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ISIS Destroying Archeological Cities
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 6, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Iraqi ministry of tourism and antiquities announced on their facebook page that ISIS was destroying archeological sites.

ISIS destroyed the ancient archaeological site Nimrud also known as the biblical city of Nimrod named after the character from Genesis 10.

Nimrud was one of the capitals of the Assyrian Empire. It was there that Sannacherib built his palace. In the ancient world there was always movement from Nimrud to Nineveh which is less than miles away. They were like sister cities.

Nineveh is the famous biblical city found in the book of Jonah.

ISIS destroyed Nineveh just last year and now they have destroyed Nimrud. According to the Iraqi government ISIS bulldozed the site.

This is such an amazing site that major sections of the site were moved to London to be housed in the British Museum where they have been since the 1840's.

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Kerry in Saudi Arabia
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 5, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State John Kerry, is in Saudi Arabia to discuss Iran and ISIS.

Kerry arrived in Saudi Arabia after three days of nuclear talks or, to put it more accurately, three days of negotiations with Iran.
Kerry said that there are still very large gaps between the parties.
Over and over again we see that Iran really understands the United States.

The Iranians know that the Obama administration really wants a deal. They want something on paper. It does not matter much if it is a good deal or a bad deal.

The Israelis, however, are saying that a bad deal means that they will be destroyed.

The United States does not feel the same way, the administration is not moved by that statement.

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Why Critique the Bibi Speech
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 4 2015

I've Been Thinking:

I am shocked by responses to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech.

So much so that I am, jokingly, wondering if I missed the parts of the speech that everyone is critiquing. And to know me is to know that I missed nothing. I am not just talking about Pelosi saying she was insulted or Obama saying there was nothing new. That I expected.

The purpose of the speech Netanyahu gave was not to divulge new material - actually that is why he said you could Google all the info anyway. The Israeli prime minister has often been criticized for leaking details so he was deliberately not going to do that again, before the entire world and announce state secrets. Doing that is illegal both under Israeli and United States law.

Interestingly, Al Arabiyah had a very positive column saying how on target Netanyahu was. Their report was that the prime minister of Israel described the Iranian threat perfectly. And Palestinian President Abbas said that Bibi accurately described the explosive nature of the Middle East.

His message has not changed in over a decade. It is the same threat - it is just becoming more threatening.

The speech was not supposed to change people's minds. The purpose of the Netanyahu speech before Congress was to remind people of the danger, the very grave danger, posed by Iran and to explain why there is a difference between the US point of view and the Israeli point of view.

And in that, Netanyahu succeeded.

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Obama vs Bibi
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 3, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

President Obama has responded to Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to AIPAC in anticipation of his speech to Congress.
Obama described the difference between the two sides.

Obama is telling us that Bibi is exaggerating, that he is painting an unrealistic portrait of the situation. Obama said that sanctions have not worked.

His new plan is, in Obama's eyes, the only hope for stopping Iran.
He also says that the entire episode, the brouhaha over Netanyahu's coming to address Congress, is simply a distraction and not permanently destructive.

Obama says: "why not wait if there is a going to be a deal" and see whether or not Iran will actually accept a deal. "Why will we not take a deal?" "There is no good reason not to let the negotiations play themselves out."

The space that separates the Prime Minister and the President is enormous.

The difference comes down to this: do we trust the Iranians or do we not trust the Iranians.

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Sisi Visits Saudi Arabia
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 2, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

With all eyes on Bibi Netanyahu and his trip to Washington DC, other important stories from the Middle East are going almost unnoticed.

Yesterday President al Sisi of Egypt visited Salman, the new king of Saudi Arabia. This visit follows only days after the King of Jordan made the same trip to Saudi Arabia.

The Egyptian / Saudi conversation was very straight forward. These two heads of state see things eye to eye. Egypt wanted to make certain that the new king continues to support him politically and monetarily. And both countries needed to make certain that they share info and intel on terror and Islamic extremists.

I think that they probably decided to create a joint force between their two countries to confront the new challenge from ISIS in Iraq Syria and to control the new tensions emerging from Libya and Yemen.

Salman and al SIsi need to work well together. What they do and say will have tremendous impact on the rest of the Arab world. They can convey a sense of stability - or not.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the two most powerful of all Arab countries. Saudi Arabia is the richest, Egypt is the most populous. They have clout.

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White House Will Exact Revenge on Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 1, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The White House can be very vindictive. They do not take kindly to being publicly humiliated or chastised.

The Administration responds according to its own timetable and in their own way.

So YES, expect that Israel will have an expensive price to pay because Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will be speaking before a joint session of Congress.

There are several tools the White House has immediately at their fingertips.

They can simply drag their feet on requests from Israel - requests for aid, for intel for experts or advice.

They can cut the requests out and trim aid packages.

They can close doors that had been open and not provide info and intelligence about terror threats and movements as well as about Iran.

They can give a cold shoulder to Israeli politicians and diplomats who need to confer with their US counterparts.

When the White House wants to teach Israel a lesson, there are many ways to do it. And right now, the White House wants Israel to know that antics like this one cannot go on without a serious response.

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Iran Hacks Casinos
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 28, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

On Thursday James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Clapper confirmed that Iran hacked Sheldon Adelson's computer system at the Sands Casino Corporation.

Casino computers were non-functioning for several hours.
Adelson is a huge republican supporter and a very big donor to Israel. Actually, he is one of the largest contributors to Israel in the world.

A cyber attack against his hotel, the Sands Casino, is a major attack against a US company. Put this attack together with the North Korean attack on Sony and we see that nations are searching out and striking at US commercial interests - not just at military or governmental interests.

Iran is has become a real powerhouse in cyber hacking. They are certainly in the top ten and maybe even in the top 5 in the world of hacking. The United States, Russia, China, Israel, are the other nations in that league.

When it comes to cyber warfare, I ran is a force to be reckoned with. Beware of more Iranian hacks.

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