A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending June 11, 2009
Obama kowtows to Damascus
6 June: In less than a month after US president Barack Obama renewed sanctions against Syria over the Assad regime's involvement in terrorism and dabbling in weapons of mass destruction, another of his envoys, George Mitchell, is on his way to Damascus to explore the chances of renewed Syrian-Israeli peace talks.
A US military delegation has also been consigned to discuss the expanded flow of terrorists from Syria into Iraq.
None of these actions, any more than the UN nuclear agency's discovery of “man-made uranium particles” near Damascus, has slowed the American dash to thaw relations with Syria as part of Obama's new Middle East direction.
Syrian president Bashar Assad made the gesture of replacing his defense minister Gen. Hassan Turkemani with chief of staff Gen. Ali Habib, reputedly one of the most pro-American officers in the Syrian army.
But this did not prevent Assad refreshing his directives for terrorists, including suicide fighters, arms, explosives and cash, to continue to be allowed to cross into Iraq.
They are reinforcing a group called “The Mustafa Brigades,” whose brutalities in the northern Iraq town of Mosul have contributed to the sharp rise of US troops killed in Iraq to 24 in May, making it the worst month since September 2008.
Clinton shreds Bush-Israel settlement understanding, deepens US-Israel rift
6 June: US secretary of state Hillary Clinton flatly rejected any secret Bush agreements with Israel on expanding settlements, stated emphatically on Friday, June 5, that according to the negotiating record which Bush officials turned over to the Obama administration, “There is no memorialization of any informal and oral agreements.”
Israel officials have protested that Barack Obama's demand for a total freeze on settlement expansion contradicts a series of understandings – some written, some oral – with Bush officials which permitted expansion under certain conditions. This key understanding was reached in 2004: It provided for Israel's voluntary evacuation of the Gaza Strip and the northern tip of the West Bank (which took place the following year) to be counter-balanced by Washington's acceptance of the need for continuing construction in the large population blocks in other parts of West Bank territory to meet natural growth needs.
Mike Herzog bore witness to the understanding reached at the 2004 which he had led on Israel's behalf.
Elliott Abrams then acknowledged to the Washington Post that there had been unwritten understandings between Washington and Jerusalem, as Brig. Herzog affirmed.
By repudiating any such understandings Clinton has dragged US-Israeli relations down to a straight issue of word against word, Washington versus Jerusalem's. This is a dark point for restarting any peace process between Israel and Palestinians or other Arab governments.
IAEA: Accelerated Iranian, Syrian enrichment out of control
According to the calculations of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency in its new report, Iran will be able to produce a single nuclear bomb by year's end. debkafile's military sources note that these estimates only apply to uranium enrichment at Natanz. They do not factor in the product of Iran's clandestine enrichment plants.
Friday night, June 5, officials in Vienna disclosed that Iran had accumulated quantities of low-enriched uranium (1,339 kilos produced since November 2008 plus 839 kilos in stock) – enough to convert into the amount of high-enriched uranium needed for making a single nuclear bomb. Over 7,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges were installed at Natanz, 2,000 more than reported in February.
At this rate, 10,000 centrifuges will be spinning at Natanz with a capacity to enrich enough uranium for two bombs by the end of the year, double the IAEA's modest estimate by its own figures.
The IAEA admits its investigations are stalled both in Iran and Syria, where its inspectors also reported Friday the discovery of new traces of man-made uranium near Damascus.
debkafile's military sources note that these particles could come from only two sources:
A new enrichment site or, alternatively, imported enriched uranium smuggled out of Iran, North Korea or Kazakhstan.
June 7 Briefs
· Clinton: “I don't think there is any doubt in anyone's mind that were Israel to suffer a nuclear attack by Iran, there would be retaliation.” In ABC interview she did not say by whom.
· Netanyahu delivers major speech Sunday outlining his peace-cum-security program.
· Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait form single currency system.
Palestinian gunmen open fire along Gaza border, sparking heavy clashes
08 June: debkafile's military sources report at least four Palestinians killed, 12 injured, after Israeli air force helicopters went into action against Palestinian gunmen who mounted coordinated assaults at several points on the border early Monday, June 8. They opened automatic-machine gun-mortar fire on the Nahal Oz sector in the north, the Karni crossing in the center and Nir Oz opposite Khan Younes in the south.
In the Karni sector, at least 10 gunmen, some on horses, crossed the border under cover of early morning mist and attacked an Israeli Golani patrol in an apparent attempt to snatch soldiers. A fierce firefight developed under Palestinian cross-border mortar fire from Gaza. Israeli helicopter missiles struck the mortar crews.
Our sources say they were stirred into action Monday after several months of restraint by the wish to show the flag for Hizballah's expected election victory, to inform US envoy George Mitchell that his peace drive was stymied without their assent and to reject President Obama's call for negotiations..
Fears in Beirut of Hizballah coup after its election defeat
08 June: Early Monday, June 8, Saad Hariri said his 14 March bloc had retained its parliamentary majority of 70 out of 128 seats in Sunday's Lebanese election, overturning all predictions.
These elections bear heavily on Iran's presidential vote Friday, June 12, since the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threw all his personal weight and an estimated $100 million behind the pro-Iranian alliance's bid to gain control of Lebanon through the ballot-box.
Sources in Beirut say Hizballah has a Plan B to reverse its unexpected defeat by the bullet with the backing of Tehran and Damascus, especially as there is no organized military force in Beirut capable of resisting Hizballah.
June 8 Briefs
· Netanyahu updates Obama on his forthcoming policy speech at Bar Ilan University Sunday. They decided to stay in regular touch.
· Mitchell: Obama wants “immediate” talks between the Palestinians and Israel to forge a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement.
· Apathetic European voters favor right in European Parliament elections Sunday. Far right and anti-immigrant parties made gains.
Hamas female suiciders captured on way to kill Palestinian officers
09 June: Hamas is escalating its attacks on fellow Palestinians to defeat US presidential envoy George Mitchell's peace talks in the region.
debkafile's counter terror sources disclose that Monday night, three female Hamas members, one wearing a bomb vest, were captured in the West Bank town of Qalqilya on their way to kill Palestinian Authority security officers.
The reappearance of suicide bombers on the West Bank is extremely troubling, say military sources, because of the likelihood that they will next turn against their old targets in Israel.
Ahead of its foiled triple suicide attack, Hamas circulated the photos of six senior Palestinian security officers in Qalqilya over the caption: “These commanders are sentenced to execution.”
Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal refused point blank to call off Hamas' terror campaign or give the Obama peace initiative a chance when summoned from Damascus to Cairo by Egypt's intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman.
Terrorism not ruled out in Air France crash mystery
09 June: A week after Air France A330's unexplained fatal dive into the Atlantic June 1, debkafile reports that US, French and Brazilian investigators are going through the list of more than 200 passengers on the flight from Rio to Paris with a tooth comb. They are looking at the victims' countries of origin, family, social and denominational associations for possible clues to the mysterious disaster.
As long as the fog surrounding the tragedy remains impenetrable, a man-made disaster cannot be ruled out.
Another Air France flight from Buenos Aires to Paris was grounded temporarily on May 27 because of a telephoned bomb threat which was never identified.
French investigators suggested that the cockpit was empty when the plane suddenly dropped into the ocean, but could not say whether the pilots had left the cockpit voluntarily or not.
French security probe identifies two radical Muslims on Air France
10 June: The day after debkafile's counter-terror sources' revealed that French security was going through the doomed Air France flight's passenger list for suspected terror links, the Paris weekly L'Express reported June 10 that a link had been found.
French security DGSE (Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure) agents dispatched to Brazil identified two names on the passenger list which also appear on highly-classified documents recording radical Muslims considered a threat to France. This link to the air tragedy was described as “highly significant.”
debkafile's counter-terror sources report that in the last few months Paris has received several threats of an impending al Qaeda mega-attack against a French city on the lines of the hijacked airliners which struck New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. They learned of a plot to punish president Nicolas Sarkozy for posting fresh French troops to Afghanistan.
Mitchell presents US land swap plan that leaves Israel settlement blocs in place – report
10 June: Western sources report that President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell presented Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas with a new American plan for swapping territory when they met in Ramallah Wednesday June 10. debkafile's sources report that this plan holds the prospect of leaving the major Jewish West Bank settlements blocs under Israeli sovereignty in return for handing Israeli land to the Palestinians.
The plan indicates that expectations of a major crisis between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government over the settlement issue were exaggerated. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be delivering a major speech Sunday evening, June 14, at Bar Ilan University in which he promises to spell out his government's positions on peace and security. Tuesday night, he and the US envoy held a four-hour discussion, half of that time without advisers.
Wanted Hamas terrorists sheltered by 500 women in N. West Bank
10 June: Our sources reveal that 500 Palestinian women in Nablus are providing wanted Hamas operatives with sanctuary and permitting their bank accounts to be used to whitewash Hamas revenues.
One terrorist detained this week was found in possession of one-and-half million euros for establishing a Hamas stronghold in northern Samaria to support its terror campaign against the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Three Hamas female suicide killers were captured this week in Qalqilya on a mission to murder six senior Palestinian Authority officers.
Security Guard dies in shooting attack on Washington Holocaust Museum
11 June: James W. Brunn, 88, a rabid anti-Semite, neo-Nazi and white supremacist, shot and fatally injured Stephen T. Johns, 39, a guard in the Holocaust Museum entryway in Washington Wednesday, June 10 with a “long rifle.” Return fire from his fellow guards stopped the attack before it reached the museum halls which were packed with some 2,000 visitors. The guard died of his wounds after being taken to hospital. The gunman was critically injured in the firefight.
The FBI terrorist task force, which was soon on the scene, has raided a home in Maryland connected to the attack. No threat or prior warning was received of the museum attack.
debkafile's security sources report that extra security was laid on at the Israeli embassy and consulates in the main American cities after the attack as federal authorities investigate Brunn's background and associates.