A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Sept. 10, 2009

Northern Israel struck by three Katyusha rockets from Lebanon

11 Sept. The Lebanese 122mm rockets landed on empty ground near the north Israel resort town of Nahariya. Israeli forces hit back with several artillery rounds directed at the source of the fire pinpointed by Lebanese forces as Qlaileh south of the Lebanese port of Tyre. Israel also scrambled fighter jets and helicopters over South Lebanon.

There were no immediate reports of casualties and no claims of responsibility for the rocket fire. Israel complained to UN peacekeepers. The incident occurred after a long period of inactivity from Lebanon since the 2006 Israeli-Hizballah conflict – apart from isolated incidents.

US submission to Iran's evasive tactics spurs international pressure against Israeli military strike

12 Sept. The US will join other major powers in seeking an early meeting with Iran although Tehran's refusal to discuss its nuclear program was described by Washington officials as “disappointing.”

Far from meeting the Obama administration's gesture halfway, Iran's new defense minister Ahmed Wahidi warned Washington Saturday, Sept. 12, “not to try to militarize the region” and denying the production of weapons of mass destruction as “contrary to our religion and principles.”

debkafile's Washington sources say the Obama White House is relying on the public's short memory on Iran's prevarications. Last time they meet, on July 20, 2008, Iran's negotiator Saeed Jalili listened quietly to the Bush administration's undersecretary of state William Burns' words on its nuclear activities, then announced he would come back with an answer from Tehran, which he never did.

The former commander of the big Israeli air base at Hatezerim, Brig. (ret.) Shelly Guttman, said Saturday that for the first time since the Yom Kippur War, Israel faces an existential threat. Nevertheless, Russia and France are leading the way to stalling military action. Thursday, Sept. 10, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin warned that the use of force or new sanctions against Iran would “not solve the problem,” after Israeli leaders spent the whole week conferring on a decision about a military operation to pre-empt Iran's rapid progress toward a nuclear weapon. A French general said a military strike on Iran “was no longer viable.”

Prominent Iranian reformist who alleged rape in prisons faces arrest

13 Sept. debkafile's Iranian sources report: Buoyed up by its success in maneuvering the Obama administration into accepting dialogue with Tehran – regardless of its harsh crackdown on dissenters and refusal to discuss its nuclear program – the Islamic regime is again turning the screw on the opposition.

A warrant was signed Saturday, Sept. 11, for the arrest of a prominent opposition leader, Hojat-ol-Eslam Medhi Karroubi, one of the three losers in Iran's presidential election of June 12 which triggered massive street protests alleging massive vote-rigging.

Earlier, a high-level Iranian judicial panel rejected Karroubi's charge that detained male and female protesters had been savagely raped by their jailors as “libel, lies …jeopardizing state security and discrediting the ruling system.”

Karroubi would be the first opposition leader to be arrested. But he is not expected to be the last: In his last Friday sermon, on Sept. 11, the supreme leader threatened those confronting the ruling system with harsh treatment – “the sword.” Even the prominent regime veteran Hashemi Ransanjani is in grave jeopardy for demanding an investigation of the opposition's allegations.

US raid in Somalia kills top al Qaeda terrorist wanted for US embassy bombing

14 Sept. Saleh Ali Nabhan, 28, was sought 11 years on suspicion of taking part in al Qaeda's 1998 attack on the US embassy in Kenya, in which 300 people were killed including 13 Americans, and four years later, orchestrating the 2002 bombings of a Mombasa hotel, which left 12 Kenyans and three Israelis dead. He then fired a missile at an Israeli airliner carrying tourists to and from Kenya – and missed.

A US official confirmed that special forces were flown in by helicopter from a US Navy ship offshore in the Indian Ocean and fired on a vehicle reported to be carrying Nabhan. The body believed to be his was removed .debkafile's counter-terror sources confirm that the raid was carried out by special forces of the new US African Command – AFRICOM, commanded by Gen. William Ward. Its main mission now was and remains to capture or kill al Qaeda's senior commander in East Africa and the Horn, Muhammad Fazul.

September 14 Briefs

·        Three British Muslims given long jail sentences (up to 40 years) for plotting to blow up transatlantic airliners with liquid explosives.

·        Netanyahu promises settlement construction freeze will be for a limited period, still to be negotiated with Washington.

·        Al Qaeda-linked Lebanese group claims Katyusha attack on Nahariya last Friday. It calls itself the Ziyad al-Jarrah Battalions of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades. Al Jarrah, a Saudi of Lebanese origin, was among 9/11 hijackers.

·        Second Temple (50 BCE-100 C.E) synagogue discovered near Sea of Galilee in N. Israel. It had stone benches, frescoes, carved stone tablet with oldest menorah ever found.


Tehran continues to snub Obama, Bin Laden says US president is “powerless”

14 Sept. In the last 24 hours, by rare coincidence, two Islamic extremist leaders have shown public contempt for US president Barack Obama.

Sunday, Sept. 13, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threw out of court any discussion on the Iranian nuclear issue: “From the Iranian nation's viewpoint, the nuclear case is closed,” said Ahmadinejad, two days after Washington accepted Tehran's offer to start talks with the Six Powers on global issues excluding its nuclear program.

Osama bin Laden, in an audio tape released Monday Sept. 14 on radical Islamic sites, said that the causes of the 9/11attacks were chiefly “your support to your Israeli allies who occupy our land of Palestine.”

According to bin Laden, when Obama became president and retained many of the Bush administration's military leaders, such as defense secretary Robert Gates, “reasonable people knew that Obama is a powerless man who will not be able to end the (Afghan) war as he promised.”

Capt. Assaf Ramon, son of astronaut Ilan Ramon, dies in training flight crash

14 Sept. Israeli military is investigating the cause of the F-16 crash in which Lt. Assaf Ramon, 20, promoted posthumously to captain, lost his life on a training flight in battle formation 80,000 ft. over the Hebron hills. The pilot of the second jet taking part in the exercise reported that 30 seconds before the crash, Assaf Ramon had stopped responding to communications, suggesting a sharp turn had affected his faculties, perhaps causing a momentary blackout. Earlier this year, Assaf Ramon and his flight instructor managed to restart the engine of a Skyhawk A4 after it suddenly died and return safely to base.

After his father, IAF Col. Ilan Ramon, was killed in the Columbia disaster, Assaf announced plans to follow in the his father's footsteps.

US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who arrived in Israel Saturday night, conveyed the American people's condolences to the Ramon family for the tragedy of “a young man who died in his prime and in the line of duty.”

President Hosni Mubarak voiced sympathy to prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu who was in Cairo Sunday.

September 15 Briefs

·        US intel chief Dennis Blair says America is safer from al Qaeda than the past, but is concerned terrorists are trying to obtain nuclear weapons. Iran and NKorea are continuing to develop nuclear and ballistic missile programs, he warned.

·        VP Biden on third visit to Iraq this year to meet Baghdad, Kurdish leaders.

·        Shin Bet detains 5 Palestinians from Silwad village east of Ramallah suspected of systematic attacks on Highway 60 traffic.

·        Israeli army chief: Katyusha attack from Lebanon isolated incident. IDF on guard, says Ashkenazi, and people should spend New Year festival in Galilee.

·        Pentagon proposes selling Turkey $7.8 bn worth of 72 Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile missiles.

·        Chavez: Russia to lend Venezuela $2bn to buy 100 tanks, anti-air missiles.

·        Netanyahu promises settlement construction freeze will be for a limited period.

Israel goes to war on UN report charging it with war crimes

15 Sept. The foreign ministry denounced the report, compiled by a team headed by former South African judge Goldstone, as “unbalanced, shameful and dangerous” in its even-handed treatment of Israel, which acted in self-defense, and the aggressive Hamas terrorist organization.

Jerusalem refused to cooperate with the investigation because its mandate was loaded a priori against the Jewish state by the UN Human Rights Council, which routinely singles Israel out for castigation while turning a blind eye on Palestinian violations. In this case, the panel disregarded the deliberate Hamas strategy of using Palestinian civilians as cover for launching terrorist attacks, said the foreign ministry in Jerusalem.

Israeli diplomats have been instructed to challenge the Goldstone report on those grounds and urge UN Security Council members to reject it as a document unbefitting referral to the War Crimes Court at The Hague. Washington has voiced concern about its content.

Israel Defense Forces investigated more than 100 Palestinian complaints of misconduct during Operation Cast Lead, only one of which, the charge of looting by a single soldier was corroborated. (He is serving a seven-month prison sentence.) Another 23 files are still under investigation. In all cases, commanders and soldiers were ordered expressly to observe international rules of engagement and avoid collateral casualties.

September 16 Briefs

·        Gilead Shalit's family goes to Gaza border to try and send a New Year's parcel to their kidnapped son. It contained the traditional festive apple in honey, a Bible, a book of Psalms and his favorite candy. In more than three years, Hamas has never allowed Gilead to receive parcels.

·        Obama: No decision immediately pending on additional resources for Afghanistan. It awaits a new strategic assessment.

·        Three US soldiers killed in South Afghanistan.

·        The second Netanyahu-Mitchell meeting ends without results. A third fixed for Friday.

·        Palestinians make participation in New York summit with US and Israel contingent on one-year building freeze in Jerusalem and West Bank.

Sarkozy accuses Iran of hiding nuclear weapons program

16 Sept. The first Western leader to expressly admit knowledge of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, French president Nicolas Sarkozy said: “It is a certainty to all of our secret services. Iran is working today on a nuclear (weapons) program. We cannot let Iran acquire nuclear weapons because it would also be a threat to Israel.” Sarkozy spokes during a meeting at the Elysee presidential palace with lawmakers from his UMP party on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

The French president said he would not shake the hand (of Iran's president at the UN General Assembly) of “someone who wants to wipe Israel off the map.”

French intelligence thus goes further even than US intelligence agencies which maintained in an assessment leaked to the media on Sept. 10: “Iran has created enough nuclear fuel to make a rapid, if risky, spring for a nuclear weapon.”

September 17 Briefs

·        Six Italian NATO troops die in suicide attack in Kabul.

·        Two terrorists killed earlier in attempted attack on the US embassy in Afghan capital.

·        Mullen demands up to 40,000 extra US troops to win Afghanistan war.

·        Federal agents don hazardous materials suits to search two apartments in Denver, Colorado, continuing New York Queens raid Monday. Afghan Naibullah Zazi owns Denver homes and stayed at Queens apartment. He was released after questioning. Probe centers on suspected New York terror plot by Afghan cell in New York mosque area.

Obama plans to replace E. European missile shield with a new system in Israel, Azerbaijan

17 Sept. Deputy US army chief, Gen. James Cartwright and defense secretary Robert Gates amplified President Barack Obama's statement on the US missile shield in East Europe in Washington Thursday, Sept. 17, by announcing that a new and better anti-missile missile system would be deployed in Israel and Azerbaijan. Referring to the Israeli component, he said: “It is already working perfectly.”

debkafile's military sources disclose he was referring to the advanced American FBX-T radar system deployed last year in Israel's Negev base at Nevatim, which is capable of tracking a missile launched from the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and beyond.

The Obama administration's decision to shelve the plan to install US missile interceptors and radar systems in Poland and the Czech Republic ties in with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev's surprise comment Monday, Sept. 14, that his government no longer rules out further sanctions against Iran. The shield was promoted by the Bush administration in the face of strong Russian opposition for the purpose of shielding Europe from long-range Iranian ballistic missile attack. US officials now say that Iran's long-range has not progressed as rapidly as previously estimated, reducing the threat to the continental US and major European capitals.”

On Aug. 29, debkafile reported exclusively that Washington was considering transferring the project from East Europe to Turkey and Israel.

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