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Israel Jordan Rift Resolves
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 25, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Resolutions are in the works. Calm may be restored sooner rather than later.

The Israeli guard who shot and killed two Jordanians has returned to Israel.
That resolution came about after conversations between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jordan's King Abdullah.

At the same time, the head of Israel's Shin Bet traveled to Amman to meet with his Jordanian counterpart, the head of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID). In the presence of the two department heads, while in the Israeli embassy in Amman, the Israeli guard re-enacted events and was debriefed/investigated/interrogated.

At the end of the investigation, the guard was permitted to leave Jordan. He and the Israeli ambassador crossed the Allenby Bridge and returned to Israel on Monday.

It is almost 100% certain that in exchange for lifting their ban on Israeli diplomats, Jordan received assurances that Israel will remove the metal detectors from the Temple Mount.

The Israeli cabinet discussed removing the metal detectors and replacing them with smart cameras - very sophisticated cameras that can sense weapons and explosives.

Once all this happens, tensions will melt away.


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Israel Embassy Attacked in Jordan
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 24, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

There was a shooting inside the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan yesterday.

Israel has not yet issued a statement. So far, all the information we have has come from the Jordanians.

Two terrorists entered the Israeli embassy, presumably, as workers for a furniture company coming to do repairs. Once inside they started to shoot.

The terrorists were killed. An Israeli was wounded.

The Israeli embassy in Jordan is in a very luxurious neighborhood in Amman.
It is built like a fortress and is guarded, on the outside, by Jordanian anti-terror forces. The embassy has been a center for protests against Israel.

Tensions are high in Jordan - about 40% of Jordan's population is of Palestinian descent.

Jordan is very close with the United States and they have a peace treaty with Israel. They are officially in charge of the Temple Mount. The Wafq, which is the religious trust that operates and controls the Temple Mount, is funded by Jordan.

The Jordanians are walking a tightrope.

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Tensions Increasing - Not Yet an Intifada
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 23, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

A rocket, shot from the northern part of Hamas-controlled Gaza, exploded en-route to Israel.

The rocket was aimed at the southern Israeli port city of Ashkelon. Thankfully, it exploded prematurely, early on during its flight.

This rocket is the latest exchange in the increasingly tense situation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Tensions ratcheted up when three Israeli-Arab terrorists killed two Druze-
Israeli border guards in the Old City of Jerusalem. The murder took place just outside the compound of the Temple Mount. The terrorists ran into the grand plaza for protection after the attack. Two of the three were killed by the Israeli army responding to the attack. The third was injured and arrested. One of the terrorists posted about his need to defend al Aqsa, the mosque atop the Temple Mount.

Israel shut the Temple Mount for 36 hours and then re-opened it up after setting up metal detectors. This past Friday, the Muslim Sabbath day, the day when most Arab worshipers come to pray at the Mount, Palestinian leaders called for protests until the metal detectors were taken down. In response, Palestinians rioted.

Three Palestinian youths were killed during Friday's rioting.

And on Friday night a Palestinian terrorist broke into a Jewish settlement and then into a private home as a family was enjoying their Sabbath evening dinner. Three members of the family were killed, a fourth was seriously injured. This terrorist wrote on his facebook page that he loves people and is peaceful and happy, but he can't sit still, he must defend Al Aqsa.

Palestinian President Abbas has cancelled all interaction with Israel until the metal detectors are taken down.

And now much of the Arab world is echoing the call to defend al Aqsa from the Jews.

Tensions will only continue to escalate.


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Kuwait Expells Iranian Ambassador
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 21, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Kuwait has evicted the Iranian ambassador stationed in Kuwait City. The ambassador has 48 days to pack up and leave.

This is all the result of a spy scandal.

Kuwait uncovered a set of spies and tracked them back to Iran. The Kuwaitis are breaking relations with Iran because of the spy ring.

Iran issued a statement through SNA, their official press, the Iranians
Students News Agency. They said:

"Under the pressure of Saudi interventionist policies, and the baseless accusation of Iranian interference ... Kuwait has announced that ... Alireza Enayati, the Iranian ambassador to Kuwait, must leave within 48 days".

Obviously, tensions are rising. The real issues go far deeper than spying.

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Iran Threatens US Over Sanctions
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 20, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

As everyone knows, the US has stepped up sanctions against Iran.
The United States feels that Iran is violating the great deal that was signed between the P-5 plus 1. And Iran is hitting back.

The head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, General Mohammed Ali Jafari, has warned the United States that if they continue to invoke sanctions, they should withdraw troops up to about 700 miles away from Iran.

He said: "If the United States wants to pursue sanctions against Iran's defenses and the Guards, then it has to move its regional bases to a distance of about 1,000 km around Iran and be aware that it would pay a high price for any miscalculations.”

Iran is making a direct threat. Iran will attack US interests.

Here is the deal – Iran does not think that they have violated the deal.
Hitting them with sanctions will almost certainly result in a serious counter response. And the Iranian counter may be military.

More probably, however, it will be political response, perhaps even an economic response, like blocking US firms from bidding on Iranian contract or buying Iranian oil.

Time will tell.


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More Sanctions on Iran
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 19, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

The US Treasury Department announced a list of Iranians who are skirting the now infamous deal with the Western nations signed in March of 2016.
Sanctions have now been levied on the Iranian firms and individuals on the list.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is part of the elite of the elite of Iran, is on the list. The US Treasury says that Iranian violators have been developing drones, producing and maintaining boats and importing electronic components of defense materials.

According to the report two Iranian individuals are "engaging in activities that have materially contributed to the development of Iran's nuclear and missile programs."

Another group has been involved in stealing US software.

The agreement with Iran covered nuclear development and not conventional weapons development. The Iranian claim is that all this activity is for conventional and not nuclear weapon programs.

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Imam in Montreal Calls to Kill Jews
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 18, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Montreal police have issued an arrest warrant for a Jordanian Imam who preached the murder of Jews.

Daral Arqam Mosque, located in the neighborhood of Saint Michel, invited an Imam named Sheik Muhammed bin Musa al Nasr to give a sermon in December of 2016. During his sermon the imam recited a Hadith, a post-Koranic text, about the end of days which proscribes that Muslims murder Jews who hide behind every tree.

"O Muslim, O servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him."
The director of Bnai Brith in Montreal asked the police to investigate and police issued the arrest warrant.

B'nai Brith has committed to tracking down this imam wherever he is and to extradite him for trial. They argue that one cannot preach hatred that calls for the murder of Jews.


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Arab Leaders Condemn Terror: Local Leaders Embrace
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 17, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

This is essential to understand.

The King of Jordan condemned the terror on the Temple Mount. And yet, the parliament of Jordan proclaimed the terrorists to be great heroes to the people. They actually blessed the terrorists.

This should not surprise anyone.

Most - if not all, of national Arab leadership publicly condemned the al Aqsa terror perpetrated last Friday. They want to make certain that there is no explosion of violence. At the same time, there is a call for revolution and shouts about Israel taking over al Aqsa.

Here is how the problem breaks down: National Arab leaders realize the need to keep calm - but local leaders feel the need to feed the terrorist frenzy. Local leaders want to connect to every local resident.

This tension is dramatic. But - and this is important, it remains clear that national leadership takes priority.


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Arab Leaders Mostly Silent about Al Aqsa
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 16, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

After Friday's terror attack on the Temple Mount, Israel closed the mosque --but only temporarily. By Sunday it was already open, albeit with increased security in the outside area. Israel can only secure the inside area because the large inside area, where the mosque and the Dome of the Rock are situated, is under the control of Jordan.

The Muslim world has weighed in on the closure... some silently, some critical and some critical of the silence.

Cartoons are very telling.

The Saudis have been silent, but Saudi newspaper Al Wattan shows a picture of a star of David in the shape of a Devil devouring Al Aqsa.

Al Quds al Arabi, which is published out of London, depicts an ostrich burying its head while al Aqsa is on TV - filled with blood. The ostrich is Arab leadership.

One very telling cartoon from facebook has a Palestinian youth telling Arab leaders that al Aqsa is in danger. The leaders are fat and drinking wine. One asks the other what the kid is talking about. The second answers that al Aqsa is in Qatar.

The commentary is clear.

Arab leaders do not see the danger that other, mostly Palestinians, want to foment. There is a long history of al Aqsa being the catalyst for riots and uprisings and the murder of Israelis. There are some in the Arab world that want to renew and revitalize that chain of events.

It seems that the leaders do not want to go along with this call to incitement and are trying to quell possible explosions.

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Direct Flights form Israel to Saudi Arabia- Maybe
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 14, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Israel's Minister of Transportation, a Druze named Ayoub Kara, has suggested direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia exclusively to accommodate Hajj pilgrims.

Ideally, the flights would be direct and nonstop. The next best alternative would be to have the flights touchdown in Jordan before continuing on to Saudi Arabia.

This year the Hajj begins on August 30th and ends on September 4th.
Obviously there are no diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia - but there certainly is exceptional and continued real communication taking place behind closed doors.

About 6,000 Israelis travel to Mecca each year as part of the Hajj. The distance between Mecca and Tel Aviv is about 1,000 miles. These flights would make the pilgrims' trip so much easier. They would be a special set of charter flights to serve a specific population for a specific purpose and a special, limited, goal.

Interestingly, there is precedent for the flights. The first person to make the direct flight from Saudi Arabia to Tel Aviv was US President Donald Trump on his first international trip as president. He flew directly from Saudi Arabia to Israel while all the planes accompanying him had to stop over in Cyprus.

If these flights are approved, it could pave the way for more expanded relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, or, like the flights themselves, it could be a one time, limited run exception.

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Bastille Day & Trump
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 13, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

For those who don't know -- President Trump is still in Europe.

On Friday, July 14, 2017 US President Donald Trump will be the featured guest at the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris. President Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected president of France, invited him to be the guest of honor.

While in Paris, Macron and Trump will discuss how they can best work together.

Bastille Day in France is like the 4th of July in the United States. The day memorializes the storming of the Bastille by democratic revolutionaries as they retook France from the aristocracy.

The French Revolution was the beginning of democracy in France and the stimulus for the movement of democratization in the Western world. It was the springboard for the mass transformation of the West into a democracy.
It was the first, it was the model.

While in Paris, Donald Trump will be at the epicenter of European news. In the United States, however, this trip by the US president will probably not even be a blip in the news cycle.

That's a shame, because this visit resonates with symbolism - it heralds US President Donald Trump as the leader of Western democracy.

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Gulf States Continue to Pressure Qatar
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 12, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE - the four Gulf states that continue to isolate Qatar - have made an announcement: Despite the US / Qatar agreement that was signed by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Emir of Qatar al Thani to stop all monetary support of terror, they - the four nations are going to monitor Qatar very carefully.

They have also called for the ousting of Qatar from the anti-ISIS coalition, the group of countries under US leadership fighting ISIS.

This is what the Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman said in a meeting of the anti-ISIS coalition in Washington, DC: "It is unacceptable for the coalition to have amongst its members states that support terrorism or advocate for it in their media."

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid, who is heading the Egyptian delegation in Washington, continued to say: "The decision by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain to boycott Qatar-a coalition member-is in accordance with that principle."

The four Gulf states are cranking up the pressure on Qatar. At the same time, the United States is trying to ease the situation.

The four really want Qatar to stop supporting terror and to stop supporting Iran.

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Iran Opens Tenders for Oil Exploration
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 11, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is opening 14 new gas and oil exploration tenders.
Iranians are hoping to entice foreign energy companies to foot the bill to discover new gas and oil sources and then partner with Iran in the profits of the new wells.

This is a very important move for Iran.

Iran wants to increase production and make themselves an even larger supplier of natural gas and oil.

Many companies from many nations have expressed interest in bidding for the rights to partner with Iran. Total from France has already signed a deal with Iran this week. Lukoil from Russian is very interested as is Maersk from Denmark.

So are Britain's BP, Austria's OMV and Russia's Gazprom. Italy's Edison and Malaysia's Petronas are also vying for the opportunity to partner with Iran.

There is no doubt that the 14 tenders will be very lucrative for the companies as well as for Iran.

The big question is if how these relationships will develop given the anti-
Western and anti-foreign involvement sentiments within Iran. If their attitude was just a stance Iran adopted in response to Western sanctions, it is all in the past because sanctions have been lifted. But if there really is an anti-Western and anti-foreign bent in Iran, then the investors could very likely lose their investments.


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Sisi Accepts 2 State Solution
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 10, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

President al Sisi of Egypt told Palestinian President Abbas yesterday that he accepts the two-state solution.

The two had a meeting in Cairo and the Egyptian president explained that he was in favor of a Palestinian state and an Israeli state based on the '67 borders.

This is a tremendous step forward.

In essence, Egypt is saying that they want a resolution to the Palestinian problem and urging Abbas to move. The important point is that with a resolution other issues in the Middle East can and will fall into place and begin to be resolved.

Of course al Sisi also said that the Palestinian state would have its capital in Jerusalem.

An agreement with Israel mean that the Palestinians would be able to secure their future and that Arab leaders would be able to focus their attention on the other issues within the Arab world that require their time and energy.

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Bibi Takes a Phone Call
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 9, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Indian Prime Minister Modi had a very successful trip to Israel. Both Israel and India agree that they have concretized a very strong set of objectives based on shared values.

Before this trip the two nations got along well, but there was an implicit understanding that India needed to accommodate to the Arab world. India needed Arab oil and markets. So India needed to take sides and the side they took was not Israel.

However, during this trip the tone and the spirit was one of mutual and total friendship.

On Thursday, just before the end of his trip, Modi and Netanyahu were walking on the beach near Haifa when Netanyahu interrupted their conversation and took a phone call. Who is so important that one prime minister would take a call and interrupt a meeting with another prime minister? No-it was not Netanyahu's wife Sarah.

The call was from Putin.

Putin called Netanyahu on the eve of his first face-to-face meeting with Donald Trump. I suppose Putin wanted to pick Netanyahu's brain on how to deal with Trump and get updates on the situation in Syria.

Foreign diplomacy at its best!


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ISIS Not a Cyber Threat
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 7, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

It has become pretty clear that ISIS does not have a serious hacking branch. They do not have a cyber attack team that can threaten the West in any serious way.

Yes, they communicate with one another using encrypted software like WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal and Wire. But they cannot really hack. The style of hacking used by ISIS is termed "kiddie hack" or "fledgling hack." That is not a compliment. They use preexisting programs and do not create any real threat.

Up until now ISIS' computer hacking success has been "denial of service" attacks. Denial of service is a cyber attack that floods a site and brings it down. Even this is old. They use windows programs and multiple servers and the best of these use bots and botnets.

ISIS does not cover their cyber hacking tracks well. They use proxies and cyber-criminals. Both of these are very simple to crack.

ISIS has been working the cyber angle for three years and after all that time they are successful only their communication.

Individuals around the world might do ISIS a favor and hack for them -- but there is no actual cyber threat from ISIS.

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Misspelled Terrorism on the Memorial
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 6, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

On Tuesday, Columbia City, Indiana uncovered their new Vietnam memorial.
Part of the memorial is a bench and at the foot of the bench is written the word Terrorism.

But "terrorism" was misspelled. The word had an addition "i" so it read Terriorism.

Ty Murphy, the designer of the memorial, said that it was a minor and small issue. He said it was a "pretty small thing to worry about" but, never the less, phones have been ringing "off the hook."

The designer said that the mistake would either be fixed or the bench would be replaced. In the meantime, he put a piece of gaffer's tape on the extra "I". He thinks that for now, it looks ok.

The truth is that misspelling a word - especially a word that resonates as much as the word "terrorism" does is not a small or minor thing at all.

It's a big deal, a very big deal.


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Israeli Hospitals Hit by Cyber Attack
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 5, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli hospitals were recently hit by a cyber attack. It was originally thought that eight Israeli hospitals were targeted but the prime minister’s office has reported that actually, only two hospitals were affected.

The names of those two hospitals have yet to be made public. Everyone involved has clearly confirmed that there has been no security risk and that the hospitals were only briefly affected. Hospital computers were quickly treated and further protected.

This attack was not connected to the massive attack which took place the day before. The GoldenEye virus, aka Petya, hit ports all around the world including Mumbai and Los Angeles. The virus attacked and disabled thousands of computers even hitting a chocolate factory in Australia.

GoldenEye is a ransomware improvement of the Petya ransomware virus. It originated in Ukraine.

The virus that hit Israel was not a ransomware which is when the computer is taken over and you need to pay to get control back of your own computers.
This was an invasion to see and disrupt.

Israel says that no damage was done and all the computers that were attacked are now protected and back up and running.

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Iran Anti Trump Cartoon Competition
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 4, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Remember Iran's cartoon competition about the Holocaust?

The same people are organizing a cartoon competition about Donald Trump.

The competition opened in Teheran on Monday. Some of the 1,600 cartoons submitted to the competition used Nazi and Hitler images to depict the US president.

First prize is $1500.

Iran is making fun of Trump. That's good news.

It means that Donald Trump and America are doing something right. Iranians are feeling the pressure of the United States upon them and they are responding by turning America and the American president into a target of ridicule and of humor.

With both the Holocaust cartoon competition and this competition lampooning President Trump, Iranians are trying to change history by challenging world leadership and the role of the United States - especially the role of President Trump, in world affairs.

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Assad on New Bank Note
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 3, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Syria is printing a 2,000 pound bank note.

Until now their largest denomination was a 1,000 pound note.

This new note has --- you guessed it --- a picture of Bashar Assad on it. The 1,000 note has a picture of father, Hafez Assad.

The banknote went into circulation on Sunday.

The release of this new note transmits a very important message from the president of Syria. Assad is feeling very secure. Even those trying to oust him in Syria still use Syrian bank notes. They are using notes with his father's face printed on them, and now they will be using notes with his face.

Assad clearly and firmly believes that he is in Syria to stay.

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Indian PM To Visit Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 2, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Next week Prime Minister Modi of India will make history when he arrives in Israel on the first trip ever of an Indian prime minister to Israel. Modi will spend three days in meetings in Israel.

India has historically been very quiet about their good relations with Israel and very public about their ties with the Palestinians and the Arab world. Arafat was a regular guest in India. Abbas just made a trip there.
India may have pledged and delivered generous support to the Palestinians - but when all is said and done, India is a partner with Israel. They buy $1 billion a year of military equipment and training from Israel.

Even more important right now is an Israeli program to help alleviate food shortages in India.

Israeli has created 26 agricultural centers in 15 Indian states to help improve the growth of staples by efficiently providing food. This will aid by boosting the production of vegetables, mangos and pomegranates.

This $100 billion program will benefit both Israel and India.

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