A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Dec. 17, 2009
December 12, 2009 Briefs
· Mottaki: Iran is ready to trade 400 kgs of 3.5pc enriched uranium for same amount of 20pc grade. The swap could take place on Kish island if the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany agree. debkafile: This deal would enhance Iran's stock of high-grade material – not reduce it.
· Taiwan denies knowledge of new Iranian nuclear equipment smuggling network base in Seoul. Daily Telegraph reported sales of hundreds of European-made pressure transducers via Taiwanese firms. They are used to produce weapons-grade uranium.
· Islamic conference condemns desecration of West Bank mosque at Kafr Yasuf. Peres urges swift inquiry and severe punishment for the vandals.
· Iran and Syria sign a new military cooperation pact.
· High-profile Al Qaeda operative killed by US drone in North Waziristan.
· Gates expects significant new sanctions for Iran's nuclear program early next year.
· US may soon have ambassador in Damascus after four years. Short-listed are Jacob Walles for US consul in Jerusalem, Nabul Khury, US diplomat of Lebanese descent.
· Obama wishes Jews world wide a happy Hanukkah for Feast of Lights.
West Bank Cast into Ferment by Diplomatic-Security Vacuum
12 Dec. Whoever trashed a West Bank village mosque early Friday, Dec. 11, tossed a match onto dry fire wood. The Netanyahu government's construction moratorium on settlement construction has had an acutely polarizing effect on Israelis on both sides of the Green Line. Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin has called Mahmoud Abbas' boycott of Israel as a negotiation partner an ominous "diplomatic intifada," while three major Palestinian terrorist attacks were foiled in the last ten days.
The response of Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak to Abbas' boycott is appeasement and concessions, such as the freeze on Jewish construction in the West Bank., an action which is seen as weakness to be exploited rather than a desire for peace. Palestinian extremists are seeking to use their leader's diplomatic intifada as the starting-point for the real thing, a campaign of terror.
The Obama administration and some European capitals are partly to blame for letting Mahmoud Abbas slip the reins and pursue his dangerous game of excluding Israel from diplomacy.
But the Netanyahu-Barak duo and Abbas must bear most of the responsibility for the widening political, diplomatic and security vacuum by spending most of their first year in office ducking initiatives on any military or diplomatic front.
Israel's friends and enemies alike are asking what has happened to Israel's strong defense posture in the face of present and impending threats.
December 13, 2009 Briefs
· Defense minister Barak expels West Bank Mt Bracha yeshiva from relationship with IDF. He acted after its head Rabbi Melamed spurned a summons to publicly repudiate servicemen's protests against settler eviction duties.
· Cabinet approves Netanyahu's proposal for benefits to 2 million Israelis in national priority locations including 100,000 living on West Bank. Barak and his four Labor ministers voted against 21-strong majority.
· Neighboring Jewish settlers, rabbis, bring new Qoran volumes to Kfar Yasuf village elders in place of books damaged by vandals. They denounced mosque attack, staged sulha, offered to repair building.
· Iran's supreme leader accuses opposition of insulting regime founder Ayatollah Khomenei. Opposition says alleged incident shown on state TV was doctored.
· Khaled Meshaal arrives in Tehran at head of Hamas delegation.
· Palestinians fire two Qassam missiles at Sderot and Mefalsim early Sunday. Both exploded on open ground.
· Young Israeli woman injured in Palestinian stabbing attack at Gush Etzion bus-stop Saturday night.
· Two Palestinians detained in possession of explosives and stun grenade near Beit Fouriq.
· Police detained Palestinian near Ashkelon on suspicion of plotting a terror attack.
New Israeli unmanned wonder boat deployed in Persian Gulf
13 Dec. The first unmanned stealth craft on the seas, designated Protector SV or Death Shark, is in high demand after its recent deployment in the Persian Gulf and successful performance with the Singapore Navy. debkafile's military sources report that India and South Korea asked Israel's Rafael to build craft to their specifications when chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi visited their capitals earlier this month.
Western military naval experts rate the Protector as one of the most effective military and intelligence craft afloat today, able to take over many functions of big high-cost warships with large crews. It can easily cruise off the shores of Lebanon Syria and Iran undetected for long periods due to its tested stealth design.
India and South Korea find the wonder boat ideal for deployment on oceans, narrow waterways, rivers and ports. Among its other features, the craft is equipped for active interception of terrorist incursions by sea, like the one that held Mumbai to siege in Nov. 2008.
December 14, 2009 Briefs
· Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians celebrate Hamas' 22nd anniversary in Gaza City. Their leaders vow never to recognize Israel and persist in "resistance" until it is destroyed.
· Three US backpackers captured straying across border to go on trial in Iran for espionage. Clinton: The charge is unfounded.
· Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni calls off UK visit because pro-Palestinian lawyers seek her arrest for "war crimes." She was to have spoken at Sunday's JNF conference and held talks with British PM Gordon Brown.
· Free dental treatment for under-18s approved by Israeli ministers.
· PM Netanyahu backs Barak on expulsion of Mt. Bracha yeshiva from conscription contract with IDF. He added he hopes dispute will be settled sensibly.
Al Qaeda's No. 2 condemns Obama's Mid East policy after terror ring smashed in Lebanon
14 Dec. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second top leader, denounced US president Barack Obama's Middle East policy as "nothing but a new stage in the Crusader and Zionist campaign to subjugate and humiliate us… and our religion" in a statement posted on an Islamist website Monday, Dec. 14.
He also slammed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Saudi king Abdullah and Jordan's monarch as "Arab Zionists." By unusually listing them by name, Zawahiri is seen by debkafile's terror experts as directly threatening those leaders whom he accuses of "implementing the orders of Obama… whose real plan is to support Israel…"
debkafile's counter-terror sources report that Zawahiri's angry statement was no doubt influenced by the breakup of an important al Qaeda ring in Lebanon, which was controlled by one of his minions, Gemal Baioni, an Egyptian Islamic Jihad undercover agent based in Athens. It was rolled up by Lebanese military intelligence in time to foil attacks on US, UK, French and German embassies in Beirut and on UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, while Lebanese president Michel Suleiman was away in Washington.
Baioni also supervised the Katyusha rocket barrage against northern Israel on Nov. 27. Only one 207mm rocket was actually fired. Another four were found by UN peacekeepers ready for launching.
Israel's defense minister declares war on IDF-linked seminaries
14 Dec. As Israel wrestled with a fateful decision on Iran's nuclear issue and war tensions building up around its borders, defense minister Ehud Barak went to war on the military-yeshiva "Hesder" contract, under which seminary students are conscripted – most volunteering for combat units – along with their studies.
Raising the specter of mutiny in the armed forces, Barak Sunday, Dec. 13, expelled the West Bank Mt. Bracha yeshiva from the contract when its dean, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, refused a summons to a hearing with the minister to answer charges of inciting student-soldiers to refuse orders on conscientious grounds affecting the status of Jewish settlements.
Ideological and political divides on land-for-peace moves run deep in Israel – and not just among the 350,000 Jews living on the West Bank. Barak is head of the minority Labor party which strongly advocates these moves, while prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu leads the majority Likud party which is formally committed to a Land of Israel ideology.
By his showdown with the yeshiva principal, Barak stands accused of exacerbating popular divisions. Right-wing circles ask why he does not send the army in against university professors who encourage students to dodge compulsory military services altogether.
December 15 Briefs
· UK foreign secretary Miliband phoned Israeli FM Lieberman and Livni Tuesday night. He was shocked by arrest warrant against Livni and stressed importance of UK-Israel relations.
· MI Chief Yadlin: Iran has accumulated enough materials to build a nuclear bomb. "The technological clock has almost finished turning."
· Three Israeli police and 3 young settlers injured in five-hour struggle over enforcement of government building freeze at Tsofit, northern West Bank.
· Hamas leader Meshaal pledges to "unite" with Iran if it is attacked by Israel.
· British ambassador rapped at Israeli foreign ministry for UK court warrant against opposition leader Tzipi Livni.
· Big explosion rips through Dera Ghazi Khan market in Pakistani Punjab town, killing at least 33 people
· A suicide car explosion outside a hotel in Kabul early Tuesday kills 13 people, injures forty.
· At least 4 killed, 15 injured in series of car bombings outside Iranian embassy, foreign ministry in Baghdad.
· Mil. Intel. Chief Yadlin starts speech by saying: This hall (in Tel Aviv district) is under direct threat from three quarters: Iran, Hizballah, Syria.
Israel-UK relations strained over Livni arrest warrant
15 Dec. The British court practice of issuing war crimes warrants against Israeli official visitors – and no other world leaders, however tyrannical, has catapulted UK-Israel relations to the brink of a crisis. Tuesday, Dec. 15, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned" "We will never countenance a circumstance which puts Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni in the dock" or allows Israeli soldiers and commanders "who fought heroically and morally for their country" to be accused of war crimes in London courts, on the private initiative of pro-Palestinian groups or individuals. "This is totally absurd," he said.
Netanyahu's national security adviser Uzi Arad put British ambassador Tom Phillips on the carpet and informed him that the UK was expected to put an end to the immoral abuse of its courts. He was warned that if Israeli officials were prevented from visiting London, the UK's role in Middle East peacemaking would be forfeit.
In Jerusalem, the British ambassador also heard a long list of unresolved Israeli grievances that included his government's support for the Swedish proposal for the European Union to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, the biased Goldstone Report and the various British boycotts of Israel – academic and commercial, including the Brown government's directive to chain stores to blacklist Israeli products manufactured on the West Bank.
December 16 Briefs
· Two Qassam missiles from the Gaza Strip exploded harmlessly on open ground on the Israeli side of the border Wednesday night. They were heard in Ashkelon where OC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant awarded orders of merit to eight officers and men who took part in Operation Cast Lead.
· Supreme Court upholds government's settlement construction freeze but advises payment of damages.
· British PM Gordon Brown phones Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni to voice regret for the London court order for her arrest.
· PM Netanyahu summons select ministers, defense chiefs for urgent 'security" consultation Wednesday. It took place shortly after Iran's successful launch of improved long-range Sejil 2 missile.
· US Congress approves 412:12 sanctions on foreign companies helping to supply gasoline to Iran. President Obama also authorized to levy sanctions on energy companies selling gasoline to Iran.
New Hamas commanders set to revive anti-Israel terror from West Bank
16 Dec. Since early 2007, Hamas has refrained from orchestrating terrorist activity against Israel from the West Bank, focusing mainly on its missile barrage against southwestern Israel from the Gaza Strip. Now, our military sources report, the Palestinian extremists' military chief ,Muhammad Jabry has established a new regional West Bank command corps for embarking on a fresh terror campaign against Israel, including suicide attacks, from the territory controlled by the rival Fatah and Palestinian Authority.
France poised to launch spy satellite, helps tighten anti-Hamas blockade
17 Dec. A French spy satellite Helios 2B was due to be launched from French Guinea Thursday, Dec. 17. Liftoff was postponed at the last moment. The new satellite is equipped to map and relay images in real time from battle zones, rack threatening terrorist movements and hover over Lebanon and Iran to monitor events in bothplaces.
France is extending its Middle East commitments in more than one key arena. Our military sources caught up with the head of the French Directorate of Military Intelligence (DRM), General Benoit Boujis Tuesday, Dec. 15, as he watched giant Egyptian cranes lift armored iron plates 18 meters long and 50 cm thick and drive them into the ground along the Philadelphi border which divides the Gaza Strip from Egyptian Sinai.
French officers are working alongside Americans and Egyptians on the construction of Iron Blind, a perpendicular armored iron barrier, fitted with sensors, which ranks as the most ambitious military project ever attempted for obstructing tunnels carrying smuggled arms to a terrorist organization.