A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Dec. 23, 2010

December 17, 2010 Briefs
• WikiLeaks founder expects US to demand his extradition on espionage charges. He promises to speed up disclosures now he is free on conditional bail.
• UN condemns Sweden for deporting five Iraqi Christians back to their homeland where they face Islamist terror. Many are fleeing north to Kurdistan.
• France to sell Lebanese army 100 HOT anti-tank missiles fired from helicopters.
• Two IDF Brigades end big war game Thursday simulating combat against Hizballah in Lebanese mountains. It was staged by Nahal and 401 Brigades at Israel-Syrian-Lebanese border junction.
• North Korea: Next war against South will be nuclear.


December 18, 2010 Briefs
• Israeli Air Force strikes missile team poised for launch in Deir el Balakh, Gaza. Five armed Palestinians killed.
• Palestinians in North Jerusalem village of Isawiyeh lob six bottle bombs at border guard patrol. No injuries.
• Adm. Mullen: Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb. The US is "very ready" to counter it.
• Merkel on surprise visit to Afghanistan, talks to German troops in two bases.
• Obama sends New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to North Korea with new proposals for easing tensions.
• Pakistani ISI denies blowing cover of CIA's Islamabad station chief.


December 19, 2010 Briefs
• Iyad Allawi to join Maliki government in Iraq in power-sharing agreement ending nine-month stalemate. He will head newly created strategic policy council designed to curtail prime minister's authority.
• Two top White House advisers arrive in Israel to seek opening for new peace talks. Dan Shapiro and David Hale to meet Netanyahu's and Abbas's aides.
• Palestinians from Gaza fire 4-round mortar volley north and east Sunday night.
• Obama says US ties with Turkey more important than ever, urges Ankara to repair ties with Israel.
• Internal Security Minister Yizhak Aharonovitch appoints Yohanan Danino, southern district commander, next police commissioner.


Body found of missing American woman with marks of violence


19 Dec. Sixteen hours after she was reported missing, the body of the missing American woman Kristine Lukan was discovered southwest of Jerusalem, bearing marks of extreme violence. The alarm was sounded Saturday afternoon when an Israeli tourist guide, Kaye Susan Wilson, reported they had both been attacked by two Arabs, presumed Palestinians, deep inside the Green line near Mattan. Wilson reached a group of sightseers soon after the attack. She was in serious condition from knife wounds and her hands were bound behind her back. Before she was taken to hospital, she reported her bleeding companion had been dragged off by their two assailants. She told the police later that she was able to escape after pretending to be dead.
From the moment she was reported missing, extensive police, army, border guard, Shin Bet and volunteer forces posted search parties across the Tzur Hadassa, Beirut Illit and Gush Etzion areas after setting up police roadblocks around Jerusalem. A helicopter dropped flares and military sniffer dogs were sent out to follow the trail of the missing woman and her abductors.
Her body was found the following morning.


Mystery of Saudi King's medical condition stirs interest in Tehran


19 Dec. No outsider has seen Saudi King Abdullah, 87, since Dec. 3 when he underwent a second back operation at the Presbyterian Hospital, New York. His relatives and the royal retinue have taken over a whole hospital wing and the entire Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, but maintained an unbroken silence for 18 days about the king's medical condition.
When asked about the king's condition Dec. 6, his half-nephew Prince Turki Al Faisal, brother of Foreign Minister Saudi Al Faisal, replied: "I have no idea" – an odd answer for a former chief of Saudi General Intelligence.
His indisposition takes out of circulation the dominant power of the Persian Gulf Emirates and of the moderate Arab bloc which stands fast against Iran's spreading influence in the Middle East. On Dec. 15, concern about his condition sharpened, after US Vice President Joe Biden was not admitted to the king's bedside when he visited the New York Hospital with a letter from President Barack Obama wishing "the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" a speedy recovery. Clearly, the White House sent Biden on a fishing expedition to find out what was going on. But he too failed to penetrate the wall of secrecy.
On Dec. 18, the incoming Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi commented: "In order to achieve a pragmatic and effective foreign policy, we should focus our attention on the Islamic world and our neighbors. Saudi Arabia has a special position." It seems that the regime in Tehran is looking ahead to the post-Abdullah era, addressing whichever prince succeeds to the throne.


December 20, 2010 Briefs
• Iran hangs 11 men accused of membership of Sunni Baluchi Jundallah. Group last week claimed attack on Shiite mosque in SE Iranian Chahbahar.
• Three knife-wielding Arabs attack Israel soldier outside Jerusalem. They ran when he cocked his rifle.
• UK anti-terror police round up 12 men in four raids in England and Wales.
• South Korea started and ended hour-long live-fire drill Monday in face of North threat to respond militarily.
• UN Security Council emergency session ends without resolution.
• Egypt to restore 150-year old Alexandria synagogue and 10 other Jewish sites across country.


Ahmadinejad cuts subsidies, frees $20 bn for nuclear program, prestige boost


20 Dec. The $20 billion dollars which Western economists estimate are freed up by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's deep cuts of state subsidies will help cushion the country's nuclear program against the slowdown caused by the international sanctions imposed this year by the UN, the US and European countries, debkafile's Iranian sources report. They will also make more cash available for the president's personal political plans. Security forces flood the streets to suppress popular protest.
Sunday, Dec. 20, fuel prices surged 400-900 percent and rationing was introduced after Iran's oil revenues declined this year by 40 percent owing to US curtailment of its banking and financial operations.
Gas for cars is hardest hit, forcing Ahmadinejad to order Iran's backward petrochemical industry to divert production to domestic consumption. The poor quality of its output has caused spreading pollution and severe wear and tear on vehicles.
In addressing the nation Sunday, Ahmadinejad declared that the Iran's oil and gas resources belong to the Invisible Imam (Messiah), whose coming is imminent.


Why Hamas has revived its missile, kidnapping attacks


21 Dec. The escalating Palestinian violence from the Gaza Strip is the direct result of the Damascus-based Khaled Meshaal's victory in his power struggle with the Gaza wing's leadership. His signature is clearly marked in escalating missile, mortar and raiding attacks, murderous kidnapping operations inside Israel and the deadlocked negotiations for liberating the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit in a prisoner swap.
Our military sources report that Hamas has better control of targeting since its missiles have been fitted with advanced Iranian guidance instruments. Early Tuesday, a Qassam missile came dangerously close to a kibbutz nursery school in the Hof Ashkelon area north of Gaza Strip, injuring a small girl and an adult and leaving shock victims. Still, up until Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak persisted in holding the IDF back – even after the Palestinian terrorists moved into a fresh arena over the weekend.
The two "Arabs" who murdered the American tourist Christine Luken and stabbed her companion, Kaye Wilson, Saturday, Dec. 18 near Mata in the Jerusalem hills, were in fact a Hamas kidnap gang which planned to abduct the two women and smuggle them into the Gaza. When Wilson managed to get away, they murdered their injured captive and escaped ahead of pursuit.
Getting away with this crime encouraged Hamas to try again. What may have been the same kidnap team tried and failed to kidnap an Israel soldier. They fled when he cocked his rifle. The soldier took care not to shoot his assailants so as not to face a court martial for using "disproportionate force."
From the first, Meshaal fought against letting the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit go – even for all the 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails – because his solitary confinement brings world leaders to his door and enhances Hamas' international legitimacy and recognition. Hamas' military commander, Jabari, keeps the soldier locked away as an insurance policy. He has sent backdoor message to Israel that Shalit would be killed in response to his own untimely death.


December 22, 2010 Briefs
• Saudi King Abdullah leaves New York hospital after two back operations. No word on when he leaves for home.
• US slaps new sanctions on Iranian Revolutionary Guards-owned Ansar and Mehr Banks. Also on Moallem Co. which insures Iran's national shipping.
• Tehran bypasses sanctions by using Chinese financial and insurance firms.
• Israel files complaint with UN Security Council against missile, mortar warfare from Gaza. Tenfold increase of Palestinian missile, mortar, sniper fire since May.
• Second Israeli air strike in 24 hours hit Hamas military position injuring 4 armed men.
• It followed Qassam missile hit near Hof Ashkelon kibbutz nursery school injuring a child and adult.
• Monday night, Israel Air Force struck seven Hamas targets after Palestinians fired 10 mortar rounds during the day.
• Israeli C-of-S Ashkenazi downbeat about Iron Dome's potential for stopping rockets. It is not perfect.
• Strengthened Turkish-Syrian strategic bonds will alter face of Mid East – Ankara on Syrian PM's visit.


Jordan cools military-intelligence ties with Israel


22 Dec. Hard-pressed by Syrian and Turkish rulers, Jordan's King Abdullah II has sharply reduced the kingdom's military and intelligence collaboration with Israel after 60 years. Jordan now limits cooperation to the narrow border strip cutting down the middle of the Jordan River, retaining it only as a barrier against the flooding of the kingdom with hundreds of thousands of West Bank Palestinians. Abdullah next plans a state visit to Iran.
For decades, the partnership buttressed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan's often shaky survival, secured Israel's eastern frontier and helped safeguard both against terrorism. Intelligence-sharing kept both abreast of Middle East threats and undercurrents, except for two interruptions: in 1958, when Abdullah's father opted to join the United Arab Republic federation established by Egypt's pan-Arabist Gemal Abdul Nasser, and again in 1967, when Hussein again jumped on the Egyptian-Syrian bandwagon attacking Israel and paid for the ride by losing the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Today, the players and balance of strength are much altered by three dominant trends: American preparations to quit Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran's rise as a dominant political and military power and Israel's passivity in the face of a military noose tightening around its borders.


Jundallah to execute abducted Iranian nuclear scientist


22 Dec. The Iranian rebel Sunni Baluchi Jund Allah Wednesday, Dec. 22 announced plans to execute Amir Hossein Shirani, a senior Iranian nuclear scientist, whom the organization abducted on Oct. 8 at the entrance of the secret Iranian nuclear facility in Isfahan, 340 kilometers south of Tehran. His fate was sealed when Tehran refused to trade 200 jailed inmates for his release. Amir Shirani may become the first high-ranking Iranian nuclear expert to be put to death by a terrorist organization.
"Iran is lying as usual," said Rigi.
On Nov. 28, Shirani was shown on Saudi Al Arabiyah TV channel admitting he had worked for three years in enriching uranium at the secret nuclear research center in Isfahan, having been recruited by a relative Ahmed Sultani, general manager of the facility. "During the time I worked there, I learnt the center was enriching uranium for manufacturing nuclear weapons," he said. "Work at the center," he disclosed added, "went on 24 hours a day and was divided into three shifts. Around 50 engineers worked in each shift."


Iranian Guards upgrade Hizballah's fortifications in Lebanon


23 Dec. After studying Israel's military exercise near the Syrian-Lebanese border last week, Tehran transferred a team of Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Special Engineers from Syria to South Lebanon for recommendations on how its lessons should be applied to Hizballah's war array, debkafile reports. Some 20-30 Iranian officer-engineers are examining Hizballah fortifications sector by sector. The Israeli exercise simulated a drive into Lebanon by DF infantry and armored forces in the event of a large-scale Hizballah incursion into N. Israel.
Western intelligence report that the Iranian military engineering team is now examining Hizballah outposts and defense lines opposite Israel to determine whether they are capable of withstanding IDF air, missile, armored and commando attacks or need upgrading.

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