A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Feb. 4, 2010
CIA chief Panetta in Cairo and Israel for secret talks on Yemen
29 Jan. The director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, paid secret visits to Cairo and Jerusalem Thursday, Jan. 28, to prepare the ground for expanding US military intervention in Yemen against al Qaeda strongholds, thereby opening a fresh front in the war on Islamist terror organization.
In Cairo, he met Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, defense minister Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman. They discussed an Egyptian expeditionary force for Yemen to fight al Qaeda combatants alongside US special forces. Panetta requested the use of Egyptian military airfields as jumping-off bases for US air strikes against the terrorist strongholds.
In Jerusalem, the CIA chief exchanged evaluations on the Yemen front with Israel's intelligence leaders.
debkafile's intelligence sources report that the American military intervention in Yemen is already substantially broader than admitted. US special operations members of the CIA's combat units and drones armed with missiles, operated from Langley, Washington, are already installed at a big American base under construction near the Yemeni Red Sea port of Hodeira.
President Barack Obama resolved to expand America's involvement in Yemen after local and Saudi armies proved unequal to dealing with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – the AQAP.
Hamas hedges on Israeli blame for death of master kidnapper
29 Jan. Senior Hamas commander, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, 50, died in Dubai on Jan. 20 and his body reached Damascus on Jan. 28, according to Izzat Rishq speaking at Hamas headquarters in the Syrian capital early Friday, Jan. 29. He accused Israel of his assassination without specifying its circumstances. Israeli spokesmen have not commented in the charge, which debkafile estimates may have been raised to distract from Hamas' many troubles.
Before that, on Jan 19, the movement reported that Mahmoud al-Mabhouh had just died of a severe bone ailment the day after he arrived in Dubai.
debkafile's intelligence sources estimate that Hamas may have belatedly dredged up his death to finger Israel – a sure-fire means of distracting attention from its troubles:
1. Political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal is up to his ears in a scandal over a letter he sent two weeks ago to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, in answer to the blunt questions put to him by Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal, who said: Tell me who you are: An Arab or an Iranian?
Meshaal protested to the king that he is no agent or friend of Iran and was accused by Hamas-Gaza of groveling to the king.
2. Hamas is also deeply divided over the negotiations for the release of 1,000 jailed Palestinians for the kidnapped Israeli sergeant Gilad Shalit.
January 30, 2010 Briefs
- An Afghan interpreter opened fire and killed 2 US soldiers in Wardak province, E. Afghanistan. US soldier then killed interpreter.
- Palestinian carrying six pipe bombs detained at IDF West Bank checkpoint Saturday.
- Obama's NSA Jones warns that pressurizing Iran could stoke violence against Israel. Tehran could strike back by facilitating Hizballah, Hamas attacks.
US shores up Gulf deployment against clash with Iran
30 Jan. The Obama administration took the unusual step Saturday night, Jan. 30, of leaking word to major US media that the United States, Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies – the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain – have accelerated the deployment of new defenses – naval and anti-missile – against possible Iranian missile attacks or Hizballah sabotage.
The 10,000-strong "protection force" in Saudi Arabia will be trebled.
The White House's decision to deploy additional defenses in the Gulf came only a day after National Security Adviser James Jones warned that Iran was liable to react to pressure by having its proxies Hizballah and Hamas attack Israel. The abruptness of this step pointed to the administration having woken up to the realization that its diplomatic and military position in the region was in grave jeopardy and in dire need of shoring up without delay.
Iranian Basijj plots UK embassy seizure
30 Jan. debkafile's Iranian sources report that the Basijj militia chiefs have a plan to seize the British embassy in Tehran. Western intelligence agencies monitoring Iran have warned London that radical groups are secretly preparing to overrun the British embassy buildings and living quarters and take the diplomats hostage, replicating the siege of the US embassy in 1979.
Our intelligence sources report that two Iranian militia teams have been formed to seize the two compounds: one takes orders from Ayatollah Mohammad Mesbah Yazdi, whereas the other is under the command of senior cleric Hojat-ol-Eslam Ahmad Khatami.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad favors the plan but has yet to set a date.
Rome sells Tehran items used in its nuclear program
31 Jan. "Israel has no bigger friend," said prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Silvio Berlusconi, who begins an official visit to Israel with half a dozen ministers Monday, Feb. 1. According to the fat trade contracts current with Tehran, Italy would be more accurately described as "Iran's biggest friend" – at least, in Europe, and supplier of key components for its nuclear and space programs, tunneling equipment and heavy trucks for ferrying missiles.
February 1, 2010 Briefs
- Iran's top opposition leaders Mousavi and Karroubi call for street protests on Feb. 11.
- Two protesters executed last week, 16 more went on trial Saturday.
- Israel elevates terror-kidnap alert at home and abroad. Vigilance advised soldiers, embassies, Jewish institutions.
- Two Hamas operatives from E. Jerusalem caught last December spying on Beersheba bus depot for terror attacks. Hamas recruited them in Dubai and Jordan to scan targets at Beersheba, Jerusalem bus depots, Tel Hashomer army facilities.
Floating explosives containers washed ashore at two Israel ports
01 Feb. The beaches of Ashkelon and Ashdown, twin Israeli ports up to 25 km north of Gaza, were evacuated Monday, Feb. 1 for fear that two large containers packed with explosives which drifted ashore were floating bombs with more on the way. Israeli intelligence is investigating the incident to find out if the explosives were supposed to blow up against Israeli targets or Iranian deliveries to Hamas terrorists in Gaza which went astray.
February 2, 2010 Briefs
- Ahmadinejad: Iran is now ready to send uranium abroad for further enrichment as UN wants. Washington's responds warily to this offer. Iran plans to hang nine more defendants over post-election unrest · Two were executed last week.
- Hamas leader Osama Hamdan says Palestinian security may have killed Mahbouh in Dubai – not Mossad.
- Israel military police intercept Palestinian on way to attack south of Tulkarm, West Bank. He carried a 20-cm long knife and pipe bomb rigged with two stun grenades, rifle-bullets.
- Gates fires general, criticizes Lockheed Martin for lack of progress on F-35 joint strike fighter.
- Beaches of S. Israeli Ashkelon, Ashdod closed to public for probe of two suspected floating bombs.
- Netanyanhu: Hamas is obstacle to a prisoner swap for Gilead Shalit.
Hamas warns 13 top terror activists they are in Israel's cross-hairs
02 Feb. Hamas security services Tuesday, Feb. 2, advised 13 jihad chiefs, including 2 Jihad Islamic commanders, they are Israel's next targets for liquidation after the death of Hamas weapons smuggler Mahmoud Mahbouh in Dubai on Jan. 19, debkafile's counter-terror sources disclose.
Our sources report that Hamas has never before known to compile of a list of potential targets because it risks giving away the identities off its highest-profile leaders. However, the extremist Palestinian organization appears to be in such a blue funk that it was driven to urgently caution its leaders that Israel has made all the arrangements for attacks on their lives some time soon.
debkafile has obtained the full list of the operatives Hamas believes are targeted for assassination:
Israeli military faults exposure of two Gaza commanders
02 Feb. Israel's report to Ban Ki-Moon which was supposed to defend IDF conduct in the Gaza Operation adds weight to the war's critics by naming two high-ranking commanders who were disciplined for exceeding orders by allowing the UN center in Gaza to come under artillery attack during the three-week Cast lead campaign a year ago. Their fellow-commanders are furious and say the two officers have been placed at risk of international prosecution.
The IDF emphatically denied that phosphorus shells were used. In another part of the 46-page report, Israel said they were used only for "deploying a smoke screen to block the view of Hamas anti-tank crews deployed adjacent to the to the UN center, saving Israeli tank units from having to use reactive fire with the likelihood of greater civilian harm."
The Netanyahu government is divided over the formation of a state inquiry commission for dealing with the Goldstone report's biased findings.
Italian and Israeli leaders airbrush Rome's thriving trade with Tehran
03 Feb. Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and foreign minister Franco Frattini were forced to spend part of their official visit to Israel, which climaxed in Berlusconi's exceptionally friendly address to the Knesset Wednesday, Feb. 3, fending off questions about Rome's expanding trade ties with Iran, which debkafile detailed on Jan 31.
debkafile's sources wonder why no reference was made to Italy's two track policy by Israel's hosts.
February 3, 2010 Briefs
- White House calls Iran satellite launch from a new carrier engine "provocative" and "irresponsible".
- Two Qassam missiles from Gaza explode on open ground in Sderot Wednesday night.
- Taliban claims roadside bombing which killed at least 10 people including three US Marines in convoy outside NW Pakistan girls' school. The marines were first described as "foreign aid workers".
- At least 20 killed, 116 injured in an explosion among Shiite pilgrims pouring into Iraqi Karbala for festival. The bomb was planted on cart pulled by a motorbike.
- Iran unveils three new satellites plus carrier and light rocket booster a year after launching first satellite.
- Palestinians report one dead, several missing after Israeli air force bombed two Gaza smuggling tunnels early Wednesday.
- A third bomb container washed up on Israeli coast Wednesday at Palmahim beach south of Tel Aviv. Police sappers are defusing it.
Egyptian sources: Israel prepares to strike Iran from Persian Gulf and Iraqi Kurdistan
03 Feb. Arab voices were fanning Middle East war fever Wednesday night, Feb. 3. debkafile's military sources report. Syrian president accused Israel of seeking a Middle East war and his foreign minister Walid Muallem said: "Israelis, do not test the power of Syria since you know the war will move into your cities." Egyptian military sources reported that the Israeli Navy with US assistance has for weeks been charting Persian Gulf waters and its intelligence and special forces officers mapping northern Iraqi routes into Iran in preparation for an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities.
According to these sources, Saudi Arabia has demanded clarifications from Washington.
February 4, 2010 Briefs
- An explosion damaged a Red Cross aid vehicle entering Gaza in convoy through the Erez crossing from Israel Thursday.
- Israel's PMO: Israel will persist in its quest for peaceful negotiations with Syria without pre-conditions and deal firmly with any threats.
- Israeli FM Lieberman earlier answered Damascus threats by saying: Syria will lose the next war and the Assads will lose power.
- Wednesday, Syrian ruler accused Israel of leading the Middle East to war. His FM Moallem said the next war will come to Israeli cities.
- Islamabad arrests 35 suspects in NW Pakistan ambush which cost lives of three US Marines Tuesday.