Thursday, November 29, 2012

Arafat's Widow

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

On Monday a special committee headed by a Palestinian doctor exhumed the body of Yasser Arafat. Samples were taken.

After being unearthed, the body of Arafat was brought into a nearby mosque. There investigating doctors took biopsy cuttings from the former Palestinian leader who died in November of 2004.
For years now Palestinians have claimed that the Israeli Mossad poisoned Arafat with polonium. The claim has some grounds for believability because small traces of polonium were detected on Arafat's clothing.

The disinterment took place just a few days before the Palestinians went to the General Assembly of the United Nations to change status from that of an organization, The PLO, to a nation observer.
Arafat's widow, Suha, says that the timing of exhumation has spiritual significance. She said that it is almost as if Arafat was resurrected - as if his spirit was there at the vote.

Of course this entire episode is nothing more than rhetoric. During the lifetime of her husband Suha shunned being a presence in official Palestinian business, preferring a more flamboyant lifestyle in Paris. Now, these many years later, Suha is trying to place herself and Arafat in the limelight of an important event in Palestinian history.

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The Cost is Worth it for the PA

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Today is the day. It is the day the Palestinian Authority brings their request for change of status to the floor of the United Nations.

They have the votes and they will emerge victorious. But what kind of victory will it really be?

The only other parties that count, the two countries that are invested in this decision, its aftermath and its ramifications, the United States and Israel, consider the conferring of statehood on the PA now, in this forum, a diplomatic step back.

I am certain that both the United States and Israel will exact a short term price from the PA for the move. I am just as certain that Palestinian leadership weighed the cost of the decision and then, none the less, decided to absorb the punishment because, in the end, it will be beneficial for them.

The Israeli response does not interest the Palestinians. And the United States will probably only temporarily stop funding them.

Congress will want to exact a serious price, but the Palestinians are convinced that the funding stoppage will only be temporary because the White House will come to their aid and that, after only a few weeks, the money flow will continue just as it did before. Palestinian leadership just assumes that this will be part of an American public dress down.

In their eyes it is an inexpensive cost given how much they will gain in the eyes of the world specifically because they are defying the United States.

That is the irony. Defying the US will in the end not hurt the PA financially. And they will also gain international respect internationally by challenging the US and publicly humiliating them.

And there will be a new state added to the roster of the United Nations.

The United Nations, the enabler. 

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Palestinians in the UN

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking :

The Palestinians have decided to go ahead with their proposal to the United Nations for statehood. They have secured support from far more than half of the General Assembly members. Yesterday France announced that they, too, will support the proposal.

The United States is against it.

But the proposal is not what people think it to be. The problem does not lie where people think it lies.

Currently their status is that of an organization - the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization). And so this attempt, though referred to as statehood, is actually a change of status to now become the Palestinian Authority.

They are proposing that their official representation be changed to observer status and that they become recognized not as an organization but as a country. What happens next is the problem.

That change, if approved, effectively means involvement in committees and other roles in the UN.

There has yet to be a negotiated settlement to determine where the country will be located. The PA will be a country without borders.

This is called a unilateral move. A decision or an act made without the partner or the intermediaries - Israel and the United States. That is why there is opposition. And that is why the move is so dangerous to the future of negotiations.

The date that the PA has chosen to present their proposal is also significant. It was on November 27, 1947 that the United Nations originally proposed a two-state solution, a proposal which was rejected by the Arabs at the time.

The date is extremely important to Palestinian leadership, they need it to rectify history. 

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Israel Wanted to Target Hamas Leader

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday a Kuwaiti paper reported on the Israeli strike which killed Ahmed Jabari claiming that Jabari was not the original target.

Rather, the paper said, Israel's original target was Prime Minister Ismael Haniyah.
But targets change all the time. The report suggests that while Haniyah was under surveillance he had several heated conversations with Jabari and that is how Israel was able to locate Jabari. Since the whereabouts of Jabari were always in flux, Israel only had a small window to strike and they did.

Jabari was on Israel's hit list for a long time.

Part of the conflict between Haniyah and Jabari was that Jabari had searched the prime minister's home. He did it at the request of the leader of Hamas who is headquartered outside of Gaza.

This search was humiliating - hence the heated exchanges between Haniyah and Jabari and Israel successful detection and killing of Jabari. 

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Fajr a Popular Name in Gaza

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense the name "Fajr" has become not only famous, but popular.

Many children born in Gaza since the operation began been given the name in honor of the Iranian rocket that shot deep into Israel wreaking havoc and instilling fear into the hearts of millions of Israelis - the Fajr 5.

The word "Fajr" means "Dawn." Naming children after a rocket is the Hamas way of celebrating terror and saying thank you to Iran for helping them attack the heartland of Israel.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times of London reported yesterday that Israeli spy satellites have seen ships in Iranian ports being loaded with Fajr - getting ready to be smuggled into Gaza.

Experts say that the best way to get the Fajr 5 into Gaza is to get them into Egypt, disassemble them into four or five parts and then bring them through the tunnels to be reassembled on the Gaza side.

We have not see the last of the Fajr - neither the name nor the rocket. 

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

I Can't Believe Hamas

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

There were two reports that I read very early this morning that were so surprising, I had to read them over again. On the first reading

I found them to be beyond belief and assumed that my reaction was due to the wee early hour of the morning. The second reading was, I am pleased to say, confirmation. They are beyond belief.

The first report was on a fatwah, a legal religious decree, by a major Islamic figure in Gaza named Suleiman al Daya. Al Daya issued a fatwah saying that violating the Tahadiyah cease fire with Israel is a sin. The fatwah was publicized throughout Gaza.

"Honoring the truce, which was sponsored by our Egyptian brethren, is the duty of each and every one of us. Violating it shall constitute a sin."

The second report was the transcript of a CNN interview with Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas. In the interview Mashaal says that he would accept a Palestinian state within the 67 borders. He does not accept Israel and did not wish to be asked about recognizing Israel until he gets a state.

These two issues were remarkable in terms of measuring change in the Hamas POV. Until now, comments of this sort would have rendered the speaker a traitor. At best, he would have been ousted from leadership - more likely, he would have been executed.

I never thought that, during my lifetime, I would hear comments like these coming from either a popular cleric or the leader of Hamas, let alone from both.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hamas Claim Victory

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Hamas is proclaiming victory over Israel.

There have been celebrations in the streets of Gaza. Hamas leaders have taken to local and international media announcing not only how victorious they were, but how miserably Israel failed.

In truth, Israel is also claiming victory despite the voices saying that victory was only partial and that soon Israel will return to the very same place they were in - with rockets raining down on them from Gaza.

The big difference is what Hamas is celebrating.

After the Wednesday morning rush hour terror attack inside a crowded bus in Tel Aviv, Gazans celebrated the horrific deed. They danced in public, glorifying an attack against innocent people.

No explanation, no rationale can adequately explain these celebrations.

Victory is a very strange concept in the Arab world. It is not unique to the Palestinians of Gaza. Despite tremendous losses both leaders and the people will claim their own victory as long as a single person remains to shout or to fight.

That is exactly what we witnessed in Southern Lebanon. Now we are witnessing it in Gaza. 

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Morsi Becomes Dictator

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Now that Egyptian President Morsi has a major diplomatic victory under his belt he is moving on in an effort to fulfill new goals.

Morsi is going to try to unite Hamas (the leaders in Gaza) and Fatah (the leaders of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank). I wish him luck - I do not see that as even remotely possible. For the past six years efforts have been made to unite those two factions and all to no avail.

In addition, yesterday Morsi proclaimed and then set into law a series of acts that removes any checks or balances in the fledgling Egyptian democracy.

Morsi announced that he has written into law that none of his decisions are subject to appeal by the courts. This newly created law amplifies the power he already gave himself when he wrote another law giving himself anything he wants without approval of the lower chamber of parliament. He wrote that law after the courts announced that the parliamentary election was invalid.

Now the president of Egypt has set himself high above any other government body.

A leader from the opposition party, former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohammed el Baradei, tweeted that Morsi has become a new Pharaoh. Baradei is absolutely correct.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ceasefire in Arabic

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The word that means "ceasefire" in Arabic is not the same as the
word for ceasefire in English or even in Hebrew.

It actually does not mean "ceasefire." The word used is "tahadiya" and it actually means "lull."
A lull means a lessening of intensity - it does not mean a stopping of action. Ceasefire, on the other hand, means a total stoppage of attacks.

Knowing this, one should not be surprised that 14 rockets were shot from Gaza into Israel within the first hours of the tahadiya.

Islam has another, similar, term - "hudna." We hear a lot about hudna regarding peace and ceasefires, but it, too, is the wrong term to use.

Hudna refers to a maximum ten year truce between Muslims and non-believers. We come across the term in the Koran as a response to the realization that Mohammed is not capable of defeating the tribe of Qaraysh.

A tactical decision was made and it was called the treaty of Hudaybiyah.

The prophet Mohammed enters into the treaty and then builds up his power. Actually, he enters into the treaty in order to build up his power. At the point where he can defeat Qaraysh, Mohammed breaks the treaty and slaughters Qaraysh.

This story from the Koran is enormously illustrative of how Islam views treaties and ceasefire agreements.

Call it tahadiya or call it hudna - either way it will not last long. 

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hamas Executes 6

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Hamas publicly executed six people yesterday. This is the second time that they have dragged people out of their cars, tied them up and then shot them in the head in public squares. Hundreds of people watched and cheered.

The victims were called collaborators. Officials are quoted on Hamas' Aqsa radio saying that these six people had video equipment and transmission equipment.

The New York Times web site records the executions, they have both video and still pictures.
 The video shows someone being shot and then dragged through the streets by a motorcycle. Around his neck hangs a sign proclaiming that he was responsible for the deaths of fifteen Palestinian leaders.

This kind of brutal, public murder and public celebration is part of life in Gaza. No judge, no jury, just murder. 

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012


By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Some would simply call it gall, others will call it arrogance. Such is life and negotiations in the Middle East.
In the talks now taking place in Egypt, talks in which the Egyptians are trying to broker a cease fire between

Israel and Hamas, Hamas has listed their demands.

Hamas is demanding:
No ground attack.
End to targeted assassinations
Ease restrictions and lift the blockade on Gaza.
And then, only after all that happens, will they come to terms and stop shooting rockets at Israel.

In response Israel also had an unreasonable request. Unreasonable because of the context, under normal situations this would be a simple assumption.
Israel is requesting:

A 15 year ceasefire agreement.

Suffice it to say the parties are far apart. Even if they were to come to an agreement, there is no doubt in my mind that the cease fire would be violated - by both sides. 

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Hamas & Israel Measure Success

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

It is important to have a sense of perspective about what is now happening in Israel and in Gaza.

What are the numbers?
How effective is Israel in their counter attack?
How damaging has Hamas been?

As of this writing Israel has targeted 1,100 locations in Gaza.
Operation Pillar of Defense began on Wednesday. 80 locations were targeted between Saturday night and early Sunday morning, another 130 were targeted on Sunday.

Hamas has shot 820 rockets at Israel. 540 landed. 280 were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome, a special weapon that specializes in knocking out short range rockets before they hit their targets.
31 of the 820 rockets landed in or near urban areas in Israel, that is about 3.7% of the total rockets fired.

That means that Israel has been effective at stopping most of the rockets.

Hamas is satisfied. Just having Israel sound air raid sirens in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem was a huge victory.

Hamas is now stripping their rockets of their heavy explosive head - this way the rockets will have greater range. For Hamas, the fear factor and the terror they are striking into the heart of Israel and every Israeli is far more valuable than the actual destruction caused by the rockets.

Hamas gains from disrupting normal life and injecting a sense of profound fear into the heartland of Israel. That is their measure of success. That is their objective.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Hamas Wants

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The ratcheted-up conflict between Israel and Hamas has been going on for almost a week. It is time to take a look at several important issues.

The objective of Israel is to get a cease fire. Israel wants their citizens to live in quiet without fear of rocket fire.

The objective of Hamas is quite the opposite. Hamas is acting in order to provoke stronger and greater responses from Israel. The actions of Hamas indicate that they want Israel to advance on the ground and enter Gaza. It is as if Hamas has planned numerous surprises for Israeli ground troops when they enter.

A ground offensive could be extremely costly both for Israel and for Hamas.

Israel's top echelon leadership is going to stay far away from that option at this time. But the leaders of Israeli cities and the regional councils have a different objective. Local leaders and mayors have said they do not want a temporary cease fire. They want a solution. A solution means destroying Hamas.

Destroying Hamas would be even more costly than a ground war.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Conflict w/ Hamas is About Timing

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is ratcheting up.

Hamas has set their sights higher and targeted Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the heartland of Israel. Where for years the targets of these incessant rockets have been Jewish communities living on the periphery in places like Sderot, that is no longer the case.

The rockets are no longer an inconvenience, they are now aimed at mainstream Israel. Hamas has taken it up a notch and they are attacking places where the vast majority of Israel resides.

To those people are asking why Israel does not just go in and take out Hamas, I answer: It is not so simple an equation.

The objective of any operation Israel undertakes may not be the elimination of Hamas. It seems that the objective is creating a long term cease fire and quiet - not getting rid of Hamas. That is a critical difference.

There is another reason. Israel is preparing for an election. And on the eve of an election, when soldiers may be put in harm's way and when there may be great military and/or civilian losses, no politician is going to want to advance a ground war and risk not getting re-elected.

The situation is moving ahead. Expect action - on both sides, soon. 

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Hamas V ISrael Again

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Hamas broke through the glass ceiling.

Hamas shot two Fajr-5 missiles at Tel Aviv. The rockets aimed at

Tel Aviv were fired only a short two hours after they fired at the
city of Rishon LeZion. Be'r Sheba, the capital of the Negev, was also the target of numerous attacks.

In all, nearly 500 rockets and missiles were shot from Gaza into Israel since Wednesday.
Israel will not take this sitting down. The Israelis have already responded to an earlier onslaught of rocket attacks by successfully targeting and assassinating Hamas military leader and strategist Ahmad Jabari.

This barrage by Hamas seems to be a response to that planned hit.
The cycle continues.

Israel has called-up tens of thousands of reserves. But this battle is most likely to take place in the skies over Gaza. Hamas and Gaza are not the same as Hezbollah and Lebanon.

It would not be wise for Israel to enter Gaza and launch a land offensive at this time. 

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jordan Drops Subsidies- Riots Starts

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Jordan lifted subsidies on food stables and on fuel. The move caused riots throughout the Hashemite kingdom.

The main supporters of the riots and its organizers were Islamic extremists, mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda.

Jordan is suffering from a $3 billion debt. That debt amounts to 11% of their gross national product. And that is a recipe for disaster.

Subsidies artificially keep prices down below market prices. They are a large reason for the deficit because the government must pay the difference. Subsidies, in essence, are a gift to the people.

Since the Arab Spring began, Jordan has wanted to reduce subsidies.

But the King feared that any change like that could cause riots and, quite possibly, lead to situations similar to the uprisings in Egypt, Syria and Libya.

The Jordanians cannot put off their decision any longer.

The Islamists will try to capitalize on the lifting of subsidies in hope that the economic crunch will gather momentum and that the greater masses will be galvanized and eventually, King Abdullah will be ousted.

We have to monitor this very carefully. At any moment, it can go either way. 

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Iran Weapons Exercise

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is in the third day of a week long military exercise.   The exercise will include 8,000 soldiers, planes, rockets, missiles and ships and it will cover huge swaths of area covering thousands of miles.

It is Iran’s largest ever military exercise and is being heralded with great bluster and propaganda. Iran has promised to unroll their three newest weapons which, word has it, include short range defense missiles.

There are two or problems with Iran’s military games. First of all, the Iranians tend to exaggerate. They hype their weapons to make them look more powerful than they really are to frighten and intimidate their enemies and impress their citizens.

Second is that the Iranians often pass off old versions of weapons as new. Sometimes they revamp and repaint them. Sometimes they take imported weapons and try to embellish them or make them look Iranian.

That said, there have been some real technical surprises coming out of Iran, but none of them in the field of missiles.

In the end, this week long event is probably nothing more than a large, drawn out, propaganda tool.  But we are still watching it very carefully. 

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

England Can't Deport Terrorist Imam

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

England has been trying to deport an al Qaeda preacher named al Qatada to Jordan ever since 2001. The Brits have won all their court cases and Jordan is ready and willing to accept him.

Al Qatada was convicted in absentia for two terror attacks in Jordan. If returned, he would be retried. England has gotten absolute promises from Jordanian officials as high as King Abdallah that al Qatada would not be executed if convicted.

But now a court in England has said that those assurances are not believable.
In addition to his terror convictions in Jordan Al Qatada was also convicted of supporting terrorist activity in England. He would regularly preach about attacks and attacking.

When a country like England wins their case against someone like al Qatada they cannot simply expel him.

There needs to be a country to receive the expelled person. Without a country on the receiving end the expelled person remains in England.

That is the case with al Qatada. It looks like he will be remaining in England.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Palestinian Bid @ UN

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called US President Barack Obama and congratulated him on his election victory. In the course of the conversation Abbas also explained to Obama why he wanted to make a move in the UN changing the status of Palestinians from "observer" to "non member."

Ynet reports that Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for the Palestinian president, recounted the conversation between Obama and Abbas and said that Obama reportedly expressed the resistance of the US for the bid.

The US does not want Palestinians status to change at the UN until there is significant progress in direct negotiations between the PA and Israel. Otherwise, a change in status at the UN will be seen by Israel as a unilateral act by the PA.

That act would be that the Palestinians are changing their status to that of a country outside of the framework of face-to-face discussions with Israel which is an essential part of the road map for progress.

Obama and the US understand that a move like this in the UN will only produce negative results and are trying to explain to Abbas and the Palestinians that this act will be an act of self-destruction.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Israel Tense on 2 Borders

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Two Israeli borders are getting very hot.

Since Saturday evening more than 75 rockets have been shot into Israel from Gaza. The rockets are being launched by the brand new SK-8 which has the capability of shooting multiple rockets in rapid succession. Islamic Jihad has a whole slew of new weapons that they are rolling out against Israel.

This enormous increase in rocket intensity and the use of a weapon system that is much more effective and efficient than any that was previously used is causing Israel to reconsider their position. Will Israel be able to regain an effective policy of defense through intimidation? Will or when will Israel advance a land strike into Gaza?

At the same time Syria has resumed shooting across their border into Israel. This is the 4th breakdown of that border. The first two involved tanks that went into the demilitarized zone, the third time it was shots across the border and this morning a rocket was shot into the Golan.

Israel fired back warning shots including a computer smart bomb meant to tell them to stop.

Israel does not seem to think that Syria wants to invade or even draw Israel into the conflict. But Hamas certainly wants Israel to launch a ground offensive in Gaza.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Arms Deals in the MidEast

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Two major arms deals have caught my attention of late.

First, Iraq. Iraq has outlined a deal to buy $4 billion worth of weapons from Russia. The weapons will include, among other arms, attack helicopters and missiles. The plan was made public and now domestic Iraqi press is saying that the deal is filled with kickbacks and improprieties.

The biggest issue here is why are the Iraqis buying their arms from Russia and not the US?

Next, Saudi Arabia. I just saw that the US Defense Security Agency has submitted a nearly $7 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia and has asked for approval from Congress. Congress has 30 days to question or reject the deal.

The deal includes attack fighter jets and five refueling jets. Despite some tensions Saudi Arabia is again purchasing large weapons from the United States.

To give some background and some sense of numbers, in 2010 Saudi Arabia bought $60 billion in weapons from the US. In 2011 there was another arms deal in which the US provided 84 fighter jets in exchange for $30 billion dollars.

Keeping a watchful eye on arms deals is an essential tool to evaluate the flow of contacts and power in the world --- especially in the Middle East.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Iran Wants Another Drone

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

No doubt about it. Iranian fighter jets shot at US unmanned drones flying in international airspace over international waters.

Iran has now warned the United States that they will not take kindly to surveillance in the region. The US responded by saying that they were legally in international waters - in the "waters of the Arabian Gulf." Calling the waters the "Arabian" Gulf was a direct jab against Iran who refers to the body of water as the Persian Gulf.

International law specifically refers to territory that extends 12 nautical miles from the shoreline. This incident took place 16 miles offshore - clearly not in Iranian space.

The drone was a MQ-1, also known as a predator drone. It was attacked by two SU-25 Russian-made fighter jets with a single seat. Because of their unusual shape they are called Frogfoot.

Now the real story.

In Dec 2011 Iran brought down a stealth unmanned bat drone. The Iranians reverse engineered the drone and they are now producing them. The Iranians wanted to bring down the predator drone and then quickly fish it out of the Persian Gulf before the US swooped in to retrieve it.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Jewish Vote

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

It may be Thursday already, but Monday morning quarter backing is in full swing. And now it is essential to ask and answer some really big questions.

The Jewish vote has traditionally leaned Democratic. This election was no exception. Exit polls show that 70% of Jews supported Obama. 2012 was a small drop from the 74% that supported Obama in 2008.
But the Jewish vote was never up in the air. It was never part of the potential swing, not even in those states that were up for grabs.

The real reason for the interest of the Democratic Party in the Jewish community is not at all about votes. The leadership of the Democratic Party needs to make certain that Jewish support will be in their court not because they care about a handful of Jewish votes but because Jews contribute large sums to the Democratic war chest.

That explains the caring, the concern, the sensitivity to Jewish needs. It is money, not votes. And during election periods, money counts.

Campaign contributions are the reason and the only reason that Jews are courted by the Democratic Party. Contributions are why the Democratic party invests so much time and energy focusing on the Jewish community.

The Jewish vote did not swing the election and it never will. But Jewish money, that was an essential part of the Obama victory. 

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Iran to Go to Nuke Conference

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has just announced that they will participate in the international conference on a Nuclear Free Middle East. The conference is scheduled for December.

That news should not come as a shock to anyone. More than that, it was a predictable move on the part of Iran.

Until now the Iranians have been publicly silent on their conference involvement.

But we all assumed that they would attend and once there, attack Israel. The Iranians will have no need of defending themselves at the conference. Their argument has always been that they need nuclear technology for 3 reasons.

# 1 as an energy alternative to fossil fuels/oil and gas
# 2 to help other countries attain the technology
# 3 to respond to Israel who already has a nuclear program.

Iran has an agenda at the International Atomic Energy Agency. Their ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Sultanieh, has consistently advanced an anti Western point of view. He argues that it is the right of Iran to develop nuclear technology and the West -especially the US, has no right to tell them what to do.

The Nuclear Free Middle East conference will be more of the same. More of the same claims. More of the same rhetoric. More of the same threats and accusations.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Iran's Take on the Election

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Today is Election Day in the United States. At this point he polls have the election so tight that it is impossible to predict who will win. For America, this is an exciting and dramatic time.

The drama has spread far beyond the borders of the USA. The Iranian foreign ministry has come out with a very clear statement about the elections and about the candidates.

The statement is posted on Nasim, an Iranian news website. It reads: "Both Democrats and Republicans were hostile towards Iran in the past, our only criteria evaluating the candidates is the amount of respect they hold for our nation."

This is important. From the point of view of Iran, one of the most antagonistic countries to United States policies and interests in the whole world, there is no differentiation between Obama and Romney, no differentiation between Democrats and Republicans.

The only variable that counts for Iran vis a vis the candidates is their point of view vis a vis Iran. That is an extremely myopic point of view and a very jaded method with which to make analysis of any sort. 

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Iran & Steel

Monday November 5, 2012

I’ve Been Thinking:

Once again Iran is masterfully getting around sanctions to help buoy herself up and make certain that she remains competitive in the steel market.

Iran is a very large producer of steel.  The Islamic Republic produces steel for internal needs and for production, not just for export.

But they need the raw materials.  They need coke and coal and metallurgical coal, known in the business as coking coal.

So where are they getting these raw materials?  From the Ukraine.

The raw material arrives in Iran via third party intermediaries and foreign banks.  It gets shipped to Iran by way of the Black Sea.  While sanctions monitors are busy watching for oil and checking out the Persian Gulf, Ukrainian companies are just bringing in the raw materials the other way.

A company can make as much as $25 million a month providing these raw materials to Iran.  The important element here is that bringing coal to Iran is not a violation of the sanctions.  Selling steel to Iran, now that is a violation.

The EU wants to stop all trade with Iran.  But the UN and the US understand the need to provide humanitarian goods.  But what happens when those goods make Iran stronger and provide her with the raw materials for a major industry.

As I said, Iran has, again and again and again masterfully gotten around the sanctions.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Finding Geeks For Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

In today's army, the most valued soldier is the techie. The cyber warrior reigns. This is person we used to call -- the pocket protector guy.

Israel's IDF is no exception. And Israel has one of the best, if not the best, cyber units in the world.

These soldiers need to be different. They need to think outside the box. They are, for the most part, extremely arrogant and very creative. The way one protects a systems is to first spend time, oftentimes a lot of time, finding its vulnerabilities.

The Intelligence Branch of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has made the decision to actively recruit young hackers. They are scouring Israeli high schools for potential warriors. That should be expected.

And they are taking it a step further. The IDF Special Warriors Unit has launched a recruitment drive for the best hackers in the Diaspora Jewish community. Once they are found they will be coaxed and lured to join their patriotic destiny and serve in the Israeli Army.
Another example of thinking out of the box. 

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No Guns @ Weddings

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Last month Saudi Arabia banned shooting guns at weddings. Shooting shotguns at weddings is a long and very popular tradition among tribes not only in Saudi Arabia but also throughout much of the Arab world.

The Saudi government felt that the tradition of shooting bullets into the sky was just too dangerous, hence the new law. But while they are publicizing the ban, they are not really enforcing the new law.

So, for Saudis at least, it should have been no surprise that twenty-six guests attending a recent wedding were electrocuted or burned to death as a result of weapon fire. The gunfire toppled electric wires, the wires hit a metal door, people were electrocuted. A fire also ignited and more guests were killed in the fire.

According to the report all those killed at the wedding feast were from the same tribe.
What a terrible waste of human life. A happy milestone was transformed into a horrific tragedy. 

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Conspiracy & Hurricane Sandy

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Syrian supporters of Assad are spreading a conspiracy theory that is so mind boggling that people might actually believe it.

They are saying that Sandy, the hurricane that devastated the United States causing billions upon billions in damages, was the result of a highly sophisticated Iranian weapon.

The group supporting Assad posted a message on their Facebook page saying that Sandy was the work of Iran and that the hurricane was punishment for those who attack Syria.

What makes this conspiracy so different from others is that Iran is placed front and center as the major actor causing the damage in this drama.

Obviously no such weapon exists. But people will believe it and it will weaken the hearts of the opposition. There are people who can actually be convinced into believing that Iran has the ability to alter the power of nature.

Unbelievable, but true.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hezbollah Installs Border Cameras

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

A Lebanese paper just reported that Hezbollah has installed a set of cameras on the border between Israel and Lebanon.

The network of cameras is linked to a control room. From there Hezbollah is monitoring the movements of the Israeli army as they go out on various patrols. They are even monitoring the activities of local farmers.

The news report describes the cameras as being mounted on trees, but I am certain that they are also on the ground and even on the border fence. This would allow maximum vision and the best angles.

The paper also reported that Hezbollah is improving its telephone infrastructure in Southern Lebanon. Land lines are much more difficult to infiltrate than cell phones. So improving the land lines will improve the security of Hezbollah's internal communication.

All of this adds to the already tense environment. We know that Hezbollah has been building their arsenal and even launching Iranian spy drones over Israel. I hope that a way to release the tensions is found before the tensions morph into conflict.

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