A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending August 19, 2010

Russia posts S-300 air defense missiles in Abkhazia


12 Aug. US and Israeli military sources told DEBKA Thursday, Aug. 12, that Russia had posted its advanced S-300 interceptor batteries in Abkhazia and air defense weapons in South Ossetia on the northern shore of the Black Sea – not against Georgia, as Moscow officially maintained, but rather as a move in the rising military tension over Iran.
Israel's helicopter exercise last month in Romania had alerted Moscow to the possibility of US or Israeli warplanes taking off from those bases to strike Iran's nuclear facilities over the Black and Caspian Sea skies. Russian deployed its interceptors to block this route.


August 13, 2010 Briefs
• Turkey accused of using chemical weapons against Kurdish PKK – Der Spiegel.
• German court releases on bail Israeli "Uri Brotsky" accused of passport forgery for Dubai killing. Extradited from Poland, he was allowed to fly to Israel.
• Two British servicemen killed in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
• Moscow: S-300 interceptor deployment in Abkhazia is not contrary to any international accords Russia has signed.
• Four African migrants shot dead in Sinai in gun battle with Bedouin traffickers demanding more money to take them to Israel. The traffickers had tied up 300 illegal migrants, but several escaped and grabbed weapons. Egyptian sources say 200, fled, 100 were captured and two shot dead. Some 20,000 illegal job-seekers manage to sneak into Israel each month.
 

Flap in Jerusalem over Aug. 21 activation of Iran's first reactor


14 Aug. Sudden word from Moscow and Tehran on Aug. 11 that Russia will activate Iran's first nuclear power reactor on Aug. 21 by loading the fuel has caused a major flap in Israel in view of its military aspects. DEBKA reports: Only last week, Russian leaders assured Washington that it would not go on line this year.
Former Bush adviser John Bolton commented that once the rods are in, Israel can no longer attack this reactor because of spreading radiation. Jerusalem is also worried by the news that Russia has stationed S-300 anti-missile batteries in Abkhazia on the Black Sea because it ties in with the imminent activation of the Bushehr reactor. It is taken as a signal that Israel's air route to Iran is hereby closed and Moscow will do its utmost to thwart an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
According to debkafile's military sources, the Bushehr reactor billed as a peaceful project is in fact integral to Iran's military program because the fuel rods powering it can also produce weapons-grade plutonium.


Azerbaijan releases to Iran Israeli embassy, radar station bomb plotters


14 Aug. Israel was taken by surprise by the Azerbaijan government's release of two Lebanese Hizballah terrorists and an Iranian citizen from prison sentences for plotting attacks in Feb. 2009 on the Israeli embassy in Baku and a key early warning radar station guarding against Iranian missile fire.
debkafile's counter-terror sources report that Israel, which has extensive and strategically important ties with Azerbaijan, is dealing discreetly with a setback as potentially damaging as the breach with Turkey.
The two Hizballah operatives were sentenced to 15 years for plotting to blow up the Israeli embassy and the Daryal radar station, which is situated on the northeastern Azerbiajan mountaintop of Gabala for tracking missile and satellite activity inside Iran.
The attacks were scheduled for February 2009, on the anniversary of the death of the organization's commander in chief Imad Moughniyeh.


August 16, 2010 Briefs
• A Palestinian terrorist shot dead by IDF force while attaching bomb to Gaza border fence opposite Kibbutz Nirim. One Israel soldier slightly hurt by sniper fire from Gaza.
Two Qassam missiles then fired from Gaza, exploding on Eshkol farmland.
• Russian nuclear chief and energy minister to visit Iran's first nuclear reactor in Bushehr Friday. Russian fuel to be loaded in reactor Saturday under Moscow's 10-year supply pledge.
• Netanyahu pays official visit to Greece Monday. On July 10, debkafile reported Greece replacing Turkey as key Israeli strategic partner.
• US-French accord for UNIFIL to serve another six months in Lebanon.
• Large 11-day maneuver begins with 50,000 South Korean, 30,000 US troops taking part.


Putin pushes ahead with fueling up Iran's reactor Saturday


16 Aug. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin decided it was safe to go ahead and load Iran's first nuclear reactor with fuel on Aug. 21 – effectively making it active – after the US and Israel did not seem troubled by the prospect of the reactor going on stream, debkafile reports. Either the two governments had been caught flatfooted, he figured, or come to terms with Iran's capacity to produce weapons-grade plutonium.
Iran is to build 10 more uranium enrichment plants in fortified mountain caves.
Russian and Iranian officials are bending over backwards to assure the world that Bushehr is a harmless and peaceful project for manufacturing electricity, whereas, as debkafile has previously reported and American experts stressed Monday: "Once fueled and operational, Bushehr will produce plutonium 239 which can be used to make nuclear weapons."
They also confirmed the warning by former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton (that once the fuel is loaded, Bushehr will be immune from attack because of the risk of spreading radiation) by repeating: "…once it has gone critical, any attempt to do so (attack the reactor) would risk the release of a radioactive plume that might kill civilians and poison surrounding areas."
Bolton gave Israel and the US less than a week – that is until Aug. 21 – to put the reactor out of commission before it was too late.


Bomb kills Iran's military drone program chief


16 Aug. On Aug. 1, Reza Baruni, the father of Iran's military UAV program, died in a mighty explosion that destroyed his closely secured villa, debkafile' reports. He lived in the high-scale neighborhood secluded for high Iranian officials in the southern town of Ahwaz in oil-rich Khuzestan.
Very few people in the country outside the top leaders and air force knew about his job and so his death was not generally appreciated as fatally stalling Iran's military drone program for many years.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence source report that bombs were planted in at least three corners of the building and expertly rigged to explode simultaneously and bring the ceilings crashing down on its occupants. The bomber must therefore have had access to the Baruni home.
The authorities tended to fix the blame on underground organizations representing the local Arab-speaking Ahwazis' fight for self-rule against the repressive regime. Some suspect certain Gulf Arab emirates' intelligence services commissioned the Baruni murder.


August 17, 2010 Briefs
• Suicide bomber kills at least 60 people, wounds 119 at Iraqi army recruitment center in downtown Baghdad Tuesday.
• Three US soldiers killed in bomb attacks Afghanistan.
• Two Israeli soldiers patrolling border injured in mortar attack from S. Gaza.


Iranian fighter downed near Bushehr, drones slam into reactor


17 Aug. Two mysterious incidents are reported by debkafile in the run-up to the fueling-up of Iran's first nuclear reactor Saturday, Aug. 21. Tuesday, Aug. 17, an Iranian F4 Phantom fighter jet was claimed by Tehran to have crashed 6 kilometers north of the Bushehr nuclear reactor in southern Iran. debkafile's military sources report it was shot down by Russian-made TOR-M1 air-missile defense batteries guarding the reactor. On Aug.1, three unidentified drones slammed into reactor drone, killing five people.
Our sources ask: How did the Phantom penetrate to a distance of 6 kilometers from the reactor when its skies up to a 20-kilometer radius are a no-fly zone?
All the Bushehr defensive systems have been on the highest alert since a previous incident first revealed on Aug. 6 by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 456:.
On Aug. 1, three unidentified UAVs slammed into the reactor buildings, scaring the townspeople who were sure the plant was under American or Israeli attack.
After the heads of government in Tehran put their heads together to try and identify the drones, without success, the defense ministry emerged with a communiqué reporting that a single drone had crashed on the nuclear reactor's dome, but insisted it was launched by Iran's Revolutionary Guards to test the alertness of the air defense personnel guarding it and the effectiveness of its anti-air radar system.


August 18, 2010 Briefs
• Three Gaza targets bombed by Israeli Air Force Tuesday night.
• During the day, two Israeli soldiers patrolling border injured in mortar attack from S. Gaza.
• Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv turned over to Israeli authorities Palestinian man who broke into building and tried to take hostages.
• Netanyahu: Israel does not accept pre-conditions for direct talks with Palestinians.


Unfolding revelations rock top IDF brass, hang over defense minister


18 Aug. The "Galant document" expose started out last month as a shabby ruse trumped up, or forged, to sway defense minister Ehud Barak in his choice of the next chief of staff. It has ballooned into a major scandal sweeping up Israel's top generals and hanging over the defense minister's head and edging close to the Netanyahu government.
Tuesday, Aug. 17, Chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi told police investigators he had received the document weeks ago and not reported it. However he explains his inaction, Gen. Ashkenazi cannot come out of this affair looking good. As army chief, he is in no position to pass the buck and name the culprit or culprits. He will have to explain why he failed to stop matters getting out of hand on his watch. So too will Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
The media will also take flak for taking sides in the contest among the generals and other interested parties. They will be accused of biased reporting to puff up the story, thereby exacerbating rivalries and dissent within the IDF and defense establishment and blowing them out of proportion – and out of control


US ends Iraq war, two civil conflicts on the boil


19 Aug. The crossing of the US 4th Stryker Brigade and 2nd Infantry Division from Iraq into Kuwait Thursday morning, Aug. 19, ended America's combat involvement in the seven and-a-half year Iraq war. But for Iraq, it is just beginning: At least two civil conflicts are at boiling point – Sunni-Shiite strife and hostilities between the two Muslim factions and the Kurds of the North – and Iran's followers stand ready to seize Iraq's oil-rich South potentially sparking yet another world conflagration.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's refusal to step down or join a unity government is unsustainable and the cause of a rising spiral of violence. Instead, he is raising Shiite forces to crush the Sunni factions, while the Kurds, disappointed in the US failure to solve the Kirkuk issue are preparing to seize the strategic city and its oilfields. Iran for its part plans to take over all of southern Iraq with its oil riches and shrine cities.

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