A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending May 20, 2010

May 14, 2010 Briefs
• Russia to sell Syria MiG-29 fighters, Pantsir short-range anti-air missiles and artillery systems in a deal agreed during Russian president's Damascus visit. debkafile: The Pantsir was unable to foil the 2007 air strike against Syria's North Korean reactor.
• Israeli New York Consulate building evacuated Friday night when envelope containing white powder delivered for Consul-General Assi Shariv. Police cordoned Second Avenue building off to pedestrians for investigation.
• Two Israelis slightly hurt when Palestinians opened fire on their vehicle near a roadblock north Ramallah, West Bank.
• Joint Israeli-Palestinian probe into shooting death of Palestinian boy near West Bank area where Israel vehicles stoned Thursday night.
• Explosive device activated Friday against Israeli military patrol passing Gaza border's Sufa crossing.

Syria, Hizballah build a fortified wall in E. Lebanon
15 May: This massive fortification will run from Rashaya Al Wadi on the western slopes of Mt. Hermon in the south to the Lebanese Beqaa Valley town of Aita el-Foukhar, in the north, debkafile's military sources reveal. When finished, the 22-km long structure running parallel to the Lebanese-Syrian border will be one of the biggest fortified structures in the Middle East, designed to block off any Israeli tank thrust through Lebanon to Damascus, and strengthen Syria's grip on the country. It will alsol isolate a key Lebanese border region – 14 kilometers wide and 22 kilometers long – from the rest of the country and place it under Hizballah-Syrian military control. This region is inhabited most by Druzes and Christians. .
Behind the rising wall, Hizballah and Syria can freely smuggle weapons across concealed from outside surveillance. It will be off-limits to Lebanese military access -except for Hizballah. Syrian troops, officers and arms stores are to be based there and maintained in a state of war readiness.

May 16, 2010 Briefs
• Israel economy reaches annual growth rate of 3.3 percent in first quarter of 2010.
• Israel starts Exercise Turning-Point 4 next Sunday to prepare home front for coordinated massive missile attacks from Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas. The five-day exercise will be countrywide.
• Iranian Hizballah leader Ayatollah Kharrazi advocates Greater Iran spreading across Mid East and Central Asia.
• Syrian PM Naji Al-Otari cautions Israel not to go attack his country because "we are well capable of retaliating".
• Essex home raided of ex-manager of UK firm suspected of exporting to Iran chemical material usable in dirty bombs.
• Al Qaeda-Iraq names two leaders to replace the two killed by a US-Iraqi assault team April 18. They are Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi al- Husseini al-Quraish is "emir" and Abu Abdullah al-Hassani al-Qurashi (no relation) as his deputy.
• Noam Chomsky and his daughter barred from crossing into Israel from Jordan through the Allenby Bridge Gate.

Obama tries turning a new leaf on Israel
16 May: After more than a year, US president Barack Obama has suddenly stepped back from his icy treatment of Israel and its prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, debkafile's Washington sources report. In an effort to make amends, he sent his top advisers, including his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, with a public apology (of a kind) to leading American rabbis.
This does not mean Obama has given up on his objective of a two-state solution of the conflict with the Palestinians, but arm-twisting tactics have been set aside for now.
Political and Jewish circles see the change as an attempt win back Jewish voter support for the Democrats, in time for midterm elections.
debkafile's Washington sources stress that the context is a lot wider. The US president is counting his assets in the face of the dramatic big power realignment in the Middle East and the diplomatic impasse over Iran's drive for a nuclear bomb.
Netanyahu may be justified in crowing over his success in standing up to the US president's cold shoulder, insults and pressure, whereas defense minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Liivni have been confounded in their dire warnings that refusal to surrender in a big way to the Palestinians would gravely jeopardize US-Israel relations.

Brazil, Turkey bolster Iran's nuclear drive, disarm US sanctions threat
17 May: Iran is rid of international harassment over its nuclear program thanks to the deal clinched in Tehran Monday, May 17 by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva "Lula" and Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan. Iran agreed to export some 1,200 kilograms of its lightly enriched uranium to Turkey for reprocessing to 19.5 percent grade.
The two leaders mounted their initiative on behalf of the nascent anti-American bloc also backed by Russia, as well as Iran's close allies Syria, Hizballah and Hamas.
From a wide range of data, debkafile's military sources confirm the deal is wholly fraudulent and no more than a piece of diplomatic trickery.
The deal legitimizes Iran's right to enrich uranium in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Tehran has now gained an international seal for going up to weapons grade.
The Six-Power group's compromise proposition for the export of 1.200 kilograms of low-enriched Iranian uranium was put forward more than a year ago and left hanging. Since then, its stock has doubled.
In any case, the deal leaves Tehran with the necessary infrastructure for continuing to build up its stocks of enriched uranium – and at a higher grade.

May 19 2010 Briefs
• Mitchell talks to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah Wednesday, meets Netanyahu Thursday.
• Obama sends NSA Jones and CIA chief Panetta to Islamabad.
• At least 18 killed including 5 American troops and a Canadian colonel when suicide driver rams explosives van into US convoy in Kabul Tuesday. Another 47 people wounded in attack near parliament building in central Kabul.
• Palestinians intensify boycott of Israeli settlement products as US Middle East envoy Mitchell launches peace talks with Israel.
• Israeli factory owners call on government to close ports to Palestinian goods.

Sanctions against Iran are a dead letter (Updated)
19 May: By fleet diplomatic footwork, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton submitted a sanctions package to the UN Security Council Tuesday, May 19, that Western diplomats admitted contained few new measures but gained the reluctant assent of Russia and China, as well as the UK, France and Germany. The draft was heavily diluted out of a necessity to submit it fast and so salvage the last vestige of the US administration's sanctions strategy from the assault mounted by a Brazilian-Iranian enriched uranium deal.
The measures fall short of a total arms embargo against Tehran, although some additional arms are banned or blacklisting Iran's central bank. States are asked to take appropriate, though not mandatory, measures, exercise vigilance against Iranian bank transactions and "be wary" of dealing with the Revolutionary Guards Corps and the companies it controls.
The Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened his inner cabinet in Jerusalem Tuesday, May 18, to decide how to handle the crisis created by the Brazilian-Turkish-Iranian accord.
But the fact is that sanctions with real bite had never been more than a will-o'-the wisp in the first place.
In Jerusalem, Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak came in for extreme criticism for allowing Israel's hand to be held by the false prospect of painful sanctions stopping Iran's development of a nuclear bomb in its tracks. Barak in particular was accused of misleading the public by his constant assurances that it was up to the United States to deal with a nuclear-armed Iran. Both knew the truth, namely that the Obama administration's efforts to gather a coalition of world powers for the imposition of effective sanctions had never realistically got off the ground.

Iranian teams secretly train on S-300 interceptors in Russia
19 May: While Russia joins the US in backing softened UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, debkafile's military sources report Iranian Revolutionary Guards crews are surreptitiously training at Russian bases in the operation of the advanced Russian S-300 interceptor-missile systems, which are capable of fending off a potential attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
UN sources disclose that, after being softened by Russia and China, the new sanctions motion does not ban the consignment of this weapon to Iran. It is being withheld form Tehran for now, keeping the promise prime minister Vladimir Putin gave President Barack Obama. But if and when the weapons are delivered, Iran will have trained crews ready to operate them.
In their push to develop military ties with Iran and its allies, the Russians earlier this month also agreed to sell Syria MiG-29 fighter jets, Pantsyr short-range air defense systems and armored vehicles in a major arms transaction.

Obama starts massive US Air-Sea-Marine build-up opposite Iran
20 May: A US Carrier Strike Group headed by the Harry S. Truman sails out Norfolk, Virginia Friday, May 21, with a Strike Group of seven squadrons and 6,000 marines and sailors, as the first element of a new American military buildup in the Middle East, determined by President Barack Obama. It will reach peak level of four-to-five aircraft carriers, most opposite Iranian shores, in late July.
For the first time, the US force opposite Iran will be joined by a German warship, the frigate FGS Hessen, operating under American command. It is also the first time that Obama, since taking office 14 months ago, is sending military reinforcements to the Persian Gulf and Middle East.

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