October 18, 2010

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Covert War on Iran Continued Bomb Blasts Destroy Shehab-3 Ballistic Missile Launchers

Vol. 10, Issue 465, October 15, 2010
Covert War on Iran Continued
Bomb Blasts Destroy Shehab-3 Ballistic Missile Launchers
The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's provocative rhetoric and actions in Lebanon on Oct. 13-14 drew no diplomatic or military responses from the United States or Israel. However, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources reveal that, the day before it began, Tuesday, Oct. 12, three blasts struck an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps base in a remote part of southwestern Iran near the town of Khorramabad. Tehran reported 18 soldiers killed in these explosions. Our sources reveal that Iran lost the main depot of its Shehab-3 medium-range ballistic missile launchers, the backbone of the missile arsenal it had stocked for striking US targets in Iraq and Israel. The dead soldiers were laid to rest in funerals on Thursday, the day Ahmadinejad told a Shiite audience in the South Lebanese town of Bin Jbeil that Zionism was destined to disappear and America's hold on the Middle East about to end. The Revolutionary Guards said the blasts had been caused by a fire spreading to an ammunition store at the base. According to our sources, the incident unfolded in reverse order - first three blasts one after the other in the underground bunkers holding the launchers, then a big fire spread across the base and reached the ammunition store causing it to blow up. Sabotage in one form or another leaving no clues to its perpetrators is becoming a regular preface to especially confrontational Iranian actions. It also happened a month before the August 21 inauguration of Iran's first nuclear reactor at Bushehr when the Stuxnet virus struck its nuclear and military control systems. Notwithstanding Tehran's denials the invasive worm is still at work. Now, the day before the Iranian president descended on Lebanon to demonstrate its conversion into Iran's front line against Israel, most of the Islamic Republic's stock of medium range ballistic missile launchers went up in smoke bringing the Iranian military machine to a gradual halt. The attack on this IRGC base was the third of its kind in three weeks. On Sept. 22, a bomb blast at an Iranian military parade in Mahbad, northwest Iran, killed 12 soldiers and injured seventy. On Oct. 7, gunmen attacked Iranian security guards at Sanandaj in Iranian Kurdistan, killing at least five. Then, on Oct. 9, the Baluchi separatist Jundallah claimed responsibility for abducting Amir Hossein Shirani in the city of Isfahan, claiming he had been employed at the local nuclear plant. This was vehemently denied by Tehran and confirmed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources. Jundallah has in the past abducted government officials in Baluchistan. Until now its operations were confined to the area wedged between the Pakistan and Afghanistan borders. Its move into Isfahan in central Iran is an alarming new development for the regime in Tehran. Summing up these events, our Iranian experts note that the Islamic regime is being battered increasingly by combined assaults on security inside Revolutionary Guards Corps bastions, a cyber attack deep inside its nuclear and military systems, terrorist strikes, kidnaps of nuclear personnel and a declining economy and currency. This regime's stability cannot remain unaffected - especially if these assaults increase.
Iran may get Russian S-300 interceptors after all - via Venezuela DEBKAfile Special Report October 16, 2010, 5:24 PM (GMT+02:00)
Russian-Venezuelan deal recoups $800 m lost on cancelled missile sale to Iran
Russia appears ready to sell Venezuela the same five advanced S-300PMU-1 air defense missile battalions it withheld from Iran because of international sanctions. debkafile's military sources report Venezuela's ruler Hugo Chavez, offered to buy them when he met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow Thursday, Oct. 14. Israel immediately turned to Washington to try and block the transaction. Clearly, the highly-sophisticated interceptors are bound for their original client, Iran, through its good friend Chavez.
This time, the deal will be much harder to stop.
Our military sources stress that Iran needs the S-300 as the key to the effective defense of its nuclear and strategic sites against air or missile attack - even by cruise missiles - and to raising the risk to the assailants of heavy casualties. That said, the Israeli Air Force has spent the last two years training intensively in tactics for countering those very Russian interceptors. In September, Israel and Greece carried out joint practice strikes against the S-300 missiles Athens had purchased from Moscow.
Chavez began his Moscow visit by voicing interest in "buying different types of Russian-made air defense systems to create a multilayered air defense network."
The day after his offer, Russia cautiously tested the water in Washington to find how the Obama administration reacted to the prospect of ballistic missile interceptors being deployed not only in Iran but in the United States' Latin American backyard.
Igor Korotchenko, head of a Moscow think tank on the international arms trade, revealed: "Russia is looking for a buyer for five battalions of S-300PMU-1 defense systems ordered by Iran and Venezuela could become such a buyer."
He knew enough about the deal to disclose that Caracas was prepared to pay the asking price of $800 million in cash to expedite the deal although it asked Moscow for several loans to cover previous arms transactions, including the recent $2.2 billion purchase of 92 Russian T-72 tanks and the Smerch multiple launch rocket systems.
Our sources add Iran rather than Venezuela is in a hurry to get hold of the missiles and install them around its most vulnerable sites. There should be no delay once they reach Tehran because special units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards had finished training on the weapon's operation in Russia.
debkafile's sources note that hardly a month has gone by since Sept. 22 when Medvedev publicly announced the S-300 missile system sale to Iran was cancelled - to wide acclaim from the US and Israeli media. Moscow lost no time in finding a neat stratagem for bypassing the UN sanctions barring arms sales to Iran with impunity. Even the Russian offer to return the $166.8 million Iran advanced for the deal can be covered by Caracas as intermediate customer.
Blasts hit secret Iranian missile launching-pad for US, Israeli targets
DEBKAfile Special Report October 15, 2010, 1:12 PM (GMT+02:00)
Sabotage deep underground
A top-secret Iranian military installation was struck by a triple blast Tues. Oct. 12 the day before Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Lebanon. debkafile's military and intelligence sources report the site held most of the Shehab-3 medium-range missile launchers Iran had stocked for striking US forces in Iraq and Israel in the event of war - some set to deliver triple warheads (tri-conic nosecones).
The 18 soldiers officially reported killed in the blasts and 14 injured belonged to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) main missile arm, the Al-Hadid Brigades. The Imam Ali Base where the explosion occurred is situated in lofty Zagros mountain country near the town of Khorramabad in the western Iranian province of Lorestan. This site was selected for an altitude which eases precise targeting and the difficulty of reaching it for air or ground attack. It lies 400 kilometers from Baghdad and primary American bases in central Iraq and 1,250 kilometers from Tel Aviv and central Israel. Both are well within the Shehab-3 missile's 1,800-2,500-kilometer operational range.
Our Iranian sources report that Tehran spent hundreds of millions to build one of the largest subterranean missile launching facilities of its kind in the Middle East or Europe. Burrowed under the Imam Ali Base is a whole network of wide tunnels deep underground. Somehow, a mysterious hand rigged three blasts in quick succession deep inside those tunnels, destroying a large number of launchers and causing enough damage to render the facility unfit for use. In its official statement on the incident, Tehran denied it was the result of "a terrorist attack" and claimed the explosion "was caused by a nearby fire that spread to the munitions storage area of the base." In the same way, the regime went to great lengths to cover up the ravages wrought to their nuclear and military control systems by the Stuxnet virus - which is still at work. In actual fact, debkafile's military sources report, Iran's missile arsenal and the Revolutionary Guards have also suffered a devastating blow. Worst of all, all their experts are a loss to account for the assailants' ability to penetrate one of Iran's most closely guarded bases and reach deep underground to blow up the missile launchers.
The number of casualties is believed to be greater than the figure given out by Tehran.
The soldiers' funerals took place Thursday, Oct. 14, as the same time as Ahmadinejad declared in South Lebanon that Israel was destined to "disappear." A few later, he ended his contentious two-day visit to Lebanon.
This week, Aviation Week discovered that the new intermediate-range BM-25 Musudan ballistic missile exhibited at the North Korean military parade Sunday Oct. 10 - at which Kim Jong-II also paraded his son and heir - bore a strong resemblance to the Iranian Shehab-3.
It is therefore possible that the explosions at the IRGC base in Lorestan Tuesday also sabotaged secret models of the Iran's latest road-mobile, liquid-fuel version of the Shehab-3 ballistic missile.
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Beijing Reaches out to Radical Middle East
Chinese Fighter-Bombers in the Skies of Iran and Turkey
Wen Jiabao
Chinese, Iranian and Turkish strategists surely gave a lot of thought to ways of making the Americans, Europeans and Middle East leaders sit up or rather jump before they came up with their epic game-changing maneuver. Its dramatic effect was enhanced by its timing: So, when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao banged his head against the EU wall at the 13th China-European Union summit in Brussels on Oct. 6 - his demand for recognition of Beijing's rising influence on the world economy was met with demands to devalue the yuan - Chinese fighter-bombers suddenly shot up over the skies of Turkey, i.e. Europe for the first time in military history. When Jintao's demand for an end to the arms embargo fell on deaf American and EU ears, Washington and Brussels discovered the Chinese Air Force had arrived on Europe's doorstep as Turkey's new partner in its annual Anatolian Eagle exercise from Sept. 20 through the first week of October. Chinese warplanes were taking off and landing at the Konya air base in Turkey's central Anatolia region. Perhaps no one should have been surprised to find China hobnobbing with another nation cold-shouldered by the 27-nation European Union - Turkey.
Assad invited to climb aboard the Chinese arms train
As recently as October 4, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan complained bitterly once again about the US and Europe's refusal to cooperate with Ankara in
stemming terror and the endless obstacles raised to keep Turkey out of the Union. It has been 50 years since we first applied to the EU and we have faced delaying tactics ever since, Erdogan said. But the shared bone Beijing and Ankara pick with the EU was not the deciding motive behind their new military partnership in the skies. The real rationale behind it emerged, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources report, Monday, Oct. 11, from the undisclosed agenda of Erdogan brief conference with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus Monday, Oct. 11. For media consumption their talks were labeled as a discussion on military and intelligence coordination in Turkey's war on the Kurdish PKK rebels. From their havens in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, the separatists have been detouring to and from their attacks on Turkey through the Kurdish regions of Syria where they are provided with shelter, food and medical aid. Erdogan was prepared to sideline even this vexed problem for a brilliant presentation of China's participation in Turkey's air exercise as a great feat and a starting-point promising a new era of extensive strategic cooperation between China and the Middle East bloc of Turkey, Iran and Syria. He urged Assad to lose no time in jumping aboard the evolving set-up which would give him a buffer against US and Russian demands.

Shades of Non-Aligned Movement, Bandung 1955
The Turkish prime minister appeared to be seeking to disinter the Non-Aligned Movement created during the collapse of colonialism in the 1950s to advance the interests of the Third World of emerging nations at the height of the Cold war. He sees himself reviving the ghosts of Bandung with himself and the rulers of China, Iran and Syria in the roles of India's Nehru, Indonesia's Sukarno and Tito of Yugoslavia. Beijing, he assured Assad, could be counted on to give the three partners the sophisticated weapons denied them due to US and Israeli pressure. (See next article on Chinese S-300 anti-air missiles for Iran) According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources, the first appearance of Chinese Sukhoi Su-27 and Mig-29 fighter bombers over Turkey holds nothing but bad news for Washington and Europe and ill tidings indeed for Israel. 1. China has signaled the onset of a new era of global dimensions in which it is prepared for the first time to strike a military foothold outside the confines of the Far East in places as far distant as the Middle East. Beijing has decided to move forward and position itself on a new front line ready to defend by force if necessary its sources of energy and interests as a rising superpower. 2. With this move, Chinese leaders showed they no longer fear American military might and are ready to match any steps taken by Washington or Moscow to cement their military presence in the pivotal Middle East. 3. The Chinese warplanes' flight path to Turkey is just as significant as their participation in the Turkish war maneuver. On Tuesday, Oct. 12, debkafile's military sources first revealed exclusively that they had made a refueling stop in eastern Iran, at the Gayel al-Mohammad (The Rise of Mohammad) air base, where they were greeted by Iranian air force commanderGen. Ahmad Migani.
China angles for a seat at Afghanistan talks
This was another groundbreaking event: Never before have Chinese Air Force aircraft showed up in Iran, least of all found a welcome at an Iranian air base for providing an operational need. A specific message was addressed to Washington by this step: The Iranian air facility is situated near the city of Birjand in South Khorrasan, opposite the big American bases in eastern Afghanistan near the city of Herat, opposite the Afghani-Iranian border. Beijing meant Washington to understand that it no longer intends abiding by the Security Council arms embargo against Iran and is, furthermore, displeased at being cut out of the diplomatic moves for ending the Afghanistan War. If Washington persists in this policy, Beijing will get together on Afghanistan with both Tehran and Islamabad. 4. There was a reason for China and Turkey consenting to run this year's air maneuver under the same name, Anatolian Eagle, as the exercises Ankara conducted for nineteen years with the air forces of the US, Israel and other NATO nations. This year the US cancelled its participation after Ankara refused to invite Israel against the background of deteriorating relations with Jerusalem. Both this year's participants were determined to demonstrate that the Chinese Air Force is fully capable of filling the roles of US and Israeli warplanes and there is therefore no need to change the exercise's standard format, but also that the US and Israel did not initiate their walkout from the event but Ankara pushed them out.
A large shield spread over Chinese Caspian, Central Asian oil stakes too
The choice of the huge central Turkish Konya air base for the exercise was also significant. Until the Chinese-Turkish drill this was the main NATO base in central Turkey, and until recently the main USAFE weapons training range. However, since the advent of the Chinese fighter-bombers this situation has fundamentally changed. (Air forces from Israel, Turkey and the US conducted their first joint exercises at Konya in June 2001). 5. By sending warplanes over to Turkey, Beijing showed willingness to spread a military shield over its heavy investments in faraway places, such as the energy infrastructure of Central Asia and the Caspian basin, which now claim the largest oil and gas reserves in the world after the Persian Gulf and Russia and where China and the European Union vie as the most recent proactive players. A military footprint in Turkey stretches China's protective reach to stakes in those regions as well as the Greater Middle East. For this, Beijing is willing to side not only with parties opposed to the US and Israel but to challenge Russia to boot.
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Russian Cancels Sale of Anti-Air Missiles to Iran
Tehran Offers a Billion Dollars for S-300 Blueprints
Since Moscow called off the sale of sophisticated Russian air-missile interceptor S-300 systems to Iran in keeping with UN Security Council sanctions, Tehran has been going around with an offer of a billion dollars to any country or group able to provide the blueprints for its manufacture. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources report Tehran is willing to pay cash on the nail - half in advance - for documented plans that would make it possible to go straight into production without delay. There are two reasons for this largesse: 1. Iran's leaders are eager to pay a high price, financial or military, to teach Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin a hard lesson for reneging on their three-year old contract for the sale of the S-300 missiles. When they discussed this among themselves, Iran's top officials admitted that Moscow's withdrawal was the most stinging and humiliating slap in the face any foreign government had given Tehran for years. "We cannot let them get away with this," spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared. "We must find a way to punish the Russians." 2. Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) chiefs have concluded that without the S-300 anti-missile missiles or a comparable system, Iran will not be able to defend its nuclear plants - or even Tehran - against a US or Israel attack.
Iran's generals say Teheran indefensible without the S-300
Military action against Iran may seem unimaginable in some western capitals, but not in Tehran - and certainly not to IRGC chiefs. The Guards' commander of Tehran province, Gen. Hossein Hamedani, told a closed meeting of his officers Monday, October 4 that whereas the government has a low estimate of the chances of facing attack, the military takes a different view, certain that the US would be ready to embark on an air offensive against Iran, including Tehran, if Washington saw the rift between the Iranian people and the regime growing wider. Apart from offering a fortune for blueprints, our Iranian sources report that Tehran had been placing its trust mainly on Beijing as the source of S-300 missile technology. Outside Russia, China alone has technology close enough to the original for its manufacture. Top Iranian military industry executives have been making top-secret visits to China in recent weeks, touring military industries, while Chinese military industrialists were invited to Tehran. Their discussions about multi-billion investments in joint new plants for producing advanced weapons were inevitably brought around to an Iranian plea for Beijing to name its price for the plans and the loan of Chinese military engineers and designers for co-producing the S-300 in Iran. Tehran made the gesture of permitting Chinese warplanes heading for a joint air exercise with Turkey to refuel at an Iranian air base (See a separate article on this development), but so far with no positive response to this plea.
Chinese cagey about sharing S-300 technology
In the first place, the Chinese are reluctant to risk a whiplash response from Washington and Moscow for making the S-300's plans available to Tehran. In the second, our military sources are far from certain that Beijing actually possesses the requisite technology, although it will never admit this to the Iranians. China has been buying S-300 interceptor missiles from Russia since 1991. Western military experts believe that the latest S-300PMU2 system China bought from a Russia in 2009 gives the Chinese Liberation Army's Air Force limited ballistic missile defense capability for the first time. But did the Chinese indulge their practice of knocking off the originals to produce a Chinese copy of the blueprints - as they have done with all the weapons systems they have bought from Russia? No military or intelligence official in Asia or the West is prepared to say for certain. The Chinese copy of the S-300 was reportedly designated HongQi 15. Some experts suggest that Chinese-assembled-S-300 missiles using Russian-made kits have already been tested by the PLA, but this cannot be confirmed. In these delicate and complex circumstances, it is hard to imagine Beijing acceding to Iran's request -notwithstanding the temptation of Iran's petrodollars.
Tehran spreads its net among all recipients of Russian arms
While not giving up on Beijing, Tehran responded in typical fashion to Chinese caginess. An appointment was arranged for Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi to visit Baku Sunday, Oct. 10, taking with him for Azerbaijan's President Ilham Alyev the same offer that was put to Beijing. The general proposed the two countries set up a big military industrial complex in Azerbaijan and Baku would send over to Iran teams of engineers and designers familiar with the S-300 to share their knowledge. Vahidi, while touring military plants, did not neglect to offer million-dollar bribes to any professional personnel willing to work with Tehran, even if their government stayed out of such deals for fear of jeopardizing Azerbaijan's military and economic ties with American and Israeli interests. Another Iranian bid for S-300 plans was carried to two other Russian allies - Armenia and Kazakhstan, when Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani visited Yerevan and Astana on October 10-11. In Kazakhstan, Larijani sought to draw on the large fund of technology and experience local military engineers and technicians acquired in missile and electronic production during their years of employment at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome. Other Iranian delegations are heading out to Minsk, Belarus, and Kiev in the Ukraine.
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Obama Fails to Stop Ahmadinejad
Special Emissary Hof Cools His Heels in Damascus
Frederic Hof
In last-minute breaking news from Washington, last week's DEBKA-Net-Weekly 464 disclosed that instead of traveling to Beirut Thursday, October 7, US diplomat Frederic Hof had been abruptly reassigned to Damascus. He arrived that night with strict instructions from President Barack Obama to stay put and make sure President Bashar Assad understood the gravity of the warning he was ordered to convey, namely that the US President would hold him personally responsible if Hizballah were permitted to pursue violence against the state of Lebanon with Iranian or Syrian endorsement and accountable for the consequent impact on relations between the two governments. Wednesday, Oct. 13, our sources report, Fred Hof was still cooling his heels in Damascus. The situation is somewhat bizarre. Damascus is not a city where a foreign official can relax and move about freely or go to public places, including restaurants, without a heavy security escort. This is especially so since the mysterious murder just two months ago of Gen. Yuri Ivanov, deputy head of GRU, the Russian military's overseas intelligence arm (first reported by debkafile's intelligence sources). Iran's Ministry of Intelligence - MOIS - is still casting about in Damascus for a high-profile Western target in order to settle accounts for the attempted assassination of Saeed Jalili, Chairman of Iran's National Security Council when he visited Damascus last November. This is hardly the right milieu for one of the Obama administration's most senior diplomats in the Middle East like Hof to relax his guard for a moment.
Hof fails to have Ahmadinejad's Lebanon visit called off - or even toned down
Many other menaces lurk in the murky shadows of this city, including assorted al Qaeda networks, some of whom cooperate with Syrian military intelligence, while other fight this branch of the Assad regime from hideouts inside Palestinian refugee camps. Their enclaves are tightly enclosed inside an iron ring of checkpoints and Syrian security guards. Then, too, Syria also plays host to violent Iraqi Baath Party groups and ex-officers of the Saddam regime who have sworn to avenge their downfall on any American official coming their way. Amid these perils, Fredric Hof has been forced to do what he can from the safe fastness of the US embassy compound, emerging only for well-guarded secret appointments with Syrian officials. It is therefore not surprising that he has achieved very little. One part of his mission was to prevent or at least postpone Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's visit to Lebanon. That was a non-starter. The Iranian president landed in Beirut Wednesday, Oct. 13 and drove straight to the presidential palace at Baabde. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Middle East sources report that Hof got nowhere when he asked the Syrian officials for Damascus to use its influence with Hizballah to tone down its extravagant public praise for the visitor. Instead, the US official had to listen to Hizballah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem declaring eagerly in Beirut Monday, October 11: "President Ahmedinejad's visit is a total success even before it started. So just imagine how much more much more successful it will be when it takes place." That was not the end of the Hof's frustrations.
Assad's no to Washington is doubly underlined
The next day, Tuesday, Oct. 12, President Assad used the news conference he held with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyep Recep Erdogan who had dropped in on him for a few hours, for a cold shower on the Hof mission. (See previous article on this visit). It came in the form of a brief guide to the situation in Lebanon as seen through the eyes of the Syrian president. "There are divisions in Lebanon which are not new," Assad pointed out. "This has been Lebanon's history for centuries rather than decades. There are a lot of divisions which affect Lebanon's relations with others, in particular with Syria as the only country neighboring Lebanon, given that Israel is an enemy state." He went on to say: "Let's be clear on this point. We always encourage the Lebanese to be undivided so that relations improve… This relationship is improving right now, but not enough to return to normal relations." The Syrian president noted that good relations were contingent on no country "conspiring" against the other. With these remarks, Assad flatly rejected the warning Fred Hof brought him from President Obama - that he would be held responsible for any Hizballah violence in Beirut - by contending that Syria had no influence over anything Hizballah may decide with regard to seizing power in Lebanon. He argued that Hizballah's actions are not actuated by Damascus, which has only Lebanon's best interests at heart, but by internal and religious disputes of many years' standing. Anyway, Assad pointed out, why come to us in Damascus when we too are targeted for conspiracies by certain elements in Lebanon? The US diplomat was left with the certainty that the Syrian president had no intention of making any effort to curb Iranian influence in Lebanon or change Hizballah's plans.
Saudis disenchanted, Iraq up for grabs
This impasse confronts the Obama administration with two serious dilemmas - over and above the perils of internal conflict in Lebanon and a conflagration between Israel and Hizballah: 1. The Saudi royal family treated this week's events in Lebanon as a supreme test of the Obama administration's ability to halt Shiite Iran's march on the Middle East - and found it wanting. For Riyadh, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Persian Gulf sources report, this is a fundamental do-or-die matter. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal made this abundantly clear in his gloomy comments to the Arab League ministerial session in Libya Saturday, Oct. 9: "We see it [the Arab situation in the Middle East] as stemming from a sense of erosion in the regional role of the Arab system, in its environment and center, compared to the ascending role of some other countries, not to mention continued Israeli defiance… "This is the correct interpretation; the Arab role has eroded, not only because we are faced with Israel, but also with Iran." According to our sources, Saudi rulers view America's failure to assert its will in Damascus and Beirut as opening the door to more insufferable developments such as Iraq's ruling regime falling into Tehran's clutches. 2. Hof also tackled the Syrian ruler on the Iraqi issue with as little success as with Lebanon. Our sources report Assad was willing to appease the Obama administration only as far as reinstating Iraq's ambassador to Syria, Ala Hussein al-Jawadi, this week, filling the gap left by the collapse of full diplomatic relations over a year ago. But he cynically welcomed Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Wednesday, the day Ahmadinejad arrived in Beirut, when he came cap in hand to beg for Tehran's support through its senior ally. For now, it appears that neither the US nor Iran holds the balance of power in Baghdad. It is up to the Kurds to decide whether Al-Maliki remains prime minister or makes way for his rival Iyad Alawi. They will certainly not be willing to heed either Ankara or Damascus on this, especially after Erdogan and Assad agreed to join forces to battle the Turkish PKK separatists and the Syrian Kurds sustaining them. The US emissary therefore has nothing worth his while to stay for in Damascus and can be expected to leave shortly.
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Saudi Fury over US Inaction on Iran, Sudan
All Sunnis Affronted by Iranian Shiite Flag on Al Aqsa Replica in South Lebanon
Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir
Saudi Ambassador to Washington Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir is rarely seen around Washington these days. That is because King Abdullah keeps this diplomat whom he admires close beside him in Riyadh for frequent consultations. Every so often, the envoy goes back to the US capital for a day or two for some public ceremony or event, but then he flies home directly - sometimes using a specially chartered private airliner. DEBKA-Net-Weekly heard a senior Persian Gulf source close to the Saudi royal family explain: "You must understand that this situation is perfectly natural. After all, these days, important Middle East decisions are made in Riyadh, not Washington." As to whether Al-Jubeir's long absences from Washington are a Saudi protest against Obama administration policy - just short of the standard "recall for consultations," the source said it was impossible to tell, because no one in Washington appears to care whether the Saudi ambassador is there or in Riyadh. But once they do, he said, they would be right to conclude that King Abdullah is deeply disgruntled with the way President Barack Obama is handling issues of burning interest to the oil kingdom. Keeping the ambassador away would be his way of protesting America's unwillingness or inability to halt Iran's inroads on Iraq, its grab for Lebanon - where Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit this week is a blatant provocation - or deal with Khartoum where Iran's Revolutionary Guards have moved in on Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir. Tehran is being allowed to strengthen its foothold both to the east and the west of Saudi Arabia.
A Shiite flag on wing to Jerusalem?
Saudi Arabia's Sunni rulers, Guardians of the Holy Shrines of Islam, were aghast to see an Iranian Shiite flag fluttering over a golden replica of the Al Aqsa Mosque of Jerusalem planted in South Lebanon for the Ahmadinejad visit on Thursday, Oct. 14. It was a red rag to a bull for Riyadh and all Sunni Muslims and a strong pointer to Tehran's religious colonizing goals. To the east of the oil kingdom, Iranian influence is driving Sudan towards breakup and another civil war aside from the unsolved Darfur crisis. In two and-a-half months, the southern region chooses between union under Khartoum or secession and independence in an area roughly the size of Texas. If the latter, war will erupt with the IRGC strongly backing and arming Al-Bashir and thereby staking out an Iranian base in Sudan with a military and naval presence on the Red Sea coast opposite the western shore of Saudi Arabia. The royal family is still in the dark about where the Obama administration stands on the Sudan question despite all its efforts to ferret out some policy outline. After watching the actor George Clooney pressing President Barack Obama on Oct. 12 for some "real, robust diplomacy" to head off the threat of civil war in the Sudan after the vote on whether the country splits into two parts, Saudi rulers could only ask themselves: Is that how policy is made these days in Washington?
US Mid East policy - neither seen nor heard
The sense in Middle East capitals is that the Obama administration has lost its way in Middle East policy-making. In fact, no one seems to understand what exactly President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are after. That uncertainty generated the diplomatic chaos prevailing at the Arab League foreign ministers' meeting in Sirte, Libya last weekend (October 8-9). Syrian President Bashar Assad, Libya's Muammar Qaddafi and Arab League Secretary Amr Musa actually shouted at Palestinian Authority ChairmanMahmoud Abbas that he doesn't know what he is doing. He was told that he was badly mistaken in focusing all the issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a construction freeze in the settlements and Jerusalem. The Obama administration would never buy this condition for resuming talks, they told him. Saudi Foreign minister Saud bin Faisal listened quietly to the shouting. Afterward, he said drily that as usual the Arabs were getting bogged down in irrelevant trivia. With all due respect to the Palestinian problem, he said, the two really acute and important problems were Iran's expansionism, which knows no bounds because it is unchecked by the West, and the situation in Sudan. Transcending these two problems, the prince pointed to the concern shared by all about the enigma of US Middle East policy which is neither seen nor heard in the region.
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A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending October 14, 2010
October 8, 2010 Briefs • Konduz governor, imam said to be among 15 killed in explosions at mosque in N. Afghanistan province. • Israel signs $2.75bn deal to buy 20 US F-35 stealth fighters boosting US air industry.
Israeli troops kill Hamas' West Bank commander, hunt "Syrian" cell leader
8 Oct. Israel's pursuit of the Hamas terrorists behind the latest string of West Bank attacks ended Friday, Oct. 8 in a gun battle in Hebron and the deaths of Hamas' West Bank commander Nashat Al-Karmi and his lieutenant Mamoun Al-Natshe, thereby snapping Hamas' militant backbone in the territory. debkafile reports that the Hamas cell leader from Syria who led the attack which killed four Israelis and injured two others is still at large. The two Hamas chiefs were killed when Israeli troops backed by Shin Bet operatives and the police anti-terror squad closed in on three Hebron houses in which they were holed up and refused to surrender. One of the houses was bulldozed and several occupants detained. debkafile's counter-terror sources reveal: Nashat Al-Karmi, aged 34, was born in Hebron and lived there with his wife. His first brush with Israeli troops occurred in 1999 when he was picked up in a counter-terror swoop and spent three years in jail. In 2004 he suffered a serious gunshot wound to the stomach and was confined to a wheelchair. Exceptionally secretive, Al-Karmi escaped having his photo taken, never used a telephone or even a cell and preferred to go into terrorist action solo. debkafile's sources stress that by wiping out Hamas' top West Bank command, Israel has also shown up as spurious Hamas' latest propaganda effort to demonstrate its superiority to Israel's Shin Bet and claim to have smashed Israel's covert networks in the Gaza Strip.
October 9, 2010 Briefs • Pakistan reopens Khyber Pass to Afghanistan-bound NATO trucks after 7 convoys attacked in a week. • Four Italian soldiers killed by roadside bomb against their armored vehicle in Farah area of W. Afghanistan. • British aid worker taken hostage in Afghanistan is killed in US rescue attempt. • Washington welcomes Arab League allocation of month's grace for efforts to bring Palestinians, Israelis back to talks. • Tehran tones down provocative aspects of Ahmadinehad's Lebanon visit next week • Denies he will throw stones at Israel from border.
Obama to hold Assad responsible for Hizballah violence in Lebanon
9 Oct. Senior US diplomat Frederic Hof landed in Damascus Friday Oct. 8, with a strong ultimatum from US President Barack Obama warning Syrian President Bashar Assad that he would be held personally responsible for any military action Hizballah may pursue in Beirut or any other part of Lebanon. Such action would have consequences for the Syrian ruler's standing in Washington and that of his country. This is revealed by debkafile's sources in Washington and Beirut.
October 10, 2010 Briefs • FM Lieberman scolds French, Spanish counterparts in Jerusalem Sunday: "Before you teach us how to resolve conflicts here, at least solve all the problems in Europe. We have no intention of becoming 2010's Czechoslovakia and will stand up for Israel's vital interests." • By a vote of 22 to 8, Israeli cabinet approved controversial amendment to Citizenship bill. The draft requires non-Jewish applicants for citizenship to swear an oath of loyalty to Israel as "a Jewish and democratic state". Some Likud ministers joined Labor against the prime minister. • Egypt's Banned Muslim Brotherhood to stand for one-third of seats in next month's parliamentary poll.
Iran believed executed nuclear staff over Stuxnet
10 Oct. Information reaching the West indicates that Iran has put to death some atomic scientists and technicians suspected of helping plant the Stuxnet virus in its nuclear program. The admission by Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization, on Friday, Oct. 8 - the frankest yet by any Iranian official - that Western espionage had successfully penetrated its nuclear program is seen as bearing out those reports. It also attests to the damaging effect the malworm has had on the program: the Bushehr reactor has faced one delay after another since it was inaugurated in August and other nuclear plants are functioning only partially since the virus first surfaced last July. But, the Iranian nuclear chief contended, Iran had countered enemy efforts. "The issue of spies existed in the past, but is diminishing day by day," he said debkafile adds: The extreme security measures clamped down on the program's employees have further slowed its progress.
October 11, 2010 Briefs • Netanyahu: If Abbas recognizes Israel as Jewish nation-state, I will reconsider extending moratorium on settlement construction. Palestinians instantly rejected offer. • Iran contests Iraq's claim to be home to world's fourth-largest fuel reserves. After Iraq bolstered its estimate to 143 billion barrels, Iran raised Monday to 150.31. • Law ministers draft legislation for change in status of Israeli sovereign territory in international accords. They recommended submitting all such changes to popular referendum or approval by Knesset majority of 80. This draft law would apply also to East Jerusalem and the Golan. • Turkish PM Erdogan visits Damascus to discuss anti Kurdish PKK campaign with Assad. debkafile: Ankara says rebel PKK uses bases in N. Syria to attack Turkey. • Russia and India launch joint anti-terror exercise in Uttarakhand Oct. 15. It will focus on combating terrorist cells in mountain hideouts. • British panel begins inquiry of 2005 terror attack on London which killed 52 people including an Israeli woman. It examines why MI5 domestic security agency failed to prevent attack although terrorists were under surveillance.
Al Qaeda warns Ahmadinejad against visiting Lebanon, US citizens urged to be vigilant
11 Oct. More fuel was thrown on the bubbling brew surrounding Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Lebanon this week by a threat from an Al Qaeda-linked group: "The whole of Lebanon will tremble if he sets foot there," said the Abdullah Azzam group, named for Osama bin Laden's Palestinian mentor who was al Qaeda's original founder. "We will do the impossible to thwart this conspiracy." Washington warned Americans in Lebanon to be vigilant and avoid large gatherings. As Lebanese citizens snapped up every weapon on sale non-Shiite Lebanese including Sunni Muslims in the North posted large banners and pictures of the Iranian president with large crosses and the slogan: "You are not welcome in Lebanon."
Israel-Greek air forces practice long-distance helicopter strikes
11 Oct. The Israeli and Greek Air forces embarked Monday, Oct. 11, on a joint four-day exercise code-named Minoas 2010 over Crete and the Peloponnese Peninsula, debkafile's military sources report. Both areas are characterized by long coastal strips and high mountain peaks extended into the sea, similar to some Iranian shores. Taking part are 16 Apache and Black Hawk UH-60 assault helicopters - eight Israeli and eight Greek. The Israeli choppers were refueled in mid-flight to Greece. The helicopters are practicing tactics designed for large expanses of water, island groups - the Argo-Saronic Islands east of the Peloponnese and the Ionian Islands to its west - and high coastal peaks with deep canyons and gorges. This sort of terrain resembles Persian Gulf shores, including the coastal strips enclosing the strategic Strait of Hormuz and the western and southern shores of Iran where key Revolutionary Guards Corps bases are grouped. This and former exercises demonstrate Israel's ability to fly fighter-bombers long range to and from Iran.
October 12, 2010 Briefs • At least 18 Iranian soldiers said killed in explosion at military base in western Lorestan province Tuesday. • Twin blasts at Yemeni sports center in Aden kill three, injure 14, including two policeman. • Al Qaeda marks 10th anniversary of attack on US destroyer Cole in Aden port by establishing a new "army to free" Aden and neighboring Abyan. Seventeen US sailors killed in that attack. • Russia's chief nuclear negotiator Alexei Borodavkin arrives in Seoul in bid to revive stalled talks with North Korea.
Chinese warplanes make Mid East debut in Turkey and Iran
12 Oct: The arrival of a new Middle East player startled Washington and Jerusalem: debkafile's military sources disclose that when Turkish Prime Minister Tayyep Erdogan met Syrian president Bashar Assad in Damascus Monday, Oct. 11, they talked less about the Kurdish question and more about the role China is willing to play in the military-intelligence alliance binding Syria, Iran and Turkey. Erdogan took the credit for China's unfolding involvement in the alliance in the role of big-power backer. Chinese warplanes took part in Turkey's Anatolian Eagle air maneuver from Sept. 20 to Oct. 6 after breaking their journey to refuel in Iran, their first appearance ever in the Islamic Republic. This year's Turkish exercise took place without US and Israeli participation. Israel was not invited and America opted out. Their place was taken by Chinese Sukhoi Su-27 and Mig-29 warplanes.
Israel drills unconventional al Qaeda strike in Jerusalem
12 Oct: debkafile's military and counter-terror sources report that Tuesday, Oct. 12, large-scale Israeli police, counter-terror squads, border police, first aid personnel and firefighters staged the most extensive exercise Israel has ever conducted against multiple terrorist attacks in its eastern and central regions including Jerusalem. The drill included an Al Qaeda penetration of crowded downtown Jerusalem with unconventional weapons - the first time Israeli has simulated an Al Qaeda infiltration of a large city.
October 13, 2010 Briefs • Iranian president announces formation of new Eastern Front against Israel. Its members are Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Palestinians and Iraq. He made the announcement in Beirut on Day One of his visit to Lebanon amid unprecedented security measures. • Tuesday night he made phone call in bid to allay Saudi King Abdullah's anger over the visit. • US calls on Palestinians for action to revive stalled talks with Israel. They should counter Netanyahu's offer of a freeze on settlements for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley said the US recognizes Israel as it defines itself as a Jewish state. • Anglo-Jewish writer-columnist Howard Jacobson is surprise winner of British Booker Prize for literature for his work "The Finkler Question" • The pro-Israeli writer beat the odds which favored Tom McCarthy.
Call for Israel's destruction places IDF, Syrian Lebanese armies on alert
13 Oct. debkafile's military and Iranian sources report: Towards the end of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad first day in Lebanon Wednesday Oct. 13, a high alert was declared in the Israeli, Syrian, Lebanese armies, the Hizballah militia and the UN peacekeeping force ahead of his tour of the Lebanese-Israeli border Thursday. In the speech he delivered Wednesday night from the Al-Raya Stadium in the Shiite district Dahya district of Beirut, Ahmadinejad and Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared their common goal was Israel's destruction. Nasrallah did not appear in the flesh but on a video screen. Israel's only response to the vicious attacks showered on its head from Lebanon came from an official in the bureau of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who said: The President of Iran's Lebanon visit is like that of a commander reviewing his troops - the terrorists of Hizballah who act as Iran's military arm in the region. Anyone who cares about peace and freedom must be filled with alarm by the Iranian provocation. Lebanon deserves calm and prosperity instead of which it has become the servant of Iranian aggression spearheaded by Hizballah." Washington's response was still milder. The White House commented that the Ahmadinejad visit to Lebanon marked his provocative behavior, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it would lead to greater regional instability.
October 14, 2010 Briefs • Ahmadinejad at Bin Jbeil, S. Lebanon: The Zionists will go back to where they came from. The Holocaust and 9/11 are lies designed to justify the region's occupation. He comes from long discussions with Lebanese leaders on future of Hariri tribunal. • Palestinian missile for the Gaza Strip explodes harmlessly in Ashkelon. • Seven NATO troops were killed in S. W. and E Afghanistan Thursday - day after six service members died in insurgent attacks in the east and south. • Germany outlaws Frankfurt-based Turkish IHH group for supporting Palestinian Hamas. • Israel Aerospace signs $400 m contract to sell UAVs to Russia.
By its inaction, Israel permits Iran's annexation of Lebanon
14 Oct. The Netanyahu government chose silence in the face of the imperialist Shiite energy Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expended in his all-conquering visit to Lebanon. On his first day in Beirut he showed the world that Tehran calls the shots in Beirut - and that would be just for starters. debkafile's sources find in Israel's inaction today a regrettable analogy with the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's handover of Czechoslovak Sudetenland to Germany in 1938 so ushering in World War II. Addressing tens of thousands of cheering Lebanese Shiites in the Hizballah stronghold of Dahya in Beirut Wednesday night, Ahmadinejad and his puppet, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, pledged to make Israel "disappear" and declared nothing and no one can stop this happening. How and when is up to Tehran. He also announced the formation of a new Islamic bloc, a revival of the old Eastern Front, composed of Iran, Syria, Turkey, the Palestinians, Lebanon and Iraq. It would be dedicated to fighting not only Israel but also America. For the Iranian ruler, Israel is small change compared with the task of destroying America's Middle East presence and usurping its big power role.
Vol. 10, Issue 464, October 8, 2010
US Terror Scare Misfires
New US Tactics in Afghanistan Unrelated to Europe Terror Alert
Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus
A strong strategic rationale actuated Washington's blanket terror warning to Europe of Sunday, Oct. 3. But the way it evolved reflected the current interplay among the leading American personalities who devised it. Both angles are examined by DEBKA-Net-Weekly through its Washington sources. As the US-led Afghanistan War marks its 10th anniversary on Oct. 7, 2010, the decisive battle ahead of negotiations on the country's future between the United States and the insurgent Taliban is getting underway, a turning-point in the war which has not been publicly heralded as such as it . Its outcome will determine how the cards fall when the fighting is over. Under serious discussion now is a proposal for the north to remain in American hands for an indefinite period, the center and south to fall under Taliban control and for Kabul to be a neutral city with a mixed presence of all the parties. The prerequisite of the new strategy for Afghanistan President Barack Obama launched in December 2009 was for Taliban to come to negotiations from a position of military weakness. The president allowed the US command until August 2011, when he promised the American people to start pulling the US military out of Afghanistan, to clobber the insurgent forces into a position of inferiority. Now, with only 10 months left up to that target date, the US president acceded to the request of Gen. David Petraeus, commander of US and NATO forces, to shorten the war by ramping up cross-border air attacks on Taliban's logistic bases and sanctuaries in Pakistan's North Waziristan.
Angry Pakistani reaction was no surprise
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Washington report that President Obama knew his green light would elicit an angry reaction from Islamabad - and indeed Islamabad on Thursday, Sept. 30, blocked the two main passes through which NATO supply convoys reached Afghanistan. Yet he approved the cross-border air offensive nonetheless after General Petraeus assured him that the troops had enough equipment, fuel and munitions stocked or available (including recent deliveries from Iraq) to last them until the first winter snows arrived in early or mid-December. Petraeus' most compelling argument for haste was that if the war was not won in the next two months, it would take years. He also convinced Obama that as long as the Taliban can rely on the Haqqani network and other supportive militias, it will prefer to fight on rather than sit down for talks. Up until now, US forces have left the Haqqani fighters alone because of their ties with the Pakistani military, but here, too, the White House agreed that the time of reckoning was here and it was now or never for knocking the legs from under the insurgent movement. "The table is all set and ready," Petraeus told the President. "Now we just have to get the Taliban to come to it. But they won't come alone." This was a reference to the secret indirect talks Taliban have been holding for some months with the Americans via the Saudis and the Pakistanis (SeeDEBKA-Net-Weekly 462 of Sept. 24, 2010: US-Saudi Plan to Airlift Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan… Saudi Arabia is Ready to Host Them).
Now to build a cover story
A senior source in Washington familiar with the content of the discussions between the president and Petraeus told DEBKA-Net-Weekly on condition of anonymity that the general had likened North Waziristan to Anbar Province in northwestern Iraq. Until Al Qaeda was beaten in that province, presaging its defeat in central Iraq in the years 2005-2007, the American "surge" in Iraq teetered on the brink of failure. In North Waziristan, Petraeus said, smashing Taliban and local allied forces on the Pakistan side of the border is the key to success in Afghanistan, particularly in the south which has a common border with North Waziristan. The big difference between the two conflicts is this, the general noted: Whereas in Iraq, the local Sunni tribes, especially in Anbar province, were ready to collaborate with the Americans out of fear of al Qaeda, this is not the case in North Waziristan. Therefore, the local militias will have to be pummeled until their leaders cry out that they can't take any more US military pressure. This mission can be accomplished entirely by aerial strikes, according to Petraeus, provided helicopters are used to augment the drones. After this stage of combat in Afghanistan was settled, it became necessary to build a cover story to justify the heavy US tactics against Pakistan-based targets. The task fell to two senior American officials, Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta and the president's assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan. Petraeus, Panetta and Brennan and their teams put their heads together and came up with this formula: Intensified American air strikes over North Waziristan would be accounted for by incoming intelligence forewarning terrorist attacks in major European cities that originated in Al Qaeda and allied local networks embedded in those Pakistani tribal lands.
The imprecise, unspecific US terror scare did not impress Europe
This line offered two benefits: Europe, where public interest in the Afghanistan War is flagging, would see the United States as the principle Western force fighting terror. They would also understand the importance of the Afghanistan War for containing the spread of violence out to Pakistan and reaching their own homes in Europe. But this scenario took off on the wrong foot. It then continued to veer badly off course. In the first place, the three members of the band, Petraeus, Panetta and Brennan, did not play the same tune. Each took care to be in line for personal kudos if the maneuver worked and avoid the flak if it failed. While Petraeus and Panetta kept their uncertainties under their hats and cooperated with one another, John Brennan went off on an aggressive tangent. He issued a welter of leaks to the media without coordinating them with either partner. Items appeared on US media front pages and newscasts - and were, quickly picked up in Europe - describing al Qaeda cells as having already departed North Waziristan and arrived at major European cities ready to strike. Some said Mumbai-style multiple strikes were threatened by several coordinated teams of gunmen like the assault which killed 174 people in the Indian port city in 2008. Others "discovered" that Osama bin Laden had handpicked the terrorists for these operations. Yet others were certain that the terrorists' commanders in their Pakistan bases had pushed the green button for the operations to go ahead and they were now imminent and unstoppable. One headline screamed that gunmen were converging in Europe to spray death in five major European airport terminals. All this happened a week after American air strikes in North Waziristan had quietly begun escalating to include Apaches. (The first helicopter assault was launched Sept. 27 against Taliban forces returning to their Pakistan havens from battles in Afghanistan. At least 30 fighters died, most of them from the Haqqani network. The next day, Apaches struck the Haqqani base in the Kurram district of the province. Thursday, Sept. 30, saw a third helicopter attack which mistakenly killed three Pakistani Frontier troops.) It was the third attack which put the lid on it for Islamabad which thereupon slammed shut the two frontier passes to NATO supply convoys.)
Brennan's personal ambition gingered up the publicity
This flood of convoluted and contradictory leaks quickly undermined the entire scheme's credibility. That was the first serious snag in the plan. The second grew out of the personal ambition of John Brennan who, according to Washington sources referred to by DEBKA-Net-Weekly, is aiming high for the post of National Security Adviser to the President in place of Gen. James Jones. Those sources rate his chances of winning the post as better than good. It is only a matter of time before Jones vacates the seat and Obama appears to have already decided to hand it to his adviser on counterterrorism. Brennan calculated that a winning military offensive in North Waziristan coupled with a successful counter-terror wake-up drive in Europe would imbue his entry to the new job with the right sort of prestige. Since his aides have tagged Panetta as a leading contender for the post of national security adviser, they decided to play their cards close to their chests rather than sharing their publicity tactics with the CIA chief. Confusion consequently prevailed in anti-terror circles in Berlin, London, Rome and Paris, the last of which has been on high alert for some weeks over threatened Al Qaeda attacks from North Africa. All their intelligence chiefs and terrorist fighters decided to handle the US alert for Europe with the utmost caution until they could find out what it was really all about. Over the weekend, word began coming in from embassies and other sources that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was furious about the whole scheme. She first dragged her feet about signaling the terror advisory to Americans in Europe and, only after President Obama's intervention, agreed to her department issuing a modified and qualified travel warning on Sunday, October 3.
France settles scores with Britain
The British government led the way for its dissemination, announcing ahead that the UK, France and Germany were under imminent threat of a multiple al Qaeda attack. Paris and Berlin were not at all happy to find their anti-terror strategy hijacked by London and Washington for reasons that had nothing to do with the real threats to their countries. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere was the most outspoken. He said on Monday, October 4 that there are currently no indications of any immediate threat of attacks planned against Germany. There is no reason whatsoever to be alarmist at the moment, he insisted. Two days later, France exhibited its fine sense of irony by issuing a travel advisory warning French citizens to be vigilant for terrorists while traveling in… London. Wednesday morning, when al Qaeda did strike, it was not in Europe at all but in Sanaa, Yemen, where a bomber on a bicycle attacked the British embassy convoy and gunmen killed a French man in the compound of an Austrian oil company. Meanwhile, the American operation in North Waziristan is ongoing. Because of the news blackout it is hard to determine how well it is going. However, the scheme for drumming up a terrorist scare in Europe to complement the war drive in Pakistan keeps on springing holes at the rate of roughly one a day.
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The US "Glaspie Effect" for Syria and Lebanon
Israel Implicitly Threatens to Blitz Damascus if Beirut Falls
Hillary Clinton
Last-minute breaking news: Instead of traveling to Beirut Thursday, Oct. 7, US diplomat Fred Hof was sent at the last minute to Damascus, arriving that night with strict instructions from President Barack Obama to stay put and make sure President Bashar Assad understands the gravity of the warning he was ordered to convey: President Obama will hold President Assad personally responsible and accountable for the consequent impact on relations between the two governments if Hizballah is permitted to pursue violence against the state of Lebanon with Iranian or Syrian endorsement. DEBKA-Net-Weekly notes that extreme diplomatic demarches of this kind are customary only in circumstances in which war appears imminent. End
On July 25, 1990, a week before he invaded Kuwait, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invited the United States Ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspie to his office. Opinions are divided, especially in America, over what was said in that last encounter between the two governments just one week before Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2. But there is no such uncertainty in the Middle East. Notwithstanding American denials, even from Glaspie herself, that she gave Saddam the impression the US would not interfere with Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, the "Glaspie Effect" has become a familiar code phrase in the bazaars of the Middle East. It is applied when Washington is perceived to be looking the other way to avoid getting involved in a given issue or conflict. Arab rulers use the phrase when a US administration appears weak or hesitant in conflicts instead of directly intervening to prevent an outbreak of violence. Last week, the Glaspie Effect was back in high gear. DEBKA-Net-Weekly Middle East sources report that it came to the fore when Tehran, Damascus and Hizballah understood from Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem's conversation with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on September 27 that the Obama administration would not intervene if they used military force to seize control of Beirut and the centers of Lebanese government.
The US request was halfhearted and not taken seriously
The impression was reinforced Friday, October 1 when, at the White House's behest, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams to Lebanese President Gen. Michel Suleiman with a request to cancel or at least postpone the visit of Iranian PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad to Beirut on October 13-14. The Obama administration acted in this matter with great reluctance and only after being urged to do so by Israel. The Americans figured the request was pointless because the Lebanese president lacked the authority to cancel the Ahmadinejad visit and he would have to reject it. But Israel produced intelligence updates indicating that right after the controversial visit, Hizballah planned to send its gunmen to seize the nuclei of power in Beirut. Hillary Clinton was thus persuaded to send an appeal to the Lebanese president, albeit through a United Nations emissary. But then she, too, was taken by surprise by the way the Williams turned his mission around. After hearing the Lebanese president's polite rejection of his request, the UN official decided to prove his evenhandedness by making a call on Iranian Ambassador Qazanfar Roknabadi at the embassy in Beirut. The Iranian diplomat did not permit this golden opportunity slip. He let Williams come out of the conversation with a statement that acclaimed the Ahmadinejad visit an important event and expressed the hope that it would bear positive fruit for the Iranian and Lebanese nations.
Tehran and Hizballah are sure Washington won't stop them
From this incident, too, Tehran and Hizballah gathered that Washington was halfhearted about the matter. Had the Americans been really keen for the Iranian president's visit to be called off, they would have leaned a lot harder on the Lebanese President, they figured. So the half-measure of sending a UN envoy to Beirut simply confirmed Muallem's impression that the US would content itself with verbally protesting the coming Iranian-Syrian plan for Lebanon - and take it no further. The Glaspie Effect was taken to be alive and well. It was explicitly invoked this week by the Lebanese political commentator Ragheda Dergam, known for her excellent sources in Damascus and Beirut, in her column in Dar al-Hayat. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who held the first meeting at this level with her counterpart Walid Muallem, she wrote, put forward the headlines of what she wishes for Lebanese-Syrian relations, yet she seemed as if she was April Glaspie, the US Ambassador to Iraq, during her meeting with then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on the eve of his invasion of Kuwait – i.e., as if carrying a floating message. In fact, there are sources that say that the Barack Obama Administration has entered the bazaar of the requirements of stability and wishes to avoid the Special Tribunal issuing formal accusations against members of Hizballah or those who could follow them, from Syria or elsewhere. Indeed, the administration, as it seems, shows its understanding of the requirements of undermining justice instead of undermining stability in a nearly haphazard policy, as it holds no guarantees over the form stability will take after Hizballah and Syria are victorious in annulling the tribunal, and has no idea of the meaning of subjugation and its consequences on the Lebanese and regional scene.
Assad and Ahmadinejad decide to go full steam ahead
While some officials remarked she had it wrong, Iran, Syria and Hizballah acted as though she was spot on. Sunday, Oct. 3, the day after the above-mentioned Clinton-Muallem meeting, Syrian President Bashar Assad flew to Tehran and, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources, decided with Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders to go full steam ahead with their plans for Hizballah to seize control of Lebanon's centers of power. They were agreed that the Americans would not actively interfere with their plans. They also decided to continue their relentless drive to intimidate the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri by humiliating him and chipping away at his government's legitimacy, so long as he refuses to disband the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon-STL investigating the murder of his father, the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. This drive will continue even if they succeed in making the Hariri government irrelevant and strip it of the powers for governing the country, a situation that would set Beirut up for a putsch. Hizballah would then form a transitional government coalition with its political allies, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and the Christian ex-general Michel Aoun for ruling the regions dominated by the Hizballah militia. The Hariri government would then be proclaimed illegal. Assad lost no time in getting down to action. An unidentified Syrian investigative judge was instructed to hand the former Lebanese Internal Security MinisterMaj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed Sunday, Oct. 3 the 33 names of international and Lebanese figures against whom Syria has issued arrest warrants on charges of false testimony and perjury in the Rafiq Hariri murder inquiry. They are also to be handed to Interpol for the execution of international warrants. (Some of the names on the list appear in HOT POINTS below) This was an unprecedented act of defiance by Damascus against the UN tribunal and unlawful interference with its proceedings - a sign of how far Syria and Iran are prepared to go to derail the Hariri probe.
Israel will react forcefully to Syrian-Hizballah aggression in Beirut
The next step took place Wednesday, Oct. 6: The Syrian chief prosecutor ordered four former heads of Lebanese internal security to appear before him in Damascus and testify against three former Syrian and Lebanese officers alleged to have borne false witness inculpating the Assad regime and Hizballah in the Hariri assassination. Wednesday, too, Israel found a roundabout way of warning Syria against harming the Hariri government in Beirut: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuand Defense Minister Ehud Barak released an unusually thick wad of secret government transcripts from the October 1973 Yom Kippur War revealing that Israel had been on the verge of bombing key military and government targets in Damascus. Prime Minister Golda Meir held the military back. The message from Jerusalem 37 years later was that should Syria support a violent Hizballah takeover of Beirut or disempower the sovereign Hariri government, this time round Damascus might not be so lucky. When governments including Israel declassify secret historical records of this nature, they normally white out the sections exposing confidential military and intelligence materials. Such data as the detailed plans for bombing the Syrian capital would have been routinely excised. The decision by Jerusalem to publish the 1973 plans for striking the institutions supporting the Syrian regime and military as well as its missile complex (then only anti-air systems), was a deliberate signal to Bashar Assad. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources say that although the Netanyahu government's warning may appear less than explicit, its message to Syria was loud and clear: Israel is not part of the inertia apparently gripping Washington and will respond directly and forcefully to aggressive Syrian or Hizballah moves in Beirut. In 1990, the Glaspie Effect led directly to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf War in 1991. In 2010, the same effect generated by Hillary Clinton has brought the Middle East a big step closer to another war.
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The Cyber Attack on Iran Continues
Targeted Next: Iranian & Syrian Ballistic Missiles, Hizballah's Rockets
Ali Akbar Salehi
Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Director Ali Akhbar Salehi has had to keep on changing his story. In late August, he set Sept. 2 as the date for the start of operations at the 1,000 megawatt Bushehr atomic reactor with the installation of Russian fuel rods. On Oct. 4, he first spoke of a delay: The start-up at Bushehr was "progressing well and we hope to see it connected to the national electricity grid by late December, or even a few weeks earlier," Salehi said. He ruled out any links between the delayed launch and a computer worm accused of targeting the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities. To account for the delay, he said: "During the Bushehr plant's washing process, a leak was discovered at the side pool of the reactor and it was plugged." He was challenged that day by a spokeswoman for the Russian Atomstroyexport company which built the reactor who said only that "The loading of the fuel into the reactor is scheduled for October." This left the date for the start-up up in the air because it contradicted the Iranian claim that the fuel had been loaded in late August. The Russian nuclear engineers may also be presumed to have thoroughly checked the pool of the reactor before finishing their work. Monday, Oct. 5, Iran's nuclear chief finally admitted that the reactor, Iran's first, would not be ready to go on line before the spring of 2011. Salehi was forced to change his story as the damage wrought by the Stuxnet malworm came to light. He had to contend not only with the devastating worm but with a briefing by a colleague which put the whole mess in the public domain with disarming frankness.
Iran concentrates on repelling cyber attack on its military systems
On Sept. 27, Hamid Alipour, director of the government-owned Iran Information Technology Company, openly admitted that his country was under cyber attack by a worm that "is mutating and wreaking further havoc on computerized industrial equipment in Iran." He said new versions of the virus - no "normal" worm - were spreading. On Oct. 1, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 463 first indicated the initial scale of this havoc (An Assessment of Initial Cyber-Damage to Iran's Nuclear Program). First, the Bushehr reactor and other parts of the nuclear program were so badly hit that it would take months to restore the damaged systems to normal operation. Some might never recover - at least until someone found a silver bullet for purging all systems of the wily worm. Second, whenever an expert managed to clean out a control network, the destructive malworm spawned more sophisticated offspring which went on the rampage. The Iranians have gone all-out to damp down the sensational international reporting on the cyber attack afflicting their nuclear plants and strategic infrastructure and made a show of having it under control. At the Virus Bulletin Conference in Vancouver last week, Iranian computer security experts said data "compiled from systems run by Kaspersky's security software had shown that Stuxnet is no longer prevalent in Iran." But they also confessed that the data was not authoritative and represented "just a slice of infected systems in Iran." DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources report that Iranian experts have made little progress in their attempts to rid Iran's nuclear systems of Stuxnet and even less in getting the Bushehr reactor ready to start generating power. They have therefore decided to concentrate at this stage on repelling the cyber invasion of their military systems.
Stuxnet can only be detected in missiles by firing them
They no doubt took note of an article published on Oct. 1 by the noted American weapons expert David Kay in The National Interest, under the caption "As the Worm Turns" in which he asks: Who can assure the Iranian leadership that the son of Stuxnet is not quietly sitting in the guidance- and flight-control systems of Iran's missile delivery capability? For after all, a "good" cyber worm does not have to reveal itself except under the conditions that its creator has chosen. Static tests may not show anything. Maybe sudden acceleration and heavy G loading is required. Or some other wickedly difficult conditions to simulate and test. This fatal diagnosis must have increased the alarm in Tehran, confirming as it did the assessment by military sources in our last issue: Some of Iran's military command and control centers at military and Revolutionary Guards Corps headquarters are shut down, along with field command centers for ballistic missile batteries, key air bases, air defense and the navy. It tells them that the only way to find out if their missile batteries are infected by Stuxnet - or "the son of Stuxnet" is to activate the firing mechanisms of every one of those missiles, thereby destroying their entire stock and remaining defenseless. The same predicament applies equally to Syria and Hizballah. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources report that this week experts of Iran's Information Technology Company' (whose director first sound the malworm alarm in public) visited Damascus and Hamma in northern Syria to examine the local armaments factories, which are a branch of Iran's industries, to find out if the deadly virus in its active or latent state had reached their products. Some of the team then set out for Lebanon to see whether the new ballistic missiles Iran had consigned to Hizballah, especially the Fateh 110, were infected. In reporting back to their masters in Tehran, they said they could not be sure of tracking down every version of the rampant Stuxnet in Syrian and Lebanese hardware - any more than they can at the Bushehr reactor.
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Making Hamas Kosher
A US-European Bid to Establish a New Palestinian Muslim Party
Khaled Meshaal
A funny thing is happening with the US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian direct talks - apart from their collapse. While insisting they are doing everything possible to salvage this broken track, the Obama administration, the European Union and Egypt have embarked on a secret move to strengthen Hamas in relation to Mahmoud Abbas, the absentee Palestinian negotiator. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Mideast sources say Hamas's Damascus-based secretary Khaled Meshaal is receptive to the move - and even more to the influx of cash landing on his doorstep from all those sources. He has also gone to work on a new Islamic political-religious treatise that would permit Hamas to join diplomatic negotiations with the Zionist entity. Recognition is still an unshakeable taboo, but it may be possible to bend fundamentalist Islamic law sufficiently to sanction the presence of Hamas representatives at the same table as the Zionist infidels. In this, Meshaal is following a precedent. Yasser Arafat was similarly able to turn his religious credo around far enough in 1991to send a Palestinian team to Oslo for dialogue with Israel. It culminated in the Oslo Peace Framework Accords in 1993. Meshaal is pondering a similar acrobatic feat. But although Arafat began climbing up the political and terror ladder in the 1950s as a paid-up member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the Hamas leader aims a lot higher for his precedent. He has taken to referring to chapters in the history of Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub (1138-1193), better known in the West as Saladin, whose Muslim army defeated the Franks and European Crusaders in the Levant and the Holy Land to become the first Ayyubid Sultan of Egypt and Syria and ruler of Mesopotamia, the Hijaz and Yemen.
From the Battle of Hattin to talks with Richard Lionheart
Meshaal makes great play of the Battle of Hattin which marked Saladin's capture of Palestine from the infidels and the Muslim victory against the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Hamas leader finds a strong analogy between Saladin's victory and his belief that Hamas and its allies, Iran, Syria and Hizballah, will eventually wrest the whole of Palestinian from the Zionists. But in the meantime, he seems to find it politic to consider emulating another part of the Saladin epic: In 1192, he opted for diplomacy and discussed the future of Jerusalem with the English king Richard the Lionheart, whose army was then camped in Palestine. It is on this episode that Meshaal proposes to draw as his precedent for holding talks with the Israelis. His apparent change of tack is a closely guarded secret not only from the Palestinian Authority, but even from Hamas associates in Gaza and other parts of the Middle East. Even so, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources report it has already produced developments:
1. US Ambassador Thomas Pickering, the senior US diplomat overseeing informal ties with Hamas on behalf of the Obama administration, got together recently with European figures performing the same backdoor function. He let them know that Washington would not be averse to their strengthening links with the Palestinian fundamentalists or helping them acquire a more politically-acceptable image than the aggressive-terrorist reputation clinging to Hamas in world and Middle East opinion. With Hamas a player in Barack Obama's Middle East peace offensive, the talks with Fatah leader Abbas would not have to end in half a Palestinian state but stood a chance of bringing the Gaza Strip into the accord as well as the West Bank. Pickering is vice chairman of Hills & Company, an international consulting firm which counsels US businesses on investment, trade and risk assessment. Holding the personal rank of Career Ambassador, the highest in the US Foreign Service, Pickering's contact person in the White House is John Brennan, the President's assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
European diplomats forging a new Palestinian Islamic party
2. EU foreign policy executive Catherine Ashton and her team in Brussels were quick to take Pickering up on his suggestion. In addition to boosting their undercover relations with Palestinian figures on the West Bank and Gaza Strip who are considered to be Hamas sympathizers, they came up with a plan to establish a new Palestinian Muslim Party. The European bureaucrats offered the pro-Hamas Palestinians, many of them academics, large sums of money, amounting in some cases to an annual stipend of tens of thousands of dollars, to become founder-members of the fledgling party and recruiters of members. The Europeans would like this party to be both Islamic and moderate enough to bridge the gap between Hamas, on the one hand, and Washington and Brussels, on the other. In Damascus, Meshaal responded to their feelers to his headquarters by saying he did not object to the new party and would not obstruct its formation. The European officials updated Thomas Pickering in Washington on the steps they had taken.
3. They have not gone unnoticed in Cairo, particularly in the bureau of Egyptian intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman, who manages his government's tricky relations with Hamas and keeps track of events in the enclave it rules, the Gaza Strip. (DEBKA-Net-Weekly 463 of Oct. 1 dealt with General Suleiman's secret ties with Khaled Meshaal in the article: The US Grand Middle East Plan Goes Awry – Four Pieces are Trampled by Wild Cards) Suleiman picked up the challenge. After months of bitter discord, Egypt is offering to meet Hamas halfway if the fundamentalists are willing to return to reconciliation and power-sharing talks with the Mahmoud Abbas' rival Fatah.
Reconciliation would bring Hamas and Gaza into the peace process
If its leaders agree to go another round for bringing the two Palestinian factions together after their first round in Damascus last month, Cairo would consider easting its blockade of the Gaza Strip. Egypt is anxious for an inter-factional unity accord that would put the Gaza Strip on the table in peace talks with Israel alongside the West Bank. As an initial gesture, Egypt has not rejected out of hand applications from Hamas' Izz-e-Din al-Qassam commanders and security personnel to leave the Gaza Strip and travel overseas through Cairo international airport.
4. All these comings and goings propelled Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday, Oct. 5, into accepting a second round of fence-building talks with Hamas in Damascus. According to Abbas' aides in Ramallah, security issues would be on the table. They were termed the last obstacle on the road to reconciliation between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority and the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.
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A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending October 7, 2010
October 1, 2010 Briefs • Order for Mumbai-style terror attacks in three EU countries came from Bin Laden, say US intel officials. Friday, Sweden joined UK, France and Germany on high terror alert. • South Afghanistan sees heavy fighting, while in the east, 2 Taliban chiefs captured, at least 10 killed. • Four big oil firms agree to stop investing in Iran's energy sector in compliance with US sanctions. Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Eni and Statoil later said they had not broken off all business ties with Tehran. • US dollar surges in Iran from 10,500 to 12,000 rials as banks withhold sale amid biting sanctions. • Gunmen torch NATO Afghanistan-bound supply convoy blocked by Pakistan after US attack kills three soldiers. • Iran seeks computer wizards to exorcize cyber worm marauding through its systems.
Iran is bent on avenging cyber attack, raising military tensions
1 Oct. Tehran is bent on military action to settle scores with Israel and the US whom it suspects of planting the malignant Stuxnet cyber worm in the controls of its nuclear, military and strategic systems, debkafile reports. The timeline for action revolves around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Lebanon Oct. 13-14, during which he plans to tour the Israeli border. Preying on Tehran too are the personal sanctions Barack Obama has imposed on its top brass. In its latest issue, DEBKA-Net-Weekly reported Friday, Oct. 1 that when Assad and Ahmadinejad last met in Damascus on Sept. 18, three days after the malworm surfaced, the Iranian president warned that his country would retaliate for the cyber attack by military means. Its allies, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas were advised to prepare for Israel taking the opportunity to attack them. Washington got involved Wednesday, Sept. 29, when President Barack Obama signed an executive order imposing sanctions on eight top Iranian officials, accusing them of serious human rights abuses, including the killing, torture, beating and rape of Iranian citizens since the country's disputed 2009 presidential election. DEBKA-Net-Weekly noted that this was the first time Washington had singled out top-flight Iranian military and security personages for personal penalties and imposed them without reference to Iran's nuclear program.
October 2, 2010 Briefs • Iran's intel minister Moslehi claims "nuclear spies" arrested to "block destructive enemy moves". He said: Enemy has sent electronic worms to undermine Iran's nuclear activities. But Iran is capable of rapidly detecting and taking measures to counter all enemy's destructive moves in cyberspace. debkafile: It was a face-saver to cover up Tehran's inability to combat the Stuxnet cyber invasion. • Assad arrives in Tehran for talks with supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. • Mitchell returns to Jerusalem next week after weekend trips to Gulf states, Cairo and Amman. He hopes to drum up help for salvaging Israel-Palestinian talks. • PLO Executive approves Abbas decision to quit talks with Israel over settlement construction. Arab League foreign ministers postpone next Monday's meeting on issue.
Palestinian "no" to talks faces strong US, Egyptian, Saudi objections
2 Oct. Saturday, Oct. 2, the PLO Executive Committee gave Mahmoud Abbas the mandate he requested for breaking off the US-sponsored "direct talks" with Israel until all Jewish construction ceases on the West Bank and Jerusalem. debkafile's Middle East sources report however that this negative is neither total nor final because it will be found unacceptable in Washington, Cairo and Riyadh. He has therefore left the door partly open to more diplomacy. The Saudi royal mouthpiece Asharq Al-Awsat crowned Mahmoud Abbas on Sept. 29 the "most inept diplomat of 2010," a dubious honor he is said to have earned by simultaneously meeting Israeli and Hamas objectives, i.e. the breakdown of talks and resumption of settlement construction. Egyptian foreign minister Aboul Gheit in an interview Thursday took Abbas to task for focusing on settlement construction instead of the far more important issue of the final borders of a future Palestinian state, thereby putting the cart before the horse.
US expands Afghan war arena into NW Pakistan (update)
2 Oct. Has the nine-year deal for Pakistan to serve US-led NATO forces as their primary logistics and supply base run aground? Tempers are running high in Islamabad since US officials intimated that additional remote-controlled aircraft and helicopters from other Afghan sectors were brought in to strengthen the major new front opening up against Taliban strongholds in Pakistan's North Waziristan. Pakistan blocked NATO Afghanistan-bound convoys at the frontier after a US helicopter mistakenly killed 3 Pakistani border troops. Still, debkafile's military sources do not rule out the US drive into North Waziristan escalating into ground incursions going especially after the Haqqani network. Gen. David Petraeus decided to escalate the cross-frontier campaign from drones to helicopters for destroying insurgent and terrorist concentrations in Pakistan's lawless North Waziristan province, debkafile's military sources report. The drones alone, accepted by Pakistan, have proved ineffective for demolishing large bases or catching insurgent forces on the move into Afghanistan or on their way back to their Pakistani havens. The Haqqani network has been preserved as Islamabad's trump card for guaranteeing Kabul is governed by a pro-Pakistan regime after US troops start pulling out of Afghanistan in August 2011.
October 3, 2010 Briefs • Twenty oil tankers bound for Afghanistan attacked on Pakistan side of border Sunday. • Palestinian killed climbing Jerusalem border fence with 15 others early Sunday. He was shot dead trying to grab a policeman's sidearm. • French man suspected al Qaeda member arrested last month in Naples. • Israeli military court convicts two soldiers for sending Palestinian boy to search bags during Gaza battles last January. They were convicted of risking the boy's life and unbecoming conduct. The two were supported by their unit whose members sported T-shirts with slogan: "We are victims of Goldstone Report". • US State Dept. alerts citizens to potential for terrorist attacks in Europe.
Russian experts flee Iranian dragnet for cyber worm source
3 Oct. debkafile's intelligence sources report from Iran that dozens of Russian nuclear engineers, technicians and contractors are hurriedly departing Iran for home with their families since local intelligence authorities began rounding up their compatriots as suspects of planting the Stuxnet malworm into their nuclear program. Among them are Russian personnel who built Iran's first nuclear reactor at Bushehr which Tehran admits has been damaged by the virus. One of the Russian nuclear staffers, questioned in Moscow Sunday, Oct. 3 by Western sources said he and his colleagues intend to return to Iran if the trouble blows over and the detainees are quickly released after questioning. According to our sources, these detentions were the source of the announcement Saturday, Oct. 2, by Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi that several "nuclear spies" had been captured, in Tehran's first admission that its entire nuclear program had been affected.
October 4, 2010 Briefs • Israel's supreme court rules Irish pro-Palestinian activist Mairead Maguire be deported without delay. She was accused to taking the law into her own hands by ignoring a previous deportation order issued against her for disseminating anti-Israel propaganda. • (Res) Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, former OC Central Command, named new deputy chief of staff under incoming Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant. • Small leak in storage pool holding fuel - not computer worm - delays Bushehr reactor start-up, says Iran's nuclear chief Ali Salehi Monday. He added problem has been fixed but later statement from Tehran said the reactor would not go online before next spring. • Five German Muslims among eight killed by US drone strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan Monday. It came day after US and UK alert against terror attack in Europe originating in Pakistan. Alert remains in force. • Ahmadinejad on US: May the undertaker bury you, your table and body which has soiled the world. • Six killed when Taliban attacked 20 oil tankers bound for Afghanistan on Pakistan side of border Sunday. More than 60 NATO trucks destroyed since Pakistan closed Khyber Pass to NATO traffic. • Joint Israeli-Palestinian probe of arson attack at village between Hebron and Bethlehem. Hebrew graffiti left on walls. Neighboring rabbis visit village to condole for attack bring new Korans to replaced damaged volumes. Imam decides to distribute them among Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails.
Hizballah told to grab Lebanese power centers right after Ahmadinejad visit
4 Oct. The Iranian and Syrian presidents agreed in Tehran Saturday, Oct. 2, to support Hizballah's grab of Lebanon's power centers, including the capital Beirut, right after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ends his controversial two-day visit to the country on October 13-14. They also decided to harass the Saad Hariri government as long as it refuses to dissolve the UN tribunal probing the Hariri murder - or is overthrown. As part of this Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah master plan, President Assad Sunday, Oct. 3 referred to the former Lebanese head of internal security Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed - a list of 33 international and Lebanese individuals against whom the Syrian prosecutor general had issued arrest warrants on charges of false testimony in the UN probe of the Hariri murder. On that list are the first UN investigating prosecutor of the Hariri probe, Detlev Mehlis and his deputy, Gerhard Lehmann, who found evidence of high-placed Syrian complicity in the crime. Syria also wants the two Lebanese judges serving on the special tribunal arrested, together with most members of the Lebanese judiciary, the heads of Lebanese security and intelligence services, leaders of the anti-Assad opposition parties in Syria, especially the exiled former vice president Abdul Halim Khaddam.
October 5, 2010 Briefs • France arrests 14 Muslim suspects and seizes weapons in anti-terror raids in southern towns of Marseille, Aubagne, Marignane and Bordeaux. • International and Arab concerns over possible assassination attempt against Lebanese PM Saad Hariri. The Kuwaiti Al-Rai runs report from US sources. • Another Afghanistan-bound NATO fuel truck attacked Tuesday at Pakistani border. This was fifth attack on NATO convoy since Islamabad blocked passage Thursday. • Times Square would-be bomber Faisal Shahzad sentenced to life in prisonTuesday. • Reflecting world trend, dollar-shekel rate keeps on sinking and hits lowest level in two years.
Growing skepticism over US terror alert for Europe
5 Oct. debkafile's counter-terror sources are increasingly uncomfortable with and skeptical of the imprecise American terror alert for Europe that was issued Oct. 3 by the US State Department. They commented Tuesday, Oct. 5, that the blanket US call for US travelers to watch out for terrorists in public places and tourist sites has little relation to their own data on existing terrorist threats. Even the countries which have raised their level of terror alert, such as France, Japan and Sweden, have not received specific data from Washington confirming reports of an imminent attack. The "Kilowatt Group" for international cooperation among intelligence services on counterterrorism has received no fresh updates on the US-sourced alert. And Jerusalem, usually hypersensitive to any hint of terrorism afoot, has issued no advisories to Israeli travelers, embassies or businesses or Jewish institutions in Europe. The only country which confirms an imminent terrorist threat is France, which is embroiled in battles with North African Al Qaeda and which Monday, Oct. 4 staged two anti-terror raids in southern France and arrested 14 suspects with weapons.
October 6, 2010 Briefs • US ambassador apologizes to Islamabad government for helicopter strike that killed 3 Pakistani soldiers. • Afghan police seize 20 tons of explosives in boxes marked "food, toys and kitchenware" imported from Iran. • The Imam of Nazareth's central mosque is detained on suspicion of ties with a terrorist organization. • France warns its citizens to beware of terrorist attacks in Britain where alert is high. • A French man seriously hurt in shooting at Austrian oil compound in Sanaa after British embassy convoy was attacked. • US notifies Lebanon it is opposed to Ahmadinejad visit to Beirut and S, Lebanon on Oct. 13. • Taliban gunmen attack on 20 Afghanistan-bound NATO oil tankers killing one driver near SW Pakistan town of Quetta early Wednesday. This was sixth attack on NATO convoys since Pakistan blocked their passage.
Israel releases 1973 War papers to warn Syria, Hizballah off Beirut
6 Oct. By releasing the 1973 Yom Kippur War papers now, Jerusalem signaled Bashar Assad that his capital could be in peril if Syria and Hizballah go through with their plot against the Hariri government in Beirut. The papers reveal that 37 years ago, Israel's late Prime Minister Golda Meir denied defense minister Moshe Dayan and IDF chief David Elazar permission to bomb Damascus before and after Syrian and Egyptian forces advanced towards Israel at the war's outset. The documents were released on Oct. 6 after the Obama administration failed to prevent a visit to Lebanon by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or deter Iran and Syria from planning to send Hizballah's militia against the power centers of the Hariri government in Beirut.
October 7, 2010 Briefs • Eight killed 50 injured in two explosions at Sufi shrine in Karachi, southern Pakistan. • Taliban destroys more than 40 NATO supply vehicles in two separate attacks in Pakistan Wednesday. • Moscow: Russia, Iran in talks on compensation for cancellation of S-300 air defense missile sale to Iran. • Israel's central bank buys $500 million in attempt to halt dollar's calamitous slide against shekel Thursday to 1$/NIS3.57 - the lowest in two years. • Three Israeli air strikes hit three targets in Gaza City Wednesday night after two missiles fired into Israel. Palestinians report four people injured. • Appointments by incoming Chief of Staff Gen. Galant: Senior aide - Col. Yehuda Fuchs, head of Officers School. Chief of bureau - Lt. Col, Ariel Ben Dayan, head of Counter-terror unit. • Netanyahu: Equal civil rights of minorities will not be affected by proposed law amendment requiring new citizens to declare loyalty to Jewish Democratic State. The amendment comes before the next cabinet meeting for approval. He stressed that the ball for talks was in the Palestinian court. Israel had met all its obligations.
Iranian Guards, flags capture S. Lebanon for Ahmadinejad visit
7 Oct. US diplomat Fred Hof is due in Beirut Thursday, Oct. 7, for a last White House bid to get Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Lebanon cancelled. debkafile's sources say he is too late. With six days to go, Beirut and South Lebanon up to the Israeli border have become Ahmadinejad-land, taken over by an estimated 2,500 Revolutionary Guards special officers airlifted in and covered in Iranian flags. The Iranian president planned his visit to climax with him throwing rocks into Israel from the Fatma Gate opposite the Israeli town of Metullah. Gen. Qasim Sulaimani, commander of the Al Qods Brigades. arrived in Lebanon secretly to take charge of the security preparations for the visit. Wafiq Safa, head of Hizballah' Special Security unit is acting as his deputy with 5,000 Hizballah commando fighters under his command. The event's high point, our sources report, will be the joint appearance of Ahmadinejad and Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in his first public appearance in the flesh in the four years since he fled to a Beirut bunker after the 2006 war with Israel.