Yet another Middle East topsy-turvy situation saw Israel taking covert action in Sudan to keep Libyan chemical weapons including nerve gas from reaching their destination in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip after they were in the hands of Iranian and Palestinian agents, smuggling contractors and traffickers in Sudan.
This week too, Saudi Arabia went into action against Iran's nuclear momentum.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence and counter-terror sources report that Israel acted in Sudan at Washington's behest. America's war on al Qaeda has been hobbled. Yemen's decision to suspend covert US anti-terror operations on its soil (see first article in this issue on the Saudi-US breach) holds down US operational assets from fighting Al Qaeda in the entire strategic region of East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea – i.e., in Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea.
The Western declaration of war on Muammar Qaddafi has moreover cut short the flow of information coming from Libyan intelligence, which he controls, about Al Qaeda activities in those regions.
However, from mid-March US undercover agencies had discovered that high-ranking rebel officers in Benghazi were willing to sell the stocks of Libyan mustard and nerve gas they had captured to the highest bidder and warned Israel that Hizballah and Hamas purchasing delegations were on the point of clinching a deal under Tehran's direction and paid for in Iranian cash to the tune of $18 million
This was reported exclusively for the first time by debkafile on March 31.
The chemical weapons consignments wiped out before reaching their destinations
The first consignments of shells and poison gas were ferried to the Iranian intelligence bases in Iran, which oversee the arms smuggling routes to the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, by a gang of Sudanese weapons smugglers based in the northeastern town of Atbara, 215 miles from Khartoum.
The Sudanese ring is part of a network with long arms reaching as far as Montenegro on the Adriatic, the Iranian island of Kish in the Persian Gulf, Mogadishu, Somalia and the Lebanese port of Tripoli on the Mediterranean.
In March 2009, the Americans joined an Israeli air strike on an Iranian 23-truck convoy of illegal arms wending its way through Sudan to Egypt, supporting the operation with spy satellites, reconnaissance planes and assault craft.
But this time, they passed the operation onto Israeli intelligence, air force and special units, including the naval commando Shayetet 13 unit.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report that the missile attack Tuesday, April 5 on a car carrying two arms smuggling handlers, one Iranian and one Hamas near Port Sudan, was only a small corner of a major operation.
(See debkafile story of Thursday, April 7: Special operations team hits top Iranian-Hamas arms smugglers in Sudan).
Other strikes hit Iranian, Hizballah and Hamas command centers in the Port Sudan area and wiped out the entire shipment of chemical and nerve gas shells from Libya.
Khartoum decided to release word of the deaths of two unidentified passengers as a result of a missile hit and the photo of a burnt car – and nothing else. It made no mention of the band of special operations units armed with surface-to-surface missies that were deployed to keep Sudanese and Iranian forces and their allies away from the targeted chemical weapons consignments.
Not a word has come out so far about the scores of agents and operatives killed and the trail of torched command centers left by the Israel teams in their wake.
Two foreign deaths and a totaled Sonata Hyundai could hardly justify the three inquiry commissions set up by Sudan to probe the episode. However, the effect of the destruction of a quantity of poison gas on the civilian population needed to be addressed in a hurry before word leaked out and started a major panic.
Rumors are already circulating about strangers seen in the neighborhood wearing masks and anti-contamination clothing.
Saudis will act to stop Bushehr going on line – with or without Washington
In Riyadh meanwhile, the Saudi government decided to bring out in the open the menace posed to the region by the Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehr and Tehran's military nuclear program. The dangers were brought to the attention of all the inhabitants of the Persian Gulf in light of the catastrophe at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.
The Saudis decided to make a major issue of Iran's nuclear drive, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Gulf sources report, after receiving word that Tehran means to activate the Bushehr reactor in August, notwithstanding the warnings of the Russian designers that the reactor was not safe to operate and might explode. The same danger emanates from other parts of the program.
Saudi rulers are convinced that a nuclear catastrophe on the Fukushima scale is hanging over the Gulf as a result of Iran's nuclear ambitions.
In an attempt to calm Gulf fears, Tehran staged two events this week.
Monday, April 4, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Deputy Director of the Iranian Nuclear Organization, Nasser Rastkhah, made two appearances and said that in the aftermath of the disaster in Japan, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran – AEOI had increased the number of nuclear Emergency Alert Systems (EAS) deployed at its nuclear facilities from 13 to 50 to maximize the detection of radioactivity in case of nuclear mishaps.
Rastkhah said that the new environmental radiation surveillance stations "detect any change in the environment's gamma rays profusion, which is the best indicator of the occurrence of nuclear accidents or experiments."
Ahmadinejad insisted at a press conference in Tehran that the Bushehr nuclear reactor, the country's first nuclear power generator, could safely start operation later this year. Referring to the Japanese disaster, he said that although Bushehr is situated on the Persian Gulf, this body of water has no history of tsunami.
He only omitted to mention its proneness to earthquakes, two of which shook the region in the past year alone.
He also explained that whereas the technology at Fukushima is half a century old, Iran's is completely up to date.
The Saudis have dismissed this argument as "absurd and dangerous."
On Wednesday, April 6, Saudi King Abdullah warned US Defense Secretary Robert Gates when they met in Riyadh that if Washington doesn't stop Iran from activating the reactor – even if necessary by force – Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states would take care of it themselves.