A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Jan 28, 2010
- Netanyahu: Israel is stopping infiltration by work seekers as growing numbers raise domestic jobless figures and affect demographic balance.
- Obama admits he overestimated his administration's ability to persuade Israel and Palestinians to resume peace talks.
- Both proved unwilling to make bold gestures for moving the process forward.
Partial Syrian reserve call-up sparks border tension with Israel
22 Jan. Friday, Damascus ordered a Level 4 mobilization of Syria's army reserves for deployment to the Golan Heights on the Israeli border to meet what it calls "IDF plans of attack." In Lebanon, too, Hizballah placed "all its forces" in a state of military preparedness.
debkafile: Israel gave both advance reassurance that its military movements were a war game and nothing more.
Far from being prompted by IDF war games, Syria and Hizballah are reported by our Iranian and military sources as acting out the secret military cooperation pacts they have just concluded with Tehran. The pacts were negotiated and signed during visits to Damascus by Iran's National Security Adviser Saeed Jalili on Nov. 3 and its defense minister Ahmed Vahidi on Dec. 17.
These treaties commit Syria to come to Hizballah's aid if it comes under Israeli attack, and all three signatories to respond to any Israeli military movement. Our military sources believe Hizballah and Syria acted on Tehran's advice to test their own preparedness for attack.
Rush of terror alerts on three continents plus Middle East
23 Jan. In the last three days, the governments of eleven countries have scrambled to elevate their preparedness levels for Islamist terror, or enforced extraordinarily stringent security measures. Another six governments have pursued these steps without fanfare.
Friday and Saturday, Jan. 22-23, India placed its airlines and airports and those of all of South East Asia – on alert for a possible airplane hijacking.
The UK elevated its terror threat level from "substantial" to "severe" – one below top and suspended direct British airline flights to and from Yemen.
Last week, five Britons were apprehended at Islamabad airport attempting to pass their boarding passes to five others. The British appear to fear a fresh spate of terrorism inside the country.
Although the Obama administration has not formally raised the current terror alert level, vigilance at all American airports and border posts has been radically heightened since a Nigerian terrorist tried to blow up the Northwest airliner on Christmas day. Last week, six people on the newly-expanded no-fly list were not allowed to board US-bound flights.
Saturday, US airport authorities were warned that at least two female suicide bombers of "non-Arab appearance" and bearing Western passports may have been sent to America by al Qaeda-Yemen.
January 24, 2010 Briefs
- US drone crashes in Pakistan's North Waziristan.
- Iran cites unconfirmed Russian report that Haiti quake caused by flawed US Navy weapon for Iran.
- Three US soldiers killed by roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan, bringing this year's total American deaths to 24.
- Taliban shoots dead seven men in Pakistan accusing them of spying for the US.
- Netanyahu at tree-planting ceremony: Gush Etzion, Ariel, Maaleh Adummim will forever be part of Israel.
- French president Sarkozy says he will send no more troops to Afghanistan.
- EU foreign ministers back away from a new round of sanctions against Iran outside the UN Security Council.
- debkafile: Since Russia and China would veto a sanctions vote, the EU has given up on action against Iran's nuclear program.
- Israeli PM's wife Sarah Netanyahu sues Maariv daily for libel and defamation of character claiming $270,000 damages.
- Coordinated bomb blasts kill 39, injure 75 at three Baghdad hotels.
- Saddam Hussein's cousin "Chemical Ali" is executed.
Bin Laden claims Delta airline attack, threatens more
24 Jan. In a new audio message aired by Al Jazeera TV Sunday, Jan. 24, Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the Dec. 25 attempt to blow up an airliner bound for Detroit and vowed there would be more attacks. In a message addressed from "Osama to Obama," he said America would have no peace unless there was "security for Palestinians."
A week earlier, Saudi Arabia disposed of three al Qaeda kingpins in Yemen by engineering a mystery explosion in one of its bastions just inside Yemen. Most likely Saudi covert operatives caused the blast after penetrating one of its strongholds. Riyadh later claimed it had the DNA of all three and identified them. One was the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's senior treasurer and must have handled the mission of the Nigerian Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab to blow up a US airliner for which bin Laden claimed responsibility.
Saturday, Jan. 23, Dep. defense minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan said captured weapons bore out Iran's support for the Houthi revolt against the Yemeni government.
January 25, 2010 Briefs
- Ethiopian Airlines team to investigate crash of its flight shortly after takeoff from Beirut early Monday. Eye witnesses report the plane with 90 people aboard was on fire before it crashed into the Mediterranean in stormy weather. Lebanese president says "sabotage unlikely."
- Israeli president, prime minister, foreign minister take off Monday for annual Holocaust events in Europe.
- A Qassam fired from Gaza explodes on open ground near Kissufim.
- Israel denies Belgian international aid minister entry to Gaza Strip.
Iran crosses red line, can enrich uranium up to 20 pc
25 Jan. Attaining the ability to enrich uranium up to 20 percent grade brings Iran dangerously close to "break-out" point for a nuclear weapon capability, debkafile's intelligence sources report.
By announcing this, Tehran's hawkish leaders show contempt for the six world powers and their offer to trade Iran's low-grade uranium for 20 pc enriched product overseas and throw down the gauntlet for them and Israel. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "good news" was the subject of an urgent cabinet meeting in Jerusalem last week.
Our political sources predict that Tehran's provocative move will be met with more of the five months of foot-dragging with which Washington and Jerusalem have met Iran's contempt for one deadline after another for ending nuclear enrichment. The only straight talk from any Western leader has come from French president Nicolas Sarkozy. He said that France has evidence Iran is developing nuclear weapons and warned that Israel "would not stand by while Iran develops nuclear weapons."
January 26, 2010 Briefs
- Independent report says Obama administration ill-equipped to prevent biological attack.
- The White House counter that "a great deal" has been accomplished to protect the U.S. against such threats.
- Israeli police minister's empty car pelted with rocks at Israel-Arab Galilee village of Arabe. He visited with local leaders on surging communal violence.
- French lawmakers recommend selective ban on face-covering veils and full-body burqa in public places.
- Israel faces certain earthquake on Haiti scale but no date predictable, says Israel seismologist Amos Shapiro. All buildings built after 1980s – 80 pc of total – are built to withstand quakes.
- Moscow trip by Iran's NSA Saeed Jalili cancelled apparently by Russia without explanation.
- Outrage in Jewish circles over Polish Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek's comment that "the Jews" had appropriated the Holocaust for propaganda.
Israeli leaders head for Europe after EU disappoints on Iran
26 Jan. Israel's president, prime minister and foreign minister are visiting Berlin, Warsaw and Budapest this week, apparently impervious to the European Union foreign ministers' decision in Brussels Monday, Jan. 25, to back away from sanctions for Iran's nuclear program outside the UN Security Council.
German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle signed off on the motion, the day before Israeli president Shimon Peres' Hebrew address to the German parliament in Berlin.
debkafile: The Netanyahu government clings to the anchor of supposed international sanctions for halting Iran's advance on a nuclear weapon. Before flying off, prime minister Netanyahu said at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum: "Today there are new Jew haters with new reasons to destroy the Jewish people. This is a test for humanity, and we will see in the coming weeks how the international community will stop the evil before it spreads."
This eloquence melted away on the plane to Europe. Even Israel's best friends on the continent, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi have a dual policy on Iran. While condemning the Islamic Republic, business flourishes between their countries and Iran.
January 27, 2010 Briefs
- Al Qaeda claims responsibility for Baghdad triple hotel bombing Monday in which 39 killed.
- International Holocaust Remembrance Day marked Wednesday on 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. President Peres delivers a Hebrew address at the Reichstag in Berlin, PM Netanyahu speaks at the site of Auschwitz.
- Israeli and Polish leaders agreed to strengthen military ties. Warsaw to buy Israel drones, electronic warfare and surveillance systems, Polish soldiers to train in Israel.
- Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak meets Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el Sheikh Wednesday.
- Jerusalem court reprimands police for detaining Od Yisrael Hai Yeshiva principal Rabbi Yizhak Shapira in connection with West Bank mosque arson.
Tehran lashes back at Berlin for Merkel, Peres derogatory speeches
"Two German diplomats using fictitious names of Yogi and Ingo were arrested" last month during clashes at the Ashura festival, an unnamed Iranian deputy intelligence minister said Wednesday, Jan. 27.
The announcement followed shortly after Israeli president Shimon Peres told the Reichstag in Berlin that he was sure Germany would come to Israel's aid if it came under attack from a nuclear-armed Iran.
A day earlier, Chancellor Angela Merkel standing alongside the Israeli president said time was up for Iran and February would see new and tougher UN Security Council sanctions.
These events marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In Berlin, foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said he was unaware of any German diplomats having been detained in Iran and rejected any Berlin involvement in the protests.
Libya is first Mid East recipient of Russian top-line S-300. Tehran furious
Libyan defense minister Younis Jaber arrived in Moscow Tuesday, Jan. 26 to sign a $2 billion military acquisitions deal that makes his country the first in the Middle East to obtain the top-of-the-line S-300 PMU-2 interceptors which Russia is holding back from Iran.
Tripoli has purchased two brigades of four missile batteries each, conditional on their delivery by the end of 2010.
Although a three-way deal for the supply of Russian S-300 missile-air interceptors to Syria for transfer to Iran (which foots the bill) has been signed, Russian leaders are holding back on its implementation in response to US and Israeli pressure. Tehran hoped that Director of the National Security Council Saeed Jalili would clinch an agreed timeline for delivery of the key component for the defenses of Iran's nuclear installations during his Moscow visit. But when Moscow said the time had not yet come for the missile's handover, Tehran cancelled Jalili's trip at the last minute.
Jan 28, 2010 Briefs
- Two Iranian opposition activists executed dawn Thursday, convicted of trying to topple government. They were first executions of protesters tried for taking part in post-election unrest. Nine more face death by hanging.
- Obama promises Iran will face consequences for ignoring its obligations. His first state of union address focused on economy, promised more jobs, health security, support for middle class. No mention made of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Turkey's ruling Muslim party: Israel intelligence ran eavesdropping station from Ankara
28 Jan. Turkish prime minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan has engineered a fresh assault on the already crisis-laden relationship between Turkey and Israel by putting up members of his ruling AK Islamic party to reveal that Israel ran a signals intelligence station from Turkish military headquarters in Ankara for covert surveillance on Iran and Syria.
Determined to stamp out the last remnants of the once-warm ties between Turkish and Israeli generals, Erdogan had his AK begin leaking highly confidential materials to the Turkish WAQAT web site, claiming that for many years Israel kept watch on Syria and Iran from an advanced electronic surveillance station installed at Turkish military headquarters. It was allegedly manned by Israeli intelligence personnel and off-limits to Turks. According to this report, the Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) station eavesdropped on Iranian and Syrian communications networks.
Without confirming this report, Israeli military sources pointed out to debkafile that if the Israeli Sigint station did exist, it was with Turkish consent and would have shared data of common interest with Turkish intelligence in the spirit of the trust and friendship governing their relations.
Their predictions for Israel-Turkish security relations are gloomy.