debkafile‘s security sources say Israeli intelligence chiefs’ overlook key factors when they rule out a Syrian-Israeli war this year
23 February: This optimistic determination appears in the annual report Military Intelligence-AMAN, the Shin Bet and the Mossad submitted to the government Sunday, Feb. 25. debkafile‘s security sources say it is hasty and fails to take vital considerations into account, such as the possible effect of the Syrian ruler’s extreme isolation.
The report additionally risks being clouded by two disturbing manifestations.
One is the latest tendency of national security spokesmen and the new chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi to reflect the official line as dictated by prime minister Ehud Olmert and his ministers, rather than voicing their professional opinions.
The second is the government’s slavish submission to US-Saudi Middle East policies, regardless of Israel’s interests.
In so doing, they ignore the possible backlash from the Syrian president Bashar Assad who is blacklisted by the Arab community. He may well launch limited attacks on Israeli locations on the divided Golan, Mt. Hermon or even Galilee. If such incidents boiled over into a broader military conflict, Assad would stand out as the only Arab ruler willing to fight the Zionist enemy; fellow Arab governments would be forced by their own peoples to rally around him.
The Syrian ruler was not reassured by his talks in Tehran on Feb. 16 and 17 with Iran’s rulers. For some weeks, he has suspected Tehran was double-crossing him in Lebanon. Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has not answered Assad’s requests for an explanation or his demands to heat up the border with Israel as a handy diversion – a snub he would not have dared to administer without orders from Tehran.
Assad is left in the lurch with the sword hanging over his head of the UN tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. Some of those suspects are pillars of his regime and close family.
A team of UNESCO experts to study Israel’s archeological dig at the damaged Mughrabi Gate
24 February: The dig, 50-60 meters from the Temple Mount compound where al Aqsa Mosque is situated, has sparked a spate of Muslim protests. Under an accord with the Muslim religious authorities reached after the 1967 war, Israel ceded control of all the gates giving onto the Temple Mount plaza excepting the Mughrabi Gate, the only entry point for non-Muslims. The ramp leading up to the gate, which is closer to the Jewish Western Wall than the mosques, was damaged four years ago by heavy snow. Its repair has prompted wild allegations that al Aqsa is “under attack.” Israel welcomes the UNESCO visit and has invited Turkish experts to inspect the site.
Jordanian intelligence aborts new al Qaeda network, points US attention to menace of Sinai and Gaza cells
25 February: Osama bin Laden’s cells were planned for Jordan’s main cities, structured on the same lines as the Iraq and Gaza networks. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that Jordanian intelligence stumbled on the conspiracy when a group of former contacts of Abu Musab al Zarqawi attempting to cross the Jordanian border to Syria were detained for questioning.
They confessed they were heading for an Al Qaeda training camp on the outskirts of Damascus to prepare a fresh round of attacks in Jordan and set up a logistic rear command for pumping money, arms, explosives and fighting strength from Syria into Jordan.
Jordan holds US intelligence policy partly responsible for failing to pursue al Qaeda in two key arenas: Iraq and the Palestinian Authority. The Jordanians are most worried by the way the Americans and Israelis make light of al Qaeda’s incursions into Sinai and among the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Jordan has warned US counter-terror authorities that their failure to address this rising menace will place any future accords and security arrangements in the region in grave jeopardy.
A third bomb-making facility found Monday in Israeli counter-terror operation
February 26: One Palestinian was killed, one injured. Several Israeli units are conducting house to house searches for suspects and bomb-making laboratories in Palestinian terrorist strongholds in the Nablus Casbah, whose 50,000 inhabitants remain under curfew for the third day. Two Israeli soldiers were slightly hurt Sunday.
The third bomb factory discovered contained side-arms, bomb-making materials, computers and martyr videotapes ready for use. Cached in the second bomb laboratory were 10 explosive devices primed for detonation and a light anti-tank weapon, LAW. The first also contained quantities of explosive charges and packets of bomb-making materials and equipment.
US or Israeli Military Strike against Iran Hinges on Secret Saudi Diplomacy
26 February: The New Yorker is only the latest of many publications reporting that the United States and Israel are preparing to attack Iran. Sunday, Feb. 25, the Pentagon spokesman made haste to sharply reject the report of a 24-hour war plan.
The military, naval, air and amphibious strength the US has built up around Iranian shores speaks louder than words. Iran has countered that signal by placing its army and the elite Revolutionary Guards Corps on full war footing since September 2006.
Israel, the third element in the war equation (or first, according to the London Daily Telegraph), is in the middle of a concentrated series of combat training and war games. Field officers and troops have been told, contrary to the evaluations submitted by Israel’s intelligence agencies to the government Sunday, Feb. 25, to be ready for a major flare-up on more than one front in the summer.
debkafile‘s sources report the answers to the pressing questions of if and when America will attack Iran are to be found in the grey areas between US-Iranian-Israeli military preparations and events in Iraq, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, or between the American war preparations and the quiet haggling over terms going forward with Tehran via Saudi go-betweens.
The outcome would depend on who pulled the wires of such a provocation. Intelligence leading to Tehran would pile up more pressure for an American answer in kind. If it led to Syria, Hizballah or Hamas, Israel would face a hard decision, in consultation with Washington.
Terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia claims fourth French victim Tuesday
27 February: Al Qaeda attackers machine-gunned the men in a group of French expatriates who live and work in Riyadh and were touring historic sites in the western region of the oil kingdom. The fourth victim was a teenager, a Muslim, whose father was killed Monday in the first al Qaeda attack since 2004. On Feb. 15, debkafile quoted exclusively from the February issue of Sawt a Jihad, a publication put out by the Saudi wing of al Qaeda, a report on preparations for resumed “quality attacks” against the “crusaders in the Arabian Peninsula.”
The liquid explosives sought six months after foiled al Qaeda mass airline terror plot from the UK are found in Lebanon
28 February: The plot for 10 airliners to crash over US cities by detonating liquid explosives, hidden in hand luggage, disrupted British and transatlantic air traffic last August. Six months later, the Lebanese police report the confiscation of the first batch ever found anywhere of these explosive devices at the S. Lebanese Palestinian camp of Ain Hilwa, near Sidon port.
debkafile revealed last year that an al Qaeda network had infiltrated Ain Hilwa.
The Lebanese police said each device consists of two tubes filled with blue liquid fitted on a board and connected to a time-detonator. The 31 sets confiscated included “sophisticated electro-chemical timers-detonators that can be timed to explode after 124 days.” They were described as being of East European origin. The sets were assembled and waiting to be smuggled and used in terrorist acts
Undercover Israeli police force kills new Palestinian Jihad Islami Jenin commander Ashraf Saadi and 2 accomplices
28 February: Two Israeli soldiers were slightly injured in the exchange of fire. Saadi’s predecessor was killed a week ago the day after he dispatched the suicide bomber who was captured in Bat Yam before he could do any harm.