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Next Iran Talks to Be in NYC
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The official Iranian student news service reported on Sunday that the next set of nuclear talks will take place in New York City.

The news agency, called ISNA, quoted a senior negotiator saying that in May the Iranians will continue their discussions with Western powers on the sidelines of the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty talks.

This is the first time since the talks began that negotiations will take place in New York City. It is a significant signal.
It means that all the parties to the negotiations have enough of a comfort level to agree to have the United States both host and to be a part of the talks.

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Al Qaeda & the PA
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 20, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Ayman Zawahiri, head of al Qaeda, posted a general update of al Qaeda on Saturday. Part of the update dealt with the Abbas and the Palestinians.

Zawahiri refers to Palestinian leadership as traitors and cowards.
He says that they have given up on the land and on their people and want only to conform to US and Zionist demands.

The PA responded by posting a statement on their website asking since when has al Qaeda even cared about the Palestinians.

Ahmad Assaf, the Fatah spokesmen, took the PA response several steps further saying: "confirm the level of his and his organization's involvement in the Zionist project. Since when has this hypocrite and his gang been interested in the Palestinian issue and the Palestinian people? They see the whole world an open arena for their activities, but we didn't see even one activity against the Israeli occupation."

Did you catch the last line?

The Fatah spokesman is asking why there has been not even a single terror al Qaeda attack against Israel. He is saying, in essence, if you cared about the Palestinians then you would be attacking Israel and killing Israelis.

This is one of the most honest statements by Palestinian leadership that I have heard in a very long time. Palestinian leadership traditionally attempts to create the illusion of a desire for coexistence and a condemnation of terror. Here we see the opposite. The spokesman is saying --- If you really loved us, you would be killing Israelis.

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Al Qaeda vs Al Qaeda
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It is clear that Bashar Assad is there to stay, at least for the short term. It is also clear that the real battle now being waged in Syria is between al Qaeda and al Qaeda breakaway groups.

The most recent spat is being waged on the audio waves of the internet. Abu Mohammed al Adnani, spokesperson for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the largest breakaway from al Qaeda posted a very angry and antagonistic internet audio message attacking the current leader of al Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri.

Al Adnani let loose an ad hominem rant about how Zawahiri is betraying the cause of Islam and jihad and how he has deviated from the proper path.

In November of 2013, Zawahiri was so frustrated with this group that he officially disbanded them. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant responded by breaking away from al Qaeda claiming that they were the true jihadist group and declaring war on all others groups - especially al Nusra, now the official al Qaeda representative in Syria.

The battle about how best to conduct jihad continues. And the killing goes on.

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Turkey to Ask Russia for a Favor
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 18, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

In foreign affairs and diplomacy nothing happens in isolation. A country's foreign affairs are, in many ways, akin to the game Settlers of Catan.

So as the situation begins to unravel with Russia, many other countries are stepping up, taking sides and taking advantage.

Imagine how interested I was to see that the deputy of the Russian natural gas company Gazprom was schedule to visit Turkey. And during the visit, Turkey intends on asking the Russians for a price reduction.

Russia/Gazprom is the major provider of natural gas for Turkey - and Turkey is dependent on imports for almost all of their energy.
Given today's political climate, Russia might be willing to reduce the price of gas in exchange for support in the international arena. If not support, at least silence.

For Turkey, it would seem to be a very small price to pay for cheaper natural gas.

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Horrific - Jews Must Register in Russian Ukraine!
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Horrific!! Just Horrific!!

The Jews living in a province located in a section of Ukraine that is being contested by the Russians have been asked to register at the regional citizenship office. If they do not follow directions their citizenship will be revoked, they will be forced to leave Ukraine and all their property will be confiscated. They must also pay a $50 registration fee.

The province, or, Obalst in Ukranian, is called Donetsk. It is home to the largest industrial area in Ukraine and lies in the eastern part of the country, close to Russia. Donetsk has a population of 4.3 million which is about 10% of the total population of Ukraine.
Many ethnic Russians live in the province. And there are 17,000 Jews living in Donetsk.

On Passover armed masked men delivered leaflets demanding that the Jews register.

The leaflet read:

"Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,
Due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine, because you supported Bendery Junta, and oppose the pro-Slavic People's Republic of Donetsk, (An historical allusion to WWII) has decided that all citizens of Jewish descent, over 16 years of age and residing within the republic's territory are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register.

ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.

Evasion of registration will result in citizenship revoke and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property."

Who would have imagined that this would happen in the year 2014.

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Secret Talks
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Those in the know knew, but they were quiet about it for these past two years. And those who did not know were no less wise without the knowledge.

I am referring to secret talks between Israel and her Arab neighbors. The talks have focused on how the region can confront Iran and save the Middle East from falling into crisis.

And then, on Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman gave an interview during which he outlined the pros and cons of the talks and explained why Arab countries are engaged in these unofficial dialogues with Israel.

Liberman said: "For the first time there is an understanding there that the real threat is not Israel, the Jews or Zionism. It is Iran, global jihad, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda."

He continued: "There are contacts, there are talks, but we are very close to the stage in which within a year or 18 months it will no longer be secret, it will be conducted openly."

"I have spent more than a few years of meetings and talks with them. As far as they are concerned, there is only one red rag and that is Iran," he said.

"You have to understand that if in Bahrain outlaws Hamas or Hezbollah, it's not because of Israel. When the presidential candidate in Egypt, General al-Sisi, outlaws the Muslim Brotherhood, it's not because of Zionism. They understand that we are on the same side of the divide."

"I think that they too are stewing in their own juice and reaching an awareness that there will be no choice but to move from the secret stage of the dialogue between us to the open stage of the talks."

The winds of the Middle East might be changing.


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Elections in Egypt May 26-27
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 15, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

On May 26th and 27th Egypt is scheduled to have democratic elections.

Last July Egypt ousted their democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood party. Since then an interim government has been in place. That temporary government was supported by the military. And it was the military, together with public outrage at the Muslim Brotherhood, which ousted Morsi.

Now the former leader of that military, Abdel-Fatteh al-Sissi, has collected the 25,000 signatures necessary to run for president in the May elections.

We have always assumed that al-Sissi will run and that he would be a shoe in. But nothing is certain until it happens - and in the Middle East nothing is certain until the dust settles which can take a good few weeks.

Elections in Egypt are five weeks away and campaigning has yet to really begin.

We hope for a fair election and that whoever the winner is will propel Egypt towards a future that is more stable and free.

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Iran Drills on Iraqi Border
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian media has been reporting on two very interesting pieces of information.

The first is that Iran has called off the move to position part of their naval fleet in the Atlantic. The decision was made because, at this point, they need to keep their ships closer to home.

The second is that the Iranian border patrol has embarked on a four day exercise involving drones, balloons, armored vehicles and 4,000 border guards. The drill will take place along the Iraqi border, covering five Iranian provinces.

Aside from the obvious need for preparedness, this drill is sending a direct message to Iraqi militia groups and smugglers warning them not to cross into Iran.

Iran is warning Iraqi leadership to make certain that their side of the border is secure. Or else!

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