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US Will Continue Talks with Iran
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 1, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Iran's "preliminary response," as it is being called by the IAEA in Geneva, is as creative a move as it is effective.
It pitches to Iranian strengths - biding for time and delaying action by the West.

The United States has yet to respond to the Iranian non-response response.
That's because the US cannot count on either Russia or China to help support new and stricter sanctions against Iran.
As a result, the US has no alternative but to push ahead with negotiations.

Iran knows that there is almost nothing that the West can do to stop their move to develop nuclear technology.
Iranian media is filled with statements about Iranian officials demanding the right to import uranium.

Once again, the West has been blindsides by Iran.
The West hopes that, eventually, Iran will capitulate and accept Western demands.
But that is highly unlikely.
In the meantime, Iran will continue to deftly rig the negotiations in their own favor.

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

Iran's Nuke Games
By Micah Halpern

Saturday October 31, 2009

I'm Predicting:

On Thursday Iran gave a message to the IAEA in Geneva.
The message was Iran's response to the proposal presented them by the Security Council and Germany and the IAEA about nuclear development.

On Thursday the Iranian press touted the response as a subtle counter proposal showcasing how Iran is in the driver's seat during these negotiations.
On Friday disdainful reactions to Iran's counter proposal were sent out.
The IAEA was hopeful, yet disappointed.
Western leadership made it known that Iran had neither appropriately nor adequately answered the original proposal.

So on Friday Iran released another counter response to counter their original counter proposal. Iran said that their message to the IAEA was just that - a message, not an official response.
France then demanded an official response.
Iran said they would deliver one.

The Iranian news is filled with the drama.
From the Iranian point of view, Iran is leading the world around by the nose.

I predict that this exchange will go on and on and in the end, Iran will get almost everything they want and originally requested.

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

By Micah Halpern

Friday October 30, 2009


Once upon a time, there were many super powers. There was China, Russia and the Untied States. There was Great Britain, France and Germany. Now there is one super power. Iran.

We are not quite there yet, but we are pretty close.

Iran has successfully blind sided, out maneuvered and trumped not only the permanent members of the Security Council but also the rest of the United Nations, most of the Western world and the International Atomic Energy Agency. And none of them saw it happening and most of them still don't realize it has happened.

Just look at Iran's response to the draft agreement proposed to them regarding nuclear development. The countries offering the proposal - the UN Security Council members, truly believed they were handing Iran a dream package. They took a proposal originally initiated by Iran, re-wrapped it and handed it back on a silver platter.

According to this new/old proposal, Iran would send 75% of its uranium to France and Russia to be enriched. The uranium would be returned and Iran would use it for the purposes of cancer research conducted at a nuclear facility originally built by the United States. That uranium would be enriched at the low levels of 5%-8%. This deal would, at the same time, insure that Iran retains the right to develop nuclear technology and prevent the Iranians from increasing enrichment to the higher levels required to create a nuclear weapon.

The ultimate objective of the proposal was to gain time. The West would continue negotiations with Iran and if lucky, keep the discussion on-going for a year. In that year, hopefully, Iran would be prevailed upon to keep their nuclear program in the experimental scientific stages and Israel would become convinced that Iran is not a threat. The clock would slow down, pressure would be relieved, Israel would take the option of a military strike off the table for a while and the world would be a safer place all around.

And Iran turned down the proposal.

Not only did Iran turn down the proposal, but Iran turned it down a week after deadline. Iran was instructed to respond to the proposal by last Friday. They responded the following Thursday, following their own timetable and asserting their independence.

The Iranians know that they are in control. They know that they will survive sanctions and they laugh in the face of censure. Iran considers itself to be not an equal among nations, but a superior nation - and that is exactly how they conduct the business of diplomacy and the art of negotiations.

Iran has a counter proposal to the draft agreement that was put before them, an opening salvo to what will inevitably be a long series of negotiations during which Iran will probably, ultimately, receive most of if not everything Iranian leadership wants.

Iran countered by suggesting that the 75% of the uranium they are to send to France and Russia come out in stages, that they retain the ability to enrich uranium and that they have the right to import enriched uranium as they see fit. It is certainly an interesting counter proposal and not only because it flies in the face of pre-existing UN resolutions which forbid the exportation of nuclear materials to Iran. But, then again, Iran always labeled those resolutions illegal.

A large part of the world holds the United Nations in high esteem. Iran does not. A large part of the world either fears or respects the United States. Iran does neither. Iran knows how important it is not to draw Israel into an air strike, but they will handle that. And Iran has already figured out the problem of sanctions against them by instating a new monthly limit of 50 liters of gasoline per driver and by lining up gas imports from Venezuela and China.

It is time for world leaders to take Iran seriously. Otherwise, this story will not have a happy ending.

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

Mrs. Clinton Visits Morocco
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 29, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will arrive in Israel on Saturday night.
On Sunday morning she will meet with Israeli leaders and then with Palestinian leaders.

George Mitchell, President Obama's special envoy, will arrive on Friday in advance of the secretary of state in order to test the winds and pave the way for Clinton who hopes to jumpstart negotiations.

Before coming to Israel Clinton will visit other countries in the region.
In Morocco she will meet with a group of Arab leaders and try to gauge exactly how disappointed and angry the Arab world is with the new US administration.
These leaders will be telling her about their frustrations with the US approach to Iran and with the softening attitude the United States has adopted towards Israeli settlement activity.

Prepare yourself Madam Secretary of State, you are in for a real tongue lashing.

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

Bahrain Passes Anti Israel Law
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 28, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

On Tuesday the parliament of the tiny and very, very rich Gulf country Bahrain passed legislation making it illegal to engage in any interaction with Israel.

Any talking or any travel would be punished.
According to a member of Bahrain's parliament: "Whoever holds any communication or official talks with Israeli officials or travels to Israel will face a fine ... and/or a jail sentence of three to five years."
He further explained that this legislation was instituted in order to stop the normalization of ties with Israel: "The motivation is that steps are being taken by certain countries to allow certain talks to be held with Israeli officials. Israeli delegates have managed to participate in events in Arab countries with no treaties with Israel."

Bahrain passed this law even as the Obama administration is exerting pressure on Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel.
The parliament of Bahrain has no real power, but his move is indicative of the mood of the people - and the people of Bahrain resent that their leadership is leaning to the West.

In July, on the OPED page of the Washington Post, Bahrain's Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa explained how Arabs needed to reach out to Israelis directly.
And in that same month five Bahraini diplomats visited Israel.

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

US Citizens Support Strike on Iran
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 27, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

The Anti Defamation League released the results of their newest survey of Americans yesterday.

The study is worthy of note.
57% of the respondents viewed an Israeli air strike against Iran in order to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons favorably.
This new set of numbers shows the continuation of a trend that supports an Israeli defensive strike against Iran.

The increasing threat by Iran is not the result of a media blitz or a political lobby.
The movement to support Israel is a natural outgrowth of Iran's taunting of the international community, it is a natural reaction to the strident arrogance of Iran.

It seems that Americans have the feeling that the United States will not act against Iran but that Israel must strike if threatened.
US leadership is beginning to look at that these results very carefully.

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

Egypt Finds 2 Tunnels
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 26, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Egyptian security forces announced yesterday that they discovered and destroyed two tunnels used for smuggling materials into Gaza.

The Egyptians have finally begun to take this situation very seriously.
They know that Hamas is acting against Egyptian national interests.
They know that Hamas is unpredictable.
They know that Hamas uses these tunnels as a way to strengthen their forces and their cause.

For a long time Egypt deliberately turned a blind eye to the smuggling and to the building of the tunnels. Israel would discover a tunnel and blow it up. A flume of smoke would explode out of the other end o f the tunnel on the Egyptian side. More than once that other end of the tunnel was in an Egyptian army camp.

Shutting down the tunnels puts pressure on Hamas.
It sends a message that says Egypt cannot be disrespected.
For a long time Egypt was naive about Hamas, assuming they were working in the best interests of the Palestinians.
Egypt now understands Hamas. Egpyt does not appreciate what Hamas is really up to.

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

Saudis Convict Journalist to 60 Lashes
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 25, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

A Saudi Arabian woman has been sentenced by a Saudi Arabian court to 60 lashes.

Rozanna al Yami is the first Saudi woman journalist ever to be sentenced.
Her crime is helping produce and advertise a movie that aired on the internet and on satellite TV in Lebanon.
The movie was about a man who discussed - with words only, sexual activity.

Al Yami was convicted of licensious behavior.
The Saudi man was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and 1000 lashes.

In Islam, the person administering the lashes places a book under his arm in order to limit the range of motion and thereby lessening the pain of the lashes.

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

New PA Elections
By Micah Halpern

Saturday October 24, 2009

I'm Predicting:

There is conflict on the Palestinian horizon.

Yesterday Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah, called for new Palestinian elections.
The elections will be for president and for the parliament.
They will take place exactly 3 months from the date of the announcement, on January 24, 2010.

The last time Palestinian elections were held was in January of 2006, four years earlier, almost to the date. Hamas won the parliamentary majority with 76 out of 132 seats and was able to take the prime ministry. In the end Abbas, rejected Hamas because they would not accept the 3 basic rules laid out by the Quartet.
Hamas and Fatah are still and again fighting and the fighting will intensify and Hamas is calling the upcoming elections illegal.

Abbas is in a lose-lose situation.
His popularity and the party's popularity are dropping quickly. He has given himself three months to get back in everyone's good graces.
Hamas may boycott the elections.
They will boycott to demonstrate that Abbas is the leader of only part of the Palestinians Authority.

Hamas just might win the election again.
And this time, they may even win the presidency.

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

By Micah Halpern

Friday, October 23, 2009


The Goldstone Report fails on moral and legal grounds. I'll explain.

The Report's conclusion can be summed up in a few short words: Israel and Hamas should both be censored for crimes against civilians. Eleven words. It took Goldstone and his cohorts 875 pages to get there. Most of those pages were filled with harsh, damning critique of Israel and a carefully crafted attempt to create a sense of fairness - equating Israeli actions with those of Hamas.

The actions taken by Israel and the actions of Hamas are not equal and the same. Hamas is a terrorist operation fighting a terrorist campaign. Hamas leaders might be politicians, but they are first and foremost terrorist guerillas. Israel is a democracy, a country that wages war in order to provide a safe home for Israeli citizens. The Israeli army conducts wartime campaigns in a manner that is consistent with accepted military doctrine, it is an army that values the lives of soldiers and citizens alike - including the lives of civilians living among the enemy.

There are always mistakes made during wars. There are always situations that could have been handled better, or differently. There are always people who violate moral precepts. It happens in every war. But in the Israeli military they are isolated incidents and isolated individuals. The Goldstone Report portrays the opposite.

For better and for worse, Israel has always been held to a higher standard than her neighbors and the region and even to other democratic nations. Israel holds herself to a high and strict moral standard with a code of engagement that is written down and taught. That standard has evolved as times have changed and is evolving now, accommodating for new tools of war and changing methods of war. It is precisely because the Goldstone Report also holds Israel to that higher standard.

Mistakes that happened during the course of Operation Cast Lead must be acknowledged and corrected. The people responsible for those mistakes must be held accountable and responsibility should flow along the chain of command. Punishments should be meted out where required and restitution provided where appropriate.

That is not where the Goldstone erred.

The Goldstone Report erred because, if accepted as the Golden Standard for the Proper Practice of Warfare, it will become nearly impossible for the democratic world to fight the world of terror. And terror is the new face of war. Terror tactics have been insinuated into the tactics of conventional warfare and terror has its own set of laws and by laws, rules and permissible acts. And that is why the Goldstone Report will not win the vote of the Security Council, why China and Russia will vote against the Goldstone Report and why, by default, the Goldstone Report will not become a tool to indict Israel for war crimes in The Hague.

Russia and China understand how wars are now being fought. So does Israel. Goldstone does not.

And the Goldstone Report erred because the document does not differentiate between a defensive military operation and an offensive military action. It glosses over this vital distinction in a few paragraphs and focuses on only one element of the internationally accepted norms of warfare. It focuses on the military imperative to prevent civilian populations from becoming victims. And then it chastises Israel repeatedly for not doing enough to prevent injuries and deaths in the civilian Palestinian population. But it does not place adequate responsibility with Hamas for using human shields in order to better fight Israel. It does not chastise Hamas for hiding among civilian populations and for not wearing uniforms. Instead, it blames Israeli troops for using human shields.

In this war, in this defensive war, Israel's obligations shifted. Israel's objective was to eliminate the threat to Israeli citizens. During Operation Cast Lead that meant finding Hamas fighters and caches of Hamas' weapons and neutralizing them - and they were found among civilian populations, Palestinian populations.

The problems of fighting in the densely populated urban environment in which Hamas was hiding, commanding and fighting from behind civilians, was not dealt with in the Goldstone Report. That a moral obligation shifts in a defensive war when one party is hiding unidentified and uniformed behind innocent civilians was not dealt with in the Goldstone Report. That the moral obligation falls on the fighters who are hiding, in this case Hamas, was not dealt with in the Goldstone Report. But it is in international law. According to international law Hamas - not Israel - is morally and legally responsible for the deaths of civilians as Israel went in pursuit of Hamas fighters.

International law and morality warrant that an army does its most to prevent injury to civilians. And international law and morality recognize that Israel met those obligations by sending text messages in Arabic to the cell phones of the Palestinians in the areas being targeted and dropping leaflets written in Arabic in those areas.

War is different today than it was in the 1864 when Henri Dumont initiated the Geneva Conventions. Hamas and other terrorist organizations are responsible for many of those differences.

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

Erekat's Expectations & Demands
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 22, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is in Washington.
Erekat arrived on Tuesday and has been making the rounds in talks. He has met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser James Jones and Presidential Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.

Erekat made Palestinian expectations vis a vis the Israelis crystal clear in an interview he gave the official Palestinian newspaper al-Ayam.
Erekat listed three items:
# 1: No more settlement activity of any kind
# 2: No interim agreements or short term resolutions - final status talks only
# 3: These talks must conclude with the establishment of a Palestinian State

Erekat did not use the catch phrase "preconditions for negotiations."
Instead he used the euphemism "explicit Israeli commitments that they must meet."
Given the White House's recent dropping of the term "precondition" regarding the freezing of settlements, it is difficult to gauge US reaction to these "demands."

In Middle East diplomacy there is often a public strong stance and a much more reasonable behind-closed-doors private stance.
In the end, it becomes a diplomatic balancing act.
We will see what happens here.

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

Abbas-Hamas Conflict
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 21, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Abbas wants Hamas to come under his control.

The Palestinian president announced that he will call for elections this week if Hamas does not sign the reconciliation agreement that Egypt has brokered between Fatah and Hamas. The elections would be held on January 24, 2010.

Abbas would be committing Palestinian political suicide to call for elections now.

# 1: The Egyptian agreement is more favorable to Hamas than to Fatah.
The agreement allows Hamas access and lends them respectability with the West Bank. It calls for communication and mutuality between the groups. The mutuality would be in the form of communication and police. It treats Hamas as partners in governance and policing.

# 2: An election will undoubtedly help Hamas more than Abbas.
Hamas already has a majority in the Parliament and has already earned the Prime Ministry even if Abbas did take it away from them after the Hamas/Fatah break-up. There is even a distinct possibility that Hamas would unseat Abbas as president.

# 3: If Abbas does hold elections and if Hamas chooses not to participate, that weakens Abbas even further. Abbas would be seen as president of the West Bank only.

Hamas is anti-democratic and it is unlikely that they will permit elections.
There is only one possible scenario in which Hamas would permit elections in Gaza - if they are convinced of a Hamas electoral sweep in both the West Bank and Gaza which would give them a majority in parliament plus the presidency.

And that just might happen.

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

Abbas Failed
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 20, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Mahmoud Abbas is dropping in popularity.
The drop is consistent.
He cannot bring his numbers up.

According to this week's JMCC survey of 1200 Palestinians, if a presidential election were to be held now, Abbas would not emerge the winner.

The election would be too close to call between Abbas and the Hamas candidate, Ismael Haniyah.

In the West Bank, Abbas's numbers have toppled to 12% from 18%.

Haniyah is at 14.2%.

The change in voting preference happened since JMCC’s last survey in June.

These results are extremely telling.

The rise of Hamas' popularity in the West Bank is a damning condemnation to Fatah and Abbas' leadership.

It makes sense in Gaza where Hamas is in charge, but when the West Bank sees the oppression of Hamas in Gaza and still prefers Hamas to Fatah that signals a serious synapse.

The only way to maintain Fatah power will be through force and Abbas does not have the personal character to apply military pressure to put Hamas back in its place.

We are witnessing the self destruction of Fatah and the rise of Hamas - all under Abbas' watch.

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

Egypt is Frustrated With Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 19, 2009

I'm Predicting:

Today on al Arabia, the most watched Arabic TV station in the World -with a viewership even larger than al Jazeera - the spokesman for Egypt's Foreign Ministry lambasted Hamas.

Hussam Zaki said that Egypt had successfully negotiated a deal between Fatah and Hamas that was to be signed last week - and now Hamas wants an extension.
Hamas is upset that Fatah did not immediately embrace the Goldstone Report and they are standing on that principle.

Egypt is quickly losing patience.
Egypt now realizes that reconciling Hamas and Fatah is nor in anyone’s best interest. Giving credit where credit is due, the United States was instrumental in bringing Egypt to that realization.

Egypt now realizes that Hamas is a serious liability and, even without Hamas' foot dragging, they will be drop the entire notion of a deal very soon.

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

The Ayatollah Still Lives
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 18, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Rumors that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is either dead or suffered a stroke and is in a coma have been circulating for about a week.

Iranian internet was going wild with the rumors.
Analysts had no idea of what to think.

This was not the first time rumors like this were sent out.
They were wrong then and they are wrong now.
On Saturday pictures of The Ayatollah, attending an event, were released to the media.

The internet is very useful in Iran - but the resources are irresponsible and unreliable.
This lesson about Iran's internet should have been hammered home during the election when much of the material released on the internet was so exaggerated it was better termed fiction.
Some lessons are never learned.

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

Germany Helping Iran Smuggle Ammo
By Micah Halpern

I'm Predicting:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

US soldiers, on patrol in the Persian Gulf, conducted a random search of a vessel owned, registered and operated by Germans - and discovered that the ship was carrying weapons.
The ship has been brought to Malta where it was unloaded and where the weapons are now stored.

The weapons came from Iran.
The weapons were en route to Syria.
The weapons would have been delivered to both Syria and to Hezbollah.

This is a clear violation of UN agreements that prohibit Iran from importing or exporting weapons.
It is also a violation of UN agreements that prohibit arming Hezbollah.

The vessel was packed with 7.62 mm bullets.
These bullets can only be used with Kalashnikov machine guns.
Kalashnikov machine guns are the weapon of choice for Hezbollah.

The entire event was a huge embarrassment for Germany.
Extraordinary reportage in Der Speigel brought the story to light.
Knowing German law and knowing the German government, I am confident that all those connected to this vessel will be held accountable for doing business with the enemy.

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

Turkey Arrest Terrorists
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 16, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Turkey arrested 32 al Qaeda terrorists in multiple, simultaneous, raids across the country yesterday. The word is that there were 8 raids all together - but there could very well have been more.

The terrorists were charged with a long list of crimes including planning to attack NATO, the United States and Israeli targets.

Some of the terrorists were also charged with participating in a series of terror attacks that rocked Turkey in 2003 - attacks on two Turkish synagogues, an HSBC bank and the British Consulate.

Seven people have already been tried for the 2003 terrorist attacks, but clearly, the net is very large and it seems that Turkey is actively pursuing more of these terrorists and hopes to bring them all to justice.

These raids and these arrests are vitally important.

It is important that we understand how very many al Qaeda terrorists are actively pursuing their agendas in Turkey.

It is important to know that Turkey is in hot pursuit, that Turkey is working hard to prevent future terror attacks.

Turkey deserves to be commended.

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

By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 15, 2000


Western democracies were pleased.

Mainstream Muslim Arab countries, countries described as non anti-Western, were coalescing and creating a free flowing block against the extremists in their midst. The movement was gathering momentum and would have inevitably pushed to destroy the more radical groups and states in the region. Even Iran would have been pressured into toning down the Shiite radical views that define Iranian culture and impact upon weaker countries in the Arab world.

The result would be a defacto easing of tensions in the region, the long sought after recognition of Israel and a gracious acceptance of United States involvement in Arab and Muslim affairs in the region

It was happening, it was happening - and then it stopped. And Middle East analysts and Israeli security experts have no idea why.

In an unexpected turn of events, the less extreme states of the Middle East are creating obstacles that serve to further distance them - rather than bring them closer - from the West and from Israel. The newly created alliances between the states is taking once moderate Muslim Arab countries and bringing them in line with radical and extremist points of view.

External manifestations of this shift are obvious and alarming. Turkey, a long standing pro-Western country, has befriended Syria, a breeding ground for extremism and terror. Saudi Arabia, a significant voice in the moderate, pro-West camp has made diplomatic forays into Syria. And Egypt, the big brother of the Middle East has brokered an agreement to unite warring Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.

Internally, the shift has far reaching ramifications. Efforts are being made to alienate anyone who may have been open to friendly relations with Israel. A respected Egyptian magazine editor, an academic and ground breaking thinker named Hala Mustafa, is being kicked out of the national journalist association of Egypt because she met with the Israeli ambassador to Egypt. Ironically, the ambassador's name is Silvan Shalom - a name easily understood by the Arab world, a name that the Arab world would spell sallam.

Diplomats in the United States sense that the tide is turning away from them. George Mitchell, President Obama's Special Envoy to the Middle East, made his dissatisfaction with the current tone in the Middle East known to his Egyptian counterparts. He told them in no uncertain terms that the United States never envisioned nor intended for there to be reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas was to be brought under control and minimized - not embraced and incorporated into the Palestinian government.

And nuanced thinkers in Israel are uncertain as to the reasons for this shift. Some will blame the Goldstone Report for condemning Israeli actions and for tarnishing Israel's military and humanitarian image. Others will lay blame with Operation Cast Lead. But even those excuses are not enough to warrant a shift of this nature.

The reason behind this massive shift away from the West - and embracing radical extremism is as far away as is possible, is the disappointment and frustration and resentment that the Muslim world feels towards the new American president. The Muslim world feels jilted by Obama. When Barack Hussein Obama took office the Muslim world had high hopes and immediate expectations. Those hopes and expectations remain unfulfilled.

The fact that the president of the United States has not put Israel in its place and has provided only lip service in support of the Palestinian cause has led many in the Arab world who had once been eager to adopt Western ways to instead swallow the Iran/Hamas/Hezbollah mantra that the new president is the same as the old president, he just has a different name.

The mainstream Muslim Arab world was hoping for something new and better. The hope they had felt has turned to betrayal. The Western world had better prepare for turbulent times.

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

Strange New Friends
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 14, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

A new alliance has been created in the Middle East.
The ramifications are important and almost no one is taking notice.

Syria and Turkey signed a series of agreements that will bring them much closer.
They agreed that they will no longer need visas to cross their mutual borders.

Syria and Turkey also announced a sophisticated set of joint military maneuvers.
And then Turkey cancelled long planned military maneuvers with Israel.

This alliance does not signal a sudden change.
Turkey has been slowly moving in this direction.
Turkey is seen as pro-Western with a very traditional Islamic bent.
Syria is one of the serious bad guys of the region.

The alliance between these two neighbors is anything but normal.
Syria is the big winner, Turkey gets the best neighbor award.
There is a hitch:
Syria does not have lasting relationships that do not involve terror and exploitation. Turkey is trying to build a real economy and create real relationships.

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

Algeria Boycotts Israel
By Micah Halpern

October 13, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Algeria has been trying to buy arms from France for the past year.
The deal was almost complete, but it fell through at the last moment.

France refused to divulge the country of origin of all the components that went into the deal. Algeria wanted to make certain that no Israeli parts were in the systems they were buying. France would not bend. So the deal went sour.

The details of the deal were described in the Algerian paper el Khabar. A high level source in the Algerian Defense Ministry said that a contract of this sort is not new for Algeria. He said his country added the same clause when they were buying helicopters from Britain and buying battleships from Italy.

Algeria is the third largest military spender in the region when it comes to outfitting an army.

Algeria throws around a lot of money.
Algeria is boycotting Israel.

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

Iran Threatens The West
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 12, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a bold declaration on Iranian state TV yesterday. He warned the West that the Oct 19th meeting had better be productive and not be a Western ploy to institute more sanctions against Iran.

He said: "The October 19 meeting is a test for fruitful cooperation {with the West} in the future."
"Failure of the meeting and imposing sanctions on Iran would hurt the West more than Iran."

Iran is making it very clear that this is a serious game.
Iran is coming to discuss issues of world nuclear supervision and how important it is to widen the self-appointed policing group.
Iran wants to be part of the group.
Iran has no interest in taking responsibility or debating their rights to nuclear development.

It behooves the West to realize in advance of this meeting that Iran and the West see the situation very differently.
If the West misreads this opportunity, the possibility of a backlash is great.

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

Invest in Hamas?
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 11, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Bloomberg News ran a spectacular piece explaining the investment risk of building smuggling tunnels in Gaza.

The tunnels are used to smuggle weapons, explosives, people and even livestock from Egypt into Gaza.
The Hamas government has promised 10% per month on investments. Remarkably, Hamas pays the dividends to investors - with only one exception.

If the tunnel is destroyed, Hamas does not pay.
That's a problem because Israel and Egypt have become very successful at destroying tunnels.
In response, Hamas has guaranteed 16.5% back if the tunnel is destroyed.

Pretty remarkable, right?
Well, not if you're an investor.
Investors are demanding all their money back if the tunnels are destroyed - they want a no risk investment.
According to the Bloomberg piece, 4000 people invested huge sums of money. One real estate broker named Sharub invested a half million dollars and now he wants it back.

As the saying goes, the greater the risk the greater the return.
But sometimes an investment is too good to be true.
In this case, investing in Hamas is a risk too good to be true.

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

No More Veils in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Saturday October 10, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Egypt is in the midst of a major conflict between the modern world and the traditional world.
That's not just conjecture, it is the claim made by Ali Gomaa the Grand Mufti of Egypt in an OPED published in Thursday's Wall Street Journal.

And then Sheik Azhar Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, one of the most important Sheiks of Egypt, has also issued a new Islamic law, a fatwa, that forbids female students in state schools from wearing the veil known in Arabic as a niqab.

It is all a direct response to the rise of the Taliban.
The Taliban are influencing the entire Islamic world.
That influence is most clearly seen in the niqab, the facial veil that is becoming more and more prominent on Arab streets.

When he entered a classroom the Grand Sheik noticed a girl wearing a niqab.
He shouted at her and said "Niqab has nothing to do with Islam. I know about religion better than you and your parents."
He spoke the truth.

There is no clear Muslim obligation to wear the niqab.
There is no real significant international Islamic leader who has called on women to wear them.
Wearing the veil is an outgrowth of the tribal period before Mohammed.

There is a real conflict in Egypt.
It is a manifestation of the conflict within Islam.

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By Micah Halpern

Friday October 9, 2009


Iran, under the leadership of The Grand Ayatollah Khamenei and the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has successfully managed to outwit, outsmart and outmaneuver the Western world in both the diplomatic and military arenas.

Western democracies have obsessed over Iran's embracing of nuclear technology and race towards nuclear capability. And yet, Iran has managed to progress towards their nuclear goal unencumbered by international dictates and convention. Iran has built nuclear facilities, purchased nuclear materials and fooled nuclear inspectors and will soon be capable of making a nuclear bomb.

Iran has done it all by flying under international radar.

But Iran is not only flying under the radar, Iran is also, and very successfully, flying above the radar.

Iran is doing much more than breaking into the nuclear club. This week Iran announced that they will launch another missile, a different type of missile - a missile designed for space. Iran is engaged in a race that is bigger and more significant than the nuclear race. Iran has been racing towards "the final frontier" and all the while, the Western world has remained ignorant of their very calculated moves and the long term implications.

If successful, Iran will be able to use their missiles launched in space, aka satellites, for military intelligence. They will be able to control their weapons systems from miles up above the earth. If successful, the Iranians will be major players in space and they will be totally unhindered in their quest for international control.

Iran is making plans to launch this missile and then another missile into space within the next six months. According to Mohammed Ibrahimi, the head of Iran's Department of Space Exploration, "The Kavoshgar-3 missile will be launched into space by the end of the Persian year (which ends on March 20th) for the purpose of research." The Kavoshgar-3 is the new version of the Kavoshgar-2, the space rocket that Iran launched in December of 2008 during their last effort to enter space.

It is neither coincidental nor serendipitous that Iran is racing towards supremacy in both the nuclear and space arenas at the same time. The overlap between the space and nuclear programs is fundamental.

There is one stumbling block that has encumbered Iran's nuclear program. Even more difficult than enriching uranium is the ability to successfully deliver nuclear warheads - and that is exactly where the space program and the nuclear program overlap. A successful space program will facilitate a successful delivery system.

The same long range missile technology that will send a rocket into space will be the technology that Iran uses to deliver a nuclear warhead to Israel or to any other Western target around the world.

The race began in 1998 when Iran began research into the Shabbab-4. Ostensibly, the rocket was to be used to attack Israel but over the past eleven years Shabbab-4 plans were scrapped and all energies were focused on the Shabbab-3, a better, faster, longer missile with much better controls. The Kavoshgar is an outgrowth of that program.

The Iranian race towards supremacy in space is as big a story as is their race towards nuclear capability - and just as scary and as foreboding. But no red flags have been waving, no statements of condemnation have been issued and no investigations have been conducted.

The Western world has fallen asleep, The Grand Ayatollah and the Iranian president are wide awake and racing ahead.

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Egypt Nixes the Louvre
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 8, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Egypt has officially severed all ties with the Louvre in Paris.

The Louvre is one of the greatest museums in the world. It houses some of the greatest artifacts of Western civilization. Some of those artifacts were discovered in Egypt and then taken to Paris.

Egypt wants the artifacts back.
The museum pieces were never loaned to the Louvre, they were booty taken to bolster France's colonial empire. They were expropriated during a period in history when Empires established colonies around the world and then proceeded to exploit the citizens and the natural resources - including historical and archeological sites.

In Egypt, France expropriated great national treasures and brought them back for display in their world class museum, making it an even greater and more famous museum.

The Louvre has responded. The official response is that the museum not against returning the national treasures to Egypt, but there is a bureaucratic process to follow.

Egypt has ratcheted up the pressure.
They are getting nowhere going the bureaucratic route.

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Libya Demands Investigation
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 7, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Libya's representative in the United Nations has appealed to the Security Council to have a special meeting to discuss the Goldstone Report.

The request was made to the Vietnamese ambassador. Vietnam holds the rotating chair of the Security Council. Vietnam has confirmed that Libya made the request.

This is just the beginning.

Even though it has been rejected by the United States, Israel and the Palestinians the Goldstone Report has taken on a life of its own. Like so many other fact finding reports that are short on facts and heavy on slanted perspective, once they are part of the public record they are used and abused.

It does not matter what Abbas or Obama or Netanyahu think.
What does matter is how other countries - like Libya, embrace the Report and how they run with it, and then, how the US counters.

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Watch Syria
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 6, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

One of the ways to understand what is happening in the Middle East is to watch who is meeting whom in the Middle East.

This week Syria is the focus of my attention.

This week the King of Saudi Arabia will be visiting Syria.
This is the first visit by the Monarch since the assassination of Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri in 2005. Saudi Arabia believes that Syria is responsible for much of what happens in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia believes that Syria interferes and foments internal strife in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia believes that the ultimate objective of Syria is empowering Shiites.

As far as Syria is concerned, Saudi Arabia can provide Syria the access they crave to get back into the mainstream Arab world.
As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, this visit will be an attempt to bring Syria closer to the Western way of thinking.

At the same time that the Saudi leader was invited to Syria, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was dis-invited by Syria. The Syrians gave no reason for dis-sing Abbas. But you can bet that the Palestinian leader was un-invited because Syria is angry that Abbas is no longer backing the Goldstone Report. Syria is a huge supporter of Hamas.

Syria is telegraphing their thoughts to the Arab world by way of their official invite list.

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PA Rejects Goldstone Report
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 5, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinians have withdrawn their support for the Goldstone Report.

The Report, which condemned Israel in their recent battle against Hamas, clearly states that Israel acted outside the guidelines of international law.
So why did Mahmoud Abbas give the order to reject the report?
Palestinians are asking the same question and have established a committee to discuss the direction they should take in response.

The most important reason for Palestinian rejection of the Goldstone Report is pressure from the US, especially from Hillary Clinton.
The Americans have made it very clear that embracing the Report will make it very difficult to move forward with Israel. It will make it impossible for Israel to feel that they can defend themselves.
More than that, Fatah knows that Hamas is growing in strength - and beating down Hamas is an essential part of their future plan.

But there's a problem:
By withdrawing support for the Goldstone Report it appears as if Abbas has turned his back on Palestinians in Gaza. Palestinians on the street are asking if Abbas has sold his soul and his people to accommodate the United States which is simply defending the Israelis.

Israel is capable of weathering the storm, they do that all the time.
Abbas is now in an even more precarious position in terms of his popularity, and that could play directly into the hands of Hamas.
I am not certain that the US understood just how dramatic the counter response on the street would be to rejecting the Goldstone Report.

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Missile Philosophy
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 4, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Much discussion and emphasis has been placed on rocket missile systems.
The Iranians tested them.
Hamas is using them.
Hezbollah is collecting them.

It is important to understand missile philosophy.
Missiles are a tool.
Missiles can cause damage and can terrorize.
But as a rule wars are not won and lost through missiles - with the obvious exception, of course, of the nuclear warhead.

Conventional wars are won through conventional means - soldiers, tanks, planes, helicopters, military saturation. For Western nations, missiles are a defensive weapon. Smart bombs, a type of missile, can also be a first strike weapon. Missiles can dismember important internal enemy organs but they do not win the war. That is the case no matter how accurate the missiles may be. There is no substitute for a conventional military presence - with the obvious exception of total obliteration.)

Missile use and missile testing are tools of intimidation.
Missiles and rockets are vehicles used by the weak and lazy to intimidate, to threaten and to bolster a message.

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Hamas is Winning
By Micah Halpern

Saturday October 3, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

This week the organization Palestinian Media Watch correctly concluded that Palestinian factions are so fractionalized and so plagued by internal fighting that only one thing universally unites them.
Kidnapping Israeli soldiers.

The huge array of Palestinian organizations have concluded that the best way to attack Israel and force her to compromise is to kidnap Israelis.

The kidnapping of Gilad Shalit is a perfect example.
Palestinian press - radio, print and tv, emphasis how enormous the role of kidnapping plays in their modus operandi. Even on Palestinian summer camps children are taught how to kidnap Israelis. After Israel released 19 Palestinian female prisoners in exchange for a video tape of Gilad Shalit, the Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah said that "this was a great victory for the kidnappers."

This is an essential issue to understand.
This shared realization shows that across the board Palestinians agree that they have discovered the soft underbelly of Israel.

Israel and the West must understand this, too.
Not because kidnapping is immoral or uncivilized, but because it is the method that will be employed.
And it is a method very difficult to prevent and defend against.

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

Iran Wins in Talks
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 2, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

The meeting between the 5 plus 1 and Iran ended without fireworks.
The group agreed to meet again.

The most important element to emerge from this meeting is that Iran got a better understanding that the West wants to talk - and not to use the military option.

Iran understands that there still exists the strong possibility of greater sanctions. Iran also believes that they can withstand these sanctions because the gasoline they so badly crave has already been promised by China and Venezuela.

Iran suggested the transfer of uranium to a third party for enrichment for their medical reactor at Teheran University. This was a suggestion originally put forth by George Bush.

In this discussion, Iran came out the great victor.
They spoke about world issues of nuclear development.
They emphasized how important it was for people to live up to international agreements.
They said that they have the right to develop nuclear technology.
The 6 retorted that that is exactly what they expected of Iran, and Iran said of course.

The head of the IAEA will visit Iran this weekend to see the newly publicized sites. The Iranians say they informed the IAEA about these new sites last year.

No party made any real headway.
But Iran achieved greater political advantage in the meeting because they were elevated to a party with standing. They were face to face equal footing with the United States and the West.
What we have here "is a failure to communicate."

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

By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 1, 2009


Do you know what a quagmire is?

A quagmire is the Middle East right now, a quagmire is the situation the Israeli and Palestinians are stuck in right now. A quagmire is the situation that the Obama White House, however unwittingly and unintentionally, created in the name of peace.

President Barack Obama and his band of advisors embraced the Israeli/Palestinian peace process with gusto and zest, but with very little understanding of the players, the playing ground and the process. The White House does not yet comprehend the value of language and symbols as they apply to the Middle East. And that is a problem. And now Israelis and Palestinians are even further behind in the process of making peace than they were before the last US election. The White House doesn't even realize the mess they have caused.

It all began with lofty goals and good intentions.

The White House wanted to invigorate the peace process. Since the inauguration in January, the new administration repeated - and repeated and repeated, the need to freeze all construction in Israeli settlements. It was their mantra. The Arab world responded with a great hadad!, which means hurray! in Arabic. Finally, they thought, the United States gets it.

In fact, the United States did not get it at all. The United States President did not understand that he was repeating the Palestinian mantra. He did not understand that freezing all settlements is the Palestinian mantra. He did not understand that for the Palestinians settlements are not buildings and roads, schools and post offices, for the Arab world settlements are a symbol.

President Obama did not understand that, for years, settlement construction has been used as the most licentious and destructive obstacle to an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Instead, the new administration embraced a vibrant chant and called for a settlement freeze, insisting that even one new nail would be a violation of the concept of settlement freeze.

The administration would soon discover that things in the Middle are seldom one dimensional. The US made it clear that past promises, even promises in writing to Israel regarding settlements, would not be honored - and they thought they were nearing a real breakthrough. But the reality was that now the sides were not talking to each other. President Obama had created a sin qua non for the start of dialogue. The attempt to pressure Israel to come to the table was failing.

In the period before the US election, when Ehud Olmert was prime minister of Israel, the parties were speaking and there were no preconditions. Now, The President of the United States said no to construction in the settlements, the Israeli said to no that decree and the Palestinians were saying that they had the blessings of the United States not to come to the peace table because the Israelis were not in compliance.

What was President Obama to do? He back peddled. He sent George Mitchell, his special envoy, to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, in London. Netanyahu explained that he could get his government to agree to a settlement freeze, but. The but was - Jerusalem is not a settlement. The but was that there were 2,500 apartments in Jerusalem that were already under construction.

Mitchell called Washington and it was agreed that a good compromise had been reached, not construction, except in Jerusalem. After all, an effective compromise is one in which both sides give a little, both sides feel that they have been gypped a little and both sides shake hands.

The Arab world was offended. Jerusalem is not only a settlement, it is a symbol. And there is no compromising on a symbol. Palestinians were up in arms, the Arab world felt betrayed.

And Obama back peddled some more. During the United Nations General Assembly in New York the US president scaled back his language. He did not insist on a total settlement freeze. Arabic papers saw it as a major retreat - and that retreat caused the Palestinians to increase their absoluteness and their insistence that no settlement means no settlement.

And that is where the situation remains today. Settlements might or might not be frozen, but the peace process certainly is. Now there must be a calming down period which must, by definition, delay any reconciliation. Not exactly what President Obama had in mind.

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

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