A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Nov. 26, 2009

Egypt's abrupt shutdown of operations against tunnels revives missile flow to Gaza


20 Nov. Tuesday, Nov. 18, Egypt suddenly shut down its operation against the smuggling tunnels to Gaza without warning to Washington or Jerusalem. US and Israeli requests for clarifications from Cairo were not answered. So the Obama administration signaled Egypt that if it continues to violate the international accords governing the status of the Egyptian-Gazan border, there will be consequences.

Washington is put out because Cairo omitted to notify the American engineering corps officers and men working with Egyptian troops in Sinai since early 2009 to eradicate the tunnels that their mission was cut short.

debkafile's Washington sources report that the congressional subcommittees responsible for approving US economic and military aid appropriations to Egypt have been informed of the Egyptian violation.

Our military sources report that the stoppage is comprehensive.

Egyptian forces have been pulled out of northern Sinai and Rafah, the town split down the middle between Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip and under which most of the smuggling tunnels run. The trucks carrying heavy weapons for the Palestinians in Gaza are again unloading directly into the tunnel openings. They have also deactivated the sensors and security cameras installed with the help of US military engineers.


November 21 Briefs


·        Two Pakistanis detain in N. Italy accused of logistical, financial support for Mumbai terror attack last November.

·        Egyptian-Algerian World Cup soccer row escalates. Thirty police injured defending Algeria's Cairo embassy from Egyptian rioters incensed by Algeria's win.

·        UN Human Rights committee condemns Iran's violent response to anti-election protests and serious recurring human rights violations.

·        Gen. Carter Ham, US commander Europe, tapped to lead army probe into preventability of Ford Hood shootings. It will be major component of broad Pentagon review announced Thursday. Sen. Carl Levin: "There are some who are reluctant to call it terrorism, but there is significant evidence that it is."


Denied Russian S-300 missiles, Iran cannot guard its nuclear sites


21 Nov. Iran launched a huge air defense exercise for protecting its nuclear sites Sunday, Nov. 22, after failing to persuade Russia to deliver S-300 missiles. For two weeks, high-ranking Iranian politicians and generals bombarded Moscow to make good on its contract to supply the key weapon, to no avail. debkafile's military sources say that without the S-300 missile interceptor, Iran has no real defense for its nuclear installations against US and Israeli aerial or missile strikes. It must therefore be satisfied with the Russian-made Tor-M 1 short-range interceptor the most advanced of its outdated air defense systems, which are useless against US stealth bombers or the Israeli air force's electronic jamming instruments.

The Iranian air force has nowhere near the capacity to take on US or Israeli air might. In frustration, a senior Revolutionary Guards officer was reduced to threatening: "If Israel attacks Iran, Iranian missiles will explode in the heart of Tel Aviv!"

Iran's most powerful defensive weapon is the deterrent strength of its ballistic missiles and the missiles distributed to its Middle East allies, Syria, the Lebanese Hizballah and the Palestinian Hamas.

For now, Tehran is moving nuclear installations and laboratories to fortified sites underground.


Netanyahu takes a second look at Turkish-mediated talks with Syria


21 Nov. debkafile wonders if a new peace initiative – or two – is in the works between Paris, Damascus, Cairo and Jerusalem under Washington's eye. This month, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu signaled Presidents Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy that he is ready to take a second look at reviving the Ankara-brokered negotiating channel with Damascus, notwithstanding Turkish prime minister Tayyep Recep Erdogan's offensive attitude toward Israel and the close ties he is building with radical Iran.

Two Jerusalem envoys will be heading out this week on exploratory missions.

Sunday, Nov. 22, President Shimon Peres is scheduled to sit down with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Cairo and Trade and Industry minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer meets Turkish defense minister Vecdi Gonul in Ankara Tuesday. He will mention the possibility of reviving Turkish mediation in peace talks with Syria.

The French president wants the role of mediator for Paris, not Ankara.

Israel would prefer running the talks through France rather than Ankara, but is waiting to hear where President Obama stands, while Assad needs Tehran's approval, which was granted in the past when Turkey brokered the indirect talks, but is unlikely to extend to France.


November 22 Briefs


·        Peres meets Mubarak, promises no new settlements after talks restart with Palestinians. Mubarak rejected Peres plan to discuss Palestinian state within temporary borders.

·        French FM Kouchner: Israel is making real effort to restart talks with Palestinians. I leave Israel optimistic.

·        Two explosions in India's Lower Assam town of Nalbari kill at least 5 people. Separatist Assam group suspected.

·        Ex-vice-president Ali Abtahi sentenced to six years jail for taking part in mass protest against Iranian presidential June election.


November 23 Briefs


·        Abdullah dissolves Jordan's parliament calls snap election midway through term.

·        Second Saudi incursion into Yemen broadens conflict with Houthi rebels.

·        Israel bank interest raised to one percent.

·        Ahmadinejad arrives in Brasilia.

·        Another Qassam missile explodes on waste land on Israeli side of Gaza border.

·        PM Netanyahu pours cold water on reports of imminent prisoner swap with Hamas.

·        Peres: Ahmadinejad wants to destroy a nation and rule the Muslim world by force and terror. He will fail because he has no future and fall at the hands of his people.

·        Iran says gained five billion dollars by replacing dollar oil revenues with euro.

·        Four US service members killed in Afghanistan in last 24 hours.

·        Indian PM says Taliban victory in Afghanistan would be a catastrophe for South and Central Asia.


US, Iranian Red Sea naval buildup of Yemen. Debut for Iran's midget subs


23 Nov. debkafile's military and intelligence sources report that over the weekend, the Aegis class cruiser USS Chosin was designated the flagship of Combined Task Force 151 which is patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. Responding to this signal, Iran's navy commander Adm. Habibollah Sayyari announced Monday, Nov. 23, that Ghadir-class submarines would be joining the four Iranian warships already in position opposite the Yemeni coast. Our military experts describe the Ghadir as a midget submarine which Tehran claims is silent enough to elude the most advanced US radar. This is the first time those miniature craft will be deployed outside the Persian Gulf and in direct action against the US navy, as well as against Saudi naval craft. Both are blockading Yemeni ports against Iranian arms deliveries to the Yemeni rebels which Tehran is determined to continue.


November 25-26 Briefs


·        Palestinian man attacks two Israelis with an axe and knife at Kiryat Arba gas station. He was shot and captured while fleeing.

·        An Israeli force thwarted a large-scale bombing attack by a terrorist who entered southern Israel north of Eilat from Egyptian Sinai. He escaped leaving a 15-20 kilo bomb loaded with shrapnel and nails.

·        Top German soldier Wolfgang Schneiderhan quits over strike which killed civilians in N. Afghanistan.

·        Al Qaeda video posted on Internet shows execution of captured Yemeni counter-terrorism officer Bassam Tarbush.

·        Moscow on Iran's threat to make its own S-300 missile: They could not do it even in five years.

·        French arms dealer faces 5 years jail for selling Iran aircraft engines.

·        Ahmadinejad arrives in Bolivia after visiting Brazil.

·        UK still in recession after economy shrank by 0.3% between July and September.


One year after the Mumbai attack, the tentacles of terror are spreading


25 Nov. Thursday, Nov. 26, marks the first anniversary of the Islamic terrorist siege of the Indian city of Mumbai, in which 170 people were shot and blown up and more than 300 wounded. Ten killers of the Pakistan-based al Qaeda offshoot, Lashkar-re-Taibe, shot up and invaded two hotels, a train station and a cafe and were instructed to make sure no one was left alive at the Chabad hospitality center.

Two-year old Moshe was the only survivor thanks to the staff member, Sandra Samuel, who ran out of the inferno carrying the child. This month, a newly-completed Torah scroll was dedicated to the six victims. It will be placed in the rebuilt Mumbai center.

This week, most ironically, Indian Prime Minister Manmoham Singh was visiting Washington and preparing to sign a pact for Washington and New Delhi to exchange intelligence and cooperate in the war on terror. While he has a long reckoning with Pakistan for harboring anti-Indian Muslim terrorists, the Indian prime minister had since learned that investigation of the Mumbai attack had also led to a home-grown American cell which had orchestrated it from Chicago.

Wednesday, Nov. 25, in Washington, the visiting prime minister paid homage to the Mumbai victims and vowed India would not rest until the perpetrators were brought to justice. In the past 24 hours, Pakistan has finally charged seven suspects formally with the attack, but Singh said a lot more needs to be done by Islamabad to fight terror. Indian sources suspect Pakistan timed the belated charges to win good media coverage for the Mumbai outrage's first anniversary.


Clinton welcomes Netanyahu's token 10-month settlement construction freeze


25 Nov. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu appears to be working to a five-month cycle in his first year in office: It took him five months to line up behind Washington on a two-state solution, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians, and another five months to announce Wednesday, Nov. 25, that the security-political cabinet had approved a 10-month freeze on new apartment construction in the West Bank settlements in an effort to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton praised the decision as helping to "move forward" efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whereas the Palestinians rejected it on the spot.

All three parties were following a familiar ritual fated to lead nowhere, mainly because of Barack Obama's loss of credibility with Arab leaders, including the Palestinians. This is partly because they see him as failing to deliver on his early promise to turn a new page in the Middle East conflict and in America's relations with the Muslim and Arab world and partly because of his perceived weakness in dealing with Iran's nuclear aspirations.

By their implacable animosity toward Netanyahu, the Palestinians and Arab governments are signaling their disapproval of the United States and its current policies.

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