Micah Halpern’s Thoughts for the Week
Friday July 12, 2013:
The Israeli Army presented a merit award to Unit 8200 yesterday.
At first glance it is not such a big deal - until you realize that Unit 8200 is an intelligence unit.
This not just any unit. 8200 is the largest single unit in the Israel army. It is composed of thousands of soldiers. Its main base is called Urim and is located somewhere in the Negev desert, about 20 minutes from the city of Beersheba.
Unit 8200 was created in 1952. It is actually called "Shmoneh Mataayim" which in English translates to "Eight Two Hundred." There are many sub units within 8200. No one in one unit knows what others are doing in another unit - or even in their own unit. Part of 8200 collects intelligence and monitors the news, that section is called "Chatzav."
You would think it almost impossible to keep a secret when so many thousands of people are affiliated - but everything is compartmentalized and everyone is extremely secretive.
Across the world IDF Unit 8200 is officially referred to as the Central Collection Unit of the Israeli Army's Intelligence Corps.
Sometimes it is just called "The Israelis." 8200 has become a cabal, a mythical power with supernatural powers.
But 8200 also creates and attacks. Members of the Unit work closely with the Americans and it was probably 8200 which created Stuxnet, the virus that attacked Iran's nuclear enrichment program. 8200 is probably also responsible for W32.Flame which attacked Iran's oil pumping system and closed it down.
Above all else, Unit 8200 is a group of hackers, thousands of hackers. And they are competing with the Chinese and the Russians.
They are probably the largest, or at least, one of the largest listening bases in the world. Being in the desert helps - the skies are clearer with less interruption and they can listen to almost everyone everywhere. Unit 8200 tracks people, cars, ships, almost anything that moves. They are connected via satellite and have covert listening stations across the world.
In this era of budget cuts which means fewer planes and fewer tanks, money is being spent on high tech weaponry. Computers are cheaper than tanks and F-16s. And they have done some remarkable work.
We will never know all that Unit 8200 and other similar units around the world have done. But we do know that we live in a world of intelligence gathering and games of war. And in Israel, computer geeks have become military heroes.
Israel is saying "todah" or "thank you" to Unit 8200 by giving them this award.
Thursday July 11, 2013
Let's look at who is supporting Egypt since the ousting of Morsi and the Muslim Brother. It is very telling to know who is who - who is giving support and who is withdrawing support.
Saudi Arabia has come forward, they supported the ouster and are giving $8 billion.
The United Arab Emirates is giving $3 billion.
Kuwait is giving $4 billion.
Qatar is in for $5 billion.
Qatar was very involved in supporting Morsi in the first months of his reign. They gave billions to the Morsi government. But two months before the ousting of the Brotherhood they had switched allegiance and were sponsoring and helping the students.
It was probably the Qatari foreign minister who called Morsi and asked him to resign. And that was probably at the request of the White House. Everything is couched in terms of "probably" because it is all being kept confidential and hush-hush.
The US will go through with the promise to deliver four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt. The jets were scheduled to be delivered in the first week of August and there is no reason to expect that it will not happen.
Thus far this year the United States has given Egypt $650 million in military aid. $585 million is still pending and will be delivered between now and September when the fiscal year ends.
Syrian leader Bashar Assad has also come out in support of the students. He called the showdown in Egypt "a blow to Jihadists."
Turkey, however, is vehemently opposed to the uprising. Erdogan is calling it an affront to democracy and says that anyone who supports the Egyptian uprising is a hypocrite.
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Wednesday July 10, 2013
I've Been Thinking:
Earlier today a massive car explosion ripped though a southern Beirut neighborhood. The neighborhood is known to be Hezbollah territory and the explosion detonated near a Hezbollah military compound.
Beirut is no stranger to car bombs.
Fully understanding this particular explosion is essential in understanding the present state of the Arab Middle East. This is clearly a Sunni attack against Shiite Hezbollah. It is an obvious and tangible sign that the conflict in Syria between Shiites and Sunnis is spilling over into Lebanon.
Reports suggested that the attack was directed against a Hezbollah leader. I doubt it.
Car bombs like this one are massive. Very seldom do they successfully hit specific targets. Their purpose is widespread damage. They damage buildings, streets, institutions. They wreak fear. They are the opposite of a planned assassination.
A planned assassination would partially destroy the car and kill or maim only the people targeted in that car. It would use a few kilos of explosives. This car bomb used over 40 kilos, which is nearly 90lbs, of explosives.
This type of attack is similar to al Qaeda attacks in Syria and in Iraq.
~~Tuesday July 9, 2013~~
The White House is walking a tight rope. They still do not want to call the crisis in Egypt a coup. They are in a bind because Congressional law prevents the United States from giving aid to any regime that came into existence through a coup.
This is what happened: In 2012 Congress passed a law called the Consolidated Appropriations Act which prohibits spending money for any "assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree, or a coup d'etat or decree that is supported by the military."
So the White House is not saying it was a coup. If they do not call is a coup that means that it was not a coup.
Jay Carney, the White House press secretary put it this way: "I'm being very clear with you ... this is a complex and difficult issue with significant consequences."
The White House and DC have been portrayed as evil by both sides in Egypt. There is very little the United States can do to redeem their reputation.
~~Monday July 8, 2013~~
Newspapers in Egypt have been filled with coverage of their revolutionary events. The United States does not fare well in those reports. The US is presented as totally out of touch with what is happening in Egypt.
The Egyptians cannot believe that the United States really believes that the ousting of Morsi was a coup. For them it is clear as day that it was a social revolution and that Morsi could have, and should have, simply stepped down.
Amidst all the coverage on the revolution was an important and almost overlooked account about bringing law back to the Sinai.
The Egyptians found and blew up 40 terrorist tunnels coming from Gaza. These tunnels transport arms that provide ammunition to terrorists who attack Egyptians. And indeed, just today, an Egyptian border crossing was attacked by terrorists.
Egypt has a long way to go. But for now, expect the Egyptian army to bring back law and order throughout the country.