Sunday, January 31, 2016

US & UK Hack Israel's Drones & Jets

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Israel has been hacked - by the United States and by the United Kingdom.

A huge intelligence hack was exposed on Friday. The United States and England broke the computer codes of Israel's drones and fighter jets all the way back in 1998. And ever since then, they have literally had a "virtual seat in the cockpit" of Israel attacks.

They were watching the video of drone attacks and jet attacks.

The hack and the intelligence operation against Israel are called "Anarchist."

They hacked in and used the British air force base in the Troodos mountains in Cyprus as their listening center - it sits on the highest mountaintop in the region, Mt Olympus. This is the most elite intelligence hub in the entire array of British intelligence centers known as the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) intelligence agency.

From their mountaintop vantage point the United States and Great Britain were able to watch armed Israeli drones fire on their targets. As an aside, Israel is one the of the world's biggest producers and suppliers of drone technology and they have never admitted to having armed drones.

The leak of this hack is part of the Wikileaks that Ed Snowden stored and released.

According to the leak, the hack gave the United States the ability to read the drone monitors in real time as Israeli drones and fighter jets fired at their targets. And it is not a stretch to assume if they accessed the video, they could also INTERUPT the mission. So far there is only evidence that they observed, but they could also take control. That is the massive nature of the breach.

In Intel terms this is an "earthquake." Not simply because the United States is not supposed to spy on friends but because Israel's codes were cracked.

Yuval Steinitz, Israel's minister of energy, was quoted on Israel Army radio saying "I do not think that this is the deepest kingdom of secrets, but it is certainly something that should not happen, which is unpleasant. We will now have to look and consider changing the encryption, certainly." He continued "We know that the Americans spy on the whole world, and also on us, also on their friends."

Change the encryption codes. I would certainly say so. I would also add that Israel must rebuild their entire security system. Now! 

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Friday, January 29, 2016

How ISIS Continues On

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

How has ISIS been able to withstand the nightly bombing raids that the allies have launched against them? It seems as if ISIS has been barely affected by the bombings, almost as if they have sustained no losses from the attacks.

I've discovered how. I've discovered how and why ISIS has hardly been degraded by the 14 allied air forces that have been pummeling them day in and out.

Several reasons have been given by Intel analysts, and they all seem plausible.

The first reason is that the planes only fire on a few of their missions.

Another is that ISIS is doing what the allies did during World War II. ISIS has paper and cardboard models of convoys that they put out at night, and the allies bomb them during the day. The models look like trucks and Hummers and even half tracks.

ISIS has also created new, narrow, windy roads through fields and hills. These roads are un-mapped and they travel at night with vehicles using lights that are painted blue. They travel at night and most of the allied sorties are flown during the day.

ISIS is still selling oil and their trucks are still moving and bringing the oil to their buyers. All the oil is paid for in advance. The oil trucks belong to the contractors, most of whom are Turkish and Kurdish.

Even when trucks are hit, it has no effect of ISIS, not on the money flow and not the oil flow. The contractors take all the risk.

Finally, ISIS has hired Iraqi officers who specialize in camouflage. They have dressed the vehicles to blend into their environments. They look like part of the background and it is hard to see them when scanning a satellite image on a computer screen.

ISIS has gotten very good at protecting themselves. 

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Iran Plays Another Game

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Tasnim and FARS, both semi-official Iranian news agencies with very close ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, have reported that on Wednesday an American naval ship turned and ran away from the Iranian navy in the Gulf of Oman.

According to the report, Iran was in involved in naval maneuvers when the US ship appeared on the scene. The Iranians told the Americans about their war games and the US ship quickly turned and left.

The United States should never have been in the area and left themselves open to another encounter with the Iranians - but once they were there, it was wise not to let this escalate and turn into "incident" or a "situation" as it did last time.

But - and this is important, this non-situation is another in a growing list of examples of how the right-wing in Iran uses mundane and simple issues to its advantage at home.

The press report describes the United States naval vessel high tailing it and running away from the awesome Iranian navy. The Iranian naval chief is quoted as saying that he thinks the US ship was there to "learn our tactics".

This kind of news plays well for those in Iran who think that conflict is good and that Iran is a peer of the United States when it comes to military strength.

Again, the United States did the right thing - it was a trap that Iran had set out for them and, this time, they nibbled, but did not swallow the bait.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Israel Says Turkey Buys ISIS Oil

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Israel's minister of defense, Moshe Yaalon, is a straight shooter.

It is his character.

Yesterday the defense minister was extremely critical of Turkey. He said that Turkey supports ISIS.
That pronouncement was made in a press conference after a meeting between Yaalon and his Greek counterpart.

Israel and Turkey have been working hard to mend fences and reconstitute diplomatic relations. Yaalon said that Israel stipulated that the relations would get back on track only after Turkey puts a stop to several actions that support ISIS - including buying their oil.

Yes, Turkey buys oil from ISIS and that helps prop up ISIS.

Yaalon said that "ISIS enjoyed Turkish money for oil for a very, very long period of time. I hope that it will be ended." He also said that Turkey is a center for other terror groups. He called Turkey "Hamas' terror headquarters outside of Gaza."

In his most direct condemnation of Turkey, Yaalon said that Turkey has a choice to make. "It's up to Turkey, the Turkish government, the Turkish leadership, to decide... should all these stop, and Turkey will be willing to reconcile with us, then Turkey can be part of the collaborative regional effort to fight terror -  instead of supporting it."

Israel has always known that Turkey was buying ISIS oil but they have kept silent hoping that Turkey would do the right thing and stop dealing with ISIS on its own. That has not happened.

So now Israel, through Yaalon, has embarrassed Turkey by calling them out for buying ISIS oil.

Turkey can't let this pass. Turkey has to respond. 

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Good News About Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Good news. I seldom write about good news but this is something I must write about.
Israeli high tech raised $4.47 billion in investment money in 2015.

That is an increase of 30% over 2014 and, not surprisingly, a record high.

The rest of the world is slowing down as many tech investors have become shy and the investment market has become a bear market.

But Israel is the exception.

Of course, there are those who say that Israel is simply lagging and the reality of the market will catch up with them soon. But to the investor it is not a lag. Investors are always looking for opportunity and Israel always has great ideas that need funding, ideas that can become the newest high-tech phenomenon.

Israel's tech companies sell themselves very well and they entice investors. The promise is not just of great fortune, the promise is that the new product or company will make a huge difference and change the world as we know it.

708 deals were struck last year. $1.2 billion worth of investment was brought in during the last quarter alone.

Investors have faith in Israel and in the future of Israel.

That is a very optimistic message. 

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Iran Pres in Europe

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Iran's President Rouhani will be in Europe from Monday through Thursday.

Rouhani intends to buy planes and court investors. In the week since sanctions were lifted, over $50 billion in foreign investments has poured into Iran. Now Rouhani knows what he needs.

Rouhani will be in Rome for two days and then go to Paris. Iran has ordered 114 Airbus planes including the Jumbo A-380, the A-320 and the A-321 from France. That comes to a total of $18 billion.

Iran needs to renew their passenger fleet which has not been updated for nearly four decades. Airbus is a French company. Boeing, the Seattle based US company, would really like to supply Iran, too. In addition Iran wants to add at least 20 new regional planes. The best supplier for the regional jet is CanAir/ Bombardier. They are a Canadian company.

This weekend Iran hosted 300 guests from various airplane companies, luring them back into the Iranian market. Iran is becoming a serious consumer. They have the need and they have the cash. Any supplier is going to want to step up and bid to get their business.

In case you had any doubts - sanctions against Iran are a thing of the past. 

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Elections in Iran Feb 26

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Important elections will be held in Iran on February 26. We should watch them carefully. The elections are for parliament and for the Assembly of Experts.

The parliament in Iran is also known as, and better translated as, the Assembly of Representatives. In
Persian is it called the Majles or the People's House. It is composed of 290 members from 31 provinces and 65 districts.

Elections for the Assembly of Experts is far more significant than the elections for the Majles. It is the experts who choose the Supreme Leader.

This Assembly is composed of 88 Islamic experts. Over the years the number of experts in the Assembly has varied from 82 to 88. The purpose of The Assembly is not political, although it is supposed to hold a check against the Supreme Leader. It appoints the Supreme Leader and can also remove him if necessary. The Assembly is divided into traditional conservatives and hard-line conservatives.

The future of Iran and the direction it takes will be determined on February 26. They will be heated elections. I anxiously await the results. 

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Important News Items

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Three important items need to be brought into perspective this weekend.

A- The Slovenian supermarket that was boycotting Israeli fruits has rescinded that boycott and placed a new order for Israeli produce. They government officially responded saying that there was never a boycott. The truth is that boycotts are illegal under EU law so Slovenia changed their policy.
This is an important defeat for BDS. But they will continue to try to get more European countries to boycott Israel.

B- The Israeli army gave a briefing to the communities that live along the Gaza Strip. Community leaders were told that Hamas is ready for a new conflict. The threat is from rockets and from tunnels - Hamas has rebuilt the tunnels and restocked the rockets.

The communities have been trained to counter a ground strike to hold strong until army reinforcements arrive. The IDF says that the attacks could take place at anytime, but right now it seems that Hamas is playing a calming role and cracking down on Salafi extremists who are trying to attack Israel.

C- China's President Xi addressed the Arab League on Friday saying that the Chinese support a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

He said "We are in favor of putting in place a new mechanism to promote peace as to the Middle East question, and support efforts made by the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation toward this end."

He continued by saying that China: "firmly supports the Middle East peace process, the establishment of a state of Palestine with full sovereignty on the basis of the 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital."

President Xi also committed to supporting a solar energy project for the Palestinians and pledged $7.6 million to that end.

These are all essential news items, they all require careful monitoring. 

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Friday, January 22, 2016

A New Word Frenemy

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

FRENEMY - a combination of the words Friend and Enemy.
Machiavelli could have used this word.

It is the perfect way to describe those who live in the Middle East and those outside the Middle East who try to exert influence in the Middle East.

Using the word frenemy helps us understand that groups and people are not monolithic and that some things are complicated and many are never consistent. On one issue you may be aligned with a particular party or a leader and their nation and on another issue you may be on the opposite side.

That's what happens almost every time with almost every country in the Middle East.

FRENEMY is an oxymoron. It is also a portmanteau.

An oxymoron is an expression which is a contradiction within itself, like icy-fire, fight for peace.
A portmanteau was originally a 2 sided trunk. It describes a combination word. The best examples are "brunch" and "motel." Lewis Carroll created the word when he had Humpty Dumpty explaining to Alice the weird words like Jabberwocky... he then explains "slithy" which is lithe and slimy combined.

There is an argument as to when FRENEMY came into existence. It was probably sometime between 1970 and 1975. Some argue even earlier.

It is a word I have begun using more and more frequently. 

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Meir Family Are Heroes

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

This is about a stark contrast in societies and in characters.

Dafna Meir, a young Jewish mother of six, was brutally murdered by a 15 year old Palestinian boy.
Dafna was stabbed in the head, in front of her house, as she painted the trim on her front door. The terrorist struck her so brutally, he could not retrieve the knife from her skull. Robbed of the ability to also murder the children who were in the house, he fled.

The family, friends and the nation of Israel is in morning.

Natan her husband said this: "We have no anger."

"I am not angry at anyone. We do not curse Arabs. We are not people who hate. That's not how Dafna and I educated the kids. I spoke with the children yesterday and didn't hear a single bad thing. I talked to them about what we will do now. It's not simple."

When Palestinian terrorists are killed, even when suicide bombers blow themselves up, their families celebrate the suicide/death and the murders. Mothers say that they wish all their children would become martyrs. Some say they will have more children and raise them, too, to become martyrs.

Natan and his family are heroes, they are giants, they are an example of strength and humanity in the face of unspeakable tragedy.

And the world calls Israelis "oppressors." 

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

BDS Wins in Slovenia

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Slovenia's largest supermarket chain, called Mercator, is now boycotting Israel. This is a major victory for the BDS movement and a significant loss for Israel.

Israeli products are now off the shelves at Mercator. Before the boycott, Slovenia imported primarily citrus products from Israel, fruits like pomelos, oranges, limes and lemons as well as avocados and dates.

What makes this decision by the Slovenian supermarket even more devastating is that the state of Slovenia itself is a significant shareholder in this national food chain.

Israel saw the writing on the wall and had been increasing diplomatic pressure on Slovenia to prevent this decision - but failed.

This Slovenian boycott does not concern itself with products from the West Bank. This policy which is framed by BDS addresses only those items imported from Israel.

Boycotts of this nature violate international law. But this is not about law - it is about hatred and bile and anger.

I hope that the Slovenian government and the Mercator supermarket chain some to their senses. Soon. 

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

ISIS is on the March Again

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

We are hearing that ISIS is on the run - that they have been beaten back.

I'm not too sure.

Yesterday I read a series of reports that ISIS is on the march and capturing more and more cities and villages and towns in northeastern Syria.

The province of Dayr Az Zawr is the place of most interest right not. The capital city of Dayr Az Zawr, which bears the same name as the province, is now totally under the control of ISIS. According to reports, ISIS captured their weapon depots and many other stocks of weapons.
ISIS also captured the city of Ayash which housed an army base.

All these places were snatched from Assad's forces.

ISIS will use these victories as propaganda to help propel and boost their morale and to help motivate their fighters who have been hurt by Russian and other air strikes.

The pendulum often swings in these conflicts. Seldom is the movement only in one direction. 

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Monday, January 18, 2016

FBI Arrest 2 from ISIS in VA

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

On Friday afternoon the FBI arrested two men in Richmond, VA. One was arrested at the airport on his way to join ISIS in Syria, the other was arrested near Richmond. The second man helped plan the trip and had dropped the first man off near the airport. He took a taxi the rest of the way.

The plan was to get to Syria by flying from Richmond to Chicago and then from Chicago to Amman, Jordan. From Amman he would somehow make his way into Syria.

The FBI found out about these two men because a third person, the person coordinating the trip, was an FBI informant.

This is an important illustration of how people just get on planes and go off to advance the ISIS cause. The problem, which should be obvious, is that it is almost impossible to stop this from happening. Had it not been for the informant arrests would never have been made and the first person would be in Syria.

Joining ISIS is so easy. It is as simple as buying a ticket. In combating ISIS recruitment we need to find better ways to stop them. 

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Inside Iran and the Nuke Deal

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Iranian media is revealing a split in thinking about the lifting of sanctions and the nuclear deal.

On Saturday a front page headline read "Nuclear Burial". That was a pun based on the removal and the filling of Iran's only heavy water reactor in Arak with cement.
Another paper said the filling of the reactor with cement "hurt national pride."

Both these papers side with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. They are far right of the political leadership of President Rouhani and foreign minister Zarif.

This tension should be elevated by the Supreme Leader. But the Ayatollah seems to side with the Revolutionary Guard.

When Ahmadinejad was in power his policies were even more extreme than the expectations and wishes of the Supreme Leader.

When the Ayatollah chose the next president he selected Rouhani who was of a more liberal bent. But he is too liberal for the Supreme Leader who now seems to side more with the Revolutionary Guard.

This makes the entire situation very difficult to predict.

There is serous blowback inside Iran. If the Supreme Leader is unhappy with the deal he will need to be convinced that lifting the sanctions are a panacea for all the ails Iran is confronting.

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Iran Humiliated the US fora Reason

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

It is worthwhile taking some time to understand what really happened when Iran captured 10 US sailors who, for 40 minutes, wandered off course. As of now it is clear to everyone that the ship's GPS was working and that they had plenty of fuel.

The real issue here, and the real intention, was to totally humiliate the United States. Also humiliated were President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif. It was all part of the plan concocted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. They were behind the video taping of the US sailors and they were behind the release of the video.

US Secretary of State Kerry was immediately in touch with his counterpart, Zarif, in Teheran. The release of the sailors was a quick deal, but the Iranian Revolutionary Guard needed to exploit the matter.

The Guard does not like the nuclear deal and they certainly do not trust the United States. The deal is near completion and the sanctions are about to be lifted. The Guard knows this and is trying to agitate. They see the deal as a plot by the US and by Rouhani to topple the current regime and to break their monopoly on the Iranian economy. They want to show the United States and the Iranian people - as well as the mass media, that they will not be lured into the point of view held by the United States. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard wants to prove that Iran will neither bow to the United States nor succumb to the West and adopt Western culture.
This is a huge statement.

On the other side in Iran are President Rouhani and his foreign minister Zarif. They know that Iran needs the sanctions to be lifted especially on oil - even despite the fact that the drop in the price of oil is not helpful to their bigger goal.

The Grand Ayatollah seems to be silently on the side of the Revolutionary Guard and has only begrudgingly and cautiously permitted the nuclear deal.

The United States wants the nuclear technology to be secured and they have looked the other way regarding serious violation and saber rattling by the Revolutionary Guard - which also includes firing a rocket dangerously close to US ships and the testing of long range ballistic missiles.

The capture of the US sailors could not have come at a worse moment for the United States and Iranian leadership. It was, however, perfect timing for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It was just at the point of the end of the nuclear deal's timetable. And of course one could not miss that it was on the eve of Obama's last State of the Union Address.

Releasing the video was a huge embarrassment for the United States.

The video went viral around the world. What is most important is that millions of people have watched as the Iranians forced the US to their knees - literally and figuratively. Yes, the US aircraft carrier was poised to attack Iran - but Iran trained their missiles and rockets on that carrier and many other targets.

In the end the sailors were released and the situation did not escalate. But the biggest winners were the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the biggest losers were the United States and Iranian President Rouhani. 

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Mother Takes Infant & Joins ISIS

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Is Tareena Shakil the new normal in our world today, or is she a lost and wayward soul? Read on.

Tareena Shakil, a 25 year old woman from England, took her 17 month old baby and traveled to
Turkey, then crossed into Syria, and joined ISIS. Before choosing to live in the Syrian stronghold Raqqa, she lived in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

The 17 month old baby boy is named Zaheem and on her facebook page there are pictures of the two of them, together, in Raqqa. Zaheem is posing in ISIS clothes. Tareena claims that ISIS kidnapped her and tried to force her into marriage. Facebook and other social media show her to be a public relatons advocate for ISIS.

Before she left England Tareena wrote a farewell letter to her family. While in Raqqa she continued to correspond through facebook and texting.

She was arrested almost a year ago, in February of 2015, at Heathrow Airport when she returned to London. Her trial is beginning now.

How did this TOWIE fan from England take her infant son and join ISIS? (TOWIE, for those who do not know, stands for THE ONLY WAY IS ESSEX -hardcore English soccer fans of the Essex club).

The case against Tareena Shakil is very strong despite her claims that she was kidnapped and is frustrated and disillusioned.

European security sources say that 5,000 Europeans have made their way to Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS. Many have been killed, many are still there and many have returned.

The question is how many of those who have returned are disillusioned and frustrated and how many are actually ISIS terrorists or ISIS recruiters. 

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Poll Arab Youth on ISIS

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The results of a very interesting survey that took place in October of 2015 have been released. They offer hope for our future.

5,374 people, both men and women, were surveyed in Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United
Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories by the Zogby Research Services.

75% of people between the ages of 15 and 34 living in the Middle East said that ISIS and al Qaeda were a perversion of Islam.

They also say that the blame for the emergence of these extremists groups is corruption and leadership.

"At least three-quarters of millennial respondents in all countries surveyed" said movements like ISIS and Al-Qaeda "are either a complete perversion of Islam's teachings or mostly wrong."

In Morocco and the United Arab Emirates over 90% of those surveyed said that ISIS and al Qaeda were a "complete perversion." In Egypt 83% concurred also saying that ISIS and al Qaeda were a "complete perversion."

In the Palestinian Authority and in Saudi Arabia the numbers were lower and the sentiment not as dramatic. 55% said that the groups "were distorting Islam." It should be noted that a "distortion" is not the same as "a complete perversion."

This is very good news. Now we need to see the millennials behind these numbers standing up and stopping the perversion and the distortion. If that were to happen it would be a huge step towards defeating extremism. 

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bomb The ISIS Cash

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
I just watched two videos. Both videos were almost exactly the same. One video was posted by ISIS, the other was posted by the Iraqi forces.

The videos showed a bank in Mosul after a bombing. US sources said that the United States targeted and hit the bank in the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul with 2,000 pound bombs. A 2,000 pound bomb would destroy whatever it hit. In this case it hit the al Zahour bank.

ISIS released their video as a critique of US activities. Iraqi forces show it as a hallelujah to the success of US forces.

Targeting and hitting the bank in Mosul is a very important change in US tactics. Mosul is the second largest city in Iraq with a population of two million people. The city is located north of Baghdad very close to the border of Turkey and Syria.

The essential element of the story of banking in Mosul is that within the first day of ISIS taking over the city, they wired bank holdings back into the bank itself, automatically giving themselves control and use of nearly $200 million.

Over the next few weeks ISIS pulled the same stunt in the cities of Tikrit and Baji. Combine all three cities and ISIS probably secured nearly $500 million, or half a billion, dollars.

Today ISIS cannot use international banks - the banks would freeze the stolen money. Instead, ISIS actually keeps the cash in the banks, just like in the good old days before wire transfers and computers.

In order for the United States to strike at the heart of ISIS, they need to hit the money sources. The US has already started bombing several of ISIS' oil fields. And when they hit the al Zahour bank in Mosul, they destroyed not only the bank building, but the money that was in the bank.

There is almost no defense against a bomb of that weight. It leveled the entire area. ISIS will respond by taking money out of their other banks and spreading it out, making it harder for the United States and other enemy forces to get to the money, but also making it harder for them to monitor and control their ill-gotten money.

Hitting the cash was a very good idea. It should have been months ago. The big mistake, however, is that the United States didn't hit all the banks simultaneously. That would have dealt a crippling blow to ISIS activities. 

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Brand New F-35s to Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Israel is about to receive its first set of F-35 fighter jets. These are the hottest item in the world of fighter jets at this stage.

The F-35 is a stealth fighter. It is undetectable to radar.

Israel ordered thirty-three F-35s from Lockheed Martin at a total of about $4.75 billion - about $110 million each. The thirty-three fighter planes will be housed in two airbases.

Israel has already renamed their F-35, they are calling it "Adir" which means very special.

A ceremony took place at the Texas Lockheed Martin plant where the planes are nearly ready to be shipped. All that remains are the computers and the electronics. That is what will make Israel's Adir F-35 that much more special than all the other 130 stealth fighters that have been manufactured thus far to date.

Israel is "souping them up." That is the expression used in the race car world. And in the world - and in the world of stealth fighter jets. 

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Bibi the Only Candidate on Primary Ballot

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is the prime minister of Israel and he is the head of the Likud party.

Registration for the Likud primary closed at 12 PM on Sunday. Netanyahu was the only candidate registered. The primaries are scheduled for February 23.

What should a party do when there is no opposition? It certainly opens up the doors for potential legal challenges if there is no opposition.

Likud leadership says that not having a primary will save them 4 million shekel, the minimum cost of a primary.

It is amazing is that there really is no challenge to Netanyahu from within the party. There is no young guard and there are no senior members of Likud willing to stand for the position of leadership.

Under normal circumstances the primary very quickly establishes the pecking order for the rest of party leadership. The primary creates a list and that list becomes an essential guideline for which person gets what position in the party and in the government.

By not having a primary the future of Likud is left in the hands of Bibi Netanyahu and his inner circle of advisers.

The lesson here is that even when it is a no-doubt-about-it shoe-in election, it is still essential to hold a primary. 

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Saudi-Iran Conflict will Not Become a War

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Where is the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran heading?

Both Saudi Arabia and Iran want to destroy, or at least badly hurt, the other.

The conflict is centuries old. It is the continuation of a rift that was created after the death of the Prophet Muhammad at which time a challenge arose as to who would succeed the prophet.

This is the root of the Shiite- Sunni conflict.

At this stage both Iran and Saudi Arabia will continue to use proxies and the international media to stab and jab each other. It is not in either of their interests to turn this squabble into a full scale direct conflict. The cost is too great, neither country can afford it.

The Sunni and Shiite worlds are now attacking one another.

The real test is how well each country does at drawing other counties and tribes and even non=Muslim leaders in support of their cause. In the meantime they will name call and blame each other for violating the true dictates of Islam.

Right now it looks like Saudi Arabia has the upper hand. But Russia is on the side of Iran. And who knows which side the United States will choose. 

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

US Bombs ISIS Oil

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:

Since October, the United States has been bombing ISIS oil fields.

This was a significant change in policy - until then, oil was not touched. The thinking was that oil would be an important and immediate cash source for any new government that would be replacing ISIS.

But as of October the US changed plans, now thinking that the cash profits ISIS was getting from the oil was helping fund and run their militant, terrorist state. The United States also, finally, understood that and ISIS was not teetering or toppling.

The shocker is that this huge change in policy, a change that is intended to strangle ISIS monetarily, has to date only involved 65 strikes. The strikes have reduced ISIS oil production by only 30% - from 45,000 barrels per day to 34,000 barrels per day.

In real figures this would be a drop from $1,575,000 per day to $1,190,000 per day at market prices. The only redeeming part of all this is that ISIS is selling their oil at significantly below market price, selling at between $20 to $25 per barrel. That still means that they are making $850,000 a day on oil.

This is just another example of how the United States is only half heartedly confronting ISIS. If they want to strangle ISIS and remove their oil profits, it will
require more than 65 strikes and more than a 30% reduction in oil production.

The United States is reluctant to do more. That reluctance permits ISIS to run their state and fund their fighters. The United States must decide what they really want to do vis a vis ISIS, and then go after it.

But maybe, this is what the US really wants. Many words, little action.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

ISIS Back in Ramadi

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:

Remember how last week the United States proclaimed that their Western backed forces in Iraq had finally ousted ISIS from Ramadi?

The action took days to accomplish and we were treated to an almost minute by minute accounting as Western forces went building by building and took back the city. Then the announcement came. ISIS was removed and the city is now under the control of Western-backed Iraqi forces.

So how is it possible that Arabic media websites are now filled with the story that
ISIS blew up the public hospital in Ramadi on Monday?
The hospital really was bombed and there is no reason to doubt the claims that ISIS did the deed.

Clearly ISIS is still there and clearly they targeted the hospital in order to terrorize the residents of Ramadi. The selection of a target, especially a hospital, is a deliberate act. We in the West ask, how could anyone target a hospital? ISIS doesn't ask that question.

ISIS does not hold the same values and act according to the same principles that the West does. Hospitals are a perfect target for ISIS. It demonstrates their ruthlessness and it emphasizes that those people at the target site are traitors and not fellow followers of the ISIS version of Islam.

Ramadi is a city of 450,000 people it is located about 60 miles west of Baghdad. Ramadai lies on the essential trade route used by truckers making their way between Baghdad and Amman, Jordan.

ISIS is telling all those in the region that they are still active and potent in Ramadi.
They are broadcasting that the earlier reports issued by the West are nothing more than anti-ISIS propaganda.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Crisis in the Mideast

Tuesday January 5, 2016

I’ve Been Thinking:

As I wrote yesterday, tensions between Sunnis and Shiites are becoming more and more apparent.  The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran has spilled over into the rest of the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia announced that they cancelled all flights and all trade with Iran. 

Bahrain, a Saudi ally, has also expelled Iranian diplomats from their country. 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has said that they are downgrading their relationship with Iran.  They no longer have full diplomatic ties and have asked the Iranian ambassador to leave.  The most senior Iranian diplomat now in the UAE is a “charge de affairs.”  This is almost like expelling the entire diplomatic team - it leaves Iran with a skeleton presence in the UAE.

Sudan has also expelled their Iranian diplomats.

The lines have been drawn.  Iran, Syria and Hezbollah are on one side.  The rest of the Arab world is on the other side.

Now let's look at how China sees the situation.  In speaking about the Saudi / Iran conflict, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news briefing on Monday that:  "Like the international community, China is highly concerned about the developments and expresses concern that the relevant event may intensify conflict in the region."

It is important to analyze how the Chinese see the unfolding of international issues that may have 
an impact on their country.  As you can clearly see, China is worried about the Middle East, especially this tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Islam is filled with internal conflict.  For those in the West who do not yet realize it, tensions between Sunnis and Shiites are even greater than tensions between Islam and non-believers. The non-believer can be saved, a heretic cannot be saved. 

Islam, Shiite and Sunni alike, views the other as heretics and according to their belief, they are both permitted to murder the other with impunity.

That is what we are seeing.

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Monday, January 4, 2016

Iran - Saudi Conflict

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
There is a diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Saudis have expelled all Iranian diplomats and are closing the
Iranian embassy there. They were given 48 hours to leave.

I wish there was a clear way to pinpoint how the current conflict started.

Many experts will say that the Saudi execution of Sheik Nimr al Nirm, the Shiite and Iranian supporting cleric, which led to Iranians storming, burning and pillaging the Saudi embassy in Teheran leaving the embassy engulfed in flames, is to blame.

Whatever the real reason, the bottom line is that the Saudis expelled the Iranian diplomats - and that's what counts.

Things have always been tense between Saudi Arabia and Iran. They represent opposite streams in Islam that have warred and persecuted and butchered each other for centuries.

The current conflict is over Yemen and Syria where, through proxies, these two sides of Islam continue their centuries old battle over the true belief.

Even when these obvious tensions of the past few days diminish, it will bring a calming of tensions.
It will simply being a subsiding of aggressive conflict between the two countries.

Iran and Saudi Arabia will continue to harm each other through their proxies and in the world of politics and world markets. 

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

US #1 Threat to Russia

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Russia just released their new threat assessment. Their last assessment was in 2009. This new assessment places the United States as one of the prime threats against them.

The document is called: "About the Strategy of National Security of Russian Federation." It was signed by President Vladimir Putin on New Year's Eve.

The document explains that Russia has become more involved in resolving international issues and in doing so, Russia has been brought head to head with the United States and other Western countries. It also explains that significant tensions emerged after the Crimea annexation. The document also accuses the United States of supporting an illegal coup in Ukraine.

The document reads: "The strengthening of Russia happens against the background of new threats to the national security, which has complex and interrelated nature."

The new Russian threat assessment recognizes that, because Russia is more active in world affairs, it is causing tensions with the United States and has resulted in a "counteraction from the USA and its allies, which are striving to retain their dominance in global affairs."

The assessment concludes that there will be blowback - "political, economical, military and informational pressure."

The Russian assessment is correct and tensions will continue.

The most important information we garner from the document is not that the Russians have come to an honest threat assessment, but rather that Russia will continue along this vein of international activism and will continue to confront the United States on these issues. 

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Friday, January 1, 2016

Arabs Sue US over Israel Support

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Two American Arabs and an American Jew have brought suit against the US Treasury for not supervising non-profit groups that are giving money to Israel. The groups receiving the monies are not named in the suit but are brought forth as examples of violations of US law and Treasury rules for tax free donations.

The complaint is 72 pages long and was formally submitted on December 16th. It claims that over $1 billion a year of US money goes to illegal causes and is tax deducted. The complaint lists many groups that they are accusing of giving money and says that there are 150 groups guilty of doing this.

The groups include, Friends of IDF, Friends of Ariel University, The Hebron Fund and The Gush Etzion Foundation. The case asserts that some of these groups have no presence at all in the United States other than a post office box. The case asserts that up to a trillion dollars of tax money is lost.

The suit claims that the money is supporting terror and violence as well as violating human rights.
This case has no merit. It is wrong and it will be thrown out.

Never the less, it is disturbing.

The problem with the case is that it is predicated on the assumption that everything that Israel does is illegal and violates international law.

The complaint says: "Treasury claims that it takes a very vigorous and active role in terms of monitoring the activities"

An attorney for the group said: "Huge tax deductions are being taken that support ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Guess who picks up the tab? The American taxpayer. There's something wrong with that. "

The complaint continues: "U.S. tax-exempt entities and their donors, settlement leaders, and the construction companies they hired to build housing developments and shopping malls can all be criminally prosecuted because they have conspired to fund, facilitate, trespass on, demolish and/or confiscate private Palestinian property, all in the name of settlement expansion."

The people behind this suit want these groups to be called "special designated global terrorists," stripping them of their tax-exempt status and freezing their assets. The case states: "There are huge penalties that go with that."

The people bringing the suit assert that the US and the Treasury are being two-faced. That they are not following their own laws regarding Israel and have turned a blind eye for decades.

The suit states that: "the entities cannot promote or finance racially or religiously discriminatory practices, nor can they violate federal statutes in the process of raising funds and/or transmitting the funds overseas."

It is a foolish lawsuit - but it clearly demonstrates that the Palestinians and their supports, like those in the BDS movement, are getting creative in their attacks against Israel.

They are trying to hurt Israel in the pocket book. 

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