A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending June 16, 2005:
Musharraf Dumps Hundreds of al Qaeda Operatives Back in Afghanistan
11 June: The biggest refugee repatriation operation in the world underway now is the cover for Pakistan’s mass-export of al Qaeda operatives back to where they came from – Afghanistan. General Pervez Musharraf gave the remaining estimated 400,000 Afghan refugees remaining in the country until June 30 to leave the country or face expulsion.
Most live along Pakistan’s northwestern border regions of North and South Waziristan, which are also the sanctuaries of hundreds of al-Qaeda linked terrorists and Taliban, many buried among these Afghan refugees. Among them are foreign terrorists from Afghanistan, Chechnya and Uzbekistan
debkafile‘s correspondent quotes diplomatic sources in the capital as referring to the belief of US intelligence agents that al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives who took shelter in Pakistan as refugees are now regrouping and moving back into Afghanistan. They pose fresh dangers to the Karzai government’s stability in Kabul. American military strength in Afghanistan is not nearly large enough to deal with any major influx.
According to Guenet Guebre-Christos, United Nations High Commission for Refugees Representative in Pakistan, 1,861,412 Afghan refugees live in the North West Frontier Province, 783,545 in Baluchistan, 136,780 in Sindh, 207,754 in Punjab, 44,637 in Islamabad and 13,097 in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the Northern Areas. The UNHCR urges them not to return immediately, since they face attacks and hunger. Six to seven million Afghanis are reported to live on the brink of starvation. Returnees receive assistance package of a travel grant of US $3 to $30 per person and another $12 per capita to re-establish themselves in their homeland. UNHCR staff cannot distinguish between a genuine Afghan refugee and a terror operative trying to cross over to Afghanistan to escape arrest or join the assaults on coalition forces and the Kabul government. Many refugees are caught in the crossfire of Pakistani military action.
Pakistani intelligence sources told debkafile‘s sources that, even after the Afghan refugees are gone, North Waziristan will be a stronger terrorist base than South Waziristan, supported at they are by a large number of seminaries established there and around 70 percent of the local population.
Washington, Jerusalem and Amman Prepare for Abbas’ Exit
12 June: Israeli and Palestinian officials are still bent on going through the motions to keep up an appearance of normal diplomatic momentum, egged on from Washington. Rice’s overriding interest in Israel is to keep the Sharon government moving along its assigned track of disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank and make sure it takes place on schedule. But on the Palestinian scene, her role is more like a fire extinguisher – which is why Jerusalem has indicated that the evacuation will go forward with our without Palestinian coordination.
debkafile‘s Palestinian sources offer an eyehole into Abu Mazen’s world to explain why he is on the point of washing his hands of the job he inherited.
1. As head of the Palestinian Authority, he and his ministers have lost active control of the Gaza Strip or West Bank to lawless armed gangs who respect no authority.
2. Gunmen use not only Israeli locations by also the homes of Palestinian leaders in Ramallah and other parts of the West Bank for target practice.
3. His attempt in Gaza Wednesday and Thursday, June 8 and 9, to halt the Hamas-Jihad Islami missile and mortar barrage on Israeli targets was a mortifying fiasco. He learned that the real action took place in a Hamas-Hizballah summit in Beirut.
4. The Gaza Council of the Heads of National and Islamic Organizations – a powerful umbrella of the main terrorist leaders – extorted from Abu Mazen acceptance of its veto on any PA decision-making. This knocks on the head any chance of a deal to coordinate Israel’s August withdrawal.
5. In any case, a Palestinian Central Security blueprint drafted jointly by the CIA, the Palestinians and the Israelis for this very purpose was blown out of the water. It had hinged on the formation of a new national security force manned by 5,000 young Palestinians to take over West Bank and Gaza Strip locations vacated by Israel, before Hamas and the Fatah al Aqsa Brigades made a grab. The recruiting offices were overrun by some 100,000 applicants and they shut down in disarray..
6. Hamas freely states that the de facto ceasefire it accepted is a one-way street, there to be breached unilaterally whenever its leaders see fit. Hamas’ overseas, political and military Izz e-din al Qassam arms have pulled together to exploit the partial truce for building a new 10,000-strong army. Its commander-in-chief is Sheikh Hashem Jaabari.
Washington Gives up on Iran’s Nuclear Bomb, Therefore Backs ElBaradei’s Reappointment
13 June: The Bush administration has given up on the battle against Iran’s nuclear armament. This is the meaning of Washington’s decision to back the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA’s board vote Monday, June 13, to reappoint Mohamed ElBaradei as agency director for a fifth term.
Israel thus finds itself alone in the ring with the Iranian nuclear menace. Nothing now remains to stop Tehran attaining its goal of a nuclear bomb or bombs by the end of 2006 or early 2007 – except for the extreme possibility of direct Israeli military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
In adopting this posture, the Bush administration is not operating in a vacuum.
On the other side of the Atlantic, most of the European leaders on whom Bush relied are groping for solid ground. With the exception of French President Jacques Chirac, the European Union in early May threw in the sponge on the diplomatic strategy which Washington had adopted as the keystone of its effort to pre-empt Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.
But Washington is under no illusion that this support is enough for a uniform international front capable of eliciting UN Security Council economic sanctions stringent enough to deter Iran from implementing its nuclear plans.
The heads of the Islamic regime in Tehran sense a major victory in the offing for their plans for a nuclear weapon. They see another eighteen to twenty-four months’ grace to complete their project undisturbed. For Israel, Washington’s quiet retreat from its campaign against an Iranian bomb spells disaster, the collapse of yet another vital strategic asset intrinsic to the Sharon government’s defense posture.
Ethnic Arab Intifada Targets Richest Iranian Oil Resource
13 June: On the march against the Tehran regime since April, the ethnic Arab rebels of Iran’s southwest province of Khuzestan have for the first time struck an Iranian oil target. This attack, revealed here by debkafile‘s Exclusive Iranian sources, took place Wednesday, June 8. The guerrillas struck the new petrochemical installations of the Karoun Oil and Gas Production’s drilling and well services, east of the provincial capital of Ahwaz.
Saturday night, June 11, President Mohammed Khatami flew in to the restive region which supplies 80% of Iran’s oil output to assess the damage.
Four hours after he returned to Tehran, Arab guerrillas detonated four bombs in Ahwaz – one at least by a suicide bomber – against the Iranian planning ministry near the governor’s seat, the central post office, the housing ministry and the home of the Tehran-appointed director of the local television station. At least eight people were killed, up to 35 injured. They then planted a bomb on a busy Tehran square, the first the Iranian capital had experienced in a decade. One person was killed, according to the Iranian interior ministry. These hits by a Khuzestan Arab movement called Nahda (Renaissance), were timed for five days before the June 17 presidential election.
About two weeks ago, Iranian security arrested thousands of Arab community leaders in Khuzestan, releasing them later against bonds running into hundreds of thousands of dollars against their abstinence from anti-government activities. A second round of mass arrests took place Sunday. Khuzestani Internet links were also cut.
The ethnic Arabs of Khuzestan, some 3% of Iran’s 67 million inhabitants, are now threatening to boycott next Thursday’s election. This organized protest by the 2 million Shiite Arab inhabitants of Iran’s most abundant oil center would be a severe blow for the Islamic regime.
Teheran has accused US and British intelligence of engineering Arab unrest in Khuzestan from across the border in Iraq.
Assad Places Two Intelligence Strongmen inside Baath
15 June: debkafile‘s intelligence experts report that the intelligence shakeup Syrian president Bashar Assad has just completed is programmed to strengthen his grip on the ruling Baath party as his personal tool of power – rather than promoting reforms.
Deputy air force intelligence chief Ali Mamluk replaces Hisham Ikhtiar as head of General Intelligence, while Ikhtiar is promoted director of the ruling Baath’s newly-created, all-powerful 9-man security bureau. debkafile adds a third unpublished appointment of Mohammed Said Bahitan as head of the Baath intelligence apparatus and member of the elite bureau.
The ruling Baath thus comes under the control of the two strongest Syrian intelligence officials in Damascus – belying the intention avowed by the party’s 10th congress last week to introduce democratic reforms in the country.
US aims to blend roadmap with Oslo Accords
15 June: Ahead of US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the region next Sunday, June 18-19, Bush administration officials are outlining a proposal for execution after Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip and N. West Bank. debkafile‘s Exclusive Washington sources disclose their thinking is to resuscitate the 1993 Oslo Accords Phase 3 which calls for Israel’s withdrawal from 60 percent of the West Bank – excluding East Jerusalem, Israeli communities and military facilities.
The US conception would blend Oslo 3 and Middle East roadmap clause 2 which would establish an interim Palestinian state without permanent borders. Bush planners hope thereby to follow up on initial Israeli pullback with a sweeping withdrawal from large tracts of the West Bank. The Palestinians, for their part, would be asked to accept an interim state without pressing their basic demands on Jerusalem and refugee return. The timetable execution would spread over two years at least, winding up in 2007, i.e. the end of the Bush presidency.
Tuesday, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was pressed by opposition leader Tommy Lapid after a string of parliamentary defeats to detail his plans post Gaza pullout. He said it will then be the Palestinians’ turn to dismantle all terrorist organizations – else there would be no negotiations and no Palestinian state.
Sharon was pushed to the wall by opposition Tommy Lapid after his government suffered a string of four parliamentary defeats in one day, Tuesday, June 14.
Wednesday, the Knesset Speaker (member of the ruling Likud) called on the government to resign and the prime minister to call an early election.