A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Sept. 4, 2008

Israel missed the boat for Gilead Shalit’s release as Hamas grew stronger


30 Aug. Hamas is no longer under pressure to conclude a deal with Israel for the release of Gilead Shalit, 22, the kidnapped Israeli soldier spending a third birthday in Gazan captivity. Shalit’s chances of freedom have receded because the Olmert government has let the fundamentalist Islamic group dedicated to Israel’s destruction grow stronger – with the help of Iran and Syria.

Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak never delivered on his repeated promises of a military operation to halt the long Palestinian missile campaign from Gaza against Israeli civilians, curb Hamas’ mounting strength and crush its expanding arsenal.

Instead, Israel last year accepted a ceasefire with the terrorist group.

The Israeli soldier has become an instrument of extortion and coercion, both to hold Israel’s hand against a military operation and against the Arab governments seeking to force Hamas into a power-sharing accord with its rival, Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah.

The prisoner swap with Hizballah earlier this year showed Shalit’s captors that Israel was willing to satisfy every demand without even discovering if the two Israeli abductees were alive or dead. They were handed back in coffins. Gilead Shalit’s life is therefore in great danger.

Hamas, far from being feared and reviled by mainstream Arab governments, has become the object of pursuit. Jordan’s Abdullah is now vying with Cairo for Hamas’ favors.


Dutch sabotage agent recalled from Iran over “impending” US attack


30 Aug. A Dutch AIVD Secret Service operation underway in Iran in recent years has been halted in view of “impending US plans to attack Iran,” within weeks, writes Joost de Haas in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.

The AIVD operation aimed to infiltrate and sabotage the weapons [and nuclear] industry in the Islamic Republic. The US was expected to make a decision within weeks to attack nuclear plants with unmanned aircraft, used to avoid risking the lives of air crews and warplanes. debkafile‘s military sources report this would be the first time drones operated by remote control were used against major strategic targets, necessary in Israel’s case to preserve its air fleet and flight crews for protecting the country against reprisal from Iran’s allies. Syria and the Lebanese Hizballah have stockpiled thousands of rockets for this purpose.

According to debkafile‘s sources, the expectation disclosed by the Dutch newspaper would explain the fresh spate of threats from Iran.

debkafile‘s Iran sources report a shakeup is in progress in the Islamic Republic’s top military command.

Amir (Maj. Gen.) Seyed Abdollrahim Mousavi was named acting chief of staff

of the armed forces – a new post created as backup in case the army chief comes to harm in combat.

Amir Mohamad Hosseyn Dadras becomes deputy chief of staff for coordination.

Amir Reza Pourdastan is the new commander of the army’s ground corps.


Any attack on Iran will start new world war – Iranian general


30 Aug. Dep. Chief of General Staff Masus Jazairi stated Saturday, Aug. 30, that any attack on Iran would mean the beginning of a new world war. He said the “greed of the US and Zionists” is gradually leading the world to collapse as demonstrated in Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Caucasus.

debkafile‘s Iran sources report that Jazairi’s attack aimed at confirming his credentials in Tehran during a major reshuffle of the Iranian high command.

Amir (Maj.-Gen.) Seyed Abdollrahim Mousavi has just been appointed acting chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Amir Mohamad Hosseyn Dadras, Dep. Chief of Staff on Coordination and Amir Ahmad Reza Pourdastan is the new commander of the Armed Forces’ Ground Corps.


New Hizballah-Hamas pact extends anti-Israel missile range from Gaza


1 Sept. The Iran-backed Lebanese terror group, Hizballah, has contracted to partner Hamas’ ongoing crash program using the month-old ceasefire with Israel to intensify combat training and arms procurement in preparation for war.

debkafile‘s military sources report exclusively that the two groups have signed a secret deal to establish a joint “situation room” under the direction of Hizballah’s Unit 1800 to operate from twin command centers in Beirut and Gaza City.

Hizballah’s input consists of enhancing the combat skills of Hamas and the pro-Iranian Jihad Islami combatants and extending the range of their rockets to 22 km. This will double the Israeli population within range of Palestinian rockets and missiles from points in the Gaza Strip and substantially improve their current range of 12-18 km.


Sarkozy bids to end Assad’s alienation


2 Sept. French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Damascus visit is part of his effort to end Syria’s alienation from the West over its violent meddling in Lebanon and sponsorship of terror.

Assad is playing his part by temporarily banishing to Khartoum his permanent house guest in Damascus, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal, until after the summit.

The French information machine is also playing its part. For two weeks, accounts have leaked from Paris to American and European media extolling Assad for his pursuit of peace, frustrated solely by Israel’s intransigence on the Golan.


Iran announces air force maneuver during Ramadan


2 Sept. Iran has announced a large air force maneuver to take place during the month of Ramadan, displaying home-made anti-aircraft missiles and jet fighters. Air Force commander Brig. Ahmad Miqani claimed that revamped Iranian fighters can fly 3,000 km (as far as Israel) without refueling.


Europe fails to approve sanctions against Russia


2 Sept. The European Union, which held an emergency summit in Brussels Monday, failed to agree on sanctions, only a freeze on closer ties with Moscow.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke for the majority of the 27 leaders when he warned that Europe would only hurt itself if it were to “get emotional and slam doors.”

debkafile reported earlier that, after getting away with recognizing the independence of Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – which Russian president Dmitiry Medvedev said was “irrevocable” – Moscow began pressing for regime change in Georgia.

Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov warned Monday that for the West to support Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili would be a historic mistake.

Medvedev declared Moscow would no longer accept a situation whereby a single country, like the US, “sought global domination.”

Russia supplies the union with a third of its oil and 40 percent of its natural gas.

Germany relies on Russia for 34 percent of its oil imports and 36 percent of its natural gas consumption. Slovakia, Finland and Bulgaria depend on Russia for more than 90 percent of their gas. This dependency will increase as winter approaches.


Israeli security service foils Hizballah kidnap of 5 Israelis in W. Africa


2 Sept. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that Israel’s security services have set up frontline networks at vulnerable locations to thwart Hizballah’s worldwide conspiracy to abduct Israelis and Jews. The pro-Iranian group is targeting Israeli businessmen, diplomats and tourists as well as prominent Jewish figures in West Africa and South America. It enjoys the support and largesse of large, affluent Lebanese Shiite communities dotted around those continents.

Potential targets among Israeli businessmen continue to maintain extensive commercial and financial ties with some of the prominent local Shiites who are Hizballah’s benefactors. Of late, Hizballah has begun planting agents trained in abduction techniques in some of the security details guarding these Shiite tycoons and their families, to track and report on their Israeli contacts as potential targets for abduction..

The number of Israelis and Jews in jeopardy is counted in dozens.


Cheney talks about energy, Black Sea, Georgia in four-nation tour


3 Sept. At his first stop in Azerbaijan, Wednesday, Sept. 3, vice president Richard Cheney was briefed on the impact of the Georgia conflict on the prospects of diversifying energy supplies and pipelines from the Caspian to lessen Europe’s dependence on Russia. Tuesday, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin was in Uzbekistan to clinch a deal on a new gas pipeline to carry Turkmen and Uzbek gas across Uzbekistan into the Russian pipeline system for re-export to Europe.

The vice president continues to Georgia to discuss Mikhail Saakashvili’s quarrel with Russia, the highest level US official to visit Tbilisi since the crisis erupted on Aug. 7. That crisis will also loom large in his talks with another US ally, Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, on Friday.


Wall encircling Jerusalem 2,100 years ago uncovered on Mt. Zion


3 Sept. The discovery of large sections of the city’s southern wall from the times of the Hasmonean kings is a major contribution to the knowledge of Jerusalem, marking out the city’s full extent during its heyday as the thriving center of Jewish pilgrimage from all parts of the ancient world.

This wall was knocked down when the Romans razed Jerusalem and the Second Jewish Temple in the year 70 C.E. The sections preserved are about 3 meters high and may prove to be some of the finest and most complete examples of Second Temple architecture to have survived.

The team of archeologists headed by Yehiel Singer of the Israeli Antiquities Department also uncovered a later city wall – almost in the same spot on Mt. Zion. It was built by the Christian Byzantine Empire (324-640 C.E).


Egypt invites Hizballah delegation, recognizes Lebanese terrorist group


3 Sept. Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abu Ghait has secretly invited Hizballah, proscribed by the UN and many nations as a terrorist organization, to send a delegation on a formal visit to Cairo. This is a stab in the back for the Olmert government’s policy of heavy reliance on Egyptian mediation for holding down Hamas aggression from the Gaza Strip and securing the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit.

The invitation was tendered without referring to Israel or even informing Barak when he met Hosni Mubarak only last week in Alexandria. Later, in ignorance of the Egyptian ruler’s schemes, Barak declared the Gaza ceasefire Israel accepted had proved successful.

For Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah, who has declared all-out war on Israel, recognition by the leading Arab nation as a legitimate force in and outside Lebanon is a major strategic victory.


Sarkozy in Damascus parts ways with US line on Iran’s nuclear program


3 Sept. French president Nicolas Sarkozy said in Damascus Wednesday, Sept 3: “Obviously there is a lack of confidence between Iran and the nations involved in this issue. We [the French] will continue our efforts for dialogue.”

In a clear departure from Washington’s position and in breach of his promises to Israel not to accept a nuclear Iran, Sarkozy omitted to refer to sanctions or any other penalties.

debkafile‘s Middle East sources recall that when Sarkozy took office as president a year ago, his aides said they had intelligence evidence that Iran was making a nuclear bomb and could only be stopped by military action.

He is singing a different tune in Damascus, after hearing Assad state Wednesday that an attack on Iran would spell disaster.

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