Moscow plans main hubs in Turkey and Israeli for Russian and Azerbaijan oil and gas exports to southern Europe and China.
18 November: Russian president Vladimir Putin discussed the plan with Turkish prime minister Tayyep Erdogan and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy at the inauguration Thursday of the Blue Stream pipeline network laid on the Black Sea bed lby the Russian Gazprom and Italian Eni oil giants.
debkafile adds: Putin spoke of extending this pipe network to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. A new underwater branch would then be built to connect Ceyhan with Israel’s Ashkelon oil port, from which an existing pipe wouldl carry the oil from the Mediterranean to Eilat. Facilities at this Red Sea port would need to be expanded to accommodate Russian oil and gas tankers bound for China through the Indian Ocean. As a main regional transit hub for Russian oil exports, Israel can look forward to stronger trade ties with Russia and Turkey, thousands of new jobs and royalty revenues running into hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
Our sources add that Israel’s infrastructure minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer on a recent visit to Cairo proposed to President Hosni Mubarak that Egypt link an underwater pipe planned to carry natural gas to the Gaza Strip with the Israeli transit station at Ashkelon. Egypt would thus hook up to the projected Russian-Turkish-Israel pipeline scheme.
debkafile Exclusive: Zarqawi plans a general assault on Jordan.
19 November: Al Qaeda’s Iraq chief Abu Musab al Zarqawi is reported by debkafile‘s counter-terror sources to have confronted King Abdullah of Jordan with a five-point ultimatum to save his kingdom from a general onslaught:
1. Jordan must expel forthwith the American and British military forces. debkafile adds: several thousand US troops are based in the Hashemite kingdom, including special forces defending the Jordanian-Iraqi border from W. Iraq. US air force personnel fly helicopter and fighter aircraft missions against terrorist targets in Iraq from Jordanian air bases. American troops in Iraq receive supplies from rear bases in the kingdom. US fuel tankers regularly dock at Jordan’s Red Sea port of Aqaba for the American army in Iraq. They are escorted by US warships. The British forces in Iraq are mostly Royal Air Force units.
2. Jordan must close the Israeli embassy in Amman.
3. The training of Iraqi police contingents in Jordan must be suspected. They are given courses at facilities especially set up in the kingdom. Jordanian instructors drill new Iraqi recruits.
4. Jordan must shut down prison facilities holding Iraqi inmates.
5. The Jordanian embassy in Baghdad must be closed and its diplomats withdrawn from Iraq. debkafile‘s sources add:
The ongoing investigation of al Qaeda’s triple hotel attacks in Amman Nov. 9, Jordanian security services have discover that three local terror groups are acting as Zarqawi’s surrogates:
Bayat al Imam: (The Imam’s Oath), an extremist group founded in 1994, many of whose members trained in Al Qaeda’s camps in Herat, W. Afghanistan.
Jundi al-Shem: This Jordanian group of terrorists is associated with the violent Ansar al-Islam which operates in the Kurdish regions of Iraq.
Brigades of Monotheists.
Iran Again Suspends Uranium Enrichment. Another Trick to Dodge Sanctions?
20 November: Iran agreed Sunday, Nov. 20, to suspend work on the conversion of raw uranium to UF6 gas at its high-speed centrifuge plant in Isfahan resumption – according to debkafile‘s exclusive sources in Tehran and Moscow.
They stress that Tehran has not given up processing uranium for military use, but only beaten a tactical and temporary retreat in the face of the compromise agreed by the US and Russian presidents in Busan, South Korea, Saturday, Nov. 19.
Under the plan proposed by Russia and endorsed by Britain, France and Germany, Tehran would be permitted to continue to convert raw uranium into gas – but not on its territory or by using the high-speed centrifuges whose technology Iran belatedly admitted purchasing from the Pakistani nuclear black marketeer A.Q. Khan in 1987.
An enrichment facility would instead be built in Russia. Iran would control management and financial interests – but not the level to which the uranium is enriched,
This formulation is important because –
1. It would keep Iran away from the technical control of the enrichment process, the quantities yielded and level of enrichment. This way, the United States, Russia, France, Germany and Britain would be sure the process never reaches weapons grade.
2. Iran would have to foot the bill for the Russian-based enrichment facility.
debkafile‘s Moscow sources disclose that, according to the thinking of the US president, Tehran’s inevitable refusal to go along with Russian project must undermine its credibility in the eyes of Putin too. He could no longer credit as genuine Iran’s claims that its nuclear project is solely designed for the manufacture of electricity and for peaceful purposes.
Consequently, by cutting the ground from under a Russian veto against UN Security Council economic sanctions against Iran, Bush has brought this penalty closer to fruition. The last major impediment to this resolution is one outstanding veto-holder, China, which has yet to be persuaded to go along with international sanctions against Iran.
All the parties are perfectly aware of the Islamic Republic’s shaky political and economic situation and the regime’s vulnerability to sanctions and isolation. The shock might even threaten the ayatollahs’ grip on power.
Sharon‘s resignation from Likud Signals Breakup of Israel’s Traditional Parties
21 November: Israel’s creaking, turgid political system is breaking up and on the move. The decades-old Likud and Labor parties which have dominated all the national governments are crumbling. Furthermore, the “right’ and “left” epithets, always imprecise and simplistic, are losing any significance.
Sharon’s new Party of National Responsibility is engaged in a mighty tug-o’-war with Likud over ministers, Knesset ministers and members of party institutions, who are being pulled two ways.
The first meeting of his new list, attended by 12 MKs, he promised to follow the Middle East road map, wage a relentless war on terror and refrain from further disengagements.
The prime minister is now paying the price for being too slow to appreciate that his parting of the ways with Likud was inevitable. It took a mighty shove by the new, fiery Labor leader, Amir Peretz, who the day after his election two weeks ago pulled Labor out of its coalition with Likud and drove towards a quick new election, for the penny to drop.
The result is ironic. A hungry, next-generation leader now heads the veteran, sluggish Labor, while the veteran Likud prime minister has belatedly founded a new party.
Both have left casualties in the field. The most notable is the defeated Labor chairman, vice premier Shimon Peres, who was left clutching a resignation letter he was forced to sign. Likud though left with a complete electoral machine still faces the battle for consensus on a leader able to win an election.
Nasrallah’s Kidnap Plan Boomerangs
22 November: This was the first time the Hizballah had sent a specially-trained motorbike commando unit into action. Its mission was to kidnap Israeli soldiers and bring them to Beirut for a macabre display in Lebanon’s Independence Day ceremonies Tuesday, Nov. 22.
debkafile‘s sources do not confirm it was instigated by Damascus and Tehran. Nasrallah’s essential motive was to grind his own axe in Lebanon. He planned to invite r Israel to negotiate the prisoners’ exchange against the release of Lebanese and Palestinians in Israeli jails. But most of all, the Hizballah leader sought to show up the Beirut government and prime minister Fouad Siniora as impotent nonetities for not daring to send his troops to free the Israelis.
He counted on this humiliation bringing down the anti-Syrian Siniora government, so undoing American and French efforts to establish a stable government independent of Damascus and ridding him of an administration committed to disarming the Hizballah.
The Hariri inquiry would be derailed and Bashar Assad would be duly grateful.
But Israel was not caught napping. Its intelligence picked up the Hizballah’s withdrawal from the Beqaa Valley of 300-400 of its crack commando for deployment in the south, together with a large supply of Katyusha rockets, anti-tank missiles and heavy mortars.
Israel went on a high state of military preparedness.
The offensive launched Monday, Nov. 21 was the biggest and fiercest the Hizballah has ever carried out against Israel. Some 500 shells and rockets were fired in five hours, at the rate of 100 per hour against military and civilian targets. Twelve Israelis were injured, two seriously. Israeli warplanes and artillery returned fire and air force helicopters chased Hizballah firing crews in southern Lebanon, killing at least 12.
Nasrallah’s motorcyclist team was able to conquer both sides of Kfar Ajar, but ran into an ambush trap laid by an Israeli paratroop unit, which hid in a house on the Israeli side of the village. A second team was repulsed by the Israel Gladiola position on Mt. Dov. Hizballah lost another four or five men in the two raids.
Nasrallah’s plan therefore boomeranged against him. Instead of snatching Israelis, Beirut is asking Israel to hand over the bodies of the Hizballah casualties.
Morocco and Spain smash a large al Qaeda network which was gearing up for fresh attacks in West Europe.
23 November: debkafile reports at least 20 suspects arrested in Morocco, 10 in Spain and several more in the UK, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark. This is one of the biggest al Qaeda rings ever to be broken up. Our sources add it was linked to al Qaeda command centers in Iraq, Syria and Turkey
Ahmadinejad’s Third Nominee for Oil Minister is Vetoed in Parliament
23 November: debkafile: Iran’s lawmakers’ action was a virtual vote of no confidence in the president. The absence of a senior manager for the oil industry is injurious to the national economy of OPEC’s second largest exporter.
Israel’s Campaign Kicks off on Poverty, the Social Cap and Sleaze Charges
November 23: Ariel Sharon’s spin-smiths finally registered his new bloc as Kadima! (Forward!). As Labor’s eight ministers relocated to the opposition benches Wednesday, Nov. 23, their leader Amir Peretz, now head of the opposition, rapped defector MK Haim Ramon, warning Sharon that his new asset is in fact a champion “demolition man”.
Likud’s leadership contenders have launched tough campaigns against each other for the party chair in the December 19 primaries.
They are former prime minister and ex-finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu, defense minister Shaul Mofaz, foreign minister Silvan Shalom, MK Uzzi Landau, agriculture minister Avraham Katz, and MK Moshe Feiglin.
Mofaz claims a poor childhood as part of an immigrant family from Iran compared with Netanyahu who was “born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” and therefore enacted insensitive policies as finance minister. Shalom flaunts the fact he was born in Tunisia and grew up in an immigrant family, along with his experience in foreign affairs. “Mr. Clean” Landau has nailed the fight against corruption to his banner. He protests he is wrongly labeled a right-wing extremist when his platform reflects the path of Menahem Begin (who concluded Israel’s first peace accord with an Arab state, Egypt) and which he accuses Sharon of betraying.
Six Likud ministers remain in the Sharon government. They are counterbalanced by six ministers who joined the new party. To enhance his support, the prime minister is entitled to add new ministers to his administration without referring to parliament. But he needs majority cabinet approval.