April 2. 2010 Briefs
• Obama: All evidence that Tehran wants nuclear weapons, which could "destabilize" the ME.
• Missiles fired by Israeli fighter-bombers, helicopters struck 7 Gaza targets Thursday night: Four near Khan Younis, one in Gaza City, 2 in Nusayrat. They included weapons store and two missile workshops.
• Second Qassam missile in two days fired from Gaza at Ashkelon Friday. No one hurt.
The US begins profiling air travelers
02 April: While trying to avoid admitting to "profiling," the Obama administration has introduced new measures for screening US-bound air travelers based on how closely their personal characteristics match intelligence on potential terrorists, such as nationality, age, certain physical characteristics, recently visited countries and partial (Muslim-sounding) names.
Homeland Security Secretary Jane Napolitano said international travelers would encounter enhanced screening measures and random layers of "seen and unseen" security.
debkafile's counter-terror sources report the new US methods for weeding out potential terrorists come close to the flexible methods applied at Israel's international airport, which are based on current intelligence together with the security official's instincts, initiative and personal observations rather than on the letter of official directives.
April 3, 2010 Briefs
• A Palestinian mortar shell from Gaza explodes on open ground near Sderot Saturday after a month of almost daily Qassam attacks.
• On Gaza flare-up, US says no military solution to conflict, both sides must pursue talks.
• Karzai's White House invite under review after his harsh criticism of US role in Afghanistan.
• Gunmen in US army uniforms slaughter 24 people in an anti-al Qaeda Sunni village outside Baghdad. The victims, including 5 women, were handcuffed and shot in the head.
Obama leaves China's proposed sanctions tradeoff between Israel, Iran on the table
03 April: Chinese president Hu Jintao indicated a willingness to consider abstaining on a UN Security Council vote imposing sanctions against Iran – if the United States reciprocated by withholding its veto on sanctions against Israel over construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. debkafile's sources report US president Barack Obama did not reject the idea when it was raised in his hour-long telephone conversation with President Hu Thursday, April 1.
It would be the first time a US president has come close to considering withholding his veto from an anti-Israel resolution at the Security Council. According to our Middle East sources, White House officials dealing with Arab governments were quick to pass the word around, tying it in with the US president's special envoy George Mitchell's new push for a negotiated Israel-Palestinian deal on the borders of a Palestinian state to be struck within four months.
Friday, Dan Shapiro, US National Security Council Middle East Senior Director, sought outreach to Jewish community representatives by denying relations were in crisis after Netanyahu's chilly welcome at the White House last month and insisting that there had been more agreement than disagreement between the two leaders. debkafile's Washington sources report that his American-Jewish audience as extremely skeptical.
April 4, 2010 Briefs
• Seven widely scattered attacks killed at least 42 people in Baghdad Sunday, injured 224. Suicide car bombers, rockets, roadside bombs targeted Iranian embassy, Egyptian and German diplomats' homes, a church packed with Easter worshippers, government officers. Authorities blame al Qaeda.
• Iran to host nuclear disarmament meeting April 17-8 – a week after Obama's nuclear summit in Washington.
• Christians from around the world mark Easter in Jerusalem and Mount of Olives with colorful celebrations.
• Iran to unveil "nuclear achievement" April 9, it National Nuclear Day.
April 5, 2010 Briefs
• US consulate in Peshawar under massive attack. At least 41 killed in four massive explosions as two suicide car bombers engaged in firefight with defending Pakistani security positions.
• Earlier attack on ruling party rally in northwest Pakistan Dir district killed 37, injured 110.
• Rented apartment of person who delivered suicide belts to Moscow bombers located in Moscow. They were handed over at Vorobyevy gory subway station. Father identifies second Moscow suicide bomber as 28-year old Dagestan schoolteacher.
• Qassam missile fired from Gaza explodes on empty ground in Shaar Hanegev region.
• New set of sanctions laid out by US rely mostly on continuing ineffectual freeze on Iranian assets. WSJ: US freeze totals $43 m, quarter of Iran's per day oil revenue.
Iran gets fast powerboat to arm with fastest torpedoes
05 April: After laying hands on a record-breaking 61.5 mph speedboat, built for a British sporting adventurer, the Iranian navy plans to arm it with the reputedly fastest torpedo in the world, the Russian-designed Shkval (Squall), which move at speeds of 360 kph. debkafile's military sources report Tehran is aiming for a seaborne weapon able to sink a US carrier in the Persian Gulf.
Blogs tracking the international weapons trade and the Financial Times reported Monday, April 5 that Bladerunner 5, built in a Florida boatyard, achieved the fastest circumnavigation of Britain ever in 27 hours 10 minutes. Iran used cloak-and-dagger tactics to beat the international embargo and purchase it through South African agents. In Jan 2009, US special forces stood ready to intercept the Iranian merchant vessel carrying it to the Revolutionary Guards headquarters in Bandar Abbas, but the operation was called off for some unknown reason. It is feared that big warships may prove vulnerable to "swarming tactics by small boats," a hypothesis never yet demonstrated in practice. But the Russian torpedo is fast enough to outwit ship's radar for a hit-and-run operation against a warship.
In any case, the US failure to keep Iran from laying hands on the powerboat with a four-year head start, as well as other items for its uranium enrichment industry, bodes ill for the effectiveness of sanctions.
April 6, 2010 Briefs
• Washington orders US-born Muslim cleric captured or killed as America's top terrorist threat. Anwar al-Awlaki of al Qaeda was mentor of Ford Hood murderer and in contact with the Nigerian failed to blow up an airliner last Christmas.
• Israeli parliamentary delegation travels to Moscow for talks on Iran's nuclear program, signing of strategic dialogue pact with Russia. It is headed by foreign affairs and security chairman Tzahi Hanegbi.
• More than 50 killed, hundreds injured in 7 blasts in Baghdad Tuesday, some knocking down Shiite residential buildings two days after 41 killed in previous wave.
• Close to 70 killed in two massive explosions in Pakistan Monday: an attack on US consulate in Peshawar, another on ruling rally in northwest Pakistan Dir district.
• All the polls name opposition leader David Cameron frontrunner in UK's general election, with PM Gordon Brown fighting for his life.
• Lavrov: Russia may opt out of soon-to-be-signed nuclear reduction treaty if excessive US missile plans threaten its security.
• Tehran threatens: An Israeli attack will see Iranian missiles exploding in the heart of Tel Aviv.
New al Qaeda Levant chief plans fresh assaults from Gaza, Lebanon
06 April: In introductory interviews to Islamist websites, Saleh Al-Qaraawi, the newly-appointed al Qaeda chief in the Levant (Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian territories) says the time has come to intensify attacks on Israel from the two new al Qaeda strongholds in the Gaza Strip and South Lebanon. US targets, mainly in Jordan, and UN peacekeepers in South Lebanon, are also in his sights.
debkafile's counter-terror sources report that Al-Qaraawi (aka Star of Piety), a Saudi aged 40, figures on the oil kingdom's list of 85 most wanted terrorists by virtue of his terrorist exploits. He is thought to be a personal appointee of al Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman Zuwahri, chief of operations for the Middle East region.
Our military sources report that the cluster of groups affiliated to al Qaeda, which have sprung up in the Gaza Strip under the Jalalat umbrella, keep their hand in with the occasional Qassam or mortar attack into Israel. But most of their energies go into building up their power base in the southern areas of Khan Younes and Deir al-Balakh and pushing Hamas out.
Ashkenazi bows out February. Galant top candidate as successor
06 April: Defense minister Ehud Barak informed Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi Tuesday, April 6, that his four-year tenure as IDF chief of staff would not be extended when it runs out next February.
debkafile reports: Barak and prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided that, with Iran racing for a nuclear bomb and threats from its allies, Israel needed a tougher and more hawkish military leader.
In a statement Tuesday night, Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi explained he had not applied for a fifth year extension because he fully approved of the government's unanimous decision when he took the job not to extend the tenure of any chief of staff beyond four years except in extraordinary emergency circumstances. "We face complicated security problems and exceptional challenges from near and far which oblige is all to focus on essentials – and that is what we shall do, said the chief of staff.
April 7, 2010 Briefs
• Ahmadinejad derides US nuclear policy calling Obama the new cowboy in town.
• Six mortar shells from Gaza explode on empty ground in Eshkol district.
• Netanyahu summarized his first year in government: We adopted a policy of response to every firing incident. We approved 1,500 decisions. We are on the way to becoming a regional economic power and a world-class power in technology. We narrowed gaps between cities and outlying areas, rich and poor, old and young.
• Obama in Prague to sign landmark nuclear treaty with Russia.
• Gates: Nuclear non-proliferators do not risk US nuclear retaliation even if they conduct conventional, biological or cyber attacks. The exceptions are "outliers" Iran, North Korea, Obama's new label for rogue states.