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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

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Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow Latest Intel Lebanon - Region - April 27, 2008
Latest Intel Lebanon - Region - April 27, 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Written by STRATFOR, DebkaFILE, Geostrategy-Direct   
Sunday, 27 April 2008

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Latest intelligence from Lebanon and the Region

FOCUS ON SYRIA, HIZBULLAH AND LEBANON 
 
Lebanese report: Syria preparing for war
Geostrategy-Direct.com

NICOSIA — Syrian President Bashar Assad is mobilizing his military in preparation for a war with Israel.

Assad was quoted by a Lebanese media report as saying that Damascus was bracing for war. He was said to believe that a Syrian war with Israel was a realistic prospect.

"If Israel declares war on Lebanon and Syria or if America declares war on Iran [Syria will be prepared]," Assad said. "We must keep American interest in mind," said Assad. "In the last Lebanon war it was evident that Israel wanted to pull out at a specific time, however the American government forced them to continue."

Addressing a conference in Damascus on April 16, Assad was quoted by pro-Syrian Lebanese media outlets as saying that he did not expect an imminent conflict. He said the current circumstances did not make war with Israel likely, but the United States could press for a conflict.

"We know there is someone in the American government who is interested in this war, and we are preparing for it," Assad said.

Assad's assertion came amid a Syrian military buildup near the borders with Israel and Lebanon. Lebanese security sources said Syria has sent nine brigades, three of them armored units, near the Bekaa Valley and the Golan Heights.

The Syian buildup began in March and was said to have accelerated in April. The Israeli military has acknowledged the Syrian buildup, but deemed the deployment defensive.

 

Hizbullah launches attacks on Lebanese security forces
Geostrategy-Direct.com

NICOSIA — Security sources said Hizbullah has attacked and abducted Lebanese officers in the Beirut area. In mid-April, Hizbullah staged two attacks on Lebanese police in as many days.

The Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has been bracing for renewed insurgency supported by Iran and Syria. The sources said hundreds of operatives trained in Syria have been flowing into Lebanon.

On April 17, Hizbullah abducted a police officer in southern Beirut. The officer was said to have been investigating a report of an illegal building in the southern suburb of Ghadir. The Shi'ite officer was kidnapped and interrogated and later released.

During the previous day, 100 Hizbullah fighters surrounded a police squad in southern Beirut. The squad had detained two Shi'ite motorcyclists and suspected Hizbullah members accused of assault. The two men were released.

Johnn Abdo, a former Lebanese ambassador, said Hizbullah has sought to take over the government. Abdo said he would release Hizbullah's plan within two weeks.

"I will disclose very serious information about Hizbullah's incursion across Lebanese institutions," Abdo said in a radio interview on April 19. "Such an incursion started in the telecommunications [sector] and in areas like the Metn and the north. Hizbullah has little presence in the Chouf, but lots of presence in the north."

On April 20, two representatives of a Christian political movement were shot dead in eastern Lebanon. Three other members of the Phalange Party were injured in the shootout in the Christian town of Zahle in the Bekaa Valley. Hizbullah has maintained its headquarters in the Bekaa Valley.

Security sources said Hizbullah has targeted the Phalange since it opened an office in Zahle. The sources said Lebanese Army troops launched a search for the killers.
 
 
 
U.S. military cites 'increase' of Iran's presence in Iraq with capture of commander
Geostrategy-Direct.com

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military reported the capture of a man suspected of leading an Iranian-backed Special Groups cell. The military said the unidentified man had been operating in the southern Baghdad district of Rashid.

"We will target and bring to justice those criminals who disregard the rule of law and who obviously have no regard for the welfare of innocent Iraqi citizens," U.S. Army Maj. Dave Olson, spokesman for the 1st Brigade Combat Team, said.
 
Officials said the Iranian-backed commander was linked to several attacks around Rashid. They said the operative, one of dozens captured over the last few weeks, was captured during military operations conducted in the Abu T'shir neighborhood in Rashid, a district with 1.2 million residents.

"The operation has been going extremely well," Olson said.

The U.S. military has intensified its search for operatives from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps amid the Shi'ite offensive in Baghdad in April. The military has reported the discovery of numerous weapons caches of Iranian-supplied weapons to Shi'ite militias.

"We are seeing an increase in [Iranian] influence," U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of Multinational Central, said. "The number of attacks that are directly attributed to Iranian influence have indeed increased. The number of EFP [explosively formed penetrator] attacks have increased, the number of Iranian rocket attacks have indeed increased, the amount of Iranian weapons I am finding on the battlefield has increased [and] the amount of Shiite extremists who tie their training back to Iran have indeed increased."

On April 20, Lynch said Iran has improved Shi'ite militia rocket capability. The general, who reported the capture of 25 Iranian operatives, said the Shi'ite militias have been supplied with enhanced systems.

"Now there is a difference," Lynch said. "Now they have sophisticated launch systems."

On April 19, a combined force of more than 300 Iraqi troops, advised by U.S. Special Operations Forces, arrested 40 Mahdi Army fighters southeast of Nasseriya. Another 40 militia fighters were killed and security forces captured Iranian-origin explosively formed penetrators, Katyusha rockets, rocket propelled grenade launchers and ammunition.

"The response of the combined ISF force represented an incredible leap forward by Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army to conduct joint operations," a U.S. Special Operations Forces adviser said. "Iraqi police and Iraqi Army executed a counter attack against a determined enemy and quickly gained control of the situation."

Iran has denied involvement in Shi'ite attacks on Iraqi and U.S. forces. But Teheran has acknowledged the arrest of Iranian commanders and diplomats.

On April 20, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini, said the U.S. military continues to detain Iranian diplomats in Iraq. Hosseini said the military has refused to respond to efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross for a meeting between the detainees and their relatives.

In January 2007, five Iranian consulate officers were arrested in the northern city of Irbil. In November, nine Iranian nationals including two of the five diplomats were released.

Iraq Army troops have been under pressure from Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias in Sadr City, headquarters of the Mahdi Army. On April 18, at least 100 Iraqi troops abandoned thri positions in Sadr City during a Shi'ite attack.

U.S. Army positions have also come under attack in Sadr City. On April 20, the military said 12 Shi'ite fighters were killed in gun battles.

"There was an uptick in violence in comparison with the past couple of weeks," U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Steve Stover said.

 

Report: Iran channeling civilian tech to its military
Geostrategy-Direct.com

TEL AVIV — Iran has exploited civilian trade with the West to enhance the nation's military and security capabilities, a report found.

The report by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies stated that Iran has overcome U.S. sanctions by exploiting Western civilian imports for military applications. Authored by Emanuele Ottolenghi, director of the Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute, the report warns that the West has not understood Iran's ability to convert Western civilian technology and equipment.

"Technology it is acquiring for civilian projects or for legitimate policing activities is being diverted in order to bolster Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and its overwhelming economic role in Iran; and also for the development of Iran's clandestine nuclear activities," the report, "Iran's Deceptive Commercial Practices," said. "In short, Western technology sold to Iran is being utilized in ways that Iran's Western suppliers have never dreamed of, even in their worst nightmares."

The report said Western companies, motivated purely by profit, have been selling Iran tools to repress its own citizens, bully its neighbors and destabilize the Middle East. In 2007, Iran hanged convicts from cranes manufactured by Japan's Tadano, Kato and Unic.

"Of course, there is nothing illegal about selling cranes and thousands of other products to Iran," the report said. "But when it comes to Iran, Western companies should know better: they are dealing with masters of deception. Iran has been executing tens of thousands of people, since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, by using cranes."

The report also cited Germany's Wirth, which produces tunnel boring machinery. One of Wirth's clients in Iran has been Sahel Consulting Engineers, a company owned by IRGC. Germany's export control agency, Bafa, has acknowledged that such machinery was not banned to IRGC.

Italy's Seli has also sold machinery for tunnel construction to the IRGC. In 2005, Seli sold the IRGC's Ghaem 8.5 million euro of machinery.

"Intelligence reports have repeatedly suggested that much of Iran's clandestine nuclear program is being built deep underground, in bunkers that are accessible through tunnels — tunnels which only technology such as the one provided by Wirth and Seli can build," the report said. "What guarantee did Western governments have that Wirth and Seli's IRGC clients would not later use their machinery to advance Iran's military ambitions?"

The report said European companies have also sold platforms to IRGC for ground operations. They included Japan's Honda and Austria's KTM, which provided IRGC with motobikes used by rocket-propelled launch squads.

"Iran's military employs Italian-made Iveco trucks as missile launchers," the report said. "The IRGC uses Mercedes trucks for its transports and mounts machine guns on Toyota Land Cruisers."

IRGC has been equipped with speedboats for Gulf operations designed by Italy's FB Design. FB sold its Levriero patrol boat along with blueprints to Teheran, and IRGC later manufactured a variant.

In some cases, European Union countries have sold military equipment to Teheran. In 2003, Britain and Italy supplied night-imaging equipment to Iran, ostensibly for anti-drug operations. The equipment was found inside Hizbullah headquarters in southern Lebanon three years later.

The report cited the sale of 800 .50 caliber sniper rifles by Austria's Steyr-Mannlicher to the Iranian police. Later, some of those rifles were found in insurgency safe houses in Baghdad.

"Soon after the delivery, Iran's defense industries engaged in reverse engineering for the sniper rifles and quickly managed to produce its own version — which the IRGC is now busy distributing to insurgents across the Middle East," the report said. "Once more, Western technology, sold under license and for ostensibly legitimate purposes, abetted Iran's sinister activities, given Iran's systematically fraudulent behavior."


Iran training thousands of Hizbullah fighters at all levels
Geostrategy-Direct.com

LONDON — Iran has placed priority on the training of Hizbullah operatives at all levels.

Western intelligence sources said Teheran has been training thousands of Hizbullah fighters in camps throughout Iran. The sources said the training was part of the lessons drawn from the 34-day Hizbullah war with Israel in mid-2006.

"Until less than two years ago, Hizbullah only trained the elite of Hizbullah," a Western source said. "Now, Iran is training every Hizbullah combat unit."

The sources said nearly 4,000 Hizbullah fighters per year were meant to be trained in Iran. They said the intensified training effort began in November 2006 and stipulated that at least 300 operatives per month fly from Beirut to Teheran.

The Iranian training course has been given by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and meant to last for three months. The sources said the Hizbullah fighters were trained in combat skills, night-vision, rocket and anti-tank fire as well as reconnaissance.

In March 2008, more than 20 Hizbullah cadets were killed during a live-fire exercise in Iran. It was not clear how the Hizbullah fighters died.

"The training in Iran lies at the heart of our connections with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard," Mohammed Ali Husseini, director-general of the Islamic Union in Lebanon, said. "This is known to all Lebanese people."

On April 14, a senior Hizbullah commander warned of an attack on Israel. The unidentified commander told Syria's Al Haqiqa magazine that Hizbullah would launch an offensive from the Gaza Strip and West Bank in case of a war in Lebanon.

"We would not initiate war, but in case they wage any war in the future," the commander was quoted as saying. "There will be a counter-attack behind the front lines and for the first time since 1948 in Palestine itself."


Israeli test successfully intercepts missile in simulation of Iran strike
Geostrategy-Direct.com

TEL AVIV — Israel has reported a successful simulated interception of an enemy intermediate-range missile meant to resemble Iran's Shihab-3.

Israel's Arrow-2 system conducted a simulation that tracked and intercepted a missile meant to duplicate the performance of the Shihab-3, with a range of 2,000 kilometers. The April 15 test was said to be the first against a missile with a separating warhead.

Officials said the target missile was the Blue Sparrow, a rocket developed by the state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Blue Sparrow was described as an enhanced variant of Rafael's Black Sparrow, used over the last 15 years to simulate the Scud B missile.

"The Blue Sparrow was launched and it achieved all the stages of its trajectory in a completely successful manner," the Defense Ministry said.

An Israeli Air Force F-15 fired the Blue Sparrow at an altitude of 90,000 feet. At that point, the missile separated into two components in a test of the Arrow's Green Pine radar.

Officials said Green Pine tracked the separating elements of the incoming missile and simulated an intercept of the warhead. They said an Arrow-2 interceptor was not fired.

"In wake of the test, the target missile would be deployed in coming tests of the Arrow system," the ministry said.

The test was part of a U.S.-Israeli program to enhance Arrow-2 to intercept Iran's Shihab-3 extended-range missile. Officials said a live-fire interception was scheduled to take place in October 2008.

The Bush administration has agreed to link Israel to the U.S. early-warning radar system. The U.S. system could detect the launch of a ballistic missile anywhere in the world.

 

Libya, Russia sign first post-Cold War military deal
Geostrategy-Direct.com

MOSCOW — Libya and Russia have signed a military that officials said could pave the way for major military sales to Tripoli.

The official said the accord included cooperation in arms control, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other areas of military activities.

The agreement was signed during the visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Tripoli on April 17.

The accord was announced hours after Putin agreed to write off Libya's $4.5 billion debt to the former Soviet Union. Officials said the write-off would come in exchange for huge Libyan defense and energy contracts.

"We are satisfied with the way we have resolved this problem," Putin said. "I am absolutely convinced that the scheme we have arrived at will benefit both the Russian and the Libyan economies, as well as the Russian and the Libyan people."

Industry sources said President Vladimir Putin intends to seek Libyan agreement to a Russian offer of fighter-jets, air defense systems, radars and submarines to the North African state.

A Russian industry source said Moscow has offered Tripoli advanced MiG and Sukhoi fighter-jets, air defense systems, helicopters, submarines and warships.

Ninety percent of Libya's military has been based on Soviet-origin weapons.

"The deal will not only employ Russian defense enterprises, but will also help strengthen Libya's defenses," Putin said.

Putin said Moscow's decision to write off Libya's debt would also benefit Russian civilian companies as well. He said Russia has sought to expand its presence in Libya's energy sector.

Under the debt write-off, officials said, Libya would order military platforms, weapons and systems. They said Libya could provide Russian defense and energy companies up to $4 billion in contracts.

"There are certain non-debt issues that are being negotiated, including mutual financial claims," Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said.

Putin, who ended his visit on April 17, was also been accompanied by state-owned Rosoboronexport arms agency director Anatoly Isaikin. Officials said Isaikin has been briefing Libya's defense and military leaders on Russia's MiG-35 and Su-30 fighters-jets, the latter aircraft sold to Algeria.

"The main point of the visit is to compensate for losses our bilateral relations suffered during the sanctions, which we observed strictly in contrast with some Western competitors," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Officials said Libya wants to return aging Soviet weapons as part of any major deal with Moscow. They said Moscow and Tripoli remained far apart in estimating the value of such platforms as the Il-76 air transport and the Type-641 submarine, purchased more than 25 years ago.

A Defense Ministry official told the Moscow-based business daily Vedomosti that Russia has offered Libya 12 Su-35 Flanker multi-role fighters. The official was also quoted as saying Libya was briefed on the Russian-origin TOR-M2E short-range mobile air defense system.

 

Searcher UAVs deployed in Afghanistan
Geostrategy-Direct.com

LONDON — Spain has begun deployment of Searcher UAVs in NATO operations in Afghanistan.

On April 15, the first Searcher-2 UAV was flown in a reconnaissance operation in Afghanistan.

"The first flight of Spanish UAVs deployed to Afghanistan took place late April 15 at the Herat forward support base," the Spanish Defense Ministry said on April 16. "After taking off into a 10 kilometers per hour head-wind, the aircraft climbed to 3,500 feet and orbited in a waiting pattern while transmitting the first imagery of the Heart base to its ground control station."

The Searcher Mk-2J UAV has been produced by the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries. The platform was meant for day and night reconnaissance and intelligence missions.

"In peacekeeping missions, it is used to perform area monitoring and surveillance, monitoring of personnel movements, and verification of infrastructure agreements," the Defense Ministry said.

The UAVs have been sold to several NATO allies, including Australia, Britain, France and the United States. The Defense Ministry said the Searcher marked a new capability for the Spanish military.

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Analysis: Assad’s one half-truth and three lies to al Watan
April 27, 2008, 2:42 PM (GMT+02:00)
DebkaFILE

In an interview Sunday, April 27 with the Qatari daily al Watan , Syrian president Bashar Assad said: "We don’t want a nuclear bomb, even if Iran acquires one.” DEBKAfile’s military sources say that was only half true.

What he omitted to mention was the division of labor agreed between Damascus and Tehran in a potential war against Israel: The Syrian reactor Israel destroyed last September would produce “dirty weapons,” while Iran would go for a nuclear bomb. Tehran therefore funded the North Korean reactor in Syria. The radiological weapons made there were to be distributed to the terrorist organizations fighting Israel and used as leverage to control them.

“How would we use it? And where? No nuclear bomb has been used since World War II,” the Syrian ruler protested in the interview - three days after intelligence of his plutonium reactor weeks away from operation was presented to US congressmen in Washington.

Our military sources stress that a single radiological bomb released by just one terrorist group against a major Israeli city would have been an existential threat to the Jewish state.

Assad’s first outright lie was his insistence that future Middle East wars would be conventional. DEBKAfile’s sources point out that Syria and Iran have recently supplied the Lebanese Hizballah with surface missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads. And Syria’s own air defenses are composed of Scud C and D missiles able to deliver chemical and biological weapons.

His second lie was that the site Israel raided last year was no nuclear site but a military facility under construction. To prove his point, he asked: “Does it make sense that we would build a nuclear facility in the desert and not protect it with anti-aircraft defenses?”

Our sources note that the deployment of air defenses batteries, especially in a desolate corner of the Syrian Desert would have attracted immediate attention and betrayed its presence - even before the top-secret facility was functioning.

Assad’s third lie was the real point of the al Watan interview, although the least obvious: The Syrian ruler, according to DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources, decided last week to bury the results of the inquiry into the death of Hizballah commander Imad Mughniyeh in February. That report accused Saudi undercover agencies of involvement in the murder together with the Israeli Mossad.

Saudi ire forced Assad to back away from this allegation. This he did in the interview when he declared that “no Arab hand” was found to have taken part in the Mughniyeh slaying.

The interview was therefore aimed more at placating Riyadh than highlighting the Syrian ruler’s issues with Israel.

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Karzai escapes Taliban attempt on his life at military parade in Kabul
April 27, 2008, 1:21 PM (GMT+02:00)
DebkaFILE

Afghan president Hamid Karzai and other dignitaries, including the US ambassador, were safe after being swiftly hustled off the saluting stand away from the explosions and gunfire. Hundreds fled. Two Afghan lawmakers were said to have been injured. According to one report, four suiciders armed with bomb vests and guns carried out the attack. The parade Sunday, April 27, marked the 16th anniversary of the Soviet Army’s defeat in Afghanistan.

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Exclusive: First frank talk of potential war on Iran from top US soldier
April 26, 2008, 10:10 AM (GMT+02:00)
DebkaFILE

Addressing a news conference in Washington, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday, April 25, the Pentagon is planning for “potential military courses of action” against Iran. He spoke of the Tehran government’s “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq. A conflict with Iran would be “extremely stressing” he said, but not impossible and “it would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability.” The admiral stressed the reserve capabilities of the Navy and Air Force.

Adm. Mullen’s statement came four days after US defense secretary Robert Gates said he favored keeping the military option against Iran on the table “given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat – either directly or through proliferation.”

DEBKAfile’s military sources report those remarks were underscored by news of large US naval, air and marine forces on their way to beef up the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf and Middle East.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources reported Friday that the USS Harry S. Truman Strike Group has just taken up position in Persian Gulf waters. It consists of 12 warships led by the giant LSD-41 class USS Whidby Island landing craft, submarines and eight assault squadrons. The legend on their banner is: Give ‘em Hell.

Another nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, will soon set out for the region from the South China Sea, along with two more US naval strike forces: the USS Kitty Hawk and the USS Nimitz attended by strike groups.

Adm. Mullen went on to say: "I have no expectations that we're going to get into a conflict with Iran in the immediate future." Our sources ask what time scale is indicated by the indefinite “immediate future” - the 8 months remaining to the Bush presidency or thereafter.

Mullen tied his remarks to Iran’s "increasingly lethal and malign influence" in Iraq. Of late, the US Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus pointed out that Iran is interfering increasingly in Iran and continues to arm insurgent militias.

The Tehran government is clearly not deterred by Washington’s warnings or its military movements.

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Exclusive: Closest aide of Hamas hard-line Khaled Meshaal dies in suspicious "accident"
April 25, 2008, 10:07 AM (GMT+02:00)
DebkaFILE

DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources report that Hisham Faiz Abu Libda, Khaled Meshaal’s chef de bureau, was killed in Damascus by a hit-and-run car. Syrian authorities have ordered a blackout on the incident. His was the second mysterious death of a high-profile terrorist in the Syrian capital in recent weeks after Hizballah’s military chief Imad Mughniyeh was blown up in a high-security district on Feb. 13.

His boss was in Doha at the time, closeted with the emir of Qatar.

Our sources note that Abu Labda’s death the day after the Syria’s North Korean nuclear reactor and its destruction by Israeli raiders were exposed in Washington, will serve as a warning to Damascus. It is Bashar Assad’s second reminder that his undercover agencies are seriously penetrated.

Abu Libda organized Meshaal’s contacts with Hamas operations chiefs in Gaza and other places and his regular meetings with Syrian and Iranian officials.

DEBKAfile’s exclusive sources also reveal that Assad has decided not to publish the findings of the inquiry into Mughniyeh’s death.

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Israel Air Force Chief: Iran is a serious threat. We should trust only ourselves
April 25, 2008, 7:37 PM (GMT+02:00)
DebkaFILE

Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedy tells CBCNews 60 Minutes Bob Simon that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel must be taken extremely seriously. In an interview to be aired Sunday, April 27, the general said: “I think it is a very serious threat to the state of Israel, but more than this, to the whole world. They are talking about what destroying and wiping us from the earth.”

He said it reminds him of the Holocaust. “We should remember. We cannot forget, We should trust only ourselves.”

Gen. Shkedy likened ignoring Ahmadinejad today to the atmosphere that enabled the Holocaust yesterday. “In those days, people didn’t believe Hitler was serious about what he said. I suggest we do not repeat this way of thinking and… prepare ourselves for everything.”

Veterans of the 1981 Israeli mission which destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor told the CBS interviewer: “Israelis hope they won’t have to undertake such a mission today, but a bombing mission to Iran… is a different thing.

Zeev Raz, commander of that mission, compared the situations to Simon: “We had one point to destroy. They have many points, many of them deep under the mountains… underground and it’s a much more complicated problem than in 1981. I hope it will be solved another way.”

Raz commented: “The only thing worse than the Israeli air force having to do it – Iran having a nuclear bomb.”

Col. Ziv Levy, an air force base commander said: “We spend a lot of time and a lot of effort in training and being prepared for the worst. We cannot lose a single war. The first war we lose, Israel will cease to exist,” said Col. Levy.

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Analysis: Assad caught red-handed may now go for revenge
April 25, 2008, 6:54 PM (GMT+02:00)
DebkaFILE
 
US and Israel intelligence experts upgrade the chances of president Bashar Assad retaliating for the Israeli attack, which irreparably damaged the secret nuclear North Korea built for him in eastern Syria - now that the episode is out in the open. DEBKAfile quotes those experts as recalling Saddam Hussein’s burning ambition to hit Israel’s nuclear site at Dimona after Israeli jets smashed Iraq’s French built nuclear reactor in 1981.

Assad will find it hard to avoid avenging his humiliation Thursday, April 24, when America’s top intelligence officials briefing congressional committees laid bare detail after detail of Syria’s nuclear program. They all agreed that it was incumbent on the United States to take further steps against Iran as well as Syria to avert any more developments which endanger the world.

The briefing brought out key data hidden from the public in the eight months since the Israeli raid.

1. It confirmed DEBKAfile’s October 2007 report that North Korean personnel had built a reactor for the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons in a hidden canyon of of eastern Syria.

2. Israel managed to plant a mole or moles inside the reactor compound capable of producing professional photos from inside the reactor. US lawmakers where shown, for instances, images of a concrete floor with rows of holes ready for the nuclear fuel rods to power the plant.

Assad must have been irked beyond endurance when his most coveted secrets and security were shown to the world as having been blown wide open, when the regime he heads depends for its survival on a battery of secret police and undercover agencies with eyes and ears everywhere.

3. The Israeli raid demonstrated too that Syria’s military establishment has been penetrated as fatally as his clandestine agencies.

4. The congressional briefing will have done more to mar the relations of trust between Tehran and Damascus than any diplomatic or military action. Cracks are inevitable in their strategic pact. It will be hard for Iran to continue to pose as the No. 1 Middle East power after Syria, its foremost ally and military mainstay, exposed its extreme vulnerability.

5. Tehran’s precise role in the Syrian nuclear program is not known, but it was obvious to the American lawmakers listening to the intelligence briefing that Syria would not have built a nuclear reactor with Iran’s knowledge and consent, and that the Syrian plant was designed to be an integral part of Iran’s own nuclear program.

Iran will no doubt have inferred from the disclosures about the Israeli attack on the Syrian reactor and its painful fallout for the Assad regime that its own projects may be subjected to the same fate.

It is a matter of record now that Israel is the only country in the world to have ever destroyed two nuclear reactors in successful go-it-alone, intelligence-backed military operations.

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US releases new images of North Korean reactor in Syria
April 25, 2008, 11:52 AM (GMT+02:00)
DebkaFILE

The undated photos show the head of the North Korean reactor fuel plant with the head of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission in Syria and the same official attending the Six-Party Talks.

Thursday night, the White House in Washington broke its silence on Israel’s Sept. 6, 2007 attack on a nuclear site in northern Syria. Spokeswoman Dana Perino stated its conviction that North Korea helped Syria build a secret nuclear reactor. She spoke after intelligence officials briefed US lawmakers about the Syrian nuclear facility that was destroyed by Israel last year

“We have good reason to believe that the reactor, which was damaged beyond repair on Sept. 6 of last year was not intended for peaceful purposes,” she said.

A Syrian nuclear reactor built with North Korean help was weeks away from functioning, a top U.S. official told lawmakers.

The Syrian ambassador denied the report as a “fantasy.” He said the US had a record of “fabricating evidence of nuclear activity in its allegations against Iraq before the 2003 invasion.”

Perino's statement did not mention Israel. It said Syria was building a "covert nuclear reactor" in its eastern desert that was capable of producing plutonium.

Syria did not inform the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency about the construction of the reactor and after it was destroyed, Syria "moved quickly to bury evidence of its existence," the White House said.

The United States has long been "seriously concerned" about North Korea's nuclear weapons program and its proliferation activities and Pyongyang's cooperation with Syria was a "dangerous manifestation" of those activities, the White House said.

North Korea missed a December 31 deadline to make a declaration of its nuclear programs in a deal with the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea.

"The construction of this (Syrian) reactor was a dangerous and potentially destabilizing development for the region and the world," Perino said.

That development underscored the international community was right to be concerned about the nuclear activities of Iran and "must take further steps" to confront that challenge, she said.

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STRATFOR
Middle East/North Africa

Analysis Situation Reports

Syria: Turkish Prime Minister Visits In Mediation Effort
April 26, 2008 2317 GMT

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Damascus April 26 to mediate talks between Syria and Israel, Xinhua reported. Before ending his one-day trip to the Syrian capital, Erdogan told reporters that Syria and Israel had asked Turkey to mediate. He said such efforts would start at a low level but that Turkey will make whatever efforts it can, including sending an envoy to Israel. Earlier in the day, Erdogan met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and talked about the Middle East peace process and bilateral ties, Syria's official SANA news agency reported.

Iran: Conservatives Increase Their Parliament Majority
April 26, 2008 1446 GMT

Conservative lawmakers have strengthened their hold in Iran's parliament after winning more seats in a second-round run-off, media reported April 26. After winning a majority in the March first-round vote, the conservatives won more seats in an April 25 vote for 82 undecided seats. The conservatives, many of whom are critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now hold 69 percent of the parliament's 290 seats, Iran's Interior Ministry said. Reformists hold 16 percent of seats, and independents 14 percent. The reformists, Ahmadinejad's biggest critics, complained of bias because Iran's Guardian Council barred many of them from running.

Turkey: Operations On PKK Targets Carried Out
April 26, 2008 1436 GMT
Turkish warplanes and with ground weapon support on April 25-26 struck Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq, Reuters reported April 26, citing a Turkish military statement. Army sources told Reuters an air operation was carried out April 25, while Turkish troops and PKK fighters clashed April 26 in the Turkish province of Sirnak, near the Iraqi border. Three Turkish soldiers reportedly were killed April 25. A PKK spokesman said the Turkish operation caused no casualties.

Iraq, U.S.: Iranian-Made Weapons Found
April 25, 2008 1643 GMT

The U.S. military has discovered caches of Iranian weapons in Iraq manufactured in the last two months, The Wall Street Journal reported April 25, citing unnamed officials in Washington and Baghdad, Iraq. Two unnamed senior commanders said a U.S. presentation on the weapons was tentatively set for April 28.

Iran, U.S: Iran Denies Ship/Boats Confrontation
April 25, 2008 1611 GMT
Iran has denied that there was a confrontation April 25 between a U.S.-contracted ship and Iranian boats, Reuters reported.

Iran: IAEA Official To Return For Talks
April 25, 2008 1610 GMT
Olli Heinonen, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is set to return to Iran the week of April 27 to discuss claims that Iran's declared nuclear activities are different from its real nuclear plans, Iran's ISNA news agency reported, citing an unnamed Iranian official.

Iraq: U.S., Iraqi Troops Fight Militants In Sadr City
April 25, 2008 1557 GMT

U.S. and Iraqi forces fought Shiite militants in Baghdad's Sadr City area overnight April 25, leaving 11 people dead and 32 wounded, including women and children, Agence France-Presse reported.

U.S., Iran: U.S.-Contracted Ship Fired Warning Shots At Iranian Boats
April 25, 2008 1538 GMT
A ship contracted by the U.S. Military Sealift Command fired at Iranian fast boats April 25 after attempts to warn the boats that they were too close failed, FOX News reported, citing unnamed officials. The ship, the Westward Venture, was contracted to transport military cargo to Kuwait. The Westward Venture was about 50 miles off Iran's coast when Iranian fast boats approached. The ship tried to make bridge-to-bridge contact, then blew its whistle and fired flares before firing warning shots with a machine gun. A Navy security team with M-16 rifles and .50-caliber machine guns was on board at the time. Bridge-to-bridge contact was made after the shots were fired, and someone claiming to be the Iranian coast guard contacted the Westward Venture. Officials reportedly told FOX News that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is suspected to be involved in the incident.

Algeria: 2 Alleged Al Qaeda Members Detained
April 25, 2008 1536 GMT
Algeria has arrested two men accused of being al Qaeda militants, Italian news agency Adnkronos reported April 25, citing Algerian newspaper Ech-Chourouk. The two men reportedly were detained between April 23 and April 24.

U.S., Iran: U.S.-Contracted Ship Fires On An Iranian Vessel
April 25, 2008 1511 GMT
At least one shot has been fired at an Iranian vessel from a ship contracted by the U.S Military Sealift Command, Reuters reported April 25, citing a U.S. military official. No other details were immediately available.

Egypt: Hundreds Of Police Sent To Rafah Crossing
April 25, 2008 1327 GMT

Egypt on April 25 sent 300 to 400 police to the closed Gaza border crossing at Rafah to prevent Palestinians from breaching the barrier, Reuters reported, citing unnamed security sources. Egypt reportedly made the move in response to reports that thousands of Palestinians planned to mass at the Rafah crossing to protest an Israeli-led blockade of Gaza. The police deployed to the crossing had already been in Rafah on standby, the sources said, adding that there is no specific threat to the border.

Iraq: Al-Sadr Asks Mehdi Army, Iraqi Troops Not To Fight
April 25, 2008 1320 GMT

Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr has called on his followers to maintain a cease-fire and avoid fighting Iraqi government troops, Reuters reported, citing a statement from al-Sadr read April 25 at a mosque in Baghdad's Sadr City district. In the statement, al-Sadr said a threat he previously made of "open war" meant war against U.S. forces, not Iraqi troops. He urged members of his Mehdi Army militia and the Iraqi government forces to stop fighting each other, and to "support all types of restistance" to make Iraq safe.

Syria: U.S. Complicit In Airstrike
April 25, 2008 1308 GMT

Syria's government accused the United States on April 25 of assisting Israel with a September 2007 airstrike in eastern Syria, media reports said. The United States alleged April 24 that the airstrike hit a secret Syrian nuclear facility built with North Korean help.

Israel: Hamas 'Biding Time' With Truce Offer
April 25, 2008 1205 GMT
Israel rebuffed a conditional cease-fire proposal from Palestinian group Hamas on April 25, Haaretz reported. A spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister's Office said Hamas is simply "biding time in order to rearm," adding that Israel will continue its operations in Gaza.

Iran: 'High-Speed Cruise Vessel' Launched
April 25, 2008 1158 GMT
Iran launched an indigenously produced "highly advanced, high-speed cruise vessel," semi-official Iranian news agency Fars reported April 25 on its Web site, in an article that was subsequently removed from the site.

Syria: Claims Of Nuclear Program False
April 25, 2008 1145 GMT

Syrian Ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha on April 25 dismissed U.S. accusations that Syria had a secret nuclear program assisted by North Korea, Al Jazeera reported. Moustapha said there is no evidence of such a program. He called U.S. statements that a Syrian nuclear reactor was destroyed in a September 2007 Israeli airstrike "ridiculous," saying that if there had been such a facility, it would have had anti-aircraft weapons and security guards.

West Bank: 2 Israeli Security Guards Shot Dead
April 25, 2008 1139 GMT
Unknown attackers shot and killed two Israeli security guards overnight April 25 at a factory in the Nitzanei Shalom industrial zone, on the boundary between the West Bank city of Tul Karm and Israeli territory, Haaretz reported. Security officials reportedly suspect the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militant group, though no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Iraq: No Near-Term U.K. Withdrawal
April 25, 2008 1123 GMT
The United Kingdom will not reduce its forces in Iraq any further until security conditions improve, British Defense Secretary Des Browne told Parliament on April 24, according to media reports. He said London remains committed to further withdrawals "as and when conditions allow."

PNA: Hamas Will Call A Cease-Fire If Israeli Blockade Is Lifted
April 24, 2008 2348 GMT
Palestinian group Hamas will call for a six-month cease-fire if Israel lifts its blockade on the Gaza Strip, Egyptian news agency MENA reported April 24. Following a day of meetings with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar reportedly said his militant organization will stop firing rockets from Gaza into Israel if the blockade is lifted.

U.S.: Syria Received North Korean Assistance On Nukes
April 24, 2008 2135 GMT
The United States said April 24 that North Korea has assisted Syria’s nuclear program and confirmed that Israel bombed a nuclear reactor in Syria last September, the White House said in a statement. The U.S. called North Korea’s nuclear assistance to Syria a dangerous manifestation of the country’s proliferation activities and nuclear weapons program. The U.S. still plans to advance six-party talks aimed at resolving the North Korean nuclear standoff.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Intelligence Guidance: Week of April 27, 2008
Stratfor Today » April 25, 2008 | 1946 GMT

This is a document provided to Stratfor analysts. It is intended as a guide to areas and issues to be focused on during the coming week:

All guidance from last week remains in place. Supplemental guidance:

1. Israel-Syria: Comments by the Syrians on an Israeli offer to exchange the Golan Heights for a peace agreement and the Israeli government’s failure to deny these comments indicate that relations between these two countries have reached a critical point. Since this is the Middle East, all of this could evaporate into nothing or explode into conflict. But if we couple this with Israel’s nonparticipation in the Bush administration’s briefings on the Israeli airstrike against an alleged Syrian nuclear reactor — and by the fact that Israel, by all accounts, asked the United States not to go public with the reasons for the strike — then we have to conclude that something is going on between Israel and Syria. Obviously, the discussions are secret, but now that the issue has broken into the open we need to look for some indicators of progress. One indicator will be opposition Likud party leader Benyamin Netanyahu, who probably will not like the deal. If the deal is locking in, he will have to go public at some point, or some of his colleagues in Likud will. Even if he thinks that the deal has to be made someday, he still will want to make political capital in the meantime. We need to watch the domestic Israeli political scene for indicators on whether these discussions are getting anywhere. So long as the political scene is not in an uproar, everything is either tentative or evaporated.

2. Syria-Iran: Along with this, note the Syrians made their announcement in Tehran with Iranian officials present. It is a huge shift for the Iranians even to be present during a discussion of a peace agreement between a Muslim country and Israel. Nevertheless, there they stood. This must be explained. And bear in mind that all this has significance for Iraq as well. If Iran can countenance a Syrian-Israeli deal, all things are possible. We need to watch for Iranian statements on Israel. Any shift in nuance can be significant. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is going to India and will face media scrutiny. This will be an opportunity to gauge his views. Also watch the Iranian media for comments on Israel for any shift. If there is one, it will be subtle.

3. U.S. Central Command: Gen. David Petraeus has been made CENTCOM commander. This means that both Iraq and Afghanistan fall under his command. His strategy in Iraq now will be followed in both countries: create local political accommodations with the careful use of U.S. troops, and let the local reality gradually translate into the national reality. Applying this to Afghanistan will be hard since there are not nearly enough Western troops there to be decisive. To carry out this strategy, Petraeus will ask for more troops. In any event, we need to do some long-term thinking regarding what Petraeus’ application of counterinsurgency will look like in Afghanistan — and whether any of this will extend to Pakistan.

4. China: The Chinese are really ramping up domestic security. We are months before the Olympics, but rules on visas are shifting, new plainclothes security personnel wearing arm bands are appearing and other internal disciplines are being imposed. Much of this was planned, but the measures are being applied very early and seem to be accelerating. How much of this has to do with the Olympics and how much has to do with internal stresses in China are worth looking into.

5. Brazil: Paraguayan President-elect Fernando Lugo wants to shake up his country’s subservient status toward Brazil, despite the fact that Paraguay would be ground under in a matter of moments in any Paraguayan-Brazilian dustup. The method he has chosen — threatening Brazil’s primary source of electricity, a hydroelectric project the two states co-own — cannot help but provoke a massive Brazilian response. We have followed how Brazil is becoming ever more powerful and assertive. Will Lugo’s insolence prod Brazil to accelerate efforts to become South America’s superpower?

6. The global food situation: Watch two things. First, see if the shortages spread. Rising prices are one thing; lack of availability at any price is another. If that spreads, the food situation is serious. Second, start looking at consequences. Most will relate to internal instability. Hunger hits fast with dramatic results, so breakdowns in availability can translate into chaos quickly. At present, there are few signs of international instability. But while no wars appear likely at present, they are not unthinkable. Think extreme thoughts when trying to analyze this situation. Meanwhile, watch oil prices. It is hard to figure out what is causing the persistent rise in oil prices. If all other commodities were not rising, we might be tempted to call the oil price situation a speculative bubble. In the long run, the question is whether we are seeing a long-term cyclical process topping out in the coming months, or whether the commodity markets are setting a new floor. If so, we need to start figuring out what this means to the global balance of power.

EURASIA
April 27: The first anniversary of the removal of a Soviet-era war memorial from central Tallinn, Estonia, to a war cemetery, which sparked rioting mainly by Russian-speaking youths; Estonia has already warned of fresh riots in Tallinn and another batch of cyberattacks on the country’s Internet infrastructure
April 28: Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Timoshenko in Kiev to discuss energy negotiations for natural gas supplies from Russia to Ukraine
April 28-29: European Union member states’ foreign ministers to meet in Luxembourg; one of the main topics will be the possibility of extending an invitation to Serbia to sign a Stabilization and Association Agreement, one of the first steps to EU membership
April 29: EU Troika-Russia meeting to be held in Luxembourg
May 1-2: Ministers from the Middle East Quartet –- the European Union, the United Nations, the United States and Russia –- to meet in London to consider a date for a planned Middle East conference in Moscow

MIDDLE EAST/SOUTH ASIA
April 26-27:
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to visit Pakistan and meet with top Pakistani government officials including President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri as well as leaders of the country’s major political parties
April 26-27: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit the Syrian capital, Damascus, to meet with Syrian President Bashar al Assad and discuss the ongoing peace negotiations between Syria and Israel
April 28: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Pakistan as part of a South Asian tour; he is slated to stay for a few hours to meet with Pakistan’s new government
April 28-30: French President Nicolas Sarkozy to visit Tunisia to discuss a new Mediterranean Union with Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali; discussions will revolve around the expansion of trade links, including a trade deal estimated at $1.4 billion, aircraft sales, civilian nuclear energy and immigration issues
April 29: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit New Delhi and meet with Indian President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; both sides are set to discuss multibillion-dollar energy bills before Ahmadinejad flies to Sri Lanka to sign two major accords
April 29- May 1: Kuwait will host the World Islamic Economic Forum; Jordanian King Abdullah, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah will attend
May 2: The permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany will meet in London to discuss Iran’s nuclear program
May 4: Egypt’s long-standing President Hosni Mubarak will celebrate his 80th birthday; Egypt’s opposition Labor Party announced a general strike to coincide with the event

EAST ASIA
April 25-27: Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is in Moscow, where he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Dmitri Medvedev to discuss economic ties, regional politics and the two countries’ territorial dispute over islands
April 25-27: European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to visit China to meet with Premier Wen Jiabao about Chinese-EU relations, sustainable development and the standoff between Tibet and China
April 25-May 24: South Korean extraordinary parliament session to take up several issues, including the free trade agreement between South Korea and the United States
April 26: Olympic torch to be in Nagano, Japan
April 27: Olympic torch to be in Seoul, South Korea
April 27: USS Kitty Hawk to pay a port call to Hong Kong
May 1: Tibet’s tourism bureau could reopen its region to domestic and foreign tourists, though this event could be postponed
May 2: The Olympic torch to arrive in Hong Kong, though the government could reroute the relay depending on events that day
May 3: The Olymic torch to arrive at Sanya in China’s southern Hainan Province

LATIN AMERICA
April 26-May 2:
The United States, Brazil and Argentina to hold naval exercises near the coast of Rio de Janeiro
April 28: The drafting of a new mining law to begin in Ecuador
April 28: Price of maize and sorghum to rise 30 percent for primary producers in Venezuela
May 2: The 30-day truce between the Argentine government and farmers to end

AFRICA
April 28: The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission could release results from the country’s presidential election
April 28: Sudanese Presidential Advisor Mustafa Osman Ismail and Foreign Minister Deng Alor to visit British Prime Minister Gordon Brown
April 28-29: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to chair a meeting in Bern, Switzerland, of U.N. food agency heads to discuss the global food crisis
May 2: A Nigerian federal judge to rule on whether the treason trial proceedings against suspected Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta arms smuggler Henry Okah can be conducted in public or in secret

SECURITY/COUNTERTERRORISM
April 26: The Olympic torch to arrive in Nagano, Japan
April 27: The Olympic torch to arrive in Seoul, South Korea
April 28: Saddam Hussein’s birthday in Iraq
April 28: Anniversary of Benito Mussolini’s death at Lake Como in Italy
April 28: The Olympic torch to arrive in Pyongyang, North Korea
April 29: The Olympic torch to arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
May 1: Euro MayDay — protests to occur in Aachen, Hanau, Hamburg and Berlin, Germany; Copenhagen; Helsinki; Lisbon, Portugal; Madrid, Terrassa and Malaga, Spain; Maribor, Slovenia; Milan, Naples and Palermo, Italy; Thessaloniki, Greece; Tokyo; and Vienna
May 2: The Olympic torch to arrive in Hong Kong, though the government could reroute the relay depending on events that day

----------------------------------------------------------

Sources in this report:

By Stratfor. This Report Expresses the views of Stratfor

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of CRNews.

https://www.stratfor.com/join

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Geostrategy Direct. The Reports Expresses the views of Geostrategy Direct

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of CRNews.

http://www.geostrategy-direct.com/geostrategy-direct/

DEBKAfile. The Reports Expresses the views of DEBKAfile

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of CRNews.

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