A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending July 9, 2009

Israeli sub, said armed with nuclear-capable torpedoes, navigates Suez Canal


3 July: The Dolphin-class attack submarine was the first Israeli naval vessel to transit the Suez Canal in four years on its way from Haifa to Eilat last month. According to debkafile's military sources, the move indicates a strengthening of the informal Israel-Egyptian-Saudi pact forged in recent months against Iran and first revealed by our sources. They are said to be armed with torpedo tubes capable of launching nuclear-capable cruise missiles.

To transit the Suez Canal, the armed submarine would have required Egyptian permission at the highest level, possibly even President Hosni Mubarak. One official in Cairo told Reuters that its passage would not be problematic as Egypt and Israel are not at war.

This noncommittal response indicates that Egypt would have no objection to Israeli military craft passing through the canal on their way to the Red Sea and on to the Persian Gulf in case of a decision to strike Iran. The alternative would be a voyage of weeks around the Horn of Africa.


Big gaps in Airbus company disaster statement


3 July: The information offered by senior investigator Alan Bouillard on July 2, one month after Air France Rio-Paris flight 447 plunged into the Atlantic killing all 228 people aboard indicates either that the inquiry is stumped or that information is being withheld. He reported that the doomed airliner did not break up in the air but dropped like a stone without any established cause and shattered from the force of its impact with the water. Before hitting the sea, it sent out 24 automatic signals of technical glitches, including a warning of falling air pressure in the cabin. None of them, said Bouillard, should have immobilized the aircraft, but they did indicate that the flight crew who should have switched the plane to manual control had failed to do so.

This final admission deepened the mystery, because the French investigators could not explain why this happened.


Submissiveness to North Korea is also the international model for Iran's first nuclear test


4 July: Although the US Navy claims to be ready to intercept any North Korean missiles directed at the Sea of Japan, the Obama administration let Pongyang's test-launch of 7 missiles on July 4 go by with a mere verbal reproach: The launches were “not helpful,” said a State Department spokesman. “North Korea should refrain from actions that aggravate tensions and focus on de-nuclearization talks and the implementation of its commitments from the September 19, 2005 joint statement,” he said.

Beijing and Moscow concurred in these sentiments.

But North Korea has refused to go back to those talks. Its seven-missile barrage, launched on the Fourth of July, consisted of 6 Scud-type 500-km range missiles, capable of reaching most of South Korea and a seventh, the 1,000 km range Nodong A, which brings Japan within striking distance. Yet no official in Washington came forward to explain why the US Navy failed to intercept it.

debkafile's military sources report that the US, Europe – and even the Binyamin Netanyahu government – appear to have adopted the same strategy for North Korea and Iran. It is a combination of harsh oral rebukes coupled with a refusal to address North Korea's violations and Iran's race for a nuclear bomb in any practical way.

A blind eye is equally turned to the close collaboration between Pyongyang and Tehran on their missile and nuclear development programs, allowing them to get away with the gross, ongoing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and making a mockery of international law and UN resolutions.


July 4 Briefs


·        Two US troops killed, several wounded by Taliban rocket-mortar fire at US base in E. Afghanistan. A suicide bomber then drove an explosive truck at the base gates. The two-clash ended after US forces call in airstrikes.

·        North Korea test-fires seven short-range missiles one by one Saturday.

·        Sarah Palin resigns as Alaska governor, believed planning to run for US president.

·        All 26 Pakistani troops killed aboard helicopter which crashed in northwest. Taliban claims to have shot it down.


Show trials, possible execution, hang over “US agent” Mousavi


4 July: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is preparing a wave of show trials, public confessions and executions to crush the opposition which ventured to rally against the legitimacy of his election. The West, especially the Obama administration, hoping the bloody crackdown was over, can forget about re-engaging Tehran in talks on the nuclear controversy any time soon when Mir Hossein Mousavi and the reformist ex-president Mohammed Khatami are denounced as a US agent and “acting as America's fifth column.”

Ahmadinejad is pointing the finger at “US and British instigators” to conceal the widespread popular disaffection and drum up a pretext for sentencing accused ringleaders to death.

Mousavi is under enormous pressure to back down and send his supporters home. His deepest fear is being put on trial and executed on the charge of causing mass deaths, thereby making the opposition rather than the regime responsible for the bloodshed of recent weeks.


Biden: If Israel wants to bomb Iran, we can't stop them


5 July: In an interview with ABC's George Stephanoupolos taped Saturday, vice president Joseph Biden said in answer to a question: “Look, Israel can determine for itself – it's a sovereign nation – what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else.” Whether we agree or not? The interviewer asked. “Whether we agree or not,” said the vice president.

This was the first time a senior Obama administration official left Israel's military option open for Iran's nuclear sites. debkafile's Washington sources note that if this time Biden's statement was coordinated with the president, it would mean that the administration has withdrawn its veto against Israel's resort to military action before diplomacy has been fully tested.


Israeli Dolphin sub returns from Red Sea to Haifa base through Suez Canal escorted by missile ship


5 July: debkafile's intelligence sources: The last three days from Friday, June 3, have seen a spate of reports all pointing in one direction: Israel's air and sea capabilities for dealing with Iran and its military nuclear program. US vice president Biden's statement, unless it is withdrawn, looks like the Obama administration's seal on a possible Israeli attack for pre-empting a nuclear-armed Iran.

Until now, administration officials referred to a potential Israeli bombardment of Iran as a disaster with unpredictable consequences.

Now the ball is squarely in Binyamin Netanyahu's court, whether because Washington hopes Israel will pull the Iranian chestnut out of the fire or call Israel's bluff.


July 6 Briefs


·        Singapore holds big anti-terror drill simulating last year's Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. The drill will reconstruct 10 assorted incidents.

·        Taliban motorbike bombing in Rawalpindi July 2 injured 30 bus passengers employed by Pakistan's nuclear lab.

·        Saudi king Abdullah will not visit Damascus Monday as widely reported.

·        Iran threatens “real and decisive” action if Israel attacks its nuclear facilities. Senior Iranian lawmaker said this in response to Biden signal that US would not stop Israel bombing.

·        Khamenei warns Western “meddling” in Iran's postelection protests will have negative impact on relations.


Obama, Medvedev at odds on US missile shield, Iran's nuclear drive, Middle East


6 July: US president Barack Obama and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev were of one mind in one key sphere, the need to continue the war on al Qaeda and the Taliban. This concurrence produced an accord allowing the United States to fly troops and weapons to Afghanistan through Russian skies. Most other key issues were either left in dispute or as unfinished business.

The four issues on which the Washington and Moscow remain divided are:

1. The US missile interceptors and radar station for Poland and the Czech Republic. This remains a Russian sine qua non for cooperation in other fields.

2. Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

3. While Russian president did not mention Tehran, the US president voiced deep concern about Iran developing nuclear weapons “because this will trigger a nuclear race in the most volatile part of the world, the Middle East.” He added: “It is also possible that nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of non-state actors, extremists, posing a danger to both Russia and the US.”

4. In Middle East peacemaking, Moscow wants parity with Washington, which the Obama administration is not willing to concede.


July 7 Briefs


·        Two Canadians, one Briton killed in helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan.

·        Six US troops die in Afghanistan Monday – 4 when convoy hit roadside bomb in N. Afghan town of Konduz, 2 in blast in the South.

·        Three British troops killed in South Afghanistan.

·        Taliban opens Operation Foladi Jal or “Iron Net' in Afghanistan to counter US offensive in Helmand.

·        Curfew clamped down on Urumqui to quell Uighur protests in West Chinese Xinjiang after 156 killed, 800 injured by riot police.

·        Mubarak said he believes kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit “is fine” and “I hope the issue will end soon.” debkafile: In two years Mubarak has never said anything more definite.


Obama “absolutely” denies US go-ahead for Israel to bomb Iran. Administration divided


7 July: Talking to CNN from Moscow Tuesday, July 7, US President Barack Obama “absolutely” denied a Washington green light for Israel to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, adding: “We can't dictate to other countries what their security interests are” – but it is also true that it is US policy to try and resolve the issue “through diplomatic channels.”

This statement directly contradicted the words of US vice president Joseph Biden, who two days earlier told ABC television that the US would not stand in the way of Israeli military action against the Iranian nuclear program. While Biden's remarks are sometimes off-the-cuff and subject to “further clarification,” this time a genuine difference opinion appears to have developed between President Obama and his VP on the Iranian nuclear question.

debkafile's military sources stress that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has never specifically applied to President Obama on this question and so the inconsistencies in US public positions appear to reflect internal divergences within the administration on the handling of the Iranian nuclear program.


US, German intel: Al Qaeda plots multiple attacks on US, Israel-bound airliners


7 July: Western anti-terror agencies warn that at a large group of 15-20 al Qaeda terrorists, trained in Pakistan and Algeria in tactics for hijacking and blowing up airliners, deployed secretly in at least six European and Middle East countries in early July. They were on standby for multiple terrorist attacks on July 4, July 7, the fourth anniversary of the 7/7 attacks on the British transport system, and July 8-9, when the G8 summit meets in L'Aquila. Al Qaeda planners, say the Western sources, know it is extremely hard to break through the massive security cordons protecting summit leaders and will alternatively try to hijack passenger planes of airlines belonging to the targeted states and blow them up in mid-air.

debkafile's counter-terror sources report the first specific red alert on Saturday, July 4, referred to the possible hijack of Turkish Airways planes taking of from Turkish airports for US destinations or Tel Aviv.


July 8 Briefs


·        British soldier killed by explosion in S. Afghanistan.

·        Lavrov: US missile-defense shield would throw doubt on nuclear arms cuts. He spoke day after Obama, Medvedev signed nuclear warheads reduction memo.

·        Lebanese spy fever continues: Colonel suspected of spying for Mossad said escaped to Israel, “shining parachute” object drops on southern villages.

·        Netanyahu calls inner cabinet to approve four economic projects for Palestinians: New industrial zones for Bethlehem, Jenin, farming projects in Jericho, tourist facilities at Jordan River baptism site.

·        Mullen warns window is closing for preventing Iranian nuclear threat. He says military strike is an option, but would destabilize region.


Russia blocks concrete measures on Iran's nuclear drive at G8


9 July: G8 leaders failed to agree on tough measures, including sanctions, against Iran's drive for nuclear weapons in their three-day deliberations at the Italian town of l'Aquila, Wednesday, July 8. Russian opposition to condemning Iran left only an endorsement of the diplomatic track, which may have been directed more against an Israeli military option than Iran. In any case, the next day, Tehran topped up its refusal to discuss its nuclear program with a sharp response to the mild G8 statement: “We shall not halt our nuclear program or retreat by a single step.”

Nevertheless, US undersecretary of state William Burns, playing the setback down, praised the statement as a victory for unity, representing “a real sense of urgency.” French president Nicolas Sarkozy said Iran had a chance for negotiations until September, when unspecified decisions would have to be made.

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