A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Dec. 11, 2008

Marine spies find Syria has returned to plutonium production


5 Dec. Western agents recently carried out a daring covert operation to collect water samples from the Orontes River where it drains into the Mediterranean. Their discoveries were presented to a closed session of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency's board on Nov. 27-28.

Situated on the river bank near Homs is one of the three research institutes where Syrian, Iranian and North Korean technicians and scientists are suspected of reprocessing plutonium for Syria's clandestine military nuclear program. The Orentes samples confirmed the suspicion that Syria has gone back to the plutonium project which was cut short when Israeli destroyed its reactor at Al Kibar in September 2007.

Western nuclear technicians used a boat which sailed surreptitiously up to the river mouth and collected water samples on three different dates in the last two months.

Syria and North Korea renewed their clandestine nuclear cooperation accord on Oct. 22, so making sure of an uninterrupted flow from Pyongyang of nuclear materials, technology and experts for Syria's covert nuclear facilities.


Israeli experts help India prepare commando raids into Pakistan


6 Dec. New Delhi has asked for Israel to assist in setting up Indian commando cross-border strikes against Islamist terrorist havens in Pakistan including al Qaeda.

Israel has its own scores to settle for the brutal murder of six Israelis in Mumbai's Chabad Center by the Islamist terrorists and for the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency for selecting the Jewish-Israeli center.

Indian sources told debkafile that Israel was asked for assistance because its special undercover forces are long seasoned in plotting and executing reprisals for terrorist attacks and getting away after covert operations without leaving a trace. Four locations are in India's sights are Pakistani Kashmir, Punjabi Lahore and Multan, and Karachi


UN nuclear watchdog chief judges Western policy on Iran “a failure”


6 Dec. Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, says five years of US and international efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions are a failure. He told the Los Angeles Times Sat. Dec. 6: “We haven't moved one inch toward addressing the issues.”

debkafile's political sources: ElBaradei's words are the answer to president George W. Bush's reiteration Friday in a summing-up of his foreign policy record that the US would not allow Iran to develop an atomic weapon.

The same failed mark applies to Israel's leaders and their dogged reliance on the international community to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons – a line favored by president Shimon Peres, ex-prime minister Ariel Sharon, incumbent Ehud Olmert, foreign minister Tzipi Livni and defense minister Ehud Barak.

The IAEA director stressed: “Tehran continues to acquire nuclear technology and is stockpiling sensitive material” after three sets of international sanctions and the US-European offer of economic and security incentives.


Moscow sends warships on Mediterranean tour, offers Lebanon heavy weapons


7 Dec. debkafile's military sources report that, four months after the Georgian war, Moscow is again testing the limits of its Mediterranean reach. Two flotillas from the Barents and Black Seas are heading for the Mediterranean, where they will merge into a single fleet and spend months visiting ports.

Another Russian military initiative which should worry Jerusalem is the arrival in Beirut Saturday Dec. 6 of Mikhail Dimitriev, head of the Russian military cooperation department, to prepare the visit to Moscow next week of Lebanese defense minister Elias Murr, who said: “There are no obstacles in terms of equipping the army. We prepared for my visit to Russia next week. I will discuss… with the Russian defense minister what could be provided to the Lebanese Air Force.”

Clearly, Moscow and Beirut are preparing to transact their first important arms deal for Russian tanks, missiles, helicopters, and possibly warplanes. Murr's statement about no obstacles signals Washington that with Moscow ready and willing, Beirut is prepared to flout US opposition to the Lebanese army's acquisition of heavy weapons, even after Gen. David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, voiced concern that they may fall into Hizballah's hands.


Iran test-fires new surface-to-surface missile from warship


7 Dec. Tehran claims the new Nasr-2 surface to surface missile was fired Dec. 6 from a warship in the Sea of Oman during its six-day naval exercise and destroyed a target 30 km away.

The games, launched with 60 warships last Tuesday, were dubbed a war readiness exercise. They covered 50,000 square miles of the Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz which Iran threatens to block if attacked.

debkafile's military sources report mock air strikes “which sank big enemy vessels” were said to be part of the war game, a clear reference to American air carriers, three of which are now present in waters opposite Iran. Navy chief Adm. Habibollah Sayyari boasted Wednesday: “Iran has pushed back the frontiers of naval capabilities to become the decisive maritime force in the region.”


India does not trust Pakistan's terrorist crackdown


8 Dec. debkafile's military sources report that New Delhi might have taken the Pakistani raids seriously had their suspects been turned over to India or Indian investigators allowed to question them. Western as well as Indian counter-terror sources point out that Lashkar e-Taiba was only one part of the Mumbai conspiracy which was led by its patron, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Taliban, elements of al Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups.


Netanyahu's first post-primary task is to pick a shadow cabinet


9 Dec. The Israeli electorate is desperate for fresh faces, new energy and clear thinking in the defense, finance and foreign ministries to replace a government dithering for months on every key issue: the missile-battered southwest, a nuclear-armed Iran and an impending economic recession.

Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu has been abstruse rather than enlightening. But after the primaries of Monday, Dec. 8, he will have to level with the voter on who and what Likud is offering.

There may be no time to wait until a new government is installed in Jerusalem some time in March 2009. By then, Iran may well be in a position to build its first A-Bomb and Barack Obama will have been in the White House for two months and following his own vision.

However tough a negotiator the US president may be, Iran will follow its familiar practice of using negotiating time as a grace period for pushing ahead with its nuclear program. US intelligence experts have predicted that Tehran needs no more than a few months into 2009 to accumulate enough fissile fuel for building 2-3 bombs and staging an underground A-test.

For Netanyahu, charting an Iran policy from the opposition benches would be good tactics and more convenient than getting started only after settling in the prime minister's office.


Indian police release names, photos of Islamic terrorists who carried out Mumbai siege


9 Dec. Under the caption “The faces of Terror” the Indian police Tuesday, Dec. 9, released the names and photos of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai Nov. 26. All ten came from Pakistan's Punjab province.

The two terrorists who slaughtered six Israelis at the Mumbai Chabad Center were Abu Umer – real name Nasir, from Faisalabad and Abu Akasha, real name Babar Imran, from Multan.

debkafile adds: The exposure of the ten terrorists' identities will further fuel military tensions between India and Pakistan and Islamabad's expectation of reprisals by New Delhi against Lashkar-e-Taiba bases.

The Mumbai police commissioner said the names of the nine terrorists killed in the encounter were obtained from Mohammed Ajmal Amir Iman who was caught alive. Their training in arms and explosives lasted more than a year at four locations in Pakistan. Some also underwent three weeks of indoctrination.

The police chief reported: “We are examining the contents of the four GPS devices, one satellite phone and nine mobile phones that have been recovered.”

Ten days after the Islamic massacre, the new head of the Chabad center was preparing to restore the facility which was a home from home for Israeli and Jewish visitors and name it for its murdered director Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka.


Right of center dominates Likud primary, alongside moderates, religious right


9 Dec. Likud voters elected their dozen workhorse legislators to top slots in the party primary Monday, Dec. 8: Party whip Gideon Saar led the roster, while none of Binyamin Netanyahu's new recruits excepting only Benny Begin and former chief of staff Moshe Yaalon made it to the top ten.

All of them hold that final status talks with Arab leaders, especially Palestinians, is untimely; Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip paved the way for the fundamentalist Palestinian Hamas and its missile offensive against Israel and was a blunder which must not be repeated on the West Bank.

Netanyahu will have a hard time navigating a workable course between the popular right-of center group, the moderates, the religious hardliners and his own pragmatism.


Military sources: 100 million Israeli shekels Barak sent to Gaza will feed Hamas war chest


10 Dec. Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak ordered 100 million Israeli shekels (equivalent to $25.6 million) in currency bills to be transferred to the Gaza Strip via the West Bank Wednesday, Dec. 10. He bowed to appeals from Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayad and the governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer who worried that the Hamas administration could not cover its payroll.

Military sources told debkafile: This is a repeat performance of Hamas' fuel scam.

Hamas hoards high-quality fuel from Israel ready for use by their military units against an Israeli incursion of the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, around 1 million liters of low-quality diesel fuel is smuggled through Hamas tunnels from Egyptian Sinai every week for sale to the population at top prices.

Neither the Egyptian nor the Israeli authorities lift a finger to stop this nefarious traffic.

Periodically, Hamas stages power outages to show the world how the Israeli blockade is starving Gaza's hospitals and power stations of fuel. The shekel shortage is another piece of Hamas theatre. The money goes straight into its war chest.


Jerusalem court orders releases of Zeev Broide charged with shooting Hebron Palestinian


10 Dec. Justice Malkah Aviv determined that Broide shot in self-defense against an attempted Palestinian lynch. She accused Israeli police of discriminatory conduct during the clashes over the forcible evacuation of a Jewish-purchased building in West Bank city and noted that Broide was arrested but not a single Palestinian detained or prosecuted.


Somali pirates set up land bases to pre-empt EU anti-piracy force


10 Dec. From Tuesday, Dec. 9, at least four British, French and Greek warships, two reconnaissance planes and 150 marines will escort merchant ships sailing through the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa waters.

But meanwhile, debkafile's military and counter-terrors sources report, the pirates have set up a land-based intelligence-financial-logistic network in Mombasa, Kenya; Piraeus, Greece; Naples, Italy; and Rotterdam, Netherlands. Their spies gather information from shipping and marine insurance contacts on the merchant vessels heading for the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and the cargoes. They brief the pirates on the presence of security guards and weapons available for the crew aboard the vessel.


South Asia stands “in the eye of a storm of terror” – Indian home minister


11 Dec. Speaking in parliament Thursday, Dec. 11, Indian home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram announced measures to fix the intelligence lapses and “logistical weakness” exposed by the Islamist terrorist siege of Mumbai which cost 172 lives. “We cannot go back to business as usual,” said the minister. “The finger of suspicion points unmistakably to the territory of our neighbor Pakistan.”

debkafile's counter-terror sources point to preparations in New Delhi for a military response to the Mumbai attack, expected to come in the form of targeted cross-border raids on terrorist targets.

Indian officials confirm that the ten terrorists accounted for, all from Pakistani Punjab, were only part of a 30-member team. Twenty are missing and India is geared for more Islamist terrorist attacks. The counter-terror center in Jerusalem Thursday issued a strong warning to Israelis to stay clear of Goa over the December-January holiday season, where Westerners, including Americans and Europeans, may be targeted for another Islamist assault, possibly by the missing terrorists.

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