A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending June 25, 2009

White House divided on Iran protests. Mousavi denies rally called for Saturday


 


19 June: Differences between President Barack Obama and Vice President Jo Biden were reported – and denied – shortly after the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the US and Britain of orchestrating riots designed to annul the presidential elections in his Friday sermon at Tehran University.


Biden is quoted as criticizing Obama for playing down the differences between the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and opposition leader Mousavi in a comment on Tuesday.


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been cited as criticizing the president for not giving enough support to the street protesters in their campaign against a fraudulent election. It is being said that the protesters could have done with more wholehearted US support for their cause, although Congress voted 405-1 to condemn Tehran's crackdown on the demonstrators.


debkafile's Washington sources report that the US president is believed by some circles to be soft-pedaling his encouragement for the protesters so as not to burn bridges to his planned dialogue with the regime in Tehran.


 


Khamenei in tough sermon defends presidential election, attacks protests


 


19 June: In his first public appearance since the disputed presidential election of June 12, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the street rallies were used as the cover for Western “armed terrorist groups” who attacked Bassij militiamen and Tehran University of Tehran students.


He said the “street riots” are the wrong way and must stop, or else their leaders would be held responsible for the consequences.


He won loud cheers when he defended the election and criticized those who accused the Islamic republic of vote-rigging. He also criticized the mutually vituperative campaigns of winner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and loser Mir Hossein Mousavi and attacked the allegations of corruption against Rafsanjani and his family.


But he said he and the president were close on foreign policy.


 


Mousavi ready for martyrdom, calls for national strike if he is arrested


 


20 June: Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi raised the stakes in his confrontation with the regime, Saturday, June 20. He said he is now willing to lay down his life and determined to continue his path. He demanded the annulment of the presidential election of June 12, which he said was rigged months in advance to prepare for President Ahmadinejad's victory. He called on his supporters to call a national strike if he is arrested.


Web sites run by supporters of the opposition candidates Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi were reported to have called for street protests Saturday, but neither appeared.


They also boycotted the Guardian Council's offer to recount a randomly selected 10 percent of ballot boxes following hundreds of complaints.


 


Tehran police fire in the air to break up clash between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad supporters


 


20 June: Tension rose in the Iranian capital Saturday afternoon, June 20, when supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi set fire to the campaign headquarters of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Heavy police forces fired in the air to break up a clash between the two groups.


Earlier, demonstrators making their way to Tehran's Enghelab Square and Tehran University on the eighth day after Iran's disputed presidential election were prevented from forming into a procession by military police, anti-riot police and Basijj militia wielding water cannon, night sticks and tear gas. This was reported by witnesses using e-mail and other means of communication.


 


June 20 Briefs


 


·        Iraq hands to UK 2 bodies of five Britons taken hostage 25 months ago by Shiite group. The men abducted were computer and security experts working for the Iraqi treasury.


·        Suicide truck bombing in Shiite mosque near Kirkuk, N. Iraq kills 72, injures 150.


·        At least 44 dead, including 6 Pakistan soldiers, in battle with Taliban in the North.


·        The USS John McCain destroyer gets in position to intercept North Korean ship suspected of proliferating weapons material. Order to interdict not yet given.


·        Gates boosts Hawaii's missile defenses against North Korean July 4 threat.


 


Second top-level Israel-Egyptian strategic parley in five weeks focuses on Iran


 


21 June: Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak said his talks in Cairo Sunday, June 21, with President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian defense minister Gen. Tantawi and intelligence minister Gen. Suleiman were interesting and wide-ranging.


debkafile's political sources report: The Cairo conference further solidified the understanding forged between Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia six months ago, which none of the parties acknowledge formally.


The three neighbors are bound by the common objective of halting Iran's Middle East expansion and curtailing its nuclear aspirations by means of diplomatic, military and intelligence cooperation, or alternatively, to minimize the menace posed to the region from Tehran. The three partners work together quietly and ad hoc.


The Saudis use Gen. Suleiman as their letterbox with Israel to avoid direct contacts.


 


In rising disorder, Iran's nuclear assets are matter of concern


 


June 21: As the Islamic Republic slides deeper into unrest eight days after its disputed presidential election, the fate of Iran's nuclear resources is becoming a pressing matter of concern.


Iran has accumulated a mountain of nuclear data and a large staff of scientists working inter alia on enriched uranium. Facing opposition in Pakistan, al Qaeda might find Iran a tempting proposition.


This situation has a nightmarish precedent. After the collapse of the Soviet empire in the early 90s, it later transpired that at least 12 nuclear cruise missiles and four Kh-55 nuclear warheads were stolen from the Russian stockpile in the Ukraine and reached the hands of Iran and China who copied their nuclear technology.


And scores of “nuclear suitcases” designed as tactical weapons for Russian special forces vanished and were never traced.


 


June 21 Briefs


 


·        Day of Hamas attacks on Israeli patrol near Kisufim. Mortar fire and explosive devices on Gaza border fence followed by gunfire.No Israeli casualties. Hamas again attacks Israel patrol near Kisufim with mortar fire, plants explosive devices. The shells exploded on Gaza side of border, three devices defused.


·        Meir Dagan's term as Mossad chief was extended for another year.


 


Tehran takes note of Israel's non-interference in its domestic turmoil


 


22 June: Ruling circles in Tehran have interpreted a remark by Israel's Mossad director Meir Dagan as signifying Jerusalem's non-interference in the domestic turmoil besetting the regime over the disputed presidential election, debkafile's Iranian sources report. They see Israel lining up with the mainstream Arab governments such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which have stood aside and held silent in the ten days of Iranian unrest.


Last week, Dagan surprised Tehran when he remarked in a briefing to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee that the scale of vote-rigging in Iran was not unusual compared with most democracies. The spy chief went on to say that the protests in Tehran would fade after a few days.


These comments, say our sources, persuaded Iranian officials to change their habits and go easy on “the Zionists” when accusing foreign elements of meddling in their internal affairs. They vented their ire this time on Britain and to a lesser degree on the US.


 


British embassy staff families begin leaving Tehran as Iran weighs reassessment of ties


 


22 June: Monday, June 22, the influential Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani proposed a foreign ministry review of Iran's relations with Britain over its “interference in Iran's recent post-election unrest.” A Foreign Office spokesman said: “”As a result, we are withdrawing dependents of embassy staff until the situation improves.”


Sunday, June 21, the BBC's Tehran correspondent was given 24 hours to leave. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the US and Britain of “interfering in the Islamic Republic's internal affairs.” He warned: “Definitely by hasty remarks you will not be placed in the circle of friendship with the Iranian nation.”


 


Riot police break up small opposition rally in Tehran


 


22 June: Riot police used tear gas, backed by club-wielding Basijj militiamen, to break up some 1,000 demonstrators gathering in Tehran's Haf-e Tir Square Monday Monday, June 22. They gathered despite a stern warning by Iran's Revolutionary Guards that “hooligans” would “crushed” after being urged by opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi on his website to commemorate the teenage girl killed in bloody clashes Saturday.


Also Monday, Iran's Guardian Council admitted to some election irregularities, specifically, three million votes were questionable in 50 out of 170 cities where the number of ballots exceeding the number of eligible votes. But the council still to determined that Ahmadinejad's victory was decisive.


To show the outside world that Iran is not weakened by its internal turmoil, Iran began a four-day air force exercise over the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman Monday. It included a maneuver for topping-up warplanes, said to be Russian-made Sukhoi and Iranian-made Saegheh jet fighters. Their range was described as 3.200 kilometers, which would cover the distance to Israel and back.


 


Al Qaeda would use Pakistan's nuclear weapons against the Americans


 


22 June: If it were in a position to do so, Al Qaeda would use Pakistan's nuclear weapons in its fight against the United States, a top leader of the group said in remarks aired on Sunday.


“God willing, the nuclear weapons will not fall into the hands of the Americans and the mujahideen would take them and use them against the Americans,” Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, the leader of al Qaeda's in Afghanistan, said in an interview with Al Jazeera television.


  


June 23 Brief


 


·        Israel PM cancels Paris meeting with US envoy Mitchell. Instead, Barak will travel to Washington and meet Mitchell there.


·        Berlusconi tells Netanyahu Israel must stop settlement construction.


·        Netanyahu: International dispute over settlements delays peacemaking.


·        Iran and UK in tit-for-tat expulsions of two diplomats each.


·        Indian court issues arrest warrants for 22 Pakistanis linked to Nov. 28 Mumbai massacre.


 


24 June: Seeking to revive his flagging protest movement, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi scheduled a demonstration for Wednesday afternoon, June 24, outside the Iranian parliament building on Baharestan Square. According to eye witnesses, several hundred demonstrators turned up and were violently dispersed by Iranian security forces and arrests made. Some said they opened fire on the crowd and one young woman was injured.


debkafile's Iranian sources report Mousavi tried to breathe new life into the protest movement by drawing on the strongest condemnation of the regime's repressive methods heard so far from US president Barack Obama. But this support on Day 11 of the protests came 72 hours too late. By then, the Islamic government had seized the momentum, ruling out a new poll and fixing a timeline for the swearing-in of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president for a second term. To keep the Obama engagement commitment on track and mollify Iranian leaders, the White House decided abruptly Wednesday to send a US ambassador back to Damascus, their foremost ally.


 


Iran media claim Obama sent secret letter of support to Khamenei before election


 


24 June: US and Iranian sources report that before Iran's presidential election, the Obama administration sent a secret letter to its supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for “cooperation in regional and bilateral relations” and a resolution of the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.


The Iranian media gave great prominence to the disclosure to underline US president's backing for Khamenei and president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as belying his condemnation for the regime and support for the “reformists.”


Following the disclosure of the Obama letter, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs announced Washington was withdrawing its invitation for Iranian diplomats to attend July 4 celebrations in world capitals.


debkafile's Iranian sources say that a single day, Wednesday, saw a conspicuous retreat in the process of US-Iranian rapprochement.

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