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Pakistan's al Qaeda Leader
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 1, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Baitullah Mehsud is one of the most notorious terrorists in the world.
He is responsible for numerous attacks, including the murder of Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan.

Baitullah is the leader of al Qaeda in Pakistan.
The US State Department has issued a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Yesterday, in an interview with AP, Baitullah took credit for a massive bombing at a police station near Lahore, the second largest city in Pakistan and the capital of the Punjab province.
And that wasn't even the shocking part of the interview.
Baitullah announced that he is planning an attack on the White House that will surprise and dazzle everyone.

There are very few pictures of Baitullah and the pictures we do have are so radically different and varied it will be difficult to identify him.
I can tell you that Baitullah Mehsud is approximately 38 years old, slender and tall - but that won't earn me the $5 million.

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Things to Watch
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 31, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is currently in negotiations with both Syria and the Palestinian Authority. Or so we thought.

At the Arab League Summit now taking place in Qatar both Syria and the Palestinian Authority announced that Israel is not a partner for peace.

They said that Israel does not want peace.

What is happening? Just the day before the Summit began the New Yorker magazine quoting Syrian President Bashar Assad saying the exact opposite about Israel.

Meanwhile, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is boycotting and not attending the Arab League meeting because of Israel.

Mubarak feels that the League members are inappropriately manipulating their roles as negotiators and mediators with Israel on sensitive questions, including the Palestinian question.

And speaking of Israel and Sudan:

an Arabic newspaper in London reported on Monday that the United States told Sudan of the potential bombing of their weapons convoy by Israel months in advance. The paper said that a US leader told his counterpart in Sudan that their weapons convoys were being watched by a third party. In "spy speak" that means someone is going to bomb you.

Strange, interesting, disturbing.

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Al Bashir & the Arab League Meeting
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 30, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

All speculation ended on Sunday.
Sudanese leader Omar al Bashir landed in Qatar to attend the Arab League Summit.

It was the red carpet treatment for al Bashir.
After arriving he was given a face-to-face meeting with the Emir of Qatar, official host of the Arab League meeting, and with Amr Mousa, head of the Arab League.
It was reported that they drank coffee.

The ICC, the International Criminal Court, aka the International Court for Human Rights in The Hague, had issued an arrest warrant and indictment against al Bashir on March 4th.
The ICC had asked Qatar and the Arab League to live up to their international responsibilities and arrest al Bashir should he attend the Summit.

Sudan has been a member of the 22 state Arab League since January 1956.
Sudan is by no means the most influential player in the League.
Actually, the Sudanese government has embarrassed the Arab League because of their actions in Darfur.

And yet, today, the Arab League put its full support behind Sudan.
Al Bashir successfully re-spun Darfur into an insider versus outsider, and us versus them, scenario.
And when it is us against them the Arab League always circles their wagons.

This decision by the Arab League was certainly anticipated but that doesn't make it any the less a step backward for the Arab world.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.
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Arab League Summit
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 29, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Qatar is hosting the Arab League Summit this coming week.
The Foreign Minister of Qatar has released the Summit agenda to the public.

According to the foreign minister the two main topics under discussion will be:
the Palestinian issue
the International Criminal Court's indictment and arrest warrant of Omar al Bashir of Sudan for mass murder in Darfur

It is not clear whether al Bashir will attend the Summit but he has certainly made his desire to attend very clear.
The International Court has asked Qatar and the Arab League to arrest al Bashir if he presents himself.
The Arab League now has to decide how to balance this tricky issue.

Will the Arab League decide to protect a mass murderer or will they condemn al Bashir?
Their best move would be to do both:
to un-invite al Bashir
to categorically condemn his actions
In that way the Arab League can claim that they respect al Bashir's position and assert Arab unity at the same time.

Anything short of that plan will be a nightmare for all the parties involved.

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Ahmadinejad and Assad Talk
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 28, 2009

I've Been Thinking

Ahmadinejad of Iran and Assad of Syria had a phone conversation on Friday. The conversation was made public by the official Iranian press. Ahmadinejad was coaxing the Syrian leader. Ahmadinejad was assuring Assad that they would win over the West. Ahmadinejad said that a united Islamic world would be strong. Ahmadinejad said that the current world conditions will hurt the United States and the "Zionists" and it will help Muslims.

Here are some of the quotes: "The strong camp of friendly countries such as Iran and Syria are on their way to victory."
"The regional conditions are working in favor of the Muslim countries and against the Zionist regime and its allies."

Ahmadinejad used important images from the Koran. He referred to Muslims as being "in the same fortress." He asserted that they can "take advantage of abilities and opportunities in a wise manner" and in so doing defeat "the criminals of the Zionist regime (which) will eventually be put to death."

This sliver of Muslim diplomatic dialogue is very helpful. We were given a behind-the-scenes look at the true relationship between Syria and Iran.

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Israel Strikes Sudan
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 27, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

It's been confirmed:
Israel successfully attacked a convoy carrying weapons in Sudan.

The weapons were destined for Gaza.
The weapons were traveling through Sudan to Egypt and from there they would be smuggled into Gaza.
39 people were killed when Israel sent out four F-15s to attack the convoy.

The mission was a direct message from Israel to Iran:
When Israel feels threatened, Israel will strike - even deep into foreign countries.
Israel has exceptional Intel and Israel will act on that Intel.
Do not mess with Israel.

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US & Syria
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 26, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

The House Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs and the Middle East received a briefing yesterday by Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman.

Feltman spoke about the trip he and Daniel Shapiro, the National Security Director in charge of Middle East and North African Affairs, just took to Syria.
Congress and the Committee are concerned:

They fear that during the visit the US showed itself to be weak
They fear that the US is signaling a change in policy

Feltman argued that talk is not weakness.

Feltman argued that the discussion with the Syrians were intended to reiterate US policy and to let Syria know that it must stop arming Hezbollah and protecting Hamas.
Feltman's presentation before Congress and the Committee displayed a deeper understanding of the issues than his visit did, which appeared to be nothing more than a frivolous gesture.

Feltman made it clear to the Committee that Syria is trying to achieve two opposing goals:
Syria is trying to come out of the diplomatic cold
Syria is not changing its behavior in any way other than with indirect talks with Israel that were brokered through Turkey

The question remains: Has the United States elevated Syria by talking to Syria?
That is an issue Feltman did not address.
The Syrians would answer "yes."
Syria even threw the United States a proverbial bone by asking that the US run the indirect talks with Israel along with Turkey.

Double messages are the norm for Syria.

Syria wants it all (like the entire Golan Heights) but wants to give nothing in return.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.
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Speaking About Syria
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 26, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

The House Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs and the Middle East received a briefing yesterday by Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman.
Feltman spoke about the trip he and Daniel Shapiro, the National Security Director in charge of Middle East and North African Affairs, just took to Syria.

Congress and the Committee are concerned:
They fear that during the visit the US showed itself to be weak
They fear that the US is signaling a change in policy

Feltman argued that talk is not weakness.
Feltman argued that the discussion with the Syrians were intended to reiterate US policy and to let Syria know that it must stop arming Hezbollah and protecting Hamas.
Feltman's presentation before Congress and the Committee displayed a deeper understanding of the issues than his visit did, which appeared to be nothing more than a frivolous gesture.

Feltman made it clear to the Committee that Syria is trying to achieve two opposing goals:
Syria is trying to come out of the diplomatic cold
Syria is not changing its behavior in any way other than with indirect talks with Israel that were brokered through Turkey

The question remains: Has the United States elevated Syria by talking to Syria?
That is an issue Feltman did not address.
The Syrians would answer "yes".
Syria even threw the United States a proverbial bone by asking that the US run the indirect talks with Israel along with Turkey.

Double messages are the norm for Syria.
Syria wants it all (like the entire Golan Heights) but wants to give nothing in return.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=halpern%2C+micah




Syria Has A Question
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 25, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Syrian President Bashar Assad has a question:
What is the United States really planning on doing?

Assad wants to know what, if anything, is up the sleeve of the new administration.
Is the United States really trying to make amends with Syria or is the United States really just testing Syria?

Assad does not have the answer.

Neither does the United States.
But Assad does have a plan.
In classic Assad style, he will wait and see.

Neither President Obama nor his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, are clear as to the orientation the United States should take vis a vis certain Arab states, Syria among them. So the US is playing its own game of wait and see by laying out different possible scenarios and hoping that some country or another will swoop down and run with one of them.

Now comes the next question:
Who can wait longer?

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MAKARA, IT MEANS DECEIT
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 24, 2009

Column:

Makara. It means deceit. It is part of an ancient Arabic custom, still practiced today.

Kyhr. It means subterfuge. In Arabic the word kyhr shares a root with the word makara. Makara and Kyhr its root are mentioned 43 times in the Koran.

Certain concepts, inconceivable to the Western mind, are commonplace and easily comprehendible to the Arabic mind. In order to understand the Arabic mind, in order to anticipate the decision making process that goes on in the Arab world, the West must suspend its own system of beliefs and open its collective mind to allow for contradictions in words and actions.

Mohammed Dahlan is one of the most significant leaders the Palestinian people have who is neither in hiding nor imprisoned in Israel. Tall, broad shouldered, well dressed and smooth talking, Dahlan is known as the strong arm man of Fatah. It was Dahlan who was responsible for security in Gaza and the West Bank. It was Dahlan who was at the helm when Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza, essentially ousting him as security chief. Mohammed Dahlan has a vendetta to settle with Hamas. Not only was he publicly embarrassed, but the armed forces under his control were horribly treated and brutally killed.

And still, Dalhlan, the face of Fatah, and Hamas are joined at the hip when it comes to Israel.

In a recent interview on PA TV (Palestinian Television) Mohammed Dahlan said, simply and matter-of-factly, that the Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel, but that Fatah does not. A shocking contradiction? Yes, if you are a Westerner. Not at all if you are a Palestinian.

Dahlan said that Fatah was not asking Hamas to recognize Israel. He explained that the only reason the Palestinian Authority recognized Israel was to get the money that the Western world was doling out to the Palestinians because they had made that concession and publicly claimed to accept Israel. He said the PA would never get the money if they did not recognize Israel. But that was the PA, not Fatah. A distinction with a difference.

In the minds of most Westerners, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are one and the same, it is Hamas that is on the outside. In the mind of Mohammed Dahlan and his compatriots, things look different. Dahlan is adept at double speak, and double speak has a long history in the Arab world.

Double speak is one of the many facets of makara and in the Arab world, makara has both positive and negative attributes.

In the Koran, in both Sura 3:54 and in Sura 30:8 Allah is referred to as Makara. It therefore stands to reason that if Allah is deceitful, and deceit can be good. If Allah can practice kyhr, subterfuge, which has a similar word in Farsi (Persian, the language of Iran), practicing subterfuge can be good.

The Koran tells a glorious story which teaches that Allah will plot against those people who plot against him and Allah will win out in the end. Dahlan has a modern day take on the story.

Quoting from his interview with Palestinian TV, Dahlan said: "I want to say for the thousandth time, in my own name and in the name of all of my fellow members of the Fatah movement: We do not demand that the Hamas movement recognize Israel. On the contrary, we demand of the Hamas movement not to recognize Israel, because the Fatah movement does not recognize Israel even today."

And he is not alone. Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah chair and the president of the Palestinian Authority gave voice to almost the exact same sentiment in 2006 when he said: "Hamas is not required to recognize Israel ... It is not required of Hamas, or of Fatah, or of the Popular Front [to liberate Palestine] to recognize Israel."

And he gave voice to it on PA TV when he said: "The PLO, in 1993, recognized Israel. As Israel recognized the PLO. Every person has the right to say "I do not recognize," okay? It's your right. It is the right of every organization. But the government which will be formed, and which will function opposite the Israelis on a daily basis ... every hour and perhaps every second, there will be contact between Palestinian ministers and Israeli ministers. And I ask - how can this government, or these ministers, not recognize their counterparts, and then solve people's problems?"

It's a good question. The simple answer is, they can't. Israel and the West must try not to let deceit and subterfuge and double speak get in the way.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.
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In Iran They Do Not Remember
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 23, 2009

I've Been thinking:

The Ayatollah Khomeini's widow died on Sunday in Iran, she was 93 years old.
She was known as The Mother of the Revolution.

The death of the Ayatollah's widow is of great import.
In 1979, the Islamic Revolution in Iran ousted the Shah of Iran.
It was then that the Iranians captured the United States Embassy in Teheran and held Americans hostage for 444 days.

This death marks another benchmark for Iran.
Public mourning for The Mother of the Revolution points our how removed the people of today's Iran are from the Iranians who lived through the 1979 Revolution.
Very few Iranians today remember either the Shah or the Ayatollah.

Never the less, the Islamic Regime will try to use the death as a way to stir up the passions and excitement of the once dynamic Islamic movement.
Their attempt will inevitably fail.
For the vast majority of Iranian, probably 80% of the population, the Revolution is synonymous with rhetoric.

The death of The Mother of the Revolution is a sign of just how far Iran has traveled since 1979.
For the West, it is a very good sign.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.
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Syria On The Record in Arabic
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 22, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem appeared on al Jazeera on Saturday.

He was there to counter a popular rumor that Syria and Israel are in the midst of a peace negotiation.

The Syrian foreign minister made his point clearly.
Moallem said, "Syria is in a state of conflict, still at war with Israel and the occupied territories."

He said: "It is natural that Syria will always act to obtain bargaining chips; this, along with its belief that peace cannot be achieved solely through diplomatic channels but also through support of the resistance. Resistance is a legitimate right of the people."

Understanding the message behind hidden in the rhetoric of these carefully worded statements is an essential tool for understanding the objectives of Arab leadership.

Pursuing peace is essential for Israel, but Israel must be aware of where that same objective falls in the priority list of Syria and other Arab countries.

Western diplomats and leaders would also benefit greatly from listening to leaders like Moallem when they speak, in Arabic, to their people.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.
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A Persian Holiday Called Nowruz
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 21, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Every once in a while I think it is important to take the time to describe, in detail, certain Islamic traditions in an attempt to understand a culture that is significantly different from and certainly foreign to, our own.

March 20 is the first day of spring, it is the vernal equinox.
Ancient culture embraced this concept. It is the time in which there are equal amounts of day and night.

Iranian culture or better yet, Persian culture, created a holiday around this day filled with tradition, ceremony and activity.
The holiday is called Nowruz and is best translated as "a new day."
This is not a Muslim holiday, it is a holiday that comes into tradition from the Zoroastrians, the dominant pre-Muslim culture in Persia.

Everyone connected with that region celebrates Nowruz.
It is a celebration of a new year, it is the beginning of spring, the beginning of life.
Spring cleaning, bonfires and parties are all celebratory events.

President Barack Obama sent a video message to the Persian people commemorating the day. The message was subtitled in Persian, sent out to select media outlets and put up on YOU TUBE.
Israel's President Shimon Peres sent his own celebratory message to the people of Iran.

Presidents Obama and Peres reached out in the spirit of the day symbolically offering their hands in peace. It was their way of asking Iran to give up the threats and the violence and to invite her to join the community of peace loving nations.

Iran did not respond seriously.
Through a spokesman the Iranians sent a message saying that if the United States is serious, they will atone for decades of offenses done to Iran. The Iranians said that they are open to change and willing to wait and see if any real change occurs.

Happy Nowruz.

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A No Go For Shalit
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 20, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

It comes as no surprise.
Israel's indirect talks with Hamas to free captive soldier Gilad Shalit have failed.

The given is that negotiating with Hamas by way of a third party almost always ends in failure.
Talks of this sort succeed when neither side expects very much.
This time, both sides wanted a lot.

Expectations were high at one point. It seemed as if a resolution was close at hand. And then, just as the negotiations approached the final stages, Hamas did what it often does. Hamas overplayed their hand and it all collapsed.

Two factors explain why Hamas' perspective became warped enough to warrant a last minute change in demands.
# 1: The end was in sight. Hamas realized that Israel could "taste" Gilad Shalit's release. That emboldened Hamas. Hamas believed that they could ask for pie in the sky because Israel wanted the release so very badly and because the end was so near.
# 2: Hamas kept tabs on the Israeli press and witnessed the public pressure that was being placed on the political leadership to come to a resolution. They became convinced that Israeli leadership would bend.

Hamas never realized that Israel had lines drawn in the sand.
Gilad Shalit remains captive, 999, 1,000, 1,001 days and counting.

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Saying No to the World Court
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 19, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Amir Moussa, the head of the Arab League, is going against the International Court of Criminal Justice.

The ICC, also known as the World Court is the court that prosecutes war criminals.
The Court issued the arrest warrant for al Bashir last week.
The warrant was issued because of al Bashir's direct and indirect role in the murder of hundreds of thousands people in Darfur.

Al Bashir was to be arrested at an Arab League Summit expected to take place in Qatar at the end of March.
Moussa has rejected the request to arrest the Sudanese leader.
The hosts of the upcoming event in Qatar have also said publicly that they will not arrest al Bashir.
This leads to a very problematic situation.

Al Bashir is going to Qatar to plead his case and to make certain that he has broad support within the Arab world.
An Arab front united against the ICC and de facto supporting genocide and mass murder is not something the World Court expected.

The West needs to start to work its magic here.
The West needs to put its own united, collective, foot down.
The West needs to demand that the Arab world comply with the decision of the World Court.
Diplomatically, all it takes is rescinding al Bashir's invite to the Summit.
That way, the League and the Qatar hosts would be neither arresting al Bashir nor blatantly rejecting the arrest warrant.
That is the art of diplomacy.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.
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OPEC & Iran Are Worried
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 18, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Iran and several other OPEC countries are worried.
They think there is too much oil out there and they want to cut back production.

Here is the fundamental problem:
Iran wants to limit production to increase the price of oil per barrel.
They want to use the oil card as a political tool.
They are also embarking on a huge natural gas campaign.

Iran intends to get as much natural gas as possible, convert it to Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) and become a world class supplier. The Iranians just signed a contact with China for $3.2 billion. China will pay Iran and China will build the LNG technology conversion and Iran will try to prove that they can be the world’s best conduit.

OPEC and others are not buying the Iranian argument.
They do not want to rock the very volatile oil market too much.
They are not altering or limiting oil production quotas because to do so would be to send the market into disarray.

The US responded to increased prices by significantly reducing consumption.
That reaction totally flabbergasted OPEC and brought about their decision not about to mess with the current market.

Let the Iranians suffer.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.
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The Palestinian Stalemate
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 17, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas and Fatah are in a deadlock.

Both Hamas and Fatah have had numerous meetings with Egypt in order to come to some sort of understanding or at least an agreement to continue to disagree.

The objective is to create a unity government of Palestinians.
The basic problem is that Hamas will not accept any compromise on Israel. They will not accept Israel's right to exist nor will they honor previous agreements. Numerous compromises were suggested.

The simplest suggestion was to simply be silent on the issue of Israel.
Fatah would agree and Hamas would be silent.
Thankfully, Hamas cannot be silent on the issue of Israel.
Any compromise on Israel's right to exist is a violation of the fundamental credo of Hamas.

So the Palestinians are at a stalemate.
The newest Truman Center poll shows that 54% to 44%, Palestinians believe that attacking Israel is okay.

For Abbas, Fatah and those promoting coexistence that is a damning set of numbers.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.
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Politics in Iran Heat Up
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 16, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

An election is scheduled to take place in Iran on June 12.
In Iran the only vote that counts is the vote cast by The Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei.

Even though Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has not declared his official candidacy, it is assumed that, based on comments and statements, The Supreme Leader will tap him for another term.

Iran's reformers are in crisis.
The reformers have 4 candidates for president.
Four candidates is a recipe for failure.
The job of the reformers is to convince The Supreme Leader that they can maintain the religious conservatism of Iran and improve Iran's dire economic conditions.

Ahmadinejad has the religious angle on his side, but he has failed on the economic track. If the reformers can make a convincing argument for economic growth they might have a chance, but not if they are fractionalized.

A possible contender to Ahmadinejad, former president and Ayatollah Muhammad Khatami, has rescinded his candidacy in order to solidify the candidacy of former Prime Minister Hussein Mousavi.
The Khatami contingent hopes that this move will prove to The Supreme Leader that they are both politically unified and politically wise and that he will bestow his vote upon them.

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Bin Laden's Plan
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 15, 2009

I'm Predicting:

On Saturday Al Jazzera aired another Osama bin Laden audio tape.
This tape was actually found on several websites and then it was broadcast.
Bin Laden's comments were, for the most part, predictable.
In this case, the message is less important than the medium.

Osama bin Laden had two important themes to disseminate to his masses.
# 1: He blasted established Arab leaders who, he says, are plotting together with the United States and the West against Arab interests.
# 2: He explained that Arab leaders are responsible for the deaths of the Palestinians who died in what he called a Holocaust in January.
Bin Laden also railed against the Arab leaders who were silent when Hamas was fighting the Zionist occupation.

Bin Laden has something up his sleeve.
For 18 months, until January 16th when he broke his silence, we did not hear a word from the leader of al Qaeda.
Perhaps, for a while, he had a safer method of sharing information.
Now, he wants to communicate with his followers, it is for them that these messages are intended, we in the West are merely eavesdropping.

This renewed frequency in releasing audio messages is a very large change in the bin Laden MO.
It is telling us something.
It could mean a significant build up in al Qaeda activity and terror.
Beware.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.
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A Centrist Coalition in Israel? Maybe
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 14, 2009

I'm Predicting:

Interesting, exciting and now no longer secret meeting have been taking place in Israel.

Likud has been in dialogue with Y'Israel Beitenu, Lieberman's party, and with right wing parties hoping to form a government. The parties have been making serious demands on the Netanyahu coalition.

Several media outlets have reported that there have also been meetings over the past two days between Likud and Kadima - but those meetings were conducted in secret. When Labor heard about the secret Kadima meetings they thought it time to jump on the band wagon and said that they will not be able to say "no" to joining that kind of coalition - a centrist coalition.

Netanyahu has received very bad feedback from the mainstream of his party about the rightwing negotiations. Now it seems that the Likud party leader is interested in moving toward the center in a three party coalition: Likud, Kadima and Labor.

The talk is that there will be an uneven rotation.
Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for 3 years and Livni will get 1+ years.
It may be a very good compromise.
It may also require that President Shimon Peres allow for an extension in the time period allotted for negotiations.
The word is that Peres was kept in the loop on these secret meetings from the very beginning.

A right wing government will not hold.
By its very nature the only way to stabilize a government is to create a moderate centrist coalition with parties slightly to the left and parties slightly to the right working together.
I think that Netanyahu has finally, through patience and perseverance and good party politics, come up with a workable plan for governing Israel.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.
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Unity Among Palestinians?
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 13, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Mention US foreign policy and Hamas in the same sentence and I see red flags waving.

Red Flag # 1: Senator John Kerry visits Damascus, Syria and announces that the Syrians can play a role in uniting Hamas and Fatah.

The Syrians back Hamas, the Syrians are in cahoots with Hamas, the Syrians rely on Hamas.

Red Flag # 2: Last week's Donors' Conference in Egypt where the US pledged $900 million in aid to Gaza and the West Bank (300 million for Gaza, 600 million for the West Bank). Yesterday, finally, a formal statement was released saying that the giving of the money is not an absolute given.

No money can get to Gaza without Hamas.
It is against US law to give money to a terror organization.
Hamas is a terror organization.
There is no way to give money that money without benefiting the terrorists.

Red Flag # 3: Now the Obama administration has said that should the Palestinians establish a unity government between Hamas and Fatah that does not meet a basic standard (i.e., recognizing Israel as a minimum) then the Administration will have to rethink their stance on the aid.

Hamas will not and cannot accept Israel.
The question is if Hamas and Fatah can agree to disagree and still form a unity government. If that happens, they will loose Western support.

I am becoming more and more skeptical of United States policy towards Hamas.

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Iran Predicts the Fall Of Capitalism
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 12, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday, Ahmadinejad announced that the downturn in the world’s economy was a sign of the fall of capitalism.

The Iranian continued his economic discourse continued by saying that the West has already witnessed the destruction of the godless socialism and will now see the fall of capitalism.
His conclusion is that the only system of government that will remain is Islamic rule.

Where Ahmadinejad is wrong is in thinking that the capital markets that he is assuming will fail because of Allah, are actually destroying his own economy. Iran is suffering miserably because of the economic downturn, most especially because of the drop in the price of oil.

Because Iran has never really invested in the infrastructure that keeps an economy solvent and allows for robust spring backs after economic downturns, Iran will take even longer to recover from their economic suffering than will Western countries.

Ahmadinejad can blame Allah for the capitalism if he so wishes but that might also mean that Allah has turned his back on the Islamic Republic called Iran.

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They Threw a Shoe at Ahmadinejad
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 11, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Remember when President Bush was attacked by a show thrower in Ira?

Well, ever since then, shoe throwers have been popping up all over.
We just haven't been hearing about them.

No one heard about the shoe thrower in Iran, the guy who threw a shoe at Ahmadinejad in Urma. The story was not even covered in the Iranian mainstream press. That's because the Iranian press is controlled by the religious leadership of Iran and they most certainly did not want the story covered.

The story was, however, released in the local Urma press one time and then it was muzzled. The people who finally got hold of the story and started spreading it around were the bloggers of Iran.

The number of bloggers in Iran is enormous and their skill is highly developed.

It is through the blogosphere that we find out what is really happening in Iran.
It is there that the alternative news gets read.
It is in the blogosphere that the real spirit of Iran lives.

Iran loved their shoe thrower, even though the shoe was only thrown at Ahmadinejad's car.

Thanks to Iranian bloggers, the thud has now been heard around the world.

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Palestinian Poll-Hamas Up
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 10, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

New Palestinian polls are out and as was predicted, Hamas is doing very well.

The outcome of a face-to-face poll of 1,270 people conducted between
March 5-7 on how they would vote if a presidential election were held today:
47% would vote for Ismael Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas
45% would vote for Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Fatah and current president of the PA.

Recent polls show that since the last poll were conducted, Hamas is gaining in popularity.
As a party, Hamas went up from 33 % from 28%.
Fatah still remains the largest party but fell in numbers from 42% to 40%.

Everyone is dwarfed by a non candidate.
Marwan Barghouti, now in an Israeli prison, would get 61% of the Palestinian vote if he were to run for president.

Hamas gained in strength in the West Bank where Fatah is in control but has diminished their strength in Gaza where they are in control.

What does this all mean?
It means that it is very dangerous for Israel and the West to continue pursuing their policy of courting Abbas.
If Palestinian elections had been held as originally scheduled on January 10th, Abbas would probably have emerged as the minority leader.

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IRAN & HAMAS: LET THEM SWEAT
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 9, 2009

Column:

Lieutenant General Omar al Bashir is a ruthless thug.

The despotic president of Sudan has spurned the world's condemnations of the mass murders perpetrated under his rule and following his direction in Darfur. The delusional al Bashir has gone so far as to, on the one hand, say that the mass murders never happened and on the other hand, to claim that he is doing everything in his power to prevent further killings.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has just drawn up papers ordering the arrest and prosecution of Omar al Bashir. The court is charging him with direct and indirect responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Darfur. Modest estimates put the death toll at 300,000 and the number of people forced from their homes at 2.7 million.

The ICC is the court of justice. The Hague is charged by the United Nations with the task of defending the oppressed and with prosecuting tyrants who persecute, terrorize and murder masses of people. Practically, the Court is problematic and it has a very uneven track record. But the principle under which it was created - that the free world should have access to an international court of justice that takes on issues of human rights, is an important one.

In the case of the people of Darfur the process has been extended, but finally, justice will be served. In corridors of power throughout the world the decision to act against al Bashir was met with great enthusiasm and expelled sighs of it's about time. In two corridors, however, news of the decision has been met with anger laced with fear.

Neither the leadership of Iran nor the leadership of Hamas is pleased to know that the leader of Sudan is to be prosecuted by The Hague.

Rather than acknowledging that justice is to be served, the Iranians publicly condemned the world court calling the action a corruption of justice and wondered how it was possible for the world court to act against Sudanese President al Bashir before it had acted against the Zionists. Similarly, Hamas announced that it was acting in solidarity with the Sudanese leader and issued a call for other true Arabs to do the same.

To prove their points, on Friday Hamas and Iranian delegations flew to Khartoum, Sudan to show their support for al Bashir.

Upon touching down at the Khartoum airport Ali Larjani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, made a strident and aggressive announcement. He termed the decision of the international court to prosecute al Bashir "an insult." In the eyes of Larijani and all of Iranian leadership, the act truly is an insult not just to al Bashir, but to all Muslims. The Hamas spokesman, Tahir Nunu, called the indictment a political ploy.

In choosing to prosecute Omar al Bashir the International Criminal Court in The Hague has violated a fundamental principle in the Muslim world. According to that principle non Muslim-authority and non-Muslim forces may not impose their standards and their values on Muslims, especially in Muslim controlled lands.

Iran and Hamas are not just being good friends and good Muslims. Iran and Hamas have their own axe to grind. Certainly, both constituencies long to see Israel in the docket, but right now, that is not their biggest worry. They fear that they will be next in line for prosecution by The Hague.

For Iran and for Hamas, this is personal. If the Sudanese leader can be arrested and brought to The Hague for trial so can they. And that is not a precedent they want to see set.

Iran is responsible for numerous terror attacks around the world. Iran sponsors terror organizations including Hezbollah and including Hamas. Hamas, obviously, is a terror organization that has perpetrated hundreds of terror attacks. They are speaking out and politicking in support of al Bashir out of pure, selfish, self interest.

What neither Iranian nor Hamas leadership realizes is how ridiculous their actions. What neither Iranian nor Hamas leadership realizes is how slowly the wheels of justice at The Hague turn. Look at the enormity of the crime perpetrated by the tyrant Omar al Bashir and then look at how long it took to draw up a warrant against him for that crime. The likelihood that they will be the next targets of ICC justice is truly, quite small.

But let that be the little secret of the freedom loving world. Let Iran and Hamas sweat a little or even a lot. It's OK, let them sweat.

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Palestinian Disarray
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 8, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Think Palestinian Authority, think upheaval.
Think Palestinian Authority, think disarray.

Palestinian Prime Minister Sallam Fayyed submitted a letter of resignation to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday.
Abbas promptly rejected the letter.

Fayyed was never elected to office, he was selected.
Abbas appointed him prime minister in 2007, right after Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is the person who had been elected to be prime minister, but after the coup Haniyeh was relegated to leading only Hamas and only from Gaza.

Ever since then Hamas has been demanding Fayyed's resignation claiming that he was not legally entitled to the position.
This is an internal debate.
The law provides an interesting view. The law does not specifically state that the president cannot dismiss the prime minister, so President Abbas dismissed Prime Minister Haniyeh.
The law does permit the president to appoint a prime minister, so President Abbas appointed Prime Minister Fayyed.

Fayyed resigned as a gesture to Hamas, hoping to entice them into a unity government.
For the United States it was a risky gesture.
The United States sent a quick message to Abbas informing him that they want Fayyed to be the person to manage the $900 million they are donating to the Palestinians. Fayyed is a former World Bank executive and knows the importance of paper trails and accountable spending.
The United States trusts Sallam Fayyed.

Think Palestinian Authority, think, what a mess.

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Durban II, The Controversy Begins
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 7, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Durban II will take place in Switzerland from April 20-25.
Durban II is intended to be a follow up to the original Durban Conference which took place in Durban, in 2001.

Israel and Canada have already said that they will not be attending Durban II.
Durban has a history of turning into one long ranting tirade against Israel. At heart, Durban is a convention of anti-Semitism. The Obama administration says that the US will not participate if the Conference resolutions are anti-Semitic.

In a very uncharacteristic move The EU announced to the UN Commission on Human Rights, the body that oversees the Durban conference, that they will not tolerate the flagrant anti-Semitism that has been permeating the resolutions.

The Dutch, Belgian and Italian ambassadors have all made it clear that they will not accept these resolutions, either.
They also said that they will not accept the idea that defaming a religion is the same as defaming people. They made it clear that religions and ideas do not have the same status as people in understanding human rights.

The religion angle stems from the Muslim world which is still smoldering about the caricatures of Mohammed that appeared in the European press.
The Muslim world wants to stop this from happening again.
If it does happen, they want the act to be labeled as an abuse of human rights.

Durban II is only around the corner and things are starting to heat up.

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Saudis Say Fight Iran
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 6, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal addressed a group of Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo, Egypt the other day.

Faisal discussed several issues - and then, he made an appeal.

The Saudi foreign minister called for Arab unity against Iran.

Prince Faisal asked the Arab leaders present to stand together and confront Iran. He said that together they could accomplish what individual countries cannot do alone, he said that Iran is one of the greatest threats to the region.

Interestingly, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was told exactly the same thing just the day before by many of Arab foreign ministers she met with.

Arab leaders are skeptical of US foreign policy in the new administration.

They are afraid that US policy will take Iran out of the dog house and put it back into the sun and that fear was alluded to by Prince Faisal in his remarks.

If Iran is permitted to regain a position of prominence Arab leadership is petrified that it will come at the expense of other Arab relations and interaction with the United States.

Faisal does not want to lose favor in the eyes of the US.

Faisal and other Arab leaders know that Iran will make special demands and will manipulate the regional point position away from Saudi Arabia.

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Hamas Rejects Donors Conference
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 5, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas has rejected the Donors' Conference that raised $5 billion for Gaza and humanitarian aid.

Hamas called the Conference an act of extortion in order to strengthen Abbas.

Here is the issue at hand:
Hamas has control over Gaza and their influence is growing.
Hamas wants international recognition.
Abbas has international recognition.

Abbas does not have control over Gaza which means that he does not have overall control of the entire Palestinian pie which is what he wants.

The crux of the issue is the dispute between the PA and Hamas.

This conflict will not simply be smoothed over.

The tensions are deeper than the West realizes, they symbolize the real inner conflicts between Palestinians.

Other differences should not be minimized, like the deep religious differences and the deep political chasms which have to do with families, power and money - but this is paramount.

Bottom line is that in Gaza, Hamas is in control.
If Hamas is not in control, it will not happen.
And Hamas was not in control of the Donors' Conference.

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Clinton in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 4, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Israel.
Clinton met with many leaders and got an earful of about Iran.
In typical Hillary fashion, she gave as good as she got.

Hillary spoke repeatedly about the Two State Solution.
It is an issue that Bibi Netanyahu has been reticent to endorse.
Because of his reticence and his inability to articulate a clear and positive stand Bibi is forcing Kadima, which takes a firm stand on the issue, out of his coalition.

Netanyahu obfuscates.
His often repeated comment is: "I think there is broad agreement inside Israel and outside that the Palestinians should have the ability to govern their lives but not to threaten ours." That is actually the quote from his Washington Post interview with Lally Weymouth.

Clinton made it repeatedly clear in the press conferences she held throughout her visit that the United States believes that establishing a Palestinian state next to secure and defensible Israel is a priority.

Clinton was articulating the thesis of the cast majority of Israelis.
So why is Bibi still sitting on the literal and figurative fence on this issue?
He does not want to alienate those of his allies who sit to the right of him.

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GIVING DOLLARS TO GAZA! AHHAA!
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 3, 2009

Column:

The official announcement was made on Monday, at the Donors' Conference held in Egypt, but the story was not news to any of the participants.

The news was leaked days before the event took place. The story splashed across newspapers throughout the country and in many parts of the Western world. The United States of America was pledging $900 million to the Palestinians.

Wow! That was the response of most of the people when they learned of the pledge. Didn't matter what side of the aisle they sat on, Republican of Democrat, pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli, Muslim, Christian or Jew. $900 million is a lot of money.

The idea of the Donors' Conference, according to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose idea it was, was to create a forum through which money would be raised to rebuild Gaza. As a result of Israel's twenty-two day operation against Hamas in Gaza, which was a response to the terror strikes and constant barrage of rockets fired into Israel by Hamas, Gaza, which was never a luxurious spot under the care of the Palestinians, is pretty much a wreck.

Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, raised an ambitious nearly $5 billion at the Conference.

Pledges came in. The United States put Fayyad at nearly one-third on the way towards his goal. Israel has already given $100 million, a modest but still significant donation. The Quartet and other European countries came out saying that they were willing to give, as well.

Now comes the first AHA moment.

Salam Fayyad is the PA prime minister of the West Bank, not of Gaza. He, along with Abbas and the rest of the PA were kicked out of Gaza, ousted in a coup, by Hamas, a year ago last summer. They may care about the plight of the Palestinians of Gaza but they have no purview over Gaza. Now, Fayyad has a wonderful personal record. It was he who revolutionized the Palestinian Authority coffers. It was he who convinced Yasser Arafat to direct deposit government salaries thereby removing the temptation from Arafat to dip his fingers into everyone else's tills as he stuffed their envelopes with cash which was his favorite way of doing business.

Fayyad cares about the people of Gaza, but he has no way of controlling, overseeing or even monitoring the flow of money. That responsibility belongs fully and solely to Hamas because Hamas is the only address in Gaza.

Here's the second AHHAA moment.

It is against United States law to give money to Hamas. It is against United States law to transfer money to support terror. The US State Department considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization.

Congress, the governing body that set up these laws, will not be happy if money finds its way into the hands of terrorists. But how can it not? Nothing comes into or goes out of Gaza without some of it accidentally falling off a truck and going directly into the hands of Hamas. Nothing. Hamas totally controls Gaza. The Palestinian Authority has no police, no soldiers, no authority and no clout in Gaza. Unless Congress finds a way around Hamas, that $900 million will be going to Hamas. By dividing the allocation and announcing that they are giving $300 million to humanitarian relief in Gaza and the other $600 million to the PA for reconstruction Congress thinks they have found the way.

And now, the third AHHHAAA moment.

The Arab League, which also pledged money to Gaza at the Donors' Conference, has not yet fulfilled an earlier pledge to help out the people of Gaza. In January the Arab League obligated itself to a donation of $1 billion. That pledge, that obligation, has not yet been met.

As recently as last week, the Arab League explained that they could not deliver on the money while stability and unity between the Palestinians was unclear. In other words, the Arab League is uncertain. The Arab League is afraid that their money will fall into the wrong hands. And who understands the dynamics of Hamas leadership if not the Arab League?

Here comes the fourth AHHHHAAAA moment.

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OPEC Says No To Iran
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 2, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is again taking it on the chin again.
This time they are getting it from the Sunnis in the region.

According to a report issued on Sunday by IRNA, the Islamic Republic News Agency, Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hussein Nozari has been informed that OPEC has rejected Iran's appeal to limit oil production.
This is bad news for Iran because they cannot manage with the current prices and need to limit output in order to increase the price per barrel.

OPEC has even sent out a message saying that at their March meeting, limiting oil output will not even be up for discussion.

There are reasons for their decision.
The first reason is that everyone in OPEC wants the price to increase, but if a limit is set there is an incentive to violate it and make more money. Countries will cheat and that will challenge the very objective of the cartel.

The second reason is Shiite versus Sunni tensions.
Iran is Shiite, the rest of OPEC is Sunni and they want to apply pressure and ultimately pain to the Shiite leaders of Iran.

We must neither forget nor minimize the role of internal issues in the Muslim world. More often than not, these internal issues are the most significant motivational forces in the region.

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