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Palestinians Renege on Israel Recognition
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 16, 2018

I've Been Thinking:


The Palestinian Central Committee is the arm which creates policy for the PLO. The Committee has voted to renege on the 1993 Oslo Accords, the agreement that recognizes Israel and advances the proposition of a two-state solution. The vote was 74 in favor, 2 opposed and 12 abstentions.

The Palestinians are breaking off all interaction and relationships with Israel - including security cooperation.

The resolution, which is binding, “mandates the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee to suspend recognition of Israel until it recognizes the state of Palestine, cancels the decision to annex east Jerusalem and stops settlement activity."

The resolution also demands that Israel return to the 1967 borders and pursues the Arab peace initiative.

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Abbas Slaps Trump Hard
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 15, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

One of the ugliest, yet non-crude Arabic curses, is "may your house come to ruin."

That is what Palestinian President Abbas wished upon US President Donald Trump yesterday at the two day conference about Jerusalem taking place in Ramallah.

Abbas said that he found out about the US pulling their United Nations aid to the Palestinians from a tweet. Abbas said: "I see a tweet on Twitter." He said the tweet read: "'We will not give the Palestinians money because they refuse to negotiate." And then, referring to Trump, Abbas continued by saying: "May your house come to ruin. Where did you offer that to me? On the phone? On television?"

Abbas then explained why Jerusalem is important to Islam by saying it was the first direction of prayer. That is true. But what Abbas did not explain is that the prophet Mohammed turned his back on Jerusalem when the Jews rejected his prophecy.

Abbas said "True, Jerusalem does not have the Kaaba (a structure in Mecca considered the holiest site to Islam), but it is the first direction for prayer and the third holiest site to Muslims."

"Jerusalem is our eternal capital," Abbas declared, "come what may. It is for this reason that we are gathered here - to defend it. We're in a sensitive position. What can we comprise on later? The state itself? Abu Dis as capital? We're done. Here we stay. We will not make the mistakes of the past - of 1948 and 1967 - again. Jerusalem and al-Aqsa, of which Mohammad spoke, are one of the holiest sites after Mecca and Medina."

The Palestinians are trying to stoke the flames of conflict. They want people to get excited. They are rejecting past agreements and past proposals. Abbas is r-writing the playbook on peaceful negotiations and diplomacy.


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Rouhani & Trump on the Nuke Deal
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 14, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

There's been a back and forth volley going on about the Iranian nuclear deal lately.

US President Trump has called on the major powers who signed the deal to "fix the terrible flaws" in the agreement. He even gave them an ultimatum, saying that they need to fix it or the United States will withdraw from the agreement.

Iranian President Mohamed Rouhani shot back on Iranian TV. He said that the United States was unsuccessful at torpedoing the agreement which he called a "long lasting victory" for Iran.

Rouhani said: "The American administration has failed to undermine the nuclear deal ... Trump, despite his repeated efforts, has failed to undermine the accord ... The deal is a long-lasting victory for Iran."

This is just the beginning of tensions.

President Trump is committed to improving the agreement. The other powers and Iran are satisfied with the agreement.

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Putin Complements Kim Jong Un
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 12, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Russia's President Vladimir Putin complemented North Korea's Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un. He called Kim Jung competent and mature and added that Kim Jong was handling a complex global situation in a calm and mature manner.

These are Putin's exact words: Kim Jong Un "is an absolutely competent and already mature politician" who has "solved his strategic task - he has a nuclear warhead and a global-range missile." Putin continued on, saying that Kim Jong is "cleaning up the situation, smoothing it, calming it."

This is a perfect Putin moment. What Russia's leader is really doing is complementing the North Korean leader on how he is handling Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America. It is also a direct attack against Trump.

Trump and Kim Jung have been flamboyantly bickering ever since Trump assumed the presidency. The exchange got so wild that there were those who thought it may lead to military, perhaps even nuclear, attacks or even war.

And in the end who is the calming force? In Putin's eyes the responsible, mature leader is Kim Jong Un of North Korea.

This is not just an attack on Trump, it is also a way of buttering up Kim Jong for something important in the very near future.


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Iran FM Visits Moscow
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 11, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

No surprise - Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif traveled to Moscow to meet with his counterpart, Sergey Levrov.

The obvious reason for the meeting was to discuss the now infamous Iran nuke agreement, from the spring of 2015, between Iran and the P-5 + 1.
Both Iran and Russia support Assad and want him in place, so they certainly discussed that, too. But it's the nuke deal that was primary on the Iranian agenda.

Since the US presidential election a year ago, the White House has been saying that they want to scrap the agreement. It was part and parcel of the Trump Platform. Candidate Trump called it "the worst deal ever" and "the worst deal in history."

Iran received assurances from Moscow that they would defend the agreement and they would fight against the "destructive policies" of the United States. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov praised the now infamous agreement calling it the "key contribution to the regional stability and nuclear non-proliferation."

So again, it's no surprise that Iran and Russia are in cahoots when it comes to Syria and when it comes to boxing in the United States in the Middle East.

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Mossad Head Says They're Watching Iran
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 10, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

The head of the Israeli Mossad, Yossi Cohen, addressed a finance ministry conference the other day.

Cohen spoke about Iran and the political protests there. He said: "We have eyes and ears and more than that in Iran." He continued to say that while the protest movements are welcome, we should not expect to see real change in Iran.

Obviously Israel is monitoring the happenings in Iran from the outside and the inside. They have assets, not agents, there. Agents in Iran would be too risky. But more important than assets, Israel has computer technology that spies on almost everything in Iran.

Remember the Stuxnet virus that invaded Iran? There were at least four other viruses like Stuxnet that have invaded Iran. Those viruses give Israel real insight into what is happening.

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Elections in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 9, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

The Egyptian Election Authority announced that the presidential election will take place March 26 - 28. If no candidate garners 50% of the votes there will be a runoff April 19 - 21.

Egyptian President al Sisi was elected 4 years ago. Even though elected, al Sisi took office by ousting the duly elected President Morsi who was part of the Muslim Brotherhood. A cloud has been hanging over al Sisi's presidency, he was originally elected with nearly no opposition.

All Sisi has yet to declare for the upcoming election, but it seems clear that other potentially viable candidates are feeling pressured to stay out of the election.

Egypt is a pseudo-democracy and the obvious question now is how free the election will be. Not whether people will be able to vote - but will candidates be able to stand for election.

The most important rule in fledgling democracies is that all democratic parties and all people who represent democratic ideas be permitted the chance to stand for election. Non-democratic voices and parties must be sidelined.

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Iran To Stop Teaching English
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 8, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has banned teaching English in elementary schools. The decision was made by the Supreme Leader the Grand Ayatollah Khamenai.

Iranian leadership sees English as a jumping board to assimilation and as an open invitation for Western culture to enter Iran. The response is to shut down what the Grand Ayatollah terms the "cultural invasion."

Mehdi Navid Adham, speaking for the ministry of education, described the logic behind the policy of rejecting the teaching of English in Iran this way: "Teaching English in government and non-government primary schools in the official curriculum is against laws and regulations."

Iranian leadership may be correct regarding cultural assimilation. But from the technological, scientific and medical vantage point, it will thrust Iran backwards. In as little as 15 years Iranians will not be able to compete on the world stage in any science, computer or technology related field.

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Rift in Gaza Over Prayer
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 7, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

A massive rift is emerging in Gaza - and it is had nothing to do with politics. This rift is over morning prayer.

Muslims pray 5 times a day. The first prayer is said at dawn. It is called "fajr" which means dawn. A committee of religious leaders thinks that the fajr has not been well attended and have decided to start a Gaza-wide campaign to change the situation. They are waking up all of Gaza for dawn prayers.

For the daily wakeup call they are not only using loudspeakers from the mosque as is traditionally done, but they are making them even louder and they are adding drums to the call to prayer.

There has been serious blowback, even from several Islamic scholars, who say that it is against Islamic law to annoy people.

Abdel-Bari Khela, a mufti, an imam and a very influential scholar of Islam, explained that while the fajr is very important, so is protecting people's sleep and not annoying them and this intrusion into their daily lives could backfire. He said, "The banging will awaken children and it will cause confusion."

Khela issued an Islamic ruling about the importance of prayer and going to the mosque at dawn. He also said that it is against Islam''s instructions to "annoy" people. He said that there are two traditional calls of prayer issued from the mosque, known as "azans," according to the instruction of Islam and you are not to add to them and disturb people.

"Replacing them with illegitimate means such as drums, music and loud sound that makes noise is illegal. If it leads to harm like annoying people or disturbing them, this is forbidden."

Filling the mosques at dawn is now a policy of the government. The ministry of religious affairs in Gaza has chosen to become involved and is sponsoring the early wakeup, so it has now become political. More people will be coming to dawn prayers but the inevitable outcome is that even more people will be angered.

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Texas Imam Calls to Kill Jews
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 5, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

An Imam from Houston named Raed Saleh Al-Rousan used his radio show as a forum to call on Muslims to kill Jews - and did not realize it was offensive. Al-Rousan is the founder of an Islamic institute in Houston. He did not think it was issuing a a call for violence until some of his colleagues explained it to him.

Al-Rousan said, "[Judgement Day] will not come until Muslims fight the Jews there, in Palestine"in a Dec. 8 sermon titled "Our duties towards Al-Quds [Jerusalem]."

The he quoted from the Koran saying: "The Muslims will kill the Jews, and the Jews will hide behind the stones and the trees, and the stones and the trees will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.'" He then added that "this is the promise of Allah."

The Imam continued: "The Muslims will have victory. [Jews] know these facts, brothers and sisters, but they are trying to delay it...because they don't want for us to be religious."

It is hard to imagine that anyone would not see this as a call to violence.

The Imam was mistaken in his words and in his sentiment. I would hope that the federal prosecutor investigates the Imam for hate speech and as a threat to murder Jews.

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Iranian Terror Cell in West Bank
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 4, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli internal security, the Shin Bet, uncovered an Iranian terror cell.

The Israeli daily Haaretz published a groundbreaking piece that describes how Iran recruited Palestinians through contacts in South Africa.

In South Africa, the Palestinian recruit would meet Iranian agents and get their orders. The recruit would then go back to the Palestinian Authority and organize a cell with the money and the information received from their recruiters and handlers in South Africa. The cells included suicide bombers, snipers and general shooters.

Recruits were responsible for two important missions. The first is intelligence. The recruits were clearly delivering important data to Iran. Second, they were responsible for activating real terrorists to act and attack Israelis.

This is just one of many Iranian ventures that, we’re sure, are out there.

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England Wants Iran to Debate their Differences
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 3, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

In response to the demonstrations against the leadership in Iran, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May said, through her spokesman, that Iran should talk these issues through.

"We believe there should be meaningful debate about the legitimate and important issues that the protesters are raising, and we're looking to the Iranian authorities to permit that."

The logic behind the British call for debate is - laughable.

There is no way that any of the sides in Iran want to discuss anything. The protesters want change and the supporters of the Theocratic regime want everyone to conform.

There really are no grounds for compromise here.

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Iran Has Tradition of Protests
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 2, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has a great tradition of protests and rallies. These protests do not often make it into Western the news cycle. But when it comes to Iranian anti-government protests, the Western media is on top of the story.

Protests have continued popping up in dozens of cities and towns. Some of the protests have tens of thousands of people. So far Iranian leadership has not clamped down on the protest.

Iranian leadership needs to figure out how and when to quell the protests. Will their actions stimulate more protests and more protesters? If they crush the rallies, what backfire might they expect?

Iran is a society that is hard to track. While there are a significant number of people who want to oust the religious theocracy, there are also those who participate in counter protests supporting the government and the theocratic regime.

How is the population split? Is it 60%40%? 50%-50%? 55%-45%? Iran would like us to think that it is 90%-10%.

We really do not know.

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Putin Tells Assad Russia will Protect Him
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 1, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Russian President Putin sent a New Year message to Syrian President Assad. The content of the message was delivered by the Kremlin.

The Kremlin promised Assad that they will "continue to render every assistance to Syria in the protection of state sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, in the promotion of a political settlement process, as well as in efforts to restore the national economy."

This note, now made public, is an essential tool to understanding Russia's future interest and directions in Syria.

Russia is investing in Syria for the long haul.

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