A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Two Weeks Ending Jan. 4, 2007

Israel‘s dep. defense minister Ephraim Sneh warns: The moment of decision on whether to attack Iran is fast approaching


23 December: debkafile reports that Sneh’s is the third statement issued by an Israeli leader on the nuclear issue in ten days. After prime minister Ehud Olmert listed Israel as a nuclear power, opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu convened foreign diplomats in Tel Aviv this week for a warning: Iran is only 1,000 days from a nuclear bomb, he said. “That’s not very long.”


King Abdullah of Jordan denies audience to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, invites Hamas PM Ismail Haniya


26 December: Abbas was due to report to the king in Amman Monday, Dec. 25, on his Saturday night talks with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. When told he had arrived in Amman without the Hamas PM, Abdullah called the meeting off. Jordanian prime minister Maarouf Batih phoned Haniya and invited him to the palace, the first pro-Western Arab government to open the door to the Hamas prime minister.

debkafile‘s sources report that the slap in the face to Abbas was directed with greater force at Olmert, who a week earlier visited Amman to report to the king on the benefits he proposed to pledge to Abbas. Abdullah dismissed the package as too little and demanded far more drastic concessions to put the brakes on the Palestinians’ descent into civil war before it spilled over into his kingdom. He then offered to receive Olmert, Abu Mazen and Haniya in Amman and personally mediate their disputes. The Israeli prime minister rejected the offer on the spot. The king made no response.

It transpired later that Abdullah resolved there and then to have nothing to do with the Olmert-Abbas track, which he regards at best as a side-show of the main Palestinian power play.


Foreign Intercession in Somalia’s War


26 December: debkafile‘s military sources report that many of the foreign elements fighting on the side of the Islamic Courts militia were sent to Somalia by Christian-ruled Eritrea to harass its rival Christian power, Ethiopia. They included fighters from pro-Western Muslim nations of the Middle East, who were willing to help the Somali jihadist militia with strong links to al Qaeda to displace the pro-Western, internationally recognized Somali government. Some military experts see this sectarian mishmash as a dress rehearsal for the big show should the very powers supporting the Islamist Courts in Somali decide to intervene in Iraq to restore Sunni Arabs to power and cleanse Baghdad of Shiite rule and Iranian influence.

Thus Saudi Arabia and Egypt supplied the Islamists with funding and logistical assistance.

The origins of the conflict hark back to rivalries in the Horn of Africa, which are complicated by broader Muslim Arab resentment of Christian rule in the region.

Horn’s two predominantly Christian nations, Ethiopia and tiny Eritrea are at daggers drawn. The enmity between Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi and Eritrean president Isaias Afworky, third cousins, has led their countries into four major confrontations in four years.


Olmert turned down IDF’s minimal plan for preventing Palestinian missile fire from Gaza


27 December: The plan was submitted by chief of staff Lt-Gen Dan Halutz to the prime minister’s office Wednesday, Dec. 27, after two schoolboys were seriously injured in Sderot by the 70th missile to explode in the month-old “ceasefire.” The army chief proposed deploying special forces on the five key N. Gazan roads most frequented by the missile crews on their way to launches. Secret ambushes there, he said, could substantially cut down the daily firings against Sderot and other civilian locations around Gaza’s borders.

Ehud Olmert turned Halutz down on the spot. He explained that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was on the point of replacing the Hamas government with a cabinet of experts and any proactive Israeli military operation would jeopardize this step. All he would authorize was pinpointed strikes against missile crews with their fingers on the button.


Iranian officers take command of Palestinian Gaza missile front


27 December: The cabinet decided Wednesday to hold the IDF to attacking only Palestinian missile crews in Gaza and refrain from breaching the month-long “ceasefire,” in the course of which the Palestinians fired 70 missiles at Israeli civilian locations. debkafile‘s translation: Sderot and its neighbors will continue to live under daily missile harassment.

Our military sources report that since Monday, Dec. 25, the Palestinian offensive has undergone two changes: A new type of homemade missile called Al Buraq 2 (after the Western Wall Jewish shrine in Jerusalem), and a new unit, calling itself the Mujahiddin Brigades, identified by military experts as the first Palestinian terrorist unit set up by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ al Quds Brigades. Each of these units consisting of Hamas, Jihad Islami, Fatah-al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Popular Resistance Committees operatives is commanded by an Iranian officer.

In Iraq, too, the Americans disclosed the capture in Baghdad of Iranian officers, members of the same RG al Quds Brigades.


Israeli ministers break ranks over the prime minister’s erratic Palestinian policies


28 December: Defense minister Amir Peretz went his own way this week, announcing the resettling of 30 Jewish families evacuated from the Gaza Strip last year in an abandoned outpost in the northern Jordan Valley.

Foreign minister Tzipi Livni stepped out of line with a “peace proposal” offered independently to two Fatah officials. It entailed skipping the Middle East roadmap clause on the dismantling of Palestinian terror and jumping over the interim clauses straight to talks on a final-status deal for a Palestinian state.

debkafile‘s political sources report that this is a display of contempt for the Olmert-Abu Mazen track. Livni has decided to challenge Olmert with her own agenda, ready for US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s Middle East visit later this month.

Both have stepped into the confusion created by Olmert’s incomprehensible zigzags. On the one hand, he backs Mahmoud Abbas and allows Egypt to deliver thousands of Kalashnikovs and ammunition to the Fatah-dominated presidential guard in Gaza; on the other, he bowed to a special request from Egyptian FM Ahmed Aboul Gheit to let Ismail take off for lucrative interviews with Saudi King Abdullah in Jeddah and Kuwait rulers under cover of the hajj.

The prime minister’s erratic steps place Israel at a grave disadvantage with the Palestinians, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. They are also forcing serious cracks in his government.


Iraq‘s Baath party names Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri new leader and successor to Saddam Hussein, hanged Dec. 30 for crimes against humanity


1 January: debkafile reports: From his places of hiding, usually Syria but also Yemen, Izzat Ibrahim ran many of the Baath Sunni terrorist and guerrilla operations in Iraq and controlled Saddam’s secret funds. The Baath party announced that henceforth its insurgent operations would focus on the single goal of fighting the Americans. Our military sources take this as an order to Baathist fighters to quit the Sunni factions waging war on Iraq’s Shiite community in keeping with Saddam’s last injunction to the Iraqi people: to unite behind the common enemy, the US. It also appeals to the Shiite rank and file who served in Saddam’s army to join the Baath militias to avenge Saddam’s death and build bridges to end their sectarian war. This move is designed to undermine the new Bush master-plan for bridge-building to curb Sunni-Shiite warfare in Iraq.


Special US forces from Djibouti join the pursuit on the Somali-Kenyan border for three most wanted al Qaeda Horn of Africa leaders


1 January: They fled south with the defeated Somali Islamist fighters. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources identify them as: Abdullah Fazul, from the Comoro Islands, Ali Saleh Nabhan, from Kenya, and Abu Taha al-Sudani, from Sudan. Fazul, the most senior, is wanted for lead roles in the 1988 US embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, the 1996 Ethiopian Airline hijack in which four Israeli air industry directors and 3 Israeli civilians were murdered; the Oct. 2000 ramming of the USS Cole in Aden Harbor which cost the lives of 19 US seamen, and the 2002 coordinated air-missiles attacks on the Mombasa Paradise hotel and the Israeli Arkia airliner bringing Israelis to the hotel.

Fazul is also the highest ranking operative in contact with clandestine al Qaeda networks in the Sinai Peninsula. His capture and interrogation would for the first time provide access to a primary source on al Qaeda’s precise plans for operations against Israel, but he has more than once escaped when his pursuers were hot on his heels.


The other Teddy Kollek: Cloak and dagger artist


2 January: Teddy Kollek became mayor of Jerusalem in 1965 when he could well have afforded to rest on his many laurels, one of which was to lay the foundations of the staunch strategic-intelligence bonds between Jerusalem and Washington.

After the war, Teddy Kollek returned to Jerusalem where Jewish Agency chairman, David Ben Gurion (later Israel’s first prime minister) ordered him, Reuven Shiloah and Ehud Avriel to develop the relationship between the USA and the 650,000-strong Jewish community of Palestine. This was 1946, when Israel was still two years away from independence. By turning the Jewish communities trapped in communist Eastern Europe into sources beaming insider intelligence to Washington via Tel Aviv, he repeated a pattern that worked like clockwork in Nazi-occupied Europe and continued throughout the Cold War. It was in fact Kollek’s personal tip to Angleton that led to the exposure of the notorious British Oxford Ring of British Soviet spies, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and George Blake.

Kollek offered a rare glimpse of his of his clandestine past when he invited Giora Shamis, currently chief editor of DEBKA, to join him and a visitor, an old undercover buddy, Anthony Cavendish of MI6, in May 20, 1998 at the King David Hotel, Jerusalem. Both were long retired by then.

This is how Shamis recorded Teddy Kollek’s anecdote:

“In 1949, I came to London. I arranged an appointment with Maurice Oldfield, then one of the heads of MI6 and later its head. We got together in the afternoon and went on talking for hours. In the end, Oldfield asked me to join him for dinner at a London restaurant. The other dinner guests were two very brilliant young men, whom I know you want to hear about.”

Kollek, who has a storyteller’s feel for drama, paused before his next revelation to watch my reaction. “Waiting there at the table reserved for us were Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess. We talked and talked about the situation in the world, the Middle East and the United States. After the meal, Oldfield suggested we pay a visit to a friend of his who lived nearby in Mayfair, the poet T.S. Eliot, and listen to him read his latest poems. We spent the whole nights there and all that time we listened to Eliot reciting from his work. Sometimes, Maclean or Burgess would recite along with him from passages they knew by heart. We all downed vast quantities of scotch and cognac. It was the strangest night, I can tell you. Two things surprised me at the time – that Oldfield let me come so close to the two agents, and their senior status in the British secret service.”

Kollek went straight off to Washington to report to James Angleton, the CIA counterintelligence chief.

The CIA man did not entirely leave the stalking of his targets through their social lives to others. When in London, he rarely missed calling on the celebrated poet, T.S. Eliot, himself. Although a genuine poetry lover, Angleton availed himself of everything to hand to close in on his targets.


Teddy Kollek, “Perpetual Mr. Jerusalem”, is buried in state funeral on Mt. Herzl


2 January: Many thousands paid their last respects to the former Jerusalem before his state funeral Thursday, Jan 4, 2007.

It was in 1967, when the defeated Jordanian army retreated from the Old City that Jerusalem was finally reunited with its core, Temple Mount and the Western Wall. To remodel the small town, stunted by rusty barbed wire border fences, into a vibrant city, Kollek enlisted flocks of the world’s finest architects, town planners, historians, artists, writers and musicians – and charmed hundreds of millions of dollars from willingly opened purses. He built the national Israel Museum and its subsidiary network, a large theatre-concert complex, a retreat for creative artists, master classes for budding musicians, parks, new neighborhoods and social welfare institutions. Kollek also promoted a hotel boom which brought floods of tourists and pilgrims.

Teddy gave Jerusalem, new and old, a new infrastructure, personally overseeing every detail, from garbage collection to a new sewage system to replace the 2,000-year old Roman pipes under the odoriferous Old City bazaar, while working hard to give Jew and Arab, Muslim and Christian, ultra-religious and secular communities, their place as citizens in the reunited capital. His philosophy was one of co-existence in a never-again-to-be-divided Jerusalem.


Olmert’s approval rating hits bottom on his first anniversary as prime minister


3 January: According to a Dahaf poll commissioned by the Knesset, 77% of the sample canvassed rates his performance “not good”, compared with 23% approvers. Some 60% gave him a “not good” mark for personal integrity and 75% nixed him as a decision-maker. More than 69% found him lacking in leadership qualities.

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