A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Two Weeks Ending April 12, 2007

US financial sources in Bahrain report American investors in Bahrain advised to pack up business operations and leave


 


30 March: The advice came from officers with US Central Command 5th Fleet HQ at Manama, who spoke of security tension, a hint at an approaching war with Iran. Arab sources report the positioning of a Patriot anti-missile battery in Bahrain this week; they say occupancy at emirate hotels has soared past 90% due mostly to the influx of US military personnel. They also report Western media crews normally employed in military coverage are arriving in packs.


The USS Nimitz and its support ships will be departing San Diego Monday, April 2, to join the John C. Stennis Strike Group in the Persian Gulf. The nuclear carrier is due to relieve the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, but military sources in the Gulf believe all three US carriers will stay put if tensions continue to climb or if fighting breaks out involving American, British and Iranian forces.


The mighty American armada is further supported by the USS Bataan and USS Boxer


strike groups.


Earlier, debkafile quoted intelligence sources in Moscow as predicting that a US strike against Iranian nuclear installations codenamed Operation Bite has been scheduled for April 6 at 0040 hours. Missiles and air raids will conduct strikes designed to be devastating enough to set Tehran’s nuclear program several years back.


 


Israeli military intelligence chief predicts Iran-Hizballah-Syria attack on Israel in summer


 


1 April: In his briefing to the Israeli cabinet Sunday, April 1, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, AMAN chief, reported that Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas expect the United States to attack Iran in the summer and they are preparing to retaliate by going to war with Israel. In Yadlin’s view, a proliferation of players and imponderables could ignite a conflict, which none of the parties wants.


The cabinet was informed that the IDF would start operating behind Gazan lines against the massive Palestinian military build-up.


Neither the chief of AMAN nor the ministers discussed the state of Israel’s armed forces’ preparedness. Asked about this, debkafile‘s military sources said their readiness was only partial as yet: The air force, some of the combat divisions are ready; other parts of the military, such as some reservist brigades, the Navy and the home front are not.


 


Iran Mends Fences with Arabs – Starting with Saudis


 


1 April: The live wire at last week’s Arab League summit in Riyadh was undoubtedly the non-Arab guest of honor, Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki.


He breezed around the Arab delegations hard-selling the notion of a mutual defense treaty between Iran and the Arabs on the lines of the Tehran-Damascus pact.


His proposition fell on willing ears.


debkafile‘s Middle East sources report that in a long conversation in Riyadh, Mottaki and Saudi foreign minister Prince Saudi al-Faisal agreed to assign teams to explore it further.


Our source also reported exchanges between the Iranian and Egyptian delegations to the Arab summit last week on the resumption of diplomatic ties.


Before the conference ended, the Saudi foreign minister arranged a four-way meeting between King Abdullah, Mottaki, and the two Palestinian leaders, Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. This was taken by Iran as Riyadh’s approval of the military assistance Tehran gives the Palestinians and a formal, collective Arab endorsement.


debkafile‘s political analysts take this as the collapse of the Saudi initiative led by national security adviser Prince Bandar bin-Sultan for direct Saudi-Israeli talks. Instead, the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement led by Saudi al-Faisal has prevailed.


 


UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon warns smuggling from Syria could threaten Lebanon ceasefire


 


1 April: Ban went to Lebanon to follow up allegations that the arms embargo on Hizballah ordered by the UN resolution that ended the Lebanon war was not being enforced. Friday, the UN Secretary met with Lebanese security chiefs in Beirut to discuss ways of enhancing the Lebanese army’s monitoring capabilities along the border with Syria, one of Hizballah’s principal suppliers. The Lebanese daily An-Nahar reported that Ban showed the Lebanese generals evidence and pictures he obtained from Israel of trucks crossing in from Syrian and unloading weapons.


 


A UK guarantee to stay permanently out of Iranian waters would exclude Britain from a Western military strike on Iran


 


1 April: debkafile‘s military sources: The statement by a senior British defense official Sunday, April 1 is fraught with broad implications: He said: “We are quite prepared to give the Iranians a guarantee that we would never knowingly enter their waters without their permission, now or in the future.”


The Blair government’s guarantee offer is a blow to the UK-US partnership and American interests in the region. It means that Tony Blair is going off in his own direction, heading for a deal for the 15 hostages that would potentially place British naval and marine strength on an exit course from the Shatt al-Arb and the US buildup.


The fruits plucked out of the sea with the British sailors could not be sweeter for Tehran. The British will ease out of the role they undertook to secure the sea routes to southern Iraq and its southern oil installations.


 


Damascus airport is the hub for Hizballah, Hamas, Jihad Islami fighters heading out to Iranian training camps


 


2 April: debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources report in recent weeks, Damascus international airport has become the main transport hub for thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian terrorists heading for Revolutionary Guards installations in Iran. Hence Israel military intelligence chief’s pessimistic briefing to the Israeli cabinet Sunday, April 1. Damascus airport is also the transit point for returning terrorists to gather and pick up their assignment for various Middle East countries, as well as Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.


A high-ranking Western intelligence source in the Middle East told debkafile that the number of such terrorist-trainees commuting between Damascus and Tehran has grown to more than three times the volume of Muslim and al Qaeda fighters crossing from Syria into Iraq. This source calculates Iran is running a crash program to prepare an army of trained terrorist strength to retaliate for a potential US attack on its nuclear installations.


According to our intelligence and military sources, they are no longer trained at special facilities in al Quds Brigades camps, but integrated in regular RG training facilities. The entire Middle East is deemed henceforth a single integrated line manned by units with the same training, combat tactics and weapons systems.


Syria’s high command and military intelligence are pivotal to the operation.


Israel’s AMAN chief, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin views this burgeoning war-cum-terror machine as a dangerous element that could tip the region over into a full-blown conflict without prior warning.


 


Why Does Tehran Refuse to Signal the Release of the Three Israeli Servicemen?


 


4 April: The 15 British sailors and marines were seized by a Revolutionary Guards task force Friday, March 23, were shown to their families to be alive and well. Not so the three Israeli soldiers abducted last year in cross-border raids. None has been seen or heard of since. No international visitors are allowed, no letters or any other access to their hidden places of imprisonment.


Iran, which captured and freed the British sailors and marines, also has the authority to weigh in for the Israeli captives’ release with its Lebanese proxy and the Hamas-led group of Popular Resistance Committees and al Qaeda Falastin in Gaza. It is in Iran’s power to end the long agony of uncertainty suffered by their families.


But Tehran refuses to give the signal.


 


Assad hands Nancy Pelosi a four-point plan for Syria and Iran to help solve the Iraq crisis


 


5 April: The plan was presented to Nancy Pelosi when she met president Bashar Assad in Damascus Wednesday, April 4. debkafile‘s Middle East sources report that she and the members of her delegation were given to understand – although this was not spelled out by Assad – that Tehran was willing to be part of the first stages of the plan’s implementation, but might have reservations at later stages


The four points, according to our sources, cover Iraq’s military situation (terror), political situation and the roles played by Iraq’s neighbors in the conflict.


1. The US must recognize that the Iraq crisis is only susceptible to a political solution that brings in every Iraqi group and faction – a hint at Saddam Hussein’s Baath party


2. No religious or ethnic community must be allowed to triumph over the others.


3. The US must treat all groups as equals – meaning Sunni Arabs.


4. The US must give Iraq’s neighbors an interest in an accommodation.


 


6 April: debkafile‘s sources refute reports of Israeli pressure causing US to cancel arms sale to Gulf emirates. The sale is going ahead, except for one item.


 


Iran acquires Russian-made air defense and anti-tank systems to repel a possible US attack on Iran


 


7 April: The Pantsyr 1 (known in the West as SA-19 GRISOM) system is designed to engage aerial targets, including missiles; the Khrizantema (9M123), to strike advancing tank columns at long range and destroy bunkers.


Our military sources report that the two weapons systems combined are built to repulse advancing armored units while at the same striking helicopter commando drops behind their lines. A third recently-delivered Russian system, the TOR M1, has been put into service by the Revolutionary Guards to protect nuclear and other strategic sites against missile attack, including cruise missiles.


The Israeli military fears Moscow is also planning to supply Syria and Hizballah with the sophisticated SA-9 and 9M123. debkafile‘s military sources say that the two weapons in Syrian hands could seriously impair Israeli tank and helicopter movements and hit IDF positions and command posts deep inside the Golan.


 


Tehran‘s Provocations Ratchet up War Tensions


 


9 April: April 4 top US brass visited American marine units aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Baatan (LHD 5).deployed in the Persian Gulf, led by Gen. James Conway. With him were Lt. Gen. Keith Stadler, Commanding General of II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. John Estrada and Rear Adm. Richard Jeffries, medical officer of the Marine Corps.


Taking this as another sign of an impending US attack, the foreign ministry in Tehran said four days later that the Iranian army had completed its preparations for defending the homeland and Iran was prepared to repel a military offensive.


debkafile‘s intelligence sources disclose that Iran has not managed to install more than 1,000 centrifuges, and possibly less, for lack of progress in overcoming technical hitches.


The factors contributing to heightened tensions in the region include the high death toll the US and British military are sustaining in Iraq from high-powered Iranian roadside bombs, 10 Americans and 6 Britons killed over the Easter weekend alone. Quantities of lethal weapons continued to flow across the border to the anti-US Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia, which US and Iraqi forces have been battling for almost a week in the town of Diwaniya south of Baghdad. The Shiites are armed to the teeth with smuggled Iranian arms, including anti-tank and anti-air missiles.


Sadr brought out to the streets of Najef and Kufa on Monday, April, 9, the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, tens of thousands of anti-American demonstrators who burned US flags and demanded the end of “American occupation.”


 


Fugitive Israeli-Arab lawmaker Azmi Beshara suspected of spying for Syria and Hizballah


 


10 April: MK Awad Abd al-Fatah, secretary-general of Beshara’s Balad faction, claimed the Shin Bet is building a dossier against Beshara accusing him of spying for Syria and Hizballah in the 2006 Lebanon War.


This is the first hint of the purported charge which caused the lawmaker to abscond with his family some weeks ago under a cloud. Azmi Beshara has caused more harm to Jewish-Arab relations than anyone else, said opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu Tuesday, April 10. The sooner he quits the Knesset, the better for Israel and especially the Arab community, said Netanyahu. Arab sources reported Tuesday that the absentee politician had asked Qatar for asylum after he was offered a job as commentator for the local Al Jazeera Arabic TV. That is only one of the rumors circulating on his whereabouts.


As a frequent visitor to Syria and Lebanon and vocal champion of Syrian president Bashara Assad and Hizballah, the Israel-Arab lawmaker has had his immunity temporarily stripped and faced legal action before.


debkafile‘s sources add that Israel’s weakness in the Lebanon war has also emboldened anti-Zionist Israeli Arab organizations to launch a strong separatist bid for a revision of the Jewish state’s structure and character, to satisfy their national aspirations as a part of the pan-Arab community.


 


New Hamas suicide terror offensive against Israeli cities from West Bank planned to start in Tel Aviv at Seder Feast


 


10 April: Israeli security rounded up in the West Bank town of Qalqilya 12 members of a Hamas network which managed to send a truck loaded with 100 kilos of explosives into Greater Tel Aviv on Passover Eve – and then pulled it out.


debkafile‘s military sources report that Hamas is suspected of running similar networks in other West bank towns, such as Tulkarm and Nablus. Two weeks ago, chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi stated that one of the Israel military’s most urgent tasks now is to block the transfer of weapons and war materiel from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, bringing Israel’s heartland cities into close range. debkafile reported at the time that he is too late.


Israel is paying for unilaterally handing over the southern Gaza Strip border and territory to Palestinian and Egyptian control two years ago. This blunder was compounded by the Sharon and Olmert governments’ self-imposed military restraint from the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza up to the present. No action was taken to stem the flow of weapons from Egyptian Sinai to the Gaza Strip and none to sever the smuggling routes from Gaza to the West Bank. The 2007 brand of terrorist is more sophisticated, better trained, more skilled and more powerfully armed than his intifada predecessor of 2002 to 2004. The truck which turned back from Tel Aviv was a last warning.

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