A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending May 25, 2006

Damascus rounds up Iranian Ahwaz Liberation Fronts asylum-seekers at Tehran’s behest


19 May: debkafile reports exclusively: Syrian police have arrested dozens of leaders of the groups fighting for self-rule for oil-rich Arab Khuzestan, among them their supreme leader Abu Nidal Ahwazi. Iranian intelligence officers stationed in Damascus have demanded to interrogate the prisoners.

Our sources in Tehran disclose that Iran is becoming increasingly nervous over its failure to quell the Ahwaz Fronts’ guerrilla and terrorist campaign against government and oil targets in Khuzestan. The Assad regime’s prompt obedience attests to Iran’s powerful influence in Damascus, and is in stark contrast to the blank inertia meeting equally insistent demands from Washington to clamp down on Iraqi insurgents, al Qaeda and the Palestinian terrorists.


False notes in Olmert-Peretz working relations


19 May: The prime minister cannot blind himself to the dissonances in the Labor leader first essay in government as head of the national defense establishment. Too many complaints are coming in.

An action which rubbed Olmert’s nerves raw was the defense minister’s creation this week of the post of Chief of Staff to the Defense Minister, which he built around Brig.-Gen. Michael Herzog, who happens to be the elder brother of a close Peretz buddy, tourism minister Yitzhak Herzog after being found unsuitable for a senior IDF position by the top military brass.

Olmert suspects the appointment was motivated by a blatant intrigue by Peretz to build himself a power base in the defense ministry, to challenge the Kadima leader, the prime minister, when the time is ripe.

Most disturbing of all is the unfavorable impression Peretz made on the senior officers he interviewed in his first 10 days on the job. They were shocked by the vast gaps in his knowledge and understanding of the nature of his watch, a gap which they fear is unbridgeable.

But however much he may rue his choice of partner and head of the most sensitive department of his government, Olmert is stuck. He has been brought sharply face to face with his blunder in choosing Peretz as his senior partner in government and deputy prime minister, while leaving Avigdor Lieberman’s Israeli Beitenu (right-wing Russian) out.


A plot to assassinate US Ambassador Mark Wall in the Chad capital Saturday night


20 May: Three suicide bombers were reportedly assigned to arrive at the Le Meridien Chari hotel in N’Djamena later Saturday where the ambassador is invited to an event.

Chad intelligence, helped by foreign agents, is seeking the three bombers who are expected at the hotel with identity cars in the names of Samuel Gruben, Charles Mahashiri and Behamin Shaster.

debkafile‘s sources report that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are suspected of complicity.


Nouri al-Maliki’s unity government is not expected to end the sectarian bloodletting


20 May: According to debkafile‘s Iraq experts, the national unity accord which enables the designated PM to present a cabinet to the Iraqi parliament Saturday provides for the interior ministry to be held by a Shiite and the defense ministry by a Sunni. Neither portfolio has been filled and they will be held temporarily by al Maliki and vice president Tariq al Hashem, respectively. The interior ministry which controls the police is accused of sending Shiite death squads against Sunni targets and exacerbating the raging sectarian violence besetting Iraq. This seed of discord will remain as long as the interior ministry is not controlled by an independent.


The EU Incentives Proposal for Iran Is Rife with Hidden Dangers


20 May: According to debkafile‘s sources in the US capital, Washington has turned down the EU proposal to persuade Iran to abandon uranium enrichment, the heavy water plant under construction at Arak and its ambitious nuclear “research” projects. The administration has informed the Europeans that their package poses more dangers – even than the consortium Moscow proposes for a joint venture to enrich uranium up to low levels in Russia.

Not one, but several light water reactors are on offer. Iran will get an almost unlimited supply of fuel rods containing enriched uranium (up to 60%) for powering these reactors. Furthermore, the spent fuel contains fission products and plutonium which has military uses.

The economic incentives on offer to Iran are deemed by Washington generous enough. According to our sources, they include a massive financial-technological shot in the arm to bring Iran’s oil industry up to date. The 27-year American embargo, in effect since the Islamic revolution, has left Iran way behind the times in oil production technology. Because of obsolete equipment, its wells are under-exploited and spillage is extensive. The Iranians cannot execute deep drillings, develop new fields or construct modern pipeline networks.

In return for giving up their clandestine nuclear ambitions, Tehran is now being offered, with US assent, the most advanced oil production technology available in the world. The Bush administration has even agreed to complement the Iranian fuel cycle – as long as enrichment is kept to low levels and the process is transparent, meaning wholly accessible to international inspections, including snap visits.

As matters stand now, Washington’s dialogue with the Europeans appears to be a lot tougher than its undercover talks with the Iranians.


Al Qaeda from Samarra takes responsibility for attempt on life of Abu Mazen’s intelligence chief


21 May: debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report the bulletin, released from one of Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s main strongholds in Iraq Sunday at 8:22 am, claimed the attempted assassination of Gen. Tariq Abu Ghajab, GI chief, who survived the huge, remote-controlled explosion which ripped through GI HQ building in Gaza Saturday, May 20, killing his bodyguard and injuring 9 officers.

debkafile‘s sources explain the Zarqawi network’s first major operation in Gaza as an attempt to make a statement: the Palestinian people’s fate will not be determined between the Palestinians and Israel – in reference to the talks held Sunday at Sharm al Sheikh by Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli ministers Tzipi Livni and Shimon Peres, or Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s meetings with both sides – but by the will of al Qaeda.

On May 14, debkafile disclosed the influx into Gaza of some 100 al Qaeda fugitives on the run from Egyptian security forces in Sinai. They were primed for terrorist operations against the Palestinians and Israel.

It is not yet clear whether al Qaeda or Hamas, which is locked in an armed leadership struggle with Fatah, planted the 70-kilo bomb aimed against another pro-Abbas security chief in Gaza, Rashid Abu Shebak, on Sunday. His security officials discovered the bomb in time and defused it.

Mahmoud Abbas asked Israel to hospitalize his senior loyalist in the Gaza Strip.


Iran is preparing consignment of 300 vehicles and two civilian aircraft for Gaza Strip – along with 50 Iranian “experts”


22 May: The plan is described by debkafile‘s Tehran and counter-terror sources as an Iranian move to seize control of the Palestinian civilian and security infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Hamas transport minister Ziad Zaza, just returned from Tehran, formally asked Israel Sunday, May 21, to allow dozens of Iranian maritime and air transport engineers and technicians and heavy equipment to enter Gaza fro Egyptian Sinai through the Rafah crossing.

Hamas presents the proposed Iranian input as assistance for re-activating the Dahaniya airport and the construction of a deep-sea port in Gaza. The 300 vehicles “made in Iran” consist of police cars, ambulances, fire engines and 100 buses for the use of the forces of “law and order.”


Olmert undermines Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas before White House talks


22 May: Two days before his meeting with President George W. Bush in Washington, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert described Mahmoud Abbas as “powerless” and “helpless.” This subject is likely to be at issue in the prime minister’s forthcoming talks with Bush, given the US position that the PA and its leader must be propped up against Hamas.


The Bush-Olmert White House talks yield no substantial decisions except for another meeting on Sept. 5


23 May: High expectations were built up in the Israeli media ahead of Ehud Olmert’s first White House meeting with President George W, Bush Tuesday, May 23. Three key issues were supposed to be discussed: peace-making with the Palestinians in the light of Hamas’ takeover of Palestinian government, Olmert’s partial West Bank withdrawal plan and the dangers inherent in Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

The two leaders agreed to explore these issues further and to meet again on September 5, this year – a far cry from the hoped-for US endorsement of Olmert’s master plan for establishing Israel’s borders unilaterally.

Olmert was told that time was needed – at least another three months to fully assess the survivability and conduct of Hamas, judge whether chairman Mahmoud Abbas can get his Fatah act together and pose a challenge to Hamas and find out if the Nouri al-Maliki government in Iraq can be the starting point for the phased exit of US troops.

The administration is no doubt watching to see how the new Israeli prime minister stands the test of time in Jerusalem.


A bomb planted in his car killed Nabil Hudhud, commander of the pro-Fatah preventive security service in Gaza Wednesday night


24 May: debkafile‘s exclusive sources report the dead man was one of Mahmoud Abbas’ most important allies in the Gaza Strip. Suspicion for the murder falls first on Hamas, which is engaged in a violent contest against Fatah and Abbas’ following. However, responsibility for the attempted assassination Saturday of another close Abbas associate, commander of Palestinian general intelligence General Tareq Abu Rajub, was taken by al Qaeda.


Israeli defense minister Peretz offers Abu Mazen’s Fatah followers guns and ammo for their armed contest with Hamas


25 May: debkafile‘s political and Palestinian sources dismiss the action as a pointless gesture. Fatah gunmen are not short of firearms or ammunition for their battles with the ruling Hamas militiamen. Abu Mazen may even find the offer of “Zionist guns” for an internal Palestinian feud an embarrassment.

Abu Mazen may even find the inexperienced minister’s offer of “Zionist guns” for an internal Palestinian feud an embarrassment.

debkafile‘s military sources add that the top military brass and the Shin Beit view the minister’s action as ill-advised and out of place.


Al Qaeda used Israeli mobile phones for its triple suicide attack at Dahab, Sinai


25 May: The Egyptian interior ministry disclosed this week that the al Qaeda bombers who killed 120 people in Sinai in two years were trained by an unnamed Palestinian “extremist religious” group in the Gaza Strip. It was the first time Cairo had linked al Qaeda with Palestinian terrorists. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report from the investigation of the Dahab attack which left 24 dead on April 24 that the Gaza-based facilitators, the suiciders and al Qaeda’s Sinai network used Israeli Pelaphone mobile phones as their primary means of intercommunication.

An instrument was found in the debris of the Dahab attack. It was believed at first to belong to one of the Israeli holidaymakers at Dahab. But when Israeli security examined the recorded calls at the phone company, they found the three suicide bombers led by Youseff Mohrab had used it for conversations from Gaza.

debkafile‘s sources reveal that Gaza was also the source of the bombers’ pay – $1,500 plus ten thousand Egyptian pounds apiece for blowing themselves up at target.

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