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Hamas- PA Deal
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 24, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement yesterday.
The overall winner is Hamas. They get almost everything. Abbas and the PA get to rub the faces of the United States and Israel in the mud.

The reality is that all the conditions as agreed upon in this current agreement were already signed onto in two previous agreements - one in Doha and the other in Cairo. The only difference is the timetable.

There are very few details about any sharing of power in any of the three agreements.

So why did Hamas once again agree to this? The real problem for Hamas is that Gaza needs money. They have been bled dry. There is an almost total barricade of funds entering Gaza. Most Arab countries, with only one exception, have long ago withdrawn their support of Hamas. Even Iran, the lone holdout, no longer supports Hamas in Gaza because they are on opposite sides in Syria.

It is the hope of monetary aid that helps drive Hamas' acceptance of the deal.

As for the PA, they have now entered into an agreement and joined forces with a registered and universally accepted terror organization.

United States law, as well as almost all of European law, prohibits supporting a terror organization. That means that the monetary aid, the raison d'etre of Hamas for joining with the PA, will stop.
There is no way the White House can justify sending funds to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

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Europe Sees The Jihad Threat
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 23, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Both the French and Dutch governments issued reports today that hundreds of their citizens have been involved in jihadist activists. Many of them have been trained, fought and died in Syria.

In the case of Amsterdam, one Dutch citizen was even a suicide bomber.

The reports underscore the urgent need for Europe to respond to the changing and wide spread landscape of terror. These governments, as well as the rest of Europe, are trying to create responses which will protect their homes and home turf from the extremism that these jihadists will bring back with them from Syria.

The jihadists return home with battle and weapons experience and training. They are battle hardened and they are even more dedicated to the jihadist cause than they were before joining the fight in Syria.

France says that 700 of their citizens were involved in jihadist activities in 2013. The actual number is probably three times that.

Until now the only tools governments had been using involved intelligence collection. Now the French Ministry of the Interior has announced that they are working on a plan to stem this movement. And Amsterdam has announced that they are cooperating with other governments to try to create a response.

The best response to hate is education. But that is a long term solution.

In the short term Europe needs to breakup jihadist groups, arrest members of jihadists groups and clamp down on individual jihadists.

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Next Iran Talks to Be in NYC
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The official Iranian student news service reported on Sunday that the next set of nuclear talks will take place in New York City.

The news agency, called ISNA, quoted a senior negotiator saying that in May the Iranians will continue their discussions with Western powers on the sidelines of the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty talks.

This is the first time since the talks began that negotiations will take place in New York City. It is a significant signal.
It means that all the parties to the negotiations have enough of a comfort level to agree to have the United States both host and to be a part of the talks.

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Al Qaeda & the PA
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 20, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Ayman Zawahiri, head of al Qaeda, posted a general update of al Qaeda on Saturday. Part of the update dealt with the Abbas and the Palestinians.

Zawahiri refers to Palestinian leadership as traitors and cowards.
He says that they have given up on the land and on their people and want only to conform to US and Zionist demands.

The PA responded by posting a statement on their website asking since when has al Qaeda even cared about the Palestinians.

Ahmad Assaf, the Fatah spokesmen, took the PA response several steps further saying: "confirm the level of his and his organization's involvement in the Zionist project. Since when has this hypocrite and his gang been interested in the Palestinian issue and the Palestinian people? They see the whole world an open arena for their activities, but we didn't see even one activity against the Israeli occupation."

Did you catch the last line?

The Fatah spokesman is asking why there has been not even a single terror al Qaeda attack against Israel. He is saying, in essence, if you cared about the Palestinians then you would be attacking Israel and killing Israelis.

This is one of the most honest statements by Palestinian leadership that I have heard in a very long time. Palestinian leadership traditionally attempts to create the illusion of a desire for coexistence and a condemnation of terror. Here we see the opposite. The spokesman is saying --- If you really loved us, you would be killing Israelis.

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Al Qaeda vs Al Qaeda
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It is clear that Bashar Assad is there to stay, at least for the short term. It is also clear that the real battle now being waged in Syria is between al Qaeda and al Qaeda breakaway groups.

The most recent spat is being waged on the audio waves of the internet. Abu Mohammed al Adnani, spokesperson for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the largest breakaway from al Qaeda posted a very angry and antagonistic internet audio message attacking the current leader of al Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri.

Al Adnani let loose an ad hominem rant about how Zawahiri is betraying the cause of Islam and jihad and how he has deviated from the proper path.

In November of 2013, Zawahiri was so frustrated with this group that he officially disbanded them. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant responded by breaking away from al Qaeda claiming that they were the true jihadist group and declaring war on all others groups - especially al Nusra, now the official al Qaeda representative in Syria.

The battle about how best to conduct jihad continues. And the killing goes on.

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Turkey to Ask Russia for a Favor
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 18, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

In foreign affairs and diplomacy nothing happens in isolation. A country's foreign affairs are, in many ways, akin to the game Settlers of Catan.

So as the situation begins to unravel with Russia, many other countries are stepping up, taking sides and taking advantage.

Imagine how interested I was to see that the deputy of the Russian natural gas company Gazprom was schedule to visit Turkey. And during the visit, Turkey intends on asking the Russians for a price reduction.

Russia/Gazprom is the major provider of natural gas for Turkey - and Turkey is dependent on imports for almost all of their energy.
Given today's political climate, Russia might be willing to reduce the price of gas in exchange for support in the international arena. If not support, at least silence.

For Turkey, it would seem to be a very small price to pay for cheaper natural gas.

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Horrific - Jews Must Register in Russian Ukraine!
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Horrific!! Just Horrific!!

The Jews living in a province located in a section of Ukraine that is being contested by the Russians have been asked to register at the regional citizenship office. If they do not follow directions their citizenship will be revoked, they will be forced to leave Ukraine and all their property will be confiscated. They must also pay a $50 registration fee.

The province, or, Obalst in Ukranian, is called Donetsk. It is home to the largest industrial area in Ukraine and lies in the eastern part of the country, close to Russia. Donetsk has a population of 4.3 million which is about 10% of the total population of Ukraine.
Many ethnic Russians live in the province. And there are 17,000 Jews living in Donetsk.

On Passover armed masked men delivered leaflets demanding that the Jews register.

The leaflet read:

"Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,
Due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine, because you supported Bendery Junta, and oppose the pro-Slavic People's Republic of Donetsk, (An historical allusion to WWII) has decided that all citizens of Jewish descent, over 16 years of age and residing within the republic's territory are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register.

ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.

Evasion of registration will result in citizenship revoke and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property."

Who would have imagined that this would happen in the year 2014.

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Secret Talks
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Those in the know knew, but they were quiet about it for these past two years. And those who did not know were no less wise without the knowledge.

I am referring to secret talks between Israel and her Arab neighbors. The talks have focused on how the region can confront Iran and save the Middle East from falling into crisis.

And then, on Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman gave an interview during which he outlined the pros and cons of the talks and explained why Arab countries are engaged in these unofficial dialogues with Israel.

Liberman said: "For the first time there is an understanding there that the real threat is not Israel, the Jews or Zionism. It is Iran, global jihad, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda."

He continued: "There are contacts, there are talks, but we are very close to the stage in which within a year or 18 months it will no longer be secret, it will be conducted openly."

"I have spent more than a few years of meetings and talks with them. As far as they are concerned, there is only one red rag and that is Iran," he said.

"You have to understand that if in Bahrain outlaws Hamas or Hezbollah, it's not because of Israel. When the presidential candidate in Egypt, General al-Sisi, outlaws the Muslim Brotherhood, it's not because of Zionism. They understand that we are on the same side of the divide."

"I think that they too are stewing in their own juice and reaching an awareness that there will be no choice but to move from the secret stage of the dialogue between us to the open stage of the talks."

The winds of the Middle East might be changing.


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Elections in Egypt May 26-27
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 15, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

On May 26th and 27th Egypt is scheduled to have democratic elections.

Last July Egypt ousted their democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood party. Since then an interim government has been in place. That temporary government was supported by the military. And it was the military, together with public outrage at the Muslim Brotherhood, which ousted Morsi.

Now the former leader of that military, Abdel-Fatteh al-Sissi, has collected the 25,000 signatures necessary to run for president in the May elections.

We have always assumed that al-Sissi will run and that he would be a shoe in. But nothing is certain until it happens - and in the Middle East nothing is certain until the dust settles which can take a good few weeks.

Elections in Egypt are five weeks away and campaigning has yet to really begin.

We hope for a fair election and that whoever the winner is will propel Egypt towards a future that is more stable and free.

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Iran Drills on Iraqi Border
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian media has been reporting on two very interesting pieces of information.

The first is that Iran has called off the move to position part of their naval fleet in the Atlantic. The decision was made because, at this point, they need to keep their ships closer to home.

The second is that the Iranian border patrol has embarked on a four day exercise involving drones, balloons, armored vehicles and 4,000 border guards. The drill will take place along the Iraqi border, covering five Iranian provinces.

Aside from the obvious need for preparedness, this drill is sending a direct message to Iraqi militia groups and smugglers warning them not to cross into Iran.

Iran is warning Iraqi leadership to make certain that their side of the border is secure. Or else!

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Al Qaeda Threatens Entire Middle East
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

I was pleased to see that Egypt arrested Wael Ahmed Abdel Fattah on terror charges and charges of being affiliated with a terror organization.

Abdel Fattah, who worked for an oil company, went to Syria and fought alongside the al Qaeda affiliated group al Nusra in their battle to oust Syrian President Assad. Al Nusra is also locked in a bitter struggle against other rebel groups in Syria.

The natural outgrowth of an al Qaeda fighting force in Syria is to pop up, to sprout, to infiltrate surrounding countries. And now these al Qaeda groups have new, well trained fighters with battle experience.

Another outgrowth of al Qaeda groups fighting in Syria is the realization that even those leaders who supported ousting Assad - like the Egyptians, have now been turned into the targets of the rebels groups they were supporting in Syria.

The complexity and multi-layered underpinnings of the war in Syria are only now beginning to be understood by the world. The repercussions will be felt for a long time.

The Middle East is an extremely complicated region. And yet, for decades, world leaders chose to describe it in the most simple of terms. Now they must face the truth - the Middle East no longer fits the simple narrative they imposed upon it.

Al Qaeda is setting their sights on every single country in the Middle East. And after that, they intend to conquer the West.

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Syrian Update
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 12, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Syria has been on the back burner for most media outlets these past few weeks. Yet, there are still important developments that warrant our attention.

The process of the disposal of non-conventional weapons by Syria had come to a halt, but is now back on track.

And Assad has continued to solidify control over more and more of Syria.

Most importantly, rebel forces continue to fight one another more than they are fighting Assad. Over the past 36 hours 68 rebels have been killed by other rebels. The fighting is taking place in the area around Bukamal which is situated in Eastern Syria, near to the border with Iraq. Bukamal just happens to be the site of Syria's rich oil reserves.

The conflicts are between an al Qaeda breakaway called the Islamic State of Iraq and between the Levant and an al Qaeda affiliate called Al Nusra. There were times when the forces worked together, but for the past 18 months they have been viscously battling each of over.

They are battling over the question of who has the greater faith.

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If Deal Goes Thru Bibi Might Fall
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 11, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Rumors abound about a deal that will put the Israeli /Palestinian peace talks back on track. But not all concerned parties are in favor.

The deal, according to Al Arabiya, a usually reliable media source, goes like this: Israel agrees to free more prisoners and temporarily freeze construction; Palestinians extend the April 29th talk deadline and stop all UN advances for membership; the United States frees Jonathan Pollard.

All is fine - except. Except that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition might just fall apart.

Coalition member Naftali Bennett of Bayit Yehudi (The Jewish Home Party) said in response to the deal: "If any proposal freeing Israeli murderers is put before the government, the Bayit Yehudi will object, and if it will pass - the Bayit Yehudi will leave the government which frees murderers with Israeli citizenship. Enough is enough."

Bennett continued: "I hope to see Pollard freed from prison soon, but not through immoral deals like the one currently being proposed."

Bennett has 12 of the 68 seats in the Netanyahu coalition. A coalition requires 60 seats out of 120 members of Knesset. If Bennett and his party pull out, the government falls. When the government fails, Bibi Netanyahu is out.

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Israel Launches Satellite
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 10, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday, Israel launched another advanced satellite into space.
This Israeli satellite is named OFEK 10.

The new satellite joins OFEK 9, which is already in orbit.

Each OFEK satellite takes 90 minutes to circle the globe. The satellites are evenly spaced and now, every 45 minutes, Israel has real time pictures of what is happening.

This addition to Israel's satellite system brings with it significant improvement to Israel's security. Now Israel can better monitor what is happening in places of concern. They can, for example, watch and see in real time if Iran is moving missiles and if so, where.

Israel was the seventh country in the world to launch satellites.
Today that club is still very small. Only twelve countries possess the satellite technology. They are: United States, Russia, China, France, Italy, Britain, India, South Korea, Japan, Ukraine, and Iran and Israel.

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Peres Visits China
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 9, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli President Shimon Peres is on an official three day offical visit to China. Peres is the first Israeli Presidential visit to China in ten years.

Yesterday Peres met with Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday. Their meeting lasted two hours.

There is no doubt that the two presidents spoke about Iran's nuclear technology and the threat it poses to Israel, the region and the world. They also spoke about Palestinian / Israeli negotiation and probably about Syria.

It appears that Peres was moderately successful in convincing his Chinese counterpart of the dangers Iran poses. But never the less, Xi Jinping stressed that China is in favor of talks and negotiations with Iran.

With that, Peres tried to make sure that China will help make certain that, in the course of negotiations, Iran does not quietly slip into a position in which they actually do have nuclear weapons.

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PA Will Turn to Russia
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 7, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The US and Israel still feel the after effects of the trouncing they took at the hands of the Palestinians last week.

And now, as I have been predicting for the past two years, the Palestinians have another card up their sleeve - a card that neither the US nor Israel ever took seriously.
Russia.

After the events involving Ukraine and Crimea, after the role Russia played in Syria, the Palestinians have the perfect entree to go and request that Russia be their mediator in talks with Israel.

There have been game changing events in the Middle East over the past few years and Russia has been vying for more influence in the region. Now they have the perfect opportunity. And the best part of it all is that the Russians can, once again, show the world not only how the United States has failed but also how they can be counted on for the win.

Of course it will happen just as the Palestinians want. Israel will be forced into a discussion with the Palestinians and the third party will be Putin. In the best of all worlds the United States will remain a part of the discussion - even if only as a fourth wheel.

If I were advising Abbas and the Palestinians that is exactly what I would suggest. Invite the Russians to join the table. And watch out for sharp knives.

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Iran & Pakistan Navies Engage in War Games
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 6, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Non-Western news agencies are filled with the story of Iran and Pakistan and their naval maneuvers in the Straits of Hormuz.

The Chinese press is all over the story.

In the West few people will know what story I am talking about - but they should. So here it is:

On Saturday a flotilla of Pakistani naval ships docked in Bandar Abbas in advance of a four-day joint exercise with Iran. According to the Tehran Times the ships included a missile launching warship, a supply ship and an advanced submarine.

The obvious reason for the drills is to advance military cooperation between the two countries. There will also be meetings between the leaders of both navies.

The untold agenda is far more significant.

Iran and Pakistan are proclaiming to the West that they are hardly pariahs. They are saying that there are real and substantial relationships between them and that they will stand by one another in the case of political or military attack. They are making the point that the "international isolation" of Iran is not working.

They are reprimanding the West. Iran and Pakistan are saying that a byproduct of the serious talks between Iran and the West concerning
Iran's nuclear technology is to make "international inclusion" the more operative status.

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Potential Blow Back on the Palestinians
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 5, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel and the United States are evaluating responses to the recent and very bold initiative taken by the Palestinians to join the United Nations via its agencies and treaties.

The obvious counter response by the United States is to withhold nearly $1 billion in funding.

Israel has many more options. They can decide not to hand over import taxes collected at Israeli ports for Palestinian products.
They can make traveling from area to area on the West Bank very difficult. Or they can grind the current political model to the ground.

Most importantly, Israel had the ability to withdraw its protection of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Israel has made a concerted effort to squelch Hamas and other anti-PA activity in the West bank as a way of currying favor with Abbas, their peace partner and with his Palestinian Authority.

Israel can, easily and indirectly, cause the ousting of Abbas and his entire regime. It is a response that is being considered over all other responses right now.

The down side of implementing that plan is best articulated by the famous quote from Machiavelli: "the enemy you know is better than the enemy that you don't."

In this case, Israel knows both Hamas and Abbas and it is not going to be an easy decision.

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Israel Warns of Hack Attack
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 4, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has announced a cyber alert for all government and national websites.

The alert is in effect from Friday through Monday. There will be only limited international access. Upgrades and maintenance are postponed. Almost all government financial transactions with outside vendors will be pushed off until after Monday.

Israel has received intelligence that over the next few days there will be a cyber attack against their computer systems. The attack will emanate from pro-Palestinian hackers around the world.

The hackers hope to ride the wave of the huge diplomatic success Palestinians have had over the past week. The Palestinians have left both the Israelis and the United States flat footed as they push hard to expand their independence - not just their statehood.

Palestinian supporters are urging Palestinian leadership to step out with swag and style. They are saying you took charge of the negotiations and put your diplomatic foot down.

In truth, Palestinian leadership is acting to meet short term interests and rubbing the noses of the US and Israel in their new found power and prowess. Their people and their supporters, who assumed that the leadership did not have the gonads for any of this, are elated.

This new support has propelled the popularity of PA leadership over that of Hamas leadership. They should enjoy the revelry and euphoria now. It will soon come to an end. Long term interests trump short term victories.

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DC Upset by the Palestinians
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 3, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The White House is livid, Congress even more so. They are furious with the Palestinians.

It is not like Washington to be unified in their frustrations with the Palestinians. As a whole, the Palestinians usually get the benefit of the doubt and are seldom called to task for their mistakes or deliberate jabs against the United States.

This time is different.

Calling off talks with Israel and starting a full-court press for UN recognition through the 60 or so treaties and UN-affiliated organizations is a violation of the very deal the United States has been working so hard to achieve. The worst part of it all is that the Palestinians are proceeding a month before the deadline.
Congress is investigating ways to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority. The White House has not yet figured out how to respond.

The Palestinians response is that they were given no choice, that they had to act, that this was their only move.

In politics, there is seldom simply one move. And unilateral moves always result in strong responses. Now we watch and see how the United States responds.

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Fast Changes in Mid East
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 2, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Changes are emerging so quickly, it is hard to keep it all straight.

Israeli / Palestinian / US interaction was stalled. In order to jumpstart a discussion so many different proposals have been put forth that it is impossible to figure out which are realistic and what may actually take hold.

There is no way of knowing what is actually being suggested, but leaks and travel schedules can be extremely telling. For instance, when the US secretary of state makes an unscheduled trip to region, then promises to return the next day, then cancels that trip, something is happening.

When the president of the Palestinian Authority promises to not go to the United Nation and ask for full membership in its committees and then he begins the process of filling out the paperwork, something is happening. We know something is happening even when the US secretary of state says it is not so.

When each side has completely different talking points about the status of almost every item they are supposed to be negotiating about, we know there is a problem.

This is a sign of the futility of the venture - at least for the moment.

April 29th is the actual deadline for the negotiations. From the behaviors of the parties, one would think that the deadline was March 29th.

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Pollard Is US Ace in the Hole
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 1, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

A few weeks ago I wrote about murmurings emanating from the White House suggesting that freedom for Jonathan Pollard would be dangled in front of the Israelis as a means of luring them into making difficult concessions to the Palestinians.

Now clearly articulated voices are even tossing around dates for his release. I have heard that if it happens, it will happen before Passover which takes place in two weeks - on April 14.

Spokespeople in the State Department and the White House have no comment on whether this is a real or fantasy proposal.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians have threatened to launch full scale bid for recognition in all UN agencies if Israel does not release the third and final set of prisoners originally scheduled to be released this past Sunday. When US Secretary of State John Kerry made an unscheduled trip to the region yesterday he was slapped with this Palestinian ultimatum.

So in order to mollify the Israelis, the Obama administration might play the Pollard card. No US presidential administration has come this close to freeing Pollard who was arrested on November 21, 1985 and convicted in 1987.

The problem is that the United States holds very few cards - and even fewer aces, when it comes to enticing Israel. The one ace is Jonathan Pollard. As it now stands, it is not even clear that the Palestinians are ready for a peace deal. And if that is the case, it would be a waste for the United States to play their ace right now.

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Palestinians & 3rd Intifada
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 31, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinians are threatening a 3rd Intifada. An intifada is a huge spontaneous uprising against the Israelis.

They threaten violence if Israel does come through on the promised to release the 4th group of Palestinian prisoners. The prisoners were scheduled to be released on Sunday. By Friday it was clear the prisoners would not go free.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that they would go free only after the Palestinians come back to the negotiating table and there is some real progress.

The hook that lured the Palestinians to the table for the last round of talks was the promise to release prisoners. But now, after three sets of prisoners have already been released, the Palestinians are not so eager to return to the table.

Israel says come to the table and you will get the prisoners.
Once again, Israel and the Palestinians are at a stalemate.

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Egypt Opens Border w Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 30, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

On Saturday, Egypt opened their border with Gaza at Rafah and permitted 6000 Gazans to enter.

Since July when Sisi overthrew Morsi assuming the presidency of
Egypt the border has been closed and only opened sporadically.
Gazans claim that the thousands of people waiting to re-enter Egypt are students waiting to return to classes and the sick, waiting entry to hospitals for treatment.

The Egyptians say that Gaza is exporting extremism and that using tunnels and border crossings terrorists are entering Egypt and embarking on attacks that result in destabilization and murder.

Egypt has said that since July they have destroyed over 1000 tunnels that smuggles people and goods. They say that now all the tunnels have been destroyed.

But Hamas and other groups claim that there are many more tunnels that have not been destroyed and that they will continue to shuttle people and weapons and food and supplies in and out of Gaza.

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More Violence in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 29, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Three people died in protests in Cairo yesterday.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been protesting the mass conviction, sentencing and execution of hundreds of members. They have taken to the streets.

As is to be expected, Egyptian authorities have clamped down on the unrest and the streets have turned violent. According to some reports, one of the victims of the violence was a female journalist - but I have not been able to confirm the identities of any of the victims.

Egyptian leadership has determined that the Muslim Brotherhood is a real threat to their democracy and to their very culture as a state. They have finally concluded that the Muslim Brotherhood should be made illegal. The process of closing them down will be fraught with continued conflict and more violence.

To put it in perspective, the Muslim Brotherhood has been a legal organization for just under three years. Since its founding in 1928 until the revolution in 2011 that ousted Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood was illegal.

In Egypt, this situation is not so unusual at all.

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Turkey to Block Youtube
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 28, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Turkey began blocking another social media site. Now the Turkish government is shutting down YouTube. Last week Turkish President Erdogan shut down twitter.

Despite the outpouring of international and Western criticism, the site remains shuttered. I am being told that, this time, people are finding ways around the twitter shut down.

YouTube is closed after a damning and embarrassing tape of an important meeting was posted. It was a meeting between the Turkish foreign minister, the head of Turkish intelligence, the deputy head of the Army and other important diplomats and leaders. The government officials were plotting an invasion into Syria.

A leak of this sort was a clear violation of Turkish law. The tape contained plans to intervene in Syria. YouTube is a platform, it is a vehicle. Content is not evaluated, it is a place where people post.

The government of Turkey should find the person who posted the video and punish that person. YouTube as a social media platform is a great tool and it should not be closed.

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Syria Launches New Airline
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 27, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Kinda is the name of a new Syrian international airline. The airline will begin operations within the next few weeks.

The most telling part of this new venture is that after three years of civil war Syrian leadership believes that they can invest in the business of moving people - locals, business people and tourists - in and out of two major airports, one in Damascus and the other in Latakia.

Kinda anticipates that within a few months they will be servicing 10 destinations including Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.

The entire coastal region of Syria is under the total control of Bashar Assad and in his eyes and in the eyes of people on the ground, the situation is fast approaching normalcy.

Syrian leadership hopes that this new government-sponsored airline will help invigorate travel and attract people to visit and invest in Syria as it rebuilds. The creation and launch of Kinda is intended to symbolize the transition from war to rebuilding.

This does not mean that all is quiet, it does mean that the conflict is winding down.

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Iran Out-Smarts West in Hormuz
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 26, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iran always thinks strategically. And the move they just made is brilliant.

According to ISNA, the official government Iranian Student News Agency, Iran is planning to open an oil shipping terminal outside the straits of Hormuz, in Bandar Jask on the Gulf of Oman.

It will be the second oil terminal Iran has opened outside of
Hormuz. The first is on the island of Khark.

Why is this move so brilliant? Because it protects Iranian national interests.

Somewhere between 20% and 25% of the daily supply of oil for the entire world goes through the Straits of Hormuz. And Iran is in control of the Straits.

But Iran has threatened to shut down the Straits. If they did indeed shut them down, it would impact their own oil exports. But if Iran had its own outlet for oil, an outlet that avoided the Straits, they would be free to close the Straits of Hormuz at any time without any real economic risk.

The price of crude oil would skyrocket and Iran could continue to supply the market. A win win for Iran.

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Arab League Summit - Conflict
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 25, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The 25th Arab League Summit is now taking place. The summit is fraught with tension.

So far, participants have agreed that the 26th summit will be held next year in Cairo.

But seriously now, Qatar is causing a stir. Qatar is sponsoring the Muslim Brotherhood - and Saudi Arabia and Egypt are trying to pressure Qatar to withdraw that support.

There is real talk about creating an Arab League resolution that would condemn terror and isolate the Muslim Brotherhood. Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are in agreement that the Muslim Brotherhood is a major cause of internal strike within the Arab world in general, and especially in their respective countries.

Other points of contention during this summit are the Arab spring and events in Syria.

Interestingly, last year during the summit Syrian opposition sat in the Syrian chair - this year the chair is empty. The Arab League is not convinced that Syrian opposition, because of who they are and what they represent, deserve a seat at the table.

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Hamas Sends Text Messages to Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 24, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas, or some other terror group from Gaza, has just sent out a mass series of text messages. The messages threaten Israel and promise revenge for the death of Sheik Ahmed Yassin who was killed in a surgical missile strike by Israel in Gaza 10 years ago.

The texts, written in Hebrew, read:

"If Gaza will be attacked the life of the Zionists will be hell"

"In the next war all the Land of Palestine will return"

"Al Qassam has chosen you to be the next Shalit"

"We don't forget the blood of our sheik. We swear again to take revenge, and this time by taking off the head of your leaders"

"Zionist killed our sheik by missile and now our missile can hit every corner of Zionist state"

And they are signed: "Sheikh Yassin's Followers"

The purpose of these messages is to frighten average Israelis who picked up their phones and were invaded with the text messages.

Israel's phone systems were hacked. In 2009 Hamas also succeeded in sending text messages, but the Hebrew was very poor and they were not taken seriously. These are different. This time Israelis who read the texts feel as if their privacy has been invaded. It is as if the terrorists threatened them personally.

The phone companies are trying to make certain that this does not happen again.

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Pollard May Be An Incentive
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 23, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The US Israel relationship is very sturdy. It is also very complicated.

Yes, the United States is upset because Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has spoken out of turn. And there will be a price to pay. Exactly how much and when is still to be decided.

But now the US is also very worried, this time about the breakdown of Israeli Palestinian talks. The deadline is just a few weeks away. And the US needs to incentivize the talks.

Israel is the party that will need to capitulate, accommodate and compromise. That is the nature of the beast. Israel is the powerful party and in the eyes of the United States it is Israel, not the Palestinians, who must give in.

Given the impasse, the question of the day is what will help Israel along the path to compromise? There are not many things that can be used as incentives for Israel.

And so, for the first time in decades, I am hearing whispers about the United States raising the Jonathan Pollard case and using it as a fulcrum to help Israel come around to thinking about the negotiations through the perspective of the United States.

In the end, the United States may very well sweeten the deal by promising to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. That would be a new, and long sought, development.

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Israel's Def Min Insults the US -- Again
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 22, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel's Defense Minister has once again insulted the United States. Defense Minister Ya'alon, voicing his own point of view, said that the image that US President Obama and the United States present to the world is best described as "feebleness."

In the past Ya'alon has said that Kerry "should just get his Noble Peace Prize and leave us alone."

And indeed, in the past Ya'alon has apologized. This time he offered a clarification to US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. But neither the White House nor the State Department are satisfied with the "clarification."

The question begs asking: why does the White House care at all about the rants of Israel's Defense Minister. Sure, his comments were insulting but they were for internal consumption not for international broadcasting.

And internally, the Israeli understood. They took the comments for what they were - an attack on their own prime minister.

Now Ya'alon is persona non grata in the halls of power. I doubt that this time not even an apology will get him out of the DC dog house. And I fear that this situation might impact on Ya'alon's ability to do his job.

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Turkey Wants to Close Twitter
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Turkey is on the eve of national municipal elections scheduled for March 30.

Pressure is mounting. These municipal elections are a referendum on Erdogan and his leadership. While he is not running personally in this election, everyone in the country is either voting for or against him by proxy.

Yesterday at an election rally Erdogan threatened to shut down twitter and other social media. The social media chatter has become an effective tool of the opposition especially the youth.

Erdogan said that he will shut them down and he does not care about world condemnation. Of course, Erdogan's statements are electioneering. He is trying to turn his people against the West and Western technology.

No one can predict what will happen. Erdogan can fail or he can succeed. Only time will tell.

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PA to Drill For Oil
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 20, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Every once in a while you hear or read about crazy idea.

Like this: EU representative and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair together with US Secretary of State John Kerry are suggesting that the Palestinians drill for oil. The two leaders drew up the initiative and now, together with the Palestinian Authority, they are seeking proposals for oil exploration.

What were they thinking? The area that the Palestinian Authority plans to explore covers 155 square miles - and most of it is in Israeli controlled land. According to all previous agreements as well as the location for the exploration, the process would require Israel's agreement.

Why are Blair and Kerry involved? What company would dump money into this exploration? Has no one asked for the research?

There have already been a large number of exploration surveys and viability studies. And all the research has determined that there is no energy profit to be made in the West Bank and that part of Israel.

Crazy and dangerous. Blair and Kerry have just created and opened up another Pandora's Box of strife and controversy between the PA and Israel.

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Egypt & Ethiopia in Conflict over Nile
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Egypt and Ethiopia have been locked in conflict for a year.

Ethiopia is diverting part of the Blue Nile River in order to create a huge hydro electric dam called the Great Renaissance Dam. Work on the $4.7 billion project began last year and should be completed in three more years.

The Blue Nile begins in Ethiopia and flows into Sudan where it merges with the White Nile and forms the famous Nile River.

Diverting the Nile for any purpose is an explosive act because it could cause a death blow to any of the ten Nile Basin desert countries that are dependent on its fresh water.

In 1929 Egypt and Ethiopia signed a treaty promising not to alter the Nile without mutual approval. Then, in 1970, when Ethiopia attempted to build 26 dams Egypt rejected the plan. And in 1993 the two countries again signed a deal stipulating that neither would do anything to the Nile that would harm the other's interests.

Now we arrive at the present day conflict.

Both parties are talking but there is no agreement. Egypt is not happy with the current project and tensions are rising.

In that part of the world fresh water is far more valuable than oil.

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Jerusalem the Gold - A Model For Muslims
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 18, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

An Islamic conference is taking place in Teheran, Iran right now. Of course, one of the major themes of the conference focuses on the evils of Israel or, as they call it, the Zionist entity.

Ramadan Salah, the leader of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, spoke in a way that was truly surprising. Salah explained the significance of
Naomi Shemer's legendary song "Jerusalem the Gold" saying that the Zionists have taught their children the importance of Jerusalem and this famous song symbolizes that message.

Salah said: "There is a song the Zionist army sang when it conquered the Al-Aqsa mosque. It is called Jerusalem of Gold."

"Every child in the Zionist entity and every soldier in that cursed entity memorizes the lyrics to this song."

Then he added: "many well-known Western artists have sung it in English."

By way of critique and comparison Salah asked the crowd: "What is the significance of Jerusalem in our culture?" "What is its significance in our religion?"

The leader of Islamic Jihad in Gaza was telling the Muslim participants at this conference that Jews around the world connect to Jerusalem as do so many other people around the world - while Muslims do not.

His plea to Muslim leaders was to go home and change their message.

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Israel Imrpoves Security Due to Malaysia Flight
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is responding to the disappearance of Malaysia flight # 370.

The Israelis have instituted a series of new security steps to prevent commercial aircraft from becoming weapons.

Israel has extended the required range for airlines to announce that they will be entering Israeli airspace. The buffer was already a significant distance and security secret. Now it is even larger and gives radar and air force teams that much more time to make certain that a passenger airplane is indeed what it says it is.

Over the past year there have been numerous passenger planes that have not followed Israel's procedures in air. They entered Israeli airspace and were met with F-16 fighter jets and escorts until they properly identified themselves using the required codes.

Israel believes that pilot suicide and plane hijackings are very real risks to their security, so they are constantly and diligently improving their security measures.

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Russian War Games in The Med
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 15, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

We have not paid much attention to the Russian navy now stationed in the Mediterranean.

The Russians have a very formidable force in the Middle East. Most significantly their only aircraft carrier, named Admiral Kunetzov, is stationed in the region.

And it should come as no surprise that the Russians are presently engaged in war games and exercises in the Mediterranean. That means that tens of fighter jets and helicopters are practicing and drilling their evacuation and medical teams.

But the real purpose of this public display is to let everyone know that Russia has a real force in the region.

Russia is also making a clear point: As things get more difficult for Russia in the Ukraine, things will get more difficult for the West in Syria and in the Middle East.

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US Changes POV on "Jewish State"
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Imagine my surprise when I read this official comment by Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the State Department.

Psaki said that --- "If you look at the issue of a Jewish state and whether Israel will be called a Jewish state, that's been our position, as you know, for a long time, but that doesn't reflect what the parties will agree to ... and of course there are many issues like that that are being discussed as part of the framework."

This comment means that the US is not committed to the Israel's demand that the Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish State.

This statement assumes that the Jewish State issue is still up for discussion. That means that US Secretary of State Kerry realizes that Palestinian President Abbas will not budge on this issue.

And that in turn means that Israel must be forced to compromise.

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Iran's Rouhani Visits Oman
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran made his first visit to an Arab country since assuming office. Yesterday, Rouhani visited Oman.

This short two day trip is much more important than it appears.

Rouhani flew into Muscat accompanied by a very significant Iranian economic delegation. Ostensibly, the purpose of the trip is to build better relations between the countries and to bolster trade and, quite frankly, all other interactions.

But the real purpose of this trip is to explore mutual interests.

Iran and Oman are separated by only one tiny strait. They share the most important straits in the world - the Straits of Hormuz. On one side is Iran and on the other is Oman. And every single day between 20% and 25% of the world's oil passes through those straits.

Iran and Oman need to be on decent terms in order to effectively achieve their own and their shared aims. They both know that there is much that divides them. Rouhani is hoping to find those things that unite them and to make Oman happy enough to permit Iran to use
Hormuz in order to achieve its objectives.

We can only guess at what those objectives are.

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Turkey is Erupting Again
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 12, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Protests plague Turkey once again.

This time around the protests have erupted for several reasons.
Most important is that a 15 year old boy died from the wounds he suffered during an anti-government protest in June last summer. The boy was hit with a tear gas canister and lapsed into a coma. Upon his death, huge rallies were organized.

Although people are, quite rightfully, upset by the death of this young man his death is really a tool with which to draw Turks to the protests.

The real reason for the huge anti-government protests taking place now is that in less than three weeks the nation goes to the polls. And although the elections will only be for municipal and regional posts, the entire country will be voting.

The election is seen as a referendum for or against President Erdogan.

For the first time since he was elected to power nine years ago in 2003, Erdogan is worried.

In December major players associated with Erdogan were arrested and investigated on corruption charges. He has since begun a significant - but unsuccessful - campaign to prop himself up and deflecting the bad PR.

Turkey has been out of the limelight for some time. Expect it to return to center stage in the next month.

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Gas -- The Ukraine and Russia
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 11, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The UN Security Council met again yesterday - and Russia was feeling the isolation. Everyone, even China, spoke against the Russian land grab in Crimea and the future referendum scheduled for May 16.

The EU is going to meet next week, on March 17, and they will be talking about increasing their pressure on Russia to pull out.

But Russia still has a few cards still to play.

Gazprom, the Russian gas company, supplies the Ukraine with natural gas. They are demanding payment for February which comes to $1.3 billion. Gazprom is the largest natural gas extractor and supplier in the world. Russia says that if they do not get paid they will not deliver gas in March.

There's more. Six EU countries receive 100% of their natural gas from Russia. 75% of Russia's natural gas export goes to the EU. That means that Russia exerts tremendous influence on EU decisions.

The EU and the West can try to flex their muscles but it should be clear who holds the better cards in this game.

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Libya on Verge of Civil War
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 10, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Conflict is about to get ugly in Libya. It is a country on the verge of a civil war.

Rebels, who are demanding more liberal changes, have taken over three major ports since the summer. Now a North Korean oil tanker is sitting in the port of Sadr. The rebels want to fill the tanker and send it on its way.

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan went on national TV and warned everyone, including the crew of the ship, saying: "The tanker will be bombed if it doesn't follow orders when leaving (the port). This will be an environmental disaster."

Zeidan was not issuing an idle threat. In January the Libyans used their navy to block rebel ports and prevent tankers from entering and picking up oil.

On Saturday the rebels sacrificed a camel in Sadr and the footage shows the North Korean tanker in the background. The rebels were celebrating their first filling of the tanker filling and wishing it well.

It looks like a Libyan standoff. Expect fireworks - literally.

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Hamas Beats Up on Fatah in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 9, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas police brutally beat up on and then broke up a rally of Fatah supporters in Khan Yunis today. People were injured and people were arrested. They twenty people who were arrested were released only after signing a document saying that they would never again participate in illegal gatherings.

The rally was a memorial and show of support for those who died fighting (against Israel).

The rally did not have a permit - and that was the reason given for breaking it up.

The entire episode shows the important distinctions and tensions that exist between Hamas and Fatah, the two largest Palestinian groups. Ever since the parliamentary election of 2006, when Hamas won the plurality but Abbas and the PA never permitted them to assume their elected, role there have been violent tensions between the groups. That includes the 2007 brutal and murderous coup that ousted the PA from Gaza.

There have been attempts at reconciliation. And agreements have been signed. The latest agreement was signed in 2012, but never implemented. There is terrible hatred and terrible distrust between Hamas and Fatah.

Now Hamas is feeling the strangle hold of Egypt which closed their border with Gaza and has made Hamas illegal in Egypt. Add to that the loss of Hezbollah and Iranian support and you understand how Hamas has been marginalized, weakened and starved.

Hamas will continue to lash out at Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. That is all that is left for them to do.

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US - Israel Special Realtionship
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 7, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday, Congress passed a bill that transforms the relationship between the United States and Israel.

The bill classifies Israel as a "strategic partner." That classification comes with great benefits. Under the bill Israel will receive tremendous security benefits as well as priority on weapons surpluses.

The bill is now off to the Senate where it is expected to pass overwhelmingly and then to the president who is expected to sign it.

The original draft of the legislation had an additional benefit that Israeli citizens were very much hoping to achieve. But in the final version, it was removed.

The clause would have permitted Israelis automatic tourist visas. Israeli citizens would get visas upon arrival in the United States the same way US citizens get them when they enter Israel. It would have streamlined Israelis access to the US, a process that often requires long months of waiting and even denial.

That privileged status may still come - but at a later date and by way of another bill.

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Agreements to Protect -- Don't Protect
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 6, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Have any of you heard of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances? Here's a hint. It was signed in Budapest, in 1994.
My guess is, probably not.

The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances was an agreement wherein the Ukraine agreed to dismantle all nuclear weapons in exchange for security and safety. It was signed in Budapest on December of 1994 and the signees were US President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister John Major and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Here is the official summary: Russia, the UK and the USA undertake to respect Ukraine's borders in accordance with the principles of the 1975 CSCE Final Act, to abstain from the use or threat of force against Ukraine, to support Ukraine where an attempt is made to place pressure on it by economic coercion, and to bring any incident of aggression by a nuclear power before the UN Security Council.

In other words: the United States and Great Britain (forget about Russia) and the world promise to protect the Ukraine.

This agreement and others like it, really do not help much. This one is certainly not protecting the Ukraine.

Now imagine what Israel is thinking and what lessons Israelis are learning from this. How can Israel possibly assume that the United States will, should the time come, come to its defense?

Israel has learned that the best they can expect is an appeal to the UN Security Council. Not much consolation there.

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Quenelle Salute - Player Gets Punished
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 5, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The UEFA suspended Omar Rahou for repeatedly using the quenelle, the inverted Nazi salute. The Union of European Football (soccer) Associations has zero tolerance for any hint of racism and has punished Rahou a Belgium player for 10 games.

Omar Rahou joins Nicolas Anelka as players who used the saluted and suffered the punishment suspension.

The quenelle has become a rallying point for anti-Semites throughout Europe as they follow in the footsteps of the French comedian, Dieudonne, who invented the gesture.

The shame of it all is that the quenelle continues to gain popularity. On the positive side, decent people and organizations like the UEFA understand the danger of this kind of racism and are clamping down and doing their best to stymie the momentum.

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Why We Should Care About Urkraine
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 4, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Over the past week or so one of the most common questions asked of me on air and during lectures has been about the Ukraine and the role of Russia vis a vis the Ukraine.

More specifically, people are asking why we should care about what happens in the Ukraine. And they are asking if Russia is pulling a land grab.

My response is brief and to the point: Think energy natural gas and oil.

Since the crisis with Russia and the Ukraine, oil and natural gas prices have skyrocketed. The principle reason for the increase is that Russia is a major producer and refiner of oil and a producer of natural gas. And the Ukraine's largest export is oil.

Now that there is a threat of war between Russia and the Ukraine the market is talking. And the market is saying that any actions that put at risk the flow of oil and natural gas will drive up prices.

Because Russia is poised for war and has taken over Crimea, the price of energy has increased.

If that isn't enough of a reason for the West to care about what is happening with the Ukraine and Russia, I don't know what is.

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Bibi Obama Meeting Today
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 3, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

In the Oval Office today President Barack Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Both leaders have made opening moves before the meeting. On Thursday Obama sat down for an interview with Jeffery Goldberg that was posted on Sunday, on Bloomberg. Before boarding his plane to the US, Netanyahu issued a statement from his office.

There was a clear objective in both messages - announcing the direction they each wanted the meeting to take. As is often the case, there was nothing new or surprising in either message, nothing the other leader is not already aware of.

In essence, both Israel and the United States are on the same side conceptually, it is the practical side, the nuts and bolts, that puts them at odds with each other. Actually, it is all about time and timing.

Obama believes that there is no real time left for continued discussion of the Palestinian issue. He believes that if a resolution is not arrived at now, the United States will not be able to successfully support Israel in the international arena. And on the Iranian issue, on the other hand, Obama thinks there is plenty of time left to let Iran come around.

Netanyahu thinks exactly the opposite. He believes that there is plenty of time on the Palestinian issue but on the Iranian issue, there is no time left at all.

It is past the point where Obama and Netanyahu can agree to disagree. Sparks will be flying out of the Oval Office.

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Difference Btw Ukraine & Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 2, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

What makes the ousting of the Ukrainian President Victor Yukashenko different from the ousting of the democratically elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi?

The difference is that Egypt's ousting of Morsi was accomplished by a coup and Ukraine's ousting of Yukashenko was a legal transition of power.

Both leaders were elected to serve their country. During the resulting unrest, there was violence and people were killed in both countries. Both had huge rallies in support of and opposition to their leadership and there were massive protests in both main city squares. In both cases the protestors leaned towards Western influences while the presidents leaned toward traditional, older school influences. In the case of Egypt, Morsi affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and in the Ukraine Yukashenko leaned toward Russia.

The significant difference is that in the Ukraine, Yukashenko fled. He fled the capital and tried to escape the country. Eventually, he succeeded and landed in Moscow. Yukashenko ran for his life for fear of being killed or arrested. He abdicated his office.

Once he left his office, he was no longer in charge and the process of transition applied. The Ukrainian parliament put a temporary government in place and stability was restored.

In Egypt, Morsi refused to leave. He had to be forced out of his post, then he was arrested and then he was replaced.

In the end it may sound the same but in reality it is the difference between a coup d'etat and a democratic ousting of an elected president.

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WMD Convoy Attacked in Syira
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 1, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

No details were given but it was a very disturbing report.

According to a report given to the UN Security Council, two convoys carrying chemical weapons were attacked while transferring their materials in Syria. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the UN Security Council that on Thursday January 27, 2014 while transporting Syrian weapons of mass destruction for their ultimate removal and destruction the convoys were attacked.

Unfortunately, we do not know who attacked the convoys nor do we know the nature of the attack or the extent of the damage.

We can assume, however, that the weapons were not compromised. We can assume that they did not become volatile and/or dangerous. We can also assume that the weapons did not fall into the wrong hands.

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300 Anne Frank Diaries Vandalized in Japan
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 28, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Anti-Semitism can be found anyplace ... even places without Jews and without a history of Jews or Jew hatred ... even in Japan.
308 copies of Anne Frank's diary were vandalized and destroyed in Japan. The vandals also destroyed entries on Anne Frank in reference books. The damage was so pervasive, it was found in 11 of the 13 public libraries in the capital city Tokyo.

Israel has just donated 300 new copies of Anne's book "Diary of a Young Girl". It is without a doubt the most famous book on the Holocaust ever published. It chronicles the life of a young girl in hiding with her family in a tiny secret room in Amsterdam.

The journal was never completed - neighbors informed the Nazis about the family and they were taken away to the notorious concentration camp Bergen Belsen where Anne died.

Anne Frank's thought and insights belie her young age and pre-War insulated upbringing. She asks and ponders the role of good and evil. She contemplates love and the importance of family. More than anything, Anne yearns for freedom.

An investigation is going on in Japan. It is very clear from the number of books destroyed that this was a carefully planned calculated attempt to rid Japan's public libraries and information centers of one of the most important first hand testimonies of the Holocaust.

That is deeply disturbing.

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Iran is Exporting More Oil
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 27, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has increased its oil export for the fourth month in a row.
According to sources monitoring the oil tankers, it is clear that
Iran has continued to increase its oil production and its exports. And increased exports are a tremendous injection of cash into the Iranian economy.

According to the sources, Iran will have exported 1.30 million barrels per day in the month of February. That is an increase of 100,000 barrels per day.

The main destination for these oil tankers appears to be Syria and South Korea. And it seems that sometimes the tankers unload at sea. They transfer their cargo ship to ship so no one really knows where the oil is from and where it is going. That happened twice this February in Indonesian waters.

It should be clear that Iran is taking full advantage of the situation presented it by the new international "let's trust Iran to do the right thing" attitude the world has adopted. That attitude has provided Iran with an entry visa back into the world oil market - even with the serious sanctions that are still out there.

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German Gov Ministers In Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 26, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Over the past few days German government ministers - including the prime minister, the foreign minister and the education minister, were on a group visit to Israel.

It was a very important bonding experience for Israel.

Germany made the gesture to assure Israel that they are a true supporter and not merely a fair weather friend. As is the case with friends, several significant disagreements between Germany and Israel came to light during the visit.

The main difference of opinion is over the handling of Iran. Israel thinks that the only effective way to stop Iran's nuclear program is to insist on the dismantling of technology. Germany, an integral member of the P5+1, agrees with the rest of that group that it is possible and even preferable to negotiate with Iran and create a plan for slowing down and monitoring Iran's enrichment and nuclear development program.

Israel believes that the point of view of the six nations negotiating with Iran is nothing short of naive and that there is no real way to monitor and/or guarantee that Iran will keep up their end of the deal.

The friends agreed to disagree - but the debate is far from over.

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Follow the Money
By Micah Halpern

Blog
Tuesday February 25, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

We have all heard the expression "follow the money."

I do it all the time. It is a tool I use to understand and predict who the influencers are and what their involvement is, in the Middle East. We need to follow where the money is being spent - who is supplying weapons and who is buying them and from whom.

It was always obvious from the money trail that Iran supported Hezbollah. But not now. Now Iran has stopped supporting Hamas.

We also know that Iran and Russia are pumping money into Assad's regime in Syria. They want to influence the outcome.

And then yesterday it became public that a Russian delegation of flagstaff air-force officers arrived in Egypt. They came as the result of a $2 billion arms deal in which Egypt is buying air-force materials from Russia. The money trail led us right there.

Money in the Middle East is the key to influence and favoritism.
Even small money which led us to the discovery this week that Iran has signed an arms deal with Iraq to the tune of $165 million. The deal is small - but it is significant.

Follow the money and find out who is pulling whose strings.

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The Prob w Spain's Invite to the Jews
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 24, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Spain and Portugal are offering citizenship to the descendents of the families that they expelled in 1492 and 1493.

At first glance, you would assume this to be a magnanimous gesture. Think again.

The expulsion from Spain forced hundreds of thousands of Jews to run to Portugal. Eight months later when Portugal expelled them, they escaped to North Africa. Those who stayed were forced to convert to Christianity. The Inquisition was established to investigate those who converted and make certain that they were truly practicing Christianity, not secretly remaining Jewish. Those caught as still practicing Jews were torture and even burned at the stake.

There are three interesting elements missing from this citizenship invitation.
There was and still is no apology.
There was and still is no attempt to pay compensation

The deal is not being offered to the Muslims who were expelled in 1609.

Neither Spain nor Portugal has yet to see the wrong that was done and the horrors that were perpetrated in the name of keeping their countries Christian.

Today, with their warped and biased perceptions of Jews, they are trying to entice Jews to come to Spain and Portugal to help energize their terrible fledgling economies.

There is no attempt at contrition. There is no attempt at justice. And there is no desire to allow Muslims into their countries.
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Israel - Now A Gas Exporter
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 23, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is now an energy exporter. Israel is now exporting natural gas and will soon become one of the largest natural gas suppliers in the world.

Last week Israel signed a deal with Jordan to provide them with $500 million worth of natural gas over the next 15 years.

Jordan is in great need of gas. They were hit terribly by the breakdown of the pipeline from Egypt after it was repeatedly sabotaged by rebels. Now the Jordanians will have a dependable source of natural gas.

This gas comes from Tamar, a gas field deep below the Mediterranean Sea. It is the smaller of two gas discoveries that have been tapped recently. The larger is called Leviathan. Interestingly, Israel signed a gas deal with the Palestinian Authority to provide them natural gas from Leviathan.

It seems that Israel is a more reasonable and more dependable gas resource than neighboring Arab suppliers.

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Iran Executing Even More People This Year
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 22, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The West is full of preconceived ideas about the Middle East. Many people who were upset with Iran's human rights record under Ahmadinejad were relieved when Rouhani came into office. They saw real hope and were intoxicated by his use of language.

It was a farce. And the United Nations has seen a part of the duplicity.

The hope was that few people would be executed and that Iran would scale down - especially because under Rouhani, as a public gesture, some prisoners have been released. Then exactly the opposite happened. In the first seven weeks of 2014 as many as 95 people have been executed.

UN Human Rights Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdassani said in a press conference yesterday that: "There were some encouraging signs last year where the political prisoners were released… But it appears at least in the past seven weeks that in fact executions have been scaled up."

What astounds me is that people we are supposed to trust for their analytical skills were duped by the Iranians in the first place. How could the human rights people all over the United Nations not have expected this?

I saw it coming! Why didn't they?

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Iran Opens Embassy in London
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Iranian flag was raised over the newly reopened Iranian embassy in London yesterday.

The embassy was closed two years ago after tensions between the United Kingdom and the Islamic Republic of Iran came to a head.

This past December England sent a charge d'affairs to Teheran and now Iran is ready and willing to re-open their embassy in London.
As of now the embassy is being staffed by locals and Iran does not yet have a diplomatic presence in England. However, Iran can and will begin to engage in bureaucratic activities.

It will not be long before a series of high level Iranian diplomats are dispatched to London.

As I first wrote several months ago when England sent their diplomat to Iran, the walls of Iranian isolation are tumbling down. It does not matter what emerges out of the dialogue with Iran, the very fact that there is a dialogue has greased the diplomatic wheels.

The winner in this entire game is definitely - Iran.

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Iran Has Become a Cyber Hacker
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 20, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Two years ago the world cyber powers were but three. The United States, Israel and China. They were the only real cyber players.
Today there is a fourth. Iran. Iran is now a serious cyber contender in terms of hacking, attacks and defense.

As recently as early in 2012 Iran was barely involved in cyber warfare. And then, in March of 2012, the Grand Ayatollah created a national council for cyberspace. Like wildfire Iran dedicated monies, hired recruiters and groomed their best and brightest for the cyber war.

Now Iran is both perpetrating attacks on others and protecting itself from attack by others. The Iranians are probably responsible for attacking the Saudi oil company named Saudi Aramco - the energy company that supplies about 10% of the world's oil. The attack erased data from 30,000 computers.

The Grand Ayatollah recently called on students to be their country's "cyber agents." He told them that they should get ready for a war. And Iranian Chief of Staff General Hassan Firousabadi told students that a "decisive battle" was on the horizon. "If any war is launched against Iran, we won't give any ground to the enemy and they themselves know this very well."

The general was speaking of cyber war. Iran is more prepared now than they have ever been. In less than two years, from March of 2012 until today, Iran has become a real player on the world's cyber warfare stage.

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Iran Told the Truth
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 resumed yesterday.

They began with the Iranian representative firmly proclaiming that Iran has no intention of shutting down a single nuclear facility.

This was a surprise to many observers - but not to me.

Since November the West has been maintaining that Iran will close certain facilities. The United States even took it upon itself to promise Israel that certain nuclear centers would be shut down.

But when you listened to the Iranians who were party to the agreement they repeatedly said that closing sites was nowhere in the agreement.

Of course, the West believed the West.

I realized that Iran would not have been so insistent if they did not have a real leg to stand on. And so it goes. Diplomats and Western leaders lied. Iran was speaking the truth. Iran does not and will not shut down their nuclear facilities.

Where does that leave us? In deep trouble.

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Kerry To Meet w Abbas
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 18, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

From all sources I have culled it appears clear that US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this week. I just do not know where the meeting will take place.

According to AFP a member of the Palestinian leader's inner circle said the meeting will take place in Paris. But a Chinese release has said that the meeting will take place in Amman, Jordan.

It really does not matter where the meeting takes place. What matters is that there will there be a meeting of the minds. Not necessary like-thinking minds, but certainly serious minds. My inclination is that there will be some agreement and much disagreement. At the conclusion of the meeting they will both tout the agreements.

Given the 6 demands that the Palestinians have already laid out, Kerry has his work cut out for him. The US secretary of state will be pushing hard for Abbas to accept Israel as a Jewish State. His argument is procedural.

Once that happens, Israel will almost immediately deliver on all other demands.

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Hamas Will Not Honor Any Agreement
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

In a speech at a rally in Gaza City on Saturday, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh made it very clear: If a deal is signed between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority, it is not binding on Hamas.

Just in case we were unaware or unsure of how Hamas felt, now we know for sure.

He said: "The so-called American framework is not binding for us."
He explained that an agreement between Israel and the PA: "is unfair and imposes the Zionist violation of the Palestinian land."

There is no relationship between Gaza and the West Bank. The West Bank is controlled by the PA which is run by Mahmoud Abbas. Gaza is run by Hamas and led by Ismail Haniyeh.

There was a terrible rift between the two groups and they have separated. They have signed reconciliation agreements not once but twice, and neither agreement has been put in place.

As recently as this past week when a delegation from the PA went to Gaza they did not discuss reconciliation - they spoke primarily about border security.

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Egypt Clamps Down - Shuts Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Egypt has begun to clamp down hard on Gaza. Some analysts are anticipating a mini invasion into Gaza by Egypt to wipe up Muslim Brotherhood groups operating from and headquartered in the area.

Over the weekend Egypt destroyed 10 smuggling tunnels and blew up the houses that hid the tunnels. They are clearing out all the homes and all the sites that could be used as starting and ending points for the tunnels. In addition, Egypt created a 600 yard buffer zone from their border into Gaza. In unpopulated areas the buffer zone is 350 yards.

According to Egyptian sources, Egypt has destroyed 800 tunnels from January through October 2013. That is an impressive number.
Egypt is expending all this energy in an effort to keep extremists out of Egypt and, ultimately, to starve the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian army is actively pursuing all terror cells - but mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood. They are destroying the infrastructure of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Sinai and trying to strangle any access the Brotherhood might have to outside support, especially from Hamas in Gaza.

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SodaStream - Bubbles or Blood?
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 15, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The recent controversy about SodaStream, the one that centered on the Super Bowl ad with Scarlett Johansson, has led to some very interesting debates.

SodaStream is manufactured outside Jerusalem over the now famous pre 1967 border known as the Green Line. The factory employs hundreds of people including many Palestinians who live over the Green Line. These Palestinians earn more than the Israeli minimum wage - which is more than three times the minimum wage in the Palestinian Authority.

The great selling point for SodaStream is not sexy Scarlett Johansson. The selling point is that when you use SodaStream you save plastic. SodaStream is "green" and great from the environment.

Detractors, however, claim that SodaStream is not about green issues or about the eco system and making less waste. They say "it is not about bubbles it is about blood." They argue that it is about Israelis spilling the blood of Palestinians in the form of their occupation.

This is a very emotional issue. It is charged with accusations and counter accusations. I do not foresee a simple resolution to this issue and I do not see any resolution in the near future.

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Palestinian Demands
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian demands before there can be peace with Israel have now been made public. There are more demands and more problematic demands than I had originally expected.

The demands became public in the form of an interview given by one of Abbas' aides to Al Ayyam, a Palestinian paper published in Ramallah.

The Six Palestinian demands are:
# 1: End of the conflict based on the Arab peace plan and relevant UN resolutions
# 2: Borders based on 1967
# 3: Israel must gradually withdraw from all Palestinian areas within 3 to 4 years
# 4: East Jerusalem is the Palestinian capital
# 5: Resolve the Palestinian refugee issue with Arab peace plan international legitimacy and UN Resolution 194
# 6: All Palestinian prisoners must be freed with the total withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian land

These are very problematic demands.

Let's just focus on #5 and UN Resolution 194. The resolution was passed on December 11, 1948. At the time there were 58 members of the United Nations. Six of them were Arab countries and every single one voted against it. The vote was 35 - 15 and 8 abstentions.

There are 15 clauses in the resolution and some are totally irrelevant. The first 6 clauses deal with recognizing Count Bernadotte and a reconciliation committee.

It is the 11th clause that most interests the Palestinians - it is the clause that deals with the refugee issue. It is a small paragraph of about 120 words and included in those words amorphous and vague terms like "should be permitted," "earliest practical date" and "wishing to live at peace with their neighbors." Also included are the words "compensation should be paid" for damages and property.

This will not be an easy issue to resolve. Palestinians and their supporters read this resolution very differently than the way Israel reads it.

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Bibi To White House in March 3
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The White House issued a statement confirming that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit and meet with US President Barack Obama on March 3rd.

"The president looks forward to discussing with the prime minister progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, developments in Iran, and other regional priorities."

"Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit is a demonstration of the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel, and our close consultations on a range of security issues."

Three essential topics will be discussed:
Iran and the nuclear issue
Israeli Palestinian peace talks
Regional stability in light of events in Syria and Egypt and the influx of al Qaeda

There is a strong possibility of tension between the two leaders on the first two topics. While Israel and the United States share a conceptual agreement on Iran and the peace process, they disagree on the details.

As they say, "the devil is in the details."

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Apollo Found in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 12, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

They live in Gaza and they went out fishing. For the fishermen of Gaza it has been a very slow season. That is, for fish.

Youdat Ghrab claims to have hooked an 1100 pound bronze statue of Apollo - in perfect condition. Ghrab says that he and his relatives spent 4 hours reeling in the find. Then they put it in a wagon and brought it home. It is a very special find.

Most statues are made of stone, finer statues are carved out of marble. Finding a complete life size sculpture in bronze is very rare. The pictures that have been released of the statue show the Greek god lying on a sheet - with Smurf designs all over it.

The statue was placed on ebay for a short time and then taken down. The asking price was $500,000. Hamas police came and took the statue. No one knows where it is now.

And the statue is no longer intact. Ghrab cut off a finger and brought it to a jeweler to test to see if it was gold. His brother did the same and the jeweler melted the finger.

Jean-Michel de Tarragon, a historian with the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem, has made it very clear that the sculpture was discovered on land and not in the Mediterranean Sea just north of Egypt as is being claimed. Tarragon said that the true location of where it was found went unmentioned to avoid arguments over ownership.

Ynet quoted Tarragon saying "This wasn't found on the seashore or in the sea ... it is very clean. No, it was (found) inland and dry." He added that there were no tell-tale signs of metal disfigurement and no barnacles that one would normally sees on items plucked from water.

The sculpture is at least 2000 years old and something like it would never stand alone. It was in a temple or a palace. That is why the true location is so critical.

The truth will emerge. There were too many people involved in this escapade and at least one of them will be unable to keep the secret.

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Terrorists Blow Themselves Up
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 11, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It happens much more often than one would expect. Terrorists blow themselves and their colleague up while assembling and learning about bombs.

When you actually think about it, it makes sense.

Terrorists begin their careers as inexperienced ideologues playing with highly combustible material. Many of the explosive components they use are unstable - which means that just about anything can ignite them. Some components that are stable become dangerously unstable when mixed.

Yesterday, outside Baghdad, a bomb instructor teaching terrorists how to make a car bomb accidentally blew himself up and killed twenty-one other terrorist wannabes. The explosion alerted authorities to the terrorist training camp. The army came and arrested 24 mostly wounded terrorists.

Sometimes, this is the best way. Terrorists kill themselves in a work accident, far away from innocent people.

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Iran Airs Simulation Striking Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 10, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Over the weekend Iranian TV ran a documentary entitled "The Night of the Vultures." The film was a created by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and was a simulation of an Iranian counter attack against Israel and against the US fleet in the region.

The computer graphics were very realistic showing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) known as drones, flying over Israel and shooting missiles at strategic targets. The graphics showed the drones hitting huge business centers in Tel Aviv and Haifa, hitting military targets and hitting the Israeli nuclear facility located in Dimona.

The Iranian message is clear. Iran wants everyone to know that they will respond to an Israeli strike and they will strike at the very heart of Israel as well as at United States ships stationed nearby.

This is not the first time such a movie has been aired. A similar documentary was broadcast in September.

Moviemaking, even documentary moviemaking, is not the same as real life. But there have been Iranian drones that successfully infiltrated Israeli airspace. The most worrisome element of this documentary is in the details and in the images of Israeli targets.

That is what Iran really wants Israel to understand.

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Israel's Man on Man Against Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 9, 2014

I've Been thinking:

The Israeli Air Force stuck and hit Abdullah Harti this morning in Gaza.

Harti was riding a motorcycle and the missile that hit him was probably shot from an unmanned drone.

According to IDF and Shin Bet sources, Harti was a major leader in Global Jihad and is the person responsible for the increased rocket fire from Gaza into Israel these past few weeks.

Sources also say that Harti was instrumental in the deadly August 18, 2011 terror attack near Eilat. The attack killed six people and injured another twenty five. It was perpetrated by twelve terrorists who divided into four groups. The terrorists came from Egypt and then returned there.

Until his death this morning, Abdullah Harti was still a major force sending weapons and terrorists into the Sinai desert.

This type of targeted strike by Israel is a move towards man-on-man defense. As opposed to targeting weapons launchers, weapons labs and weapons depots the Israelis are focused on targeting the leaders responsible for the weapons, attacks and acts of terror.

Israel employed this style of targeting several years ago and it proved to be a very effective defensive tool.

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Iranian Ships On Way to US Atlantic Coast
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 8, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has sent several naval war ships in the direction of the United States. The Iranians intend on patrolling the Atlantic. They are sending a message to the United States just like the message the United States sends to Iran by having US fleets patrolling near Iran.

Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, commander of Iran's Northern fleet, said in the official IRNA news agency report that the Iranian ships are on their way to the Atlantic Ocean via waters near South Africa.
"The Iranian Army's naval fleets have already started their voyage towards the Atlantic Ocean via the waters near South Africa," Haddad announced on Saturday.

In Fars, another official Iranian media outlet, the admiral said that "Iran's military fleet is approaching the United States' maritime borders, and this move has a message."

Ynet, an Israeli internet news site, reported that: "The fleet, consisting of a destroyer and a helicopter-carrying supply ship, began its voyage last month from the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. The ships, carrying some 30 navy academy cadets for training along with their regular crews, are on a three-month mission."

I have been writing about this for some time. It is just a matter of time before the Iranians break through this glass ceiling.

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Turkey Squashes Free the Web
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 7, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

I have been watching Turkey very carefully over the past 36 months.
And I have been following more than one frightening move on the part of the Turkish government vis a vis civil rights and individual rights.

In short, over the past year and a half in Turkey, there have been major challenges to democratic values and individual rights.

Yesterday another such incident occurred, only this time, it was bigger and more egregious than almost every other violation.

The Turkish Parliament approved a law that permits the Communications Authority to block websites for whatever reason they deem necessary. In addition, it requires the web and service providers to track and record data about online users.

The kicker is that the information must be turned over to the government upon request. This is a major step back in terms of media and freedom of information.

Now I will watch and see if anyone gets upset about this huge and unprecedented violation of privacy.

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NYT Finally Sees True Syria
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 6, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Finally, The New York Times has printed clear coverage of events in Syria.

Granted, a few months ago the paper covered the fact that the rebels were not all nice and that they too, like Assad, were perpetrating horrific atrocities. And they did run stories about how many of the rebels were al Qaeda or al Qaeda affiliates.

But by and large the coverage of Syria in The New York Times has shown the evils of Assad and the merits of ousting him in favor of the rebels.

And then yesterday, at long last, the NYT ran an entire page covering the story in more depth and with greater understanding than they have since the civil war began nearly three years ago.

They ran a story explaining that the US now sees that Assad is getting stronger. They also ran a story reporting that the UN says that both sides in Syria have been brutal and have perpetrated, awful, brutal acts that are in violation of the international rules of war.

The NYT had fallen victim to an unfortunate US bias. The inclination of the United States is to oust evil dictators. They hope that their wishes will come true - the reality is that they usually do not.

Media outlets, like The New York Times, proclaim their objectives and wish the results into reality. In this case they did not get their wish.

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French Comic Banned in UK
By Micah Halpern

Blog
Wednesday February 5, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

England has banned the French comedian Dieudonne from entering the country. The reason given for preventing entry of the entertainer into England is public safety.

Dieudonne has been convicted, on multiple occasions, of hate speech and anti-Semitism. He is the mastermind behind and the creator of the quenelle - the reverse Nazi salute. He was coming to England to perform a show and to show support for his friend Anelka, a former Frenchman professional soccer player who performed the quenelle after scoring a goal in December. Anelka was disciplined for the act.

An official government spokesperson said, "The home secretary (Theresa May) will seek to exclude an individual from the UK if she considers that there are public policy or public security reasons to do so."

Dieudonne was performing in Switzerland when he received the news. His response was to shout the Queen's name and give her the quenelle.

The obvious issues of free speech arise. And yet, both France and England are satisfied that there is a greater risk to public safety- than freedom of speech.

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Iran is Launching More Satellites
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 4, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is prepping to launch another handful of satellites into space. The satellites are all domestically produced.

IRNA, an official Iranian news agency, reported that Iran will launch the satellites into space before the end of the Persian year which ends on March 21st.

The head of the Iranian space agency, Hamid Faveli, was the main source cited in the article. Faveli explained that one on the satellites will be a communication satellite which will improve secure wireless connections throughout the country and the region.
Another satellite will be a photographic satellite that can take pictures with 100 meter resolution.

In December Iran claimed to have successfully launched a monkey into space and that the monkey returned to earth healthy. This was their second attempt - the first attempt, a year earlier, resulted in the death of the space monkey.

There are numerous reasons for these announcements.

Most importantly is to show that Iran is racing ahead in high technology. And, make no mistake about it, that technology includes weapons.

The second is to show that just like we spy on Iran, Iran can spy on us. They are using similar, yet independently developed, technology.

Iran is not some backward state. Iran is a highly sophisticated, cultured and educated society. It would behoove us to understand that.

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US & Iran Meet Face to Face
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 3, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State John Kerry met face to face with Iranian Foreign Minister Javed Zarif in Munich on Sunday. It was a very rare moment.

Both men were in Zurich for a security conference and took time out to speak about the future of the nuclear talks with Iran.

Up until now there has been a major bone of contention about what is expected from Iran. The supposed 30 page agreement has been kept secret, so we do not know who is telling the truth.

Talks are scheduled to resume in Vienna on February 18.

As of now Iran is very hopeful. Iranians are saying that they do not need to break down any nuclear technology, just limit their enrichment. The United States is saying that Iran must reduce their nuclear infrastructure.

What I would have given to be a fly on the wall and listen to that conversation.

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Israel's Emergency Gas
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 2, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is always in a state of emergency. That is a reality. Most of the time, we think Israel's emergencies concern safety and security. Truth is, the state of Israel's energy is another, large, all consuming concern.

Does Israel have enough electricity?

Israel's electricity is generated by natural gas. The gas powers the turbines that generate the electricity that lights up the country and keeps it functioning.

In order to avoid crisis, Israel has positioned a permanent liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker off the coast. When the need arises, it dumps the liquid into an underwater pipeline that feeds directly into the country's electric resources.

The tanker holds 138,000 cubic meters of LNG. After it is converted to gas and sent to the turbines, the tanker can produce 3000 megawatt hours of electricity --- which is enough to power 20% of Israel's total energy needs for one week.

The tanker and the buoy it is connected to when it delivers the gas is a way of keeping Israel safe. The tanker is always there and it is always filled. During the recent snowstorm that crippled the country the tanker deposited its gas and Israelis did not even feel that they were in a state of energy crisis.

The tanker costs $100 million and each load costs about $50 million. It is a small price to pay considering what would happen if the country went without electricity for even a fraction of an hour.

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Terrorists Returning from Syria
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 31, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Washington Post just ran a story about an issue that has been troubling many of us for the past three years. What will happen in Europe after the foreign fighters in Syria return home?

A growing number of rebel fighters in Syria, men fighting against Bashar Assad, are from Europe. They are members of al Qaeda. Not only are these fighter receiving important operational fighting experience, they are also becoming more and more virulent in their ideology.

Many fighters have been killed in the Syrian civil war and many more will die. France estimates that 700 Frenchmen are currently fighting for al Qaeda against Assad in Syria. Many of them will come home.

Great Britain arrested 14 Brits entering England last month upon their return from Syria. They estimate that there are 50 former rebel al Qaeda fighters already back home in England.

Country by country the list goes, all of them trained terrorists.
All of them deeply committed to their extremist cause. And all with easy access to roam free in their homelands. They know the language and its nuances, it is their language. They know the community - they are from the community.

They are a ticking bomb. It is just a matter of time before they unleash their extremist, ideological, acts of violence and terror against their hosts, their homes, their country.

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Threats to Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 30, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The head of Military Intelligence for Israel, General Aviv Kochavi, addressed a security conference recently. Whenever that happens we sit up and pay very close attention.

Kochavi explained that because of the Syrian civil war, al Qaeda is now spread all over the region. And that, he said, has a very negative impact on security.

He also said that while the number of rockets pointed at Israel has reduced in number, their quality and accuracy has improved.

"Some 170,000 rockets and missiles are threatening the State of Israel from all regions. Up until recently, the number was much greater and it has decreased, but it will go up again."

"They are much more precise and a lot more lethal. The most significant thing we would like to point out is the fact that the enemy has the capability to land mass amounts of arms on Israeli cities."

"There are also many terror groups, including semi-military terror groups. We can't keep referring to Hezbollah as a terror group in the simple sense of the term - an organization that possesses more than a 100,000 rockets, including hundreds of different kinds of advanced antitank missiles, advanced mortar shells can no longer be a referred to as a terror group in the simple sense of the term. And the same goes for Hamas ."

General Kochavi was typically realistic when speaking about cyber warfare. He said Israelis are constantly being attacked: "Fortunately, most attacks were foiled, but the ability to carry out such attacks is almost unlimited."

The state of Israel's security is very good - but it is clear that the country faces significant, constant, unending threats.

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In Paris 17000 Shout "Jews Get Out"
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 29, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

On Sunday 17,000 anti-Semites marched through the streets of Paris.
And they shouted: "Jews Get Out," and "Jews Go Home" and "Auschwitz and the Gas Chambers Never Existed" and "France is Not For You - Jews" and "France is Not Your Country."

The marchers also used the "quenelle", the now infamous reverse Nazi salute created by French political comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, which has become more and more popular among the new breed of anti-Semites in Europe and even, in America.

Did you read about it? Did you hear about it? Why did this hateful march receive almost no coverage in the United States? I want to know why.

France was one of the most Western and most liberal societies in the world. France is where the modern free state was created and where Jews and everyone else were first emancipated and given complete rights as citizens with total freedom.

Why was this massive act of racism barely mentioned in the US media? It took days for it to even appear on relevant websites.

I refuse to believe that people just do not care. There must be other reasons.

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Syrian Conference - No Progress
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 28, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

They called it, appropriately, the Dialogue of the Deaf.

That is the name given to the discussion about Syrian in Geneva.
The entire event broke up yesterday after an hour of hot and heavy shouting.

Of course it did!!!

There was total disagreement about the future of Syria. There was disagreement over whether Bashar Assad should stay in power or graciously leave his position as president. The rebels wanted him to leave and establish an interim government before the elections. Assad's representatives said absolutely not - no way, no how.

They could not even agree to disagree.

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Israel Defense Hacked
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 27, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

According to a report by the private security firm Seculert, 15 Israeli defense computers were hacked and taken over by a aggressor for several days.

The Israeli establishment has made no comment.

The report says that 15 civil service computers were hacked. The computers were part of the agency in charge of Palestinian movements into and out of Israel, they are the division that issues passes for Palestinians to enter Israel.

The malware was XtremeRat. This is the second time in two years that this particular malware has gotten a foothold into Israeli defense computers. It was probably accomplishes by the same hacker on both occasions.

XtremeRat got into the system masquerading as a Shin Bet email about the death of Ariel Sharon. The email was sent on January 15. It fooled many of the security systems, anti virus and spyware allowing the hacker to inject new Trojans, inject new commands, steal info and infect other computers.

Seculert 15 created a sink hole and the XtremeRat was tricked into entering the sinkhole where it roamed around in a controlled and protected space.

This is just the beginning. The server that hosted the original message was from the United States. But the coding was very similar to that used for a cyber attack on Israel from Gaza in October of 2012.

More attacks are on the way.

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New Election Timetable in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 26, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

This morning in Egypt Adly Mansour, the interim president of Egypt, announced that presidential elections will precede the parliamentary elections.

This fact that this announcement comes the week of the referendum on the new charter that was overwhelmingly supported by those who voted, is significant.

The most important issue here is that according to the earlier transition schedule, known as the transition timetable, parliamentary elections were supposed to come before the presidential elections.

In Egypt, these last few days have been very violent and very bloody.

The Muslim Brotherhood is attempting to galvanize the people and move them into the street to try to prevent the interim government from proceeding with their stated goal.

Al Sisi has stepped down as Army chief of staff. Now he is preparing to run for president. It is not clear how free these elections will be. It is widely assumed in Egypt - by just about everyone, that Sisi will be the next president.

I can tell you with almost complete certainty that, this time, the Muslim Brotherhood will not be permitted to stand a candidate for election.

Egypt has learned its lesson. The hard way.

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Some Details of the Peace Deal
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 25, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Details on the Israeli Palestinian discussions have been under wraps.

We do know that the Israelis were unhappy with some of the suggestions proposed by US Secretary of State John Kerry. It has also been made very clear that the Palestinians are frustrated and feel as if the United States was adopting the Israeli position in the negotiations.

But recently the Palestinian magazine Tariq ran an in depth and extremely candid interview with Palestinian negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo during which he delineates much of the US proposal.

According to Abed Rabbo, the US plan calls for a staged process of Israeli security withdrawal linked to increased effectiveness in Palestinian security. Israel would be the evaluator determining if Palestinian security is effective.

Additionally, Israel would maintain mountain top and aerial monitoring over the Palestinian areas and have the ability to follow - in hot pursuit, inside Palestinian territory.

About Jerusalem, either the Arab neighborhood of Abu Dis or the neighborhood of Kfar Aqab would be called the Palestinian capital.
Palestinians had hoped for much more.

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PA -Russia $Billion Deal
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 24, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinians and the Russians have signed a deal.

Russia will give $1 billion to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for PA help in exploring for natural gas off the coast of Gaza.

Russia would then get dibs on part of the gas if any is discovered.

Aside from the obvious and much needed injection of money into the PA, there are several huge benefits to this deal.

By partnering with Russia the Palestinians have lessened their dependence on US aid. That means they are less beholding to and consequently, not required to, toe the US line.

This new agreement will enable the Palestinians - it will boost the psyche of every individual Palestinian and it will move the Palestinians closer towards independence.

It is not good news for the United States and it is not good news for Secretary of State John Kerry who has begun to apply pressure on the Palestinians to move towards peace with Israel on US terms.

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The Great Fire Wall Of China
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 23, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

10's of millions ... maybe even 100's of millions ...it is just a guess ... that's how many Chinese lost access to the Internet on Tuesday.

Whenever you talk about numbers and the Internet in China it is all just a guess. But assume that it was a gargantuan, even a Malthusian number of people who were redirected from their intended sites to other sites.

The Chinese restrict freedom of the Internet. Their web is so censured that we jokingly refer to their system of web control as "The Great Fire-Wall of China."

Tuesday's debacle was probably orchestrated by hackers who hate the Chinese wall. The result was that users were sent to an illegal and highly censured site owned by a US company.

The US company DIT confirmed that they own the site but said that they did not hack China. Instead they offered a plausible explanation. DIT said that it was probably due to an accidental mis-configuration of the Chinese fire wall.

The firewall normally redirects requests to sites that are Chinese friendly. This time all the unfriendly sites were now the destination. Now the forbidden sites were now open to all.

Not surprisingly, this happens pretty often when you try to control information to 1 billion 500 million people. There are 2 million cyber police in China today dedicated to hacking Western sites and keeping that firewall up.

Some days the system works better than others.


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Conference on Syria Will Fail
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 22, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Geneva Conference dedicated to creating a resolution in Syria has begun.

The conference has all the necessary components - for dismal failure. Actually, this conference has more of a chance of failure than the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

How can the conference even hope to succeed when there is not even an agreement on the direction of a resolution? Until now, even agreed upon cease fires have failed to last more than 20 hours.

How are the parties going to adhere to a peace accord or to devising a path that leads to the resolution of a three year old bloodbath?
Ceasefires are child's play relative to the solutions needed here.
Ceasefires were based on religious and calendar dates that were easy to quantify and understand. They ceasefires were seen as goals that all sides could relate to.

A general resolution to the conflict? No way.

Assad is feeling more and more powerful. He is gaining strength and amassing more areas under his control with every passing day. The rebels are on the run - and the rebels are fighting one another.

Believe me, this conference will not yield the end that either the United States or the United Nations hope for.

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Hamas is Trying To Stop Rockets
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

A few days ago Hamas enacted a policy to try to prevent rocket fire into Israel.

Over the past week several dozen rockets launched from Gaza and landed in Israel. Israel is retaliating. Now Hamas is afraid that Israel will increase that response. And Israel will definitely increase their response if rockets continue to land.

In order to prevent the escalation Hamas has set up roadblocks on all roads that lead to borders with Israel. They are checking the cars for rockets.

Hamas cannot simply make an announcement - they do not have that kind of control in Gaza. The rockets are being launched by a number of groups and sub groups - and these groups do not profess allegiance to Hamas.

So in order to prevent unnecessary and costly damage, Hamas is trying to be preemptive. Only time will tell if Hamas succeeded in stopping the rockets and preventing the retaliation.

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Israel Returns More Terrorists Bodies
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 20, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is returning another 36 dead terrorists to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

One was returned last night, the others will be transferred over the next two weeks. It brings the number of dead terrorists returned to the Palestinians over this past year to 91. So far, nine bodies were returned to Gaza, the rest were transferred to the PA in the West Bank.

In Israel, the families of the victims murdered by these terrorists are livid. There has been very little publicity and very little press coverage about the transfer and none about the outrage - not even after the Israeli Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the families of the victims to cancel the transfer.

Among those bodies now being returned are the bodies of the terrorists who bombed cafe Hillel in 1993 and those who took over the Savoy Hotel in 1975. It also includes the bodies of the terrorists responsible for the bus bombing that killed 16 in March of 2003.

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Israel Strikes Back
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has responded to the increased rockets that have been showering them from Gaza.

Over the past week there has been a huge increase in the rocket fire and today the Israelis struck back. With surgical precision Israel launched a missile that critically wounded Ahmed Saad, the 22 year old responsible for launching this last batch of rockets into Israel, as he was riding his motorcycle.

The bike was damaged but not destroyed. The Israelis used just enough explosive in the missile to strike at the motorbike. A 12 year old boy was also moderately wounded in the attack.

Because of the increase of rockets lobbed at them, Israel has also decided to use its new anti-rocket devise, named the "Iron Beam."
The new system is a laser beam that locks on to rockets and destroys them before they land.

The difference between the Iron Beam and the Iron Dome is that the Iron Beam is designed to intercept low flying rockets that do not hit the height trajectory required before the Iron Dome can effectively intercept them.

The low flying rocket has been the Achilles heel of anti-missile batteries. The Iron Beam should be a defensive game changer.

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Bibi Meets Abdullah in Amman
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu flew to Amman, Jordan yesterday to have a sit down with Jordan's King Abdullah II.

Last week Abdullah hosted Palestinian President Abbas.
We are told that the talks were candid.

According to an official Jordanian report King Abdullah urged Netanyahu to make use of "and build on the opportunity made available by the consolidated efforts of the U.S. secretary of state to achieve tangible progress in the peace negotiations."

The official report continued, stating that the objective is to create an "independent and viable Palestinian state" with East Jerusalem as its capital. The report also revealed that an Israeli Palestinian agreement is in "higher Jordanian interests."

In discussing the negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel the king told the Israeli prime minister: "They are a top priority for us."

The overriding issue is whether the agreement will be practical. I am certain that was the focus of Netanyahu's presentation to Abdullah.

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Egypt & Their Charter
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

There is no real word in Arabic for "constitution".

That is why the word being used to describe the Egyptian Constitution is the Arabic word for "charter". For these purposes, constitution is synonymous with charter. The word "charter" comes from the Latin word "carta" which means map and as we all know, the founding document of England is the Magna Carta.

160,000 soldiers and 200,000 police officers were deployed to preserve the peace during the two day election period for the new Egyptian Constitution that ended in Egypt yesterday. On the first day of voting, 9 people died in election violence. On the second day at least 79 pro-Morsi protesters were arrested.

Commenting on the election, the head of public relations for the interior ministry, Major General Abdel Fattah Othman, said that the "turnout so far may exceed 55% and the approval of the constitution is perhaps more than 95%." His interview was broadcast on private satellite channel Al-Hayat.

Duh! People who came out to vote came to vote in favor of the Charter. There was no alternative. The joke was that either you went and voted for the charter, or you went to jail.

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Poles Do Not See Anti-Semitism
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 15, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It is a basic rule of civilized society. When thugs and football hooligans shout anti-Semitic epithets it is our duty to condemn the slurs as base and unacceptable.

In any sport, even in soccer matches, racism is totally unacceptable.

Poland is no exception. In fact, Poland has a set of laws prohibiting racism. Those laws include a prohibition against the dissemination of racial slurs. So why then have Poland and Polish official prosecutors decided to justify the racism in their midst?

When the home team in Poznan, Poland, started shouting: "Go Jews, Get out, Go to Auschwitz" the local prosecutor determined that those shouts, that sentiment, was not an anti-Semitic slur.

Even when the slogans continued with the added verse: "send you to the gas chamber," the prosecutor did not think that it was racist.
His rationale was baffling. The prosecutor reasoned that the shouts were levied against the other team Widzew, Lodz and that there were no Jews on the other teams or, for that matter, anywhere in the Stadium.

This incident would not be so noteworthy if were an isolated occurrence. It is not.

In the city of Lublin, the home of Tomasz Pietrasiewicz was recently vandalized. Bricks with swastikas were thrown threw his windows.
He is not Jewish but he is deeply involved with Jews and publicly advocates for and teaches about the rich Jewish history of Lublin.

Here, too, the local prosecutor chose not to file racist charges against the hoodlums because Pietrasiewicz is not a Jew.

And in Bialystok people spreading leaflets with swastikas were not prosecuted. To add insult to injury, the prosecutor added that the swastika is an ancient Hindu symbol - not just the sign of the Nazis.

If this were not so sad, it would be funny. Do intelligent people actually believe that anti-Semitism exists only in the presence of Jews? Do they really believe that in the world today anybody sees any other realistic symbolism for the swastika other than Nazism? The Nazis themselves were unaware of the Hindu derivation.

Football hooligans must be held accountable. The clubs know that and they banish teams that violate the rules. If the prosecution does not get it then the home team should take a stand.

Anti-Semitism cannot be ignored. No form of racism should go unpunished.

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US - Iran - Russia Conflict
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

There are some rather out of the ordinary interactions happening of late between Iran, the United States and Russia.

The United States is deeply concerned about an oil for goods barter involving Iran and Russia. The deal would allow for a $1.5 billion monthly swap.

According to the White House, US Secretary of State John Kerry shared the US concern directly with his colleague, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on Monday when the two were in Paris working out the details of a conference on Syria which is scheduled to take place on January 22.

The biggest worry is that this barter could be considered a violation of the P5+1 agreement with Iran. If it is, it could trigger new US sanctions against Iran, sanctions that Congress has already prepared - just in case of a scenario like this.
If this barter deal goes through, everything everybody has been working so hard for could just fall apart. But Kerry is hopeful.

Kerry is also generous. He gave Lavrov a special present in a modest size box yesterday. It was a box of 2 Idaho potatoes. While speaking during the break Lavrov mentioned his love of the Idaho potatoes, so Kerry gave him a few.

We are told that there is no symbolism there. No symbolism at all. I do not care if this is or there isn't, but if there is - I don't see it.

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Assad Visits Mosque
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Over the past 3 years, since the fighting in Syria began, President Bashar Assad has ventured out in public only a handful of times.

There was always an important reason for the public appearances.
Often, they included a trip to a mosque. But the real purpose of appearing in public is to say that I am still in Damascus and I am the man in charge. Assad needs everyone, allies and enemies alike, to know that the conflict did not shake him.

So yesterday, on Sunday, Assad went to prayers at the al Hamad Mosque in northwest Damascus. The trip was broadcast across the Arab world, most especially on Syrian state-sponsored TV.

To all appearances Assad went to the al Hamad Mosque to celebrate the traditional birthday of Mohammed. In reality Assad was saying that the end is in sight, that the rebels have crumbled and that the country is getting quieter.

Assad was saying that although there are still areas withering away by virtue of violence, the conflict will soon be over. He was saying that the rebels are fighting amongst themselves and his supporters and troops will soon secure the entire country. And even though a few pockets of rebels may continue to exist in Syria, the country is his to once again preside over. Totally and completely.

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Egypt Votes This Week
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 12, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

I'll bet almost nobody knows that last Thursday, Egyptian expats living all over the world were able to vote on the new proposed Egyptian constitution.

And on January 14 and 15 the entire country of Egypt will vote on the constitution as a referendum.

While it is undeniable that there have been violent clashes recently in Egypt and it is true that the Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed in Egypt, strange as it may seem, all of it has been done in the name of democracy. Democracy must prevent non-democratic forces from taking over which is exactly what happened when Morsi was elected - and Egyptian leaders today are determined to see democracy thrive in their country.

The proposed constitution is called a draft charter. It uses moderate Islam as a foundation for legislation.

Interim President Adly Mansour has been on national Egyptian radio and television urging people to come out and vote for the referendum and to "lead the ship of the nation to the shores of safety."

An Arab country like Egypt needs to have a constitution and that constitution needs to be loosely based on Islamic tradition. Egypt cannot be a secular society, it must try to marry the valued and essential traditions of Islam with modern democratic rights.

Sounds easy ... but turning theory into a reality will be very difficult, especially as Islamic tradition confronts modern human rights.

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Ariel Sharon is Dead
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 11, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Ariel Sharon is dead.

Since his stroke in 2006 the former prime minister of Israel has been nonresponsive. Even though he has been gone for nearly eight years, now is the time when Israel and the world must say their final goodbyes.

Everyone had an opinion about Ariel Sharon. No one was indifferent about him. You either liked him or hated him - nationally and internationally. To Sharon it made no difference, his actions and decisions were based on his own convictions, not a desire to either please or to enrage others.

Ariel Sharon was a great warrior and he was a great politician.
Seldom are politicians so simple and so direct, Sharon was different because Sharon approached politics like he approached war.

Sharon was very easy to understand. His priorities were simple and clear on every level. He never minced words. He was a pragmatist.
He achieved his goals by placing them in priority order and then attacking them one by one.

Most of all, Ariel Sharon was a master tactician - in that arena, he was truly unparalleled.

The overarching goal of Ariel Sharon at every level - prime minister, defense minister, member of Knesset, author, private citizen, land owner and farmer - was the protection of Israel.

The word of Sharon was his promise, and yet, he was a man of action, not words. Part of his appeal for the Israeli public was that people believed that Ariel Sharon would deliver on his word. And he did.

Surely there was much controversy in his life and surrounding his career and I do not know how history will treat Ariel Sharon. But I do know that the world, not just Israel, not just the Middle East, the world has lost a great man, a true hero. May his memory be blessed.

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Iranians in The IDF
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 10, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It is not rocket science but it is very important - and Israel is trying its best to take advantage and make the most of it.

What am I talking about? Here it is: BaMachaneh, the IDF magazine, printed a story that is not only very interesting, but also very unusual for them. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) never releases figures, but here they did.

According to the magazine each year fifty Iranian-born Israeli boys enter the army. The army is trying to move these soldiers into intelligence units and keep them "in" as long as possible. The article also reports that 23% of Iranian-Israeli girls join the army and within that group, 33% of the girls join intelligence units. That is an astounding number and it is even higher than the statistic for the males which is about 20%.

Every year about 100 Iranians arrive in Israel. They all arrive via a third country.

The upside is that these young people have language and familiarity with Iran which is unequaled. The downside is that they are young and have never been trained in how to really see and analyze raw data. For that, they need to be trained from scratch.

This Iranian intelligence force in Israel is a very powerful weapon. There is almost no chance that any of these young men and women are double agents. The Iranian Jewish community is too small and there is no amount of money that would tempt an Iranian Jew to betray his Jewish family.

Israeli intelligence is ions above other countries because of this very valuable human asset.

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Arabs Do Not Want to Join the PA
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 9, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

They used to be called Israeli Arabs. Then they became Palestinians living in Israel and sometimes they were called Palestinians with privileges. Now they are just called Palestinians.

All these names refer to Palestinians who are also Israeli citizens.

The topic has emerged again as peace discussions dealing with land swaps come up for negotiation. The idea is that certain places on the Israeli side of the '67 border will be swapped for certain places of on the Palestinian side of the border.

Recently Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman suggested that the Wadi Ara area which is the area of Um al Fahm also known as the triangle would be the perfect place to swap.

The entire area is Arab and it abuts the West Bank. The area gained notoriety as a major center of Naqba protests against Israel. Naqba means the tragedy corresponding to Israel's Independence in May of 1948.

And yet, all those residents of Wadi Ara who have been interviewed absolutely reject any idea of living under the Palestinian Authority.

They do not want to exchange freedom for corruption.

They do not want to give up their Israeli privileges - especially health care, education and accountability, law and safety.

They do not want to give up all that is taken as a given in Israel and will most certainly be lost in the Palestinian Authority. They want to continue living in Israel and reside under Israeli law.

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UN Doesn't Count Victims in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 8, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

There are signs of change that we look at to determine if solutions are on the horizon.

The Geneva Conference about Syria is one of those signs, it is a good sign. The disagreement between the United States and Iran as to how involved Iran should be in any resolution undertaken at that conference is another good sign. And the fact that Iran and the US both recognize that they are confronting similar Sunni radical movements is a third good sign.

A bad sign, in fact a very bad sign, is that the United Nations Commission for Human Rights has officially announced that they are no longer keeping track of the victims of the Syrian crisis. They stopped totaling the figures in July, when the number of victims hit the 100,000 mark.

Rupert Colville, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, explained that they just cannot verify the sources and so, they cannot even speculate on the numbers. Until they stopped tallying, the Commission based their estimation on six different sources and reports that were made available to them.

But all of the sources were biased - it was always a guessing game.

The problem with not even trying to determine the number of victims in the Syrian crisis is the message that is being sent out. The message is that the numbers do not count and once the numbers do not count the lives do not count. And for a crisis like the conflict overtaking Syria --- that is the wrong message.

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Egypt Shuts Tunnels
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 7, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Egypt destroyed eight tunnels running between Gaza and Egypt in the area of Rafah. The tunnels are used for smuggling everything from weapons to construction materials.

The Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported that the Egyptians also arrested 24 people who worked in the tunnels and in a warehouse which housed explosives and other weapons. The warehouse was in the Northern Sinai, abutting the Gaza Strip.

Egypt has increased their vigilance in trying to shut down the tunnels and the movement of weapons and explosives in and out of Gaza. Those weapons and people often take up arms with the Muslim Brotherhood and attack Egyptian targets.

There has been a huge recent increase of attacks in Sinai and the Egyptians have received special permission to abrogate their peace treaty with Israel and bring their own military into the Sinai. The Peace Accords between Egypt and Israel very clearly specify that Egypt may not militarize the Sinai, but in this case the Egyptians need to bring in the army to prevent a terrorist takeover. Israel understands and agrees.

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Golan On Alert
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 6, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

There was a recent report of footprints crossing the border in the Golan Heights.

The entire area went into alert to find potential terrorist infiltrators.

In the 1970's and 80's this used to happen more often, it was a common occurrence. Sometimes the tracks were cows in search of pasture. Sometimes a terrorist sat on top of the cattle. Sometimes the footsteps belonged to drug suppliers coming from Syria and Lebanon into Israel.

This was a real set of tracks crossing from Syria into Israel. And with increased al Qaeda involvement in Syria, Israel takes these tracks very seriously.

There is no doubt that the conflict in Syria has destabilized the region. There has been spill over into Lebanon, into Iraq, into Jordan and into Turkey. It will spill over into Israel - it is just a matter of time.

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Watch How Arabs Treat Arabs
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 4, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Paying attention to how Arabs relate to other Arabs can be instructive.

Tunisia is sponsoring an Anti-Zionism Conference. Not unusual.
Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad were prevented from entering. Unusual.

Al Mayadeen, a Hezbollah TV network in Lebanon, reported today that the Hezbollah delegation was not permitted to enter the hall where the Anti-Zionism conference was taking place.

And the Islamic Jihad group was prevented from landing in Tunis.
The story was picked up by several other media outlets.

Why were Hezbollah and barred? The answer is simple.

Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad of Lebanon have sided with Assad and with Iran. And that makes them pariahs in the Arab world - even when it comes to the hatred of Zionism.

Now that is interesting.

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Yr of Jewish Strength Says Egypt Astrologist
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 3, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Astrology is the craze in many parts of the world - like in Egypt, where people believe that the future can be seen in the alignment of the stars and constellations.

Sayyed al Shimi, one of Egypt's most popular astrologers, appeared on Egyptian national television as part of a year-end round-up for 2013 and to offer predictions for 2014.

During his prediction segment al Shimi warned that in 2014 the Jews will "grow stronger." He explained that it is a historical reality that in the past, when the stars have been in just such an alignment, the Jews have been greatly successful.

"We discovered that Saturn entered the fire sign of Sagittarius when the first World Zionist Congress convened. The Balfour Declaration was released when Saturn was in the fire sign of Leo. The Haganah Brigades [the pre-1948 Jewish defense force] began organizing and helping the English in 1928, when Saturn was in the fire sign of Sagittarius. The 1948 war took place when Saturn was in the fire sign of Leo. The 1956 war took place when Saturn was in the fire sign of Sagittarius. The 1967 War took place when Saturn was in the fire sign of Aries."

"Between 1963 and1967 my late father warned in his annual reports:
'Beware, Saturn will enter the sign of Aries in 1967 and this means that the Jews will grow stronger, just like in 1956 and in 1948.'
'Beware,' he said, 'something is about to happen.' But they refused to believe him."

Personally, I would never argue with the stars. And I am glad that even the Egyptians see that Israel and the Jews are powerful and will be even more powerful. Let them continue to believe that 2014 will be a year of Jewish great strength.

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New Poll on 2 State Solution
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 2, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

A new study about a Two State Solution was just released. The results of the study should surprise all those who think that the two-state-solution is dead in the water.

The study certainly surprised me. For two years now I have been saying that there is no will on either the Israeli or the Palestinians side for a two-state-solution, that each side is content to live with the current status quo.

Then comes this study which says that 63% of Israelis and 53% of Palestinians answered favorably to questions supporting a two-state-solution. The numbers dropped by 10% in both communities after details were added to the questions, especially details about settlements.

Each community was polled by pollsters from their own community.
Israelis were polled by the Hebrew University who asked 601 people and had a 4.5% degree of error. Palestinians were polled by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research who asked 1270 people and their margin of error was 3.0%

Granted, this is not a ringing endorsement for the two-state-solution, but neither is it a total rejection of the proposal.

Several significant sectors within the Israeli government are on record rejecting the two-state-solution. In addition, it is pretty clear that Palestinian leaders have never embraced the idea. And for the past two years we have been under the assumption that the masses on both sides had no faith in having a two-state-solution.

This study shows us that even now, or perhaps, especially now there is a critical mass of over 50% of Israelis and of Palestinians that can be used to sway the process if a good deal emerges from the Kerry talks.

That's leverage.

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Kerry Back To Push Both Sides
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 1, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State John Kerry will be returning to the Middle East on Thursday. He will meet with both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas revealed his strategy for the Kerry meeting when he welcomed back the Palestinian prisoners recently released from Israeli prison. Abbas made the point that his main objective is to secure the release of all prisoners.

Abbas said "this won't be the last time that prisoners are freed," and "there won't be a final agreement with Israel until all the prisoners are released."

The Palestinian leader was also very clear about his take on the Jordan River Valley. Abbas said "this is our land, and it will remain that way. This a red line on our part."

Abbas will secure his legacy in Palestinian history by forcing Israel to release prisoners. The Jordan Valley is actually less about the land than it is about the border. For Abbas and the Palestinians it is a practical issue, they are concerned about securing a border with Jordan.

Kerry will have his work cut out for him.

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Lebanese TV Lampoons Nasrallah
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 31, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

As I think back over the past 12 months I find that one of the funniest and at the same time one of the boldest moves in the Middle East was made by LBC, the Lebanese Broadcasting Company, a private network that broadcasts from Beirut.

Every Friday night LBC airs a regular comedy show that pokes fun at the situation in Lebanon and the whole Middle East. Most of their comedy is simple imitation and role playing. The name of the Friday night show is in itself a play on words. It is called Bas Mat Watan which means the Homeland's Laughter, but it sounds very similar to Bas Met Watan which means the homeland is dying.

One particular episode in November depicted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. It was a hilarious lampoon of the Shiites radical cleric. Nothing of this kind had performed on air since 2006 and undertaking this parody took a great deal of courage - even in free thinking Lebanon. People have been assassinated for much less.

The show caused riots and a huge tidal wave of activity on twitter.
Some said that it was inappropriate to mock a cleric. Supporters of the show said that Nasrallah was fair game because he was a political figure and was no different from any other politician they lampoon. Besides, supporters said, this program impersonates religious leaders all the time.

Until November LBC was too afraid of the repercussions to touch Nasrallah. The reason they felt enabled to rake him over the proverbial coals of television comedy is that as the conflict spilled over into Lebanon and more Lebanese lives were lost, they finally felt comfortable challenging Hezbollah's involvement in Syria and its impact on Lebanon.

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Iran Passed a Pro Nuke Bill
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 30, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The Iranian parliament just passed a bill for which over two-thirds of the members voted in favor of catapulting their nuclear development if the US Congress passes any new boycott legislation.

The Iranian press is filled with coverage of the dramatic change of heart in Iran. Since the last time they were asked, there has been a 100% shift in the Iranian parliament.

This Iranian bill will permit uranium enrichment to 60% and even 90%, whereas the agreement caps it at 20%. In addition, the bill allows for the heavy water nuclear plant at Arak to continue to be built.

The legislation the Iranians are concerned about is referred to as "Standby Sanctions" in the corridors of power in Washington DC. Congress wants the sanctions bills in place to allow them the ability to act quickly if the six month interim deal with Iran falls through.

Iran is setting up a counter move. They are saying if you pass a bill we will pass a bill that trumps your bill.

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Saudis Give Lebanon 3 Billion
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 29, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Saudi Arabia just gave Lebanon a $3 billion grant to bolster their army.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman announced the aid on Sunday TV. "The king of the brotherly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is offering this generous and appreciated aid of $3 billion to the Lebanese army to strengthen its capabilities."

The obvious purpose of the money is to counter the enormous support that Iran gives to Hezbollah in Lebanon. That support has a huge impact on everything that happens in Syria.

If the Saudis successfully strengthen the Lebanese army it can influence the facts on the ground in Lebanon, in Syria and even - by extension, Israel. A stronger army in Lebanon will also, hopefully, prevent the violence overtaking Syria from spilling over into Lebanon.

The biggest however, is that giving money and buying better and bigger weapons does not necessarily make for a better army.

Hezbollah is disciplined and well trained. They are also well armed. Unless the Lebanese army is better trained and better motivated than Hezbollah, there is a strong possibility that
Hezbollah will capture many of the new weapons that Saudi Arabia will be giving to Lebanon.

If that happens the $3 billion gift will turn into one explosive backfire.

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Iran is a Compilcated Game
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 28, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Just look at how complicated the Iranian issue is.

On Monday talks will resume between Iran and the P5+1 in Geneva.

The talks were put on hold for Christmas. People are hopeful.

Yesterday Iran called for direct talks between the United States and Iran to try and start a new era, a new relationship.

But --- also yesterday ---

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said that Iran is producing a new generation of centrifuges "and another round of tests will be made before proceeding to mass production."

Salehi said that Iran now has 19,000 centrifuges and is "able to produce its own nuclear fuel."

Spokesman for the agency, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said that these new centrifuges and new developments will improve Iranian production and enrichment capacity.

This, he added, is not a violation of the deal which forbids further production for 6 months - not improvement.

And the games continue.

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New Nazi Salute is a Rage
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 27, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

I have not been this disturbed by a news item or event in a very long time.

Yesterday I spent several hours researching and investigating a new symbol of blatant and despicable Anti-Semitism. It is called QUENELLE. A quenelle is a French pastry. But this is neither sweet nor tasteful. This quenelle is a reverse Nazi salute.

The rise of the quenelle has been seen primarily in France, its place of origin. So far it has been perpetrated almost exclusively by the French - even when they leave France. It is all over the internet and Facebook. People take pictures of themselves doing the quenelle in popular and very inappropriate locales - individually and en masse.

It is illegal in France to use Nazi symbols or to inspire anti-Semitism. Changing the Nazi salute and inverting it by placing one hand downward while the other arm crosses the body is a way around the law.

I have added 2 hyper links to a 3 minute Youtube video and a YNET article showing pictures of neo Nazis doing the quenelle salute in front of synagogues, at Holocaust memorials and outside the notorious massive death camp Auschwitz/Birkenau. They are even seen at the Western Wall and posing with smiling Israeli soldiers oblivious to what is really being perpetrated.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxlQK0g2kSk

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4464336,00.html

Once you understand what is happening, you will find this fast growing trend as frightening as I do.

The French are taking this seriously. French leadership is talking about ways to control the quenelle movement. In the meantime, the movement grows and spreads its Anti-Semitic message.

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Pollard Has A Small Chance
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 26, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

There is a better chance now than there has been in a very long time that Jonathan Pollard may be freed.

Now that Prism, the NSA program made public by Edward Snowden, outted the United Sttaes for spying on Israel at the highest level, Israel is hoping to use the information as leverage with which to free Pollard.

Israel is attaching Pollard to the Palestinian peace process. They hope to link concessions that they make to the Palestinians - concessions that will appease the United States - with progress on the Pollard front.

Israel will push the US about the double standard. You can spy on us and we can't spy on you? We were caught years ago, you were caught now. We will drop the issue if you let our spy go.

Another important factor in this equation is President Obama who, until now, has not weighed in on Pollard. Fundamentally, Obama is motivated by fairness. He is all about being fair and being equal.
The publicity about the US spying on Israel may provide the impetus he needed to help Pollard.

The stumbling block is the defense establishment. The defense establishment is dead set against it.

The Constitution, however, provides for situations such as the one Pollard is embroiled in and the Constitution put the decision making power totally in the office of the president.

It is written in Article II, Section 2, Clause 1:
"and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."

Since 1900, 20,000 presidential pardons have been issued. A pardon is not the only option. Vacating the verdict, clemency or commuting the sentence all fall under the right of the US President.

Now that Israel has assumed responsibility for Pollard (which for years they denied) swaps can occur. Recently, a US citizen was returned from Russia in exchange for several Russians and other things that Russia wanted. If Israel successfully applies the necessary pressure and the United States wants to play along Pollard can be freed through any number of scenarios.

In the end Israel is fighting for Pollard because of an essential Jewish principle: one does not leave captives. Jonathan Pollard has done his time. And I can honestly say that at this historical juncture, Israel is willing to pay dearly for his release.

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A New Intifada?
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 25, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

There has been a serious rise in violence in the West Bank over the past few weeks. The IDF, the police and intelligence service have begun to call it a mini intifada or uprising

Actually, no one wants to even use the word because of its historical resonance, but, given the events, it seems both appropriate and accurate. In fact, several factors are emerging signaling that a full blown intifada might be on the way.

Over the past few months there have been several hundred small acts of violence in the West Bank. This past week the incidents escalated in seriousness. There were three large incidents including the Palestinian sniper who, yesterday, killed an Israeli defense contractor.

Abbas has given a green light to attacks against symbols of the occupation and the situation is getting out of hand. The Palestinian leader hopes to add pressure on Israel to force negotiations - but once out of the bottle, violence will not be easily stemmed or directed.

Frustration on the part of youthful Palestinians, couples with a rejection of the establishment and current PA leadership has resulted in the rise of popularity of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi groups in the West Bank.

These groups are independent of the PA. They are not controlled by Abbas but have received his nod and do not fear PA security forces.
They are beginning to strike Israel on their own.

All this means that at any moment the West Bank could explode. And that does not even take into account the potential of a retaliatory Israeli strike that could easily trigger this new intifada.

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Jesus Was Not A Palestinian
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 24, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Enough already.

Arafat used to do it all the time. Present day Palestinian leadership is carrying on the tradition. The Palestinians call Jesus a Palestinian.

In an email he just sent around the world PA President Mahmoud Abbas called Jesus a Palestinian. He wrote Jesus was a "Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions."

That's like calling Jesus an Israeli. And Jesus was not an Israeli.

Jesus was a Jew - he was not an Israeli and he was not a Palestinian.

Obviously, Islamic leadership cannot call Jesus the "Savior." Interestingly, the Muslim world has great difficulty even calling him "prophet."

In his email, Abbas called Jesus a "messenger" so as not to upset or, even better, to insult Muslim leadership around the world.

Jesus has his place in history. The fact that he does not play a role in Muslim history should not pose a problem. The Palestinians must stop abusing history.

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Iran is A Regional Power
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 23, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday I read that Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino visited Iran and held a press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

The main point of the coverage was to say that any country trying to push Iran out of a position of power in the region, will fail.
Zarif made the following concerning efforts to exclude his country from the Syrian peace talks:

"We believe that the view which prevents Iran from playing a positive role on Syria issue is not realistic."

"We have announced readiness to find a political solution to Syria crisis and to have a constructive and effective presence in Geneva II."

"We hope the efforts (to solve Syria issue) will be based on realities"

Zarif reiterated that if Iran is invited to the talks, it will also take part in the forthcoming conference on Syria.

For her part, the Italian foreign minister responded well. She emphasized Iran's constructive role in the region.

She said: "We want positive presence of Iran in the international conference of Geneva II on Syria crisis."

"Geneva II Conference is the will of the United Nations to solve Syria crisis."

"... all the countries which have influence to stop tragedy in Syria should attend Geneva II Conference."

The only problem with this entire story line is that Iran has a proverbial horse in the race. The Iranians are major players in Syria. Iran has deployed special units of their Revolutionary Guard in Syria. Iran stationed training forces in Syria and the Iranians are sponsors of Hezbollah and of Bashar Assad himself.

Iran controls what happens in Syria. And Iran wants a resolution that meets their own specific goals and vision.

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Friends Spy on Friends
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 22, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The sensational headlines should not have come as a surprise to anyone who dabbles even a little in intelligence.

Prism, the NSA program, tapped the phones and computers of Israel's prime minister and senior leadership during meetings. They tapped emails and telephone calls.

The operating assumption is always that your phone and computer are being tapped. No one in a position of power should ever say anything secure on the phone or write anything secure in an email.

All secure messages are delivered face to face and then only in very secure places. Places where lips cannot be read. Even the president of the United States sets up a tent in his hotel room and all documents and important conversations take place inside that tent and away from probing telephoto lenses and prying visual and audio optics.

Computers, cell phones, land lines are all child’s play to intelligence services.

Most memos and conversations do not have to be secret and sometimes information is leaked deliberately in order to create a designed response or to set a plan in motion.

It is not about insult or trust - it is all about knowledge. And knowledge is power.

Sometimes, knowing too much tips your hand. Sometimes, the other side slips and says something that they could only have received from information gleaned from a tap.

That's where the game gets interesting.

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US Senate Condemns Iran
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 21, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

On Friday the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning Iran. The resolution called on Iran to free seven Bahai leaders who have been imprisoned as well as numerous other Bahai leaders who have been illegally held and never even charged.

The resolution reads: The Senate "condemns the government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Bahai minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights."

The White House has said that these resolutions are "not helpful." They added that this is not the time for resolutions of this nature.

Clearly, even the democrats on Capitol Hill disagree with the president.

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Irony - Israel & the Palestinians
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 20, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Irony makes me smile.

Israel is trying to create a full court press on Iran. Each time an Israeli leader has the opportunity, he or she manages to inject comments about keeping the pressure on Iran into their conversation. President Peres does it, Prime Minister Netanyahu does it. Every leader, no matter the party or position, is pounding the pavement to try to convince the world to keep up the pressure on Iran.

Not only are they talking the talk, they Israelis are walking the walk. Israel is using every opportunity to apply pressure. And the most important place for applying pressure is in Washington, DC, both on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

Well guess what. The Palestinians are doing the same thing. Only the Palestinians are applying pressure on the White House in order to pressure --- Israel. And it is not just the Palestinians, it is anyone who sides with the Palestinians. Americans, Europeans, Asians and Arabs alike.

All irony aside, the pressure is growing. There is probably more pressure being brought on the United States to try to resolve the Israeli / Palestinian issue than to keep up the sanctions on Iran.

The Palestinians are doing a better job than the Israelis in their PR campaign. They usually do.

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Palestinian Israeli Peace?
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 19, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said yesterday that talks with Israel may extend beyond the nine month April deadline if real progress and a "detailed skeleton" of all the elements in question is in place.

Erekat wants the skeleton to include frameworks for borders, land swaps, security coordination and refugees.

This comment indicates that there may be more room for optimism than the impression given by initial assessments. Thomas Friedman, in a recent OPED in The New York Times, seems to sense the optimism.

Friedman raked the Palestinians over the coals saying they cannot have it all and that they must be more realistic about their desires for statehood. He made a very cogent argument for compromise.

Friedman criticized Israel for wanting too much and said that Israel must give up one of their three essential loves - democracy, the Jewishness of the state, the totality of the land of Israel. He suggests the third option, giving up settlements in the West Bank.

There is still very little chance of success. That having been said, low expectations are a great tool through which to achieve change.

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Iran's New Super - Radar
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 18, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

With full fanfare, Iran has announced a new radar system.

The announcement was made in all the papers, TV and radio stations, each announcement contained almost identical information. Iran now has a new, extra long range system radar that uses UHF, VHF, HF frequencies.

The system is called Arash, named after the Persian mythical figure and archer. According to tradition the Archer resolved a conflict about the boundaries of Persia by shooting an arrow off in a direction and all the land within the bowshot would become Persia. Arash used a magical bow and hence, he shot the arrow a super natural distance.

According to the reports this radar has a range of 200 kilometers or about 120 miles. It is able to track as many as 100 different incoming projectiles at the one time.

We do not know if this is actually for real - but the reports say that the radar system has been unveiled and successfully tested.

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Snow in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 17, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

It snowed in Jerusalem.

The international press has romanticized the rare, beautiful white blanket that now covers parts of the Middle East.

Both The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal printed unique, even entertaining pictures of the snow in Jerusalem - on their front pages and above the fold. The Times showed a lone figure swimming in a pool surrounded by snow and images of the city. The Journal showed a snow boarder high in the air, his tsitsit (ritual fringed garment) flying in the wind.

The images shown in those papers are beautiful, but they do not depict the whole picture. The reality is grim. There is a very real and very ugly underbelly to this storm. Over 100 people have been treated in hospitals after slipping on ice. Tens of thousands of people were left without heat and electricity many are still living in the dark and cold. There are people trapped, waiting in their homes for emergency evacuations to hospitals after giving birth or having suffered various medical crises.

Some say that Israeli leadership failed miserably and that basic services have not functioned well in this crisis. Others are enjoying what may be a once in a lifetime experience.

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Romanian TV Carol - Kill the Jews
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 16, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Dumbstruck. Flummoxed. I cannot believe my eyes.

I have just read the lyrics of the Romania Christmas Carol sung by a folk ensemble named Dor Transilvan on Romania public television.

In the song the carolers proclaim that Jews killed Jesus. They sing that the only good Jews is a dead Jew. And then they add the words, only in the chimney. In other words, do as the Nazis did - mass murder Jews and then cremate them.

The Romanian television network was fined the equivalent of about $15,000 for engaging in a major violation of the law by airing a terribly Anti-semitic program.

Here are some of the lyrics:

"A beautiful child was born/
His name was Jesus Christ/
All the world worships him /
But the kikes / Damn kikes /
Holy God would not leave the kike alive /
Either in the sky or on the earth /
Only in the chimney as smoke / This is what the kike is good for /
To make kike smoke through the chimney on the street"

After these words were sung, the host of the program actually said thank you the choral group.

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Iran Becoming Obese
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 15, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is positioning the entire scenario - the whole thing, the talks, the agreement, the other meetings, everything - as a conflict with the West, especially a conflict with the United States.

Iran may be correct. And they just may win the war of diplomatic public relations.

But on one battlefield, the Iranians are losing and they will continue to lose. That battlefield is the field of modern culture.

Here is the most recent - and a very scary - example: Fully 33% of Iranians are obese. The state is embarking on massive educational campaigns to combat the epidemic. Private groups are initiating campaigns to combat obesity. But none of their efforts are likely to succeed.

The main culprit is fast food. Pizza, hamburgers and french fries are being gobbled up by Iranian youth much faster than are yogurt and fruit. The Iranians are opening their own rip-offs of Western chains. The rip-offs come complete with all the poor nutrients and all the fats of the originals.

Iran realizes there is almost no way to confront this phenomenon.
But they should get points for trying. For example, for several days during the week the city of Isfahan has closed city streets to cars in order in stimulate walking.

It just won't work. The youth of Iran are doomed. And we all know what happens next - acne.

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Iran Leaves Talks
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 14, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

On Friday Iran walked out of the five day long set of meetings they had been holding in Vienna. The meetings were the follow up to the accord they had signed with the P5+ 1 in the end of November with Iran.

The Iranian delegation walked out because the United States publicly listed 12 companies and individuals who have been violating sanctions. The reason the US made the announcement was to quell a resolution in congress to add new sanctions.

The accord specifically says that any new sanctions will nullify the agreement. The US was trying to thread the needle. They will say that they were just policing the current sanctions. They will say that this is nothing new. But Iran will say that it is new enforcement against them.

Officially, the Iranians said that they were returning to Tehran for consultations.

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Talks w Iran Not Progressing
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 13, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

For several days now, ever since Monday, representatives from the P5+1 have been meeting with Iran in Vienna.

There have been conflicting reports as to the progress of those meetings. But four days of talks is a positive sign and we know that, at least, they are still talking.

At first, public statements articulating positive progress on both sides were released. But yesterday it became clear that there are still real difficult issues to be hammered out. Principally, the difficulties surround what should happen and when.

Both sides are proving problematic. Both sides are insisting that the other make concessions. Iran wants a lessening of sanctions and the United States and the West want to limit the development of nuclear technology.

The biggest issue is a chicken and egg discussion. Which should come first? P5+1 says first open up for unfettered inspections and stop nuclear development. Iran says first relax the sanctions and then we will accommodate you.

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Congress May Derail Iran Accord
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 13 ,2013

I've Been Thinking.

Congress has been threatening to derail the agreement that was signed between the West, as represented by the P5+1, and Iran in Geneva.

The House will probably pass a non-binding resolution before Congress goes to recess next Friday. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is circulating a draft resolution.

On the Senate side, they seem more trusting. The Senate listened to the president and has heeded the White House calls for patience.

The agreement signed between the parties clearly says that no new sanctions may be imposed on Iran. If new sanctions are imposed, the agreement is totally nullified.

In reality, the House is sending a message to the White House and to Teheran. The message goes like this: We do not trust either of you.

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Assassination in Beirut
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 11, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Last week Hassan al Lakkis was assassinated in his car in Beirut, Lebanon. He had just pulled up to his house and was still in the car when the assassin jumped out and shot him 5 times.

Lakkis was the Hezbollah tech guru. He masterminded the Hezbollah hi-tech drone system and many of their gadgets and gimmicks. Some friends and colleagues teased him and called him "Q" after the techie in the Bond movies.

It is also a commonly held belief that Lakkis has been the mastermind behind the smuggling of weapons from Lebanon into Gaza and into Egypt. He was very close with the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah.

So who assassinated Hassan al Lakkis? Nasrallah and Hezbollah immediately blamed Israel.

But in an unprecedented response, Israel denied responsibility. The Israelis do not normally respond in these situations, they prefer to leave everyone guessing. Two groups, however, have claimed responsibility. The Free Sunni Brigades of Baalabek and the Soldiers of Damascus have both claimed that they killed Lakkis.

The style of the assassination and the response of Israel leads one to believe that responsibility really does lie with a local group.
There is no shortage of Hezbollah enemies in Beirut. Most importantly, the assassination was loud and public and very untidy.

The assassins did not have a very sophisticated exit strategy. They simply shot Lakkis many times and then sped off in a car.

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Embattled PA Leadership
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 10, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The biggest problem with the US push for a resolution between Israel and the Palestinians is a practical one. Unfortunately, the United States does not see the problem that will emerge because of their misdirected actions and advice.

The PA is an embattled and nearly totally defunct entity. Hamas is gaining popularity in the West Bank. Al Qaeda is growing in number in the West Bank. Most importantly, the Salafi movement is not only growing, it is growing quickly.

These groups view the Palestinian Authority as collaborators with Israel and the United States. They are fighting for the hearts and souls of young Palestinian men and boys and these groups are promising them the moon.

The PA is seen not as the leader of the future but as a throwback to the past. The masses of PA youth are not interested in Abbas - in fact, when they look at him all they see is corruption and nepotism.

The suggestions being made by the United States about security and the PA and Israel are non-attainable because, simply put, they are just not practical. The Palestinians seem to want new, young extremists more than they want the old guard.

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Israelis & Saudis Meet About Iran
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 9, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Follow this carefully.

Iran reported yesterday that Saudi Prince Bandar, who is also the head of the Saudi Intelligence Service, recently met several times with Israel intelligence officials in Geneva.

Under normal circumstances neither the source nor the report would be credible. But this particular report seems to be substantiated and logic dictates that meeting of this sort would be more than probable.

There have been multiple rumors and even public statements about regional cooperation with Israel. In other words, Saudi Arabia and Israel met to discuss ways to try to contain or even counter Iran and deal with the newly minted relationship Iran now has with the West, especially the United States.

The priorities for Israel and Saudi Arabia include trying to sideline all of Iran's proxies and trying to talk directly with the US to convince them of the mistake they are making with Iran and show them how Iran's interests are to destabilize - not to stabilize - the region and even the world.

Saudi Arabia is not shy about voicing dissatisfaction over Iran and Israel has been very vocal in their skepticism over Iran's intentions. The Saudis and Israelis are also sharing intelligence about the Muslim Brotherhood, especially in Egypt.

These were high level meetings. I am certain that other lower level and operational meetings are happening as you read this.

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Israel's New Assessment of Syria
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 8, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Over the past few weeks it seems clear that Israel has changed their assessment of Syria.

Until now Israel has always claimed that President Bashar Assad of Syria was on his way out and that his days were numbered. It was not a question of if but when he would be ousted, killed, toppled or exiled.

Now the Israelis have confirmed that Bashar Assad is there to stay for the foreseeable future. Assad has secured his position and his primary mission is to rid his country of Islamic al Qaeda influences that have crossed into Syria to try to topple him.

The change in Israel's assessment is based on Assad's recent military successes and the change in momentum within Syria that has continued to flow in his favor over the past ten months. In addition there is the international credibility that Assad has gained by cooperating and helping to identify and destroy chemical and biological weapons facilities within Syria.

Now Israel is now drawing up new and future scenarios for Syria. Primary on their list are the 5,000 to 10,000 foreign al Qaeda fighters only a stone’s throw away from Israel.

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What If The US Withdraws
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 7, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

There are numerous discussions in international arenas about the United States stepping down from its long held role as international policeman.

It seems clear that under the stewardship of President Barack Obama the US is redefining its role internationally. Part of that redefinition means pulling out of places where the mere presence of the United States insured stability and free flow of economic and commercial traffic.

One of the regions now in question is the Persian Gulf. Until now the US has played an essential role in making certain that oil flowed freely through the region. There is serious speculation and worry in the corridors of oil consuming nations that, given the current US condition and policy making decisions, they may diminish their policing role in the Gulf.

If that should happen who, if anyone, will step in to fill the void? So far, it looks as if the void will remain. Following is a significant example of that new reality:

Salman Khashid is India's minister of external affairs. India is the 2nd largest consumer of oil in the world. When the question was posed to Salman Khurshid's by Reuters, this is what he said: "We have never played the classical role of intervening with military assistance in the same way that the US has been doing."

That is troubling. Troubling for the region and troubling for the world.

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Hamas To Hang Those Who Aid Israel
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 6, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday a Hamas court convicted and sentenced A.K. to death by hanging.

A.K. is the only name he is known by. His crime was helping the Israelis. Officially, in Hamas terms, the crime was collaborating with the Zionist occupation. It is a crime that is punishable by death.

Thus far, in 2013, Hamas has convicted and sentenced 12 people to death for helping Israel. Three have been executed. Since 2007, the year that Hamas took over Gaza, 17 people have been executed for collaboration with Israel.

Only two other crimes carry the death penalty according to Palestinian law - murder and drug trafficking.

Under Palestinian law the execution must be sanctioned by the President. In Gaza, Hamas does not recognize the authority of the president of the Palestinian Authority. They have not accepted Abbas since they took over Gaza.

Given that the punishment for helping Israel is death, it is very unlikely that any real peace can or will emerge between Israel and the Palestinians.

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Kerry is No Miracle Worker
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 5, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Israel last night.

Many people are hoping that he will succeed. They are counting on him to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Palestinian leadership has announced that Kerry must come in a save the day. New York Times columnist Thomas Freidman says that Kerry needs to push the parties and that will force a deal.

But Kerry is not a miracle worker.

It is not certain that the parties, Israel and the Palestinians, really want a solution. The Israelis talk about peace but have not really made the right moves. The Palestinians have never really made the right gestures or moves.

Realistically speaking, there is little chance of any solution during this Kerry Middle East trip.

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Iran to Move in on OPEC
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 4, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Today OPEC is meeting and Iran is hoping to take charge.

The Iranians are attempting to change the daily output of OPEC and, once again, turn themselves into one of the most powerful forces in the world of oil export.

Of course, Saudi Arabia - the major OPEC member, will see this as a frontal assault. Saudi Arabia is currently the most powerful force around the OPEC table. Iran has been powerless since the Western sanctions were instituted. Now that the sanctions are being lifted, Iran wants to move into the position of power.

In addition to everything else they want, the Iranians are also proposing to place one of their people as the new chairman and head of OPEC. Exactly how the other OPEC members are going to receive the newly awakened arrogance of Iran is yet to be seen.

One thing is for sure, Saudi Arabia is not going to take this lightly. Expect real clash and a full blown battle.

We will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds.

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UK Resumes Diplomatic Ties w Iran
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 3, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

London has announced that their new charge d'affairs will visit Iran today.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that Ajay Sharma will make his first trip to Iran with the intention of setting up new relations between the two countries.

Ajay Sharma tweeted that relations between the United Kingdom and Iran will improve one step at a time.

This is a huge step for any Western country. It is a real diplomatic normalization of ties. I am curious to see what the UK gains from this unprecedented change in diplomatic status.

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Al Qaeda in The West Bank
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 2, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The Israeli army recently shot and killed three terrorists in the West Bank. The incident was unusual.

The first reason is that the West Bank had been pretty quiet, so a shoot out involving three terrorists was an out of the ordinary event. The second is that the group claiming that the three terrorists were their group members is a branch of al Qaeda.

The Palestinian Authority has maintained that there is no al Qaeda presence in the West Bank despite some serious signs showing evidence of the opposite. These three terrorists are the most recent and the most significant proof.

Al Qaeda influences come from the outside the West Bank by way of affiliated organizations trying to motivate locals to join their al Qaeda ranks.

There are two methods of recruitment. One is when organizers infiltrate into the West Bank. Another is by way of the internet. Online sermons and chat rooms and websites serve as gathering places from which the organizers garner support for their local objectives and global goals.

The PA responded to the shooting saying that these three terrorists were not al Qaeda members. They need to deny the affiliation because if they were, it would prove that another force is emerging which is outside the influence of the official PA.

The Palestinian Authority can deny as much as they want, but at this point it is pretty obvious to whom these three terrorists pledged their allegiance.

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What Iran Really Thinks
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 1, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

We often evaluate situations from our point of view, it's only natural. But in the case of the Iranian deal with the P5+1 power nations, it might be worthwhile to try to see things through the perspective of Iran.

Abbas Araqchi is the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister. On Sunday he was all over the Iranian press - on TV and in FARS, the official Iranian news agency. Araqchi provided a timetable. He said that this week he expects to hear from Helga Schmid, a senior EU diplomat, and that the group will probably convene again the following week in Geneva or Vienna.

Many questions arise, especially when, or even if, the agreement is in play. There is no mechanism at all for the agreement. There is no way for this agreement to be implemented. The Iranians know that, they probably maneuvered in such a way to make that happen.

And now the Iranians are expecting the West to violate the terms of the agreement which will, in turn, free them from the agreement.
Even if I am wrong and that was not the Iranian master plan, Iran does not feel that the agreement released last Saturday night is binding.

Here is what Araqchi said. Determine for yourself what it means:
"The moment we feel that the opposite side is not meeting its obligations or its actions fall short, we will revert to our previous position and cease the process."

"We are in no way optimistic about the other side - we are pessimistic - and we have told them that we cannot trust you."

No need to read between the lines.

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There Must Be A 2nd Agreement w Iran
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 30, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

"One hundred percent no."

That was the answer Iran's President Hassan Rouhani gave the Financial Times when asked if Iran was going to dismantle any nuclear technology.

This exclamatory statement is another in a long series of proofs that confirm for me that the agreement that the P5+1 signed with Iran came out in two very different versions.

Sitting on my desk is the copy of the agreement sent out by the White House. I re-read it several times a day when I write about or comment on the agreement.

But then I see, hear and read what Rouhani and others say and do and I have to ask what it going on here. Their words and actions are completely counter to what is written in and permitted by the agreement sitting in front of me.

At first I thought Iran was pushing the limits. But there are too many examples to cast aside. India says that they are now going to resume oil importing from Iran and that their insurance carriers will now cover them. Russia, too, says that they are now preparing to import Iranian oil.

The only way that this is possible is if there is another version of the agreement. Petrol chemicals are permitted in the pact according to my copy, oil is not.

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US-Iran Open Chamber of Commerce
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 29, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Hear ye, hear ye, read all about it. Two news items you could not have expected:

# 1: An Iran / US Chamber of Commerce has been created and will officially begin functioning with the next few weeks.

# 2: Direct flights between the United States and Iran will be instituted in the near future. The flights will arrive and depart only on the Island of Kish. Kish is an international tax free trading zone. As such, US citizens will not need Iranian visas.

This news was presented, in Iran, by Abdolfazl Hejazi of the Iran / US Chamber of Comerce. The announcements were made public in a press conference and publicized to the English language press yesterday in Iran.

The announcement went like this: "Iran / US Chamber of Commerce will be launched in less than one month," Abolfazl Hejazi, a member of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, told the English-language Iran Daily.

This process of normalization between the United States and Iran is moving ahead very quickly. While there are no official relations yet, at this rate I do not imagine that it will be too long before official diplomatic relations are established and there is an exchange of ambassadors.

Let us, however, not forget what happened in 1979. That is the year Iran took 52 US diplomats hostage - and kept them for 444 days.

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2 News Items
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 28, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Of the many news reports that crossed my screen yesterday, two items caught my attention more than the others.

One item was a report on how the United States formerly and publically defended Iran’s right to continue construction of their plutonium enrichment factory at Arak. That's right - the United States defended Iran's right.

The United States said that as long as the Iranians are not working on heavy water or plutonium itself, the plant can continue construction.

What the United States refuses to acknowledge is that once completed, the Arak plant will be in the perfect position to process plutonium for a bomb.

The other item was a report that the United States announced that they would be destroying Syrian weapons in the sea on a ship called the MV Cape Ray. The ship is a huge, 700 feet long. No country wanted to host the destruction so the United States will have to destroy these Syrian non-conventional weapons on its own.

These two items teach us a lot about what is happening in our world today. Item number one highlights that fact that the deal with Iran is really, honest and truly only good for Iran.

And item number two underscores the fact that no one other country cares about or is willing to help another no matter that it is for the greater good. When it's not about Iran, everyone is too busy to lend a hand.

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Rouhani Loves The Deal
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 27, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Hassan Rouhani, the new president of Iran is very happy about the deal he signed with the West. And why wouldn't he be.

Yesterday he explained why this deal so excites him. This deal, he said, has made Iran stronger and severely weakened Israel.
Here is his quote: "Everyone is happy about this deal."

Rouhani said that the only people who were not happy or satisfied were "warmongers and that regime, which is an illegitimate one that occupies."

The words "that regime" is a Rouhani euphemism for Israel. The new president, just like the entire elite leadership of Iran, never mentions Israel by name.

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India to Import Iran Oil
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 26, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd has announced that they will once again be importing oil from Iran.

HPCL is the largest oil refinery in India. They only stopped importing Iranian oil in April when it became impossible to insure ships transporting oil from Iran to India.

India is the second largest importer of oil in the world. They are also the second largest consumer of oil. They import crude and refine it.

Soon, they will probably outstrip China for the title of the World's Largest Importer and Worlds Largest Oil Consumer.

HPCL is convinced that the new agreement signed by the P5 +1 will allow them the ability to freely, safely and legally get oil from Iran.

If they are correct - and there is no reason that HPCL would jeopardize their ships and their product - it was not included in the agreement that was made public.

It makes one wonder ...

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Winners & Losers of the Iran Deal
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 25, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The pact between Iran and the West has resulted in some very big winners and some very big losers.

The biggest winner by far is Iran. The Iranians got just what they wanted. They can continue to enrich their uranium, albeit a minimum amount or uranium and, more importantly, they saved face. These were their red lines.

Barack Obama is the next big winner. The president of the United States embraced talks, he wanted an agreement and he got an agreement.

The big losers are Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The Palestinians have weighed in on the agreement and they endorsed it. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Issued a statement saying that the agreement "sent an important lesson to Israel of which it needs to learn that peace is the only solution for the Middle East, and the world powers have to be wound up in order to advance a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

Even this agreement, which has nothing to do with the Palestinians, has become their issue. Abbas can't resist. He insists on laying blame for the failing peace negotiations at the he feet of Israel for not engaging in peace and for the West for not forcing a settlement.

As far as the Palestinians are concerned, even though they are neither winners nor losers in this deal, it's all about them.

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They Signed & It's a Travesty
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 24, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The agreement signed between Iran and the 5+1is a travesty. It is what I would call a "temporary freeze agreement" - and a poor agreement at that.

The agreement is based on the hope that Iran will freeze their activity for 6 months and in return for allowing the nations of the world to hope, Iran will receive some relief from the sanctions placed against them.

The most glaring drawback in this document is that the Iranian plutonium reactor in Arak just stands still.

To be precise, it stands still in terms of its plutonium enrichment - but Iran can still continue to build and expand upon its technology. Unlike uranium, there is only one purpose for a plutonium reactor. The purpose is for weapons.

As for the other, the many, the small labs that Iran has been opening and developing technology and materials in - they are not even part of the package.

The Iranians are counting on is this interim agreement becoming permanent. That would be a huge victory for them. They would get relief from sanctions and the core of their nuclear program will not even have been touched.

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Rouhani Tweets About Israel
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 23, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani posted a tweet yesterday.

He told the 6 powers that are involved in negotiating with Iran in Geneva to make a decision. To make a decision independent of Israel and Israel's stance.

Tweeting this message is an essential tool of Iranian rhetoric. The Iranians are suggesting that Israel has manipulated the most powerful nations in order to accommodate their needs.

Rouhani is saying that Israel's needs are not necessarily the needs of other countries. And that is what is holding up the agreement.

The problem is that all 6 countries in the negotiations understand the risks that Israel will confront as a result of a treaty - especially if that treaty is abrogated. So, indeed, it may appear as if the 6 countries present are arguing for Israel.

Unfortunately, in this case the litmus test for a good deal is whether or not Israel is threatened. They are.

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Americans Favor Iran Treaty
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 22, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

A recent CNN poll shows that 56% of Americans are in favor of signing a treaty with Iran in exchange for the stopping of uranium enrichment and the lifting of certain sanctions.

56% is a very telling number. It means that 56% of Americans are hopeful.

But it does not explain why they think this way. That, I can explain.

Americans are trusting and optimistic ... actually to a fault. It is that trusting attitude which allows Americans to believe that a deal with the Iranians will benefit everyone.

It is very hard for the American spirit to see a down side. I will tell them what that down side is. Iran is not trustworthy. And that I can say 100%.

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On Iran
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 21, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The meetings between Iran and the 5+1 began yesterday in Geneva. It was a very short meeting, only 5 or 10 minutes. The meeting was an introduction of sorts, now small groups are going into bilateral meetings.

Yesterday, while addressing commanders of the Basij, a paramilitary force that patrols the cities in Iran, the Grand Ayatollah said that: "The (Israeli) Zionist regime is a regime whose pillars are extremely shaky and is doomed to collapse."

The French government spokesman came out with a statement that comments of this sort are not productive, and are "problematic."

As Iran and the 5+1 were meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu hopped on a plane to Moscow for a last minute meeting with Russian President Putin. Netanyahu wants to convince Putin to help France in demanding more substance in the agreement with Iran.

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Conflict Over Iran Deal
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 20, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The disagreement between the White House and Israel over a potential agreement with Iran has been blown way out of proportion.

Yes, there is disagreement - but it is a mistake to think that it is simply between Israel and the White House.

Congress has been very vocal about their disagreement with the White House, so dissatisfied that and have scheduled a vote to intensify sanctions against Iran even in the middle of talks with Iran.

So what does President Obama do? The president uses his most powerful tool of persuasion to convince the members of Congress to postpone the vote - he invites them to the White House.

First the Senate Committee on Banking pushed off their decision on sanctions. And then yesterday the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations decided to delay their vote on sanctions until after Thanksgiving and revisit the issue in December.

It is important to realize that there is an internal US conflict - not merely a Democrat /Republican split. There are honest disagreements about whether to trust Iran.

Israeli leadership is on the side of not trusting Iran, as are a significant number of leaders on Capitol Hill.

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PA Footbal Head Calls Israel Nazis
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 19, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Shock is the best response to the comments of Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Association.

Rajoub laced into Israel and declared that Israel is a fascist and Nazi country. He called for a total boycott of sports interaction between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Rajoub is claiming that the Israelis, specifically Prime Minister Netanyahu, are "taking advantage of the negotiations in order to play for time and create facts on the ground, which proves that this is an occupation in the form of fascism and Nazism."

Rajoub called for an immediate "escalation in the popular activity against the occupation." The term "popular activity" is an essential code which means violence and attacks against Israeli.

In response, the Israel Football Association released the following statement:

"We are disgusted by these wretched statements and reject them. It's unfortunate that Rajoub is using sports for political purposes and is failing to contribute to the creation of a better reality."

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Association Chairman Avi Luzon and the heads of the IDF are trying constantly to help the Palestinian Authority maintain a life of sports as long as it does not put the security of the State of Israel and its citizens in danger."

"Accusing Israel of fascism and Nazism and calling for an armed uprising by Rajoub can be seen as incitement, and it's hard to see how this can help improve the situation."

A conflict of this sort is extremely dangerous. It sets an awful tone and frames the issues of this conflict in terms that are wildly out of proportion to the real issues and the true conflict.

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Nasrallah's New Secret Weapon
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 18, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Media in both Lebanon and Israel have been actively asking a serious question about Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.


Nasrallah almost never comes out in public. He prefers the safety of underground bunkers. From the safety of those bunkers he broadcasts his messages and speeches.

To celebrate the recent Shiite holiday Nasrallah made not one but two public appearances. As usual when he is in public, Nasrallah was surrounded by his team of heavily armed body guards. But this time, something was different. One of the body guards, the one standing right next to Nasrallah, was not carrying a submachine gun. He was carrying a briefcase.

The media wants to know: What is with the briefcase?

Experts say that the case is actually a bullet proof blanket that pops up and shields the person. It can stand like a portable movie screen. It is supposed to protect against fire bullets of all kinds up to 7.62 mm and it is supposed to protect against explosions especially Molotov Cocktails. Several companies manufacture this product, the most popular company is Protech.

If that is in fact the case that Nasrallah is using, he is not the first to seek its protective powers. It is also used by the British.

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Israel & France Agree
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 17, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

French President Francois Hollande is visiting Israel. Israel and France both consider this a critical visit.

France is the reason that the lightening paced move to sign a deal with Iran was slowed down. The French want to add more specifics and independent evaluations into the pact. It was France that put the brakes on and stopped the signing last week.

Israel is very happy about that.

France was also the first and most powerful voice calling for a strike against Syria after the August 21 gassing. French fighters were in their jets ready to strike when Hollande got a call from the White House demanding that they stand down.

But Israel is realistic.

France has always pursued its own direction in the Middle East - and it was often at odds with and very different from the perspectives of Israel and the United States.

Israel realizes that Hollande has his hands full domestically - that his most important goal is to stabilize his own erratic economy which tanked post election.

So although Israel is elated by this trip and knows that it will be a huge success, they are also cognizant of the limitations of that success and very aware of how French foreign policy is prepared and played out. And right now, standing up against Iran and challenging the United States is a good move in Paris.

Make no mistake, that is why Hollande is behaving the way he is. Israel understands that. And right now, that is also a good move in Jerusalem.

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India v China: Battle of Aircarft Carriers
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 16, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

India just received its third aircraft carrier. The ship is a formerly decommissioned and revamped Soviet Russia carrier. It was totally overhauled by the Russians and sold to India for about $2.3 Billion.

The importance of this is huge.

China and India have a long history of coexistence. But over the past few years there has been increased tensions ... mostly caused by China and their movements in the South China Sea. More than that, there was also a three week land standoff on a mutual border between China and India.

The Chinese have orchestrated a series of tense moments between their country and India over the past year. Not the least of it is the fact that China has been chumming up to Pakistan - and we all know what India thinks about that.

The Chinese also have a former Soviet aircraft carrier that they put in the water in 2011.

China and India each see the other with great suspicion, yet trade between the two countries continues to grow.

These two nations are the most populous countries in the world and if they work together the relationship will be mutually beneficial.
If there are tensions it will be destructive.

One cannot avoid the reality that Russia is the provider of these and billions of dollars worth of other weapons. The Russians are in the middle of things - which is right where they want to be.

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Beheaded the Wrong Guy
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 15, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Oops!

Some mistakes you just cannot take back and correct.

Al Qaeda of Iraq and Syria beheaded someone whom they believed to be the leader of President Assad's forces.

They cut off his head and held it up in the town square. The entire event was filmed and posted on line.

After it was posted viewers responded on line explaining that the bearded head was not a Shiite leader at all - it was the head of a member of a Sunni rebel group, a member of a group that was fighting Assad. The beheaded and the beheaders were supposedly fighting on the same side.

This gruesome, senseless, brutal episode underscores just how disconnected the situation is right now in Syria.

Al Qaeda has asked for "understanding and forgiveness." Understanding, I doubt it, Forgiveness, I am certain they will not receive.

Expect a huge rift between the groups in the not too distant future.

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US Will Be Largest Oil Producer
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 14, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The International Energy Agency just released a report that says that the US will become the world's largest producer of oil by 2015.

That is good news and bad. Using new technology, especially hydraulic fracking, the United States is able to utilize shale and the natural gas and oil that are contained within.

The bad news is that the United States will not stay on top for very long. Shale reserves will be depleted by 2030.

The IEA also reported also that, over the next few years, 75% of all energy consumed in the world will be in Asia and that India is quickly outpacing China in energy consumption. By 2020 India will be consuming more energy than China.

Within the world of oil and energy both production and consumption are taking shape. It looks like things are changing - but are they really? If alternatives are not found, in 15 years we will be right where we started and Saudi Arabia will once again be the world's largest producer and largest exporter of oil.

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Lebanese Stop Hamas Arms Shipment
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 13, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The new Middle East is full of surprises.

In the Middle East, just like Machiavelli said, people act in their own best interests. No country acts altruistically. No leader acts on behalf of global issues or, even, out of pan-Arab concern.

In the Middle East leaders act to better secure their own leadership
positions.

So when the Arab magazine Al-Watan Al-Arabi reported that "Hamas men have been detained in recent months by state security forces while trying to enter the Beirut airport with fake documents" no one who understands the Middle East should have been surprised.

The magazine reported that: "The suspects tried to transfer a large sum of money from the Beirut Hamas headquarters to an unidentified source. Recently, it was claimed, Hamas managed to recruit a Lebanese weapons dealer in order to transfer advanced weapons to the Gaza Strip."

The Lebanese are clamping down on Hamas. They are doing this for the sake of better trade, especially with Egypt. But Lebanon is also worried. They do not want to call attention to themselves from Russia, the US or the Iranians.

Russia, the United States and Iran would all be very interested if arms were to be transferred out of Lebanon en route to Gaza. Rather than try to keep the operation hush hush, their next best option was to simply shut down the arms transfer.

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Pope Condemns Anti Semitism
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 12, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

In St. Peter's Square, on Sunday, Pope Francis spoke about Kristalnacht. The Pope commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass.

He said: "We renew our closeness and solidarity to the Jewish people, our big brothers, and pray to God that the memory of the past and of the sins of the past helps us to be always vigilant against every form of hate and intolerance."

When Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires he co-authored a book on inter-religious dialogue with Rabbi Abraham Skora.

Pope Francis both understands and is sensitive to the issues that are central to the Jewish community.

Pope Francis fully recognizes and condemns all forms of hatred, especially anti-Semitism.

Pope Francis realizes that Nazism used anti-Semitism as fuel for hatred and as an excuse for murdering the Jews of Europe.

Pope Francis sees the dangers in not adequately confronting and learning the lessons of the Holocaust.

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US Gung Ho To Sign W Iran
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 11, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The Office of the Prime Minister of Israel has concluded that the reason the United States is so gung ho to sign a "bad deal" with the Iranians is because the United States thinks it is the only way to stop an Israeli strike against Iran.

Israel is not alone in concluding that the deal is bad. Many countries, including Arab countries, are in agreement with Israel.
The French are especially upset at the potential deal and they are aggressively working to stop the signing.

The Israelis are convinced that the United States sincerely believes that the only alternative to signing a deal with Iran is attacking Iran. And so, it goes to reason, that the US will do anything and everything even signing a bad deal with Iran.

If Israel is correct, a terrible deal is just around the corner.

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Israeli Can Strike Iran
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 10, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

One of the classic responses to the possibility of an Israeli strike against Iran has been to say that Israel does not have the capability to do a proper job of wiping out Iranian nuclear systems and other weapons systems.

American leaders consistently put down the idea that Israel will strike Iran because the attack would not achieve the desired objective. But Israel's ability to effectively strike Iran has been updated.

Whereas it was always assumed that an Israeli strike would only delay the Iranian nuclear program by two to three years, today it is believed that Israel can set Iran back ten years. Even a partly effective attack by Israel would set Iran back seven or eight years.

The change in calculus is due to a better understanding of Israeli weapons and of better intel. This update in Israeli military might has been spreading through military and intelligence circles around the world. The axiom that was in play several months ago is no longer axiomatic.

Where once the United States said that Israel will need her assistance and will not act alone, today it seems that Israeli dissatisfaction over US negotiations with Iran carries with it a significant potential wallop.

Israel is now prepping a series of real strike scenarios. Some of those scenarios are to be carried out without US support.

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Israel Prepping on the Golan
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 8, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Next week Israel will embark on a massive exercise in the north. The exercise will take place throughout the Israeli Golan heights

The Israeli army (IDF), along with communities in the Golan Heights, will work to improve preparedness for terror strikes that will be coming their way from Syria.

Israeli Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has alluded to the dangers of these attacks several times. Now the chief of staff has determined that it is time to prepare for them.

There are about 6000 al Qaeda fighters and affiliates in Syria. Some estimate that the number will double by April. That means that regardless of what happens to Assad, Israel will become their target.

Israel must create proper defenses against the al Qaeda threat. The drills that will be undertaken next week are designed to point out weak spots that need to be strengthened in order to create a better and more secure border.

For the past several decades the border between Israel and Syria has been tense, but relatively quiet. There is no doubt that the quiet will soon be shattered. The only question mark is when.

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Syrians in Israeli Hospitals
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 7, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday fourteen Syrians were brought to two different Israeli hospitals for treatment due to serious injuries.

Two of the injured were women and they were brought to Ziv Hospital in Safed. The others were brought to Nehariya, one was a child and another, an infant.

Over the weekend an injured Syrian women recuperating in an Israeli hospital gave birth to a baby.

I have lost track of how many Syrians have crossed the border and received serious medical treatment and life saving care in Israel.

I do know that the numbers are now in the hundreds. I can also tell you that, so far, only one Syrian being treated in Israeli hospitals has died. That is impressive.

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Price of Oil is Dropping
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 6, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Oil fell to $94 yesterday.

The price of oil has been on a continuous slide and it will continue to slide even more.

There has been a 10% fall in the price of oil over the past month.
There has also been a 10% increase in US oil production against the average US output over the past 5 years measuring from the end of October.

The price of oil would probably have dropped even more - but the instability in Egypt, Syria and in Libya has caused the price of oil to increase. With those increases and with the additional output by the US there was still a drop in oil prices to $94.

Instability is normally the major indicator for oil prices. And the Middle East has not been calm. But in this case the supply side of the equation actually has an even more powerful impact on the price of oil than does turmoil in the Middle East.

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President Morsi in Court
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 5, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The trial of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi did not go as planned.

The proceedings began two hours late because Morsi refused to wear the prisoner uniform required for all defendants appearing before the court. It was delayed even more when Morsi, and others charged with him, refused to cooperate during the hearing.

Morsi shouted: "I am your legitimate president. You are wrong." "I object to having the Egyptian courthouse cover for the criminal military coupe."

When the court clerk took attendance of the defendants, Morsi interrupted and said: "I am forced to be in this place. I am here by force."

As it became obvious that the court was unable to control the defendants, Morsi again shouted. This time he said: "I am Dr. Mohammed Morsi, the president of the republic. I am Egypt's legitimate president."

Morsi shouted: "I refuse to be tried by this court."

The court should have realized that this would be the tactic taken by Morsi and his cohorts.

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What Iran Really Thinks
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 4, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The Supreme Leader of Iran - who has neither been seen nor heard from in several weeks - posted a very important declaration on his website yesterday.

The Grand Ayatollah Khamanei gave perspective to the process of negotiations with the West, particularly in light of the second round of talks scheduled for Nov 6-7 later this week.

Of course he called Israel an "illegitimate, bastard" regime. Actually, he referred to Israel as "an illegitimate bastard Zionist regime." He never uses the name Israel.

The Supreme Leader wanted the people of Iran to understand that the negotiations were not about Iran's weakness. "No one should see our negotiating team as compromisers."

He made it clear that he did not approach the talks with rose colored glasses --- "I am not optimistic about the (nuclear) negotiations but, with the grace of God, we will not suffer losses either."

Then he added: "All the better if the negotiations bear fruit but if there are no results, the country should rely on itself."

The Grand Ayatollah also strongly criticized the sanctions that are still in place. He seems to understand the United States very well. His ultimate take on the negotiations went like this: "The Americans smile and express desire for negotiation; on the other hand, they immediately say that all options are on the table." "We should not trust a smiling enemy."

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Kerry Visits Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 3, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State John Kerry made an unscheduled stop in Egypt today.

It was the first time since the uprising of four months ago that any high level representative of the United States, let alone the secretary of state, has visited Egypt.

The United States had no precedent for dealing with the ousting of a democratically elected president - and Morsi was the first ever democratically elected president of Egypt. They did not know how to handle the situation. By law the United States cannot support a coup against an elected regime - even if the regime represented the Muslim Brotherhood. So the United States cancelled several aid packages to Egypt and stood by watching and waiting.

This visit by Kerry is significant.

It demonstrates that the US finally, truly, understands and accepts that even though he was democratically elected, as leader of Egypt Morsi transformed his government into an anti-democratic government promoting the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood.

This is a major step for the United States and will help US standing in the region.

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Next Israeli Coalition Bomb
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 2, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Another coalition bomb is set to explode in Israel on Monday.

Habayit Hayehudi, also known as the Jewish Home Party, under the leadership of Naftali Bennett, has proposed a law which would permit Jews to pray on top of the Temple Mount. The proposed law will be brought before a committee on Monday.

There is no official law forbidding Jews from praying there, but there is a status quo. And there is always the overriding issue of public safety.

There are Jewish tours of the Mount and periodically people will pray. When a Jew or a group of Jews pray as part of the tour, the police sweep down and arrest the Jews and then ban them from future visits.

The Muslim world scrutinizes every single action Jews take on and near the Temple Mount. There have been riots and protest in far flung Muslim locations stimulated by activities in Jerusalem.

Until now the status quo has controlled the situation. Status quo means 'stay as is' and in the interest of coexistence, everything should probably stay that way.

Obviously the point of the proposal is that Jews should be able to pray anywhere, especially in Jerusalem and especially at such a holy site.

While it is not forbidden by law, for the sake of safety and in the name of wisdom, Bennett should back off and everything should stay as is.

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Ayatollah Unseen For 3 Weeks
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 1, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

When a leader like Iran's Grand Ayatollah Khamenei does not appear in public for three weeks, and when there are press reports that he collapsed in a meeting and was taken to the hospital, the intelligence community starts making all kinds of assumptions and conjectures.

It has been three weeks since the leader of Iran has been seen in public and it is assumed that he is recovering from some health issue. We in the West do not know what might have caused the Grand Ayatollah to collapse.

Khamenei has been in power since 1989. He is only 74, but if he can no longer serve there will be serious upheaval in Iran.

The man most likely to succeed Khamenei would be Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the fourth president of Iran, from 1989 to 1997.
Rafsanjani is believed to be a reformer and as such, he could really create change. He is extremely well qualified to be the Grand Leader, actually more qualified than Khamenei in terms of his level of learning and academic standing.

I am not about to speculate. In all likelihood the Ayatollah is not going anywhere. But the end of the rule of the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei will come eventually and when it does, it will be very interesting to see how things shake and rattle and are then resolved in Iran.

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Internal Conflicts In Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 31, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

I think that it essential to critically observe the moves and changes in Egypt, the situation is not static. Changes are happening and tensions between political parties are emerging.

The army is arresting leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. They are clamping down on the all aspects of Brotherhood activity.

The judges hearing a case against the Muslim Brotherhood leadership resigned. They resigned because the accused were not permitted to attend their trial.

This move was a direct attack against the military leadership. The judges were not taking a side - they simply said that the accused must be present to have a fair trial.

I project that the right of the accused to witness and participate in their defense will be part of the Egyptian legal process from yesterday on forward.

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Gaza Resumes Rocket Attacks
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 30, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Over the past few days Israel has repositioned even more Iron Dome batteries at their southern border, near the Gaza border.

The Iron Dome is an anti-missile weapon that intercepts incoming projectiles and it has an extremely high rate of success. Just yesterday two rockets were shot from Gaza into Israel. One was intercepted and the second rocket landed in the Mediterranean Sea.

Gaza has started acting up again. Israel has already struck at one source of their launchers. They clearly believe that more rockets will be shot into Israel in the near future. Relocating the Iron Dome is a wise and effective defense against the missiles.

It also sends a message to Israelis. It tells Israeli residents in the region that the state is upping their security. And it clearly tells the terrorists of Gaza that if the situation escalates Israel is prepared to escalate, too.

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Hackers Hit Obama Twitter Account
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 29, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The Syrian Electronic Army has struck again. They hacked a twitter account belonging to the US President Obama's non for profit.

They tweeted, "Obama does not have any ethical issues with spying on the world, so we took it upon ourselves to return the favor."

The SEA is a hacking group that defends Bashar Assad of Syria. They have hacked into The NYTimes and into Reuters. They hacked AP and placed news items and attributed quotes to Obama.

They specialize in hacking social media.

The twitter account they hacked is not a central part of the president's message. It is not regularly used, but it was an important vehicle during the campaign.

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Just Shocked by Straw
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 28, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Shocking. That's the only way I can describe my reaction to reports about comments made by former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Straw actually said that "unlimited Jewish money" in the United States was an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.

His message did not stop there. Straw continued by saying that another obstacle was Germany's official "obsession" with Israel - to use his terminology, Germany had an obsession with defending Israel.

This, too, is a form of anti-Semitism.

Jack Straw is suggesting that because of their guilt over the Holocaust, Germany cannot see the current political landscape clearly. His charge is that German guilt clouds their vision and forces them to defend Israel in unparalleled ways.

Straw was the British foreign secretary from 2001 to 2006, under Tony Blair. The Blair government was believed to be a friend of Israel and friendly to Jews in England and around the world.

Was that merely a well constructed façade? And where and how does Straw arrive at this warped conclusion?

Shame on you Jack Straw.

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Justice in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 27, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

We need to keep an eye on Egypt.

The current government ousted President Morsi, a democratically elected leader. They ousted Morsi in order to preserve democracy. Now the ruling military and the interim government are en route to elections and the re-establishment of democratic leadership.

That is a tough road. They have come close to the fine line and sometimes even crossed it - clamping down on anti-democratic forces like the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups who challenged their leadership and threatened to overthrow them.

And they charged former UN nuclear chief inspector for the IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency) with betrayal. Mohamed El Baradei resigned from the new government after he saw the brutality of the army on the streets. He left the country but was charged with betrayal. The reason they gave for the charge was that he assumed a position and then stepped down.

Yesterday the court threw out the charges against El Baradei. The court said that there was no case. That is essential to understanding the new, new Egypt.

It shows that in the transition the judicial and democratic process is working. It would have been typical and scary had he been convicted, especially in absentia.

There is still hope for Egypt.

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Jews Fleeing Turkey
By Micah Halpern

Saturday October 26, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

There are 15,000 Jews living in Turkey.

There has been a long history of symbiosis for Jews in Turkey. The Jewish population has worked well with Turkish Muslims and Turkish Muslims have world well with Turkish Jews.

However, during the past few years, that very close and wonderful working and living relationship has begun to dissemble. The Jews of Turkey are now describing a very different political, cultural and religious climate. They describe an increase in anti-Semitism and are saying that socially, they are shunned.

Young Jews are leaving Turkey. Almost everyone wants to go the United States. If they cannot get to the US they go to Canada, Europe, Australia and Israel.

These young people complain that in Turkey Israel is always the topic of conversation and that there is tremendous pressure to critique Israel. The Jewish community is seen as local representatives of Israel and they say that they are targeted socially and physically.

The young people of Turkey are fleeing for more comfortable shores.

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Israel Gives Dead Terrorists
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 25, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is preparing to transfer the bodies of 36 terrorists to the Palestinians. The families of the terrorists were told to assemble at check points on November 5 and November 7 to receive the coffins.

These terrorist were mass murderers some were even suicide bombers. They include the suicide bomber that murdered 15 in Jerusalem at the Sbarro pizza parlor in 2002 and the terrorist who murdered 17 in a restaurant in Haifa in 2002.

This exchange follows the transfer last year of the bodies of 91 terrorists - 79 to the West Bank and 12 to Gaza.

Family members of the victims are up in arms. There has been no official message from the government. The only way we have even this much information is from the Palestinian families of the terrorists.

Several months ago I wrote about this eventuality because the issue came before the Israeli Supreme Court. They needed to rule on the legality of the transfer and I noticed that the issue was on the docket.

The big question is this: What does Israel gain by transferring these bodies. Many families of victims fear that because the process has been so secretive it may just be a gesture to the Palestinians. And that they find insulting.

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Near Al Qaeda Jail Break
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 24, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday in Sanaa, Yemen 300 Al Qaeda prisoners attempted to break out of prison. They nearly succeeded.

An official described the jail break this way: "almost 300 al-Qaeda prisoners, armed with knives and iron bars, attacked prison guards, injuring some of them."

But the guards and reinforcements arrived in time and prevented the 300 al Qaeda terrorist from breaking out and rejoining their networks.

Yemen is now the world center for al Qaeda.

The Yemeni government is teaming with the United States and other Western and Arab countries to combat the vicious spread of al Qaeda.

Prison breaks are relatively common. Until recently, this break might have been successful. But now Yemen is far better organized - they are fighting back and they are controlling al Qaeda.

Good for Yemen. Good for us all.

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Abbas Will Blame Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 23, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinians President Abbas was in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania yesterday. At a press conference he spoke about the new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

He said Israel is at fault if the negotiations fail. They are at fault simply because of the current situation.

"And if they (the negotiations) fail, they (the Israelis) will be the reason for this failure, not us," the Palestinian president said.

"They do not have the right to stay on our land after the signing of the peace treaty," Abbas said.

"They don't have the right to stay in our territories after we signed a peace treaty," he noted, stressing that he accepts a future demilitarized Palestinian state.

"We want, according to the Oslo Accords, a strong police force. This is exactly what we want, how we understand, how they understand, how the Americans understand it."

No surprises. Israel is always at fault.

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Local Elections in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 22, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Municipal elections are taking place throughout Israel today.

There are 8,051,200 citizens in Israel. 5,469,041 are eligible to vote in the elections. They are voting in 191 municipalities in 8,771 polling stations.

The largest election is in Jerusalem. Of the 890,428 citizens of Jerusalem 576, 408 are eligible to vote. Jerusalem is divided into three relatively equal groups: secular, religious and Arab.

The Arab population of Jerusalem has almost entirely decided to boycott the elections. There is an Arab candidate but had the Arabs of Jerusalem come out to vote for that candidate they could really have re-shaped the city council and the mayor's office. But they choose to boycott instead.

While from the political point of view this is not very wise, it is certainly very telling.

Notice it does not matter to me who is running - rather who is voting.

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Syria Peace Conf Nov 23
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 21, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday, Nabil Elaraby, the head of the Arab League, announced that peace talks to resolve the conflict in Syria will take place on November 23 in Geneva.

Elaraby held a press conference in Cairo after meeting with the international envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. He said: "I discussed the Syria file with Lakhdar Brahimi and it was decided that the Geneva meeting would take place on November 23 and arrangements are being made to prepare for this conference."

Not surprisingly, at the same news conference, during his statement, Brahimi said: "The date has not been officially set."

But we assume that the date is November 23 and the place will be Geneva.

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Egypt Arrests 400 Terrorists
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 20, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Sky News in Arabic reported a huge story yesterday. Huge.

According to the station which is headquartered in Abu Dhabi, over the past few weeks Egypt has arrested 400 people in the Sinai. Of the 400, 100 were Palestinians.

All 400 were terrorists. All were part of organized terror cells.

There was also a quote from an Egyptian army source saying that Egypt has successfully discovered and destroyed 97% of the tunnels that cross between Egypt and Gaza.

This is s very important move in securing and maintaining safety in Egypt, as well as in the region.

Sky News in Arabic is an extremely reliable source. Launched in 2010 they partner with Bloomberg and with English language Sky based in London. Rupert Murdoch's News Data is their second largest shareholder.

Sky News in Arabic wants to directly compete with Al Jazeera. This kind of news coverage shows their style and their potential.

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Saudi Arabia & the Secuirty Council
By Micah Halpern

Saturday October 19, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Thursday was a day of change and rotation in the Security Council
Saudi Arabia, Chad, Nigeria, Chile and Lithuania were elected by the UN General Assembly to sit on the Security Council. They will each serve a two-year term.

These five newly elected countries enter the fifteen member body replacing Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo who are all bowing out.

It remains to be seen how each of these counties will stand on the major issues placed before the Security Council. The real questions will revolve around their stands on Syria, on Iran and on other issues important to the West.

We know where Saudi Arabia stands, that is obvious. But Saudi Arabia declined and will not sit on the Security Council because they feel it is ineffective.

It is the other countries that still need to be evaluated. We still do not know what they have to say and how they will vote. We will, soon enough.

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What is Happening in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 17, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

What is happening in Syria?

Yesterday several dozen rebel groups in southern Syria announced that they will no longer unite under the leadership of the rebels in Turkey.

The Syrian National Coalition, which is the political arm of the Free Syrian Army rebel group, is headquartered in Turkey.

Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria there has been a lack of leadership. Those in exile spoke as if they were in charge. But as time passed, it became clear that really no one was in charge. Certainly not some group outside.

The Syrian National Coalition had neither real contact nor control over the rebels.

So now there is an official split between the leadership outside and the rebels inside Syria.

Until this official break there was, at least, the illusion of a link with Western powers that could help the rebels with humanitarian aid - and the Syrian National Coalition would try to smuggle that aid into Syria. All of that, pretense and reality, is now gone.

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The Assad's Try to Look Normal
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 16, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Asma, the wife of Syrian President Bashar Assad, appeared on Syrian TV yesterday to announce that she was in Syria - not hiding in Russia or London, her former hometown.

There have been rumors that the First Lady of Syria abandoned the greater family and took her three children, Hafez, Zein and Karim, to a safer place.

"I'm here, my husband and my children are in Syria ... I'm here today and I will be tomorrow," she said, interviewed by Syrian television.

At the same time Assad himself went to a mosque in Damascus to celebrate the holiday known as Eid or Eid al Adha. The Eid is the celebration of the near sacrifice of Ishmael by Abraham. It is the exact story of Isaac with son Ishmael replacing son Isaac. The celebration of the act of sacrifice is one of the holiest days in Islam.

The Assad family is trying to look normal. Bashar and Asma are trying to show that despite the crisis and the bloody civil war they are doing things that every other Muslim does during the Eid.

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2 Turks Do the Unthinkable
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 15, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Two Turkish students were arrested and charged in Poland for promoting racist propaganda. If convicted, they could serve up to three years in prison.

The deed was actually far more heinous than simply spreading a racist lie or slander.

These two Turks were in Majdanek Death Camp, located just outside of the city of Lublin. Majdanek was a horrific place. It was a murder factory.

The two Turkish students in question stood in front of a group of Israelis visiting Majdanek, saluted with the Nazi sign and shouted Heil Hitler.

The students engaged in this inappropriate and unacceptable behavior at the far end of the camp where a huge pile of ashes sits next to the crematorium and the murder pits. They desecrated the memory of Jews murdered in Majdanek as they stood alongside the ashes of nearly 100,000 victims, mostly Jewish, that are placed in a mound and partially covered.

This is not simply a joke which is what the Turkish students claim.
This is a desecration.

Shame on them.

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US F-35 w Israeli Helmet
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 14, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Israel will be making the helmet for the new F- 35 fighter jet. The F-35 is the most advanced and most modern jet in the United States arsenal. The Israeli company Elbit developed the design for the helmet in conjunction with the US company American Rockwell.

The United States is scrapping the original design for the helmet which has been used until now and replacing it with the
Elbit/American Rockwell design. This new helmet is not simply a safety hat. It is actually a Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS). Everything, including the entire cockpit and the camera showing the undercarriage of the plane, is displayed in the visor of the helmet.

This is a huge coup for Israel. Israel ordered 19 of the F-35's and the HMDS helmet will be standard on all the jets - even those sent to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

4,000 helmets are set to be manufactured.

Last week, during his visit to the United States, Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon visited the production plant in Texas where the F-35 is manufactured.

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What's Happening in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 13, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Many things happen at the same time in the Middle East. Some are good and some are devastating and they can happen only a few miles away from one another.

The danger in analysis is that often we look at one item only, not the total picture and so we do not get a realistic understanding of the situation.
Syria is under crisis.

Then things began to look better. A second chemical team has entered to dismantle the weapons. The international committee that monitors chemical weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize. These are all good signs.

But --- at the same time, there was a horrific massacre by the rebels of Assad supporters killing nearly 190 people and capturing over 200 more. 79 people were shot in the back of the head, the others at close range.

And then --- there was an air strike against a rebel group that killed 11 civilians. In a separate video, a group of rejoicing rebels stop a van, drag out the wounded and execute them.

And now, once again --- the rebels are fighting one another in Aleppo. For four days they have been pitched in battle, Islamists against non-Islamists. Even the leaders of al Qaeda have appeal to them to stop, and yet, they continue.

For lack of a better term there is anarchy in Syria.
And yes, things in Syria are better.

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Hajj Alert
By Micah Halpern

Saturday October 12, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Hajj is one of the pillars of Islam. It is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, it includes Tawaf, which is the encircling of the Kaaba, the huge black rock.

Every year millions of Muslims from all over the world come to Mecca to celebrate, or as some say, to perform the Hajj which begins this year on October 13. And every year Saudi Arabia warns pilgrims not to use the event for political purposes.

Saudi Arabia is concerned - especially this year.

The Saudis have warned the Muslim Brotherhood not to disturb the peace of the Hajj. They have banned the "four finger banner" and any signs connected to Rabba which means "four" in Arabic.

Rabba, as a slogan and movement, originates with four people killed in a protest in a square, which has four sides (and is called rabba in Arabic) outside a Cairo mosque called the Rabbah Al Adwiyah Mosque.

The word four and the raising of four fingers have replaced the "V for Victory" among many protestors in the Islamic world over the past few months.

There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia is correct to fear that the
Muslim Brotherhood is planning something. 95,000 security personnel have been positioned throughout Mecca and an additional 40,000 have been recruited and trained over the past few weeks - all in order to maintain law and order.

But that will not stop the Brotherhood. I expect trouble.

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Iran's Gestures
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 11, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Iran continues to make gestures ahead of next week's meeting in Geneva with the leaders of the Western world.

In one major concession cum gesture, the Iranians have cancelled their annual New Horizon Conference, also known as the Holocaust Denial Conference. The conference was scheduled for next month and among the 63 foreign guests expected to attend was David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

The British newspaper The Telegraph reported the cancellation on Thursday.

This conference was a central feature in the foreign policy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was one of those dramatic moments of the Iranian diplomatic year, one in which people made the most outrageous announcements about the West and about the Holocaust.

Even if nothing comes from next week's meeting with Iran, cancelling The New Horizon Conference is a big positive.

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Irans Strategy on Next Wk's Talks
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 10, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Next week in Geneva (on October 15th and 16th) a conference will take place between Iran and the world powers about the current nuclear impasse.

In discussing the matter, the Iranian speaker of the parliament, who is also their former nuclear negotiator, gave a recipe for predicting the success or failure of the meetings.

Ali Larijani said that for the meeting to succeed the focus must not be on what Iran must do and what will happen if they do not do.

Rather, he said, the focus of the meeting should be different. From Iran's point of view "It mostly concerns building confidence rather than a commercial give-and-take."

Confidence building means that the world powers must stop threatening Iran. It means that instead of threatening, they must create a situation in which Iran is a participant in the dialogue and that the dialogue must lend the Iranians proper respect.

The problem with this Iranian point of view is that by placing Iran in this new position it almost certainly means relaxing sanctions against Iran. And that means that the Iranians have won.

And that means that the West will have lost all leverage.

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Iran Sits on UN Arms & Security Cmts
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 9, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has officially condemned a decision by the United Nations to appoint Iran to a special committee.

The committee will oversee disarmament and international security issues.

Israel asserts that the entire escapade is a charade. How, Israel asks, can they place a country on a committee to supervise arms and security when that country has been censured by the Security Council for violating fundamental international laws regarding international arms and world security?!

This entire episode calls into question the credibility of the UN.
How could they make such a foolish, foolhardy decision? The answer is simple ... they are foolish and foolhardy.

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Iran Demands Right to Enrich
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 8, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Guess what?

Iran is demanding the right to enrich uranium.

Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammed Javad Zarif made the announcement yesterday in a meeting with the deputy foreign minister of Switzerland who was in Iran on a visit.

"The mastery of civil nuclear technology, including the enrichment of uranium, on Iranian soil is the absolute right of Iran."

This really should not surprise anyone.

Of course Iran wants to control every aspect of their nuclear development program. And if Iran can control the enrichment part, they can control when and if they can make a bomb.

The foreign minister also reiterated a point that has been made over and over again. He said: "The events of recent years have shown that the approach of threats and sanctions have not ensured the interests and objectives of the other party, and the continuation of this approach is the repetition of past mistakes which cannot prevent Iran from mastering civilian nuclear technology."

This really means to say that, whatever the West thinks, Iran will do as Iran sees fit to do.

And that should not surprise anyone, either.

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In 1965 Koufax Made a Decision
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 7, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about what happened on October 6, 1965. It was a Wednesday. I do not remember that day, but I know it is a day that shaped history.

It was the first day of the World Series between the Minnesota Twins and the LA Dodgers.

It was also Yom Kippur. And because it was Yom Kippur, Sandy Koufax the kid who made it from 48th Street in Boro Park, Brooklyn to the big leagues, said that he would not pitch in the opening game of the
World Series.

The decision was one which would shape the lives of millions of people - Jews and non-Jews alike. The press was stunned. How could Koufax choose not to play in the most important game of his life?

The answer was simple. Some things are more important than others.
More important, even, than baseball. It was more important to Koufax that he stand by his faith than by his team on that one day.
For him, tradition was important.

Sandy Koufax was not a religious man, he was a deeply Jewish man.
And for him, that meant Yom Kippur was more important than the first game of the World Series.

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Starting to Dismantle Syrian Weapons
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 6, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The plan to destroy the Syrian arsenal of chemical weapons is up and functioning. In Syria today, the UN together with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) began the slow process of destroying those chemicals which are part of the Syrian weapons depots.

While the OPCW is not a UN organization, it does work closely with the organization. The objective of the OPCW is to observe and supervise the Chemical Weapons Treaty which was signed by 190 member nations.

The task will be enormous.

Also on Sunday Moshe Yaalon, Israeli minister of defense, departs for the United States where he will meet with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Yaalon will also meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Jewish leaders and congressional leadership.

There is no doubt about what the talking points in these meetings will be. Iran, Iran, Iran, some Syria, Iran and then a little bit of Egypt and the rest of the region. The United States will try to push the Palestinian issue onto the agenda.

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Break Down in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Saturday October 5, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Hezbollah has pulled out of Syria.

Last month there were as many as 10,000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria. Today there are about 1,500.

Hezbollah succeeded in turning the tide in Syria, they successfully helped secure Bashar Assad's position. Now that there is a risk to the Assad forces and there is almost certainty that a lot of world attention will be placed on them, Hezbollah has returned home.

At the same time, rebel forces in Syria are once again fighting one another. Over the past few days major armed battles have flared up between al Qaeda rebels and non-al Qaeda rebels.

These battles between rebel forces will continue. They will probably end up being one of the most compelling reasons for the failure of the rebels in their attempt to topple and oust the Assad regime.

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Bibi Speaks in Pesian
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 4, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

I just watched Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's interview for BBC Persian.

The claim is that they have 12 million viewers. Almost all of them are ex-patriots, but some people may be able to watch in Iran by gaming and hacking around the blocks that Iran has placed on the station.

Netanyahu quoted from Iranian President Rouhani's book. He said that he had it translated so that he would get a good understanding of what the Iranian president had written.

Bibi furthered the theme that he developed during his address before the General Assembly on Monday. He said that we are not "sadaeh lo," that is the Persian term for easily duped or suckers.

He said called the comments of the Iranian president were "harf e putch" which means sheer nonsense.

The interview was a tremendous success wherever it was seen. It was also historic. It is the first time an Israeli prime minister has ever done an interview with a Persian station outside of Israel.

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Iran's Cyber War Chief is Assassinated
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 3, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

It seems that Iran's Head of Cyber Warfare was assassinated over the weekend.

Majtaba Ahmadi was found in a wooded area with two pistol shots to his chest. The shots were fired ad point blank range. It is almost certain that he was assassinated.

Since 2007 at least five Iranian weapons scientists have been assassinated. Iran blames the Israeli Mossad for the killings.

Up until now the victims have all been scientists working on nuclear systems or other advanced weapons system.

Ahmadi was the head of a weapon and defense system, but not in the conventional style. His was a very important position. He was responsible for attack strategies against Israel and against the West.

So although he was not a scientist in the conventional sense, Ahmadi was in an even more significant position and posed a greater risk to the Western world than others who were previously targeted.

Like with the other targeted assassinations, I do not think any more information will be forthcoming.

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Bibi @ THe UN
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 2, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday was a significant day for many Middle East countries.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly in the afternoon. Using his speech as a means of communication with those countries with which Israel has no direct communication, Netanyahu sent out several messages.

The message sent to Iran was that Israel and, by extension, the Western world will not tolerate nuclear weapons. Netanyahu called on the West to keep up sanctions against Iran. Continued sanctions, he said, are important because Iran responds to those sanctions.

Meanwhile, in Syria the number of victims of the civil war reached a new threshold yesterday. 115,000 Syrians have lost their lives in this conflict.

And in the month of September 1000 lives were lost due to conflict in Iraq. The count continues.

In Egypt yesterday what was supposed to have been a massive protest was held. The demonstrators were there to protest against the new government that has ousted the democratically elected former president Mohammed Morsi. The protest drew only a depressing 100 people.

All in one day in the Middle East.

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Israel Youtube Show a Hit in Arab World
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 1, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The world is a very small place and often there are positive even if unintended consequences of our actions.

One of Israel's medical providers is called Clalit. This medical provider created a YouTube video in Arabic. The purpose of the video is to teach women in the Arabic sector about breast feeding. The provider expected to get a few hundred, perhaps even a thousand, hits.

One million and growing fast is well beyond their wildest hopes.
560,000 views from Saudi Arabia
168,000 from Egypt
90,000 from Iraq
71,000 Morocco
65,000 Algeria
42,000 from Jordan
Even 11,000 from Syria

Other successful videos put out by Clalit are about pregnancy, early detection of diseases and the importance of routine health checks.
Israel has one of the most advanced public health system in the world. Infants and mothers are required to see doctors three times in the first year of life in order to detect health problems at their earliest stages.

These Israeli YouTube videos are helping woman around the world, especially in the Arab world, to stay healthy.

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Peres Says Read Anne Frank
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 30, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli President Shimon Peres is in the Netherlands.

His first stop after arriving was the Anne Frank House. It is home in which a young girl named Anne described life in a secret room as she and her family hid from the Nazis before the entire family was deported to the death camps. It is the home made famous by the book called "Diary of a Young Girl."

Peres made a very insightful comment while at the House.
Peres said that he doubted that the leadership of Iran or Syria had read the diary.

The implication of this comment is that reading the diary written by young Anne Frank would immediately lend a sense of deep connection to the dangers of mass murder.

Anne Frank is a symbol of the grandeur of the human spirit as it confronts the horrors of mass murder. In her case, mass murder came in the guise of the Nazis.

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Egypt & Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 29. 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Israel and Gaza share a border, that is not news. The international media have, however, have turned border issues and restrictions into a centerpiece of their coverage for years.

Just a stone's throw from the Israel/Gaza border is the Egypt /Gaza border. Egypt controls that border and is much more protective of it than Israel is of theirs. The border between Egypt and Gaza has been closed and opened and then re-closed and re-opened again for months.

Because terrorists use the border as a way of entering Egypt from Gaza, the Egyptians have decided to restrict border crossings. Last year 65,000 people crossed into Egypt from Gaza during the months July, August and September. This year, during the same time period, only 14,000 crossed from Gaza into Egypt.

5,500 people are now stuck waiting on the border. They include university students returning home, people in need of medical care and business people. They just wait.

As for trade, no goods can cross from Egypt to Gaza.

I know why there is almost no coverage of this blockade. Covering this blockade would not fit the media model. It is not as interesting when Arabs oppress Arabs as it is when Israelis oppress Arabs. When Israel oppresses Arabs, that becomes newsworthy.

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Rouhani Denies Holocaust Too
By Micah Halpern

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

In an interview on NBC Hassan Rouhani, the new Iranian president, clearly demonstrated how he differed from his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rouhani showed his true colors. He is a Holocaust denier. He is more subtle and more soft spoken about it than Ahmadinejad was, hence, he is much more effective. Rather than deny the entire Holocaust, Rouhani denies the details and the numbers

"The massacre by the Nazis was condemnable. We never want to sit by side with the Nazis," he said. "They committed a crime against Jews - which is a crime against Christians, against Muslims, against all of humanity."

"The Nazis committed a crime in World War II," he said. "As to the scale of the massacres, and the numbers that my predecessor mentions, let's leave that to the historians."

So the massacres happened - not the Holocaust.

And then he acknowledged that many were killed --- but he is leaving it to historians to debate the question of just how many.

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Terror Threat in India
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 27, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

India has received intelligence reports that the Mujahadin terrorist network is planning to attack and kidnap Jews.

And so, there is a serious alert in place around Jewish sites, synagogues and other places where Jews and Israelis frequent.

In 2008, 173 people were killed in simultaneous terrorist attacks in India that targeted Western sites and as well as a Jewish center/synagogue.

Terrorists do not distinguish between Jews and Zionists. That distinction is a myth perpetrated by Arafat to lend legitimacy to his rabid hatred of Israel.

Today, those including Jews who use this argument, are simple anti-Semites.

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Terrorists Didn't Harm Muslims
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 26, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The terrorist group that murdered 169 people in Kenya said that they carefully tested people to make certain that Muslims were not killed and that the foreigners who were killed were legitimate targets.

The terrorists separated Muslims from non-Muslims. They asked their hostages to name the mother of Mohammed. If they could not provide the correct answer, they would be shot.

The correct answer is Amenah bint Wahb.

According to an AP report: "In an email exchange Wednesday with the Associated Press, al-Shabab said the jihadis 'carried out a meticulous vetting process' so the Muslims would not be harmed."

It is shocking ... But it is important to understand that this kind of division and this kind of question determines life and death.

The Kenya terrorists were committed to wiping out the enemies of Islam. They did not want to attack fellow Muslims.

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What is Happening In Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 25, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The world's attention had been focused on Syria and Iran. Now that the United Nation General Assembly is in full throttle the focused has shifted to the leaders of the United States and Iran, Presidents Obama and Rouhani.

But it's a big world out there and whether we pay attention or not, situations are evolving and at times, devolving. Take Egypt, for example.

Egypt has been playing hardball with the Muslim Brotherhood. Some Western news agencies covered the Egyptian decision to confiscate Brotherhood bank accounts, most did not. The Egyptian court ruled that the Muslim Brotherhood is no longer legal.

And the Egyptian army has been sweeping through the country, especially the Sinai, confronting the al Qaeda cells.

Meanwhile, the Brotherhood and al Qaeda have been creating havoc and they have been killing Egyptians especially - Christians and police.

Since July 3 when the revolt that unseated then-President Morsi began, over 100 Egyptian police have been killed. Last week a terror attack against a police bus killed 15 policemen.

Under the semi-cloak of silence, or perhaps preoccupation, current Egyptian leadership is dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood. They have successfully dismantled the entire Muslim Brotherhood leadership by arresting them and now they have taken all their money. All that remains is mopping up in rural areas where the Brotherhood is still strong.

Within the next week we will see the end of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. They will not be gone, they will be underground, they will be forced into hiding.

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US - Iran Accidental Meet @ UN
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 24, 2013

I've Been thinking:

It looks like President Obama will probably meet new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the United Nations General Assembly.

The meeting will be hard to choreograph, it must look as if it is an accidental encounter. US President Obama is scheduled to speak at 4 pm while Iranian President Rouhani is scheduled for 11 pm.

The Americans have not discounted the possibility of a handshake. Now they will spend hours coordinating where and how an accidental / coordinated meeting can appear spontaneous.

Such is the greatness of the UN general assembly


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Back To Normal: Israeli Security
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 23, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Benny Ganz, Israel's chief of staff, called a meeting with Nitzan Alon, his general in charge of central command.

Ganz needed a threat assessment.

Earlier in the day in the city of Hebron a Palestinian sniper hit and killed an Israeli soldier named Gal Kobi.

The chief of staff needed to understand if there was a flaw in security and if there is a flaw, he needs he needs to correct it. Israeli soldiers should not be picked off by snipers while on patrol.

The assassination of Kobi Gal is another shocking reminder of the gritty, day to day, risks taken by members of the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces. It is a reminder of the fragility of what we so cavalierly call "Israeli security."

For weeks we have been focusing on global risks. Iran, Syria, the ramifications of a strike by the United States. Concern over global risks has overshadowed the daily risks and the daily threats that confront Israel.

This sniper attack was a rude re-awakening - tragic, unfortunate, but a necessary re-awakening.

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IAEA Attempt To Attack Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 22, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The UN atomic energy watch dog, the IAEA, just held its annual meeting. This year the major resolution that they tried to put through was to force Israel to dismantle their nuclear weapons - and it failed.

On Friday the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) rejected a resolution calling on Israel to join the global nuclear arms treaty.

The proposal had the support of Iran and the Arab League. But in the end, with 51 votes against the proposal, 43 votes for the proposal and 32 abstentions, the proposal failed. This was not their first attempt and it will not be their last.

Those in favor of the proposal called Israel and her status a double standard that prevented a nuclear free region.

Israel has never official declared that they have nuclear weapons.
They have a nuclear power plant in Dimona and several experimental reactors. Those in the know suggest that Israel gets around the nuclear weapons issue by keeping everything in component sections, easily assembled if the circumstances should require a nuclear weapon.

The reality is that one cannot compare a democracy with a system of checks and balances with the theocracies and totalitarian governments in the region.

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Israel Accuses Iran of Buying Time
By Micah Halpern

Saturday September 21, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has accused Iran of buying time.

The possibility of diplomatic interaction between the United States and Iran has people talking and pundits preaching.

Israel has made their point of view very clear. Iran is using the diplomatic card as a tool to buy more time to further advance their nuclear program.

Israel is warning the West. Israel is saying that Iran specializes in this form of manipulation. That for years now, whenever there was a breakthrough and Iran showed flexibility it was a farce, it was a ruse, it was a charade.

Israel's POV is that there has never been any real change in Iran's direction. They are saying that the Iranians have consistently and doggedly marched toward nuclear technological development. And that is not about to change now.

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Iranians Changing Message
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 20, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

After much fanfare and discussion in the Hebrew, Iranian, Arabic and
European press it seems that Iran has begun to back peddle.

Originally, Ali Akbar Salehi, the Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy organization, said that Iran would close Fordo, their uranium enrichment site, and stop uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

Now Iran is saying that they will not close Fordo.

Is it a just a game? Is Iran deliberately saying two contradictory things? Or, perhaps, is there disagreement inside Iranian leadership? Whatever the situation the Iranians misleading us.

The press has been filled with coverage of the potential for new
diplomatic interaction between the US and Iran. Events at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly will be a very helpful indicator in terms of what Iran really is up to.

We just need to watch and see what, if anything, develops.

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Egypt Reopens Gaza Crossing
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 19, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Late on Wednesday Egypt opened the border with Gaza.

The border had been closed for over a week due after suicide bombers attacked Egyptian soldiers. The terrorists came from Gaza.

Thousands of Gazans were clamoring to get across for reasons varying from medical treatment in Egypt to business.

This is a hugely important lesson. After a terror attack that originated in Gaza and was perpetrated against Egypt --- Egypt shut Gaza off. They did what they needed to do.

No discussion.
No condemnation.
And no coverage in the Western press.

None.

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Chinese Hackers?
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 18, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Almost all security today also involves cyber security. Every bank, organization, company - even churches and synagogues, must have good cyber security systems. Otherwise, it is an open market for hackers.

Hackers want to steal. Mostly, they want information. They want information more than they want money. Information is power and if one competitor secretly accesses another competitor's industrial secret, they have accessed a gold mine.

Until now, the assumption had been that the Chinese government was behind some of the biggest industrial hacks. But recently, Symantec - also known as Norton anti-virus - one of the biggest computer security companies published a 28 page report stating that a private hit team out of China was the real culprit behind these corporate hacks.

Symantec called the team Hidden Lynx. The assertion is that 50 to 100 very gifted, variable, multi skilled hackers are employed to attack sites on behalf of their client. They will and can undertake several projects simultaneously.

Not everyone agrees with Symantec. Some have said that the hacking group is government /military in nature. Almost everyone is in agreement that the hacking is out of China because of the codes and the Trojans that are used. However, because of the nature of the targets and the multiple, simultaneous projects which are almost always about gaining information that could help in a buyout takeover or stock maneuver Symantec stands firm in asserting that Hidden Lynx is a gun for hire.

The real lesson in all this --- protect your computer.

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Iran Looking For Way Out
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 17, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Der Spiegel has reported that Iran might be willing to shut down their nuclear enrichment plant in exchange for a lifting of sanctions against them.

The idea was floated by the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi. He indicated that Iran's new president will make the proposal at the end of September when he is in NYC for the UN General Assembly. Salehi referred to a "compromise" and said that among the leadership in Iran there has always a movement for compromise.

Hassan Rouhani, when he was elected this summer as the new president of Iran, promised to change the way Iran was perceived in the world. And he promised to break the sanctions.

This may be one of his initial steps in that direction.

Rouhani also pledged to change the tone and the course of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Everyone should note that while Salehi is now head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization he was foreign minister under Ahmadinejad. He is the only carry over from the previous administration and he holds a PhD in nuclear engineering from MIT.

Salehi understands the United States very well having spent six years in Cambridge, MA.

Ironically, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in and out of MIT during the exact same six year period earning a bachelor's degree in architecture and a master's degree in management.

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Schools Open in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 16, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

It was back to school in Syria yesterday. The day came as a welcome moment in a land torn by civil war.

The start of school will bring structure and stability to many children who have spent so long hiding from the violence.

Ironically, the school year almost did not begin because of the threat of potential attacks. This time, however, it was the US threat to launch a missile strike that almost derailed the school year. But not in the way you would anticipate.

In order to protect soldiers who were stationed in high risk target areas, the Syrians moved them into schools for protection. And now since the threat of the missile strike has subsided the soldiers are no longer in need of schools for alternative quarters and they have been made available for the opening of school.

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Iran is Learning from The Situation
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 15, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Iran's comments on and interpretation of the deal that saves Syria from a missile strike are very illustrative of the way the Iranians really think.

Ali Larijani, Iranian speaker of the parliament and former nuclear arms point man, called the deal a sign of US "rationality." Larijani's comments were broadcast throughout Iran on Sunday on all news networks and media outlets.

In addition, the new President of Iran, Rouhani, will meet with British Foreign Minister Hague in NYC at the United Nations General Assembly.

There are actually rumors that Rouhani might also meet Obama. There have been and continue to be overtures to set up a private summit between Iranian and US leaders.

That is one of the great parts of the GA. With so many world leaders "milling around," it looks and seems matter of fact to "accidently" meet and greet.

In the world of social diplomacy, at least, it looks as if Iran is not averse to learning lessons from the Russia and the United States.


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Al Qaeda and 9-11
By Micah Halpern

Saturday September 14, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

In honor of 9-11 the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri, released a video on the internet. Zawahiri called on all of al Qaeda to carry out a large attack against the United States "even if it takes year to organize it."

This should come as no surprise. Zawahiri needs to make certain that al Qaeda stays relevant and to do so he must keep their 9-11 attacks prominent and center most in the minds of potential recruits.

To that end Zawahiri periodically reinforces the success of the 9-11 attack and then claims great victories over the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. He calls on his followers for fight the US and instructs them to do whatever it takes to strike at the enemy.

Zawahiri is telling his followers that they should plan attacks and perpetrate them in the United States even if it takes a year to plan them. And of course, Zawahiri praises the Boston Marathon attack.

"The Boston incident confirms to the Americans ... that they are not facing individuals, organizations or groups, but they are facing an uprising Ummah ( the entire Muslim community of the World), that rose in jihad to defend its soul, dignity and capabilities."

"We should bleed America economically by provoking it to continue in its massive expenditure on its security, for the weak point of America is its economy, which has already begun to stagger due to the military and security expenditure."

Al Qaeda is stepping up their game. The leadership is intensifying their operations so that al Qaeda appears to be the central force challenging Western and external influences within the Muslim world.

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What Syrians in Israel Think
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 13, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Since the conflict in Syria began, 86 Syrians have been brought to and treated in Israeli hospitals. There are 14 Syrians in Israeli hospitals right now.

Hassan Shaalan, a journalist for YNET in Israel, went to speak to some of the patients recuperating in Western Galilee Hospital which is located in the city Nahariyah in the North of Israel.
All of them, without exception, explained that they wanted a US strike against Assad ASAP.

A 20-year-old mother of a year-and-a-half old baby said that "I'd rather stay in Israel until the war is over. The people of the Syrian army are not human. They treat us like animals. I want Obama to attack certain locations in Syria without waiting for sources who can't understand our circumstances for approval. If there's no attack, I hope someone more courageous replaces him."

Another patient said: "Here in Israel I feel completely safe, but I'm worried about my family because I don't know where they are or how they are doing."

"In Syria, we live in danger and are prepared for death at any moment. I was surprised to hear that Obama went back on his decision to attack in Syria. I'm all for an attack so that he can protect us from the criminals who are murdering citizens for no reason. Canceling the attack leaves us abandoned. It proves the US doesn't care about us."

These Syrians represent a very small and very slanted sample. But their point of view is extremely telling.

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Arrogance-Israel's Worst Enemy
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 12, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon identified a serious worry in the Israeli defense system.

I quote: "We must remember that our worst enemy is arrogance, haughtiness ..."

"In the fog that covers the Middle East we must understand that we need to trust only ourselves and build an army that will deter any enemy."

This is a very important lesson in reality.

As good as Israel is at defense, Israelis must remember that they still need to strive for perfection. They may not behave arrogantly just because they have achieved certain levels of proficiency.

And in the end the only people who will defend Israel - is Israel.

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What The Russian Plan Means
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 11, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The proposal offered by Russia to solve the Syrian weapons of mass destruction issue is an all around win. Everyone, from Putin and Obama to Israel and Iran, come out winners. There is only one loser - one big time loser.

Assad emerges a big winner. The president of Syria dodged a set of tomahawk missiles. There is no real challenge to him or to his policies and he continues fighting the rebels without any threat to his infrastructure.

Obama is the next big winner. John Kerry was the first to float the possibility of this solution in a throwaway line on Sunday during a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

It does not matter that Putin then publicly came up with the idea and totally out maneuvered Obama because Obama and the US are initiators of the compromise. Putin and Obama both emerge as major forces capable of resolving international issues and crises.

Israel is very pleased. Pulling back the threat of a US strike against Syria relieves the pressure of a counter strike against Israel by Syria, Hezbollah or Iran. Israel was prepared and ready for an aggressive response but even then there were still significant risks. Now those risks have been eliminated. They just hope that the plan is in place quickly before Assad can hide or give the weapons to Hezbollah.

Iran is happy in that its proxy, Assad, is still totally entrenched in his position and back on the way towards squashing his rebels.
Iran understands that Russia is a formidable foil to the United States and now they have a realistic assessment of US/ Russian interaction in the Middle East. And, best of all, Iran has not been threatened at all.

Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were all potential targets of retaliation. The problem has been solved and they are no longer in the crosshairs.

Assad, Obama, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Qatar aside, the biggest winner of all is Putin, the Russian head of state. The Russians have turned themselves into the kingpins that put world agreements together and that defend their minions.

Russia was on the wane but now, after Putin's stubborn display, the world knows that when push comes to shove, he can cobble out a solution that works best for everyone.

The rebels are the big losers. Rebel fighters lost any and all backing they had from the West and Assad's position has been internationally affirmed. Their loss is tremendous.

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Why Russia Sides w/ Syria
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 10, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

It became perfectly clear during the meetings in Russia last week.

Putin won the battle. The Russian leader told Obama, simply and clearly, that Russia was supporting Syria. Putin said that he was not convinced by the evidence presented to him by Obama.

Obama had hoped that the evidence would speak for itself. US Secretary of State John Kerry, in his own way, is also trying to convince his counterpart in Russia to take action against Bashar of Syria, but his arguments, too, have fallen on deaf ears.

Russia is not interested in the truth. Russia is not interested in any red lines. Russia needs to back its ally. Russia needs to show Syria and all the other Russia minions that when there is a conflict with the United States their Russia patrons will defend them and sponsor them no matter what.

And it is no accident that the Russian defense tactic includes making the United States look foolish in the international community.

The main point for Russia is not gassing nor is it the death of innocents. Russia is only about power and about alliances.
Challenging the United States meets Russia's national interests.

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What Israel Thinks About the US
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 9, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Israel determines alliances based on shared interests. Israel's long term friendships are based on mutual values. The relationships are, for the most part, ongoing. That does not mean, however, that when it comes to trust and reliability, these relationships are not continuously evaluated and re-evaluated.

In terms of the relationship between Israel and the United States the fundamental question that is always asked is: Will the United States be there when the chips - military, political and diplomatic - are down?

Recent inaction, actually, the paralysis of inaction, on the part of the United States vis a vis chemical attacks in Syria has forced Israel into a new understanding of their long term and esteemed friend.

Israel now understands, unequivocally, that the United States is not capable of acting quickly in initiating a military strike. That does not mean that the friendship is tattered. Quite the opposite - it means that Israel has a better sense of the limitations of the United States in the fields of military and political decision making.

Israel must reassess and recalibrate. Israel must decide how best to utilize their friendship with the United States in defending itself against Iran and other regional threats.

This does not make the United States weaker. It means that the reaction time of the United States is slower than Israel and the world expected it would be.

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A Bird Is Arrested -- Again
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 8, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

This bird's name was Menes. Last week Menes was captured and arrested in Egypt. Today Menes is dead.

The story has become commonplace. Only this time, it ended horribly.

Last week a stork named Menes was arrested by the Egyptians. The stork was arrested as a spy. The bird was placed in its own cell in a police station and an investigation ensued. There was a GPS tracking system on its back and a tag on its leg. They charge was espionage.

In the end it was confirmed that the bird was simply a bird. It was confirmed that the devices were not spy equipment but ornithological tools that help track migrating birds from Africa to Europe and back.

Menes was finally released into a nature preserve. It flew to an island in the Nile. But a day or so later the stork was hunted down, killed and eaten - by human Egyptian predators, not animal predators.

These stories repeat themselves and at a certain point they are no longer funny. They are simply sad. And not just mean for Menes and the other birds.

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Jordan On High Alert
By Micah Halpern

Saturday September 7, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The Jordanian Air Force is on high alert.

Jordan wants to make certain that they can protect the country from a Syrian strike. They know that they are considered a very weak link and because of their friendship with the United States, Assad may strike at them.

In order to mollify the potential threat Jordan has announced that they will not permit any strike by a foreign force from Jordan.
There is a US air force base located there, but as of now, it is not in the game. Jordan hopes that this small gesture will drop them in the target priorities of Syria.

By limiting an attack from their borders Jordan is reaffirming the all too well known mantra that Arabs do not attack Arabs.

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Egypt Sees Difficulty
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 6, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Egypt is learning a very difficult lesson.

The Egyptians have discovered that it is much easier to control and even destroy a political party than it is a terror group.

Within the cities where they are firmly established, they Muslim Brotherhood has been shackled.

But Egypt is having enormous difficulty securing the desert where al Qaeda is roaming. Al Qaeda roams the desert popping up here and then popping up there. They appear, re-appear. They cannot be brought under control.

The Brotherhood went public. The desert terrorists remain nameless.

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US Strike & International Law
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 5, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

A new challenge is emerging regarding a military strike against Syria. Not the challenge that pundits, lawmakers, jurists and analysts have been discussing. This is not about leadership or decision making.

Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, has said clearly that a strike against Syria without UN Security Council agreement would be a violation of international law. And he is absolutely correct.

The challenge is whether the United States will be able to withstand the ire of the international community and take a stand against the world, for the benefit of the world.

Only a few members of the world community will side with America.

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The US Message
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 4, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State John Kerry testified before a Senate hearing yesterday.

Kerry explained that people in the (Mid East) region are watching what the US does concerning Syria. He said that America's friends such as Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Israel are watching the US to see if and whether we will act and if our word is our word.

And yesterday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the same thing in no uncertain terms when speaking to the same committee. He said the credibility of the US regarding Iran is at stake. He said: "A refusal to act would undermine the credibility of America's other security commitments - including the president's commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."

More specifically, Israel gets it. Israel understands, now more than ever, that the rhetoric of US action under this presidency is actually a process and it requires an evaluation and then a decision and then maybe a symbolic gesture. Gaining that understanding was an important lesson for Israel.

And Israel now has confirmed for itself that, with regard to Iran, US rhetoric might be good - but US action will be very slow. Israel knows full well now that they are alone in action and that they can expect only back-up from the United States.

When it comes to Iran, Israel will make operational decisions in seconds while the US will involve itself in briefings and discussions that last for weeks. Israel will still need to get the green light for any operation from the US, but it will not be a joint operation.

But - this should not come as any real surprise to anyone. Except, maybe, to President Obama.

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US Marine Site Get Hacked
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 3, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The US Marines recruiting site joins the ranks of The New York Times as yet another website hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army. The SEA is a group of hackers that side with Assad. They hack into sites and replace original content with banners and posts that support Assad and reject the rebels.

The New York Times was hit twice in a single week. Twitter and HuffPost have also been recently attacked. Earlier in the year SEA hacked into the AP Twitter site and posted a news report that the White House had been bombed and that President Obama had been injured.

The weak link is Melbourne IT, the source of the servers. SEA accesses sites through Melbourne and then quickly makes the switch.
In some cases it takes hours to make the correction.
Melbourne IT took responsibility for the NYT - but given the continued barrage of successful hackings it seems clear that Melbourne has not adequately sealed their servers.

The Syrian Electronic Army wrote a note to ABC News saying "When we hacked media we do not destroy the site but only publish on it if possible, or publish an article [that] contains the truth of what is happening in Syria ... So if the USA launch attack on Syria we may use methods of causing harm, both for the U.S. economy or other." Excuse the grammar and syntax, this is a direct quote.

It is annoying, infuriating and frustrating - but the hacking damage could potentially be much worse. SEA is just trying to make a point - they are focusing on content, not destroying or taking over the site.

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Palestinians on Syria
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 2, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

What do the Palestinians think about the Syrian crisis and about a US strike?

Fatah, the main umbrella group of the PLO, called a meeting in of their affiliates to discuss the matter. The meeting was held in Ramallah. At the meeting Fatah made a formal statement that rejected any military intervention in Syria and stating that they, Fatah, stood for a diplomatic settlement.

Until this meeting Fatah had not taken sides with either Assad or with the rebels.

Hamas is more complicated. Hamas military leadership sided against Assad from the start of the uprising and they have been exiled from Syria. They continue to side with the rebels. But now one component of Hamas political leadership has stated that they, too, want a diplomatic resolution and that they, too, reject any outside military intervention.

The Palestinians are divided when it comes to Syria. There are serious divisions within Hamas as to how to handle Syria and the PLO does not want to take a stand.

The Palestinians are united, however, when it comes to spouting rhetoric that says Israel will gain from the conflict and that Israel is behind attempts to strike Syria.

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Israel Frustrated By US Decision
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 1, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Israel was shocked by the US President Obama's decision to delay a strike against Syria until getting approval from Congress.

The Israelis feel that the time lag leaves them open.

Israel will be on 24/7 high defense status alert until a decision is made - and then again, until the strike. The hesitancy, the foot dragging, the insecurity this decision demonstrates is not what bothers Israelis the most. It is that this decision --- not to make a decision --- is an about face that changes the momentum and diminishes any chance President Obama ever had of linking the strike to a teaching moment for the world.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has given Israelis an interim assurance telling them that, "Israel is peaceful and self-assured.
Our people know that we are well-prepared for any scenario."
Referencing Obama's disincentive to attack Netanyahu said, "Israeli citizens should also know that our enemies have very good reasons to not test our strength and power."

After a US strike against Syria, Israel becomes the only on-the-ground, local, identifiable, target for Syria, Iran or Hezbollah to attack. And even if the US only sends 10 or 15 Tomahawk Cruise missiles, Syria will most likely need to respond. They will respond so as to save face both internally and in the greater Arab world.

If Congress chooses to launch an attack against Syria, Syria will most likely launch rockets into Israel.

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Russia Has its Interest in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 31, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Russia and China are doing their best to make certain that the United States does not strike Syria. But their reason for doing this is not just because the Russians and Chinese want to derail US interests and objectives.

Russian and China have their own economic and regional interests at play here. And those interests, which include oil and access, would be severely compromised if there was a US Strike against Syria.

This is serious business. Russia has sent another two naval vessels to the region. The US has added a fifth destroyer and is keeping both their aircraft carriers in the area for the interim.

The spectrum of responses by other countries in the region to a US strike on Syria could range from a bored yawn to a complete rejection of all outside influences. Ensuing tensions could result in Russia losing significant influence in the region - and even in the world.

The Russians do not want that to happen. So Russia is doing everything in her power to prevent a US attack of any kind.

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Israelis Panic - Get Gas Masks
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 30, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

For about a week now, Israelis have been experiencing a communal, albeit minor, panic attack.

People have been swarming to gas mask distribution centers and getting gas masks, filters and atropine injections.

This renewed surge towards gas mask preparedness comes in response to a series of serious, rhetorical, threats from both Syria and Iran. Syria and Iran have been making it known that if anyone attacks Syria, Israel will bear the brunt of the retaliation, and many Israelis are taking them at their word.

Understandably, Israelis are frightened. And the best way to defend themselves is by making certain that their loved ones have their gas masks. The religious community, by the way, is upset because there are not enough masks for bearded men- but there are never enough masks for the bearded community.

Honestly, Israelis should not be so fearful. There is very little chance that either Syria or Iran will strike Israel if there is an America or Western surgical attack against Damascus.

Priority number one for Bashar Assad is survival and an attack against Israel that would surely result in an Israeli counterstrike would potentially destroy his entire regime. Assad and Iran both know that.

So while there may be an errant rocket that lifts off from Syria and lands in Israel, no chemical weapons and no planned air force or missile onslaught will be heading their way. At least, not now and not because of any action taken by the United States or other Western forces.

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Who Used Gas in Syria?
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 29, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Hassan Rouhani, the new president of Iran, unequivocally condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria. It appears that between 100 and 650 people were killed by the gas attack. It was an atrocious and vicious indiscriminate murder of innocent civilians.

"The Islamic Republic gives notice to the international community to use all its might to prevent the use of these weapons anywhere in the world, especially in Syria." That, according to the Mehr news agency, is a quote from Rouhani of Iran.

There's more: "We completely and strongly condemn the use of chemical weapons, because the Islamic Republic of Iran is itself a victim of chemical weapons." That quote attributed by Rouhani came from ISNA

"Many of the innocent people of Syria have been injured and martyred by chemical agents and this is unfortunate." Also from ISNA.

Iran, having been the victim of Saddam Hussein's murderous gassing attacks, is very sensitive when it comes to chemical weapons.

Assad has denied using the gas. He has actually argued saying why would he use gas - that he has nothing to gain. The tide of the rebellion had already shifted and he was winning the conflict.
Using gas, his argument goes, would just draw in the United States and the West.

Iran backs Assad. And Assad would do nothing to topple that relationship. Add to that the fact the Iranians are absolutely opposed to gassing Muslims, even enemy Muslims, and a serious question emerges.

The gassing was done, but by whom?

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Al Qaeda in Lebanon Attacks Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 28, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The rockets shot from Southern Lebanon into Israel were part of a much larger regional conflict.

Read the explanation given by the Azzam Abdullah Brigades, the group proudly claiming responsibility. They are a Sunni, anti-Hezbollah, al Qaeda affiliated group. The group explains that they shot 122 millimeter GRAD rockets into Israel in order to attack "the cities of Nahariya and Akko in occupied Palestine."

They further explain the change from a state of calm to a decision to launch rockets "as part of the resumption of the jihad against the Jews."

They said: "We've frozen the activity for the sake of the blessed Syrian revolution. Numerous developments - mainly the blatant Iranian-Hezbollah intervention in the Syrian revolution - have forced us to freeze our activity against the Jews."

"Iran and Hezbollah have formed a strategic alliance in the region and coordinated their positions with regards to the Syrian revolution. They worked to undermine the blessed revolution."

They go on to say a "green light given by Israel and the Western countries to Hezbollah in the fight against our people in Syria so that Israel could safeguard its security will not provide it with security. Rather, it will bring it closer to the fire of the jihadi fighters and make it much more exposed to them. In addition, it will make Israel a preferred target for the Sunnis."

From the point of view of Sunni al Qaeda terrorists shooting these rockets gave the "Jewish conquerors an indication of the quality of rockets in our possession. Haifa should be decorated with the most magnificent shrouds to greet our rockets."

More importantly, from the Azzam Abdullah Brigades point of view it exposed Hezbollah's "false claims regarding its hatred of Israel and the false threats made by the organization's secretary general (Hassan Nasrallah). The attack challenged (Hezbollah) to open fire on Israel."

These are attacks against Israel but they are also attacks against Hezbollah, Iran and Assad.

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How the US Will Strike
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 27, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Now that US Secretary of State John Kerry has publicly and unequivocally announced that the Syrians have used gas to murder civilians, the Obama administration must decide whether to take action or not take action against the Assad regime.

If the United States does strike Syria, what will the attack look like?

It will probably be a coordinated US / British attack. It will not be a UN-backed attack because the Russians will use their clout in the Security Council to block any act of intervention in Syria.

The best options available to the US and Britain would involve airstrikes using either planes or smart missiles. Smart bombs are probably the best choice here because they are the less risky and can be guided by unmanned drones.

The Tomahawk missile is the classic smart bomb. The Tomahawk costs about $500,000 each. There are four US destroyers in Mediterranean, each with ninety Tomahawks. The United States used 124 Tomahawks against Ghadaffi in Libya. They are surgically accurate and have a range of 1200 miles.

Targeted sites will not be the nine chemical weapons storage depots in Syria. The spill out would be too dangerous. Targets would be command and control centers, integrated air defense systems, missile sites, launching pads and security bunkers.

The 155 Brigade of the 4th Armored Division - the Syrian group that reportedly perpetrated the gas attack would definitely be hit.

If the US and Britain decide to strike their strike will be short but their point will be loud and clearly made.

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Assad's Chutzpah
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 26, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Chutzpah!

That is the word that best describes Syrian President Bashar Assad's action over the past few days.

Chutzpah is a Yiddish word. It needs no translation. It is probably best explained as absolute gall. It describes a person whose behavior represents the heights of arrogance.

Last week Assad invited the UN team to inspect and investigate his use of non-conventional weapons and gassing. While they were there, as the entire world watched, someone unleashed what appears to a huge lethal attack of gas.

All eyes are on Syria. Conventional wisdom says Assad's men did it. There is, as always, a contrary view. That view has it that the rebels are using gas now and have used gas in the past. My money is on Assad's men.

Now US President Obama must decide if he should act against Assad.
He needs to decide what he should do if he does act. If the United States attacks Assad and helps al Qaeda win (which is exactly what would happen), it will extremely destructive to US interests.

What Chutzpah. What a mess.

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What Abbas Fears Most
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 25, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Obscurity is what frightens the Palestinians and Mahmoud Abbas more than anything else.

Given all the drama in the Middle East right now, Palestinians fear that their issue has been relegated to the back burner. They fear that their issue will have neither the resonance nor the power to influence world leaders to pressure Israel into a resolution that is most suitable toward their side.

So, the Palestinians are embarking on a huge diplomatic push to make certain that world powers see their point of view.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was just in Ramallah to meet with Palestinians President Mahmoud Abbas. Fabius understands the Palestinian fear. The two leaders concluded that resolving the Palestinian issue should remain a priority and will "contribute to peace and stability in the region."

At a press conference after their meeting Abbas said: "When there was an opportunity to resume negotiations, we took it without looking at what was going on around us."

The problem is that the Palestinians issue pales in comparison to the many crises now engulfing the Middle East.

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Targeting Beards In Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 24, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

It looks like the immediate crisis in Egypt is puttering out.

The best indication of the cessation of conflict is that on Friday, after Muslim prayers, almost no one went to the streets to protests. The largest group of protesters numbered about one hundred people.

There is no doubt that, in terms of human life, the ousting of Morsi was costly. The death toll is about 900 so far, 100 of them police. And so now the question is, was it worth the price.

There is still a very strong anti-Muslim Brotherhood tone in Egypt.
The media is broadcasting footage of Brotherhood men shooting at the police and army. In one broadcast Brotherhood thugs seen beating a man after he was thrown off the roof of an apartment in Alexandria.

In Egypt, people with beards are the symbol of Muslim piety. As a way of combating profiling, pious, non-political, non-activist men are shaving off their beards. Pop up barber shops are appearing throughout the country. That is because bearded men are automatically targeted for suspicion and intimidation. And almost all Brotherhood men wear beards.

So now there is a crackdown on bearded men.

The Muslim Brotherhood has not been able to sustain public outrage at the ousting of Morsi. Combine that atrophy with intimidation and a lack of extremist leadership and it looks like peace and stability are making a comeback in Egypt.

Free and democratic elections are on the way. I just hope that, this time, the powers that be will not permit non-democratic parties to seek election. But this is Egypt, so who knows?

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4 Rockets Hit Israel From Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 23, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Four rockets were shot from Southern Lebanon into Israel yesterday. There were no injuries. At least one of the four was intercepted by
the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Conventional wisdom is that Hezbollah did not fire these missiles.

Hezbollah wants to keep things quiet on their front so that Israel does not retaliate. Hezbollah wants to attack Israel on its own terms. So this missile strike was not Hezbollah and definitely not Shiites. This was an attack by a Sunni Jihadist group, maybe even a group affiliated with al Qaeda.

A few hours after the attack a Lebanese Sheikh named Siraj a-Din Zrikat tweeted that the "Abdallah al Aza'am Birgardes and the Ziad al Jarah Squadrons" were responsible for the rocket attack against Israel.

And then the Sheikh attacked Hezbollah for not attacking Israel. He called it protecting Israel. He tweeted that: "Hezbollah's responsibility of protecting Israel will - God willing - become a difficult task."

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US Will Not Intervene in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 22, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The AP published a letter sent by General Martin E. Dempsey to Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) laying out the United States point of view on intervention in Syria. Engel is the ranking member on the Committee on Foreign Affairs

The letter is dated August 19. It is extremely telling and will no doubt upset those clamoring for US intervention in Syria. Here are some salient points:

"Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides."

"It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not."

"We can destroy the Syrian air force. The loss of Assad's air force would negate his ability to attack opposition forces from the air, but it would also escalate and potentially further commit the United States to the conflict. Stated another way, it would not be militarily decisive, but it would commit us decisively to the conflict."

"The use of U.S. military force can change the military balance." Then Dempsey added. "But it cannot resolve the underlying and historic ethnic, religious and tribal issues that are fueling this conflict."

General Dempsey is correct.

The US should stay out of the fray in Syria. They should help only by sending humanitarian aid which can and will help. There is no way the rebels will support US interests - and it is very possible that even with US interference, Assad will still emerge the victor.

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Iran's New Pres Picks Cabinet
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 21, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Hassan Rohani, the new president of Iran, is putting his cabinet together.

Rohani assumed office on August 3. He has been touted as a more open and more liberal leader than Ahmadinejad. He has publicly made statements that repudiate the stands taken by his predecessor - especially on foreign affairs and sanctions.

Rohani has already appointed the new head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization. It is a position that the new president knows well, it is a position that he once occupied.

The newly appointed head is Ali Akbar Salehi, he is the former foreign minister of Iran and he is perfect for this position.

Salehi will not function as the nuclear negotiator, rather, he is the representative of Iran to all international nuclear organizations and it is he who will be setting the tone on all nuclear issues. Most importantly, he is in charge of all of Iranian nuclear facilities.

Like Rohani, Selehi is considered to be a pragmatic leader and a diplomat, not an extremist like the former head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Abasi Davani who was a perfect fit for the Ahmadinejad model.

This is not a new Iran, do not be misled. It is instead a slightly altered Iran.

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Iran Wants to Teach Hacking
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 20, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has announced that courses in computer hacking will be added to their senior high school curriculum. The Iranians want to enlist
high school students to hack foreign drones. I kid you not.

The announcement came from FARS, a semi official media outlet that is the voice of the Iranian Republican Guard Corp (IRGC).

General Ali Fazali the acting commander of the Basij militia gave the course a name. He explained that the new study is to be called Defensive Readiness.

A major component of the curriculum already exists. It is called civil defense training and is taught through a manual. The manual will now have to be updated to incorporate the hacking.

"This year," said General Fazali, "we will witness changes in the contents, teachers and teaching hours of the defensive preparedness lesson."

This is a brilliant plan by the Iranians. But it will most certainly backfire.

Once you give students the skills to hack they will not stop at drones - they will attack anything and everything that they dislike. And they probably dislike the government more than they dislike drones.

In the end, only a handful of students will gain the skills.

Hacking cannot be taught. Actually, the opposite. Hacking is about turning everything you were taught upside down. Hacking is about knowing a computer system inside and out and then finding its flaws. Hacking is about finding holes and backdoors that give you access. Hacking is about ingenuity, it is about combining linear and circular reasoning and thought and trial and error. Hacking requires patience, a lot of patience.

Some talented youthful Iranians will be able to hack - but not from a manual and not from a teacher in a class in an Iranian high school.


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What the PLO Says About Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 19, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

On Sunday the Executive Committee of The PLO met in Ramallah. The Executive Committee is the most significant and authoritative group of leader in the PLO. They were briefed on the progress of Israel-Palestinian-US talks.

The official responses issued by the Committee after the briefing is shocking. All they could focus on was Israel's decision to build 1200 apartments, mostly in Jerusalem.

Here are several salient comments:
"War crimes, anti-human, racist acts and violations of international laws."

"The PLO Executive Committee considers the unprecedented settler decisions which were announced by the occupation government as conclusive proof that Israel's first and last option remains expansionism, Judaization and theft of Palestinian land, and not ending occupation and implementing the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders."

"We hold the US administration responsible for stopping these Israeli war crimes and attempts to foil the peace process."

"The last settlement steps contradict assurances that the Palestinian Authority received during preparatory talks for launching the negotiations."

"Israel's practices will prompt the Palestinian leadership to demand the intervention of international courts and institutions against these war crimes, racist acts and violations of all international laws and conventions."

The Executive Committee went so far as to call the settlement activity "ethnic cleansing."

Exaggerated use of language is common in the Middle East. But this time exaggerated language is taken to the extreme. These statements by Palestinian leadership are truly extreme. And they are simply not true.

It is hard to imagine how any real resolution can emerge when this kind of vitriol is being spewed by Palestinian leadership in official meetings. The situation is truly out of control.

Who is going to pave the road to coexistence?

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Attacking Christians in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 18, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Christians are paying a very heavy price in Egypt. They are suffering the brunt Islamist anger. Morsi supporters have targeted Christians in a way that can only be called bone chilling.

One must ask: Why? How?

Theoretically, the answer lies is the knowledge that in the eyes of Muslim extremists, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters, Christians are outsiders.

Christians compose 10% of the 90 million people of Egypt, but they are different. History has taught us how powerful difference can be when the objective is to unify the masses. This is happening despite the fact that the Christian community of Egypt is one of the oldest in the world, dating back way before the rise of Islam.

Politically, the answer lies in the perception that the Christians of Egypt played a disproportionate role in the ousting of Morsi.
This might be true and bolstering that theory is the fact that over the past year some important bridges have been built between Christians and mainstream Muslims in Egypt.

The most important reasons is, simply put, logistics. The Christians in Egypt are an easy target. Their churches and schools are immediately identifiable and by blatantly attacking those symbols Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood need not attack the other Muslims of Egypt in order to publicly display their strength.

Targeting Christians is a win-win for the Islamists. They whip up anger at those who threw Morsi out of office and not attack or directly threaten the people who actually ousted him. There is visible, physical, evidence that they acted.

Bottom line is that the churches of Egypt are damaged and ransacked. Over 50 churches have been looted or torched, 23 others were attacked. Looters have come back a second time to steal even more from the churches. Looters loaded trucks with furniture. Nuns have been sexually abused and marched and paraded as criminals.

The West should be shouting at the top of their lungs about the desecration and the violence. I hear nothing.

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Egypt will Get Worse Before Better
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 16, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Believe me when I tell you that the situation in Egypt is going to get worse before it gets better.

Morsi supporters and the Muslim Brotherhood have promised that blood will be spilled in the next few days. The statement comes in response to the decision by Egyptian police to clear out two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo. In the end over 600 people were killed. Included in that number are about 100 Egyptian police officers.

Morsi supporters also burned down three Cairo churches.

The United States was naive to have assumed that the Muslim Brotherhood would simply sit back quietly as they were removed from power. The Brotherhood waited 80 years before obtaining power and then, poof, on July 3rd it was wrestled from them. They are not going to accept that fate, certainly not without a dirty, violent, fight to the death.

Pro-Morsi protests are not calm and peaceful. Many attendees arrive armed with AK-47's. That is how the police were killed. Morsi devotees have a penchant for violence and are committed to attacking people who are different - especially Christians, and for destroying that which is not part of Islam, like Christian symbols.

This new interim government is not ideal, far from it, it is deeply flawed. But they are making some effort and last week the government passed a law saying that it is no longer illegal to criticize the president.

That should tell you something. In Egypt, that's progress.

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Israel To Transfer Bodies of Terrorists
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 15, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Ynet reported yesterday that not only is Israel releasing prisoners, Israel is also transferring the bodies of terrorists to the Palestinians. It is all part of the series of gestures Israel is making in order to entice the Palestinians to come to the peace negotiation table.

There is no reason to think that this report was not true. The question that needs asking is what benefit will Israel gain from this transfer, especially after already agreeing to release 104 terrorist, all charged with murder or attempted murder, from Israeli prisons.

The only reason the transfer of bodies has not yet taken place is because the Palestinians are confirming the DNA. The precedent has already been set. Last year Israel transferred 91 bodies of terrorists to the Palestinian Authority.

When this transfer does happen it will almost certainly spark another great debate among Israeli.

Is it worth it?

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Abbas Legacy - Prison Release
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 14, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, is cementing his legacy.

Most observes would respond by asking how? He has stumbled and failed at every juncture to secure peace or, for that matter, any agreement and has misread Israel's objectives at almost every turn.

That is true. But the Abbas dream is not about peace or coexistence. Mahmoud Abbas wants to be remembered for freeing Palestinian prisoners. Abbas is achieving that which Yasser Arafat could never achieve.

This recent group of 26 prisoners, part of the larger group of 104 prisoners to be released from Israeli prisons, is a small group that numbers well over a thousand Palestinian prisoners who have been freed under Abbas' watch.

Mahmoud Abbas will be remembered in the Palestinian history books as the president who forced Israel to free Palestinians who had been in jail for decades. It is Abbas who gave them their freedom, not Israel.

In the end, for his own legacy, Abbas is not concerned about a Palestinian Israeli peace deal. All he really cares about is the release of prisoners.

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The Prisoners Are Murderers - Look
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 13, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Today, the first group of Palestinian prisoners will be released. 26 of 104 prisoners that Israel promised to release in order to entice Mahmoud Abbas to sit down at the table to talk about a peace deal will go free.

26 mass murderers. 14 will return to Gaza. 12 will be released in the West Bank.

Here are some of their names and their crimes:
Abu Moussa Salam Ali Atiya, jailed since 1994, for the murder of Holocaust survivor Isaac Rotenberg

Kor Mattawa Hamad Faiz, jailed since 1985, for the murder of Menahem Dadon and attempted murder of Salomon Abukasis

Salah Ibrahim Ahmad Mughdad, jailed since 1993, for the murder of Israel Tenenbaum.

Many of the victims were older and were Holocaust survivors. 12 of the victims were Arab. All of the prisoners were convicted of murder and attempted murder. Their release flies in the face of the judicial system that convicted them. They are not being released for good behavior nor are they being released on parole.

These convicted criminals are being released as a political gesture which is supra judicial.

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A Little Perspective on Settlements
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 12, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

There has been much shouting and finger pointing these past few days over the decision by the Israeli government to build 1,200 housing units in the West Bank.

The shouters and finger pointers claim that the decision is at best counterproductive to peace talks. In fact, they have condemned Israel for torpedoing the upcoming second round of talks.

I say that a little perspective is required here. I am neither justifying nor do I need to justify Israel's decision, but that reaction is over the top.

One of the agreements decided upon by the Palestinians and the Israelis was that there no longer needs to be a total cessation of settlement building in order to come back to the negotiating table.

The vast majority of the 1,200 units are actually in Jerusalem, not in far flung settlements. They are in neighborhoods where residents pay taxes and get local bus service and garbage collection from the municipality of Jerusalem. They are over the 1967 lines, but they are part of Jerusalem.

Almost 800 of the 1,200 apartments will be built in Jerusalem: 400 in Gilo; 210 in Homat Shmuel; 183 in Pisgat Zeev. The other communities to receive units are huge city-like suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The settlement Ariel will get 117 units; Efrat will get 149; Ma'ale Adumim will get 92 units; Beitar Illit will get 36.

Ariel has nearly 20,000 people in it. Beitar Ilit has 50,000 and Maale Adumim has nearly 50,000 people. They are each only a few seconds drive from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

Perspective, it's important.

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Threat of Terror From Sinai
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 11, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Theories are swirling about the airstrike that destroyed a set of rocket launchers in Egypt and killed several terrorists. The launchers were pointing toward Israel.

The best theory is that the Egyptians used their helicopter gunships to do the job and that the Israelis gave Egypt the intelligence they needed to pinpoint the location.

This has really upset the Jihadists of Egypt.

The Mujahadeen Shura Council of Jerusalem and the Region, issued a statement saying that the real enemy is Israel even if the new government of Egypt was involved. They became even more specific adding that their first target is the Jewish settler community.

The Mujahadeen Council is a terror group that professes, first and foremost, Jihad. They are located in the Sinai and in Gaza.

Here is the statement: "The treacherous strike, which would not have occurred without the coordination of the Egyptian army, is a reminder to Egyptians that their first enemy is the Jews living on occupied Palestinian lands."

These are not idle threats. The Mujahadeen means what it says.

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Saudi Try to Bribe Russia to Drop Assad
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 10, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

According to Reuters, Saudi Arabia has offered Russia $15 billion to give up on Assad of Syria.

The Saudis are asking Russia to stop pumping money in weapons and knowhow into the Assad forces. Most importantly, they want Russia to stop blocking the UN Security Council.

In return, in addition to the $15 billion, Saudi Arabia has made other promises to Russia. They promise that Damascus will be controlled by Saudi Arabia. That arrangement would be far more pro-Russia than the Islamist regime that would emerge after Assad.
Russia declined.

The Russians said no to the deal for several reasons. One reason is that they probably did not believe that Saudi Arabia could deliver.
More than that, Russia is now at the top of their game in the Middle East. They have created an important nexus bringing Iran and Syria together and, as a byproduct of that arrangement, they are causing great harm to US interests in the region.

Russia now enjoys more influence in the region than it has in decades. There is no way Russia will give that up - not even for $15 billion.


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Take Israel and Italy to Court over Jesus
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 9, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Dola Indidis, former spokesman of the Kenyan Ministry of Justice, is taking Israel and Italy to the International Court of Justice. Indidis is asking that Israel and Italy be tried for unjustly convicting Jesus. And then he is asking for the conviction to be overturned.

Indidis is basing his case on the case of Joan of Arc. He maintains that the precedent was set when Joan of Arc's conviction was overturned 25 years after she was executed. Joan was burned at the stake and years later, in 1920, she was canonized. Indidis is convinced that - "This is the same case with Jesus. The judge who sentenced him said that he had no jurisdiction to attend to the matter but he went ahead to convict and pass a capital sentence under duress."

The basis of this argument is that Jesus was brought before Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. Pilate announced that he does not have jurisdiction and sends the case to Herod. Herod, not wanting to touch the issue, sends it back to Pilate who then convicts Jesus and has him crucified.

According to Indidis: "His selective and malicious prosecution violated his human rights through judicial misconduct, abuse of office, bias and prejudice."

"The proceedings before the Roman courts were a nullity in law for they did not conform to the rule of law at the material time and any time thereafter."

"Some of those present spat in his face, struck him with their fists, slapped him, taunted him, and pronounced him worthy of death."

There is no parallel between Jesus and Joan of Arc. And there is no way the International Court of Justice will hear this case.

The case of Jesus is full of historical and legal questions and asking those questions makes for interesting academic debates and great dinner party conversations and has even been the foundation for tenure at some very august universities. But they do not belong in court.

Then again, you never know. The International Court has a rabidly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tone. But still, I do not believe that they will take on this case.

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Egypt Blows Up Tunnels
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 8, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Over the past month Egypt has begun to crackdown on the terror and anarchy that has been engulfing Sinai.

The new government in Egypt has begun to blow up tunnels and to arrest terrorists.

This crackdown in Sinai means that Egypt is separating the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt from Hamas in Gaza. Do not mistake this for a pro-Israel or a pro-Western move. The crackdown against the terrorists is absolutely and exclusively in the best interest of Egypt - otherwise anarchy would continue to prevail.

Egypt blew up 102 smuggling tunnels. They arrested 103 terrorist and they killed 60. They confiscated the 40 fuel depots with 2.7 million liters of diesel and gasoline. During the conflict with the terrorists 20 police officers and soldiers were killed.

These numbers are very telling.

This is proof that the new interim government in Egypt has begun to take charge. The new government sees the danger in anarchy and terror. They do not want the Muslim Brotherhood stimulating terror.

This is a very important and encouraging sign. It portends well for the new, new Egypt.

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Terror Alert - The Downside
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 7, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The terror threat level is still high and it will remain high until August 10 when the Muslim holiday Eid al Fitr ends.

Closing US diplomatic posts in order to keep them safe is the best way to prevent another Benghazi from happening. Once you close the facility the chances of a massive attack that claims US lives is virtually eliminated.

But...

There is an intrinsic problem with going on alert and closing embassies. In fact, in Yemen the facility was not only closed, all personnel was shipped out and away.

The biggest drawback to responding to terror threats by creating a policy which includes the closing of embassies and an international media campaign explaining the closings is the message that is sent to al Qaeda. The message is clear. They have won this round.

Right now the terrorists are celebrating their success. On their websites terrorists are describing how they have brought the mighty United States to its knees without even embarking on an attack. They are gloating and they are certainly enjoying the coverage and notoriety.

The United States must find a happy medium between what was done and doing nothing.

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Terror Alert
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 6, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Since the weekend, press coverage of the US embassy closures has been on front pages across America.

Most of the embassies will remain closed until August 10 which is the last day of Eid el Fitr. The Eid is a three day holiday that follows the Muslim month of Ramadan which is a month of fasting.

What is most interesting is that the embassies in Kabul and Baghdad opened on Sunday. And all US diplomatic facilities in Israel - Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, opened on Monday. That is because in all those places the US presence is secure and properly defended.

Vis a vis Israel, there is no al Qaeda threat at all in Israel. Closing US diplomatic representation there would be silly. The other closures are, however, all based on the same al Qaeda threat, a threat that clearly contained a time table and a set of dates.

Defensive thinkers usually have the "where" and the "how" but never the "when". They usually know what targets are sensitive and high profile and they know the methods used by terrorists.

This time all the pieces have been brought together and the State Department took great caution and acted to protect people and facilities. Nobody wants a repeat of Benghazi.

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Saudi Insult Al Bashir Big Time
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 5, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Almost everyone knows that Hassan Rouhani, the new Iranian president, assumed his post yesterday.

But hardly anyone knows that Sudan's President Omar al Bashir was on his way to the inauguration and was forced to return to Khartum.
Saudi Arabia would not permit al Bashir to cross their air space.

That happened despite his having a prior agreement and his using a Saudi charter and non-Sudanese pilots.

The plane took off and entered Saudi airspace and was told it may not proceed. So the pilots circled in Saudi airspace for about an hour as the diplomats tried to resolve the issue. In the end, al Bashir's plane was turned back.

In the Western world al Bashir is a pariah. An arrest warrant has been issued by the International Criminal Court (The ICC). But this is the Middle East and over the last few years he has been a regular and welcome guest in Saudi Arabia. The African Union officially rejected the warrant and it members disregard to ICC decree.

Here's the problem: Sudan has begun to permit Iran the use of their ports. Several times in the recent past Iran has docked its warships in the port of Sudan. This act has become a real public affront to Saudi Arabia.

And so, al Bashir and Sudan are being publicly humiliated for becoming too cozy with Iran.

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Al Qaeda Prison Break -- Again
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 4, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Interpol is concerned. The US intelligence and security establishment should be concerned, as well. This is an issue in which time is of the essence.

As I recently wrote there were simultaneous prison breaks in Iraq during which 500 al Qaeda leaders escaped.

In addition to the Iraqi prison breaks, 1190 prisoners escaped from a prison in Benghazi last week. Similar to Iraq, many were terrorists and al Qaeda members. And in Pakistan there was also a prison break in which untold numbers al Qaeda prisoners escaped.

Interpol is asking if all the prison breaks are coordinated or linked or in any way related. They need to know whether there is a concerted effort to get al Qaeda prisoners out to support a larger mission or even a series of missions.

And if so --- what is that mission?

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Nasrallah Left His Bunker
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 3, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, gave a speech yesterday. In the speech he repeated many standard cliches and themes.

What makes this speech worth mentioning is that it was delivered in honor of Al Quds, or Jerusalem, Day. Al Quds Day is a holiday that Iran instituted as a move to show solidarity with the Palestinians.
It is a holiday also celebrated by Hezbollah.

These are some of the statements made by Nasrallah as he delivered his speech: "Palestine must return to its rightful owners."

"The Palestine which we mean is a Palestine which stretches from the sea to the river."

"Israel poses a critical threat not only to Palestine, but to all the world."

We know very well where Nasrallah and Hezbollah stand on these issues.

What makes this speech unique is that Nasrallah delivered it live, in front of a live audience, away from his home turf. The head of Hezbollah left his secure bunker and went to id-a-Shuhada, a complex in the Hezbollah-controlled Dahieh quarter of Lebanon's capital Beirut, in order to deliver this speech.

That's what makes this speech special.

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Israeli Spying for Iran
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 2, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has charged and will try a 46 year old Jerusalemite for treason. The man - whose name has not been released, went to Germany and initiated contact with the Iranians.

The unnamed man strolled in to the Iranian embassy and announced that he lived in Jerusalem and wanted to spy against Israel. Three men sat him down. At the end of the meeting he was told that more senior people had to evaluate the situation. He was given an email account and a telephone number at the embassy in Berlin in order to contact his handler.

This unnamed man is a member of Neturei Karta, a sect which vehemently objects to the modern political State of Israel and will go - as we can see - to great lengths to popularize their anti-Zionist message. But he also seems to be part of the sub groups called Torah Vayera. This smaller group flatly rejects all interaction with Muslims as a means to bring down Israel.

When he returned to Israel four days after his meeting the man checked his email account at an internet cafe and started calling the Iranian embassy in Berlin.

It is hard to imagine that this man had any real secrets to sell. But it is still comforting that he was discovered so easily.

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Ramadan Is For Fasting & Forgiveness
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 1, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

This is the Islamic month of Ramadan. Muslims around the world fast during the day and celebrate at night. It is a month of introspection and a month of forgiveness.

The Emir of Kuwait has taken the idea of forgiveness to a very practical new high

"On the occasion of the last 10 days of Ramadan, I am pleased to issue an emiri pardon for those who have been handed jail terms on charges of insulting the emir," Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said in a televised speech.

The Emir of Kuwait has now pardoned a good number of prisoners who have already been found guilty and are serving their sentences and even some who are still only charged with insulting the Emir.

Insulting the Emir of Kuwait carries a five years prison sentence.

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1st Round of Talks Is Over
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 31, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The first round of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians is over and now. The talks were short and painless.

There are very low expectations for these negotiations towards peace. Ironically, low expectations work to the benefit of the talks. When people think nothing will result, then something actually can emerge from the negotiations.

The most important decision to emerge from the two meetings is the decision to meet again. That meeting will, most probably, take place in two weeks. It was also agreed that, at a minimum, the talks will last nine months. And the talks will deal with all the substantive issues including borders, refugees, Jerusalem and security.

Both the Israeli and the Palestinian street is conflicted about the meetings.

Some say: what is there to lose. Others say: what a waste of time. So far, the optimists have defeated the pessimists.

The first of the two meetings included a Ramamdan Iftar (break fast) eaten after sunset. The second meeting the next day was a working meeting at the State Department.

This formula did not guarantee success - but having only two meetings protected against the potential for certain and immediate failure.

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Abbas in Egypt - Supports New Gov
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 30, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

As Israeli and Palestinian negotiation teams meet and dine in Washington DC, another Palestinian guest is visiting and cementing relations elsewhere in the world.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is visiting Cairo. Abbas is giving his blessing to the interim government and to the removal of Mohammed Morsi.

It is pretty simple. Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party were very close supporters of Hamas. Hamas is actually an intellectual outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood. And Hamas is the political nemesis of Abbas and the PLO.

Going to Egypt and embracing the new interim government was a slap in the face to Morsi, to the Brotherhood and to Hamas.

This visit to Egypt is intertwined with the current charges against Morsi. One of the charges against him is escaping from prison during the uprising against Mubarak. And the prison break that freed Morsi was organized and perpetrated by Hamas.

Abbas is publicly taking sides. But it is no secret that he never trusted either Morsi or the Brotherhood because of their close ties to Hamas.

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What The Muslim Brotherhood Really Thinks
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 29, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The West needs to understand exactly what the point of view of the Muslim Brotherhood is. Their rhetoric is extremely hateful and very dangerous.

Mohammed Badie is the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, he is known as the Supreme Guide. Badie is the 8th person to hold that position and has been the Supreme Guide since 2010.

And I quote: "I swear by God that what al Sisi (the head of the Egyptian army who led the campaign to oust Morsi) did in Egypt is more criminal than if he had carried an ax and demolished the holy Kaaba, stone by stone."

Badie also said: the "Zionist fingers are at play in countries of the Arab Spring, so as to fulfill the vision of the Great Israel."

He said that Sisi and the Egyptian army are: "committing massacres the likes of which we have only seen committed by the bitter Zionist enemies and their treacherous agents."

Badie called Sisi worse than Pharoah, who killed children. He said: Sisi and the army "are worse -- you kill everybody."

Badie has said that the values of the current interim government and of Sisi are inverted. In the world according to Badie the current regime in Egypt twisted the truth in such a manner that communication with Gaza is considered a crime while communication with the "Zionist enemy" is considered an honor.

It is hard to misunderstand the way in which Badie views the world.
The worst crime anyone can commit, according to Badie, is to be allied with Israel and the West.

That is the face of the Muslim Brotherhood. That is the voice of the Muslim Brotherhood. That is the mindset of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Israel Agrees To Prisoner Release
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 28, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The Israeli cabinet approved the decision to release 104 prisoners, all of whom were convicted of acts of terrorism against Israelis.

The prisoner release is a stimulus to entice the Palestinians to come back to the table and resume peace negotiations. Of course, acts such as this one are never officially called "preconditions" because for years we have been told that there are no "preconditions" for talks.

Israel is wrenched by the decision. The families of the soon-to-be victims are divided. There is much pain in making a decision, a political decision, to release prisoners convicted of such heinous crimes as terror.

Naphtali Bennett the head of The Jewish Home Party said this about the cabinet decision:

"We once released a terrorist in exchange for a live soldier, then we released hundreds of terrorists for a live soldier, then terrorists for a dead soldiers and now 100 terrorists for a
'process'. We teach the world that everything is negotiable with us."

His comments strike a very powerful cord.

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Birds Are Spying for Israel?
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 27, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

I have written about this before.

It happened in Iran and it happened in several of the Gulf states. And now it happened in Turkey.

A bird with an Israeli tag was arrested for espionage.

The bird was thought to be a spy with cameras and microchips or even -explosives. After an investigation which included an x-ray this bird, like others, was set free to fly away.

The bird that was just arrested in Turkey had a metal ring tag on its leg which read 24311 Tel Avivunia Israel. Of course, that would frighten any reasonable person who would then frantically call the police and the secret security service. This particular bird was found and captured in the Agin district of the eastern province of Elazig.

The incident was reported in the national Turkish newspaper Hurriyet - usually a reliable source. In this case at, least, Hurriyet maintained a sense of humor and concluded their piece with the sentence:

"Following the tests, the authorities decided not to press official charges and the falsely accused bird was free to fly away."

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PA Salutes Terrorist
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 26, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

I am in favor of the renewal of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. I think that peace is preferable to war. But I am not hopeful about these talks.

The word is that the talks will begin in Washington, DC on this coming Tuesday.

Here is one of the reasons why I am not hopeful:
Palestine Media Watch has made us aware that on their official Fatah Facebook page Palestinian leadership is teaching the masses about, and celebrating the murders of, sixty seven Israelis and they are honoring the murderer.

The Palestinian Authority is honoring Abdallah Barghoutti, a master bomb maker, who successfully created the bombs that ripped through the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, the Ben Yehudah pedestrian mall in Jerusalem, the Hebrew University cafeteria and his list goes on. Look at the list below, it comes straight from the PA Facebook page.

How on earth do Israel and the United States expect to make progress towards peace when the authorized websites of the PA broadcast this and other, similar messages? How?

The following is the full text of the official Fatah Facebook page:

"The brave prisoner, Abdallah Barghouti, who has the longest [prison] sentence in the history of the Palestinian cause"
Text on photo:
"The free prisoner Abdallah Barghouti
Personal information:
Born in Kuwait in 1972.
Married and father of one son and two daughters: Osama, Tala and Safa.
Studied electrical engineering in South Korea.
Date of arrest: March 5, 2003.
His self-sacrificing activity: Planning a series of Martyrdom-seeking operations (i.e., suicide terror attacks) during 2000-2003:
- The Sbarro restaurant operation in Jerusalem which killed 15 Zionists
- The Moment Cafe operation which killed 11 Zionists
- The Sheffield Night Club operation which killed 15 Zionists
- The Hebrew University operation which killed 9 Zionists
- The Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall operation which killed 11 Zionists
Prison sentence: 67 life sentences.
Recipient of the longest [prison] sentence in the history of the Palestinian issue."
[Official Facebook page of the Enlistment and Organization
Commission of Fatah, July 22, 2013]


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US Stops F-16's to Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 25, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

I did not think that it would happen - but it did.

The US suspended the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt. The jets were supposed to be delivered in the coming weeks. It was all part of a deal signed in 2010.

In 2012 The United States and Egypt agreed on a $2.5 billion military contract in which the US would deliver twenty F-16's. Four were delivered earlier this year and four more are scheduled for delivery.

Now the delivery of the fighter jets has been temporarily suspended. The Department of Defense says that given the current situation in Egypt it is best to watch and wait and see how things turn out before delivering the military equipment.

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called his Egyptian counterpart, General Sisi, to give him the news.

At this point it would be unwise for the United States to transfer sophisticated weaponry that could potentially fall into the hands of enemies. And that is what George Little, spokesman for the Pentagon, meant when he said. "Just given the overall situation in Egypt right now we thought it prudent to make this decision."

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Al Qaeda Prison Break
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 23, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Remember Abu Ghraib, that notorious Iraqi prison where US guards took pictures of Iraqi prisoners. Well, the prison is in the news again.

On Sunday and on into Monday a full scale prison break - actually, a full scale military assault on a relatively secure facility - led to the escape of 500 highly dangerous prisoners, all from al Qaeda and almost all convicted and sentenced to death. All of the prisoners were al Qaeda leaders.

The Abu Ghraib prison break took place simultaneously with another
prison break, in Taji, 20 miles north of Baghdad.

The Abu Ghraib operation was very well planned and executed.

Two suicide bombers drove cars packed with explosives into the gates of the prison blowing them open. Another two suicide bombers, on foot, detonated their explosives killing themselves thereby allowing the prisoners to escape. Mortars and RPGs were used to destroy the towers and attack the guards.

Other al Qaeda forces were positioned to prevent US reinforcements from entering the prison. As the battle ensured 500 Al Qaeda prisoners escaped. Control was not restored until Monday. A handful of escapees were recaptured, the rest are long gone.

There are two immediate ramifications from the prison breaks.
Number one, these people will be used to alter the momentum in the now Shiite-led Iraq. Number two, these daring escapes will motivate more al Qaeda forces to enter Syria in order to try and defeat Assad.

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Iran Rejects Israel-PA Dialogue
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 22, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has rejected the idea of Israel and the Palestinians re-embarking on peace talks.

Iranian media has been filled with comments by the foreign ministry denouncing the talks. Abbas Araqchi, spokesman for the foreign ministry, has been especially vocal on the subject.

He said: "Past experience shows that the occupying Zionist regime is basically not ready to pay the price for peace since war mongering and occupation lie at its very core."

He called for: "self-determination for the Palestinians, the return of all refugees to their ancestral land, and the creation of an integrated Palestine with al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital."

In our world, who is against talks? How bad can talks be? Peace can only help both sides. At least, that is the conventional wisdom.

But what if accepting Israel and signing a peace deal is anathema to a tradition and a story line and thesis? What happens when the new narrative that is played out, one in which Palestinians and Israelis agree and there is progress towards peace, would be destructive to the old guard?

That would be dangerous. And that frightens Iran.

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UN Defends Morsi
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 21, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The UN pressed the interim leadership of Egypt on the issue of Human Rights.

They wanted to know why Morsi, his colleagues and his allies are being held prisoner and asked if the current interim regime has plans to bring them to trial.

It is a valid question - but totally misplaced. Egypt cannot try Morsi for making colossal decisions. Bad decisions are not illegal. Getting bad advice is not a crime.

But it was cause to oust him.
Once ousted, Morsi must be held along with his cohorts so they do not incite riots or violence that could cause massive numbers of injuries or loss of lives. In addition, his own life is in danger because of the political crisis he precipitated. For the time being Mohammed Morsi is actually safer in protective custody than he would be anywhere else.

There are rumors that Morsi could be tried for escaping from jail during the Mubarak regime. But that, too, is unlikely. It is also unlikely that, at that time, he was arrested and convicted in a manner which would be considered due process today. So trying Morsi for escaping from a jail during the totalitarian regime of Mubarak is hardly a popular cause.

The UN should just watch Morsi, make certain that his accommodations are comfortable. I am told they are - actually much more comfortable than the jail cell Hosni Mubarak now calls home.


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Chemical Weapons in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 20, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

There have been several recent and important reports of chemical weapon stores in Syria.

The reports relate to weapon transfers and to stores that have been discovered.

The first report came by way of a spokesman from the Free Syrian Army, a group that is recognized by the United States and the West as a legitimate rebel force fighting the Assad regime.

The spokesperson said that at a location near Damascus chemical weapons were transferred to Hezbollah by the Assad regime. This transaction was also reported in the Lebanese news.

In another report the Assad regime claimed that they had discovered a large cache of chemical weapons that were being stored by the rebels. That stockpile was found in a neighborhood in Damascus.

For a year already there have been credible intelligence reports regarding Syria and chemical weapons. Agencies have been maintaining that both sides in the Syrian conflict have chemical weapons. And then just recently, the United States confirmed that Assad has used limited chemicals.

None of this is good news. Not for Syrians, not for the region.

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Palestinians Want an Airport
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 18, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

News has leaked about what really transpired in the five hour dinner meeting held on Tuesday in Amman, Jordan between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Five hours is a very long meeting even by Middle Eastern standards - and there is only so much one can eat. So what really happened?

The Palestinians want an airport. They want an airport in Ramallah.

The United States will propose to the Israelis that the airport be for small aircraft and helicopters. The Palestinians want the airport, in Area A, to be totally controlled by them.

Gaza, by the way, had an airport. It was targeted by Israel during Operation Cast Lead and has never been rebuilt.

This is a classic precondition- but honestly, it is easily doable.
But the Palestinians also want something else.

The Palestinians want a map change. They want access to the Dead Sea.

They say they want the map change for tourism and to build hotels. That would mean changing certain parts of Area C and making them Area B.

That request is not so easily doable.

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Kerry in Jordan Talking w Abbas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 17, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Guess what?

US Secretary of State John Kerry is back in the Middle East. On Tuesday night he wrapped up a meeting with Palestinian President in Amman, Jordan.

The United States, using Kerry as the vehicle, is pushing both Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiations table. Truth be told, the US is pressuring the Palestinians in ways that we had not yet seen coming out of Washington during the Obama administration.

The US is, of course, pressuring Israel, too - but that is commonplace. And Israel actually understands the gestures the United States must make to entice the Palestinians to come to the table and resume talks.

The Palestinians have been very reluctant to move without real assurances of real concessions by Israel. But the United States cannot give them those assurances. That is the purpose of the DIRECT talks. If the US could give assurances as to what will result from the talks and give advance notice of just how much Israel was willing to give they would be the intermediary and the talks would be called INDIRECT.

Israel wants direct talks with the Palestinians - as does the United States. The Palestinians want to know what the results will be before they begin. That just cannot happen.

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Iranian Film Director in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 16, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

World famous Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf is in Jerusalem. He is promoting his newest film "The Gardener" at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

Makhmalbaf has been exiled from Iran. For years he was on the run. Assassins pursued him, but now he lives relatively safely in London.

The movie takes place in the Bahai gardens. It is a docu-drama. The focus if the movie is the dialogue between the gardener and his son.

Makhmalbaf said that when he leaves Israel there will be more threats against him. He will surely be called either a Mossad or a CIA agent. And making a movie in Israel about the Bahai is a slap against the Iranian establishment.

The Iranian director-in-exile offered some words of advice to Israel and its political leadership. He said: "I love you, but please do not attack Iran. It is not the solution. It would only aggravate the situation."

He urged a resolution -- but not a resolution by way of attacks.

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Poland Outlaws Kosher Meat Production
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 15, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday was a sad day for Polish Jews and, for that matter, for Polish history.

Yesterday a bill was defeated in the Polish parliament that would have allowed for Kosher slaughter and Hallal slaughter.

Earlier, a very clear bill protecting animal rights had passed through the Polish parliament. That bill demanded that all animals be stunned before slaughter - but both Jewish and Muslim law absolutely do not permit stunning prior to slaughter.

The proposed new, failed, bill attempted to make the religious slaughter an exception.

Comments made to the press after the vote smacked of anti-Semitism and hatred. Those who defeated the bill spoke about the precious feelings of animals, and how important it is to defend the animals, even if it causes economic loss. In the end, the needless sufferings of Polish animals was proven to be more important the a few dollars.

The Polish Parliament cared more about the sensitivities of dead and dying animals than about the quality of life of Polish Jews.

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Army Further Weakened in Turkey
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 14, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

On Friday Turkey changed the definition of their army. That decision will have a huge impact on the future of Turkey.

The army in Turkey was always used as an essential vehicle safeguarding the democracy. Four times in the past hundred years the military has been called to step in to take over and then hand the country back to the people. The Turkish army was a safety valve against anti-democratic movements and leaders.

On Friday Turkish Parliament officially changed the definition of the Turkish armed forces to that of "watching over and protecting the Turkish republic."
According to the new definition the Turkish army is "defending the Turkish nation against external threats and dangers, and maintaining and strengthening military powers to ensure deterrence."

As of now the Turkish army has no role in the preservation of the republic from internal threats. The army now functions solely as a defense against outside forces.

This is the last blow in a series of attacks against the army orchestrated by Erdogan. His objective is to neuter the army which was too powerful and too independent for him.

Erdogan is succeeding in changing the country - but at what cost for Turkey?

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Rebels Fighting Rebels in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 13, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Syria may have been moved to the back burner since the situation in Egypt began heating up. But it doesn't mean that the situation in Syria is not simmering.

But things are still happening in Syria. Most crucial is that the rebels appear to be imploding.

Yesterday Kamal Hamami, one of the 30 leaders of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Supreme Military Command, was killed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, also known as al Qaeda of Iraq and Syria.

The FSA announced that they are now engaged in all out war.

This came on the heels of last week's filmed and public beheading of an FSA rebel in the city of Idlib.

It's classic. For two years I have been saying that there is no united rebel force in Syria. I've been saying that it is just a matter of time before one group of rebels kills another. Now that prediction is a full blown reality.

This rage, this warring, will be the end of the rebels. The rebels are unwittingly and unintentionally catapulting Bashar Assad back into power. And they just can't stop themselves.

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Israel: Secret Unit Gets Award
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 12, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The Israeli Army presented a merit award to Unit 8200 yesterday.

At first glance it is not such a big deal - until you realize that Unit 8200 is an intelligence unit.

This not just any unit. 8200 is the largest single unit in the Israel army. It is composed of thousands of soldiers. Its main base is called Urim and is located somewhere in the Negev desert, about 20 minutes from the city of Beersheba.

Unit 8200 was created in 1952. It is actually called "Shmoneh Mataayim" which in English translates to "Eight Two Hundred." There are many sub units within 8200. No one in one unit knows what others are doing in another unit - or even in their own unit. Part of 8200 collects intelligence and monitors the news, that section is called "Chatzav."

You would think it almost impossible to keep a secret when so many thousands of people are affiliated - but everything is compartmentalized and everyone is extremely secretive.

Across the world IDF Unit 8200 is officially referred to as the Central Collection Unit of the Israeli Army's Intelligence Corps.
Sometimes it is just called "The Israelis." 8200 has become a cabal, a mythical power with supernatural powers.

But 8200 also creates and attacks. Members of the Unit work closely with the Americans and it was probably 8200 which created Stuxnet, the virus that attacked Iran's nuclear enrichment program. 8200 is probably also responsible for W32.Flame which attacked Iran's oil pumping system and closed it down.

Above all else, Unit 8200 is a group of hackers, thousands of hackers. And they are competing with the Chinese and the Russians.

They are probably the largest, or at least, one of the largest listening bases in the world. Being in the desert helps - the skies are clearer with less interruption and they can listen to almost everyone everywhere. Unit 8200 tracks people, cars, ships, almost anything that moves. They are connected via satellite and have covert listening stations across the world.

In this era of budget cuts which means fewer planes and fewer tanks, money is being spent on high tech weaponry. Computers are cheaper than tanks and F-16s. And they have done some remarkable work.

We will never know all that Unit 8200 and other similar units around the world have done. But we do know that we live in a world of intelligence gathering and games of war. And in Israel, computer geeks have become military heroes.

Israel is saying "todah" or "thank you" to Unit 8200 by giving them this award.

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Who is Supporting Egypt?
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 11, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Let's look at who is supporting Egypt since the ousting of Morsi and the Muslim Brother. It is very telling to know who is who - who is giving support and who is withdrawing support.

Saudi Arabia has come forward, they supported the ouster and are giving $8 billion.
The United Arab Emirates is giving $3 billion.
Kuwait is giving $4 billion.
Qatar is in for $5 billion.

Qatar was very involved in supporting Morsi in the first months of his reign. They gave billions to the Morsi government. But two months before the ousting of the Brotherhood they had switched allegiance and were sponsoring and helping the students.

It was probably the Qatari foreign minister who called Morsi and asked him to resign. And that was probably at the request of the White House. Everything is couched in terms of "probably" because it is all being kept confidential and hush-hush.

The US will go through with the promise to deliver four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt. The jets were scheduled to be delivered in the first week of August and there is no reason to expect that it will not happen.

Thus far this year the United States has given Egypt $650 million in military aid. $585 million is still pending and will be delivered between now and September when the fiscal year ends.

Syrian leader Bashar Assad has also come out in support of the students. He called the showdown in Egypt "a blow to Jihadists."

Turkey, however, is vehemently opposed to the uprising. Erdogan is calling it an affront to democracy and says that anyone who supports the Egyptian uprising is a hypocrite.

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Syria Spills into Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 10, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Earlier today a massive car explosion ripped though a southern Beirut neighborhood. The neighborhood is known to be Hezbollah territory and the explosion detonated near a Hezbollah military compound.

Beirut is no stranger to car bombs.

Fully understanding this particular explosion is essential in understanding the present state of the Arab Middle East. This is clearly a Sunni attack against Shiite Hezbollah. It is an obvious and tangible sign that the conflict in Syria between Shiites and Sunnis is spilling over into Lebanon.

Reports suggested that the attack was directed against a Hezbollah leader. I doubt it.

Car bombs like this one are massive. Very seldom do they successfully hit specific targets. Their purpose is widespread damage. They damage buildings, streets, institutions. They wreak fear. They are the opposite of a planned assassination.

A planned assassination would partially destroy the car and kill or maim only the people targeted in that car. It would use a few kilos of explosives. This car bomb used over 40 kilos, which is nearly 90lbs, of explosives.

This type of attack is similar to al Qaeda attacks in Syria and in Iraq.

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Why It is Not A Coup
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 9, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The White House is walking a tight rope. They still do not want to call the crisis in Egypt a coup. They are in a bind because Congressional law prevents the United States from giving aid to any regime that came into existence through a coup.

This is what happened: In 2012 Congress passed a law called the Consolidated Appropriations Act which prohibits spending money for any "assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree, or a coup d'etat or decree that is supported by the military."

So the White House is not saying it was a coup. If they do not call is a coup that means that it was not a coup.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary put it this way: "I'm being very clear with you ... this is a complex and difficult issue with significant consequences."

The White House and DC have been portrayed as evil by both sides in Egypt. There is very little the United States can do to redeem their reputation.

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Stop The Non Democratic Parties in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 7, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The Muslim Brotherhood has taken their anger to the streets.

Everyday there are large Muslim Brotherhood organized rallies in support of ousted president Morsi. At the same time, tens of thousands gather at counter demonstrations rallied in support of the ousting. The protestors sometimes meet and the result is violence and even death.

The plan is to hold an election in 18 months. The temporary government wants to set the stage for a real secure transition back to democracy. They want to put the economy back on track. To do that they first have to strip the constitution of the anti-democratic changes made under Morsi and the Muslim
Brotherhood. They need to, and intend to, make significant changes -- especially regarding the role of the president and the primacy of Sharia, Islamic law.

The temporary government must add on provisions that prohibit non-democratic parties from standing for election. They must see to it that parties prove their democratic character - which will be an impossibility for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nouri parties.

Non-democratic parties should be disqualified until they prove their democratic nature. All their literature, presentations, speeches, leadership media interviews must be subject to inspection. Unless they pass the democracy test, a party should not be permitted to run.

A democracy must protect itself from anti-democratic forces. That is where Egypt failed in the last election. The Egyptians elected a "non" or better an "anti" democratic party and the leader of that party, Mohammed Morsi, proceeded to dismantle democracy and use his power to abuse the people and destroy the opposition.

Along the way Morsi and the Mulsim Brotherhood destroyed the economy, too.

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Brotherhood Trying to Take Back Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 6, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The Muslim Brotherhood is setting the stage to retake Egypt. To that end, at least seventeen Egyptians were killed yesterday. The Brotherhood has called on their people to take to the streets.

The rhetoric is getting ugly and it is dangerous. The Muslim Brotherhood website calls Adli Mansour, the new president of Egypt, a Jew. First it calls him a 7th Day Adventist. Then it says that Mansour wanted to get closer to Christianity but the Coptic Pope refused to baptize him. Then it calls him a Jew.

The Brotherhood is also trying to skewer Mohammed el Baradei, one of the leaders of the opposition. They claim that he refused to join the Sharia Council unless they recognized that there was a Holocaust.

On the website a famous TV personality named Ahmed Mansour (no relation) said this about the Holocaust and el Baradei: "This is a token gesture offered to the Jews by el Baradei so that he can become President of the Republic in the fake elections that the military will guard and whose results they will falsify in their interests ... All with the approval of America, Israel and the Arabs, of course.

"This is the glorious scene of the future of Egypt and the Arabs, who competed to recognize the coup, the coup whose drum the secularists are dancing to ... even to the extent that one of them, who hates religion, Islam and the nation announced that he has been reborn ... and that his date of birth is 30/6, that is, the day the army of defeats staged a coup against ballot box legitimacy."

Conspiracy theories abound.

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What's Next in Egypt?
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 5, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

What happens next in Egypt?

A technocratic government has been put in place in Egypt and Morsi has been deposed.

Now there are some very important steps to be taken and other, just as important, steps to be avoided.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Nouri party cannot be allowed to assume that they can beat back their way into power through violence.

There must not be a civil war. The army will play an essential role in this as will Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia must continue to give money to the new regime. Qatar came out already and welcomed the change. Saudi Arabia will be next.

The United States must not send out a message that the Muslim Brotherhood was injured by the change in leadership. That would be seen as a blessing that the Brotherhood could take to the streets.

The constitution in Egypt must be changed and stripped of its Morsi additions that place Islamic law above all else.

Infrastructure and bureaucratic institutions must begin to work. Safety and security and justice must become common place. Martial law existed in Egypt from 1981 until 2011. Now there must be a sense of safety and freedom.

The United States must understand that the Army did not take over but rather stepped in to safeguard the institutions of freedom and protect the masses. If things get violent and if there is no immediate control, Egypt will fall into chaos.

Democratic parties must work towards a speedy election and not split the vote.

Non-democratic forces must not be permitted to stand for election. If the vote is split among all the progressive parties then once again the Muslim Brotherhood will win in the next election.

This is just the beginning. This new, new Egypt has a long, long way to go.

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Ousting Morsi- Where Was the US?
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 4, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The first elected president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, has been deposed. After four days of massive demonstrations the Egyptian army has unseated him.

This is all the result of the Arab Spring. The spring ousted
Mubarak and replaced him with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The people reacted in an extreme political way by voting the extreme. It is what I call the rubber band effect.

Now the rubber band has stretched back to its normal size. That meant ousting Morsi and the Brotherhood which was the exaggerated response.

Now one has to ask: Where was the United States in this entire episode?

The answer is: Almost absent.

This was a real democratic uprising. We heard that the US Army Chief of Staff called his Egyptian counterpart. And we heard that the White House asked for responsible behavior. But that is hardly a show of leadership in a crisis. This was a world crisis and a democratic crisis.

Yes, Morsi was democratically elected. But democracy was kicked to the side and he turned into a tyrant. There was no constitutional way of removing him short of suspending the constitution.

This is a statement of empowerment by and for the people of Egypt.
This is a damning critique of American foreign policy.

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It's the Economy in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 3, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Make no mistake - the unrest in Egypt is about a failed leader and his failed economy. Calling it a religious conflict is easy - but wrong.

The rhetoric sometimes relates to religious issues, but the truth is clear and every Egyptian knows it. If there were tourism in Egypt and if natural gas and oil were being exported, there would be some discontent but nothing like this. There would be stragglers protesting in the street, not millions massed in Tahrir Square.

In Egypt right now, it is all about the economy.

We are talking about a country with almost no economy to speak of and a growing debt. Aid can no longer save the Egyptians. They need to produce, they need to export.

Some would argue that the problems in Egypt exist because Morsi is an Islamic leader. I would say that the crisis in Egypt is due to the fact that Mohammed Morsi is a bad and inexperienced leader.

There were high hopes at first. Morsi could have been forward thinking and more inclusive. He could have been a president that embraced public safety. Instead he became a president who polarized.

Polarization was probably the greatest error Morsi made. There is no doubt that in the eyes of the world polarization in Egypt was interpreted as danger and danger means no tourism.

In what we can now called "the good old days," the days before Morsi came to power, Egypt thrived on tourism.

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The US Just Does Not Get the MidEast
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 2, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Washington does not understand the Middle East.

Here are four blatant examples illustrating how the administration is naive and overly optimistic about everything relating to the region. How they are not grounded in the realities of the Middle East.

# 1: In Egypt the United States jumped at the opportunity to oust Mubarak which turned into a big mistake. Now DC is overly cautious and as a result Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are getting the soft shoe.

# 2: In Syria it appears as if the United States has decided to side with the rebels. That is despite knowing that the best organized and best trained and most powerful rebels are confirmed al Qaeda or al Qaeda affiliates.

# 3: In Turkey the United States has been relatively quiet about the brutal crackdown Erdogan has perpetrated against protesters. They have silently stood by as the Turkish leader's language slips into anti-democratic and extremely problematic imagery.

# 4: Just last week the United States opened official channels of communication with the Taliban. They met in Qatar.

The only way to explain these actions and inactions by the United States is to say that the present administration is naive, very, very naive.

Naivete and diplomacy are not a good mix.

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Kerry See Progress in MidEast
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 1, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State John Kerry has wrapped up nearly four days of shuttling back and forth between Bibi Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. Kerry met with leader three times.

As he was departing Ben Gurion airport outside of Tel Aviv Kerry said: "I'm pleased to tell you that we have made real progress on this trip. And I believe that with a little more work, the start of final status negotiations could be within reach. We started out with very wide gaps, and we have narrowed those considerably."

He punctuated his remarks by saying: "I know progress when I see it."

Kerry is confident that progress has been made, but that does not mean that the parties are ready to sit down and talk about final status accords.

What Kerry was saying is that the huge disagreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians have become less pronounced. And yes, there is no doubt that we can call that progress.

Now I await the next stage ... actually sitting down to talk. I wait, but I am not holding my breath.

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Egypt Heats Up
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 30, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

As I write this I am watching a real time, live, feed from Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt where protestors have massed in the hope of ousting new president Morsi on the first anniversary of his inauguration.

The press reports that thousands of people are gathered around the square.

In the time I have been watching, the numbers have expanded. If there were 200,000 in the square a few hours ago there are three times that now - and it is still growing.

They are shouting "Erhal" which translates to mean "leave" and "step down."

All kinds of people are there. Even women. Women have, until now, been absent from events of this type because of the great dangers, the attacks and the rapes that have occurred during protests.

As the heat breaks and the approaching evening brings cooler weather
I anticipate that even more Egyptians will emerge. I am convinced that this anti-Morsi protest will top one million chanting attendees.

There has been only minimal violence so far. Unfortunately, yesterday, a young man from the United States in Egypt to teach English to locals was stabbed in the chest in Alexandria and died from his wound. The fact that he was actively Jewish had no bearing on the attack.

The crowd in Tahrir Square is serious. They want Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood out. Now.


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Erdogan to Visit Gaza on July 5
By Micah Halpern

Saturday June 29, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

First came the murmurs. Then some spotty hints. Now we have confirmation.

On July 5 Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey, will visit Gaza. This is big news. This is a very important statement from the Turkish prime minister.

Making the trip to Gaza is a domestic and an international statement. Erdogan is in the midst of a major civil crisis in Turkey, a crisis in which secularists are rebelling against his point of view and are upset by his Muslim-style shift away from the classic style of Ataturk.

Going to Gaza shows the citizens of Turkey that he, their leader, cares about the downtrodden.

The move also positions Erdogan as a Muslim player and a Muslim leader in the larger world. He becomes one of only a few world leaders who will have visited Gaza. The last Muslim leader to visit Gaza was the emir of Qatar. The emir visited for the same reasons. Of course, he also promised $8 billion in aid.

I am certain that Hamas will ask for money - and that Erdogan will comply. That part of the visit will not go over well at home in Turkey. The Turks have not had a good year economically. They want aid to be spent at home, not spread around abroad.

The people most hurt by aid given to Hamas in Gaza by Turkey are the students and the anti-Erdogan protests.

This trip is like taking two steps forward and one step backward for Turks, but one giant leap forward for the Muslim world.

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Will Russia Pull Out Of Syria
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 27, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Vedomosti is the Russian business daily. AFP (Agence France Presse) ran a piece citing Vedomosti that took me by surprise. In fact, I find it hard to imagine that the report is correct.

It said that Russia was packing up and leaving Syria. That they are only going to be leaving 3 to 5 war ships in Tartus, the Russian naval base in Syria.

The newspaper claims that there are no longer any Russian military personnel on the ground in Syria and that the Naval facility is operating on a skeleton crew.

The paper clarified that the number does not count the Russian technical advisers.

The reason it is so hard for me to believe this story is that Russia does not want that their $3 to 4 billion naval facility to fall into the hands of the rebels --- especially the al Qaeda rebels. They will do anything to make certain that does not happen.

That said, 5 warships can easily include the Russian aircraft carrier which is a mini air force and army all by itself. There is no doubt in my mind that Russia will not, at this stage, pack up and leave. There is too much at stake. If they were going to leave they would be doing so in order to throw a bone to the United States.

There is no way that Russia will leave Syria at this point. I need to find other substantial and reliable sources to confirm this story.

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US & Russia Can't Agree on Syria Meet
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 26, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The United States and Russia really want to have a conference to solve the crisis in Syria. But they cannot agree on so many items, that their 5 hour meeting about the meeting ended as a dismal failure.

The US and Russia could not even agree on the date and the timing of a meeting. And they could not agree on who should attend the meeting.

Who should attend is the biggest bone of contention.

Should Iran come? Russia says yes, the US says no. Iran is one of the most important players influencing what happens on the ground in Syria. Russia follows immediately after --- but should their desire take precedence over the desire of the United States?

And they could not agree on who would represent the rebels.

This is a classic example of "hand tied diplomacy." The hands of both parties are tied, now they must return home to get a better understanding of the flexibility of their country regarding these critical issues. So they agreed to meet again in order to meet again.

In the end, the next meeting will probably not result in a conference. The tide has changed in Syria and by the time the US and Russia resolve their issues, Assad will be well on his way towards wiping out the rebels. In the end, a US/Russia conference on Syria will be a moot point.

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Gaza Rockets Break Quiet
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 25, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The quiet lull that had settled in between Gaza and Israel has been broken.

A series of rockets has been launched from Gaza into Israel. Some of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile triangulation system. But others fell on Israel's border communities.

The Israeli air force struck back, hitting launch sites and weapon storage caches inside Gaza.

It is clear that the shooters were not Hamas - the relative quiet/lull was broken by the Islamic Jihad. But Hamas is in charge of Gaza. Islamic Jihad is the second largest group.

What was Islamic Jihad's motivation? They risk an internal conflict with Hamas.

It all has to do with Syria.

Hamas has called for and is supporting the rebels and Islamic Jihad is supporting the Assad regime. Iran has withdrawn its support for Hamas but it is definitely still supporting Islamic Jihad.

This internal tension is extremely important to understand. Islamic Jihad is preening for Iran. Islamic Jihad is clearly illustrating to Iran that Hamas is not - I repeat, is not - totally in charge in Gaza and that Iranian agenda can be put into play in Gaza for the right amount of money.

If Hamas wishes to survive this internal dispute they have one option: they must crush the Islamic Jihad.

If Islamic Jihad persists in their rocket attacks into Israel I expect Hamas to crack down very hard and eliminate the ability of their foe to challenge Hamas on the local and the regional scene.

If Israel ends up being the beneficiary of this in-fighting, so be it.

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Egypt: Army May Take Over
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 24, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The Egyptian army is starting to move towards what may turn into a full blown coup, or at the very least, a show of military strength and power.

The Egyptian chief of staff is also the minister of defense. His name is General Abdel Fattah el Sissi. He was appointed by Morsi.
Because he has remained silent through much of the conflict it was assumed that he, and the military, will back Morsi.

But that seems not to be the case.

Over the past few weeks there has been much publicity about the June 30 anti-Morsi rally and protest. Over 15 million signatures have been collected and the attendees and supporters hope to oust the president. The date June 30 is significant because that is the anniversary of the election that placed Morsi in power.

Sissi has made it clear that many things that Morsi has done have hurt Egypt. He has also made it very clear that the Muslim Brotherhood will not be permitted to attack the protestors.
Minister of Defense Sissi seems to have changed his stance of when on intervene. Until now he had hinted that the military would intervene only in national crisis when the collapse of the state was impending. Now listen to what he just said:

"Those who think that we (the military) are oblivious to the dangers that threaten the Egyptian state are mistaken. We will not remain silent while the country slips into a conflict that will be hard to control."

"It is not honorable that we remain silent in the face of the terrorizing and scaring of our Egyptian compatriots. There is more honor in death than watching a single Egyptian harmed while his army is standing idly by."

Sissi gave the parties a week to work out their differences. After that, the army may be stepping in to protect the protestor and maybe to even oust Morsi.

Stay tuned. June 30 is only a week away.

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Palestinian Snipers Fight For Assad
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 23, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

A group of Palestinians are fighting for the Assad regime and against the rebels.

CNN ran a piece in which their correspondent followed a team of Palestinian snipers. He watched from their perch as a Palestinian sniper picked off rebels and followed the opposing snipers in their perch.

In urban warfare snipers are one of the most effective and essential tools. They keep the enemy from freely moving and wreak havoc and fear. An effective sniper can instill a sense of trepidation in your every move, always waiting for the silent distance shot which can be so deadly.

The CNN correspondent asked the commander of the Palestinian sniper unit to describe his enemy. "They are mostly Islamists from al Qadea and Jabhat al-Nusra. Mostly foreigners from the Emirates, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also Syrians and Palestinians."

This is great insight into the conflict.

Who is siding with whom? Al Qaeda is al Nusrah and the rest are almost all foreigners to Syria - even some Palestinians.

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New Palestine PM Resigns
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 21, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Just a few days ago I wrote about the new Palestinian Prime Minister. Rami Hamdallah was British educated and received his PhD in English.

He was an outsider to politics. And that is why he was chosen by Abbas, the president.

The big question was this: could Rami Hamdallah handle the position of prime minister, the pressure, the fighting, the turf-wars and the egos? Many thought he would be consumed by the beast called Palestinian Politics.

We have the answer. Hamdallah has resigned. His deputies were Abbas people and they reported directly to Abbas, bypassing the prime minister. They had no interest in sharing power with Hamdallah.
They viewed Hamdallah as an unnecessary person in a job that they were already filling.

There was tremendous conflict. As prime minister, Rami Hamdallah had no power and no role. On Thursday, after his submitting his resignation, he left in his own private car. Hamdallah did not take the official car and driver, a symbolic way of saying I have had enough, I am truly out of here.

Abbas will most certainly accept the resignation and move on.

There is no election process in the Palestinian Authority. Abbas is the sole leader. In Gaza, Hamas has the same policy under Ismail Haniyeh.

In neither place is there any challenge to leadership.

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NSA Snooping - Perspective
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 20, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

It is time for a little perspective on the NSA snooping scandal.

There is no doubt that the information took America by surprise. That is because our leadership has never appropriately explained that this information is being gathered by them.

But in the year 2013 everyone in the US should realize that there is no such thing as privacy. Anytime you go outside you are photographed. Anytime you use a phone or computer hookup you can be tracked.

Not simply by the government ... by thieves and by every person and organization trolling the waves.

If there is anything I can honestly say with 100% certainty it is that there is nothing we do that can be kept private. Today, the only expectation of privacy you have is with your lawyer and in your bedroom, provided there are no electronics on line in either room.

This NSA issue is important, but when looked at dispassionately, it appears that only 300 US lines were targeted. And only 10 people in the NSA are permitted to discuss the information with the FBI.

The United States must monitor terrorists around the world, and when those discussions and/or leads come to the US, they must follow the information and connect the dots.

That is what they did. The fault lies not in doing what must be done, it lies in so poorly explaining what must be done and why.

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Hamas Summer Terror Camps
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 19, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

It is summer time again. And that means that Hamas is running their "terror for kids" camp program.

Hamas expects that there will be 100,000 kids in the summer camps.
Much of the program is dedicated to training. The curriculum has toy weapons, live fire, crawling under flames, swinging through smoke and the like. There are mock kidnappings and mock interrogations.

Hamas perceives the camps perfect recruitment centers. In addition to providing the children with something to do in the hot Gaza summers, Hamas instills and brainwashes their core values.

Interestingly, the largest camp system for Hamas children in Gaza is run by the UN. UNRA expects that they will have 150,000 campers. What do you know, but the UN facilities and storage areas have been vandalized.

The UN is hoping to provide an alternative to the Hamas thesis of education. The UN educational program may not be pro Israel, but it is certainly a thorn in the side of Hamas and Hamas will continue to sabotage and intimidate and do everything they can to mitigate the role the UN has in the lives of Hamas children.

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US & Syria
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 18, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The US has officially concluded that the Assad regime has used gas against the rebels. It is clear that the red line that President Obama drew has been crossed.

So what can the United States do? There are no good options.

The administration has finally concluded that the rebels are not good guys and that there are many groups of rebels. The US now, should I say finally, realizes that a significant part of the rebels are al Qaeda.

Arming the rebels would be arming enemies of the United States. And the rebels are fighting each other. So even if the US gives weapons to rebels who are not anti-US, those same weapons could easily be given to, or taken by, rival rebel groups.

Drawing the red line was a political mistake. It was originally simple rhetoric. But then the president and his administration repeated the phrase so often that, in the end, the result will be that the United States loses face in the Middle East.

The United States now sees the downside of keeping Assad in power. If Assad stays in power, US interests and strength in the region could be severely damaged. The US will lose clout and Mid East leaders will be more likely to enjoy the courtship of Russia and Iran. Ironically, Russian and Iranian leaders are men of their word, not mere rhetorical wordsmiths.

Worse case scenario US weapons fall into the hands and arsenals of al Qaeda and Bashar Assad emerges victorious. If that is the way things play out, be assured that it will negatively impact the United States for the very long term.

All because of the need to publicly articulate a red line.

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Iran's New President - Rohani
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 17, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Remarkable!

A new president has been elected in Iran. Hassan Rohani has won over 50% of the votes in the primary eliminating the need for next week’s run off.

Rohani was one of 6 contenders. All of the candidates were extremely well vetted. All were on good terms with The Grand Ayatollah, otherwise they would not have been permitted to run.
Rohani is being touted in the West as a reformer - and that is not true.

Rohani won for several reasons. He has the most flexible personality of all the contenders. He had a much broader electoral base than the other contenders. He crossed over ideological lines. And he was Khatami's candidate which is why he is being referred to - erroneously, as a reformist.

Rohani was also Rafsanjani's candidate, which made him a pragmatist. He bridged groups while the other candidates split the conservative vote.

In the end, and this is all that matters, The Grand Ayatollah is pleased because Rohani is someone he can work with to create domestic and foreign policies based on broad consensus.

Rohani is exactly the opposite of Ahmadinejad. One represents internal bridges, the other represented isolation.

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Hamas Losing Funding
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 16, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

There has been some media coverage about Iran pulling its support for Hamas in Gaza.

The Iranians have said they will not support Hamas because Hamas supports the rebels in Syria and Iran supports the Assad regime.

Now Sweden has also announced that they will no longer be sending aid to Gaza. The Swedes say that the funds are simply not going where they should be going. The aid was supposed to help set up real government institutions and accountability. And that has not happened.

Qatar who pledged $8 billion to Hamas has fallen way short of their pledge and they are not planning on giving any more. Qatar seems preoccupied with other issues.

It seems that the Palestinians in Gaza are in for a very long, hot, difficult summer. And I mean that both literally and figuratively.

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Pay Attention to Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 14, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Everyone has been preoccupied with the protests in Turkey and the fast changing events in Syria. Egypt has fallen to the back burner, but that doesn't mean that it is a country at rest.

Syria and Turkey continue to percolate and even bubble over --- and big problems continue to brew in Egypt.

A massive opposition demonstration is scheduled to take place in Egypt on June 30th. A petition launched in late May against new Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi has already gathered 7 million signatures. That is 10% of the country. Remarkable. The petition is called "Tamarod" or "The Rebel." The signers want Morsi out.

The protest has a name. It will signal the start of a new movement and is to be called "The June 30 Revolution."

Several Islamic groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have announced a counter demonstration. The counter demonstration will take place on Friday June 21 - the week before the opposition demonstration. If the early counter demonstration is successful and throngs of people attend, it will most likely result in pushing more secular and Christian Egyptians to the June 30 protest.

Either way, Morsi's days seem to be numbered. Along with Syria and Turkey, Egypt is spinning out of control.

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Wounded Syrian Tagged w Note to Israeli Drs
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 13, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The other day two wounded Syrians were brought to Ziv hospital in Safed.

When they arrived the medical team noticed that tacked on to one of the wounded men was a letter, in Arabic, describing the wounds, the treatment and the surgery that had been performed earlier.

The letter is extremely polite. It reads: "Dear Respectable Surgeon, Hello. This patient is 28 he suffered from a bullet wound to the chest and shrapnel to the diaphragm and liver. " ... "His chest has been opened and the bleeding is stopped."

It goes on to explain several other procedures that were tried and offers some recommendations. Most importantly, it lists the medications that the patient is on.

According to the Israeli hospital they were able to operate on the Syrian patient and save his life. The original surgery performed in Syria and the information garnered from the letter was very helpful.

The letter is wrinkled. It is signed by the Syrian physician and dated 10-6-13. The letter ends, "Please do what is necessary. Thank you in advance."

Twenty Syrians have recently been brought to Israeli hospitals for emergency surgery. This is the first time where there has been any collaboration between the Syrian and Israeli medical teams.

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Israel Thwarts Terror Attacks
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 12, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel has thwarted five major terror attacks and prevented thirty kidnappings since the beginning of the year.

This is significant because these are potential attacks and kidnappings that we know about. These were attacks where the terrorists were caught and apprehended. But there are countless others that are thwarted by the terrorists themselves.

In most attacks gone awry the terrorists abort their mission and there is no way of knowing how many of those attempted attacks/attempted kidnappings that may be. A terrorist could cancel for numerous reasons, but most often it is because when the terrorist arrives at the target he or she realizes that the target is secure.

When that happens the terrorists, even the suicide bomber, turns around and tries to blend back into the background. The suicide bomber wants as many people to be hurt and killed as possible. If he is not able to approach his target and get the bomb into position for maximum effect, he will abort.

In all probability 5 attacks and 50 kidnappings is really 10 attacks and 120 kidnappings.

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Syria: Rebels Feel Crunch
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 11, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

The rebels in Syria are feeling the crunch. As Assad gains more and more momentum they ratchet up their moves.

A major call has been sent out through al Qaeda and other Islamic websites for fighters to swarm to Syria - because without them, the fight will be lost.

Assad's forces, combined with Hezbollah fighters and Iraqi followers of the Shiite religious leader Muktar al Sadr, have joined together and they are now creating a pincer move against Aleppo which had been under rebel control since last year.

Al Qaeda forces from Syria and Iraq publicly executed a 15 year old boy from Aleppo. He was brutally, publicly, murdered and his parents forced to watch. The crime was heresy.

The boy was reported to have said "even if Mohammed comes down from heaven I will still not be a believer." The boy was overheard saying this in the street while selling drinks.

Al Qaeda needed to make an example of him. They shot him through the mouth and then again in the neck. Their goal is to motivate people to toe the Islamist line.

On the rebel side, volunteers are getting uniforms and weapons and then shaking down locals for goods and money. But they are vastly outnumbered in terms of personnel and arms.

In Syria right now the real ruler is anarchy.

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Irans Ask US For Israel's Red Lines
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 10, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

I do not often quote the website Debka. It is a site that focuses on and gives insight and intelligence about what is happening in the Middle East.

My major critique of Debka is that they have no real edit function.
Whatever comes in goes out. There is no filter on the intel they report prioritization of possible outcomes.

It is, however, excellent raw data - even when the data is inaccurate.

Debka recently reported that Iran has approached the United States through back channels in order to have them ask Israel exactly what their red lines are.

And, indeed, the United States has dispatched a messenger to ask Israel that very question. It is not clear how, or even if, Israel responded.

If true -- it is interesting that Iran seems to be interested in finding a way to down from the very high tree that they have climbed.

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US Tests Bunker Buster
By Micah Halpern

Saturday June 7, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

YNET reported on Friday that the US has successfully completed a series of tests with their newest and most potent Bunker Buster bomb, the GBU-57.

The United States publicly announced the success of the GBU-57after first sharing the results of the tests with their allies.

They released this information in order to reassure the West, especially Israel, that the new weapon in the possession of the United States can easily wipe out the underground nuclear silos that Iran has so infamously created to protect their own atomic program.

Rest assured that Iran, too, will be getting this message.

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Al Qaeda & The Middle East
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 7, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Ayman Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda, has a new audio tape that was broadcast though the internet yesterday. For 22 minutes Zawahiri gave long and explicit directions to al Qaeda followers throughout the world.

Zawahiri called for a jihad against Israel and against Assad of Syria. The Jihad that Zawahiri is calling for is not the introspection or deep religious thought that some apologists for Islam so often repeat. He explicitly called on Muslims to unite against America, Israel, Assad and Iran.

He said: "Lions of the Levant, unite around this honorable goal and rise above sectarian affiliations."

He said: "America, its agents and allies want you to shed your blood and the blood of your children and women to bring down the criminal Baathist regime, and then set up a government loyal to them and to safeguard Israel's security."

He said: "There is no solution for Palestine except Jihad."

He said: "Every free Muslim in Palestine should unite with his Muslim brothers to implement Sharia (Islamic law) and rule by it, and make it a reference above all references, and to liberate Palestine in order to set up an Islamic state, even if the West hates that and calls it terrorism and extremism."

Zawahiri uses very different metaphors in Arabic than bin Laden did - but make no mistake, the message is the same.

Oust all western influence, defeat all none Islamic totalitarian states, replace them with Islamic states, united - stand together against the anti Islamic western forces.

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Assad Takes Back Crucial City
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 6, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Al Qusayr has been retaken by the Assad regime with the help of Hezbollah. It took a few days of fighting, but now all the mines have been cleared and the fighting has stopped. The city had a population of about 40,000 people before the fighting erupted two years ago.

Al Qusayr is in south western Syria, about 35 miles from Homs and right on the border of the northern border of Lebanon. It is an extremely important city strategically speaking.

Al Qusayr has always been composed of Sunnis, Alawites and Christians. Before the revolt the majority were Sunnis with a large minority of Christians and some small handful of Alawites.

The largest chariot on chariot battle in history took place in Al Qusayr (then called Qadesh) in 1274 BCE between the Egyptians under Ramesses II and the Hittites.

From the beginning of this rebellion the rebels controlled Al Qusayr. They brutalized and publicly executed people who were thought to be informants. The city was the epicenter for many defectors from the Syrian army and it actually had a defector tank in its rebel armory.

Until yesterday, the Assad regime had repeatedly failed in trying to recapture the city. Assad won the city back because, this time around, most of the fighting was done by Hezbollah.

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Iran Nuke Site Busher Might Not Be Safe
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 5, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Major concerns have arisen about Iran's nuclear status. The fear is that the only active nuclear energy plant in Busher has suffered serious infrastructure damage from the several enormous earthquakes that hit the region in April and May.

Diplomats are saying that they have real concerns that there are meter long cracks in the facility - despite statements made by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that there has been no damage.

The Busher plant opened in September 2011, but plant construction was begun in 1975 by Germany and was completed by Russia. They say that there was no damage to the plant and that the construction was designed to withstand an earthquake of 8.0 on the Richter scale.

The first big April quake was 7.7. May's quake registered 6.6 the first day and then 5.2 the next day. These are very large quakes erupting almost right on top of the nuclear facility. And the tremors are not single events - they are regular, ongoing, strong shakes of the ground around the supporting walls that protect the nuclear core.

There is no question that these acts of nature had an impact on the integrity and the safety of the entire nuclear power plant.

I would be worried. And I would not live anywhere close to Busher.
Remember Chernobyl.

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Reasons For Riots in Turkey
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 4, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

It is important to view the rioting in Turkey with the proper perspective.

Thousands have been arrested. The destruction is very ugly. But what has been happening in Turkey for the past four days, without letup, is not an Arab Spring.

Part of the success of the rioting is due to the Arab Spring, but Turkey is the most democratic of all Muslim countries - they have free elections - and the concept of Arab Spring is antithetical to democracy.

Current leadership in Turkey, under Recep Erdogan, has been in place since 2003. Erdogan won three landslide victories. But now the time is approaching for municipal elections and Turks are using the opportunity to express their frustration.

Turkish protestors are all secularists. Erdogan is a liberal Islamist.

The protestors are calling Ergodan a dictator. They reject his ideas and his policies. They are frustrated by his economic policy and his foreign policy. They are angry. The Web is lit up about
the protests.

Erdogan, for his part, has called the protestors hoodlums and looters.

The protests originated with a rejection of the re-planning and redesign of trees in Taksim Park in central Istanbul. The government was planning on pulling up trees. But we all know that these protests are not about trees - they were the fuse that ignited the anger and hatred.

When Erdogan said that the park re-planning will go on as planned, he showed just how distant he is from the message of the protestors. And the protestors are spelling and acting out their message loud and clear.

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