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By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 1, 2008


Let's play "association." If I say "New Year" chances are pretty good that you will say "resolutions." It's the American way. Every new year Americans from Phoenix Arizona to Butte Montana and anywhere else honestly and sincerely make their resolutions. And before January turns into February the vast majority of those resolutions have been broken. People in Crawford Texas are no exception. George Bush is no exception.

On January 8th the president and his entourage will be heading out for the Middle East. George Bush has resolved to set the record straight in the Middle East.

Officially, President Bush will be using this, his first official visit to the Middle East since taking office to "...follow up on the progress made at Annapolis in helping Israelis and Palestinian to advance their efforts ..."

True enough, the presidential agenda on this trip is to follow through on the work that was begun in Annapolis, but the work begun in Annapolis, truly had less to do with Israelis and Palestinians than it did with the Arab world and Iran. If this trip was all about Israelis and Palestinians, then why are Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt all crowded into the agenda? The answer comes in the form of a throw away line in the official announcement outlining this trip which states that the president will use this opportunity " reaffirm the enduring commitment of the United States to the security of our allies in the Middle East ... and our close work with them to combat terrorism and extremism ..."

In Annapolis, Israeli/Palestinian peace was the premise, but there was a very important and delicate subtext. In Annapolis, the unstated objective of the United States was to bring Arab and Muslim countries in concert with the United States of America in an effort to thwart Iran and Iran's nuclear objectives. And the president almost pulled it off.

He had them in the palm of his hand. While in Annapolis George Bush had the most powerful and most wealthy Arab nations just on the verge of being convinced that he and the United States could actually lead the Arab world in a movement against another Muslim country. He had them almost ready to follow his lead and squelch Iran's nuclear aspirations. He was, as the saying goes, just about to put the genie back in the bottle.

That support lasted exactly one week, and then the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was made public. George Bush became his own worst enemy. The Arab countries who had quietly stepped forward to join the United States against Iran pulled immediately back. Thousands of hours of diplomatic work was lost. And now, in the course of an eight day trip, President Bush is trying to win it back.

Quite frankly, I do not have high hopes for President Bush's upcoming trip to the Middle East.

George Bush may have determination and resolve, but his goal of reassuring the Arabs of the region that the Annapolis Conference sub text is actually a primary text and that the US still stands firmly behind the message delivered in Annapolis - that Iran is a real threat and it is crucial to stand shoulder to shoulder against Iran's development of nuclear technology - has evaporated into thin Middle East air. No visit, no cajoling, no pleading will succeed in convincing the Arab world for a second time to join the enemy against one of their own.

As for "helping Israelis and Palestinians advance their efforts ..." the sentiment is sincere, but the President knows the situation. He knows that both Israelis and Palestinians will complain about non-compliance and about how the other side has broken the agreement - again. And Israel and the Palestinians need to know that George Bush, just like the many American presidents before him who sought to bring peace to the Middle East, is driven by American interests. And right now American interests lie in trying to isolate Iran and unify Arabs against the Islamic state. And before putting pressure on Iran the Arab world will demand that the United States pressure Israel to accommodate the Palestinians.

Despite his affinity for Israel and his religious love of Jerusalem, this President of the United States will agree to those Arab demands. And along the way President Bush will make his pilgrimage to the Western Wall and visit the Western Wall Tunnels and tour the excavation sites around the Second Temple. This was the Temple built by Herod during the time of Jesus and it has significance and value for George Bush. He will touch the stones and admire the architecture and marvel at the remarkable feats of construction that brought and still bring people from all around the world to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem shuts down when a United States president comes to town. I have sat on special busses accompanying the presidential motorcade as it drives along. Israelis line the streets, waving. I wave back. Not this trip. The excitement isn't there. Once again, the outcome is predictable. In the aftermath of this trip Bush and Condi Rice will pressure Israel to move ahead on the Road Map despite their reservations and despite the lack of follow-up on the part of the Palestinians especially on security issues and the lack of Palestinian control over their terrorists.

I hope the President has made some other resolutions for this New Year. Maybe those will last a little longer than his Middle East resolve.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Iran & Egypt Partners in Nukes
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 31, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Iran wants nukes and Iran wants the United States to accept that fact.

Ali Larijani was once the former head Iranian nuclear negotiator.
Larijani is head of the Iranian National Security Council.
Larijani is also a very close - perhaps the closest, adviser to Ahmadinejad.
Larijani is in Egypt and he has just pitched Cairo a whammy.

Get this:
Iran will cooperate or even better, will help Egypt develop nuclear technology.
With one caveat:
Iran will only help Egypt with the agreement i.e. approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations watch dog.
Absurdity or strategy?
Strategy. Iran needs to get Arabs on their side, and nothing tops a leading liberal Arab country like Egypt. In fact, Larijani even said that countries like Egypt and Iran should be setting the agenda for the Middle East.

If left unchecked, Iran just might succeed in shifting the balance of power in the Middle East.
That means Iran could be supplying nuclear technology to anyone who wants it.
Iran is playing a very smooth and so far successful end game.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Taking Advantage of the Assassination
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 30, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The international media world is abuzz, reporting almost exclusively on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto,
And that makes it the perfect time for other international stories to just slip through the cracks, make no waves, go unnoticed.

Here are some of the stories that the media is not covering right now:

A second package of enriched uranium was shipped from Russia to Iran.
The announcement was made by the Iranian Vice President Ahmad Fayazbaksh, aka deputy director of Iran's nuclear agency.
When a story like this is not covered, it is as if it never happened.

Russia has gone on record with the big lie, claiming not to be supplying Iran with S-300 surface to ground missiles.
By posting this announcement now, Russia sidesteps discussion about and criticism of arms trading with Iran and eliminates the specter of a media investigation into the story.

Israel has been conducting very effective raids, successfully striking at terrorist leaders in Ramallah and Gaza over the past 2-3 days.
The media is too busy to focus on the strikes and too busy to criticize Israel for these actions.

Brilliant media manipulation by all these countries.
If I were advising a country, I would say now is the time to act.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

The Real Bhutto
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 29, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

We need perspective.
Assassination is horrific, but I must set the record straight about Benazir Bhutto. It is essential that we see the person, not merely the martyr.

We must remember that:
Bhutto was in self-imposed exile living in Dubai and London.
Bhutto ran away from numerous corruption charges.
Bhutto's first government fell because of similar charges, she maintained that the charges were trumped up and unsubstantiated but, never the less, she ran away.

We must never forget that:
Bhutto supported the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Bhutto provided money, weapons and advice to the Taliban during her 2nd term.
Bhutto supported the Taliban rise to power in 1996, she thought the Taliban would have a stabilizing impact on the region.

Benazir Bhutto was proved wrong and she later changed her perspective.
But one cannot rewrite history and it is clear and evident that, at one time, Bhutto was a strong supporter of the Taliban.
Bhutto was fearless, she was courageous, her lapse in judgment does not make her a bad person it just makes her wrong.
PEOPLE magazine called Banazir Bhutto one of the most beautiful people in the world - even beautiful people make serious mistakes.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

US Overplayed Pakistan
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 28, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The United States bears indirect culpability for what is happening in Pakistan.
This was a serious blow to democracy and to US foreign interests.
The United States overplayed its hand.

The United States insisted that Bhutto return to Pakistan despite the threats against her life, threats that were serious from the outset.
The United States was trying to stimulate democratic juices and energize the Pakistani populous for the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The United States was myopic in supporting Bhutto and in forcing Musharaff to accept her return.
The United States was oblivious to the ugly and dangerous situation it was causing in Pakistan.

Certainly, Bhutto was popular, but there was also a very vehement anti-Bhutto faction in Pakistan and that group included terrorists who rejected her for nothing more than the fact that Bhutto was a woman. Others hated her because she was modern, egalitarian, pro-Western and Oxford and Harvard educated.

Bhutto knew the risks, she was fearless, she became a martyr for the cause of democracy.

Pakistan will recover from this turmoil.
The legacy of Benazir Bhutto will be the three children she has left behind.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Bhutto Assassination
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 27, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Not to have anticipated this assassination is a major failing in US foreign policy.
I do not believe that Musharraf had Bhutto killed.

My Prediction:
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is cataclysmic for Pakistan.
The assassination is catastrophic for American interests in Pakistan.
The assassination will result in a spiraling down of almost every quantifiable intelligence variable in Pakistan.
But in the end law and order will again be restored - by the army.

My Analysis:
Pakistan is an ally of the United States.
Musharraf has promised proper elections.
BUT Musharraf is a THUG.
Before all of this Pakistan, was on the verge of democratic reforms.
Now it's all a crap shoot.

It was at the insistence of the US that Bhutto returned to Pakistan.
One of the results of the return was a series of immediate assassination attempts on her life and the imposing of martial law.
Bhutto even dispatched a letter to Musharraf naming 4 "high ups" she suspected were plotting her demise.

Bhutto herself was not above reproach, BUT now
Bhutto represented the opposition
Bhutto represented change
Bhutto represented the past
Bhutto symbolized everything that is dangerous and volatile in Pakistan.

The US is in a very bad diplomatic position.
The US supports Musharraf BUT the US also supports democracy.
There is a clear clash.
Democracy cannot emerge without law and order.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Out Maneuvered by Iran Again
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 27, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Two seemingly unrelated items caught my eye today as I trolled trolling through dispatches dealing with the Middle East.

Item # 1:
Ali Larijani, the former Iranian nuclear negotiator, was in Cairo Egypt.
Larijani is still the head of the Iranian National Security Council.
Larijani was in Egypt to jumpstart diplomatic relations between Egypt and Iran, relations that were severed thirty years ago.

Item # 2:
Iran and Russia signed a deal on a surface-to-ground missile system.
The missile, an S-300 missile, has a maximum range of only 50 miles, but it is very effective against airplanes.

On closer observation it becomes evident that there is a definite link between the two items and events.
It is all about Iran.

Iran is out there improving status, making connections, generating good will.
Iran is building bridges all over the world, especially where it counts, especially in the Muslim world.

Wake up America - you are being out maneuvered by your foe.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Maradona Says Yeh Iran
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 26, 2007

I've Been Thinking:
Diego Maradona is not a familiar name to Americans.
For the rest of the world, the name Diego Maradona is as powerful as the name Michael Jordan, he is the greatest soccer player since Pele.

Maradona wants to meet Ahmadinejad.
Maradona has already met both Castro and Chavez.
You guessed it - Maradona is vehemently anti-US.
In his own translated words: "I'm there with the people of Iran, really with all my heart."

This is no small item.
Maradona - a legend larger than Babe Ruth - is giving approval to Iran and to Ahmadinejad.
Maradona - an icon larger than Bruce Springsteen - has given testimonial to Iran.
The United States has yet to realize the significance of these gestures.

In the arena of propaganda, truth is less important than image.
The image of Iran has now been elevated.
Iran will be much more difficult to reign in.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 25, 2007


In an ideal world, the city of Sderot would have remained a small, sleepy Israeli city. In a world in which Qassam rockets are hurled almost daily into Israel by hostile neighbors, the city of Sderot has gained prominence.

Since the beginning of the Second Intifada, since October 2000, Sderot has been under siege from rocket attacks launched from Gaza. Sderot, you see, abuts Gaza. It is the easiest place inside Israel for rockets to land.

The word "sderot" translates to mean boulevards. The place called Sderot, a poor under-developed area that covers 5,000 dunam (about 1,200 acres) of land in the southern district of Israel, was declared a city in 1996. Just for the sake of comparison, the Four Seasons Hotel in Disney World covers 900 acres. The Israeli census of 2004 reported that 20,000 people lived in Sderot. That number still remains constant. It's not that the folks of Sderot enjoy the daily bombardment, it's that they have no place else to go.

Until now Israeli leaders - both military and political - have been incapable of stopping the gifts from the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip. In principle, of course Israelis are incensed and outraged by the almost daily bombardment of rocket attacks by terrorists from Gaza onto their soil. In practice, they have grown to become laissez faire. Nobody much cares about the people of Sderot. The 20,000 inhabitants of Sderot are an immigrant mix - mostly former Soviet immigrants living alongside the families of poor immigrants from North Africa living alongside a sizable Ethiopian community.

The good news is that finally, Israel has come up with a solution, a plan, a way to re-gift to Gaza. The other news is that the plan will not be operable for two years.

On Sunday the Israeli Security Cabinet, the inner Cabinet within the Cabinet dubbed the Kitchen Cabinet during the tenure of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, agreed to fund "Iron Dome" a $200 million project which will help protect Israeli cities from rocket attack.

In proposing the Iron Dome project Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was careful to speak of the two year time delay. Barak also explained that Iron Dome is one part of a larger defense strategy for Israel. In essence, Barak was saying that Iron Dome which will be used to defend Sderot more than any other city is being pursued only because it is part of the larger package - not because the people of Sderot need it so badly. What Barak omitted was the simple fact that after all the time and all the money, it is unlikely that Iron Dome will even be a useful defense weapon against rockets aimed from Gaza into Sderot.

Iron Dome, like all related defense weaponry, operates successfully only with minimum height and distance requirements. Because Qassam are low flying rockets, the likelihood of success in firing back at Qassams is hard to guarantee.

The system works like this: After a rocket is shot computer generated radar and laser identify its origin and trajectory. The computer figures out where the rocket is going to hit and plots the exact path of the rocket. The computer then shoots off another, much faster, missile to destroy the incoming enemy rocket. The more distance the rocket needs to travel and the higher the rocket shoots, the easier the calculation. The objective is to explode the rocket over enemy territory and not over your own land so that you reduce the number of your own potential injuries due to falling debris.

Using this technology Israel can and should be able to dispatch missiles to destroy not only the rocket launchers but also the terrorists launching their rockets into most parts of the country. Any type of defense against Qassams is difficult. The problem with the newest Qassam rockets, the rockets now being fired into Israel, is that they have a range of 10 kilometers, that is only 6.2 miles - they do not have a very high arc and they are very small targets to hit.

It sounds good at the press conference, and it is important for Israelis to know that their defense establishment is actively pursing a large, encompassing security plan, but the people of Sderot will not be much better off two years from now than they were six years ago or than they are today.

My suggestion? Hit the terrorists today. The Iron Dome and the $200 million and the two years are a long way away.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Iran is Tendering 19 Nuke Plants
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 24, 2007

I'm Predicting:

Iran has just sent out a tender - the Iranians want to build 19 new nuclear reactors.
I know that, in principle, Russia has already agreed to help build 5 reactors, but the deal has not yet been finalized.

Russia has said that the Iranian plant in Busher will not be ready until winter of 2008. But Iran has just said that they will be ready enough to produce 500 megawatts of energy by March of 2008.

What is Iran up to?
Iran is flaunting their nuclear vindication and their success in the aftermath of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).
Iran is playing up this American miscalculation to the hilt in the Muslim and European worlds.
Iran wants to make it clear to everyone that they are moving ahead with their nuclear program and now nothing can stop them.

Iran will soon put their own brand of nuclear technology on the market, selling to any group or country with enough interest and enough money.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Saudi Split Personality
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 23, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The Saudis just arrested 28 people across Saudi Arabia.
The people were arrested for planning terror attacks.
The report from the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) announced that al Qaeda affiliated terrorists were arrested in Riyadh in Mecca and in Medina.
The Saudis have been and will continue to be targets of al Qaeda terror.

Saudi Arabia is caught in a Catch - 22.
On the one hand, it is Saudi educational institutions that created al Qaeda.
On the other hand, as victims of terror, the Saudis are now partnered with the West in the fight against Islamic extremism.
Is Saudi Arabia a supporter of terror or is Saudi Arabia a fighter of terror?

The Saudi royal family is large and out of control, Saudi Arabia is being pulled in all directions.
That makes it all the more important for the West and the US to demand that all evidence of Saudi participation and sponsorship in terror be made public and then it must be condemned.

We cannot allow the Saudi split personality to handcuff United States policy towards Saudi Arabia.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Placating Iran
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 22, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The Iranian press has been full of the picture of Ahmadinejad at the Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to the Kaabah in the Saudi city of Mecca.
Press from other Arab countries has picked up the story.
The photo of Ahmadinejad has been plastered across the Arab world.

Why all this publicity for Ahmadinejad?
Because the Arab world is afraid of Shiite Iran.
Because the Saudis think an invite to Islam's holiest site - in the center of the Sunni capital - will placate Iran.

Ahmadinejad was honored and pleased.
He looked uncharacteristically neat and fashionable - wearing an all-white tunic and sandals and sporting a groomed beard and cropped hair.

But the Shiites hate the Sunnis and the Sunnis hate the Shiites.
It all dates back to the conflict over the succession of Muhammad.
The Shiites lost and the Sunnis massacred the Shiites and their leader Hussein in Karbala.
That piece of history is the most important memory in all of Shiite tradition.

The Sunnis are right in fearing the Iranians, they are wrong in thinking that the Iranians can be placated.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Drama in the Muslim World
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 21, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

I like to alert people when something dramatic happens in the Muslim world.

Something dramatic happened this week.
333 Iranian activists, academics and intellectuals published a public statement that was reported in the reformist newspaper Rooz.

The group wants Iran to accept the international community's request to freeze nuclear development in exchange for lifting the embargo on Iran.
The group asserts that this step would be in the best interests of Iran and benefit the region.

"While Israel and the White House adopt a confused stance regarding the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate), the Iranian government must also take advantage of the opportunity that was created to prepare the groundwork for strengthening peace."

I agree.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Hit Islamic Jihad
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 20, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Over the last few days Israel has been hitting Gaza by air.
Islamic Jihad leaders and Qassam rocket hit squads have been targeted.

In all, 11 terrorist targets have been assassinated.
Hitting specific targeted individuals is no small feat, it requires a combination of excellent intel and accurate marksmanship.

There are several reasons for these Israeli air strikes and the targeted attacks.
#1: the most obvious is to respond to the constant barrage of rockets that Islamic Jihad has been launching against Israel.
#2: the strategic reason is to strike hard and accurately from the air in order to avoid a ground invasion.

We all know that hitting from the air is much safer but air strikes have other risks, especially "collateral damage" - a euphemism for hurting other people who may be around the terrorists.

Israel does not want to invade Gaza.
The risks are high and the costs are great.
For now Israel will keep up the pressure and continue to strike from the air.
They will be successful as long as they have good intel and good aim.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Israel's Response to Terror
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 19, 2007

I'm Predicting:

How should a country respond to the daily rocket bombardment of cities, towns and farms?
It is a question Israel asks daily.

Yesterday, Israel found a response.
In two separate strikes, Israel successfully targeted 5 Islamic Jihad terrorist leaders.

Of course, Israel could beg the Palestinians to stop launching rockets into their midst, but PA leader Abbas is powerless and has no control over his terrorists.
Of course, Israel could ask Hamas leaders to stop launching rockets from Gaza, but Hamas leaders are sponsoring those rockets.

Israel tracks and pursues terrorist leaders and cell commanders.
Israel targets them, Israel kills them.
Seek and destroy, that is the Israeli response.

Until there is peace between Israelis and Palestinians, until there is Palestinian justice, until Palestinian police prevent those missiles from flying into Israel, Israel will continue will continue to search out those terrorists and, one by one, to destroy them.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Iran Gets its Nuke Fuel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 18, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The Russians delivered the first load of uranium to Iran yesterday.
We are traveling down a dangerous road.

Quite frankly, I was shocked by President Bush's comments.
"If the Russians are willing to do that, which I support, then the Iranians do not need to learn how to enrich."
"If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there's no need for them to learn how to enrich."

Theoretically, yes, there is no "need" for the Iranians to learn how to enrich on their own, but we are talking about Iran. And there is still no way for us, for the US, for the West, to monitor what Iran is really doing with the freshly arrived nuclear material because there are no inspections.

Iranians say it will be used for civilian purposes - but there is no transparency.
Russians say that the Iranians promise to keep it in one place - but that is very small comfort.

If we are not given the ability to monitor Iran, Iran should not get anything nuclear.
Trusting the Russians is risky business.
The Russians are prostitutes, they will do anything for the money.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

By Micah Halpern

Monday December 17, 2007


I ate latkes under the watchful gaze of President Abraham Lincoln. I could have chosen sushi, or gravlax, or glatt kosher roast beef or even lamb chops, but latkes, for me, was the appropriate choice. The latkes were more than delicious, they were symbolic.

Eating latkes, in the White House, as a guest of President George and First Lady Laura Bush, at their Chanukah party, symbolized for me the Jewish coming of age in America. On Monday, December 10th, the sixth day of Chanukah, the eve of the seventh Chanukah candle to be lit, the president of the United States of America, the most powerful man in all the world, chose to devote a large part of his day and evening honoring and celebrating with American Jews.

Think about it.

Think about how blessed the Jews of America are to live in a country that allows them to thrive and appreciates their contribution. Think about how lucky the Jews of America are to live in a country that so cherishes their participation. Think about how a community of immigrants that, like Horatio Alger, came to these shores and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, has become a part of society and yet retained individual and communal identities as Jews. Think about a world leader who spent the majority of his day focusing on Judaism and issues of religious freedom. Think about the hours George and Laura Bush spent standing in a receiving line, meeting and greeting Jewish guests from around the country, shaking hands, being photographed, exchanging pleasantries.

Was it a waste of the president's time? A colossal waste of taxpayer money? A political statement? Not at all. It was a statement of purpose. It was a defining example of how the Jewish people now freely roam - literally and figuratively - halls of power in the United States. On that day there was nothing more important on the agenda of the president of the United States than to celebrate Judaism in the White House with American Jews.

Now think about other democracies around the world.

Think about the United Kingdom where terrible racism is eroding the fabric the monarchy tried so hard to knit together. Think about France where immigrant communities from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia are greeted with hatred and disdain. Think about Germany where anyone from Turkey or North Africa is shunned. Think about Japan where a Koreans who came between 1910 and 1915 can never become citizens. And these countries call themselves democracies.

There is no historical precedent to match the position of Jews in America today. Yes, in various societies, in various historical periods Jews have reached positions of prominence, but never en masse, only as isolated instances. In Egypt in Babylonia in Greece and in Rome, in Poland in Germany in Russia, there were examples of Jews who rose to power and entered the halls of power - but not like America.

As I wandered from the Map Room to the China Room, as I rubbed shoulders with other guests spanning the entire spectrum of Judaism, as I shared a small portion of Torah with a Lubavitch rabbi and joined in a debate over the state of world terror today and as I exchanged thoughts with the President of the United States about our need to seek out and destroy those thugs seeking to destroy us I was reminded of other ways in which the United States has reached out to embrace Jews and other immigrant societies. I was reminded of the famous quote inscribed on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. The famous quote from Leviticus 25:10 reads: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof." The experience made me feel grateful but also greatly humbled.

The White House Chanukah party was not about politics, everyone knows that the Jewish community leans overwhelming democratic. The White House Chanukah party was about the success of America as much as it was about the success of the Jewish community.

I was honored to be invited, I was proud to participate.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Iran Opens 2 Factories in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 16, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The Syrians opened up huge new factories, built by the Iranians, on Thursday.

The factories are the first new manufacturing plants to be built in Syria in a very long time --- and by foreign investment no less.
One is an automobile factory, the other is a cement factory.
Both are greatly needed in Syria.
Iran knows what it is doing.

Syrian President Bashar Assad spoke at the opening ceremonies. He said: "Inaugurating this plant in partnership with our Iranian brothers and officials is a response to those who tried to circulate (information) that relations between the two countries have been shaken."
"I confirm, on this occasion, that relations will not be shaken for any reason or under any circumstances." Iranian press association SANA quoted Assad.

Iran is on the move, protecting itself and building bridges.
Iran is cementing ties, one by one, with the Arab and Muslim countries in attendance at the Annapolis Summit.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

The House Wants to Know
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 15, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

On Thursday the US House passed a bill against water boarding.
What do they have against water boarding? That is a discussion for another time, the bill must still pass the Senate and be signed by the president.

This is the important part:
Attached to the bill was a clause.
70% of the intelligence budget will be withheld by Congress if the House and Senate intelligence committees are not briefed about the Israeli attack against the Syrian nuclear facility on September 6, 2007.

What does one have to do with the other? Nothing.
This is classic "pork-barrel politics." Legislators sign onto a bill they do not agree with in order to get something they really want.

Congress really wants to know what happened. Congress wants to know how Israel and the United States gathered their intelligence.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

New Saudi-Iran Nexus
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 14, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaging in a diplomatic dance.
If the United States does not pay careful attention to these goings-on in the Middle East US interests might be totally subverted.

The Saudi King just invited Iranian President Ahmadinejad for a visit.
Ahmadinejad is invited to attend the Haj, the Pilgrimage, later this month.
During the Haj Muslims world over journey to Mecca to visit the Kabbah, the big black rock.
This is the very first time any Iranian president has been invited to participate in the Haj.

This invitation was not a spontaneous, generous act.
Saudis and Iranians are bitter enemies and arch rivals.
Saudis and Iranians observe completely different forms of Islam.
The Saudis really do not want Iran to become nuclear.
The Annapolis conference was an attempt to unify the Muslims against Iran.
And now Saudi Arabia is reaching out to Iran.

What is going on here?
The Saudis are trying to protect themselves against the ire of Iran.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Iran Calls US Assessment a Lie
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 13, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Ali Larijani was the Iranian nuclear negotiator for several years.
Ali Larijani was the point man for the Islamic Republic.
Ali Larijani recently resigned.

On Wednesday Larijani delivered a speech at Ferdowsi University in the Iranian city of Mashad.

In the speech the former Iranian nuclear negotiator called the US intelligence estimate "a baseless lie."

He said that there was no truth to the assessment and that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program 4 years ago, in the fall of 2003.

Ali Larijani was a man never to be trusted or believed before.
But now we have a dilemma, which is the better source?
Whom do we trust, the US assessment or the previous Iranian nuclear negotiator?

I go with Ali Larijani.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Two Palestines
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 12, 2007


Headline news on the wire services this week: Israel is moving ahead on the path towards peace with the Palestinians.

That same day, another headline: Israel is invading Gaza with armor and airplane cover.

One country, two entirely different headlines defining the Israeli attitude towards the Palestinians. It's not that Israel is suffering from a split personality. It is that the Palestinians are coming to terms with the reality of a split population and a split nation.

The concept of a split population in a split nation was difficult for the Palestinians to accept. It has taken a very long time and cost too many lost lives but Palestinian leadership is now ready to accept the facts on the ground and able to move ahead with plans for a dis-unified but workable Palestine. It is a concept that is difficult for the West to comprehend, difficult to come to terms with, difficult to embrace. It is a concept that Israeli political and military leadership can work with and live with, perhaps, the only way for Israel and any Palestinians to live side by side in peace and harmony.

A split Palestine is a significant move towards a straight forward system within the Palestinian Authority. Fatah is Fatah and Hamas is Hamas - separate, disparate entities. From now on, when we speak of the PA, of the Palestinian Authority, we need to realize that we are speaking only of Fatah and Fatah rule of the West Bank. When we speak of Gaza we speak of Hamas and Hamas rule of that area, the land wrested away from Fatah through guns and bloodshed.

Gaza is, quite simply, a mess. It is a mess that was created by Hamas and can only be cleaned up by Hamas. Hamas controls Gaza and even though a significant segment of local Gazans are displeased with Hamas rule they are stuck with it. Fatah will not step back into the area, will not come to the rescue of the people who live in Gaza or attempt to come to their rescue. It is not in the best interests of Fatah, not in the best interests of the rest of the Palestinians, not on the agenda of Palestinian i.e. Fatah leadership.

Gaza is geographically, politically and emotionally separated from the West Bank.

Hamas is not willing to cede control of Gaza. Hamas has created an enclave that is separate and independent from the rest of the Palestinian people, an enclave that is and neither under the influence nor the rule of mainstream Palestinian leadership. Palestinian leadership under Abbas wants nothing to do with Hamas in Gaza. The ugly ousting of Fatah from Gaza this summer served to exacerbate an already strained and artificial relationship.

Abbas and Fatah will return to Gaza only after they are recognized as the legitimate leaders of the Palestinian people. Hamas will do everything possible to prevent that from happening. The people of Gaza now stand alone. No help is coming their way from Abbas and, more crucially, no help will be sent to them by the West.

Hamas is a terrorist organization and that fact is now clear to everyone, everyone including the leadership of Fatah.

In the discussions which led up to the Annapolis Summit, when the Palestinians and the Israelis were hammering out a joint document, a few words were scribbled on the bottom of an Israeli working copy. The words were: what about Gaza? The Palestinians never addressed the question. It was no longer their domain, no longer their responsibility.

Fatah is interested in creating a working relationship with Israel. Hamas is not. Hamas wants to shoot Kassam rockets into Israeli cities and towns on a daily basis. And that is why Island launched an armored incursion with air cover into Gaza. To attack the launch sites, to manage a quick fix to a deadly problem with an in-and-out raid. Not to eliminate the long term problem, simply to temporarily close down the short term problem. To put Hamas on edge. To force Hams to consider the ramifications of shooting at Israel.

And that is why Israeli leadership and Fatah leadership are working towards fulfilling the commitment they both made in Annapolis and working towards implementing the Road Map. But here too there are issues. This past week Israel starting construction in parts of Jerusalem the Palestinians lay claim to. It was a real monkey wrench thrown into the negotiations. US Secretary of State Condi Rice was livid. UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon was furious. But Israel did what it thought it must do.

In order for Israeli Prime Minister Olmert to keep his coalition together, he must make it very clear to Israelis and to those parties in his coalition to the right of center that Israel will maintain Jewish Jerusalem and most certainly, retain custody and control of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Jewish Jerusalem includes the communities that are growing around the city, like the community of Har Homa where the building is taking place. Building in Har Homa is the kind of international flack that Olmert can handle without even flinching - with the exception of the extreme right parties, Olmert has almost complete support for the action.

The Israeli prime minister will persistently and proudly continue to build and announce that he is building. But as part of his plan he will also insist that eventually, those Arab neighborhoods that surround Jerusalem will eventually compose part of the Palestinian area and become part of the Palestinian capital. The split that divides the Palestinian people is Palestinian induced, it will not be Israeli produced.

Palestinian politics are complicated. So are Israeli politics.

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British Intel Says No To Iran
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 11, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The Sunday Telegraph, a well respected English paper, recently lashed out against the United States Intelligence Estimate.

The Sunday Telegraph quoted British intelligence chiefs as saying that the United States was duped by Iran.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that the US was duped by believing that Iran shelved their nuclear weapons program back in 2003.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

To assume that would be a fatal mistake by the US and US Intelligence Services.

Meanwhile the Iranians submitted a formal Letter of Complaint to the United States via the Swiss Embassy in Teheran.

The letter charges the US with espionage and with violating international law. The complaint is based on the Intelligence Estimate.

Iran believes that the US could not have gotten their information without spying.

Now that is funny.

The Estimate clears Iran and Iran comes right back and charges the United States with spying.

You can not make these things up.

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Student Protests in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 10, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

For the second time in a single week Iranian students have held demonstrations on the campus of Teheran University.
The demonstrations were reported on Iranian radio.

Iranian students are protesting the crackdown against student activist who are challenging the government.
Hundreds of students have joined the protests.

So what?
Remember, we are talking about Iran.

Students are publicly protesting against the establishment despite the risk.
Students are protesting the treatment of their fellow activists.
Student protests added to teacher protests put in questions the lifespan of the current regime.

The significance of these demonstrations is immense.
The end result from these demonstrations may be cataclysmic.

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Important Words
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 9, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The Middle East is fraught with conflict.
The conflicts are not always military.
Some conflicts are about words.
Some conflicts are about facts on the ground.

Nomenclature versus ideology versus reality.

The word "settler": packs a wallop in the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.

Right now there is a huge row developing over that specific word.
The United States, the United Nations and the Palestinians on one side, Israel is on the other side.

The controversy centers on about 307 new apartments being built in the Jerusalem community of Har Homa. The Israelis say that Har Homa is in Jerusalem proper and therefore the building is totally legitimate.

Everyone else is calling the community a "settlement" and the building "expansion."

Har Homa is situated off of Hebron Boulevard which runs from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. The distance between Jerusalem and Bethlehem is less than a mile.

Har Homa is not new, it broke ground in 1997 and probably has 10,000 residents already living there. It is not a suburban settlement and that is why Israel has designated it as a Jerusalem neighborhood.

Palestinians call the area Jabal abu Gneim.

If the United States and the United Nations start replacing Har Homa with Jabal abu Gneim the tide of the discussion will have shifted.

At that point, Israel will have lost the argument.

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Casualties of Mistakes: The Worst
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 8, 2007

I'm Predicting:

There will be casualties resulting from the Intelligence Estimate of Iran's nuclear program.

The biggest casualties will probably not be suffered by Israel or Germany or France, even though they have all gone on record as disagreeing with the new assessment.

They will survive.

The biggest casualties will probably be in the Arab world.
The Arab world came to Annapolis in order to support the United States, to put their collective shoulder behind the United States effort to confront Iran.

The Arab world supported the United States because standing alone, they do not have the fortitude to buck Iran.

Uniting with a non-Muslim country against a Muslim country was an unprecedented step in the Arab world.

Now the United States is sending out a mixed message.

Is Iran a nuclear threat?
Is Iran not a nuclear threat?

Did the Arab world make a mistake by supporting the United States against Iran?

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It's Just Confusing
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 7, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Donald Kerr, the deputy director of National Intelligence testified before the House Committee on Intelligence yesterday.

Kerr testified to the Committee that Iran posed a nuclear weapons threat.
Kerr testified that Iran had a factory for uranium enrichment which is the "most important" element of any future nuclear program.

In trying to explain the mixed message and the ambiguity between US policy and the US Intelligence Assessment Kerr said: "We did not in any way suggest that Iran was benign for the future."
The Committee was not convinced.

It is confusing.
It is ambiguous.
It is a mixed message.
It is a mess.
And they call this "intelligence."

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Conflict Over Iran
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 6, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The new US threat assessment asserting that Iran abandoned nuclear weapons programming several years ago has created some expected and some unexpected responses.

As expected:
The IAEA report vindicates Iran.
The Iranians and Ahmadinejad are saying that the "Truthfulness of Iran [was] once again proved by its ill-wishers."
The Russian foreign minister went so far as to say that there was no proof that Iran ever had nuclear weapons program.

Rather unexpectedly:
Former UN nuclear chief Hans Blix expressed surprised at the report.
Israel was particularly shocked by the publication - even if they had advance knowledge of the report.
Even the pro-peace left is saying that the threat of Iran as significant.

The end result of this IAEA assessment might be the rise of serious chasm and contention between nations.

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NIE-New Word for Intelligence
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 5, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The US National Intelligence Estimate gives a whole new understanding to the word "intelligence."

Their newest report concludes that all 16 US intelligence agencies concur that the Iranians stopped their atomic weapons program in 2003.
To give some perspective, this is the same group whose endorsement was used to invade Iraq.

The biggest issue with the report is not whether Iran stopped their plan in 2003. The biggest issue is what Iran hopes to do now with their current program.
Iran is certainly receiving Uranium from Russia, just a few days ago the Russia foreign minister admitted that he was shipping uranium to Iran under the IAEA.

The fact that the US Estimate cannot conclude that Iran is not moving toward nuclear weapons does not mean that Iran is not indeed moving forward.
"Conclude" is the operative word.
In the words of the report:
"We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely while it weighs its options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will prompt it to restart the program."

In other words, in plain English, assume the worst.

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Another Resignation in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Most people have never heard of Mahmoud Farshidi.
Unless, that is, you are the teacher or parent of a school age child in Iran.

Farshidi was the minister of education in Iran until he resigned on Sunday.
Farshidi's resignation marks the 5th minister to step down and out of Ahmadinejad's government.
The most noted resignation came last month when Ali Larasi stepped down.
Larasi was the Iranian nuclear negotiator, he was also a close advisor to Ahmadinejad.
Larasi submitted his resignation three times on previous occasions.

One small factoid provides us with an enormous amount of information.
The resignation of Farshidi points to a significant deterioration in the power of Ahmadinejad and in his once iron fisted control over Iran.

Iranian teachers have been protesting on the streets of Teheran.
They want raises and some of their protests have been very violent.
If the educational system in Iran is crumbling and if teachers are dissatisfied there is little hope for the Islamic revolution to continue much longer.
The all powerful internet and satellite web access will teach Iranian youth outside the classroom.

These stories will not be covered in mainstream Western press and that is a shame.

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By Micah Halpern

Monday December 3, 2007


Uriah P. Levy, a fifth generation American, left home at the age of ten to become a cabin boy on American ships. Ten years later he was fighting in the War of 1812 as a member of the United States Navy. Levy would eventually attain the rank of Commodore, the highest rank attainable in the US Navy at the period in history, equivalent to the rank of Admiral in today's Navy.

To the distinction of Commodore, add another distinction. Uriah P. Levy was the first Jewish American to reach the rank of Commodore. The road to leadership was not smooth for Levy. He also had the distinction of being court-martialed six times, more than any other sailor in US military history. He received a total of three presidential pardons from United States presidents Monroe and Taft. Owing to his vast personal experience, President Abraham Lincoln personally appointed Levy to head the court martial board of the United States Navy.

Uriah Levy is responsible for abolishing the act of corporal punishment known as flogging in the United States Navy. He is also the man who purchased and refurbished the famed landmark Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, a man whom Levy admired for his strong belief in freedom of religion.

Uriah Phillips Levy was a man with a vision. He was a man with perspective. He suffered greatly because he was a Jew in a non-Jewish world, but he persisted and he prevailed. And because of Levy's suffering it is much easier to be a Jew in today's United States Armed Services. The newly-designed Jewish chapel at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland is named in memory of Uriah P. Levy.

The Levy Chapel is a magnificent structure. I had the opportunity to visit the Chapel during one of many breaks in the proceedings during the Peace Summit known as the Annapolis Conference. Hundreds of journalists from around the world attended the Conference, many of them Jewish, many of them Israeli. Tens of diplomats, career and political appointees, attended the Conference. The Chapel was open and visitors were welcome. I was the only man to walk through the large glass doors, to open the ark, to pay tribute to my religion and to a man who fought a valiant battle to maintain his religion.

I was also the only man to enter the Muslim prayer room, an interfaith room that has no markings or art work, a comfortable environment for prayer and introspection outfitted with six prayer rugs spread out on the floor in order to accommodate the many Muslim diplomats and journalists in attendance at the Annapolis Conference.

Middle East Peace Summits are usually hotbeds of tension and unrest, negotiators engaged in diplomatic combat, journalists struggling for exclusive interviews and looking for news leaks. What will Israel's Arab counterpart demand? What will Israel abandon, give up, negotiate out? Will the United States save Israel or sell Israel out? Annapolis, in contrast, was easygoing and actually quite fun. I felt less tension and less pressure than at any previous Summit I have attended.

The stakes were minimal, the negotiations non-existent, the outcome pre-determined. Tensions are still to come, when the real negotiating begins, when real details are brought to the table, when the parties are no longer in the glare of newspaper headlines and television lights. Annapolis was the pre-game show.

The Conference was a huge success for the United States, for the moment. It was a blatant American-orchestrated affront to Iran and to the extremists in the Muslim and Arab world. The United States successfully coerced a large group of countries, including many Arab and Muslim countries, in a way that has never been done before. The United States succeeded in an unstated but implicitly understood goal of creating a behind-closed-doors groundswell of concern over Iran and Muslim Fundamentalist extremism.

The Israeli/Palestinian peace issue was just an excuse manufactured in order to deal with much larger and more significant regional and global objectives. The principles knew that going in. The Israeli team assured me that there was no pressure put on them about anything. No new commitments were made. Instead, a previous commitment, to move forward with the Road Map, was re-affirmed.

For the involved parties, the Annapolis Conference was all show. The substance was obvious only in the well-intended preparations made by the Annapolis Naval Academy itself. Like the open and welcoming chapel and the properly laid out prayer room. And like the fact that along with Navy trinkets, cold drinks and candy bars, the concession sold kosher brown bag lunches properly sealed and prominently stamped with the symbol of a reliable rabbinic authority. For $6 Jews, Muslims and even gentiles were able to buy kosher corned beef and turkey sandwiches.

What a shock that would have been to Uriah P. Levy.

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Iran Bans Rap
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 2, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Iran wants to ban rap music.

Iran is calling rap music obscene.

Iran will be passing laws banning the distinctive music style that talks to a heavy rhythm and beat.

The interesting twist to this new cultural ban is that it is the music that is being banned - not the lyrics.

The genre has been nixed - not the prose or the poetry.
Banning the words maybe. But banning the sound?

Passing a law against a type of music can only happen in a theocratic dictatorship like Iran. It would never happen in a society that is actively engaged in and supportive of culture.

There are alternatives to an outright ban.
Banning a genre because it may encourage content that might be objectionable is beyond the pale of cultural critique.

Iran has got it topsy turvy.

Iran is killing the medium when what Iranian cultural police are really opposed to is the message.

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