A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending September 14, 2006

Iran resumes weapons airlift to Hizballah via Beirut as soon as Israeli ended its air blockade


9 September Iran’s first post-blockade arms flight departed Dubai Friday, Sept. 8, to test the ground at Beirut international airport for Israeli air force or UN reactions. debkafile‘s military sources report that the forbidden goods were unloaded and sailed through the airport unhindered. Tehran therefore determined to send two further bulk consignments in the next 48 hours aboard commercial flights from the Persian Gulf.

Our sources report the arms crates listed were on the documents as “computer equipment. Handle with care.” They were offloaded onto trucks which drove in convoy to Hizballah headquarters in Baalbek.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, determined to end Israel’s air blockade on Lebanon, promised solemnly that UN monitors would control incoming passengers and goods at Beirut airport. But he Lebanese prime minister immediately barred the airport to UN inspections. The five German air monitors agreed on were only allowed to establish a checkpoint for controlling arms smuggling at a distance of one kilometer from the international airport. debkafile reports they are standing idle because the trucks carrying forbidden cargoes are able leave the airfield and bypass their checkpoint by alternative routes.

On land, the Lebanese-Syrian border is wide open. Three or four arms truck convoys cross into Lebanon every day.


Olmert’s belated discovery of a serious breach with Washington prompted him to disinter the Middle East roadmap


10 September: The Israeli prime minister informed the cabinet Sunday Sept 10 that the time had come to reach for a “diplomatic horizon.” Offering to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas “without pre-conditions,” he brought back to life the moribund Middle East road map.

So what happened to his realignment plan which filled all the empty space on his campaign platform only six months ago?

The answer lies in Washington, where he is in very hot water with the Bush administration. First, the White House was angered by the way Olmert, defense minister Amir Peretz and foreign minister Tzipi Livni mismanaged the Lebanon war and, in doing so, got in the way of America’s plans for Iran.

This was followed by a further complaint: During his May visit to Washington, the Israeli prime minister presented the US president and the two Houses of Congress his realignment (aka convergence) plan for a partial withdrawal from the West Bank. He asked for American support and received it with an ovation.

Two and a half months later, that same prime minister ditched his realignment plan – only forgetting to drop a word to Washington. That was too much for the administration to swallow. Olmert was given to understand that it was totally unacceptable for him to discard a Middle East program taken seriously and adopted by the US government like an old shoe.

It was only then that Olmert began to realize the extent of the damage he had caused US-Israel relations. For lack of any other plan, the prime minister’s office decided to give the Middle East roadmap the kiss of life and invite Abu Mazen to return to the game as a player.


Olmert offers to meet Abu Mazen without pre-conditions including release of Gideon Shalit


10 September: At a joint news conference with visiting British PM Tony Blair Saturday night, the Israeli PM spoke of the need to return to the Middle East road map.


Democracy and Intelligence – the Two Big Losers in War on Terror


10 September: The question asked often in the articles, analyses and programs marking the 5th anniversary of the attacks on New York’s Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington is: Why has al Qaeda never launched another attack in America on the same scale?

The true explanation is to be found in the modus operandi of al Qaeda which consists mainly of four elements:

Al Qaeda and its regional jihadist affiliates in the Far East, the Middle East and the Europe-North Africa branch set their clocks according to a time system quite unrelated to that of the US or Western intelligence.

They have all the time in the world and endless patience to prepare attacks. They leave no clues to their master-minds, even the operation takes much longer to set up. Al Qaeda’s planners believe they have caused American infinite harm in Iraq and are sure they have inflicted a resounding blow to George W. Bush’s democratic ideal, the fountainhead of his worldview and policy, while also exploiting it to bring Islamist terrorists in power.


Zawahiri denounces the UN force in Lebanon as “enemies of Islam,” calls on Iraqi Kurds to renounce America and Israel


11 September: In his second video in 24 hours, al Qaeda’s Ayman Zawahiri tells Muslims to strike Western interests and stop the “theft of Muslim oil” by Western countries.

He says Security Council 1701 is a terrible resolution because it “isolates al Qaeda fighters in Palestine from al Qaeda in Lebanon.”

“The strongest way to aid our Muslim brothers … is to strike the interests of Jews and Crusaders and those who cooperate with them,” Zawahri said in a 16-minute video.


Cyprus detains a ship bound for Syria from North Korea – on Interpol and Israeli tip-off about military cargo


11 September: debkafile‘s military sources report the 18 truck-mounted mobile radar systems and three command vehicles, billed as “weather-observation equipment,” were a part of a consignment Iran purchased from North Korea for Hizballah.

The shipment was billed as weather-observation equipment on the freight manifest of the Panamanian-flagged Grigorio 1. Syria was not listed as the consignee. But the Syrian government asked Cyprus to release the seized consignment.

This is the first irrefutable proof that Syria and Iran are in blatant violation of the arms embargo laid down in Security Council resolution 1701.


Al Qaeda warns Israel and the Gulf Arab states are its next targets


11 September: In a video marking the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, al Qaeda’s No. 2 tells Western leaders they will soon be evicted from the Gulf and face economic doom. As for Israel, al Qaeda’s “holy war” is closing in and “your end will put an end to Zionist-crusader supremacy.” He added cryptically, “new events” are on the way.

On Sunday, al Qaeda's media arm al-Sahab released a 92-minute video entitled “The Manhattan Raids”, showing bin Laden with 9/11 attackers for the first time and the men training in an unidentified location. One image showed Ramzi Binalshibh. Bin Laden has not been seen on any new videotape since late 2004.


UK PM Tony Blair begins Lebanon visit Monday amid intense security measures and Shiite boycott


11 September: Parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a Hizballah ally left on a foreign trip, the two Hizballah cabinet ministers will be absent from Blair’s meeting wit the government. Pro-Syrian political parties and students threaten demonstrations against the British premier for his position in the Israeli-Hizballah war. A Hizballah cleric attacked prime minister Fouad Siniora for allowing the visit to take place.


Saudi and Egyptian rulers set up special Arab League fund to locate Israeli sites that generate nuclear contamination


12 September: King Abdullah and President Hosni Mubarak have earmarked the money to equip the Syrian government and Palestinian Authority with detectors to explore the Golan, the Gaza Strip and West Bank for nuclear contamination. The Saudi and Egyptian leaders hope to catch Israel out in violation of the Jan. 2006, UN General Assembly Resolution, which bans nuclear pollution on pain of Security Council sanctions.


The Middle East Bazaar’s Dernier Cri: A Palestinian Unity Government


12 September: Mahmoud Abbas is pushing hard for a coalition between his own Fatah and the ruling Hamas. The incentive for Hamas’ prime minister Ismail Haniyeh is the prospect of an escape from the international boycott and aid embargo dogging his government, although extremist supreme leader Khaled Meshaal who is based in Damascus is unlikely to let him run very far.

Abbas, aka Abu Mazen, hopes to salvage what is left of his Fatah whose activists are being quietly knocked off by Hamas terminators. Abbas is clutching the rope handed him by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and foreign minister Tzipi Livni. They decided it was time to talk to Abu Mazen after they made a botch of the Lebanon war and their peace advances to the Siniora government were roundly snubbed.

With this card in hand, Abbas turned to Ismail Haniyeh with a new proposition: If I can face the UN General Assembly in New York with a Palestinian national unity government, I believe it will be possible with the help of the European nations contributing to the UN force in Lebanon to get the international community to lift the economic boycott hanging over our heads.


“Once the occupiers are out, many of Iraq's problems will be resolved,” Iran’s Ali Khamenei tells visiting Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki Wednesday


13 September: He attributed part of Iraq’s problems to “foreign occupiers” and “the performance of the former tyrant regime” for another. Iran considers it its duty to extend practical assitance to the Iraqi people and government, including backing Iraq’s recovery of its sovereingty. In Baghad , car bombs killed 22 people in Baghdad Wednesday and police found 60 bodies bound, tortured and shot – most in Sunni districts but some also in Shiite districts neighborhoods of the capital.


Hizballah reneges on its deal for the Lebanese army and the UN force’s missions in South Lebanon


13 September: Until Wednesday night, the Shiite terror group stood by its consent to the Lebanese army deployed along the border with Israel handling any military problems or clashes with Israel. Now, Hizballah has gone back on this deal and announced that its own forces will go into action against Israel, regardless of the UN-brokered that went into effect on July 14.

In a second statement, Hizballah warned Berlin that any German troops posted at Lebanese air ports, seaports or Lebanese-Syrian border posts would be legitimate targets for attack. The warning came just hours after the German government approved a 2,400 naval and air contingent for the UN Lebanon force.

The Hizballah threat applied also to all the foreign contingents serving with expanded UNIFIL, thereby limiting their area of operation to the border with Israel.


Israel‘s Real Danger


13 September: The most obvious next step for any responsible prime minister, defense minister or chief of staff would be to announce General Adam’s replacement.

Except that the members of this trio are not on speaking terms.

They are therefore hardly up to the overriding task facing the Israeli government most urgently, which is to rush the country and the army into preparedness for a war against Iran. The Islamic Republic may well decide that the Jewish state’s extreme political and military weakness is a good moment to strike.

The Hizballah threat will then look like child’s play.

Deputy prime minister Shimon Peres said Tuesday that, in the next war, central Israel, the heartland where most of the population is densely concentrated, would be in danger of Iranian ballistic missile attack, which Israel would be unable to withstand. So what are Ehud Olmert, his ministers and army chiefs doing about correcting this vulnerability?

On Sept. 11, two al Qaeda leaders stated clearly that Israel is marked out for attack and “very soon there would be good news with regard to the Jews.” Is Tel Aviv or any other Israeli city ready for a 9/11- scale attack?

The Adam resignation occurred two months too late. It should have happened in mid-July when the Northern Command and senior division commanders were clearly seen to have misread the Lebanon war map and misapplied the troops under their command.

His belated resignation exposes his superiors in the chain of command – the chief of staff, the defense minister and ultimately, the prime minister – to intensified pressure to step down and assume responsibility for the mismanagement of the Lebanon War.

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