A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Aug. 28, 2008

Cutting out US role, new Egyptian-Saudi plan proposes inter-Arab force for Gaza takeover


23 Aug. debkafile‘s military sources report that a new 11-point scheme, just developed by Saudi King Abdullah and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, provides for the bulk of the 3,000-strong force to be Egyptian. The plan would effectively restore Egypt’s pre-1967 dominion over the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is offered a political comeback on the West Bank and a seat on the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO’s) ruling institutions.

When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s arrives in Jerusalem and Ramallah, Sunday, Aug. 24, she will find this plan on the table for Egypt (speaking also for Saudi Arabia), Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

A parallel proposal would appoint Jordan as overseer of Palestinian government institutions and security forces on the West Bank.

debkafile‘s sources reveal here some of the new plan’s key points:

– The rival Palestinian Hamas and Fatah must end their vendetta.

– Hamas must hand Gaza’s ruling institutions back seized two years ago to the Palestinian Authority.

– Hamas must suspend the operations of its militia and police forces.

– Inter-Arab monitors, headed by Egyptian officers, will supervise the Gaza police force.

– A panel headed by Egyptian officers will compile a reform program for the Palestinian security bodies in Gaza, effectively removing them from Hamas’ hands.

– In the interim, an inter-Arab force of 3,000, commanded by Egyptian security officers, will be in charge of security matters.

– A provisional nonpartisan Palestinian government will be installed in Ramallah in place of the Salam Fayad administration.


Egypt on top alert for major al Qaeda attack


24 Aug. debkafile‘s intelligence and counter-terror sources disclose that Egypt’s interior ministry’s security forces, airports, harbors, and border terminals were placed on the highest terror alert Sunday afternoon, Aug. 24, in response to information that an al Qaeda team or teams were heading for major strikes against specific targets. Our sources report that the warning received in Cairo referred to governing institutions, military installations and Suez Canal facilities.

Extra guards were posted at the American, Israeli, Swedish and British embassies in Cairo. Security forces have been boosted at the three main Suez Canal cities, Port Said, Ismailya and Suez, as well as the Sinai resorts of Sharm el Sheikh, Dahab and Nueiba, which are packed with late holidaymakers.


Government criticized for releasing Palestinian terrorists


24 Aug. Israel freed 199 jailed Palestinian terrorists Monday as a gesture of support for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. They included the mastermind of Jerusalem market attack convicted for life 30 years ago and a second terrorist “with blood on his hands.” The government was criticized for letting terrorists go free for nothing while Gilead Shalit is still held by Hamas.


Explosion cuts Azerbaijan-Georgia-Europe fuel railway link


24 Aug. The train Sunday, Aug. 24, hit a mine at the village of Skra, 5 km west of Gori on the main track of the railway line linking Eastern and Western Georgia – a vital trade route for oil exports from Azerbaijan to European markets.

The blast deals a serious blow to Georgia’s efforts to recover from its ten-day war over South Ossetia. Azerbaijan restored its oil consignments via Georgia only two days ago; their interruption during the fighting robbed the Saakasvhili government of valuable revenue, which has again been suspended by the attack.

The guided missile destroyer USS McFaul docked at the Georgian port of Batumi carrying blankets, hygiene kits and baby food. Two more US ships are due to dock later this week.

The vessels were supposed to have put in at the Black Sea port of Poti, 80 km to the north, but changed direction to avoid friction with the Russian troops in control of Poti further up the coast.


As sparks fly, Cheney to visit Georgia, Iwo Jima sails for Middle East


25 Aug. The Georgian conflict over South Ossetia is spiraling into a contest between the US and Russia over control of the Black Sea region and the eastern Mediterranean.

The US Vice President Dick Cheney will stop over in Georgia, the Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Italy during a trip starting Sept. 2. President Bush “felt it was important to have the vice president consult with allies in the region on our common security interests.”

This was Washington’s response to the decision taken by the Russian Navy chief, Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky – disclosed earlier by debkafile – to place its warships bound for Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartus under the command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol.

Tehran reported the Russian and Iranian presidents would meet at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s summit taking place in Dushanbe, Tajikistan Thursday and Friday, Aug. 28-29.


Jerusalem Arabs pose as Palestinian cops


25 Aug. Seven Jerusalem Arabs were caught impersonating Palestinian police officers. They were found making unlawful arrests of civilians at gunpoint, handing them on to Palestinian authorities in Ramallah for questioning, or holding them to ransom. The gang operated out of the northern Jerusalem suburb of Shoefat.


Russian Mediterranean warships placed under Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet command


25 Aug. The Russian Navy chief, Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky announced Sunday, Aug. 24, that its warships in the Mediterranean region have been placed under the command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, causing extreme concern in Israel’s military and navy.

At the same time, the American aircraft carrier, the Iwo <IIWO w:st="on" Jima Expeditionary Strike Group heading a six-vessel contingent set sail for the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, with 6,000 sailors and marines aboard.

Washington and Jerusalem regard the link-up of Russian naval operations in the two waters a further aggressive Russian step in the spreading Cold War.

Moscow’s announcement Monday that Russian forces would search cargoes transiting Poti underscored its determination to retain its grip on the strategic Black Sea port.

In the Mediterranean, US and Israeli satellites have recently observed large dredgers operating at the Syrian port of Tartus. They are believed to be preparing the small port to serve as permanent base for large Russian naval vessels, including the Admiral Kuznetsov, right opposite the US Sixth Fleet and in close proximity to Israeli waters and shores.


Medvedev “not afraid of Cold War” after approving Georgian regions’ independence


26 Aug. President George W. Bush said Moscow’s recognition of South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence exacerbates tensions and complicates negotiations.

The Russian president warned of “military responses” to the US missile shield in Europe.

Signing the decrees, Russian president Dimitry Medvedev said Tuesday, Aug. 26, Russia is prepared to go any length to defend the enclaves. “We are not afraid of anything, including the prospect of a Cold War,” he said.

debkafile's Moscow sources report the Kremlin is planning further sanctions against Georgia and its US-NATO backers, possibly in Eastern Europe.

UK foreign secretary David Miliband called for the “widest possible” international coalition against Russian aggression in Georgia.


US to ship aid through Russian-controlled Georgian port of Poti


26 Aug. The Black Sea confrontation between Russia and the US-led NATO forces predicted by debkafile last week is building up inexorably to a climax.

In Moscow, debkafile‘s military sources report, Capt. Igor Dygalo, deputy commander of the Russian Navy, announced the Moskva missile cruiser would carry out a naval exercise on the Black Sea.

The Russians are clearly marking out their control of the Black Sea in the face of the USS McFaul guided missile destroyer’s arrival with aid for Georgia. It carried 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles capable of striking land and sea targets.


Barak heard Mubarak’s briefing on new Gaza plan


26 Aug. The Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak wanted to hear about progress in Egyptian mediation for the release of the Israeli soldier kidnapped in 2006 by Hamas, Gilead Shalit. However, debkafile reports that when he arrived in Alexandria Tuesday, Aug. 26, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak first laid before him the 11-point scheme he and Saudi king Abdullah have developed for the Gaza Strip.

A 3,000-strong Egyptian force would effectively displace Hamas government and restore Cairo’s pre-1967 War dominion over the enclave.

This plan is subject to Israel’s approval as the deployment would breach the demilitarized clauses of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace accord. Cairo is expected to delay the Shalit case until this plan goes through.

Monday night, Barak stressed before visiting US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice that Israel has not given up on a military option to pre-empt Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear bomb.


Moscow warns NATO against sending more ships to Black Sea, cautions Moldova

27 Aug. America’s decision to redirect its Georgia aid warship from Russian-controlled Poti port to Georgian-controlled Batumi Wednesday, August 27 did not cool the escalating tension between the two powers. No sooner had the US Coast Guard cutter Dallas docked, when three Russian missile boats, led by the Moskva missile cruiser, anchored at the Black Sea port of Sukhumi, to the north, while Moscow warned Western nations against sending more ships.

According to debkafile‘s military sources, ten NATO warships are present in the Black Sea – American, Turkish, German, Spanish and Polish. Alliance sources have said more vessels would soon be deployed raising the number to eighteen.

Moldova, another former Soviet Black Sea nation, is the latest target of Russian threats. Russian ambassador Valeri Kuzmin advised Moldova’s leaders to avoid a “bloody and catastrophic trend of events.” He said Moscow had recognizes South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence the day before, because of “Georgian’s aggression.”

G7 foreign ministers deplored Russia’s “excessive use of force” in Georgia and condemned its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.


Hizballah high-up falls to his death at rocket launch pad on Israeli border

27 Aug. The geography of the accident Tuesday, Aug. 26, belied the reiterated claims of Israeli ministers and UN officials that Hizballah’s rockets had been pushed back from the Lebanese-Israeli border.

debkafile‘s military sources confirm that, not only has Hizballah returned to its old positions on the Israeli border, but the Iran-backed Shiite terrorists are working feverishly on the construction of a new array of fortified military positions and rocket-launching pads right on top of the Israeli border fence. They are not disturbed by Israel’s army or UN peacekeepers.

When Israel’s security cabinet convened to discuss homeland defenses in an emergency on Wednesday, Dep. defense minister, Matan Vilnai, said every corner of Israel was now within range of enemy missiles. Syrian and Hizballah arsenals hold tens of thousands of rockets and missiles, which are an even greater danger than Iranian missiles. His Homeland Defense Authority would soon present proposals for improving security on the home front, which would be “primarily legislative.”

That is the root of the problem, say debkafile‘s military sources.

Why were Israeli forces not instructed to destroy these convoys and blow up the missile dumps?


Russia successfully tests ICBM designed to overcome anti-missile systems

28 Aug. Reporting this Thurs. Aug. 28, Alexander Vovk, spokesman for Russia’s strategic nuclear forces said the Topol RS-12M was tested to “develop equipment for potential combat and use against ground-based missiles.”

Earlier this week, amid the crisis over Georgia, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev warned of a military response to the US missile shield installed in Europe.

debkafile‘s military sources report the Topol RS-12M ballistic missile (NATO codenamed SS-25 Sickle) is a new piece of equipment which Russian generals have said Moscow is working on to pierce any missile shield the US could make.

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