September 26, 2010

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Is a Middle East War Imminent?
War Drums are Beating in Beirut and Damascus
Vol. 10, Issue 462, September 24, 2010
 
 
US-Saudi Plan to Airlift Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan
Saudi Arabia Is Ready to Host them… in Rehab Camps
John Brennan
Top-ranking US and Saudi officials put their heads together on Afghanistan Sunday, Sept. 19, for their first real thrashing-out on Afghanistan since the Americans invaded the country in the wake of al Qaeda's Sept. 11 attack.
Nine years later, Washington has come full circle: Al Qaeda still shelters in Afghanistan. But now the Obama administration is getting together with the Saudis to break it by persuading - or forcing - Osama bin Laden to stop fighting the US and the Saudi throne, withdraw from Afghanistan and Pakistan and settle down in comfortable detention quarters in Saudi Arabia.
Taking part in this unique discussion in the Red Sea coastal town of Jeddah were Saudi King Abdullah, Interior Minister Prince Nayef who is in charge of security and the war on al Qaeda and General Intelligence chief Prince Moqrin.
President Barack Obama was represented by John Brennan, his assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism. With him was Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service – possibly because the proposed solution calls for some high-profile al Qaeda members to be resettled in that country and also the Saudi ambassador in Washington Adel Jubeir, who is a close adviser to the Saudi king on foreign affairs.

Bill Clinton missed Bin Laden in Sudan by two years

It is not the first time that the United States and Saudis are talking about transferring bin Laden out of his Afghan and Pakistani havens to a Middle Eastern country, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence and counterterrorism sources report. It also happened eighteen years ago with unfortunate consequences.
The history books and Al Qaeda specialists have dwelt at length on his Sudanese period between 1992 and 1996. The al Qaeda leader was invited to set up a base in Sudan by Islamist theoretician Hassan al Turabi after Col. Omar al-Bashir staged an Islamist coup d'etat in Khartoum pledging to reinstate Islamic political values.
His move to Sudan was quietly encouraged by the American CIA and Saudi intelligence. They worked together, with logistical assistance from Egyptian intelligence, to speed bin Laden on his way from Peshawar, Pakistan to Khartoum in order to distance him from his Afghan sanctuary and prime target of the Saudi throne. Three years later, they all woke up to discover the al Qaeda leader had spent the time building a prosperous financial empire of businesses and industries with the help of annual stipends of tens of millions of dollars from his wealthy Saudi kinsmen. The income supported a complex of secret training camps turning out a new generation of terrorists.
He had been back in Peshawar for two years by the time the Clinton administration got around to sending cruise missiles against the al Qaeda base in Sudan in 1998.
Bin Laden's Sudanese episode was disastrous for US intelligence, especially the CIA, in more ways than one. The Americans had relegated surveillance of Bin Laden's activities there to Egyptian intelligence officers. They proved to be double agents who constantly shuttled between the CIA and al Qaeda, while also serving several clandestine foreign masters hostile to the United States.
The Jeddah conference of September 2010 seemed to have drawn the right lessons from the sorry Sudanese episode.

The Taliban chief would be free to negotiate the war's end

DEBKA-Net-Weekly cites Persian Gulf intelligence sources familiar with its content as disclosing that the US-Saudi plan under discussion is built around an airlift for transferring most of Al Qaeda's high echelons to rehabilitation camps standing in Saudi Arabia since 2006. The group would first make its way under Pakistani and Saudi safe passage guarantees to pre-arranged pick-up points.
This would not be the first time the Saudis have airlifted al Qaeda to safety with American consent. In late October and early November 2001, when the American invasion of Afghanistan was in full spate, the Bush administration quietly acceded to a Saudi royal request for a blind eye to the Saudi transports landing in the northern Afghanistan town of Konduz to evacuate hundreds of Saudi jihadis fighting with Al Qaeda.
George W. Bush decided that relations with Riyadh would be better served if Saudi nationals were in custody in their own country and not prisoners of US forces.
As to the present plan, upon which President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah have agreed in principle, our sources say its guiding motive is the high importance attached to the removal of Al Qaeda leaders, rank and file from the war scenes in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
If the plan works, Taliban leader Mullah Omar can freely go forward and negotiate an end to the Afghan War and a peace that would restore his movement to power in Kabul - without fear of being accused of jettisoning his closest ally as unwanted baggage.
But what are the chances of Al Qaeda playing ball with the plan? DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources obtained half a dozen answers, some of them conflicting, to this key question:
1. Word of the Saudi proposal under discussion has reached Al Qaeda, but no response has come from Osama bin Laden or any of his senior aides, nor any sign that they are willing to countenance it.

Osama Bin Laden remains a conundrum

2. Certain al Qaeda high-ups in Pakistan have been secretly discussing the plan with Saudi and Pakistani intelligence officials. None of them can say for sure whether Bin Laden knows about the scheme and is aware of the discussions it has attracted, but some claim his health is so poor that he will accept it when it gains all-round agreement.
3. According to a different view put forward by other Gulf intelligence officials, Bin Laden is not only perfectly aware of the secret bargaining over the plan but it is taking place on his authority and the process is much further advanced than outside observers perceive. Indeed the Jeddah parley may be the penultimate stage of the talks, according these officials.
To prove their point, they hold up some of the problems still outstanding: How will Washington and Riyadh explain to the world public Osama bin Laden's sudden appearance in Saudi Arabia? How will the administration in Washington explain why it is no longer seeking his extradition? Will Bin Laden announce that he surrendered and turned himself into the Saudis? If he refuses to admit to surrendering - as he no doubt will - how will his legal and personal status and that of his key operatives be defined? And what kind of freedoms will Bin Laden and his people enjoy in Saudi rehabilitation camps?
4. Yet other sources agree that the discussions have advanced sufficiently for the disposition of al Qaeda's war chest and Bin Laden's personal fortune to be on the table. Will the monies be made available to the terrorists in rehab? And if so, how much freedom will they have to spend them?

Is the plan designed to back Al Qaeda into a corner?

5. Another Western intelligence source involved in the war on Al Qaeda told our sources: "These discussions do not surprise me at all." In his view, Al Qaeda is in rapid decline as a terrorist organization. Most of its fighting elements have left Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent months and given jihad a fresh spurt from the Caucasus, the Sahara, Yemen and Somalia, where terrorist activity has gained fresh momentum.
So in effect, says the source, he doesn't have much choice but to accept the American-Saudi deal.
6. The above five propositions are all firmly challenged by a Western source, who told DEBKA-Net-Weekly: "All of these theories about contacts with Al Qaeda leaders and commanders may sound good but they are wishful thinking. What we have here is an American-Saudi-Pakistani scheme for locking al Qaeda in and backing its leaders into a corner with no way out but one - acceptance.
For now, there is no sign that Taliban wants any part of it."

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Ahmadinejad
How the "Man of a Thousand Bullets" Anointed Himself the Messiah's Deputy
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Year after year, the United Nations General Assembly in New York gives Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the international platform he craves for thumping himself on the chest as the world's greatest font of wisdom and prophet of virtue. This year, he won a double platform. He did not have to wait his turn at the opening session of the UN General Assembly Thursday, Sept 23; at the Millennium Conference on Monday, he offered a foretaste of what was to come, namely a torrent of self-congratulation and a sermon on his unasked-for panaceas for the world's ills - well spiced with an outpouring of virulent contempt for the West.
As president of Iran, he routinely preaches the need to change the world order, elevate Islam as the world's super-faith, and acknowledge Iran as the leading power of the Middle East-Persian Gulf.
Now, his ambition has broken out of those bounds and soared into outer space.
During a breakfast meeting with reporters and editors Tuesday, Sept. 21 at Manhattan's Warwick Hotel, he announced with a straight face that if the world has two superpowers, Iran is the second one. He was good enough to acknowledge the United States as the No. 1 superpower - but only for a moment before hastening to correct himself: The United States has never fought a real war - hinting at what he is planning for America - and is on course to self-annihilation, he explained. So who was left to rule the world? No prizes for guessing.
In any case, Ahmadinejad explained: "Now that the discriminatory order of capitalism and hegemonic approaches are facing defeat and getting close to their end," he said, "all-out participation in upholding justice and prosperous interrelations is essential."
And what will happen if America in its last, dying flutter decides to attack the Iranian nuclear program or support an Israeli attack on it? Ahmadinejad was asked in an ABC TV interview. He replied with complete confidence: "War is not just bombs. Such a war would know no boundaries."

Lies, distortions, hyperbole, self-righteous bragging

In New York, he never stops beaming at all the attention he gets. The difference in his appearance now and last year is striking. He has grown a beard, possibly to look more telegenic and he is wearing new suits custom-made for the trip as befits his Napoleonic strut at the head of a large retinue as a world emperor.
The would-be emperor is happily lapping up the media attention.
Since he arrived in New York on Sept. 18, he has not stopped giving interviews to television, radio and newspapers. He regales interviewers with a quotable mix of lies, hyperbole, distortions and self-righteous bragging - usually beside the point of the question.
Asked about the sentencing of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani to death by stoning, he said it was not true and anyway the legal process had not yet run its course. Ever aggressive, the Iranian president asked rhetorically, "Right now, 53 women in the US are on death row, while the sentencing of Mrs. Mohammadi is yet to be finalized in Iran. However [the West has launched an anti-Iranian wave of media hype. Why are the Americans so interested in one woman in Iran who took part in her husband's murder?"
This was one of his more transparent lies. Sakineh was never involved in her husband's murder; the murderer was caught years ago, tried and executed. The Islamic regime is now framing her as a murderess to justify her execution by stoning. If she is saved from this Muslim death by the mounting international outcry, Tehran will find another way to execute her.

His first job was to make sure victims of firing-squads were dead

Until six years ago, no one in Iran had heard of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, except for the people unfortunate enough to encounter him in the course of his first job, which was to make sure that opposition members sentenced to a firing squad had indeed breathed their last.
His oversight of the executions of 1,000 condemned prisoners won him the nickname Mard-e Hezar Goluleh, "man of a thousand bullets."
Later, as a mayor in the province of Azerbaijan, he was seen as an oddball who had no idea how to run a city and spent his time talking to clerics and praying at the mosque.

In 2002, when he was appointed governor of Ardebil province, he displayed more religious piety than interest in his duties.
From job to job, his religious radicalism has grown. Filling out his profile, people who worked with him in those years told DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Tehran how he would stop on the road before a beautiful tree or large rock and pray for the coming of the Mahdi, the Emam-Zaman, who is the Shiite messiah.
This article of faith is the essence of Ahmadinejad's personal creed and the driving force of his political performance at home, those sources stress. Anyone or anything he sees as obstructing the coming of the Mahdi is the enemy and must be destroyed.
During his first term as president, Ahmadinejad spent millions on building an extravagant hotel in the northern Tehran suburb of Chah-e Jamkam, which stands empty to this day. It is dedicated to one purpose: There, the Mahdi will spend his first days on earth until he decides where he wants to go.
It was built near a well which Shiites believe is the Mahdi's hiding place and which Ahmadinejad has developed as an important site of pilgrimage.

A narcissist schizophrenic or a Shiite Peter - or both?

His fans compare him to the Christian John the Baptist who heralded the coming of Jesus. Ahmadinejad preaches the coming of the Mahdi at every opportunity. He aspires to the post of his deputy, the Shiite version of the Christian St. Peter.
He often tells his people that Iran will soon rule all the countries of the world. Some laugh behind his back and call him a hallucinatory. In fact, he is talking about the coming of the Mahdi, who will conquer the world and convert all its peoples to Shiite Islam.
Psychologists who have made a study of the Iranian president diagnose him as suffering from two mental disorders: He is a narcissist with a constant need to be the center of attention, often coming out with outrageous comments to make waves in the media.
He also seems to suffer from Hyper-Active Schizophrenia. He trusts no one except one close confidant, his father-in-law Esfandyar Rahim Mashaee, who is also his chef de bureau.
There are many stories going around Iran about his delusions.
When he returned from his first UN General Assembly five years ago, he said that as he stood on the podium he saw a prophets' halo shining over his head.
In fact, the "halo" was a spotlight routinely trained on a speaker addressing the General Assembly.
Ahmadinejad also related that as his convoy drove through the streets of New York up to UN Headquarters, he heard a woman say to her young son: "Look, it's Muhammad. It's Muhammad."
He did not explain in which language the mother spoke (he is not that fluent in English), nor how he was able to hear her words as he passed in the car.
In one of his speeches he told a story about an Iranian schoolgirl who, on her way back from school, went into a small grocery store, bought a few items, then went down to the basement of her home and by the strength of her religious faith was able to generate "nuclear energy."

Khamanei rigged the presidential elections twice - for Ahmadinejad

So why in 2005 did Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei choose him first as candidate for the presidency knowing as he did all about the man's messianic fixation which he even mocks behind closed doors?
The answer is that when he chose him he believed he could control him. Eventually, the monster rose up against its creator. But at the time, Khamenei rejected all the other candidates for the post, including the former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, a powerhouse in his own right. To get his candidate elected, the supreme leader tampered with the results, just as he did again in 2009, because he needed Ahmadinejad to perform two missions:
1. To restore Iran to the state of religious stasis prevailing before Mohammad Khatami's comparatively liberal presidency. The new president was to repeal all the Khatami reforms.
2. To fast-forward the nuclear program to a capacity for building a nuclear program and nuclear-capable missiles able to reach any point on the face of the earth. Before Ahmadinejad took over in 2004, the nuclear program was all but shut down and not taken seriously even in Iran.
He has accomplished both of these tasks - and more.
Iran has sunk to the pit of the darkest of dictatorships. Most reformists are locked up in jail or have escaped to exile. In the last few months, 231 journalists have fled Iran, a figure which is swelling steadily.
Ex-president Khatami goes in fear of his life and the two leading candidates who challenged Ahmadinejad in last year's presidential election, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, are constantly harassed by the regime's thugs, live effectively under house arrest and may be thrown into prison at any moment.
Not content with grabbing all the key executive positions, Ahmedinejad has set his sights on controlling the legislature, the Majlis. This week he declared the Majlis has no authority to oppose his bills or amend them. He also places himself above the judiciary, demanding total obedience from the judges.

Israel must go because it spoils his dream empire and is a Western outpost

In his six years as president, Ahmadinejad has ramped up Iran's weapons program to a capacity which is no more than a year or two from building 2-6 nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles to deliver them. Iran has a uranium enrichment industry able to supply fuel for building a nuclear bomb and a developing parallel plutonium program.
He is also credited with getting Iran's first nuclear reactor built, up and running at Bushehr.
The Iranian president's burning ambition to destroy Israel comes not only because it is an anomaly for his dream empire but because it is also an outpost of the United States and the West in the Middle East. He believes that to force America's collapse, he must first be rid of Israel.
In the notorious speech of 2009, in which he said Israel must be "wiped off the map," the Iranian president explained that this would be stage one in the final confrontation with Western civilization.
His denial of the Holocaust is meant to curry favor with the Islamic faithful and also prepare world public opinion for the coming Holocaust. Ahmadinejad recently ordered anti-Semitic manifestations intensified in Tehran to the point that they now run level with the worst Nazi campaigns in Germany of the 1930s. Radical clerics and high regime officials have been entrusted with feeding this hate machine.
Yet Ahmadinejad is still not satisfied. He is still dreaming, say his close acquaintances, of doing away with all of Iran's surviving "democratic" institutions and installing a regime of the Revolutionary Guards Corps in which the clergy will have only a minor role.
Only once a year, does he take a week off from his frenzied labors; when he travels to New York for the UN General Assembly. There, too, even while he basks in worldwide attention, he never forgets to use this stage as a pulpit for propagating his messianic creed and aspirations for world domination.

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Is a Middle East War Imminent?
War Drums are Beating in Beirut and Damascus
Bashar Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Four apparently unrelated events suddenly came together last week in a manner typical of the volatile Middle East. They generated a sudden spasm of war tension involving Hizballah, Syria and Iran with two possible targets, government in Beirut and Israel.
The first event was a brief conference between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Saturday, September 18.
The second event was the delivery of Russian anti-warship P-800 Yakhont cruise missiles (known as P-800 Oniks in Russia) at the Russian naval base in Tartus in northern Syria. These missiles skim close to the water under the radar as far as 300 kilometers before releasing a 200-kilogram warhead.
The third event was Hizballah Special Forces' seizure of Beirut international airport for several hours on Saturday, September 18, to shield Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed, former security chief for Beirut, from arrest.
In so doing, the Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization demonstrated its capacity to occupy and control strategic points in Beirut without encountering resistance.
It also openly defied Lebanese law and order and court authorities.
The Lebanese state prosecutor had summoned Sayyed for questioning after he called for state prosecutors to be put to death for allegedly collaborating with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon-STL which is investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
An arrest warrant awaited Sayyed on arrival at the airport. By escorting the wanted general safely home and placing armed guards around his house, Hizballah demonstrated it was above the law of the land and free to act as a sovereign power in Beirut.
The fourth event: The day after this display of strength, on Sunday, September 19, Hizballah deployed some 4,000 of its special forces personnel across Beirut, raising its total strength in the capital to 15,000 - twice the size of any force the Lebanese army can muster.

Disband the Hariri tribunal or face a coup

The Ahmadinejad-Assad conference in Damascus dealt primarily, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence and Iranian sources report, with how far they would go to support a possible Hizballah coup in Beirut. They also weighed the possibility of an Israeli intervention to save the Lebanese government and what this contingency required of them.
Our sources confirm that the Iranian and Syrian presidents were of one mind that the Hariri tribunal must not be permitted to issue indictments against the nine Hizballah security officials who are suspected of personal involvement in the planning and commission of the murder. They knew from Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah about the French UN Ambassador Gerard Aroud telling his associates that prosecutor Daniel Bellemare's decision to prosecute the nine suspects by the end of the year was final.
The evidence against them rested on recorded phone calls between the perpetrators of the crime and top Hizballah officials.
The tribunal's pursuit of this path, Ahmadinejad and Assad agreed, would jeopardize Hizballah as well as harming Iranian and Syrian interests in Lebanon. Even worse, there was reason to believe that Iranian Revolutionary Guards officials who acted as Hizballah's controllers at the time would be dragged in as active accomplices.
The only way out of this impasse was to strongly back a Hizballah demand for the Lebanese government to withdraw its funding from the tribunal - set up jointly by the UN and the Lebanese government, following which parliament would vote to terminate its mandate.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri would be required to publish a statement that the UN Special Lebanese Tribunal had invalidated itself by bowing to political influence and he no longer trusted in its impartiality.
If Hariri persisted in supporting the tribunal - a course intimated by his associates Monday, September 20 - Syria and Iran would back an armed Hizballah offensive to topple his coalition regime in Beirut.

Israel not expected to step in to save the Hariri government

The two leaders then turned to a possible Israeli operation to rescue the Lebanese government. They ended up discounting it after concluding that neither Washington nor Jerusalem would care to risk igniting a war - albeit limited - with Iran and Syria.
Ahmadinejad and Assad were also confident that the Lebanese National Army would stay in its barracks rather than rush to the government's defense.
Still, as a precautionary measure, they would order the Iranian, Syrian and Hizballah officers posted at their armies' combined operational headquarters in Damascus to update plans for intervention in Beirut should a conflict flare between Hizballah and Israel.
(DEBKA-Net-Weekly 460 first revealed the existence of this combined command on Sept. 23, under a new secret military cooperation pact dedicated to the premise that a Syrian-Hizballah war on Israel is inevitable in the near future.)
Our sources add that going to war with Israel would be another way of derailing the tribunal and getting it off Hizballah's back while also aiming a destabilizing blow at central government in Beirut.
Border tensions are high enough for any match to send the flames of war shooting up suddenly, whether it is a local cross-border clash, an Israeli miscalculation or a Hizballah terrorist attack against an Israeli or Jewish target at home or overseas, provoking an Israeli offensive.
The arrival in Syria of the Russian P-800 Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles, confirmed here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources, is not directly related to events in Lebanon but indirectly bears on them.

The P-800 anti-ship missile fills a gap in Russia's Mediterranean-Black Sea system

Those sources are not clear about whether the missiles were handed to the Syrian crews training in their operation for some months, or still waiting at the naval base the Russians are building in Tartus. Whichever is the case, the new weapons are a game-changer for the US Navy's Sixth Fleet in the eastern Mediterranean and the Israeli Navy. Both their leaders tried their utmost to prevent the P-800 system reaching Syria - and failed.
On Monday, September 20, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates took it up once again with Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. Later, Gates told his Israeli colleague Ehud Barak in a private conversation in Washington that the deal may "further destabilize" the region.
But DEBKA-Net-Weekly says that neither Washington nor Jerusalem should have been surprised by the Russian missile's transfer to Syria.
Deploying the P-800 Yakhont missiles in that country has less to do with honoring arms sales contract to Middle East countries, as Serdyukov maintained, and much more with the new naval-air force system Moscow is in the middle of establishing in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
Both Washington and Jerusalem paid no attention to the deployment of sophisticated Russian S-300 interceptor missiles in Abkhazia and other air defense systems in South Ossetia in the northern part of the Black Sea (Moscow announced this deployment on August 11). But it was logical for the Russians to want to back up those systems with anti-ship cruise missiles. Their arrival in Tartus was therefore predictable.
Of course, Moscow knows perfectly well that Syria will make use of the P-800 against the Israeli navy in the event of a war in Lebanon. But this consideration was not allowed to stop Russia filling the gaps in its new naval-aerial system, which is due for completion in the first half of 2014.

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The Pentagon and Tehran Say No US Troops Kidnapped
But at Least Five Americans Are in Secret Iranian Custody
US soldier in Afghanistan
On Sunday, September 19, Washington and Tehran moved fast - albeit on separate tracks - to prevent a fresh hostage crisis mushrooming between them from the tangle of inter-factional politics in Iran. Both were taken by surprise to hear that seven US soldiers had been "detained" from a report appearing that day on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) news web site – the Javan News Agency, also known as Java Online.
The story was immediately rerun by the semi-official Iranian Fars news agency, which added that the seven had been detained by Iranian border guards in the southeastern province, along with two Iranians "escorting" the troops.
Fars said the incident occurred in Sistan-Baluchestan, an impoverished province that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan. There was no date on either report and it appeared on no other Iranian site.
The timing was suggestive.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was over the Atlantic at the time, two hours before touching down at JFK Airport in New York for the UN General Assembly. Had this report taken wing and been proven true, he would have landed in the middle of a diplomatic maelstrom and more strain with Washington, just six days after Tehran tried to smooth his way by releasing the American Sarah Shourd. She was jailed last year with two fellow hikers, her fiancé Shane Bauer and friend Joshua Fattal in the border region with Iraq.
The ultra-hardline Revolutionary Guards had used this device to put the Iranian president on notice to stand fast in the nuclear standoff with the West.
As for Washington, it was warned not to take Shourd's release as signaling safe passage henceforth for Americans in the region. On the contrary, for every American prisoner freed, more would be abducted to replace him or her and held hostage.

Abducted from Pakistan in IRGC raid

Washington's first reaction was cautious. In a brief statement, the US Defense Department said it was "aware of the news reports," but gave no further details. Several hours later, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said stiffly, "reports by state-run Iranian media that seven US soldiers were detained after crossing into Iran are absolutely false. No American soldiers are missing. All US personnel [are] accounted for."
Nonetheless, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence and Iranian sources stand by the accuracy of their report and confirm that a number of Americans – our sources put the number at five - were in fact abducted from across the border by IRGC Special Forces troops.
Because of the heavy blackout imposed by both Washington and Tehran, details of the incident are hard to come by, including the identities of the captured Americans. Our sources believe they have been in Iranian custody for nearly a week after being surprised by the IRGC gang in the rugged borderland province of Saravan which lies across the Pakistani-Iranian border of Sistan-Baluchistan. The rugged mountainous terrain there lends itself to ambushes.
According to one version, the Americans were security personnel who were gulled by the appearance of friendly tribesmen speaking the local Balochi dialect, not realizing until too late that they were Guardsmen in disguise. Before they had a chance to draw their weapons, they were dragged across the border and taken prisoner.
Tehran keeps the Pakistani and Afghan borders of this province heavily guarded and under tight surveillance to impede the infiltration of US spies and commandos. Their patrols keep track of US movements in this remote mountainous border region. At one point, they decided to use the knowledge they had gathered to capture US security personnel so as to humiliate America and generate public hostility toward a possible US military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

No US troops missing, but what about covert operatives?

In the past week, Iranian air patrols, taking off from the Birjand airfield, have intensified their patrols over the Iranian border district with Afghanistan to prevent American over-flights.
Acting Iranian Chief of Staff Gholam-Ali Rashid commented this week: "it is not overstating the fact when we say that we are on the verge of a possible future war." He was talking about the war marches played daily in the public parks of Mashad, capital of Khorassan province in north eastern Iran.
Before this incident surfaced, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during a Damascus stopover to confer with Syrian president Bashar Assad, said that before considering Washington's demand to free Sarah Shourd's two companions, the US must first release eight Iranians it his holding.
He did not identify them, but DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports they are Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers and agents who were captured by US forces in Iraq while working with local terrorist rings.
Intelligence sources in the Persian Gulf have a different take on the abduction incident.
They point to the reference to Sistan-Baluchistan in the initial IRGC bulletin on the abduction.
While withholding precise information about where it happened, the language indicates that Iranian Guardsmen did not sneak into Afghanistan to capture the Americans but Pakistan. The Pentagon statement was also revealing: The detention of seven US soldiers crossing into Iran was explicitly denied, but there was no mention of non-military US personnel, such as security agents.
Our military sources point out that no American soldiers are present in Pakistan only CIA -Special Forces acting covertly against Taliban and al Qaeda with the consent of the Islamabad government.

The Baluchi border of Iran and Pakistan is subject to a secret war

Iran has long claimed that the CIA is training the Baluchi Jundallah and aiding its efforts to strike from bases in Pakistan against Iranian authorities in southeastern parts Iran, that is, Sistan-Baluchestan. Gulf sources therefore speculate that these covert agents may have fallen prey to the Iranian kidnap operation.
The following day, Saturday, Sept. 18, a confused report came out of Tehran about a clash between IRGC troops and Jundallah, claiming that the terrorists tried to abduct Iranian troops. When Jundallah sources said that it had kidnapped six Iranian soldiers in the Southeast, Iranian authorities in Tehran and Baluchistan countered that five soldiers were indeed abducted but later freed in an Iranian counter-attack which left one soldier and three kidnappers dead.
The Pakistani-Iranian border running through Baluchistan was shown to be highly volatile with Iranian and Jundallah forces constantly crossing back and forth for attacks. This secret war, in which US Special Forces appear to be taking part, is being fought behind a dark cloak of secrecy.
Meanwhile, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Persian Gulf intelligence sources report discreet American-Iranian contacts for the release of the American security personnel held in Iran through the same back channel used to retrieve Sarah Shourd from Iranian detention, namely, the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said Al Said.

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