September 5 Briefs
· Dozens killed in Yemen Friday night as brief ceasefire breaks down. The government suspended its three-week offensive against Houthi rebel to allow aid workers to reach distressed civilians.
· UK minister Straw admits Lockerbie bomber's release was influenced by trade interests. This was earlier denied by PM Brown.
· Iraq reinforces border with Syria with thousands more troops to block terrorist crossings. Baghdad demands probe into Syrian-based Baathist-al Qaeda role in Aug. 19 massacre.
· Israel protests Norwegian decision to exclude Israeli electro-optic systems giant Elbit from pension fund portfolio. Oslo claimed Elbit violated international law by supplying security fence with surveillance equipment.
Iran edges close to capacity for building its first nuke and fitting a missile's nuclear warhead
05 Sept. Barack Obama has been in the White House for nine months and Binyamin Netanyahu in the Israeli prime minister's office six months. Both have spent precious time batting the numbers of settlement apartments to and fro instead of taking resolute steps to thwart Iran's spectacular advances on the road to a nuclear weapon. debkafile's military and intelligence sources note that Tehran has made good use of this time for the longest strides towards its objective than at any time since its program was surreptitiously launched.
They consist of four major achievements:
1. Iran has succeeded in secretly combining uranium processing, airborne high-explosive tests and work on designing a missile cone to fit a nuclear warhead, according to Western intelligence updates.
2. It has doubled the number of faster centrifuges working at the enrichment plants and is completing tests on a more advanced homemade centrifuge, the IR4, which will halve the time taken for converting low-grade enrichment uranium into weapons-grade material.
3. By February 2010 – and some say sooner -Tehran will have stocked enough high-grade enriched uranium for two nuclear bombs.
4. Iran has also gone into home production of nuclear fuel rods for plutonium.
Al Qaeda threats bring out extra Hamas security forces in Gaza City
05 Sept. The Salafi Jalalat organization set up by al Qaeda in the Gaza Strip has vowed to avenge what it called the massacre inflicted by Hamas on one of its cells, Jund Ansar Allah, when their partisans clashed in the southern town of Rafah on Aug. 14. At least 30 were reported dead on both sides and more than 150 injured.
Hamas intelligence was tipped off to a Jalalat plot to strike its government centers over last weekend and posted extra security units around government and military buildings in Gaza City.
Washington frowns on Netanyahu's settlement freeze maneuvers but remains flexible
05 Sept. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu drew a fast rebuke from Washington for his promise of hundreds of new homes on the West Bank ahead of a deal with Washington on a temporary construction freeze. The promise was given to blunt criticism from his pro-settlement Likud party.
The White House “regretted” Netanyahu's maneuver but said it would continue to discuss Israel's intent to place limits on settlement activity “as these limitations are defined.”
Those limitations, as debkafile disclosed on Aug. 30, are based roughly on an 80 percent of the settlement issues on which the US and Israel concur and 20 percent on which they agree to disagree.
Those understandings as seen from Washington consist of the following:
1. Israel will announce a moratorium of several months on settlement construction.
2. During this period, the construction of 2,500 housing units started in 700 buildings and public facilities will continue.
3. The US abides by its objection to Jewish construction in Jerusalem but will not make a public issue of it, assigning it to the 20 percent of non-consensual items.
4. President Obama will continue to publicly object to all settlement expansion but in practical terms has waived his ultimatum for a total freeze.
5. He will seek Arab confidence-building gestures for Israel.
6. A trilateral summit will take place at the UN general assembly between Obama, Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, at which they will solemnly announce the resuscitation of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
As perceived in Jerusalem, construction in East Jerusalem is consigned to the 20 percent of non-consensual items. Until the understanding with Washington is signed, Israel will approve several hundred units of new West Bank construction. Defense minister Ehud Barak accordingly approved permits for 455 new units to be added to six settlement blocs.
September 6 Briefs
· US-NATO Afghanistan chief visits US air strike site, promises full probe of civilian deaths. Air strike hit two oil tankers hijacked by Taliban near northern town of Konduz killing 125 people.
· Swedish FM Carl Bildt calls off Israel visit following row over local paper's unsupported charge that Israel military trafficked in dead Palestinian organs.
· Russian sources tell Sunday Times: Mossad hijacked Arctic Sea to thwart delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran.
· Exercise at Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market Sunday simulates multiple terror attack with evacuation of “casualties.”
· Cornerstone laid Monday for new E1 neighborhood between Maaleh Adummim and Jerusalem. Its housing units included in 455 approved by Barak Sunday for six West Bank blocs.
Chavez ready to shelter duplicate Iranian nuclear facilities in Venezuela
06 Sept. Sunday, Sept. 6, Hugo Chavez joined Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on a visit to the mausoleum of Emam Reza at Meshhad, revered by Shiites as the Seventh Imam. debkafile's Iranian sources disclose that this gave them a chance to discuss a major project to replicate Iran's key nuclear installations in Venezuela and set up a nuclear program on the Iranian and North Korean models.
The French news agency AFP, disclosed Chavez's suggestion to Iran to establish in his country a “nuclear village” to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. But according to debkafile's Iranian sources, the discussion between the two presidents Saturday was much broader in scope and extended to “removing” or “copying” elements of the Iranian nuclear industry to Venezuela both to keep them safe from attack and to guarantee their uninterrupted operation in the event of a US or Israel strike against Iran.
September 8 Briefs
· Lebanon opposition groups reject Hariri government line-up. They include the Iran-Syria-backed Hizballah. debkafile: This impasse is direct result of new chill on Washington-Damascus ties.
· UN-backed probe orders Afghanistan presidential election recount. In partial count, incumbent claims 54.1 pc, avoiding run-off against Abdullah.
· Bomb blasts across Iraqi towns kill at least 17 people. Targeted were checkpoint north of Ramadi, Shiite mosque in Baquba, minibus in Karbala; three killed in car bomb blast at entrance to Bagram military airport, US Afghanistan HQ.
· Australia to deploy Israeli-made Heron UAVs in Afghanistan. The Heron can stay aloft at 30,000 feet for 40 hours.
· Lieberman holds talks with Nigerian leaders Tuesday, continues to Uganda on African tour.
· Baghdad has satellite image evidence of Syrian-based training camps for terrorists sent to Iraq.
Israel's inner cabinet focuses on Iran
08 Sept. The second Israeli cabinet-level discussion in the last few days on the Iranian threat – nuclear and regional – took place Monday, Sept. 7, in the inner cabinet, on the heels of a recent security cabinet meeting which surveyed Israel military and homeland security preparations for a missile attack from four sources, Iran, Syria, the Lebanese Hizballah and the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza.
The Monday meeting was held behind closed doors but debkafile's military sources report that speakers underscored the rapid tempo of the developing Iranian threat.
Yet tougher UN sanctions are a diminishing prospect in the light of Russian and Chinese objections.
Obama-Netanyahu-Abbas summit scheduled for Sept. 22 in New York
09 Sept. The Obama administration has scheduled a tripartite US-Israeli-Palestinian summit at UN center in New York for Sept 22, debkafile's Washington sources report, the day before the US president meets Russian president Dmitry Medvedev at the UN General Assembly.
The three leaders will declare Middle East peace talks resumed from that point.
debkafile's political sources note that the summit will require prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Lieberman to be absent from Israel over the New Year Festival.
Saudi King Abdullah and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, are working hard to beat the rival Palestinian factions into shape and force them to bury the hatchet, at least ad hoc, in order to send a united delegation to the peace talks.
The two rulers have no assurance of success having consistently failed in previous attempts to bring the warring Palestinian factions together but this time they have been warned that they risk a cutoff of support and funds. A joint Palestinian delegation would confront Israeli leaders with having to negotiate with Hamas representatives.
Washington accuses Iran of attaining nuclear weapon capability
10 Sept. US intelligence agencies have concluded that Iran has created enough nuclear fuel to make a rapid sprint for a nuclear weapon. The White House says “Iran has deliberately stopped short of the critical last steps to make a bomb.” A few hours earlier, a US diplomat warned that Iran is close to producing its first nuclear bomb.
These disclosures accompanied Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki's delivery on Sept. 9 of his governments reply to the incentives offered by the six-nation group of nuclear negotiators (P5 + Germany) for talks on Tehran's nuclear program. It was the cause of extreme frustration in Washington since the only reference made to that program in its reply was a taboo on any negotiation and a demand for Iran to be treated like a world power and co-opted to all major global decisions.
It leads the entire controversy into a fresh blind alley. President Barack Obama must now decide on his reaction to Iran's virtual slap in the face in response to his offer of direct nuclear dialogue.
The package follows on Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's public declaration that his country's “nuclear rights” are not open to negotiation; the UN nuclear watchdog's determination that its interaction with Iran is in stalemate; and the statement by US chief envoy to the IAEA, Glyn Davis, that ongoing enrichment activity is moving Iran “closer to a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity.”