A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Nov. 19, 2009

Iran digs hundreds of missile silos – some for misdirection


14 Nov. The Iranians are frenziedly digging hundreds of new missile launch silos in central and Western Iran in readiness for a US or Israeli attack on their nuclear installations, debkafile's intelligence sources report. Some Western sources have noticed that they are creating more silo bases than they have operational missile batteries in order to mislead their enemies about the locations of the genuine launch pads.

The Iranians are working at the same frantic tempo to turn out Shehab-3, Shehab-4 and Sajil-2 ballistic missiles, as well as a fourth secret ICBM which is believed to be designed to carry a nuclear warhead. Our sources believe it is modeled on Pakistan's Ghauri 3, a three-stage weapon powered by solid fuel with a range of 3,000 km. If they can get this secret weapon off the production line, it would be the first three-stage missile in Iran's armory.


Iranian TV headlines debkafile Exclusive on US-Israel-Egyptian-Jordanian intelligence summit


14 Nov. Saturday, Nov. 14, Iran's state Press TV ran verbatim debkafile's exclusive Nov. 12 disclosure of an extraordinary secret summit of the intelligence chiefs of four nations in Amman earlier this month. The Iranian medium gave this publication full credit for the exclusive, which ran as follows:

The crisis over Iran's nuclear program and possible outbreak of a regional war occasioned an extraordinary secret conclave of the intelligence chiefs of four nations in Amman in the first week of November. Hosted by the chief of Jordan's General Intelligence Service, Gen. Muhammad Raqed, it was attended by senior officials of the American CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, Israel's Mossad chief, Meir Dagan and military intelligence head Brig. Amos Yadlin and Egypt's intelligence minister, Gen. Omar Suleiman. As soon as the meeting ended, Suleiman set out for Riyadh to brief the head of Saudi general intelligence Prince Moqrin bin Abdul Aziz.


Obama Enlists Both Clintons to stop a Palestinian state


14 Nov. Mahmoud Abbas has been warned by the Obama administration to give up his plan for a unilateral declaration of the Islamic Republic of Palestinian within 1967 or 1949 borders with Jerusalem its capital.

Due in Ramallah Sunday, Nov. 15, is a covey of US presidential emissaries led by former president Bill Clinton whose mission is to deter Abbas, who is flatly refusing to restart peace negotiations with Israel and talking about the Kosovo 2008 precedent.

Abbas has his work cut out to work his way through insurmountable thickets on his home ground: Under the Palestinian constitution, his presidency, government and parliament are illegitimate. He first tried scheduling an election to Palestinian institutions for Jan. 24, 2010, to rectify this lacuna and validate his government, only to discover that the legal difficulties besetting the Palestinian Authority and its rule of the West Bank (the Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas) were fraught with complications. Above all, unlike that Balkan enclave, the Palestinians are split between two illegal entities, the Fatah-ruled West Bank and the Gaza Strip under Hamas rule.


16 November Briefs 

  • Gunmen in military uniforms shot 13 men dead in a Sunni village near Baghdad Monday.
  • Number of Israeli H1N1 fatalities rises to 48 with two more deaths.
  • Netanyahu freezes debate on attorney-general's functions, says new appointment must go through as is.
  • Saudi High Mufti denounces Iran's support of Yemen's Shiite rebels as "sin and aggression." Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh said kingdom had right to defend itself. 

IAEA wants to inspect three secret Syrian nuclear sites

16 Nov. The new IAEA report on Iran's formerly secret uranium enrichment site at Fordo near Qom also includes a section on Syria and a demand to inspect suspicious sites there too. The inspectors clearly suspect Tehran and Damascus of concealing secret facilities related to nuclear weapons production.

With regard to Syria, IAEA inspectors are to visit Damascus on Tuesday, Nov. 17, for clarifications of the conflicting explanations Syria has offered for uranium traces. They will also insist on making return visits to three military sites which Damascus has so far refused, following information received by the agency of clandestine "nuclear activity" there. debkafile's intelligence sources reveal that Israel hit one of three at the same time as its air force bombed the unfinished plutonium plant at Dair Alzour in 2007, although this was never admitted by Israel or Syria.


New IAEA report raises fear of more secret Iranian nuclear sites

16 Nov. The UN nuclear watchdog's report on its inspection of Iran's second uranium enrichment site 20 km north of Qom says that Tehran's belated declaration of its existence raises questions about more still secret facilities. Iran claimed building of the Fordo facility had begun in 2007 and its notification to the IAEA was therefore timely. The inspectors found work had begun five years earlier in 2002. The inspectors reported that Iran had moved highly sophisticated technical equipment into the site in readiness for startup in 2011 and a production capacity of a ton of enriched uranium a year by about 3,000 centrifuges. This would be enough for a nuclear warhead but too little for a civilian reactor.


Top US intelligence teams in Israel to discuss Iran


16 Nov. Two high-ranking teams of American CIA and DIA intelligence officials are conferring with their opposite numbers in Israel, in line with President Barack Obama's strategy for applying military heat to Iran as well as diplomatic pressure for an accommodation on its nuclear program, debkafile's military and intelligence sources report. The US teams arrived from a four-nation intelligence summit in Amman earlier this month with the heads of Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian clandestine services (first revealed by DEBKA Friday, Nov. 13).

debkafile's sources say that US and Israeli intelligence chiefs met for the final touches to the process the Obama administration has instituted of strategic give-and-take with Israel ahead of a possible outbreak of war with Iran. It is meant to exhibit close cooperation for Tehran to see and insure Washington against any Israeli surprise moves.

The alignment is going forward on four levels: White House-to prime minister's office, Pentagon chief to defense minister; army and intelligence chiefs.


November 17 Briefs 

  • US Sen. Lieberman likened government's failure to deal with Maj. Hasan's growing radicalism to the Intelligence failure to prevent 9/11.
  • Iranian general warns Yemen and Saudi Arabia that continued "Wahhabist terrorism" would have consequences for entire region.
  • Netanyahu: Israel is without doubt Iran's first target, but not its last.
  • Iran temporarily boosts gasoline production by 30 pc show the West it can survive sanctions.
  • Iran envoy: neither sanctions nor attack will stop our nuclear work.
  • Netanyahu condemns uniformed men protesting duties in dismantling settlements.
  • Six Israeli soldiers court-martialed, jailed, banished from combat units for protesting duties as "political."
  • The EU rejects as "premature" Palestinian request to support unilateral independence.
  • Thousands march for destruction of "Zionist-fascist" Israel in Buenos Aires for President Peres' visit.
  • Brazil to purchase $350 m worth of Israeli Heron drones for border patrol. The UAVs will also secure 2014 World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics. 

US, Israel try to stop Abbas quitting for fear of alternatives


17 Nov. The Obama administration and Netanyahu government are bending over backwards to dissuade Mahmoud Abbas from going through with his decision to retire as chairman of the Palestinian Authority, which he now says is final. They fear he will be succeeded by his new deputy, Abu Maher Ghneim, a died-in-the wool rejectionist of peace diplomacy.

Monday, Abbas was promised a grant of$131 million to pay for four brigades to double the size of his presidential security guard in Ramallah for withdrawing his resignation.

Netanyahu and Barak have often propped him up before and may be expected to chip in with a fresh batch of concessions for the Palestinians to bring him round. But neither the US or Israel will let Abbas get away with a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence.


Controlled US-Israel discord on Jerusalem amid broader strategic understandings


18 Nov. The understandings on broad strategic cooperation sealed by US president Barack Obama and prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in their recent White House talks are not to the liking of some their opponents at home, debkafile's Washington sources report. Tuesday, Nov. 18, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly stated: "We find the Jerusalem planning committee's decision to move forward the approval process for the expansion of Gilo, in Jerusalem, as dismaying." He added: Top of Form

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"We believe that these actions make it more difficult for our efforts (to restart peace negotiations) to succeed."

He was referring to the approval sought for the addition of 900 housing units to the Gilo neighborhood's population of 40,000 in the southern neighborhood of Jerusalem. Netanyahu's office replied: "The action is routine: Gilo is an integral part of united Jerusalem in the same way as Ramat Eshkol, Rehavia, French Hill and Pisgat Zeev. There is no difference between construction in these neighborhoods and construction in Tel Aviv or Haifa."

debkafile sources add that in the interests of broader strategic understanding, the US president and Israeli prime minister agreed to disagree on some issues including Jerusalem, while working together on the looming nuclear threat from Tehran. Obama has promised to preserve Israel's military preponderance in the region in the face of advanced sales of warplanes to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, including the continued development of the Arrow-3 missile interceptor.


Obama's Iran sanctions strategy routed by Chinese, Russian rebuffs


18 Nov. Chinese president Hu Jintao said clearly after meeting US president Barack Obama in Beijing Tuesday, Nov. 17, that their governments disagree on tougher sanctions for Iran – or any other issue relating to the Islamic republic. debkafile's sources report that this rebuff has led Washington's efforts to round up big power endorsement of harsh penalties for Iran's continued intransigence on its nuclear program, such as an embargo on refined petrol products and gasoline, to a dead end. The efficacy of unilateral American sanctions, the only non-military option still left to Washington, is questionable.

The Chinese rejection followed a rebuff from Moscow.

Tuesday, before Beijing and Moscow knocked sanctions on the head, Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu said optimistically that the Iranian nuclear issue should be left for the world powers and international community to deal with. In a few short hours, that option had melted away. He is now confronted with a most unwelcome dilemma.


Iran is advancing on dual nuclear bomb track: plutonium and uranium


19 Nov. debkafile's military sources report that the UN inspectors' October visit to Iran turned up dual-track progress in support of its nuclear weapons program: Feverish activity was registered in the production of plutonium at Isfahan as an alternative to the Fordo enriched uranium plant near Qom which starts up in 2011.

The IAEA experts discovered 30 metric tons-IS of heavy water hidden in 600 tanks, each holding 13 gallons, according to the report they handed in last week to agency headquarters in Vienna.

The amount of heavy water discovered at Isfahan would be enough to make at least one plutonium bomb when the Arak plutonium reactor is finished.

From the shape of the tanks and other indications, the experts concluded that this stock was imported.

debkafile's sources report from Vienna that on November 10, IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei sent a request to the Iranian Nuclear Energy Committee asking it to confirm the presence of the heavy water and document its origin with a full explanation. Tehran has yet to reply.

The presence of the heavy water tanks at Isfahan is additional proof that the reactor at Arak is designed for military purposes, not a peaceful installation as Tehran claims.

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