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Putin Changing History
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 23, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Rule # 1: Whoever owns the history, possess the power.
That is why history is so often in dispute, why it is so often fought over. And that explains why people, especially those with leadership roles, create history.

Rule # 2: At all costs, avoid the role of perpetrator.
That is why history is so often re-written, often by perpetrators. It is better to be a victim than a perpetrator. It is better to be a bystander than a perpetrator.
This week commemorates the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz - Birkenau.

And with that we must remember these rules as we listen to leaders who are trying to transform themselves into victims or bystanders. When in reality they were mostly bystanders and perpetrators.

It is easier to explain to your children and grandchildren that you were a victim than explain that you participated in the evil murderous policies of the Nazis. It is easier to say that you were simply silent.

We are seeing a revision of history by certain leaders as they distant themselves from the Nazis. Most blatantly is President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Putin is continuing a historical rewrite that has been part of the Russian narrative since the end of WWII.

They assert that they were victims. Victims of the Nazis. At the Auschwitz Memorial in Jerusalem, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that 40% of the Jewish victims of the Nazis were Soviets. There is no doubt that between 26 and 50 million Soviets were killed in the War - many froze or starved to death. But Putin's statistic does not hold.

The Holocaust happened under the veil of WWII. It was a policy of the Nazis. One cannot conflate the two. The purpose of the Nazi Holocaust was to murder all the Jews first of Europe and then, all the Jews in the world.

Russia is deliberating forgetting important parts of history. They were not victims. They had an alliance with the Nazis. On August 23, 1939 Russia and Germany signed a treaty called the Molotov - Ribbentrop Pact named after the foreign ministers of both countries, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov.

They agreed to simultaneously invade Poland from opposite sides. Germany invaded on September 1st and Russia on September 17th.

For decades, first as Soviets and now as Russians, they have conveniently forgotten this essential fact. Russiaian leadership has chosen, instead, to emphasize Operation Barbarosa when, on Sunday June 22,194,1 Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

I will never forget the first time I heard this. I was in the then USSR and a tour guide explained that the Soviets entered WWII in June of 1941. I tried to correct her. She did not believe me. She thought it was I who was creating history.

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India Drops Oil Imports From MidEast
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 22, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

I've Ben Thinking:

India is the third largest consumer of oil in the world.
India needs oil. They realize they need oil and they have been implementing a plan to insure that they continue to receive a regular stream of imported oil.

For three years in a row India has reduced the amount of oil they import from the Middle East. To give you a sense of the numbers, in 2018 they imported 65% of their oil from the Middle East while last year, in 2019, that number dropped to 60%.

India understands the need to reduce their dependence on Middle East oil. The political situation is too volatile. Iran has made the region unpredictable. And so India and other countries are responding.

During the same period that India has been cutting back on their Middle East oil imports, the United States has become energy sufficient. The US is now producing enough oil that there is no need to import oil. The US still does import, but they are now significant exporters as well.

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46 Leaders Visit Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 21, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Forty-six presidents, kings and prime ministers will visit Israel this week.
That number is truly impressive.

The United States is being represented by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The last time so many leaders converged in Israel was in 2017 and the occasion was the funeral of Shimon Peres who served the country as both prime minister and president.

Actually, fewer high level dignitaries came for the Peres funeral than are coming this week.

Israel is marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. The official ceremony will take place on Thursday at Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial and educational center in Jerusalem.
The central theme of this memorial event will be confronting anti-Semitism.

No other country in the world could successfully invite that many leaders to attend a memorial and receive so many positive responses. It shows how important and well respected Israel is and it shows how important the fight against anti-Semitism is.

Again, truly impressive.

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Jordan Says No to Israeli Gas
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 20, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Media in the Middle East has been covering details of the new gas deals developed between Jordan and Israel and between Egypt and Israel.

According to the deals, Israel will soon begin providing natural gas for both Jordan and Egypt.

Jordanian and Egyptian leadership are pleased with the arrangements - otherwise, they would never have signed on to the deals.

The Jordanian Parliament, however, just passed a bill forbidding the deal.

The bill is symbolic. The parliament has no real role in the decision making, all control rests in hands of the King. The King can, and in this case certainly will, disregard the parliament’s new bill.

But the move by the Jordanian Parliament should not be totally discounted. And that's because this parliament passed bill represents the masses in Jordan who do not want a deal with Israel.

The bill was passed on to the government for approval. According to the Speaker of the Parliament the bill "answers the calls of the people who refuse an agreement with Israel. Governments recognize Israel, but the peoples do not recognize Palestine's occupying entity."

And so it goes.

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Tunnel Tech on Border w Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 19, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The IDF recently announced that they are installing their new seismic and acoustic anti-tunnel defenses on the northern border with Lebanon and Syria.
They devices are called tunnel buster sensors.

This is a very new cutting edge technology that can detect tunnels that are being built and tunnels that have already been dug.

This new technology marks the first effective weapon in history to defend against tunnel. Tunnel warfare has puzzled defense strategists for millennia.
As for the installation of the tunnel busters on Israel's northern border, the IDF says this is just a preventative measure.

They say that there is no immediate threat. However, one must note that Israel has already detected a number of tunnels dug deep into the rock.

So - while there may not be an immediate alert, there is an ongoing threat. And that ongoing threat is now being partially neutralized because Israel is taking the steps to install this new technology.

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2 Defections in 1 Week
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 16, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Another defection from Iran. That makes it number two just this week. Both are women.

Shohreh Bayat, 32 years old, is a chess hero famous all around the world - and especially in Iran. This week she was the referee of the Women's World Chess Championship.

During one of the matches there was a picture of Bayat refereeing and it appeared that she was not wearing her head scarf, her Hijab.

Iranian media picked up the picture and it went viral.

In response, Bayat said that she was in fact wearing her Hijab, but that it was not visible from that particular camera angle. None-the-less, she received death threats.

It is against the law in Iran not to wear the Hijab and all female competitors, even in active sports, are required to wear a Hijab.

Bayat is afraid. At best, she fears that she will be arrested if she returns to Iran. At worst, she fears for her life. There are many Iranian women in prison for violating the Hijab law.

No word yet on where Shohreh Bayat will go.

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Another Hero Defect from Iran
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 13, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Another dramatic defection from Iran by a national hero.

Kimia Alizadeh is the only Iranian to have won a medal in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Her sport is Taekwondo. And now she has defected.

In her Instagram post Alizadeh wrote that she defected of her own volition, that she was not tricked or wooed into defecting, that no country offered her asylum or refuge. It is a chilling message that highlights what is now happening in Iran.
She wrote: “No one has invited me to Europe and I haven’t been given a tempting offer. But I accept the pain and hardship of homesickness because I didn’t want to be part of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery."

Alizadeh continues: “I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran whom they’ve been playing for years ... I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated."

And there's more: “None of us matter for them, we are just tools.”

The young athlete is referring to herself and to her sports colleagues. She is indicating that the Iranian regime uses them as propaganda tools for both the outside world and inside Iran.

Alizadeh concludes her message on a sad and sorrowful note: “Should I start with hello, goodbye or condolences? Hello oppressed people of Iran, goodbye noble people of Iran, my condolences to you people who are always mourning."

Kimia Alizadeh is the second athlete to defect from Iran in the past few months. A male judo wrestler defected after he refused to throw a match to avoid the possibility of competing against an Israeli athlete.

Iranian citizens, young and old, are bringing about change in Iran. They are standing up and taking a stance.

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Iran Lies
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 12, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

At the Israeli cabinet meeting this Sunday morning Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made an opening statement just as he does every Sunday morning. In today's statement Bibi spoke about Iran. He explained that: "Iran lied; just as she lied about the nuclear deal, now she lies about the Ukrainian airliner."

We have all witnessed Iran's denials, and then witnessed the reversals and changes they make. This time, they came clean - well, nearly clean. This time the Iranians have acknowledged that, indeed, the Ukrainian airline was shot down by an Iranian missile fired by the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Iran now asserts that the shooting was human error and unintentional.
That part of the confession is the highly unlikely part.

Anyone who knows anything about anti-aircraft systems knows all anti-aircraft systems can distinguish between every kind of aircraft if only by the pitch and speed of the plane's engine. An F-15's engine is nothing like the engine of a civilian 737 jetliner.

For Persian Muslims, just like for other Arabs in the Middle East, any Westerner is considered an outsider and a foreigner. They are all lumped into the same group and they are all infidels. A Ukrainian airliner could have as easily been a US airliner or an airliner from British Air. They are all the same - interlopers and invaders treading on Muslim land - and, most importantly, they do not belong.

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Putin is Not Worried
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 9, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Vladimir Putin is not disturbed by the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani. Neither does the Iranian rocket strike faze him.
How do we know this?

On Tuesday, Putin landed in Syria to meet with President Assad and visit Russian bases. He spoke to his soldiers and inspected his bases.

Then on Wednesday Putin travelled to Turkey. Actually, Putin’s trip to Turkey was planned long before the Syrian trip. The Syrian visit was an add-on to the Turkey trip.

Putin was not afraid and not worried about being in the region. He was not afraid for himself nor for the Russia mission. He was not expecting any surprise Iranian generated surprises or moves.

Maybe he knew in advance that Iran was not going to escalate – that they would modestly respond by sending missiles to hit Iraqi bases. If Iran and Russia are that close, in this instance it's good news. It means that with Putin's influence, tensions would be shorter live and reduced.

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Iran Warned Iraq of Airstrike
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 8, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Things are heating up in the Middle East.

It has been reported that Iran warned Iraq in advance of the airstrike which took place early Wednesday.

Iran was aware that they were striking Iraqi air bases - true, that was where US soldiers could be stationed, but nonetheless, they were still Iraqi bases.

France also has several thousand troops in Iraq. The French have made it clear that there is no plan to withdraw them.

For the Middle East Arab and Persian mind, there is no difference between France and the United States. They are both Westerners and foreigners on Arab soil.

So the French are certainly a target for Iranian revenge.


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Iran's Possible Response to Suleimani
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 7, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The US assassination of Iranian al Quds head, General Qassem Suleimani, continues to be big news. Politicians, talking heads, anyone who has an opinion on the subject is spouting off about why the assassination was right or wrong and if the situation will or will not cascade into an all out war.

Israel and Israelis are justifiably worried. They are a convenient target for Iran if only because Israel is the biggest symbol and the most effective unifying tool in the entire Middle East.

My best analysis says that if Iran chooses to respond, they will use their proxies to attack US interests in the region and not engage directly with either the United States or with Israel. This was actually the role of Suleimani. He was tasked with the planning and execution of missions outside Iran using their proxies to strike at enemies of Iranian interests. He bolstered and trained the very groups and people who will now be called on to strike.

A full scale frontal war between Iran and the US is very doubtful. A direct strike from Iran and even from Iranian soil into Israel or to US bases is also unlikely.
Iran's most likely response will be calculated strikes by Hezbollah and by pro-Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq - all, of course, with the assistance of Iranian advisers and weapons. The most likely target being US bases in Iraq.

Israel will not be entirely forgotten. Israel will likely be on the receiving end of a barrage of rockets, maybe even drone attacks, from across their northern border - but not from Gaza. (Gaza is a powder keg that even Iran will not be able to control.) The important calculation vis a vis Iranian proxies is which action will make the biggest statement. But the action cannot be so larges as to tilt the momentum so that Israel or the United States respond with even greater force.

Israel's counter response to Iran's proxy response to the US assassination of Suleimani will be based on damage assessment. If missiles land in areas without significant damage but still big enough to make PR splash in the Arabic and Persian press, escalated tensions will recede and revert to normal tensions.

However, should there any real damage - especially to human life, Israel will be forced to respond by ratcheting up the tensions. The United States will probably use the same calculus in deciding on their counter response.

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Targeting Suleimani
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 3, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Targeting Iranian General Qassem Suleimani was a game changer in confronting world terror.

Morally and ethically this was a justified attack, not simply because of all that Suleimani perpetrated in the past but also because he was certainly planning more attacks and the murder of innocents.

General Suleimani was not the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as so many have reported. That distinction goes to Hossein Salami. Qassem
Suleimani was the commander of the al Quds Brigade. The Revolutionary Guard is an elite division of the Iranian army. The al Quds Brigade is the most elite group within the elite Guard.

Suleimani was responsible for ALL operations outside of Iran. His great strength was his strategic and tactical planning. He was responsible for literally hundreds of operations as well as Iranian activities in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza. General Qassem Suleimani cannot be easily replaced.

This is a sampling of his diabolical achievements: He armed Hezbollah and brought them to their current strength. He did the same with Islamic Jihad in Gaza. He bombed the Saudi oil fields. He planned every operation against Israeli and Jewish targets tied to Iran. He masterminded the most recent storming of the US embassy in Baghdad.

It was no coincidence that Suleimani was in Iraq when he was targeted.

Over the past decade there have been numerous, erroneous, reports of his death. In 2006 he walked away from a plane crash that killed almost everyone else on board. In 2012 a bombing in Damascus killed his aides as well as aides to Syrian President Assad. In 2015 his death was reported during a battle in Aleppo. Then he was said to be badly injured. All of them untrue.
Today, he is dead.

The United States and Israel have both been waiting for the perfect time to try again. This time the US succeeded-- almost certainly with a little help from Israel.

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Iran Responds
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 2, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is responding to the United States.
The United States hit six Iranian targets in Iraq. Western media clumped them all into one attack, but they were six individual attacks.
Iran is responding with rhetoric.
And not the kind of rhetoric that most of the Western world would expect. The Iranian response is atypically calm, calculated and clear.
The more one learns about Iran, the more one realizes how skillfully they use the media how artfully they compose their responses. They responses are not emotional at all. It is all about strategy. It is akin to a long term game of chess.
Look at the response of the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Brigadier General Hossein Salami. This response is quoted by Tasnim, an official media outlet in Iran. It was picked up across the international world and was read by everyone monitoring the situation.
“We are not leading the country to war, but we are not afraid of any war and we tell America to speak correctly with the Iranian nation. We have the power to break them several times over and are not worried.”
In addition Iran’s Army Chief of Staff Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi also quoted in Iranian official radio announced on Thursday that Iranian forces were ready to confront the “enemy”.
“Our armed forces ... monitor all moves, and if anyone makes the slightest mistake, they will decisively react, and if the situation heats up, we will show our abilities to the enemy."

As if that was not enough, on Wednesday Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the U.S. attacks on Iranian-allied militias in Iraq, blaming the United States for violence in Iran’s neighbor Iraq.

Iran is dialing down the tensions just as the United States is dialing them up.

There is a possibility of all out war - but more likely is a scenario in which the next few weeks will be tense. We will witness a series of tit for tat, of actions and reactions.

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