Thursday, March 31, 2011

Explaining US Foreign Policy

By Micah Halpern
Freedom is always preferred to slavery. And yet, diplomacy cannot be exclusively motivated by ideals. The real life expression of diplomatic ideals is what we call realpolitik.
In the perfect world allies share values and enemies are clearly defined. But we do not live in a perfect world, we live in a world in which our friends have their own priorities and our enemies sometimes have resources and information that we are in crucial need of.
And that, my friends, is a thumbnail history of United States foreign relations in South America, Central America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Libya is no exception. Libya may, in fact, become the text book example of modern day US foreign policy relations.
Through example and through influence, the United States - the greatest democratic power in the world today - has a responsibility to nudge the world towards freedom. The US has that responsibility even with the clear cut knowledge that freedom, without prosperity, wealth and power - the ideals of freedom, will have almost no impact. Norway, Denmark and Sweden may be democracies, but they hardly have an impact on world events or influence freedom movements.
When it was diplomatically convenient the US exploited dictators like Muammar Ghadaffi and Hosni Mubarak with one hand and with the other hand, urged the dictators to reform their oppressive regimes. In the end, the urging had almost no impact and the all too important dollar, profitable trade and oil revenue, triumphed.
That would explain our frustration with China, too. China is one of the worst human rights abusers in today's world and yet, the United States needs the Chinese so badly because they hold the US debt in their proverbial hands that our great democracy is willing to look the other way when it comes to the atrocities perpetrated by the Chinese on the Chinese. If the Chinese were to call in the debt, the United States would go belly up, go bankrupt, immediately.
How then does the United States handle these seemingly contradictory needs? How does the United States balance the business-side need to maintain prosperity and power versus the ethical and moral needs of freedom?
The dilemma is resolved by living a diplomatic contradiction. The United States does what it must to remain prosperous, i.e., the US talks the talk of freedom while doing business with despots.
The world is a complicated place. Americans feel bad about atrocities and try to prevent them. Interventions in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan are the perfect examples of US involvement, perfect examples of how the US walks the extra mile and tries to improve the situation on the ground. The reality, however, is that the United States is better at throwing money at problems than at intervening and trying to solve those problems.
Armed intervention is part of the resolution of the ethos of the US contradiction between values and prosperity.
At times the seething debate within the US boils over. That's when actions are taken, even without total knowledge of the situation and with only scant background about what is happening on the ground. Sometimes action is essential, not simply to save lives but because the cost of inaction is so high - because risks aside, the cost of actually saving lives can be so small and the reward so great.
The people of Darfur are livid at the speed with which the US acted to intervene in Libya relative to the inaction and speechifying that they were treated to. But Darfur is not Libya. It is very important that the United States intervened in Libya in principle alone. It is important because the United States sets the tone for the rest of the free world - not just for the dictators.
For too long the thugs have felt that they can get away with it all.
They knew that the cost would be nothing more than a diplomatic tongue lashing or slap on the wrist. No one would have ever believed that the UN Security Council would okay international intervention in an internal dispute in order to save human lives.
It was Ghadaffi who changed the equation - not the United States and not the United Nations. Atrocities are being perpetrated throughout the Middle East and atrocities are the norm in many parts of Africa.
But not like in Libya. Ghadaffi upped the stakes - his access to fire power was far greater than the access of the opposition fighters and the numbers of people he intended to murder was staggering.
The United States did what the United States had to do - albeit too little and too late, but what had to be done.
Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Arab League New Active Role

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
The Arab League has offered to run interference. The league has volunteered to play moderator between two warring Palestinian power parties, the Palestinian Authority who control the West Bank and Hamas who control Gaza.
Amir Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League, told one of the leaders of Hamas in Cairo yesterday that "The Arab League is willing to host any Palestinian meetings to push forward national reconciliation efforts."
He continued: "There is no justification whatsoever for the continued Palestinian division." Moussa asserted that Arabs want to "unify Palestinian ranks ahead the current challenges."
The Arab League and Moussa have started to take a more active role in the happenings of the Middle East. In the past the Arab League has basically responded to issues.
The prime reason for the change now is that Amir Moussa wants to position himself as a Pan Arab leader, he wants to gain notoriety and help power his own presidential candidacy in Egypt.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Qatar: Opposition in Libya is Legit

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:
Yesterday Qatar declared that they will recognize the opposition in Libya. Qatar will recognize the people who are running a rebellion against Libya from the Eastern port city of Benghazi.

Qatar is the first Arab country to turn their back on Libya politically.
The significance of the act cannot be understated. The Arab world never liked Ghadaffi, but they appreciated his in your face tone to the West. He was the bad boy. Despite his brutality and tyrannical style he was the perfect instrument to shoot back at the West.

This could be the start of a trend in the Arab world.
We need to track other countries and monitor their responses. Will anyone else jump on the band wagon? Psychologically, it is helpful for the opposition to see this - but for Qatar it is very dangerous.
What happens if Ghadaffi does not fall?
Qatar could be skewered.
Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Those Who Abstained in Libya Vote

By Micah Halpern
The revolutions that are taking hold in the Middle East have become more about ousting thugs than about inculcating values of freedom, equality and democracy.
That said, it is important to analyze the resolution to authorize international intervention into Libya. The United Nations Security Council passed the resolution, ten member countries voted in favor, five abstained. The abstentions were: China, Russia, India, Brazil and Germany.
Each of the five countries has an individual and collective reason for casting their vote in that manner and now they are each publicly condemning the attacks by the international body as it patrols the No Fly Zone. Collectively, they wanted to make certain that Libya did not use its own air-force in this battle of wills and wits, but what they did not want - and what they now have, is international strikes against Libya.
Any serious military strategist will confirm that in order to create a real No Fly Zone it is necessary to destroy air command centers in order to eliminate mid-air dogfights that place pilots and aircraft in harm's way. It means taking out anti-aircraft batteries and tanks so that the playing field is made more even.
The steps necessary to create a true No Fly Zone are more than problematic - they are truly abhorrent, for China, India, Russia, most of the Arab speaking and Muslim world and most UN member states. And yet, that is what they, albeit inadvertently, created. Now they are asking "how?" How can the West, under the leadership of the United States, simply intervene in the domestic activities of a member state?
China and India combined constitute most of the world's population. Then add on the Arab world. Most of the world, it now becomes apparent, is distraught over the sanctioned actions of the United Nations in Libya. Again, they are wondering "how?" How can Western nations get so involved in the inner workings of other nations just because they do not like their human rights agenda?
This is the first time in the history of the United Nations that the Security Council has intervened in the domestic affairs of a member state who has not attacked, threatened or violated another member state. The five abstaining countries and the Arab and Muslim world are seriously worried about the precedent that has been set. And rightly so.

Had the five countries voted "no"rather than abstained, the resolution would not have carried. In uncharacteristically politically polite moves, they forced through the resolution. In the Security Council a "no" vote is a no, an abstention goes over to the "yes" side.
So, given the current climate of internal turmoil, in order to try to obviate and stymie any international intervention, Syrian President Bashar Assad placed calls to many of his fellow Arab dictators and monarchs, i.e. thugs, to make certain that they will stand with him against international intervention - should it come to that. And indeed, he was given the assurances.
The Germans are maintaining that the United States and the other Western states have been misled. They claim that it is Libya's right to put down internal insurrection without international intervention. Most importantly the Germans are pointing out that they simply do not know that opposition forces represent what we hope them to represent. The German rationale is that they are fearful that, in the end, the Middle East may become even more anti-Western and the entire situation will blow up.
China thinks that the intervention is the height of US arrogance.

How dare the United States intervene with weapons because they do not like the leader of Libya, they ask? How un-democratic. Most member states in the UN are not democratic and the United States should not be given carte blanche to intervene.

The situation now can best be described as a diplomatic earthquake. The tremor is felt around the world - the tremor is the aftershock of the intervention into Libya. The situation is growing out of control. Countries are beginning to align themselves with Libya, countries fearful that they will end up in the same situation.

The aftershock in a diplomatic earthquake, just like in a real earthquake, can be more damaging that the quake.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bomb On Egypt-Israel Pipeline

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:
The natural gas pipeline that runs from Egypt to Israel and Jordan was shut down for an hour this morning.
Why? Because defense forces in Egypt had to dismantle a very large explosive that was attached to the line and ready to explode. This is the second pipeline attack since the protests in Egypt. On February 5th an explosion severed the line at a relay station.

Israel gets 40% of its natural gas from this pipeline, a result of the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords.
This new attack illustrates two diverse elements of the new era in Egypt.
The first demonstrates the lengths to which the anti movement will go: there are powers that want to sabotage any relationship between Egypt and Israel - even when the best interests of both countries are being served.
The second demonstrates the clear point of view of the military junta: Egyptian military leadership both wants to and works towards providing for the safety of Egypt's natural reserves infrastructure - and that includes exports to Israel and Jordan.
This is very important and very telling. It means that in real terms, not much has changed in Egypt.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jordan May Be Next

By Micah Halpern

Jordan is next in line.
The feeling of unrest is palpable on the Jordanian street and in the Middle East, unrest is followed by revolution. King Abdullah of
Jordan knows with utmost certainty that his future and the future of his Hashemite Kingdom are hanging in the balance. He knows that he must navigate the balance beam between brutal crackdown and overthrow.
As a rule even, in more liberal thugocracies there is unrest. There are always groups, be they political, religious or cultural, wanting to oust the dictator. In all cases, again, even in the most liberal of thugocracies, these groups are monitored and then punished.
Often, the way in which the ruler manages these groups is through public humiliation and intimidation. The hope is that the mainstream population will realize how marginal these groups are and how much better it is to keep the dictator in power.
The message to the people is pretty straight forward: these groups are radicals, see what happens to radicals.

In Jordan radicals groups have traditionally been a loose web of religious extremists. This is not dissimilar to Egypt. Religious radicals, many with ties to al Qaeda, are real dangers not only to Jordan and the Arab world but also to the greater world. Now added to the mix is a growing group of disenfranchised radicals - highly educated, technically adroit, Facebook savvy friends and students and unemployed graduates.
And Jordan has begun to respond.
As the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt began, King Abdullah of Jordan was at the very beginning stages of reforming his economy. The King was removing subsidies on necessities like milk, cheese, bread and eggs. This economic reform was planned to get Jordan on its feet and enable it to compete in international markets. But there is an iron clad rule in the Middle East: when people are hungry they are impassioned and they join the cause.
As soon as the unrest began elsewhere, the King put an immediate stop to the reforms, put subsidies back on food and ran to the United States asking for $100 million to defray the cost of these subsidies. Abdullah got his money - but protests began anyway. His next step was to shake up the Jordanian cabinet and introduce a more liberal cadre of policy and law makers. King Abdullah made a promise to the people of Jordan, he promised them reforms.
But small protests continued. And now, the protests are getting bigger and the response of the police is getting even harsher.

Jordan is no stranger to attempted coups. Yasser Arafat attempted to take over Jordan in September 1970. That resulted in a mini war when King Hussein, Abdullah's father, declared martial law and massacred 10,000 to 20,000 Palestinians. Arafat's objective was to oust the Jordanian monarchy and establish a Palestinian state in its place.

King Hussein, a mere young thirty-five year old at the time, did not flinch. He swept down and began a rampage against Arafat's supporters and men. The massacre lasted eleven days and it served to secure Hussein's kingship and protect his kingdom from Arafat who survived the massacre of his people in comfort and luxury in the Intercontinental Hotel.
King Abdullah II knows the history of his country and of his family well. At forty-nine years old, he has significant experience as the son of a king and as king. Now he needs to gather all that collective experience, all the wisdom he can find in the lessons of his forefathers, and decide how to balance the needs of his people against the need to reform while maintaining the ruling family line and his own eminent position as Hashemite King of the Jordanian Empire.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hamas Launches Rockets

By Micah Halpern
I'm Predicting:
The Middle East is heating up.
The crisis in Libya is getting worse. Syria is turning into an arena for unrest. Jordan is seeing serious protests.
And as all that is happening, Hamas in Gaza has resumed lobbing rockets into Israel on a daily basis. Yesterday alone 7 rockets were launched into Israel.
I expect that this will continue.
I expect that protests will continue throughout the Middle East. I expect that Hamas will continue to launch their bombs and that Israel will increase their retaliation.
Israel has been searching for terrorists and using helicopters to seek out and attack those terrorist leaders responsible for the bombings and the terror.
One can debate whether or not there has been a relative calm out of Gaza over the past few months. No matter which side of the debate you fall on, at this point one thing is perfectly clear - a new status in Israeli/Palestinian relations has emerged.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Terror in Jerusalem

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
A horrific terror attack took place in Jerusalem yesterday. Over 40 wounded and a 60 year old woman killed.
The explosion took place at a central location, a popular gathering spot where commuters and school children await transportation on their way to work and school.
The story was not front and center in the US news - Libya still occupies those headlines.
The last terror attack in Jerusalem took place about 150 yards from the site of this attack. That was in 2008 when terrorists armed with machine guns invaded a school and murdered 8 students.
Murdering 60 year old women and killing students in school is the modus operandi of these terrorists. Those who support the terrorists claim that this bombing is the direct result of Israeli actions in Gaza against the Palestinian people.

Here is the problem. Israel is targeting specific people, leaders in Hamas who have planned and executed attacks and are planning future attacks against Israel. That is called self defense.

Murdering innocent people can never be considered self defense.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Syria Kills 6 Protesters

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:
Today Syrian police shot and killed six protesters in their encampment in a mosque compound in Deraa, situated in southern Syria. That brings the total number of deaths to ten. Many more have been arrested.
For nearly a week the protests were quiet. Now the violence is intensifying. Syria's protesters have but one demand. They want the powers of the Syrian security police severely curtailed.
It seems that there is no real danger to the stability in Syria.
It looks like the protests are confined to Deraa.
But one must always remember that Syria is just like other Middle East totalitarian countries. The protests in Deraa could easily ignite in Damascus. And if the protests gain momentum the strong arm of the dictator will be felt. And when that happens the result is always the same - the death rate skyrockets.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

China & Russia Have Second Thoughts

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Russia and China have been extremely critical of the air strikes conducted by international forces against Libya.
Both countries have gone public saying that they are against any strikes and Vladimir Putin has actually called the entire process "crusader-like."
Russia and China are now second guessing their decision to abstain on the No Fly Zone vote in the UN Security Council. Had they "no voted" the resolution would have failed. Abstentions go to the majority -"no votes" are not counted.
The vote was 10 "for" with 5 abstentions. In addition to China and Russia the other three abstentions were India, Germany and Brazil.

This behavior is typical of Russia and China. Now they can play the protector card. They are protecting non-Western, third world, countries against the aggressive, colonial acts of the United States and her allies.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Coming to Ghadaffi's Aid

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
The world is divided: Those on the side of world intervention in Libya and those uneasy with world forces intervening in the internal affairs of another country.
The Western world has finally come to the aid of opposition forces and of those Libyans caught in the middle of the battle between Ghadaffi forces and opposition forces.
At the same time some major world players are taking exception to this intervention, players who side with Muammar Ghadaffi. Leading the pro-Ghadaffi brigade is Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, a fellow thug with long standing links to the Libyan leader.
When push comes to shove, thugs stand by thugs.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Next in Libya

By Micah Halpern

I'm Predicting:
The UN and their forces instituted and applied the No Fly Zone over Libya. They approved strikes against Libyan targets that support the air force. And the international force has already struck Libya.

What will happen next?
Ghadaffi is far from out of the picture - actually, this maneuver by the UN played right into his hands. Ghadaffi used the international bombing to cover his own bombing of Benghazi.
The more deranged the West believes Ghadaffi to be, the more mistaken they are and the more easy it becomes for the Libyan thug to carry out his plans. Ghadaffi is unstable and ludicrous. He is also very sharp and critical. He possesses the ability to understand threats and to respond. Ghadaffi evaluates his own strength and finds the weakness of his enemies.
Most of all, Muammar Ghadaffi is enormously charismatic. The charisma is what speaks to the Libyan masses.
It is almost impossible to tell how many Libyans are on each side in this upheaval, but it should be made perfectly clear that there are serious numbers on Ghadaffi's side ... some say far more than half.
The opposition can tell us that only mercenaries side with Ghadaffi, but that seems not to be the truth and only serves to advance their motives and actions.
This story is much bigger than what we are seeing and it is much more complicated with many more ramifications than we assume it to be.

And it is much more dangerous.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New Protests in Syria

By Micah Halpern
I’ve Been Thinking:

Serious protests have been taking place in Syria this week. What began as small protests in Damascus morphed into large, major protests in the outlying areas of southern Syria, far from the capital Damascus.

The most significant protests took place in Deraa. There, four protesters were shot and killed by the police from among the thousands who attended the rallies. Looking at pictures of the rally, it appears to be at least 3000 people gathering together and shouting slogans.

In smaller towns like Hom and Baniyas rallies also erupted.

Syria is known for its iron fist and strong arm tactics against activists. Remember, it was Assad’s father who decimated the entire down of Hama. Hafaz Assad wiped out every living creature - including the dogs because they dared to challenge him. 38,000 people were murdered in one swift attack and in the follow up all survivors, even those few domestic pets still alive, were killed.

Now you understand why most Syrians hesitate to protest.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Friday, March 18, 2011

After the No Fly Zone

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Now that the UN Security Council passed the No Fly Zone resolution over Libya, several important questions must be answered.
What will the UN do when Libya takes to the air?
Will UN forces hit strategic air sites while they are on the ground?
How will Libya respond to the attack?
As weak as Libya may be, relative to US airpower, they still have capabilities that can wreak terrible harm on soft targets in the region. Libya will interpret all pro-Western countries as targets and that includes their ships and their shores.
The No Fly Zone should have been instituted at the very beginning of the conflict, it should have been instituted through intimidation ... now, it is too late.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Protests in Syria

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:
For the past two days there have been mini protests in Syria. This is revolutionary. There has not been an anti-government protest in Syria in decades.
When the first of 40 people gathered outside the Interior Ministry on Tuesday, nothing really happened. The police watched and no protesters were hurt. But then the next day, Wednesday, there was another protest.
This time 150 people came to demonstrate and this time the police dispersed them. And then the police continued dispersing the demonstrators through violent, aggressive, beatings.
The US State Department released an official statement asking the
Syrians not to violently disperse the demonstrators.
There are two predictable elements to this scenario - Syria's violent reaction and the United States politely asking Syria to stop.
Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Weapons Intercepted On Way to Gaza

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:
Israel intercepted an arms shipment on its way to Gaza yesterday.

The Victoria, a German registered ship, is owned by a Lebanese citizen. The weapons on that ship could have literally changed the Middle East equation.
There were 50 tons of weapons on that ship. There were highly sophisticated Chinese C-704 missiles - land to sea missiles with a 30 mile range. One of these missiles sunk an Israeli gunship during the Israel's war with Hezbollah.
There was also an Egyptian raid yesterday. The Egyptian army captured 5 trucks filled with weapons going into Gaza. These trucks were filled with rocket propelled grenades, mortars and explosives.
From the cache of weapons that have been captured we should assume that many more weapons has slipped into Gaza without interception.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saudi Arabia Enters Bahrain

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Saudi Arabia has transported 150 armored personnel carriers and 50 other vehicles including buses, ambulances, water carriers and jeeps into Bahrain.
In total, about 1000 Saudi soldiers made their way into Bahrain yesterday. The troops drove across the 16 mile causeway (bridge) connecting Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi military contingent made its way to the Sunni area of Riffa, an area which houses not only a military hospital, but also the royal family of Bahrain.
Bahrain is a pawn in a much bigger game.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are in conflict. The battle is between countries but it is just as much a battle between Sunnis and Shiites. Iran still claims Bahrain to be theirs and a whopping 70% of the Island is Shiite. The Saudis are in this to protect Sunni interests i.e. the leadership of Bahrain.
The unrest is getting more violent. The unrest is sponsored by Iran.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Saudi Arabia is not Falling

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
People are worried about what will happen if Saudi Arabia falls. There is the fear that oil will hit $300 per barrel. The truth is that people are monitoring the wrong variables and watching the wrong network.
Al Jazeera is asking the question, and Al Jazeera is stoking the flames of unrest. Al Jazeera wants unrest in Saudi Arabia just like they wanted unrest in Egypt and Libya. When you look carefully at Saudi Arabia directly, you see a different situation.
Look carefully at Friday March 11th. That is the day that was supposed to be a major day of protest, the day that Facebook pages proclaimed to be the day that Saudis would come out and protest en masse. And you know what - Friday was a fizzle.
Maybe two hundred people came out in the Eastern town of Hofhof where much of the oil drilling infrastructure is set up. Maybe, two hundred.
And then yesterday, on Sunday, there was a twelve person protest outside the Ministry of Interior. The police just watched and did nothing. But if you watched Al Jazeera it was touted as a major protest. The Saudi royal family, however, succeeded in letting people know that only a dozen people came and that the protest was peaceful.
We do not have to like the Saudi royal family but we do have an obligation to tell the truth, not to exaggerate or make up stories. It is untruths that swayed the situations and fomented the masses and helped oust those other MidEast dictators.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mass Murder Cold & Ugly

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
What kind of man brutally murders a 3 month old baby? What kind of activist stabs an infant to death?
And murders a 4 year old Israeli named Eldad and his 11 year old brother Yoav. And their parents.
This crime ranks with the most gory of all murders in the Western world. These murderers are so obsessed with their political goals that the lives of anyone outside their circle, children included, are thought of only as targets to be destroyed.
These terrorist are members of a cult. These terrorists are brainwashed. These terrorists are taught that Jewish lives are not human lives. They are taught that Jewish life does not have the same worth.
Charles Manson and his murderous group terrorized in the same way. They brutally murdered families in the name of their cause. And the terrorists were so obsessed by their cause that they did not even understand that mass murder was wrong.
There will be people who justify the actions of these terrorists and celebrate the murders. People who hand out candy and who take pictures of themselves rejoicing in the murder of children.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Using the Petroleum Reserves

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:
There is talk about the cost of oil per barrel skyrocketing because of the unrest in the Middle East. There is even talk about tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR). And President Obama said that to keep prices down he might just do that and tap into the SPR.
That would not be wise.
The SPR is not a cushion to bolster the economy. The SPR is there for emergencies. The SPR needs to be there when there is a shutdown or near total oil embargo, when the United States can get oil no other way.
That's when the SPR will save us.
There are about 583 million barrels of oil in the SPR, that is its present capacity, although several years ago capacity was 727 million barrels.
The problem is that we can only access about 4.4 million barrels a day from the SPR - that might sound good, except that the United States consumes over 21 million/day.
That is why the SPR is for emergencies - not just for a rainy day.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Saudi Unrest

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday, Saudi police opened fire on protesters in a predominately Shiite dominated area. Today promises to be even more intense.
Shiites comprise about 40% of Saudi Arabia and neighboring Iran is also vastly Shiite. The Saudi monarchy fears Shiite unrest and the call for reform. The Saudi royal family fears that they may be the next power in line to fall.
In advance of what might come, the Saudi government has issued serious warnings announcing that protests will not be tolerated and that protesting is now illegal.
And despite it all, for the past several weeks there have been postings on Facebook gearing up for a day of protests to be held on March 11th.
The back story is that the royal family of Saudi Arabia is an oppressive monarchy - it is oppressive and regularly tramples on human rights and women's rights. But the Saudi royal family is also the back bone of oil production and if they wobble under this wave of protests the cost of oil could easily hit $300 a barrel.
The Saudi royal family will fight hard to hold on to their position and their power.
Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dealing with Thugocracies

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:
What can be done to stymie the despots? That is the question leaders worldwide should be asking themselves and each other.
Before the answer can be given, the problem must be properly defined. Part of the problem lies in the way the world is organized. Power and objectivity are lost in international organizations. And part of the problem lies in the unfortunate reality that many western nations coddle thugs and tyrants out of a desperate need to obtain much needed natural resources.
Libya sat on the UN Human Rights Council. Eventually, the Libyans were unceremoniously removed over their treatment of protesters at the beginning of the uprising. But what were they doing on the Human Rights Council in the first place?
Now Syria is lobbying to get onto that same Council. Syria, a country with a worse record on human rights than Libya.
While this is happening, Iran was appointed to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. This is the same Iran that publically executes women for marital indiscretions, for adultery and even for begin raped.
One of the answers is to praise and reward those international powers that stop rewarding thugocracies. The UN and its many offshoots must be shown the value of not empowering tyrants.
Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chirstian Murdered in Egypt

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:1000 Christians were marching in a solidarity procession yesterday in Egypt when violence broke out with aggressive Muslims and one of the Christians was killed.
The Christians were marching to protest the firebombing of their church. They were trying to create solidarity and underscore the need to protect the Christian minority in Egypt which has been massacred, threatened and left unprotected.

Muslims in Egypt were upset that the Christians were taking to the streets.
The Christian world has remained silent about this atrocity. Where is Christian leadership? Where is Christian condemnation? Where is the Christian world demanding a just investigation into the incident?
Any and all leaders who pay lip service to the rebellions in the Arab world should be standing up and shouting that Muslim crowds killing non violent protestors is simply - unacceptable.
Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

UK Upgrade PA Diplomatic Status

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
The United Kingdom is upgrading diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority.
England will upgrade their status from "delegation" to "mission." That means that the PA will be permitted to fly their flag outside their mission.
The big issue, however, is not the benefits that the PA will get, but that the British have not gotten anything in return for the upgrade.

Diplomatic upgrades of this type should not simply be gestures of good will, they must be rewards for serious commitments and proven accomplishments Once a country upgrades their diplomatic status, downgrades only happen after a huge crisis.
The PA has not changed their stance at all about the peace process. They have not even agreed to sit down and resume direct talks with the Israelis. At a minimum, England should have demanded that the PA come back to the negotiation table with realistic requests and expectations.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hamas: Protests Good for Palestinians

By Micah Halpern
 I've Been Thinking:
Hamas has embarked on a major campaign. They are engaging in an attack against all sitting Arab regimes.
The leader of Hamas, Khaled Maashal, undisputed head of the Hamas politburo came out yesterday behind protesters around the Arab world. He said that ousting the leader of Egypt after decades of being the dictator was the best thing for the Palestinian people.
He explained that Mubarak was pro West, pro Israel and pro Palestinian Authority and that toppling his regime was a boost to Palestinian independence.
Hamas is saying that all Arab people, especially the Palestinians, need to take a stand against their leaders. They need to stand up against the West and join forces against the established dictatorships. They are saying that the people need to fight for their causes.
Hamas is, quite obviously, excluding themselves from dictatorial, oppressive regimes

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Saudi Arabia: No to Protests

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:

Saudi Arabia has decided to be proactive.

The Saudi interior ministry announced that protests in their country will not be tolerated.
Saudi leadership has calculated that clamping down is the best way to stymie protests and stabilize their rule.
Having watched what happened in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and having witnessed the response of the United States, the Saudis are willing to take the risk of alienating the US and antagonizing the protestors.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Israel's New Peace Proposal

By Micah Halpern
I'm Predicting:
It is not a secret that the White House has been frustrated, even disappointed, with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
When it comes to peace with the Palestinians, the White House believes that Netanyahu is dragging his feet and even sabotaging the process. When you speak to the White House they suggest that the Israelis are letting the process fail.
Now Netanyahu has another chance. The prime minister is developing another peace proposal/ initiative. Honestly, the White House is not holding its collective breath.

This time the Israelis will avoid the politically precarious issues of Jerusalem and refugees.
I think that this initiative will probably be one dimensional. It will focus on borders, an item that the White House knows and loves to hear about, especially the 1967 borders. Netanyahu will probably suggest broad strokes and outline a two-state solution rooted in the '67 borders.
This is a big risk for Israel. Even saying the words "'67 borders" can have serious ramifications. The irony is that at this point in Middle East history, this risky move might very well be Israel's safest move.

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Chavez & Arab League Proposal

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has broached a plan to the Arab League and the Libyans to initiate dialogue between opposition forces and Ghadaffi's forces.
The Arab League liked the idea and started exerting pressure on Ghadaffi today.
There was contact between Venezuela and Libya and between the Arab League and Libya about the dialogue and it even looks like there is some possibility of an agreement. The only problem is the opposition - the opposition rejects any dialogue at this time.
One of the reasons the Arab League, Libya and Venezuela are of one mind is that this dialogue would place Lula, the former president of Brazil, as the intermediary. And that would totally marginalize the role of the United States.
These parties will do their best to oust the US and the West. But there is a counter to this view. The fact that opposition forces are not interested in talking keeps the United States in the game,

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

No Fly Zone

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday.
Clinton asserted that the "no fly zone" that everyone is talking about is not as simple to implement as it may appear. Libya is not Iraq, she explained. And Clinton is 100% correct. A "no fly zone" means no Libyan plane or helicopters ... and the US and only the US flies over Libya to maintain the safety of the region and of the skies.
Libya has far better air-force and far more sophisticated anti-aircraft systems. That means that the US cannot safely fly over Libya to police and protect the "no fly zone."
Libyan anti-aircraft can easily pick off US fighter jets and helicopters. The air-force and the anti-aircraft batteries seem to still be under Ghadaffi's control or managed by his mercenaries.

This greatly complicates matters and that makes it dangerous for American fliers.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Yemen & the Elders of Zion

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:
Salah President of Yemen convened a press conference yesterday. The president said that the unrest in the Middle East is caused by the United States and Israel.
Salah went on to say that there is an operational center in Tel Aviv dedicated to creating unrest and disrupting countries throughout the Middle East.
Salah is working the long standing history of conspiracy theories that run rampant throughout the Middle East where rumors suggest that Israel and the US control everything in the world.
The vitriol mimics the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion where Jews, in this case Israel, are responsible for all the evil in the world.
I have yet to hear anyone of important condemn the presidential pronouncement. That is truly telling. No one has condemned Salah. No one has asked Israel or the United States could even remotely be responsible for these events. No one.
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Price of Gasoline & MidEast Unrest

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
The price of oil per barrel has been going up and up - a natural outcome of the unrest in the Middle East. But over the weekend something changed - now oil prices are dropping and dropping. The price began creeping below $100 a barrel and is now at $97.

And yet, the price of gasoline continues to increase even as the price of oil goes down.
There is obviously a calculus that takes place determining oil and gas prices, a calculus that includes costs like refining and delivery. But we all know that the bulk of the price of gasoline is the cost of crude oil per barrel.

Bottom line is that the unrest in the Middle East is having a very clear impact on the cost of oil and the cost of oil has a clear and direct impact on the entire world. The trickle down effect touches everyone.

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