A Digest of the Week’s Exclusives
14 June: Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh handled with extreme care the Tehran press reports of a US unmanned plane crashing late last month near the city of Korba in Iran’s northwestern province of Kurdistan. He was clearly making a supreme effort to avoid saying the aircraft belonged to the United States.
DEBKAfile‘s military sources report growing anxiety in Tehran over possible US and Israeli military action against Iran’s military industrial facilities manufacturing weapons of mass destruction and its soon-to-be-completed nuclear reactor at Bushehr on the Gulf.
The northwestern area where the US drone was shot down is home to a vast number of these military installations, such as the Mu’allem Kalaych, where gas centrifuge equipment used to enrich uranium is reportedly stored and weapons-grade nuclear materiel manufactured. Another site in the area, called Qazvin, is a principal facility for chemical weapons.
The Iranians are well aware that the United States cannot afford to demolish Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction without simultaneously striking theirs. Washington understands that action against Iraq alone would leave Iran the strongest power in the Gulf, an unacceptable consequence in view of Tehran’s attempts to sabotage Washington’s military and political designs in Afghanistan and its continuing provision of an escape route to al Qaeda fighters crossing in from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
DEBKAfile‘s military sources say Tehran erred in drawing attention to its strategic northwest regions by letting Kurdish veterans of a Qaeda action in Afghanistan and Kashmir use them as a passageway to the Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq. Baghdad gives those returning fighters a warm welcome and promptly recruits them to Iraq’s “Kurdish national battalion”, which is parked in Mosul as a counterweight to the anti-Iraqi Kurdish forces mustered by the US. A separate group of Kurdish Afghan veterans is on the move from Iraq through Iran and heading west, via Syria, into Lebanon, to join the Hizballah guerrilla war against Israel.
15 June: On Wednesday, June 12, out of the blue, the Iraqi foreign ministry vilified Israel’s launch of a new spy satellite (Ofek-5 on May 28) as posing a “threat to Arab national security as a whole…providing additional evidence” of Israel’s “hostile and aggressive intentions towards Arab states” and exposing its quest to expand its “alien” presence and spread its hegemony over the region. Arab states were urged to “take all necessary measures to face and contain the repercussions” of the missile launch.
After running the Iraqi communique, Space Daily noted that India and Turkey are among the potential customers of the Ofek-5 satellite intelligence data.
The next day, June 13, the foreign ministry in Baghdad sent off a note to the UN secretary accusing the United States of being on the point of a nuclear attack on Iraq. Israel was charged merely with possession of nuclear weapons – not the intention to use them, although the Baghdad message pointed out that Israel had bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor exactly 19 years ago.
Baghdad’s implication is clear: The Israeli space satellite was placed in orbit in advance of the projected American attack on Iraq, to service also the Turkish armed forces taking part in that assault, as well as assisting India in its coming conflict with Pakistan.
Another vital piece in this menacing mosaic appeared first in DEBKAfile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly as early as September 7, 2001, a report that Israel had been commissioned by India to set up an electronic fence in Kashmir with six main electronic early warning stations based on the Israeli-made Green Pine radar system.
These disclosures portend the two major conflicts expected to be fought this year being the most extensively electronics-based wars in military history. Both the US campaign against Iraq and the Indian-Pakistani conflict will unveil missile and surveillance systems never seen before.
A strong nuclear dimension also appears unavoidable.
On Saturday, June 15, the Washington Post reported Israel had armed three diesel submarines with newly-designed cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
All of a sudden, the United States, India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran and Iraq are unusually garrulous on the subject of nuclear warfare, sounding as though the war of words is nearing a spillover into deeds.
India and Pakistan are fully engaged in this war of words. It cannot be ruled out therefore that a Middle East war will be accompanied by a war on the subcontinent. An al Qaeda terror attack could well trigger an Indian-Pakistani war, leading to an Indian invasion of Pakistan, Pakistan firing off 3-4 nuclear missiles to cover its retreat and stop the Indian advance, and India retaliating with 10-12 nuclear missiles.
16 June: In the view of DEBKAfile‘s political sources, the principal goal of the awaited Bush Middle East statement will not be solving the Palestinian issue, but generating the best possible circumstances for the coming US offensive against Iraq.
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, during his visit last April to the presidential ranch in Crawford, Texas, set out the oil kingdom’s price for backing the American offensive: Washington must show the Arab world a more “balanced” approach on the Palestinian-Israeli issue.
This proposition kindled hopes in sections of the Bush administration, principally secretary of state Colin Powell, that Riyadh was not a lost case. Making Israel pay the price does not appear extortionate in those circles and might even win the Europeans round to at least token participation in the campaign against Saddam Hussein.
At the same time, none of the parties is under any illusion that this trade-off can be anything but short lived, if not illusory. They are going through the motions in order to get the strike against Iraq moving. Even if Bush promises to force Israel to accept a Palestinian state within six months and evacuate every last settlement in three, they all know that Yasser Arafat will never turn away from terrorism to the end of his days, especially the suicide variety which he proudly regards as the apex of his achievement in the Muslim context.
Therefore, the White House team will attempt the impossible, to draft a statement that suffices to win Saudi Arabia and Egypt round to supporting America’s war on Iraq – a doubtful prospect – as well satisfying Europe – which is just as dubious.
The European Union as a bloc has finally decided that it does not like George Bush. This does not stop Eurocrats saying all the things Washington wants to hear, while at the same time sabotaging its policies. For instance, last week the EU announced the restoration of its $15 million subsidy to the Palestinian Authority – with more to come, after Israel failed to convince their representatives of Arafat’s direct implication in Palestinian terrorism. The flow of funds was interrupted when Washington protested Europe’s overt funding of the Palestinian suicide campaign against Israeli civilians.
Once again, the European taxpayer will be financing Arafat’s suicide brigades.
19 June: Israeli troops rolled into Jenin, Nablus, Qalkilya, and Hebron Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, June 18-19, in retaliation for a terror attack that was shocking even by the standards of the continually escalating cycle of Palestinian suicide massacres of Israeli civilians. Eighteen commuters and the bus driver died, and more than fifty were injured when, in Tuesday morning’s rush hour, 22-year old Mohammed al-Ghoul from the West Bank refugee camp of Al-Faraa, detonated a huge bomb packed with ball-bearings and sharp nails in the 32A bus at the busy Pat junction of south Jerusalem.
Sixteen victims are from Gilo, the south Jerusalem neighborhood battered for many months by Palestinian gunmen and mortarmen from next-door Bethlehem and Beit Jala. For the close-knit Gilo community this second blow was particularly insupportable.
DEBKAfile‘s military and intelligence sources reveal that Yasser Arafat’s inner circle of terrorist handlers have hit on a crafty way of slipping their ticking bombs – whether Hamas, Jihad or the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah – past Israeli security and military forces guarding Israeli cities and encircling Palestinian towns: European-funded welfare organizations operating in the Palestinian Authority are logistical jumping-off bases for Palestinian suicides.
European governments fork out millions of tax pounds and euros a year to Palestinian welfare and medical organizations to help beleaguered Palestinians. They certainly do not intend the money to be used for the purpose devised by Arafat’s senior terrorist masterminds, led by Tawfiq Tirawi, General Intelligence head and undercover commander of the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and Mohamed Dahlan, Gaza strongman. However, all donations go directly to Yasser Arafat.
It was his decision to pack the staffs of certain welfare and medical organizations with personnel under orders to press their ID and vehicles into the service of bringing suicide killers to their targets unchecked.
Israeli authorities arrested the bomber’s brother, Iyad al-Ghoul, a nurse at the St. John’s Ophthalmic Hospital in Jerusalem, having discovered that this respected medical institution was one of a chain abused by Palestinian terror commanders blur the traces of some of their most brutal operations.
Cherie Blair, the British prime minister’s wife, chose an unfortunate moment to declare how sorry she was for young Palestinians “who feel they have no hope but to blow themselves up.” She stood alongside Jordan’s Queen Rania. Both were attending a Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP) fundraiser. As a result of the Pat Junction atrocity, Tony Blair found out where the British taxpayer’s contribution to Palestinian medical aid really goes.
In Jerusalem, Ariel Sharon’s mini-cabinet decided Tuesday night, June 18, to respond to the Jerusalem bus bombing with a new dictum: terrorist operations will henceforth be met with the seizure of Palestinian territory and its occupation for so long as the Palestinian terror campaign persists. More terror strikes will lead to more seizures.
Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield in April bought Israel an almost three-week respite in major terror strikes. Since then, Israeli armor and infantry have been thrusting in and out of Palestinian terror strongholds. The violence level declines in the course of each foray, snapping back as soon as Israeli forces withdraw. This stop-go tactic has the potential for being cumulatively effective, but only in the long term if counted in years. The trouble is that the Israeli army is hauled out of Palestinian areas in the middle of counter-terror actions every time a diplomat, particularly an American, turns up on a “peace mission” Those peace missions tend to have unhappy consequences, greeted routinely by an upsurge of particularly horrendous Palestinian terror strikes.
The reason for this is plain. The last thing Arafat wants is a Palestinian state conferred by Washington. He therefore continues to orchestrate systematic sabotage for every peace initiative originating in the Bush White House. In this, the Palestinian leader can count on powerful support from the Lebanese Hizballah. Hours after the Jerusalem suicide massacre, a state of alert was declared in Israeli positions manning the Lebanese frontier following the receipt of information that the Hizballah were getting ready for terrorist action.
Until now, Arafat has lived a charmed life. No American or European source questioned by DEBKAfile admits to hearing Ariel Sharon ever raising the possibility of deporting the Palestinian leader. The Israeli prime minister admittedly gave his word to President Bush not to harm Arafat. But that was many months ago, when no one imagined that Israel would become the victim of the most pernicious terror campaign ever waged against a nation.