Thursday, January 16, 2020

2 Defections in 1 Week

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Another defection from Iran. That makes it number two just this week. Both are women.
Shohreh Bayat, 32 years old, is a chess hero famous all around the world - and especially in Iran. This week she was the referee of the Women's World Chess Championship.

During one of the matches there was a picture of Bayat refereeing and it appeared that she was not wearing her head scarf, her Hijab.

Iranian media picked up the picture and it went viral.

In response, Bayat said that she was in fact wearing her Hijab, but that it was not visible from that particular camera angle. None-the-less, she received death threats.

It is against the law in Iran not to wear the Hijab and all female competitors, even in active sports, are required to wear a Hijab.

Bayat is afraid. At best, she fears that she will be arrested if she returns to Iran. At worst, she fears for her life. There are many Iranian women in prison for violating the Hijab law.

No word yet on where Shohreh Bayat will go. 

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Another Defection from Iran

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Another dramatic defection from Iran by a national hero.

Kimia Alizadeh is the only Iranian to have won a medal in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Her sport is Taekwondo. And now she has defected.

In her Instagram post Alizadeh wrote that she defected of her own volition, that she was not tricked or wooed into defecting, that no country offered her asylum or refuge. It is a chilling message that highlights what is now happening in Iran.

She wrote: “No one has invited me to Europe and I haven’t been given a tempting offer. But I accept the pain and hardship of homesickness because I didn’t want to be part of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery."

Alizadeh continues: “I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran whom they’ve been playing for years ... I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated."

And there's more: “None of us matter for them, we are just tools.”

The young athlete is referring to herself and to her sports colleagues. She is indicating that the Iranian regime uses them as propaganda tools for both the outside world and inside Iran.
Alizadeh concludes her message on a sad and sorrowful note: “Should I start with hello, goodbye or condolences? Hello oppressed people of Iran, goodbye noble people of Iran, my condolences to you people who are always mourning."

Kimia Alizadeh is the second athlete to defect from Iran in the past few months. A male judo wrestler defected after he refused to throw a match to avoid the possibility of competing against an Israeli athlete.

Iranian citizens, young and old, are bringing about change in Iran. They are standing up and taking a stance. 

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Iran Lies

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

At the Israeli cabinet meeting this Sunday morning Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made an opening statement just as he does every Sunday morning. In today's statement Bibi spoke about Iran. He explained that: "Iran lied; just as she lied about the nuclear deal, now she lies about the Ukrainian airliner."

We have all witnessed Iran's denials, and then witnessed the reversals and changes they make.
This time, they came clean - well, nearly clean. This time the Iranians have acknowledged that, indeed, the Ukrainian airline was shot down by an Iranian missile fired by the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Iran now asserts that the shooting was human error and unintentional.

That part of the confession is the highly unlikely part.
Anyone who knows anything about anti-aircraft systems knows all anti-aircraft systems can distinguish between every kind of aircraft if only by the pitch and speed of the plane's engine.
An F-15's engine is nothing like the engine of a civilian 737 jetliner.

For Persian Muslims, just like for other Arabs in the Middle East, any Westerner is considered an outsider and a foreigner. They are all lumped into the same group and they are all infidels. A Ukrainian airliner could have as easily been a US airliner or an airliner from British Air. They are all the same - interlopers and invaders treading on Muslim land - and, most importantly, they do not belong. 

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Iran warned Iraq of Airstrike

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Things are heating up in the Middle East.

It has been reported that Iran warned Iraq in advance of the airstrike which took place early Wednesday.

Iran was aware that they were striking Iraqi air bases - true, that was where US soldiers could be stationed, but nonetheless, they were still Iraqi bases.

France also has several thousand troops in Iraq. The French have made it clear that there is no plan to withdraw them.

For the Middle East Arab and Persian mind, there is no difference between France and the United States. They are both Westerners and foreigners on Arab soil.
So the French are certainly a target for Iranian revenge. 

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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Iran's Possible Response to Suleimani

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
The US assassination of Iranian al Quds head, General Qassem Suleimani, continues to be big news. Politicians, talking heads, anyone who has an opinion on the subject is spouting off about why the assassination was right or wrong and if the situation will or will not cascade into an all out war.

Israel and Israelis are justifiably worried. They are a convenient target for Iran if only because Israel is the biggest symbol and the most effective unifying tool in the entire Middle East.

My best analysis says that if Iran chooses to respond, they will use their proxies to attack US interests in the region and not engage directly with either the United States or with Israel. This was actually the role of Suleimani. He was tasked with the planning and execution of missions outside Iran using their proxies to strike at enemies of Iranian interests. He bolstered and trained the very groups and people who will now be called on to strike.

A full scale frontal war between Iran and the US is very doubtful. A direct strike from Iran and even from Iranian soil into Israel or to US bases is also unlikely.

Iran's most likely response will be calculated strikes by Hezbollah and by pro-Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq - all, of course, with the assistance of Iranian advisers and weapons. The most likely target being US bases in Iraq.

Israel will not be entirely forgotten. Israel will likely be on the receiving end of a barrage of rockets, maybe even drone attacks, from across their northern border - but not from Gaza. (Gaza is a powder keg that even Iran will not be able to control.) The important calculation vis a vis Iranian proxies is which action will make the biggest statement. But the action cannot be so larges as to tilt the momentum so that Israel or the United States respond with even greater force.

Israel's counter response to Iran's proxy response to the US assassination of Suleimani will be based on damage assessment. If missiles land in areas without significant damage but still big enough to make PR splash in the Arabic and Persian press, escalated tensions will recede and revert to normal tensions.

However, should there any real damage - especially to human life, Israel will be forced to respond by ratcheting up the tensions. The United States will probably use the same calculus in deciding on their counter response. 

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Friday, January 3, 2020

Targeting Suleimani

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Targeting Iranian General Qassem Suleimani was a game changer in confronting world terror.

Morally and ethically this was a justified attack, not simply because of all that Suleimani perpetrated in the past but also because he was certainly planning more attacks and the murder of innocents.

General Suleimani was not the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as so many have reported. That distinction goes to Hossein Salami. Qassem

Suleimani was the commander of the al Quds Brigade. The Revolutionary Guard is an elite division of the Iranian army. The al Quds Brigade is the most elite group within the elite Guard.

Suleimani was responsible for ALL operations outside of Iran. His great strength was his strategic and tactical planning. He was responsible for literally hundreds of operations as well as Iranian activities in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza. General Qassem Suleimani cannot be easily replaced.

This is a sampling of his diabolical achievements: He armed Hezbollah and brought them to their current strength. He did the same with Islamic Jihad in Gaza. He bombed the Saudi oil fields. He planned every operation against Israeli and Jewish targets tied to Iran. He masterminded the most recent storming of the US embassy in Baghdad.

It was no coincidence that Suleimani was in Iraq when he was targeted.

Over the past decade there have been numerous, erroneous, reports of his death. In 2006 he walked away from a plane crash that killed almost everyone else on board. In 2012 a bombing in Damascus killed his aides as well as aides to Syrian President Assad. In 2015 his death was reported during a battle in Aleppo. Then he was said to be badly injured. All of them untrue.

Today, he is dead.

The United States and Israel have both been waiting for the perfect time to try again. This time the US succeeded-- almost certainly with a little help from Israel. 

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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Iran Responds

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Iran is responding to the United States.

The United States hit six Iranian targets in Iraq. Western media clumped them all into one attack, but they were six individual attacks.

Iran is responding with rhetoric.

And not the kind of rhetoric that most of the Western world would expect. The Iranian response is atypically calm, calculated and clear.

The more one learns about Iran, the more one realizes how skillfully they use the media how artfully they compose their responses. They responses are not emotional at all. It is all about strategy. It is akin to a long term game of chess.

Look at the response of the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Brigadier General Hossein Salami. This response is quoted by Tasnim, an official media outlet in Iran. It was picked up across the international world and was read by everyone monitoring the situation.

“We are not leading the country to war, but we are not afraid of any war and we tell America to speak correctly with the Iranian nation. We have the power to break them several times over and are not worried.”

In addition Iran’s Army Chief of Staff Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi also quoted in Iranian official radio announced on Thursday that Iranian forces were ready to confront the “enemy”.

“Our armed forces ... monitor all moves, and if anyone makes the slightest mistake, they will decisively react, and if the situation heats up, we will show our abilities to the enemy."

As if that was not enough, on Wednesday Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the U.S. attacks on Iranian-allied militias in Iraq, blaming the United States for violence in Iran’s neighbor Iraq.

Iran is dialing down the tensions just as the United States is dialing them up.

There is a possibility of all out war - but more likely is a scenario in which the next few weeks will be tense. We will witness a series of tit for tat, of actions and reactions.
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