A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending May 6, 2010
April 30, 2010 Briefs
• Israel's dep. ambassador to UK Talya Lador-Fresher rescued by security guards from pro-Palestinian demonstrators at Manchester University. The University statement stressed commitment to freedom of speech without condemning attack.
• Iran will “cut off Israel’s feet” if the Jewish state attacks Damascus, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Rida Rahimi vowed on Friday at the end of a two-day visit to key regional ally Syria.
• Clinton: US warns Iran, Syria US commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable and threats to Jewish state would have consequences. Secretary of state was speaking to American Jewish Committee Thursday night. She said: Israel faces some of toughest challenges in her history – from Iran, Syria and groups they support, Hizballah and Hamas.
Abbas asks China to support Iran sanctions
1 May: Chinese president Hu Jintao was taken by surprise by the Chairman of the Palestinian Organization Mahmoud Abbas's plea to support tough sanctions against Iran's nuclear program when they met in Shanghai Saturday, May 1, debkafile's Middle East sources reveal. According to Chinese sources, Abbas explained that for once, most Arab nations – and the Palestinians, most of all – are ranged on the same side as Israel and the West in their profound anxiety about Iran's nuclear program and the threat it poses of regional violence.
Palestinian cities have no defenses against their rockets should Iran and its allies, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas wage war against Israel, he said, and thousands of Palestinians in the line of fire would pay with their lives. He therefore pleaded with President Hu to drop his objections to harsh sanctions against Iran at the UN Security Council as the only way to avert a conflict that could spark a Middle East conflagration.
Abbas' petition complemented the Obama administration's assurance that Beijing might even profit from an Iranian cutoff of crude supplies because the Saudis would be willing to make up the shortfall at cheaper prices.
Taliban-Pakistan claims failed NY Times Square bombing
2 May: On April 30, twenty-four hours before a smoking SUV Nissan containing an improvised bomb was defused among the teeming crowds of Time Square, New York, the Pakistani Taliban's top bomb-maker, Qari Hussain Mehsud took "full responsibility for the recent attack in the USA" in an audiotape with images on a YouTube website and promised a "jaw-breaking blow to Satan USA." He vowed to make the US and NATO countries pay for both Taliban and al Qaeda "martyrs" in every jihad arena in Iraq and Yemen as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan.
US intelligence sources reported they have no forensic indication of any overseas involvement, but debkafile's counter-terror sources point out that the investigation has only just begun and, anyway, no overseas signatures would be expected if the Taliban or its partner al Qaeda had recruited a local Islamist cell for the New York operation.
No evidence was found by forensic investigators after al Qaeda attacks in London in 2005 and 2007 or in Glasgow, Scotland either. What these UK attacks have in common with the Times Square event is that they all used propane and they all failed to detonate a full-scale explosion.
When Baitullah Mehsud, later killed by a US drone, claimed in August 2009 that his movement was now capable of carrying out operations inside the United States, US security experts refused to take his claim seriously, then, too.
Times Square sequel to botched terror by Shoe-bomber Reid, Abdulmutallab
2 May: Our terror experts note the similarity in methods of operation between the failed Times Square attack on May 1, and two previous al Qaeda attempts to cause massive loss of American life in the past – both on, or around Christmas:
On December 22, 2002, the British terrorist Richard Reid, who was wrestled to the floor by the passengers of a flight about to land in Los Angeles before he could detonate the device hidden in his shoe, and the Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who failed to trigger the explosives hidden in his pants on an airliner coming in to land in Detroit, on Dec. 25, 2009.
In this latest incident too, the terrorist managed to park an SUV loaded with an improvised bomb in Time Square, one of the most crowded spaces in the world on a Saturday night, and ignite the detonator.
But no explosion occurred."
NY Mayor Bloomberg: A deadly event prevented
2 May: New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters how the police evacuated the heart of Times Square, New York, for several hours Saturday night, May 1 when a smoking bomb car was found there. Shortly after a street vendor alerted the police to smoke coming out of a parked Nissan SUV, the NYPD bomb squad secured an unexploded car bomb.
New York Police and emergency squads swung into action to search the area and other sensitive areas, including the transport system, for more explosive devices. The FBI began checking with counterparts worldwide, including Moscow, London and Israel, to try and match up the device as a lead to the perpetrators
May 3, 2010 Briefs
• Number of US nuclear warheads and bombs disclosed by American source as 5,113 •
• Ahmadinejad's speech attacking US triggers walkout from nuclear conference by representatives of the US, UK and France.
• Clinton: Iran poses a global nuclear risk. She said the US is willing to take real steps toward a nuclear-free Middle East. UN Secretary blames Ahmadinejad for provoking diplomatic standoff over Iran's nuclear program.
• UN conference on nuclear nonproliferation opens in Washington Monday night.
Non-signatories of the NPT including Israel and India are not attending.
• North Korean ruler pays visit to Beijing.
• Weeks after his reported killing by a US missile, Pakistani Taliban's Hakimullah Mehsud threatened to hit back at US states and major cities.
Joint Egyptian-Israeli strategy for Israel-Palestinian talks
3 May: Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and president Hosni Mubarak agreed on a joint strategy when they talked at Sharm el-Sheikh Monday, May 3, at their fourth meeting, debkafile reports. It was to go for a partial solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict based on setting up a Palestinian state within temporary borders, a formula repeatedly rejected by Washington and the Palestinians.
Both see Hamas control of the Gaza Strip slipping sharply as a result of the joint Israeli-Egyptian embargo on Gaza.
The understandings the two leaders reached rest on a common appreciation that the Palestinian, Iranian and Hamas issues are intertwined and require an integrated policy approach. Every move for containing Iran's expansionist drive in the Middle East bears on coordinated Egyptian-Israel tactics for reining in Hamas as ruler of the Gaza Strip; this in turn ties in with the diplomatic process about to begin on the Palestinian issue.
May 4, 2010 Briefs
• Pakistan arrests several suspects in Karachi in relation to Times Square bombing attempt. One says he met with Faisal Shahzad in Peshawar in July 2009.
• Japan scraps plan to move US base out of Okinawa as "not feasible".
• President Obama renews sanctions against Syria for supporting terrorist groups and pursuing WMD. He said Syria continues to pose an extraordinary threat to US security and policy.
• Israel firm launches new combined solar-wind heater for home use.
Israeli MI: Abbas intends to stall the talks and blame Israel
4 May: Israeli Military Intelligence research director Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz warned Tuesday, the day before proximity peace talks were launched by US envoy George Mitchell, "We do not recognize in Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas a true attempt to be flexible on the core issues." He is preparing the ground for the talks to reach the same point as previous rounds of negotiations – failure and then "expose the true face of Israel," said the intelligence officer in a wide-ranging briefing to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee Tuesday, May 4.
The MI officer also told the Knesset panel the long-range solid-fuel rockets Syria has transferred to Hizballah can be launched from deep inside Lebanon. "The transfer of long-range Scud missiles is only the tip of the iceberg."
US-Pakistani man arrested over Time Square bomb plot
4 May: Faisal Shahzad, 30, a naturalized US citizen from Pakistan, arrested at New York's JFK airport trying to fly to Dubai and will appear in federal court Tuesday. He was identified as the buyer of the Nissan Pathfinder used to rig the failed car bomb made up of propane tanks, fertilizer, gasoline, firecrackers and a clock. US Attorney General Eric Holder said that investigators are now looking at more than one person in connection with the attempted terrorist attack and hinted at a foreign terrorist link.
The investigation got off to a slow start due to the initial skepticism in the administration and New York City Hall to the possibility of a high-profile terrorist operation demanding immediate, comprehensive action.
NY Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said if it had worked properly, the device could have produced a "significant fireball" in the heart of Midtown Manhattan Saturday night May 1.
May 5, 2010 Briefs
• Palestinian boycott of West Bank Jewish produce clouds start of indirect peace talks Wednesday. Ten tons of melons sold in Bethlehem tossed onto West Bank rubbish dump Tuesday. Many thousands of Palestinians working for settlements threatened with jail.
Israel accuses PA of violating 1993 Oslo Accords governing reciprocal Palestinian-Israel economic ties.
• Suspect in NY bomb incident faces five counts including attempt to use WMD. He admits bomb-making training in Waziristan in recent 5-month trip to Pakistan. Evidence against him includes the key to his home on the bunch of keys found in the bomb car.
Iran's new anti-cruise missile weapon, Cobra-type helicopter
5 May: Iran's claim that its new air defense system "Mesbah-1" can counter cruise missiles and other low-flying vehicles would, if confirmed, represent its answer to US or Israeli cruise missile attacks in a potential military strike. The Iranian Air Force has taken delivery of 10 new Cobra-type helicopter "Toofah" which Iran's arms industry claims that compared with the original Toofah has been heavily upgraded, improved and rearmed.
Both will be exhibited at the new Iranian eight-day Persian Gulf war game beginning Wednesday, May 5.
May 6, 2010 Briefs
• Police investigate reports of a bomb aboard a bus from New York in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA.
• Kuwait uncovers an Iranian spy ring acting for the Revolutionary Guards.
• Confirming debkafile, Pakistani interior minister: We don't believe Faisal Shahzad acted on his own.
• An Indian court sentences sole surviving Mumbai terrorist Mohammed Qasam to death by hanging. He was found guilty of murdering 174 people and waging war on India.
• Five permanent UN Security Council members led by US call for nuclear-free Middle East.
• Clinton supported Israel's view that this goal should culminate comprehensive peace and general disarmament.
• SC debate on Iran's nuclear weapons program postponed to June.
Obama reaffirms US support for Israel's nuclear ambiguity
6 May: US president Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to back up Israel's policy of nuclear ambiguity in a 20-minute telephone conversation with prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday, May 3 in connection with the UN conference on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The US president phoned ahead of the start of proximity talks with the Palestinians to assure Netanyahu that the joint US-Egyptian drive for a nuclear-free Middle East would not apply to Israel before a comprehensive peace is forged with all its neighbors.
High-ranking American sources told debkafile that Obama needed to reassure Israel his commitment on this score was solid and unchanged for more than one reason: It became clear to the White House that if Netanyahu got the notion that President Obama was retreating from his nuclear commitment to Israel, he could forget about progress in the Middle East proximity talks which his special envoy George Mitchell is working hard to jump-start this week. The entire Middle East would, moreover, conclude that the Obama administration had also retreated from its "unshakable" pledge to support Israel's security.