A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending March 4, 2010

Dubai police "discovery" of DNA not credible

26 Feb. Dubai's police chief Dhahi Khalfan said Friday, Feb. 26, that DNA and fingerprint evidence of at least one of the 26 team of assassins had been found in the hotel room where Hamas commander Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh died on Jan. 19. Our intelligence experts report the suspects' appearance was disguised from head to toe and fingerprints probably faked. Therefore, the fingerprints along with the Dubai police's fine collection of video clips and passport photos are of little use in the inquiry.
debkafile sources dismiss the claims by the Dubai police and certain Israeli publications citing "security experts" that the Mossad was caught unawares by the security cameras which tracked the death squad's movements. They missed the fact that the team was not only aware of the cameras but controlled them and used them in support of their mission. The footage is short of the vital 19-minute segment when the Hamas arms smuggler was killed inside his hotel room. The hit-team only kept the cameras running when it suited them to show their ease in penetrating the most secure sites.

Syria, Lebanon, Qatar to host Iranian troops

27 Feb. Iran last week further consolidated its anti-US coalition and honed its hard edge against Israel by means of important defense treaties with Syria (covering Lebanon) and Qatar, home to the biggest US air base outside America. These treaties open doors for Iranian troops to be stationed in all three countries. debkafile's military sources say they have already arrived in Syria and Lebanon.
On this high note, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian president Bashar Assad and Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah, Thursday, Feb. 25, wound up their talks in Damascus – to which Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was co-opted – on joint military preparations for a Middle East war. The Iranian president remarked "the Zionist regime" would soon disappear.
debkafile's military sources report that the new Iranian-Syrian treaty scrapping visas facilitates the passage of Iranian military personnel into Syria and between Syria and Lebanon.
Assad expressed Syria's full support for Iran's uranium enrichment activities.
In Doha, Iran's defense minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi and Qatari chief of staff Gen. Hamad bin Ali Attiya put their signatures Wednesday, Feb. 24 to military contracts providing for "the exchange of technical and expert delegations, the expansion of cooperation in personnel training and joint campaigns against terrorism and elements behind regional insecurity."
This language covers the dispatch of Iranian officers and soldiers to Doha, a sight the US and Saudi Arabia hoped never to witness.

Barack: If Hizballah attacks, Israel will go for its sponsors

27 Feb. Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak warned that Hizballah and its 45,000 rockets – including "some which many sovereign countries do not have" – are directed by Iranian and Syrian civilian and military officials already present in Lebanon. Barak termed the differentiation between Hizballah terrorists, the state of Lebanon and their sponsors artificial and unacceptable to Israel. Iran's nuclear program aims at jumping straight into the second- or second-and-a-half generation of nuclear warheads," he said. Barak did not expect 2010 to go by without major decisions.

Feb. 28, 2010 Briefs
• Muhammad Dahir Baluch replaces captured Abdolmalek Rigi as rebel Sunni Jund Allah's new leader.
• Dep. Revolutionary Guards chief Hossein Salami says Europe will freeze next winter if conflict blows up with Iran.
• Dubai forensic test finds Hamas man suffocated to death after being drugged. The drug found in his body was succinylcholine, a depolarizing muscle relaxant which acts in 30 seconds.
• Jerusalem police clash Sunday with stone-throwing Palestinian youths in Old City. After seven arrests on Temple Mount, admittance to mosques restricted to men over 50.

Tehran pulls its terror coalition together for Middle East conflagration

28 Feb. Iran's Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met hardline Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal Saturday and told him "Palestine will be liberated through the Palestinian people's tough resistance and unity among jihad groups. Those who support Zionism will be shamefully ushered off the stage of history and departing with a tarnished image"
The meeting was also attended by rejectionist Ahmad Jibril, secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and radical Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ramadan Shallah.

North Korean yellowcake bound for Syria, diverted to Iran

28 Feb. A North Korean shipment of 45 tons of yellowcake, enough for several nuclear bombs, was on its way to the nuclear plant under construction in northern Syria when the facility was destroyed by Israel in September 2007. Two years later, the consignment turned up in Iran, attesting to their closely integrated nuclear programs and hidden, undeclared stocks of high-grade nuclear fuel.
The administration in Washington sought not merely to prevent a large consignment of weapons-grade material from reaching Syrian hands, but equally to make it clear to Pyongyang that the US meant to enforce the UN Security Council ban on its nuclear proliferation activities.

March 1, 2010 Briefs
• Iran's air force will soon test-fire a new 2,000-pound guided-bomb, the Qassed-2, says C-in-C Hassan Shahsafi.
• Dubai, failing to find evidence against Israel in Hamas killing, bars entry to Israelis including holders of dual nationality.
• The nuclear watchdog cannot confirm all Iran's nuclear material is peaceful in absence of Tehran's cooperation. This assessment comes from new IAEA director Yukiya Amano in first report to board in Vienna.
• UK concerned by Hamas detention of British journalist Paul Martin in Gaza. He was arrested Feb 14 while testifying for Palestinian friend accused of collaborating with Israel.
• Two Dubai suspects said to have entered the US after the Hamas leader's Jan. 19 death. UK passport carrier entered Feb. 14, Irish passport bearer on Jan. 21. Both may have left the US on different passports further confounding UAE probe.
• Indian, Saudi rulers sign accords to jointly combat terror, expand strategic cooperation on security, energy, defense.
• Saudis urge Pakistani leaders to unite to thwart al Qaeda, Taliban designs.
• Palestinian fires on security vehicle in Jerusalem Silwan district Monday, injuring one officer. Jerusalem police out in force to protect visitors, pilgrims from stone-throwing Palestinians.

US-led Marjah operation far from victory

01 March: The US-British-Afghan force out to capture the Helmand provincial town of Marjah is still wide of the mark. Its control does not extend much beyond the municipal center and main police stations even though the Taliban has not gone all out to resist the allied advance, saving its strength for major showdowns ahead, most likely in Kandahar.
Among the surprises the allied force encountered were unarmed Taliban fighters queuing up with Afghan civilians to collect US hand-outs for damage, and Afghan soldiers fighting well in a scrap but relapsing into looting and dope in between battles.

March 2, 2010 Briefs
• Palestinian drive-by shooting on IDF post on Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway 443 Tuesday night. No one hurt. Five gunmen using automatic weapons fired scores of rounds outside Beit Ur a-Tahta village abutting on highway.
• FM Lieberman: Israel must change position and ask for unilateral US sanctions on Iran on the Cuba model.
• Hamas official in Damascus say an Arab intelligence agency was involved in Mabhouh's death.
• Netanyahu: Iran's technological train is moving fast compared with the stumbling pace of international community. Tehran accuses nuclear watchdog of bias in refusing to confirm the peaceful nature of its nuclear program. New Japanese director should "change his approach".
• Torrential rain raises Sea of Galilee above lower red line for first time in three years. This indoor lake is Israel's main source of water.

US backs off speedy Iran sanctions promised Israel

02 March: Washington has reversed its drive for sanctions against Iran by the end of March – without warning. On Feb. 25, Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak was given this timeline in his talks with administration officials. On March 2, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Security Council action would take "several months." This sudden reversal has eased the strain on Tehran and left Israel high and dry.
Only last week, Israel and Iran were convinced that the new sanctions were ready to clamp down before the end of the month. Tehran's anxiety brought Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad running to Damascus on Feb. 25 to pull his alliance together and warn that the Middle East stood at the threshold of a new war. The region began to calm down after the Obama administration's sanctions threat receded.
Marking Washington's change of face, John Kerry, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee landed in Jerusalem this week, to be followed March 8 by Vice President Joe Biden. Both intend to keep Israel in what Kerry called "alignment" with Washington on the Iranian nuclear threat. But first he must explain how their previous "alignment" on speedy sanctions came to disappear.

March 3, 2010 Briefs
• Israeli Intel's Baidatz: Syria is transferring to Hizballah weapons systems never before handed to Shiite terrorists including anti-air missiles.
• Australian police in Israel to meet three dual citizens whose identities stolen in Dubai killing.
• At least 29 dead in triple suicide attack in Iraqi town of Baquba Wednesday.
• Political mayhem, violence in run-up to Iraq's March 7 vote may force US to delay withdrawal.
• Milano police arrest two "Iranian spies" among 9 Iranians and Italians suspected of arms smuggling to Iran.

Syria hands Hizballah new missile for shooting down Israeli aircraft

03 March. Syria has defied Israel's caution that handing over new strategic weapons to the Lebanese Hizballah would cause Israel to strike targets inside Syria. debkafile's military sources disclose that Damascus has just smuggled across the border a number of Russian-made IGLA-S surface-to- air missiles capable of intercepting low-flying F-16 warplanes, drones, helicopters, cruise missiles, transports and surveillance aircraft by day or night. The weapon's other prime asset is that it is virtually impossible to jam its launch and trajectory with electronic counter-measures.
debkafile's military sources report that the IGLA-S in Hizballah's hands will hamper Israeli Air force surveillance activity over Lebanon and would curtail its operational options against the surface-to-surface rockets when positioned to shield them against attack.
Its presence in the Hizballah armory means that the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite extremists will be free to loose their missiles and rockets against Israeli towns in relative safety, with Israeli aircraft hard-pressed to destroy them.

March 4, 2010 Briefs
US envoy Mitchell arrives Saturday night for last push toward Israel-Palestinian proximity talks approved Wednesday by Arab League. VP Biden arrives next Monday, UN secretary and Quartet parley in Moscow in two weeks.
Lula da Silva will be first Brazilian president to visit Israel March 16 as well as Palestinian territories. Wednesday he spurned Secretary Clinton's bid for Security Council support sanctions against Iran.
UK government again delays law amendment promised Israel for taking war crimes action against foreign officials away from individuals and courts. The Brown government promised swift action to repair anomaly when Livni cancelled her London visit. A law amendment in draft would restrict arresting authority to Attorney General.

Israel accepts Arab League role in indirect peace diplomacy

4 March. By renouncing the principle of direct negotiations for peace, Binyamin Netanyahu has opened the door for the Arab League and other unsympathetic international bodies to crash the process and bulldoze Israel into steps contrary to its interests. George Mitchell and Joe Biden will be on hand next week to keep him on track.
Mahmoud Abbas has given up independent Palestinian decision-making and put himself in the hands of the Arab collective. The Arab League has given the process four months to succeed and meanwhile instructed its secretary Amr Mussa to keep on whipping up the campaign for internationally isolating Israel.
The international scramble has begun to seize control of the Israel-Palestinian peace process, most of its participants vying to push Israel into a corner, which makes it doubly hard to fathom what induced the Israeli prime minister agreed to play along with this foredoomed process.

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