A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending September 7, 2006
UN Secretary Annan says Asad has pledged steps to stop flow of arms and increase border security with Lebanon
1 September: The Syrian president has not confirmed any such promise.
debkafile adds: For six years, the Syrian president has been promising “steps” to stem the flow of fighters, instructors, weapons, explosives and cash to Palestinian terrorists, Hizballah, al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents. Nothing has ever come of those pledges, although Asad could make them come true by a simple order to his relatives, led by his brother-in-law, Gen. Asaf. Shawqat, to shut down the family’s cross-border smuggling business.
Spy fever sweeps Hizballah after breaking up two Israeli rings which included Lebanese Shiite agents
1 September: Hizballah’s dreaded Special Security Apparatus is reported by our intelligence sources in Beirut and Israel as having broken up two Mossad spy rings of Lebanese agents.
One worked out of Beirut, the second in South Lebanon.
The two networks, according to debkafile‘s sources, planted bugs and surveillance equipment at Hizballah command posts before and during the war. They also sprinkled special phosphorus powder outside buildings housing Hizballah’s war commands and rocket-launchers as markers for air strikes.
Israel warplanes and helicopters were able to hit these locations with great accuracy.
Well before the war, the Beirut ring had penetrated the inner circles of Hizballah high-ups and was reporting on their activities and movements to Israeli controllers. Short anonymous phone calls would give agents their rendezvous for picking up orders and spy equipment and dead drops for relaying their information.
The second network was composed of two cells operating out of the village of Itrun opposite Kibbutz Yaron and Bint Jubeil further west. Run by veterans of the South Lebanese Army (the force Israel created during its occupation), its job was to “paint” targets for the Israeli Air Force and artillery.
The Beirut ring’s leader, Faisal Mukleid, 29, a Shiite from Jarjuara village, was captain of small freighters which carried smuggled drugs and stolen goods between Mediterranean ports on the Italian and Egyptian coasts. He was picked up by the Italian navy 2000 and recruited from his cell by the Mossad.
The captured Israeli agents are locked up in Hizballah jails awaiting their fate. The Hizballah security service has drawn up dossiers for their indictment, but is uncertain how to proceed. The Lebanese prosecution authorities, once dominated by Syrian influence, can no longer be counted on for convictions.
Lebanon arrests a fourth suspect in plot to bomb two trains in Germany
2 September: debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that this arrest and the expanding investigation brought the German intelligence chief Ernst Urhlau to Beirut Saturday.
The sources named the fourth suspect as Khalil al-Bubbu but gave no details of his arrest.
Preliminary charges have been filed against 5 Lebanese and a Syrian.
Four of the Lebanese and the Syrian face charges in Germany of attempted mass murder by detonating suitcase bombs packed with propane gas tanks on trains in Dortmund and Koblenz. Investigations suggest one suspect may have links to al Qaeda.
Kofi Annan arrives in Tehran after Ahmadinejad declares Iran will not be “bullied” into giving up uranium enrichment
2 September: debkafile reports: The UN Secretary General has little hope of breaking the diplomatic stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program after Tehran decided to ignore the UN Security Council’s Aug. 31 deadline for halting enrichment and both Russia and China refuse to go along with the US demand for sanctions.
Russia is to send a group of military engineers to help in Lebanon’s reconstruction
3 September: debkafile adds: Moscow is keen on expanding its intelligence and military presence in Lebanon.
Two terrorists cells are on the prowl in Sinai for mega-attacks on Americans, Israelis and Egyptians
4 September: US units are on high alert; Israeli holidaymakers are advised to leave at once. The smaller group of three Palestinian suicide killers penetrated the Egyptian territory from Gaza on the last day of August heading for a large-scale murder-cum-kidnap operation against Israelis.
The second is the largest al Qaeda terrorist team ever tasked in this part of the world for a string of major attacks on American and Egyptian military targets, tourist resorts and Israeli civilians. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources estimate the group as 70-strong with 5 commanders. Most unusually, all its members are Egyptians hailing from the port town of Alexandria. According to debkafile‘s sources, the Egyptians were led to believe that the al Qaeda team was raised in Alexandria to fight Americans forces in Iraq. But they were never meant to reach Iraq. Their orders are to strike the two American brigades stationed in Sinai – one at the Multinational Force based at Gora near El Arish in the north, the other at Sharm e-Sheikh. They will also try and hit the US warships and naval units docked in the bay.
“Lebanese Security” Is the Pretext for the Naval Babel around Lebanon’s Shores – debkafile Exclusive Military Report
4 September: The extraordinary buildup of European naval and military strength in and around Lebanon’s shores is way out of proportion for the task the European contingents of expanded UNIFIL have undertaken:
Close investigation by debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources discloses that “Lebanese security” and peacemaking is not the object of the exercise but the expectation of a military clash between the United States and Israel, on one side, and Iran and possibly Syria on the other, some time from now until November
First, according to our military sources, the European participants feel the need of a strong naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean to prevent a possible Iranian-US-Israeli war igniting an Iranian long-range Shahab missile attack on Europe; second, as a deterrent to dissuade Syria and Hizballah from opening a second front against American and Israel from their eastern Mediterranean coasts.
The big weakness of this force is that it lacks a unified command.
The naval Babel piling up in the eastern Mediterranean may therefore find itself at cross purposes when action is needed in an armed conflict.
Israel changes its mind about the Lebanon embargo, lifts the air siege Thursday, Sept 7, but leaves the sea blockade in place
September 7: Israeli warships will continue to blockade Lebanese shores until Italian and German naval units are deployed under the UN flag.
debkafile reports: Prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Amir Peretz were accused of folding under intense pressure from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan without the UN, Lebanon or Hizballah meeting any of Israel’s six conditions for ending the embargo (and accepting the August ceasefire):
1. No sign of life was elicited from Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
2. Hizballah will not be evacuated from South Lebanon.
3. Israeli troops will be pulled out without UNIFIL-2 and its European components promising Israeli border security.
4. The European contingents will not disarm Hizballah.
5. Neither will they lift a finger to halt Iranian and Syrian weapons consignments to Hizballah.
debkafile‘s military sources report that the smuggled arms supplies to Hizballah, far from halting have been stepped up. Iran and Hizballah are further pumping arms into the Gaza Strip. This week alone, Palestinian terrorists took delivery of 400 RPG anti-tank rockets and 15 Grad missiles.
Russia and Germany lean for the first time towards sanctions against Iran to fend off military action
6 September: Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that UN economic sanctions against Iran are possible, but pointed to the relevant article excluding the use of force. He was speaking on a visit to Capetown, South Africa.
In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the international community cannot stand back and watch Iran damage the United Nations by refusing to suspend uranium enrichment. But she too reiterated that military action against Iran is not an option.
debkafile adds: Both have reason to believe that continuing to keep sanctions off the UN table will increase the danger of the United States and Israel resorting to a military solution to halt Iran’s dash for a nuclear weapon as the only remaining option. Sanctions are therefore beginning to look to Germany and Russia like the lesser evil.
German Chancellor’s office denies German naval forces are ready to secure the Lebanese coast under UN flag
7 September: London similarly denied that British naval units would take part in monitoring Lebanese shores against arms smuggling.
debkafile adds: Confusing preconditions and delays by the Lebanese government are holding up the German deployment. Berlin has offered to lead the UNIFIL naval component securing the Lebanese coast but the Siniora government under Hizballah pressure only agrees to its deployment seven miles offshore and therefore unable to search for arms smugglers. The Olmert government agreed to end the embargo Thursday claiming UN assurances that international monitors were ready to take over embargo missions. This is far from the case and the lifting of the embargo was therefore opposed by the Israeli military.
The breach between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz is final and irreconcilable
7 September: Our sources in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem report that the straw that broke the camel’s back happened on Wednesday, Sept. 6, when the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry failed to inform Halutz about the decision to lift the air, sea and land blockade of Lebanon the following day. The chief of General Staff and other generals heard about the decision – which Halutz was vehemently opposed to – through the media.
Olmert is now frankly telling his cabinet ministers and confidants that Halutz was to blame for most of what went wrong in the Lebanon War, but defense minister Amir Peretz is standing in the way of the chief of staff’s dismissal knowing his own head would be next on the chopping block.
The general view in the armed forces, according to debkafile‘s sources, is that the prime minister hopes to scapegoat the chief of staff for the Lebanon war’s failures.