A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Two Weeks Ending Dec. 31, 2009

Indian-US ties soured by suspicion that Chicago terror operative was US double agent


18 Dec. David Headley, the Chicagoan arrested in October for suspected involvement in the Mumbai terrorist siege and plots against other countries, may have been a double agent for the al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Lashkar e-Taibe and US intelligence. This suspicion is severely straining relations between New Delhi and Washington. debkafile's counter-terror sources report New Delhi suspects the CIA knew in advance about the Mumbai attack, in which 177 people died and 500 were injured, and were aware of Headley's links with its LeT perpetrators, al Qaeda's operational arm in Pakistan, but omitted to forewarn Indian authorities for fear of touching off a military showdown between India and Pakistan.

Israel was not tipped off either although the Chabad Center of Mumbai, where six people were killed, was a special target


Netanyahu gives Obama more time to spin out dialogue with Iran


19 Dec. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave the US president another six months for diplomacy without the threat of military action when they met at the White House November 9. The first six months' grace runs out at the end of Dec. 2009. The second ends in mid-2010.

The US president has offered new inducements for calling off its military nuclear program:

1. Penalties approved by Congress for firms selling Iran gasoline were put on hold.

2. The deployment of precision-guided, 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator or "bunker buster" bomb (developed specifically for the nuclear facilities Iran and North Korea have sunk deep under ground) was postponed for six months.

Tehran, now given more than a year to play with, reciprocated by test-firing an improved Sejil 2 missile capable of penetrating US and Israeli anti-missile defense shields, signed a new military pact with Syria, invaded an Iraqi oil field and had its hackers fill Twitter's home page with anti-US slogans.


Lebanon repudiates UN 1559 resolution outlawing Hizballah terror militia


23 Dec. Lebanon has repudiated UN Security Council resolution 1559 which in 2004 ordered all militias including Hizballah disbanded and disarmed. The announcement came two days after Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki visited Beirut and shortly after Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri met Syrian president Bashar Assad.

According to debkafile's military sources, Mottaki's visit was devoted to discussing with Lebanese leaders, including Hizballah heads, Beirut's possible attachment to the new Iranian-Syrian mutual defense pact signed last Thursday, Dec. 10 in Damascus. Its terms deal with the coordinated steps the two nations will pursue in the event of an Israel attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.


December 24, 2009 Briefs

  • A group of 15 Israelis wounded in Palestinian missile attacks seek Belgian war crimes arrest warrants for Hamas leaders. They name Khaled Meshaal, Ismail Haniiya, Mahmoud Zahar, Ahmed Jaabari.
  • Pro-Palestinian groups have sought arrest of Israeli leaders in UK, Spain, Belgium.
  • Substantial oil strike at Rosh HaAyain Aviv in densely populated area 18 km east of Tel Aviv.
  • India and Israel agree on joint program for developing new ground-to-ground missile.
  • Russia successfully test-fires SS-18 Satan missile capable of carrying 10 warheads.
  • Ahmadinejad says capitalism is collapsing, Iran has leading role in forming world's order.

US drones wipe out top Arabian al Qaeda leaders in Yemen


24 Dec. debkafile's counter-terror sources report that the air strike in eastern Yemen Thursday, Dec. 24, which left more than 30 dead, was in fact a US drone attack which wiped out a large part of al Qaeda's leadership in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Among them were two high-ranking al Qaeda operatives Saud al Qahtani, Mohammed Amir and al Qaeda's commander in Saudi Arabia, Saad Shahani as well as Anwar al Awkali, the American mentor of US. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the gunman who murdered 13 US military personnel at the Ford Hood, Texas last month. Nasser al-Wahishi, al Qaeda commander-in-chief in the Arabian Peninsula escaped harm.


Egypt, Saudi Arabia secretly draft Palestinian state motion for Security Council


24 Dec. debkafile's Middle East sources report that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates and the Palestinian Authority are secretly drafting a UN Security Council motion granting Palestinian statehood within the pre-1967 war borders of the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jerusalem its capital.


Greek admiral's visit signifies deepening military ties with Israel


25 Dec. The strategic and military ties between Greece and Israel are deepening in reverse proportion to Turkey's estrangement from Israel and its growing closeness to Iran and Syria. Significantly, when the commander of the Greek Navy, Vice Admiral G. Karamalikis visited Israel earlier this month, he was given a rare red carpet. He was even taken by Israeli Navy chief Vice Adm. Eli Marum on unusual tours of the top-secret INS Dolphin Type 800 submarine and the Saar V class INS Eilat 501 corvette.


IDF blockades Palestinian Tulkarm after terrorists murder rabbi


25 Dec. Israeli forces placed the Palestinian West Bank town of Tulkarm under blockade Thursday night, Dec. 24, after Palestinian terrorists murdered Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, 45, father of seven, in a drive-by attack on his car close to his home in Shavei Shomron. He died of a head wound shortly after his car was hit by 10 bullets. The Fatah suicide wing, al Aqsa Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack.

A senior IDF officer told debkafile that the cooperative ties Palestinian, American and Israeli security forces and intelligence arms have developed over the past year face their first critical test.


Israeli forces kill rabbi's three Fatah murderers in Nablus, 3 would-be infiltrators from Gaza


26 Dec. Early Saturday, Dec. 26, an Israeli special force went into the West Bank town of Nablus and killed Ghasen Abu Sharaf, Raad Sukarj and Banan Suboh, leading members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the suicide-military wing of Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah. All three were implicated in the drive-by shooting murder of Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai Thursday night (Dec. 24) on a West Bank highway near his home at Shavei Shomron. Two were wanted for terrorist activity and one had been amnestied by Israel against a pledge to abstain from violence. A fourth suspect turned himself in to Palestinian security forces.

Although the Brigades owned up to the murder, Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of "a war crime.

Israel acted after Palestinian security forces failed to meet their obligation to catch the murderers and hand them over.


The Rich Jihadi Proved Western Anti-Terror Measures Don't Work


27 Dec. If the British Richard Reid goes down in terror history as "the shoe bomber" who failed to crash a US airliner over LA in 2001, Abdulmuttallab may be remembered as the Rich Jihadi, the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker and ex-minister, the second millionaire-terrorist to follow in the footsteps of the first, Osama bin Laden.

His statement contradicted US attempts to play down the incident by claiming he was a loner.

Al Qaeda's record since its first attempt to blow up New York's Twin Towers in 1993 is remarkably consistent; its planners have deviated very little from their methods of operation or their targets and remain fixated on their primary goal of smashing America as the Western world's superpower by destroying its cities using the airliner as their primary weapon of mass destruction.

Just as stubbornly, Western counter-terror agencies, while armed with the most advanced especially developed technology for fighting terrorists and astronomical budgets, play down al Qaeda's potency and resolve.

Osama bin Laden is in no hurry, but he will not rest until he attains his objectives and corrects the young Nigerian's fiasco.


December 28, 2009 Briefs

  • Central bank governor raises Israeli interest 0.25% to 1.25% Jan 1, 2010.
  • Kadima unanimously rejects PM Netanyahu's invitation to join government coalition.
  • Defense minister Barak: Iran will have enough technology, materials for nuke within one year.
  • At least 40 killed in two suicide bombings of Shiite procession in Karachi, Pakistan.
  • UN peacekeepers find large explosives cache near Khiam, 8 km from Lebanese-Israel border.
  • Nine terrorist bands intercepted on West Bank in last six months – five by Palestinian security, four by Israel.
  • Israel's social gap widened in 2008 as top income level earned more, bottom level less and middle class shrank.

Iran reels toward popular counter-revolution


28 Dec. debkafile's Iranian sources reveal that Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew, Ali Habib, was not shot dead during a Tehran demonstration Sunday, Dec. 27, as reported, but waylaid and gunned down as he left his home. The current upsurge of violence across Iran is the most dangerous yet because for the first time demonstrators are turning round to attack security forces.

The most important flashpoint outside Tehran is Isfahan in central Iran, because it is the birthplace of the late Grand Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, the dissidents' spiritual mentor. His death a week ago spurred the current wave of unrest and gave the protesters their first spiritual icon for their struggle. Although dead and departed, Montazeri has the rallying power missing from their sputtering demonstrations of the last six months.


Egypt reinforces Gaza blockade by flooding tunnels, electronic fence


28 Dec. Cairo has stepped up its siege measures against the Hamas-ruled Gaza. To cut off its smuggling routes through Sinai, Egypt is reinforcing the wall of iron plates embedded along the Philadelphi border of the southern Gaza Strip with a new pipe for flooding the smuggling tunnels with Mediterranean water. It is also building an electronic fence.

Cairo is expected by our sources to present Israel with the bill for these unprecedented measures when Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak meets Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Cairo Tuesday, Dec. 29. Our sources expect the price tag to come in the form of further concessions to Hamas' arch enemy, the Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas to tempt him to return to the negotiating table with Israel after holding back for a year.


December 29, 2009 Briefs

  • Intelligence report says Iran is seeking to smuggle 1,350 tons of uranium from Kazakhstan.
  • Hamas' Osama Hamdan threatens to kidnap more soldiers to soften Israel's offer for Gilead Shalit. Hamas missiles can now reach Tel Aviv from Gaza, he said.
  • Shin Bet chief Diskin: The release of hard-core terrorists will ignite a fresh Palestinian war from the West Bank.
  • London outraged by Chinese execution by lethal injection of British subject sentenced for drug smuggling.
  • Obama's spokesman says Jerusalem issue must be settled in negotiations for final-status peace. Israel and Palestinians urged to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.
  • Israeli High Court opens central Israel-Jerusalem highway 443 to Palestinian travel. Government given five months to put security measures in place. Until closed to Palestinian traffic, Highway 443 was plagued with Palestinian drive-by shooters.
  • More Iranian arrests Tuesday include sister of Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi and relative of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. 

Failed airliner attack was tardy wake-up call for spreading al Qaeda menace


29 Dec. debkafile's counter-terror sources note that in the past year, Washington was strangely deaf to Saudi, Egyptian and Yemeni warnings that al Qaeda had established itself in Yemen and gained a jumping-off base into the Arabian peninsula and across the strategic Gulf of Aden. The network was now directly linked from Yemeni shores to Osama bin Laden at his new headquarters in Pakistani Baluchistan.

Only two months ago, on Oct. 7, President Barack Obama told the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Virginia: "We're making real progress in our core mission – to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and other extremist networks around the world."

But three days before that speech, the FBI arrested the Chicagoan David Headley on charges of involvement in the terror massacre in Mumbai of November 2008. A month later, US Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan shot dead 13 comrades at the Fort Hood base in Texas. Federal investigators persist in refusing to call the crime an act of terror.

US intelligence and anti-terror machinery suffers from a serious disorder when it even failed to take up the Abdulmutallab family's warnings about their fanatical kinsman.

Eight years after 9/11 no one was yet connecting the dots.


Obama finally cites US systemic and human failure on Detroit plane attack


29 Dec. US president Barack Obama, delivering his second speech in 24 hours on the failed airliner attack said: "Data was not shared and a systemic failure occurred. I consider that totally unacceptable." He stressed: "It is my job to ensure our intelligence and homeland security departments are working efficiently and people are made accountable."


December 30, 2009 Briefs 

  • British hostage Peter Moore freed and handed over in Baghdad, last of five captured in May 2007. The other four are dead or missing.
  • Dutch interior minister: Detroit bombing attack was planned professionally, executed amateurishly. Holland, Nigeria to start using full body scans for US flights.
  • Obama wants a report by Thursday about what went wrong with Nigerian plane episode. Major shakeup of security services expected.
  • At least 24 killed, 100 hurt, in twin suicide bombing attacks Wednesday in Iraqi town of Ramadi. The governor of western Iraq's Anbar province was among the dead.
  • US intelligence: The CIA started tracking the Nigerian airline bomber in August.
  • Hizballah as well as Hamas operatives killed in Saturday's car bombing in Beirut.
  • Israeli Value Added Tax cut by a half percent to 16%. 

Iran's opposition leaders Mousavi and Karoubi may have fled Tehran for their lives


30 Dec. The huge pro-government demonstrations whipped up by the Iranian regime Wednesday, Dec. 30 shouted "Death to Mousavi, Karoubi and Khatami!" At nightfall, the waiting crowds learned from the national news agency: "Two of the chiefs of the sedition left Tehran for the north of Iran after learning that the population was increasingly angry and demanding their punishment."

Their relatives denied this, saying that both are still in Tehran but did not specify whether they were free or in custody. The gunning down of Mousavi's nephew earlier this week instilled the fear that top opposition leaders were in danger of their lives. If they are in custody, they face trial for treason against God and the Islamic regime, charges which carry the death sentence.


December 31, 2009 Briefs 

  • Two Grad rockets fired from Gaza explode outside the Israeli town of Netivot Thursday night.
  • Tuesday, defense minister Ehud Barak praised the calm prevailing in the year since Israel's Cast Lead Operation in the Gaza Strip.
  • Panetta confirms 7 CIA agents killed, 6 injured by suicide bomber at Operating Base Chapman in eastern Afghan province of Khost Wednesday. Taliban claimed responsibility for attack.
  • Two French journalists kidnapped by Taliban in Afghanistan with translator and driver.
  • Iranian Revolutionary Guards special units backed by tanks enter Tehran. No word on three opposition leaders missing since Wednesday. debkafile's sources believe they are in custody.
  • US warns of possible terrorist attack on New Year parties on Indonesian island of Bali
  • More than 200 people have died in two past attacks on Bali.
  • Four Canadian soldiers and a Canadian journalist died when their convoy hit a roadside bomb just outside Kandahar.
  • Egyptian FM Gheit says Israel must pay Hamas price for Gilead Shalit because Palestinians in a stronger position.
  • Police release17-year old suspected of involvement in arson attack on West Bank mosque after proving a complete alibi. He is one of six children orphaned by terrorist murder of Rabbi Binyamin and Talya Cahane in 2000.
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