A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Weeks Ending Oct. 16, 2008

Bush will treat as done deals key issues only broached in Olmert-Livni talks with Palestinians


3 Oct. US president George W. Bush went over Israel’s head last week and promised Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to hand on to his successor as done deals the issues covered in the talks Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and foreign minister Tzipi Livni held with Palestinian leaders, debkafile‘s Washington sources reveal.

Olmert and Livni, Kadima’s nominee for prime minister, have assured the Israeli public that nothing had been agreed in those talks. No document or even working paper was signed to confirm Olmert’s assertions that Israel must give up East Jerusalem, withdraw from the West Bank, except for once percent of the territory, and accept tens of thousands of Palestinian 1948 refugees.

If agreed – which they were not – these issues would need the endorsement of Israel’s democratically-elected institutions. But the US president has taken it upon himself to decide that the issues aired and left pending will be deemed finalized.


Russian live missile fire air exercise near Alaska


4 October: Not since 1984, just before the fall of the Soviet Union, has Russia ventured to launch dozens of nuclear bombers for an exercise in which Tu-95 Bear bombers will fire live cruise missiles. Exercise Stability 2008 will take place Oct.-6-12 over sub-Arctic Russia, uncomfortably close to Alaska..

The exercise is part of a month-long war game described by Russian air force spokesman Col. Vladimir Drik as “practicing the strategic deployment of the armed forces including the nuclear triad.”

As part of the exercise, our sources reported exclusively on Oct. 1, that Russian ships armed with nuclear missiles will dock at Syrian ports Oct. 8, on the eve of Yom Kippur, before continuing to the Caribbean for joint maneuvers with Venezuela.


Sergei’s Courtyard in downtown Jerusalem to be transferred to Russia


5 Oct. Caretaker prime minister Ehud Olmert will announce the transfer to Moscow of the picturesque Sergei’s Courtyard in downtown Jerusalem. It was built in the early 20th century as part of the Russian Orthodox Church Compound as a grand lodging for visiting Russian royals and aristocrats. In 1918, the British housed government offices in the buildings, a practice continued by Israel.

In the 1960s, Israel purchased most parts of the extensive compound from the Soviet Government, barring Sergei’s Courtyard and the Russian Orthodox Church. The transaction was paid for in oranges.

The Courtyard and other Russian church properties in Israel have long been in dispute between the “Red” and the “White” Russian churches.


“Hizballah Brigades of Palestine” – new Gaza-West Bank terror group


5 Oct. Local undercover officers of the Iranian-sponsored Hizballah established and funded this “new” Palestinian terrorist organization for “operations” under their orders, debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report the Lebanese Hizballah’s current practice of hiring members of all the Palestinian terrorist groups on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for ad hoc operations for which they are paid as sort of rent-a-terrorist mercenaries. Hizballah also enlists Israeli Arabs for gathering intelligence.


NATO chief does not expect Israel to abandon its “supposed nuclear arsenal”


6 Oct. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Monday he doubted that the world could stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb. Therefore, he would never expect Israel to abandon its own, “supposed nuclear arsenal.” Scheffer added: “As we all know, Israel never admits to what it has, but I do not see very many arguments for the Jewish state to abandon its potential.”

“What is as dangerous (as the nuclear program) is the missile technology which (Iran) is also developing at a fast pace,” he said.


Lebanese prime minister alerts US to planned Syrian terror attack as pretext for invasion


6 Oct. Damascus is plotting a large-scale terror attack or the assassination of a Lebanese figure to drum up another pretext for invading northern Lebanon, according to Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora. Reporting this, debkafile‘s Beirut sources disclose that two senior US officials, deputy secretary of state David Hale and assistant defense secretary Mary Beth Long were sent post haste to Beirut in response to this warning, arriving on Oct. 5.

Syrian officials talking to Western diplomats are now maintaining that Islamic extremists are setting up an emirate in northern Lebanon which will destabilize the entire region.

The highest ranking Salafi authority in Lebanon, Dai al-Islam Shahhal, warned this week that a Syrian military incursion into north Lebanon would open 'the gates of hell.”


US pledges Cobra gunships to Lebanon against Syrian invasion threat


6 Oct. debkafile‘s military sources report that the US decided to withdraw Cobra military helicopters for the Lebanese army from emergency stores in Jordan after Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora asked for help against a possible Syrian invasion of northern Lebanon.

The helicopters are intended to impress on Damascus that the US will intervene militarily if the Syrian troops massed on the North Lebanese border cross over. Siniora and Lebanese president Michel Suleiman complain that Washington’s efforts to draw Damascus out of the Iranian orbit had thrown Lebanon to the wolves.


Israeli has 3-6 months to hit Iran’s nuclear sites if Moscow sells Tehran S-300 systems


7 Oct. Russian military experts calculate that the window for an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities will shrink to 3-6 months if Moscow sells Iran (and Syria) the sophisticated S-300 system for guarding those sites against air, missile or cruise missile attack.

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert failed in his key mission in Moscow to dissuade Russian leaders from selling advanced weapons to Iran and Syria.


Israel on high alert for Syrian, Hizballah Yom Kippur attacks


8 Oct. After Syria moved tank units up to the Lebanese Beqaa Valley border Tuesday, Oct. 7, Israel raised its Yom Kippur alert level on its borders with Syria and Lebanon and placed its Air Force and emergency first aid teams on standby in the event of coordinated Syrian-Hizballah attacks.

Israeli embassies and Jewish institutions worldwide are also on high terror alert. HIzballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah said recently that his promised retaliation for the death of Imad Mughniyeh “is coming.”

Damascus and the Lebanese Hizballah are closely aligned.

Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak paid an unannounced visit Tuesday to check the state of readiness of military defense positions on the northern borders and make sure their officers are vigilant. The border may seem quiet, he said, but commanders must beware of being caught napping by a Syrian invasion as Israel was on Yom Kippur exactly 35 years ago.


Three Palestinian terrorists die in battle with Syrian troops


9 Oct. The melee erupted between Syrian special forces and suicide fighters of the Palestinian radical Fatah al-Islam in the Yarmoukh refugee camp in South Damascus. According to debkafile‘s counter-terror sources, it was sparked by the arrest of the group’s leader Shaker al Abassi, who is associated with al Qaeda in Iraq. Last week, Syrian air force intelligence stopped five Fatah al-Islam killers from blowing themselves up in the middle of the crowded Damascus’ Abbasi Stadium. Only ten days ago, 17 people, including a senior intelligence officer, were killed by a bomb car planted near two Syrian security installations on the highway to Damascus airport.


Russia dodges questions on S-300 defense sale to Iran


9 Oct. Asked if Russia had promised Israel prime minister Ehud Olmert not to deliver S-300 systems to Iran, the foreign ministry spokesman in Moscow said Thursday, Oct. 9: “We have already repeatedly stated at the very highest political levels that we do not intend to deliver those types of arms to countries which are located in troubled regions.” He carefully avoided mentioning Iran or Syria.

A Russian military expert then commented: “Our warships if based in Syrian ports will need to be encircled by missile batteries capable of guarding them against air and missile attack.”

According to Russian experts, the S-300 can pinpoint 100 targets and simultaneously intercept 12 at a distance of 120 km.


Rescue the Old World Order or Build a New One


11 Oct. A key factor in the global financial crisis is the failure of political leaders to inspire trust.

Who can be trusted to lead the transition to a different, or even amended, world financial order? And how credible would a G7 or EU consensus be, given that major economic powers, China, Russia, India and Brazil, were excluded from their counsels?

Israel is suffering from its own leadership crisis.

Friday night, Ronnie Bar-On, finance minister, again maintained that Israel’s banks and financial institutions were solid. No Israeli bank is threatened with collapse, he insisted.

Corporate leaders (Lev Leviev, Eliezer Fishman and Nohi Dankner), whose bonds plummeted on the Tel Aviv stock exchange, are equally sound and will recover, he said. As for the savers, who have lost 15-20 percent of their assets, they should not complain because their value doubled in past years.


Gaza Palestinians plant anti-tank bomb trap on Israeli side of border


12 Oct. debkafile‘s military sources report that Israel military scouts uncovered a high-powered anti-tank bomb trap near Kissufim on the Israeli side of the Gaza border Sunday, Oct. 12. It was composed of four large interlinked devices rigged to blow up in sequence.

A fifth bomb just inside Gaza was located to detonate when Israeli reinforcements and emergency teams came up to tend to the casualties from the first series of explosions.

Our Middle East sources report that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas failed Sunday to persuade Syrian president Bashar Assad to bring his influence to bear on Hamas leaders to be more accommodating in the Cairo reconciliation talks. Assad shrugged off Abbas’ appeal and extended a frigid welcome to his Palestinian visitor.


Tel Aviv trading closes with sharp downturns Sunday


12 Oct. Trading opened Sunday, Oct. 12, with 10-16% plunges after a five-day holiday break during which global markets crashed. Caretaker PM Ehud Olmert rejected a proposal by Industry Minister Yishai for a $10bn rescue plan for Israel banks with safety nets for savers and depositors.

On Oct. 8, Israel’s central bank governor announces 0.5 percent interest cut to 3.75 percent.


Rabbis and Sheiks set up joint forum to calm Acre


13 Oct. Jewish and Arab religious leaders of the northern Israeli town of Acre agreed to join hands to calm the outbreaks that roiled the northern Israeli town for four days.

Also Monday, Oct. 13, Tawfiq Jemal, the Arab driver who triggered the Yom Kippur Eve riots was detained on suspicion of reckless driving above the legal speed, endangering lives and offending religious sensibilities. A reinforced police contingent of 700 officers stays in Acre to keep the peace.


Another Iraqi Christian murdered in Mosul


13 Oct. A businessman gunned down in his shop Sunday was the 12th Christian killed in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul since Sept. 28 in the worst violence targeting this minority in five years. debkafile‘s sources believe the campaign is waged by local radical Sunnis working with al Qaeda cells still present in Mosul despite US operations.


First suspected bomb tunnel found on West Bank


14 Oct. An IDF military unit blew up the first suspected bomb tunnel to be discovered on the West Bank, west of Hebron near an Israeli military position overlooking the Trans-Judean highway. The Hamas has used bomb tunnels frequently with deadly effect against Israeli forces in and around the Gaza Strip.


Iran: The crisis marks the end of capitalism


15 Oct. Iranian leaders say the world financial crisis indicates the end of capitalism, the failure of liberal democracy and divine punishment — marking the superiority of the Islamic republic's political model.

“The school of Marxism has collapsed and the sound of the West's cracking liberal democracy is now being heard,” supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday, recalling the fate of the Soviet Union.


Large-scale Iranian Air force exercise to simulate attack on Israel


15 Oct. debkafile‘s military sources report the drill beginning Thursday, Oct. 16 in northern Iran is Tehran’s rejoinder to Israel’s big aerial maneuver last June, when 100 Israeli fighter-bombers went through their paces over the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, roughly the same distance from Israel as Iran.

Tehran’s media say Iran’s upgraded and revamped warplanes can fly 3,000 km, more than twice the distance from Israel, without refueling.

The exercise will also test the US-made FBX-T band anti-missile radar system installed at the IAF Nevatim air base in the Negev in September. It takes place three weeks before the US presidential election in response to speculation in the West that Israel may use the window between the US election and the swearing-in of the new president for an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations. The Iranians want to demonstrate they can hit Israel not only with ballistic missiles but also with their aerial might.


Four Palestinian Jihad Islami terrorists detained on West Bank


16 Oct. They were picked up near Kabatya carrying 2 bombs weighing a total of 20 kilos primed for attack.


Upward trends in Wall Street Thursday, European markets plunge


16 Oct. European indexes declined sharply after heavy losses across Asia. Japan’s Nikkei plunged 11.4%, its biggest loss in two decades. Early trading in Wall Street saw moderate upward trends after a disastrous Wednesday when the Dow Jones tumbled 8 pc and S&P 9%. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange saw moderate losses. The dollar rose against the shekel to NIS3.705 on a positive inflation and interest cut forecast. The latest cost-of-living index published Wednesday registered zero indicating a recession is at hand in Israel as also in the United States and Britain.

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