A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending November 16, 2006

USS Boxer Strike Group, entered the Persian Gulf Thursday, Nov. 9, the largest US landing force in this water in a decade


10 November: The Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG) has entered the US Fifth Fleet area headquartered in Bahrain.

It has just come from joint maneuvers with the Indian navy in the Arabian Sea opposite the coast of Goa, including large-scale landing practices. The group’s commander, Capt. David Angood said that if “anything important happens in the real-world environment, the task force will deal with it in the most efficient manner.”

debkafile‘s military sources report that the arrival of Boxer in the Persian Gulf coincided with the USS Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group’s passage through the Suez Canal on its way from the Gulf to the Mediterranean.


Israel must prepare to thwart Iran’s drive for a nuclear capability “at all costs”


10 November: In an interview ahead of prime minister Ehud Olmert’s White House talks next week, Israel’s Dep. Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said he is not advocating a pre-emptive Israeli operation, but considers it a last resort. “Even a last resort is sometimes the only resort.”

Taking a different line, Olmert said Thursday night that Iran posed a serious threat that should be addressed with a cool head. “The big countries have to lead and we have to push them,” he said. But Sneh said, “My working assumption is that the international community won't succeed.” Once Iran has the bomb, he said, many people will leave Israel because no one is keen to be “scorched.” Ahmadinejad will be able to “wipe out the Zionist dream without pushing a button.”

The newly-appointed second in command at the Israeli defense ministry stressed that his priority was “preparing the IDF for victory in the next round with Iran and its proxies.”

High on the list was the need to improve the country's defense systems. “We developed and produced the Arrow, the only system that can intercept nuclear missiles. Depending on the altitude when intercepted, the warheads do not detonate. But Israel needs to substantially improve its indigenous long-range capacities.”


Israel‘s army chief Dan Halutz is now in the eye of the storm after two generals step down over the Lebanon war


12 November: The IDF high command is in uproar over the findings of the military inquiry team headed by Maj-Gen (res.) Doron Almog which examined the circumstances in which Hizballah was able to kidnap two Israeli soldiers and kill eight others.

He found that the abduction of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser last June, which triggered the Lebanon War, was preventable. He also disqualified Brig-Gen Gal Hirsch, who commanded Galilee Battalion 91 in the Lebanon War for future command duties and promotion.

Hirsch resigned ahead of the recommendation. The chief of staff Lt.-Gen Dan Halutz, who had meanwhile promoted him to head the IDF’s Strategic Division, first refused to accept his resignation and finally did so with regret. After presenting his report to the IDF’s general staff Sunday, Nov. 12, Gen. Almog briefed a news conference in Tel Aviv. He found that a number of defects arising from faulty understanding of procedures enabled Hizballah to successfully attack the patrol and kidnap the two soldiers. The reservists on patrol treated it as a pleasure trip instead of an operational mission. In all three weeks of its stint, the reserve company never received coherent instructions for its border patrols. The inquiry headed by Gen. Almog found a large gap between the perception of the kidnap threat and preventive measures which should have been in place at the weak spots along the sector.


Bush Prepares to Exit Iraq and Downgrade US Ties with Jordan and Israel


12 November: Monday, Nov. 13, former US secretary of state James Baker and ex-Congressman Lee Hamilton will present their recommendations on Iraq to President Bush in the Oval Office.

debkafile‘s Washington sources report that Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is due Monday will be one of the first foreign White House visitors to hear an update on the new policy. He will find he is required to listen rather than speak. Once president Bush decided to subsume his Middle East policy to the bipartisan model, he lost no time in realigning its elements, without briefing America’s regional allies and dependants – whether Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s Kurdish leaders, Abdullah King of Jordan or Ehud Olmert.

Jordan and Israel will be the first two countries in the direct line of fire from the reversal of the Bush administration’s Iraq strategy (which DEBKA disclosed was on the cards anyway ahead of the midterm election). Unlike Israel, King Abdullah – who gambled and lost on Bush standing foursquare behind his plans for Iraq – has at least two alternatives:

He can make common cause with Syrian president Bashar Asad and join the anti-Israel Eastern Front with Iran, Hizballah and the radical Palestinian organizations operating out of Damascus or he can seek the protection of the Saudi Arabian-Egyptian alliance.

Israel, in contrast, will find itself high and dry in the Middle East. After being downgraded by the Lebanon War’s outcome, the Olmert government will have to accept the crack of the American whip – unless it can build a new security option that is not dependent on Washington.


Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin issues stern wake-up call for military action in Gaza before it is too late


14 November: Gaza’s traffic lights have moved to red, red, red, he said in his briefing to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee Tuesday, Nov. 14. The buildup of terrorist strength in the Gaza Strip is now a strategic threat which must be dealt with promptly. Diskin reported that the Philadelphi route along the Egyptian border is wide open for smuggling – 30 tons of explosives and weapons have slipped through to the Strip in recent months. Egyptian control is ineffectual and the European monitoring mechanism problematical. Palestinian terrorists regard Nasrallah as a national hero. They treat his anti-tank weapons, guerrilla tactics and fortified underground bunkers as models for emulation.

The slide in the Gaza Strip can be stopped in two ways, according to Diskin. Either build up Fatah to stand up to Hamas, or send the IDF into action.

debkafile‘s military sources stress that the first option, which prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Amir Peretz have embraced, is of no practical use either in Gaza or the West Bank because Fatah is in an advanced state of disintegration, whereas Hamas has enhanced its strength to the point of no return. In Diskin’s view, which is supported by most IDF generals, the Israeli military option is the only feasible one.

But Olmert, Peretz and foreign minister Tzipi Livni are standing in the way of this course.

On the Gaza front, another government spokesman commented this week that Egyptian control of the Gaza border was improving, a myth which Diskin easily exploded Tuesday.

And foreign minister Livni told a bemused audience in Los Angeles: “… If the promise of 'Never Again' supersedes the price of oil then the time for international indifference and hesitation in the face of the Iranian threat has long passed.”


Nasrallah tells Hizballah followers in S. Lebanon: Siniora government will soon be ousted


14 November: It will soon be replaced with a “clean government,” said the Hizballah leader. Six pro-Syrian ministers including Hizballah quit the Lebanese cabinet, breaking up unity coalition talks and aiming to torpedo Foud Siniora’s initiative for an international tribunal to try the men implicated in the Feb. 2005 murder of the Lebanese politician Rafiq Hariri last year, including relatives of Bashar Asad’s. The pro-Syrian camp demanded veto power in the new coalition and threatened to foment civil unrest if their demands were not met.

debkafile adds: Damascus and the Iranian-backed Hizballah are set to exploit the post-election uncertainties in Washington and sow unrest in Beirut and other parts of the Middle East to raise the ante for Iran’s cooperation on Iraq.


Fresh Palestinian cross-border missile attack from Gaza critically injures teen boy, wounds 3 other civilians in Sderot Wednesday night


15 November: The boys were at a playground in the town center. They were hurt after Faina Solotzker, 57, a mother of two, was killed in a Qassam missile attack early Wednesday morning. The Qassam that killed her landed on the same street where Defense Minister Amir Peretz and his family live. One of Peretz’s security guards, a 24-year-old, was severely wounded and lost his legs. Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. Eleven Qassams have been fired since Wednesday morning. Four more were fired into S. Ashkelon Wednesday night.


Somali jihadists armed by Syria and Iran fought in Hizballah’s war against Israel. Iran is after Somali uranium


15 November: A United Nations 86-page report discloses that in mid-July, more than 720 combat-hardened fighters were personally selected by Aden Hashi Farah of the Somali Islamist front, some of whose leaders belong to al Qaeda, to fight in Lebanon in return for training and arms from Iran and Syria.

debkafile adds: This information was unknown to Israeli intelligence in the Lebanon war during which Israel blockaded Lebanon by sea, land and air.

At least 100 Somalis returned home by September accompanied by 5 Hizballah members, while others stayed in Lebanon for advanced training. Fighters were paid $2,000 for their services and $30,000 was awarded the families of those killed. Two Iranians are now in Dusa Mareb to discuss the exploration of uranium in exchange for arms for the Islamic Courts which has captured large parts of the country.

Sinai and Gaza. Senior officials categorize the marriage of radical Iran, Syria- and Somali jihadis as a dangerous step that keeps pace with its nuclear aspirations. Seen in obverse, the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah penetration of Somalia closes another gap in the belt Iran-led radicals has tightened against Israel: the menacing Syrian-Hizballah presence in the north and northeast and Somalia, Sudan, Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip in the south. The Palestinian Hamas, Jihad Islamic and Popular Resistance Committees have been proved with a logistic depth. But, taking the larger picture, Iran has posted a strategic threat to America’s interests in the Middle East and Horn of Africa, its sea lanes to the Persian Gulf and the rear of the US military presence in the Persian Gulf and Iraq.

The UN report notes that among the eleven countries keeping Somalia supplied with arms, food, fuel and doctors, are American allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well as Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya and Djibouti.


Israel Is Not Really Trying to Fight Palestinian Missile Terror from Gaza


16 November: Question No. 1: Did Israel counteract Egypt’s permission to let Hamas’ $4million cash infusion from Iran and Saudi through to the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Nov. 16? Has Israel called Egypt to account for failing to stop the smuggling? Prime minister Ehud Olmert prefers to let Cairo off the hook. Thursday, Nov. 15, the day after a deadly Palestinian missile attack on Sderot, he again praised “Egypt’s role in blocking smuggling to Gaza.”

The illegal entrants include Iranian and Syrian bomb-makers and missile experts assigned to improving the precision, explosive power and range of the missiles fired day by day at Gaza’s Israeli neighbors – Sderot and Ashkelon.

The day before the lethal barrage, Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin issued a wake-up call. He reported that 30 tons of explosives, arms and ammunition, enough to equip 10 brigades, have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip, providing Hamas with an armed force which is one brigade larger than the 9 brigades available to the Galilee Division commander Brigadier Gal Hirsch in the Lebanon War.

debkafile‘s military experts assert that Israel made no serious effort to keep the 30 tons of war materiel out of Gaza. They offer here two practical options for curbing the missile offensive and pre-empting the flow of weapons.

1. General measures:

Israel must stop fooling itself about Palestinian intentions.

Israeli spokesmen and pundits have been tracing blow by blow the bumpy progress of the Palestinian talks on a unity government, which foreign minister Tzipi Livni went so far as to proclaim in Los Angeles a step towards moderating Hamas’ fundamental radicalism.

She evidently missed the Hamas spokesman’s statement that a new Palestinian unity government will neither recognize Israel nor accept a two-state solution.

In any case, the entire unity government exercise is a fraud.

With their minds clouded by illusions, false hopes and enemy propaganda, Israel’s policy-makers are hardly competent to get down to brass tacks on ways to halt the Palestinian missile offensive. They find it easier to say there is no solution – and leave it at that.

2. Military options:

debkafile‘s military experts say there is no need to reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip or Beit Hanoun, or use artillery to bombard civilian locations. Small commando units on the other side of the Egyptian border can pre-empt the smuggling by blowing up the convoys of weapons and funds in northern Sinai before they reach the Gaza border.

Swarms of Israeli commando units should likewise fill the missile launching locations in the Gaza Strip, posting ambushes at every corner to make the Palestinian crews afraid of being liquidated on their way to launchings. The IDF must grasp the initiative in the war on terror now and strike hard at the Palestinians’ fighting spirit. The Lebanon war persuaded them they are capable of continuing Hizballah’s successful war against Israel from Gaza. If this confidence is not shattered now, Palestinian missile attacks will continue to proliferate, gain in explosive force and spread to more Israeli cities.

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