A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending October 12, 2006

US Secretary Rice warns Iraq’s Kurdish leaders to contain their territorial ambitions


6 October: She informed Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani Friday, Oct. 6, that Washington would not endorse the Kurds’ basic autonomy law which encompasses territory as far as a line south of Baghdad.

Two weeks ago, the regional government threatened to break away from Iraq in a dispute over the Kurdish demand to control the province’s oil wealth alone. After talking to Rice, Barzani stressed his people’s “right to self-determination, said he was committed to a “federal, democratic and pluralistic Iraq,” but did not endorse proposed national legislation on the distribution of oil revenues.


Arab terrorists planned mass murder of Jews in a Prague synagogue


6 October This plot triggered the special security measures announced in the Czech capital for the first time two weeks ago.

According to the sketchy information released, unidentified “Arab extremists” planned to penetrate a synagogue during a Jewish holiday, pose unspecified conditions that would not be fulfilled and then blow up the synagogue with explosives they would have had ready for use. They intended killing scores of Jewish worshippers inside.

On Sept 23, the Czech government deployed armed guards around dozens of buildings and on the streets of the capital after security services announced an unspecified attack was imminent. They have not divulged any further information.

The country’s once flourishing Jewish community was decimated by the Nazis during World War II.


Tehran and Damascus are gearing up for a pre-emptive attack on Israel to ward off a US strike on Iran’s nuclear sites


7 October: The Syrian ruler Bashar Asad’s statement Saturday, Oct. 7, that he expects an Israeli attack aims at providing prior justification for his own aggression.

In going to war, Asad backed by Tehran would hope to force the Americans to divide their military assets between a strike against Iran and the defense of their allies in the Persian Gulf, Israel and US forces in Iraq. Both are seriously looking at a Syrian attack on the Golan which would escalate into a full-blown Syrian-Israeli war and a second Hizballah assault from Lebanon.

According to debkafile‘s sources, Asad and Iran’s supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are prompted by the following motives:

1. Tehran is not prepared to wait passively for the Americans to build up their assault force in the Gulf and strike its nuclear facilities. A pre-emptive attack would suit them better.

2. Tehran and Damascus have not missed the debilitating crisis in which Israel’s political and military leadership is sunk since the Lebanon war. They do not propose to wait until the IDF pulls itself together enough to handle fresh aggression.

3. Tehran figures that the Bush administration is coming to the end of its patience in Iraq and preparing for a major review of its position there. The influential U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, John Warner, said Friday that Iraq's government had 60 to 90 days to control the violence that threatens civil war or the United States would have to reconsider its options. This gives the Maliki government in Baghdad up to December or January to de-escalate if not halt the sectarian war engulfing the country.

Iran, Syria and Hizballah would not be averse to disrupting the American Iraq timeline by attacking Israel and putting the Bush administration on the spot, forced to address three warfronts simultaneously.


Moscow posts two Chechen platoons in S. Lebanon


7 October: The Muslim commandoes of the Vostok and Zapad battalions of the Russian Army’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) (picture) are being sent to guard the 150 Russian military engineers deployed in Lebanon.

debkafile reports: Moscow did not consult Israel before stationing Muslim Chechen troops on its border for the first time.

Russian defense minister Sergei Ivanov said they are there to “improve Moscow’s image in the Arab and Muslim world.”

debkafile‘s military sources: The Russian units are operating independently of the UN peacekeeping force.

The Kremlin is bent on a hard-hitting foreign and domestic policy initiative:

1. Vladimir Putin wants to demonstrate to Russia’s teeming Muslim community its willingness to step into Middle East conflicts on behalf of the Muslim-Arab interest.

2. Moscow is building another bridge to Tehran.

3. Moscow is also promoting cooperation with Hizballah, with whom the Chechens, with their long record of extremist Muslim terrorist action against the Russian army, have much in common.

According to debkafile‘s military sources, the Israeli government and IDF high command are worried by the Russian step. When it signed off onto UN Security Council resolution 1701, Israel never envisaged the measure would open the door for Russian military intelligence to step in and camp on its border, using former Muslim terrorists involved in organized crime.


Italian prosecutors want to try 25 US CIA and several Italian intelligence officials


8 October: They accuse 26 Americans, all but one of whom are agents, of snatching Osama Moustafa Hassan off a Milan street, taking him to the Aviano air base from which he was flown to German and then to Egypt where he says he was tortured. He is still in a Cairo prison.

Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi maintained his government and Italian secret services were not informed of the operation and had no part in it.

debkafile‘s Rome sources note: Since Romano Prodi became premier, the investigation has taken on new life. Prosecutors now say top Italian intelligence (SISMI) officials collaborated with the Americans to abduct Hassan, including its director Nicolo Pollari. They suggest that Prodi is taking advantage of the case for a clean sweep of Berlusconi adherents in the intelligence community and their replacement with his own.

This prime minister will also have less qualms than his pro-American predecessor about demanding the extradition from the United States of CIA suspects.


S. Lebanon’s largest town, Sidon, is taken over as Russian-Syrian spy base and Hizballah stronghold


9 October: The two Russian Chechen GRU platoons deployed in S. Lebanon are setting up their headquarters and surveillance posts in the Lebanese port of Sidon and giving Syrian intelligence a window on their input. Syria is drumming up local support in the strategic port-town, the largest in S. Lebanon, by pumping weapons to local branches of the two Shiite groups, Hizballah and Amal, and the two pro-Syrian clans which dominate the town.

The UN force mandated by UN Security Council resolution 1701 is centered in the Tyre region, whereas Hizballah, Syria’s supporters and the Russian intelligence platoons have taken control of Sidon further up the Mediterranean coast. The three elements are ideally positioned for Hizballah to control the south Lebanese coastal region and for the Russians and Syrians to keep track of the military movements of the Israeli army, UNIFIL and the European naval units off the Lebanese shore.

Senior Israeli officers told debkafile that the takeover of parts of Sidon by Hizballah and Syrian intelligence – plus a Russian intelligence presence – places the security of northern in extreme danger.


Will Israel Wake up One Morning to an Iranian Nuke?


9 October: US President George W. Bush responded slowly because he has several hard nuts to crack. North Korea has proved impervious to tough economic sanctions. He knows a military attack would evoke a North Korean invasion of the South and a potential nuclear conflict.

Tehran is quietly watching to see how the North Korea crisis plays out. The ayatollahs will take Washington’s response to the North Korean test as a measure of its reaction to its own nuclear plans. They can count on massive Chinese support against tough international measures. Despite its denials, Russia is actively abetting Iran in the development of its nuclear capabilities. Beijing is still more directly involved, supplying Iran with nuclear materials, and technology and advanced centrifuges, as well as technology for sophisticated weapons and missile systems.

The European Union refuses to go any further on punitive measures against Iran for cheating on its international commitments than “soft sanctions.”

As things stand now, Iran can go forward with its plans for nuclear armament comfortably without fear of obstruction or even much economic harm.

As for Israel, the North Korean test has brought home how little the international community can be trusted when it comes to the crunch. Ehud Olmert and his foreign minister Tzipi Livni are not the first Israeli leaders to dump the Iranian issue in the international lap. None of their predecessors made any real effort to nip the Iranian nuclear threat in the bud when it could still be stopped cold or at least slowed down. There is still a short time left to take action before Israelis wake up one morning – as did North Koreans and Japanese – to find they ware living under a dark nuclear shadow – only for Israel a nuclear Iran will be less a shadow than a mortal threat to its very existence.


In new al Qaeda videotape, Abu Yahya al-Libi says: “Allah will not be pleased until we reach the rooftop of the White House”


10 October: Al-Libi is identified as one of the senior al Qaeda operatives who escaped from the US Bagram jail in Afghanistan last year. On the tape, aired Tuesday by Al-Arabiya TV, he exhorts adherents in Afghanistan to fight on until they reach the White House


India‘s ex-defense minister George Fernandes denies charge of bribe-taking in Barak missile deal with Israel


10 October: He accused Congress leader Sonia Gandhi of being behind the charge leveled by India’s investigation agency, CBI, that in 2000 he approved the purchase of the anti-missile defense system from Israel for $450,000. The money was allegedly paid to the president of his Samata Party, Jaya Jaitley. The ex-head of naval staff, retired Admiral Sushil Kumar is also accused.

All three deny the allegations. “The deal was approved before I came to power,” said Fernandes.”I took the advise of the present President and the then Advisor to the Prime Minister A P J Abdul Kalam. “On his (Kalam's) clearance it was done. He said the navy needed it.”


US Consul-General in Jerusalem outlines all-out effort to boost Mahmoud Abbas


11 October: After the breakdown of the Qatari mediation effort for a Palestinian unity government, Jack Wallace accused Hamas of aborting Israel’s release of Palestinian prisoners for Ramadan by its kidnap of the Israeli soldier Gideon Shalit in June. He said the US was investing $10 million in the expansion, equipment and training of Mahmoud Abbas’s presidential guard for the tasks of fortifying his leadership and manning Palestinian border crossings between Gaza, Egypt and Israel.

debkafile‘s military sources add: Yasser Arafat’s old Force 17 will be expanded from 3,500 to 6,500 men and equipped with arms, vehicles and communications systems. The Palestinian Jericho facility will be upgraded as a central training base and the Palestinian Authority’s most modern military installation. Palestinian security officers will act as instructors under the guidance of British military personnel.


Rejecting High Court petitions, Israeli government finds no cause for state probe on Lebanon War


11 October: The government was given five days to reply to three petitions to the High Court against prime minister Ehud Olmert’s refusal to appoint a state inquiry commission to probe the mismanagement of the Lebanon war and draw appropriate conclusions. The government responded Wednesday, Oct. 11, that there is no reason for a state inquiry.

debkafile: Olmert is in mid-momentum for shoring up his faltering government by expanding the coalition to meet unrelenting popular disaffection.

Talks between his Kadima party and the opposition Russian immigrant Israeli Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman are brokered by the ultra-religious Shas minister Eli Yishai and center on government reforms. Lieberman says he will be satisfied with one portfolio which the prime minister is willing to create for him: Deputy Premier for Strategic Threats. Olmert’s leading coalition partner Labor is not pleased with the prospect of a right-wing addition to the government.

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