DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 21, 2005
21 June: By Monday night, June 20, rumors were swirling around Tehran that Iran's non-elected strongman, Ayatollah Ali Khameni had found a way of rigging the presidential election. Round one took place last Friday, June 17, and the run-off is scheduled for Friday, June 24. The favorite, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, barely pulled ahead of a contestant who popped up out of the blue, the extremist Tehran mayor Mahmud Ahmadinez. He faces him again on Friday.
Rafsanjani, speaking of a "tarnished" election, was not alone. The Guardian Council was forced by more such accusations to allow a recount of 100 randomly selected vote boxes in between rounds.
debkafile's Iranian experts maintain that "spiritual ruler" Khameini would never have left the presidential election to chance. A special brew must have been cooked up in his bureau for a near nonentity like Ahmadinez to pick up 5.7 million votes compared with the charismatic former president Rafsanjani's 6.1 million ballots.
Reformist candidate Dr. Mostafa Mo-In, who came in fifth, accused the all-powerful body of spending millions to mobilize hundreds of thousands of Islamic militiamen to get a hardliner president voted in. By any true standards, Mo-In should have done much better in a country where half the electorate is under 30 and pining for a better life and democratic liberties.
Another complainer was former majlis speaker Hojjat-ol Eslam Mahdi Karrubi, a reformist candidate widely expected to place second. He was blunter than Mo-In, charging a general call-up had been arranged on voting day for Revolutionary Guards officers, men and reservists who were sent to cast their ballots for the Tehran mayor.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 8, 2005
The most significant feature of the four-way summit that took place on Tuesday, February 8, at the Egyptian Red Sea resort to Sharm el-Sheikh, was that it was the first time in Israel's 57 years' life that one of its leaders was asked to join three Arab rulers at any forum without outside mediators or an international aegis. The key to this unique event was embodied in President George W. Bush's directive Thursday night, February 3, to secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, not to show up at the Middle East summit. The European Union followed her lead, as did Arab leaders who planned to attend like the King of Morocco, the emir of Qatar and the Tunisian president. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, the newly-elected Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas - Abu Mazen, Jordan's King Abdullah and their beaming host, President Hosni Mubarak, were thus thrown together alone and confronted with the task of forging a form of accord.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 21, 2004
Shortly before the October 7 Sinai bombings at Taba and Nueiba, inhabitants of the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat noticed some strange goings-on across the bay in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba. The answer to the riddle was not long coming. One morning, they awoke to the sight of an enormous flag flying from a 136 meter- (446 foot) high pole. The flag, measuring 80 meters (262 feet) by 44 meters (144 feet), was almost the size of an American football field, a towering presence even against the backdrop of the 1,200 meter (3,900 feet) -high mountains behind Aqaba. It was the flag of the Hashemites. Through the many upheavals and disasters visited on them, the Hashemites never gave up their claim of common descent with the Prophet or their vision of returning to their roots, the Hijaz, now the western Red Sea province of Saudi Arabia.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 13, 2004
The Israeli government is getting ready to offer down payments to voluntary evacuees from 21 Gaza settlements and four West Bank locations that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon plans to remove by the end of 2005. This move is designed to stimulate departures and jump the gun on two major delaying factors: the cabinet only approved the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement outline; voting on settlement removals is not due until March 2005 and then it will be piecemeal. Secondly, compensation to departing settlers entails long and tiresome legislation, whereas down payments do not. Broad hints that the first comers will get the best deal have been thrown out already. The bargaining is clearly about to begin.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 22, 2004
A shrinking elite of Arab rulers gathered for their delayed annual summit in Tunis Saturday, May 22, amid a shared sense that it might be their last. Out of 22 Arab League members, thirteen were represented by gloomy heads of state and three by prime ministers. The others sent junior representatives instead of attending for what used to be a striking demonstration of unity and strength by a powerful world bloc. Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi stayed half an hour into the opening session, then got up and left. He thus showed his opinion of the occasion that was grandly billed as a show of regional unity on the occupation of Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and political reform in the Arab world.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 18, 2004
Manmade barriers are springing up around the Middle East at points where manmade conflicts are most intractable. Be they security fences, earthworks, moated ramparts, steel walls, razor wire - or combinations thereof, their purpose is to apply division and separation to breaking up difficulties into manageable elements. Will this device work? Some think it's worth a try. Israeli forces who drove into the southern Gaza Strip town of the terrorist hotbed of Rafah's Tel Sultan early Tuesday, May 18, came with giant engineering corps bulldozers. Earth banks were speedily thrown up to isolate from their environment the spaces in which Israeli armored and infantry units are hunting for wanted terrorists, cut off their escape routes and provide perches for Israeli snipers lying in wait for escapees.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 28, 2004
The partial reports filtering out of Damascus indicate that the large-scale terrorist attack carried out Tuesday night, April 27, in the al Maza diplomatic quarter of the Syrian capital - a simultaneous car bomb, machine gun, grenade, rocket assault on several targets that set UN offices on fire and singled out the Canadian embassy - has brought the encroaching global terror warfront dangerously close to Israel. Earlier on the same day, the new Saudi network leader, Abdulaziz al-Muqrin, on a newly-released audio tape threatened fiercer than ever attacks this year against "the Jews, the Americans and the Crusaders." He promised that Saudi Arabia would not be able to protect US interests. But "the Jews" topped his list of targets.
Al Qaeda Goes Regional: Basra, Riyadh Bomb Blasts Coordinated with Thwarted Chemical Strike in Amman
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 21, 2004
The horrifying homicide bomb blasts that hit four police facilities and two school buses in the British-controlled south Iraqi port of Basra and the Saudi General Security building in Riyadh on Wednesday, April 21 were part of a wider al Qaeda plot. debkafile's counter-terror sources reveal that for the first time since the September 11 attacks in the United States, Osama bin Laden's network is operating on a regional scale. Its original plot included Amman and the Adam border crossing from Jordan into Israel and the West Bank. These two targets were singled out for al Qaeda's first chemical attack, which Jordanian security authorities foiled earlier this month.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 17, 2004
According to debkafile's political analysts, the US and British leaders suddenly developed their enthusiasm for the Sharon plan when they saw it is mostly about withdrawal, not really unilateral and contains only a marginal disengagement quotient. It looked very much like an opportunity to transpose a version of the Iraqi coalition into the Palestinian-Israeli sphere. This transposition, as put to him by the British prime minister, convinced the US president to drop his objections to the Sharon plan and embrace it in an epic U-turn. The Iraq analogy, rather than concern for Sharon's political survival, was behind his two affirmations, for the first time by any US president, that "major population centers" on the West Bank have created new realities, and that the resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem must be in a Palestinian state rather than Israel. Neither Bush nor Blair minds Sharon capitalizing on their support for gains at home. Even the Likud poll is useful for concentrating Israeli and Palestinian minds until it is too late to change certain facts. Hence Sharon's blitz campaign to get as much as possible done before people wake up.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 13, 2004
US president George W. Bush's appointment book for the remainder of April reflects a Middle East without Iraq. Two days after seeing Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Crawford on Monday, April 12, he meets Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in Washington and Abdullah King of Jordan on Friday, April 21. No Iraqi leader joins the procession of Middle East visitors because no suitable prime minister for the new federal republic of Iraq is so far visible. Although Bush would have preferred to devote the week to the crisis besetting Iraq, he cannot cancel visits that were scheduled before the April 3 outbreak of Iraq hostilities. This seems to indicate a lack of intelligence forewarning. The White House must have been warned in general terms that a Sunni-Shiite spring offensive was in the offing - but without a date and word of the tactical coordination forged between the radical Shiite Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi Army militia and the Al Farouk Battalions, which is made up mainly of crack troops of Saddam's old Special Republican Guards plus some al Qaeda elements.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 10, 2003
Pressure from the Bush administration is getting to Syrian President Bashar Assad. It is catching him wrong-footed in mid-maneuver for the rejuvenation of his antiquated government while fending off popular disaffection. These days, he never misses an opportunity to labor to foreign visitors that Syria and Lebanon should have a "road map to peace" just like the Israelis and the Palestinians. In other words, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's willingness to promise the Palestinians a state of their own by 2005 ahead of negotiations, ought to be translated into a comparable advance Israeli pledge to return the Golan to Syria.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 25, 2003
What has led Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to fit unreservedly into America's geo-strategic box for the postwar Middle East? What has President George W. Bush promised him for saying yes to the Middle East road map, a document that no one except its authors believes in? What role is assigned the Palestinians? And how much will it cost Israel? Sharon was offered three main incentives:First-America's systematic disarmament of Israel's most dangerous enemies has been built into the Bush master-plan - Iraq first; shortly, an attempt to dissolve Iran's nuclear weapons option (see separate article on this page), followed by steps to eliminate Syria's missile systems and weapons of mass destruction and the Hizballah's military capabilities. In the long term, Washington will almost certainly aim at cutting short the development of Egyptian and Libyan N-bombs.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 10, 2003
After undergoing several metamorphoses since its formulation by the Quartet, the Middle East road map looks rather like a skimpy blanket pulled over Ariel Sharon, Colin Powell, Bashar Assad, Abu Mazen and Yasser Arafat while each keeps to his own bed. Saturday, May 10, the blanket was whisked away, draining of its structural content the heralded visit by US secretary of state Powell to Israel and the Palestinians. Correspondingly, the regional context of his trip swelled in importance, its focus switching from the Israel-Palestinian conflict over to US relations with Iran, Syria and Lebanon - a higher priority in the post-Iraq war period.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 1, 2003
The long-awaited road map charted by the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union was presented without fanfare to the Israeli and Palestinian governments on Wednesday, April 30, only 16 hours after a suicide bomber killed three people and injured 60 at Mike's Place, a seafront Blues club near the US embassy in Tel Aviv. With an eye toward placating an Arab world angered by the US war in Iraq and propping up Washington's main ally, British prime minister Tony Blair, President George W. Bush made good on his promise to hand the peace plan to both sides once the Palestinians' first prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas aka Abu Mazen took office. debkafile's diplomatic sources are beginning to believe that the road map has so many obstacles stacked up against it that it may in the end lead nowhere.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 2, 2003
Ariel Sharon's second government held its first cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, March 2. This is most probably his last term of office as prime minister. Barring an early election before the 16th Knesset runs full term, he expects to bow out in 2007. Above and beyond the urgent task of salvaging Israel's battered economy, Sharon has set himself four long-term goals:
1. Determining Israel's permanent frontiers
This objective Sharon hopes to achieve in partnership with US president George W. Bush, with whom he enjoys a close rapport. In expectation of the US-led war against Iraq and Saddam Hussein's overthrow being but one tile in America's redesigned ethno-geopolitical mosaic for the Middle East and Persian Gulf - as debkafile has been reporting for more than a year - he expects Israel's frontiers with regard to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to be part and parcel of the wholesale transformation of an entire world region. An American victory might even stretch Israel's frontiers, not shrink them, as dictated in every peace plan put forward to date.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 2, 2002
Every few weeks, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak tells Israel it must resume negotiations with the Palestinians that will lead them to a state. But on Sunday, December 1, he went a lot further. Addressing a Muslim clerical group in Cairo at an occasion marking the final prayer of the Ramadan holy month, he declared that international terror is not religious; nor is it the fault of Muslims or Arabs, but their reaction to political injustices meted out by the "international community".
The Egyptian leader thus became the first Arab leader to say out loud what every Arab and Muslim ruler believes - that Islamic terror, including suicide homicides, is a justified means of venting their sense of injustice towards the non-Muslim world.
Mubarak is not just talking. He is in the middle of political action, hauling out the Israeli-Palestinian issue and providing his auspices for a so-called attempt to draw Arafat's Fatah and the fundamentalist Hamas into an accord for ceasing their campaign of murder inside Israel, the pre-requisite for renewed Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.
Under cover of this internationally lauded initiative, Mubarak has a quite different - if not opposite - agenda, as revealed in the latestDEBKA-Net-Weekly.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 12, 2002
For Yasser Arafat, suicide attacks in Kibbutz Metzer, at the Karkur Junction or on Jerusalem's Jaffa Street are not enough. In the last few hours, reports have reached debkafile's military and intelligence sources that the three thousands Jordanian special forces and police, after sealing off the southern towns of Ma'an and Kerak for three days and battling local Islamic zealots, are closing in on their quarry: the assassins who shot dead the senior American diplomat, Lawrence Foley, on his doorstep in Amman on October 28, and their dispatchers. The wanted men include Iraqi military intelligence agents and Palestinian members of the Arab Liberation Front, whose leader, Abul Abbas, has his headquarters in Baghdad.
The diplomat, a senior USAID administrator, was shot dead by a professional marksman who fired 8 bullets from a silenced weapon.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 4, 2002
This week, two Egyptian TV channels begin running an extravagantly-produced serial based on the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Jewish document fabricated by the Tsar's secret police in the early 20th century and decisively judged a forgery by historians. It will be aired nightly during the peak viewing period of the Muslim Ramadan, by two Egyptian channels - Dream TV, a private satellite channel, and the state-run Channel 2.
debkafile's Middle East sources report "The Horse without Horseman" was produced by Arab Radio and Television of Saudi Arabia as an epic that was written, directed and played by Egyptians. It portrays the fictional Elders, the purported blueprint for Jewish global domination, as historical fact and, in a mishmash of periods, makes it also the guiding principle of Israeli policy. A director of the program says the series "is based on the history of Zionism".
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 21, 2002
Addressing the French speaking nations' summit that opened in Beirut Friday October 18, the first to take place in an Arab capital, French President Jacques Chirac made an important point: The war on terrorism, he said, should be fought "without mercy", yet conducted "with respect for human rights and the rule of law".
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 26, 2002
The construction of a new ring road around Damascus was the pretext for an outbreak of popular anti-government fury in the Syrian capital this week. Until now, stringent measures by the Syrian authorities have kept any hint of the unrest from leaking out.