A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Dec. 14, 2006
Baker-Hamilton Consensus Tactic Raises Question of Who Will Now Call the Shots in Washington
9 December: James Baker and Lee Hamilton, authors of the Iraq Study Group report have their own partisan motives. They will try and turn the bipartisan cooperation, which was evinced overwhelmingly to confirm Robert Gates Senate confirmation, into a tool to tie the president’s hands against opposing their recommendations; they will be doing their utmost to push Bush and his team to the sidelines of policy-making.
To vindicate this step, the two co-chairmen must chart a clear progression towards terminating the Iraq war and an acceptable exit path for the US army.
The two veteran political warhorses are also working to a domestic deadline. Their aim is to make the calamitous US venture in Iraq a thing of the past in time for the 2008 presidential election campaign.
Baker will maneuver to erase from voters’ minds the negative impact of the Iraq war on the prospects of returning a Republican candidate.
Hamilton, pulling at the opposite end, will seek to turn the Iraq crisis into an asset to bring a Democrat into the White House after eight years of Republican rule. Both will claim the credit for drumming up the first Republican-Democrat spirit of accord in years.
Israeli intelligence chief warns: Syria is expanding its long-range missile manufacture and anti-tank rocket deployment on Golan
10 December: Brig. Gen Yossi Baidatz, military intelligence chief of research, reported that Syria had increased its production of long-range missiles and was building up its anti-tank rocket units on the Golan border with Israel.
The key question is this: How many missiles are destined for Syrian use and how many for the strategic reserve Iran is stocking in Syria. According to debkafile‘s military sources, Syria’s missile output is not determined by the heads of its military industry, but by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards sitting on the industry’s executive boards and incoming investment funds regulated by Tehran.
All the departments of Syrian’s military industry merged last year with Iran’s manufacturing complex and are run as a single corporation. Therefore, it may be said that it is very much up to Tehran to determine if and when Bashar Asad goes on the offensive on the Golan front.
A Deterrence Strategy to Replace Israel’s Lost Nuclear Ambiguity
10 December: debkafile‘s analysts say Ehud Olmert’s wishy-washy phrases in reference to the Iranian nuclear issue convey the impression that Israel has been left with no nuclear deterrence policy, since designated US defense secretary Robert Gates blew its nuclear ambiguity cover at his Senate confirmation hearings last week. The incoming defense secretary took this another step: He made it clear that “no one can promise that Iran will not use nuclear weapons against Israel.”
His words evoked no clear response from government officials in Jerusalem.
debkafile‘s military sources say Israel can retrieve its vanished deterrence by, for instance, press leaks or even an announcement that a new surface missile has been launched, which foreign media would disclose is capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, or the firing of a new Israeli cruise missile from a Dolphin submarine cruising at the Indian Ocean’s point of convergence with the Arabian Sea.
This is the sort of publicity tactic Tehran employs; it works. The effectiveness of its provocative talk depends on Israel shrinking back, instead of marching forward and hitting back in kind.
In the past, there was a certain amount of free interplay in public discourse among Israel’s civilian and military officials on strategic matters. Not today. Olmert exercises tight control over all pronouncements. Since innovative thinking is not exactly the prime minister’s forte, public discourse in Israel is starved of dynamic ideas.
Olmert breaks Israel’s nuclear silence in response to US defense secretary’s nuclear stance on Israel and Iran’s Holocaust denial conference
11 December: The Israeli prime minister made his surprising disclosure Monday, Dec. 11: “Israel doesn’t threaten any country,” he said. “Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map.
Can you see this on the same level when you are aspiring to have a nuclear weapon like the US, France, Israel and Russia?” the Israeli PM asked in an interview with German TV station N24 Sat1.
This was the first time an Israeli official had ever admitted to the possession of nuclear weapons.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report Olmert decided on this step in response to US defense secretary Robert Gates’ listing of Israel as among the nuclear states surrounding in Iran to explain Tehran’s search for a nuclear deterrent of its own. He was the first American official to confirm Israel had a nuclear weapon and did so without consulting Jerusalem.
Olmert chose his journey to Germany, which coincided with the opening in Tehran of a conference negating the Holocaust, for his shock disclosure. Olmert used the opportunity to remind Iran’s rulers that Israel possesses a large stock of nuclear weapons capable of not only smashing Iran’s nuclear facilities but also disabling its infrastructure.
According to our sources, the prime minister did not confer with any minister, military adviser or secret service head before delivering his dramatic revelation.
World condemnation bombards Iran’s Holocaust conference which ended Tuesday in Tehran
12 December: Ahmadinejad in his closing speech: Israel will vanish soon like the USSR.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany repudiates it “with all our strength.” Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, on a visit to Berlin, condemned the event as unacceptable and a danger to the Western world. “We have learned always to be prepared,” he said.
In Washington, the White House called the conference, attended by ex-Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, “an affront to the entire civilized world.” Tony Blair: “Shocking beyond belief.” A group of anti-Zionist Jews, members of the fringe Neturei Karta, were seated in the front of the hall.
Denunciations came from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Vatican, which called the Holocaust an immense tragedy: “The memory of those horrible events must remain as a warning for people’s consciences,” said the spokesman.
EU commissioner Franco Frattini warned against attempts “to deny, trivialize or minimize the Shoah,” while France’s former ambassador to Tehran, Francois Nicoullaud, said of Ahmadinejad: “He’s trying to scientifically justify the unjustifiable.”
Yad Vashem in Jerusalem has called a conference for Thursday titled: From Holocaust denial to genocide.”
Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida spends a hour with Asad, the first of a line of US senators to visit Damascus
13 December: Although the state department frowned on the visit, the first by US lawmakers since the breach between Washington and Damascus, Nelson received US embassy transport for the trip from Jordan to the Syrian capital, after first meeting Israeli and Palestinian officials. The senator reported Assad indicated willingness to cooperate with the Americans and or the Iraqi army, which Nelson called “a crack in the door for discussions to continue.”
Senator Nelson said he was not interested in visiting Iran at this time. He expected to be followed to Damascus by senators John Kerry, D-Mass., Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. And Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
Unbridled Fatah-Hamas violence sweeps Gaza, begins to spread to West Bank. Palestinians flee to Sinai
13 December: Early Wednesday, gunmen shot dead the Hamas religious judge Bassam al-Fara in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younes. Hamas laid the murder at Fatah’s door and swore vengeance. The Rafah exit to Egypt is mobbed by fleeing Palestinians who call on both Fatah Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya to resign. Both factions hurl mutual recriminations at one another over the murder Monday of the three young sons of Fatah intelligence officer Col. Baha Balousha outside their school in Gaza City. There have been no claims of responsibility for the crime.
Tehran Seeks to Capitalize on Olmert’s Nuclear Admission
13 December: debkafile‘s Iranian sources report the Islamic Republic plans an extensive campaign to justify its nuclear program, built around Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s statement in Berlin Monday, Dec. 11, listing Israel with the world’s nuclear powers. Tehran also hopes to rebut the universal revulsion stirred by the Holocaust denial conference president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad staged this week.
debkafile reports: Iran’s National Security Council has charted a campaign to twist Olmert’s statement round in its UN Security Council showdown over sanctions as its entitlement to “self defense.”
Revolutionary Iran first began campaigning against Israel’s nuclear program 18 years ago. A campaign of Israel’s negation – political, moral, ethnic and ideological – was devised then. The Dec. 2006 Holocaust denial conference was its natural culmination.
Iran’s clerical rulers have directed the country’s preachers to deliver extra-inflammatory sermons condemning the Jewish state as a nuclear threat in the mosques next Friday.
Iranian diplomats will also busily propagate this message in Arab and Islamic capitals, Latin America – especially Caracas – South Africa and the Third World nations.
Heads of the Islamic regime calculated that a nuclear strike would hurt Iran but not threaten its survival, whereas a single Iranian nuclear bomb would fatally paralyze the tiny Zionist state.
Israeli High Court rules: judiciously applied targeted assassinations legitimate tool in war on terror
14 December: The court rejected a five-year old petition to outlaw the practice. The judges led by outgoing chief justice Aharon Barak and his successor Dorit Bainisch decided that targeted assassinations may not be judged illegal under international law in all cases, but advised the careful consideration of each case on its merits. The state must not be deprived of this key terror-fighting tool while fighting a war on terrorism.
Mahmoud Abbas’ loyalists fire on convoy of Hamas PM Ismail Haniya driving into Gaza, injuring his son and killing a bodyguard
14 December: Haniya returning from his two-week tour was permitted by Israel to enter through the Rafah crossing Thursday night, minus the suitcases packed with an estimated $31m out of the quarter of a million Iran donated to Hamas’ war chest during his visit to Tehran. Abbas’ presidential guard, Force 17, opened fire on Hamiya’s convoy as it drove through, further raising the pitch of the Hamas-Fatah violence sweeping the Gaza Strip since Sunday.
Earlier, hundreds of Hamas Ezz e-Din al-Qassam militiamen firing guns seized control of the Rafah crossing, put the European monitors and Fatah Presidential Guard 17 troops to flight, tore down the terminal and blew up the border fence. The compromise which let Haniya through was negotiated by Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman who guaranteed the cash from Tehran would not be smuggled to Hamas.
The Palestinian prime minister was accompanied on his tour by a senior Hamas military delegation led by Abu Obeida al Jerat, who signed military pacts with the heads of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards for them to give Hamas terrorists advanced combat training. debkafile‘s military sources say Israel should have prevented Haniya’s entry with his party, even without the cash, to prevent the Iranian military training program from getting started in the Gaza Strip.