Saturday, May 31, 2014

White House Embraces Hamas

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

It looks like the United States, specifically the White House, has officially embraced the Hamas / Palestinian Authority Unity Government. This is a major turnaround. And it is a serious violation of US law.

The Israeli daily Maariv reported on and then quoted the high level Palestinian official and head of the Fatah reconciliation team, Azam Al Ahmad, saying that since the unity agreement the new Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has been invited to the White House for an official visit. "The visit will take place in June, during which Hamdallah will meet with the American president and visit the US Congress."
Azam Ahmad also said that "The US administration has renounced its previous disapproval of the national unity government and will now support the new government."

This is truly earth shattering. It will require some very fancy footwork on the part of Washington diplomats and whoever else wants to recognize the new Palestinian government.

According to US law, a law which was passed by Congress, Hamas may not receive support or US money.
As a result of the unity government, any aid and/or any money that goes to the PA cannot be separated from
Hamas - and so it is impossible to recognize the newly formed unity government.
Even the presidential waiver cannot apply here. It is a clear and absolute rule. Congress passed this law expecting this specific scenario.

There is no way around this law. The only answer would be to change the law.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Iran Hacks The West

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

A cyber intel firm from Dallas, Texas called iSIGHT Partners just dropped a huge bomb.

They have shown that, over the past few years, Iran has successfully hacked into leaders around the world - including a four-star United States general, leaders from Arab countries, from England and even from Israel.

The hack was slow and very methodical. They created fictitious Facebook, twitter, Linkedin and other accounts and they created imaginary people. They befriended friends and made their way slowly to their targets. They probably targeted 2,000 people in order to get to the several dozen people they really wanted to hack.

They created a media outlet called NewsOnAir.org. All the journalists posting on the site had false identities.
Once the hackers found their targets they planted spyware and other software. This would enable the hackers to follow and to get passwords and access to highly secure sites. They invested huge amounts of time to cultivate contacts and then to get introduced to their targets.

This hack was wildly successful.

There is no way of knowing how much material was compromised and who was compromised when. iSIGHT has said that the operation has been going on since 2011.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Conflict Over Jerusalem

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Jerusalem Day marks the liberation of Jerusalem, it marks the reunification of the city in the 1967, Six Day War.

It is a great day of celebration for Jews around the world - especially in Israel and even more so in Jerusalem. When Israeli

Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to mark the day he repeated the often declared statement that Jerusalem is the eternal, undivided, capital of Israel.

That Jerusalem is the eternal, undivided, capital of Israel is a near absolute point of unity and agreement in Israel. And yet, the Palestinians responded to the Netanyahu speech by reminding him that East Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.

This small exchange illustrates some of the enormous tension and explains in part the gargantuan rift that exists between both Palestinians and Israelis.

There are ways to bridge the gap regarding Jerusalem. The division is predominately an issue of rhetoric. But in order for there to be any change in the stagnant status quo there needs to be a real desire to find a solution - even about terms.

At this moment I am not very hopeful.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Extra Day In Elections In Egypt

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Egypt's two day election was extended for a third day. The Presidential Election Commission announced that the ballots would remain open for a third day due to low turnout.

The low turnout should have been predicted.

The reasons are obvious:

# 1: The outcome is clear, so why should people come out to vote.

# 2: People are politically burned out. They have had enough of presidential politics. They want to move on.

# 3: The heat has been blistering.

# 4: There have been, not unexpectedly, boycotts by groups that do not recognize the elections.

In order to secure a better turnout on the third day, one member of the Commission considered applying an old law still on the books. If implemented, Egyptians that do not vote would be fined 50 Egyptian Pounds. That is about $79 US.

Democracy is new to Egypt. Most new democracies are excited about the voting process. Al Sisi and his advisers believe that when more people vote, he will be given a larger and clearer mandate to govern. He is wrong.

Unfortunately, as democracy matures fewer people vote. All that is required is that there be a legal, fair and honest election.

Egypt will soon learn an important lesson about democracy. Most people really do not care. Those who do care are those who come out to vote.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Elections Shake Up EU

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
The BBC called it an "earthquake that rocks EU elections." They were referring to the Euroskeptics who grabbed power by the handful in the elections that concluded over the weekend.

The Euoskeptics want to disband the EU and they are now a formidable contingent in the EU parliament.
Center parties lost serious ground to the rightists. The voting public is responding to the changes in European societies. They are hoping that the rightists will stem the influx of Muslims into Europe. They are xenophobic.

The right is also filled with anti-Semitism.

To get some sense of the numbers:

In France, the National Front garnered 25% of the votes. French President Hollande's Socialist Party came in third place with only 14% of the votes.

In Greece, the Golden Dawn which is similar to the National Front, received 10% of the ballots.

In England, the Euroskeptics won with 27% while the Conservatives only got 24% and the Labour Party received 25% of the vote.

The European Jewish community is deeply concerned about these changes in the EU Parliament.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Iran Executes Billionaire

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Iran executed a billionaire for perpetrating a $2.6 billion fraud.

Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, also known as Amir Mansour Aria, was hung in prison in a secret execution. Even his lawyer was not informed that the execution was to take place.

Khosravi was involved in the biggest bank scam in the history of the Islamic Republic. Thirty nine people were convicted. Four were executed, two were given life sentences and the rest were given twenty-five years.

Considering how controlled the Iranian economy is, the case raises questions as to how it was possible to perpetrate such a huge fraud and over so long a period of time.

The fraud began in 2007 with forged documents that enabled bank loans. The loans were used to purchase thirty-five companies. The state owned steel company was bought. A mineral water company was bought. A soccer team and a meat importing company were bought. In such a highly controlled economy, it is highly likely that there were also government payoffs.

The banks played a huge role in the fraud and many of the players were former banks executives. Some of those involved were able to escape Iran. One character escaped to Canada. I expect that, over the next few weeks, he will spill the beans about the government involvement in this colossal fraud.


Micah@MicahHalpern.com

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Pope's Visit to Middle East

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Pope's trip to the Middle East is extremely important. Although it is a short visit and there were times when the trip itself was in doubt, the Pope's appearance in the region serves an important vehicle in helping to bridge differences.

The three day trip began on Saturday and ends on Monday.

Obviously, all sides will do their best to put their best foot forward when entertaining the Pope. By definition, that means explaining your case and explaining why the peace process is at a standstill.

The blame game will be played. The Palestinians and the Israelis will blame one another. What the sides do not understand is that Pope Francis is not about blame. This Pope is all about solutions to injustice.

The Pope will listen, but he will not judge. He wants the parties, Israelis and Palestinians, to sit together, begin to resolve their issues and stop all the injustice.

During the visit Pope Francis will visit most of the requisite places and offer the required masses and deliver the expected speeches and meet with the appropriate people. He is hoping that his very presence will help, that his dialogue and discussion with the parties will enable them to move closer to the table and an agreement.

Pope Francis is an optimist. I hope his optimism is infectious.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ukraine Election on Sunday

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

This Sunday is Election Day in Ukraine. There are still tensions and even skirmishes in Eastern Ukraine.

On Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he will respect and recognize whoever is elected. And then he added that he hoped the new government would stop the military action against ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine.

21 candidates are running in this election. It is taking place throughout Ukraine, including eastern Ukraine. The voting is supposed to take place in areas that just had elections. All the areas that had elections voted to create independent regions from Ukraine - and yet, the central government in Kiev wants everyone to vote on Sunday.

The exception is Crimea. They will not participate in these elections. They were officially annexed by Russia.

Election rules in Ukraine require that the winner must gain over 50% of the vote. In the event that it does not happen, there will be a runoff of the top candidates.

Expect a run-off.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Golan is in Flux

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Golan Heights have been hot these past weeks. It all relates back to Syria.

On the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliated groups have made progress in capturing important towns, crossroads and vantage points. They are now positioned just yards from the Israeli border.

I expect that Bashar Assad will make a major play to redeem the Golan from the rebels. The reason Assad needs to take back the Golan is clear. Damascus is just 40 miles away. If the rebels control this southern flank they have easy accesses to Assad's center of power.

At the other end of the country, in the north, the battles are far away from Assad as he sits in Damascus.
Saudi Arabia had been supporting the rebels, but they have now stopped supporting those rebel forces connected to al Qaeda out of fear that the extremist Islamic approach will not work. So now the Saudis are supporting only sub groups of rebels who are, or will eventually, fight al Qaeda.

On the Israeli side Druze residents of the Golan Heights have made an appeal to the UN to permit them to vote in the June 2nd election in Syria. Almost every single Druze person I have heard says they will vote for Assad. They want to cross over and vote or get the ballots brought across the border and into Israel by the United Nations.

Druze families straddle the border. Some are in Syria and some in Israel. Some Israeli Druze even attend university in Syria. For decades people have crossed back and forth over the border under the supervision of the UN. In the fall Israeli Druze farmers bring their entire apple crop over the border into Syria for sale in Damascus.

Since this eruption in the Golan Heights, courtesy of al Qaeda, Israel has closed the UN border crossing into Syria.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Racism in Europe

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Outlawing racism is difficult to do. It requires crossing over into the sacred realm of free speech.

Switzerland, like most western European countries, has laws against racism and against Nazism. Now the Swiss Federal Tribunal, the highest court in the land, has issued a ruling on the question of racism. It is the Swiss attempt at severing the Gordian Knot.

The title of the decision is "The Hitler Salute in Public is Not Always Punishable." The court wrote that using the salute depends on the intention and so it is not blankly forbidden. It all has to do with the intent of the person performing the salute.

According to the ruling, it is forbidden only if the intention was to spread racism. It is permitted if the salute was simply conveying the personal ideas of the person saluting.

This creates a very difficult standard to prove.
Once this new legal standard is firmly in place it will be almost impossible to prosecute anyone ever again on the charge of racism in Switzerland.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 
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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Al Sisi Speaks About Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

An extensive taped interview with al Sisi, the shoe-in for president of Egypt in the election scheduled for May 26 &27, was broadcast on three Egyptian satellite stations the other day.

Al Sisi explained his point of view on the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel. He went into detail about the role of Egyptian forces in the Sinai. According to the Camp David Peace Accords, Egypt may not have a military presence in the Sinai Desert. But because of widespread terror networks now operating in the Sinai, Israel and Egypt have agreed that the Egyptian military should operate there.

Al Sisi explained that the informal change to the Accords is in everyone's best interest. It is clearly in the best interests of both Egypt and Israel to stem the terror there. Al Sisi then went on the say that if they need to implement an official change to the treaty that is what they will do.

Actually, there is no need to officially amend the treaty. Both sides agree and both sides are communicating well and sharing information.

Al Sisi is correct. It is in their mutual self interest to cooperate and fight terror in the Sinai.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hamas PA Near Agreement

By Micah Halpern
I'm Predicting:

It is looking like Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are getting closer and closer to actually coming to an agreement.

The PA and Hamas have never been so close to a deal in the past.

There have already been two other signed agreements prior to this one, but they both broke down when it came to the details of the governing.

I still cannot see these two entities coexisting. It seems obvious to me that Hamas will very quickly increase their power - and in doing so a mini civil war will erupt and the entire Palestinian infrastructure will implode. And when the dust settles the only real power and stability will be found in local Palestinian leadership.

When the ink dries on the agreement between Hamas and the

Palestinian Authority, Israel and the United States will be stuck not knowing how to approach the situation.
The US will try to create a balance as they always do, but they will probably continue to deal with the PA rather than Hamas. Israel will try to cut off support to the Palestinians because of the role Hamas will be playing and they too will, inevitably, still conduct their dealing with the PA, not Hamas.

The problem is that the PA will be hemorrhaging รข€“ power, status, influence, funds. Hamas will break down and destroy the entire

Palestinian Authority foundation of government now in place. They will institute shariyah law and enormously curtail freedoms especially women's rights and freedom of expression.

Hamas will intimidate all Palestinians and force compliance. And the Palestinian Authority as we know it will disappear within weeks of a final agreement.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Everyone Must Know Abu Khattala

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Everyone in the Western world should know the name Ahmed Abu Khattala. It is a name that should be as well known as that of Osama bin Laden or of his successor Ayman Zawahiri.

Abu Khattala was the leader of the attack in Benghazi that murdered four US State Department employees including the Ambassador.

The White House has applied a full court press to find Abu Khattala.

He has so far successfully eluded them. He very recently, literally, slipped through the fingers of the United States and foiled a plan to assassinate him. Abu Khattala was tipped off in advance of the plan.

Quite obviously, capturing this terrorist is an important goal of the White House. The killing of Abu Khattala would be a very significant feather in the cap of President Obama. It is also an extremely important US policy objective.

The United States and the West should not be targeting terrorists for revenge --- but for justice. They must pursue terrorists to show that the US can and will eventually find and punish the people responsible for these heinous acts. The reason it is even more important that Abu Khattala be caught - and caught quickly, is because he is still actively plotting attacks against the United States.

It is not just about the past, it is also about preventing future terror attacks.

Remember the name Ahmed Abu Khattala. Remember what he did.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Syria Fights to Take Back Golan From Al Qaeda

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Syrian army has launched an offensive to retake the Syrian Golan Heights.

Last week al Qaeda affiliates successfully moved into the major villages on the Syrian Golan. This was a redo of exactly the events of last June. The Golan has critical importance and is essential in terms of keeping the border with Israel and Jordan secure.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Abdel Rahman described the Syrian assault:

"The army's counter-offensive, against rebels and the (jihadist) Al-Nusra Front, has been extremely fierce. On Friday the army fired 100 rockets and carried out 15 air strikes. On Saturday, the air raids and shelling have been continuous, and the army also fired a surface-to-surface missile against Sahem village."

There is no doubt that many more Syrian foot soldiers will be brought to the region to mop up the operation.

Last year, Syria used Hezbollah as the fighting force to oust al Qaeda.

Keeping the Golan quiet is critical so as to make certain that the Syrian conflict does not cross over into Israel or drag Israel into retaliation strikes.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Pope's Trip to the Middle East

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Pope's trip to the Middle East will take place in just a few days, from May 24 through May 26. This trip will be both fast paced and full of political turf issues.

Accompanying the Pope will be two of his colleagues from Argentina. A Muslim leader, Omar Aboud, head of the Institute for Religious

Dialogue will join the Pope's entourage as will Rabbi Abraham Skorka, chief rabbi of Argentina and a co-author with the Pope. The two are officially part of the delegation from Rome. Rabbi Skorka will join the trip on the second day because of the Jewish Sabbath, Omar Aboud will be there the entire trip.

The trip begins with a half day in Jordan where the major focus will be a visit to the Jordan River and the traditional site of the baptism. The delegation then helicopters to Bethlehem to visit the traditional birth site of Jesus. Also on the Bethlehem itinerary is a visit to Dheisheh, a UN refugee camp established after Israel was created in 1949 for 3400 Palestinians.

Here's where a logistical complications set in. Bethlehem is only a one minute drive to Jerusalem city limits and about ten minutes from there to the Prime Minister's residence, the Knesset and Yad Veshem.
And yet, official protocol requires heads of state to land at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport be taken directly to the Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.

So the Pope must get back into his helicopter and fly to Tel Aviv just in order to come back to Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem he will ascend the Temple Mount, or Haram al Sharif, where he will meet the Grand Mufti. At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher Pope Francis will meet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the world's Orthodox Christians. The site is the traditional site of Jesus' burial.

Along the route representatives of many other churches will also be presenting the Pope with gifts, including the leader of Lebanon's Maronite Catholic Church, which is Lebanon's largest Christian community.

Although tensions are very high the Pope has refused his bullet proof vehicles. He will travel in a simple Ford. Pope Francis wants to remain as close to his flock as possible.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

US Buys Kurdish Oil

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Israel and the United States are importing crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan. This might just turn into a huge diplomatic time bomb.

According to Iraqi law, all oil must be sold through Bagdad. But more and more clients are going to the Kurds and getting oil from them. The oil is piped across the border to the Turkish port of Dortyol and uploaded onto tankers that then make their way to their destinations.

According to ship tracking companies who track the whereabouts of tankers, the first ship left for the United States two weeks ago.

Since January four ships filled with Kurdish oil have gone from Turkey to Israel. Add on another two ships that arrived in Israel
last summer.

The Iraqis are livid and are threatening all kinds of reprisal, including law suits.
But the United States has, finally, figured out that those in control of oil in Iraq are not their friends. The Russians and the Iraqis are ultimately in control of the oil production.

And it became clear to the US, like it became clear to Israel and several other countries, that good prices and reliable timetables for delivery were something they could count on from the Independent Kurdish Region in Iraq.

When it comes to energy, reliability trumps everything but price.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Clinton - No Deal Better that Bad Deal w Iran

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Hillary Clinton addressed a policy conference of the AJC (American Jewish Committee) in
Washington, DC. It is clear from her presentation that Mrs. Clinton is setting her sights on the White House.

On the subject of the Iranian discussions and the issue of their becoming a nuclear power Clinton echoed an important point made by many world leaders. Her comment may not have been original, but it was certainly presidential.

"No deal is better than a bad deal" she said. Even Israeli Prime
Minister Netanyahu has used exactly those same words.

The basic premise is that Iran will certainly take advantage of the deal. And that means that the parties have to be "tough" and "clear eyed" regarding Iran and the deal. It is not simply good enough to assume that when a document is signed within the assigned deadline that everything will be fine.

Actually, quite the opposite!

The agreement must allow for protections and policing and solutions to the inevitable violations. It must work for both sides. And it must put at ease the skeptics who think that Iran is simply playing the West and specifically the country many are claiming Mrs. Clinton hopes to govern.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Israelis to Nigeria to Help FInd Girls

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Israel is sending a team of experts to Nigeria to help search for the kidnapped schoolgirls. The Israeli team will be composed of intelligence people, hostage negotiators and tactical experts.

The role the Israeli team plays in Nigeria will be to help piece together information as it comes in order to figure out where the girls are being held and how to free them. It is an area in which Israel has vast experience.

Israel has, unfortunately, been confronted with similar hostage situations many times before. Most often, they have handled the situations without fanfare or any public knowledge. Last year, for example, Israel advised Kenya after hostages were taken by terrorists in a mall. It is said that in Columbia it was the Israelis who helped find and free Ingrid Betancourt, a presidential candidate who had been kidnapped and held prisoner for six years by FARC.

The Israelis will probably use drones and satellite images in addition to human intel in order to start piecing together a set of possible hiding places. They will comb through numerous telephone and other communications that have been accumulated for them.

Then they can create a plan.
We wish them all much success.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Al Qaeda Battles in Syrian Golan

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Al Qaeda is once again making a play to capture the Syrian Golan Heights.

Over the past few days al Qaeda has successfully kicked Syrian forces out of the strategically located towns
of Quneiytra and Qunaytira.

They have captured the hill of Tel al Ahmar which controls the road in that area and connects these significant towns.

Most importantly, al Qaeda has captured towns that sit right on the border with Israel.

As I watched the fighting I saw how al Qaeda rebels literally took up position at the Israeli border fence. But they were not shooting into Israel. They were shooting at Syrian forces on their side of the border parallel to the fence.

For obvious reasons Israel is on high alert at that border right now. The UN crossing between Syria and Israel at Quneiytra has been closed for fear that al Qaeda will take advantage of the passageway.

I watched the battle on a video posted by the al Qaeda affiliate called Jumat Beit Al Maqdas al Islami which, in translation, means the Organization for the Islamic Temple. They say that they were assisted in the battle by Araya al-Jihad, the Jihad Squad, and by Harchat Mujahedeen a-Shaham Syrian, the Jihad Worriers Movement.

Many of the rebel fighters wore black al Qaeda flags when fighting.

All of the rebel soldiers shouted Allah is Great before they rushed forward and started shooting at the Syrians.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Kevin Spacey For Pres in Egypt

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

House of Cards, the original series from Netflix that stars Kevin Spacey is very popular in the Arabic world, especially in Egypt.

Because of the upcoming presidential election in Egypt, scheduled to take place on May 26 & 27, Egyptian social media is ablaze with messages and puns about the show and the election. The show, for those who do not watch, is about a congressman who is campaigning for president.

Social media in Egypt playing aword play and having fun. Al Sisi who is considered to be a shoe-in for the post. Al Sisi is responsible for the ouster of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood and has been the leader and defense minister since the ousting. And his name Al Sisi sounds like Spacey.

The postings show a campaign picture of the Spacey character with arms crossed and the words "al Spacey for President" and "Long live Egypt." One of the most popular Egyptian twitter #hashtags is "Al-Spacey instead of Al-Sisi."

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Shot Jewish Ukrainian Mayor Gives Interview

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Two weeks after being shot, he Jewish mayor of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, gave an interview from his hospital bed in Haifa where he was brought for treatment and recuperation.

Gennady Kernes was shot in the back while on his daily early morning run. After the unsuccessful assassination attempt, Kernes was rushed into surgery. Following the surgery he was taken to the airport and flown to Israel where he was brought to a private hospital in Haifa.

Kernes is recovering well and is able to sit up in bed and is even beginning to eat on his own.

He has no idea of who tried to murder him.

Kernes was a supporter of the pro-Russia regime of Viktor Yanukovych, the previous President who fled to Russia. But he said "I'm in favor of Kharkiv remaining part of Ukraine and therefore in favor of seeing her flourish."

He expects to return to his country and to resume his position soon.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Rice Comes to Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice is visiting Israel. Rice and her team are meeting with the highest level of Israeli leaders.

Washington today is like a revolving door. Out goes Kerry and in comes Rice.

The White House issued a statement about the meetings saying: "The delegations held thorough consultations on all aspects of the challenge posed by Iran, and pledged to continue the unprecedented coordination between the United States and Israel."

National security adviser is one, of if not the, most influential adviser to the US president.

The talks with Rice focused on Iran. Bu the quote did not do service to the security adviser's real agenda. The purpose of this trip is to try rein in Israel on the Iranian issue. The objective was to put the brakes on any potential Israeli strike on Iran.

The results are not quite clear.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Israel's New Super Radar

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
For those who do not know, today, most of our defense is in the hands of techno geeks. There are more and more techo soldiers and fewer and fewer hard core fighters.

And the technology is more and more impressive every day.

Israel just announced that a new radar system called MF-STAR will be operational in the next few days.
This radar, which will be outfitted on Israeli naval ships, is exponentially better than any other radar anywhere in the world.

MF-STAR can monitor multiple targets and it be able to determine threats from friends even when ships are travelling together in a bunch. It has a range of thousands of miles and can lock onto missiles at any altitude at sea, on land and in the air.

Up until now one of the biggest threats facing Israel has been a very low flying missile called the Yakont (which is actually the Russian made S-800 missile) that has already, successfully, hit Israeli targets by slipping under their defense shield. Amongst its other, many, attributes MF-STAR will prevent this from happening again.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Saudis Convict Blogger - 1000 Lashes & 10 Years

I've Been Thinking:

A Saudi appeals court sentenced a blogger named Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes and ordered him to pay 1 million Saudi riyads. (about $80,000).

The appeals court overruled a lower court that had sentence the blogger to 3 years and 600 lashes.
The blogger was the founder and manager of a web chat room that discussed Islam. He was found guilty of cyber crimes and defaming the Prophet. One Muslim leader said "These are red lines that nobody should cross."

1000 lashes is a near death sentence.

But considering the maximum penalty, there is at least a small chance that Badawi will survive. The maximum and usual penalty for such crimes is death. Considering the crimes, the response of many people in the Middle East was surprise over such a light sentence.

Given the bizarre nature of this situation, I suppose one has to find something to be happy about.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Hamas Will Destroy the PA & Abbas

By Micah Halpern
I'm Predicting:

The unity agreement between Hamas and the PA is beginning to take shape.

Six Fatah security officers who had been taken prisoner in Gaza were released. There are dozens more still in prison and there is no word on their status.

As I observe both organizations and analyze their current situation it seems clear that the more powerful party is indeed Hamas and Hamas will cause the downfall of Abbas and Fatah. If there is an election, and if Hamas assumes any role, they will use it to destroy the PA.

As soon as Hamas is permitted in the West Bank as part of the PA, they will cannibalize the Fatah and the Palestinian Authority.

Until now Hamas operations in Abbas territory on the West Bank have been severely curtailed and are even illegal. But now, under cover of a unity agreement, these activities will be totally permitted. West Bank youth are flocking to Hamas.

Israel has until now been involved in helping protect Abbas, his government and his power base. Post unity agreement, Israel is pulling back.

One of the objectives of Hamas will be to topple Abbas. I predict it will take two months form the time Hamas and Fatah begin governing jointly for Abbas to fall.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Happy Birthday Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Happy Birthday Israel!!!

It is nothing short of a miracle. 66 years ago my parents and grandparents could never have imagined that Israel would today be the great state that it is.

Today the number of Israeli citizens totals 8.18 million citizens. The number of Jewish citizens living in Israel today is 6.13 million.
I
n 1948 there were 800,000 inhabitants of which 600,000 were Jews.
The increase has been 10 fold. Today Israel has the largest Jewish community in the world.

The State of Israel was born into war and came out of the ashes. Today Israel is a leader among nations.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Iran & China Boost Friendship

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Iran and China are creating better and better relations, especially in terms of defense.

The Iranian defense minister is visiting Beijing and has met with his Chinese counterpart. During their joint press conference it was announced that they will continue to further their bilateral relations. The Chinese defense minister said the relationship "remained positive and steady, featuring frequent high-level exchanges and deepened political mutual trust."

And according to the Chinese news agency Xinhau, the Chinese minister also said that China is "confident that the friendly relations between the two countries as well as the armed forces will be reinforced" due to "increased mutual visits and personnel training cooperation between the armed forces."
In addition, Iran has announced that they will be tripling their trade diplomats in Europe increasing their number from 11 to 30.

They will send trade envoys to Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Serbia.

This points to a huge desire by Iran to boost their trade with Europe and to expand their business investments.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Iran Bans WhatsAPP

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Iranian President Rouhani just banned WhatsApp. He announced the ban on Saturday. Just as a reminder, Rouhani is the liberal more open leader of Iran.

The reason Rouhani gave for banning WhatsApp is because it was bought for $19 billion "by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is an American Zionist."

I know that it sounds crazy. Iranians are very active on social media. The government is trying very hard to control the activity and make certain that they can monitor it. On the one hand applications like WhatsApp and Facebook and twitter are very problematic for them. On the other hand, Iranian leadership uses these systems to try to influence the outside world.

It has been an ongoing battle. Iranian leadership has blocked Google. But most young Iranians know how to get around the block. So then the government blocks that hole and young people device a new way.

Youth uses their computer as a way of communicating. Of course they also use computer websites to plot revolutions and to learn and teach about freedom and democracy. That is what Iranian leadership fears most.


Micah@MicahHalpern.com

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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rebels Cut Route of Chem Weapons in Syria

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Anti-Assad Syrian rebels have cut the road and are preventing the evacuation of chemical weapons in Damascus.

The conflict is preventing the international community from loading and moving the last set of the 13000 tons of weapons. Rebels are trying to attack the eastern area of Damascus. That is where Domair Airbase is located. When you follow the road going east for another 25 miles you hit Sayqal Airbase which is where the last vestige of chemical weapons was stored.

The final deadline for the removal of this last batch of chemical weapons was not met. The deadline was April 27. Assad and his forces cannot be blamed. It is now clear why the deadline was missed. Once the weapons are put on trucks and moved, they can easily be hijacked.

The rebels want those weapons and they are advancing in their efforts to grab them. If the rebels do get them, no one knows what they will do with them.

Some say that the rebels do not have the capabilities needed to weaponize the ingredients. If that is true the rebel pirates would then move the weapons on - giving or selling them to another source. Others have asserted that these rebels do indeed have the knowhow and that they have even already used chemical weapons.

It is not exactly clear what the specific motivation of the rebel forces is beyond trying to free the eastern side of Damascus from the grasp of Assad.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Military Parades in the MidEast

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

I watch military parades in the Middle East very carefully.

Countries are always displaying their weapons. I want to see those weapons and figure out if anything is new and what they might be used for.

Of course, sometimes a country tries to fake their weaponry asserting that they have one type when in actuality what they really have is a similar but downgraded weapon. But that is part of the game.

Saudi Arabia recently displayed a slew of Dongfeng 3 missiles. They already have a few of the newer and more sophisticated Dongfeng 21.

Dongfeng, by the way, means east wind. The Dongfeng 3 has a range of 3,000 miles and can carry a nuclear warhead. That makes them older but very potent and worth watching.

Israel is only partially concerned about the acquisition of these new old missiles from China. Israel knows that they share an enemy with the Saudis and, in all likelihood, these missile were purchased with Iran in mind as a target.

So Israel sleeps a little more easily knowing that these newly acquired Dongfeng missiles will be aimed in the right direction - at a common foe.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

E Ukraine To Vote May 11

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

A referendum in the Oblast (region) of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine has been scheduled for May 11th.

The wording of the referendum is somewhat ambiguous. There is no mention of either Ukraine or Russia.
There is only one question. It is a yes or a no vote.

Here is the question:
"Do you support the creation of the Donetsk People's Republic?"

Donetsk is the third most populated city in Ukraine. It is filled with factories and is the most industrial region in the entire country.

But according to the law of the Donetsk region, a referendum requires that all the citizens be officially invited to vote 1 week before. That means that by Monday all invitations must be issued.

That might prove problematic. Today is May Day. It is a national holiday and the entire region will celebrate with a long weekend before the Monday deadline. It is doubtful the invites will get out in time.

Micah@MicahHalpern.com 

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