A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Weeks Ending Aug. 14, 2008

Mofaz in Washington protests direct US-Iranian talks and paper sanctions


1 Aug. Transport minister Mofaz, who leads Israel in the regular strategic dialogue with the United States, raised strong concerns over Washington’s direct talks with Iran at a meeting of the forum and encounters with Vice President Dick Cheney and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice on July 31.

Mofaz, one of the leading successors to Ehud Olmert as prime minister, said “All options against Iran should not only be on the table, but prepared.”

“The Iranians are simply looking for cracks to exploit,” while pushing ahead with their nuclear plans, he said. He said most of the sanctions were not worth the paper they were written on.


Merkel’s green light for $157 m gas deal with Iran torpedoes sanctions


2 Aug. German chancellor Angela Merkel blunted the big-power drive for sanctions to punish Iran for its nuclear defiance – in advance. When Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili faced the US, European Union, the UK, France, Russia, Geneva and China in Geneva on July 19, he knew that their two-week ultimatum for Tehran’s answer to their incentives offer could be sidestepped with impunity. A key sanction on the table was a ban on technology that would reduce Iran’s dependence on refined fuel products. However, as far back as February, Merkel approved a $157 million deal for the SPG (Steiner-Prematechnik Gastec) to build three plants that convert gas to liquid fuels in the Islamic Republic.

The deal was approved a month before the German chancellor’s March stood up in the Knesset, promised to push for further sanctions against Iran and declared that Israel’s security was “nonnegotiable.”


New Lebanese cabinet policy statement lets Hizballah keep arms, fight Israel


3 Aug. The policy statement says that it is “the right of Lebanon's people, the army and the resistance to liberate all its territories.”

“Resistance” is Lebanon's term used to refer to Hezbollah. “All territories” alludes to Lebanon's territorial claim on the Chebaa Farms area that Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 Mideast war.


150 Fatah fugitives from Hamas in Gaza end up in Jericho “exile”


4 Aug. The group of 180 was allowed to cross Israel to Ramallah Sunday, Aug. 3, at the request of the Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas. They included a large group of men admitted to Israeli hospitals with injuries sustained in intense daylong mortar, rocket and machine gun battles between Hamas and the pro-Fatah Hilles clansmen in the Gaza Strip’s Shijaiyeh district. At least nine people were killed and more than 100 injured in the fighting, the biggest Palestinian factional clash since Hamas seized control of Gaza a year ago.

The decision to send back some 30 to the embattled territory was reportedly taken by Abbas who feared they would start trouble on the West Bank. Although Egypt guaranteed their safety, Hamas arrested the returnees when they reached their homes.


Iran‘s vaunted 300-km range sea missile is non-existent


7 Aug. debkafile‘s military sources discount the claim by Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Maj. Gen. Ali Jafari that Iran had test-fired a new naval weapon that could destroy any vessel within a 300-km range.

Jafari boasted to reporters Mon. Aug. 4: “The Strait of Hormuz is an important and strategic strait. … Considering its proximity to our shores, it is completely within the range of our weapons.”

Western intelligence sources were skeptical about the IRGC commander’s boast of a sophisticated sea missile as “propaganda fantasy” and unfounded.


Israeli ex-Gaza communities mark third anniversary of their expulsion


7 Aug. In 50 ceremonies up and down the country, some 8,500 members of Gaza’s 21 communities marked the third anniversary of their forcible evacuation. More than 80 percent are still living in temporary accommodation, many still jobless. The Knesset has set up a state commission to inquire into the government’s handling of the of the Gush Katif evacuees.

Several thousand families gathered at the Kissufim crossing Wednesday, Aug. 6, vowing to return to their old homes one day.


US sources hint that by rejecting Iran sanctions, Moscow opens door to Israel attack


7 Aug. Sources in Washington commented Wednesday night, Aug. 6, that, while it is unlikely that Israel would attack Iran without US approval, this might change if tough sanctions were taken off the table. They reported Israel was building up its strike capabilities for an attack, had purchased 90 F-16I planes that can carry enough fuel to reach Iran and would receive another 11 by the end of next year; and also bought two new Dolphin submarines from Germany capable of firing nuclear-armed warheads, in addition to the three already in service with its navy.

According to foreign media, Israel is active inside Iranian territory.

debkafile reports that this information was leaked by Washington sources, apparently to warn Moscow that by closing the door to sanctions, it was opening the door to an Israeli attack.

A few hours earlier Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said: “There have been no firm agreements or understandings or any kind of concerted work” against Iran over its nuclear program.”


Israel backs Georgia in Caspian Oil Pipeline Battle with Russia


8 Aug. debkafile‘s geopolitical experts note that the Russians are backing the separatists of S. Ossetia and neighboring Abkhazia as part of a race for control over the pipelines carrying oil and gas out of the Caspian region.

They are drawing a heavy line against the plans of Western oil companies, including Israeli firms, to channel the oil routes from Azerbaijan and the gas lines from Turkmenistan, which transit Georgia, through Turkey instead of hooking them up to Russian pipelines.

debkafile discloses Israel owns a strong interest in Caspian oil and gas pipelines reaching the Turkish terminal port of Ceyhan, rather than the Russian network. Intense negotiations are afoot between Israel Turkey, Georgia, Turkmenistan and Azarbaijan for new pipelines to reach Turkey and thence to Israel’s oil terminal at Ashkelon and on to its Red Sea port of Eilat. From there, supertankers can carry the gas and oil to the Far East through the Indian Ocean.

Aware of Moscow’s sensitivity on the oil question, Israel offered Russia a stake in the project but was rejected. Last year, the Georgian president commissioned from private Israeli security firms several hundred military advisers, estimated at up to 1,000, to train the Georgian armed forces in commando, air, sea, armored and artillery combat tactics. They also offer instruction on military intelligence and security for the central regime. Tbilisi purchased weapons, intelligence and electronic warfare systems from Israel.

In recent weeks, Moscow has repeatedly demanded that Jerusalem halt its military assistance to Georgia, finally threatening a crisis in bilateral relations. Israel responded by saying that the only assistance rendered Tbilisi was “defensive.”

This has not gone down well in the Kremlin. Therefore, as the military crisis intensifies in South Ossetia, Moscow may be expected to punish Israel for its intervention.


Russian planes bomb Tbilisi international airport


10 Aug. debkafile‘s military analysts: By flouting US demands to accept mediation, Moscow highlighted America’s lack of leverage for helping its embattled Georgian ally. The Bush administration has trapped itself in its foreign policy commitment to dialogue and international diplomacy for solving world disputes, but is short of willing opposite numbers.

Russia is following Iran’s example in exploiting Washington's inhibition to advance its goals by force. Moscow’s disdain for Washington’s lack of muscle will further encourage Tehran and its terrorist proxies to defy the international community and the United States in particular.


Eight assailants, a security guard killed in NW China bombings


10 Aug. The attackers and the security guard were killed after a series of bombings targeted a police station and government buildings at Kuga county, in the northwest region Chinese region of Xinjiang after midnight Saturday, Aug. 9. Two died in the attacks while six more were killed later by police. Earlier this week, 16 Chinese policemen were killed in a terrorist attack in Xinjiang, host to the separatist Muslim Uighur people.

debkafile reports: Two Islamic terrorist groups operate in Xinjiang, the East Turkish Islamic movement and ETLO, both linked to radical Islamic organizations based in the Ferghana Valley of Central Asia.


Three massive US naval strike forces are due this week in Persian Gulf


11 Aug. debkafile‘s military sources note that the arrival of the three new American flotillas will raise the number of US strike forces in Middle East waters to five.

This vast naval and air strength consists of more than 40 warships and submarines, some of the latter nuclear-armed, opposite the Islamic Republic, a concentration last seen just before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Our military sources postulate the objects of this show of American muscle:

1. The US, aided also by France, Britain and Canada, is finalizing preparations for a partial naval blockade to deny Iran imports of benzene and other refined oil products.

2. The fleet will be ready in case Iran retaliates by shutting the Strait of Hormuz oil route.

3. As back-up for a possible Israeli military attack on Iran’s nuclear installations.

debkafile‘s military sources name the three US strike forces en route to the Gulf as the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Iwo Jima. Already in place are the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea opposite Iranian shores and the USS Peleliui which is cruising in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.


Russian president decides to stop military operation in Georgia


12 Aug. This announcement from the Kremlin came after Moscow’s first formal statement on its terms for ending hostilities in the Caucasian War.

Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov said Georgia must withdraw from South Ossetia as well as the facilities in next-door Gori used to attack the region. A similar withdrawal must take place in areas of Georgia abutting Abkhazia as well. He demanded a signed pledge from Georgia renouncing the use of force.


Senior al Qaeda commander Mustafa al-Yazid reported killed in Pakistan


12 Aug. According to a Pakistani security official, Al Yazid, known also as Abu Saeed al Masri, died in recent clashes with Pakistani forces in the Bajaur tribal region near the Afghan border. Nearly 160 people have been killed in those clashes since last Wednesday.

He is described as commander of al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan and the most senior a Qaeda operative to be killed since the death of al Qaeda’s bomb and chemical weapons expert Abu Khabab al-Masri last month.

The unverified claim of his death comes a day after the Al Qaeda number two Ayman al Zawahri broadcast a video – speaking in English for the first time – in which he repeatedly criticised Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, and said the country was “virtually ruled by the American embassy”.

Musharraf is fighting against the government parties’ bid to unseat him by impeachment.


Unconfirmed Russian invasion rumor panics Georgians before fading


debkafile‘s military sources report that the Russians kept up an aerial bombardment of Gori for three days to feed rumors of an imminent Russian invasion so that, by pulling the invasion scare carpet from under president Saakashvili’s feet after a few hours, they could make him look ridiculous.

In the meantime, Russian troops entered Georgia Monday unopposed from another direction and captured the town of Senaki, 40 km from the northwestern breakaway province of Abkhazia.


Moscow accepts amended French-brokered ceasefire agreed by Georgia


13 Aug. The five-point document was first presented by French president Nicolas Sarkozy to President Dimitiy Medvedev in Moscow Tuesday, Aug. 12, and later amended by Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili.

Both sides were skeptical about the chances of the truce holding up as Russian troops continued to patrol the Georgian town of Gori and the Black Sea port of Poti.

They must abandon the use of force, stop all military actions for good and allow free access to humanitarian aid. Georgian troops must return to their places of permanent deployment; Russian forces to their pre-conflict positions.

In a show of anti-Russian solidarity, the leaders of five former Soviet republics – the three Baltic nations, Ukraine and Poland – flew into Tbilisi and stood alongside the Georgian president at a mass flag-waving rally in parliament square Tuesday night. The United States cancelled a joint naval exercise with Russia due to take place in the Sea of Japan August-15-23, in the wake of the Georgian conflict.


Two US Air Force supply planes land in Tbilisi Thursday


Wednesday, Aug. 13, US president George W. Bush ordered an American Air Force-Navy humanitarian airlift to Georgia, demanding that Russia open all routes to these deliveries and to civilian transit.

debkafile‘s military sources report that the military aid airlift amounted to a bid to break the sea, land and air blockade Russia still maintains against Georgia in violation of the EU-brokered ceasefire.

Russia's Lavrov lashed back, calling Georgia's leadership “a special project of the United States.” At some point, he said, the US will have to choose “either support for a virtual project or real partnership [with Russia] on issues that demand collective action.”

The first direct US-Russian military clashes in Georgia are now possible if the Russians fail to give way when challenged by US air transports and vessels heading for Georgia. For seven days, Russia has exerted exclusive mastery of Georgia’s skies, sea and land routes.


Jumblatt deserts Lebanon’s pro-Western camp, signs pact with pro-Iranian Hizballah


13 Aug. The fervently pro-US, pro-Israeli Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, has thrown in his lot with the most extreme pro-Syrian, pro-Iranian, anti-Israel force in Lebanon, the Shiite Hizballah, which dominates the new government in Beirut.

debkafile‘s Middle East sources disclose that over last weekend, Jumblatt quietly signed a “defense cooperation pact” with Hassan Nasrallah, affording Hizballah a strong foothold in the Lebanese Druze bastion of Mt. Chouf. Drawing the hostile noose around northern Israel ever tighter, Lebanese president Michel Sleiman was due in Damascus Wednesday, Aug. 13.

Neither Israeli ministers, sunk in an acrimonious contest over the succession to Ehud Olmert, nor the United States in the dying days of the Bush presidency, have lifted a finger to arrest Lebanon’s swift slide into the Iranian-Syrian orbit.


Three planes evacuate Israel tourists and distressed Georgian Jews from Tbilisi


12 Aug: The flights took off from the Georgian capital Tuesday, Aug. 12, bound for Tel Aviv with Israeli visitors and scores of local Jews stranded in the country by the hostilities. Some 500 Israeli visitors and distressed local Georgian Jews asked to be evacuated.


Russia seems to be withdrawing, says US defense secretary


14 Aug. At a Pentagon news briefing Thurs. August 14, US defense secretary Robert Gates and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. James Cartwright, put an end to the rumors during the day that the Russians had poured fresh reinforcements into Georgia and were blowing up Georgian military bases, ammunition dumps and air facilities. The defense secretary warned Moscow that failure to withdraw its forces from Georgia would adversely affect relations with the United States for years to come, but, asked about the use of US military force in the conflict, Gates replied: “I don’t see any prospect for the use of military force by the United States in this situation. Is that clear enough?”

debkafile‘s military sources disclose that the Russians are working frantically to create two narrow security belts 300-500 meters deep along the South Ossetian and Abkhazian borders with Georgia.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email