Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Rouhani is a Reformer

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

President Rouhani of Iran spoke about reforming Iranian society while at the International Book Fair in Teheran.

Rouhani said that people who criticize the government should not be arrested. He said "critics should not be detained, critics should not be sent to jail."

This has been Rouhani's platform since his election in 2013. Rouhani leads and represents the reformists in Iran. He believes that Iranian law has gone too far in limiting the freedoms of expression.

The February elections and the run-off elections for the parliament showed that Iran's reformists have a powerful groundswell and have a serious plurality that cannot be ignored. The fact that their leader is also the president adds credibility to their cause and their numbers will continue to grow.

And yet, it is essential to understand that change in Iran can only happen with the blessing of the Grand Ayatollah also known as the Supreme Leader.

The Grand Ayatollah has been touched by this reform movement. That is the reason he tapped Rouhani in the first place. But the Ayatollah is uncertain about what this all means and he has not implemented any significant changes in Iran.

Iran's parliamentary election is the most important vehicle the country has with which to inform The Supreme Leader of the true voice of the people.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

US Cyber Warriors

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

In a Senate hearing last week, the US Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid out an usually clear and detailed description of what the United States is doing to disrupt and attack ISIS through cyber attacks.

The objective is to disrupt ISIS' chain of communication and prevent them from moving money and even to block them out of access to their money. The US Cyber Command Center, headquartered in Tampa, FL, is spoofing ISIS and disturbing the very heart of the Islamic State.

The US cyber team is trying to isolate ISIS.

According to Ash Carter, the US Secretary of Defense, "The objectives there are to interrupt ISIL command and control, interrupt its ability to move money around, interrupt its ability to tyrannize and control population, interrupt its ability to recruit externally."

And, of course, -- "All of that it does in a cyber-enabled way."

One of the 27 US Cyber teams is dedicated exclusively to ISIS. It is made up of many Arabic speakers and hackers. US Cyber teams are a combination of military and civilian contractors specializing in hacking. Eventually there will be 133 different teams - each team composed of 45-60 people. In the end this division will to have 6,187 people hacking. We can call them cyber warriors.

They are coordinating their cyber attacks with their ground strikes.

Part of the US objective in cyber attacking ISIS is to take away their method of communication - including their hand held devices.

The United States can shut the devices down, but tapping them and tracking them leads to better results. (This is something the US defense leaders did not say in their testimony).

For some time now, ISIS has preferring using handheld phones and texting as opposed to internet.
And of course, the US Cyber team is also attacking recruiters and other ISIS sources in Europe and throughout the rest of the world.

Most dangerous of all is that ISIS has contracted outside freelance hackers to do their bidding. According to the Senate testimony the US Cyber team has been monitoring and dealing with them, too.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Israel Lets Cement into Gaza

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Israel is now again permitting cement to be brought into Gaza.

Why? After all, it is clear that Hamas has used the cement to build and fortify their tunnels of terror and their command and control bunkers. The reason is that Turkey and others, especially the UN, are asking nicely.

Israel wants to renew relations with Turkey. This gesture will go a long way towards achieving that goal.

Israel had stopped the movement of cement into Gaza. The cement was supposed to be used by UN and other sources to rebuild Gaza's infrastructure and buildings, especially housing and schools. But much of the cement was either pilfered by Hamas for their purposes or stolen and sold at huge gouging prices.

Israel actually embarrassed Hamas' deputy economics minister in Gaza, Imad al Baz, who was responsible for the stealing of the cement and its resale and for appropriating it in order to build tunnels.

Israel embarrassed al Baz by using social media pictures and short videos to show how he redirected the cement away from UN projects and into the hands of Hamas.

Now Israel is going to try again.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Runoff Election in Iran

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Results of the runoff elections for parliament in Iran are now coming in. The first elections were in February. In that election, 68 spots were too close to call or no candidate received the minimal required number of votes to win a seat.

Friday April 29th was the day the runoff took place.

Thus far it looks like the reformers who support the current president, Rouhani, received a plurality of the 68 spots. 30 of the 68 runoff seats will side with Rouhani.
The remaining seats are split between the conservatives, the arch conservatives, and the independents.

The Iranian parliament has 290 seats. After all the votes and seats are finalized this election will give reformists a strong presence in public government.

This is a huge show of support for Rouhani and a terrible blow to Iran's religious leadership - especially the Supreme Leader, the Grand Ayatollah.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com


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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hamas Wins University Election

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Over the past few months there have been many surveys of Palestinian attitudes. Some of the results have been surprising, some have supported conventional wisdom.

Conventional wisdom says to follow student body elections at universities in the West Bank and Gaza. If nothing else, you get a sense of the educated eliteĆ¢€™s point of view and you may get a picture of the direction of future Palestinian leadership. This, however, is a problematic barometer as the election results have swung back and forth from year to year.

That said, Bir Zeit University just trounced Fatah and elected Hamas. Bir Zeit is by far the best name in Palestinian higher education. It is located in Ramallah and offers a full array of subjects. For students staying closing to home, it is the most respected of all Palestinian institutions of higher learning.

So the swing to Hamas - and away from the mainstream Fatah party that rules and controls the West Bank and the PA, is significant. It indicates that Abbas and his party have lost the faith of Palestinian youth.

How significant is it? I do not know, but that election is as telling as any other survey or any other student election.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Saudis Testing Waters

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:

Testing the waters. That's when leaders send out a message and see how it is received.

Saudi Arabia is testing the waters about diplomatic relations with Israel.

Retired Saudi General Anwar Eshki, who was a significant power and influence in Saudi strategic decision making, made an announcement that if Israel accepts Saudi Arabia's peace plan, Saudi Arabia will begin building an embassy in Tel Aviv.

Eshki, who was quoted in an extensive interview in Al Jazera, is a very high level source. He is trying to figure out if it is worthwhile to have diplomatic ties with Israel and what the blow back is going to be if Saudi Arabia normalizes relations with Israel.

The answer is pretty clear. And it seems that the Saudis are interested in floating the idea.

So far there has been no negative feedback. But it only became public a few minutes ago.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

ISIS Cyber Attack

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Over 2/3 of tech professionals surveyed said that they believe there will a cataclysmic cyber attack against the United States within the next two years.

Over 90% of those surveyed think that private companies and government agencies should invest more money and effort protecting themselves.

In addition, the tech professionals believe that companies and corporations are more likely to be attacked and are more vulnerable to a cyber attack than government.

This is not good news.

ISIS and other terror groups are getting better at hiding themselves and their activity. It should be clear that terror groups are recruiting computer experts who can hack and attack and their attacks can be not only irritating, but far reaching and dangerous.

An attack against the electric center or water distribution source of large or even small cities would create mass hysteria.

Attacks are just a question of time. The United States must prepare itself. They need to be able to both defend themselves and respond and repair the damage immediately.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com

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