Attempted assassination of Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
December 17: His motorocade was ambushed, one of his bodyguards killed and a second injured near Zabol, in the restive southeastern province of Baluchistan.
The assailants are described as armed bandits and trouble-makers, Tehran’s terms for anti-government dissidents and rebels.
On Nov. 18, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 230 revealed that certain power-groups in the Islamic regime have put out a contract on the blabbermouth president, fearing that as champion of the most way-out factions of the Revolutionary Guards, he may be gathering momentum for a coup.
A special Iranian plane flew Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to Bandar Abbas
December 17: There, he conferred with Revolutionary Guards commanders, heads of its intelligence branch and officers of the al Quds Battalions, which host the men fighting in Iraq under al Qaeda chief Abu Musab al Zarqawi for training, medical aid and rest. Meshall conferred with the RG commanders on operational collaboration between the two Palestinian groups Hamas and Jihad Islami in Gaza and the West Bank and their hook-up with Iranian networks and Hizballah in Lebanon. Tehran is footing the bill for the boost in their terror operations.
debkafile terror experts add: The Bandar Abbas conference also discussed ways and means of bolstering al Qaeda’s presence in the Gaza Strip and helping Osama bin Laden’s organization spread its wings to the West Bank alongside Meshaal’s own Hamas.
Prime minister Ariel Sharon, 77, is in improved condition – three hours after he was rushed to Hadassah, Ain Karem, Jerusalem with a stroke
18 December: He was admitted to the internal medicine ward with a promise he would be sent home soon.
Any suggestion of Sharon’s ill health drastically impacts the Kadima party he established a month ago, basically a one-man show like the government, and the general election he called for March 28.
It will also enhance his rival, Binyamin Netanyahu’s prospects in the Likud leadership primaries Monday, Dec. 19 at the expense of foreign minister Silvan Shalom. Sharon took at least one-third of Likud’s parliamentary party, several cabinet ministers and an unknown number of rank-and-file members with him to Kadima. His lengthy incapacitation would plunge the new grouping into messy infighting and likely disintegration.
The lack of transparency on the state of Sharon’s health at all times – and especially now – is criticized as unacceptable in this day and age.
Two ex-generals have opposite recollections on a controversy that won’t go away
18 December: Former US secretary of state Colin Powell to David Frost, BBC Dec. 17, 2005: I was deeply disappointed in what the intelligence community presented to me…and what really upset me…was that there were people in the intelligence community who had doubts about some of this sourcing, but the doubts never surfaced up to us.”
He was referring to the testimony he offered the UN Security Council on the basis of CIA reports
In contrast, Israel’s ex-chief of staff Moshe Yaalon told the New York Sun Dec. 15, 2005 very clearly: Saddam Hussein spirited his chemical weapons to Syria six weeks before the Iraq war. “No one went to Syria to find it.”
The latter statement is further corroboration of debkafile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s reports in real time – six weeks before the US-led March, 2003 invasion of Iraq – of the truck convoys that carried a part of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction across the border for secret interment in Syria and Lebanon.
An official at the Iraqi embassy in Washington Entifadh Qanbar said he believed the Israeli general’s account, but complained the Iraqi government operates in the dark because it has no intelligence agency.
An Iraqi politician, Mithal Al-Alusi, said he would press the Iraqi government to renew the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. “They will find the weapons, I am sure they will,” he said.
Iraq’s Zarqawi Sets up Gaza Branch at Palestinian Base
19 December: Since early December, a branch of Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq has been running a forward base in Gaza City preparatory to in-depth attacks in Israel, according to debkafile‘s exclusive counter-terror sources. It joins the Al Qaeda-Palestine cell established some weeks ago in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli intelligence briefed prime minister Ariel Sharon and defense minister Shaul Mofaz in the first week of December on its arrival – partly through the Rafah terminal with forged Palestinian documents; part through the Philadelphi border enclave. The new cell linked up with the local branch of the Palestinian terror umbrella, the Popular Resistance Committees, which is headed by Shekh Khalil Kuka. The PRC welcomed the newcomer by making its publicity outlets available. Since Monday, Dec. 5, PRC Internet websites have been posting daily bulletins on Zarqawi’s attacks on US and Iraqi targets which often run to 20-30 communiques a day.
The new cell has meanwhile managed to enlist the support of the Bedouin clans of southern Gaza, which number tens of thousands of tribesmen, thereby substantially expanding its logistical base. The pledge of solidarity issued by Gaza’s Khan Younes and Deir Balah Bedouin chiefs declares: “We are now committed to following Zarqawi’s flag.” It condemns the Bani Hassan Bedouin tribe of Jordan for reprimanding and expelling members who joined al Qaeda and accuses their chiefs of capitulating to the rulers of Jordan.
(Last Tuesday, a Jordanian military tribunal issued a third death sentence in absentia against the Jordanian-Palestinian al Qaeda chief in Iraq.)
Jordanian intelligence chief replaced to cope with al Qaeda threat
20 December: debkafile reports: King Abdullah Tuesday, Dec. 20 replaced his close confidant General Samikh Asfura as chief of Jordan’s general intelligence service with General Muhammed al-Zahabi. The king judges the new appointee better able to lead a tough crackdown to fend off al Qaeda’s penetration of his realm.
Chancellor Merkel Frees convicted Hizballah hijacker
20 December: Ernst Uhrlau, Angela Merkel’s new head of the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, is revealed by debkafile‘s counter-terror sources as the man behind Berlin’s secret decision to trade German archeologist Susanne Osthoff kidnapped in Iraq on Nov. 25 for the jailed Hizballah terrorist wanted in America, Mohammad Ali Hammadi.
Uhrlau attained international prominence as broker in the Hizballah-Israel prisoner swap and the failed effort to track down the missing Israeli navigator Ron Arad.
Hammadi was serving a life sentence without parole for hijacking a TWA airliner to Beirut in 1985 and throwing a Navy SEAL diver, Robert Dean Stethem, out of the window to his death. A US extradition warrant was on file in Berlin with a promise it would take effect if the hijacker were ever released. A few days after the terrorist was flown to Beirut, Osthoff was freed by her Iraqi insurgent captors.
This hostage-for-terrorist swap will no doubt raise storms of protest in Washington and Jerusalem and cast a shadow on relations with the Bush administration which Schroeder was at pains to mend.
1. It is the first time since al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks in America that a senior European ally in America’s global war on terror has succumbed to enemy pressure and bought a hostage’s release by freeing a convicted terrorist.
2. debkafile‘s counter-terror experts recall that Hammadi was assigned to hijack the TWA airliner by the notorious Imad Mughniyeh, veteran head of the Hizballah’s “security operations” and current organizer of al Qaeda’s infrastructure in Beirut.
ly attacks Israel and its agents are planted deep inside Palestinian terrorist groups.
3. The swap of a hostage kidnapped by Iraqi guerrillas for a Lebanese Hizballah terrorist exposes for the first time the clandestine operational links between the Hizballah and Iraqi guerrillas and fellow-terrorists. It elevates the Lebanese Shiite group’s standing in Europe to a higher league in a way detrimental to American and Israeli security interests.
Palestinian-Israeli deal to postpone the West Bank-Gaza general election
21 December: debkafile reveals: aides of prime minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas joined forces in an effort to have the January 15, 2206 elections to the Palestinian legislative council postponed. They share an interest in keeping the Hamas jihadist terror group from overrunning Palestinian government.
With the deal in their pockets, Palestinian spokesmen this week felt confident enough to pose as eager to embrace the democratic process in the face of Israeli obstacles. Wednesday, Dec. 21, with the arrival of Egyptian intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman, Palestinians complained they were being forced to call off the election, because Israel sought to impede voting in East Jerusalem in case Hamas was elected. Their implied hope was that Suleiman would line up with Israel and take matters out of Palestinian hands.
This plan fell flat simply because President George W. Bush refuses to hear of polling being postponed in the Palestinian Authority, any more than in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon or Egypt – as a matter of principle. This position was made abundantly clear when, Maj-Gen Keith Dayton, who takes over from General Ward as the new US security coordinator, first met Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz Wednesday. In other words, Washington is preparing to accept a Palestinian Authority dominated by Hamas.
Syria accepts storage of Ian’s nuclear weapons and missiles
21 December: The Damascus-Tehran strategic accord is meant to protect both countries from international pressure over their banned weapons programs. Syria commits to allow Iran to “safely store weapons, sensitive equipment or even hazardous materials on Syrian soil, should Iran need such help in time of crisis” – namely UN sanctions. In January, 2003, debkafile revealed that Syria provided a similar clandestine storage service for Saddam Hussein’s WMD.
The pact obliges Syria to continue to supply the Iranian-sponsored Hizballah with weapons, ammunition and communications. Iran has been the leading weapons supplier to Hizballah, with about 15,000m missiles and rockets along the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Palestinian Missile Attacks on Ashkelon Portend Environmental Catastrophe
21 December: Palestinian terror planners are now sending their Qassam missiles after big game: the important port-town of Ashkelon, which lies ten kilometers from the northern tip of the Gaza Strip, where the ruins of the evacuated Israeli locations of Dugit, Elei Sinai and Nisanit have been turned into handy launching sites.
While the primitive Qassam missiles often miss smaller targets, a single spark at one of the many sensitive facilities in Israel’s Mediterranean port town of Ashkelon would not just trigger a national disaster, but a huge environmental catastrophe on the scale of the Briitish Buncefield oil center explosion earlier this month.
Yet on Wednesday, Dec. 21, prime minister Ariel Sharon, in his first security consultation after leaving hospital, decided that diplomacy would keep Ashkelon safe from Palestinian target practice and that effective military measures could wait.
The same thinking apparently extends to the two al Qaeda cells, one sent by Abu Musab al Zarqawi in person, which took up positioning the Gaza Strip after Israel’s pull-out.
debkafile‘s military sources emphasize that the Sharon government does possess the means to stop the Qassam bombardment: an order to Israel’s Air Force to turn the northern Gaza Strip into a sterile zone where all moving objects are swatted. The targeted region has the added advantage of a very sparse Palestinian population.
However, Sharon is not only withholding this order; he is restraining the Air Force from pre-empting Palestinian missile launches. Air crews have been told to wait until the crewmen’s fingers are on the trigger before sending planes, helicopters or drones into action.
The Palestinians are of course taking advantage of their newfound immunity.