Thursday, September 18, 2014

Israel Can't Sell Gas

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Remember when Israel discovered a mammoth natural gas reserve off their coast in the Mediterranean Sea?
It was nothing short of a miracle!

In 2018 when the natural gas field, Leviathan, opens for business it will turn Israel into a real player in the natural gas market.

The problem is that Israel is having problems securing contracts and clients to buy their natural gas. Turkey was their best potential client, but that outlet dried up because of this summer's conflict Operation Preventive Edge in Gaza.

Then Cyprus pulled out because of negotiation issues.
Austria fell apart because of an old and continuing conflict over taxes.

That leaves only the Palestinian Authority and Jordan as clients and the possibility of supplying the Egyptian side of British Gas and their liquefied natural gas facility in Egypt.

What this really means is that the gas will be way undersold and that Israel will only be a regional supplier and not an international supplier. That situation is potentially cataclysmic for Israel as it tries to break into the market.

Once Israel is relegated to being a regional force, it will be hard to become a world player. 

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Turkey Ticks People Off

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Turkey is really beginning to tick people off. By people I mean world leaders and diplomats from both the West and from Arab countries.

Turkish leader Erdogan just visited Qatar. On the plane, on his way back home, he held a press conference and announced that all exiled Muslim Brotherhood leaders were welcome in Turkey.

A bit of background -- The Gulf states have been very frustrated with Qatar. Qatar has been supporting the Brotherhood and Hamas. So the Gulf states exerted extreme amounts of pressure on Qatar to stop.

Instead of stopping, Qatar decided to expel the leaders of the Brotherhood and Hamas who had created their international nerve center out of Doha. Qatar gave them two months to leave. All this happened last week.

Now Turkey is declaring itself the new center for this terror.

Turkey has a lot going on a lot of different fronts. They tacitly joined the coalition against ISIS and refuses to allow the coalition to fly over their airspace or use their runways. They are also creating a buffer zone in Syria and hemorrhaging youth who are rushing out of Turkey to join the ranks of ISIS.

Those are some of the reasons why Turkey is really upsetting people.


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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hezbollah Against ISIS

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Hezbollah has made it very clear that they are fighting ISIS - and that Syria cannot lose the battle to ISIS.

The deputy head of the Hezbollah executive council, Sheik Nabil Qawouq, explained that Hezbollah will not leave Syria, they will remain in Syria to fight ISIS --- "this is a battlefield where we will defeat and crush them."

The point is that if Hezbollah is not there to battle ISIS, then the Islamic State will roll right over Syria and then into Lebanon.

ISIS has taken some serve blows in Syria. It looks like Assad/ Hezbollah and those fighting with them are slowly but surely securing more and more area.

There is little doubt that the powerful forces that are fighting on the ground checking ISIS in Syria are Hezbollah. But the irony of ironies is that Hezbollah is acting in their own self interest. And part of that self interest is also keeping the border with Israel safer.

A secure Israeli border is a stable reality that Hezbollah count on. Hezbollah must keep ISIS at bay for many reasons - and one of those reasons is to maintain stability on the Israeli border. 

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Monday, September 15, 2014

N African Group Embraces ISIS

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday a major shift took place in the structure of power in the Middle East.

In Algeria the group called al Qaeda of North Africa, known as AQIM which is the acronym for Al Qaeda of Islamic Mahgreb, split away from al Qaeda and joined ISIS. They now call themselves The Caliphate Soldier of Algeria.

The group now professes allegiance to the ISIS declared Caliph Al Baghdadi.

This is another in a long line of examples demonstrating how popular ISIS is becoming and showing us that people and groups are bailing on al Qaeda. Clearly ISIS is very popular among the rebels.

This move highlights the success of ISIS. And it reminds us that al Qaeda on the ropes. More of these defections will come in the near future. ISIS is now the focal point of the West and hence a very attractive place to hang your hat in the extremist sector of the Middle East.

One incentive not to be overlooked is the reality that ISIS is paying their fighters very well and will continue to fill the coffers on a daily basis.

It is not only the West that is feeling the pressure of ISIS, al Qaeda is feeling that pressure, as well. 

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

PA Says ISIS Was Created Because of Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The entire Arab and Muslim world is trying to figure out how to engage ISIS, or Daesh, as it is called in Arabic. Some groups, like al Qaeda, are in competition with ISIS. Other groups are trying to confront ISIS.
This was the case on Saturday when there was a huge protests against ISIS by Arabs in Israel.

But PA leadership seems upset that ISIS has caused the world media to shift attention away from the plight of the Palestinians. Several years ago the Palestinian leadership was also upset by the refocus on Syria. So now the PA leadership is trying to gain back that focus and even use ISIS as a tool to put the Palestinian cause front and center.

Saeb Erekat a senior Palestinian leader and chief peace negotiator said on Fatah TV that Israel and the settler are the reason for ISIS and Islamic extremism. He added, saying that the "terror acts" of Israel and the settlers empower and create groups like ISIS.

Erekat is creating a false narrative "solve the Palestinian problem and the ISIS problem will be solved." All of the problems confronted in the Middle East derive first and foremost from Israel oppressing the Palestinians.

This has always been the central talking point among leaders in the PA. But today it is a real shocker. There is no logic to it but their modus operandi is always to first blame Israel for everything. 

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

ISIS Gets Over $1Mill/day from Oil

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

How is ISIS getting their money and paying for their ever increasing numbers of recruits and fighters. The CIA has now increased their assessment of ISIS as having as many as 31,500 fighters, up from 10,000 at the beginning of the summer.

So, how does ISIS get their money? Aside from stealing $1.2 billion from the banks when they entered Mousol, ISIS has other means of raising money.

ISIS taxes with a "zakat" which is, supposedly, alms for the poor - but in their case, the tax goes to salaries. Zakat is one of the pillars of Islam and is best translated as charity or, in Hebrew, tzedaka. ISIS goes to every store and demands the tax. They set up road blocks on the highways and call them toll stations. They demand the zakat at gunpoint.

ISIS also has oil. They have 4-5 oil fields in Iraq and Syria. Each field has 40-70 wells. The fields and wells are operated by locals who worked for the oil companies.

ISIS is pumping 25,000 barrels per day (bpd). They are selling locally. They are selling at severely below market value, at cut-rates that are 50%-75% below price - at $25-$60 a barrel. That brings in a staggering $625,000 to $1.5 million per day.

That is per day. This is one of the reasons ISIS is recruiting so successfully. They pay very well. And that is the magnet that draws recruits from all over the world.

There is no question that at this stage ISIS has much, much, more money and better funding than Al Qaeda. 

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Senator Cruz Walks Off Stage

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Senator Ted Cruz was booed off stage for supporting Israel. Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas, was speaking at the inaugural event of a new organization called "In Defense of Christians."

Cruz, a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination, was addressing the group and explained that, in 1948, Jews from around the Arab world escaped persecution by escaping to Israel. He said that "Christians have no greater ally than Israel." The crowd started to heckle him by booing and shouting.

Cruz folded and put away his prepared speech.

And then he said: "I will say this: I'm saddened to see that some here, not everyone, are so consumed with hate." At that, the crowd got even more aggravated.

Cruz continued: "I will say this: If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you. Thank you and God bless you."

Watching the various videos of this event was very disturbing. The hecklers were clearly Arabs. The host asked for respect from the attendees in a clearly accented voice, he reminded the audience that "this is America."

How could the crowd publicly heckle and boo a sitting US senator who did nothing more than articulate his support for Israel and Jews. And this from an organization that was professes to fight religious persecution.

It is as if to say that Jews in the Middle East are not and were not oppressed - in Iraq, in Iran, in Syria, in Egypt, in Libya, in Morocco, in Algeria, in Ethiopia. The point Senator Cruz was making is that Jews sought and found refuge in Israel. That Israel understands religious persecution.
And all this took place in the US Capital, in Washington DC. 

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