issues for the royals:
Protecting the monarchy as a whole.
Protecting your smaller family and its stake in leadership and power.
The health of a loved royal one.

I think the Ambassador was called back to claim the Interior Ministry because a close relative is ailing. Otherwise, the ministry will go to someone from a different part of the family which would shift power in the family from one side to another. The Interior Ministry is responsible for internal security in the kingdom

It is all about safety and health in the House of Saud.

UN Sanctions Iran, Good Luck
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 24, 2006

I'm Predicting:

It was unanimous.
All 15 members of the UN Security Council voted to apply sanctions against Iran. And in reality, it will have little impact on Iran's nuclear development.

The key section of Resolution 1737 reads:
"to prevent the supply, sale or transfer ... of all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology which could contribute to Iran's enrichment-related, reprocessing or heavy water-related activities or to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems."

The key reason that Resolution 1737 will have no real impact:
Russia voted in favor of sanctions against Iran and yet Russia will continue to build the Iranian nuclear plant in Busher.

The Resolution also requires an evaluation in 60 days.
The Resolution also stipulates that peaceful and non-forceful strategies be applied to resolve the situation.
The Resolution reads well in theory, but in practice it is almost impossible to enforce. Good Luck.

Qatar Gives 30 Soldiers To UN
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 23, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The Arab oil nation Qatar has just made a pledge of 30 soldiers.
30 soldiers from Qatar will join UN forces in Lebanon to help keep the peace.

This is a huge step for any Arab nation.
Generally, the idea is that an Arab country is stepping forward to try to keep Muslims safe from Muslims.
Specifically, the idea is that the international force will keep Hezbollah from taking over the country.

Applause and fanfare from the international community are in order.
Arab and Muslim nations should take responsibility for the safety of fellow Muslims.
Unfortunately, Qatar's commitment will probably go unannounced and have very little impact on colleague nations.

Thirty may not be a very large number, but it is a lot bigger than zero.
I say kudos to Qatar.

Laugh or Cry
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 22, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

In my line of work you tend to find humor in the strangest places.

There is now a mini civil war in Gaza, Arab killing Arab.
Over the past week several dozen Palestinians have been killed - the children and extended family members of leading Palestinian families have been targeted, bystanders have been killed. And many Palestinians have been injured in shootouts. Obviously, there is nothing humorous about that.

Where are the wounded treated?
Some are treated in Gaza hospitals.
Others have chosen to be treated in Israeli hospital.
Why? Because they are afraid of being assassinated even in the hospital.

Palestinians feel safer in Israel among Jews than in Gaza among Arabs.
And some of the wounded might very well be the people responsible for shooting Kassam rockets into Israel.

Laugh. The alternative is to cry.

Iran's Game
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 21, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is torquing up the tensions with the United States and with the West.
Iran just came out with a savvy new maneuver in the nuclear game.

Yesterday while on tour of a western province in Iran Ahmadinejad declared that "Iran is now a nuclear power."
He was quoted by IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency)

He said: "Iranian young scientists reached the zenith of science and technology and gained access to the nuclear fuel cycle without the help of big powers."
He said: "the powerful Iranian nation resists bullying powers and will defend its rights, including the right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology."

What is Ahmadinejad trying to achieve with these statements?
Iran has been a nuclear nation for forty years. The first Iranian nuclear facility, a small 5 megawatt system located in Teheran, opened in 1967.

Ahmadinejad has two goals in mind:
To rile up local Iranians in their confrontation with the West
To rile the West into confrontation with Iran

My advice: Don't take the bait.

Syria Wants Out Of US Dog House
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 20, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

President Bashar Assad of Syria is in Russia.
After concluding a meeting with Vladimir Putin the Syrian and Russian leaders held a joint press conference.

Bashar Assad said that Syria is in favor of resuming talks with the US.
He said that Syria is "open to dialogue with the United States but will not take orders from Washington."

Syria wants to relieve the pressure being brought on them by the West, principally by the United States.
The pressure Syria is feeling is linked to Syrian sponsorship of terror, especially Syria's support of Hezbollah and Hamas.
And Syria is still taking the heat for the assassination of Lebanese leader Rafik Harriri and for their relationship, or rather lack of relationship, with Israel.

Nothing would suit Syria better than to get out of the US dog house.
Syria wants an end to the US sponsored boycott against them and is willing to change its ways.
Tradition and honor does not allow them to say so directly to the United States.

Iraq & Saudi Arabia
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 19, 2006

I'm Predicting:

If the United States were to pull out of Iraq now, Saudi Arabia would step in and supporting the Sunnis of Iraq.

That's not great insight - it's a fact.

The Saudis cannot countenance Iran supporting the Shiites in Iraq especially when the Shiites are killing the Sunnis.

The Sunnis need a sugar daddy to help them kill Shiites and the Saudis are the sweetest deal they could have.

There is no love lost between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis have actually said, point blank, that this is their intention.

The Saudis will not allow a trouncing in Iraq.

So what's my point?

This cannot fall into the category of the law of unforeseeable consequences.

By Micah Halpern

Monday December 18, 2006


The opening shots have been fired. The cannon has roared.

The civil war has begun. The Palestinian civil war. Hamas vs Fatah. Fatah vs Hamas. The Palestinian Authority is not Iraq. This is not only about respect. This civil war is about real power, it is about real leadership. This civil war is being fought by and for the Palestinian people.

The conflict was inevitable. Hamas was elected into power as a rejection of the Arafat legacy. The election of Hamas was a reaction to years of corruption and misdirected leadership. Palestinians were voting against cleptocracy when they voted for Hamas. They were desperate for direction, they were gullible, they were hurting.

Hamas cannot lead. They have no experience in leadership and none in bureaucracy. They are an ideological movement and ideological movements do not - cannot, compromise on beliefs. Hamas is now only a significant minority within the Palestinian people, a significant minority with a very significant voice and a very significant signature. They were elected. But that was a fluke. It was an aberration. That aberration must now be corrected. Hamas will not just walk away.

Now the Palestinian people deserve better. And they are rising up.

Some observers are saying that the Palestinians are getting whatever they deserve. They are saying that the Palestinians knowingly and willingly elected Hamas. Some people go so far as to say that this is the process of natural selection and we should just let the bad guys kill each other off, the more the better. People are asking why anyone should care about what happens when Palestinians kill Palestinians. Well, we should care. The collective Palestinian people took a gamble, they lost - they should not have to pay with their lives.

We must care. It is important to care. Not to care is to think and to act like Hamas and we are not Hamas. Hamas does not care about the greater Palestinian perspective, Hamas cares only about narrow Hamas objectives. We must see the greater picture. The greater picture requires ousting Hamas leadership with leadership that is sympathetic to the real needs of the Palestinian people, leadership that is responsive to the voice of the people. The Palestinians need leadership that understands power and compromise.

Hamas must be removed from power for two simple and intertwined reasons. First, Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Second, Hamas no longer represents the mainstream Palestinian point of view. Mainstream Palestinians want very much to move on, to change their lives and to improve their status. The Palestinians want to be earn a decent living. They want to provide for their families. None of these goals will ever be accomplished until the Palestinian people i.e. Palestinian leadership recognizes the State of Israel.

For months Abbas and his Fatah party spoke about a commitment to Palestinian unity. For months he tried to cobble together a unity government. When that failed he tried to create a technocratic government, a government run by a professional bureaucrat. That too failed. Abbas was trying to force something that did not, that could not exist. For the Palestinians unity means compromise. And neither party can compromise on the question of Israel. Abbas cannot compromise on the right of Israel to exist, he has committed too much time and energy courting the United States and the Europeans on this very issue. And Hamas cannot compromise on their declared intention to destroy Israel. For both these sides, for both these pillars of Palestinian leadership, Israel is the deal breaker.

So now, we wait.

According to polls conducted over the last few days 61% of Palestinian want new elections. And Fatah would win that election by a landslide. Over the past few days there have been assassination attempts on Hamas leaders. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, both targets of the attacks, slipped away alive. Significant government offices have been attacked and occupied by Fatah forces. There have been shootouts and kidnappings. Now, finally, Abbas has begun the process of calling for new elections. The most powerful move against Hamas was not military. It was democratic. But the bullets have already begun to fly.

In the end, democracy will win out for the Palestinian people. But we are not yet at the end. First comes civil war and the civil war is only beginning.

Nelson Steps Over The Line
By Micah Halpern

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

I was surprised to get the email announcement from Syria proclaiming that Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida was visiting and meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

I am distressed that Bill Nelson has still not received an official slap on the wrist.

Nelson was in The Region, he met with Israelis, Palestinians, Iraqis and Jordanians and then he popped over to Syria to meet with Assad.

Who does he think he is?

A United States senator does not just go around conducting independent foreign policy that totally contradicts official current policy.
The State Department reluctantly tagged along and sent reps from the US Embassy in Amman.
But by law Nelson may not use any of his senatorial money and travel allocations to visit Syria.

I await the response of the White House and the Justice Department.
Nelson stepped way over the line even if he was advancing a democratic research and information gathering mission.

Assad and the Arab world are loving this, the papers are full of op-eds and predictions.

If there is one foreign policy in the United States it is this:
You do not test the waters until you are in power.

Hamas Alert
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 16, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Palestinian masses have had enough of Hamas.
Palestinian masses are ready and set to rise up in revolt against Hamas.

Not only because of the drive-by massacre of 3 young siblings
Not only because of the stubbornness of Hamas in not recognizing Israel
Not only because of the excessive poverty
Not only because of the lawlessness
Not only because of the hopelessness
Not only because of the tribal rule and clan in-fighting

Because Hamas has out-used its usefulness.
Because Hamas is a Palestinian liability.
Because Hamas has destroyed all hope in the Palestinian future.

Egypt's Border
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 15, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday, the Palestinian Prime Minster was blocked from entering Gaza at the Egyptian side of the border.
Eventually, he was permitted to cross and to enter Gaza.

Ismail Haniyeh has been raising money for Hamas and for his government by traveling to places like Sudan, Iran and Qatar.
He had 10's of millions of dollars on him as he approached the border.
He declared that he was carrying money.
The Egyptians told the Israelis.
The Israelis said they would not let him in with the money.
The Egyptians and international border monitors all agreed that crossing the border with the money would be a flagrant violation of all the agreements.
Haniyeh agreed to cross without the money.
A section of the fence was blown open and the Rafah border crossing terminal was turned into a blood zone.
There was an assassination attempt on the life of the Prime Minister.
A Hamas member of the Palestinian Parliament called for an elimination of the entire border with Egypt because it only serves the Zionists.

Bottom line:
There is no way that Egypt would get rid of that border.
That border keeps the Palestinians out of Egypt.

Not About The Holocaust
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 14, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The Holocaust deniers have met in Iran.
They have drawn their own conclusion and made them public.
But here's the thing - this was not about the Holocaust.

The purpose of the conference was not to deny the Holocaust.
Holocaust denial was just a tool.
The purpose of the conference was to deny Israel's right to exist.
Holocaust deniers believe that Israel's existence was created as a result of the Holocaust.

David Duke, the former National Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan said at the conference in Iran: "This conference has an incredible impact on Holocaust studies all over the world ... The Holocaust is the device used as the pillar of Zionist imperialism, Zionist aggression, Zionist terror and Zionist murder."

Their logic is simple, but their logic is flawed.
They believe that Israel was created because of the Holocaust and that without a Holocaust there is no justification for the Jewish State.
The truth is that Israel was created not because of the Holocaust.
The truth is that Israel was created as a result of the 1948 war with the Arabs.

Targeting Kids In Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 13, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Osama was only 10 years old. Ahmed was only 6. Salah was 3.
These three children were murdered in a barrage of 60 bullets.
These three children were murdered in Gaza by Hamas gunmen.
They were the children of Baha Baloushah, a high level Fatah security official.

The kids were on their way to school in a car driven by a bodyguard.
It was a day just like every day - until they were brutally murdered.
This was not a case of mistaken identity.
The children were the target, not their father.

This is not about Israel.
This is about power and control and money, about Hamas versus Fatah.
This violence and the culture of violence are stimulated by revenge, honor and a need for retribution.
Hamas will not act to bring these murderers to justice - it would violate a Hamas principle of honor and affiliation.

It may sound more like South America or Iraq but it is Gaza.
It is another horrific example of Arabs murdering Arabs.
There will be many more murders like this, tensions are escalating.
Targeting children is for bottom feeders - it defines this conflict.
This is just the beginning of mass murders in Gaza.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 12, 2006


The wise men and woman of the Iraq Study Group have come forward with their recommendations. The findings of this group of erudite, experienced, senior thinkers, jurists, advisors and policy makers leaves me just plain dumbfounded.

I am reminded of a popular olde-English nursery rhyme.
Three men in a tub;
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker;
They all jumped out of a rotten potato,
Turn 'em out, knaves all three!

It perplexes me how ten serious American leaders signed off on this preposterous plan to solve the problem of Iraq. Where are they living? Better yet, what are they smoking? I am not in dispute with their assessment and neither will I paint a rosy picture of a very difficult reality. The situation certainly is rotten in the state of Iraq, but Jim, Lee, Sandra, Vernon - where did you come up with this prescription for remedying the situation.

How can you conclude that the ills of Iraq can be cured by the witch doctors of the Middle East?

Suggesting that the United States expand training teams from 2,000 - 3,000 personnel to 10,000 - 20,000 is a very good idea, even if it was a waste of time to form a committee to come up with that simple suggestion. As a matter of fact, most of the good suggestions and recommendations written up in the report have been around for some time.

But talking to Iran and talking to Syria. How can the United States talk to either Iran or Syria about anything, let alone about Iraq when both Iran and Syria are deeply committed to defeating the United States in Iraq? Iran and Syria are the major sponsors of the insurrection against the United States. These two rogue nations should be spoken to only on one of two conditions. Only after they give up their mission to vanquish the United States in Iraq or only after they are defeated in their mission by the United States.

Iran and Syria are a big part of the problem, they are not part of the solution. Those who say you make peace with your enemies not with your friends simply do not understand the situation. Iran and Syria have no intention of making peace. They have other intentions. They want to destabilize Iraq. Iran and Syria want to take advantage of the turmoil in Iraq to twist and turn the dagger in the back of the United States and to distort and destroy U.S. policy. And they want to use the situation in Iraq to further fuel the internal disputes between Muslims, specifically, between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

And what about this ridiculous notion that Israel is intertwined with the Iraqi conflict?

Come on committee, to suggest that if the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was resolved then the situation in Iraq would be easier to control is not only myopic, it is downright irresponsible. There are no dots to connect. This bi-partisan group of respected Americans has either sold out or bought into the conspiracy theory that purports that the problem in the Middle East is Israel.

The problem is not Israel, the problem is Iraq. Even if there were no Israel, Muslims would still be killing other Muslims.

The problem is Syria. Syria needs to butt out. Syria needs to be removed from the business of Lebanon and Syria needs to be kept out of Iraq. And the problem is Iran. Iran needs to be removed from the business of Lebanon and Iran needs to be kept out of Iraq. So if Syria should be kept out and Iran should be kept out, why does the eminent United States of America deserve to meddle in Iraqi affairs? Because the United States has no hidden agenda. The United States has nothing to gain and only the lives of too many military personnel to lose. Because the United States is fighting for freedom and democracy. And the people of Iraq deserve freedom and democracy.

By the way, Syria was very happy with the report. Of course Syria was happy. This report is the support Syria needs to pressure Israel to give them the Golan Heights. Syria may claim to help the United States in Iraq in exchange for the Golan but the reality is that Syria will not live up to the deal. To entertain the idea of trusting Syria is laughable and ludicrous.

You know who else was happy with the report? Jimmy Carter.

The Queen of Hearts,
She made some tarts,
All on a summer's day;
The Knave of hearts,
He stole those tarts,
And took them clean away.
The King of Hearts
Called for the tarts,
And beat the knave full sore;
The Knave of hearts
Brought back the tarts,
And vowed he'd steal no more.

Enough said.

An Arab Woman Speaks Out
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 11, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Taraji Mustafa is a Sudanese human rights activist.
She established the Sudanese - Israeli Friendship League.

Al Arabiya has put together a video clip in which she explains why she established the League.
She also explains why she attacks Arab leaders and Arab media as being racist, oppressive and wrong about Israel and about internal Arab issues.
This is the second time an Arab woman has used the Arab media to challenge the prevailing winds.

Unfortunately, her analysis will fall on deaf Arab decision maker ears.
We, at least, should hear her out.
The clip is very powerful and certainly worth checking out.
Below is the link:,7340,L-3337609,00.html

A $500 Million Donation
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 10, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Sheldon Adelson is the 3rd richest man in the world after Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.
He just donated $500 million to Israel for medication and care for the poor and needy.
He also donated $25 million to Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Memorial, for Holocaust education.

Adelson grew up in Boston where he sold newspapers on street corners. He made his fortune in Comdex a computer trade show company and hit it even bigger in Las Vegas with the Sands Hotel.
Jews, like Adelson, are giving a lot of money to help other Jews in need and to support Jews in Israel - everyone, of course, according to their own ability.

For the majority of the Jewish community giving charity is second nature.
It is what they do.
They care and they commit and they put their shoulder to the wheel.
Has anyone asked why other communities do not do the same?

Private citizen Sheldon Adelson is personally giving more monetary aid to a foreign country than most countries give in international aid.

Mubarak Says Watch Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 9, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

When the leader of one Arab country makes an observation about another Arab country, I pay careful attention.

While on tour in France Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak of Egypt took the opportunity to talk about Lebanon.
Mubarak made reference to the massive Hezbollah rallies taking place in Beirut. Mubarak expressed genuine concern that these rallies could turn violent and if they do turn violent it could subvert and even destroy Lebanon.

Mubarak was particularly concerned about the impact of "outside influences."
In his interview on French TV-3 he said: "There is also the risk of foreign interference in these protests. That could result in very serious confrontations and even lead to the destruction of Lebanon."

This is as clear as an Arab leader will ever get.
Translation: "we must stop Syria."

The Flavor of the Month
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 8, 2006

I'm Predicting:

The long neglected Palestinians are about to become the flavor of the month in the Muslim world.

Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the PA, is on a four-day trip to Iran.
Iran has actually, finally, begun to come through with some of the money that they have been pledging to the Palestinians.

Haniyeh's agenda is to make sure that more money keeps flowing his way.
Forget the fact that the United States is stifling all movement of monies to Hamas, these guys are resourceful, they will find a way.
Iran has another agenda.
Iran wants Shiite inroads in a traditionally non-Shiite region.

The Palestinians are playing with fire.
They are about to create a huge rift with the other Sunnis. To minimize the impact of their actions, the Palestinians are teasing and taunting other Arab countries saying: Iran is giving money where is your donation and support?
The Palestinian plan seems to be working. Qatar now pledged $40 million a month to pay the salaries of Palestinian teachers and health care workers.

The infighting is going to get complicated and ugly.

EU & US talk to Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 7, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinian news agency Maan has reported a shocking occurrence - a real scoop.
They have sources who claim that EU officials have met with Hamas representatives.
They have sources who claim that officials from the US Democratic Party have had meetings with Hamas.

What's the shocker?
The European Union and the United States are officially boycotting Hamas.
So please explain how those meeting happened.

There's more:
There is an economic boycott and embargo on all aid to the Palestinians until they accept the Quartet's conditions and accept Israel's right to exist.
So now explain how and why the EU increased their aid to the Hamas led Palestinians Authority by 27% this year bringing the total amount to $865 million.

I'll explain.
It's simple.
Rules are meant to be broken.

Real Hamas Power
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 6, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Who really runs Hamas?
The obvious answer would be Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
Obvious, but wrong.

Haniyeh just wrapped up a visit to Syria.
Haniyeh met with Bashar Assad, president of Syria.
More importantly, Haniyeh met with Khaled Mashal the real leader of Hamas.

Real Hamas power rests not in Gaza, real Hamas power comes out of Syria.
Real Hamas decision making is made not by Ismail Haniyeh, real decisions are made by Khaled Mashal.

The big question now is whether Mashal can agree to Israel's terms for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Hamas leadership in Gaza wants to agree to the deal but Hamas leadership in exile has not given Gaza the go-ahead.

One kidnapped Israeli soldier for 1000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
Will Mashal agree?
We have to wait and see.

White House Gets Tough
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 5, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The White House has been keeping the momentum going.
Only days ago George Bush met with Iraq's prime minister Maliki's in Jordan.
Yesterday, back home, Bush had a scheduled meeting with the leader of the largest Shiite representation in the Iraqi parliament, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim.

The president of the United States met with the man who pulls the strings, the man behind Maliki, the man who tells Maliki what to do and when to do it.
The president met with the leader of the Shiite faction that really put Maliki in power.
They put the prime minister in power, not the United States - and that goes a long way towards explaining the tensions between Shiite interests and United States interests in Iraq.

Bush did not mince words.
Bush said point blank that not enough is being done to curb Shiite violence.
Bush didn't say sectarian violence, he said Shiite violence.
Bush said that if the attacks are not stopped there will be no progress towards democracy.
Bush articulated the biggest gripe the United States has with Iraq right now.

Will the Shiites listen? I don't know.
But good for you George Bush, good for you for speaking your mind.
It's about time.

By Micah Halpern

Monday December 4, 2006


Bottom line: The White House needs to move forward with their Iraq Policy. The White House needs to move forward quickly. The White House needs to be snappy. They need to say" Snap to it Iraq. This is what must be done and this is what will be done.

Otherwise, Iraq will languish in a state of semi-democratic-stupor. Otherwise, the people of Iraq will continue to suffer the misguided and self-interested rule of a leader who is out of his depth and not in control of his country.

The face-to-face meeting that took place between the president of the United States and the prime minister of Iraq has been analyzed, re-analyzed and over analyzed. In my estimation, it has also been mis-analyzed. Body language, eye contact, facial expressions, hugs and hand gestures - they are all beside the point. In my estimation, not only have the analysts missed the point of this meeting, but so did the White House.

This should not have been a meeting infused with innuendo and suggestion. It should not have only been a face-to-face meeting but also an in-your-face meeting. The United States should have been calling the shots and the Iraqis should now be snapping to.

But the Iraqis could not hear what the United States was saying because the United States did not do the proper homework. The United States misused language. Rather than inspiring and invigorating the Iraqi government, the United States turned the Iraqis off and the Iraqis tuned the United States out.

Bottom line: The United States messed up. The intention was well-placed and appropriate, the execution was way off the mark. The United States made two major mistakes.

Mistake # 1: The Middle East is a slow moving region. The president of the United States thought that he was moving with the Mid East flow by dealing calmly and warmly with the Iraqi. But calm and warm translates into meek in Maliki-speak. Decisive and snappy is understood by Maliki. Decisive and snappy is the style of despots and dictators. Maliki respects despots and dictators.

Mistake # 2: George Bush came to Iraq speaking of a "Partition Plan." The plan, the idea, is actually very good. The choice of wording is abominable. As soon as the word "partition" fell from the lips of George Bush the conversation was over. Red flags were flying. Maliki never can and never will agree to a Partition Plan.

In the Middle East the word "partition" resonates with Western imperialism and Arab oppression. In the Middle East partition is synonymous with the Israeli Palestinian conflict and smacks of British Colonial influences. For Iraqis partition is the wrong word. The connotation is terrible, just terrible. What was the United States thinking?

Instead of "partition" the United States should be using the word "provinces." In Iraq, provinces already exist. Iraqi provinces are actually tribally based and have a long history, predating 1922 and the modern state of Iraq. Even under Saddam the provinces were strong and well organized providing important local government services and functioning in an efficient - albeit biased and oppressive, way. And then Saddam pounded everyone into submission on a national level. Under Maliki revitalized and newly-empowered provinces could function as strong local governments.

If "provinces" did not sit well with the United States, if they wanted to introduce a new concept rather than rework an existing condition there is another neutral term that could be used. The United States could model a plan on the concept of the "canton." It works for the Swiss and what country is more neutral than Switzerland?! Province, canton - terms that carry no emotional Arab baggage, plans that with only the slightest tweaking would be workable, manageable, doable.

Personally, of course, Maliki would have a problem with any plan that stripped him of power. The province concept neuters the prime minister. It takes away his strength and his prowess. No Middle East leader wants to be told or shown that he is too weak to control his people. The province system would by definition weaken the national system and empower local governments and police authority. Powerful provinces will wrestle power from Maliki and place it in the hands local leaders. In some provinces that means giving power to monitories like Kurds and Sunnis.

Moving to a weaker central government implies weakening Maliki politically. It will diminish Maliki and that is a situation he will not countenance. But it is the best plan for the people of Iraq. Maliki can handle a coup, he can handle being ousted in a new election. But he cannot allow himself to be removed by the very power that orchestrated his rise to power. That is too much to ask of the Middle Eastern male ego. It is the ultimate insult. It would be a sign of his failure and would necessitate his resignation. It would be humiliation on the national - and international, level.

At this stage Maliki is the democratically elected prime minister of Iraq but he is not acting in the best interests of Iraq. Like so many other politicians he is acting to preserve his role and his position and his constituency. That is not what Iraq needs right now.

Bottom line: If Maliki does not snap to, he must be forced out.

Not A Civil War
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 2, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Here is the question: Is there a civil war going on in Iraq.
Here is the answer: It's all a matter of semantics and definition.

If you define a civil war merely as internal fighting, the answer is yes, there is dangerous internal fighting happening in Iraq.
But I think that the term "civil war" has a bigger and more significant meaning.

Civil war requires a battle over the power and future of a government.
Civil war means that the fighters represent significant parties in the population that are vying for power.
Anything less is civil unrest - not civil war.

The Sunnis cannot mount a civil war.
They do not have the weapons or the power.
There is no way they can become the leaders of Iraq.
They do not represent enough people in Iraq to control Iraq.
They cannot topple the government.

The only power Iraq's Sunnis have is the fear factor.
The ability to instill fear does not meet the definition of civil war.

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