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Iran Lobbies China
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 1, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

New developments on the move to push through sanctions against Iran:
The United States says they have made headway with China to back sanctions.
AP is quoting sources high up in China confirming that they will back sanctions.

But Iran has other plans:
Iran has sent their chief nuclear negotiator to China.
Saeed Jalili will arrive in China today.
According to Iranian press reports, Jalili will be in China to help advance dialogue with the West.

Jalili wants to curtail sanctions.
Jalili is reaching out to China for help in stalling the sanctions.
Iran will guarantee China access to important natural resources.
Iran will promise China that all will be resolved thru face to face dialogue.

Of course, these are simply tactics.
And sanctions against Iran are not in China's best interest.
Soon enough, we will see where this all leads.
Right now, it's too soon to even hazard a guess.

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

Pirates of the High Seas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 31, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

The African Star, a ZIM lines freighter, was attacked by pirates.

ZIM is an Israeli company.

On board the freighter, in addition to cargo, were trained, armed, security personnel.

In response to the surge in piracy, many shipping companies have started hiring security teams and many of those teams were originally trained in Israel.

Many companies does not mean all companies, so the seas are still rich pirates.

With the situation on the high seas at a crisis level owners have started to take charge. In hiring experienced security teams the owners hope to scare off the pirates. When the pirates attempt to capture the vessel they are repelled by the small gun fire of the security team.

That is what happened on the African Star.

Pirates won't learn their lesson, but maybe other shipping, freight and cruise company owners will learn theirs.

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

Haiti vs Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 30, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Figure this one out.

According to UN figures:

In Operation Cast Lead in Gaza there were about 1300 victims out of the 1.5 million people residing in Gaza.

In Haiti there were about 230,000 victims out of the 3 million residents.

When it came to receiving aid:

Gaza received $900 million from the United States and $200 million from the UN.

Haiti received $700 million from the US and DOD and $10 million from the UN.
The numbers don't seem to add up.
That's because this isn't about math or logic, it's about diplomacy.

Haiti needs more aid than Gaza, but Haiti is not a cause that pulls at the heartstrings the way the Palestinian cause does.

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

Protests in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 29, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Did you ever notice that in totalitarian countries lots of people come out for protests?

You know why?
Because they are paid to come out and protest.

Some are paid with money, some are paid with favors like free university tuition. Others are paid with a promise - if they do not attend the protests, they will be arrested.

In Damascus, Syria recently tens of thousands of protestors came out to the streets to march against Israel and against settlements. The protest had a name. It was called the March of Anger Against Israel.

In Syria, as is the case in most dictatorships, nobody is ever permitted to protest against a domestic policy or a national policy.

In Syria the only protests are about Israel or the United States.
In Syria, they never protest about the level of their education, living conditions or working conditions.
In Syria, there are never any protests that are critical of the government.

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

Iraq Is Not Iran
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 28, 2010

I'm Predicting:

The biggest winners in the Iraqi election are the secular parties and secular communities in Iraq.
The biggest losers are the Sunni and Shiite Muslim extremists - that means al Qaeda in Iraq and Iranian supported groups.

Very few people in the Western world understand Iraq.
Even Iraqi Shiite religious leadership does not want to transform the country into a theocracy similar to Iran.

Iraq's religious leadership sees the draw backs of an extremist theocracy. At the same time they are losing their hold on the voters. One of the ways they think they can get supporters back, is to spout extremism.

But so far, this plan has failed in Iraq and it will continue to fail.
Iraq is not Iran.

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

Muslims Seek Misunderstanding
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 27, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

It is best said that Muslims seek misunderstanding.
Muslim leaders deliberately feed disinformation about Israel to their masses in order to promulgate stereotypes and stoke flames of hatred.

The Arab world is mistaken about building in Jerusalem, about synagogue rededication in Jerusalem and even about excavations in Jerusalem.

The Arab world thinks that Jews will not share Jerusalem or preserve holy Muslim sites.

The Arab world believes that Jews will do what they want to do - which is to destroy the holy sites of other religions.

Nothing is further from the truth.

The Palestinian Authority has asked the Arab League for $500 million to fight the Judaization of Jerusalem.
They want to unite Muslims around a common goal and truth has nothing to do with that goal.

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

Bin Laden Theatens US if it Executes KSM
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 26, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Al Jazeera ran an audio tape of Osama bin Laden.
The reason for the tape was to threaten the United States.

Bin Laden said that if the US executes Khalid Sheik Mohammed, al Qaeda will execute all the Americans they can.
He asserted that al Qaeda will continue to kidnap and murder as many Americans as they can.

There has been no change in al Qaeda policy or in al Qaeda motivation.
That should be clear.
Al Qaeda is committed to murdering Americans as they can.

Terrorist trials and executions do not threaten al Qaeda.

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

Language of the Mid East
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 25, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Syrian President Bashar Assad was recently interviewed on Hezbollah TV.
He said that at this point there are only two options for the Syrians and Israelis - either peace or war.

Bashar added that the only language that Israel understands is the language of force.
Indeed, he is correct.
The Middle East, Israel included, understands strength and force.
In the Middle East, force is the most important variable in every argument.

Without strength and without force Israel would be destroyed.
Israel knows it and so does the rest of the region - it is the Israeli advantage.
No other country in the region will attack unless they are prepared for Israel's response.
Israel cannot afford to be vulnerable.

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

Iran Arrest High Profile Leader
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 24, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

The grandson of the Ayatollah Rafsanjani was arrested upon his arrival in Teheran Airport earlier this week.
He was returning to Teheran from London.

The Ayatollah Rafsanjani was the former president of Iran.
Rafsanjani has been a critical voice of the current regime.
His family has paid the price of Rafsanjani's vocal discontent. His son-in-law and daughter were detained as they left their home to attend a commemoration in Teheran marking the failed election this past summer.

Rafsanjani is the chairman of the Assembly of Experts. He is also the chairman of the Expediency Council. These are two of the most significant religious agencies in Iran. These committees confirm the Supreme Leader, and placed the Ayatollah Khamenei in his position.

Rafsanjani and his family are threats to the Supreme Leader and his regime.

In Iran, threats are carefully and closely scrutinized.

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

Clinton And Russia
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 23, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

The Russians and the United States has been talking about Iran.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just wrapped up a long visit to Russia. Clinton was trying to impress upon the Russians how important it is to either stop or at least slow down work on the nuclear plant they are building in Busher for the Iranians.

Clinton's thesis and the perspective of the United States is that the plant will destabilize the region and has the potential of forcing the region and maybe even the world into war.

Clinton failed.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister and Clinton's direct counterpart, holds the opposite view.

In their final joint press conference Lavrov said that the only way to exert some sense of control over Iran is to open up the nuclear plant.

He asserted that the open plant would permit international inspectors entry and the ability to observe the plant.

He said this is the only way to insure a safe Iran.
The United States was outmaneuvered - again.

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

Rifts and Challenges
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 22, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

That is the language the US State Department is using in reference to the current boondoggle with Israel over building in Jerusalem.

For example:
There is a rift in the relationship.
Israel's settlement policy is a challenge.
Technically, the terminology is correct. But given the situation this choice of words hardly touches the heart of the matter.

Most diplomatic wars are chosen, not obligatory. One should never enter a diplomatic scuffle without knowing the outcome and without determining whether the effort is worth the price that will have to be, eventually and inevitably, paid.

This time around, the United States did not do their homework.
Even Ban Ki Moon, the head of the United Nations, made a statement this week saying that the Jerusalem issue is to be discussed in final status talks.

The United Nations knows how to play the diplomacy game.
Why opt for war when your intention is peace.

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

Nigeria & Libya are in a Funk
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 21, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Nigeria just withdrew their ambassador from Libya.

Unless you follow these matters, you would think that Nigeria and Libya were allies and comrades. They are not.

This rift in the relationship between Nigeria and Libya is the result of a suggestion made by Libya's leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.
Qaddafi suggested that Nigeria should solve its current rioting problem which has already claimed several hundred Nigerian lives and divides the country along religious lines.
Qaddafi says just separate the country, dividing the Christian and Muslim sides, and the problem will be solved.

Nigeria went ballistic - literally.
Now Nigeria is calling for an investigation into Libya's potential sponsoring of revolutionaries.

It is possible that Qaddafi could be sponsoring divisions in Nigeria.
But it is more probable this is just another classic example of Qaddafi simply over-speaking and not self-editing.

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

India and the US Need to Talk
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 20, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

The government of India has asked the United States for permission to speak with David Headley.
Headley is the US citizen from Chicago who has pled guilty to charges of terrorism.

Headley was the main scout for the simultaneous terror attacks that rocked Mumbai and murder 166 people.
India would like to charge David Headley.
More importantly, India would like to know more about his links, his contacts and the infrastructure that planned and executed the attacks.

Until now the United States and India have co-operated on this issue. The United States has shared the information they have gleaned through interrogation with India.

But India has its own questions.
India understands things differently than does the US and India has much deeper intelligence than does the US.

The government of India deserves a chance to speak to Headley.
The more they learn, the more the United States will learn, too.

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

Petraeus Makes A Big Mistake
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 19, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

General David Petraeus made an outrageous statement yesterday.
The gist of his analysis is that the relationship between the United States and Israel causes damage to US interests in the rest of the world.

How could the general have even made such a statement.
This statement in and of itself is a torpedoing of US interests.
Suggesting that the special relationship between the US and Israel is not special at all and is instead a liability is a perversion of the highest order.

Petraeus said that "anti-American sentiment" is a result of the unambiguous support the United States shows Israel.

Here is a news flash for you General Petreaus: Nothing the United States does will alter the way the United States is viewed by Afghanistan and the rest of the Muslim world.

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

By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 18, 2010


Jerusalem is the capital city of three monotheistic religions. Judaism, Islam and Christianity all have a stake in Jerusalem's past, ergo, they all have a stake in Jerusalem's future.

It was in Jerusalem that Abraham bound and prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac and it was in Jerusalem that King Solomon erected the temple. And so, the bond between Jerusalem and Judaism was forged. It was in Jerusalem that the prophet Mohammed, on a white stead, ascended to heaven and created the bond between Jerusalem and Islam. And it was to Jerusalem that Jesus made his pilgrimage and sparked a bond between Jerusalem and Christianity.

In Jerusalem, emotions run high.

The inauguration and re-opening of an old / new synagogue in Jerusalem, a synagogue that has been in ruins since its destruction by the Jordanians in 1948, has touched not only the soul but also the nerves of everyone who cares about or is involved with the City of Jerusalem. The synagogue, called the Hurva, which literally means destruction in Hebrew, has remained a hollowed out shell for well over half a century.

The Hurva synagogue has a long and repetitive history. The name tells it all, the Hurva has almost since it was first erected, been a symbol of destruction. When the Jordanians destroyed the synagogue in 1948 the explosion could be seen for miles. The dome crowning the Hurva was the highest architectural structure in the entire city. The building was the tallest and most magnificent in the entire Old City of Jerusalem.

In cities like Jerusalem battles are often fought building by building. The tallest building is a symbol. The height of the Hurva synagogue was the Jewish check against the Moslem holy sites the Dome of the Rock and the Christian Church of the Sepulchre.

The Muslim Dome was only visible from certain angles. The Church was built even lower in the city. The dome of the synagogue could be seen by almost everyone, everywhere - even outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Hurva is and was situated high up on a plateau and center stage in the Jewish Quarter of the city. That is why it had been desecrated and destroyed in 1721. And that is why the Jordanians had to destroy it, again, in 1948.

According to Islamic law it is forbidden to build any local building taller than the local mosque. The law is clear, it is stated in the Pact of Omar. Christianity has similar laws and rulings. Building the Hurva as they did was an act of arrogance. The same is the case when the Altneu Shul, a synagogue in Prague, was built. The architectural design was to dig deep down in to ground - and then up. The building, instilled with grandeur, is one of the most spectacular buildings of Europe and circumvented the law.

The re-opening of the Hurva Synagogue has stoked the flames of an already flammable situation. The call to violence and Jihad has been announced by Arab leaders and Imams. Many of their followers are preparing to rise up in defense of holy Muslim sites, to protect them from the Jews.

There are those in the Muslim world who say that the new / old synagogue is breaking the foundation of the holy site al Aqsa on the Temple Mount. On al Jazeera television a cleric explained that the footing of the shrine known in Islam as Haram al Sharif, the holy sanctuary which is itself crowned by a golden dome, is threatened. Geographically and archaeologically the cleric is incorrect, but this is not about fact and accuracy- it is about symbolism.

The Imams and Islamic leaders are correct when they talk about how Israel is destroying the foundations of Islam in the Holy City. But it is their symbolic foundations that Israel is checking. The holy ground is not being uprooted, destroyed or sullied, it is the Jerusalem skyline that Judaism is recapturing.

The Hurva has always been a threat to the Muslim world. Not because it is a synagogue in Jerusalem, because it is such a tall synagogue in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, literally and figuratively, symbols taken on heightened significance.

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

Mitchell Postpones Trip
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 17, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

The US State Department spokesman made an announcement Tuesday.

He said that Special Presidential Envoy George Mitchell will not be making his scheduled trip to the Middle East next week.
Instead, Mitchell will be meeting with the players as soon as possible.

The United States is trying to gain control of a situation that has gotten completely out of control.
There is a three way diplomatic crisis taking place.
The United States - Israel - the Palestinians, they are all on over drive and their responses to the crisis are all overkill.

When all the parties in a deal/crisis are out of control and when every response they give is an exaggerated response, it is very hard to get the situation back on track.

It will require significant time and real diplomacy before the United States can move Israel and the Palestinians close enough together to start the indirect talks as promised.

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

Iran - Palestinian Games
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 16, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

The Iranian Foreign Ministry announced that they want to help facilitate a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
Palestinian unity is now a part of Iran's overall goal and philosophy.

Why has Iran has decided to take an interest in the plight of the Palestinians?
Because Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that Iran is one of the reason for the conflict.
Iran support Hamas. Iran provides Hamas with money, weapons and training all of which is a public slap in the face of Fatah.

Abbas called them on it.
In order to save face internationally, Iran had to respond.
Iran chose to respond with a message of unity.

This is the classic Iranian move.
Iran needs to be viewed as pro-Islam. They cannot take one side over the other.
Yet, Iran clearly supports Hamas over Fatah. Why? Because Hamas more closely reflects Iran's understanding of Islam than does Fatah.

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

Mubarak Out of Surgery
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 15, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak underwent gallbladder surgery in Germany on March 6th.
The hospital released a statement saying that the surgery went well and that Mubarak is recovering well.

Muabrak is 81 years old.
He has ruled Egypt with an iron hand for nearly 30 years. This is just one of several close calls the Egyptian president has had. No one can accurately predict the health of an octogenarian. And in Egypt, no one can predict where an assassin's bullet will land.

Speculation about the future of Egypt has taken on a new urgency.
How long can Mubarak hold on?
Will he appoint a successor who, symbolically, gets elected?
Will he liberalize Egypt as a final glorious gesture?

Time will tell.

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

Tensions Arise All the Time
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 14, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Hillary Clinton called Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu on the carpet the other day.

And Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to Washington, was invited for a formal dress down.

It was to be expected.
It was the response of the United States to Israel's announcement that 1600 new apartments are to be built in a neighborhood outside Jerusalem, a neighborhood on the other side of the pre '67 border.

The announcement was just a matter of when.
When would the White House and the State Department call?
It was obvious what they would say.

This is by no means the first time, nor will it be the last time, that Israel and the United States are in conflict on the subject of settlement expansion in Jerusalem.

It was the timing of the announcement that was problematic - not the content.
It was timed to coincide with the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden to Israel.
It was timed to derail the resumption of indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

It is about conflict within Israel, not about Israel's conflict with either the Palestinians or the United States.

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

Convert to Islam Released
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 13, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

In Mauritania, al Qaeda released a Spanish aid worker named Alicia Gamez.

Gamez was a kidnapped for 100 days and then let go.
According to al Qaeda websites she was released because "she voluntarily converted to Islam."

Something is very wrong with this picture.
Islam does not permit forced conversions.
All conversions must be 100% submission to Islam and Islamic teaching which requires freedom of choice, especially regarding the decision to accept the will of Allah as taught by his prophet Mohammed. If a person is forced to convert it is not of their free will and they cannot be a true Muslim.

Alicia Gamez was in captivity for 100 days. This situation can not possibly, objectively, be considered an exercise of free will.

Hundreds of historical examples in Islamic law address this exact issue.
It is baffling how little Muslim extremists know about Islam.

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

Palestinians Say No to Talks
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 12, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Rumors and reports have been spreading all over the Middle East for the past 48 hours.

The word is that the Palestinians will not join indirect talks with Israel under the present circumstances. The Palestinians are calling for US Presidential Special Envoy George Mitchell to force Israel to stop all settlement activity.

The information made its way to the press via Amir Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League. Moussa says that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was his source for the information.

The State Department spokesman says that they know nothing of this.
The Palestinians have not told the Americans about their cold feet.
The Palestinians are continuing the chorus they have been repeating for the past 15 months.

There is no way out of this dilemma unless the Palestinians give in.
The Israelis agreed to the indirect talks knowing that the Palestinians could never back down.
Now the Palestinians have a choice - they can appear weak or they can appear strong.
Weak would be join the Israelis for indirect talks, strong would be opposing the talks.

Odds are the Palestinian will have it both ways.
They will refuse to talk now and resume talks at a later date.

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

By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 11, 2010


"Better to be smart than right."

The world of foreign policy runs on its own set of rules. Unlike in the real world, in the world of foreign policy the opposite of smart is not necessarily not smart, or dumb. The opposite of right is not necessarily wrong. The idea that in the midst of a dispute the right decision will inevitable emerge, the right action will ultimately be taken, does not hold in foreign policy decisions. In the real world there is no argument that can trump the ability to do, or implement, the right thing. In the world of foreign policy, that argument does not hold true.

In foreign and even in domestic policy, being right is not always the best way to go. The smart way is the way to go. Just because the argument is correct, or right, does not make it the appropriate thing to say or wise action to take.

When Eli Ishai, the Israeli minister of the interior and leader of the right wing Shas party, chose to make an announcement about the projected building of 1,600 apartments in Jerusalem in the midst of an extended visit by United States Vice President Joe Biden, Ishai chose right over smart.

As a result of the announcement the vice president was forced to issue a strong, serious, public statement condemning Israel's action and decision. Biden labeled Israel's decision as not productive. And when Biden met with Palestinian leaders shortly after the announcement was made topping their list of gripes against Israel was Israel's deliberate defiance of pre-set conditions and terms, Israel's desire to be contrary and to engage in non-productive behavior - all as exemplified by their announced intention to build new housing units. They say they are halting settlement activity, yet they announce a new project. Israeli leaders, say the Palestinians, are really closet settlers.

The Palestinian complaint about Israel is the same complain that Israel makes about the Palestinians - that they cannot be trusted.

Shas and Eli Ishai defend their announcement. They maintain that they were correct, i.e. right, in acting as they did. Their argument goes that this announcement reflects the reality - that Israel does what is best for Israel and will not be dictated to by the United States. Ishai and Shas believe that Jerusalem is 100% under Israeli control and that there is no compromising when it comes to Jerusalem. They believe that Jerusalem neighborhoods need to expand if only because of natural growth and demand.

Because of Shas' conviction and their impulsive desire to pursue the right way, an unconditionally positive public relations event now, suddenly and completely avoidably, has a black cloud hanging over it. A decision to say nothing or to wait for another opportunity to make this announcement would not have been a case of right versus wrong. It would have been the smart thing to do.

When the vice president of the United States visits Israel, he arrives with full court press. Every where he travels in Israel all foreign press stationed in Israel travel along. Every journalist covering the Middle East from Israel latches on to his entourage. China, Japan, India, Denmark, Norway, Sweden - they all have their correspondents follow every movement of the vice president, each one hoping to get a moment's access with the man perceived to be the second most powerful person in the United States. And they were all there to cover Joe Biden's biting critique of Israel.

Interior Minister Eli Ishai will not be muzzled. The Shas party will not be punished. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu does not have the backing to bounce them out of his coalition government. With all the safety and security issues facing Israel, with all the neighboring countries hoping to wipe little Israel off the map, it's shameful that right now Israel's worst enemy comes from within.

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

Apartment Embarrassment
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 10, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has announced the construction of 1600 new apartments.

The announcement was a major embarrassment for Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
The announcement was made while US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel.

Netanyahu had told everyone, his cabinet, his advisers and even his press people ... no surprises ... no embarrassments.

Biden was forced to give Israel a tongue lashing. A perfectly uneventful and exclusively positive visit was turned into a tense moment and an international diplomatic incident.

Why? What motivated an announcement like that?
The decision was made by head of the Shas party and Minister of the Interior, Eli Ishai.

Ishai wanted to deliberately taunt the United States and their micro management of Israel.
Ishai used this announcement to say to the Israeli public that his party will not bend to the will of the United States.
Ishai was saying that the United States is not the most powerful force in the universe.

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

Iraqi Elections
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 9, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Sunday's election in Iraq was a water shed event.

This was the second ever free democratic election in Iraq. This year 62.4% of the people came out to vote, in the 2005 election, 76% voted. The results are still not clear and even after the results are made public it will take a few weeks for us to understand what is really happening.

The most important revelation to emerge from this election is that the Sunni population came out to vote. In 2005 the Sunnis were effectively removed from any chance of holding elected office because they had boycotted the election.

The delicate balance that has been forged between Sunnis and Shiites since 2005, what we call Iraq today, may yet be shattered. The Sunnis want to put serious distance between Iran and Iraq, they want to make certain that Shiite tones are not sounded in Iraq.

We don't yet know what will happen.
We do know that the big loser in this election is definitely al Qaeda.

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

Israel Warns the PA
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 8, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

According to the Israeli press, Israeli leaders have issued an ultimatum to Palestinian leaders.

In private conversations, Israel has told Palestinian leaders that they must move and move seriously to prevent the Palestinian uprising.
The Israelis said that if tensions and incitement do not drop significantly Israel will start making arrests. This comes in response to a dramatic increase in public incitement against Israel - incitement that has been unofficially condoned by public officials.

A Palestinian rebellion is in the making.
Israel is trying to convince Palestinians leadership that a rebellion against Israel is not in their long term interests.
Israel will not permit the Palestinians to create another Intifada.

I think the Palestinians have gotten Israel's message - now they have to make a decision.
If there is another Intfada, thousands of Palestinian will die and any hope of Palestinian statehood will be pushed off again.
But an Intifada is good for local, political, popular support it will look as if Palestinian leadership is taking a stand against Israel.

All this is happening against the backdrop of a resumption of indirect negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, scheduled to be announced later today.

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

New Talks PA & Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 7, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

On Saturday night US Presidential special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell landed in Tel Aviv and met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

This meeting sets the stage for the announcement of indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians. On Monday Joe Biden arrives in the region and everything is expected be in place for the vice president.

This is a classically well choreographed American event.
It will be pitched perfectly for history, for the cameras, for the world to watch.

The only problem is that the parties are not quite up to the task.
Israel and the Palestinians have been playing a game and neither has been honest about their stand on indirect talks.
The Israelis and the Palestinians are placating the United States.

We will learn what they each really want only after the talks begin.

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

Syria Blames Israel
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 6, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Under new leadership, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has begun to take nuclear development by Iran and Syria much more seriously than it had in the past.

Over the past several months Syria has been challenged by the IAEA on more that one occasion.
An IAEA report shows beyond the shadow of any doubt that Israel destroyed a nuclear facility in deep in Syria.
The Syrian ambassador to the IAEA, Bassam Sabbag, insists that it is not so.

Sabbag claims that the uranium readings that were detected were a set up by the Israelis.
Sabbag claims that the Israeli sprinkled uranium in the area after they bombed the agricultural facility.

Conspiracies and conspiracy theories abound in the Middle East.
The more far fetched they are, the more likely they are to spread with a vengeance

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

Australians, Israelis and a Bicycle
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 5, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

A team of Australian police investigators is now in Israel investigating the case of the Australian passports that were used during the assassination of Mahmoud Mabhouh.

This is not unusual.
What turns this bit of investigative work into news is that on Thursday, after leaving the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv, the team hit a female bicyclist with their vehicle. They ran over the bike and kept on going.
They did not stop.

This is a serious violation of the law in any country. That police officials did not stop is scandalous. The woman, thankfully, was not badly injured. She is, however, demanding an apology and a new bicycle wheel.

In general, one of the rules of safe counter espionage in very risky environments is not to stop after minor accidents.
What appears to be a minor accident can in actuality be a trick, an attempt to kidnap the operative or to place a bug.
But this was downtown Tel Aviv.

An innocent, however unfortunate, encounter may now turn into a diplomatic incident. This time there is real evidence - as opposed to the assassination the Australian team is investigating which is filled with speculation.

Then again, this would be a Mossad-like tactic to discredit the Australians, wouldn't it.

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

By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 4, 2010


The Arab League has spoken. The twenty-two country members and four observer members of the Arab League have decided to support the plan put forth by the United States to jump start the stalemate between Palestinians and Israelis.

On Wednesday, the Arab League voted to support indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians. They will meet again in July, four months from now, to determine if, or what, progress had been made. What they discover four months from now might just take the United States by surprise.

It's all about game playing - and in this game, each player plays by a different set of rules.

On the one hand, Israel is pleased that the Arab League has taken this initiative and is encouraging indirect talks. Israel welcomes the Arab League's involvement. On the other hand, Israel is not at all fond of deadlines. According to Israel's rule book, deadlines usually force one party to make hasty decisions on issues that are of vital importance, decisions that would not otherwise be made, decisions that will later be regretted.

Palestinians are looking at the Arab League vote somewhat differently. On the one hand, indirect talks are intended to lead to direct talks and if that is what is accomplished at the end of these four months, the Arab League's mission will have been accomplished. On the other hand, somewhere in the fine print of the Palestinian rule book it is written that now that the Palestinians have the attention of the greater Arab world, a privilege they are often denied, at the end of these four months, they might just be able to finagle independence and statehood out of the deal. And they will do it without the direct support of the United States and the United States will be too diplomatically polite to dispute it, even if it is not what Israel wants.

The player with the most complicated rule book is the Arab League. It turns out that the Arab League, however well intentioned, has no authority to make decisions about Israel and the Palestinians. They have no jurisdiction here. Going into the meeting, the Palestinians declared that they would respect the decision of the Arab League. Note the use of the word "respect" and not the choice of the word “follow.” In the end, it behooves the Palestinians to both respect and follow the decisions of the Arab League which is a far more conservative body than those pro-Western countries usually dictating policy.

Delegates to the Arab League are the foreign misters of their countries. Not only does the Arab League not have authority in this matter, the Arab League - according to a decision made by the delegates themselves - does not even recognize Israel's right to exist. That is not only a rule they have played by for a long time, it is a rule they just recently re-confirmed. And here they are, suggesting indirect talks with Israel.

The Syrians, with another set of rules, broke the Arab League code of unity that requires all member nations to stand together behind all League decisions, by publicly rejecting the decision to light a fire under Israel and the Palestinians. Syria has said that there is no reason to support any dialogue with Israel at any time.

Talks between Israel and the Palestinians disintegrated when the Obama administration came on the scene. The new and inexperienced administration demanded that Israel put a "total" stoppage to all building in the settlements. The Israelis said that they will not comply, citing natural growth and the special status of Jerusalem as reasons for their non-complicity. The Palestinians, however, grabbed onto this diplomatic blunder with great passion and have not yet released their grip. The United States has since realized how myopic it was to expect such a stoppage even in Jerusalem, but the damage has been done.

And now the Arab League has come to the rescue of both the United States and the Palestinians. This vote, this decision, provides Palestinian leadership with a safe and secure route back to the negotiating table with Israel. Now Palestinian leadership has the ammunition it needs to stand up to Hamas when they are critiqued for succumbing to decisions dictated not by their own needs, but by the wants of Washington, DC and Tel Aviv. Now Palestinian Authority leadership can come back to the table with their heads held high and the hope that, this time, their dream of statehood might just come true.

The funny thing about this whole game is that it's really a pre-game. All this posturing and all these machinations are just to get from the point of indirect talks to the point of direct talks. Imagine what will happen if everything falls into place and Palestinians and Israelis really do make it to direct talks.

Four months is not that very far away.

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

Iraqi VP Visits Syria
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 3, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

One of the best ways of finding out the agenda of any country in the Middle East is by observing who is talking to whom face to face.

The vice president of Iraq, Tarik Hashemi, arrived in Damascus for a two day diplomatic visit. What makes the visit unusual is the fact that Iraq and Syria do not have diplomatic relations.

Iraq blamed Syria for the August bombings that devastated Iraq half a year ago. Iraq said that the Syrians permitted the terrorists to cross their border and then slip back over into Syria.

This meeting is an attempt at building bridges.
It will take much more that a meeting, but it seems that both sides are interested in improving diplomatic relations.

The big problem in all this is that Syria has a vested interest in sponsoring terror.
The big question is whether attacking America is more valuable to Syria than patching things up with Iraq.
Actions speak louder than words, we will have to watch this one carefully.

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

Nasrallah the Calls Arab Leaders Wimps
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 2, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, made a passionate speech yesterday condemning every Arab country and every Arab leader for inaction - every country except Iran and Syria.

Only Iran and Syria have taken a stand on behalf of Hezbollah and helped Nasrallah's cause.

Nasrallah said, "The Muslim nation must assume its responsibility and not leave the resistance movements alone on the ground."

He said, "When Syria and Iran stand by us clearly they assume their responsibility and should be thanked for that. Assist the Palestinians as Iran does and this will resolve the problem; assume your responsibility."

Arab leadership will not take up Nasrallah's call for assistance and support.
Arab leaders act and do not act for a reason.
Arab leaders will never do anything that endangers their position.
Inaction is always preferred to action.

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

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