Saturday, August 31, 2013

Russia Has its Interests in Syria

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:

Russia and China are doing their best to make certain that the United States does not strike Syria. But their reason for doing this is not just because the Russians and Chinese want to derail US interests and objectives.

Russian and China have their own economic and regional interests at play here. And those interests, which include oil and access, would be severely compromised if there was a US Strike against Syria.

This is serious business. Russia has sent another two naval vessels to the region. The US has added a fifth destroyer and is keeping both their aircraft carriers in the area for the interim.

The spectrum of responses by other countries in the region to a US strike on Syria could range from a bored yawn to a complete rejection of all outside influences. Ensuing tensions could result in Russia losing significant influence in the region - and even in the world.

The Russians do not want that to happen. So Russia is doing everything in her power to prevent a US attack of any kind. 

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Israelis Panic - Get Gas Masks

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

For about a week now, Israelis have been experiencing a communal, albeit minor, panic attack.

People have been swarming to gas mask distribution centers and getting gas masks, filters and atropine injections.

This renewed surge towards gas mask preparedness comes in response to a series of serious, rhetorical, threats from both Syria and Iran. Syria and Iran have been making it known that if anyone attacks Syria, Israel will bear the brunt of the retaliation, and many Israelis are taking them at their word.

Understandably, Israelis are frightened. And the best way to defend themselves is by making certain that their loved ones have their gas masks. The religious community, by the way, is upset because there are not enough masks for bearded men- but there are never enough masks for the bearded community.

Honestly, Israelis should not be so fearful. There is very little chance that either Syria or Iran will strike Israel if there is an America or Western surgical attack against Damascus.

Priority number one for Bashar Assad is survival and an attack against Israel that would surely result in an Israeli counterstrike would potentially destroy his entire regime. Assad and Iran both know that.

So while there may be an errant rocket that lifts off from Syria and lands in Israel, no chemical weapons and no planned air force or missile onslaught will be heading their way. At least, not now and not because of any action taken by the United States or other Western forces. 

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Who Used Gas in Syria?

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Hassan Rouhani, the new president of Iran, unequivocally condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
It appears that between 100 and 650 people were killed by the gas attack. It was an atrocious and vicious indiscriminate murder of innocent civilians.

"The Islamic Republic gives notice to the international community to use all its might to prevent the use of these weapons anywhere in the world, especially in Syria." That, according to the Mehr news agency, is a quote from Rouhani of Iran.

There's more: "We completely and strongly condemn the use of chemical weapons, because the Islamic Republic of Iran is itself a victim of chemical weapons." That quote attributed by Rouhani came from ISNA

"Many of the innocent people of Syria have been injured and martyred by chemical agents and this is unfortunate." Also from ISNA.

Iran, having been the victim of Saddam Hussein's murderous gassing attacks, is very sensitive when it comes to chemical weapons.

Assad has denied using the gas. He has actually argued saying why would he use gas - that he has nothing to gain. The tide of the rebellion had already shifted and he was winning the conflict.

Using gas, his argument goes, would just draw in the United States and the West.
Iran backs Assad. And Assad would do nothing to topple that relationship. Add to that the fact the Iranians are absolutely opposed to gassing Muslims, even enemy Muslims, and a serious question emerges.

The gassing was done, but by whom?

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Al Qaeda in Lebanon Attacks Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The rockets shot from Southern Lebanon into Israel were part of a much larger regional conflict.

Read the explanation given by the Azzam Abdullah Brigades, the group proudly claiming responsibility. They are a Sunni, anti-Hezbollah, al Qaeda affiliated group. The group explains that they shot 122 millimeter GRAD rockets into Israel in order to attack "the cities of Nahariya and Akko in occupied Palestine."
They further explain the change from a state of calm to a decision to launch rockets "as part of the resumption of the jihad against the Jews."

They said: "We've frozen the activity for the sake of the blessed Syrian revolution. Numerous developments - mainly the blatant Iranian-Hezbollah intervention in the Syrian revolution - have forced us to freeze our activity against the Jews."

"Iran and Hezbollah have formed a strategic alliance in the region and coordinated their positions with regards to the Syrian revolution. They worked to undermine the blessed revolution."

They go on to say a "green light given by Israel and the Western countries to Hezbollah in the fight against our people in Syria so that Israel could safeguard its security will not provide it with security. Rather, it will bring it closer to the fire of the jihadi fighters and make it much more exposed to them. In addition, it will make Israel a preferred target for the Sunnis."

From the point of view of Sunni al Qaeda terrorists shooting these rockets gave the "Jewish conquerors an indication of the quality of rockets in our possession. Haifa should be decorated with the most magnificent shrouds to greet our rockets."

More importantly, from the Azzam Abdullah Brigades point of view it exposed Hezbollah's "false claims regarding its hatred of Israel and the false threats made by the organization's secretary general (Hassan Nasrallah). The attack challenged (Hezbollah) to open fire on Israel."

These are attacks against Israel but they are also attacks against Hezbollah, Iran and Assad. 

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How the US Will Strike Syria

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Now that US Secretary of State John Kerry has publicly and unequivocally announced that the Syrians have used gas to murder civilians, the Obama administration must decide whether to take action or not take action against the Assad regime.

If the United States does strike Syria, what will the attack look like?

It will probably be a coordinated US / British attack. It will not be a UN-backed attack because the Russians will use their clout in the Security Council to block any act of intervention in Syria.

The best options available to the US and Britain would involve airstrikes using either planes or smart missiles. Smart bombs are probably the best choice here because they are the less risky and can be guided by unmanned drones.

The Tomahawk missile is the classic smart bomb. The Tomahawk costs about $500,000 each. There are four US destroyers in Mediterranean, each with ninety Tomahawks. The United States used 124 Tomahawks against Ghadaffi in Libya. They are surgically accurate and have a range of 1200 miles.

Targeted sites will not be the nine chemical weapons storage depots in Syria. The spill out would be too dangerous. Targets would be command and control centers, integrated air defense systems, missile sites, launching pads and security bunkers.
The 155 Brigade of the 4th Armored Division - the Syrian group that reportedly perpetrated the gas attack would definitely be hit.
If the US and Britain decide to strike their strike will be short but their point will be loud and clearly made. 

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Assad's Chutzpah

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:


That is the word that best describes Syrian President Bashar Assad's action over the past few days.
Chutzpah is a Yiddish word. It needs no translation. It is probably best explained as absolute gall. It describes a person whose behavior represents the heights of arrogance.

Last week Assad invited the UN team to inspect and investigate his use of non-conventional weapons and gassing. While they were there, as the entire world watched, someone unleashed what appears to a huge lethal attack of gas.

All eyes are on Syria. Conventional wisdom says Assad's men did it. There is, as always, a contrary view. That view has it that the rebels are using gas now and have used gas in the past. My money is on Assad's men.

Now US President Obama must decide if he should act against Assad.
He needs to decide what he should do if he does act. If the United States attacks Assad and helps al Qaeda win (which is exactly what would happen), it will extremely destructive to US interests.

What Chutzpah. What a mess. 

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

What Abbas Fears Most

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Obscurity is what frightens the Palestinians and Mahmoud Abbas more than anything else.

Given all the drama in the Middle East right now, Palestinians fear that their issue has been relegated to the back burner. They fear that their issue will have neither the resonance nor the power to influence world leaders to pressure Israel into a resolution that is most suitable toward their side.

So, the Palestinians are embarking on a huge diplomatic push to make certain that world powers see their point of view.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was just in Ramallah to meet with Palestinians President Mahmoud Abbas. Fabius understands the Palestinian fear. The two leaders concluded that resolving the Palestinian issue should remain a priority and will "contribute to peace and stability in the region."

At a press conference after their meeting Abbas said: "When there was an opportunity to resume negotiations, we took it without looking at what was going on around us."

The problem is that the Palestinians issue pales in comparison to the many crises now engulfing the Middle East. 

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Targeting Beards in Egypt

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

It looks like the immediate crisis in Egypt is puttering out.

The best indication of the cessation of conflict is that on Friday, after Muslim prayers, almost no one went to the streets to protests. The largest group of protesters numbered about one hundred people.

There is no doubt that, in terms of human life, the ousting of Morsi was costly. The death toll is about 900 so far, 100 of them police. And so now the question is, was it worth the price.

There is still a very strong anti-Muslim Brotherhood tone in Egypt.

The media is broadcasting footage of Brotherhood men shooting at the police and army. In one broadcast Brotherhood thugs seen beating a man after he was thrown off the roof of an apartment in Alexandria.

In Egypt, people with beards are the symbol of Muslim piety. As a way of combating profiling, pious, non-political, non-activist men are shaving off their beards. Pop up barber shops are appearing throughout the country. That is because bearded men are automatically targeted for suspicion and intimidation. And almost all Brotherhood men wear beards.

So now there is a crackdown on bearded men.

The Muslim Brotherhood has not been able to sustain public outrage at the ousting of Morsi. Combine that atrophy with intimidation and a lack of extremist leadership and it looks like peace and stability are making a comeback in Egypt.

Free and democratic elections are on the way. I just hope that, this time, the powers that be will not permit non-democratic parties to seek election. But this is Egypt, so who knows? 

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Friday, August 23, 2013

4 Rockets Hit Israel From Lebanon

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Four rockets were shot from Southern Lebanon into Israel yesterday. There were no injuries. At least one of the four was intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Conventional wisdom is that Hezbollah did not fire these missiles.

Hezbollah wants to keep things quiet on their front so that Israel does not retaliate. Hezbollah wants to attack Israel on its own terms. So this missile strike was not Hezbollah and definitely not Shiites. This was an attack by a Sunni Jihadist group, maybe even a group affiliated with al Qaeda.

A few hours after the attack a Lebanese Sheikh named Siraj a-Din Zrikat tweeted that the "Abdallah al Aza'am Birgardes and the Ziad al Jarah Squadrons" were responsible for the rocket attack against Israel.

And then the Sheikh attacked Hezbollah for not attacking Israel. He called it protecting Israel. He tweeted that: "Hezbollah's responsibility of protecting Israel will - God willing - become a difficult task." 

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

US Will Not Intervene in Syria

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The AP published a letter sent by General Martin E. Dempsey to Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) laying out the United States point of view on intervention in Syria. Engel is the ranking member on the Committee on Foreign Affairs

The letter is dated August 19. It is extremely telling and will no doubt upset those clamoring for US intervention in Syria. Here are some salient points:

"Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides."

"It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not."

"We can destroy the Syrian air force. The loss of Assad's air force would negate his ability to attack opposition forces from the air, but it would also escalate and potentially further commit the United States to the conflict. Stated another way, it would not be militarily decisive, but it would commit us decisively to the conflict."

"The use of U.S. military force can change the military balance." Then Dempsey added. "But it cannot resolve the underlying and historic ethnic, religious and tribal issues that are fueling this conflict."
General Dempsey is correct.

The US should stay out of the fray in Syria. They should help only by sending humanitarian aid which can and will help. There is no way the rebels will support US interests - and it is very possible that even with US interference, Assad will still emerge the victor. 

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Irans New Pres Picks Cabinet

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Hassan Rohani, the new president of Iran, is putting his cabinet together.

Rohani assumed office on August 3. He has been touted as a more open and more liberal leader than Ahmadinejad. He has publicly made statements that repudiate the stands taken by his predecessor - especially on foreign affairs and sanctions.

Rohani has already appointed the new head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization. It is a position that the new president knows well, it is a position that he once occupied.

The newly appointed head is Ali Akbar Salehi, he is the former foreign minister of Iran and he is perfect for this position.

Salehi will not function as the nuclear negotiator, rather, he is the representative of Iran to all international nuclear organizations and it is he who will be setting the tone on all nuclear issues. Most importantly, he is in charge of all of Iranian nuclear facilities.

Like Rohani, Selehi is considered to be a pragmatic leader and a diplomat, not an extremist like the former head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Abasi Davani who was a perfect fit for the Ahmadinejad model.

This is not a new Iran, do not be misled. It is instead a slightly altered Iran. 

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Iran Wants to Teach Hacking

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Iran has announced that courses in computer hacking will be added to their senior high school curriculum. The Iranians want to enlist high school students to hack foreign drones. I kid you not.

The announcement came from FARS, a semi official media outlet that is the voice of the Iranian Republican Guard Corp (IRGC).

General Ali Fazali the acting commander of the Basij militia gave the course a name. He explained that the new study is to be called Defensive Readiness.

A major component of the curriculum already exists. It is called civil defense training and is taught through a manual. The manual will now have to be updated to incorporate the hacking.

"This year," said General Fazali, "we will witness changes in the contents, teachers and teaching hours of the defensive preparedness lesson."

This is a brilliant plan by the Iranians. But it will most certainly backfire.
Once you give students the skills to hack they will not stop at drones - they will attack anything and everything that they dislike. And they probably dislike the government more than they dislike drones.

In the end, only a handful of students will gain the skills.

Hacking cannot be taught. Actually, the opposite. Hacking is about turning everything you were taught upside down. Hacking is about knowing a computer system inside and out and then finding its flaws. Hacking is about finding holes and backdoors that give you access. Hacking is about ingenuity, it is about combining linear and circular reasoning and thought and trial and error. Hacking requires patience, a lot of patience.

Some talented youthful Iranians will be able to hack - but not from a manual and not from a teacher in a class in an Iranian high school.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

What the PLO Says About Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

On Sunday the Executive Committee of The PLO met in Ramallah. The Executive Committee is the most significant and authoritative group of leader in the PLO. They were briefed on the progress of Israel-Palestinian-US talks.

The official responses issued by the Committee after the briefing is shocking. All they could focus on was Israel's decision to build 1200 apartments, mostly in Jerusalem.

Here are several salient comments:
"War crimes, anti-human, racist acts and violations of international laws."

"The PLO Executive Committee considers the unprecedented settler decisions which were announced by the occupation government as conclusive proof that Israel's first and last option remains expansionism, Judaization and theft of Palestinian land, and not ending occupation and implementing the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders."

"We hold the US administration responsible for stopping these Israeli war crimes and attempts to foil the peace process."

"The last settlement steps contradict assurances that the Palestinian Authority received during preparatory talks for launching the negotiations."

"Israel's practices will prompt the Palestinian leadership to demand the intervention of international courts and institutions against these war crimes, racist acts and violations of all international laws and conventions."

The Executive Committee went so far as to call the settlement activity "ethnic cleansing."
Exaggerated use of language is common in the Middle East. But this time exaggerated language is taken to the extreme. These statements by Palestinian leadership are truly extreme. And they are simply not true.

It is hard to imagine how any real resolution can emerge when this kind of vitriol is being spewed by Palestinian leadership in official meetings. The situation is truly out of control.

Who is going to pave the road to coexistence? 

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Attacking Christians in Egypt

By Micah Halpern
Sunday August 18, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Christians are paying a very heavy price in Egypt. They are suffering the brunt Islamist anger. Morsi supporters have targeted Christians in a way that can only be called bone chilling.

One must ask: Why? How?

Theoretically, the answer lies is the knowledge that in the eyes of Muslim extremists, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters, Christians are outsiders.

Christians compose 10% of the 90 million people of Egypt, but they are different. History has taught us how powerful difference can be when the objective is to unify the masses. This is happening despite the fact that the Christian community of Egypt is one of the oldest in the world, dating back way before the rise of Islam.
Politically, the answer lies in the perception that the Christians of Egypt played a disproportionate role in the ousting of Morsi.

This might be true and bolstering that theory is the fact that over the past year some important bridges have been built between Christians and mainstream Muslims in Egypt.

The most important reasons is, simply put, logistics. The Christians in Egypt are an easy target. Their churches and schools are immediately identifiable and by blatantly attacking those symbols Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood need not attack the other Muslims of Egypt in order to publicly display their strength.

Targeting Christians is a win-win for the Islamists. They whip up anger at those who threw Morsi out of office and not attack or directly threaten the people who actually ousted him. There is visible, physical, evidence that they acted.

Bottom line is that the churches of Egypt are damaged and ransacked. Over 50 churches have been looted or torched, 23 others were attacked. Looters have come back a second time to steal even more from the churches. Looters loaded trucks with furniture. Nuns have been sexually abused and marched and paraded as criminals.

The West should be shouting at the top of their lungs about the desecration and the violence. I hear nothing. 

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Predicting Egypt

By Micah Halpern
I'm Predicting:

The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a week of demonstrations.

That really means nonstop take-to-the-streets violent demonstrations.
Over six hundred Egyptians have been killed. Yesterday alone the number tallied sixty.

Violence is rampant throughout Egypt. Pro-Morsi protesters have torched twelve churches in three days of rioting and attacked twenty more.

Through careful observation over these next few days we will be able to determine if the momentum is subsiding or building. We will get a sense of the direction the country is taking. A greater crackdown by the military can either force more protests or frighten the protestors sending them back to their homes.

Most Western companies have shut down their facilities and told their employees to stay at home. GM, Electrolux, BP oil and Royal Shell oil all sent their workers home citing their own safety. Electrolux, for example, employees 7000 people in Egypt and runs seven factories.

By early next week I predict that the situation in Egypt will be calmer. 

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Egypt Will Get Worse Before Better

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Believe me when I tell you that the situation in Egypt is going to get worse before it gets better.

Morsi supporters and the Muslim Brotherhood have promised that blood will be spilled in the next few days.
The statement comes in response to the decision by Egyptian police to clear out two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo. In the end over 600 people were killed. Included in that number are about 100 Egyptian police officers.

Morsi supporters also burned down three Cairo churches.

The United States was naive to have assumed that the Muslim Brotherhood would simply sit back quietly as they were removed from power. The Brotherhood waited 80 years before obtaining power and then, poof, on July 3rd it was wrestled from them. They are not going to accept that fate, certainly not without a dirty, violent, fight to the death.

Pro-Morsi protests are not calm and peaceful. Many attendees arrive armed with AK-47's. That is how the police were killed. Morsi devotees have a penchant for violence and are committed to attacking people who are different - especially Christians, and for destroying that which is not part of Islam, like Christian symbols.

This new interim government is not ideal, far from it, it is deeply flawed. But they are making some effort and last week the government passed a law saying that it is no longer illegal to criticize the president.
That should tell you something. In Egypt, that's progress. 

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Israel to Transfer Bodies of Terrorists

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Ynet reported yesterday that not only is Israel releasing prisoners, Israel is also transferring the bodies of terrorists to the Palestinians. It is all part of the series of gestures Israel is making in order to entice the Palestinians to come to the peace negotiation table.

There is no reason to think that this report was not true. The question that needs asking is what benefit will Israel gain from this transfer, especially after already agreeing to release 104 terrorist, all charged with murder or attempted murder, from Israeli prisons.

The only reason the transfer of bodies has not yet taken place is because the Palestinians are confirming the DNA. The precedent has already been set. Last year Israel transferred 91 bodies of terrorists to the Palestinian Authority.

When this transfer does happen it will almost certainly spark another great debate among Israeli.

Is it worth it? 

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Abbas Legacy - Released Prisoners

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, is cementing his legacy.
Most observes would respond by asking how? He has stumbled and failed at every juncture to secure peace or, for that matter, any agreement and has misread Israel's objectives at almost every turn.

That is true. But the Abbas dream is not about peace or coexistence. Mahmoud Abbas wants to be remembered for freeing Palestinian prisoners. Abbas is achieving that which Yasser Arafat could never achieve.

This recent group of 26 prisoners, part of the larger group of 104 prisoners to be released from Israeli prisons, is a small group that numbers well over a thousand Palestinian prisoners who have been freed under Abbas' watch.

Mahmoud Abbas will be remembered in the Palestinian history books as the president who forced Israel to free Palestinians who had been in jail for decades. It is Abbas who gave them their freedom, not Israel.

In the end, for his own legacy, Abbas is not concerned about a Palestinian Israeli peace deal. All he really cares about is the release of prisoners. 

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Prisoners Are Murderers - Look

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Today, the first group of Palestinian prisoners will be released. 26 of 104 prisoners that Israel promised to release in order to entice Mahmoud Abbas to sit down at the table to talk about a peace deal will go free.
26 mass murderers. 14 will return to Gaza. 12 will be released in the West Bank.

Here are some of their names and their crimes:
Abu Moussa Salam Ali Atiya, jailed since 1994, for the murder of Holocaust survivor Isaac Rotenberg
Kor Mattawa Hamad Faiz, jailed since 1985, for the murder of Menahem Dadon and attempted murder of Salomon Abukasis
Salah Ibrahim Ahmad Mughdad, jailed since 1993, for the murder of Israel Tenenbaum.

Many of the victims were older and were Holocaust survivors. 12 of the victims were Arab. All of the prisoners were convicted of murder and attempted murder. Their release flies in the face of the judicial system that convicted them. They are not being released for good behavior nor are they being released on parole.

These convicted criminals are being released as a political gesture which is supra judicial. 

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Monday, August 12, 2013

A Little Perspective on Settlements

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:

There has been much shouting and finger pointing these past few days over the decision by the Israeli government to build 1,200 housing units in the West Bank.

The shouters and finger pointers claim that the decision is at best counterproductive to peace talks. In fact, they have condemned Israel for torpedoing the upcoming second round of talks.
I say that a little perspective is required here. I am neither justifying nor do I need to justify Israel's decision, but that reaction is over the top.

One of the agreements decided upon by the Palestinians and the Israelis was that there no longer needs to be a total cessation of settlement building in order to come back to the negotiating table.

The vast majority of the 1,200 units are actually in Jerusalem, not in far flung settlements. They are in neighborhoods where residents pay taxes and get local bus service and garbage collection from the municipality of Jerusalem. They are over the 1967 lines, but they are part of Jerusalem.

Almost 800 of the 1,200 apartments will be built in Jerusalem: 400 in Gilo; 210 in Homat Shmuel; 183 in Pisgat Zeev. The other communities to receive units are huge city-like suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The settlement Ariel will get 117 units; Efrat will get 149; Ma'ale Adumim will get 92 units; Beitar Illit will get 36.
Ariel has nearly 20,000 people in it. Beitar Ilit has 50,000 and Maale Adumim has nearly 50,000 people. They are each only a few seconds drive from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

Perspective, it's important. 

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Threat of Terror from Sinai

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Theories are swirling about the airstrike that destroyed a set of rocket launchers in Egypt and killed several terrorists. The launchers were pointing toward Israel.

The best theory is that the Egyptians used their helicopter gunships to do the job and that the Israelis gave Egypt the intelligence they needed to pinpoint the location.

This has really upset the Jihadists of Egypt.

The Mujahadeen Shura Council of Jerusalem and the Region, issued a statement saying that the real enemy is Israel even if the new government of Egypt was involved. They became even more specific adding that their first target is the Jewish settler community.

The Mujahadeen Council is a terror group that professes, first and foremost, Jihad. They are located in the Sinai and in Gaza.

Here is the statement: "The treacherous strike, which would not have occurred without the coordination of the Egyptian army, is a reminder to Egyptians that their first enemy is the Jews living on occupied Palestinian lands."

These are not idle threats. The Mujahadeen means what it says. 

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saudis Try To Bribe Russia to Drop Assad

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

According to Reuters, Saudi Arabia has offered Russia $15 billion to give up on Assad of Syria.

The Saudis are asking Russia to stop pumping money in weapons and knowhow into the Assad forces. Most importantly, they want Russia to stop blocking the UN Security Council.

In return, in addition to the $15 billion, Saudi Arabia has made other promises to Russia. They promise that Damascus will be controlled by Saudi Arabia. That arrangement would be far more pro-Russia than the Islamist regime that would emerge after Assad.
Russia declined.

The Russians said no to the deal for several reasons. One reason is that they probably did not believe that Saudi Arabia could deliver.

More than that, Russia is now at the top of their game in the Middle East. They have created an important nexus bringing Iran and Syria together and, as a byproduct of that arrangement, they are causing great harm to US interests in the region.

Russia now enjoys more influence in the region than it has in decades. There is no way Russia will give that up -- not even for $15 billion. 

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Take Israel and Italy to Court over Jesus

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Dola Indidis, former spokesman of the Kenyan Ministry of Justice, is taking Israel and Italy to the International Court of Justice. Indidis is asking that Israel and Italy be tried for unjustly convicting Jesus. And then he is asking for the conviction to be overturned.

Indidis is basing his case on the case of Joan of Arc. He maintains that the precedent was set when Joan of Arc's conviction was overturned 25 years after she was executed. Joan was burned at the stake and years later, in 1920, she was canonized. Indidis is convinced that - "This is the same case with Jesus. The judge who sentenced him said that he had no jurisdiction to attend to the matter but he went ahead to convict and pass a capital sentence under duress."

The basis of this argument is that Jesus was brought before Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. Pilate announced that he does not have jurisdiction and sends the case to Herod. Herod, not wanting to touch the issue, sends it back to Pilate who then convicts Jesus and has him crucified.

According to Indidis: "His selective and malicious prosecution violated his human rights through judicial misconduct, abuse of office, bias and prejudice."
"The proceedings before the Roman courts were a nullity in law for they did not conform to the rule of law at the material time and any time thereafter."
"Some of those present spat in his face, struck him with their fists, slapped him, taunted him, and pronounced him worthy of death."

There is no parallel between Jesus and Joan of Arc. And there is no way the International Court of Justice will hear this case.

The case of Jesus is full of historical and legal questions and asking those questions makes for interesting academic debates and great dinner party conversations and has even been the foundation for tenure at some very august universities.

But they do not belong in court.

Then again, you never know. The International Court has a rabidly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tone. But still, I do not believe that they will take on this case.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Egypt Blows Up Tunnels

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Over the past month Egypt has begun to crackdown on the terror and anarchy that has been engulfing Sinai.

The new government in Egypt has begun to blow up tunnels and to arrest terrorists.

This crackdown in Sinai means that Egypt is separating the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt from Hamas in Gaza. Do not mistake this for a pro-Israel or a pro-Western move. The crackdown against the terrorists is absolutely and exclusively in the best interest of Egypt - otherwise anarchy would continue to prevail.

Egypt blew up 102 smuggling tunnels. They arrested 103 terrorist and they killed 60. They confiscated the 40 fuel depots with 2.7 million liters of diesel and gasoline. During the conflict with the terrorists 20 police officers and soldiers were killed.

These numbers are very telling.

This is proof that the new interim government in Egypt has begun to take charge. The new government sees the danger in anarchy and terror. They do not want the Muslim Brotherhood stimulating terror.

This is a very important and encouraging sign. It portends well for the new, new Egypt.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Terror Alert- The Downside

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The terror threat level is still high and it will remain high until August 10 when the Muslim holiday Eid al Fitr ends.

Closing US diplomatic posts in order to keep them safe is the best way to prevent another Benghazi from happening. Once you close the facility the chances of a massive attack that claims US lives is virtually eliminated.


There is an intrinsic problem with going on alert and closing embassies. In fact, in Yemen the facility was not only closed, all personnel was shipped out and away.

The biggest drawback to responding to terror threats by creating a policy which includes the closing of embassies and an international media campaign explaining the closings is the message that is sent to al Qaeda. The message is clear. They have won this round.

Right now the terrorists are celebrating their success. On their websites terrorists are describing how they have brought the mighty United States to its knees without even embarking on an attack. They are gloating and they are certainly enjoying the coverage and notoriety.

The United States must find a happy medium between what was done and doing nothing.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Terror Alert

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Since the weekend, press coverage of the US embassy closures has been on front pages across America.

Most of the embassies will remain closed until August 10 which is the last day of Eid el Fitr. The Eid is a three day holiday that follows the Muslim month of Ramadan which is a month of fasting.

What is most interesting is that the embassies in Kabul and Baghdad opened on Sunday. And all US diplomatic facilities in Israel - Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, opened on Monday. That is because in all those places the US presence is secure and properly defended.

Vis a vis Israel, there is no al Qaeda threat at all in Israel. Closing US diplomatic representation there would be silly. The other closures are, however, all based on the same al Qaeda threat, a threat that clearly contained a time table and a set of dates.

Defensive thinkers usually have the "where" and the "how" but never the "when". They usually know what targets are sensitive and high profile and they know the methods used by terrorists.

This time all the pieces have been brought together and the State Department took great caution and acted to protect people and facilities. Nobody wants a repeat of Benghazi.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Saudis Insult al Bashir Big Time

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Almost everyone knows that Hassan Rouhani, the new Iranian president, assumed his post yesterday.

But hardly anyone knows that Sudan's President Omar al Bashir was on his way to the inauguration and was forced to return to Khartum.

Saudi Arabia would not permit al Bashir to cross their air space.

That happened despite his having a prior agreement and his using a Saudi charter and non-Sudanese pilots.

The plane took off and entered Saudi airspace and was told it may not proceed. So the pilots circled in Saudi airspace for about an hour as the diplomats tried to resolve the issue. In the end, al Bashir's plane was turned back.

In the Western world al Bashir is a pariah. An arrest warrant has been issued by the International Criminal Court (The ICC). But this is the Middle East and over the last few years he has been a regular and welcome guest in Saudi Arabia. The African Union officially rejected the warrant and it members disregard to ICC decree.

Here's the problem: Sudan has begun to permit Iran the use of their ports. Several times in the recent past Iran has docked its warships in the port of Sudan. This act has become a real public affront to Saudi Arabia.
And so, al Bashir and Sudan are being publicly humiliated for becoming too cozy with Iran. 

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Al Qaeda Prison Break -- Again

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Interpol is concerned. The US intelligence and security establishment should be concerned, as well. This is an issue in which time is of the essence.

As I recently wrote there were simultaneous prison breaks in Iraq during which 500 al Qaeda leaders escaped.

In addition to the Iraqi prison breaks, 1190 prisoners escaped from a prison in Benghazi last week. Similar to Iraq, many were terrorists and al Qaeda members. And in Pakistan there was also a prison break in which untold numbers al Qaeda prisoners escaped.

Interpol is asking if all the prison breaks are coordinated or linked or in any way related. They need to know whether there is a concerted effort to get al Qaeda prisoners out to support a larger mission or even a series of missions.

And if so --- what is that mission? 

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Nasrallah Left His Bunker

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, gave a speech yesterday. In the speech he repeated many standard cliches and themes.

What makes this speech worth mentioning is that it was delivered in honor of Al Quds, or Jerusalem, Day. Al Quds Day is a holiday that Iran instituted as a move to show solidarity with the Palestinians.
It is a holiday also celebrated by Hezbollah.

These are some of the statements made by Nasrallah as he delivered his speech: "Palestine must return to its rightful owners."

"The Palestine which we mean is a Palestine which stretches from the sea to the river."

"Israel poses a critical threat not only to Palestine, but to all the world."

We know very well where Nasrallah and Hezbollah stand on these issues.

What makes this speech unique is that Nasrallah delivered it live, in front of a live audience, away from his home turf. The head of Hezbollah left his secure bunker and went to id-a-Shuhada, a complex in the Hezbollah-controlled Dahieh quarter of Lebanon's capital Beirut, in order to deliver this speech.

That's what makes this speech special. 

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Friday, August 2, 2013

Israeli Spying for Iran

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Israel has charged and will try a 46 year old Jerusalemite for treason. The man - whose name has not been released, went to Germany and initiated contact with the Iranians.

The unnamed man strolled in to the Iranian embassy and announced that he lived in Jerusalem and wanted to spy against Israel. Three men sat him down. At the end of the meeting he was told that more senior people had to evaluate the situation. He was given an email account and a telephone number at the embassy in Berlin in order to contact his handler.

This unnamed man is a member of Neturei Karta, a sect which vehemently objects to the modern political State of Israel and will go - as we can see - to great lengths to popularize their anti-Zionist message. But he also seems to be part of the sub groups called Torah Vayera. This smaller group flatly rejects all interaction with Muslims as a means to bring down Israel.

When he returned to Israel four days after his meeting the man checked his email account at an internet cafe and started calling the Iranian embassy in Berlin.

It is hard to imagine that this man had any real secrets to sell. But it is still comforting that he was discovered so easily. 

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ramadan is For Fasting & Forgiveness

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

This is the Islamic month of Ramadan. Muslims around the world fast during the day and celebrate at night. It is a month of introspection and a month of forgiveness.

The Emir of Kuwait has taken the idea of forgiveness to a very practical new high.

"On the occasion of the last 10 days of Ramadan, I am pleased to issue an emiri pardon for those who have been handed jail terms on charges of insulting the emir," Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said in a televised speech.

The Emir of Kuwait has now pardoned a good number of prisoners who have already been found guilty and are serving their sentences and even some who are still only charged with insulting the Emir.

Insulting the Emir of Kuwait carries a five years prison sentence. 

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