A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Aug. 27, 2009
Ahmadinejad's defense minister is wanted by Interpol for 1994 Buenos Aires atrocity
21 Aug. Ahmadi Vahidi, whom President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has designated Iran's next defense minister, was head of the notorious al Qods Brigades which ordered and organized the bombing attack on the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires in 1994 that left 84 people dead.
Interpol has issued an international warrant for his arrest for this crime. For the attack on the Jewish center, Vahidi used Hizballah operatives with whom he was acquainted from his days as commander of the IRGC's Lebanon Corps in the 1980s. He was especially close to Hizballah's bombing and abduction expert, the late Imad Mughniyeh. Together, they plotted and executed the kidnapping of a series of high-ranking Western officials in those years, among them William Buckley and Col, Richard Higgins.
The Iranian president is building a cabinet composed mainly of his most brutal cronies and loyal yes-men – as well as three women for the first time.
Abbas has scheme for toppling Hamas' Gaza rule, stirring up trouble between Obama and Netanyahu
22 Aug. The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has cooked up a new scheme for deposing the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip and drawing president Barack Obama over to his side against Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Abbas has written off reconciliation with the Hamas and reunification of the Gaza Strip and West Bank as a feasible goal. American official visitors to the region earlier this month warned Abbas that there was a limit to his leeway to serve as an illegitimate president and build illegitimate governments in Ramallah without recognition from a legislature dominated by Hamas. The US fully backed Israel's refusal to negotiate a peace deal with him.
The Palestinian leader has therefore decided to call a presidential and parliamentary election for Jan. 24, 2010, first importing the heads of the umbrella Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from Arab states and Europe and installing them in Ramallah and Jericho. Their support would give him legitimacy by transforming the West Bank from a Fatah-ruled territory to the world center of the PLO.
August 23 Briefs
· Trial opens in Cairo of 26 Hizballah terrorists charged with plotting attacks on Cairo, Sinai, Suez traffic.
· Hizballah is building new militia in N. Lebanon – reports.
· Rafsanjani changes course, urges all Iranian factions to obey supreme leader. DEBKA: He fears regime crackdown on opposition.
· Interior minister Elie Yishai suspends working permits of Swedish journalists.
· FBI chief calls Scottish decision to release Lockerbie bomber “a mockery of law.”
· debkafile's unmasking of Iranian defense minister as a terrorist last Thursday spurs worldwide outrage.
· Argentine government, its Jewish community protest Ahamdi Vahidi designation. US State Department says it is very disturbing.
· Israeli missile command officer says Air Force will receive first Iron Dome anti-missile systems in early 2010. Iron Dome designed to shield northern, southern populations from short-range Qassam, Grad missiles. It is ineffective against mortar fire.
debkafile's unmasking of Iran's designated defense minister as terrorist spurred wide outrage
23 Aug. Last Thursday night, Aug. 21, debkafile first exposed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's defense minister Ahmadi Vahidi as wanted by Interpol for the 1994 Buenos Aires atrocity, a massive bombing attack on the Jewish community center in the Argentine capital which left 84 people dead and hundreds wounded.
This story, instantly picked up by world media (without attribution), spurred general outrage and protest – in particular, from the Argentine prosecutor and Jewish community. The US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said if Vahidi was indeed the man wanted by Interpol, it would be very disturbing to see him confirmed in the Iranian cabinet. Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak voiced deep concern, commenting that the Islamic Republic was showing its real face.
Israel and Sweden: An unnecessary diplomatic crisis
23 Aug. The blood libels beloved of anti-Semites through the ages echoed clearly from the unsupported op-ed article freelance reporter Donald Bostrom ran in the Swedish Aftonbladet newspaper last week.
All the same, debkafile's political sources say the diplomatic crisis which has since blown up between Israel and Sweden would have faded quickly had a lot less noise issued from Jerusalem and Stockholm acted with less arrogance. When Israel demanded that the Swedish government's condemn the “blood libel against Jews,” the Swedish foreign minister asserted pompously that Sweden has a free press. Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman then commented that press freedom does not include the right to lie and libel. He added “This is reminiscent of Sweden's stand during World War II.”
Bostrom's article drew on one Palestinian family's claim in the 1990s that they suspected the Israeli military of stealing the organs of their son whose body was returned five days later after he was killed by Israeli forces. Another 20 Palestinian families then stepped up with the same charge. Bostrom dragged in as inspiration for his article the New Jersey scandal which alleged the private sale of a kidney from a donor in Israel
August 24 Briefs
· Palestinian shot dead by Israeli troops when he and two others approached border fence near Zikkim. Palestinians responded with missile-mortar fire on south Ashkelon. One soldier slightly injured, hundreds of bathers fled Ashkelon beach.
· Three Jerusalem Arabs detained after two pipe bombs found in their car on Tunnels Road on way to Jerusalem from West.
· Israel's central bank governor raises interest by quarter of a percent point to 0.75%.
· Scottish justice secretary MacAskill defends decision to release Lockerbie bomber at emergency parliament session. Protest groups call on Americans to boycott UK and Scottish products over release.
· Iran denounces Argentina for “meddling in its internal affairs” for voicing outrage over nomination of terrorist as defense minister.
· Obama okays new High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group for terrorism suspects.
Yemen is burning: US, Saudis, Egypt help army fight Iran-backed rebels
24 Aug. In two weeks of warfare, the Yemen conflict has left more than 2,000 dead and up to 150,000 people homeless. Yet the Yemeni army has failed to break through to the Iranian-armed and trained rebel strongholds in the northern mountains of Saada province, even as the Saudi air force pounds rebel positions.
This is the second war in less than a year in which US allies are pitted against Iran-backed forces. The first was Israel's three-week campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which ended last January.
This strategically-located Red Sea country, for years a critical stage for the war on Islamist extremists, has now become a key arena where the United States and Iran jockey for regional primacy. Its outcome will bear heavily on the relative strategic positions in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea regions of the US – as well as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and indirectly Israel too – vis-a-vis Iran.
Without a breakthrough by the Yemeni army, the conflict threatens to spread and escalate into the biggest and most dangerous war to strike any part of Arabia in the last 18 years, ever since Saddam Hussein ordered the Iraqi army to invade Kuwait in 1991.
Syria, Iraq recall ambassadors in major falling-out over Damascus' terror haven
25 Aug. Damascus has turned aside a demand from Baghdad to extradite two Iraqi Baathist leaders (Saddam Hussein's party) suspected of orchestrating from their base in eastern Syria the deadly coordinated bombing attacks which rocked the Iraqi capital on Aug. 19, killing 100 people and leaving more than 1,000 injured. Baghdad named Mohammad Younis al-Ahmed, head of the Baath party's military arm based in Damascus and his operations officer Sattam Farhan.
The Assad regime responded by recalling its ambassador from Baghdad, whereupon Iraq reciprocated.
DEBKA file reports that this row is highly relevant to the Obama administration's ambition to improve relations with Damascus.
Bashar Assad has still not answered a high-ranking US delegation headed by Fred Hoff, head of the Mitchell group's Syrian desk and Gen. Michael Moeller of the US Central Command, which visited Damascus on Aug. 13, and demanded a halt to the flow of terrorists and weapons from Syria to Iraq and the smuggling of Iranian arms to the Hizballah in Lebanon. Neither has he responded to a similar query from another visitor, Iraqi prime ministers Nouri al-Maliki.
British PM says Arab states must support peace process
25 Aug. In remarks after his talks with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in London, the British premier Gordon Brown commended Israel for dismantling West Bank roadblocks, recommended reciprocal moves by Arab states to support the peace process and said Iran's actions do not make its claims of peaceful atomic development convincing. He deplored Iranian diatribes about Israel as having “no place in a civilized world.”
Netanyahu stressed Israel's commitment to peace based on the formula of a demilitarized Palestine recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. He hoped it would be possible to move forward toward peace in the coming weeks. “We have already moved forward,” he stressed, having dismantled 147 checkpoints and roadblocks on the West Bank. Similar movement on the Palestinian side has not taken place. “They have to say it's over.” He said. And that includes a final solution of the Palestinian refugee problem. “Palestinians can come to Palestine – but not to Israel which is the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
The big obstacle now is the absence of a courageous partner for peace on the other side.
Mitchell meets Netanyahu without Obama's guidelines because his Middle East Review is unfinished
25 Aug. debkafile's Middle East and Washington sources do not expect anything much to come of the conversation Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell hold in London Wednesday, Aug. 28 – although the two governments are close to accord on a settlement standstill.
This is because US president Barack Obama went off on holiday before his staff had finished the Middle East policy review he ordered. Therefore, although the US. State Department said Monday that its Middle East envoys are approaching an agreement on renewing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Envoy Mitchell was left without guidelines on their final goals.
All that is known for sure is that Obama plans some move at the UN General Assembly session beginning September.
1. He will lay down parameters for Israel and the Palestinians to follow when they go back to negotiations, or –
2. He will deliver a grand proclamation on the desirability of peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the Arab world; or –
3. He will stage a symbolic summit between Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, at which they will declare peace negotiations are resumed.
Mitchell favors the third option because he believes it will serve as a good opening for negotiations in easy stages.
Aug 26 Briefs
· A top Iraqi Shiite leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council, dies in Tehran of lung cancer. He will be buried in the Iraqi shrine city of Najef.
· Several coordinated blasts kill at least 41 civilians, injure 66, flatten buildings in S. Afghanistan's KandaharTuesday.
· A Palestinian man brandishing a knife was shot and injured as he rushed a Border Police unit in Hebron.
· Palestinian official: US and Israel have no right to trade in Palestinian land. He was referring to a possible US-Israel deal limiting settlement construction.
· Tributes pour in for Senator Edward Kennedy who died of brain cancer aged 77.
US, Israel have 80pc of West Bank construction deal in the bag -much less for Jerusalem
26 Aug. A high-ranking US source told debkafile that some areas of understanding came out of the four-hour meeting between British prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell in London Wednesday, Aug. 26. He put it this way: The Obama administration and Netanyahu government have attained an 80 percent accord on a settlement construction freeze whereby 2,500 building starts can go forward – albeit slowly. This program would take both President Barack Obama and Netanyahu to the end of their terms in office. The other part of the US-Israeli understanding provides for Israeli to carry on building Jewish housing in Jerusalem on a limited scale, going forward with some projects, freezing others.
Both parties will retain some leverage in case the understandings do not hold up.
One American diplomat offered this wry comment: “Whoever has the bad luck to be put in charge of getting this deal up and running will have very little hair left on his head by the time Obama and Netanyahu end their first terms in office in 2012.