A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending March 24, 2005:

Iran Has 12 Strategic Cruise Missiles


March 18, 2005: The Ukrainian prosecutor-general Svyatoslav Piksun created a major international flap Friday, March 18, when he admitted to the Financial Times that 18 X-55 strategic cruise missiles, also known as Kh-55, had been “exported” – 12 to Iran and 6 to China in 2001. The X-55 has a range of 3,000 km and is capable of carrying 200 kiloton nuclear warheads. It puts Japan, all of Russia and Israel within range. Their acquisition heightens concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The US embassy in Kiev is “closely monitoring” the investigation and demands the findings be made public in full. The Japanese embassy echoed the demand.

debkafile‘s Moscow sources reveal that the Ukrainian shipment to Iran included radioactive materials for making “dirty bombs.”

According to debkafile‘s military sources, the 12 strategic cruise missiles place the strategic ratio between the Islamic Republic and Israel on a completely new level. This weapon is used for destroying known relatively fixed-position targets, such as Israel’s Dimona nuclear center and population centers. Its possession makes Iran’s Shahab-3 or its projected Shahab-4 missile programs irrelevant. Tehran may have given them exposure as a red herring to distract attention from its high-profile missile asset.

The previous government in Kiev arrested and charged a local businessman for the illegal exports and his trial is still underway, the Ukrainian prosecutor said, adding that two Russian businessmen were suspected of masterminding the sale, one of whom, Oleg Orlov, was arrested last July in Prague in response to a Ukrainian warrant. Under the new government that took office in January, SBU chief Alexander Turchinov has reopened the investigation.


Is Sharon Getting Ready for Elections?


22 March: Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was strongly advised after Yasser Arafat”s death last year to divest himself of his unilateral disengagement plan. After all, said some intelligence experts, no one knows who Arafat’s successor will be and Hamas was sure to muscle in – not only in Gaza but far more dangerously in the strategic West Bank as well, Israeli forces would have to go back and scotch this terror belligerency. The best way would be to make the evacuation plan bilateral by putting it on the table of talks with the Palestinians. The prime minister sharply rejected the advice and still more heatedly the notion of putting his evacuation plan to referendum.

The result is that his Likud party is bitterly divided against him, his government is teetering and he is prey to constant buffeting by inimical winds from Cairo and Ramallah. To get his budget approved by the March 31 deadline, he must plug the hole left by the in-house Likud revolt by soliciting opposition votes. The budget’s defeat will topple the government and force a snap poll within three months.

If that happened, Sharon would have to put disengagement on hold and face up to another ordeal: April 15 Likud primaries for prime ministerial candidate and parliamentary list. Their outcome is uncertain.

Should Likud nonetheless manage to heal its rift and run for election under Sharon’s lead for the third time, the party is too battered, its tactics and economic policies too unpopular, to expect the commanding 40 Knesset seats it has today. The opposition is in no better shape. Most factions and alliances are in a state of flux and there is no telling the shape of the blocs coming out of a new election.

On the international front, Israel’s cabinet crisis means –

1. Sharon’s April 11 visit to President Gorge W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, may become the kick-off for his re-election campaigns in the Likud primaries and general election. It will also paper over fundamental differences between Sharon and Bush on four critical issues:

a. The US president has made the 1949 armistice lines between Israel and the Arab countries – rather than the pre-June 1967 boundaries cited in UN resolutions – his key reference point for a final-status peace accord with the Palestinians. This is detrimental to Israel and correspondingly advantageous to the Palestinians.

b. The US and Israel do not concur on the security barrier route in five sectors vital to Israel’s security: the West Bank town of Ariel; Beit Arieh – in Israel’s population center between Rosh Ha’Ayin and Modiin; Jerusalem; its satellite Maaleh Adummim; and the southern West Bank Gush Etzion bloc.

c. The US president wants to see further rapid Israeli withdrawals on the heels of the Gaza-North West Bank pullout..

d. Bush wants a Palestinian state to rise with all speed, preferably by the end of 2005. Israel sees no promise of key roadmap clauses stipulating Palestinian security reforms and the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure coming to be in so short a time.

2. The Israeli government no longer trusts the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s apparent change of heart. They suspect he is still quietly helping extremist Hamas and Jihad Islami spread their influence after letting them get away with rejecting a ceasefire at the Cairo conference. Ahead of the Algiers summit, Cairo used underhand tactics to sabotage the Jordanian King Abdullah’s peace Algiers summit initiative for the Arabs to set up normal relations with Israel before withdrawal from territory.

3. Sharon is seen to have blundered in putting all his chips on Abu Mazen for bringing the Palestinian terror war against Israel to an end. Abbas is shying away from building power centers and mechanisms of governance, the while allowing the Palestinian war machine to regroup and expand ready for the next round.

A new flare-up would place in question the entire disengagement project.

Sharon and his pet plan are therefore beleaguered on both the domestic and external fronts. He seriously needs a pause for reflection before deciding where he and his plan are going. An early election could give him this necessary time-out.


Israel Turns Blind Eye to 500 Fugitive Palestinian Terrorists Private Arsenals


23 March: A ten-point pledge has been drawn up by Israeli and Palestinian officials regulating weapons licensing for 500 Palestinian terrorist fugitives, among them Yasser Arafat’s most notorious terrorist masterminds. They have already won an Israeli undertaking to stop pursuing them, a reprieve made to further peace efforts. The permits to carry weapons fly in the face of the US-backed Middle East roadmap to peace which calls for terrorists to be disarmed.

debkafile‘s informants saw the document and list its clauses:

1. I, the undersigned, pledge to respect the Palestinian Weapons Law of 1998 and its annexes. (debkafile: Palestinian terrorists never bothered with the law for seven years and have no intention of honoring it now.)

2. I promise to be bound by all parts of the accords signed between the Palestinian Authority and international governments or organizations. (debkafile: “Israel” is conspicuously omitted here.)

3. Weapons and ammunition may not be transferred to second parties.

4. The bearer of the licensed weapon undertakes to renew his license on the date stipulated. (debkafile: No licenses were ever issued to the terrorists.)

5. The bearer of the gun license undertakes to possess no more than one weapon.

(debkafile: The document does not stipulate who is to enforce this restriction. A terrorist could have 10 concealed weapons and no one would be wiser.)

6. Guns may not be carried in public places, at rallies or at celebrations.

(debkafile: There is no bar to using weapons in terrorist attacks; nor do Israeli civilians or soldiers rate mention as banned targets.)

7. Weapons and ammunition must be insured against loss, damage and fire. It is forbidden to sell them.

8. The serial numbers of weapons may not be altered.

(debkafile: Israel issued side-arms to Palestinian “security officers” under the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords. Their serial numbers have been changed long since by those officers in their capacity as terrorists. Palestinian-fabricated guns are not imprinted with serial numbers)

9. The bearer of a licensed weapon promises to defer to the authority of the Palestinian interior minister.

10. Offenders against the above provisions will be subject to criminal or civil charges.

Palestinian internal security minister Nasser Yousef was bowled over when the fugitive terrorist chiefs refused to sign this very lax document. PA weapons licenses have thus been dumped on a mounting stack of accords and commitments – from the Oslo accords to the recent understandings for the transfer of West Bank cities to Palestinian security responsibility – that are not worth the paper they’re printed on. Top-flight terrorist chiefs not only remain at large but are allowed to be heavily armed.

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