A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending August 26, 2010

August 20, 2010 Briefs
• Clinton: Israel and Palestinians accept US invitation for direct talks. They start Sept. 2 in Washington with one-year limit. Egyptian president and Jordanian king invited to attend.
• Police say the disseminator of Galant document is businessman, reserve Lt. Col., aged 35.
• NYT: US assures Israel an Iranian nuclear threat could be a year away due to divisions within the regime.
• Russians to load Iran's Bushehr reactor with first fuel Saturday making it operational.
• Khamenei says negotiations possible only if America drops threats, sanctions and goals for talks. Iran complains to UN about US army chief Mullen saying military plans ready for possible military strike. Revolutionary Guards say if US attacks Iran it will be targeted everywhere in the world.
• Barak asks Lebanon to detain Maryam ship before it sets sail for Gaza Sunday.


Arab sources: A major military surprise is close. Galant scandal a smokescreen


20 Aug. War preparations are reported by debkafile's military sources to be afoot in Tehran and Damascus. Iran's Revolutionary Guards announced Friday, Aug. 20: "IRGC is in full readiness to encounter firmly with the stupidity of the US and the Zionist regime," Syrian security and emergency services were ordered to stand on war readiness, while Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is quoted as saying direct talks with Israel were not in the offing because "a big military surprise awaits the Middle East."
Some Iranian sources suggested that Israel's obsessive preoccupation with the Galant scandal (over a forged document designed to influence the choice of the next Israeli chief of staff) is a smokescreen masking preparations for an imminent attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
In the United States, respected commentators this week talked and wrote openly about a possible war over Iran's progress toward a nuclear bomb capability.
Lawrence Eagleburger, former US Secretary of State, had this to say about the activation of Iran's first reactor at Bushehr Saturday, Aug. 21: "The world's going to war over this. If Iran gets the weapon it's going to use it."
He urged an attack on Iran before it obtained a bomb.


August 21, 2010 Briefs
• Israel finally breaks its silence on Iran's Bushehr reactor with FM statement Saturday night: It is unacceptable that a government which aggressively violates UN resolutions should benefit from a nuclear energy project.
• Police absolved IDF generals from involvement in Galant scandal.


Secret US-Russian sanctions Vs Bushehr deal tied Israel's hands


21 Aug. The extraordinary meekness with which the US and Israel greeted Russia's start-up of Iran's first nuclear reactor is accounted for, debkafile reports, by a secret Washington-Moscow deal whereby Russia voted with the US for UN sanctions against Iran in return for which Washington and Jerusalem tacitly assented to the activation of the Iranian reactor.
The price the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government paid was prohibitive: Vladimir Putin was allowed to jump the Iranian nuclear drive miles forward toward a capacity for producing weapons-grade plutonium. (Moscow claims the rods will be returned, but Iran's capacity for deception and concealment in the entire last decade is well documented.)
The Netanyahu government was supposed to have all its worries swept away by the US assurance that the Iran threat is not imminent but eleven months away – meaning Iran would have the bomb in less than a year, a prospect hardly likely to ease Israeli concerns.
Ahead of his talks with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that Israel's security would be paramount. This pledge should be taken with a grain of salt given the way his promises to deal with a nuclear Iran have faded.


August 22, 2010 Briefs
• Four US troops killed by roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan Sunday.
• Defense Minister Barak names Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, OC Southern Command, IDF's 20th Chief of Staff. He succeeds Maj.-Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi who ends stint next February. Barak: Galant is a long-serving officer with rich operational experience, a fine leader qualified to pilot IDF in challenges ahead. Netanyahu praised nomination, hoped it would end uncertainty damaging IDF and restore stability.


Outside threats prompt snap choice of new Israeli army chief


22 Aug. The snap nomination of OC Southern Command Maj. Gen, Yoav Galant as Israel's 20th chief of staff was necessary – not just to dispel the climate of intrigue among competing generals, but to pull the high command together in view of the war preparations gathering momentum in Tehran, Damascus, Beirut and Ramallah – and even in al Qaeda in Yemen.
Jerusalem is extremely concerned by the placing of four hostile military forces on the highest level of war preparedness in the last few days and is asking why.
Syrian prime minister Naji al-Otari and Abbas Zaki, one of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas' closest aides, have spoken of a "very imminent" Middle East war; Al Qaeda's No. 2. commander in Yemen, Saeed al-Shehri, released a videotape last week stating that a war between Iran and Israel is about to erupt and all Arab aviators should crash their planes on Israeli city centers like the Al Qaeda martyrs who attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11 2001.
And Iran unveiled a long-range 1,000-kilometer bomber drone armed with four cruise missiles.


August 23, 2010 Briefs
• Boaz Harpaz suspected forger of Galant document detained on landing at Ben Gurion.
• US atomic watchdog chief Yikya Amano pays first visit to Israel Monday. Will meet President Peres and Shaul Horev, head of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission.
• Iran warns aggressors will face unpredictable reaction. DF Vahidi spoke at unveiling of Zolfiqar missile-carrying speedboat claiming twice as fast as US battleships.
• Also inaugurated Monday new Iranian high-speed rocket-launcher boat. Both to be deployed in Strait of Hormuz.
• Sunday, Iran launched new locally-made bomber drone.
• Two rallies against mosque and cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero in New York.
• Petraeus to BBC: Taliban's momentum reversed in key Afghan southern provinces and Kabul.
• Police recommend indicting ex-PM Olmert and 11 others in Holyland property bribes case.


Obama reneges on deal with Israel over Bushehr, Palestinians


23 Aug. debkafile reports Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has misleadingly omitted to disclose to his ministers that the Obama administration has reneged on the secret deals for paving the way to the talks with the Palestinians opening on Sept. 2. In return for following the US lead in its non-reaction to the Bushehr reactor start-up, Obama was understood to have undertaken to refrain from twisting Israel's arms in these negotiations.
Obama is under fire from several groups of Israel's defenders for what is regarded as his unfair and unbalanced treatment of Israel and favoritism for the Arab and Muslim side of the Middle East rift. The drift of Jewish and pro-Israeli voters away from the Democrats ahead of November's midterm congressional elections is reflected in more than one poll.
The Israeli prime minister may be counting on the November midterm elections to hold Obama's hand from weighing too heavily in favor of the Palestinians – if the talks manage to stagger on that long.


August 24, 2010 Briefs
• Hamas' Damascus-based Meshaal urges Egyptian, Jordanian rulers to boycott Israel-Palestinian talks.
• At least four dead in sudden flare-up of Hizballah-Sunni fighting in Beirut. Hizballah's Mohammed Fawwaz among dead. President Suleiman settled the dispute.
• UN tribunal probing Hariri murder returns Hizballah's "evidence" against Israel as incomplete.
• At least 31 people including six lawmakers killed in Muna Hotel attack in Mogadishu Tuesday. After shooting rampage, two suicide bombers blew themselves up. They were disguised as government soldiers.
• US: Extending Israel's settlement freeze will top Israel-Palestinian talks starting Sept. 2.


Iran Guards chief secretly oversees war plans – in Damascus


24 Aug. Iranian Revolutionary Guards chief Gen. Mohamed Ali Jafari, who rarely leaves his country, paid a secret visit to Damascus a few hours before Tehran launched the Bushehr nuclear reactor Saturday, Aug. 21. With him were top Al Qods Brigades commanders in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories. They conferred with Bashar Assad on roles for Syria and Hizballah in an Iranian reprisal for a US or Israel attack – or a "pre-emptive strike" against Israel.
His visit was one of the red lights abounding of late that instilled in Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak a sense of urgency for a strategic response to the Bushehr startup. He accordingly cut short the furious contest raging in the IDF's General Staff over the job of the next chief of staff by an abrupt announcement of Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant's appointment to the post when the incumbent ends his tour of duty in February. This sent a message to Tehran: Israel's defensive posture and self-restraint, as practiced by Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, was about to change. The incoming IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Galant, who commanded the 2009 Cast lead operation against Hamas in Gaza, subscribes to an offensive, proactive military approach in contrast to the dovish Ashkenazi.


August 25, 2010 Briefs
• Dozens killed in two-hour wave of al Qaeda attacks across Iraq Wednesday. Iraqi security and police posts targeted a week before US ends combat mission. At least a dozen car and roadside bombs exploded Basra in south to Mosul in north.
• Qassam missile from Gaza exploded Wednesday afternoon outside a Shear Hanegev kibbutz.
• Salehi: After Bushehr, uranium exploration and exploitation is on Iran's agenda.
• Iran test-fires new generation of short-range ground missile Fateh-110 in service with Hizballah. The new version has a range of 193 km.
• Body of MI6 agent found in sports bag in London Westminster flat. Death of man described as "GCHQ technical officer" treated as homicide. Anti-terror personnel co-opted to investigation in view of MI6-Pakistani intel cooperation.
 

Hamas plans big terror offensive to torpedo talks


25 Aug. The Hamas Damascus-based political leader Khaled Meshaal Tuesday, Aug. 24 was belligerent enough to confirm the information reaching Israel and Palestinian Authority intelligence that the extremist Palestinian group is set for large-scale terror attacks against Israeli and Palestinian West Bank targets to torpedo Israel-Palestinian talks beginning in Washington on Sept. 2.
If Hamas' West Bank networks are thwarted by Israeli and Palestinian security alerts, it is ready to strike from Gaza, Sinai or Lebanon. Meshaal for the first time openly threatened Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah with catastrophic results for their national security if they attended the US-sponsored Israel-Palestinian talks. He depicted Mahmoud Abbas as an enemy of Islam and said he was abetting "the liquidation" of the Palestinian cause.


August 26, 2010 Briefs
• Iran has enough enriched uranium for 1-2 bombs – ex-IAEA Dep. Dir-Gen Olli Heinonen. Not enough for a bargaining chip with the US but a threat, he said. Heinon called US assessment of a year to convert uranium stocks to a higher grade "not a bad estimate".


Obama weighs dramatic security perks if Israel scraps Iran strike


26 Aug. debkafile reports Israel is thought to have revived its military option against Iran – especially since Iran activated its first nuclear reactor at Bushehr on Aug. 21, thereby placing the Obama administration under enormous pressure. On top of the dire predictions of catastrophe planted on various US op-ed pages, Obama this week sent two big guns to Jerusalem to try and check an Israel attack. A guaranteed US nuclear umbrella, nuclear attack submarines for the IDF, Raptor stealth jets and NATO membership may be on offer.
The first to arrive was International Atomic Energy Agency Director Yukiya Amano, who explained that under his stewardship the nuclear watchdog's treatment of Iran would be quite different from the lenience shown by his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei.
Thursday, Aug. 26, Amano was joined by Daniel Shapiro, Middle East Director at the National Security Council and a close friend of many Israeli leaders. He came laden with offers of security gifts – possible rewards both for restraint on Iran and as a softener for Netanyahu to be generous with concessions to the Palestinians in the forthcoming negotiations. Israeli strategists are not sure what good second-strike weapons systems Washington may offer if Israel is first destroyed by an Iranian nuclear attack.

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