A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Oct. 18, 2007

Despite the crisis in US-Turkish relations over Armenia vote, Ankara has not ordered the Turkish army to push into northern Iraq


13 Oct. debkafile‘s military sources report that while Turkey and its people are furious about the vote and US criticism of Turkish cross-border raids against PKK rebels, prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not ordering the army to march into Iraqi Kurdistan.

The prime minister and many other Turkish politicians suspect chief of staff Gen. Yasar Buyukanit and his future successor, Gen. Ilker Basbug, will exploit an invasion to crush the Iraqi Kurdish autonomy and seize the oil fields of Kirkuk.

Finally, the Turkish economy is too fragile to stand up to a full-scale conflict in northern Iraq in defiance of the United States.

Turkey’s trade deficit rose by 6.1 percent to $28 billion (20.4 billion euros) in the first half of 2007 compared with the same period last year, the national statistics institute said. Imports increased by 16.8 percent to $77.4 billion between January and June, while exports were up by only 23.9 percent to $49.5 billion.


Iran’s supreme leader urges Arabs to boycott Middle East peace meeting in the US


13 Oct. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a sermon marking Eid al Fitr in Tehran Saturday, ignored Mahmoud Abbas, when he said the Palestinians themselves are not participating. Instead, as the crowd changed “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel,” he praised Hamas for making resistance its slogan.

Lead Palestinian negotiator former PM Ahmed Qurei has warned that if the conference fails to produce a detailed agreement and timeframe for solving the core issues of borders, Jerusalem and refugees, the consequences for Israel will be grimmer than the last round of violence.


US Secretary Rice meets first stumbling-blocks in Jerusalem as she begins her Middle East peace shuttle Sunday


14 Oct. She told reporters aboard her flight that she has no expectations of a breakthrough. And no wonder. She found Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert responding to the backlash among his Kadima and other coalition ministers by stepping away from Vice PM Haim Ramon and his unpopular proposals for meeting Palestinian demands on Jerusalem and refugees.

Olmert told the ministers Sunday he had replaced Ramon with foreign minister Tzipi Livni as head of Israel’s negotiating team. She, along with defense minister Ehud Barak and several other ministers had promised to vote down Ramon’s plans if they were tabled.


On Day 2 of Rice mission, Olmert hints at concessions on Jerusalem, Abbas steps up demands


15 Oct. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Middle East heard Monday, Oct. 15 two pointed statements from the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Olmert asked rhetorically: Was it absolutely necessary [after the 1967 war] to attach to Jerusalem the Shuafat refugee camp, Arb a Sawara, Walaje and other Palestinian villages on the town’s outskirts? Such questions are legitimate.

Mahmoud Abbas proposed to Rice in Ramallah that,without waiting for a peace accord, the Israeli military pull back to the West Bank positions it held in 2000, before the Palestinians’ suicide war. He said Israel should implement the third stage of the 1993 Oslo Framework accords without delay, in other words withdraw from most parts of the West Bank but for a few scattered military outposts.


Cairo is daunted from freezing Hamas smuggling through Sinai by fear of combined Hamas-al Qaeda terror in Egyptian towns


15 Oct. This was how Cairo explained to Washington its failure to act on Israel’s bitter complaints against the heavy traffic of arms, explosives, missiles and fighters crossing Sinai into Gaza on behalf of Hamas, Jihad and al Qaeda.

US officials checking on Israel’s complaints found Cairo’s answer extremely disquieting.

In the first place, Egypt was recanting on responsibility for border security with Gaza, which it assumed under accords brokered in 2005 by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Hamas is left in charge. Furthermore, Cairo was admitting for the first time that cooperation between Hamas and the Egyptian al Qaeda cells planted in the Gaza Strip and Sinai was close enough to afford Hamas access to Egyptian cities for hitting back at restraints on its smuggling activities.

According to debkafile‘s counter-terror sources, Egyptian security services are afraid of attacks in Cairo and Alexandria, as well as the Suez Canal cities of Port Said and Ismailia, where al Qaeda maintains broad networks.


PM Ehud Olmert and defense chiefs inspect long-range missile Arrow interceptor unit Tuesday


16 Oct. They were briefed Tuesday, Oct. 16, on the preparedness of Arrow missile defense batteries for a possible war contingency. debkafile‘s military sources report the unit recently acquired a third Arrow battery and so completed its deployment for a potential simultaneous attack from the east by Iran and the north by Syria.

The prime minister was told how the Israeli anti-missile batteries are designed to synchronize with their American counterparts.

Defense minister Ehud Barak met US defense secretary Robert Gates and Pentagon chiefs in Washington later Tuesday to discuss the missile threat. Monday, Gates said he did not rule out a possible military option against Iran.

Intensive preparations have been afoot for some weeks, debkafile‘s sources report, to set up large public shelters in the northern Israeli towns of Haifa, Nahariya, Acre, Carmiel and Safed. Homeland Front officers and civil engineers have been inspecting the sites of underground facilities of parking areas, shopping malls, factories and high-rise buildings and directing their conversion into bomb shelters able to accommodate thousands of civilians in the event of a missile assault.

These activities will soon be extended to all parts of Israel.


Putin and Ahmadinejad lead Caspian Sea Tehran summit in reciprocal non-aggression pledge


16 Oct. The presidents of Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan agreed that no Caspian Sea country should be used as a launch-pad for a military strike against a fellow littoral nation.

debkafile‘s sources report this decision has bound member-states hosting US bases to withhold their use for attacking Iran.

The Caspian summit which opened Tuesday is expected to lead to an agreement on legalizing the status of the rich Caspian resources and dividing them among its five littoral states – to the exclusion of interests outside the region.

The five Caspian nations also confirmed the right of each nation to produce nuclear energy for peaceful ends. Tehran is locked in a standoff with the US and Europe over their conviction that its “peaceful” program is the cover for a weapons drive.

Vladimir Putin, the first Russian president to visit Tehran since the Second World War, said after meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week that he has no information of any such drive.


Berlin-Tehran Ties Are Key to Prisoner Deals – at a Heavy Security Price


16 Oct. There are hopes in Israel that the low-profile Israel-Hizballah swap Monday may have created momentum for practical negotiations to recover the reservists Eldan Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, whose abduction by Hizballah in July, 2006 triggered last year’s Lebanon War.

The German mediator is moderately optimistic. Decisions on prisoner swaps with Israel, including the fate of Regev and Goldwasser, are up to Tehran – not Beirut.

Since the mediator is a member of German intelligence, Israel is also advised to take into account the fact that Iran buys $6 bn worth of German goods per year and Chancellor Angela Merkel has come out against imposing tougher sanctions on Islamic Republic for its nuclear misdeeds. But because of its good relations with Tehran, Berlin is also in a position to provide Israel with its only real channel for dealing with Iran.

This comes at a price, Israeli security sources warn, both as regards the robustness of the Western front on harsh economic sanctions for curbing Iran’s advance toward a nuclear weapon, and the German contingent’s credibility as part of the UNIFIL security operation in South Lebanon. For the sake of recovering its soldiers, Israel is holding silent on Germany’s intelligence collaboration with Hizballah in Lebanon.


Hizballah’s Nasrallah reports progress in negotiations for Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev


16 Oct. In a television address Tuesday night, Oct. 16, Nasrallah disclosed that Hizballah had demanded of Israel the handover of four Iranian diplomats missing in Lebanon since the 1980s. Israel has always denied any involvement in their disappearance. Nasrallah claimed that Israel had agreed to trade them for the missing navigator Ron Arad and the remains of the Israeli soldiers who died in the 1982 Sultan Yakub battle. debkafile‘s sources: The four Iranian diplomats were never held by Israel; they were captured and put to death by Lebanese Christian Phalangists.


Rice ends her Middle East shuttle mission empty-handed


17 Oct. The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been shuttling all week in a bid to forge a substantive joint document for a Middle East conference in Maryland before the end of 2007.

She was informed by all the officials she encountered that no starting-point for final-status negotiations on a Palestinian state – and therefore no agreed document – was within reach. They all agreed that Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are incapable of solidifying their grip on power or combating Palestinian terror.

The US Secretary also learned that Abbas is conducting secret indirect contacts with Hamas. Whatever happens at the conference, he is determined to lead his Fatah party into negotiations with Hamas for a united national government and reconstruct the Gaza-West Bank link which was severed in June when Hamas drove the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority out of the Gaza Strip.

debkafile‘s Jerusalem sources report that top Israeli government levels are deeply anxious lest the secretary of state’s decisions in the light of her setback generate a serious US-Israeli crisis.

They see three options:

1. She can advise the president to postpone the international peace conference in Annapolis to a later date.

2. Or cancel the event in view mainly of the flat unwillingness of Arab rulers to put in an appearance. Washington will then have to decide whom to blame for the fiasco.

3. Or an American-authored document for presentation to the conference. This would impose a settlement on the parties, leading to a clash between the Bush administration and the Olmert government over the radical Israeli concessions required.


Warning letters delivered to thousands of Jewish families in Iran advise them to flee


The letters, according to debkafile‘s Iranian sources, have been posted to Jewish families in Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz. They are captioned: Danger! Danger! Danger! and tell recipients to try and reach the West with all possible speed. Iranian Jews like the rest of the population face grave danger from impending events, the anonymous writers warn.

The Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s sudden trip to Moscow Thursday, Oct. 18 for a two-hour meeting with President Vladimir Putin ties in with the sense of danger emanating from Iran.

Our sources in Moscow report that if Putin did not show his cards to the Iranian leaders in Tehran, there is no chance he will respond to Olmert’s alarm over the Iranian threat.

Putin will emphasize that Moscow has its own interests in the Middle East, just like the US and Israel.

The letters posted to Iranian Jews, our sources report, are not signed; they were postmarked from different towns in America and Europe and from private addresses so as not to raise the suspicions of Iranian security services.

All the same, some were discovered and confiscated, prompting Tehran to accuse Israel and world Zionist organizations of a campaign to scare its Jewish citizens.

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