A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Dec. 16, 2010

December 11. 2010 Briefs
• WikiLeaks: In 2008, Lebanese defense minister Elias Murr proposed an Israeli attack on Hizballah. Talking to US diplomat he offered a list of targets for Israel to attack.
Murr said he had instructed Lebanese C-in-C Michel Suleiman to keep army out of confict. Suleiman is now president of Lebanon.
• Obama's proliferation adviser Gary Samore: More economic sanctions planned "to test how high Iran's pain threshold is".
• At least 15 killed by improvised bomb in S. Afghanistan's Helmand.
• Assad: Hariri tribunal's rulings will be accepted by all – provided they are based on facts. Biden calls Hariri, promises US support for Lebanese independence and tribunal decisions.
• US considers charging Julian Assange under espionage act.

US drops Palestinian-Israeli track, formulates new Turkey-Iran deal

11 Dec. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had the thankless task of writing finis on the Obama administration's two-year effort to persuade Israelis and Palestinians to talk peace. It was time "to grapple with the core issues of this conflict" – borders, refugees, settlements, water and Jerusalem – she said, without mentioning timetables. Her most intriguing comments was this: "The status quo is untenable. And we will redouble our regional diplomacy. When one way is blocked, we will seek another." debkafile reports the administration is now focusing on a new plan for employing Turkey – first to broker a deal with Iran, then an Israeli-Syrian accord and lastly an Israel-Palestinian peace track.
Many hurdles remain to be surmounted before this path can be broached – if at all.

December 12, 2010 Briefs
• Six NATO troops killed in insurgent attack in S. Afghanistan. ISAF gave no details of attack or nationality of victims.
• Netanyahu: Barak's proposal to divide Jerusalem in a peace accord does not represent government policy.
• At least 17 killed, 35 injured, in twin blasts in Ramadi, capital of Iraq's Anbar Province Sunday.
• Two Qassam missiles fired from Gaza explode on empty ground at Shaar Hanegev and Sdot Negev.
• High storms off Ashdod sink Moldovan ship carrying 3,000 tons of iron. Ukrainian crew of 11 afloat on rafts rescued by nearby vessel.

Iran bent on punishing US, UK, Israel accused of attacking its scientists

12 Dec. US, British and Israeli secret services are getting set for Iran to retaliate for the attacks of which they are accused on its top nuclear physicists. debkafile's Iranian sources report that the last straw was the Nov. 29 attacks on two scientists in central Tehran.
In the last ten days, the Iranians have mounted a propaganda campaign of rising intensity accusing the CIA, MI6 and Mossad of combining forces to liquidate its senior nuclear scientists inside the country during 2010.
The Six Power nuclear talks with Iran opened in Geneva on Dec. 12 with an 80-minute tirade by Iran's representative Saad Jalili, Iran's National Security Adviser and head of its delegation. He declared, "Iran has so far lost 13,000 citizens in terrorist attacks… that (are) supported by the West. The same trend is repeating again." Turning to European Union executive Catherine Ashton, he said, "The recent assassination of the two nuclear scientists was a different case compared with the previous cases."
To explain why they were different, he claimed that the MI6 director John Sawers and Israel had confessed they were behind those attacks.

December 13, 2010 Briefs
• Ahmadinejad fires Manouchehr Mottaki as foreign minister, appoints nuclear chief Ali Salehi in his place. The dismissal caught Mottaki in Dakar on an African tour.
• EU foreign ministers decide against recognizing unilateral Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders.
• Iran winds up large ground forces exercise near Iraqi border under close wraps.
• At least 19 killed on third day of freak Middle East storms, floods, high winds.

Iran's new foreign minister will pump up N-Bomb, anti-US drives

13 Dec. Nuclear Energy Commission Director Ali Akhbar Salehi was appointed Iran's new foreign minister Monday, Dec. 13 – while renewed nuclear diplomacy was in midstream – to make sure the Six World Powers understood that Tehran was determined to go full speed ahead with its nuclear weapon program and would give no quarter in its drive to evict US influence from the Middle East and Arab world. debkafile's Iranian sources expect that after Manoucher Mottaki's sacking as foreign minister, Tehran's campaign against the Obama administration will be more aggressive than ever before.

Palestinians dream up new refugee figure of 7 million

13 Dec. The Palestinians believe they can use international misfortunes to fast-forward their national goals. Seeing a big chance for gain, Palestinian lead negotiator Saeb Erekat has produced the astonishing new figure of 7 million refugees whom Israel must accept in an article run by the London Guardian on Friday, Dec. 10.
This is ten times the figure of refugees the 1948 War displaced. Erekat omitted to mention that the war was launched by seven Arab armies to destroy the fledgling state of Israel and several other pertinent facts.
Instead, he "reported: "Israeli historians have debunked the traditional Zionist mythology and shown how Zionist leaders prior to 1948 formulated plans to displace the indigenous Palestinian population in order to create a Jewish majority state."
Erekat was not challenged because not a single Israeli publication found his opus worthy of mention. The Palestinians can usually count on a favorable press from Israel's mainstream media and equal time at least with the policies of the government in Jerusalem. Airing unreasonable Palestinian demands would break that mold. It would show the Palestinian negotiator pulling his facts and figures out of a hat and leave them no option but to reaffirm the common consent among Israeli leaders of every political hue that by granting the Palestinians the "right of return," Israel would be committing suicide.
Arab rulers like Saudi King Abdullah and Syria's Bashar Assad are fed up with the tactics of Ereket and his boss, Mahmoud Abbas whom they see leading the peace process to never-never land.

Same hand behind Stockholm and Time Square bombings

14 Dec. The Swedish investigation into the country's first suicide bombing Saturday, Dec. 11, quickly found that the bomb car which exploded during a shopping rush in the heart of Stockholm was part of a well-planned, sophisticated terror operation, prepared several months in advance to inflict a large number of casualties. The Islamist terror group drew lessons from the failed Times Square car bombing. Unlike Faisal Shahzad who fled, Taimour al-Abdaly was a walking bomb arsenal, loaded with three sets of bombs, one of which was a dozen miniature pipe bombs strung together as a belt.
Still, the suicide bomber was the only fatality. Two others were slightly injured.
The Islamist terror group has turned to multilateralism in the planning, setting up and execution of operations methods to baffle national counter-terror intelligence agencies in the West. The Stockholm strike was accordingly broken down into segments, taking place in Pakistan, Iraq, Sweden, Jordan and the UK. American and European cities may find themselves confronted in future with more attacks on those lines.
Iraqi-born Taimour al-Abdaly was praised by Al Qaeda-linked Internet sites as a brave martyr who obeyed orders from Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, commander of Al Qaeda in Iraq, to avenge the Muhammad cartoons drawn by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks.
Al-Abdaly is reported to have visited Jordan last month to secretly meet his Iraqi handlers. Swedish investigators report he was radicalized during his years in the UK. UK police searched the home in Luton where he had lived with his wife and three children.
Iraq has thus joined Pakistan and Yemen as the source of al Qaeda attacks in the West. Found on the body of Al-Abdaly was a note saying: "Europe, here we come."

December 15, 2010 Briefs
• North Korea prepares for third nuclear test expected in March. Western intelligence suspects NKorea of enriching uranium in four secret sites. Russian Far East units on war alert over Korean tensions. South Korea ends its biggest civil defense exercise in many years.
• Iran's new nuclear chief is Prof. Mohammad Ahmadian, former deputy energy minister and head of company which built the Bushehr reactor. He replaces Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's new foreign minister.
• Controversial military conversion law passes preliminary Knesset reading 74 to 18. It extends state endorsement of Jewish conversion rites performed for servicemen by IDF chaplains.
• At least 38 killed, scores injured, in double suicide bombing in Shiite mosque in SE Iranian Baluchi town of Chabahr Wednesday.
• Senegal severs ties with Iran after Tehran failed to explain purpose of arms shipment impounded in Nigeria.
• US envoy Mitchell ends talks with Israeli Palestinian leaders and departs.

Medvedev to visit Israel in mid-January

15 Dec. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's first visit to Israel in mid-January, part of a Middle East tour, will signify a major switch in Kremlin Middle East policy to warmer relations with Israel and cooler ties with Iran, Syria and the radical Palestinian Hamas. They informed Israel that Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is no longer welcome in Moscow.
debkafile's Moscow sources report that the Kremlin has watched the Obama administration Israel-Palestinian peace diplomacy run out of steam and sees its chance for a more active role on this diplomatic track.
Furthermore, the Russians have got two bids in play for a slice of the as-yet untapped Mediterranean gas. While offering to partner Lebanon in exploring the oil and gas potential opposite its shores earlier this month, debkafile's sources report that the Russian energy giant Gazprom sent secret envoys to Tel Aviv at the same time to discuss investment opportunities with the Israeli firms holding the concessions for three gas fields and a possible partnership in Israel's Ashkelon-Eilat oil and gas pipelines.
The Russians calculate that the quickest and cheapest outlet for marketing Russian gas to the Far East is through Eilat.

Spy devices monitored long-range missiles in Lebanon, Syria

15 Dec. The espionage devices found on Mount Sannine, northeast of Beirut and Barouk Mountain in the Chouf east of the capital, and dismantled by the Lebanese army Wednesday, Dec. 15 after receiving a tipoff from Hizballah, were there to detect and keep track of ground-to-ground missiles installed and operating in central and western Syria and all of Lebanon, debkafile's intelligence sources report. The photos released show no sign of the winter conditions prevailing in the region, although that night Hizballah's leader Nasrallah praised Lebanese soldiers for toiling through snowy conditions to dismantle the devices.
At round the same time, mysterious explosions were reported in another part of Lebanon, the coast of Sidon in the south.

December 16, 2010 Briefs
• Iraqi Al Qaeda captive says Islamists plotting Christmas attacks in US and Europe.
• Julian Assange is out of jail on 240,000 pound bail with conditions.
• Lebanon radio: Explosion opposite Sidon caused by Israel air strike against seaborne spy device.
• US Congress votes to oppose unilateral Palestinian state without agreement with Israel. It was introduced by Rep. Howard Berman, Chair of Foreign Affairs Committee.
• Arab League Foreign Ministers tell Palestinians to refuse talks with Israel until settlement construction stopped.

US-Israel tiff on security and Iran. US envoy denied direct access to generals

16 Dec. Washington and Jerusalem have fallen out on issues relating to Israeli security and current estimates of where the Iranian nuclear program stands, debkafile's military and Washington sources report. Wednesday, Dec. 15, Defense Minister Ehud Barak refused permission for the president's Special Adviser on the Middle East Dennis Ross to hold separate interviews with the IDF's incoming and outgoing chiefs of staff and head of intelligence as an attempt to go over the heads of Prime Minister Netanyahu and himself.
Barak had arranged for Lt. Gen. Yoav Galant, who takes over from Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi in April 2011, and the new Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Cochavi, to join his briefing session with the US envoy Thursday, Dec. 16 and offer their assessments on security issues and Iran. He thereby drew a line on the practice common in the last couple of years for American officials and officers to apply directly to high IDF officers at any time and try and persuade them that military action against Iran or Hizballah was unwise and unnecessary.
Israel is furious over the president's handing over of the conduct of talks with Iran to the European Union and its foreign affairs executive Catherine Ashton, which it calls a recipe for procrastination and impatient with the dragging diplomacy. Ross was sent over to hold Israel back from going it alone.

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