A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Two Weeks Ending Jan. 3, 2008

Rice offers Iran more carrot than stick – better relations for suspending uranium enrichment and abandoning “confrontation”


22 Dec. The United States does not have “permanent enemies,” said the secretary of state Friday night and pointed to warming ties with Libya after Muammar Qaddafi renounced weapons of mass destruction and surrendered components of his nuclear program in 2003.

In Vienna, the US envoy to the international Atomic Energy Agency, Gregory Schulte, called on Iran to “come clean,” like Libya and North Korea, on its weapons program, which a US intelligence report claimed had been suspended in 2003.

debkafile‘s sources report that the two statements lifted a corner off the understanding Washington and Tehran have been negotiating secretly in recent weeks. The secretary reiterated in her end-of-year news conference: “I continue to say that if Iran will just do the one thing that is required of it by the Security Council resolutions – and that is suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities – then I’m prepared to meet my counterpart any place and anytime and anywhere and we can talk about anything.”


Knesset committee approves $13 bn 2008 defense budget. Two lawmakers say bills lacks resources to counter Iranian nuclear threat


24 Dec. Former dep. defense minister Moshe Sneh (Labor) and ex-General Effie Eytam voted against the (NIS51 bn) bill arguing it made no provision for Israel to counter the nuclear threat from Iran. Sneh said another billion shekels was needed to fund the necessary resources. Eytam said it left Israel exposed to Iranian threats. debkafile‘s military sources add: The defense budget’s structure shows that the Olmert government has taken on board the Bush administration’s acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran, as was reflected in a US intelligence report which glossed over the state of its military program post-2003.


Israeli military advocate general rules: IDF’s use of cluster bombs in Lebanon war was lawful


24 Dec. Brigadier Avihai Mandelblit, the IDF’s advocate general, ruled that there were no grounds to prosecute Israel commanders who ordered the use of cluster bombs in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. He stressed they were dropped legitimately and in keeping with the rules of engagement under international law to pinpoint an enemy, the Hizballah terrorist organization, which fired 4,000 rockets and missiles against Israel civilian towns and villages for a whole month on a daily basis. They were used to destroy the launchers firing those rockets in their places of concealment in Hizballah bunkers.

Standing Israel military regulations ban cluster bombs against built-up areas.


Large group of Jewish immigrants from Iran arrive in Israel Tuesday


25 Dec. They traveled secretly through a third transit country to evade Iranian restrictions on travel to Israel. A Jewish Agency official said the immigrants, most from Tehran, had abandoned their property and possessions in Iran to conceal their departure. More than 200 Iranian Jews moved to Israel in 2007, up from 65 in 2006. Iran’s Jewish community is estimated to number 25-28,000.


Russian experts land in Tehran to install Russian TOR-M1 air defense batteries at nuclear facilities


25 Dec. Tuesday, Dec. 25, Mikhail Dmitriev, head of the Russian Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, announced the imminent installment of sophisticated Russian TOR-M1 missile batteries at Iran’s nuclear installations.

debkafile‘s military sources assert that the multi-functional, multiple layer hardware substantially upgrades the shield protecting Iran’s banned uranium enrichment facilities as well as Bushehr from many types or air and missile attack: “stealth” aircraft, helicopters and drones as well as laser-guided precision bombs, rockets and cruise missiles. Traveling at a speed of 700 kph up to a range of 25km, it can destroy any of these incoming objects 12 km before they makes contact with target.

Its crew are protected against nuclear, chemical and biological warfare.


Syria threatens Spanish peacekeepers in Lebanon if Madrid extradites Syrian arms trafficker to US


25 Dec. Gen. Assaf Shawqat, head of Syrian military intelligence and president Assad’s brother-in-law wrote to his opposite number in Spain: “If you think we are going to ignore the affront inflicted by north-American henchmen on our brother, you don’t really know us and you are no friends of the Syrian people.” Monzer al-Kassar has used Marbella for more than a decade as his base for arms deals.


Bhutto Murder Closes Anti-Terror War Cycle Bush Launched after 9/11


29 Dec. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Washington’s chosen linchpin-to-be in Islamabad, was an unmitigated disaster for America’s war on al Qaeda and its jihadist allies in the key Pakistan-Afghan arena. Al Qaeda left its fingerprints – but typically no trace of the perpetrators.

Benazir Bhutto was easy prey. Pakistan’s army and Inter-Service Intelligence are rife with Taliban and al Qaeda sympathizers. No great strategic brain was needed to spot the glaring weakness of putting all of America’s eggs for Pakistan in one basket. The same fallacy mars Rice’s Palestinian strategy: if Mahmoud Abbas is disposed of, US plans for the Eastern Mediterranean go up in smoke like its Asian arena.

Al Qaeda prepared follow-up actions in Iraq and Gaza in advance of the assassination:.

1. Fatah al-Islam chief Shaker al-Abessi was transferred to Iraq to spearhead a new al Qaeda offensive. Al Abessi held out against the Lebanese army in a camp near Tripoli for months in 2007 until the US stepped in with assistance.

2. Fatah al-Islam rank and file was transferred from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip, and is now in the thick of the Hamas-led missile and mortar offensive against Israel.

Osama bin Laden’s momentum after Benazir Bhutto was murdered could have been slowed by an expeditious combined US-Pakistan military assault on al Qaeda and Taliban strongholds in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But neither army was ready. Washington planned to boost its special forces presence in Pakistan only in the course of 2008.

Musharraf was already on a downward slope before Bhutto’s death and his army was falling back in the war on Islamist extremists. debkafile‘s sources foresee this process accelerating and opening the way to the takeover by Taleban and al Qaeda of more parts of Pakistan.

Given this prospect, anxiety over the fate of Pakistan’s estimated 50-60 nuclear warheads is acute. A single bullet (or blast) has switched the spotlight on the world’s most dangerous nuclear threat from Iran to Pakistan.


Egypt and Israel step up cooperation for war on terrorist smuggling tunnels


30 Dec. Our military sources report that under the new arrangements the Israeli and Egyptian armies will work together. Their security teams met at Nitzana on the Gaza border Sunday, Dec. 30, to establish a combined staff center for eradicating tunnel traffic from Sinai to the Gaza Strip. This was one of the agreements reached by Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in their talks last week. A joint team will deal with each active tunnel separately. Most of the estimated 80 and 90 tunnels, some heavily fortified, run through the Philadelphi border strip. Each team will be responsible for blowing up a tunnel and rendering it unusable.

Until now, the Egyptians, when they discovered a tunnel, blew up the opening on their side of the border, while the exit on the Gazan side under Hamas rule was left untouched. The agreement reached with Mubarak frees Israel to go into Gaza and destroy the other end of the tunnel.

If this scheme works, it will be the most important Egyptian-Israeli security partnership ever undertaken.


Two of the Fatah operatives who murdered two Israeli off-duty soldiers near Hebron last Friday were members of Mahmoud Abbas’ security services


1 Jan. Ahikam Amihai and David Rubin were on a hike when they were stalked and shot in cold blood by Ali Dandanes, 24, a Shariya court clerk with ties to Palestinian General Intelligence, and Amar Taha, 26, full-time member of the Palestinian national security service. Both were from Hebron. They then turned themselves in to the Palestinian Authority to elude Israeli military pursuit.

The wounded soldiers fought back and killed a third member of the band. The third hiker, a girl, escaped and phoned for help.

The PA and its heads, Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, secretly protected the two killers from Israeli capture to the point of putting out a false tale that the three Israelis had rendezvoused with the Palestinians for an illegal drug deal and fallen out.

Saturday, Fayyad paid a visit to Israeli president Shimon Peres. Pretending innocence, he promised the Palestinian Authority would catch the killers and in future combat terror.

Only after the Shin Bet discovered the terrorists’ whereabouts and confronted the PA, did Palestinian officials admit that the two men they were harboring had plotted the attack on the two soldiers.


Hamas ends 2007 with an average 8.2 projectiles a day from Gaza, Iran-Syrian-backed preparations for full-scale war. Israel improves terror-preventive performance


1 Jan. The annual report of Israel’s domestic intelligence service, Shin Bet, shows the Hamas-ruled government in Gaza expanding its efforts to build a war machine capable of taking on Israel in full-scale military combat, with active input from Iran and Syria.

In 2007 Hamas and its allies fired more than 1.300 Qassam missiles and 1,700 mortar shells from Gaza, a daily average of 8.2 projectiles. The Shin Bet and IDF were strikingly successful in thwarting 29 major attacks inside Israel from Gaza, and reducing the number of Israelis killed by terrorists from 50 in 2005 and 24 in 2006 to 13 in 2007.

The Palestinians mounted a total of 2,946 Palestinian terrorist attacks, only 9 less than 2006. No let-up is expected next year. Al Qaeda and its Palestinian affiliates recently stepped up their participation in attacks, joined recently by Fatah al Islam which was thrown out of northern haven in Lebanon. Israeli officials said Osama bin Laden’s threat to “liberate every inch of Palestine” is being taken seriously.

The Shin Bet report notes that Hamas’ smuggling projects spread out from Gaza to the West Bank, where a new terror machine is taking shape.


Israel buckles under Egyptian-Palestinian demand


2 Jan. After detaining more than 2,000 Hamas-led pilgrims for five days, Cairo surrendered to Hamas, Wednesday, Jan. 2. Egypt thus reneged on its pledge to Israel to prevent the Hamas pilgrims from smuggling into Gaza $150 m war funds and other contraband. Around $50 m was donated by Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his secret rendezvous with Hamas leaders during the hajj on Wed. Dec. 19; the rest was collected by Hamas’ parent, the Muslim Brotherhood and handed over under cover of the pilgrimage. Our sources disclose that Brotherhood branches worldwide launched a secret fundraising drive on behalf of Hamas last September under the slogan: “Contribute to save Hamas rule in Gaza.”

Egypt first went back on its written commitments in the second week of December by opening the Rafah cross to key Hamas operatives bound for the hajj without consulting Israel or the European Union which is under contract to monitor the facility.

Their return was similarly unmonitored.

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert apparently decided not to kick up a fuss for fear of provoking violent Hamas outbreaks that would spoil US president George W. Bush’s visits to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, starting Jan. 8.

Israeli security sources further report that Egypt took advantage of Israel’s blind eye to get rid of 300 Palestinian terrorists, who were detained in Sinai – some of them al Qaeda and its allied Fatah al Islam activists, who were smuggled in from Lebanon. They entered Gaza under cover of the returning pilgrim group.


In close-quarter combat with Israeli forces, 6 Palestinians killed in Gaza early Wednesday


2 Jan. Four were Hamas operatives and two members of the umbrella Popular Resistance Committees. A Palestinian heavy machine gun was also hit.

At least eight Palestinians were killed in internecine Hamas-Fatah clashes in Gaza Strip Sunday and Monday when Hamas prevented its rivals from marking the Jan. 1 anniversary of the Fatah’s foundation.


Israeli Air Force bombs Hamas base in response to its first 122mm Katyusha rocket attack as far as northern Ashkelon


3 Jan. Nine Palestinians were killed in Israeli air strikes.

Palestinians hit back with 9 Qassam missiles and 14 mortar rounds.

debkafile‘s military sources: The Katyusha rocket landed in northern Ashkelon Thursday, Jan. 3, causing no casualties. It was the first weapon of the Katyusha type, used by Hizballah to pound northern Israel in 2006, to hit the northern end of the Mediterranean port and resort town, up to 18km from Gaza.

Until now, the shorter-range Qassam missiles reached the town’s southern outskirts. The rocket attack came 24 hours after Israel turned a blind eye to Cairo’s surrender to the Hamas demand to open the Rafah terminal for the unmonitored entry of hundreds of Hamas high-ups and fighters trained in Iran and Syria, carrying weapons and $150 m war funding, in a group of pilgrims returning from Mecca.

Official sources in Jerusalem argued that Israel’s relations with Egypt were of strategic value, even though Cairo was giving Hamas free rein to boost its war of terror against Israel.

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