A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending November 26, 2004:

To Destroy Iran’s Nuclear Bomb Program, 350 Targets Must Be Hit


19 November: On Wednesday, November 17, outgoing US secretary of state Colin Powell said: US has intelligence that Iran is working to adapt missiles for the delivery of nuclear weapons. “I have seen information that they not only have the missiles but are working hard to put the two together.” According to one US official, Powell was referring to a “walk-in” source with more than 1,000 pages purported to be Iranian drawings and technical documents, including an atomic warhead design adjusted for fitting on an existing Iranian missiles. debkafile‘s military experts believe he was talking about the Shehab-3 and its improved version, the Shehab-4.

If the information is confirmed, it would mean the Islamic republic is further along than previously known in developing a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it.

It would also mean that Tehran has been stringing along the International Atomic Energy Agency – the IAEA – and the three European powers, Britain, France and Germany, in months of negotiation for the sole purpose of avoiding UN Security Council sanctions.

According to debkafile‘s Washington sources, the Pentagon’s most recent game model on military measures to dispose of Iran’s nuclear threat concludes it will be necessary to topple the Islamic republic’s regime at the same time.

The first stage would be a bombing mission against the regime’s primary prop, the Revolutionary Guards. The second stage, the destruction of known and probable nuclear sites, a tall order given US intelligence estimates of as many as 350 sites, with no knowledge of which are the most important or even active.

Regime change in stage three would entail ground action.

At present, there are no air bases within range for carrying out stages two and three. Sufficient US troops for overthrowing the regime would pose a problem given Iran’s land area of four times that of Iraq.

Co-opting Israel’s air might to the operation poses problems too. The Israelis know as little about the locations of installations as the Americans. To reach Iran, Israeli warplanes would have to fly east over Saudi Arabia and Jordan, or north over Turkey. The distance of some targets, such as Iran’s nuclear sites in the Caspian Sea region, is too great for Israeli planes to make the round trip.

Notwithstanding these impediments, America cannot afford to give up its military option and must keep it afloat as a deterrent, say the authors of the Pentagon game model.


Everybody Loves Abbas – Except Palestinians


22 November: With nine days to deadline for candidates, at least seven or eight contestants are expected to put their names down to run against Mohammed Abbas, best known as Abu Mazen, in the January 9 Palestinian presidential election. Even in his own Fatah, his nomination is not assured. Yet lavish expressions of support are being extended to him on every hand in the West and by Israel’s Ariel Sharon.

They are all lionizing Abbas as Yasser’ Arafat’s putative successor and great white hope for a brighter future and an end to a dismal conflict, although every intelligence report placed before his admirers predicts he will be tripped up before the ballot. Most analysts would not be surprised if he was murdered by groups bankrolled from Tehran and the Lebanese Hizballah or by terrorist factions in his own Fatah.

Inside the Fatah, the Tanzim fighting wing launched Sunday, November 21, a campaign to collect 250,000 signatures for the nomination in his stead of jailed West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti as the party’s candidate. The West Bank Fatah branches are furious over being ignored by Abbas who devoted to the Gaza Strip the first critical week after Arafat’s funeral.

Abu Mazan finally returned to Ramallah Sunday night, November 21, after a week of intense efforts to negotiate a ceasefire on the part of rival Palestinian factions in Gaza Strip. Those efforts came to naught. In a show of no-confidence, Hamas, the Palestinian “Fronts” and left-wing groups are shopping for nominees capable of beating him. They first approached the grand old man of Palestinian left-wing politics, 85-year old Haider Abdel Shafi, who even in retirement is capable of tapping greater popularity on the West Bank and Gaza Strip than Abu Mazen. He declined the nomination but agreed to join the hunt for an alternative.

A new name that came up Sunday was that of the new Palestinian legislative council chairman Hassan Khereisha from Tulkarm, whose great advantage is that like Shafi he is Mr. Clean and acceptable to a broad range of Palestinian opinion from Hamas to the radical Fronts and Tanzim. Another likely runner also regarded as free of corruption is the terrorist architect, Hussam Khader. Like Barghouti, he sits in an Israeli jail on terror convictions, a fact that enhances both their popularity on the Palestinian street.

Nablus multimillionaire Muneib al-Masry, independent, may also throw his hat in the ring, capitalizing on Abu Mazen’s unpopularity in West Bank financial and business circles.

Most analysts consulted by debkafile are of the opinion that even if Abu Mazen won the election against this formidable array of opponents, he would not last long. Once Abu Mazen is disposed of, the Palestinian Authority is expected to implode internally; paramilitary groups subsisting on terrorism, protection rackets and armed robbery will reduce the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank to warring fiefdoms.

The week Abbas and Qureia spent in Gaza ended in fiasco and humiliation. Hamas sent them back to Ramallah with a list of questions. debkafile‘s Palestinian sources report: answers that would satisfy Hamas enough to permit the dialogue to continue would be tantamount to repudiating the endorsement of the Middle East road map and condemnation of terrorism that Abbas offered publicly at the June 2003 Aqaba summit with President Bush and prime minister Sharon. By this means, Hamas seeks to impose on him acceptance of their continuous terrorist campaign.


An America “Prophet” Takes on the Prophet Mohammed’s Jihadists in Iraq


24 November: On November 19, Lt. Col. Steve Iwicki, director of the Actionable Intelligence Department of the Army G2, announced that the 3rd Infantry Division’s “units of action” due for shipment to Iraq will be equipped with the first unmanned vehicles of the Prophet collection system.

debkafile‘s military sources report that these new infantry units for beefing up e-election security in Iraq will arrive complete with 40 Prophet systems. The Prophet system is orchestrated from satellites and the military Internet and embodies lessons painfully learned in battling guerrillas and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian war. Facing them will be insurgent guerrillas and Islamic terrorists armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic rifles, car bombs and explosives.

Eleven months ago, the first Strykers in Iraq were greeted by some American commanders as the great hope for defeating the guerillas’ RPG. But in the six major offensives fought since then, US forces have still not vanquished the signature insurgent weapon.

It is now the American Prophet’s turn to enter the ring.

This symbolically-named tool may be fairly termed the most sophisticated piece of electronic intelligence gadgetry ever made available to ground commanders – from the division level down to brigade, battalion and platoon levels. It will serve them by collecting the graphic and other data present in a battle environment, point up the dangers lying in wait for US forces, expose and nail every enemy combat element, including hostile intelligence, and electronically attack their signals to prevent them from communicating critical data. The effect will be to silence enemy communications, as well as jamming its command, computer and electronic warfare systems.

A ground commander equipped with a Prophet will receive on his laptop a comprehensive picture of electronic emitters within a battle arena of any size up to 150km wide and 120 kilometers deep. He will have a full view of his own forces in relation to the enemy and be guided to openings that will give his troops the advantage against the enemy in mid-combat

debkafile‘s military experts conclude that US military planners have decided to deploy this highly-sophisticated in Iraq for three purposes:

1. To test it for the first time in real battle conditions.

2. To try and cut down on US troop losses.

3. To see if it can save the consignment of large reinforcements to Iraq on top of the 130,000 already deployed.

However, since newfangled weapons systems prove only too often to be a lot less effective than military brass and their designers imagine, US Stryker and Prophet-equipped forces may still face some uphill fighting in Iraq.

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