A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Aug. 2, 2007

Iran buys 250 long-distance Sukhoi fighter-bombers, 20 fuel tankers, from Russia


27 July: Tehran and the Russian Rosoboronexport arms group are about to sign a mammoth arms deal for the sale to Tehran of 250 Su-30MKM warplanes and 20 IL-78 MKI fuel tankers.

The transaction, Russia’s largest arms deal in 30 years, will endow Iran with a long-range aerial assault capability. The Sukhoi can sustain a four-and-a-half hour raid at its maximum range of 3,000 km against long-distance, marine and low-lying ground targets across the Persian Gulf and Middle East. The fuel tankers extend the Su-30MKM’s assault sustainability to 10 hours and its range to 8,000 km at altitudes of 11-13 km. The closest comparable plane in the West is the American F-15E fighter bomber. Iran’s acquisition of an exceptionally large fleet of the Russian fighter-bomber will elevate its air force to one of the two largest and most advanced in the region, alongside the Israeli Air Force.

Iranian air crews are already training on the new Sukhoi aircraft, ready to start flying them early next year with only a short delay after delivery. debkafile‘s sources report that Moscow sold India the same Sukhoi model earlier this year. The Iranians leaned hard on New Delhi to let them have the Israeli avionics and electronics the Indian Air Force had installed in the Russian craft. India refused.

Russia began delivering the same craft in June to Malaysia, which also sought Israeli avionics without success. The Su-20MKM has won the nickname of the “Islamic Version of Sukhoi.”


America Refurbishes its Gulf-Red Sea Defenses against Iran Menace


28 July: The US Secretaries of State and Defense are traveling together – unusually – next week for a mission weighty enough for the Bush administration to deploy a double-barreled top team.

Built around a massive $20 bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia, it involves a broad boost for US defenses against Iran by means of a three-line deployment strategy across the Persian Gulf and Middle East devised by Secretary Gates.

The system, according to debkafile‘s sources, has three powerful components or levels:

The Iraq Level: US forces remaining in Iraq after the withdrawal would redeploy to giant extraterritorial land and air bases located mainly in the central and northern regions.

The Gulf Level: The US would double in size the armies and air forces of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman, and augment its military facilities in the Gulf region by expansion and new bases.

The Red Sea Level: Jordan and Israel military strength would form the backbone of this line supplemented by new American bases.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has meanwhile stepped in with a move of his own: the sale of 250 long-range SU-30MKM fighter-bombers to Iran, as debkafile revealed Friday, July 27.


Bush’s military aid packages run into difficulties before details worked out


29 July: Prime minister Ehud Olmert was quick to praise the 25% US military aid increase as an important boost to Israel’s security, although debkafile‘s Washington sources report that the president cannot guarantee this aid level beyond 2009.

The Israeli package (and another $13 bn for Egypt) was announced Saturday to counter-balance the Bush administration’s plan to sell Saudi Arabia and five other Persian Gulf states $20 billion of advanced weaponry. This massive arms transaction has encountered a threat of blockage in Congress, which must approve major arms sales.

US Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are due in Jeddah Tuesday, July 31, to discuss the arms transactions as part of the US plan for a three-level regional strategy to counter the spreading threat from Iran. A big question mark hangs over their mission in view of the widening gap between the policies of the Bush administration and Saudi King Abdullah.


Israel taken aback by Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad’s insistence that “resistance” is “legitimate” Palestinian right


30 July: The pro-US Fatah head of the Ramallah government stated at an Arab League meeting in Cairo Monday, July 30: “We are an occupied nation and resistance is the legitimate right of the Palestinian people.”

debkafile notes: “Resistance” is the Palestinian euphemism for armed terror including suicide bombing. The separate Fatah administration on the West Bank omitted the term “resistance” from its platform – at first. As a result, Mahmoud Abbas and Fayyad were hailed as moderates and partners for peace dialogue.

Hamas’ security forces have brought a degree of law and order to the streets of the Gaza Strip and cleared them of mob rule. West Bankers resent the fact that with all the financial aid and arms provided by Americans and Israeli sources, the men in suits in Ramallah have not delivered order to West Bank towns, which continue to be ruled by local affiliations of Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades, Hamas, Jihad Islami and other terrorist groups.


Beyond a general promise to promote stability, the US wins no specific pledges of aid to Iraq from 8 Arab governments


31 July: At a press conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said no fresh commitments had been received of relief for Iraq’s international debt, additional foreign aid or help in curbing violence in Iraq. Her statement followed a meeting of the foreign ministers of nine Arab nations, most of whom are promised substantial US military aid packages.


Damascus has deferred its war plans from late summer to November


31 July: This piece of intelligence was behind the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s comment Tuesday, July 31: “I think this summer and fall will be less hot than we expected.”

debkafile‘s military sources report that the latest intelligence update on Syria’s intentions reached Jerusalem via Washington in the last few days. It indicated that Syria’s political and military leaders had rescheduled the start of hostilities against Israel on the Golan for the second two weeks of November, 2007, postponing their original planning by more than two months. They say Syria plans to kick off its offensive with commando raids on civilian villages, military bases and highways, as well as cross-border fire on IDF vehicles and positions guarding the border. At that stage, the Syrian command will be testing Israel’s military responses before mapping out its next moves accordingly.


After Abbas-Putin talks in Moscow, Russian official said his government does not plan meeting with Hamas leaders any time soon


31 July: First Dep. Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said Tuesday, July 31: “We have downgraded ties with Hamas, maintaining contacts with the pragmatic goal of influencing it directly and indirectly and encouraging the parties to resume dialogue.” Russian president Vladimir Putin acknowledged Mahmoud Abbas as the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people while urging him to do everything to restore Palestinian unity.

debkafile: This does not represent a change in Moscow’s two-pronged Palestinian policy as the only Quartet member maintaining ties with Hamas as well as its traditional connections dating from the Soviet era with Abbas.


British troops to quit Iraq by October 2007


31 July: This, behind the parade of UK-US concord, was one of the messages Gordon Brown delivered at his first meeting as prime minister with President Bush at Camp David Monday, July 30.

debkafile‘s Washington sources: Gordon Brown has scheduled his Commons statement on the (Iraq) situation for October, two weeks after US generals in Iraq submit their report on the prospects of success in Iraq.

According to our military sources, the UK began pulling its troops out of parts of southern Iraq in the fall of 2006, so that by now, they no longer control Basra, Iraq’s second largest city. British units have withdrawn to a fortified compound near the city’s international airport. It is surrounded by hostile Shiite insurgents who blast them with mortar fire several times a day. British responsibility for Iraq’s oil-rich south and single outlet to the sea has in fact collapsed.


Palestinian fraud over Israel amnesty is kept dark


1 August: It has come to light, according to our military sources, that the weapons handed in two weeks ago by 168 Fatah-al Aqsa Brigade terrorists in return for immunity from Israel military pursuit were World War I vintage Italian carbines left behind by Turkish troops when they quit the country in 1917and Mauser rifles from the 1930s. None of the terrorists surrendered their personal side-arms.

The furious demand from Israeli commanders that the government tell the public how it was conned was turned down by prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak. They were deaf to the arguments that the amnestied Palestinian terrorists remain fully armed and able to resume attacks at any time and that Palestinian leaders, who refuse to admit to the fraud, have nothing but contempt for their agreements with Israel.

Nonetheless, debkafile‘s Jerusalem sources reveal that Olmert plans to inform US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice when they meet Wednesday, Aug. 1, of further concessions for Abbas’ Fatah regime.


Main Sunni Muslim political bloc pulls all six ministers out of Iraqi government


1 Aug: debkafile: The announcement by the Accordance Front’s Rafaa al-Issawi was made Wed. Aug. 1, the day after US Secretaries Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates ended their talks with the Saudi King Abdullah in Jeddah and would not have been undertaken without the sayso of the bloc’s Saudi patrons. Earlier, the five ministers loyal to the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr quit the Maliki cabinet.


Celebration of Saudi participation in international peace conference is premature


2 Aug.: The Iranian nuclear threat, the Iraq crisis, the Israel-Palestinian conflict – and the handling thereof – all remain at issue between Saudi rulers and Washington after the talks held by US secretaries Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates in Jeddah Wednesday, Aug. 1 – according to debkafile‘s Middle East sources.

King Abdullah said he might send delegates to sit alongside Israeli officials at the international peace conference President Bush projects for the autumn, provided the agenda covers practical steps for Israel’s full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, repatriation of the 1948 Palestinian refugees and the foundation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital.

The Saudi king is flatly opposed to an American military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations, economic sanctions for isolating the Islamic Republic and the boycott of Hamas. Not a single Saudi dollar has reached the exchequer in Ramallah; nor will it until Abbas buries the hatchet with Hamas.


Olmert approves American plan for big new Palestinian town on West Bank


2 Aug.: To be situated 20 km south of Nablus and 35 km north of Ramallah, the town is planned for 30-40,000 Palestinian inhabitants in the first stage, expanding in the second to 70,000 ten years hence. It will be located in Area B under Israeli security control.

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has kept the project, which represents a major strategic restructure of West Bank geography, under his hat. He did not submit the American plan to the cabinet, or even the security-political ministerial forum, before giving the go-ahead to the visiting US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, Wednesday night, Aug. 1.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report the US planners intend the new town to provide territorial contiguity between Nablus and Ramallah and jobs for tens of thousands of West Bankers, whose unemployment rate has soared to 70 percent since the Palestinian uprising was launched against Israel in 2000. It will also cut off Israeli Jordan Valley villages from the settlement blocs in Samaria.

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