Sunday, May 31, 2015

Russian Pulling out Of Syria

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
The popular Arabic paper published in London, Asharq al Aswat, is reporting that Russia is pulling its support from President Assad of Syria.

The paper sites a series of sources saying that 66 Russian have been flown out of Latakiah airport, bound for Moscow. They are reporting that the Russian Embassy now has far fewer staff and that Russian experts are no longer in the Syrian war room.

This move comes just as the US and Russia are more involved in talks about the future of Syria. The pull out by Russia means that the Syrian regime will have to work much harder to stay in place.

When you combine the gains made by ISIS and the rebels, you see that they are now in control of more than half of the provinces in Syria.

Assad only controls 8% of the oil resources in Syria. ISIS controls 80% and the rebels control 12%. That leaves Assad very short on cash - the Russian were helping the president support the battle.
With the handful of losses the Assad regime has suffered over the past week, the Russians pulling support may make it impossible for him to recover and swing the pendulum back in his direction. 

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

FIFA - Israel & The Palestinians

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday FIFA voted to continue its leadership under Stepp Blatter.

FIFA officials have much on their minds these days. In addition to all the headline grabbing news, the Palestinians had a proposal on the table to expel Israel from FIFA. At the last minute the proposal was withdrawn.

The real story behind the withdrawal is that no country has been expelled from FIFA since the 1970's when South Africa was removed. They have since rejoined.

Of all the mass murders in the world perpetrated by countries -- Israel is the only country that was to be called out on the table by FIFA.

The head of the Palestinian Football Association, former PA strong arm security director Jabril Rajoub, pulled the proposal because numerous African countries told him they do not want to set the precedent of disciplining a nation.

Rajoub and the Palestinians use sports as a political weapon.
Palestinian Media Watch has produced a report documenting how the Palestinians glorify terror in sport by naming tournaments and camps and stadiums after terrorists.

There is, for example, a table tennis tournament named after Dalal Mughrabi who murdered 38 Israelis, including 13 children, and wounded 71 in 1978 on Israel's coastal road.

A chess championship is named after Marwan Zalum responsible for the murder of a 10 month old Israeli infant girl named Shalhevet Paz.

The child was in her stroller when the terrorist shot her in the head. AP reported the tragic terror attack as "Jewish Toddler Dies in West Bank." The Voice of Palestine reported that the sniper and shooting was a lie and that the girl was murdered by her mother.

Soccer stadium and rallies are named after Abu Jihad, a terrorist responsible for over 120 murders.

When the Peres Center for Peace organized a soccer game between Israeli and Palestinians children, Rajoub called it a crime against humanity. And any Palestinian who attempts to play for an Israeli soccer team is threatened by the PA and removed from the national Palestinian team.

This behavior by Palestinians is an affront to the spirit and nature of sports. Shame on them. Dropping the case against Israel is not enough - the world should call the Palestinians to task. 

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Conflict Btw ISIS and Iraq

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Last week the Iraqi city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, fell to ISIS. So did the rest of the
Anbar province. This week Iraq announced that they are fighting to retake the province, which is home to 2 million people and the capital, home to 500,000 Iraqis.

Shiite militias have been brought in to fight ISIS - and the Iranians have a stake in this operation.

Now ISIS is responding.

ISIS sent the Blind Sheik to Ramadi. His real name is Ali Atiya al Joubari aka Abu Asim, but he is most well known as the Blind Sheik of ISIS. He is their # 2 leader on all religious issues and he is # 5 in the overall ISIS pecking order.

The Blind Sheik arrived in Anbar Province with his security entourage so, naturally, people paid attention. One arm, his head and his face were totally covered. The Sheik spoke after evening prayers.

The reason for this visit was to inspire locals in Ramadi to accept ISIS. The locals now side with the Iraqi forces. The Blind Sheik was supposed to convince them to acquiesce and submit to ISIS authority.

Anbar is the largest province in Iraq, it is equal in size to all the other provinces combined. Ramadi is a mere 80 miles from Baghdad.

Both ISIS and the Iraqis know how crucially important this battle for Ramadi and Anbar is. 

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Al Qaeda Says They Are Defeating Assad

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Abu Muhammed al Golani, leader of the al Qaeda group in Syria called al Nusra, gave an interview to Al Jazeera.

He said "We will continue our focus on Damascus and on toppling this regime."
Then al Golani emphasized -- "I assure you, Assad's fall won't take a long time."

Al Golani also called on the Alawites of Syria to put down their weapons and convert to Sunni Islam in order to save their lives. The Alawites are a breakaway from Shiite Islam and a minority in Syria.

But Assad, the Syrian president, is an Alawite.

Al Golani also had a few choice words for Hezbollah which is fighting for Assad and keeping him in power.

The point of the interview was to say that the tide of the war has shifted in favor of al Qaeda and the end is near. The end, for al Nusra, means the fall of Damascus and the ousting of Assad.

Despite the predictions of al Golani, at this point it is not clear if the momentum of the civil war in Syria really has shifted. Al Qaeda has had some important victories of late but that has hardly altered the stalemate that has been in place in Syria for three long years. 

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Israel Accepts Iran Deal - Makes List for US Prizes

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Israel has come to accept the inevitable - a nuclear deal between Iran and the West.

Israel is resigned to the realization that the deal will be signed and sealed within the next 8 weeks.
After that, the sanctions will be lifted and Iran will again be a world power. Maybe even - a nuclear world power.

So the Israelis have begun to develop a wish list. It is a list of things they want from America. The IDF Planning division has been tasked with the responsibility of drawing up a list.

The first thing they will wish for will be an increase in the annual aid they receive, raising it from $3.1 billion to $4 billion. They will also want to extend the 10 year military aid deal which is set to expire in 2017. Israel will want to extend the deal now --- not to wait for a debate over the issue from the person elected president in 2016.

By congressional law Israel must have a qualitative edge over her neighbors. If other countries in the region are getting something, Israel needs to get the same thing - but they need more of it and they need it to be of a better quality.

Israel needs to be realistic. And the US needs to help Israel protect herself. As bad as this deal is for Israel there is at least some solace. The silver lining will be that, in the end, Israel will be better armed and better protected than they were before the deal was signed. 

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Austria Convicts 14 Yr Old for Terror

By Micah Halpern
Micah Halpern

An Austrian court sentenced a 14 year old to a suspended sentence of16 months in prison for joining a terror group and researching how to build a bomb. The teenager pleaded guilty to the charges.

The 14 year old is a citizen of Turkey. He used his Play Station game internet hook up to research the bomb making.

He has been in pre trial hold for the past seven months - ever since his arrest in October.

This case illustrates both how young kids are drawn in by the lure of ISIS and how they can keep it from their parents by using electronic games which parents wrongly assume are safe of the dangers of the internet.

Governments and prosecutors needs to look carefully at the recruitment of young people living in their countries. These young adults have been preyed upon by ISIS recruiters. Officials need to try to stop the flow and recruitment of ISIS supporters if they want to keep their countries safe. 

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Obama Gives the Atlantic an Interview -- Why?

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

President Obama spoke at Adas Israel in Washington yesterday. His topic was the condemnation of anti-Semitism. The president also spoke about his love for Israel and for Jews.

The day before his synagogue appearance, the Atlantic published an interview with the president -- an interview conducted by Jeffery Goldberg.

The essence of the interview in the Atlantic is that Barack Obama is aware of the gravity and the danger of the Iranian threat. The president realizes should Iran get a nuclear weapon - it will be his fault.

This is extremely powerful. Presidential ownership and responsibility has not been the norm. But as powerful as it is, it is not very comforting. So he owns the mistake - but in the end that does not make either Israel or the region any safer.

What struck me about the interview was not the insight Goldberg gave us into the Obama Iranian genuflection.

I was struck that Barack Obama sat down with Jeffrey Goldberg for the interview.

It was Jeffrey Goldberg, in the Atlantic, who gave the White House that huge black eye in October of last year on the subject of tensions between Washington and Jerusalem. It was Goldberg who quoted a senior White House official saying "The thing about Bibi is, he's a chickensh*t."

We were told that this was a huge embarrassment for the White House.

Told that heads would roll because of the statement. How could a senior person in the White House use that kind of terminology and refer to America's stalwart friend so smugly. Some guessed that the entire episode was a plant. The White House wanted to send a clear message to Netanyahu and this is how they chose to get that message across.

Months later, it seems clear those who always believed that the statement was intentionally made and printed were right on the money. Otherwise, why grant Goldberg, or for that matter anyone who writes for the Atlantic, a face to face just a few short months after that terrible faux pas.

Unless of course it was not a misspeak - but a deliberate message. 

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Australia to Take Away Citizenship from Terrorists

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Australia is planning on taking more serious steps in their fight against Islamic terror and Islamic homegrown terror.

From now on in Australia, if you join ISIS and travel to fight for them, or if you join them in Australia and you are an immigrant or the child of an immigrant, they will strip your citizenship.

Peter Dutton, the Australian Minister of Immigration, announced the plans earlier this week.

This is a significant step - especially for Australia, which has a reputation for openness and claims to be the most diverse country in the word.

Homegrown Islamic terror and Australians running to join ISIS has become a threat to the homeland and needs to be addressed.

This new law may or may not dissuade young people from joining ISIS - but it will give Australia more power and more teeth to punish and prosecute Islamic terrorists. The threat of deportation might not seem daunting, but word will soon get around. 

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Battle in the Golan

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
The heat during the day in the Golan Heights is brutal. Maybe that explains why summer is a time for fighting in the Golan. Whatever the reason, it has become the tradition. And this summer is no exception.

In two important battles over the past two weeks, Syrian rebels have extracted ISIS fighters from important positions very close to the Israeli border.

In both locations ISIS was attempting to expand their control - in the end, they lost and were badly defeated.

The first battle was waged just south of Qunetra, right on the Israeli border. That is where Jayash al Nusra, an ISIS affiliate, was defeated by rebels. During the second battle the Free Syrian Army, together with the Islamic group Jabhat al-Nusra, (which is affiliated with al Qaeda) overpowered ISIS fighters from the Shuhada al Yarmouk Brigades.

It is crucially important to understand that local issues trump ideology.
Groups cooperate with each other in order to make certain that the border with Israel remains quiet.

That is why the Jabhat al-Nusra fought together with The Syrian Free Army.

ISIS was a threat to the stability and quiet of that border - and that was simply not acceptable. 

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

ISIS Rings in PA

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

120 silver ring that had ISIS slogans on them arrived at Ben Gurion airport. They were imported from Turkey and they were to be sold to Palestinians.

En route to Ramallah, in the Palestinian Authority, the rings were confiscated. And will be destroyed.

The essential point is not that the rings were discovered. The significance is that they were to be sold.
The significance is that there is a market for semi precious jewelry that proclaims support for ISIS.

120 people would wear those rings with the same pride we feel wearing our lodge rings or college rings.

Palestinian leadership has been shouting for months that there is no ISIS presence in the PA ... none. And yet ...

Given this discovery that claim is very hard to believe. 

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

EU Wants to Lead Israel - PA Peace Talks

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

There is one thing almost everyone can agree on: The United States is losing influence in the Middle East.

As a result, other forces are lining up to try to exert leadership and influence in the vacuum that now exists.

The European Union is one of those forces. The leader of the 28 nation bloc EU is Federica Mogherini. She is 41 years old and the former foreign minister of Italy. Mogherini will be meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Wednesday where she will be propose that the EU step in and provide the much needed role of negotiations facilitator.

While it is true that the US role has diminished in the region, it is also true that the EU simply has neither the gravitas nor the ummpf necessary for that vital role. Besides, the Europe Union has a long history of siding against Israel.

Unless Mogherini can convince Israel otherwise, this proposal will simply die in the water. And someone else will try their hand at filling the role of negotiator.

Next ... 

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Ramadi Falls to ISIS

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
The battle with ISIS is neither mono-directional nor is it mono-dimensional. The battle with ISIS has many levels and many fronts.

Ramadi, a city of 500,000 people, fell to ISIS yesterday. It is the capital f the Anbar province. Now the entire Anbar province in Iraq is now in the hands of ISIS. ISIS confirmed the conquest and we have video of Iraqi forces running away for fear of losing their heads.

We saw army vehicles speed away with Iraqi soldiers jumping and grabbing the sides of the trucks trying to escape.

When ISIS confirmed the victory they said that they had confiscated tanks and trucks and executed apostates.

This is a major setback for the West and a great victory for ISIS.
Anbar is the largest province in Iraq. Its transfer into ISIS control expands ISIS land and property even more. Anbar is larger than the rest of Iraq combined and the population of Anbar is 2 million.

Two days ago, in Syria, US Delta Force commandos attacked and killed ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf, the man in charge of oil production and marketing. I have been told that the plan was not to kill him, but to capture him alive -- plans do not always work out as anticipated. In the course of the attack, however, the West killed 31 ISIS fighters and captured the wife of Abu Sayyaf.

The commandos took computers and papers. Abu Sayyaf evidently kept meticulous record.

The success here is far greater than simply assassinating an individual high up in the ISIS organization. It must be seen together with other successful hits by the United States - the removal of the #1 ISIS leader, al Baghdadi and then the assassination of the #2 ISIS leader, Abu Afri.

Even more important than eliminating a high ranking ISIS member is the position that this particular
ISIS member held - Abu Sayyaf ran the extremely efficient oil system that provided money allowing ISIS to function as smoothly and efficiently as it does.

Striking a blow to ISIS money sources is a huge success. 

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Russia & China Navies Drill in Med Sea

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Russia and China are embarking on naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea.
The exercise will include 9 large ships and numerous smaller support vessels.

The headquarters for the maneuvers will be the Russian missile cruiser the Moskva which is attached to the Black Sea Fleet and is normally docked in Crimea.

The deputy commander of the Russian navy, Vice Admiral Alexander Fedotenkov, is running the exercise from the Russian side. According to him "Sea Cooperation 2015 drills ... were not aimed against a third country."

Of course --- this is pure 100% rhetoric.

These drills are aimed at the United States and her allies as well as at the entire Middle East. Russia and China are saying loudly and clearly that they are now, individually and collectively, significant players in the region.

From here on, Russia and China will influence and effect change on everyone and everything in the region. 

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Abbas' Pre-Conditions

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech commemorating the
Palestinian nakba, it is called Nakba Day.

Nakba means catastrophe. Nakba Day falls out on May 15th every year.

May 15, 1948 is the day on the Gregorian calendar that the State of Israel was declared. Palestinian Catastrophe Day is Israel Independence Day. It does not have to be seen that way-- but it is.

Make special note that the Palestinians chose to celebrate this day according to the Gregorian calendar, not according to their Muslim calendar.

In his speech Abbas clearly repeated his conditions for returning to negotiations with Israel. His three pre-conditions are.

#1: Total stopping of settlement
#2: Release of prisoners
#3: Negotiations for just one year.

This set of pre-conditions set by the Palestinian leader is pie in the sky. That is why the starting point of negotiations for Israel is NO pre-conditions. 

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Iran Caught Importing Nuke Materials

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Do we really think that Iran can be trusted to live up to their end of the nuclear bargain?

This infraction was just made public: A UN report prepared by a committee that oversees nuclear sanctions against Iran showed proof that the Czech Republic recently stopped nuclear materials from being shipped to Iran.

The Czechs discovered that the paperwork on a set of highly sophisticated compressors was forged and false and reported their discovery to the UN panel.

That committee that monitors compliance with the UN sanctions regime determined that there had been a "false end user" on the paperwork.

That means the paperwork fraudulently stated where the compressors were headed.

"The procurer and transport company involved in the deal had provided false documentation in order to hide the origins, movement and destination of the consignment with the intention of bypassing export controls and sanctions."

These particular compressors made by Howden are used to enrich uranium to 90% plus - especially the essential fissile isotope unranium-235.

All this is happening while the P5 + 1 continue to push for a deal with Iran and while the US is trying to influence local leadership to trust the deal.

If you still think Iran can be trusted, think again. 

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

US Kills ISIS #2

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Iraqi defense ministry announced on its website that the number two leader of ISIS, the man who was successor to Baghdadi, was killed yesterday in an allied coalition air strike on a mosque in Northern Iraq.

Abu Ala al- Afri was reported killed.

"Based on accurate intelligence, an air strike by the coalition forces targeted the second in command of IS, Abu Alaa al-Afari,
(sic)" the ministry said in a statement on its website.

If this is true --- it is a huge victory for the West and for moderates in the region.

ISIS leader Baghdadi was reported to be badly wounded and suffering from a spinal injury. He was thought to be wounded in a coalition attack at the end of March. Al-Afri assumed the mantel of ISIS leadership the first week of April.

If, in the course six weeks, the West successfully hit both ISIS number #1 leader and ISIS replacement leader #1, it will hamstring the organization and their ability to govern and make decisions.

If true, this is a huge setback for ISIS. For everyone else, it is very good news.

But the question lingers: What does Iraq gain by releasing this information? 

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Shiite Sunni Conflict

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday 19 Shiite pilgrims were killed and another 50 wounded in terror attacks in Baghdad, Iraq.

The pilgrims had gathered together in commemoration of the death of their Shiite leader from the 8th century, Imam Moussa al- Kazim.

Much of the tension and the fighting in the region traces back to the Sunni / Shiite conflict.

ISIS is Sunni.

Hezbollah is Shiite.

Iran is Shiite

Assad of Syria is from a break off of Shia.

Saudi Arabia is Sunni.

The Houthi in Yemen are Shiite.

Iraq is a split of Shiite and Sunni.

This Shiite Sunni divide can be seen throughout the entire Middle East. Without a doubt it is the most powerful cause for war and conflict between Arabs.

As we have seen over and over again, a Muslim Sunni can and will kill a Muslim Shiite with impunity. And vice versa. 

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Arabs Stone Firefighters in Jerusalem

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Firefighters are like doctors - they save lives, even the lives of bad guys.

Now picture this: Firefighters were called in to squelch a fire in Arab East Jerusalem in the neighborhood of A-Tur. The fire was spreading and homes and people were in danger.

And as the fire trucks were lining up and as the firefighters were attempting to put out the fires, they were stoned by the Arab residents.

Despite the barrage, the firefighters got the fire under control and prevented it from spreading further ... then they retreated. At that point the firefighters were in more danger from the pelting than they were from the flames.

Crazy? You bet! How can anyone make sense of what happened? Who behaves like that?

Why the residents of A-Tur did not run and say thank you to the firefighters is impossible to figure. They should have thrown candy - not rocks. Why throw rocks at people trying to save you and your community?

In the end the fire fighters succeeded in saving the entire block and all the people. The firefighters fought back the fire while under rock fire.

I am waiting to see if any Palestinian leaders condemn, comment on or chastise the rock throwers.
So far - silence. 

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Arab Tribes Unite Against ISIS

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Sinai Tribal Federation had their first meeting yesterday. The Federation is a newly formed group of tribes in the Sinai desert in Egypt banding together to fight ISIS.

Members of the Federation are feeling threatened and abused by ISIS. The Egyptian army is trying their best to protect them, but the tribes think they need to step it up. They issued a statement saying that they are discussing ways to confront ISIS and other extremists who want to topple Egypt.

This is a major move on the part of tribal leaders. This does not happen often. On their own, Arabs are standing up and defending themselves against aggressive extremists.

This is unique. This is good. 

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

2 Important Items

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

There are 2 interesting items that just happened that I want people to know about:

1- ISIS staged a prison break in Iraq freeing 50 of their fighters and killing 15 guards.
This seems bold - and that is exactly typical of the ISIS style of doing things.
ISIS does what it wants, when it can. The only time ISIS does not act is when it is clear that they will not succeed.

2- The Saudis and the Houthi have agreed to a 5 day truce.

But the Iranian press is reporting that a monster cargo ship with thousands of tons of aid is now on its way to Hodeida the Yemeni port controlled by the Houthi. If you and I know about the shipment so do the Saudis. And they will prevent the cargo from arriving.

There may be medical aid and humanitarian assistance on the ship. But the Saudis would be skeptical even of that. The Saudi would need to make certain that weapons are not being smuggled in to help the Houthis. That is a risk that the Saudis will not take.

So short an of inspection -- Saudi Arabia will not permit the vessel to dock in Yemen. 

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

ISIS, Al Qaeda and Hezbollah Are Fighting

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Fighting has picked up between Hezbollah and ISIS and al Nusrah. I expect that the fighting will continue throughout the summer.

Battles are taking place north of Damascus in a mountain area called Qalamoun. It is actually a mountain range. The Qalamoun Mountain Range.

The area borders Lebanon and Syria. The Lebanese border sticks out into Syria like a finger.
Media has reported that Hezbollah lost 40 fighters in these battles.

Hezbollah does not usually respond to these reports - instead, they report their own story on their own TV and radio stations as well as on the websites. They set the record according to their own point of view.

Hezbollah says that they lost 4 fighters and that their families have been informed.
This region is significant. Whoever controls the little finger controls the mountain passes which descend straight down to the Mediterranean Sea. 

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Bibi's New Government

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
The joke goes ---
Q - "What is worse that losing an Israeli election?"
A - "Winning the election!"

There is little doubt that when Netanyahu and his party won the March 17 election they were elated. But in Israel today, the political reality is that building a government means sharing power - and that most definitely dilutes the victory. Netanyahu's party is not happy with the results of their victory.

Many prime positions have been divided up and will be shared with coalition partners. There is no way of making that sound good. The secret to a long lasting coalition government of 61 members is that the partners, all the partners, need to be happy.

At any moment any coalition member can become disenchanted and bolt -- bringing down the government.
The only hope is that party discipline, commitment to issues and the fear of a new election in which you might garner fewer seats than you won in this election, will tether the parties and their representatives to the Netanyahu - led coalition government.

It can work. The fear of losing power is tangible. The question is whether that fear trumps ideology.
Time will tell. For now, there is a government. 

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Saudi Plane Lands in Israel For Routine Service

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

This is certainly a sign that the times, they are a changing.

An Air Saudi Airbus A300 landed in Tel Aviv for routine maintenance. The job is being done by Bedek, a company contracted by Israel Aircraft Industries to service airplanes.
The plane is owned by a European company and leased to the Saudis.

It is part of the fleet of the commercial carrier Saudi Air - the
official national airline of Saudi Arabia and fully owned by the Saudi government.

This does not mean that full diplomatic relations between Saudi

Arabia have begun - although there are back channels that are often used for communication. But, in an earlier era, if a Saudi or other friendly Arab representative or product were to arrive in Israel it would be handled discretely and certainly, the name and any other identifying marks would have been covered over. Not so this time.

In the end, this could prove very embarrassing for Saudi Arabia. Some things are better not seen.

Below is a picture and a  link of the Saudi Air plane at Ben Gurion airport, located just outside of Tel Aviv. That is where Bedek services its planes.
Embedded image permalink 

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Momentum in Syria

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

He is "The Tiger." He is, in Arabic, al Namr, That is what they call him. His real name is Colonel Suhail al Hassan. He is the "go to" man in Syria for President Bashar Assad.

The man is a living legend for the Syrian supporters of Assad. He is a terror, a living nightmare, for those fighting against the regime.

He is sent into every place where Assad needs to win and once there, al Hassan defeats his enemy. He is brutal. He is thorough. He is driven. Most of all - he is successful.

This week a video was leaked of al Hassan pleading on the phone. He is in Aleppo where the battle being waged is fierce. He is asking for ammunition for his highly trained and highly motivated troops.

They are well paid and well respected. His immediate force is composed of about 1,000 elite fighters.
On this call, his tone indicates weakness. His tone sounds desperate. It is not the sound of "The Tiger."

If Aleppo should fall into the hands of the al Nusra and ISIS it will be a major setback to Assad.

Momentum will swing to ISIS and Al Nusra. It will give them the courage and incentive to advance in the Syrian Golan and in Damascus. A military win in Aleppo will give ISIS and al Nusra the psychological boost they have been desperately waiting for.

We must watch and see what happens next. If "The Tiger" gets enough ammunition and gets it fast enough to repel ISIS and Al Nusra then the position of Assad will remain strong and unchanged. If he fails, Syria becomes a changed country. 

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Islam Hates Any Image of Mohammed

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

What do you call a terror attack when it takes place in suburban Dallas? Well, you certainly do not call it a terror attack.

Gunmen perpetrated an attack against a conference on freedom of speech that sponsored a competition for cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammed. And that attack has yet to be labeled a terror attack.

We can assume that the terrorists were upset by the depictions and by the competition. We assume that they were offended by the subject of the competition and decided to defend the honor of the Prophet. And they chose, as did the terrorists in Paris who attacked Charlie Hebdo, to use guns as their defense tool.

What so irks Muslims about the portrayal of their Prophet in art?

One might think that it is disrespect - and that indeed might be the basis of the anger played out in Dallas. But that is not the reason for the Islamic prohibition against depictions of Mohammed the Prophet. In fact, during the Middle Ages, Muslim art was replete with images of Mohammed. In most of those depictions, however, the faces were blurred.

The reason for the prohibition is a direct reaction against paganism. In that way it is not dissimilar to the Biblical commandment against graven images.

A bit of background: Islam emerged out of a pagan society and believers feared that any depiction of the Prophet would be worshiped. Islam rejects that outright. In Islam, Mohammed was both a man and a prophet and he cannot be worshiped.

Out of fear that followers would create icons and images and figures and then worship them --- Islam forbade the creation of an image or the portrayal of Mohammed.

Today it is an entirely different story. Portrayals and cartoons and caricatures are not icons and could never be seen as anything other than a lampooning of their subject matter.

At issue is freedom of speech versus respect for Islamic sensibilities. Given the choice there is no doubt that, in the West, freedom of speech trumps the sensibilities of any religion, not only Islam, and trumps, as well, almost every other value out there. 

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Secret Weapon Attacks ISIS

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

ISIS is being struck by leishmaniasis.

Leishmaniasis is not a new military missile. It is not a secret weapon used by the US coalition. But leishmaniasis may turn out be a more effective weapon against ISIS than any smart bomb.

Leishmaniasis is a flesh eating skin disease caused by parasites and spread by the bite of sand flies. It is easily treatable with the proper care - a plan ISIS has not yet put into operation. Poor hygiene, poor nutrition and contaminated water all cause the spread of the parasite.

If not treated, flesh is literally eaten away and the patient, the host providing food for the parasite, dies.

So far about 100,000 people have contracted leishmaniasis in the area of Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria.

No one knows how many of the 100,000 sufferers are ISIS fighters and supporters but one must assume that if it is that prevalent ISIS members have been struck by the disease.

Before ISIS took over the area the parasite was being treated by Doctors Without Borders and they were getting the disease under control. Once ISIS came along these doctors fled the area taking their medicine with them and the parasite that reemerged is even more aggressive than the original disease spreader.

The pictures are pretty gruesome.

Some might say that this is a curse, "a pox on ISIS." Others might simply say --- "it could not have happened to a nicer group of people." 

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

New Leader of ISIS

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

It looks like ISIS has a new leader. According to a piece in the British Guardian - containing information that is still unconfirmed, the founder and leader of ISIS was victim of a US drone strike that rendered him incapable of leading.

The Guardian quotes Iraqi intel sources saying that Baghdadi suffered a spinal injury. They say he is in Mosul and accompanied by two doctors at all times.

The new leader is Abed a Rachman Mustapha. He goes by the name Abu Ala al Afri. It is common practice in Arab culture to confer a new name after your first born son. The name becomes Abu which translates to mean "father of ...."

Not much is known about Abu Ala al Afri. He was second in command to Baghdadi. Before joining ISIS he was very active in al Qaeda. In al Qaeda he was very close to Zarqawi up until his demise at the hand of the West. Since joining ISIS, Abu Ala al Afri has been a commander.

One interesting detail we do know is that he was a professor of physics.
People report that al Afri is dynamic, interacts well with others, has operational experience and he has very good contacts.

It looks as if Baghdadi was unable to lead and stepped aside in order for his number two to assume the new mantle of leadership. 

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Human Rights Watch Condemns Israel for Aid to Nepal

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Ken Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted this:

"Easier to address a far-away humanitarian disaster than the nearby one of Israel's making in Gaza. End the blockade!"

It is a horrific attack against Israel for helping to save lives after the tragedy that rocked not only Nepal, but the world.

In a warped conception of what it right and what is wrong, Roth was saying that Israel should help the Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel sent two jumbo jets and 260 rescuers to Nepal. The medical equipment they sent included a fully outfitted field hospital.

Israelis are saving lives in Nepal, just as they did in Haiti in 2010.
Israel is one of -- if not the - best in the world when it comes to disaster relief. They have honed their skills and continue to develop better and faster techniques for dealing with disaster when it strikes.

The US pledged $1million and will probably cough up another $9 million. Israel did not give money but their presence is worth far more than $10 million.

The next largest delegation in Nepal came from the United Kingdom. They have 68 members on their team. China has 62 people there and the United States sent a team of 54.

Roth is so anti-Israel that even when Israel does something that can only be interpreted as "good " he finds fault in their actions.

How interesting that an agency that purports to be a humanitarian agency, as Human Rights Watch does, should criticize one nation for offering vital humanitarian aid to another nation in need. 

Roth should be chastised. Israel should stand proud.
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Friday, May 1, 2015

Iran Trying To Get Nuke Materials

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
As Iran and the United States and the other P5+1 nations sprint towards an agreement that will meet their June 30th deadline, I saw a small report leaked by AP. As dramatic as it is - and believe me, it is dramatic, I was not surprised to read the release.

England has told the UN special panel on nuclear issues that there is an "active Iranian nuclear procurement network."

The network is connected to Iranian companies and they are reaching out around the world buying uranium and other basics for nuclear development. This warning was presented to the UN on April 20th.

The confidential report to the UN committee names the two Iranian companies that comprise the network. They are Iran's Centrifuge Tech Company and Kalay Electric Company.

Don't be surprised. For Iran, this is clearly an established, tried and true method of negotiation. For Iran, there is no conflict in working to resolve an issue and forge an agreement while, at the same time, secretly undermining the very objectives of the future agreement.

The only question I ask, once again, is how the United States can be so naive that they do not realize this was happening - and right under their noses.


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