A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Oct. 25, 2007

Nuclear watchdog is checking US spy satellite images of Syrian site hit by Israel on Sept. 6 for signs of secret nuclear activity


19 Oct. debkafile‘s intelligence sources report that the credibility of the data Israel presented to Washington before the strike continues to be questioned in some Washington quarters. They contend that, even if the target was a nuclear facility under construction, it would not have posed a threat for years.

One purpose of this argument is to belittle Israel’s intelligence findings and detract from questions about how other agencies and the nuclear watchdog missed them. Another is to put the Bush administration on the spot for approving the Israeli air attack as a deterrent against a US military strike against Iran.

debkafile‘s intelligence sources have reported from Day One that

the structure Israel attacked was located between the Euphrates and Lake Assad and that the Syrians misled correspondents by showing them a site at Deir al-Azur. Our military sources also refuted Damascus’ claim that Israeli bombers had ejected unmarked fuel tanks over Turkey. They were dropped by the Turkish air force, as Syrian president Bashar Assad was informed during his visit to Ankara this week. The authentic Israel fuel tanks with Hebrew markings were shown this week by Al Arabiya TV.


Ahmadinejad’s Aggressive Nuclear Policy Prevails in Tehran


20 October: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has laid down the gauntlet.

Having prevailed over the more pragmatic elements of the Islamic Republican regime headed by supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he and his Revolutionary Guards are challenging the United States to do its worst.

Saturday, Oct. 20, the fire-eating president succeeded in removing the formidable Iranian nuclear negotiator, head of the National Security Council, Ali Larijani, from his path. He then sent the Revolutionary Guards missile and artillery commander, Gen. Mahmoud Chaharbaghshe, to warn that, in the first minute of an attack on Iran, the Islamic Republic would fire 11,000 missiles and mortars against enemy (US and Israeli) bases.  The scale of ordnance threatened implied Tehran’s certainty that Syria, Hizballah, Hamas and the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq would join the assault.

debkafile‘s Iran sources report that the president’s venture into brinkmanship points to his confidence that neither the US not Israel can or will dare to strike at Iran’s clandestine nuclear facilities. Khamenei has shown no sign as yet of reining him in.

Our military sources stress that the Iranian nuclear program no longer relies exclusively on uranium enrichment to attain a weapon, but has also turned to plutonium as an alternative path to a weapons capacity. The production of plutonium for weapons is relatively simple and cheap, a fact that was exposed by Israel’s air strike in northern Syria on Sept. 6.

If even Syria can build a small nuclear reactor for plutonium production with North Korean help, there is no reason to assume that Iran has not built an active reactor of this kind and is hiding it underground.


Shin Bet foils Palestinian Fatah faction plot to assassinate Olmert at Jericho talks with Abbas. Israel lodges strong protest with PA


21 Oct. This first Palestinian conspiracy to kill an Israeli prime minister was directed at his June meeting with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Jericho. The Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin reported to the cabinet in Jerusalem Sun. Oct. 21, that five Fatah-Al Aqsa terrorists plotted to shoot up the Israeli convoy bringing prime minister for talks as it entered the West Bank town, which is under full Palestinian security control.

Israel caught two of the five would-be assassins and, acting on Shin Bet information, Palestinian officers arrested three.

However, last week, they released the detainees – all of them on the payroll either of Abbas’ US-subsidized Force 17 presidential guard or Tawfiq Tirawi’s General intelligence – in time for the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s visit.


Hamas gunmen injured in Israeli air attacks in Gaza Sunday afternoon


22 Oct. Earlier, the Palestinians fired six Qassam missiles from Gaza at S. Ashkelon, Sderot and Erez. There were no casualties.

Palestinian Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas said in Jakarta Sunday that no progress towards a peace settlement was possible without Hamas which, despite its violent takeover of Gaza, remains a part of the Palestinian Authority.

debkafile‘s sources report that Abbas’ Fatah has for the past two weeks been in secret dialogue with Hamas which is internationally boycotted as a terrorist organization.


Relics of Solomon’s Temple uncovered for the first time in a sealed layer on Temple Mount, Jerusalem


22 Oct. Undisturbed since circa 800 B.C.E., the layer yielded fragments of bowls and shards decorated in the style of the First Temple Period, the base and handle of a small jug used to ladle oil, the rim of an oil storage jar and animal bone.

They may be the relics of a sacrificial rite held in the First Temple built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C.E. before it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. thus ending the era in which Jewish kingdoms reigned over much of the present-day area of Palestine.

Jerusalem regional archeologist Jon Seligman said the find could finally help scholars place Solomon’s Temple at its precise location and reconstruct its dimensions for the first time.

Over the centuries, the Muslim rulers of Jerusalem built the al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock on the holiest site of Judaism, paving it, calling it the Noble Sanctuary and making it the third holiest shrine of Islam. They denied the Jewish Temple had ever stood there.


Olmert sounds alarm: Iran has crossed red line for developing a nuclear weapon. It’s too late for sanctions


22 Oct. This is the message prime minister Ehud Olmert is carrying urgently to French President Nicolas Sarkozy Monday and British premier Gordon Brown Tuesday, according to debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources.

Last week, Olmert placed the Israeli intelligence warning of an Iranian nuclear breakthrough before Russian president Vladimir Putin, while Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak presented the updated intelligence to American officials in Washington, including President Bush.

Olmert will be telling Sarkozy and Brown that the moment for diplomacy or even tough sanctions has passed. Iran can only be stopped now from going all the way to its goal by direct, military action.

Information of the Iranian breakthrough prompted the latest spate of hard-hitting US statements. Sunday, Oct. 21, US vice president Cheney said: “Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions.''

Friday, the incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen said US forces are capable of operations against Iran’s nuclear facilities or other targets. At his first news conference, he said: “I don’t think we’re stretched in that regard.”


Olmert reveals Hizballah handed over a letter missing Israeli navigator Ron Arad wrote to his wife Tammy shortly after his capture


22 Oct. Hizballah withheld the letter for 21 years until the latest swap deal.


Maj. Gen Avi Mizrahi assumes command of Israel’s Ground Forces


22 Oct. Outgoing commander Maj. Gen Benny Gantz is named IDF military attache in Washington.


Bush and Putin Rough out Breakthrough Strategic Deal for Dumping Iran


23 October: The outline of the American role in the deal surfaced in Prague Tuesday, Oct. 23, when US secretary of defense Robert Gates suggested a possible delay in activating the proposed US missile interceptor project in Poland and radar station in the Czech Republic – until an Iranian threat was “definitely proved.”

Gates added that the US would proceed with plans to build the sites, but possibly wait before putting them in working order.

“We would consider tying together activation of the sites in Poland and the Czech Republic with definitive proof of the threat – in other words, Iranian missile testing and so on,” Gates said.

The proposal has already been presented to the Russians who have expressed interest. Gates described a related proposal that might mean permitting a Russian presence at US missile defense bases, including at the Polish and Czech sites.

US president George Bush spoke a short while later at the National Defense University in Washington. He said the US-led missile defense system in Europe is urgent, but spoke positively about Putin’s offer of missile defense facilities in Azerbaijan and southern Russia. The entire project, said the US president, is “part of a broader effort to move beyond the Cold War.”

debkafile‘s military sources add: If this deal goes through, it would dramatically reduce Iran’s strategic options to abandoning its nuclear ambitions or else facing crippling penalties.


Lebanon will be a second Iraq, says Hizballah in strident threat against US bases


23 Oct. Lebanese and Israeli military sources advise taking the threat by Hizballah’s Nawaf Mussawi seriously. Its gunmen will violently oppose the American plan for its military and instructors to provide the Lebanese national army with an edge against the Hizballah militia. They will also fight tooth and nail any American bid to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559 ordering the disbanding of Hizballah, and no doubt receive orders from Tehran to pre-empt a US military presence and bases in Lebanon.

The Shiite extremists’ bellicose response follows exclusive disclosures in DEBKA-Net-Weekly and debkafile of the master plan developed by US CENTCOM chief, Adm. William Fallon, for upgrading and augmenting the Lebanese army.

Nerves in Beirut are growing tauter: US military projects move forward, on the one hand, while on the other, Tehran and Damascus are pro-active in Lebanon’s military and political affairs. The repeatedly delayed disputed presidential election, now postponed to Nov. 12, hangs over Lebanese heads.


Fatah-al Aqsa claims Palestinian drive-by shooting which injured two Israelis, a soldier seriously, on West Bank


24 Oct. The shooters’ van zigzagged wildly down the road, raking Israeli vehicles with gunfire. At Ariel, the van U-turned and fired at the soldiers waiting at the Ariel hitchhikers’ post on the Trans-Shomron Highway before disappearing. Six vehicles were hit by flying bullets. debkafile‘s military sources: There were no Israeli roadblocks on the road either to halt the lethal vehicle or hold up its escape from the scene of attack, because of Israeli concessions to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas..

Tuesday night, Mubarak al Hasnat, 37, a member of the Popular Resistance Committees, was killed in an Israeli air strike. He was a key controller of the latest, escalated spate of Qassam rockets against Israeli targets from the Gaza Strip.

During the day, Gazan Palestinians fired eight missiles and eight rockets at Israeli targets. One exploded near a strategic facility in southern Ashkelon, aimed at the power station (which also supplies current to the Gazan population). The eighth hit and destroyed a house in Sderot. Ten were fired Monday.


Washington unveils extra-tough sanctions for Iran Thursday


25 Oct. debkafile‘s Iranian sources recall that the Islamic regime announced in advance that approval of these extra-tough measures would be deemed an American declaration of war on Iran and call forth retaliation. Tehran would target US interests in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan or Israel by means of Special Groups, i.e. Iran’s foreign intelligence networks, Hizballah or Hamas.

debkafile‘s sources reveal that since the supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is commander-in-chief of Iran’s armed forces, including the IRGC and its al Qods Brigade, Tehran cannot afford to let Washington’s accusations against them as sponsors of terror and proliferators of WMD go unanswered.

The new sanctions package includes US financial penalties for world firms trading with the IRGC. The Iranian economy is already hard hit by Washington’s systematic blockage of its access to international banks. Iran has appealed urgently to Indonesia for gasoline and heavy oil, because it has run out of currency to pay for imported refined oil products.

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