A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Weeks Ending Oct. 8, 2009
Too late to stop Tehran, Obama aims to stifle an Israeli attack
26 Sept. US defense secretary Robert Gates believes Israel, like the rest of the world, must accept life under the shadow of a nuclear-armed Iran and make the best of it. This view is shared by the Kremlin. It was advanced by prime minister Vladimir Putin to Binyamin Netanyahu during his secret trip to Moscow on Sept. 7. Will he succumb to the world powers' pressure to sit tight while Iran goes all the way to a military nuclear capability – or face up to it and act?
This is the most important decision of Netanyahu's political life as two-time prime minister of Israel. It will also determine Israel's future.
Pentagon rushes giant bunker-buster bomb project since Iran's Qom site discovered
27 Sept. The Pentagon has brought forward to December 2009 the timeline for producing the first 15-ton super bunker- buster bomb (GBU-57A/B) Massive Ordinance Penetrator, which can reach a depth of 60.09 meters underground before exploding. Top US defense agencies and air force units were also working against the clock to adapt the bay of a B2a Stealth bomber for carrying and delivering the bomb.
The Pentagon has ordered the number of bombs rolling off the production line increased from four to ten – a rush job triggered in May by the discovery that Iran was hiding a second uranium enrichment plant under a mountain near Qom. Congress has since quietly inserted the necessary funding in the 2009 budget.
This urgency indicates the Obama administration may be thinking in terms of a one-time surgical strike against Iran's underground enrichment facility as a warning shot should its defiance continue.
Iran flexes missile muscles, unfazed by big power demands
28 Sept. Iran tested two surface-to-surface missiles, the Shehab 3 and Sejil Monday, Sept. 28, Day 2 of its “missile war simulation” exercise. The Sejil is known to be powered by solid fuel. Both have a range of up to 2,000 km., putting Israel, the entire Middle East including US bases and southern Europe within striking distance. Sunday, short and medium-range missiles were tested.
Tehran is also cheered by the arrival of Syrian deputy foreign minister Faysal al-Mekdad in Washington Monday, Sept. 28, at US invitation, the first visit by a high Syrian official for five years.
As seen from Tehran, if President Obama at the peak of his campaign against Iran's nuclear program is willing to continue his pursuit of good relations with Bashar Assad in the face of his covert nuclear violations, Iran can afford to discount demands for compliance with international rules and carry on as before.
A London court rejects Palestinian bid to arrest Israeli defense minister
29 Sept. Before the court hearing, defense minister Ehud Barak refused advice from the foreign ministry in Jerusalem to leave the UK after a Palestinian group sought an international warrant for his arrest for alleged war crimes in Gaza. He insisted on keeping to his schedule of conferences with British prime minister Gordon Brown and foreign secretary David Miliband Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 29-30.
October 1 Briefs
· Argentine ex-president Menem indicted for obstructing probe into 1994 bombing attack on Jewish center in which 85 killed.
· Israeli PM: Some shift in international attitude on Iran still leaves Tehran's nuclear program in place.
· US undersecretary William Burns and Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili meet one-on-one in Geneva. Jalili: I can promise Iranian people that we have not conceded any of our positions.
· Netanyahu links peace process with international rejection of Goldstone report. Israel will not sign away its right to self-defense in a deal with the Palestinians.
· Formerly allied Islamist groups al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam battle for control of Somali Kismayo port.
October 2 Briefs
· Hamas leader Meshaal urges more kidnappings of Israeli soldiers to force Israel to release all its Palestinian prisoners.
· Another Qassam missile is fired against Western Negev. No casualties or damage.
· The UN Human Rights Commission decides on six-month delay for submitting Goldstone Report to Security Council.
· Iraq's Shiite PM Maliki includes Sunni in broad new bloc to fight January election.
· Al-Qaeda-linked Uzbek leader Tahir Yuldashev killed by US drone in South Waziristan Aug. 27 – unconfirmed report.
Gilead Shalit's video-tape from Hamas prison is broadcast
2 Oct. The video-tape of Sgt. Gilead Shalit handed Israel in a trade for 20 Palestinian female prisoners was passed Friday Oct. 2 to his close family, who viewed his image for the first time since he was kidnapped in June, 2006, 1,200 days ago aged 19. Running two minutes, 42 seconds, the soldier is recorded reading a Hamas daily newspaper dated Sept. 14 as proof that the tape is recent.
He appeared healthy, sitting down and standing up, although very thin and tired with deeply shadowed eyes. The Israeli soldier appeared cleanly shaved, his hair cut close and he wore a brand-new uniform shirt and pants. Looking at the Arabic newspaper, he said with a faint smile: “I had hoped to find here word of my release and return home. I have wanted a long time for the day of my release and hope the present government headed by Binyamin Netanyahu will not waste this chance of concluding the deal and let me realize my dream of freedom at last “He then sent his best wishes to his family: “I love them and miss them very much and can't wait for the day when I will see them again.”
3 October Briefs
· Israeli warplanes bombs arms workshop near Gaza City, 2 tunnels in south Friday night. Palestinians earlier fired 15th missile in a month. Israel files UN complaint against escalation of Palestinian attacks from Gaza.
· Obama confirmed 40-year old US-Israel nuclear ambiguity understanding at May meeting with Netanyahu.
US, French, Israeli army chiefs rendezvous secretly in Normandy
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint US chiefs of staff, French chief of staff Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin and Israel's armed forces chief, Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi met secretly in Normandy, northern France Sunday, Oct. 4. debkafile's military sources report it was not the first encounter between the US and Israel army chiefs. On April 3, Adm. Mullen invited Gen. Ashkenazi to meet him on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Strasbourg, to sound him out on Israeli plans for striking Iranian nuclear facilities.
Tehran, Damascus stir up Hamas-Israeli Muslim riots on Temple Mount
4 Oct. Israeli security circles are alert to the potential of the Temple Mount mob action to flare up into a fresh Palestinian uprising on the West Bank, like the one Yasser Arafat ignited in 2000.
According to our sources, Iran and Syria are working to derail the process of reconciliation unfolding between the rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, under Egyptian and Saudi sponsorship. The Syrian president Bashar Assad is opposed to this process more fiercely even than Tehran and is determined to scotch it.
Far from erupting spontaneously, the riots were carefully planned for more than a month in covert contacts between Palestinian Hamas operatives and heads of the Israeli Muslim movement, under the guidance of Syrian and Iranian secret agents.
Thousands of young Palestinians and Israeli Arabs were quietly spirited into Jerusalem beforehand. They were divided into “platoons” of 150-200 men each and entrusted with watching over al Aqsa around the clock “to prevent its occupation by settlers, right-wingers and the Israeli police.” The call to “everyone who can to come and defend the Muslim shrine” spread like wildfire.
Tehran opens Qom enrichment plant to inspection Oct 25 – but hides other facilities
4 Oct. As debkafile has reported, Iran has buried additional secret plants at the Qom underground site, aside from the enrichment facility, whose sole function is to support a military program. They will either be hidden from the inspectors or cleared away before their arrival – hence Iran's postponement of inspection..
As the IAEA chief landed in Tehran, his organization leaked a confidential assessment which found that Iran “has acquired sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device based on highly enriched uranium as the fission fuel.”
Israeli Dolphin subs upgraded for missiles, larger fuel capacity
4 Oct. Western naval sources report that Israel's German-made Dolphin submarines have been heavily modified: its torpedo tubes enlarged to accommodate missiles, new electronics installed and its fuel capacity expanded to keep the vessel at sea for 50 days without refueling. Eight years after receiving the first three Dolphin subs from Germany and two more last month, naval sources rate them the most modern non-nuclear subs in any world navy. Israel has equipped the new Dolphin-class subs with home-made 1,500-km range cruise missiles carrying 200 kiloton nuclear warheads and 135-kilometer range US-made Harpoon missiles also fitted with nuclear warheads. These missiles, fired through the newly-enlarged 650mm-26-inch tubes, can reach Iranian coastal targets including its nuclear sites as well as naval, port and Revolutionary Guards facilities.
The Dolphins' expanded fuel tanks enable them to cover distances of up to 10,000 kilometers from their Mediterranean home port (instead of 8,000 kilometers heretofore) and spend more time – up to 50 days – off the Iranian coast.
debkafile's military sources note: Their presence outside Israeli waters is a powerful deterrent to any surprise nuclear or conventional attack, endowing Israel with an instantaneous second-strike nuclear capability.
5 October Briefs
· Azerbaijan court sentences two Hizballah Lebanese to 15 years for plotting attack on Israeli embassy in Baku. They were caught in vehicle loaded with explosives, binoculars, cameras, guns fitted with silencers.
· Ten masked Jerusalem Palestinians detained for attacking police Monday.
· A purported message from al Qaeda warns Germany for the third time of an attack on one of the first Sundays in October. debkafile: Earlier warnings demanded Germany pull its troops out of Afghanistan up to two weeks after its elections.
· Khamenei appoints close crony Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi chief of the Bassij.
6 October Briefs
· Car bomb kills 9 people killed, injures dozens in Iraqi town of Falujja.
· Israeli-Palestinian clash develops on Gaza border Tuesday from Palestinian fire on work crew repairing border fence. Israel blasted Gaza firing positions behind Palestinian gunman, causing some injuries.
· In joint CNN appearance, Gates and Clinton stress US is in Afghanistan for long haul.
· Iran's atomic energy chief: Final test run of Iran's nuclear plant at Bushehr begins in days.
· Two Bedouin arraigned for vandalizing ancient World Heritage Nabatean site at Arad.
· Geithner calls for international countermeasures against money laundering, terror financing emanating from Iran.
· Saudi king due in Damascus Wedneday.
· Iran closes three newspapers amid crackdown on media. Several journalists in prison since June 12 election unrest.
· A generator buried under heavily-traveled highways is successfully tested as a source of electricity. The pioneer technology developed by Israeli Innowttech and Haifa Technion.
Israeli Muslim leader arrested for incitement and sedition
6 Oct. Raed Salah, head of the Islamic movement of Israeli Arabs, was placed under arrest Tuesday, Oct. 6, on charges of incitement. Last week, he and the Palestinian Hamas jointly spearheaded a violent campaign on Temple Mount to support the shrine's exclusion to Jews.
Also Tuesday, the Western Wall rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch appealed to the heads of the three faiths which hold Temple Mount sacred to work together and “restore sanity to Jerusalem.”
But Palestinian leader Muhammad Dahlan accused Israel of deliberately fanning the flames which he warned could spread across the Middle East. And Israeli security forces are braced for the Islamic violence to peak Friday, Oct. 9, after television preacher Yusuf Qardawi, spiritual leader of the international Muslim Brotherhood movement, urged all Muslims to turn out to “defend Al Aqsa” against its takeover by “the Jews.” This charge is constantly repeated although the Jerusalem police barred Temple Mount to Jewish and other pilgrims during the entire Succoth festival. Admission is only allowed to Muslims over 50, especially after large caches of stones and rocks were discovered hidden inside al Aqsa mosque for further violence.
Monday saw riots, firebombs, rocks and burning tires spreading through Jerusalem's Arab villages, including Abu Dis, Tsur Bahar and Jebel Mukaber. An Israeli soldier routinely inspecting a bus was stabbed in the throat by a Palestinian passenger. Young Palestinians set fire to neighboring Jewish farm crops and parks in south Jerusalem suburbs. Many of the rioters were masked, presumably because they have jobs and business ties in West Jerusalem. Yet police patrols were told to stay out of the villages.
Another Israeli scientist wins Nobel Price for chemistry
7 Oct. Biochemist Professor Ada Yonath, born in Jerusalem in 1939, member of the Weizmann Institute of Science, was the ninth Israeli to win a Nobel Prize. She won the chemistry award jointly with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan of Cambridge, UK and Thomas A. Steitz of Yale University “for studies of the structure of the ribosome which translates the DNA code into life.”
Prof. Yonath's pioneering work has contributed to the understanding of how cells build proteins and she has produced work contributing to the development of new antibiotics.
She is only the third woman to win the prize for chemistry since 1963. The Israeli biochemist was awarded the Albert Einstein World Award for Science in 2008. Profs. Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover of the Haifa Technion were awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2004. Three Israelis have been awarded Nobel Peace prizes. Two others won awards for economics and literature.
Abbas' Palestinians will cash in on Jerusalem unrest in talks with Mitchell
7 Oct. The arrest Tuesday night, Oct. 6, of the Israeli Islamic leader Raed Salah on charges of inciting the four-day Muslim rampage on Temple Mount – and sedition – was a point up for his partners, the Palestinian Hamas. The pose Salah struck of a Muslim hero defending al Aqsa mosque (against a fabricated assault) rallied Islamist support. Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in Ramallah caught up with the Hamas-backed campaign Tuesday. Its spokesmen loosed a torrent of abuse accusing Israel of igniting the Palestinian unrest which swept out from Temple Mount to Jerusalem's suburbs and hauling out their old war cry: “The Jews are plotting to tear down al Aqsa and rebuild their temple!”
Abbas has taken a ton of flak for consenting to the postponement of a UN Security Council debate on the Goldstone war crimes report on the Gaza conflict.
He hopes to put things right when he talks to US Middle East George Mitchell over the coming week-end by accusing Israel of failing to protect free Muslim worship at al Aqsa and demanding that Temple Mount at the heart of the city be declared an exclusive Muslim site off-limits to Jews.
Tehran accuses US in Iranian nuclear scientist's disappearance
8 Oct. Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki charged the US Wednesday, Oct. 7 that Tehran had with involvement in the disappearance of the nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who vanished during a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia last May. Six days after meeting the six powers on its nuclear program in Geneva, Tehran appears to be preparing a new crisis.
Shahram Amiri was a senior member of Tehran University's nuclear physics department which is directly involved in work on Iran's second enrichment facility near Qom. Iranian nuclear scientists are forbidden foreign travel except for pilgrimages to Mecca. Then too they travel with groups watched over by Iranian security personnel. Their passports are held by the group's head to guard against defections. Amiri went missing without his passport three days after his party arrived in Mecca. His belongings were left in his hotel room.
The Iranians fear this is another case like that of the Gen. Alireza Asgari who dropped out of sight in Istanbul in March 2007. Asgari, who was a deputy minister in charge of Iran's nuclear relations with Syria, also checked in at a hotel, unpacked in his room and vanished. Tehran has always suspected he made tracks for Washington D.C.