A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending July 24, 2008

Israel, Russia close to natural gas pipeline deal through Turkey


19 July: The project consists of five pipelines that would carry water, natural gas, oil, electricity and fiber optics from Turkey’s Mediterranean coast to Israel. Infrastructure minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Saturday, July 18: “We are very close to an agreement with Russia for the supply of natural gas for the pipeline.” He spoke after talks with Turkish energy officials on the technical details of the project.

Turkish energy minister Hilmi Guler said feasibility studies on an accompanying oil pipeline to carry at least 40 million tones a year will be done in 10 months.

Azerbaijan has said it is interested in using the pipeline to ship its oil to eastern markets.


Top US military chief is convinced Iranians seek atom bomb


20 July: Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fox News he is convinced the Iranians are seeking to building an atomic bomb, “a very destabilizing possibility in that part of the world.” He stressed the US had the capacity and the reserves to attack Iran as a last resort

“I’m fighting two wars and I don’t need a third one,” said Mullen referring to Iraq and Afghanistan.


Senior Israeli official: If nuclear talks fail, Bush will order attack between November and January


20 July: This assessment was reported by Israeli national radio Saturday overnight quoting a high-placed “security-political” source.

The source predicted that President George W. Bush would order Iran attacked between the November 4 presidential election and his exit from the White House in January.

The quote was aired shortly after the six-power talks with Iran in Geneva – with US official participation for the first time – ended inconclusively, and just before Israel chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi set out for Washington, to spend a week there as guest of Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

debkafile‘s political sources describe the Israeli disclosure as a step aimed at slowing down the collapse of Israel’s stated policy of relying on international diplomatic pressure to thwart Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms. It was a high-risk step to derail the accommodations Washington and Tehran are on the way to reaching in their secret talks on a wide range of issues. Israel fears being left out in the cold on all its fronts against Iran.


McCain: We can never allow a second Holocaust


21 July: Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain told an Israeli Channel Two TV interviewer Monday, July 21, that he is in favor of communications with Iran at different levels, but would object to face-to-face talks with [president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad who has publicly dedicated himself to destroying Israel.

The Republican senator spoke shortly before his rival, Democratic Senator Barack Obama, arrived in Israel from Iraq during his foreign tour.

Asked about the possibility of Israel taking unilateral military action to eliminate Iran’s ability to achieve a nuclear weapon, Senator McCain said: I would hope Israelis would not feel bound to do this. I have some optimism we can succeed with sanctions. I think we still have a lot of options to explore before a military option and we have not exercised them all.”

He added: “We can never allow a second Holocaust.”


US, UK, France launch exercise to mock partial naval blockade on Iran


21 July: debkafile‘s military sources report that Operational Brimstone, starting Monday, July 21, aims at giving military teeth to the two-week ultimatum the six world powers gave Iran in Geneva Saturday to accept the suspension of uranium enrichment or face harsh sanctions..

The penalty of withholding refined oil products from Iran would be exercised by means of a partial international naval blockade against Iran.

Taking part in the 10-day exercise in the Atlantic Ocean are more than a dozen ships, including the US carrier strike group Theodore Roosevelt and expeditionary strike group Iwo Jima; the French submarine Amethyste, and the British HMS Illustrious Carrier Strike Group, as well as a Brazilian frigate.

Six vessels from the Norfolk Naval State will play the role of “enemy” forces.

About 15,000 sailors will be involved in Operation Brimstone. Both the Roosevelt and Iwo Jima will be deployed in the Middle East in the coming months.

A partial blockade of Iran’s shores, a key element of the new sanctions, would be limited to withholding from Iran supplies of benzene and other refined oil products. Short of refining capacity, Iran imports 40 percent of these products.


Official inaction boosts Palestinian terrorist cycle in Jerusalem


22 June: The second Palestinian terrorist-attack-by-bulldozer in Jerusalem this month, in which the Arab driver injured 11 people before he was shot dead, took place Tuesday, July 22. The Israeli government was still dithering over whether or not to demolish the home of the originator of this form of rampage, who on July 2 sowed death and destruction on Israel’s Jaffa Street. It has still not come to grips with the new cycle of death terrorizing the Jerusalem population or hit on a form of deterrence.

The cycle of lone-wolf murders in the capital carried out by Palestinian residents began five months ago, on March 6, with the massacre of eight students at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva.

On July 12, a gunman injured two Israel border policemen guarding the Old City’s Lion’s Gate. One of them has since died of his wounds.


Shin Bet chief: Hamas missiles menace Kiryat Gat – and even Ashdod


22 July: The internal security agency director Yuval Diskin told Israeli lawmakers Tuesday, July 22, that he opposed the Gaza ceasefire the Israeli government approved with Hamas – and continues to oppose it – because it gave Hamas a lifeline. Diskin warned that Hamas has used the month’s truce to sow minefields to stall an Israeli counter-terror operation, while continuing to smuggle arms through Egyptian Sinai, building up its strength and refusing to release Gilead Shalit.

Its extended range missiles can now reach Kiryat Gat, a town 21 km northeast of Gaza and possibly the big Mediterranean port town of Ashdod, 23 km to the north.

Hamas’ war preparations and missile fire could only be curbed by an Israeli military presence in the Gaza Strip, the Shin Bet director said.


Three covert Palestinian networks coordinate attacks in Jerusalem


23 July: Masses of weapons and explosives are cached in the Palestinian villages and districts of Jerusalem, where three Palestinian terrorist networks are working together to coordinate attacks in the city, according to security-intelligence sources.

Shin Bet probes have turned up close cooperation between Hamas and the fiercely radical Hizb al-Tahir, which is attracting increasing numbers of Palestinian terrorists to its ranks and now controls Temple Mount.

The Galilee Liberation Brigades – Imad Mughniyeh fighters, an offshoot of the Lebanese Hizballah among Israeli Arabs, works hand in glove with the Hizb and Hamas.

They decide whether the lone killers use firearms, explosives, knives or mechanical weapons, like the diggers which smashed through Jerusalem’s main streets twice this month. Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin said Wednesday, even before the second bulldozer attack which injured 29 people, that going into Jerusalem’s Shuafat is more dangerous than the Jenin refugee camp. “A security vacuum encircles Jerusalem,” he said, “through which terrorists are free to enter the capital.”

Meir Sheetrit, minister of interior, reported after research that the Palestinian family reunion program approved by Israel had been used to plant scores of active terrorists in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Palestinian terrorism and organized crime often overlap complicating normal police work.


Obama: A nuclear Iran would be a game-changing situation


23 July: The Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama promised to bring “big sticks and big carrots” to make Iran stand down on its nuclear program, but take no option off the table.

Answering reporters’ questions in the missile-battered southern town of Sderot, Obama stressed that preventing Iran acquiring a nuclear Iran must be of paramount concern for any US administration.

The US senator denied he had changed his position on Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” he said, “and it should not be sliced in half in a two-state solution. This is a matter to be settled by the parties in final-status talks not by America. He found it “intolerable for Israeli civilians to have to live under missile fire in their homes and schools.”

Earlier, he met Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad in Ramallah.


Iran is set to receive advanced Russian anti-air S-300 by year’s end


23 July: Senior Israeli defense sources were said Wednesday, July 23, that the first delivery of S-300 missile batteries to Iran was expected as soon as early September and could take six-to 12 months to be deployed and made operable. With the S-300, Iran could fight off any strikes against its nuclear facilities.

debkafile‘s military sources note that this is the second statement in four days by Israeli security sources stressing the need for expeditious action to preempt Iran’s military nuclear progress.

This assessment clashed with a statement by US defense secretary Robert Gates who said on July 9″… it’s highly unlikely that those air defense missiles would be in Iranian hands any time soon.”


Terrorist tension runs high in Jerusalem


24 July: Border Guard police caught two Palestinians spying on the northern Ramot suburb Thursday. They were armed with a rifle and binoculars.

Israeli cars were pelted with stones outside the Old City Herod’s Gate.

Tension is running high in the capital three days after a bulldozer driven by a Palestinian crashed through a main street leaving 29 people injured on the second rampage of its kind this month.

Wednesday, Border Guard commando troops intercepted a vehicle carrying a 12-kilo explosive charge attached to a gas canister and several pipe bombs outside Kafin village east of the West Bank town of Jenin for an attack in central Israel. One of the three Palestinians in the car was identified as Fadi Kathni, Jihad Islami commander in the Jenin region.


Obama places note in Western Wall crevice


24 July: The US Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama rose before dawn Thursday, July 24, for a stop at the holiest Jewish shrine to round off his Middle East tour, which took him to Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

After bowing his head in prayer, he observed the custom of placing a small note in a crevice of the wall. Some Jewish worshippers shook his hand, others heckled him with: “Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale!”

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