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Iran Holds the Cards
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 1, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

We are playing into Iranian hands - again - and Iran holds all the cards.
The capturing of the 15 British sailors was Iran's latest move.

The only move left to the West is to negotiate and it is a very poor move.
It is unlikely that even negotiating will provide the West with the results necessary to end this situation.
Iran knows what it wants and is willing to hold out until it happens.
Iran wants an apology, a public apology.

This is all a game of pride for Iran.
Iran wants it made clear that it was not an accidental crossing of the territorial waters but a deliberate crossing.
Iran wants it made clear that they are correct in their defense of Iranian and Muslim honor.

That is why the broadcast of the British captives was deliberately aired on Iranian Arabic TV al Alam and not on the larger Iranian Parsi station. Most Iranians speak Parsi, not Arabic but the rest of the Islamic world only understands Arabic.

This message was for external consumption.
This message was for the entire world, but especially for the Muslim world.
This message made it clear that Iran will champion the Islamic principles of honor against any and all non-believers, including the US and UK and Iran will win.
The honor of Islam is at stake.

Pelosi's Visit To Israel
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 31, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Nancy Pelosi the new Democratic Speaker of the House arrived in Israel on Friday.
This is Pelosi's second fact finding trip since assuming her new, high profile, position.
Part of Pelosi's visit to the Middle East includes a visit to Syria.

Why is Pelosi bothering with these visits?
She is sending a message.
She is saying that the White House is not the only force to be reckoned with when it comes to United States foreign policy.

Someone on this trip is of particular interest to me.
His name is Keith Ellison.
He is the new congressman from the 5th district in Minnesota, he ran and won as the candidate of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party.
He is the first Muslim to be elected to congress.
He is a convert to Islam.

Ellison promised to visit the Middle East after his election.
These trips can have a very significant impact on a politician.
In 1998 Governor George Bush made his trip to Israel and it transformed him as a person and as a leader.
I am curious to see the impact of this trip on Ellison.

Israelis Save Palestinian Baby
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 30, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Humanitarian Aid Trumps Political Agenda.
It probably won't get much play in mainstream news but it should.

For the very first time since 2000 an Israeli ambulance crossed over an army checkpoint entering the Palestinian region to save the life of a 6 month old baby.
This is a watershed event.

The baby is still alive and recovering in Tel HaShomer, an Israeli hospital - two other infants from the same child care facility are dead.
Palestinian police made certain that the Israeli bulletproof ambulance was not blocked as the medical team sped the child and his parents from a Palestinian hospital in Ramallah to the Israeli hospital.

Earlier this week a dirt wall sewage pool broke in Gaza. 3000 people were quickly evacuated, dozens more swam for their lives swimming in sewage, many died in the muck. Palestinians refused to ask for Israeli help. Finally, Israel's defense minister just sent his people in to help - to shore up the walls and clean up the remains.

This is the way it should be.
Humanitarian issues should be separated from political issues.
Humanitarian issues are probably the building blocks of political cooperation.

Lebanon is Unstable
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 29, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Lebanon is becoming more and more unstable.
So says Israel's Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi.

Ashkenazi has just made his assessment of recent, essential developments in the Middle East, factors that he feels have far reaching and important ramifications for Israel and for the region.

Ashkenazi asserts that Hezbollah is growing stronger and the more strength Hezbollah gains the larger the threat it poses to the established Lebanese government.

I agree.
The situation in Lebanon might yet deteriorate into civil war.
There are many factors at work, but the continued growth of Hezbollah is worrisome.
Any shift in the Lebanese political hierarchy could alter the status quo in the region and thrust Israel into danger.
It is essential to scrupulously monitor goings-on in Lebanon.

Listen to Hamas, Please
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 28, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

"The prophetic foundation is the message of the prophet Muhammad, that Islam will enter every house and will spread over the entire world."
That is the quote of the day from Mahmoud al Zahar, former foreign minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

In conclusion: "All of Palestine. This is the final and strategic solution for us."

Please, please, do not be deceived.
Hamas has made it clear - they want to destroy Israel.
Hamas has made it clear - everyone in the world should become a Muslim.
It is all in the Hamas charter.

At a memorial for Sheik Ahmad Yassin "the Sheik in the wheelchair" as he is known in America, al Zahar again clearly articulated the two-pronged Hamas objective.

Hamas understands what Hamas want.
Why are we incapable of hearing their loud and clear message?

Premature Euphoria
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 27, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The current euphoria over this newest, latest, possible, potential for peace between Palestinians and Israelis is a little premature.
There are major obstacles to overcome before the two clasp hands in a classic gesture of peace and co-existence.

The Arab League wants the Saudi proposal swallowed hook, line and sinker by Israel.
Yes, they are willing to allow certain small modifications and tinkering, but they want their plan to be the blue print for peace.
And that is not what diplomacy is all about.

Israel, surprisingly, is willing to negotiate.
But Israel is willing to negotiate only if the international terms are firmly set as the prerequisite for negotiations.

Palestinians responded to a recent poll with only 48% of the 1270 respondents saying that they wanted their new unity government to adhere to international standards and get the embargo against them lifted.
That means that roughly the same amount of Palestinians who accepted the idea rejected the idea.

How do you move ahead in a situation like this?
You simply stay the course.

By Micah Halpern

Monday March 26, 2007


I'm a bit confused.

And if I'm a bit confused then it is no wonder that the Arab world is confused. Palestinian leaders are totally confused. And Israel? Israel is just plain perplexed. No one is at all bemused.

Who can understand United States foreign policy when it is replete with mixed messages and convoluted communication?

Secretary of State Condi Rice just finished a set of meetings in the Middle East region with Palestinians and with Israelis. After her meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and the person responsible for creating a unity government with Hamas, Rice held a press conference. At the press conference the secretary of state, the highest ranking American diplomat, admitted that the United States of America will work towards a two-state solution and, she added, the United States will "work on Israel." The secretary of state said that the US is trying to create an independent and separate track of negotiations for a Palestinian state despite the new unity government led by Hamas.

The message delivered by Secretary of State Rice is simple and clear. So why the confusion?

The United States has said, sworn, affirmed and pledged not to meet with Hamas or any Hamas affiliates. And then the United States turns around and meets with Abbas and others in the Hamas Unity Government. And then the United States promises to do the utmost to help out that government create their ultimate goal, an independent state.

There's more. Israel has said that the Israeli government will not meet with anyone who meets with Hamas. Israel is saying, in other words, that it is now impossible to make a distinction between the groups, impossible to split up Hamas and Fatah. Israel is saying that once Fatah joined Hamas, Fatah became like Hamas. Fatah now has the Hamas "cooties."

Surprisingly, United Nations Secretary General Ban in an awkward nod to Israel would not meet with Hamas. But he did meet with Fatah members of the Hamas government. Personally, that is just what I would expect from the United Nation's top man.

Now it gets even more complicated and confusing.

The entire Arab world plus every member nation of the United Nations and all of Israel knows that the United States is Israel's strongest supporter. So just why is Israel's big brother making these pledges to the Palestinians and to the rest of the Arab world? Why?

The United States is being inconsistent and when that happens, everyone suffers, everyone gets hurt. Israel gets hurt because the United States is publicly, diplomatically, openly showing that the two nations no longer stand shoulder to shoulder on the question of Hamas. The Palestinians get hurt because they cannot possibly decipher what the United States really expects from them and that plays directly into the hands of the extremists i.e. Hamas. The Arab world gets hurt because double messages are doubly hard to read and the Arab world cannot possibly figure why the United States could care about the Palestinians when the Arab world could not care less.

Even the United States gets hurt. The United States is now perceived as flip-floppy and wobbly by a world that admires straight forward decisions and decisive action.

The Secretary of State is not to be blamed. In this instance, she really is only the messenger. This unfortunate change in policy comes directly from the White House. And this White House is not the first to fall victim to Hamas. The Clinton White House fell under the same spell. The belief that if you accommodate Palestinian leaders they will tame the terrorist leaders who will in turn exchange their suicide bombs for negotiating tables is naive, Pollyanna-ish and mistaken.

History is our witness. It all began with Yasser Arafat. Arafat claimed that with the right amount of money he could handle the terrorist problem. So the United States gave him money, suitcases and suitcases full of money. The more money the United States threw at Arafat, the richer he became. And the terrorist problem remained the same. And Arafat received more money.

The United States has made a mistake. The United States has double-crossed Israel.

Rumors Can Be Real
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 25, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Here is the rumor:
Prince Bandor, the National Security Advisor of Saudi Arabia, met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to talk about the Saudi Peace Initiative.

Here is the source:
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz and a columnist from The New York Times assert that the rumor is accurate and correct.

Here is the clincher:
The Prime Minister's office refuses to comment.

Here is the background:
Saudi Arabia has no diplomatic relations with Israel.
Despite that, the idea is that the Saudi proposal should serve as the foundation for normalization of relations between Israel and the rest of the Arab world - in exchange for creating a Palestinian state.

Here is the reality:
There is no doubt in my mind that Olmert is entertaining this proposal.
The only question is whether the Arab world has the gonads to recognize Israel.
About that, I am not so certain.

Song To A Suicide Bomber
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 24, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Maybe you saw it on YouTube.

A little girl singing sweetly to her mother - a suicide bomber.
The words and music were written by someone else but the child is definitely Duha, the daughter of Re'em Riyashi who blew herself up in 2004.

"Mommy what are you carrying in your arms instead of me?
A toy or a present for me? Mommy Re'em! Why did you put your veil on?
Instead of me you carried a bomb.
May your steps be blessed ... send greetings to Mohammed ..."
"I am following in her steps." (repeated 3 times)

By now it is commonplace to hear Muslim mothers say that they hope their children will one day become suicide bombers, martyrs, shahid.
In this new twist we have a daughter hoping to grow up and be like her mother.

Hamas TV in the Palestinian Authority airs this video regularly.
These elected leaders see the role of suicide bomber as a goal for their children.
Theatre of the absurd, Palestinian-style.

Israel Won't Weaken Syria
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 23, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

It is no secret.
The president of Syria, the eye doctor turned ruler, the son who stepped into a position of power only after his older brother was killed, is barely, precariously, hanging on.

Bashar Assad is doing a balancing act.
Bashar Assad is a weak ruler.
Bashar Assad is seen by his colleagues in the region as an impotent ruler.

So why is he still ruling?
Why has Bashar Assad not been ousted?

Israel and France just concluded a discussion about Assad.
The conversation was leaked to the British Arabic paper Al Hayat.
And what was their conclusion?
They decided to leave the poor beleaguered guy alone.
They concluded that Assad was weak, so why weaken him more?

A more stable Syria is in the best interests of the region and Israel has no intention of challenging Syria now.
Who knows - the unknown alternative could be far, far worse.
Machiavelli put it best: "the enemy you know is better than the enemy you don't."

Unity Is Falling Apart
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 22, 2007

I'm Predicting:

Another palpable, visible breakdown in the "unity" of the Palestinian Unity Government.
It happened yesterday.

Hamad al Sousi, a professor at the Islamic University in Gaza, was kidnapped.
He was nabbed leaving a mosque after evening prayers.
He was grabbed at gunpoint.

Hamad al Sousi is affiliated with Hamas.
No group has claimed responsibility.
Hamas is pointing fingers at Fatah.

Tensions between Fatah and Hamas are only going to increase day by day.
This unity government is destined to fail.

Will Israel Shun the US Too?
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 21, 2007

I'm Predicting:

Israel has officially shunned the new Palestinian Government.
Israel has also publicly declared that any diplomat/public official who meets with members of the Hamas-led government cannot officially/diplomatically meet with Israel.

Deputy Foreign Minister of Norway Raymond Johansen just wrapped up a visit with several ministers of the new Palestinian Government.
And his meetings with Israelis were cancelled.

United States Consul General and Chief of Mission in Jerusalem Jacob Walles just met with the new Palestinian Minister of Finance, Salim Fayad.
United States Secretary of State Condi Rice is scheduled to come to the region over the weekend and she, too, is scheduled to meet with Salim Fayad.

Will Israel shun Condi Rice and the United States Consul General?
I think that the answer will be yes.
This is a matter of principle for Israel.
Israel will not bend.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Bashar Assad, president of Syria, is the strong silent type. So when the young leader of one of the most diabolical of all Arab nations consents to an interview in a foreign Arabic newspaper, I pay attention.

The dictator of Syria just granted an interview to al Jazira, the largest Saudi newspaper - not to be confused with al Jazeera the TV station and website which broadcasts from Qatar. In the course of his interview Assad offered his impressions and lent his interpretation on a variety of hot topics including maneuverings within the region, the potential for peace between his nation and Israel and his take on the United States of America.

If this interview is to be believed, I would have to say that the man is a pessimist. Assad had no positive anything to say at all about anybody. But that's just the point. Assad was giving a personal interview, but there was nothing personal about it. He was not speaking from his heart, he was speaking to the hearts of everyone who cares about what the ruler of Syria has to say.

An interview with Bashar Assad is not really about his true assessment. An interview with Bashar Assad is about what he wants people to believe. Dictators like Assad and his father before him use the media to create smoke and mirrors, to create illusions, to provide a safety net. And dictators like Assad use the media to confound and confuse us.

The best and most convincing way to tell an untruth is to include some truth in the story. The more longwinded the plea, the less I am convinced of the sincerity of the pleader. So, too, with Arab leaders who grant interviews to foreign media outlets.

On the subject of Israel Assad's little bit of truth was his confirmation that over the past few months there have been a series of European, Arab and even American intermediaries who have tried to work their own magic at brokering an exchange of ideas between Syria and Israel - a move which is still many giant steps away from the ultimate goal of bringing the Syrians and Israelis to a negotiating table.

He called the intermediaries "informal contacts." He said, "[s]enior personalities came to Syria, Americans and Europeans. Maybe they were Arabs who live in the West and hold dual citizenship. We cannot tell who is an Arab and who is a foreigner in any case, these personalities came to us and said that it is necessary to move the peace process between us and Israel forward." He added, and this is important, "These delegations heard our opinions and passed them on to Israel, while other people went to Israel and then came to Syria with Israeli opinions."

From there Assad went on to proclaim that "the current government in Israel is the weakest in Israel's history" and that he expects no change on the negotiation front for at least two years. Well, that part was not only a lie - excuse me, an untruth, but also a dangerous statement to make.

Israel is not at its weakest point in history. If Israel were at its weakest point in history Syria would be on the attack. If Assad really considered Israel to be weak he would be taking back the Golan Heights that his father lost in an embarrassing defeat to Israel in 1967, right now. But he isn't. Because it's not.

Israel's militarily preparedness is on the rise. Assad is confusing popular political support with military prowess, confusing vox populi with military readiness and capability in order to make his point. He wants to present a powerless Israel to the public even though he knows that the opposite is true. He wants to rally the Arab world. If Israel is weak the Arab world is strong. By presenting an Israel that is faltering Assad is waving the banner of an Arab world that is strong, steadfast and secure. Smoke and mirrors.

In some way, despite his determination to create illusions, Assad cannot be faulted for this deception. How can a dictator be expected to understand the workings of a democracy? No doubt popular support for Israeli Prime Minister Olmert has fallen, but his position within the Knesset is still very strong and I do not foresee new elections until at least October or November and maybe not even then. And even if there were to be a democratic shift and change in leadership in Israel it would not signal weakness. Because Israel is not a dictatorship but a democracy dissent and public debate are part of the process. And because Israel is a democracy the military does not shift with each change of government.

Assad's statement suggesting that there are no changes on the negotiation front is another of his smoke and mirrors ploys. The very fact that there have been multiple envoys and mediators going back and forth and back again between Israel and Syria over the past few months - which he so readily admits - is in and of itself an indicator of progress. And Assad actually said he is sending his "opinions" to Israel. His opinions, that's big news.

And the Syrian expatriate whom Assad so casually refers to by saying that maybe there are Arabs who live in the West and hold dual citizenship but it is difficult to tell who is an Arab and who is a foreigner, is a very successful American named Suliemen doing a very heroic balancing act. Suliemen has met with Israel's former Foreign Ministry director general Dr. Alon Liel and has just completed a visit to Israel where he was a guest in the Knesset.

Things are happening, dialogue is underway, not-so-secret mediators shuttling between the countries and clandestine meetings will continue. The ultimate objective may be peace but first and most important are the channels of communication. Syria and Israel have no other alternative than to ultimately talk to each other. They share a water system and they share a border. Israel knows that, Assad knows that.

The Middle East is a volatile region. It is an area where rhetoric reigns. As long as the players recognize the truth in untruths a balance is maintained. Unfortunately, that seesaw balance sometimes shifts. And smoke dissipates. And mirrors crack.

Ghadaffi Expels Palestinians
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 19, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Get this.
This is true, deep insight into the Arab mind and decision making process.
Moammar Ghadaffi of Libya is threatening to expel Palestinians.

Because of the Saudi Plan that might bring about new negotiations with Israel and might require Palestinian to give up the idea of their right to return.
In protest, Ghadaffi is going to deport thousands of Palestinians from Libya.
Bottom line:
Ghadaffi does not want the Palestinians to remain in Libya permanently.

After the Oslo Accords were signed Libya deported 10's of thousands of Palestinians - also in protest. Most of them were stuck in camps between Libya and Egypt, the rest were marooned on ships for weeks outside of Lebanon and Syria. No one wanted them.
Once again the Palestinians are pawns in a much bigger game.

What does that teach us?
The Arab world has very little interest in settling the "Palestinian problem" as it is called.
So much for Arab unity.

PA Unity Government
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 18, 2007

I'm Predicting:

The Palestinian unity government is bound to fail.
And there will be several important byproducts of the failed government.

Interesting byproduct # 1:
The Arab world has already convinced, to their chagrin, that the Palestinians have accepted the conditions of the Quartet. Now it remains to be seen if the Palestinians can convince the West.

Interesting byproduct # 2:
By joining the unity government Fatah has withdrawn its role as the alternative, opposition voice. Fatah has now been co-opted, it will be very difficult for them to regain their identity and standing among the masses.

Abbas/Fatah believed that if they joined the unity government their status would raise the status of Hamas and the Palestinians. The opposite happened. Hamas has tainted.

The unity government was a serious tactical error on Abbas' part.

Where Disputes Are Settled With Guns
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 17, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Some call it Gaza, I prefer to think of it as the "Wild West" of the Middle East.
It is the place where disputes are still settled with guns.

Yesterday John Ging director of UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency, was nearly kidnapped in Gaza.
It was his alert driver - not the bullet proof car - that saved his life as terrorists jumped out of a white Subaru and started shooting at the clearly identifiable UN car. 11 bullets pierced but did not penetrate Ging's vehicle as his driver sped to safety.
Earlier in the week Alan Johnson, a BBC reporter, was kidnapped and is still captive.
Dozens of kidnappings are perpetrated in Gaza, mostly in exchange for small favors.

Here's the irony:
UNRWA is there to help the Palestinians. The United Nations is certainly not anti-Palestinian, actually the UN is pretty pro.
The Western press is there provide a pulpit for the Palestinians. The BBC certainly could never be considered anti-Palestinian, they are also pretty pro.

The Palestinians are biting the hands that feed them.
What they are doing is wrong - and it is also a shame.

He is Spilling His Guts
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 16, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

His real name is Khaled Sheik Mohammed.
In intelligence circles he is known simply as KSM.
He is in Guantanamo, Cuba and according to the transcript of his tribunal, he is spilling his guts.

KSM was the al Qaeda master planner responsible for 9-11. Until his capture in March 2003 he was the most significant of all the al Qaeda planners and activators.
According to the transcript, this is how KSM describes Osama bin Laden: "[C]onsider George Washington as hero. Muslims many of them are considering Osama bin Laden. He is doing same thing. He is just fighting. He needs his independence."

KSM was responsible for at least 30 terrorist attacks including the brutal decapitation of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
According to the transcript, this is how KSM describes the decapitation:
"I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan."

His tone is arrogant and haughty, but he has one element of remorse.
KSM is sorry for the death of the children, that means he has a sense of morality. But the murder of thousands of innocent adults does not fall under the category of "wrong" for KSM.
KSM believes that those murders are justified by the Koran.

Al Qaeda Lashes At Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 15, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Dr Ayman Al Zawahiri publicly lashed out at Hamas the other day.

On an audio tape that aired on al Jazeera TV al Qaeda's second-in-command eulogized Hamas.
Zawahiri said that Hamas had betrayed the cause of Jihad by joining in a unity government that will recognize Israel.

The Hamas response came in the form of a prepared statement.
The official Hamas response reads: "We are a movement of Jihad and of resistance and will continue to be so as long as a single centimeter of the land of Palestine is under occupation."

Hamas did not say that they were not yet in a unity government.
Hamas did not say that the unity government has not officially recognized Israel.

More interesting than what Hamas did say is what Hamas did not say.

Israel Sells Apples To Syria
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 14, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

In the Middle East the middle man plays a very crucial role.
Middle East arch enemies Syria and Israel have begun doing business together.

What are they buying and selling? Apples.
How many apples? Tons.
How are they doing it? Through middlemen.
Who are the middlemen? The Druze of the Golan Heights.

Syria is buying apples from Druze who live in the Golan Heights. Actually, most Druze have relatives living in Syria and they have never cut off relations. The Golan and Syria share a border, along that border is a hill that has become a "calling center" - when you want someone on the other side, you call over to them. Now the apple buyers and sellers are meeting at the border and conducting their business.

The question is, how do the Syrians pay for the produce?
Israel has suggested that they pay with much-needed water.
But Syria and Israel don't speak so how have the Israelis made their suggestion known to the Syrians?
The Druze middlemen are passing it along.

It sounds comical, even simplistic, but this is a critical first step in the thawing of relations between enemies.
"A" my name is Anwar and I sell apples.

Say No to Iran
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 13, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Do not allow Ahmadinejad to enter the United States.
Do not grant Ahmadinejad the State Department-issued visa he requires.
Do not let Ahmadinejad perpetrate another mockery at our expense.

Ahmadinejad has gone on Iranian national TV to announce that he is ready to present his case for peaceful nuclear development. He is ready to present his case before the United Nations Security Council. He wants to present his case as a part of the greater debate at the United Nations surrounding the Iranian nuclear issue.

It is a brilliant maneuver.
Ahmadinejad will stand tall, answer questions and by his presence alone probably even sway those countries still unconvinced of the evil of Iran's intentions to his side.

Afterwards, of course, Iran will continue to do whatever they want.
Afterwards, Ahmadinejad and the Iranians will say one thing and do another, precisely as they have been doing all along.
Afterwards, nothing will have changed for Iran.

Right now, the only proper response to Ahmadinejad and the government of Iran is: too little, too late - commitments to peace come with actions, not words.

China Condemns Iran's Nukes
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 12, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

It's official.
The Chinese government has officially let it be known that they are anti the Iranian nuclear policy.

Here's what happened:
Until now the Chinese kept their hesitations and reservations and displeasure with Iran behind closed diplomatic doors. There were several small public statements. There wee conversations between diplomats. There were phone calls between leaders.
For about a year now China has been trying to quietly calm the tensions between Iran and the rest of the world.
Now China is starting to increase the pressure on Iran, hoping to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that will certainly increase the cost of the oil that the Chinese so badly need from Iran.

Here's how they did it:
They put it on a website.
The Chinese have openly, publicly, officially, displayed displeasure with Iran on the website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Go figure.

By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 11, 2007


Aesop told a fable about a fox and crow. The crow, a rather ugly crow, held a piece of cheese in its mouth. The fox, a rather wily fox, wanted that cheese. The fox had a plan. He flattered the crow, describing the beautiful voice it had. Flattered, the crow opened its mouth to sing, the cheese fell out, the fox ate the cheese, the crow was left with false flattery and an empty belly. The moral: Never trust a fox.

The Iranians have defaulted on their payments to the Russians. The Russians have stopped construction on the Iranian nuclear plant in Busher. Who's the winner and who is the loser in this scenario - think like a fox, not like a crow.

Iran cut a deal with the Russians to pay a monthly payment of 25 million dollars in order to build them a nuclear power plant. The last payment was made in January, as of February the Iranians had not paid so on February 17th, the Russians halted their work. Now there are re-negotiations going on for late payments and penalties.

Did the Iranians run out of money? Of course not. Did the Iranians change their minds? No. This is all part of a game plan - a diabolical game plan hatched by Iran to take advantage of Russian know-how and then, when they had enough, when they had learned enough, to dump them.

Are the Russians being taken advantage of? Sure they are, but no more so than the advantage they were taking of the Iranians. The Russians had a game plan, a master game plan, too.

Iran and Russia are playing mind games with each other and by extension with the entire international community.

The Russians know that their country does not have many products enticing enough to export - but they do have weapons and technology. And weapons and technology are not only enticing, they provide a lucrative profit. Sure, some of the weapons are rusty and some of the technology is outdated, but there is always a market even for that. The Russians have always felt that they were the masters of Iran's nuclear development projects. The Iranians paid the bills for services rendered and services delivered, but Russia was in control. Russia controlled the time line.

The Russians are beginning to feel the pressure of the international community. Their response was to slow down the workings of Atomstroiexport, the company that is building the Iranian nuclear plant. Not stopping, just slowing down, missing deadlines, dragging out the process, readjusting commitments, adding other features and claiming that there are more complications than originally planned. It is a typical stalling technique used by the Russians in order to draw out more time, gain more revenue or transform a one-time project into a never ending project.

The Iranians began to complain, but to no avail - so they did the next best thing. The Iranians chose to exercise their power as the client and to withhold payment. The situation started spiraling out of control.

The Iranians understood the Russian game plan and called their bluff. In order to make certain that they do not ever again fall prey to the whim and whimsy of the Russians, the Iranians have broken ground on another new nuclear power plant, this one built entirely, exclusively, completely by Iran. In all probability, to the chagrin and embarrassment of the Russians, this new plant will probably be completed - up and running, even before the Busher plant.

Iranians are very good at taking technology from the Russians and making it their own. They have done it with missiles and with rockets. They have done it with satellites. They have done it with cars and trucks and now they will do it with nuclear power plants. That means the Russians will have no input and no control. It means that the Russians will have lost their international trump card.

Russia always assumed that by building and then maintaining the Iranian nuclear plant they would automatically have first hand knowledge of everything nuclear within Iran. And they would get paid for it. There would be no need for intelligence and speculation. The Russians always believed that they could torpedo any Security Council decisions by comforting the Chinese with the words "we are there on the ground," "we are monitoring the situation." And actually, in the past Russian inspectors under the rubric of the United Nations were the only officials permitted access into Iran while all others were shunned.

Russia wants money. Iran wants a plant. Neither country is getting what they want. The world should be a better place. The international community should rejoice. Not so quickly ...

There's still that piece of cheese.

Moral Education From Iran
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 10, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas might operate out of the Palestinian Authority, but directions come from the government in exile in Damascus, Syria.
Hamas is run by Haled Mashal.

Haled Mashal secures a lot of funding for Hamas from Iran.
Haled Mahsal visits Iran and the Iranians promise more and more money.
On his last visit, however, along with the money the Iranians give Mashal a moral education.
Mashal provided the Iranians an update of the new Palestinian unity government and the Iranians gave Mashal some friendly advice.

The Iranians told Mashal to continue "resisting the Zionists."
The Iranians told Mashal to "stop the infighting between the Palestinians."

Can Mashal do it?
Will Mashal do it?
Nothing comes without strings - even in the world of the terrorist.

Defection or Kidnapping
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 9, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Maybe he wasn't kidnapped.
Perhaps he defected.
The intrigue surrounding Ali Reza Azkari, the high level Iranian diplomat who disappeared on February 7th while in Istanbul, continues.

No matter how he got there, the presence of Azkari, the man who knows so much about Iran, about al Qaeda, about the world of terror, is a tremendous "intelligence asset" for both the United States and Israel.
No matter how he got there, getting him there required a coordinated effort by the United States CIA and State Department and Israel.

If Azkari defected - they will not have to break him to get information and intel.
If Azkari defected - the knowledge and understanding of the inner workings of Iran that he will convey will be even more significant.
But ...
If Azkari defected - we must determine that he is delivering honest information and is not a plant, deliberately disseminating disinformation in order to send the United States and Israel down the road of poor decision making.

In order to ascertain Azkari's veracity debriefings must be done in Parsi, the native language of Iran.
In order to ascertain Azkari's veracity debriefing must be done by people who truly understand nuance.

More Shiite-Sunni Killing
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 8, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Sunni Shiite tensions in Iraq are hitting a new high.
Reprisals are rocketing back and forth.

Suicide bombers hit Shiite pilgrims again and then again in Hilla.
A web broadcast is circulating displaying the gruesome, savage, execution of 18 kneeling, praying, blindfolded, young Shiite men - as they are shot in the head by Sunnis and fall forward onto the ground.
Who is responsible for the executions?
Undoubtedly, al Qaeda.

Sunni al Qaeda is out to publicly humiliate Shiite defense forces and the Mahdi army.
Al Qaeda and the Sunnis are saying that they will continue to attack the majority Iraqi Shiite government.
One side attacks, the other retaliates. The other attacks and there is more retaliation.

The only way to solve the internal killing is to eliminate the Iraqi national army and establish local police forces responsible for keeping local order exclusively.
This vicious cycle of death will not stop on its own.

Lantos Says No To Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 7, 2007

I'm Predicting:

The House Foreign Affairs Committee under the chairmanship of Tom Lantos (D-CA) has made it very clear to Secretary of State Condi Rice that funding Fatah cannot result in funding Hamas.

Lantos along with Congress want to make certain that the new attempt to form a Palestinian unity government without recognizing Israel will not be rewarded.
US funding to Hamas is illegal. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by both the White House and the State Department and Lantos is saying that the $86 million in aid the White House promised Abbas and his Fatah party should not and cannot be delivered if it in any way goes to Hamas.

Lantos is taking it a step further.
Lantos is also saying that maybe no aid at all should go to Abbas because he decided to join with Hamas while not insisting on the recognition of Israel.

Months ago I predicted this would happen.
Will Congress stop the money from going to Hamas?
I think they will.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 6, 2007


Ali Reza Azkari has disappeared. Gone. Vanished. No sign, no trace. The last time Azkari was seen was in Istanbul, disembarking from a plane.

Who is Ali Reza Azkari? For those who know the languages of the Middle East it is obvious from his middle name, Reza, that Ali is Iranian. Those who follow Iranian political history will know that he was a former Iranian deputy defense minister. And for many years Ali Reza Azkari was the highest ranking Iranian intelligence officer in Lebanon.

February 7th is the last time Ali Reza Azkari was sighted. Iran has sent a team to Turkey to investigate the situation. Iran has asked Interpol to intercede and help find their man. Iran has asked local Turkish authorities for their eyes, ears and assistance. To date, there are no leads. Nothing, just dead ends.

The one thing Iran has not done is issue an official statement speaking of the disappearance of one of their top officials and most valued diplomats. Iran has not yet officially recognized the disappearance, the probable kidnapping, of a man who holds - in his head - the secrets of the nation of Iran.

Azkari's plane originated in Damascus, Syria and touched down in Istanbul, Turkey. He was either grabbed from the airport or from his hotel. He was a former Iranian deputy defense minister. And for many years Ali Reza Azkari was the highest ranking Iranian intelligence officer in Lebanon.

Who would do such a thing? The Mossad.

I'll tell you who else - the good ol' red, white and blue CIA, in a plan coordinated with the Mossad. The CIA has a vast set of resources and a large operation working out of Istanbul. The Mossad has the language skills and the cultural ease and know-how necessary to do the job.

Ali Reza Azkari has first hand knowledge that is vital to Israel. Ron Arad, an Israeli navigator was shot down and taken captive over Lebanon in 1986 - precisely during the period when Azkari was Iran's man in Lebanon. Arad, now an Israeli icon, is still missing - his fate and whereabouts completely unknown. If the Israelis have Azkari they have access to essential information about Arad, about where he, or his body, have been for the past twenty-one years, about why no group has ever cut a deal with Israel for his return. And there is more. If the Israelis have Azkari they have the intelligence they need about Iran's nuclear threat and Iran's real and actual interest and ability to strike at Israel.

If they have him and if they can break him.

Ali Reza Azkari holds a virtual gold mine of information for the United States. Azkari made decisions, implemented decisions and witnessed operations. Azkari was an Iranian player, a big time player. The intelligence and strategic material that Azkari has, the first-hand, hands-on, top secret and behind-closed-doors information that he was privy to is the intelligence that the United States needs in order to accurately and efficiently deal with Iran.

If they have him and if they can break him.

The disappearance of Ali Reza Azkari is Iran's worst nightmare come to life. He is a living national resource. If Azkari is broken, if he talks, the United States and Israel will know the truth about Iran's arsenal and Iran's objectives. The United States and Israel will know the truth about the threats menacing them. They will know fact from fiction.

One of the most immediate and intimidating threats facing the United States and Israel and the European world is the threat of sleeper cells. Just recently the Telegraph of London published a report maintaining that if Iran were to be attacked Iran would retaliate by hitting United States and European interests throughout the Gulf. The report quoted a former Iranian diplomat as saying that Iran has trained great numbers of operatives who now have their missions and await the message to activate their plans. The same source also said that these sleeper operatives were recruiting other Shiites in their local environments.

If it's true, it is scary, very scary. If it is true Azkari is the man who could identify the targets and identify the sleepers. Azkari has the information, he knows who is embedded and where and he knows how deep and organized each cell really is.

Ron Arad. The true Iranian nuclear threat. Sleeper cells. There is more. Ali Reza Azkari can shed light on Iran's pursuit of Al Qaeda. He has insider information about the true extent and power of Hezbollah. He knows which countries are aiding Hezbollah, he knows how much comes from Syria and how much comes from Iran.

And he can unmask Russia, the country that has been playing both sides against the middle, the country that supplies Iran and Syria and sits back and watches while Iran and Syria turn around and hand over their Russian-gotten goods to Hezbollah. In the recent war between Hezbollah and Israel, the most dangerous weapons came directly from Syria having been imported from Russia. And Russia is the power building the nuclear power plants, supplying the technology and lending the support Iran needs to develop its own nuclear program.

Most important of all, Ali Reza Azkari can answer the big question: Is Iran as brave, tough, organized and advanced as we would believe. Or is Iran a modern day former Soviet Union - lots of bark and almost no bite, a big bluff, an emperor with no clothes. Is Iran as prepared for conflict and conquest as Iranian leadership would have us believe or is Iranian leadership more expert at propaganda than it is at military and nuclear preparedness.

The Unites States and Israel probably have Azkari. Now they need to get into his head.

Iran's Newest Bank Note
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 5, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has taken it up a notch in internal propaganda.
As is, the vast majority of Iran is in favor of nuclear development and now the Iranian government is making clear to the entire population that nuclear is the way to go.

The Iranians are issuing a new bank note - 50,000 Rials.
This will be the largest monetary note in Iran.
Up until now 20,000 was the highest note Iran had.

What's the connection between a new bank note and nuclear activity?
This note will have the nuclear symbol on it.
This note will have a quote from Mohammed that goes: "If the science exists in this constellation, men from Persia will reach it."
On the other side of this note there will be a picture of the founder of the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeni
Interestingly, the English words and numerals 50000 RIALS FIFTY THOUSAND also appears on the bottom frame of this note.

It is ironic.
Despite the enormous tension between the United States and Iran, by law Iranian money must have American markings on it so that it is recognized world over.

Russia and the US
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 4, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

When it comes to Iran and the Palestinians, the United States and Russia do not see eye to eye.

On the Palestinians:
Russia sees the new unity government as a significant step and Foreign Minister Sergei Levrov has even made a pledge to Hamas leader Haled Mashal that Russia will work to lift the embargo against his Hamas-led government.

On Iran:
Russia is a strong supporter of Iran and is working to develop Iran's nuclear infrastructure by providing both the manpower and the technology.

The Palestinians and the Iranians are using the Russian card to their advantage. The Palestinians and the Iranians are flaunting Russia's support and saying that it makes no matter that the United States is against us, we have another world power in our corner, we have Russia.

Russia is torpedoing the United States vis a vis the Palestinians and Iran. Tensions between the United States and Russia will continue to rise and rise.

Iranian Leader Visits Saudia Arabia
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 4, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Ahmadinejad is visiting Saudi Arabia today.
Ahmadinejad visiting Saudi Arabia is about as strange as an official representative of the United States on an official visit to Iran.

There is no love lost between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is the leader of the Sunnis and Iran is the leader of the Shiites. They are arch enemies, they hate one another.
The meeting took months to coordinate. So why are they meeting?

There are 3 reasons:
# 1: The violence in Iraq is taking a toll on both Iran and Saudi Arabia.
# 2: Pressure from the United States about the Iranian nuclear program is forcing Iran to search for mediators and Saudi Arabia is the perfect mediator.
# 3: Iran needs to show interest in the greater goal of Muslim unity, not just the Shiite agenda and reaching out to Saudi Arabia is the perfect way to show interest.

Fences will not be mended, but this is certainly a scenario worth watching.

Iran and the US United?
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 2, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The word is that Iran might reach out to the United States for help.

Iran needs help fighting al Qaeda.
It sounds ridiculous - until you think about it and then it makes perfect sense.
Al Qaeda is a Sunni organization and al Qaeda sees Iran as a pillar of Shiite national strength.
Actually, in the eyes of al Qaeda, Iran is probably worse than the United States.

It would be the manifestation of Machiavelli's brilliantly insight "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
Two sworn enemies - Iran and the United States - might actually unite to fight a common enemy - al Qaeda.

The operative word here, however, is "might."
Iran might reach out to the United States.
Iran and the United States might unite against al Qaeda.
Just don't anybody hold their breath.

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