A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending May 13, 2010
May 9, 2010 Briefs
• Pakistan successfully test-fires two ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
• Clinton wants more cooperation from Pakistan on Times Sq, incident. If it is traced back to Pakistan, "there would be very severe consequences".
• Gunmen kill two Egyptian peacekeepers in Darfur region in Sudan.
• Joint PLO-Fatah meeting in Ramallah Saturday approves Palestinian-Israeli indirect peace talks sponsored by US.
• Palestinians forbidden by PA to work for Israel West Bank employers on pain of five-year jail sentence. Palestinian Authority does not promise alternative employment. PA is already destroying West Bank Jewish produce.
• Mohamad al-Fayed sells famous London Harrods department store to Qatar's royal family for $1.5 bn.
Time Sq. bomb incident brings US North Waziristan action closer
9 May: The six-day delay in bringing Faisal Shahzad before a federal judge is only one of the anomalies, or mysteries, of the failed Time Square bombing. Mounting friction between Washington and Islamabad was indicated by US Secretary Hillary Clinton's sharp warning of "severe consequences" if a successful attack were traced back to Pakistan.
One consequence might well be the extension of ongoing US-led operations in South Afghanistan to the Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan, home to extensive Taliban and al Qaeda frontline command posts.
Islamabad has so far resisted Washington's demands to open up a warfront in North Waziristan and is strongly opposed to US special operations forces crossing into that lawless territory.
In any case, the US-led offensive against the key southern Afghan town of Kandahar, scheduled for June, might have to be postponed or called off. This would require a reassessment of the new surge strategy for the Afghan War President Barack Obama approved last December which appears to be already afoot.
May 9, 2010 Briefs
• Mitchell praises Israel, Palestinians for steps conducive to successful proximity talks.
• Abbas promises to keep Palestinian factions from scuttling the talks by incitement, Netanyahu pledged a two-year halt to Ramat Shlomo construction.
• Washington warns that either party marring talks will be held responsible.
• Pakistani Taliban behind failed Times Sq. bombing, says US Attorney General Eric Holder.
• Iran hangs four men, one woman, members of Kurdish separatist group for "waging war against God.
• Israeli president Peres: There is only one reason for Syria to transfer sophisticated missiles to Hizballah, to provoke war. Peres represented represents Israel at Moscow parade Sunday marking WWII victory over the Nazis.
• Soldiers from 4 NATO countries, US, UK, France and Poland, march alongside Russian troops. War veterans also march in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu gives way on Jerusalem
9 May: US State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley marked the formal resumption of Israel-Palestinian peace talks Sunday, May 9, with praise for the steps taken by both leaders to get the process started, noting that "…from Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu… there would be no more construction at the Ramat Shlomo settlement in East Jerusalem for two years."
Palestinians are celebrating their success in manipulating the Obama administration into squeezing concessions out of Israel even before the talks begin – and on Jerusalem, no less.
The pretext offered by Netanyahu's aides that giving ground on Ramat Shlomo was meaningless in practical terms because the project still faced years of planning processing does not hold water, he should have known from experience that every Israeli concession on a matter of principle opens the door to bullying for more.
Netanyahu also manifested weakness by never once hitting back at the unbridled and offensive assaults thrown at Israel and him personally by members of the Palestinian negotiating team.
New US bunker-penetrator bombs for Israel
9 May: The United States recently renewed supplies to the Israeli Air Force of GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators and GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs, as well as Attack Munitions (LDJAM) for more accurate targeting of bombs, debkafile's military sources report.
1. The 2,268 kilo (5,000 pound), laser-guided Bomb Unit GBU-28 (nicknamed "Deep Throat") Hard Target Penetrator can burrow 31 meters into earth or 6.2 meters into reinforced concrete. It can penetrate the stronger Hizballah installations.
2. The Small Diameter 113 kilo GBU for IAF F-15I fighter-bombers, to be followed by the supplies for F-16I planes, can be used against simpler installations, like the arms-smuggling tunnels dug by Hamas between Egypt and the Gaza Strip and Hizballah's field fortifications.
They are small enough for fighter-bombers to carry in larger numbers.
The Obama administration decided to release this information to dispel rumors of a US arms embargo against Israel, especially of items that would enable Israel to attack Iran's nuclear installations. The GBU-28 "Deep Throat" has that capability and is one of those items.
May 10, 2010 Briefs
• Karzai arrives in Washington Monday for four-day visit.
• At least 100 people killed, hundreds injured in a surge of suicide car-bomb blasts and drive-by shootings in Baghdad and across Iraq.
• Two Israeli Arab public figures, Amir Mahoul, 52, from Haifa, and Omar Said, 50, from Kfar Kanna detained on charge of spying for Hizballah. Mahoul, prominent in Israeli Arab civil liberties organizations, is accused of contacts with Hizballah in Lebanon, espionage and ties to a foreign agent. Said, an Israeli Arab Balad party activist, was detained trying to illegally cross into Jordan.
• The OECD invites Israel to join, foiling Palestinian attempts to thwart its membership.
• Israeli Air Force struck Palestinian tunnels in Gaza Sunday night, reprisal for Qassam missile attack.
Al Qaeda murders up to 100 in eight Iraqi cities
10 May: In an unprecedentedly wild rampage, even for al Qaeda, raider-units, speeding drive-by gun squads, car bombs, and homicidal suicides mowed down checkpoints, liquidated Iraqi soldiers, police and security personnel and murdered civilians, in eight Iraqi cities including the capital, Baghdad, Monday, May 10. By the end of the day, up to 100 people were dead and several hundred injured.
The gunmen used automatic weapons fitted with silencers to creep up on their victims.
May 11, 2010 Briefs
• Russian president Medvedev receives Hamas political secretary Khaled Meshal.
• Earlier, Monday, Netanyahu welcomed Medvedev's offer of a role in Middle East peacemaking. He accused Iran of warmongering between Syria and Israel.
• Turkish PM says breaking Israel's Gaza blockade as his top priority.
• Israeli Navy beefed up with commando units to stop the boats reaching the Gazan shore.
• Iran issues visas for mothers of three US hikers held captive 9 months after they strayed across the border from Iraq.
• Palestinians use welding torches to cut through Egyptian steel barrier in construction to cut Gaza off from Sinai smugglers.
• Israel's Dep. PM Moshe Yaalon: Israel has gained the technology for a military operation against Iran. Former C-of-S said better in-flight refueling techniques have enhanced accuracy of weapons and intelligence.
• A 3,000-year old ruined palace dating to Biblical King Hezekiah uncovered in southern Jerusalem near Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. Facility also used as tax collection center for Babylonian suzerains. Found in the rooms were seals of kings of Hebron, Judea and other Israelite provinces, with artifacts and ornamental architectural relics.
Iran builds nuclear-capable, long range cruise missile
11 May: "This is an extremely serious threat to Israel," Yair Shamir, chairman of Israel's Aerospace Industries warned in a lecture, naming the new weapon as the KH-55 cruise missile sold by Ukraine in 2006 and upgraded by Iran, along with an air-launched version enabling Iranian warplanes to strike Israel or Central Europe without leaving their own airspace.
debkafile's military sources note that Shamir's was the first authoritative voice to verify Iran's possession of the nuclear-capable, long-range KH-55: the rumors of acquisition circulating for some years had been treated with some skepticism.
"The pace of missile development (in Iran) is much faster that that of the solutions," Shamir said, contradicting defense minister Ehud Barak's soothing assessments.
Shamir rarely talks in public on security matters. debkafile's military sources report he apparently found it necessary to speak out in view of the defense minister Ehud Barak's soothing assessments, his efforts to downplay the peril from Tehran and denials that Iran had become an existential threat to Israel.
The defense minister was also challenged by President Shimon Peres who, speaking in Moscow Monday, May 11, cautioned against nonchalance in the face of the threats to destroy Israel, which came mainly from Tehran.
Medvedev receives Hamas' Meshaal in Damascus
11 May: The US and Israel were unpleasantly taken aback to find Russian president Dmitry Medvedev receiving a pack of Hamas leaders, including political secretary Khaled Meshaal, Monday May 11, on the second day of his Damascus visit. Syrian president Bashar Assad was also present. Apparently unaware of this turn of events, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed Medvedev's offer of a role in Middle East peacemaking.
In Jerusalem, Israeli government leaders were too busy with the reopening of indirect talks with the Palestinians to gear up in time to seriously forestall the damage to Israel's interests predicted from expected Russian-Syrian deals and Moscow's shifting orientation toward the radical Middle East bloc. Medvedev's surprise meeting with the Hamas leadership Monday was perceived as yet another slap in the face to both Washington and Jerusalem.
May 12, 2010 Briefs
• Washington hardens tone on Medvadev transactions in Damascus. Syria has not answered questions about its compliance with the NPT, said State Department spokesman Crowley. All countries contemplating energy cooperation need to take that into account.
• Obama pledges support for open doors to talks with Afghan Taliban if they cut ties with al Qaeda, abandon violence and accept human rights and Afghan constitution.
• Ahmadinejad tells the US to "leave Afghanistan, leave Iraq, withdraw to your borders and mind your own business". He said UN resolutions against Iran's nuclear program would "not be worth a penny".
• Israel joins world leaders in congratulating new UK PM • Foreign ministry hopes for better relations with new London administration. First, repair of British legal anomaly which prevents Israeli officials past and present from visiting London.
IDF officers slam lack of government strategy for northern threats
12 May: High officers leading this week's big war game in northern Israel confronted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi with harsh criticism over the lack of a clear government strategy for dealing with the rising Hizballah threat of aggression and the uninterrupted flow of advanced weaponry from Syria to Hizballah.
They said Syrian Scuds reached Hizballah because Israel was over-anxious to keep the borders calm at all costs. This kept the Israel's military machine waiting in passive mode for Hizballah to go to war when the Lebanese group was fully armed and ready.
Netanyahu used the occasion to accuse Iran of warmongering and inciting Syria and Hizballah to attack Israel with the lie that Israel was on the point of attack.
The IDF critics found this statement beside the point, since "Assad and Nasrallah don't need excuses to go war against Israel." One officer remarked: "The range and power of Hizballah's rockets and missiles have been upgraded to the level that it would make more sense to hold this war game in Tel Aviv and not just along Israel's northern borders."
May 13, 2010 Briefs
• Arrests made following raids in Boston and New York in search of evidence related to Time Square bomb investigation into funding sources.
• Russian security hunts down and kills three accomplices of March Moscow metro bombers, including mastermind. Medvedev was informed they were killed amid armed resistance.
• The warm Israel-Russian ties do not oblige Moscow to line up behind Jerusalem's policies, says lawmaker Tzahi Hanegbi. The dialogue is important even when Moscow is wrong. Hanegbi slammed Israeli police minister's pledge to demolish E. Jerusalem buildings as badly timed after US put so much into restarting proximity talks. Hanegbi heads Knesset foreign affairs and security committee.
Iran test-fires missiles handed to Hizballah
13 May: Iran wound up its biggest ever naval exercise Wednesday, May 12, by simultaneously firing 30 short-range, surface-to-surface Fajr missiles of the same types as the brand-new weapons in the Lebanese Hizballah's armory, debkafile's military sources report. This was Tehran's way of advising Israel of the heavily upgraded capabilities Hizballah has in store for the Jewish state and responding to the big war game Israel conducted on its northern borders from Sunday through Thursday, May 9-12.
Compared with earlier models, the new Fajr-5 is more accurate and carries a bigger payload. The types Hizballah used against northern Israeli in 2006 had a range of 75 kilometers, reaching as far as Hadera, 45 kilometers short of Tel Aviv and the Jezreel Valley on the southern fringes of Galilee. The version fired in the Iranian exercise could reach deeper into Israel's heavily populated regions, around Netanya and Herzliya, at a distance of 110 kilometers from the Lebanese border.
The new Fajar 5 is also highly mobile and usable at short notice.
The IDF is dismantling large logistic bases and transferring essential stores to smaller, better protected facilities, logistics chief Brig. Gen. Nissim Peretz reports.