A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending June 5, 2008
Kadima lawmaker Hanegbi calls for early election to set up an emergency government
31 May: Tzahi Hanegbi, chairman of the foreign affairs and security committee, charts a three-point plan to extricate the country from the political crisis sparked by the corruption scandal surrounding prime minister Ehud Olmert. MK Hanegbi, hitherto considered a staunch Olmert loyalist, said Saturday, May 31, the government no longer has a moral mandate for urgent major steps, or a parliamentary majority to rule. He therefore plans to convene the Kadima party’s institutions to pick its candidate for next prime minister and set a date for a general election. An emergency unity government should follow to focus on the Iranian threat to Israel, the Gaza conflict and peace talks with the Palestinians and Syria. Olmert has said he will not run for re-election in the party primary vote.
Likud lawmaker Silvan Shalom is rounding up multi-partisan votes for a motion to dissolve the Knesset and call an early election.
Iran Achieves a Four-Front Missile Command with a Breakthrough on Nuclear Missile Warheads
31 May: debkafile‘s military sources reveal that the joint Iranian-Syrian missile command – incorporated in a new mutual defense treaty signed during Syrian defense minister Hassan Turkmani’s Tehran visit last week – has two additional attachments: Hizballah’s missile arsenal in Lebanon and the Palestinian Hamas-Jihad Islami missile build-up in the Gaza Strip.
Western and Israeli military experts connect the combined command with other indications that Iran’s program for developing missiles capable of delivering nuclear payloads has gone into high gear and reached an advanced stage. They believe the Iranians have beaten most of the technical difficulties holding it up.
In the interim, Hizballah’s rise to power in Beirut has brought Lebanon into the shared Syrian-Iranian orbit. Tehran now lines up a row of missile deployments of varying strengths from Iran, Syria and Lebanon and up to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip – a missile array never before seen in the Middle East and a strategic menace most of Israel’s security leaders rate unacceptable.
Military experts comment that Tehran’s centralized control of four hostile missile fronts will virtually neutralize the American and Israeli anti-missile defense systems in the region; the Arrow and the Patriot missile interceptors could handle incoming missiles from one or maybe two directions – but not four.
debkafile‘s political sources point out that reverses are piling up against the United States and Israel at the worst time possible: both governments are hobbled – Washington in the dying days of the Bush administration, and Israel, by the grave corruption allegations against prime minister Ehud Olmert which have split the government.
Hamas threatens Gaza escalation while PM Olmert plans Washington trip
31 May: Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert scheduled a consultation on the lingering Gaza missile crisis with defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Livni Sunday, June 1 before taking off Monday for a week of talks in Washington.
The prime minister is traveling in the face of rising pressure for him to step down over the corruption scandal hanging over his head.
Barak and Livni have openly supported this demand.
debkafile reports: Israel’s military and intelligence chiefs have warned them repeatedly that the longer effective action against Hamas and its allied terrorist groups is delayed, the harder and more costly in lives the operation will be.
Mahmoud A-Zahar, speaking for Hamas in an interview Saturday, May 31, threatened that if Israel rejects his group’s ceasefire terms in Gaza and refuses to end its blockade, “the Palestinians will resort to all means at their disposal including armed force.”
Saturday, the Egyptian police reported the discovery of 30 anti-air missiles in a large arms cache in Sinai 80 km. south of the Gaza Strip. It also contained rifles, 2,000 rifle rounds, sacks of hand grenades and RPGs. The weapons were to have been smuggled into Gaza through tunnels.
Hizballah hands over purported Israeli body parts to impress visiting German FM
1 June: debkafile‘s political sources report that the box containing the remains of Israeli soldiers which Hizballah sent to Israel on June 1 was a gesture made to impress the visiting German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier with the terrorist group’s “humanity.” The remains proved to consist of fragments of tissue and bone belonging to five soldiers who died in combat in the 2006 Lebanon war.
Alarmed nuclear watchdog board meets on Iranian nuclear bomb work
2 June: The 35-member Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board is discussing the latest report from its director Mohammed ElBaradei, which asserts that Iran is hiding work with possible military nuclear dimensions and installed IR-2 and IR-3 centrifuges for enriching uranium. Yet Tehran has not informed the agency or permitted access to the relevant sites.
The meeting reviewed intelligence gathered by 10 different countries that Iran may have been looking into high explosives of the sort used in implosion-type nuclear bombs, and exploring modifications to missiles consistent with making them capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. This is in defiance of three rounds of UN sanctions.
debkafile reports that US intelligence presented 18 documents confirming this finding, drawing on materials contained in a laptop stolen from one of the heads of Iran’s nuclear program in Tehran in late 2006 by Iranian dissidents.
Scientists and analysts predict that during next year, Iran is likely to build up a stockpile of enriched uranium that could be turned into enough fissile material for a bomb in months. Iran is twice as effective in enriching uranium as before.
Yet the Israeli government – in disarray over corruption disclosures against prime minister Ehud Olmert – is holding back on clear action against Iran; by the time it sorts itself out, Iran will have moved on to the last stages of nuclear weaponization.
Limited US attack on Iranian Revolutionary Guards bases in sight
2 June: Our Washington sources report that president George W. Bush is closer than ever before to ordering a limited missile-air bombardment of the IRGC-al Qods Brigade’s installations in Iran. It is planned to target training camps and the munitions factories pumping fighters, missiles and roadside bombs to the Iraqi insurgency, Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza.
Iran is geared up for counteraction.
Because this US assault is not planned to extend to Iran’s nuclear installations, Tehran is not expected to hit back at distant American targets in the Persian Gulf or at Israel.
debkafile‘s Iranian sources report, however, that Iran’s military preparations for countering an American attack are far broader than envisaged in Washington.
According to debkafile‘s Iranian and military sources, the IRGC had by mid-May finished mobilizing al Qods’ arms, most of them undercover, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Sudan. At home, the Revolutionary Guards evacuated their key bases together with manpower and equipment.
Assad now wants Golan – plus a strip of Sea of Galilee shore
3 June: President Bashar Assad speaking in Dubai raised his price for a peace deal with Israel, debkafile‘s political source note. The Golan, which Syria’s invading army lost to Israel in the 1967 war, is not enough; Assad also wants a strip of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The last round of peace talks eight years ago broke down over this very demand. The Syrian ruler told the Gulf newspaper al-Khaleej: “But if the question of water is intended for us to give up the 1967 borders that stretch to Tiberias (Sea of Galilee), then there will never be a compromise on the 1967 borders.”
This strip is crowded with the Israeli kibbutzim, Ha’on, Tel Katzir, Shear Hagolan and Massada, which in the 1950s and 1960s lived under constant Syrian shelling from the Golan plateau overhead. Assad commented that serious peace talks with Israel would not start before next year and Washington would need to take a hand in the process.
Senior Israeli minister warns Golan handover to Syria would bring Iran to Israel’s doorstep
3 June: Transport minister Shaul Mofaz said he was convinced that peace with Damascus is possible without this concession.
First Iran-made Multiple Launch Rocket fired from Gaza
3 June: The new weapon, of the type used by the Lebanese Hizballah against northern Israel, was fired for the first time by Palestinians from Gaza Tuesday, June 3. It landed on open ground in Shaar Henegev.
The newly smuggled weapon carries an 8 kg payload – bigger than the Qassam missile with about the same 9 km range – and drastically escalates the Hamas-led war against the southwestern Israeli population. For the first time, Palestinian terrorists have acquired a weapon launched from a vehicle.
debkafile‘s military sources report that weapons consignments, including increasingly advanced systems, continue to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Iran and Sudan for Hamas and its terrorist allies.
Obama: The danger from Iran is real and my goal is to eliminate this threat
4 June: In his first foreign policy speech after clinching the Democratic nomination for president, Sen. Barack Obama vowed that as president he would deepen American defense cooperation with Israel. “Those who threaten Israel, threaten us. I will bring an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security and guarantee Israel’s military strength so that it can defend itself from any threat – from Gaza to Tehran. Obama said he would sign a memo of understanding promising Israel $30 bn over 10 years. He was addressing the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference, June 4.
Obama spelled out his position on talks with Iran. He said: “I will do everything in my power – everything, everything – to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Iran has grown stronger and increased its support for terror since this administration went to war in Iraq “and I refuse to support a policy that has made the US and Israel less secure.”
Palestinian mortar fire kills Amnon Rosenberg, 51, from Kibbutz Nirim Thursday
5 June: Amnon Rosenberg, who is survived by a wife and three children, was killed by a shell fired from Gaza while at work in the kibbutz Nir-Lat factory Thursday, June 5. Four more Israeli civilians were injured in the attack, two seriously. Hamas and Jihad Islami attacks on the neighboring Israeli population have escalated again since the beginning of the week and casualties have mounted, including foreign farm workers from Thailand.