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The Winograd Report
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 1, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The Book of Ecclesiastes reflects on the concept of knowledge and history and concludes: "There is nothing new under the sun."

That is my feeling about the Winograd Report, issued yesterday in Israel.
The Winograd Report analyzes Israeli leadership and chain of responsibility during the War in Lebanon that Israel waged with Hezbollah this past summer.

Of course, "the buck stops" with the prime minister.
Of course, everything is the responsibility of the prime minister.
Of course, of course, there were serious miscalculations and mistakes.
Many more contingency plans should have been discussed and many more people should have been consulted. The report shows that the decision to enter into war seemed impulsive. It shows that Israel's leaders did not have a realistic understanding of their own army and could not articulate the results they wanted from the war before they plunged in.

In the end, the war was not lost.
Hezbollah claimed victory - but they were not victorious and neither was Israel. Israel took losses and it was very painful but Hezbollah did not win.

Now Hezbollah has issued a statement saying that the Winograd Report confirms their victory - but it has not.
In issuing the report the Winograd Committee will make certain that the lessons of this past summer are not lost and the mistakes are not repeated.
The Winograd Report confirms the power of democracy.

By Micah Halpern

Monday, April 30, 2007


The Far East and the Middle East.

Two ends of the earth, disconnected from each other culturally, religiously, philosophically, no similarity at all in language, tradition or style. And yet, there is a major connect between the two in two significant arenas.

Diplomacy and big business.

When it comes to the fine arts of diplomatic nuance and big business, the Far East and the Middle East are both significantly misunderstood by the United States of America. And that is no small matter.

In the mid '80's I read an essay penned by a Harvard sociologist about how difficult it is to understand the Japanese. It seems that the Japanese have so very many different ways of saying the word "yes" that they even often say "yes" when what they really mean to say is a resounding "no." Anyone not intimately connected with Japan would have to be confused. Imagine someone who "merely" spoke the language. Better yet, imagine someone who did not at all speak the language and was totally reliant on an interpreter for dialogue and information flow.

When it comes to business, commercial, diplomatic and cultural exchanges in the Far East and in many parts of the Middle East, the United States is plagued by the inability to fully absorb both the spoken and the unspoken context of their interactions. Not only governmental agencies, but also private companies doing business are at risk.

Much literature has been written to aid business people who embark on trade ventures in the Far East. The idea is to help these entrepreneurs overcome the problem of miscommunication in societies where simple language is simply not enough to totally understand a situation. In Japanese, for example, often the most salient or significant point in a discussion is left off the end of the sentence. The Japanese often leave off the detail or the reasons or even sometimes the point of disagreement. They are not trying to play outsiders as fools, it is rather a part of the culture of Japanese dialogue. One could - and people often have, left meetings assuming that both parties were in total harmony to later find out that the meeting had been totally ineffectual, that there were no points of agreement, that in fact the two were at odds with one another.

It happens with people who know the language and it happens with people who act as translators, too. During the deficit negotiations between the United States and Japan the US negotiators constantly complained of never understanding what Japan meant by saying "yes." When a translator is giving only the official translation of the spoken word negotiators are rendered ignorant of the true nature of their own interaction. They are presented with only a partial picture of a situation that is replete with crucial unspoken dialogue. And that happens when everyone is in a room together, looking at each other, trying as best as one can to size up the situation. Reading an officially translated document or transcript of a meeting provides even less information when dealing with certain cultures.

It is difficult in Japan and it is just as difficult in the Middle East. There are Arabs and there are Persians and there are Shiites and Sunnis and Alawites, all with their own nuanced cultural behaviors and language.

In Arabic as well as in Persian traditions, like in the Far East, the concept of hospitality is a primary value. Being rude or mean or dirty is frowned upon. Being rude often means expressing opposition to another's concept or business plan. It is just not done in formal settings, it is not expressed in formal language. Unless they are accompanied by or represented by native speakers, Americans are at a disadvantage when engaged in dialogues that contain double, triple and quadruple messages.

In the greater Arab world, secularists are discounted by the masses. In order to reach the masses, the language of choice has become a language steeped in religious terminology. Persian, as an example, is a culture and a language teeming with apocalyptic terms and symbols. That does not mean that Iran does not want to destroy Israel and the West - it does. But it also means that this use of language is part of their everyday dialogue and has been since they split off from mainstream Islam and is not only notched up for our benefit. There's more. The Shiite army is called the Mahdi Army. Mahdi is the Shiite messiah.

Negotiating foreign policy under these circumstances is daunting, to say the least. It is virtually impossible to communicate any point in most Arabic languages without invoking the name of Allah or using other religiously infused language. Uninformed, culturally ignorant, foreign United States representatives face challenges that are totally unaware of. Our society cannot and does relate to that language.

The result is a huge synapse. The result is the belief by the United States that promises are being broken, when in fact, those promises were never made. The result is ill will and animosity.

Neither the Far East nor the Middle East will change their ways. The only power capable of change is the United States. If anything is to change the United States must understand and learn more.

Israel's Borders Heating Up
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 29, 2007

I'm Predicting:

Two Israeli borders are heating up.
In the south it's the Gaza border with Hamas.
In the north it's the Lebanon border with Hezbollah.

In the south on a single day last week 35 mortars shells were shot, 7 Kassam rockets were fired. The barrage was specifically intended:
# 1: to distract Israeli forces
# 2: to kidnap Israeli soldiers
# 3: to draw Israel into invading Gaza and creating a war

In the north Hezbollah is beginning to find the holes in UNIFIL and Lebanese Army control of the region that approaches the Israeli border.
Hezbollah continues to smuggle in weapons from Syria and to build up missile and rocket caches.

According to the recent report of the Israeli Chief of Staff:
on the one hand Syria continues to maintain defensive maneuvers
on the other hand Syria continues to provide support for Hezbollah troops.

Israel is anticipating being drawn into conflict this summer with Hezbollah and with Hamas and even with Syria and maybe with Iran.

We have to watch this very carefully.
We have to hope that Israel acts prudently.

Abbas Abets the Kidnapping
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 28, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinian government knows the secret location of BBC journalist Alan Johnston, kidnapped by Hamas terrorists who pledge allegiance to al Qaeda.
So says the president of the Palestinian Authority according to a quote coming out of Germany.

Here is the problem:
Abbas said that the British agreed to proceed quietly so as not to endanger his life.
Knowing where Johnston is and not trying to free him makes Abbas an accomplice - he is aiding and abetting the terrorists.

What should Abbas do?
Either launch a raid or negotiate Johnston out.
If Abbas really knows where Johnston is, he has the options.
The Palestinians cannot keep him indefinitely.
By not acting the PA is opening the flood gates for more kidnappings.

As it is Abbas has been emasculated by Hamas, now he is being humiliated by terrorist thugs and hooligans.
He must act - but that is not his style.
Abbas' career has been marked by a long series of inactions and non-decisions.

Revolt in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 27, 2007

I'm Predicting:

There will be a revolution in Iran.
Maybe not 6 days from now, maybe not 6 weeks or months from now, but certainly, there will be a revolution in Iran within 6 years.

Iran today is speeding along on dual tracks.
On Track # 1: the liberal movements are growing
On Track # 2: the extremist regime is ratcheting up the intensity with which it enforces oppressive measures

Iranians leadership realizes what is happening.
That is precisely why the theological police is cracking down harder and harder on Western dress and Western culture.

Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr explained the threatening US influence in Iran in an interview with IRNA the official Iranian News Agency.
He said: "A soft threat is the main plan of the US due to its incapability to launch a military operation (against Iran)."

I do not know precisely how involved the United States now is in Iran, I do know that previous attempts to infiltrate into politics and culture failed.
But there is definitely Western support for those underground movements intent on overthrowing the theocracy that rules Iran.

Iraqis Are Raping Palestinians
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 26, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

To understand the status of the "Palestinian Cause" in the rest of the Arab world, take a look at the status of Palestinians in Iraq.

For months Palestinians have been attacked and even forced out of Baghdad. Now, in a city named Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar Province (about 60 miles west of Baghdad), Palestinians are being threatened, intimidated and beaten.

Ahmed Raki, a 43-year-old Palestinian father of three lives in Ramadi.
He described how "[t]wo girls from our community were raped last week by militants who told them that it was a message to the Palestinians in Anbar to leave the area."

Ahmed Muffitlak, a spokesman for a Palestinian aid group gave this report:
"At least 17 families have fled Ramadi after militants gave them a week to leave their homes or become the next victims of violence in Iraq."

Anbar is a Sunni province!
Palestinians in Iraq are being attacked by Sunnis!

I am not drawing parallels.
I am not arguing about better or worse.
I am trying to show the status of the "Palestinian Cause" even amongst Sunni and al Qaeda activists.

By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 24, 2007


For many countries, the threat of nuclear annihilation is a theoretical issue. For Israel, the threat of nuclear attack is real, palpable, a true possibility. Of all the countries plotting the demise of the Jewish State the country that is planning to use nuclear power as the weapon of choice is, of course, Iran. Which leads to an all-important, non-theoretical, set of questions.

Will Israel strike Iran?

Israel would prefer that Iran be struck - by some other power and rendered weak by another nation. For Israel it would be best if the United States and a coalition of the West emasculated and neutered Iran of nuclear capabilities. Should that not occur, then yes, I believe that Israel will, under certain circumstances strike Iran.

Under what circumstances will Israel strike Iran?

Israel's agenda is first and foremost the safety of Israeli citizens and the sovereignty of the country of Israel. Next on the agenda comes the stability of the Middle East region. Israel is not alone in worrying about the region, the United States certainly shares those concerns and has made stability within the region a priority. But not with the same intensity. Not with the same immediacy. The United States is buffered by distance and size - Israel has neither.

Israel will strike Iran when one of three things happen:
#1: When the United States sees eye to eye with Israel on an assessment of the nuclear danger Iran poses.
#2: When Israel is faced with the imminent threat of a missile attack.
#3: After a nuclear attack on Israel by Iran.

How will Israel strike Iran?

When the United States agrees 100% completely with Israel's risk assessment, or if Israel has knowledge of an imminent attack from Iran, Israel will strike preemptively.

A preemptive strike by Israel against Iran would mean a three-pronged attack. Land. Air. Sea. Civilian casualties are an unfortunate casualty of war, but in this case, Israel would have the ability to keep them to a minimum. The model for this attack is taken from Israel's own handbook - the 1982 bomb attack on the Iraqi nuclear power plant. This time, however, the attack would be far more complicated and far more sophisticated. This time, the attack would be a simultaneous, multi-geographical strike at the heart of Iran's nuclear program. The objective would be to knock out as many known and potential nuclear targets as possible. In order to be successful, the attack must render Iran's entire nuclear operation inoperative.

The result would be a decade's long setback in Iran's nuclear growth. The result would be a strong Israel thrust into a defensive posture and set to repel counter attacks from Iran and from Iran's Israel-hating cohorts and associates. The result would be an audible sigh of relief from the vast majority of the Muslim world cowered into paying lip service to the forces of power ruling Iran.

How will Israel strike back at Iran?

With their permission and more importantly without their permission and because of their opposition it is immensely important for us, the West, to keep careful and accurate tabs on Iran's nuclear capabilities. Eyes opened and wandering, ears and listening devices to the ground and operatives bringing back intelligence that is accurate and trusted.

It now seems that Iran is not as far along their nuclear path than as we originally thought. Technically, Iran's development of a nuclear missile as well as other top shelf nuclear weapons has not been completed. Iran does not now possess the ability to direct a full scale nuclear device at Israel. That does not eliminate the threat of a nuclear attack against Israel, it alters the threat.

It means that Israel now has to worry about an attack carried out by a dirty bomb. Carried out is a literal, not a figurative, term. The dirty bomb would reach Israel in one of two ways. It would be trucked out and delivered by a live walking, talking and probably disguised person to one of the most populated cities in Israel. Or it would arrive by ship, off the coast or into the port of one the most populated cities in Israel. The idea is to annihilate as large a population as possible.

What amount of force will Israel use to strike Iran?

I have thought long and hard about this.

Israel can go one of two ways. The first way is to consider any nuclear attack as a threshold issue that breaks the glass ceiling. That means that any use of any nuclear force against Israel or Israelis will be responded to with great force in order to make certain it does not ever happen again. Not by Iran. Not by anyone. The second way for Israel to respond to an Iranian nuclear attack against Israeli cities and civilians is to use the calculus of numbers, a hard, cold calculation based on the numbers of lives lost.

According to my best analysis, Israel's calculus will be as follows:

If the number of Israelis killed by a nuclear device tops 10,000 Israel will launch a significant counterattack against Iran. A significant attack would mean liquidating an entire Iranian city or two or three - depending on how far above 10,000 the actual tally went. Totally razing that city or cities to the ground.

If the number of Israelis killed by a nuclear device hovers between 1,000-3,000, Israel will have a much more measured response. That measured response will be the targeting of Iranian leadership and Iran's nuclear bases. Targets would include the air-force and other positions within the defense establishment. Targets would include political leadership and religious leadership.

According to my best analysis Israel is even now, when the threat is real but not imminent, leaning towards the glass ceiling approach. And when the glass ceiling is broken the rules are blown sky high.

Iran Is Laughing
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 24, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

OMV is an Austrian energy company.
OMV is now negotiating a fuel deal with Iran.
OMV is scheduled to develop Iran’s energy infrastructure.
The USA is livid.

How angry/upset/ticked off is the United States?
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack put it this way:
"perhaps this is not the most appropriate time to be making or committing to making large investments in the Iranian oil and gas sector."

Honestly, how can THE West exert pressure on Iran if countries like Austria permit their companies to do business with the Iranians?!
They can't.

And why can't they?
Because the UN Security Council Resolution on nuclear issues does not prohibit this type of nuclear development and activity.

Pass appropriate resolutions.
Put real pressure on Iran.
Otherwise, it is all a big joke and Iran is laughing out loud.

Iran Controls Russia
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 23, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The dispute was over payment for the building of the nuclear power plant that the Russians are building for the Iranians at Busher.
Now, after four rounds of negotiations, it seems that Russia and Iran have come to an agreement.

The entire relationship has been troubled because Iran was dissatisfied with the speed with which the Russians were completing the agreed upon task.
In January Iran paid the Russians only $5 million of their promised $25 million per month fees.
In February, they only paid partially again, this time $10 million.
This agreement will put the construction back on track.

Originally, Iran's newest and most powerful nuclear power plant was to be completed by August. Now, the timetable is unclear.

Russia has always maintained that they will control Iran's nuclear development. From this agreement it appears that it is Iran that controls Russia.
But really, Russia's most important priority was getting paid.

Al Qaeda In Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 22, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Al Qaeda is developing a stronghold in Gaza.

Last year we would all have said no way, impossible.
We would have said al Qaeda and the Palestinians just do not mix.
Even after their election Hamas repeatedly said that the Hamas agenda and the al Qaeda did not jive.

Today there are strong indications that al Qaeda has insinuated itself into Gaza.
Small groups that profess allegiance to al Qaeda have begun operating in Gaza. These groups reject the PA and its Authority, reject Israel and reject the West, especially the United States. These groups have separated themselves from the mainstream Palestinian extremists. These groups are non-compromising.

Some serious analysts believe that the Hamas group that kidnapped both Israeli Gilad Shalit and British Alan Johnston pledge support to al Qaeda.
That would explain why it has been so hard to find these victims and why negotiations for their release have been so arduous.

The times they are a changing.

Clinton Speaks His Mind
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 21, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Sometimes former presidents say the darndest things.

Get this:
Former President Bill Clinton recently said that a peace treaty between Israel and Syria could be concluded in 35 minutes.
He is correct.
But only if Israel agrees to all Syria's demands.

What was he thinking when he made this ridiculous and inflammatory statement?
This former president of the United States knows that what Syria wants is no where close to what Israel is willing to give. That has not changed since he ran the White House.
And he also knows that for all practical purposes Syria has proven to be incapable and unwilling to live up to their word following small treatises that they have entered into.
How can Clinton believe that Syria will abide by the significant treaty it would be signing with Israel?

Sometimes, I wish we had an amendment stipulating that once presidents become ex-presidents they are barred from speaking about politics.
It seems that Bill Clinton has not learned anything from his illustrious predecessor Jimmy Carter.

Operation Cover Up
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 20, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Operation Cover Up has begun in Iran.

Iran's Deputy Police Commander described it this way:
"The police will operate against women who dress like models in town. Women that are arrested will be taken to four centers, where they will receive guidance and advice. They will commit in writing not to dress in violation of the dress code again, and they will be released only after their families come to pick them up and bring them proper attire."

It's not only women.
Men are also to be arrested if they violate the dress code. Men may not wear shorts or t-shirts with "harmful slogans" and necklaces with "certain ornamentation" will not be permitted.

Is it hard to dictate these behaviors and police these activities?
Not when you have the very highly motivated and active "modesty police" that Iran has.
Not when the "modesty police" has government and political backing.

The younger generation will try to push the limits, that's what young people do.
They will suffer the consequences.
In Iran, improper behavior is not tolerated.

Barghouti Is No Humanitarian
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 19, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Marwan Barghouti is the leader of the Al Aqsa Brigade.
Marwan Barghouti sits in an Israeli prison convicted of having a hand in the planning and implementation of numerous terrorist attacks.
Marwan Barghouti is the most popular man amongst all Palestinians.

Yesterday Marwan Barghouti called for the immediate release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston.
"From my cell, and in the name of 10,000 prisoners in the occupation jails, I appeal and call immediately for the release of journalist Alan Johnston, the friend of the Palestinian people."

Barghouti is not only popular, Barghouti is smart.
He has no gripe with the media, he is a master media manipulator.
He knows that taking a BBC journalist will only backfire against the cause and that is precisely and the only reason why he is appealing to Johnston's captors.

Barghouti is no humanitarian.

The Dutch Get It
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 18, 2007

I"ve Been Thinking:

The Dutch get it.

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader and Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority will not be granted a visa to enter the Netherlands in May.
Hannniyeh was hoping to attend a conference of Palestinians scheuled to be held in Rotterdam on May 5th.

Dutch officials said:
"He will not be granted a visa, should he request one officially."
"Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union."
They said:
"It is consistent not only to avoid contact with Hamas ministers but also not to let them come to the Netherlands or anywhere else in Europe and spread the message of Hamas."

This move by the Dutch is very important.
Hamas is determined to gain credibility around the world and especially within Western Europe.
This bold proactive move by the Netherlands is a reminder to every country that there is pre-established policy regarding Hamas and that there are real and sound resons for following this policy.

Bravo. Well done.

Terror and Allah
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 17, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Political terror is being nudged out by theological terror.

The Palestinian Jihad and Tawheed Brigade is the group that has claimed responsibility for the execution of BBC journalist Alan Johnston.
What exactly does the name of this terrorist organization mean?
Why would an organization choose this specific name?

Jihad is pretty much known to everyone - it means Holy War.
Tawheed is one of the most important theological concepts in Islam.
Tawheed is best explained as Islamic monotheism.
Tawheed is the belief in the unity of Allah.
Tawheed means that everything originates with Allah, the Creator.

This group also professes allegiance to al Qaeda.
Their announcement of Alan Johnston's execution was a vicious attack against not only this innocent journalist but against Palestinian leadership, the world press, England and the West.
Israel, by the way, is never mentioned by name and referred to only as "the oppressor" and "the occupier."

Hate - especially hatred fueled by religious fervor - has no bounds.

By Micah Halpern

Monday April 16, 2007


How far would you go to save your child?

What rules would you break? What deals with the devil would a parent broker in order to save the life of their child?

What happens when the "parent" is a country? What about when the "child" is Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in June of 2006 while on-duty on the Israeli side of the Gaza border, the soldier still being held hostage somewhere in Hamasland?

Israel is now faced with making one of the most emotionally-laden decisions in the country's history. Israel is now faced with making one of the most politically-laden decisions in the country's history. Israel is now faced with making one of the most historically-laden decisions in the country's history. And it is all the same decision.

Hamas is promising to release the Israeli soldier to Israel if Israel releases a long list of Palestinians now serving time in Israeli prisons. If it were a mathematical decision, the equation would be simple. One man for many men. If only it were that simple. The many men Hamas is asking for, nay demanding, are terrorists - men captured by Israeli soldiers, tried in Israeli courts and convicted by Israeli judges for committing acts of terror.

For years, the mantra of Israeli governments - left, right and center - has been: we will not negotiate with terrorists, we will not release terrorists with blood on their hands.

For years, Israeli parents have sent off their prized possessions, their sons and now their daughters to proudly serve in the Israeli Defense Forces with the knowledge that their military will never leave an Israeli soldier behind, that their military will do everything possible to seek the return of their child, that there will always be a grave at which to mourn.

The exceptions to that rule have been few, mostly because the whereabouts of the soldiers are not known, because no government or terrorist group has offered to broker a deal on their behalf. The most notable exception is Ron Arad, left behind and captured by the enemy during the tenure of Yitzhak Rabin, not as prime minister but as military chief of staff. Associates close to Rabin have said that he lamented and regretted the decision not to do everything in the IDF's power to get back their soldier. We will never know for sure, Rabin was felled by another type of terrorist, an Israeli who now sits in prison with no hope of release. And Ron Arad has become an Israeli icon.

Israel is not Great Britain. Tony Blair made his decision and now his sailors and marines are back home. He said that his country has a policy of not dealing with terrorists and then sent his Consul General in Jerusalem to meet with Hamas Prime Minister Hanniyeh to try to secure the release of the captives. And then he said to heck with policy and pressure and met the demands of the captors. But again, Israel is not Great Britain.

So far, Israel has not negotiated with terrorist groups and Israel has not met with terrorists. They get their soldiers back through third party negotiators. The Hamas list has come to Israel through Egypt. The very existence of the list proves that there has been significant progress in the negotiations, hopefully, there will be continued progress. It is a slow process.

The standout name on the list is Marwan Barghoutti, head of the Al Aqsa brigade. Barghoutti, even while sitting in an Israeli prison, is the most popular person in the entire Palestinian Authority. When Yasser Arafat was alive, he was the second most popular person. And boy, oh boy, does Barghoutti have blood on his hands.

The price that Israel is being asked to pay in order to bring back one son to his parents, in order to return one soldier to his nation is astronomically high. Before Barghoutti can be freed, before he is released from Israelis prison, he must be given a presidential pardon - that means publicly, legally decreeing that the murders Marwan Barghoutti committed were not really murders.

Releasing the terrorists on the Hamas list means releasing the murderers of those people directly responsible for the deaths of the sons and daughters, the mothers and fathers, the grandmothers and grandfathers, the teachers and doctors and friends and playmates of other Israelis. It means releasing the people responsible for crippling, maiming, paralyzing, scarring, destroying the lives and taking away the livelihoods of other Israelis. It means disregarding the acts of heroism performed by member of Israel's armed forces and the loss of life sustained by Israel's armed forces in tracking and capturing those terrorists. It means reneging on a promise made to all Israelis.

And it means invalidating the judicial system that put these people in prison.

We now live in an era of kidnapping. Survival skills and rules have not yet been codified.

More Money For Palestinians
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 15, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinian Minister of Finance, Salam Fayyad, just returned from a trip to Europe.
It was a very successful trip.

The Palestinian asked the European Union for 1.3 billion euros in order to avert a "humanitarian crisis" in 2007 - that is over 2 billion US dollars.
This past year the EU gave the Palestinians 700 million euros.
The US Congress has just approved sending $59 million to the Palestinians.

Add it up.
The International Monetary Fund estimates that the PA received 1.2 billion dollars in aid last year. That would make the Palestinians the largest per capita recipients of foreign aid in the world. $300 per person.
This year that total sum in aid will double.

The situation in the Palestinian Authority is certainly dire.
But the donors are not building jobs or industry or infrastructure.
The donors are just giving away money, more money and even more money.
Until Palestinians take pride in themselves and are able to earn their livelihoods they will continue to murder themselves, terrorize Israelis and kidnap journalists.

Sometimes, money just isn't enough.

Iran Threatens Arab World
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 14, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Sometimes the most pedantic people can surprise you with their remarkable insights.

Take, for example, Avigdor Lieberman.
Lieberman is the Israeli Minister for Strategic and Regional Affairs.
Leiberman sits in the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert representing the extreme right wing of Israel.

Lieberman is charged with the task of overseeing and preparing for any and all scenarios regarding the threats from Iran.
Lieberman recently asserted that the Arab neighbors of Iran have much more to fear from Iran than Israel has to fear from Iran.

How on target.
When nuclear Iran struts its stuff in the general region, the Arab world will be powerless.
When nuclear Iran struts its stuff against Israel, Israel will retaliate and Iran will be faced with a true test of power and capability.

Negotiations With Syria
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 13, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Abe Soliman, a very successful American businessman of Syrian extraction, visited Israel recently.
Abe Soliman's real first name is Ibrahim.

He was there to continue his mission as back door negotiator brokering a deal between Israel and Syria.
These backdoor discussions have been going on for some time and have taken place in Europe, the United States and even in Israel.
On this most recent visit to Israel the arrival of Abe Soliman was made public, even heralded. He briefed Knesset committees and even held a press conference.

Soliman delivered an important morsel of information:
This past summer Syria was placed under tremendous pressure by both Hezbollah and Iran to join the fight and go to war with Israel.

Once again, when Syria has the will, Syria finds the way.

Prisoner Exchange
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 12, 2007

I'm Predicting:

The Israelis have been presented with a list of people Hamas wants in exchange for the return of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas at the Gaza border.
The Israelis have rejected many people on the Hamas wish list.
The negotiations are being brokered by a third party - Egypt.

This is the way the negotiations go:
Israel says that those with blood on their hands will not be set free.
Hamas responds by saying that the entire deal is doomed because Israel has not accepted their terms.

This is what will probably happen:
Elderly prisoners and those who have served nearly their entire sentence will be let out.
Those who have served 20 years or close to 20 years will be part of the deal. And as a bonus, to sweeten the deal, Israeli will throw in one very famous person.

In the end, both sides will be unhappy.
In the end, both sides will be satisfied.
In the end, that is how negotiations work when you want it badly enough.
But it will still take some time to get there.

Crossing From Syria to Iraq
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 11, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The US Army recently reported a significant drop in the number of infiltrating terrorists, those crossing from Syria into Iraq.

The new information came from US Major General Walter Gaskin.
Gaskin asserts that the reason for the decrease is that al Qaeda is more independent, that al Qaeda no longer needs to depend on foreign weapons and fighters and support.
Gaskin is probably correct.

But he is missing the subtext.
In this case, the subtext is more important than the text.

What does this really mean?
It means that after the flurry of congressional visits and senatorial visits Assad is sending a message to the United States.
Assad is telling us that Syria is in charge and Syria can deliver in the region.

It means that from the beginning Syria was capable of controlling the flow of terrorists into Iraq.

It means that Syria can exert micro and macro power over their border and over their nation - including foreign terrorists imported to destabilize Iraq.

It means that when Syria, aka Assad, has the will he has the way.

For Islam: Their Biggest Disaster
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 10, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

What is the biggest disaster to have been inflicted on Muslims?
According to Sheik Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in Northern Israel:
"The biggest disaster ever inflicted on the Muslim nation is the occupation of Jerusalem and the Al Aksa Mosque."

Understanding this sentiment is to understand the Middle East.
With these few words Sheik Raed Salah precisely encapsulates the very raison d'etre of the Muslim world today.

The vanguard of the entire movement against the West and against Israel balances on the circumstance that places the holy site where Solomon's Temple once stood in the hands of Jews.
Sheik Raed Salah and sheiks around the world use this very issue to stoke the flames of Muslim discontent.

Here is the simple reality: Under Israel's control and because Israel is a democracy all religions have access to religious sites in Israel.
If anything Jews are upset because in truth they cannot ascend the mountain where Solomon and Herod's Temples stood.
They cannot and do not ascend out of respect for Muslims.
Only a special Israeli Supreme Court hearing permits Jews to climb the mount in the City on the Mountain.

By Micah Halpern

Monday April 9, 2007


It has been confirmed by the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on behalf of the fifteen British sailors and marines taken captive by Iran. Writing this letter to Iran's Muslim leader was a very bold move on the part of the world's leading Catholic.

Evil incarnate is the way the Muslim world views the Catholic Pope. The Muslim world in general and Iran specifically have deemed the Pope the most dangerous leader on our planet. The Western world pales in comparison. The United States is a mere trifling annoyance. Israel is a speck on the Muslim hatred meter when compared to the Catholic Pope.

The Pope is a threat to Islam.

Unlike other Western leaders who, according to present day Muslim theological thought, might be misled by Western ideas and thoughts and whose followers are secular, the Pope is the leader of the behaviors and attitudes of nearly a billion and a half religious people across the globe. The Pope's people are fervent in their belief and their belief and their teachings are very different from Muslim belief and teachings. Muslim fear of and hatred for Catholicism is not new. In Muslim historical memory the horrors of the Crusades are still palpable. The indignity thrust upon Islam when Christians arrived at their doorstep in order to convert them and rule over them and dictate to them and control their holy sites still reverberates throughout the Muslim world.

Given all that Islamic emotional and historical baggage the question begs asking: Would a missive by the Pope have any impact on The Supreme Leader? The answer is, it doesn't matter. This letter was not about Muslim attitudes. This letter was not about the Catholic Church in general. This letter was specifically about the mindset and the insight of Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict wrote this letter not to defend the honor of the Church, after all, there are only 4.2 million Catholics in England as compared to about 24 million Protestants. Pope Benedict penned this letter to put forth and articulate a humanitarian objective. Note that the letter was sent not to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was sent directly to the Ayatollah Khamenei. Ahmadinejad might be the public presenter, the face of Iran to the outside world, but inside Iran, he is second fiddle. The Ayatollah is just as his title describes, the Ayatollah is absolute supreme leader. Whatever the Ayatollah wants, happens. Whatever the Ayatollah decrees, is implemented. As much policy freedom as we are now seeing from Ahmadinejad, his personal survival depends on doing just as he is told.

This Pope understands Iran. This Pope understands the dangers of Islam. This Pope knows radical Islam to be one of the greatest threats to Europe Catholicism and to the Western World. This Pope knows that a cultural and religious battle pitting Islam on one side and the rest of the world on the other is brewing.

This Pope understands that at stake is the world as we know it. The Ayatollah Khamenei knows this, too.

The Ayatollah Khamenei is determined to be at the forefront of the world's conversion to his brand of Islam. The Ayatollah Khamenei knows that the only leader who has a chance at stopping the wave Muslim influence around the world is the Pope. The Ayatollah Khamenei is planning a reverse Crusades.

Both leaders are reading the numbers. Khamenei represents a population of seventy to seventy-five million Iranian believers and followers. He dreams of representing the entire Muslim world, 1.5 billion Muslims strong. He knows that his chances of actually leading the Muslim world are small now, he understands that the masses are so involved in their daily survival that they are not psyched for a massive religious conflict. But he is laying the foundation.

Laying the foundation includes Iran's Holocaust denial. It includes Iran's resistance to play by the rules on matters of nuclear development. And laying the foundation is why the British sailors and marines were captured. And laying the foundation is why they were later released. The Supreme Leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khamenei was paid his due respect by the great Great Britain. He received the apology he craved, the apology he felt he deserves, the apology that was heard around the Muslim world.

The actions of the Ayatollah Khamenei are calculated by their ability to showcase Iran's honor. Khamenei's ploys, his actions, his decisions, even his bluster are calculated to showcase Iran's place of honor among Muslim nations. It is the eyes of his fellow Muslims that he is watching, it is the hearts of Islam that he is seeking.

Pope Benedict XVI put aside his bigger battle to try to solve the little issue. The message that the Pope put forth to the supreme leader of Iran was simple: if you are really interested in the message of God, if you are really interested in relieving pain and suffering, you will release your captives.

This time, the Pope called the Ayatollah's bluff.

New Terror Weapon
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 8, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Iraqi terrorists have begun utilizing an entirely new method of attack.

Iraqi terrorists are packing trucks filled with poison gas and exploding them.
The gas of choice is chlorine - it is very common and easily procurable.
The dangers of the truck bomb have now increased exponentially.

This dangerous, deadly gas has the ability to kill or injure even more innocent victims and bystanders than previous truck bombs.
This dangerous, deadly gas casts a wider net than previous bombs.
This dangerous, deadly gas, when exploded, has a larger wake than a simple bomb explosion.

For the Iraqi terrorist, it could not be simpler.
The gas is easily and inexpensively obtainable.
Delivery trucks are a common sight moving around the country.

These new bombs are on our horizon as part of the terrorist cache of weapons.
We must learn the lessons of these explosive gas truck bombs.
We must learn how to defend ourselves.
Our home front depends on it.

US Was to Strike Iran
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 7, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday was supposed to be the commencement of the United States attack against Iran - Codename: "Bite."
"Bite" was to be a 12 hour strike against Iran's nuclear development program.

Obviously, it did not happen.
There are several reasons why the strike was postponed.
One reason could have been that Rush Limbaugh announced it on his radio show.
The most probable and important reason is that the Russians came out and said point blank that they believe the Iranian air defense system could repel an attack from the United States.

Russia commander of air defense, General Yuri Solovyov, has given us some very important information. He said that the Iranians own Russia's most up-to-date anti-air systems and they also have some French systems. He said that he believes that if Iran uses their systems well they can not only defend themselves from a US Attack but they can also deliver a significant blow to the US Air Force.

That does not mean that the United States would lose.
It means that the US might take some serious losses while delivering their attack.

It seems that the plan is now on hold.
The United States needs to better assess the Iranian anti-air program.

Is It Worth It?
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 5, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The British sailors are free and we are all grateful.
But ... Was it worth the price? Iran claims that they received a written apology from England. An Iranian diplomat in Iraq was released. The Iranians are getting access to prisoners in Iraq.

And ... Look at what else is happening: On Thursday the Taliban in Afghanistan claimed to have kidnapped 2 French nationals. Several weeks ago the Italians exchanged Taliban prisoners for a kidnapped journalist. The British Consul General in Jerusalem met with Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister, in order to secure the release of a kidnapped BBC journalist - action which until now has been antithetical to British foreign policy.

Therefore ... We must ask ourselves some serious questions:
*** Should terrorists and countries that kidnap "be rewarded" for their actions?
*** Does capitulating to terrorists and kidnappers open the flood gates to abductions throughout the world?
*** Are we empowering terrorists and countries that kidnap by showing them that they really do have a powerful political tool at their disposal, a tool that we in the West will never use?
*** Is there any adequate defense against these kidnappings?
*** What can be done to protect the Western world from these heinous unconscionable acts?

Jordan Goes Nuclear
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 5, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Big news from Jordan.
The Jordanians have announced that they will have completed a nuclear power plant by the year 2015.
2015 is just seven and a half years away.
That is nor far away at all.

Jordan is claiming that they will use their nuclear power only for electricity and desalination - but once you have the technology, the switch to weaponry is mere child's play.

Egypt announced only two months ago that they are resuming their nuclear development.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are rumored to be surreptitiously investigating nuclear development.

It is official.
The race for nuclear plants, energy and weapons is on in the Middle East.

Summer--- Another War?
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli intelligence has insight into the activities of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
We should pay attention to Israel's findings.

We should pay attention:
Israel might know something that we don't.

Iran, Syria and Hezbollah are preparing for war this summer.
According to the head of Israel's Military Intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin, they are expecting that the United States will invade Iran.
"Their preparation is defensive ahead of war ... They fear a war initiated by the Americans because they understand that there might be an attack against Iran over summer, but not by Israel."

Interestingly neither Iran nor Syria nor Hezbollah see Israel as going to war.
Rather, they are expecting a three pronged attack.
Never-the-less, Israel has begun to ready itself against the backlash of such attacks.

Perceptions are more important than realities in that part of the world.

To Syria ?
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 3, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

On the day before United States Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Damascus, three bigwig guests paid surprise visits to the palace of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The president saw them all.

The three visitors were also members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The three visitors were all Republican Congressmen.
Bigwig # 1: Virginia Republican Frank Wolf.
Bigwig # 2: Pennsylvania Republican Joe Pitts.
Bigwig # 3: Alabama Republican Robert Aderholt.

What were they doing there?
They said they took their lead from Ronald Reagan when he went and spoke to the Soviets.

This is what the congressmen say they spoke about:
Item # 1: Ending support for Hezbollah and Hamas
Item # 2: Recognizing Israel's right to exist
Item # 3: Stopping Syrian interference in Lebanon
Item # 4: Stopping the flow of fighters into Iraq

As for Assad's response - he's not saying.

By Micah Halpern

Monday April 2, 2007


Diplomacy is an art.

Diplomacy is often embroiled in a conflict of cultures.

Diplomacy is always punctuated with dramatic disagreements.

It is through the tortuous byways and entanglements and unspoken rules of diplomatic etiquette that regional and international differences are resolved and historic compromises emerge. In the end, the parties are equally disappointed, frustrated and satisfied. In the end, diplomacy works.

Everyone in international affairs knows these fundamentals of diplomacy. And that is exactly why the current on-the-table version of the Saudi Peace Plan so greatly surprises me. Why exactly?

Because the Saudi Peace Plan is being pitched as a turn-key program. Because with this Saudi Peace Plan it is all or nothing, take it or leave it. Since when is a diplomatic situation ever all or nothing? The entire point of diplomacy is compromise in order to achieve a mutually beneficial situation, a situation Game Theorists call "win - win."

Obviously, Israel has some serious problems with the proposal. The Right of Return and the absolutism of the return to pre-1967 borders are sore, sticking points. And despite that, Israel has said that they are willing to discuss the proposal because for Israel the idea of actually sitting down with other countries in the region and discussing the future and their joint fates is nothing less than compelling. Even if the parties disagree. Even if the parties walk out doors and slam their fists and threaten to end the talks. For Israel, formally, officially talking to countries in the region other than the few they already have ties with is about as good as it gets.

Israel is looking to expand its diplomatic circle. Israel is not looking for friends. Israel is looking for non-enemies. Israel is looking for diplomatic cohorts.

If Israel can speak to even one new country, that would be a tremendous step forward. Not only for Israel, for both those countries. For the Arab world it would be an opportunity to see that Israelis do not really have those proverbial horns, it would be an opportunity to realize that Israel is more than merely a dread, de facto reality.

It would, but it never will.

The Saudi Peace Plan is ultimately not about diplomacy. Ultimately, the Saudi Peace Plan is about cultural identity. The all-or-nothing -plan and the manner in which it has been presented is the give away. The Saudi Peace Plan is an unworkable and unrealistic proposal not because of content but because of presentation.

Don't believe me, listen to what the Saudis themselves are saying. The Saudi foreign minister has clearly framed his country's intentions and objectives and motives. Not accepting The Plan, he said, is tantamount to asking for war. He said: "That if Israel refuses, that means it does not want peace and it places everything back into the hands of fate. They will be putting their future not in the hands of peacemakers but in the hands of the lords of war."

Powerful. Very powerful wordage. So why is it that according to Saudi thinking the only alternative to total acceptance of The Plan is war, the exact total opposite of The Plan. What about working out differences? Ironing out specifics? Mutual dialogue for the sake of pounding out a better proposal for all the parties? The Saudis have come so far in even proposing this plan, why are they sabotaging it from the outset?

Here's why.

The Saudi Peace Plan promises total normalization with all Arab countries. Saudi Arabia can't guarantee that. Saudi Arabia doesn't speak for all Arab countries. The Arabs cannot actually guarantee their end of the bargain. So instead of attempting to influence naysayer colleague countries, they set the bar so high that Israel will never accept the proposal.

The most recent Arab meeting to discuss The Plan had almost 100% Arab attendance. Everyone came, even the foreign minister of Iran. The only significant group missing was al Qaeda. And everyone decided to endorse The Plan. And everyone knew that Israel never could and never would.

Here's an interesting footnote to the meeting. Before the meeting the Iranian foreign minister held a joint meeting with Hamas' Palestinian Prime Minster Haniyeh and Fatah's Palestinian President Abbas.

Talk about being in cahoots. Talk about diplomacy, Arab Style.

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