A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending September 16, 2010
September 8, 2010 Briefs
• Merkel honors with press freedom award Danish cartoonist Kurt Wesergaard. His cartoons of Mohammad sparked Muslim anger and threats in 2006.
• Egyptian security forces uncover another 11 arms caches on the Sinai-Gaza border. Their contents included a quarter ton of TNT, bombs, shells, anti-air missiles for smuggling into Gaza.
Iran’s sensitive nuclear labs, missiles secreted at Bushehr
8 Sept. Iran is secretly moving some of its most sensitive nuclear research facilities and materials from Tehran and the Arak heavy water plant to huge storage areas around the new nuclear reactor at Bushehr, along with advanced missiles from the southern province of Khuzestan, debkafile discloses.
The fueling of the reactor since it was inaugurated Aug. 21 makes the location safe from air or missile attack for fear of environmental radiation. Tehran is exploiting this advantage.
The Russian teams which built the reactor were told remove themselves with their equipment from the space they had occupied for 15 years which had been fenced off and declared a closed military zone.
World nuclear experts on guard for Iran’s first N-test
10 Sept. debkafile reports a new flurry of expert warnings about the failure of sanctions to check Iran’s advance toward a nuclear weapons capability and its possible preparations to stage the first Iranian nuclear test. After a secret new enrichment plant came to light at Abyek, 75 miles west of Tehran, the nuclear watchdog’s inspection regime was seen to be facing insuperable obstacles. Not a single expert in the field, whether American, international or Israeli, disagrees with the common finding that the sanctions imposed by the UN, Europe and the US, have not slowed down Iran’s race for a nuclear weapon.
Since last November, its fissile stockpile has grown from 1,800 kilograms to 2,800 kilograms — an increase of more than 50 percent. Tehran now has enough low-enriched uranium to produce two nuclear weapons with further enrichment. Already, it has enriched 22 kilograms to the level of 20 percent.
The nuclear expert David Kay said in an article: “…the Obama administration needs to begin to seriously contemplate what it will do on the Day After. The Day After what? The Day After Iran announces it has deployed missiles capable of carrying “the world’s most destructive weapons.” The Day After Iran conducts a nuclear weapons test.
Sept. 12-13, 2010 Briefs
• Netanyahu: If Palestinians want two-state recognition, they must recognize Israel as Jewish nation-state. I haven’t yet heard Palestinians refer to two states for two nations. He spoke at cabinet session Sunday before joining Abbas and Clinton for direct talks at Sharm el-Sheikh Tuesday.
• Two Qassam missiles fired from Gaza early Sunday exploded in Shear Hanegev region. Four missiles fired over New Year festival from Wednesday night.
• Egypt extradited to France a suicide bomber planning to attack an IDF fund-raiser in France earlier this year. Chief of staff Gen. Ashkenazi addressed the meeting.
• Israel goes on winter time after midnight Saturday.
• New York commemorated the thousands murdered in America’s worst terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. The day also was observed in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.
• In Kabul, 10,000 Afghans rallied against the US although the Florida pastor cancelled the Quran burning.
• Musharraf plans to return home to Pakistan and comeback to politics.
• Iran secretly developed enrichment site outside Tehran, says resistance group.
• Suicide bomber kills at least 15 people, injures 70 at market in Russian Caucasus town of Vladikavkaz.
Iran crosses critical line for nuclear-arming missiles
13 Sept. IAEA: Iran has crossed the threshold for being able to arm ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. This news sent the NATO Secretary running to Washington, but stirred no reaction from Israel. While even Europe has roused itself to the menace from Iran, the fast encroaching threat to Israel remains unaddressed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak. They appear unmoved even in the face of the coming visit to Lebanon on Oct. 13-14 by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is coming specifically to clinch Iran’s grip on Lebanon and its buildup as Iran’s forward front for retaliation should Israel venture to strike its nuclear facilities.
This buildup crossed every possible red line some time ago without an Israeli response. The Iranian president will exploit this vacuum by paying a visit to the South Lebanese-Israeli border village of Edeissa, from which on Aug. 3, Lebanese army snipers soldiers were put up by Hizballah to ambush Israeli troops and shoot dead Col. Dov Harari.
(Israel’s only response was to knock out two Lebanese APCs klling three Lebanese troops, and issuie warnings relayed by US intermediaries that the IDF would meet further incidents by wiping out the entire Lebanese military system in the space of four hours.)
Ahmadiinejad is planning to use his visit to celebrate an Iranian-Lebanese defense pact coupled with a large-scale transaction to supply the Lebanese armed forces with the weapons needed to take on the IDF. These deals will kick off the merger and standardization of Lebanese and Hizballah weapons systems.
The next time Lebanese troops attack Israel they are likely to be using Iranian arms.
September 13, 2010 Briefs
• At least 18 killed, many injured, in clashes between Indian security forces and Kashmiri protesters who had not heard Quran burning cancelled. They set fire to government buildings and a school.
September 14 2010 Briefs
• French senate approves ban on veils covering face including the burqa.
• Paris Eiffel Tower and surrounding park evacuated after bomb alert.
• Palestinian killed, 4 injured by Israeli return fire for anti-tank rocket launched from N. Gaza Tuesday night.
• Heavy Israeli-Palestinian gun battle ensued opposite Kibbutz Alumim.
• Netanyahu and Abbas hold first meeting Wednesday at Israeli PM's Jerusalem residence.
• They met twice at Sharm el Sheikh Tuesday attended by Clinton and Mitchell. Progress made on core issues, none on settlement freeze.
• Iran frees Sarah Shourd, one of three American hikers held more than a year charged with spying. Half-million dollar bail deposited – presumably by Swiss embassy representing US interests in Tehran. US sources: Tehran wants to look good when Ahmadinejad address UN Disarmament Panel later this month.
Israel on security alert as US-sponsored talks go into second day
14 Sept. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special envoy George Mitchell left the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh Tuesday, Sept. 14, after a second, unannounced round of talks found them slightly more cheerful than the first. They were ready to go another round Wednesday although the settlement construction freeze remained open.
Egyptian foreign minister Abul Gheit said the talks were serious and Mitchell called them constructive. They were accompanied by a high alert for trouble in Israel's military, police and security service, following threats from Hamas in Gaza to torpedo the process. Tuesday, Hamas's military chief said only "blood and fire" would serve the Palestinian cause and yield a state "from the Sea to the River."
Missile attacks from Gaza have meanwhile resumed almost daily, so far without causing injuries.
However, there is deep concern over the failure of Israeli and Palestinian security authorities to lay hands on the Hamas gang which struck on the West Bank twice in two weeks – first murdering four Israeli civilians near Hebron on Aug. 30 and injuring a couple north of Ramallah on Sept. 1.
debkafile's military sources report that all six IDF regional brigades on the West Bank and the units guarding the Gaza border are in a state of preparedness.
September 15, 2010 Briefs
• Netanyahu to Clinton: No extension of West Bank building freeze beyond Sept. 26. Mitchell travels to Syria Thursday amid speculation over revived Israel-Syrian talks. Kuwaiti paper says he is carrying Netanyahu's offer to clinch deal within a year.
• First, Assad received Iraq's acting PM al-Maliki in Damascus.
• US advises citizens to avoid Aqaba, Jordan for next two days as terrorist attack may be imminent.
• Israel air force strikes Rafah tunnels in S. Gaza after missile-mortar attacks continued Wednesday. Nine mortar shells by noon – 4 containing phosphorus.
• Three missiles fired from Gaza Tuesday night exploded harmlessly in two cities. Two hit open land south of Ashkelon, one, believed Grad, Ashdod. It was first night strike on Israeli cities since Israel's 2009 Gaza operation.
• IDF officer: Hamas and Hizballah receive drones from Iran, European standard weaponry. debkafile: Explosives-laden UAVs extend Hamas ability to strike deep inside Israel.
• British Trade Union movement declares boycott of Israeli products made on West Bank.
• Twelve killed in US drone-borne missile attack against Haqqani group in North Waziristan.
• Man who ran away from Danish hotel blast identified as Chechen-born boxer living in Belgium.
Hamas uses phosphorus shells in stepped-up assault on Israel
15 Sept. IDF explosives experts identified four phosphorus shells among the nine rounds fired from Gaza against Israeli civilian locations Wednesday, Sept. 15, as Israeli-Palestinian talks resumed in Jerusalem.
Egyptian sources say Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to continue talks without pause even amid Palestinian terrorist attacks. Hamas is taking this as a go-ahead without fear of Israeli retaliation.
The Palestinian terrorists cranked up their attacks as Israeli and Palestinian leaders began talking at Sharm el-Sheikh under the aegis of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday. None of the participants mentioned Hamas' escalating war on Israel and the IDF reprisal was understated, a couple of belated Air Force strikes against empty tunnels in southern Gaza and other terrorist sites.
A fresh menace – and a challenge to Netanyahu's pledge – has meanwhile raised its head: Col. Nitzan Nuriel, head of the counter-terror center, revealed that Iran has given both Hizballah and Hamas unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles with a range of 300 kilometers and an array of weapons more advanced than are to be found in most European arsenals.
The Israeli officer warned that international terrorist organizations worldwide had established strong ties with Palestinian terrorists based on the West Bank and inside pre-1967 Israel.
Netanyahu asks Mitchell to hand Assad proposed Golan withdrawal map
16 Sept. Following the two-day Israeli-Palestinian face-to-face supervised by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Middle East envoy George Mitchell prepared for a major US diplomatic breakthrough during his visit to Damascus Thursday: The possible revival of Syrian-Israeli peace talks. He carries with him for Syrian president Bashar Assad a detailed map drawn up by Binyamin Netanyahu to represent Israel's proposed withdrawal from much of the Golan based on two pre-conditions: Assad must visit Jerusalem and he must terminate his links with Tehran and support for Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist organizations.
This week the Obama administration therefore embarked on two major Middle East diplomatic projects in the hope that by striking gold in at least one, its mediators can stimulate a second.