debkafile Exclusive: Washington will co-opt Egypt and Saudi Arabia to the Middle East Quartet.
23 June: debkafile‘s sources in Washington and Jerusalem report that Israeli leaders suffered a painful jolt when US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice told them that Saudi Arabia and Egypt would be granted equal status with the other Quartet members, the United States, the European Union, Russia and the UN secretary-general. It would be the first time in the history of the Israel-Palestinian conflict that Arab governments are invited to sit alongside world powers on an international body which claims an impartial say in Israel’s military and diplomatic conduct. Israel was not consulted in the matter.
According to debkafile‘s sources in Jerusalem, Rice explained to Israeli leaders that the invitations were a short cut to buying Egypt’s consent to cooperate in securing the Gaza Strip after Israel’s pullout and for getting the Saudis to finance its reconstruction.
Israeli officials protested that it made no sense for Egypt to oversee the actions of its own security forces in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli border. Neither was there any justice in letting the Saudis, who do not recognize Israel and who bankroll and sponsor the Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to destroying Israel, have a say in Israel’s future.
The US secretary replied that neither Egypt nor Saudi Arabia could be asked for cooperation without a seat on the relevant international bodies.
Zarqawi says top Saudi terrorist killed in Iraq
23 June: He is named on an Islamic Web site as Abdullah al-Rashoud, whom the Iraqi al Qaeda commander Abu Musab al Zarqawi says died in battle with US forces at al Qaim near the Syrian border. This claim could not be authenticated.
On April 8, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 201 reported al-Rashoud had escaped a major Saudi offensive that wiped out the cell’s leadership at al-Rass, 190 miles north of Riyadh, on April 3.
Senior ideologue of the cell, al Rashoud was one of two or three leaders who got away. At least 14 Saudi cell members and many security personnel were killed in the three-day battle in which the Saudi cell’s command post was destroyed.
Zarqawi now claims al-Rashoud reached Iraq six weeks ago from Saudi Arabia where he was a hunted man.
debkafile‘s counter-terror experts add: This is the first such report ever issued personally by Zarqawi. Al-Rashid’s death in al Qaim indicates he escaped from Saudi Arabia to Syria and was then smuggled into Iraq. Zarqawi’s statement is also the first disclosure of an interconnection between the Iraqi and Saudi al Qaeda organizations. Until now, intelligence bodies in Iraq assumed that the two operations were quite separate.
Tehran’s Riposte to Washington on Their Nuclear Dispute, Lebanon, Syria and Khuzestan
25 June: A virtual nobody on Iran’s national scene, Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 49, was picked by Iran’s radical Islamic leaders and swung ahead of the presidential race to deal “the heaviest psychological blow to Iran’s enemies.” Those words were uttered by the new president in his first post-election statement Saturday, June 25. They attested to the fact that Iran had chosen him as its tool for getting back at the Bush administration for seeking to bring regime change and democracy to the Middle East and Iran in particular.
Having faced down the United States and Israel on the nuclear issue, the Islamic regime came to the conclusion that there was no power on earth left to interfere with its progress towards achieving a nuclear bomb.
Tehran regards American pressure for Hizballah to disarm, dismantle the more than 10,000 rockets and pull back from southern Lebanon’s border with Israel as an assault on Iran’s strategic interests.
Palestinians Hit the West Bank as Foretaste of Pre-Disengagement Terror Campaign
25 June: The Israeli 17-year old student shot dead by a Palestinian drive-by killer squad Friday evening June 24 near Beit Haggai, Mt. Hebron, was the third pre-disengagement victim of four Palestinian terrorist attacks this week. Five Israelis were also injured, one seriously. Earlier, Sgt-Maj Avi Karuchi, 25, from Beersheba, and Yevgeni Rider, 28, from Hermesh, were murdered in a revival of Palestinian violence that is refocusing on the West Bank.
1. By these attacks, the Palestinians are signaling their determination to keep Israel’s pullbacks from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank under fire. The comparative lull, such as it was, is over as of now.
2. As the mid-August evacuation date nears, the attacks will also spread across the Green Line into Israel. Defense minister Shaul Mofaz has said that if Palestinian fire continues after Israel’s withdrawal, the IDF will be forced to retake parts of the Gaza Strip. The new reality requires the extension of his threat to the West Bank too.
3. The fresh onslaught is a combined effort of all the Palestinian terrorist factions.
4. The drive-by shooting in Mt. Hebron, in the southern half of the West Bank, was staged directly after Mofaz visited Hebron and ordered Israeli military positions and checkpoints dismantled, in response to US and European pressure. The Sharon government also ordered the military to prepare for the handover of Bethlehem and Qalqilya to Palestinian security control in the next week or two. The Palestinians were replying that nothing Israel can do in the way of concessions, gestures or eased restrictions will prevent the violence escalating.
5. Restoring Bethlehem to Palestinian control augurs fresh attacks on nearby Jerusalem.
6. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his ministers have no control over the terrorist groups. Therefore their promises to deploy forces for maintaining order are bouncing checks.
7. Masoud Iyad served Yasser Arafat as his personal go-between with the Lebanese Hizballah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah. By naming the Friday attack in Mt. Hebron the Masoud Iyad Operation, the Fatah let Abu Mazen know that the organization remains faithful to Yasser Arafat’s path and owes the new leader no loyalty. Fatah, like Hamas, recognizes the Lebanese terror group as its sole partner in action.
Sharon asks Mubarak for helping hand over Philadelphi deployment
26 June: Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon took the unusual step of appealing to an Arab ruler, Hosni Mubarak, for help and sensitivity in wording the military protocols covering the Egyptian security presence for securing the Philadelphi border route after Israel exits the Gaza Strip. This is revealed by debkafile‘s exclusive political sources.
The appeal followed the advice received from state attorney Manny Mazuz that the deployment of a single Egyptian soldier in Sinai would breach Sinai’s demilitarized status as enshrined in the 1979 peace treaty and ratified by the Knesset. Any Israeli citizen could successfully challenge the protocols and quickly obtain an order nisi halting the military handover process.
Sharon asked Mubarak to agree to the protocols being phrased in general terms leaving the details of the bilateral accords to their oral understandings that would be hard to prove if challenged in court or parliament.
Egypt’s military presence in Sinai would be disguised in the following ways:
1. Commando troops deployed along the Philadelphi route would wear police uniforms, their vehicles painted in police colors with police insignia.
2. Egyptian navy craft brought to El Arish on Sinai’s Mediterranean coast would likewise be masked as Egyptian port police vessels.
3. The protocols would refer only to an Egyptian police deployment at Philadelphi, and omit all mention of a second-stage deployment of Egyptian military strength the full length of the border down to Eilat.
What Makes Bush Upbeat about a US Victory in Iraq?
28 June: One year ago, US administrator Paul Bremer handed the keys of government to interim prime minister Iyad Allawi amid high hopes of a new Iraq. Allawi remains Washington’s key man in Baghdad, even after the January general election produced a new administration headed by prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari and president Jalal Talabani. The Bush administration is counting on him heavily to eventually find a way out of the Iraqi insurgency and its supportive Arab terror campaign and put an end to guerrilla-terror war that has claimed 1,715 Americans lives and left an Iraqi death toll estimated in tens of thousands. Since the incumbent government took office in April, more than 1000 have been killed, most of them Iraqis.
But as Bush assures Americans that their country will win the war, Allawi, according to debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources, is playing a supporting role in Amman, Jordan. There, he is running a negotiating marathon with batch after batch of Sunni tribal leaders, guerrilla commanders – some as menacing as the al Qaeda-linked Ansar al Islam – and senior Sunni clerics. Allawi embarked on the most intensive phase of his Amman talks Saturday, June 25, after secret preparatory visits to two Arab capitals – Damascus, June 23, to see Syrian president Bashar Assad, and Cairo Friday, June 24 for talks with Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. His purpose was to enlist their aid in stopping Iraq’s guerrilla war. The former Iraqi premier was provided with a special plane by the United Arab Emirates which is chipping in with funding for his US-backed peace mission.
The Iraqi mediator left Damascus empty handed.
The Syrian ruler made a deliberate gesture of ill will by immediately inviting Allawi’s great political rival Iraqi president Jalal Talabani to visit Damascus in the coming days. The invitation was also meant as a hint to Iraqi Arabs and Sunnis that the Americans and the former prime minister were not the only options on the board.
In Cairo, Allawi was warmly welcomed. Mubarak not only promised assistance for a negotiated accommodation to pacify Iraq, but there and then, picked up the phone and ordered Arab League secretary Amr Mussa to put the entire organization behind the Allawi mission.
The anti-evacuation movement is gaining momentum
29 June: Tuesday and Wednesday the simmering showdown between anti-disengagement protesters activists and Israeli security forces boiled over into violence. In the two days since a group of teenagers moved into a ruin left opposite the Shirat Hayam hotel by IDF demolitions, rock-throwing battles between them and Palestinians have been ongoing. Finally,
Wednesday, the IDF drove the Israeli youths out of the building after shooting in the air to break up the fracas. Nine youths were arrested.
Wednesday morning, more activists scattered sharp nails and oil on the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, halting heavy traffic. When they threatened to tie up rush air traffic later in the day, prime minister Sharon order the police to take all measures necessary to keep the traffic flowing.
The 56-day sentence passed against the American-born corporal Avi Beiber for opting out of the demolitions in Gaza is an issue of hot debate on the right to refuse orders on moral grounds in and outside the army.
Chief of staff Dan Halutz has warned the rabbis of the yeshiva seminaries for religious recruits that preaching refusal will not be tolerated.