A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Nov. 5, 2009

October 31 Briefs

·        Hillary Clinton commends the Netanyahu government for offering direct peace talks without preconditions for the first time. It was also the first time Israel was willing to restrict settlement construction, she said. Clinton spoke at joint news conference with Netanyahu before their brief conversation in Jerusalem. The Israeli PM criticized the Palestinians for raising fresh preconditions for talks.

·        On Iran, Clinton said US patience was not unlimited for its acceptance of six-power proposal.

·        Erekat after Clinton-Abbas meeting in Abu Dhabi: The Palestinians have rejected all US proposals for restarting peace talks with Israel.

·        Turkish PM: Countries opposed to Iran's atomic program should give up their own.

·        Obama administration rescued 60 Yemeni Jews, brought them to New York.

US and Israel reiterate to Moscow that military option on the table

31 Oct. debkafile's US intelligence sources report indications of impending war preparations against Iran after Tehran's zigzag culminating in its rejection of the UN-brokered proposal to ship its enriched uranium overseas for further enrichment. These sources reveal that the administration is seeking congressional authorization to open America's Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). Furthermore, the US-Israeli joint US-Israel Juniper Cobra ballistic exercise is in full swing. Finally, US and Israel officials have been instructed to warn Moscow that the military option is still on the table if Iran's nuclear program is not halted by diplomatic means.

The US SPR which contains 727 million barrels of petroleum is only opened in time of war. Under an agreement signed with Israel in 1975, Washington undertakes to supply Israel with its fuel needs for five years in an emergency.

Word of these apparent war preparations appeared Saturday Oct. 31, the day after Iran's senior nuclear negotiator delivered a counter-proposal to the UN-brokered plan to the IAEA in Vienna.

The joint US-Israeli military exercise which ends Tuesday, Nov. 3, moved to the Tel Aviv arena last Tuesday with US forces drilling defensive action against a prospective Iranian missile attack or a seaborne strike from the Mediterranean on Israel's central conurbation.

Iran-European gap widens over planned overseas enrichment

31 Oct. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Friday, Oct. 30, praised the proposal “to have Iran withdraw its enriched uranium, or a good portion of it, outside Iran as a positive first step.” He commended the US president's efforts to deal with Iran's nuclear program

But Saturday, European officials called the new Iranian ultimatum for a balance between sending uranium abroad and receiving a fresh supply as “unacceptable.” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, rotating presidency of the European Union, told AP that Iran's approach of “back-and-forth talks” was reminiscent of its “same old tricks.”

Saturday, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned: “We hope the negotiations continue and evil powers don't indulge in mischief because the Zionist regime and other domineering powers are unhappy with the talks,” he said. “Today, Westerners know that without engaging Iran, they cannot rule the world, because Iran… rules world public opinion.”

Netanyahu's words of praise for president Obama when he met Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell Friday followed an informal message from Washington asking Israel's political, military and intelligence spokesmen to align their conduct and statements on the Iran issue with the UK, France and Germany.

November 1 Briefs

·        Saudis discover large arms caches buried in concrete block near Riyadh. They connect it with 44 terrorists rounded up in August.

·        Israel threatened for first time by al Qaeda-linked al-Shaabab fighting to control Somalia.

·        Seventeen people killed, Iraq, 40 injured in four attacks across Iraq Sunday – two were by suicide killers, one a bicycle bomb.

Yaacov Taitel detained in Jerusalem on suspicion of terrorist attacks on Arabs and Jews

1 Nov. debkafile reports that at the end of a 12-year search, the police and Shin Bet finally caught up with the Yaacov Taitel, 37, from Shevut Rachel, whom they suspect of a long series of hate crimes. He is thought to have murdered an Arab taxi driver in June 1997 and an Arab shepherd in August of that year. His home was found stocked with an assortment of firearms, including a sniper's rifle, and a bomb-making facility.

The police and Shin Beit report that Yaacov Taitel, who was born in Florida, USA, operated solo and was self-taught in the use of firearms and explosives. In November 2006, he is suspected of turning to Jewish left-wing and gay targets, planting an explosive charge at the Eili police station with the slogan: “Sodomites get out?”

In 2007, explosive devices blew up on a Ramot street in North Jerusalem and another in the vineyard of a monastery outside the city.

In March 2008, a device disguised as a Purim gift package was posted to a family in Ariel. Their son was badly hurt. A year ago, a small charge was planted at the front door of Professor Zeev Sternhall in Jerusalem. It blew up when he opened the door and slightly hurt him.

Declaring Karzai president without runoff – US setback, Taliban gain

2 Nov. US objectives in Afghanistan have come out of these chain of events badly battered, while the Taliban has been offered a political victory on a silver platter.

According to debkafile's sources, the American plan was to offer Abdullah the premiership with executive powers leaving Karzai as president in name only. But by Monday afternoon, Abdullah was far from acceding to this plan.

However this mess resolves itself, the United States is now forced to accept a president whose national mandate is highly questionable ensconced in the presidential palace for another five years. The US Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal has warned that no constructive strategy would work in the country as long as a government riddled with corruption remained in place in Kabul. The Taliban can claim they were vindicated in disrupting an election process which proved to have been flawed.

November 3 Briefs

·        German chancellor Merkel to joint US Congress session: Nuclear weapons must not fall into the hands of the Holocaust denier.

·        Netanyahu praises Obama's great investment in joint effort to head off Iranian missile threat to Israel and world populations.

·        The Israeli PM was visiting the Juniper Cobra command center on the joint US-Israeli ballistic exercise's last day.

·        Gen. Ashkenazi: Israel may again have to fight terrorists sheltering in schools and hospitals. This kind of warfare is forced upon us by enemies.

·        Clinton in Marrakesh tries to appease Arab FMs over her praise of Israeli concessions for peace.

Khamenei rejects talks if outcome fixed by US, at embassy hostage anniversary

3 Nov. “We do not want any negotiation the result of which is predetermined by the United States,” said Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the clearest rejection yet of the world powers' UN-brokered proposal for Iran to ship three-quarters of its enriched uranium overseas for reprocessing. “Giving the US a veto over the nuclear talks would be like a sheep and wolf relationship.”

To drive his anti-US message home, the ayatollah spoke Tuesday, Nov. 3, the eve of the 30th anniversary of the US embassy seizure by radical students on Nov. 4, 1979 shortly after Khomeini's Islamic revolution – pouring salt on a sensitive landmark in Iranian-US relations.

Regarding president Barack Obama and his engagement policy, Khameini said: “Whenever the U.S offers a smile, it hides a dagger in his back.” The level of unrelenting anti-US rhetoric heard from the all-powerful spiritual ruler was exceptional even in Iranian terms.

Monday, Nov. 2, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned: “If the Iranian response is to stall, as it seems to be, we will not accept this.”

Hamas successfully tests new Iran-made Silkworm missile that can reach Tel Aviv

3 Nov. Israel's military intelligence chief Brig. Amos Yadlin revealed Tuesday, Nov. 3, that the Palestinian Hamas had successfully tested a new 60-km range Iranian shore-to-sea missile firing from the Gaza coast. Fired north overland the missile could reach Tel Aviv.

Brig. Yadlin's report to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee confirmed debkafile's Oct. 25 disclosure of intensive Iranian efforts to arm Hizballah and Hamas with extended-range missiles and rockets capable of reaching Israel's strategic heartland. He revealed for the first time that Iranian arms were reaching Hizballah and Hamas through Syria and, for the first, time via Turkey.

Iran is clearly intent on building up Hamas' capability for breaking the Israeli Mediterranean naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and restricting the freedom of Israeli warships cruising opposite its southern shores.

Silkworms deployed in the Gaza Strip are a menace to Israel's southern naval bases, especially in Ashdod port. They are also precise enough to target land-based strategic facilities like power stations and fuel depots. In 1987, Tehran used an earlier version of the Silkworm to strike Kuwait's oil installations..

Israel's Heron drones integrated in NATO's Afghanistan war

3 Nov. Germany is the fifth nation to purchase the Heron TP drone or other Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle technology for support missions against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, debkafile's military sources report. Today, these drones complement the US Air Force's dominant role in Afghanistan air space, thanks to the CIA's shortage of Predators for its own and NATO use and two useful features:

1. The Israeli drones are cheaper.

3. Equipped with 1,200-horsepower engines, they carry 250 kilos of ordnance, mainly air-ground missiles. Fully loaded,,the Heron can reach an altitude of 11,000 meters. Flying empty, it can reach a height of13,700 meters, which is above regular commercial air traffic, without becoming icebound owing to another special feature, which is important in the freezing Afghan winters.

The Canadian armed forces began using Israel UAVs a year ago, hiring them on charter from Israel's Aviation Industries; two months ago, Australia's Special Air Service Regiment SASR fighting in Afghanistan put the Heron into service. French forces in Afghanistan are using the SIDM which is based on the Israeli Heron's technology and structure. The Israel Hermes 450 pilotless vehicle made by Elbit is deployed by British units against Taliban and al Qaeda in the embattled Helmand province, as it was in Iraq.

November 4 Briefs

·        Five British soldiers killed in Helmand province, shot by an Afghan soldier.

·        Tehran police use tear gas, batons against opposition demonstrators marking 30th anniversary of Islamic students US embassy seizure.

·        US House denounces Goldstone war crimes report 344:36 as irredeemably biased against Israel, unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.

·        Arabs urge UN General Assembly to call for Security Council action if Israel, Hamas fail to probe war crimes within 3 months.

Israel Navy commander: Hizballah arms ship carried hundreds of tons of hardware

4 Nov. debkafile's military sources report the first Iranian arms ship bound for Hizballah set out from Bandar Abbas in the third week of October and was detected by US satellites over the weekend while heading out of the Straits of Hormuz and into the Gulf of Oman. The USS Anzio guided missile cruiser of the US Navy's Task Force 151 shadowed the weapons ship as it sailed into the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Israeli military intelligence, navy and air force were kept informed of the ship's movements.

The Egyptian Navy kept close to the arms ship as it passed through the canal to the Mediterranean.

The ship docked at Damietta, Egypt, where the arms freight was offloaded to the Francop, which then acquired an escort of US Sixth Fleet and Israeli Navy warships.

No action was taken then because the American and Israeli commanders of their joint Juniper Cobra ballistic exercise agreed to hold off seizing the ship until a few hours after the two-week war game ended Tuesday, Nov. 3. Washington was reluctant to embark on direct military action against an Iranian target so long as nuclear negotiations are still in progress for fear of provoking a fresh crisis with Tehran.

This delay allowed the Francop to reach Beirut, but Hizballah held off unloading the shipment because it was under surveillance. The freighter then headed to the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli where it docked until Oct. 30 when it set out for the Syrian port of Tartous. The Syrians were also wary of laying hands on the cargo under the eyes of the US Sixth Fleet and so the Francop set sail again this time toward Cyprus.

Close to its destination, it was intercepted by Israeli commandoes.

Captured Iranian arms ship tip of the iceberg of vast weapons sealift to Hizballah

4-5 Nov. Iran has been running a mammoth arms sea route to Hizballah for months via Egypt. The Iran-owned Visea offloaded the arms shipment at the Egyptian port of Damietta, where it was picked up by the Francop, which Israeli naval commandoes seized Wednesday Nov. 4 near Cyprus with 36 containers of artillery rockets, armor-piercing missiles, and other war materiel bound for the Lebanese Hizballah.

The 300 tons of arms, Israel's biggest haul of enemy weapons ever, were unloaded at the Israeli naval base at Ashdod port and the Francop with its crew, who knew nothing about the weapons aboard, were released Thursday morning.

The illicit cargo was concealed behind sacks of polyethylene and loaded aboard the Visea which sailed from Iran on Oct. 14, docking at Dubai's Jabel Ali on Oct. 18, after which it wound its way through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, reaching Damietta port Monday, Oct. 26. Our sources stress that the containers and their hidden arms freight stood on Egyptian docks for seven days before it was picked up by the Francop for delivery at Beirut.

The Francop is a “feeder ship,” which plies a regular route between fixed ports of call beginning at Damietta, thence to Limassol in Cyprus and from there to Beirut, Lebanon, Port Latakia, Syria, and back. Security is lax or non-existent for these workhorse vessels. That is why Tehran began using them for its clandestine shipments of arms in the last few months.

November 5 Briefs

·        Mahmoud Abbas says he will not run for reelection as Palestinian leader in January. He says he feels betrayed by the US and some Arab governments.

·        Hizballah, Syria, Iran deny hundreds of tons of weapons aboard captured Francop freighter was destined for the Lebanese Shiite group. They accuse Israel of piracy in international waters.

·        Israel releases the captured Iranian arms ship with crew after unloading 36 containers of weapons destined for Hizballah. Its captain denied knowing about the weapons cargo which he said threatened the safety of ship and crew.

·        Taliban: Gunman who killed five British soldiers is “back with us and safe.”

·        Iran attacks chancellor Angela Merkel for saying an attack on Israel was tantamount to an attack on Germany. She said this in a speech before a joint session of both US Houses of US Congress.

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