A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Oct. 4, 2007

Jerusalem security and police forces on high alert Friday for three major religious events


28 Sept. The same day sees the Jewish pilgrimage festival of Succoth, prayers on Temple Mount on the third Friday of Ramadan and on Mt. of Olives opposite the shrine, mass attendance at the funeral of former Chief Rabbi Avraham Elkana Shapira

Thousands of police were called up to guard jam-packed places of worship, including the Western Wall and try to control the heavy traffic streaming into Jerusalem.

Rabbi Shapira, who died aged 83, was widely esteemed as a leading religious Zionist ideologue, Tora sage and spiritual mentor for three generations. In 2005, his injunction to men in uniform to flout orders to evacuate the Jewish communities of Gaza brought him both admirers and denigrators. Close to 100,000 mourners from across the country accompanied the rabbi’s funeral cortege on the Mt. of Olives Friday.


Accusations from Paris that Iran is building new clandestine military nuclear plant south of Natanz


28 Sept. The latest round of the international campaign against Iran’s covert nuclear activities is coming out of Paris, debkafile‘s intelligence sources report. A statement by President Nicolas Sarkozy Thursday, Sept. 27 that he does not believe Iran’s program is peaceful was followed by a press conference at which the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s chairman, Mehdi Abrishamchi, reported Iran was constructing a new site for a secret military project 5 km south of the Natanz nuclear complex.

debkafile notes that, five years ago, the Americans used the same roundabout technique for making their first disclosures of Iran’s nuclear violations.

They fed the revelation that uranium enrichment was taking place at Natanz to the same resistance group, NCRI (Mujahideen Qalq), which then called a press conference in Washington and laid it before the public.


Iranian delegation visits Ankara with a warning and bid for information on Israeli air force’s Sept. 6 attack in Syria


29 Sept. A high-ranking Iranian air force and intelligence delegation, led by a general, is reported by debkafile‘s intelligence sources to have landed secretly in the Turkish capital a few days ago. The visitors warned that Iran would not stand by again in the event of another strike against Syria, whether by Israel or the US, or both. Next time, Iran would step in, he said, without specifying in what form.

According to our military sources, the Iranian delegation returned to Tehran empty-handed. The Turks refused to answer questions on the identity of the aircraft that struck a suspected nuclear target in Syria, their movements in Turkish airspace or their altitudes..


Israeli security authorities angered by Olmert’s reprieve of bearer of Saddam Hussein’s largesse for Palestinian terrorists


30 Sept. Rakad Mahmoud Salameh, aka “Abu Mahmoud” or “Rakad Salam,” walks free Monday, Oct. 1, along with 90 jailed Palestinians, whose release prime minister Ehud Olmert ordered as a Ramadan gesture for Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that Salameh’s job was to manage Saddam Hussein’s bankroll for the Yasser Arafat’s suicide “al Aqsa” campaign against Israel. From 2000-2002, he distributed checks signed by the Iraqi dictator to the suicide bombers’ families and terrorists wounded in IDF operations. The Iraqi dictator’s policy was to promote Palestinian anti-Israel violence by oiling its wheels with the money.

Israeli security sources are astonished that US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and her team okayed the release of a key terrorist aide of the Iraqi dictator who was ousted by American forces.


John Bolton sees only remote prospect for Palestinian statehood, urges Egyptian and Jordanian solutions


30 Sept. In a TV interview, the former US ambassador to the United Nations said he is sorry for Middle East envoy Tony Blair because the Quartet’s policy is wrong. Gaza is ruled by terrorists and the Palestinian Authority is an authority in name alone, Bolton argued: “We have a weak Israeli government which is afraid to go to the polls and a fragmented Palestinian party. The prospect of Palestinian statehood is therefore remote.

It would be better to think in terms of Jordan and Egypt re-assuming responsibility for the West Bank and Gaza.


Russians employed at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor suddenly depart in a body, according to local Arab sources


1 Oct. The Khorramshar News Agency, which is published by the ethnic Arab underground of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan, reported early Oct. 1 that the entire staff of Russian nuclear engineers and experts employed in building the nuclear reactor at Bushehr had abruptly packed their bags Friday, Sept. 28, and flew back to Russia. The agency’s one-liner offers no source or explanation. debkafile have obtained no corroboration of its report from any other source.

debkafile‘s Iranian sources report that this news agency keeps its ear close to the ground on happenings in Bushehr, because it is claimed by Khuzistan separatists as Arab land which they will fight to liberate from Iranian “occupation.”


Hamas hands Egypt high al Qaeda operative in deal for letting 85 Hamas fighters trained in Iran and Syria through Rafah crossing


1 Oct. Cairo failed to notify Israel or the European monitors of this action, in violation of signed accords brokered by the US secretary of State two years ago.

The trained terrorists were allowed to return to Gaza undera deal Egypt struck with Hamas for the surrender of a senior Egyptian al Qaeda operative harbored for some months in the Gaza Strip. debkafile‘s defense sources report: This deal represents the first breach in the Egyptian-Israeli siege imposed on the territory after its seizure by Hamas in June.

Our sources identify the al Qaeda figure handed over as Muhammed Fayad Ibrahim from Nebi Saweil near Cairo. Al Qaeda-Egypt’s senior liaison officer with Osama bin Laden, he gained asylum in the Gaza Strip in July. He spent his time in Gaza building a new all Qaeda network of Egyptian fugitives alongside Al Qaeda-Palestine.


Israel lifts military censorship on Sept. 6 Israeli air force attack Tuesday, 24 hours after Assad’s partial admission


2 Oct. Monday, Oct. 1, Syrian president Bashar Assad claimed to the BBC that Israel had struck an empty military installation on Sept. 6 and that for Syria to retaliate militarily would be playing by “Israel’s rules.” The Israeli military thereupon lifted its month-long ban on its publication without adding any further information, in the hope of closing the books on the affair.

The reasoning behind this decision was that if Israel refrained from knocking down Assad’s version of the incident and let it stand as an Israeli intelligence goof shared by America, Syrian honor would be satisfied and a sequel avoided.

However, Assad’s decision to hold his war horses at this time is not a strategic one but forced on him for lack of choice. A stance of helpless inaction is not one he can sustain for long. Stretching it out could affect the stability of his regime.


Congress approves $1.2 billion worth of US-funded Israeli arms purchases, including 50 huge GBU-28 guided bunker busters


2 Oct. debkafile‘s military sources report the package, discussed by US Pentagon and Israel defense ministry officials, aims at replenishing the seriously depleted Israel Air Force stocks of missiles, bombs and jet fuel to their level prior to the 2006 Lebanon war, ready for any potential war contingency. Some of these items will be delivered shortly; others over a five-year period.

They include thousands of missiles, tens of thousands of new bombs worth $799 million and 132 million gallons of jet fuel worth $308 million.

The accent of this consignment will be on the heaviest American bombs designed for such subterranean targets as the bunker fortresses of Iran, Syria and Lebanon’s Hizballah and on operating and guidance systems for upgrading Israeli Air Force ammunition.

Israeli industry executives, including the state-owned Rafael Armament Development Authority, Israel Aerospace Industries and Military Industries, are concerned by the country’s increasing dependence on American weaponry. They took particular exception to the defense ministry’s plans to stock up on US Sidewinders and AMRAAM missile when the Python-5, Derby and follow-on indigenous systems are specifically designed for the Israeli Air force. Their firms are not only denied billions of shekels in new orders, but their international sales are eroded of such items as Israeli-built air-to-air missiles, which have made their mark on world markets.


British premier Gordon Brown announces 1,000 troops will be home by Christmas, the rest in New Year


2 Oct. The British prime minister has clearly decided to end the Iraq venture launched by his predecessor Tony Blair and withdraw all 5,500 troops from Basra in rapid stages by early next year. debkafile reports that Brown’s announcement was motivated more by domestic British politics rather than progress in pacifying the province, where five years of British control leaves southern Iraq in the hands of Shiite militias backed by Iran and jockeying for stakes in its oil and port facilities.

The British premier’s announcement has fueled election fever in Britain, where he is expected to capitalize on his 20-point lead against the opposition Conservatives to call a snap poll.


US amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island deploys to Fifth Fleet headquartered in Bahrain


3 Oct. The vessel departed Oct. 1 on its mission in the Fifth Fleet area of command, which encompasses the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea and part of the Indian Ocean. On the decks of the Whidbey Island are a crew of more than 400 sailors, 500 marines and four air cushion landing craft.


Seventy-seven US senators and 3 ex-ambassadors call on Rice to enlarge Arab participation and voice in promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace


3 Oct. The letter, authored by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), said the success of the November meeting in Annapolis depends on cooperation from the larger Arab world. Arab states must be urged to participate in the conference, recognize Israel’s right to exist and publicly encourage Mahmoud Abbas’ administration to govern efficiently and fight terror. The bipartisan senators’ letter was signed by six presidential contenders.

In contrast, the document penned by three former ambassadors to Israel, Thomas R. Pickering, Samuel W. Lewis and Edward S. Walker, urges the secretary of state to meet the regional Arab demands’ halfway, especially Saudi Arabia, and find a seat at the conference table for Hamas.


Palestinian sources deny formula for Middle East conference in November agreed by Olmert and Abbas


4 Oct. While still divided on core issues of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas were reported to have agreed in Jerusalem Wednesday, Oct. 3, that the conference would mark the take-off of negotiations on a permanent settlement without limitation on time or agenda and within the framework of the Middle East roadmap.

The next day, sources close to Abbas denied foregoing a timeline and agenda. debkafile‘s Middle East sources report that the formula as first released almost certainly guarantees that Saudi Arabia and Egypt will boycott the Annapolis conference.

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