A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending January 26, 2006

Ahmedenijad receives Heads of 10 Palestinian terrorist leaders in Damascus


20 January: Among them were Khaled Mashaal, whose Hamas is running for election in five days, Abdallah Ramadan Shalah, head of Jihad Islami, which Thursday injured 25 Israelis in Tel Aviv suicide bombing, Ahmed Jibril, head of the radical PFLP-General Command, and Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah.

debkafile adds: The Olmert government is standing aside as Hamas heads for certain victory in the Palestinian elections. This group, like the other Palestinian terrorist groups whose commands are comfortably ensconced in Damascus, receives funding, aid and support from the hands of a leader who openly advocates wiping Israel off the map.


Did a novel type of “flying roadside bombs” down three US helicopters in Iraq?


21 January: US forces in Iraq are encountering a new Sunni insurgent anti-air weapon which is proving deadly for low-flying helicopters. It works on the same principle as the roadside bomb (IED or improvised explosive device).

This primitive weapon is thought to account for the unexplained downing in 10 days of three American combat helicopters: A UH-60 Black Hawk over Mosul on Jan. 8 in which 8 service personnel and 4 civilians were killed; A US OH-58 D Kiowa military helicopter which crashed near Mosul on Jan. 13, killing its two pilots and an Apache AH-64 which came down north of Baghdad on June 16. Two more pilots were lost in the third crash, bringing to 16 the total of American combat personnel lost in the three attacks.

(Photo of the Apache was published by the insurgent Moujahiddin Army on Jan. 16)

The downed craft were full of many small holes that were apparently pierced by metal shards of mortar or artillery shells and scattered across a broad radius by an explosive blast.

American investigators discovered the projectile is fired to a height of some 17 meters before being detonated alongside a chopper and covering it in a shower of sharp metal shards.

This assumption was confirmed when a unit of the US 101st Airborne Division discovered a large cache of materials for building improvised explosive devices near Hawija on the Tigris River east of Balad.


Swiss banking giant UBS AG stops doing business with Iran


22 January: UBS AG spokesman Serge Steiner announced that all existing business with customers in Iran will be cancelled, except for Iranians in exile.

debkafile has learned that Iran’s spiritual ruler Ayatollah Ali Khameini has transferred his personal fortune of $1.2 bn from the Swiss UBS AG to banks in Singapore and Malaysia. Former president Hashemi Rafsanjani has ordered the removal of two large sums in Canadian dollars – 856 m and 1,425 bn – from Canadian banks to establishments in Beirut, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Our financial experts estimate that in the last ten days, some $7.5bn dollars have been drained from private Iranian accounts in Germany, Switzerland, France, Britain and Italy and concealed in Southeast Asian banks. That is in addition to the estimated $23bn in governing holdings that Iran has taken out of European banks and deposited in the Bahamas, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Dubai and Singapore.


Israeli chief of staff predicts a further round of Palestinian terror


22 January: Chief of staff Dan Halutz says terrorism is closing in from every direction – from east and west, Jordan and Lebanon. It lacks the power to overcome Israel, but will pose a nuisance.

debkafile has questions for the general:

1. Why did he fail to start preparing for the next round of Palestinian terror last September? What he did instead was to make the IDF stand aside and let a mighty influx of war materiel and explosives stream unhindered into the Gaza Strip and on to the West Bank to fuel the very round of violence he is now predicting.

3. Now he perceives terror is closing in on the country from all sides. What happened to his perceptions ahead of the Gaza Strip evacuation when he optimistically forecast that the pull-back would enhance national security?

4. The general’s use of the word “nuisance” in relation to life-threatening terrorism is inappropriate, bigheaded and dangerously fallacious.


Tehran is planning a nuclear weapons test before March 20


22 January: Reporting this, the dissident Foundation for Democracy in Iran, a US-based watch group, cites sources in the US and Iran. The FDI adds from Iran: on June 16, the high command of the Revolutionary Guards Air Force ordered Shahab-3 missile units to move mobile launchers every 24 hours instead of weekly. This is in view of a potential pre-emptive strike by the US or Israel.

Advance Shahab-3 units have been positioned in Kermanshah and Hamad within striking distance of Israel, reserve launchers moved to Esfahan and Fars.

The missile units were told to change positions “in a radius of 30-35 kilometers” and only at night.

debkafile‘s Iranian sources add: FDI reporting has a reputation for credibility. Western and Israeli intelligence have known for more than six months that Iran’s nuclear program has reached the capability of being able to carry out a nuclear explosion, albeit underground. It would probably be staged in a desert or mountain region and activated by a distant control center. Tehran would aim at confronting the Americans, Europeans and Israelis with an irreversible situation.


Former Israeli army chief Moshe Yaalon: Israel has paid dearly for its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza with the serious impairment of its deterrent strength


23 January: The Gaza Strip has been transformed into “Hamasstan, Hizballahstan and al Qaedastan.” In the present circumstances and the foreseeable future, the pre-1967 boundaries for will be neither secure nor defensible.

debkafile‘s Special Analysis below examines the dilemmas a prospective Hamas high score in the Jan. 25 election pose for the Olmert government


Hamas Issue Ties Olmert Government in Knots


23 January: Ehud Olmert ducked the first major challenge of his tenure as stand-in for Ariel Sharon. He avoided addressing the possibility of a Hamas victory in the Palestinian election. His foreign minister Tzipi Livni dumped the Hamas problem together with the other poser, the Iranian nuclear threat, in the laps of “the international community.”

The trouble is that on the Palestinian Hamas, Olmert, like the rest of Sharon’s stalwarts in the government and Kadima party, are caught in a dilemma of their own making. Since they executed Israel’s pull-out from the Gaza Strip, Hamas has gone from strength to strength – militarily and politically – and expects a third-share at least of the Jan. 25 vote for the 123-strong Palestinian legislative council. The prospects of Abu Mazen and his feud-ridden Fatah have dipped correspondingly.

But most of acting prime minister Olmert’s advisers and colleagues enthusiastically embraced the withdrawal that enabled an Islamic terrorist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction to leap into Palestinian government. They are moreover heading for its continuation on the West Bank.

By failing to stop the Hamas in time, the Israeli government is now condemned to being dragged willy-nilly into playing ball with the long-term strategic goals of a radical Islamic group committed to wiping out the Jewish state.


New Fatah-al Aqsa 27-range missile brings the entire Ashkelon district into range


24 January: debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report: The Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades of the Gaza Strip announced Tuesday, Jan. 24, receipt of a new surface missile, designated No. 207, whose 27- kilometer range covers the entire district of the Israeli port of Ashkelon. Our military sources add that a missile with this range could also hit the towns of Netivot, Ofakim and places west of Beersheba, capital of the Negev. They identify the new weapon as the Russian short-range Grad 121mm. Dec. 29, al Qaeda’s Iraq leader Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, who claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on northern Israel, reported that al Qaeda cells in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip had acquired Grad missiles.


First Olmert policy statement indicates parting of ways with Sharon


24 January: debkafile‘s political sources: The new Israeli leader is more amenable than the ailing prime minister to direct talks with the Palestinians on a peace deal, accepts land concessions on the West Bank (barring Jerusalem, settlement blocs and security zones) and appears to have turned away from the unilateral disengagement principle. Our sources add that Olmert has extended an olive branch to his old rival Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, nationalist Lieberman and ultra-religious Shas. This may presage the shape of the post-election government coalition.

In his first political statement, Israeli interim minister Ehud Olmert said his first priority would be to shape permanent borders that guaranteed a Jewish majority.

He said he preferred agreement with the Palestinians to further disengagements.

According to debkafile‘s Washington sources, this decision evolved from a series of quiet talks he held with Robert Danin, Elliott Abrams’ deputy head of the national security council. Danin’s mission was to find out what Olmert’s intentions were for the West Bank.

The interim PM’s reply to the US official was echoed in his speech.

He declared he opposed controlling territory in which there was a Palestinian majority, and went on to say: Israel accepts the need to forgo parts of the ancestral Land of Israel, retaining security zones, large settlement blocs and places of supreme importance to the Jewish people, primarily Jerusalem which must remain under Israel sovereignty. The unauthorized outposts would be removed, he declared. But the Palestinians too must forgo some of their national dreams to achieve statehood. There must be a clear demographic line between the two entities.


Hamas shock victory


26 January: Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas asks radical Hamas terrorists to form a new government after its shock victory at the polls.

His defeated Fatah slapped down participation in a Hamas-led coalition. The first Hamas statement: Negotiating with Israel and recognition are not on our agenda. The armed struggle will continue.

Hamas control of Palestinian government is a regional earthquake that will bring the Muslim Brotherhood into power by the ballot for the first time in Middle East history.

The Palestinian election sets back critically the underlying objective of the US-led global war on terror: denying terrorists territorial strike bases and keeping them on the run – as manifested in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For Israel, allowing the Hamas terrorists to take part in the Palestinian election – after its takeover of the Gaza Strip – was a fatal blunder. It is now condemned to dealing with the Damascus-based Khaled Mashal and Mahmoud a-Zahar in Gaza, now holding the whip hand in Ramallah.

The peace strategy acting Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert outlined in his policy address the day before the Palestinian election is passe; it was built around negotiations with Abu Mazen and a Fatah regime in Ramallah. He failed to consider the possibility of having to face up to a Palestinian negotiating partner that takes its orders from Cairo, Qatar, Damascus and Tehran.

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