A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Aug. 21, 2008

Gates rules out use of force


Aug. 15. Thursday night, at a Pentagon briefing with vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. James Cartwright, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned that US-Russia ties could be “adversely affected” for years unless Moscow adjusted its “aggressive posture and actions”.

Highlighting the “profound implications” for the entire US-Russia security relationship, Gates said Russia would have to pay “some consequences” for its attacks on Georgia.

Asked about the use of US military force in the conflict, Gates replied: “I don’t see any prospect for the use of military force by the United States in this situation. Is that clear enough?”


Back-door US-Russian contacts to de-escalate war of words – after Moscow threatens to nuke Poland


16 Aug. debkafile reports that both powers are acting to cool the rhetoric and review relations, after spokesmen in Washington – and especially Moscow – raised the threat level of their oratory to its highest pitch since the Cold War’s end.

Friday night, Aug. 15, Russia’s deputy chief of staff Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn warned Poland it was exposing itself to a Russian nuclear attack.

At the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russian president Dimitry Medvedev dismissed the claim that the US missile interceptors in Poland were a deterrent against rogue states like Iran as “a fairy tale,” insisting they were aimed against Russia. President George W. Bush said “The Cold War is over… Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.”

The ceasefire accord brokered by France allows “Russian peacekeepers” to “implement additional security measures.” This covers the buffer zones, which debkafile first revealed the Russians were establishing 300-500 meters deep outside the South Ossetian and Abkhazian borders with Georgia.


Russia considers nuclear missiles for Syria, Mediterranean, Baltic


17 Aug. debkafile's military sources report Moscow's planned retaliation for America's missile interceptors in Poland and US-Israeli military aid to Georgia may come in the form of installing Iskandar surface missiles in Syria and its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.

Russian Baltic and Middle East warships, submarines and long-range bombers may be armed with nuclear warheads. Moscow appears to be eying Poland, the Middle East, and possibly Ukraine, as arenas for its reprisals for Georgian aggression and the installation of a US missile shield in Poland.

One plan on the table is the establishment of big Russian military, naval and air bases in Syria and the release of advanced weapons systems which Vladimir Putin promised George Bush to withhold from Syria and Iran. That was before the Georgian conflict.

If the Iskander reaches Syria, Israel will have to revamp its anti-missile defense array and Air Force assault plans to counter a threat which transcends all its defensive red lines.

The chairman of the Israeli Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee, Tzahi Hanegbi, spoke out strongly Sunday, Aug. 17, against treasury plans to slash the defense budget. He warned the military faced grave confrontations in the coming year – possibly on several fronts.


Arab world fears an Iran war is impending


18 Aug. debkafile‘s Middle East sources report that the Iranian satellite carrier space launch Sunday, Aug. 17, was prompted by a joint caution to Tehran from Saudi King Abdullah and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Iran should not present on a sliver platter the “justifications and pretexts for those [US and Israel] who want to drag the region down a dangerous slope.”

The war scare in Cairo and Riyadh also infected Kuwait, fed by the impending arrival in the Gulf of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Ronald Reagan, and the USS Iwo Jima in the Persian Gulf to reinforce the US strike forces in the region, as first revealed by debkafile on August 11.

Last week, Kuwait placed its military on “war alert,” and Saturday, boosted its naval force in the Persian Gulf to ward off a possible Iranian reprisal against its oil installations if attacked. A US Pentagon spokesman last week denied that these forces were gathering to impose a partial naval blockade on Iran, but the denial did not cut much ice with the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait.


Moscow accuses Israel of arming Georgia – day before Assad arrives for big arms purchases


19 Aug. The timing was precise. Tuesday, Aug. 19, the Russian Deputy Chief of General Staff Col.-Gen. Anatoly Nagovitsyn accused Israel at a Moscow news conference of arming and training the Georgian military. The next day, Syrian president Bashar Assad was due for a visit during which the Kremlin fully expects him to put in a strong bid for sophisticated weapons systems not so far released by Moscow.

On Aug. 17, debkafile military sources reported Moscow's planned retaliation for America's missile interceptors in Poland and US-Israeli military aid to Georgia may come in the form of Iskandar surface missiles installed in Syria and its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.


Iran‘s “dummy satellite” was a partial failure but strategic breakthrough


19 Aug. A US official said Tuesday, Aug. 19, that the dummy Safir satellite carrier launched by Tehran Sunday, Aug. 17, failed “shortly after liftoff and in no way reached its intended position.” debkafile‘s intelligence sources disclose that even without reaching orbit the probe was a strategic breakthrough that testified to Tehran’s long-range missile delivery capability, possibly armed with nuclear warheads, to distances of thousands of kilometers, against Israel and beyond; Europe and parts of Asia would also be in range. The missile program has been advancing in parallel to Iran’s drive for a nuclear weapon. The capsule was boosted by the Safir missile, whose range the Iranians boast is up to 5,000 km and, according to some military experts, 7,000 km.


American crew will control US FBX-band radar granted Israel


19 Aug. The powerful US FBX-T radar system to enhance Israel's early warning resources against incoming missiles will be installed at a US base in the southern Israeli Negev and be off-limits to Israelis.

Senior Israel army circles have angrily questioned the judgment of Israeli leaders and army chiefs in accepting this proviso. Unlike them, Poland, one officer commented, took better care of its sovereignty and insisted on Polish crews being trained to man US missile interceptors to be installed on its Baltic coast.

In speaking last month in Washington of an important IDF acquisition for shielding the country against enemy missiles, Barak and Ashkenazi omitted to mention that the new radar would not be integrated in Israel’s national interceptor system. Therefore –

1. Israel will have no direct access to the data it gathered and can only hope the American operators will pass on the information as and when Israel needs it rather than when it suits US interests.

2. The FBX-T will not only track Iranian and Syrian missiles and aircraft but also keep watch on Israeli operations, giving the Washington a handle for stalling a potential Israeli preemptive Israel attack on Iran’s nuclear installations.


Israelis traveling aboard risk kidnapping by Hizballah terrorists


20 Aug. In a special advisory issued Wednesday, Aug. 20, the Counter-Terror Center in Jerusalem warned Israelis traveling abroad that they run the risk of kidnapping by agents of the Lebanese Hizballah terrorist organization. The warning was not specific to any country.

The center recommended certain precautions:

Don’t invite strangers or suspicious characters to your hotel room.

Stay clear of lonely places after dark.

Take trustworthy companions with you to business meetings and places of entertainment.

During a long stay in one place, avoid regular routines, switch hotels and do not frequent the same restaurants or places of entertainment.


Double bombing kills 11 in Algeria, day after 43 die at police academy


20 Aug. The twin attack at Bouira, 150 km east of Algiers left 11 dead and 31 injured, including four military personnel, Wednesday, Aug. 20. Tuesday, a suicide attacker killed 43 people and injured 38 at a paramilitary police training school at Issers, 60 km east of the capital. Al Qaeda in the Maghreb has taken responsibility for a wave of recent attacks in Algeria.


Ten French soldiers killed in a battle with Taliban near Kabul


20 Aug. President Nicolas Sarkozy flew to Afghanistan to honor the 10 French soldiers killed in heavy fighting with Taliban 30 km east of Kabul Tuesday, Aug. 19.

Thirteen insurgents died in the battle.. Near the border with Pakistan, insurgents were earlier thrown back from an attempt to storm NATO camp Salerno in Khost city Monday night. After being chased out by fighter aircraft and helicopters, six of the attackers seeing they were cornered blew themselves up.


Russia rejects UN Georgia pullback draft


20 Aug. Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin maintained at the UN Security Council Tuesday night, Aug. 19, that the French-brokered ceasefire accord allows Russian troops to stay in a buffer zone on the Georgian side of the South Ossetian border. Churkin objected to the draft’s affirmation of Georgia’s territorial integrity, saying South Ossetia and Abkhazia did not want to be part of Georgia.

Moscow dismissed the NATO warning that normal relations with Russia were impossible while its troops remained in Georgia. A small column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles left Gori, Tuesday, Aug. 19, but there was no other visible sign of a Russian withdrawal.

Russia and Georgia also exchanged prisoners, but in the Black Sea port of Poti in western Georgia, Russian soldiers captured 20 Georgians and commandeered four American Humvees. The White House stated that any equipment Russia has taken in Georgia “needs to be returned immediately.”


Big Russian flotilla heads for Syrian port


21 Aug. debkafile‘s military sources disclose that a powerful Russian naval contingent, led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, left Murmansk on the Barents Sea Aug. 18 destined to dock at the Syrian Mediterranean port of Tartus Saturday, Aug. 23. It includes the Russian Navy’s biggest missile cruiser Moskva and at least four nuclear missile submarines.

At the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Syrian president Bashar Assad told reporters Thursday, Aug. 21, that he is considering a Russian request to deploy missiles in his country. He signaled he would also be representing Tehran’s interests in his talks with Russian leaders. Jordan’s King Abdullah was on his way to join them.

Assad is reported by our sources as having given the nod for Tartus port’s conversion into a permanent Middle East base for Russia’s nuclear-armed warships. A large Syrian military delegation visited the Russian weapons manufacturing giant, the Kalinin Machines Plant, to inspect the sophisticated anti-air missile systems, including the S-300 and the BUK M, for which Damascus is bidding.

Aug. 17, debkafile first revealed Russia’s planned nuclear military deployments in the Middle East and Baltic to punish America for its missile deal with Poland, which Condoleezza Rice signed in Warsaw Wednesday, Aug. 20, and Georgia’s attack in South Ossetia of Aug. 7.

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