A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Two Weeks Ending Feb. 22, 2007

Riyadh‘s Aim in Mecca: to Replace Tehran as Palestinian Hamas Backer


11 February: In the Palestinian reconciliation accord which Saudi king Abdullah brokered in Mecca last week, Israel was shouldered off the stage and Hamas anointed unconditional king of the Palestinian domain. If there are to be any accommodations with Israel, it will be on Saudi-endorsed Hamas terms.

The Saudi monarch’s primary objective in Mecca was the replacement of Tehran as Hamas’ senior financier and backer. The Damascus-based hard-line Khaled Meshaal, who had signed a pact with Tehran, was downgraded, as was the pro-Western Mahmoud Abbas. Raised in their place was prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Hamas’ political wing. Another winner is his business partner, the Palestinian-Kurdish tycoon Muhammad Rashid, who has turned his coat at least twice in two weeks.

King Abdullah personally guaranteed full Saudi diplomatic, military and financial support for the Hamas-led Palestinian government. He agreed not to require a Hamas government to recognize Israel or previous peace agreements. A billion dollars a year was promised Hamas to make up for funds withheld by the West.


Al Qaeda’s latest menace to America’s oil sources embodies a plan to inflame Saudi Shiites against the Riyadh throne


15 February: In the February issue of Sawt al Jihad entitled “Bin Laden and the Oil Weapon”, the Saudi wing of the jihadist group calls for attacks on US oil suppliers in the Middle East, Canada, Venezuela and Mexico. In a separate article, al Qaeda reports preparations for “quality attacks to shake the foundations of the crusaders in the Arabian Peninsula.”

debkafile‘s al Qaeda experts draw some disquieting conclusions from the two articles:

The stress placed on bin Laden – and the disclosure that a special unit called “Sheik Osama bin Laden’s Companies” has been created for the new terror offensive – indicates he is handing out the orders as supreme commander.

The Sheik bin Laden’s Companies’ central mission is to forestall the perils posed the Arabian Peninsula by Iran and the indigenous Saudi Shiite minority. Therefore, the jihadists will launch attacks on the 3-4 million long-suppressed Saudi Shiites. The Shiite backlash will ignite a sectarian war in Saudi Arabia on the Iraq model.


Saudis to purchase nuclear option, advanced missiles and spy satellites off the shelf from Pakistan and Russia


15 February: Moscow will assist Saudi development of a civilian nuclear program and build six “research satellites” for the oil kingdom. debkafile‘s Gulf intelligence sources report this was agreed in the talks held in Riyadh earlier this week by visiting Russian president Vladimir Putin and King Abdullah. Israeli military sources report that Moscow in fact undertook to provide Saudi Arabia with half a dozen military surveillance satellites, launch them and set up ground control centers, thereby making the oil kingdom the first Middle East national with a multiple spy satellite capability for tracking the military movements of its neighbors, including Iran and Israel.

This Saudi-Russian venture has got Israel worried because it will enable Riyadh to pick up highly sensitive intelligence on its military movements and relay it to Egypt and the Palestinians.

This development confirms DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s previous disclosures that the Saudis do not intend wasting time developing their own military capabilities but are going shopping for finished products.


Iran is arming Iraqi insurgents and Hizballah with surface-to-air mobile missiles


17 February: Tehran is supplying Iraqi insurgents and Lebanese Hizballah forces with home-made QW-1 shoulder-carried missiles to maximize their threat to US and Israeli helicopters in two battle arenas – Iraq and Lebanon, respectively. Russian-made SA-7 anti-air missiles are also being delivered to these terrorist forces by Iran.

The Iranians aim to disable the US and Israeli helicopter fleets or make them too costly to use in combat.

debkafile‘s sources in Tehran and Kurdistan disclose that, last month, two Iranian QW-1 and SA-7 missile consignments reached Iraqi insurgents allied with al Qaeda and one, radical Shiite Moqtada Sadr’s Shiite militia, the Mehdi Army. All three consignments were routed through the North Iraqi Kurdistani town of Suleimaniyeh.

Our military sources add that Iran’s arms industry is replicating a quality version of the Chinese QW-1 with improved electronics.


Ahmadinejad says Iran and Lebanon are “limbs” of the same body


17 February: debkafile‘s Middle East sources note this was the first time a senior Iranian statesman has frankly included Lebanon in the area of influence to which Tehran aspires. Iran’s expansionist ambitions have already produced thrusting offensives with regard to the Palestinians and Iraq. Tehran is in the process of carving out a crescent of Iranian domination that aims at sweeping up Iraq after the American withdrawal, just like Lebanon after Israel’s defeat in the 2006 war. After that, the Palestinians will be sucked willy-nilly into the Iranian orbit.


New Israeli police high commissioner is Yaacov Ganot, Prisons Director and veteran police commander


18 February: Former Jerusalem police chief Micky Levy is appointed deputy police chief.

This was announced Sunday night by internal security minister Avi Dichter after Moshe Karadi stepped down as police chief. A state probe, headed by retired judge Vardi Zeiler recommended Karadi’s dismissal amid grave findings on the conduct of senior police officers in the six-year old Perinian crime gang case. The minister firmly denied the 28,000-strong police force was corrupt as charged by Judge Zeiler.


Hizballah strength today is greater than it was in the Lebanon War last summer – Israeli military intelligence research chief


19 February: Brig-Gen Yossi Baidatz reporting this to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee was interrupted by defense minister Amir Peretz who disputed this data and argued it should relate to Hizballah’s “potential strength.” The official Israeli government line is that Hizballah came out of the war weaker and the intelligence officer’s refutation of this line has angered Israeli ministers.

Baidatz added Qassam missile attacks from Gaza have increased since the Mecca Reconciliation Accords were signed by Fatah and Hamas leaders two weeks ago.


Expectations low of three-cornered US-Israel-Palestinian talks in Jerusalem Monday


19 February: The US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice held separate meetings with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert Sunday. She was hoping that when they got together Monday, Feb. 19, the three-way talks would be a step forward to a Middle East peace track. But the impasse remained. Abbas has entrusted Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh with forming a new Palestinian government, despite that Palestinian group’s refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence. He acted in line with the Mecca Accords for ending Palestinian Fatah-Hamas violence which made no demands of Hamas. Rice told reporters diplomatically that any new Palestinian government must meet international conditions but the US was committed to working with Abbas and would wait until a new government is formed and deal with it on the basis of whether or not it meets the Quartet principles. She suggested that Washington could deal with him separately from the new government.


Fledgling US-Iraqi Crackdown in Baghdad Finds Targets Hard to Pin Down


19 February: No sooner was the US Secretary out of Baghdad, when unbridled carnage resumed. Clearly, Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda are also on the offensive.

Five features stand out in the initial phase of the US-Iraqi security operation, say debkafile‘s military experts.

1. For more than three weeks, concentrated Iraqi and US forces have been fighting conjoined Iraqi Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda back and forth on Haifa Street with neither side prevailing.

2. The insurgent-al Qaeda fighters are able to spirit troops to safety outside Baghdad and smuggle fresh reinforcements into the arena. The encirclement of Baghdad is therefore not working.

3. Neither is the division of labor between US and Iraq forces fighting al Qaeda on Haifa Street satisfactory. After the Americans soften up the targets, the waiting Iraqi units sent in to finish them off often let them get away.

4. Iraq’s borders with Syria and Iran were closed for only three days, since when war materiel and fighters are again flowing through unhindered.

5. debkafile‘s military sources report that al Qaeda is still rampant in Ramadi and other parts of Anbar province in the west.


US troops may attack nuclear and military targets in Iran when a high-casualty attack is traced to Tehran


20 February: The new directive may well apply to a high death toll after the downing of a US helicopter. debkafile‘s military sources report that American commanders in Iraq are studying the innovative methods for shooting US aircraft which Iranian Revolutionary Guards instructors are imparting to Iraqi insurgents.

Maj. Gen James E. Simmons, deputy commander of US forces in Iraq, describes multiple weapons systems fired at the same time, as having brought down 7 American helicopters in the last month. They include shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades – RPGs and unguided rockets that can’t be diverted by American helicopters’ anti-heat-seeking flares. Our military sources say this mix of weaponry is designed to ambush the aircraft at any altitude chosen to escape the ground fire.


Israeli undercover troops target and kill Jihad Islami mastermind of failed Palestinian suicide bombing


21 February: Mahmoud Abu Obeid, 24 assigned the bomber with blowing up the crowded Tel Aviv New Bus Depot Tuesday night and gave him the bomb. He was taken by surprise when the Israeli unit sprayed his car with bullets in the center of the West Bank town of Jenin early Wednesday. The operation was conducted by the IDF, Shin Bet and Border Police commando unit.

The bomber was caught in a Bat Yam apartment south of Tel Aviv Tuesday night with accomplices in a police dragnet covering Tel Aviv and outlying towns. The police acted on specific information from the Shin Bet. The explosive device was found in a Rishon Lezion garbage container and detonated in a controlled explosion.

debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that several radical Palestinian groups aided the Jihad Islami operation. They aimed to torpedo the Saudi-brokered Mecca reconciliation accords between Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh, which left them out in the cold.


US Navy buildup continues amid Iranian war games


21 February: The arrival in the region of the carrier USS Stennis strike group

to join the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower brings another more than 6,500 sailors and massive firepower, as nuclear watchdog director Mohammed ElBaradei reports that Iran has accelerated its banned uranium enrichment activities.

Top US Navy commander in the Middle East vice Adm. Patrick Walsh told newsmen Monday that Iran had brought its war games over the past year into the busy shipping lanes in the Straits of Hormuz, through which two-fifths of the world’s oil supplies pass. The moves alarmed US officials about possible accidental confrontations that could boil over into war.

During maneuvers, Iranian sailors have loaded mines onto small mine-laying boats and test-fired a Shahab-3 missile into international waters very close to the straits, said the US vice admiral.


Egypt captures a Palestinian with bomb vest creeping through a tunnel from Gaza into Sinai


21 February: Captured in Egyptian Rafah, he told interrogators he was joining a larger Palestinian group heading for a suicide attack on Israel tourists at a Sinai resort. Feb. 19, debkafile exclusively disclosed an Egyptian security buildup following an intelligence report that a large group of armed Palestinians had crossed in from Gaza on their way to terrorist attacks.

Sunday, an extra 500 security and anti-terror personnel were added to boost Egyptian strength in the peninsula. Terror alert remains high for Egyptian security forces in the peninsula.

The Cairo authorities were not certain if the Palestinian terrorists were there to join forces with an al Qaeda for hits against Israelis and foreigners in Sinai. Alternatively, the mixed group of Palestinian Hamas, Jihad Islami, Fatah-al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Popular Resistance Committees, may be cutting through Sinai to cross over by way of the long Negev border for another multi-casualty attack in southern Israel.

The last Palestinian terrorist strike took place on Jan. 29, in Eilat, Israel’s southernmost town. Three Israelis were killed in the blast which was carried out by an Al Aqsa suicide bomber who took this route from Gaza.

A high terror alert has been declared in southern Israel, from the Egyptian border up to Eilat, including Mitzpe Ramon and the army camps scattered in between.

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