A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending November 4, 2010
Yemen President bars US ground strike on al Qaeda package plotters
30 Oct. Yemeni president Abdullah Ali Saleh refused Saturday night, Oct. 30, to allow Washington to land US special forces in Al Gouf, 140 kilometers south of Sanaa the capital. Based there, according to US and Saudi intelligence, is Ibrahim Hassan Al Asiri, the Saudi who masterminded the al Qaeda (AQAP) plot to plant explosive packages aboard cargo flights bound for the United States. There too is Al Qaeda's main fighting base in Yemen with a team of terror planners and bomb makers. So far this bastion has resisted every Yemeni army effort to root it out.
Our military sources reveal that US Combined Task Force – CTF 151 has been standing by Yemen's Red Sea coast aboard the Marine amphibious assault ship USS Boxer awaiting the order to land in Al Gouf, while the Marines Expeditionary Unit 26 waits on the USS Iwo Jima, accompanied by additional US warships.
More bomb-parcels sought in probe of Al Qaeda air cargo plot
30 Oct. A broadening multinational investigation seeks to probe the scale of the al Qaeda air freight plot causing mayhem in the international cargo freight system on the assumption that the threat is still viable. Yemen, to which two explosive parcels bound for Chicago synagogues were traced, itself seized 24 suspect parcels before they were loaded on outward flights.
debkafile's counter-terror sources say Yemeni claims of success should be taken with a pinch of salt. Saleh is eager to show results in his probe as he is under pressure from Washington to show fast results and hopes for financial rewards. Above all, his army is fighting a losing war against Al Qaeda's inroads in Yemen and therefore unlikely to be able to overcome the terrorist infrastructure which set up the package plot.
Were it not for a tipoff from Saudi intelligence identifying the UPS and Fedex bomb parcels directed from Yemen to Chicago on separate cargo planes, they would not have been discovered before they blew up. Even so, debkafile's counter-terror sources report, al Qaeda chalked up a coup by successfully penetrating and paralyzing the main intercontinental air mail systems at very little cost to itself.
Hizballah, Syria, Iran sow alarm in Lebanon without a shot
30 Oct. The speech Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon's Hizballah, delivered Thursday night Oct. 29 was taken in all sections of Lebanese society as a virtual declaration of war – a conflict which they fear will be even fiercer and crueler than the 1975 civil war. It is widely believed, according to debkafile's Middle East sources, that the power-sharing order the diverse communities achieved after that conflict will be swept away and replaced with a pro-Iranian, pro-Syrian puppet regime.
Last Wednesday, Oct. 27, a crowd of Lebanese Shiite women prevented two investigators of the STL tribunal probing the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri from obtaining documentary evidence for their case at a gynecology clinic in South Beirut. debkafile reports that Hizballlah hides its top-secret security and intelligence archives in unlikely places like the clinic. In this case, the concealed documents must have included evidence incriminating the organization in the assassination.
October 31, 2010 Briefs
• Obama calls Saudi king to stress importance of full support for UN Hariri tribunal and Lebanese government.
• Barak warns that future terrorist attacks may will be chemical, biological or nuclear. He addressed opening of widely attended international Homeland Security conference opening in Tel Aviv Sunday.
• Thirty-two injured, 17 policemen, in suicide bomb blast in central Istanbul's Taksim Sq. Sunday.
• debkafile was first to identify al Qaeda package plot mastermind as Ibrahim Hassan Al Asiri.
• Germany and UK suspend air freights from Yemen.
• Large-scale emergency drill at Ben-Gurion international airport Monday.
UPS September crash to be re-examined
31 Oct. The US president's counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan said the fatal UPS mail cargo flight crash over Dubai on September 2 is to be re-examined to find out if it was not caused by an explosive package collected from Yemen. He disclosed this in an interview to CNN Sunday, Oct. 31. debkafile's counter-terror sources report that if this is what happened, US intelligence missed picking up on al Qaeda's air package plot for two months. He was referring to the incident in which pilots of a UPS Boeing 747 signaled the Dubai control tower after takeoff that they were turning back because of a fire in the freight department. Their last message was that the cockpit was full of smoke and they were losing control. Moments later, the plane came down.
November 1, 2010 Briefs
• German security: Parcel bombs from Yemen contained 300 grams and 400 grams of PETN explosives.
• Yemen: Saudi Al Qaeda terrorist Jabr al-Faifi gave Saudis tipoff on package bomb plot. He surrendered to Saudis after spending time in Guantanamo.
• At least 52 died, including six attackers in gun battles and blasts at Catholic church in Baghdad Sunday. The entire congregation was held hostage for four hours before Iraqi troops stormed in. An Islamic umbrella group that includes al Qaeda claimed attack on "nest of polytheism".
• Shin Bet chief Diskin says Google Earth, Internet, Apple's iPhone help terrorists obtain intelligence once only available to state intelligence.
Hizballah's "zero hour" exercise for toppling Beirut government and war on Israel
1 Nov. Hizballah last Thursday, Oct. 28, conducted a command exercise in all parts of Lebanon to test its armed militia's readiness for what its leaders called "zero hour" i.e. asserting its grip on Lebanon and "cornering" Prime Minister Saad Hariri. debkafile's sources report: It led up to Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah's saber-rattling speech that night, which was seen in Beirut as a declaration of war on the Hariri government and the prologue to heating up the border with Israel.
The exercise was seen by military observers as practice for the action planned for the hours leading up to the Special Lebanese Tribunal's issuance of indictments against Hizballah leaders for complicity in the assassination of Lebanese ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri five years ago.
The "zero hour" exercise demonstrated, according to Hizballah sources, "the quick implementation on the ground" of the necessary deployment. They claimed that in "less than two hours" they were able to "maintain a security and military grip of large areas of Lebanon."
November 2, 2010 Briefs
• US: Syria will not recover the Golan Heights until it repairs its relations with Washington.
• British FM Hague arrives in Israel Tuesday night. He hopes to catch up with Israeli intelligence thinking on Iranian nuclear threat.
• Cameron and Sarkozy sign new defense treaty in London Tuesday. UK and France to pool troops, carriers and nuclear testing facilities. British combat troops including the SAS could come under French command.
• PA PM Fayyad cancels attendance of dedication ceremony for two in East Jerusalem schools. Israeli police minister signed order invoking law barring PA political activities in Israeli territory without permission.
• Tuesday, Fayyad staged ceremony at Arab school outside Jerusalem municipal area.
Al Qaeda's biggest attack on a state capital leaves 120 dead in Baghdad
2 Nov. The Iraqi capital was rocked late Tuesday, Nov. 2 by the most ferocious assault al Qaeda has ever carried out on a capital city. By evening, it had spread to Baghdad's environs after the death toll had climbed past 120 with more than 300 injured from 19 bomb car explosions in a dozen Shiite suburbs. Clearly visible in each was a pair of suicides detonating their explosives. Scores of roadside and sticky bombs were activated against cars at main intersections and smashed into army, police and emergency teams racing to the scenes of disaster.
The rattle of heavy automatic gunfire accompanied the sounds of explosions. Huge fires broke out amid the violence. Iraqi army commanders admitted the city had veered out of control and voiced fear that it was just the beginning of a broader al Qaeda onslaught which had already begun spreading.
Interim Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki turned down police request to impose a curfew on the city until control was restored.
AMAN Chief: Syria's new Russian missiles could challenge Israeli Air Force
2 Nov. In his farewell briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, Tuesday, Nov. 2, departing Israel Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin listed the threats to Israel as headed by Iran. But he warned that Syria is buying advanced Russian self-propelled air defense missiles with long-range optical and targeting ranges that would encumber the Israeli Air Force warplanes' freedom of action in an emergency. Iran, he said, would soon have enough fissile material to build one or two nuclear bombs.
Syria while snapping up every advanced piece of war hardware coming off Russian production lines continues to arm the Lebanese Hizballah. Although Iran's Lebanese surrogate can now hit Tel Aviv with its rockets, its leaders are afraid of the price that would pay and have not forgotten the lessons of the Second Lebanon War of 2006.
The IDF unveiled new logistical and technological improvements. Mobilizing reserves now takes an hour and a half instead of a day and a half, solar energy will replaced electricity, helmets and flak vests are lighter, food rations tastier and individual soldiers will be fitted with orthopedic boots.
Hague's visit sparks Israel-UK clash on Iran, Mid East, Palestinians
3 Nov. The sharp differences between Israel and Britain came to the fore Wednesday, Nov. 3, during William Hague's first visit to Israel as Foreign Secretary. He was informed that Israel had halted the strategic dialogue with the UK in protest against the failure of successive British governments to repeal a law allowing its leaders to be arrested for war crimes on arrival in Britain.
Since 2005, pro-Palestinian activists have used the concept of "universal jurisdiction" to threaten Israeli leaders with arrest for alleged war crimes. Several serving and former Israeli leaders have cancelled trips to Britain after being warned they could be arrested. The latest was Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, who called off his trip to Britain last month to avoid prosecution.
Israel was put out by the undiplomatic, overbearing way in which Hague managed his visit, summoning Israel's intelligence chiefs to the UK ambassador's residence to brief him on the Iranian nuclear issue and omitting courtesy calls on government ministers. The visitor hit back at the cold shoulder showed him in Jerusalem by meeting and praising three groups leading the Palestinian anti-Israel protest movement. The UK foreign secretary told them that popular resistance against Israel was justified.
First US targeted assassination in Gaza pre-empts next Al Qaeda strikes
4 Nov. A missile fired from an American warship in the Mediterranean killed Muhammad Jamal A-Namnam, 27, in Gaza City Wednesday, Nov. 3, debkafile's exclusive counter-terror sources report. Namnam was an operational commander of the Army of Islam, Al-Qaeda's Palestinian cell in the Gaza Strip. He was on a mission for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP to plan, organize and execute the next wave of terrorist attacks on US targets after the air package bomb plot – in Sinai. Palestinian cell members were to infiltrate northern Sinai from the Gaza strip over Sunday Nov. 7 or the next day and strike American personnel serving with the Multinational Force and Observers Organization – MFO, which is under American command and is stationed at North Camp, El Gorah, 37 kilometers southeast of El-Arish. A second Al Qaeda team holed up in the mountains of central Sinai was to have attacked US Marines and Air Force troops stationed at the South Camp in Naama Bay, Sharm el Sheikh.
The Al Qaeda operative's death by a US missile was the first American targeted assassination in the Gaza Strip against an Al Qaeda target.