(Micah Halpern is an author and columnist with extensive expertise on the middle east and is a long time friend of KGAB's Morning Zone Program. You can hear Micah's audio commentary weekdays at 6:35 and 9:35 AM MDT during The Morning Zone.)
~~Iran is Making Another Move~~
~~By Micah Halpern~~Friday April 26, 2013~~

Reuters ran an interview with Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator. His name is Ali Bagheri.

In the interview Bagheri explains that Iran is now ready to move forward and negotiate with the West. He says that Iran is awaiting EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton's phone call.
About Uranium enrichment Bagheri said that Iran's 20% uranium enrichment was for research reactors only.

"We produce 20% uranium to provide fuel for Tehran's research reactor, also four other reactors in four different parts of Iran which are under construction. With this in mind, plans have been drawn up to convert 20% uranium to 20% oxide."

That makes a total of 5 nuclear reactors working with 20% enriched uranium. Converting it to oxide powder is very positive and encouraging. Once the uranium is converted to oxide it cannot be reconverted.

Sounds good, but was he speaking the truth? Iran is great at spin.

The Ayatollah Speaks
~~By Micah Halpern~~Thursday April 25, 2013~~

Iran's Grand Leader The Ayatollah Khamenei has condemned the Boston terror attack. The Ayatollah Khamenei emphasized that Islam rejects the murder of innocent people. And then he condemned what he referred to as the hypocrisy of America.

The head of Iran saw an opportunity and seized it as the Iranians so often do and do so well. The Boston attack was the perfect opportunity for Iran to explain to the non-Western world the unfair practices of the United States and the West. Khamenei wove together a perfect argument decrying of the hypocrisy of the most powerful Western country, the United States, while, at the same time, condemning acts of violence against civilians and especially against children.

Look at the statements Khamenei made before a convention Iranian of army commanders and Basij leaders. These quotes are verbatim, they are taken from FARS, an official Iranian news service:

"In compliance with the logic of Islam, the Islamic Republic of Iran opposes and condemns any kind of explosion and killing of innocent people no matter it takes place in the United States' Boston or in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria."

"The attitude of America and others who allege to be supporters of human rights towards the killing of innocent people is contradictory and we, thus, believe that the United States and the front standing against the Islamic Republic of Iran are irrational."

"What kind of logic is this that if children and women in Afghanistan and Pakistan are killed by Americans and if the terrorists supported by the US, the West and the Zionists cause catastrophes in Iraq and Syria, it wouldn't matter, but if a blast takes place in the US or a Western country, then the whole world should pay the price for it."

Unfortunately, the arguments put forth by the undisputed and leader of Iran will ring true and meaningful in many, non-Western, corners of the world. At the same time, these statements, Khamenei's biting critique of the United States and US policies, can help us in the West in our understanding of why Iran and her allies believe that the United States and the West misunderstands Iran and the rest of the world.

What is missing from the Khamenei's attack against the United States is any acknowledgment that at the same time that he condemns terror against innocents, money from Iran is pouring into terror organizations plotting to do just that, kill murder and maim as many innocents as possible. But self-awareness would be too much to expect of The Grand Ayatollah.

The biggest flaw in his diatribe, the most glaring misrepresentation, is not omission of the well known secret that Iran sponsors both the terrorist organization Hezbollah and the terrorist organization Hamas and bankrolls their attacks but that Iran also monetarily supports Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and his attacks against his own people.

The other part missing from the Grand Ayatollah's rhetoric, from his condemnation and attack on the US is any mention of the fact that, in his mind and in the mind of Islam, anyone connected to the conflict is no longer considered innocent. That means that all Israelis - young and old, men and women, children and elderly are, in his gestalt, all justifiable targets.

And that also means that eight year old Martin Richard was a fair target for the perpetrator/s of the Boston terror attack.

Iran is in conflict with the United States and the United States is a target. So are all her citizens. Including eight year old children. Especially is they are within the area targeted for attack. Period, end. For Iran, it is that simple and straightforward and equation.

Now, I am not saying that Iran sponsored the twin terror bombings in Boston. I am arguing that Iran does not care about the deaths of innocent people when they do sponsor terror attacks. And I am saying that the condemnation of the attack by the Ayatollah Khamenei is vacuous and a public relations ploy intended for the non-Western world which understands, without explanation or cue cards, his true intention and the meaning of his carefully chosen words.

So what does the Grand Ayatollah really mean by his response to the Boston terror attack bombings? The entire discussion is one of political expediency. Khamenei is using the opportunity to justify his own position and discredit the United States with no compunction over the fact that he is, when you read his statements carefully, justifying the actions of the terrorists. He is publicly calling the United States out and saying: What do you expect given the way you treat the rest of the world.

That's how the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei does things.

Rebels Have Anti Tank Missiles
~~By Micah Halpern~~Thursday April 25, 2013

I'm Predicting:

If there is one thing for certain it is that both sides in the Syrian battle have staying power.

And it looks as if, barring some colossal military maneuvering, the battle will continue to be waged. Game changers would be Assad becoming even more brutal and using more of his heavy weapons or the rebels getting access to more and better weapons.

Over the past few weeks the rebel forces have shown us that they do have a handful of very accurate and extremely potent anti tank weapons. They have the ATGM, the anti tank guided missile. That was their weapon of choice in fights around Damascus.

The ATGM has the potential to change the balance of the Syrian battle and even the outcome of the conflict. The guided missile is a point-and-shoot, error proof system. And it destroys tanks.

Part of Assad's strength until now has been that his tanks, helicopters and fighter jets advance at free will. There was no real response to them. That has changed. Now Assad's tanks cannot move at will. And when stationary, they are sitting ducks and easy targets for the ATGM.

There's more. Because the rebels have the ATGM Assad cannot relocate his tanks to other locations where they might be needed. On the open road or flatbeds they can be picked off with apparent ease.

But here's the problem for the rebels. It seems that they only have a handful of ATGMs. If they had more, they would use them.

The ATGM weapons are made by the Russians and by the United States. It is unlikely that the Russians gave them to the rebels. But the rebels could have bought them from a secondary source. The Americans cannot sell them to the rebels but it s possible that the CIA gave them to a group who gave them to the rebels as an experiment.

Either way, if more ATGMs appear in the battle field expect Assad to respond with even greater and more brutal force.

EU Allows Oil Sales From Syria
~~By Micah Halpern~~

Wednesday April 24, 2013~~

The European Union has lifted their ban against importing Syrian oil.

Of course, there are still conditions to be met before allowing Syrian oil into the European market. The oil must come from fields controlled by Syrian rebels fighting to oust the Assad regime.

It makes sense. This way, the rebels can their own raise capital and buy whatever they need in order to fuel their fight against Assad.

News outlets around the world are touting this as a brilliant move. It would be - if only all of the pieces were actually true.

It is true that since December of last year most of the oil fields and pumping wells In Syria have been taken from Assad and they are now under the control of the rebels.

But the rebels that control the oil fields in Syria are al Qaeda rebels. So what the EU has done is allow al Qaeda the ability to sell oil to Europe. And that is, to say the least, extremely dangerous.

Allowing al Qaeda that kind of access to Europe with something as vital as oil and then giving them the proceeds is tantamount to a death wish for Europe.

There is no doubt that ousting Assad is a priority for most of Europe. But intentionally helping al Qaeda? That cannot have been on the EU agenda. If it is, then God help us all. I hope it was just a big, awful mistake - that will be rectified.

~~Israel Using Jordan Air Space~~
By Micah Halpern~~Tuesday April 23, 2013

Le Figaro is one of the most responsible newspapers published in Europe. The paper, which is published in Paris, exposed a scoop which, if true, signals a real regional game changer for the Middle East.

Le Figaro published a story claiming that President Obama convinced Jordan to permit Israel use of their air space in order to gather intelligence from Syria. The paper wrote that Jordan is even permitting Israel use of their air space to launch attacks against the Syrians.

This is no small feat. Not very often does an Arab country make the decision to permit the Jewish Western country carte blanche to fly over and above them in order to access Syria.

Obviously, Jordan wants to oust the Assad regime. The United States has also gone on record saying that they want Assad ousted. But Israel does not want to take sides in the conflict .

What Israel and friends of Israel should want is a stable government in Syria. Stable countries build a stable region. Israel knows that.

ibi to Visit China~~By Micah Halpern~~Monday April 22, 2013~~

Next month, in May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to make his first trip to China.

This is a very important trip for the prime minister. Netanyahu has tried to visit China on an official trip on numerous occasions - both in his first term, his second term and now his third term as PM.
China is the key to many world issues and if Israel can form an alliance with China, any type of alliance, it will propel them along the road to great success.

Israel views China as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. China is the fastest growing economy in the world and it needs and would greatly benefit from the exciting R&D and technology that Israel is creating.

Economically, Israel wants to open more trade with China. They want to develop more technological and scientific agreements with China. Politically, Israel wants to try to convince China of the dangers presented by Iran.

Now China has its own agenda. The Chinese want to pressure Israel to make more concessions on the peace front with the Palestinians. And the Chinese will enjoy teasing the United States by dangling potential deals in front of Israel.

Hopefully, there will be no missteps or mishaps between now and May and the trip will go on as planned. But in the Middle East, you never know what might happen.

Israelis Man ER in Boston~~By Micah Halpern~~Sunday April 21, 2013~~

There are many parallels between the Boston Marathon double bombing and the terror that plagues Israel.

Interestingly, some of the doctors in the Boston hospital made the same comparison - because they are Israelis or were Israeli trained.

YNET, the Israeli online paper of Yediot Ahronot, ran a spectacular piece featuring the Director of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Kevin Ilan Tabb. Tabb did his medical training and residency at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. He is now on the hospital board.

Tabb said the head of their ER is Israeli and they have several other Israeli doctors in the emergency room. There is no doubt that they have a lot of experience with this kind of terror specific trauma.

The hospital director indicated that the two most difficult components in treating patients after terrorist attacks is admitting so many emergencies at one time and treating victims lying in beds right next to the terrorists in their beds.

Medical professionals try to save whoever comes through the door. But the families of the victims are most often far less compassionate.

If you had any doubt before this horrific, brutal and uncivilized act, it should be clear now. The West, especially Israel and the United States, have much to learn from one another - and they are linked inextricably, if only because their enemies unite them.

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