(Micah Halpern is a long-time friend of The Morning Zone Program and is an expert on middle eastern affairs. Hear is daily commentary on AM 650 KGAB and www.kgab.com weekdays at 6:35 AM MDT and 9:35AM MDT<)

~~Clinton to Egypt~~
By Micah Halpern~~

Friday July 6, 2012

I've Been Thinking:

The US State Department announced that Hillary Clinton will visit Egypt to meet the new president, Mohammed Morsi, on July 14. She will be in Egypt two days before her two day visit to Israel.
Despite the rumors that circulated two weeks ago that Clinton would not be meeting Morsi, the visit has now become official.

Morsi will be kept very busy playing host. Yesterday Hamas announced that their prime minister, Ismail Haniyah, will be visiting Egypt to meet with Egyptian President Morsi next week also. It is important to note that the Muslim Brotherhood is the intellectual parent of Hamas.

Morsi greeting Hanyiah and Clinton one after the other is further complicated by a telephone conversation between Iran's Ahmadinejad and Morsi. Ahmadinejad invited Morsi to come to Iran at the end of August and join the Non-Aligned Pact Conference that they are hosting.

The Non-Aligned Pact is a synonym for anti United States. If Morsi goes to Iran in August they will completely sway him away from any impact the United States might have had on him in July.

Killed for Ripping the Koran
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 5, 2012

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday in Pakistan a man was dragged from a police station by thousands of people. He was beaten and then set on fire. It is not clear exactly when he died.

The man had been arrested for desecrating the Koran. It was said that he had ripped out several pages.

When the arrest of the man became public, announcements were made in mosques to punish the man who defamed the holy book.

Laws against defaming Islam are very strict in Pakistan. Christians and other non-Muslims live in fear that they will be charged.

Lawyers are frightened and will not take their cases. Judges are intimidated.

Last year two politicians who spoke about liberalizing these laws were murdered.

To a Muslim desecrating a Koran is not simply an insult. One does not turn the other cheek. It is an affront that often results in death. This is not a lone example.


Syria: Thought It Was Israel

By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 4, 2012

I've Been Thinking:

Last week I wrote that Syria was suggesting that the reason they downed a Turkish F-4 was because they believed it to be an Israeli plane.

True or not true - that is the official statement released yesterday by Syrian President Bashar Assad. Of course Assad hoped it would be and Israeli jet - it was the perfect excuse. Assad also officially apologized for the mistaken downing of the Turkish plane.

None of it makes Turkey any the happier. Turkey has scrambled F-16 fighter jets every day for the past three days. Yesterday six Turkish F-16s flew to protect the Turkish border when two Syrian helicopters approached. The helicopters turned back within a mile of the border.

Emotions are raw.

The formal announcement and apology from Assad do not smooth over the problem, but they do at least present an opportunity for dialing down the tensions and allow for Turkey and Syria to back away from the brink of conflict.

Abbas Arrests Thugs
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 3, 2012

I've Been Thinking:

Abbas and his loyal police have been spending that past few days cracking the whip.

Over 200 people have been arrested and a massive amount of weapons have been confiscated. Almost everyone arrested is affiliated with - Abbas and Fatah. Things have gotten out of hand in the PA.

Vigilantism has become the rule of the land. There have been too many gangland attacks and too many extortion rings all under the guise of Abbas' PA loyalists and now Abbas is saying - enough.
Anarchy. Violence. Unbridled gang attacks against businesses and against other gangs.

The situation is so bad that even politicians are being attacked.
The situation is so bad that it is placing in jeopardy international aid and the Palestinian bid for statehood.

If there is no law and order and no sense of safety and security there is no possibility that world powers will even consider the PA for Statehood.

Until now Abbas has been reluctant to crack down on Palestinians or on his militias and gangs. But this crackdown is self-serving. This crackdown is a perfect example of the Abbas-style of rule.

Israel Now Has Natural Gas
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 2, 2012

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Isramco, an energy exploratory and investment group, announced that they have hit natural gas at the Shimshon #1 rig in the Mediterranean Sea.

The drilling rig is about 60 miles off the coast of Ashkelon, Israel.
Isramco dug 4400 meters deep and struck the natural gas. The exploratory dig began in April. Now that they have found the gas, they need 35 days to properly test the gas and evaluate production.

They already have a very good sense of the size of the natural gas deposits.

This is a very good sign for Israel and for the region. It will free Israel of external dependency upon natural gas and even permit them to export excess natural gas. In addition, it will further put the natural gas option front and center as a viable alternative to oil for Israel.

This find by Aramco is also a good sign for breaking the monopoly on Israeli energy exploration which, until now, has been exclusively been in the hands of the Nobel and Delek group.

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