A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending April 30, 2009

Iran canceled air show upon Russian warning of Israeli plan to destroy all 140 warplanes


24 April: debkafile's Iranian and intelligence sources disclose that Moscow warned Tehran Friday April 17 that Israel was planning to destroy all of its 140 fighter-bombers concentrated at the Mehr-Abad Air Force base for an air show over Tehran on Iran's Army Day the following day. The entire fleet was accordingly removed to remote bases and the display cancelled.

In the first week of April, Tehran announced it would stage its biggest air show ever to dramatize a ceremonial military parade in the capital on April 18. Iran would show the world that it is capable of fighting off an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities. Instead, only four aircraft flew over the saluting stand. Iranian media explained that the big show was cancelled due to “bad weather and poor visibility,” when in fact Tehran basked in warm and sunny weather.

Moscow had informed the Iranians that its spy satellites and intelligence sources had picked up preparations at Israeli Air Force bases to destroy the 140 warplanes, the bulk of the Iranian air force, on the ground the night before the display, leaving its nuclear sites without aerial defense. A similar operation wiped out the entire Egyptian air fleet in the early hours of the 1967 war.


Al Qaeda's roars back in Iraq against double target: US and Iranians


25 April: Hillary Clinton said in Baghdad Saturday, April 25, that the wave of suicide killings which accounted for more than 250 lives this month were “a tragic signal that Iraq was on the right path.” She said there would be no delay in the pullout of US troops from Iraq's main cities.

Many of the victims were Iranian pilgrims visiting Shiite shrines.

Friday, US Middle East commander Gen. David Petraeus told a House panel in Washington that attacks in Iraq will continue for some time and they may be the work of a network of foreign fighters from Tunisia.

According to debkafile's counter-terror sources, Al Qaeda is attempting a comeback in Iraq moving reinforcements in long-distance from its Maghreb (North African) branch.

By targeting Shiites and Iranian pilgrims, Osama bin Laden is warning Tehran and Washington that their unfolding bid to bracket their resources together for ending the Afghanistan and Pakistan conflicts will precipitate fresh trouble not only in those arenas, but also in Iraq.

Al Qaeda's recovery in Iraq has been boosted by the 100,000 commanders and fighters of the Awakening Councils, the strong arm of the US surge strategy for crushing al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents, having dropped out of the war. They are protesting mass detentions of their members on the orders of

Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki as US forces prepare to leave Iraq's main cities.


Unknown vessel destroys another Iranian arms ship bound for Gaza


26 April: An Iranian ship transporting arms to the Gaza Strip was destroyed off the Sudanese coast in the Red Sea last week, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Usbu (The Week) reported on Sunday. An unidentified warship launched missiles at the ship, sinking it with its crew and cargo. Quoting anonymous sources, the newspaper suspected Israeli or American forces were responsible for the attack.

The same sources said the ship was on course to dock in Sudan, where the weapons would be unloaded and eventually shipped to Gaza through Egypt.

Neither Iran, Israel, or the United States has commented.


NATO member Turkey and Syria hold first joint military exercise


26 April: The joint Turkish-Syrian land exercise begins on their border Monday, April 27, and lasts three days. debkafile's military sources stress that it is the first joint military maneuver any NATO member, including Turkey, has ever carried out with Syria. Washington's approval underscores its new policy of boosting the strength of the Syrian army as partner in a strong a three-way military coalition with Turkey and Lebanon.

It comes only four days after the Obama administration approved a large Turkish arms sale to the Lebanese army assigning Turkish military instructors to train Lebanese army units (half of whose personnel are Shiites sympathetic to Hizballah.)

The Obama administration's actions took place without informing Israel or taking into account its vital security interests. Israel's top security echelons are concerned and criticize the new Netanyahu government for taking too long to respond to the dire security setbacks piling up around its borders. They cannot wait until the prime minister meets Obama in the coming month. By then, he will be confronted with some unpalatable accomplished facts.


April 26 Brief


·        Palestinian captured for axe-murder of an Israeli boy, and wounding a second, at Bat-Ayin near Hebron on April 2. He confessed to a religious urge to become a shahid by murdering Israeli youths


Turkish-Syria exercise prompts Israeli review of sophisticated arms sales to Ankara


27 April: Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak commented Monday, April 27, that Turkey's decision to hold three days of military maneuvers with Syria was “disturbing.”

And that is not all. Monday or Tuesday the Turkish and Syrian defense ministers signed a protocol for cooperation in the defense industry. The two events were major landmarks in the continuing shrinkage of the old military and trading ties between Turkey and Israel. In 2009, Ankara cut those ties to $2.2 billion and expanded its trade with Syria to $2.6 billion.

Israel is hastening to slash its military exchanges with Turkey to prevent the leakage of military secrets to an avowed Arab enemy. Construction is discontinued on an Israeli Mark 3 Chariot plant in Turkey after Ankara began defaulting on payments for military purchases and other contracts. The sale of Israel's world class unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) has been stopped and its military ties with Turkey dating from the 1960s cut down sharply.


Israel flags at half mast on Memorial Day


27 April: Israel marked Memorial Day to honor 22,570 soldiers who gave their lives in defense of the country since 1860. The defense ministry reports that 133 soldiers and civilians died in the past year in military service or as civilian casualties of hostile attacks.

According to figures published each year by the national statistics bureau, the Israeli population increased in its 61st year to 7,411,000.

The breakdown remained at a steady 75.5 percent Jews, 20.2 percent Arabs, 4.3 percent others.


US envoy arrives in Middle East to allay fears of Arab rulers


28 April: Tuesday, April 28, US envoy Dennis Ross set out on an extensive tour for pouring oil on troubled waters in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar. He is accompanied by the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, Lt. Gen. John R. Allen, and National Security Council official Puneet Talwar.

Like secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who promised in Beirut this week that the US was not selling Lebanon out by dealing with Syria, Ross will try and reassure America's Arab friends that Washington's new ties of friendship and strategic cooperation with Tehran will not be at their expense.

debkafile's sources ask how much leverage against Iran's drive for a nuclear bomb will be left to Washington when the US becomes dependent on Tehran for its war supplies to Afghanistan.


April 28 Briefs


·        Pakistan reports its jets bombing Taliban bases in Buner district near capital in apparently widening counter-offensive.

·        British jury acquits three men charged with conspiracy in 7/7 London suicide attacks
The three Muslims from Leeds were the only bombing accomplices ever brought to trial

·        The sole surviving Mumbai bomber is proved over 20 and eligible for trial
 If convicted he faces death for 170 murders

·        Two Christian women have throats slit in Kirkuk, N. Iraq

·        Mexico protests ultra-religious Israeli health minister's proposal to rename swine flu Mexican flu


International Hariri tribunal self-destructs, frees 4 key Lebanese suspects. Assad wins after all


29 April: debkafile's counter-terror sources report that, by setting the key witnesses, four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals, free, the pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen Wednesday, April 29, effectively scrapped the international tribunal's mission to prosecute the murderers of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

The four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals, now under “under strict security for their own safety,” were held in custody for four years on suspicion of complicity in the 2005 Hariri murder in close alignment with Syrian military intelligence, which then ruled Beirut, and with figures close to Syrian president Bashar Assad.

Their release “for lack of sufficient evidence”, according to Fransen, rewarded Assad for the extraordinary efforts he made to quash the international legal proceedings for fear of compromising his close circle in one of the most outrageous political crimes in recent Middle East history.

The tribunal was also briefed to prosecute a series of high-profile political assassinations in Lebanon after the Hariri murder, for which Damascus was also blamed.

Our counter-terror sources note that the chance of ever bringing any of these assassins to justice has just been reduced to zero by the international judge's action. He has cut the main sources of evidence leading to the culprits in Damascus.

A major barrier to Bashar Assad's international rehabilitation has been removed.


Second Turkish affront to Israel in a week


29 April: Turkey's army chief Gen. Ilker Basburg brushed off the Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak's comment that the joint Turkish-Syrian military exercise was “disturbing.”

Barak referred to the first exercise Turkey, Israel's longstanding military ally and NATO member, had ever staged with an Arab nation, Israel's avowed foe Syria. Gen. Basbug said it was only a border exercise, small-scale and “none of anybody's business.”

“Why would it concern Israel? We will not ask for permission from anybody else [to conduct such exercises], he said.”

debkafile's military sources, who first broke the story about the maneuver earlier this week, noted that the Turkish general made a point of mentioning his “extensive talks with the visiting US Chief of General Staff” and their four-hour long “exchange of views on a range of issues.”

This confirmed debkafile's earlier report that the Turkish-Syrian exercise had received Washington's nod.


Arab Israeli gang plotted kidnaps, attacks during Gaza operation


30 April: Seven Israeli Arabs and two juveniles were arraigned at Haifa district court Thursday, April 30, on charges of plotting terrorist attacks and kidnapping Israeli soldiers during Israel's Gaza operation four months ago. They all hailed from Bertaa in the Wadi Ara district of central Israel, except for one who lived in Maghar in Galilee. The juveniles' names were not released.

Nine bombs ready for detonation were found in their homes and manuals on bomb-making and abduction techniques. The suspects had been practicing those tactics and were apprehended shortly before they went into action. The defendants were charged with aiding the enemy in time of war, communicating with foreign agents, namely Palestinian West Bank terrorist organizations, possession of means of war and producing weapons.


April 30 Briefs


·        Dutch royals were targets of the car which zoomed into spectators at a royal event, killing 4 and injuring 12 people
The car narrowly missed Queen Beatrix and family in an open-top bus

·        French gang leader Youssouf Fofana on trial in Paris for torturing, killing 23-year old Jewish Ilan Halimi in 2006
He shouted “God is Great” in Arabic in courtroom

·        Jerusalem court sentences two Israeli border guards to eight-and-a-half and five-and-a-half years in prison for unlawful killing of Palestinian in Hebron 7 years ago

·        Georgian gunmen kill 13, injure 10 in raid of Azerbaijan state oil academy in Baku

·        Last British troops quit Basra, S. Iraq

·        Two confirmed swine flu case in Israel where health authorities raise alert level to 5

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