A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Sept. 20, 2007

Advanced Russian Air Defense Missile Is Proved Incapable of Protecting Syrian and Iranian Skies


7 Sept: debkafile‘s military experts conclude from the way Damascus described the episode Wednesday, Sept. 6, that the Pantsyr-S1E missiles, purchased from Russia to repel air assailants, failed to down the Israeli jets accused of penetrating northern Syrian airspace. The new Pantsyr missiles therefore leave Syrian and Iranian airspace vulnerable to hostile intrusion.

Western intelligence circles stress that information on Russian missile consignments to Syria or Iran is vital to any US calculation of whether to attack Iran over its nuclear program. They assume that the “absolute jamming immunity” which the Russian manufactures promised for the improved Pantsyr missiles was immobilized by superior electronic capabilities exercised by the jets.

Syria took delivery in mid-August of 10 batteries of sophisticated Russian Pantsyr-S1E Air Defense Missile fire control systems with advanced radar, those sources report. They have just been installed in Syria.

The purported Israeli air force flights over the Pantsyr-S1E site established that the new Russian missiles, activated for the first time in the Middle East, are effective and dangerous but can be disarmed. Western military sources attribute to those Israeli or other air force planes superior electronics for jamming the Russian missile systems, but stress nonetheless that they were extremely lucky to get away unharmed.

The courage, daring and operational skills of the air crews must have been exceptional.


Bin Laden uses Nazi Holocaust to slam Western culture


8 Sept. In his first videotaped speech in three years, Osama bin Laden brands “the Holocaust of the Jews as “your [American] culture, not our culture.” He says: “In fact, burning living beings is forbidden in our religion (sic!), even if they be small like the ant, so what of man!” [And what of New York?]

In another cynical distortion of the facts, al Qaeda’s leader praises on high the Muslim role in the Holocaust period.

“The holocaust of the Jews was carried out by your brethren in the middle of Europe. Had it been closer to our countries, most of the Jews would have been saved by taking refuge with us,” he said. “…that is why the Jewish community in Morocco today is one of the largest communities in the world. They are alive with us and we have not incinerated them.”

Fact: Only a few thousand Jews remain in Morocco from a vibrant community of 265,000 prior to 1948. In that year, entire Jewish communities were dispossessed and thrown out of Morocco and most other Arab Muslim countries. They found refuge in the fledgling State of Israel. And in 2003, he sent his suicide bombers to attack… Casablanca’s Jewish Quarter.


Two US carrier-strike groups are bound for Persian Gulf region, bringing number back to three


10 Sept. debkafile‘s military sources report that from the third week of July, the only American strike force-carrier in the Persian Gulf-Arabian Sea region was the USS Enterprise. By the end of September, It will be joined by the USS Nimitz and the USS Truman Strike Groups. Our sources note that with their arrival, three American naval, air and marine forces will again confront Iranian shores at a time of crisis in the military and civilian leadership of Iran – signaled by the abrupt change of Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders, rising Israel-Syrian tensions and a troubled situation in Lebanon.


Sixty-nine Israeli soldiers injured when three missiles launched from Gaza hit their boot camp early Tuesday. Ministers demand serious military action


11 Sept. Four of the new recruits were seriously injured, two critically, from shrapnel and blast. One of the Qassams exploded in an empty tent in the Zikkim facility north of Gaza; a second outside the mess tent full of soldiers on their last day of basic training. Jihad Islami and the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility. Israel is pondering a large-scale military response to stamp out the seven-year Palestinian missile campaign once and for all and the cutoff of supplies and services to the Gaza Strip.


Iran‘s claim to have 600 Shehab-3 missiles pointed at Israel and US targets in Iraq is bluff


17 Sept. debkafile‘s military sources assert that Iran does not have as many as 600 Shehab-3 missiles capable of a simultaneous barrage – as threatened on an Iranian Web site Monday – nor sufficient launchers to fire that number.

The threatening statement followed the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner’s warning Sunday which the Iranian foreign ministry termed “even more inflammatory than the tone in Washington.”

debkafile‘s military sources report that Iran does have is several dozen Shehab-3 missiles fitted with new warheads containing thousands of tiny cluster bombs.

Our military sources say that, notwithstanding Tehran’s big talk, Israeli warplanes generated some new facts:

According to US media reports, Syria’s electronic defensive systems were jammed so effectively on Sept. 6 that neighboring Lebanon’s electronic communications were down for several days. If this is true, it is also possible that Iran’s electronic systems can be similarly immobilized, thereby leaving Iranian missiles vulnerable to attack from the moment they are placed in their ready-to-launch positions. The US air force would then make short work of destroying them, lofted by the highly effective network of early warning stations with which the Americans have encircled Iran and positioned at big air force bases facing Iran from inside Iraq.

What is more, ranged against Iran are the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier, which is patrolling the Persian Gulf and the USS Nimitz strike group, which is deployed in the northern Arabia Sea opposite Iran’s shores.

If Iran and its war planners appear to racing against time, their first priority must be to shield their purported 600 missiles from attack before launching them to target.


French FM Kouchner: The Iranian nuclear crisis forces the world to prepare for war


17 Sept. Kouchner also said he had advised large French companies not to respond to tenders issued by Tehran. debkafile adds: France thus joined the economic sanctions imposed by the US, Britain, Japan and Germany on Iran for refusing to give up uranium enrichment.


Israel enhances military intelligence capabilities versus Iran in its first double spacecraft liftoff with India this week


18 Sept. US and Indian military sources say that, if successful, the twin launch by the same Polaris/TecSat vehicle will add Israel to the few nations with imaging radar reconnaissance satellites able to distinguish camouflaged vehicles from rocky terrain – by night and through foliage.

The Israeli military satellite will lift off along with India’s first military recon spacecraft, Cartosat 2A. They will be fired in an approximately 600-km polar orbit atop the same Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from an island in the Bay of Bengal. The data-gathering features of Polaris 1 are especially pertinent for a potential attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

debkafile‘s military sources add that the Israeli satellite’s ability to “see through” cloud and foliage and distinguish between camouflaged vehicles and rocks, provide an answer for Iran’s ingenious camouflaging methods employed by Hizballah in the 2006 Lebanese war. New Delhi is interested in buying Israel’s imaging radar satellite design for its reconnaissance operations which focus on Pakistan, China and increasingly the US.


The battle for control of the Palestinian terrorist stronghold of Beit Ilma, Nablus, continued Wednesday


19 Sept. Tuesday, Sept 18, it claimed the life of paratrooper Staff Sgt. Ben Zion Haim Henman, 21, from Moshav Nov, Golan. Israeli troops, hunting for mixed Hamas-Popular Front-Jihad Islami-Fatah cells bent on mounting a suicide attack inside Israel, are facing fierce resistance. A 17-year old Popular Front gunman was killed Tuesday, followed by a Hamas activist Wednesday. Several Palestinians were injured. More than a dozen suspects have been rounded up and arms caches uncovered. Beit Ilma is under curfew. Israeli troops also came under attack from gunfire and explosive devices inside Nablus the town.

debkafile‘s military sources report the battle between the IDF and Palestinian terrorist groups reached a ferocious climax this week after a more than two-month seesaw struggle for control. The various groups have made the fairly small Nablus camp a formidable bastion by working together and flooding it with weapons and fighters from across the West Bank.


The Israeli cabinet brands Hamas’ rule of Gaza a “hostile entity.” US Secretary Rice supports step


19 Sept. The Israeli security cabinet’s decision Wed. Sept 19 paves the way for the cutoff of supplies, including electricity, fuel, water to the 1.5 million Palestinians of the Gaza Strip which was seized by Hamas in June. Condoleezza Rice said that for the US, Hamas is indeed a hostile entity as well.

debkafile adds: The Olmert government has been under heavy pressure to launch a major military operation to halt the regular Palestinian missile assaults from Gaza or at least reduce utilities to deter those attacks. The current low-key operations have proved ineffective. Hamas called the decision “a declaration of war.” An Israeli official said the cabinet had not made immediate decisions to turn off any taps to Gaza as yet.


Iran threatens to bomb Israel if attacked


19 Sept. Deputy air force commander Mohammad Alawi said Wednesday that Iran has a plan to bomb Israel in the event of a military attack against the Islamic Republic. Iranian bombers can retaliate against Israeli soil, he said. “In addition to our missiles, whose range covers the whole soil of this regime, we can attack them with our fighter jets on their soil.


Close Assad aide reiterates that Syria will respond to Israeli attack at a time and place of its choosing


19 Sept. Minister of Expatriates, Butheina Shabaan, President Bashar Assad’s personal mouthpiece, made this statement Tuesday, Sept 18. debkafile‘s American and Israeli sources say it is important because it may indicate that the Syrian president, after due consideration, has come down on the side of a military response some time soon.

According to debkafile‘s military sources, Damascus holds at least four proactive options for a reprisal:

1. A sudden pinpoint attack on the Golan and attempt to seize hold of a small enclave or Israeli military position.

2. A multiple casualty terrorist attack on the Golan.

3. Indirect action against an Israeli target – either through an incursion by one of the Lebanese-based Palestinian groups under Syria’s thumb for a massive shooting operation, or through attacks on Israeli or Jewish targets outside the Middle East by external Hizballah or Palestinian cells.

4. A Syrian strike against a strategic target inside Israel, similar to the Israeli attack which American sources report targeted an “agricultural” nuclear site in northern Syria.

The timing of the Shabaan statement is suggestive because it came three days before Yom Kippur, 34 years after the surprise assault by Arab armies.


Janes Defense Weekly’s “revelations” of an explosion at a Syrian military plant were first aired by Syria radio and TV on the day it happened


19 Sept. Damascus media reported quite openly that on July 27, that a blast generated by hot weather accidentally caused a pile of explosives to detonate at a military industrial factory. Fifteen Syrian soldiers were reported killed and 50 injured. debkafile: <bThis incident had no bearing on subsequent military occurrences in Syria, including the alleged Israeli air attack more than a month later on Sept. 6.b>

debkafile‘s military sources add: Iranian experts have been employed in Syrian missile production since 2000. Their presence in Syria’s missile industry was confirmed again in the most recent Iranian-Syrian strategic collaboration pact. Moreover, on May 27, 2005, Syria successfully test-fired three Scud missiles with chemical warheads – a Scud B with a range of some 300 km and two Scud Ds whose range is about 700 km. They were launched from Minakh, north of Aleppo in northern Syria.


Murder of another anti-Syrian Lebanese lawmaker was Damascus’ greeting for Middle East visitor US Secretary Rice


20 Sept. Wednesday, Sept 19, the day Condoleezza Rice arrived for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, a car bomb in East Beirut killed lawmaker Antoine Ghanem, further reducing the anti-Syrian majority in parliament six days ahead of its election of a new Lebanese president. Bashar Assad was signaling that he was not deterred from his policies by the Israeli air attack of Sept 6 and would not let American influence displace his grip on Beirut.

debkafile‘s counter-terror sources note Syria’s fingerprints all over the assassination of the 8th anti-Syrian MP to be murdered in two years. Syria was bluntly accused of the crime by leader of the 14 March majority Saad Hariri, whose father was blown up in February 2005, and Druze leader Walid Jumblat, whose father died at Syrian hands in the 70s.

The US secretary of state did not have an easy ride in her effort to inject substance into President Bush’s international conference in Washington two months hence. Israeli leaders made a show of goodwill but they prefer declarations to deeds, while Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas insists on substantial progress towards establishing a Palestinian state as the price for his attendance.

Without the Palestinians and the Saudis, the conference is a non-starter.

In other areas, Rice found Israel on the move:

1. The security cabinet declared the Gaza Strip a hostile territory controlled by a hostile force, Hamas. While this decision could pave the way for Israel to cut off electricity, water and other services to Gaza, it also cuts Abbas off from possible steps to restore his dialogue with Hamas.

2. The IDF’s Givati armored infantry brigade began a large training exercise on the Golan backed by engineering and air units.

And on the very day of her arrival, Israel’s opposition leader, former PM Binyamin Netanyahu was condemned as an irresponsible blabbermouth for letting the cat out of the bag on an Israeli air operation against Syria on Sept. 6.

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