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Conflict within Palestinians
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 1, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Nearly 2000 delegates from all over the world are descending on Bethlehem for a conference.
It is the first Fatah conference to be held in 20 years and it will convene on Tuesday.
It is very likely that the future leadership of Fatah and the future of the Palestinian political movement will be determined by the participants at this conference.

Israel has granted visas for almost all the Fatah delegates from Gaza to attend. Hamas, however, will not let these Fatah members leave Gaza.
There is an inner conflict going on between Palestinian factions and Hamas wants to sabotage the Fatah convention.
Many of the 500 Gaza delegates are smuggling themselves out, some dress as women others are dressed to look like religious clergy.

The Gaza border has several check points.
The first checkpoint is Hamas controlled.
100 yards further is controlled by Fatah, they radio the Israelis giving advance details of the people crossing into Israel.
The next 100 yards is called "no man's land" and then comes the Israeli crossing.

Hamas is imprisoning Fatah Palestinians. They will let no one out until 900 of their prisoners are released from Fatah jails.
We hear about how Israel is turning Gaza into a virtual prison and about all the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Here we have another perfect example of the inner Palestinian conflict.

Inner conflict is the norm for Palestinians.

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

Muslims Seek Refuge in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 31, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Sudan and Eritrea are Muslim countries.
Israel is a Jewish state.
Every day about 500-600 illegal immigrants Sudan and Eritrea enter Israel.
They cross over from Egypt into Israel.

These refugees leave their Muslim homes, sneak across dangerous borders into other Muslim countries and then illegally smuggle themselves into Israel.
These refugees trek through deserts so that they can escape to the democratic, Zionist, safe haven.

Israel wants to keep these illegal refugees out of the central part of Israel, but Israel is not murdering them as is often done in the countries they pass through and the countries they called home.
None of the people entering Israel can return home and so they are legally categorized as refugees.

Figure it out.
They are Muslims who grow up and live in countries that are rabidly anti-Israel and anti-Zionist and yet, each day, hundreds of them are willing to risk their lives by leaving their homes and smuggling themselves into the Jewish state.

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

Non Stop Visitors to Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 30, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Jerusalem looked like it had a revolving door policy this week as a series of very high level US officials came dropping by and then headed off.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited to talk about Iran.
US Presidential Special Envoy George Mitchell talked about the Palestinians and about Iranian nuclear threats.

Now visiting Jerusalem is National Security Adviser James Jones and his 15 member team to talk further about Iran and the Palestinians.
The national security adviser's team includes Dennis Ross and William Burns.
This is what we call "piling on."

In my entire career I do not remember a week so full of US dignitaries in Israel.
They came to Jerusalem with two objectives in mind.
# 1: to make certain that Israel does not attack Iran on its own
# 2: to underscore the Administration's stand on no natural growth in the settlements

What Washington does not understand is that they are trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. It doesn't matter how many people come to Jerusalem, the Israelis will not be convinced that the United States can control Iran.

Actually, it's the opposite. The more people the US sends, the more obvious it becomes just how powerless the US really is against Iran.
If the United States had control over Iran, the United States would be putting the squeeze on Iran, not on Israel.

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

By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 29, 2009


The young people of Gaza are no different than young people anywhere. They just live under a different set of rules.

Gaza has been under Hamas rule ever since June 2007, when Fatah, the Palestinian ruling party, was booted out in a brutal coup. In several subsequent massacres, Hamas has continued killing off Fatah members living in Gaza.

Summertime in Gaza presents it own unique form of torture. On a normal day the temperatures reach 105 - 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The only reprieve from the sweltering heat in dusty, over crowded Gaza is the beach and the water spouts. Everyone, religious Muslims and secular Muslims, flock to the Gaza beaches in the early evening searching for cool Mediterranean breezes and wet, refreshing waves.

That behavior is about to change. Hamas has begun a religious coercion ritual and initiated a "campaign of virtue." Hamas wants the people of Gaza to live Muslim style lives. One of the most obvious ways of judging that lifestyle is through outward dress and appearance and one of the most obvious places to determine whether or not that behavior is religiously observed is on the beach.

I travel often. I speak at colleges and universities around the country. I lecture to varied communities throughout North America. Periodically, self-described Hamas supporters attend my campus lectures.

The first time this happened I was thrown off balance - but just for a quick second. Then it became clear to me, it made sense. It was not that these students were actively pro-Hamas, they were vehemently anti-Israel.

Most of my potential hecklers have no idea what Hamas really stands for, no knowledge of Hamas' principles or ideology. All they know is that Hamas preaches the ruination and total destruction of Israel, and for them, that is enough. Once I figured it out, it became easy for me to talk to these students and to address them directly. I know what Hamas stands for. And I know that Hamas is very oppressive towards other Palestinians.

I also know that Hamas is first and foremost an extremist religious movement. Only after that is Hamas a terrorist movement. Internal Palestinian politics trump external issues every time. And this is the prefect case scenario.

Hamas wants people to dress modestly and will without hesitation arrest those who violate the law. Hamas' understanding of their position of political authority is directly linked to Iran. In this case, the fact that Iran's religious authority is Shiite and Hamas' religious authority is Sunni makes no difference. Hamas wants to exert that same power and control over their people as Iranian religious leadership exerts over theirs.

Iran has a set of modesty laws that also kick into high gear in the summer, the time when people shed their clothing and with them their political and religious inhibitions. In Iran people are arrested for violating the code and their families are hauled off to jail. In Gaza the virtue police have limited their actions to intimidation, public beatings and humiliations.

Hamas has already demanded that female lawyers wear scarves in court. They have demanded that female mannequins be totally covered. Now they demand that all women be covered up on the beach. Single men and women are forbidden to cohort on the beach.

For good measure Hamas is also demanding that on the beach, men wear shirts. A lifeguard was told by plainclothes security to dress more Islamic and instructed to wear a shirt and have knee length pants. A young man on the beach was emphatically told to remove his rings and his bracelet because they were Western and under Hamas, all Western styles and influences are shunned.

Gaza is gearing up for a culture clash. These are issues that arise annually, but much more so this year as Hamas police patrol the beaches and enforce the new, stricter rules. As the heat builds and the beach becomes more of a magnet, tensions and tempers overheat. Anyone who knows young people knows that today's youth march to a very different cadence than do adults and that rules are meant to be broken.

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

Busy Meetings in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 28, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Not only was President Obama's Special Envoy George Mitchell in Israel yesterday, but so was US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Israel's political leadership is often so busy meeting foreign dignitaries and world Jewish leaders that it is a true modern day miracle that they have time left over to deal with their own issues and lead the country.

Gates finished up in Jerusalem and hopped over to Amman, Jordan to talk about Israel and Iran.
The secretary of defense told the Jordanians that Israel and the UN are, more or less, on the same page.
Gates made it clear that the Obama administration is not toying with Iran and if Iran balks at the US overtures there will increased sanctions against Iran.

The only problem with Gates' approach is that it wastes a great deal of time.
The process of reinventing the wheel and realizing that Iran's behaviors have nothing to do with United States policy towards them and everything to do with the fact that they choose to be that way has set back a serious program and taken away the momentum that had gathered before Obama stepped into office.

European diplomats are frustrated with the United States’ very strange approach to Iran. Europeans hope that Obama learns his lessons quickly - before the United States looses all credibility on all issues Iranian.

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

Things are Happening in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 27, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Two very important events took place in Egypt yesterday.
You will probably not read about them in the world press, but each event has significant implications for the region.

# 1: At the request of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, George Mitchell, Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, moved up his scheduled trip to the region. Rather than arriving on Tuesday, he arrived on Sunday.
It seems that there are important issues at stake between Hamas and the PA, issues that cannot wait.
Mitchell arrived in Egypt via Syria and will be meeting in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday and Tuesday.

# 2: A special Egyptian security court dedicated to terror and espionage charged 26 people with joining a Hezbollah plot to blow up ships as they passed through the Suez Canal.
Had the plot not been thwarted, the entire Egyptian economy would have been destroyed. Egypt knows that Iran and Hezbollah were together in plotting these potentially devastating attacks.

All of this bears watching.
Careful watching.

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

Facebook Takes Down Hamas Site
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 26, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Facebook broke one of its own long standing, ironclad rules and took down a page because of its content.

Facebook took down Ismail Haniyah's page.
Haniyah is the Hamas Prime Minister in charge of Gaza.
Haniyah's page had 10,000 members.

According to the report in the Arabic newspaper Al Hayat, members were given no reason for the page coming down, but assumed the page was taken down because of Israeli and US pressure. They assumed the same pressure will probably be applied to other Palestinian sites, especially to the Facebook page of Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal. Hamas is a terror organization.

Since it inception Facebook has maintained that they own the content and that they do not edit or stand in the way of anyone's First Amendment right to freely express themselves - even if the content is offensive.

Facebook and vehicles like Facebook spread information and galvanize ideas.
This change is dramatic.

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

Friday Sermon in Iran Makes Demands on Ahmadinejad
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 25, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

This week's major Friday sermon in Teheran was delivered by The Ayatollah Sayid Mohammed Khatami.
Khatami, who was president of Iran from 1997-2005, took the opportunity to criticize Ahmadinejad and tell him that he should fire his 1st deputy vice president Rahim Mashaie.

Khatami made his point because The Supreme Leader, The Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, wants him to - and conformity to religious authority is a central part of Iranian politics.

It is important to know that before Mousavi became a serious presidential candidate, the chief reformist candidate was Khatami.
Khatami choose to step out of the running so as not to split the vote.
And now, once again, Khatami is in keeping in line with the party/political/religious line, adhering to the political and religious authority of The Supreme Leader.
That is the way things are in Iran.

It is interesting and perhaps even ironic to note that Ahmadinejad is trying to carve out some independence for himself and for his position. We saw some of this toward the end of his previous tenure.
Ahmadinejad is trying to create a political counter balance to The Supreme Leader.
But there is no place for that independence in Iranian politics and Ahmadinejad will soon be slapped back into place.

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

Israel's Anti Nuke Test Fails
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 24, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

The Arrow II is Israel's answer to Iran's nuclear weapons program.
Yesterday the Arrow II failed to engage three times when it was tested off the coast of California.

The United States sent up a fake Shabbab missile.
The missile was a weapon that mimics Iran's best nuclear technology.
Everyone waited for the Israeli secret weapon to launch and strike down the attacking ordinance. And waited.

The Arrow detected the missile, but did not launch to destroy it.
Why? Because all the variables were not met.
The system that failed is supposed to prevent a misfire - when a computer shoots down a commercial airline jet.

The Iranians must be in 7th heaven.
Analysts and decision makers in Iran have to be elated.
Now Iran has no realistic check against their nuclear development.
Now the situation for Israel is bad, very bad.

Israel now knows that it has absolutely no significant tool to threaten Iran.
That means the balance sheet that had Israel able to stave off Iran is nowhere close to accurate.

That means the West is in real trouble and that Israel is on the front line.

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

Catch -22 Fatah Conference
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 23, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

On August 4th Fatah will hold a convention in the city of Bethlehem.
This will be the first Fatah Convention since Arafat's death - actually, there have been no Fatah conventions in over a decade.

A big, bold line will be drawn dividing those Fatah members who support the Fatah run Palestinian Authority government that recognizes Israel- and the reset of Fatah.
Mohammed Dahlan made the point very clear on Palestinian TV.
Rafik al-Natsheh, a senior Fatah official seconded the motion saying that Fatah will not recognize Israel.
He said:
"We will maintain the resistance option in all its forms and we will not recognize Israel" ... "Not only don't we demand that anyone recognize Israel, we don't recognize Israel ourselves. However, the Palestinian Authority government is required to do it, or else it will not be able to serve the Palestinian people."

Al Natsheh is explaining the catch-22 by which the Fatah government must live.
Because the PA government needs international support, they must recognize Israel.
But, he is also pointing out that non-governmental Fatah is not obligated in the same way - they are neither required to recognize Israel nor to give up the resistance against Israel.
And we all know that resistance is just a euphemism for terror.

This conference opens the door on an entirely new set of issues for the US and Israel. I am not certain that the White house will be briefed on the importance of nuance in Middle East politics and language.
In many ways, on Pennsylvania Avenue, ignorance is bliss.

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

Jakarta Terror
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 22, 2009


Americans tend to think of terror as a snake. Slithering, scaly, poisonous, deadly. The analogy works, but only if you think of terror not as a dangerous python or a venomous cobra, it works if you think of terror as the hydra - the many headed serpent from Greek mythology. The monster that was slain by the Greek god Hercules, the monster that grew back two heads each time one was chopped off.

When two luxurious hotels in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, were devastated by a suicide bombing, the CIA was caught off guard. The double bombing of the Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels that killed nine people and wounded over sixty was a clear attack on Western targets. The organizers were clearly members of Jama Islamiya, a splinter organization off al Qaeda. Even before JI publicly claimed responsibility for the attack it was easy to determine that they were the perpetrators, all the indications were there - and not just because this same Marriot hotel was hit in 2003 by this same group, killing twelve people.

Jama Islamiya functions as an off shoot of al Qaeda. Jama Islamiya operatives are trained by al Qaeda. Jama Islamiya members and supporters pledge allegiance to al Qaeda. And the CIA had assumed that JI was defunct.

The CIA assumed that this al Qaeda terrorist arm was no longer in operation. One CIA source even said that Jama Islamiya came out of the grave to hit these two hotels. In a classic mistake of Western allegiance, because the group had been silent, because the proverbial head of the snake had once been removed, the CIA thought the group to be dead. They thought cobra, they should always be thinking hydra.

Cutting off the head - in this case either arresting or killing many JI leaders, undoubtedly did slow down the organization, but it did not kill it. It allowed Jama Islamiya to morph and to grow and to evolve all while under the radar of Western intelligence. Western intelligence, in an act of benign neglect brought on by ignorance and self aggrandizement in essence helped Jama Islamiya carry out this devastating act of terror.

As vivid and romantic and compelling as visions of modern day security operative Sir Galahads killing the snake may be, only Hercules can slay the hydra. Killing and arresting terrorist leaders is the easy part, ridding Indonesia of terror is the difficult part, eradicating terror is a constant battle.

What is also so fascinating about the recent attack is that a significant dimension of the story and the motivation of the terrorists was not played out in American media.

Luxury hotels are obvious targets, Western travelers enjoy luxury hotels around the world. Indonesia is the most populated Muslim country in the world. Indonesia is therefore the perfect place for extremists to ply their trade. But we in the United States live in a bubble and see the world only through our own eyes.

This attack was intended to cause a bigger bang for the terrorist world than it actually did cause. What was missing from media coverage of the bombing was the information that the famed Manchester United team was scheduled to be staying at the Ritz Hotel, there to play against the national team of Indonesia. Manchester United is one of the greatest teams in the soccer world and soccer greatly eclipses all other team sports everywhere in the world outside the United States.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world follow soccer, hundreds of millions. There's more. Manchester United is owned by an American Jew, a businessman named Malcolm Glazer.

Terrorists attack symbols. These terrorists aimed at but missed out on striking two very recognizable symbols - Jewish business and beloved world sports. For the terrorists and terrorist supporters, it was dumb luck that they missed these targets. The rest of the world is grateful.

The world is becoming inured to acts of terror and that is very dangerous. First word of this attack came as reports on twitter. One tweet actually described how, after the attack, people continued to meet and eat in cafes near the site and that scares me.

This attack in Jakarta, perpetrated by Jama Islamiya is an important lesson in the study of terrorist activities. If the security apparatus pays attention it will learn a lot about the bio-rhythm of al Qaeda and al Qaeda splinter groups. The hydra rests, the hydra does not sleep.

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

Tensions in Southern Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 21, 2009

I'm Predicting:

Tensions are so thick in Southern Lebanon, they are palpable.
The division between those who support Hezbollah - and everyone else, is enormous.

There have been clashes between villagers and the UN.
An arms depot filled with Hezbollah's weapons exploded last week.
UN headquarters was shot at.
And a group of 15 civilians crossed into Israel carrying Hezbollah flags.

Every night Israel flies over Southern Lebanon.
They fly over in order to gather intel and to make sure that every single crack and crevice is reachable by the Israeli air force.
The Israeli army is taking the situation in Southern Lebanon very seriously.
The UN has called for a serious reduction in tensions and saber rattling.

I do not foresee a war within the next two weeks.
I think that there will probably be cross border skirmishes and perhaps even a low level strike into Israel or a few rockets fired into Israel from Lebanon.

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

Swiss Embrace Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 20, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

For some time now, under the guise of impartiality, Switzerland has hidden a very biased agenda.
On Sunday, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy Rey revealed that bias.

The Swiss foreign minister put it bluntly: "Hamas is a major player in the Middle East and cannot be ignored."
And let us not forget that only a few months ago Switzerland invited and gave a warm welcome to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Swiss claim that their diplomatic behavior is impartial.
What the Swiss are really doing is embracing these negative forces and lending them credibility.
By engaging with Hamas and by speaking to them diplomatically, the same way they would speak to any other country, Switzerland raises Hamas from the status of terror organization to the status of "major player."

The Swiss are not interested in being impartial.
The Swiss are interested in advancing their agenda.
The Swiss agenda is in reality anti-establishment, anti-West and anti-United States.

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

All or Nothing Can't Work
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 19, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Diplomacy is all about compromise.
The "all or nothing" variety of diplomacy rarely leads to success.
On the contrary, it leads to a breakdown in communication and the end of dialogue.

Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador in Washington, was summoned to a meeting with State Dept. officials over the weekend.
Oren was there because plans are underway to turn the Shepherd hotel in East Jerusalem, located only a few yards away from Israel's National Police Headquarters, into housing units.
Arab demands on settlements are not new, but they are to be viewed as opening positions for negotiations, not as absolutes.

The hotel was bought legally and publicly.
The plans were passed by the City Council.
The location is Jerusalem, albeit East Jerusalem.
East Jerusalem is not a settlement, it was annexed in 1967 after the Six Day War.

The Israeli Ambassador explained it all but to know avail.
For the Obama Administration, like for the Arab world, no building means no building. When Oren insisted that Jerusalem, Israel's capital, is different the State Department repeated their stance, "no means no", and "no", Jerusalem is not different.

Absolutes are deeply problematic stances.
Absolutes refuse to consider nuance.
Nuance has been the foundation of many agreements in the modern Middle East.

Saying "no" to the Shepherd Hotel project might win points for the Administration in the Arab world. But if the real objective is to advance a peace initiative this absolute demand will cause the failure of Obama's "glorious peace plan."

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

Barenboim and Cohen are Cancelled in Ramallah
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 18, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Leonard Cohen and Daniel Barenboim are music legends.
They are also political activists.

Both Cohen and Barenboim believe in Israel's right to exist and they both support the creation of a Palestinian state.
Both had scheduled events in Ramallah and both cancelled their events.
They cancelled because local Palestinian authorities refused to acknowledge that these two Jews could, at the same time, give credence to Israel and support the Palestinian cause - because they are advocates of dialogue between Palestinian and Israelis.

Palestinian leadership snuffed out the cultural performances of two of the greatest musical personalities of the 21st century.
For Palestinian leadership it was a question of all or nothing, with no room for compromise.
Leonard Cohen and Daniel Barenboim, musical geniuses, chose not to go to Ramallah because they feared for their lives.

There is little hope for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians when the Palestinians refuse to recognize someone because he recognizes Israel.

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

Friday In Iran
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 17, 2009

I'm Predicting:

Friday is the day of rest for Islam. It is the day on which a special set of prayers is recited in mosques around the world.
Friday is the day that the Imam, the Muslim preacher, sermonizes.

Iranians are looking forward to this Friday's sermon.
This is the first Friday since the election that Hussein Mir Mousavi will come to prayers.
On this Friday the sermon will be delivered by Rafsanjani, at Teheran University and broadcast live on TV and radio throughout Iran and the Shiite world.

Expectations are high ... but I am not expecting anything too earth shattering. Students who protested the election results have demanded that Rafsanjani "break his silence by defending the values of the revolution and clearing up the speculation surrounding him."
Students often shout in support and against the sermon and I certainly expect to hear those voices today.
These students and their public demand is particularly telling.

Western coverage had us believe that Rafsanjani was a supporter of the protesters - but he was not. His daughters publicly supported Mousavi, but Rafsanjani was a fence sitter and that is a far cry from a supporter.

Rafsanjani is a bitter rival of Ahmadinejad and has a very tense relationship with the Supreme Leader Khamenei.
In his sermon Rafsanjani must ask Muslims to remain calm, he must praise the power of Islamic law.
Rafsanjani does not have the political clout to oust The Supreme Leader, he should not attempt to use this pulpit to attain greater political aims.

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

Iran Egypt Relations Thawing
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 16, 2009

I'm Predicting:

In a very unusual diplomatic move for the Middle East, the foreign ministers of Iran and Egypt met three times this week.
I call that a serious thawing of diplomatic relations.

The Egyptian ambassador to Iran was withdrawn when, following the assassination of Anwar Sadat, the Iranians renamed a central square memorializing the assassin.
Since then relations have been, at best, rocky.

Egypt believes that Iran sponsors the unrest that Hezbollah plans to unleash on Egypt.
But when foreign ministers continue to meet and meet for three days in a single week it means that they are dangerously close to resolving something.

I predict that there will be an Iranian announcement about newly emerging diplomatic and economic relations between Egypt and Iran.
I predict that within a few weeks, Egypt and Iran will be working together.

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

By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 15, 2009


The world has become so focused on Iran that we have neglected to pay attention to what is happening in Iraq. That was a mistake. Without our taking any notice, a religious expulsion has been taking place in Iraq. The Christians of Iraq are being murdered, displaced and disgraced.

Twelve years ago, under the reign of Saddam Hussein, about 1.4 million Christians lived in Iraq. Six years later, in 2003, the year the United States entered Iraq, that number dropped to 800,000. Today, another six years later, the German Catholic Relief Organization Kirche puts the number of Christians living in Iraq at 400,000 - 500,000.

Where have the Christians of Iraq gone? They have been decimated, fallen victim to a campaign that systematically intimidates, persecutes and even executes Christians. The plan, instituted by Islamic extremists, forces Iraq's Christian population out of certain neighborhoods, towns, cities and ultimately, out of Iraq.

In attacks against these non-Muslim residents of Iraq the Armenian Church was leveled and the home of the Chaldean Archbishop was bombed. After attacks on Christian-owned businesses the business owners were brutally killed and offered as examples to what can and will happen to other Christian practitioners.

This past week, several Christian churches came under attack. In one incident, a church in Baghdad was bombed moments after completing a religious rite. Several worshippers were killed as they were leaving Sunday Mass. On April 14th, in the town of Mosul, an ancient place once heavily populated by Christians and now almost completely vacated, a Christian father and his family were executed by Muslim extremists. Vehicles have been banned near all churches in the nearby towns of Tilkaif and Hamdaniyah in an attempt to prevent car bombings. These acts of intimidation are having the desired effect.

Christians in Iraq are fearful of retaliation and rightfully so -local Iraqi police are believed to be complicit in these acts. To be fair, the police have taken some actions and even issued precautions during large marches and Muslim memorials in order to protect the Christian minority, but, like in Tilkaif and Hamdaniyah, those moves are more cosmetic than convincing.

Iraq must learn to self-govern and we in the West have taken upon ourselves the responsibility of teaching Iraqis to govern. One lesson we have forgotten, however, is to teach Iraqis that the principle of protecting minority rights is not merely a lofty ideal, it is an obligation, it is one of the building blocks of a society.

The Christian community in Iraq has a long and wondrous history dating back centuries. So did the Jewish community. Once upon a time centuries ago Iraq had a culture that understood minorities and allowed them to flourish. Today, there are no Jews left in Iraq. We cannot let the Christians of Iraq suffer that same fate.

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

Jews Meet with Obama
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 14, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Representatives and leaders of 15 American Jewish organizations met with President Barack Obama on Monday.
The meeting was convened in the hope of quelling the tensions that continue to surge between Jewish communal leadership in the United States and the Administration about Israel - principally about the issue of settlements.

When asked by the Jewish leaders to tone down the disagreement in public, President Obama refused. The president said it was a failed tactic during the Bush Administration and that he must speak bluntly and honestly to Israel.

Obama added that Israel must do some "serious self reflection."
That is a polite and patronizing way of saying we know better and you should search your soul and come to the same conclusion to which we have come.
Obama suggested that brutal honesty reflects American Jewry's perspective on the issue.

When the conversation came around to Iran the president said he was open to dialogue with the Iranians and that the "door was open." He used the same metaphor at the G-8 when he said "they have to decide to walk through it."

Before the meeting concluded Barack Obama described himself as a "true friend."
The direction of Israeli US diplomacy has not really moved forward as a result of this meeting, but at least the president was willing to grant the group a meeting.

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

Abbas Is Over Playing His Hand
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 13, 2009

I'm Predicitng:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced yesterday that there could be no discussions with Israel without a complete end to all settlement activity.

Abbas is not speaking figuratively.
He means not even a single nail or a single nursery school - nada, nothing.
This is a big issue for Abbas, it is something he is insistent upon, something he has articulated to the Obama administration and that the administration bought into.

The wrinkle in Abbas' proclamation is that the White House has come to realize that not adding a single nail is not a very reasonable rationale. This new realization by the US probably comes as a result of the Israeli PM's acceptance of a two state solution.
The US administration is frustrated that the Arab world is not joining the team and recognizing Israel.

Abbas knows his demand is impossible.
He holds on to it as a precondition to even begin a dialogue.
He is hoping that mounting international pressure will force the US and Israel to recognize a Palestinian State.

My prediction: Abbas has overplayed his hand, watch for some fancy footwork by the PA leader.

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

PR Stunt or Stonewalling Peace
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 12, 2009

I'm Predicting:

It is no surprise that the Israeli Prime Minister's invite to meet PA President Mahmoud Abbas was declared a PR stunt by Palestinian advisers.
While it is true that Netanyahu is an unlikely candidate to pursue peace, history has shown that only the Israeli right has the mandate and political power to achieve peace.

Maybe Netanyahu is playing a PR game of his own.
But why should that disturb Palestinian leadership?
Netanyahu has already declared his support for two states.

It disturbs Palestinians because for the first time in a long time, they have been outmaneuvered.
Now the Palestinians are actually lobbying Arab world leadership not to accept the US request to begin normalizing relations with Israel.
Palestinian leadership wants more concession from Israel and more pressure brought on Israel without giving up anything on their side.

If Palestinians were really interested in peace they would be reacting differently.
We will see more of this bobbing and weaving from the PA.

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

Obama and Ghadaffi?
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 11, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

The Unites States quelled the more severe sanctions against Iran that Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi proposed at the G-8 Summit.
That went just as I had predicted.

There is something else, however, about the G-8 that disturbs me.
Something that has gotten almost no press in the United States.

President Obama shook hands with Libyan dictator Muammar Ghadaffi.
And then Obama sat almost next to Ghadaffi at dinner, separated only by Berlusconi.

Ghadaffi has been the dictator of Libya for four decades, ever since 1969.
Ghadaffi has never met a US president - and there is a reason for that.
Yes, Ghadaffi met Condi Rice when she was secretary of state, but secretary of state is not president and that was done as part of the thawing of diplomatic relations.

Those relations are still in the thawing process - they are not warm and not yet at the stage where leaders should act as if they are friends.
There is a vast diplomatic chasm between thawing relations and warm relations.
There is a time and a place for first meeting and hand shakes.
Those formalities should be orchestrated based on behavior, diplomatic necessities and priorities.

The President of the United States should not have been so friendly and so close to the Libyan thug.
For more on Ghadaffi, look him up in my book THUGS.

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

New Turkish TV Show
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 10, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

A Turkish TV Station has really pushed the envelope.

Turkey is a Muslim country, it is also a democracy.

There are natural and understandable tensions between Islamic and secular leadership in Turkey.

Kanal TV is developing a reality show called "Penitents Compete."

On the show a Priest, an Imam, a Rabbi and a Monk all compete to convince a non-believer to convert to their religion.

The practicalities are proving to be a little complicated.
The Turkish Ministry of Religion has thus far refused to provide an Imam.

The producers are interviewing and scrutinizing potential participants.
They need make certain the participants are actually secular and not just trying to get the money or prove that their religion is best.

The concept is brilliant.

The result should prove very interesting.

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

Saudis Say Yes To Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 9, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

The Sunday Times of London reported that Israel has secured permission from Saudi Arabia to fly over Saudi airspace if and when it was necessary to attack Iran.
The office of the Israeli Prime Minister denies this agreement.

Such an accommodation should not be a secret.
This plan has been in the works for a long time.
A year ago there were serious and reliable rumors that Israeli fighter aircraft were on the ground in Saudi air-force bases so that Israeli pilots could orient themselves to the Saudi terrain.

The most recent report asserts that the chief of Israel's Mossad, Meir Dagan, came to a very clear agreement with Saudi leadership about flying over Saudi Arabia.

This is significant not only diplomatically, but also practically and militarily.
If Israel uses Saudi airspace to attack Iran they do not need permission from the United States and they do not need US flight codes.
Israel would only need to fly south and quickly east into Saudi Arabia, across the Persian Gulf and into Iran.

Permission for Israel to use Saudi air space alleviates potential pressure that the US could apply on Israel not to act against Iran.

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

Israel's Nuclear Subs
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 8, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has three nuclear submarines and several others on order.
The subs are Dolphin types made in German and specially "redesigned and refitted" for Israeli specifications.

"Redesigned and refitted" is a euphemism for making the tubes larger to accommodate nuclear missiles.

A dolphin sub recently participated in a drill in the Red Sea and docked in the Israeli port city of Eilat.

That was very unusual - the whereabouts of Dolphins are top secret, but this one was deliberately on display for anyone who cared to look.

Displaying the sub was such a tremendous change in policy that Muslim countries sat up and took notice.

The sub went through the Suez Canal which required advance permission from Egypt and meant that the nuclear sub was un-submerged.

Never before had an Arab country, knowingly, been so close to an Israeli nuclear submarine.

The real message was directed at Iran.

Iran needs to know that Israeli subs are real and ready to enter the battle arena. Iran needs to know that Israeli subs have range and have both conventional and non conventional tools for battle.

Israel wanted Iran to see their submarine.

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

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 7, 2009


In 1979 a revolution took place in Iran. Thirty years later, in 2009, although many people expected and even hoped for a revolution, the movement never took off.

Let me explain why. The revolution that took place in Iran in 1979, the revolution that overthrew and ousted the Shah from power and placed the Ayatollah Khomeini in power, was religiously based. In 1979 a theocratic state was instituted in Iran and that state is called, to this day, the Islamic Republic.

Without the backing of the clergy, a revolution has no chance of even happening, let alone being successful, in Iran. And in the post-election frenzy that possessed Iran the clergy was conspicuously absent. The mosques were silent, religious leadership was mum.

Iran's clergy had no respect for the Shah of Iran. He disgusted them, he repulsed them. The Shah of Iran was the symbolic representation of everything that was wrong with Iran from the point of view of the religious leadership. Religious loyalty was with an Ayatollah, a dynamic personality and persuasive speaker who was living in Paris - the Ayatollah Khomeini. This Ayatollah was a religious leader who spoke directly to the masses and as a person, he was held in the highest regard by every single Shiite Muslim cleric.

The clergy in Iran today is pleased with their position and with their influence. Over time the Ayatollah Khomeini was replaced by the Ayatollah Khamenei. While the change may be significant for many segments of the population in Iran and worldwide this change is insignificant for Iran's clergy.

The mosques and the Imams were not fomenting a post-election revolt. Very few clergy took a stand in favor of revolt and those who did were seen as political figures rather than religious leaders. Even those clergy who opposed a revolt were seen as political but viewed kindly and as part of the establishment which carries very different currency in Iran.

No one in the religious sphere wanted to oust the religious leadership. No one set their cross hairs on the Grand Ayatollah.

Although he was a protege of the Ayatollah Khomeini, Mir Hussein Mousavi was not worthy of the fight. He may have charisma, but Mousavi does not have the following. He does not have the religious credentials, Mousavi is a former politician, he is a poet and an architect. The clergy of Iran are not about to jeopardize their future for the man who would replace not the Ayatollah, but merely Ahmadinejad, the president.

One of the truly greatest insights and quotes of the Shah of Iran, made famous by Salman Rushdie, was: My biggest mistake was that I stopped paying the clergy. When I paid them they did what I asked. As soon as I stopped they ran to the opposition.

Religion and business run hand in hand in Iran. Without one, the other's power is diminished. And just as Iran's religious leadership was prominently absent from the 2009 revolution that wasn't, so too were Iran's merchants absent. Pivotal to the success of the 1979 Khomeini revolt was the backing of the merchant class.

Iran is a merchant-run society and the merchant class is far more significant and carries much more clout than do students or doctors or lawyers. Professionals and intellectuals have their place in Iran, but the movers and shakers are the merchants.

By definition Iranian merchants tend to be conservative. They have strong values and are motivated by business and family. Although the reformers advocated for a leadership that was more economically responsible it was a message that did not resonate with the merchant class.

The merchants were not convinced. And without merchants you have a movement with no financial backing.

No religious backing, no support from the merchant class and a move to overthrow not the religious leader but merely his mouthpiece, the president. That is not a recipe for success. And the Ayatollah understood it from the outset.

That understanding underscores why The Supreme Leader deliberately ordered the police to be very precise and to exercise restraint. Had too much blood been spilled the ire of the masses, the concern of the clergy and the pockets of the merchants might have tipped the balance and turned passionate demonstrating into true revolution. The Ayatollah would have none of that.

And that explains why the Iranian revolution of 1979 did not repeat itself in 2009.

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

Bad Guys Aim for July 4th
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 6, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

July 4th took place on a Saturday this year.
That proved problematic for haters of the United States.
Attacking over the week-end receives very little bang for the buck when it comes to news coverage.

Those people plotting to destroy America found a resolution to their problem
They rounded off the date.
They chose the week of July 4th, rather than the day.

That explains why the North Koreans launched their test missiles on the Saturday of the long weekend - so that it would get proper coverage.
They did not do enough research, however, because Friday and Saturday was part of the long weekend so they really only got partial coverage.

That explains why a McDonalds was blown up in downtown Athens, Greece over the weekend.
The attack was in the business district and clearly an anti-American move.
There was significant damage but no deaths.
The attack was probably perpetrated by far left extremists in Greece.

The lesson here is that for those who despise America, significant dates are obvious targets.
It is essential that we remember that these haters will round off the dates to make it easier for themselves and to maximize the newsworthiness of their attack.

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

July 4th Messages from Syria
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 5, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

President Barack Obama received a telegram from President Bashar Assad of Syria on Friday July 3rd.
It was a celebratory telegram wishing Obama a happy Independence Day.

A copy of the text was published in the Syrian press on Friday.
The text of this telegram was completely out of character with the characterizations of the United States usually printed in Syrian national newspapers.

Assad not only wished the president of the United States a happy holiday but lathered on serious compliments that are most out of character for the for Syrian President. Assad went so far as to refer to Obama as a president who has the values the world needs today.

Assad is playing a very new and different game.
It is a very positive game and a very unpredictable one.
It is easier to predict what Syria will do when Syria always says "no" and every so often means "yes."
It is much harder to predict Syria when the say "yes" and really mean "no."

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

US Will Stop G-8 Sanctions on Iran
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 4, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

A G-8 Summit meeting will take place next week in Europe.
This will be a hot one with a discussion on Iran occupying a central spot on the agenda.

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi will propose increasing sanctions against Iran.
The Europeans are particularly peeved at Iran since the aftermath of the June 12th election there.
The big news is that it looks like the United States will block Italy's sanction move.

Strange, but true. Here's why:
The natural allies of Iran in the G-8 are China and Russia.
China and Russia can sometimes be convinced that Iran needs to be sent a message to improve and/or change.
But China and Russia will never budge if the United Sates is in their court.

This move by the United States is part of the new foreign policy agenda that the United States is putting into action toward Iran and the Middle East.

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

Hamas Plots Hit on Abbas
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 3, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinian Authority arrested several more Hamas members today.
This was the follow up to a group of arrests from last week.
This is not politics, these are real arrests.

Hamas was plotting to assassinate Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.
They had plans to attack PA institutions.
They had an entire hit list of people to eliminate.

Abbas made reference to it all in an interview over the weekend on European TV.
Hamas leadership denies the plots.
Those who were arrested have confessed.
They say the motivation for the hits was to scuttle the PA/Hamas agreements that were in the works in Egypt.

One question remains: are the attempted assassinations enough to ruin the relationship.

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

African Summit
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 2, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

The 13th African Union Summit convened yesterday in Libya.

Gathered together are the leaders of many African countries and special invitees like Chavez of Venezuela.
The host of the Summit, Libya's Muammar Ghadaffi, is also the head of the African Summit.

Several notable invitees and members will not attend.
Berlusconi of Italy will not attend.
Mubarak of Egypt will not attend.
Ahmadinejad of Iran will not attend.

Topics to be discussed include: coups, global warming, drought and the environment, civil wars and the world economic downturn.

I want to see how these leaders approach several issues: the recent elections in Iran, Obama's new attitude to the Muslim world and the Palestinian/Israel peace initiative.

I am watching the proceedings very closely.
I am curious, very curious.

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

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