A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending July 16, 2009

Al Qaeda plot against Suez Canal shipping foiled by 26 arrests


10 July: Twenty-five Egyptians and one Palestinian suspects detained in Egypt have confessed to planning attacks on Suez Canal shipping and oil pipelines on behalf of al Qaeda. Tuesday, July 7, debkafile's counter-terror sources disclosed that a large group of 15-20 al Qaeda terrorists, trained in Pakistan and Algeria to hijack and blow up airliners, deployed secretly in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey and Egypt for multiple attacks in the week of the G8 summit in l'Aqila or thereabouts.

Our military sources report that this week an Israeli nuclear-capable Dolphin submarine escorted by a missile vessel transited the Suez Canal on the way back to its Mediterranean base from a Red Sea drill that took place off Eilat last month. Marine transport insurance sources remarked that if al Qaeda terrorists had succeeded in its purpose of sinking ships and blocking the canal, through which one-tenth of global seaborne traffic passes, oil prices, insurance fees and cargo rates would have hit the roof.

The leader of the al Qaeda cell was an Egyptian, Mohammed Fahim Hussein. The Egyptian interior ministry reported Friday, July 10, that the equipment seized in their homes showed they were able to make their own remote-controlled bombs.


Military analysts: Afghanistan War is unwinnable – even with boosted coalition strength


11 July: The approximately 60,000 NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan are unable to achieve the goals of the war – even with the additional 21,000 US combat troops promised this year.

In fact, the situation is expected to deteriorate further. Taliban spies in the local population have identified the smaller British force as the weaker link and are pounding it ruthlessly, so as to bring the American units to the rescue and slow their advance in the south. The Taliban can also call on their ties with local drug lords in nearby Pakistan for fresh fighting strength, cash, weapons and ammo.

The American commanders of Strike of the Sword are under orders to capture and “to hold” territory in Helmand and strike up friendly relations with the local population. But no one in Helmand, Kabul or even Washington can tell how long US forces must – or can – hold onto these areas in order to win them away from the Taliban.

This predicament applies to other Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan – especially the east and south.

The only silver lining in the Afghan war cloud for now is that the Taliban cannot hope to recover the whole of Afghanistan in view of its many tribal enemies at home.


July 11 Briefs

·        Obama rates chances of al Qaeda attack on London much higher than strike in a US city. In Ghana, he said Africa does not need strongmen but strong institutions. He criticized corruption and tyranny on continent.

·        Israel wins through to Davis Cup semifinal for first time ever.

·        Another 5 NATO soldiers killed in S. Afghanistan Friday by a roadside bomb. Their nationality was not released.

·        Deaths of 8 British soldiers earlier reported Thursday and Friday – 15 in ten days.

·        UK PM Brown; No change in strategy.

·        Barak's choice of deputy chief of staff is Maj.Gen Benny Gantz, head of Israel's military mission in Washington which puts him in the running for the top slot in eighteen months.

·        Iran's FM: Iran will set its own agenda for talks with world powers.

·        Tehran is preparing package on issues concerning region and world.


French prosecution agrees to hear Halimi relatives' appeal against light lenient sentences


The family of the Jewish man, Ilan Halimi, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by a Paris gang have appealed the light sentences a French court handed down for its members. Youssouf Fofana, 28, the only member of the Barbarians gang to be tried for the murder, will serve at least 22 years.

Mr Halimi was held by the gang for more than three weeks before being found by a railway line. He was handcuffed to a tree, naked and severely burned.

His death prompted mass protests in France against anti-Semitism.

Another 26 people faced charges over involvement in the crime. Fofana's two main accomplices received sentences of 15 and 18 years respectively, while a young woman who lured Mr Halimi to his death was given nine years. Two other defendants were acquitted.


Obama receives American Jewish leaders


13 July: US president Barack Obama invited the heads of American Jewish organizations to meet him at the White House for the first time early Tuesday, July 14, to allay their concerns about Iran's nuclear threat and his demands for an Israeli freeze on settlement expansion. He told them the US remains committed to Israel and will not implement any foreign policy that would threaten its security.

Three liberal Jewish groups never invited to the Bush White House, Americans for Peace Now, the Israeli Policy Forum and J Street, were present, along with heads of the mainstream organizations, American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Anti-Defamation League, Hadassah, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Jewish Democratic Council, Orthodox Union, United Jewish Communities, Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the American Jewish Committee.

The three fringe groups, debkafile's sources report, have the ear of two high-ranking White House aides, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and close presidential adviser David Axelrod.

In recent weeks, they have been lobbying administration and White House circles to persuade the president that Israel must be cornered into making essential decisions on the peace process with the Palestinians and Arab states and, if necessary, solutions imposed on the Netanyahu government – without regard to the deep Palestinian divisions.


While Netanyahu calls for peace talks, Arab rulers pursue US-backed ploy to validate Hamas


13 July: Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's repeated appeals to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to join him in peace negotiations, are increasingly irrelevant. In any case, Abbas rejects them with monotonous regularity in order to push the Israeli prime minister up against a wall and make the running in negotiations.

The Obama administration is not waiting for Netanyahu or Abu Mazen to come together. It has laid odds on the Saudi-Egyptian bid to heal the inter-Arab quarrel with the Syrian president Bashar Assad after which they will join forces to broker reconciliation between Abbas' Fatah and its rival Hamas in the Gaza Strip to serve in their separate territories under a supreme Palestinian Council.

This device will let Hamas off the hook of recognizing Israel while its own legitimacy is accepted and it enjoys a veto over the outcome of peace talks.


Iran goes into mass production of long-range, solid-fuel Sejil surface missiles


13 July: Iran is going into mass production of the accurate two-stage 2,000-kilometer range Sejil II ballistic missile powered with solid fuel, which was successfully tested on May 20.

Liquid-fuel missiles like the Shehab take hours to prepare for firing, during which time they are exposed to oversight by US and Israel spy satellites, whereas the Sejil because it is powered by solid fuel has the huge advantage of stealth. Iran has also recruited Chinese missile experts to assist in the production of mobile launchers for the Sejil II. The combination of the solid-fuel Sejil mounted on mobile vehicles will give an Iranian missile attack the advantage of surprise.

Israel has entered the arms race by stepping up production of the Arrow anti-missile systems.


Raised voices at Mubarak-Abbas meeting over Cairo's acceptance of two Palestinian states


14 July: When they met at Sharm e-Sheikh Tuesday July 14, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas threw back in Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's face the Cairo plan for laying to rest his feud with the rival Hamas, and so removing the biggest obstacle to peace talks with Israel and the Obama administration's Middle East plans.

Mubarak told him that Cairo had given up on an amicable Palestinian power-sharing deal for reuniting the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It was now proposing two security commissions to supervise Palestinian security and intelligence forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip respectively and represent the Palestinians in diplomacy with the Americans and the Israelis. A new 3,000-strong Palestinian security service with a half-and-half Fatah-Hamas membership would assume responsibility for reopening the Gaza Strip crossings, thus lifting the Israeli blockade on the territory.

But Abbas refused to hear of any plan that “perpetuated Hamas rule of the Gaza Strip.” He is also embroiled in a factional dispute within his own Fatah. Farouk Kadoumi, a Fatah veteran who still holds the title of PLO foreign minister, claimed Yasser Arafat had discovered Mahmoud Abbas had conspired with the Israeli prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, to assassinate him. The Palestinian Authority shut down al Jazeera's office in Ramallah after the station prominently aired the allegation.


July 14 Briefs

·       Security upgraded in Algeria and Yemen  over intelligence warnings of al Qaeda attacks on US embassies. Monday, Yemen sentenced 6 al Qaeda to death for Jan. 2008 attack on US embassy in Sanaa.

·        Middle East sources: Two Israeli missile boats, Hanith and Eilat, pass through Suez Canal from Mediterranean to Red Sea.

·        Egyptian FM Geit said Egypt and Israel are in agreement.

·        An Italian soldier killed in Afghanistan after two US Marines die in “hostile incident” in Helmand province.

·        Six Ukrainian contractors killed in crash of civilian helicopter supplying NATO forces in province.

·        Coalition military deaths in Afghanistan rise to 42 in July, mostly American and British.

·        Iran hangs 13 Sunni Baluchis accused of terrorist attacks including May bombing of mosque which left 25 dead.

·        Two French journalists abducted by gunmen in Mogadishu.

·        Jordanian military court sentences to death Mohammed Youssef al-Jaghbeer for murder of USAID head Laurence Foley in 2002.


Pacific test will determine Arrow's ability to intercept Iranian missiles upon launch


15 July: In a few days, the Israeli anti-missile Arrow system will face the first real test of its ability to knock out an Iranian Shehab-3 or Sejil II ballistic missile at the outset of its flight toward Israel. The test will take place off central California's Pacific coast.

It will allow Israel to measure its advanced Arrow 3 system against a target with a range of more than 620 miles (1,000 km), too long for previous Arrow test sites in the eastern Mediterranean.” Until now, Arrow tests

have been restricted by the small area of the Mediterranean Sea, the heavy air and maritime traffic in and above it, and the location of the Israeli missile launch site at Palmahim, from which missile flight westward is limited to a few hundred kilometers and disallowed in any other direction.

According to our military sources, this third Arrow exercise from a US site will also examine US-Israeli cooperation in missile interception in the event of an Iranian response to a possible Israeli strike at Iran's nuclear facilities or an Iranian pre-emptive missile attack on Israel.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email