Micah Halpern’s Thoughts of The Week on The Middle East
---Friday November 9, 2012---
No doubt about it. Iranian fighter jets shot at US unmanned drones flying in international airspace over international waters.
Iran has now warned the United States that they will not take kindly to surveillance in the region. The US responded by saying that they were legally in international waters - in the "waters of the Arabian Gulf." Calling the waters the "Arabian" Gulf was a direct jab against Iran who refers to the body of water as the Persian Gulf.
International law specifically refers to territory that extends 12 nautical miles from the shoreline. This incident took place 16 miles offshore - clearly not in Iranian space.
The drone was a MQ-1, also known as a predator drone. It was attacked by two SU-25 Russian-made fighter jets with a single seat. Because of their unusual shape they are called Frogfoot.
Now the real story.
In Dec 2011 Iran brought down a stealth unmanned bat drone. The Iranians reverse engineered the drone and they are now producing them. The Iranians wanted to bring down the predator drone and then quickly fish it out of the Persian Gulf before the US swooped in to retrieve it.
--Thursday November 8, 2012--
It may be Thursday already, but Monday morning quarter backing is in full swing. And now it is essential to ask and answer some really big questions.
The Jewish vote has traditionally leaned Democratic. This election was no exception. Exit polls show that 70% of Jews supported Obama. 2012 was a small drop from the 74% that supported Obama in 2008.
But the Jewish vote was never up in the air. It was never part of the potential swing, not even in those states that were up for grabs.
The real reason for the interest of the Democratic Party in the Jewish community is not at all about votes. The leadership of the Democratic Party needs to make certain that Jewish support will be in their court not because they care about a handful of Jewish votes but because Jews contribute large sums to the Democratic war chest.
That explains the caring, the concern, the sensitivity to Jewish needs. It is money, not votes. And during election periods, money counts.
Campaign contributions are the reason and the only reason that Jews are courted by the Democratic Party. Contributions are why the Democratic party invests so much time and energy focusing on the Jewish community.
The Jewish vote did not swing the election and it never will. But Jewish money, that was an
an essential part of the Obama victory.
--November 7, 2012--
Iran has just announced that they will participate in the international conference on a Nuclear Free Middle East. The conference is scheduled for December.
That news should not come as a shock to anyone. More than that, it was a predictable move on the part of Iran.
Until now the Iranians have been publicly silent on their conference involvement.
But we all assumed that they would attend and once there, attack Israel. The Iranians will have no need of defending themselves at the conference. Their argument has always been that they need nuclear technology for 3 reasons.
# 1 as an energy alternative to fossil fuels/oil and gas
# 2 to help other countries attain the technology
# 3 to respond to Israel who already has a nuclear program.
Iran has an agenda at the International Atomic Energy Agency. Their ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Sultanieh, has consistently advanced an anti Western point of view. He argues that it is the right of Iran to develop nuclear technology and the West -especially the US, has no right to tell them what to do.
The Nuclear Free Middle East conference will be more of the same. More of the same claims. More of the same rhetoric. More of the same threats and accusations.
--Tuesday November 6, 2012--
Today is Election Day in the United States. At this point he polls have the election so tight that it is impossible to predict who will win. For America, this is an exciting and dramatic time.
The drama has spread far beyond the borders of the USA. The Iranian foreign ministry has come out with a very clear statement about the elections and about the candidates.
The statement is posted on Nasim, an Iranian news website. It reads: "Both Democrats and Republicans were hostile towards Iran in the past, our only criteria evaluating the candidates is the amount of respect they hold for our nation."
This is important. From the point of view of Iran, one of the most antagonistic countries to United States policies and interests in the whole world, there is no differentiation between Obama and Romney, no differentiation between Democrats and Republicans.
The only variable that counts for Iran vis a vis the candidates is their point of view vis a vis Iran. That is an extremely myopic point of view and a very jaded method with which to make analysis of any sort.
--Monday November 5, 2012--Once again Iran is masterfully getting around sanctions to help buoy herself up and make certain that she remains competitive in the steel market.
Iran is a very large producer of steel. The Islamic Republic produces steel for internal needs and for production, not just for export.
But they need the raw materials. They need coke and coal and metallurgical coal, known in the business as coking coal.
So where are they getting these raw materials? From the Ukraine.
The raw material arrives in Iran via third party intermediaries and foreign banks. It gets shipped to Iran by way of the Black Sea. While sanctions monitors are busy watching for oil and checking out the Persian Gulf, Ukrainian companies are just bringing in the raw materials the other way.
A company can make as much as $25 million a month providing these raw materials to Iran. The important element here is that bringing coal to Iran is not a violation of the sanctions. Selling steel to Iran, now that is a violation.
The EU wants to stop all trade with Iran. But the UN and the US understand the need to provide humanitarian goods. But what happens when those goods make Iran stronger and provide her with the raw materials for a major industry.
As I said, Iran has, again and again and again masterfully gotten around the sanctions.