A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending March 2, 2006

Moscow’s Lone Hand on Iran Perturbs Washington, Jerusalem and Vienna


25 February: Russia’s ex-prime minister Sergei Kiriyenko, now head of Russian atomic energy commission arrived in Tehran Friday, Feb. 24, to continue talks on the transfer of some Iranian uranium enrichment activities to Russia.

debkafile adds: Kirienko leads a Kremlin faction that advocates breaking ranks with Washington and Europe and striking out for a bilateral Moscow-Tehran deal that lets the Islamic republic forge ahead, under certain conditions, with its nuclear program. In contrast, President Vladimir Putin prefers continued joint action with the West. But he appears to have been overruled – hence the Kirienko delegation in Tehran.

Washington and Jerusalem are troubled most by the prospect of hands-on Iranian involvement in the joint uranium enrichment venture. This would nullify the safeguards for preventing the Russian-Iranian enterprise turning out weapons-grade uranium.

According to information reaching Washington and Jerusalem, Kirienko also favors letting Iran continue enrichment at home simultaneously with the Russian-hosted enterprise.


The FBI Seizes Documents in Raid of Yemen airline offices in Dearborn, Detroit


25 February: The raid was carried out after Yemeni president Ali Abdallah Salah refused a White House request to arrest the prominent radical Sheikh Abdul Majid Zindani, head of the powerful Islamist al-Islah (Reform) party and Iman University of Sanaa, for inciting to terrorism. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that although the sheikh is on a UN list of terrorists, Salah included him in his official party to the Islamic Conference summit in Mecca last December. He is respected as a scholar in Saudi Arabia. The Yemeni president demanded US intelligence proofs of Zindani’s involvement in terrorism. Iman University is known as a breeding ground for radical Islamists. He has been recorded in a speech as accusing “Bush and the Jews” of conspiring to carry out the Sept. 11 attack in New York.


Tehran, Moscow agree in principle on a joint uranium enrichment venture


26 February: The accord was announced Sunday, Feb. 26, by Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, after two days of talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Kiriyenko at the Bushehr nuclear reactor.

debkafile reports: The Russians, by going along with Iran’s demands, have rescued the Islamic Republic from the threat of a US-European-Israel complaint to the UN Security Council. Referral of Iran’s nuclear breaches of the NPT was to have taken place after the critical IAEA board session in Vienna March 6.

Now, the Russian delegate will be able to ask for time to work on the details of the Moscow-Tehran accord. The Iranians will thus buy several precious months to continue to process uranium – their main objective in engaging in diplomacy in the first place. Moscow has thus delivered a sharp setback to the US-Israeli drive to put spokes in the wheels of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Our military sources report that by pulling off this accord in principle with Iran, Kirienko frees Iran to enrich uranium up to weapons grade. Israel is thus confronted with a potential strategic threat as grave – or graver – than the Hamas rise to power in Palestinian government.

In the space of a month, the two developments have tightened the Iranian noose around the Jewish state.


Mofaz rejects Hamas PM-designate Ismail Haniya’s “peace in stages”


26 February: Israel’s defense minister Shaul Mofaz made this assertion when he met US undersecretary of state David Welch in Jerusalem Sunday, Feb. 26. He pointed to the anti-Israel pact Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal had concluded with Iran in Tehran last week. While Israel found this pact unacceptable, Mofaz promised the Palestinian population would not be punished.

Also Sunday, Gaza’s Hamas leader Mahmoud a-Zahar declared the attacks on Israel would continue.

debkafile‘s Palestinian analysts note that the only difference between statements by a-Zahar, Haniya and Meshaal are in tone and venue. Otherwise, Hamas leaders are in remarkable unison in rhetoric and deed.

Nonetheless, Haniya’s interview with the Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth on Feb. 26, has been misinterpreted as moderate. Therefore, the pertinent questions and answers are worth repeating verbatim:

Q. Will you abide by past agreements made by the Palestinian government and Israel?

A. We will review all agreements and abide by those that are in the interest of the Palestinian people.

Q. What agreements will you honor?

A. The ones that guarantee the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital with 1967 borders – as well as agreements that would release prisoners.

Q. Would Hamas recognize Israel if it were to withdraw to the ’67 borders?

A. If Israel withdraws to the ’67 borders, then we will establish a peace in stages.

Q. What does that mean?

A. Number one: We will establish a situation of stability and calm which will bring safety for our people – what Sheikh Yassin called a long term hudna.

Q. Do you recognize Israel’s right to exist?

A. The answer is to let Israel say it will recognize a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, release the prisoners and recognize the rights of the refugees to return to Israel. Hamas will have a position if this occurs.

Q. So will you extend the present ceasefire?

A. I will not say yes or no. The problem is with Israel.

When pressed by Weymouth to explain himself, Haniya admitted that his “peace in stages” did not refer to peace with Israel, as some have claimed, but to “stability and calm which will bring safety to our (the Palestinian) people.” He offered nothing to Israel, except a list of demands.


Saudis rudely awakened by new al Qaeda network targeting their oil industry


26 February: The failed al Qaeda attack on the Abuqayq processing plant in the kingdom’s eastern province of Dammam Friday, Feb. 24, has badly shaken the Riyadh government, certain it had wiped out Osama bin Laden’s major Saudi networks except for small, fairly inert cells. The shock-effect was such that Sunday, the Saudi stock exchange plunged 1000 points, the 5% legal maximum.

Saudi guards detonated the two suicide cars targeting the giant refinery well outside the gates. Had the attack gone through, it would have caused unspeakable turmoil in the world’s oil markets; prices would have shot through the roof. As the world’s largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia exports 12 million barrels a day. Seven million barrels are refined at Abqaiq.

Al Qaeda has announced its campaign to destroy the Saudi oil industry is just beginning; a new network formed for that very purpose will keep on trying. This threat is taken seriously in Riyadh. The Abuqayq and the Ras Tanura terminals are well protected, but it is impossible to guard thousands of kilometers of oil and gas pipeline, the pumping stations along their route and the small installations around the kingdom.

Two of the assailants killed in the thwarted Friday attack, Muhammad Salah al Geith, 23, and Abdullah Tweijari, 21, from Najd. Both figure on the Saudi list of 36 most wanted terrorists.


Jerusalem disputes Washington’s acceptance of Mahmoud Abbas as head of Hamas-led Palestinian Authority


27 February Acting PM Ehud Olmert informed US envoy David Welch in Jerusalem Sunday, Feb. 26, that his government has no interest in supporting Mahmoud Abbas at the head of a Hamas-ruled “terrorist authority.” They are one and the same.

debkafile adds: After Abu Mazen placed Hamas in government instead of dismantling the terror group, the Bush administration’s is trying to cast its protege in yet another role – middleman between the Americans, the Europeans and Israel and the untouchable terrorists. This is clearly a counsel of despair after Hamas tore up the Middle East road map.

FM Tzipi Livni, who sets out on her first European tour Monday, Feb. 27: “We won’t let Abu Mazen be the fig leaf of a terrorist regime.”


Al Qaeda’s Gaza Cell issues ultimatum for non-Muslim foreigners to leave


28 February: Urgent consultations in European and Arab capitals and Jerusalem are reported by debkafile‘s counter-terror sources over the list of threatened targets published by Al Qaeda’s Gaza cell – the Army of Jihad – dated Feb. 16.

They believe the document was put together by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s subordinates posted in the Gaza Strip and contains a direct threat to unleash Iraq-style terror in the Palestinian territory against the targets listed below.

Therefore, diplomatic, security and international aid staff can expect to be pulled out of the Gaza Strip without delay.

“…. With Allah’s support we defeated our enemy and obliged Israel to withdraw in humiliation from the Gaza Strip. One thing remaining to be done is to implement Sharia laws.”

These are the targets listed in the al Qaeda statement:

Corrupt elements inside and outside the Palestinian Authority:

Traders, dealers and salesmen of drugs, wines and cigarettes:

Owners of ill-mannered houses and hotels where our sons and girls are degraded and spoiled;

Internet coffee shops that allow youth to search licentious and immoral websites;

Coffee shops where immoral youth gather to smoke… and where meetings between young men and girls take place;

Any girl who goes out wearing trousers without a veil to cover her hair;

All non-Muslim foreigners of all different nationalities are warned to leave;

Collaborators with Israel are warned “we will never relax in targeting them.”

All foreign embassies and consulates must be evacuated and their staff leave within one month of this date;

All auditoriums holding wedding ceremonies that are “rakish and uninhibited;”

Policemen who impede us and protect corrupt men;

All corrupt leaders, even if they are influential and powerful in the Authority and organizations, are our first target.


Olmert permits rejectionist DFLP delegates to travel to Damascus for the first time in 20 years


2 March: Israel’s military and security heads are seething. Members of Naif Hawatme’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine -DFLP are reported by debkafile‘s counter-terror sources as having left on Feb. 25 to attend a meeting of the group’s politburo in the Syrian capital. Olmert and defense minister Shaul Mofaz were said to be guided by the fact that the extremist terrorist DFLP disapproves of Hamas rule and will actively oppose the future Ismail Haniya government.

Critics disclose that no demand was made of the organization to renounce terrorism; nor would it have been accepted. Its members take part in the Qassam missile offensive from the Gaza Strip and the planning of suicide attacks against Israelis. The reunion of all its branches in Damascus for the first time in two decades will give them the chance to plan additional and more sophisticated violence against Israeli targets.


Israel‘s ruling Kadima begins to fade in opinion polls


2 March: Twenty-six days before the general election, Kadima stands at 37 Knesset seats (out of 120), down from the 44 the new party claimed on Jan 5, when Ehud Olmert took over as prime minister.

He has so far not filled the big shoes he occupies. His government and team are short of credibility for grappling with security and diplomatic crises as Israel faces a new wave of terror and Hamas’ international gains.

The opposition Labor party is stationary at 19. Its leader, Amir Peretz, goes to meet Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas Thursday, March 2. He is working hard to broaden his trade union image as a more statesman-like figure, but he too reflects a lack of security experience.

Likud is inching up to 15 seats under the influence of opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu’s anti-corruption reforms. Wednesday night, he persuaded the party’s 3,000 central committee members to relinquish by an overwhelming majority vote their prerogative to elect the Knesset faction in future and pass it to the full registered membership. Netanyahu has also unveiled a platform for national electoral reform introducing partial regional balloting instead of the current proportional system. Netanyahu is still bedeviled by the savage welfare cuts he made as finance minister in the previous government and the high poverty level they engendered.

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