A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending June 18, 2009

Riyadh and Arab Gulf see Shiite hands behind Iraqi Sunni leader's assassination


12 June: The assassination Friday, June 12, of Hareth al-Obaidi, head of the Iraqi Accordance Front bloc, was a major disaster for the Sunni Arab world and an omen of worse to come as US combat troops prepare to leave Iraqi cities by the end of the month.

Fears of systematic liquidation of Sunni leaders in Iraq at the hands Iraqi and Iranian Shiites figured large in US president Barack Obama's last conversation with Saudi king Abdullah in Riyadh on June 3.

Al-Obaidi, an imam, who was also deputy head of the Iraqi parliament's Human Rights Committee, was specifically targeted by a 15-year old gunman, who burst in the al-Shawaf Mosque in Baghdad's western Yarmouk neighborhood after Friday prayers. The killer made straight for his target having clearly been briefed in advance.

When they met in Riyadh, Obama asked King Abdullah to put a stop to young Saudis crossing into Iraq to fight with Iraqi Sunni insurgents. The king rebuffed him and accused Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki of joining with Tehran to conduct a systematic purge of Sunni Arab political and military power centers in Iraq.

The monarch warned the US president that Tehran would be encouraged to intensify this campaign by the imminence of US-Iran talks.


Netanyahu's speech – more political than statesmanlike


Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech at the Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Hall Sunday, June 14, failed to offer a new diplomatic beginning for approaching the intractable conflict with the Palestinians. He finally accepted the two-state solution promoted by US president Barak Obama under heavy pressure from Washington, but demanded that first the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept that their state be demilitarized, be denied control of their air space and the right to sign military treaties. The Palestinians refugee problem must be settled outside Israel's boundaries and Jerusalem will remain the undivided capital of Israel with religious freedom for all faiths.

The Netanyahu speech, billed as a major policy and security message, was widely expected to deliver fresh ideas or augur some breakthrough, which it did not. At the same time, debkafile's analysts note, Netanyahu spelled out Israel's conditions for peace with the Palestinians that are broadly endorsed across Israel's political spectrum but which none of his predecessors have had the courage to put them squarely on the table.


White House welcomes Netayhau's endorsement of Palestinian state


14 June: Israeli prime minister Binyamin for the first time spoke in favor of a Palestinian state alongside Israel in his speech at Bar Ilan University Sunday, June 14. But only on condition that the Palestinian state is demilitarized, does not control its air space, accepts effective security arrangements against arms smuggling, may not sign military treaties with hostile forces and recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.

The White House said that president Obama welcomes Netanyahu's endorsement of a separate Palestinian state as an “important step forward” in the right direction.

Palestinian spokesman accused the Israeli prime minister of “sabotaging” the peace process. He said that never in a thousand years would any Palestinian accept Israel as a Jewish state.

Netanyahu offered to discuss a regional peace with Arab leaders at any place they choose.

Netanyahu said the reality of the Palestinian people in this land must be recognized, but argued that the conflict is rooted in the Arab world's refusal to recognize Israel's right to a state within any borders at all from 1947. It can only end when the Palestinians accept it as the homeland of the Jewish people and the land of its fathers.

He called on the Palestinians to choose between the way to peace and the Hamas way because Israel will never negotiate with terrorists.

“We will not establish new settlements or appropriate new land for their expansion until the end of final status negotiations,” said Netanyahu, referring to a major bone of contention with US President. But, he said, we cannot turn away from the natural needs of our brethren.

Jerusalem will remain Israel's united capital with freedom of religion for all faiths, the prime minister said.

The Palestinian refugee problem must and can find its solution outside Israel's borders.


Enraged Palestinians weigh return to terror for Netanyahu speech


15 June: Enraged by the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's conditional offer of a Palestinian state Sunday, June 14 – and even more by what they see as US president Barack Obama's perfidious endorsement Mahmoud Abbas' circle in Ramallah are weighing going back to Yasser Arafat's two-stage tactic: Keeping up the heat on peace talks with terror.

They blame Abbas for falling for a phony clash between Washington and Jerusalem, when all the time Obama and Binyamin were scheming together to devise a formula for trapping the Palestinians into discussing a statehood bereft of military and political power. They have succeeded in placing the onus of rejection at the Palestinian door.


June 15 Briefs


·        Islamabad orders Pakistani army to hunt down Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in his South Waziristan hideout.

·        Mubarak: Netanyahu's demand for Palestinian recognition of Jewish state scuppers ME peace process. No one will support this in Egypt or anywhere else, he said.

·        Gen. Stanley McChrystal takes over command of US-NATO forces in Afghanistan.


Ex-US president Carter's escapes assassination from al Qaeda-linked Palestinians


16 June: debkafile's military sources confirm that the Army of Islam, the Palestinian al Qaeda cell in Gaza, tried to assassinate former US president Jimmy Carter by planting a 200-kilo bomb in the path of his exit to Israel after he held sympathetic talks with its Hamas rulers. Carter had a lucky escape; the bomb would have been lethal had it not been defused by Hamas sappers, who later denied it was there.

The same al Qaeda cell took part in the Hamas cross-border attack from Gaza to kidnap Israel soldiers a week ago and Hamas' Gilead Shalit's abduction three years back.

Carter “held back tears” at the sight of living conditions in Gaza, for which he held Israel wholly responsible.

Because of their quarrel with Hamas, Palestinian Authority security personnel were not available to secure Carter's visit to Gaza although the US has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in building and training a 1,500-strong PA special force.


Nuclear watchdog chief: Iran wants nuclear weapon for recognition as major power


17 June: Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei said Wednesday, June 17, he believes that Iran is seeking the technology for nuclear weapons in order to gain respect as a major Middle East power.

Israel's Mossad chief, Meir Dagan predicted Tuesday that Iran would have a nuclear bomb and the means of delivery in five years barring technical glitches. This is a real existential threat for Israel and must be stopped, he said.


Islamic regime deploys thousands of Revolutionary Guardsmen in crackdown on opposition


17 June: Wednesday afternoon, June 17, on the fifth day after the disputed presidential election, armored convoys of Revolutionary Guard forces rolled into Tehran. Hundreds of opposition activists were arrested, including economic experts who criticized president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies.

Nonetheless, a number of demonstrators turned out Wednesday and opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi defied supreme ruler Ayatollah Khamenei's demand for the defeated presidential challengers to refrain from stirring up more tension, by calling on his website for peaceful memorial processions Thursday in honor of protesters against the rigged election shot by security forces.

Ahead of a showdown, the authorities imposed tough new restrictions on foreign press coverage and attempted to block text messaging and the Internet albeit with partial success.


June 17 Briefs


·        Tehran accuses US of “intolerable meddling in Iran's internal affairs.”

·        Israeli security forces detain four Palestinians in Qalqilya suspected of murdering Dr. Daniel Yaacoby when he came for car repairs on July 27, 2006. They stabbed the Israeli to death, put his body in car's trunk and set it on fire.

·        Several Iranian national footballers sport reformist green armbands at World Cup match.

·        Designated Israeli ambassador to Washington Michael Oren: Good progress in US-Israel talks on settlement construction toward solution. US understands Israel will not go back to pre-1967 lines which are indefensible.


Protesters in funereal black march silently in tense Iran


18 June: The tensely awaited opposition rally scheduled for Thursday, June 18, took place with hardly any incident. debkafile's Iranian sources suggest the rival camps contesting the presidential election results – and in essence the future of the Iranian regime – appear to have agreed on a temporary truce on the sixth day of their violent confrontation.

This is either because their leaders are trying to negotiate an end to the crisis, seeking a compromise figure to install as president, removing both rivals Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi, or because they are saving their strength for the Friday prayer sermons.

Thursday too, Iran's prosecutor general claimed the exposure of a foreign terrorist network, with alleged Israeli links, which had conspired to carry out large-scale massacres in the mosques on election-day. The regime is clearing laying the ground for impugning opposition leaders as collaborators with foreign undercover agencies.

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