Thursday, April 30, 2015

Interpol Going After ISIS

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
ISIS makes about $100 million a year stealing and then selling off ancient art and archeological artifacts. It is a major source of their annual budget. It is so significant that ill begotten art sales equal about 1/3 of their oil revenues.

ISIS has raided museums and historical sites throughout Iraq and

Syria. They strip the sites and sell the artifacts and even pieces of statues on the open market where collectors, through middle men of course, gobble them up. The buyers are willing to pay very good money for these priceless pieces.

The Secretary of Interpol, General Jurgen Stock, has said that his agency is now going to make
stopping the sale of these artifacts by ISIS a priority.

"In the eyes of criminals, cultural heritage often stands as an easy target," Stock said. "The current situation in Syria and Iraq presents a significant challenge as sites vulnerable to destruction are often out of effective government control and illicit excavations dominate the picture."

We can only hope that Interpol and other law enforcement agencies in the Western world can stop ISIS from destroying and desecrating priceless pieces of history and that, by clamping down on this illicit activity they will eliminate a very profitable avenue of revenue for ISIS. 

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Israel Will Not Hit Syria

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Two mortars shot from Syria landed in Israel yesterday.

Israel will not respond to the mortar attack.

Israel determined that the mortars were errant. They went astray and were not deliberate shots into Israel. They landed in the orchards of Kibbutz Ein Zivan which happens to be situated very close to a UN camp.

There was fighting in Syria near the side of the border that is very close to the Israeli border. Israel was watching the fighting very closely so that it did not spill over and to make sure that the parties did not simply change the direction of their shooting. Watching and monitoring is one of the standard modus operandi for Israel.

In this case, battle was raging and mortars were flying and two of them simply went off in the wrong direction. So there was no reason to respond.

Israel appreciates it when Hezbollah and al Qaeda fight - they root for both sides to win. They want both sides to use up as many weapons and armaments as possible and for them to kill each other. It makes for a safer Israel. 

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Al Qaeda Attacks Hezbollah in Syria-- Israel Blamed

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The al Qaeda Affiliate in Syria, the group that goes by the name Al Nusra, attacked a weapons convoy transporting sophisticated weapons destined for Hezbollah.

It all happened on Friday. Over the weekend this attack was a feature throughout the Arabic media with Arabic stations reporting that it was the Israelis who perpetrated the attack against the weapons.
They reasoned that the weapons would fall into Hezbollah's hand and probably be used against Israel.

Both al Jazeera and al Arabiya blamed Israel - but Israel refused to comment. The Arab press later discussed a second Israeli attack that killed 4 Hezbollah members who were setting up a bomb along the border between Israel and Syria just at the spot where the border also abuts Lebanon.

Before too long it became clear that the Israelis were not responsible for the weapons attack. Sources reported that al Nusra wanted to make certain that Hezbollah did not get weapon superiority.
Hezbollah was trying to push al Nusra out of Syria and al Nusra cannot let that happen.

This was a perfect move. Israel could have targeted the convoy. It might actually have been on their agenda. But al Qaeda's al Nusra did it first. And that made the region a little safer. 

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Palestinians Disappointed in Bibi

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinians are upset that Netanyahu was reelected.

The Palestinian National Central Council, which is the Palestinian leadership committee, will meet on Wednesday April 29 to discuss upcoming future interactions between Palestinians and Israel.

In brief, the Palestinians think that the next Israeli government will be extremely right of center.
Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, had this to say: "I've been told that this will be the most extreme government in Israel."

He also said: "If the prime minister doesn’t want to accept a Palestinian state, what will I talk to him about?"

And: "We will hold the Israeli prime minister accountable for any crimes committed against Palestinians." Continuing: "It will not be cost-free legally."

There are a number of essential points to discuss following these comments by Erekat.

Israelis want peace - but elected Netanyahu. That is because they do not think Palestinians want peace.

Palestinians have thus far sought out and found any and every excuse not to sit at the negotiating table.

And how can Saeb Erekat know the makeup of the government which is still up in the air?

Finally, it has always been a right wing government that has moved Israel toward peace agreements.
It is right wing governments that convinced the majority of Israelis that concessions were essential to improving and securing Israel ... that peace is the best security that Israel can hope for. 

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

New ISIS Video about Healthcare

I've Been Thinking:

I just watched a new ISIS video.

This one is about their new and wonderful health care.

The ISIS video is staged in the ISIS capital city in Syria, the city is called Raqqa. The video calls on medical professionals to come and join ISIS and contribute their skills to the IS.

The most fascinating part of this slick and very professional video is an interview with an Australian who calls himself Abu Yussef. The interviewee has been identified as Tareq Kamleh, a native Australian who was trained in Adelaide University in Australia and then moved to Perth and now works for ISIS in Syria.

Kamleh aka Abu Yussef speaks about how important his work is and how happy he is helping the Uma, the Islamic people. He actually calls his work a jihad.

As a medical recruitment tool, this video is very effective. 

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Iran will Be a Giant When Sanctions Are Lifted

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

If a deal with Iran is signed on June 30, Iran will be welcomed into the community of nations.
Economically, that would have a huge impact.

Iran is the third largest country in the Middle East. Egypt is the largest with a population of about 90 million. Turkey follows with 83 million and Iran has about 80 million people.

Iranians are primarily well educated and young.

Before the crisis of 1979, Iran had a very healthy import from the US. Iran imported of $3.7 billion worth of US products. While at the same time the United States imported $2.9 billion worth of goods from Iran.

That was in 1979, 36 years ago. Today that number would be 4 times higher.

In the 1990s, through subsidiaries, the United States purchased $3.4 billion worth of Iranian oil.
Before this last round of sanctions were placed on Iran in this recent UN sanctions move, Iran was the third largest producer and exporter of oil in the world.

When sanctions are lifted Iran will become a major exporter over night - and that will catapult it into a world power. With that power Iran will become the voice of all the small nations and downtrodden peoples in the region.

When the sanctions are lifted - Iran will become a giant. 

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Elections @ College -- Hamas Wins

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Bir Zeit University in Ramallah, located just north of Jerusalem, just held student council elections.

Bir Zeit is the elite university for Palestinians. There are 9,000 undergrads and 1200 graduate students at the university. 47 BA degrees are offered and 26 MA degrees. The election drew 77% of the undergraduate student body.

The results are telling.

In student council at Bir Zeit University, Hamas defeated Fatah. Of the 51 council seats, Hamas' Wafaa party garnered 26. Fatah, the party begun under Yasser Arafat, will have only 19 seats.

Last year Fatah got 23 seats and Hamas 20.

This election was watched very closely by all Palestinian leaders and by Israel.

University elections often offer insight into the perspective of the population-at-large and are the first to show trends in future leadership, in business and in politics.

Winning an election at Bir Zeit, the heart of the West Bank, is a major victory for Hamas and a terrible blow to Fatah.

Hamas is on the rise. There is no possible way of interpreting this election any other way. 

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Miracle -- Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
I marvel at the miracle.

Most of the time I take it for granted, but every year, on Israeli Independence Day, I marvel anew at the miracle called the modern State of Israel.

Israel was established 67 years ago. At the time there were 806,000 citizens. Today there are 8,345,000. That is a ten fold increase.

That's a miracle.

When Israel was created Tel Aviv Yaffa had 100,000 residents. Today there are 14 cities with over 100,000 residents and 6 of those cities have over 200,000 citizens. That's a miracle.

Israel grew by 162,000 people last year. There were 44,000 deaths. 32,000 people made aliyah - despite, or perhaps in spite of, the tension of this past summer. That's a miracle.

Here is the most remarkable number of them all. 176,000 babies were born. Every birth is a miracle.
Now multiply that by 176,000.

75% of Israelis are native born sabras.

6,251,000 are Jewish. 1,730,000, or 20.7% of the population, are Arabs.

These numbers are nothing short of a miracle. At 67 years old Israel has exceeded all expectations. 67 years ago, when our parents and grandparents witnessed the birth of the State of Israel, they hardly believed it would last this long.

Happy birthday and forever more. 

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Taliban Announce Their Spring Season

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Earlier this morning the Taliban announced their spring season.

Now that the snow has melted spring fighting will begin. This year the Taliban are calling their new offensive AZM which, in Arabic and in their native dialect, Dari, means perseverance.

Remember, the Taliban have also declared their Islamic state. The Islamic state of the Taliban is called The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

In years past springtime brought a huge increase in attacks against NATO and Afghani forces. This year will be different. Most of the international forces have pulled out of the area and so this spring season the Taliban will face off against Afghan army forces exclusively.

The West has been preoccupied with Iran and ISIS. We have paid very little attention to the Taliban.
These next few weeks, the start of the new season, will be important. We need to watch carefully and determine if the momentum shifts in favor of the Taliban. That is something we do not want to happen. 

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Israel President Rivlin Will Not Meet Jimmy Carter

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Former US President Jimmy Carter is to arrive in Israel on April 30 for a 3 day trip that will include Gaza and the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli President Rivlin will not meet the former US president. Israel's foreign ministry advised Rivlin to break protocol and not meet with this former US president because Carter has consistently done his best to delegitimize Israel and meeting with him would help further that cause.

Carter has spoken publicly about Israeli apartheid policies on numerous occasions and even wrote a book about the subject. Carter has urged Israel to recognize and dialogue with Hamas.

In the past, when Shimon Peres held the post of president of Israel and Jimmy Carter came to visit, Peres would meet with him. And then Peres would take Carter to task - privately and publicly. Peres would use the opportunity to correct Carter on the record.

Rivlin is a different personality and he has decided not to follow in Peres' footsteps.
Carter has good intentions --he is just misguided and he is totally wrong. And if given legitimacy, Jimmy Carter can do terrible harm to Israel and to the region. 

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Trust Iran More Than The White House

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

We are learning more and more about the agreement with Iran. And most of what we are learning comes from the Iranians. They are telling us that the four page agreement that the White House and State Department have given us is not at all what our leaders have promised us in what is known as the framework agreement.

An Iranian leader was quoted on Iranian state TV yesterday saying that they will not permit nuclear inspections in any of their military sites.

This is enormously important.

I am suggesting that Iranian sources are more reliable than the White House and the State Department.

Can you imagine what that means?

It seems that the Iranians have maintained that there really is not a framework agreement at all. There is simply an agreement to continue talking until June 30.

To put it mildly, this is very disturbing. 
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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Iran Cyber Attack Against Turkey

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

On Tuesday March 31, half of Turkey - 44 of 81 provinces, 40 million people including those living in Istanbul and Ankara - suffered a massive power outage that lasted a solid twelve hours.

The blackout was caused by a cyber hack that originated in Iran.

The cyber attack was payback, a taste of what Iran has to offer.

Everything went down. Computers, airports, air traffic, traffic lights, hospitals, lights, elevators, refrigeration, water and sewage, everything simply stopped. In an instant Turkey was transported back to the stone ages.

Iran's cyber army has propelled itself into one of the world's best.

They have become very good at their craft and have probably inserted malware into the electric grids of many other countries - probably even the US. Over the past twelve months Iran has successfully and repeatedly broken into the defensive systems networks of several Western nations.

This attack on Turkey is the first time that Iran shut down a country through a cyber attack. This kind of an attack can bring the enemy to its knees very quickly. 

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Obama Invites Gulf Leaders to Lobby on Iran

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

President Obama has invited leaders of critical Sunni Gulf states to Washington for a two day meeting. Day one, May 13, will convene at the White House. Day two, May 14, will be at Camp David.

The purpose of the invite to the White House and the coveted presidential mountain resort, Camp David, is to convince these leaders that an agreement with Iran is good for everyone. Especially for those in the region.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have all been invited.

Obama is going to have to be very convincing. These Gulf State countries do not trust Iran. And they think that in his dealings with Iran, President Obama is delusional. They are convinced that Iran will become a nuclear state almost immediately after the agreement is signed and they do not think the United States can stop that from happening.

And if in the end Iran does get a nuclear deal, they want the same deal.

On paper, this meeting is a great idea. Unfortunately though, I think that Barack Obama will be the one sitting in the student seat and be lectured to by those who live in the region and do not trust Iran. 

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Al Qaeda in Yemen Now on the Rise

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Shiite Houthi has nearly taken over Yemen. Saudi Arabia and their eleven nation Sunni Arab coalition has continued to bomb the Houthi in order to prevent them from taking control of Yemen's ports and control of vital assets and resources.

With all eyes on the Houthi over the past few weeks al Qaeda of Yemen, also known as al Qaeda of the Arabia Peninsula, has been left unchecked. Taking advantage of the situation, and al Qaeda has spent their time re-organizing and starting to take control of areas they consider to be strategic.

The Houthi and al Qaeda are arch enemies.

Yesterday, al Qaeda took over the airport of al Mukallah, the fifth largest city in Yemen. They also took over an oil export port and refinery in Dhabah which is on the Arabian Sea.

Al Qaeda of Yemen has scored a huge victory. They beat the Houthi, the Saudis, the Yemeni authority and whatever is left of the Yemeni army all at the same time. With these victories come money, power, prestige and recruits.

They did it all while everyone was ignoring them. The Middle East is not mono-dimensional. There are always multiple balls in the air and many factors in play.

The Houthi were able to gain momentum, at first, because the US was consumed by al Qaeda and paid them no mind. As soon as their attention was diverted towards the Houthi, al Qaeda was free to carry on, unhampered, with their dastardly deeds. They did it all while everyone was ignoring them.

The Middle East is not mono-dimensional. There are always multiple balls in the air and many factors at play. To think otherwise is not wise at all.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hamas Building Tunnels & Making Rockets

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

A report in the Times of Israel echoed a report in the British Telegraph. The reports should not surprise anyone who follows the happenings of the Middle East.

Hamas is rebuilding their labyrinth of tunnels. The report in the Times of Israel described Hamas using small bulldozers to speed the process and to access small areas.

The British Telegraph said that Iran has funneled $10's of millions in order to reconstruct the tunnels of Hamas.

The most interesting and unique element to come out of the article in the Times of Israel is that military experts and analysts in Israel are reporting that Hamas is building a slew of new rockets. All short range rockets.

The lesson learned by Hamas in their conflict with Israel this past summer was that short range rockets were both less likely to be shot down by the Iron Dome and were more effective at terrifying and terrorizing Israelis.

So now Hamas is dedicating much time and energy to producing new, smaller, short range rockets to fire at Israel in the near future. 

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Massive Cyber Hack on Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
The results are in.

April 7th was to be the day for the annual, all out, cyber attack against Israel. It was a huge failure.

The attack is called #OPIsrael. There were to be hackivists from all over the Muslim world drumming up support and energy for a huge tidal wave of hacking against Israel. It was described as a cyber Holocaust against Israel. In fact, the date April 7th was selected because the first year the attack was planned, that date coincided with Holocaust Memorial Day.

This was the third year of the hack. It is coordinated by a hacker named AnonGhost. This particular hacker works out of Tunsia.

There was more hype leading up to the day than actual hacking on the day. A few hundred private websites were hacked and a few thousand email accounts and passwords were leaked - but most of those were recycled from last year's list.

The best analysis I saw was by SenseCY, a cyber security firm in Israel. They monitored the entire event. Most of the chatter was on social networks and not in the dangerous areas like the darknet, where real hackers hang and act.

Even in the social media world the hack against Israel barely got noticed. It peaked at 3000 tweets.
That is hardly an international movement.

On one message board people were bemoaning the small turnout and lack of impact relative to previous years. They suggested that people were simply bored and tired of repeating the same hack.

That is not good news for Israel. When amateur hackers get bored and try to work out new plans, the results are often diabolical. This year, Israel got lucky. 

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Russia to Send Missiles to Iran

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Russia decided to loosen restrictions on missile sales to Iran. They will be delivering a shipment of S-300 missiles as soon as possible.

Israel was informed of the decision just before it was made public. Israel is most concerned - but expected it. After all, this is an outgrowth of the framework agreement with Iran.

Israel's main concern is that the S-300's will be shipped from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In 2007, Russia initiated an $800 million missile deal with Iran.
But because of the sanctions they never completed the deal. In 2011, Iran sued Russia for $4 billion in an international court for breach of contract and for losses. The case is still pending.

The White House expressed disappointment with Russia.

But really, what is the message the US is conveying? What do they expect?

Russia said they intend to ship the missiles quickly, as soon, that is, as the political leadership gives the go ahead. 

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Bush Calls out Obama on Castro & Bibi

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Candidates are starting to get serious about the 2016 US presidential election.
Hillary Clinton declared yesterday. Rand Paul declared a few days earlier.

Jeb Bush is still as of yet undeclared, but he is certainly testing the water. He has name recognition
and would be a formidable candidate.

Yesterday Jeb Bush tweeted a serious critique of President Obama. Obama met with Raul Castro, the leader of Cuba, a repressive anti democratic regime. We know that Obama has intentions regarding Cuba.

But Bush called him to task in a different way. He asked how can you meet with Castro and not with Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu?!

"Obama meets with Castro but refused to meet w/ @netanyahu," Bush wrote on Twitter. "Why legitimize a cruel dictator of a repressive

There is something profound about the statement.

The purpose behind the tweet was to present Jeb Bush as a defender of Israel. It was to get him front and center in the eyes of Jewish donors and lovers of Israel - a position he does not yet occupy.

This is a sure way of getting the important funding every politician needs and will certainly help boost his 2016 campaign. 

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Coalition Building in Israel

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:

Building a coalition to govern in Israel is a huge task.

Theoretically, the winner of the election has power, but practically, much of that power must be ceded much in order to lure other parties to join the coalition in order to govern.

The deadline for the coalition is April 22. It is ten days from now. The winner of the election then gets a total of 42 days to create a coalition. Likud and Netanyahu got 28 days plus a built in 14 day extension.

There are major obstacles blocking the formation of a coalition.
Parties and their leaders vie for more and more power for themselves and try to limit the power of other partners.

Everyone thinks that time is on their side. But it if they do not join the coalition when given the opportunity, and if Netanyahu does not form a coalition within the allotted time, the president will charge another party to form a coalition. And that could mean that these very parties negotiating for more and more will, in the end, lose any chance of having the power. And like most politicians they decisions they make will be dictated by power over principle.

Likud will convince them to join him. I predict a last minute deal. 

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

What Iran is Really Doing in Yemen

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

On Thursday the Supreme Leader of Iran the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei gave a nationally televised speech in which he called the Saudi response to the Houthi in Yemen a genocide that is punishable by international court.

What is important here is not that the pot is calling the kettle black.

What is important is that the Saudis have gotten the attention of Iran in their response to the Iranian sponsored Houthi overthrow and takeover of Yemen.

Two weeks ago the Saudis put together an 11 nation Sunni force to strike Shiite Houthi from the air.

The stakes have now increased.

Last week the Egyptian navy came to the Gulf of Eden and shelled the Houthi who were attempting to take over the port city and choke the gulf. Had the Houthi been successful they would have done immeasurable damage to Egypt and others by shutting down the Suez Canal.

Since then, Iranian war ships were also dispatched to the area around Aden.

Now we have a naval standoff between Shiites and Sunnis in the Gulf of Aden.

It should be clear that Iran and its Shiites proxy want control of the port of Aden and the waterway. It should be equally clear that the Sunnis do not want that strategic waterway to fall into Shiite hands. If it does it would mean two of the most important water passes - the gulf of Aden and the straits of Hormuz, were under the control of Iran. 

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Friday, April 10, 2015

ISIS Killing Palestinians in Syria

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Several days ago ISIS took control of a Palestinian refugee camp called Yarmouk. At its peak there were 180,000 Palestinians living there. Since the conflict in Syria, Yarmouk has shrunk to about 18,000 Palestinians.

Yarmouk is really a neighborhood in Damascus. It is located only 5 miles away from the very center of the city.

In the past, ISIS had tried to take over Yarmouk several times. It abuts a neighborhood they already control, and the move to take control of Yarmouk is an attempt to get a flank of the Syrian capital and then use it to move on the center of the city.

Since taking over Yarmouk there have been reports of beheadings and mass murder of Palestinians by ISIS.
The UN has said that the situation is worse than dire.

Palestinian Authority leadership has just sent a delegation to Damascus. The group was sent out after a commitment from Syria to use military force to secure Yarmouk was confirmed.

The Syrian army must now make the retaking of Yarmouk a priority. It is a principle for the Palestinians - they must get back their neighborhood. It is also an essential strategic objective for Syria - they must not
permit a flank to emerge in their capital.

This delegation from the PA is going to make certain that the agreement is fulfilled. 

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

ISIS Has a New Radio Show in English

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

ISIS has just launched an English language radio bulletin service.

Every day ISIS puts out a bulletin that runs 9 minutes and 30 seconds long. The intro and end of the bulletins showcase traditional Arabic music. The bulletins contain news headlines and eschew the ISIS point of view, similar to what is produced and presented on the ISIS radio network and ISIS websites.

This English language bulletin joins already running radio bulletins in Russia and in Afghani.

ISIS has opened a social media campaign with the express purpose of driving committed followers and other interested parties to listen to their taped broadcasts. There was a huge twitter response to the new radio spots.

That ISIS is creating slick, impressive, professional youth oriented media should be no surprise. This radio bulletin is just another in a slew of spectacular media products that ISIS has released in order to lure young people to their cause and to attract people to fight for their cause in Iraq and Syria.

These media casting calls by ISIS must be answered by equally attractive counter appeals.
Unfortunately, the Western response has been, at best, uninspired and lackluster. 

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Iran & Turkey Meet

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Yesterday Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the now infamous leader of Turkey, visited Iran.

Erdogan of Turkey traveled to meet with his counterpart, Rouhani of Iran. It was a major meeting and in the end they held a joint press conference during which they called for an end to bloodshed and suffering in the region.

The entire episode is mind boggling. These two leaders and their countries find themselves on opposite side of almost every issues in the Middle East – and here they are, acting in concert.

Iran supports Assad. Turkey supports the rebels in Syria and in Iraq. Iran supports Hezbollah, Turkey sides with ISIS.

As late as last week Turkey called Iran a force bent on destabilizing the region thrusting the region into conflict. Turkey joined the multi-national force organized by Saudi Arabia to combat the Houthi in Yemen while Iran sponsors the Houthi in Yemen.

So what does it all mean?

It means that Iran is playing the diplomat card. It means that Turkey wants to be the big diplomat in the region, just as Iran does. It means that this is a very dangerous alliance. 

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Radical Muslims fight One Another

By Micah Halpern
Tuesday April 7, 2015
All extremist Muslim Sunni groups are not in cahoots. Actually, many of them are at one another's throat.

I was extremely pleased to note that Hamas arrested a radical sheik who is a Salafi. The sheik, Adnana Khadar Mayat, is being held in a Hamas prison charged with being part of ISIS.

"Adnan Khader Mayat from the Bureij refugee camp (in central Gaza) was arrested as part of an investigation," the AFP reported. The quote was without attribution because the source was speaking on condition of anonymity and gave no further details.

The AFP continued and said that sources close to the Salafists said Mayat had been arrested yesterday "by the Hamas government security services who fight mujahedeen who belong to the Salafist movement."
The essential point here is that one extremist group is fighting the other.

That is important, very important. 

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Monday, April 6, 2015

PA, Abbas Return Tax Money

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Last week Israel decided to unfreeze the taxes they have been collecting for the Palestinian Authority over the past few months.

These are taxes that Israel collects from imports and then hands over to the PA.

The total comes to about $130 million per month. Periodically, to apply pressure on the PA, Israel withholds the tax money. And then, after a short period of time the monies get freed up and are handed over to the PA.

This time Israel unfroze the tax money and transferred it to the PA but first subtracted some of the debt the PA owes to the Israel

Electric Company. Not the entire debt, just part of it.

After discovering this --- Abbas decided to return the tax money to Israel.
Abbas said: "We are returning the money. Either they give it to us in full or we go to arbitration or to the court (ICC). We will not accept anything else."

Again, for Abbas and the PA, it is all or nothing.

As an aside: the PA will lose in arbitration at the ICC if Israel agrees to appear. Which they will not agree to do. 

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Bibi Demands Iran Recognize Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Obviously, the government of Israel is not happy with the framework of the nuclear agreement with Iran.

In response Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a statement that any agreement that permits Iran that kind of latitude on nuclear technology must insist that Iran recognize Israel.

"Israel demands that any final agreement with Iran will include a clear and unambiguous Iranian commitment of Israel's right to exist," Netanyahu said in a statement.

The idea is a brilliant counter to Iran's demand for nuclear technology.

If Iran really wants this technology they must state publicly that Israel has the right to exist - then there will be no fear or even a question over using that nuclear material to wipe Israel off the map. 

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bibi's Response to Iran Agreement

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:

I spent hours pouring over the text of the 4 page agreement between Iran and the P5+1 or what is commonly called the Western powers.

It is filled with specifics that are ambiguous and details that are oblique. There are huge loopholes and details are simply missing.

Some have responded saying - yes of course, that is to be expected, it is only a framework for an agreement. The final agreement will hammer out the details.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu thinks otherwise. He spoke about the details in the agreement after the cabinet meeting on Friday, the eve of Passover.

"Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period."

A deal must "include a clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel's right to exist"
Netanyahu said his Cabinet "is united strongly opposing the proposed deal."

"Such a deal does not block Iran's path to the bomb."

"Such a deal paves Iran's path to the bomb. And it might very well spark a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East and it would greatly increase the risks of terrible war."

"They would not shut down a single nuclear facility in Iran, would not destroy a single centrifuge in Iran and will not stop research and development on Iran's advanced centrifuges," he said.

"On the contrary. The deal would legitimize Iran's illegal nuclear program. It would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. A vast nuclear infrastructure remains in place."

There is absolutely no ambiguity in those comments. 

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Agreement w Iran

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

A framework for an agreement was announced.

I did not think it was going to happen. And yet, it did. As I read the agreement - or, more accurately, what information we are being spoon fed about the agreement, it seems that the Iranians agreed to many US demands. It seems they agreed to the ten year and fifteen year waiting period and agreed not to develop nuclear technology during that period of time.

The only better agreement would have been to totally prevent all nuclear activity and the US and the Iranians were never going to do that.

There are big issues with the fifteen year deal.

What happens after fifteen years?

And what happens to the site called Furdow where we have been told thousands of centrifuges are housed.
There have been few proper inspections there. Furdow is buried 90 yards under solid rock and cement. It is built into and under a mountain.

And what happens when this agreement is not fulfilled. Iran has never been forthcoming in their negotiations and there is no reason why this should be the exception.

Furdow will not be shut down. It is supposed to be transformed into a center for nuclear physics. Iranian
Foreign Minister Zarif plainly explained that this center would neither dismantle nor destroy the already existing centrifuges.

There could have been far worse agreements. The real issue here is how to make this agreement work and how to fill in the holes.

Meanwhile, Obama has called Netanyahu and the US National Security team is en route to Jerusalem to brief the Israeli PM and to offer him a slew of gifts.

The hope is that over the next ten - fifteen years there will be regime change in Iran.

To be continued. 

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Insurance Company will Not Cover Jewish Kindergarten

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

An insurance company has refused to insure a Jewish kindergarten in Brussels.
The insurance company said that, given all the anti-Semitism that has been flaring up throughout
Europe, the risk in insuring a Jewish kindergarten is too high.

The kindergarten has a solid steel door and a 6 digit security code.

Every school in the Western world needs to have insurance. Every nation and every state and every district and every city has that law. Schools often shop around for the best deal. And when risks increase, so too do premiums and costs.

But here the premise is very different. In this case, the insurance company has said that they will simply not carry the risk. There is no premium high enough to insure a Jewish kindergarten, they say.

That notion, I say, is simply not correct.
But even this insurance company prevails, even if no company is willing to insure the Jewish kindergarten, there is an alternative.

In that case, the government or a multi-governmental agency should step forward and promise to cover the risk.

That is what often happens in the aftermath of a terror attack.
Places and people are almost always underinsured and the government steps in to protect them.

Shame on that Belgian insurance company. 

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

US To Resume Aid to Egypt

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday the White House released military aid to Egypt.

The aid was suspended in 2013 when al Sisi took the reins of power by ousting Morsi, the man elected president with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood.

US law does not permit aid to a government installed by a coup. But since the events of 2013 there has been an election in Egypt and the White House is now satisfied that al Sisi is indeed an elected leader.

As an aside -- although military aid was suspended, the United States continued to give Egypt hundreds of millions of anti-terror aid. Anti-terror aid does not have the same restrictions as military aid.

The aid package now comes to $1.3 billion annually.
Materials immediately being sent to Egypt from the US include12 F-16s, 20 missiles and 125 tank kits

This aid will help Egypt as it works together with Saudi Arabia and valiantly attempts to create a multi-national Arab force to combat Islamic extremism in the region. 

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