A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending July 20, 2011

Qaddafi attacks western rebels to improve bargaining position for ending war


15 June. debkafile's intelligence sources sum up the situation on the Libyan battlefield on Friday, July 15:
The government's charge that pro-Qaddafi forces are under rebel and NATO attack in the eastern oil region of Brega was a red herring to disguise the transfer of an expanded government armored brigade from Brega to fight a separatist insurgency in the western Nafusa Mountains.
They also discount the rebel complaint that with enough arms on the western front they could have been standing now at the gates of Tripoli. In fact, the rebels have suffered another defeat. That Qaddafi felt able to move a division-sized force from eastern Libya to the west indicated he no longer feared rebel advances around Brega in the east or Misrata in the west. Neither was he concerned about them capturing Sirte.
In all the five months of their NATO-backed offensive, they never came close to that objective.
Qaddafi launched a fresh offensive to improve his bargaining positions in forthcoming negotiations and show the 30-member Libya Contact Group meting in Istanbul which army holds the upper hand on the battlefield and underscore NATO's failure to turn the tide against him.


July 16, 2011 Briefs
• Libya Contact Group secretly approves conciliation conference to start in two weeks. UN Special Envoy Abdul Elah al-Khatib goes to Tripoli to bring representatives of Qaddafi, rebels and NATO to the table. The deal would see Qaddafi step down but not leave Libya or face international prosecution. Vast pro-Qaddafi demos in Libya, condemn "foreign intervention," protest US recognition of rebels.
• Qassam missiles keep coming from Gaza – another before dawn Saturday, 2 Friday. The firings claimed by Al Qaeda-linked Tawfiq al-Jihad.
• Syrian forces kill 32 protesters demonstrating in cities across the country – 16 in Damascus.
• More than a million rallied against the Assad regime Friday. They included for the first time up to 40,000 in Damascus, according to the opposition.


Hizballah rides high in Lebanon, installs member as security chief


16 July. On the fifth anniversary of Israel's second Lebanon war this week, as former IDF generals and military experts hailed the conflict as the deterrent which had kept the Shiite terrorist Hizballah at bay ever since, Hassan Nasrallah quietly completed the organization's takeover of Lebanon's security and intelligence agencies and took delivery of advanced M600s – the Syrian version of the Scud D ballistic missile – whose 700-kilometer range puts much of Israel, Jordan and parts of Turkey from Syria.
Nasrallah had the government endorse Shiite Brig. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim's promotion from Deputy Director of Lebanese Military Intelligence to General Security Director, a post formerly held by a Christian.
Next on Hizballah's agenda is the extension of Said Mirza's term as Prosecutor General as well as the appointments of Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi as Internal Security Forces chief; and Col. Wissam Hassan, as head of the Intelligence Bureau. They are to be the roadblocks against the execution of International Lebanese Tribunal arrest warrants for Hizballah leaders in connection with the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.


July 17, 2011 Briefs
• Jan Mohammad Khan, senior adviser to Afghan president Hamid Karzai, murdered at his home in Kabul.
• Three ministers quit Egyptian government, foreign, finance, trade and Industry in cabinet reshuffle in response to rising popular protest.
• Three Palestinian missiles fired into Israel from Gaza early Sunday.
• Syrian forces backed by tanks move in to Zabadani on Lebanese border, arrested hundreds.
• At least 13 insurgents killed after E. Afghan battles and coalition airstrike. The strike targeted Taliban leader in Nangarhar province.
• New report on Afghan war blames NATO defense ministers and commanders for grave errors. British task force was ill-equipped and too weak to defeat Taliban.


Hosni Mubarak may be dying but Mubarakism is alive and well in Egypt


17 July. Conflicting reports on former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's state of health appeared Sunday night, July 17. His lawyers said he was in a coma after a stroke. This was denied by the head of the Sharm el-Sheikh hospital. Earlier, as Egypt sank deeper into lawlessness and economic stagnation, the military junta reshuffled the cabinet to placate protesters who accused the generals of "stealing the revolution."
City streets are plagued by robbers and outlaws. Unemployment is rife and jobs pay a wretched wage of $50-115 a month. Economic stagnation is a major cause of dissent.
Tens of thousands rally in Tahrir Square against the new rulers, the Supreme Council of Revolutionary Forces’ (SCAF) – and not only in Cairo, but in Suez, Ismailia and Alexandria. They accuse the generals letting the situation deteriorate "to generate anarchy as the pretext for postponing promised elections. The junta wants to be sure of winning before it fixes on the date."
Gulf emirates pledged aid if the rulers suppress dissent and turn away from Washington and against Iran.


July 18, 2011 Briefs
• US official confirms: Three senior diplomats including Jeffrey Feltman met four members of Qaddafi's inner circle. The official says the meeting in Tunisia last Saturday was "not negotiations" but a message to Qaddafi to step down. Two weeks ago, DEBKA-Net-Weekly and debkafile were first world publications to disclose secret US peace negotiations with Qaddafi's representatives through Moscow on orders from President Obama. We also reported Qaddafi had agreed to step down.
• Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets over Gaza Strip warning citizens against approaching within 300 meters of northern border. This follows escalation of Palestinian missile fire against Israeli civilian locations. Three early Sunday – 11 last week, 20 this month.
• Unlike the US, Moscow refuses to recognize the Libyan rebels.
• NATO air strikes destroy civilian air control radar antennas at Tripoli international airport.
• Taliban releases horrific video of firing squad executing 16 Pakistani policemen captured in fighting in NW district of Dir.


US Adm. Mike Mullen honored by Israel's high command


Adm. Michael Glenn Mullen is rightly acclaimed as the American military leader who contributed most to the depth and breadth of US-Israeli security ties and to the IDF's preparedness for a potential war with Iran. While holding Israel's hand against attacking Iran, Mullen was responsible for making the IDF America's senior military partner. A firm believer in the military partnership between US and Israeli armed forces as a key component in the national security of both nations, he did what he could to integrate their operational, technological and intelligence ties to an unprecedented level. Mullen appreciates the IDF as the second strongest Western army after the US armed forces and America's most reliable military mainstay.
Before retiring as Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff on September 30, Adm. Mullen arrived Monday, July 18, to take leave of Israel's top command.


July 19, 2011 Briefs
• Israeli Navy boarded small French yacht to prevent it reaching embargoed coast of Gaza. No resistance was put up.
• The boat which carried no aid cargoes was towed to Ashdod port and activists detained.
• Syrian sectarian violence between Sunnis and Alawites in Homs leaves 30 dead, according to rights activists.


Erdogan plans provocative Gaza visit next week


19 July: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wants to visit Gaza next Sunday or Monday (24-25 July), debkafile reports. But both Turkish and Egyptian security services fear the visit would give the al Qaeda cells based in the Gaza Strip and Sinai a chance to assassinate him. Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas maintains it would amount to de facto Turkish and Egyptian recognition of the Hamas government. And in Jerusalem, Erdogan would appear to be deliberately hampering efforts to heal its rift with Ankara.
Getting him from Cairo to Gaza may not be possible. Sinai highways are not controlled by Egyptian security and a helicopter ride would have to be coordinated with Israel and its Air Force – to which the Turkish leader objects.
He is on the warpath on all fronts after Barack Obama cut him out of Libyan peacemaking in favor of Moscow.


July 20, 2011 Briefs
• In an Al-Arabiya TV interview, Netanyahu offers to meet the Palestinians for peace talks right now in Jerusalem or even Ramallah. He denied any Israeli interest in Syria's Assad staying in office. Secret contacts with Damascus did take place in the past, he said, but staying out of Syrian turmoil did not mean Israel was not worried.
• Syrian FM Moalem warns US and French ambassadors not to leave Damascus without permission.
• July 13, debkafile disclosed exclusively that the two envoys were planning visits to Deir al Zour and Abu Kemal to support protesters.
• New Zealand PM John Key totally denied local media suggestions that an Israeli group caught in Christchurch quake were linked to Israeli intelligence. Ofer Mizrahi who died in the quake had only one European passport – not five as claimed. Key stressed that a police-SIS probe into the three surviving group members' rapid departure found nothing to show they were anything other than backpackers. None held New Zealand passports.


Stuxnet returns to bedevil Iran's nuclear systems


20 July: debkafile's intelligence sources report that the Stuxnet malworm which played havoc with Iran's nuclear program for eleven months was not purged after all. Tehran never did overcome the disruptions caused by Stuxnet or restore its centrifuges to smooth and normal operation as was claimed. Indeed, Iran finally resorted to the only sure-fire cure, scrapping all the tainted machines and replacing them with new ones – as was indicated Tuesday by an announcement in Tehran by the foreign office spokesman. He said: "The installation of new centrifuges with better quality and speed is ongoing… this is another confirmation of the Islamic republic's successful strides in its nuclear activities."
IIran has taken advantage of the West's preoccupation with the Arab revolt in recent months to forge ahead with its weapons program unnoticed. So if it was moving smoothly forward why did Tehran suddenly decide to raise the touchy subject again? It was to pre-empt Iran's enemies from picking up on the installation of the new centrifuges and publishing the real reason for dumping the "smoothly" operating ones.

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