Syrian ruler Bashar Assad has ordered the resumption of weapons transfers to the Lebanese Hizballah, DEBKAfile’s exclusive military and intelligence sources report. This was agreed with Iran’s National Security Director Saeed Jalilee, who arrived in Damascus after Israel’s reported air strike last Wednesday, Jan. 30, inter alia, on Syrian trucks preparing to ferry to Lebanon for Hizballah the sophisticated Iran-supplied arms stored at the Jamraya military complex north of Damascus.
Jalilee is still in Damascus. He arrived Saturday to discuss with Syrian and Hizballah how to activate against Israel the secret mutual defense pact binding Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas.
According to our sources, Israeli military tacticians believe that as winter weather starts clearing up, Syria and Iran will devise crafty methods for outwitting Israel and getting the weapons to Lebanon – for example, disassembling the missiles and launchers and disguising them as non-lethal merchandize. They could then be spirited across from Syria to Lebanon in small packages by the smuggling rings regularly operating on their common border. Continue reading
Wednesday, Aug.15, debkafile revealed exclusively that the Obama and Netanyahu were discussing a one-on-one encounter on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session opening in New York on Sept. 18 in order to resume their military and strategic dialog on the Iranian issue broken off by their polar differences.debkafile now learns that those discussions have moved forward. Handled by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon for the US president and senior adviser Ron Dermer for the prime minister, they focus essentially on a four-point plan embodying Israel’s requirements for delaying an attack.
1. President Obama will formally inform the two houses of congress in writing that he plans to use military force to prevent Iran from arming itself with a nuclear weapon. He will request their endorsement. Aside from this step’s powerful deterrent weight for persuading Iran’s leaders to give up their pursuit of a nuclear bomb, it would also give the US president the freedom to go to war with Iran when he sees fit, without have to seek congressional endorsement.
2. To underscore his commitment, President Obama would pay a visit to Israel in the weeks leading up to election-day and deliver a speech to the Knesset solemnly pledging to use American military force against the Islamic Republic if Tehran still refuses to give up its nuclear weapon program. He will repeat that pledge before various other public forums.
3, In the coming months up until Spring 2013, the United States will upgrade Israel’s military, intelligence and technological capabilities so that if President Obama (whether he is reelected or replaced by Mitt Romney) decides to back out of this commitment, Israel will by then be in command of the resources necessary for inflicting mortal damage on Iran’s nuclear program with a unilateral strike.
debkafile’s military sources note that an influx of these top-grade US military resources would bridge the gap between American and Israeli ticking clocks for an attack on Iran, and dispel the fear in Jerusalem that delay would give Iran time to bury its key facilities in “zones of immunity” – outside Israel’s reach for serious damage with its present capabilities.
4. If points 1-3 can be covered – and Netanyahu and Barak are convinced the US really means to strike Iran next spring – our Washington and Jerusalem sources report that Jerusalem may be coming around to agreeing to hold back a lone Israeli attack this autumn
Full article: US-Israeli deal on Iran? No Israeli strike now if Obama pledged a spring attack (DEBKAfile)
LONDON: Israel is preparing for a ground attack on Iran before Christmas, after conducting commando dry runs in the Iraq desert, a media report said.
Israeli leaders have reportedly made it clear they are ready to launch military action alone – if the US does not help.
Late October or early November have been identified by intelligence analysts as a likely time because of the US elections on Nov 6.
“We know the Israelis have been active in the Iraq desert, it would appear preparing forward bases for a ground assault. Bombing Iranian nuclear installations will most likely be a part of their plan, but the only way to confirm they have destroyed what they need to is to put boots on the ground,” an unnamed British official was quoted as saying.
An “anonymous senior Israeli politician” — believed to be defence minister Ehud Barak — made it clear to The Sun that Israel had already decided to act alone.
“We can’t wait to find out one morning that we relied on the Americans but were fooled because the Americans didn’t act. Israel is strong and Israel is responsible, and will do what it has to do,” the minister said.
Full article: Israel preparing to attack Iran: Report (The Times of India)
The acrimony reached a nadir with an unusually detailed Association Press report on July 28 quoting anonymous sources as stating, “The CIA considers Israel its No. 1 counterintelligence threat in the agency’s New East Division,” – the group that oversees spying across he Middle East.
Prime Minister Binyamin’s Office reviled its content, including allegations of Mossad intrusions of US officials’ homes, as “a lying report.”
This leak had two objectives, says debkafile:
1. To deter US presidential candidate Mitt Romney from using his visit to Israel Sunday and Monday July 29-30 to promise, if elected in November, to review Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence for spying for Israel, which all previous US presidents have refused to do at the CIA’s behest. It has been suggested that he may be considering going on record with this pledge to win Jewish votes.
2. To hit back at the Israel watchers dogging the footsteps of CIA agents planted in a widely-flung undercover network for picking up any clues that Israeli preparations for a unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear program are moving into operational phase.
Although American and Israeli officials habitually stress the commonalty of the two government’s decisions on Iran – and top US officials are again turning up in Israel every few days – President Barack Obama still can’t be sure that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak won’t take him off-guard by springing an attack at a date earlier than the one under discussion between them.
debkafile’s Washington sources report that October is often mentioned these days in the White House, the Pentagon and top military command as the month to watch. Persian Gulf capitals are also on guard for an October attack although they prefer an American to an Israeli strike.
Full article: An ill wind blows between US and Israeli intelligence over attack on Iran (DEBKAfile)
When International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Yukiya Amano declared Friday, May 4, that “Parchin (the suspected site of nuclear-related explosion tests) is the priority and we start with that,” he may have missed the boat. As he spoke, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it was possible that Iran was already putting in place the infrastructure for building a nuclear bomb in 60 days.
In this regard, debkafile’s military sources disclose that Iran had by the end of 2009 early 2012 completed the construction of a new chain of underground facilities deep inside the Dasht e-Kavir (Great Salt Desert) – all linked together by huge tunnels.
Nevertheless, Tehran keeps on putting off nuclear watchdog inspections at Parchin for three reasons:
2. The Iranians can’t be sure they have scrubbed out every last trace of the nuclear explosives and detonators tested at the Parchin military base – even after clearing away the evidence and relocating the facility in the salt desert wastelands.
Asked to define the activities he wanted inspected in Parchin, Amano said: “We do not have people there so we cannot tell what these activities are.” According to debkafile’s intelligence sources, while the IAEA may want hard physical evidence collected by its inspectors, US and Israeli intelligence have long possessed solid information on the illicit activities in Parchin collected by the nuclear-sensitive instruments carried by their military satellites.
One of the biggest, our sources disclose, is managed by the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, manufacturers of the ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads. US intelligence discovered in November 2010 that North Korea had transferred to Iran 19 nuclear-capable BM-25 ballistic missiles with a range of 2,500 kilometers.
Full article: Iran readies secret salt desert bunkers for clandestine nuclear facilities (DEBKAfile)
Differences between Israel and the United States over a nuclear Iran brought relations to rock bottom this week. Israeli officials frankly and openly criticized the Obama administration out of a sense of being left in the dark and cornered by a campaign of misinformation.
Most of all, they were irked by the way the one-day Istanbul meeting between the six world powers (P5+1) and Iran on April 14 was held up by Washington and Europe as a constructive and successful exercise because Tehran had deigned to keep on talking in Baghdad on May 23, five weeks hence.
In fact, that was the sum-total of its success.
Then, they discovered that, before Istanbul, the US and Iran had reached certain understandings in private, bilateral contacts in Paris – revealed here for the first time. Those understandings rendered the get-together in Turkey a mere formality and were designed to predetermine the “agreed” outcome in Baghdad, i.e. more “progress” and a third session scheduled for the second half of August.
Therefore, unbeknownst to Israel, Washington had prepared the script for the formal negotiating track well in advance. It set out a leisurely timeline affording Iran time to produce more highly-enriched uranium and to tuck its bomb-making nuclear facilities away in fortified underground hideaways, safe from any Israeli attempt to destroy them.
Israel brings out big guns to shoot down false reports
This was the “freebie” to which Prime MinisterBinyamin Netanyahu referred on April 15, after a long conversation with visiting US Senator Joe Lieberman. He accused the US and the world powers of granting Iran a free five-week run to continue uranium enrichment undisturbed up until May 23 in Baghdad. He pointedly mentioned the US separately.
The point was taken instantaneously – distance being no object.
The US president used the press conference winding up the Western Hemisphere summit in Cartagena, Colombia, to retort: “The notion that somehow we’ve given something away or a ‘freebie’ would indicate Iran has gotten something. In fact, they’ve got some of the toughest sanctions that they’re going to be facing coming up in just a few months if they don’t take advantage of these talks.”
It is precisely on this point that Israeli officials felt they were being misled.
For some weeks, Israeli officials have been fighting a rearguard action to fend off the false assertions leaked to the US media. One is that Netanyahu promised President Obama that he would not order an attack on Iran before the November 2012 presidential election. Another, that Israel lacks the military capability to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Obama did not get the last word. On Tuesday, April 17, Jerusalem brought out its big guns to rebut what is seen there as a tissue of falsehoods, while also bringing some rare clarity to its intentions.
Three figures in the prime minister’s confidence on the Iranian issue offered revealing statements within hours of each other.
Israel reverts to an implacable front on a nuclear Iran
Defense Minister Ehud Barak led off by demanding a clear-cut outcome from the talks between the six world powers and Iran – quite simply, the discontinuation of Iran’s nuclear program. The bargaining must not drag on for months. Both these demands, voiced in a morning radio interview, were at odds with the Obama strategy for Iran. Barak went on to echo Netanyahu’s charge that the five-week interval between sessions had rewarded Iran with extra time for developing its nuclear capabilities.
Barak then set off for Washington to meet Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The disenchantment coloring his and the prime minister’s comments was rooted, DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports, in their discovery that the “1,000 formula” agreed between US and Israeli officials had not been put on the table at Istanbul.
This formula (first revealed by debkafile on April 9) would have let Iran kept 1,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium to the low 3.5 percent grade, while stocking no more than 1,000 kilograms. Its 20 percent uranium would be exported.
Barak’s words indicated that since the Americans had ditched this formula, Israel too had withdrawn its concession on enrichment and reverted to an all-or-nothing stance.
The former Israel military intelligence MI chief, Maj. Gen. (res) Amos Yadlin came next.
“I don’t think that if Iran has a nuclear bomb it will rush to drop it on Israel,” he said. “But Israel can’t afford to risk letting a nation not only seeking, but actively preparing for, its destruction, attain a nuclear weapon.”
Dep. PM Ya’alon: Iran will have a dirty bomb in 2012
Yadlin’s point was that Israel cannot afford to subscribe to the Obama administration’s willingness to live with a nuclear-capable Iran so long as it stops at the threshold of a final decision to use the resources and technology in its power for actually building a bomb.
In ascending order of resonance, the loudest and toughest decibels came from the third speaker, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, who is also minister for strategic affairs.
He made six telling remarks in a television interview Tuesday afternoon:
1. Israel no longer believes the Obama administration.
2. “On the Iranian issue, the US and Israel are not in the same boat.”
3. By the end of the year, Iran will have a dirty bomb. This was the first time a senior Israeli figure has confirmed that Iran is building dirty bombs on the way to completing its nuclear weapons program.
Three hours later, Tehran, which avidly picks up on every word spoken or printed by the “Zionists,” announced the creation of a new “Crisis Management Center for Nuclear and Radiation Accidents,” to be headed by its Atomic Energy Organization’s director, Dr. Fereydoon Abbasi.
Announcing the appointment, Iran’s civil defense chief Gen. Gholam Reza Jalali said:
“Radiation defense will be carried out at national and provincial levels and includes confronting pollution, monitoring threats, treating the injured, cleaning polluted areas, disseminating information and decreasing threats as well as enhancing the level of preparedness, organizing and creating proper mechanisms for times of crisis and holding drills and public training and information dissemination.”
This sounded very much as though Iran was getting ready for an Israeli strike on its stock of dirty bombs after revealing their discovery.
Israel is fed up with Washington’s procrastination
4. Iran will be able to build a nuclear weapon any time between April 2013 and 36 months thereafter.
5. Israel does not accept President Obama’s demand to wait before striking Iran until the end of 2012, i.e. after the US presidential election. According to Ya’alon, Israel was assured that if in 2013 it still finds it necessary to go to war on Iran’s nuclear program, the Americans might undertake the initiative.
Asked by the interviewer if the US president was cynical enough to give his reelection precedence over the threat of a nuclear Iran, the Israeli minister answered with a curt “Yes.”
6. The stalling on an Israeli decision on military action is over. After the Baghdad talks of May 23, Israel will “review its steps,” said Ya’alon.
This was the first time a competent Israeli figure, a member of the top decision-making level, had mentioned dates in connection with a decision about launching an attack on Iran’s nuclear program. He would not have spoken without the authority of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Jerusalem say that within 15 minutes of the interview, telephones were ringing off the hook in Jerusalem with urgent demands for “clarifications” from the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon.
But clarifications were really unnecessary. Israel’s message was crystal clear: We are fed up with being kept in the dark; we don’t trust American diplomatic maneuvers to stop a nuclear Iran; and we’re getting ready to make our own decisions.
The most radical US maneuver – a major concession to Iran – was still to come, as will be revealed in a separate article in this issue.
Full article: Israel Loses Patience with Obama, Starts Countdown to Unilateral Decision on Nuclear Iran (DEBKAfile)
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is in Germany to sign a deal for a sixth Dolphin class submarine that would give the Jewish state the most powerful sub fleet in the Middle East.
The 1,925-ton Dolphins are Israel’s most expensive and advanced weapons platforms, and its most strategic, particularly in the context of a conflict with Iran.
All the Dolphins are reportedly capable of launching Israeli-developed, nuclear-tipped cruise missiles with a range of 950 miles through 650mm diameter torpedo tubes, carrying 200-kiloton tactical warheads.
That gives Israel an extended strategic reach, particularly if the missiles are launched from the Arabian Sea off Iran’s southern coast.
It also gives the Jewish state, militarily the most powerful in the Middle East, the option of a pre-emptive first-strike attack by land, sea or air.
With six Dolphins, the Israeli navy will be able to maintain one, possibly two, of the boats deployed off Iran at all times.
Full article: Israel to sign deal for sixth German sub (Space War)
IAEA envoy expects to see Iranian efforts ‘jump’ in Fordo site near Qom, located deep inside a mountain to protect it from possible airstrikes.
“I think we will see a jump in the potential state of readiness of the facility,” one Vienna-based envoy said.
Fordo is of particular concern for the West and Israel as Iran is shifting the most controversial aspect of its nuclear work, refining uranium to a level that takes it significantly closer to potential bomb material, to the site.
Estimated to be buried beneath 80 meters of rock and soil, it gives Iran better protection against any Israeli or U.S. military strikes.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned that the Islamic state’s nuclear research could soon pass into what he called a “zone of immunity,” protected from outside disruption.
Full article: Iran set to expand nuclear activity in underground facility, sources say (Haaretz)
Israel was said to have lost its strategic relationship with the United States, but the U.S. ambassador to Israel disagreed.
A former senior Israeli diplomat asserted that the United States no longer sees Israel as a strategic asset. Alon Pinkas, who served as consul-general in New York, said the loss has led to an asymmetry in the relationship between Jerusalem and Washington.
Full article: Diplomats debate whether Israel has lost status as ‘strategic asset’ to U.S. (World Tribune)
Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June — before Iran enters what Israelis described as a “zone of immunity” to commence building a nuclear bomb. Very soon, the Israelis fear, the Iranians will have stored enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon — and only the United States could then stop them militarily.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t want to leave the fate of Israel dependent on American action, which would be triggered by intelligence that Iran is building a bomb, which it hasn’t done yet.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak may have signaled the prospect of an Israeli attack soon when he asked last month to postpone a planned U.S.-Israel military exercise that would culminate in a live-fire phase in May. Barak apologized that Israel couldn’t devote the resources to the annual exercise this spring.
Full article: Is Israel preparing to attack Iran? (Washington Post)
With its latest acquisitions from Washington and Europe, the Saudi Air Force will have more fighter-bombers of more advanced models that the Israeli Air Force. Deep concern over this was recently relayed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
DEBKAfile’s Washington and military sources that Israel made its concern known with the utmost discretion so as not to be seen as hampering the expansion of the Saudi Royal Air Force as Riyadh gets set to tackle Tehran should Saudi oil exports be sabotaged by Iranian attacks on its oil production or the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, its primary export outlet.
Last month, the US agreed to sell Saudi Arabia 84 advanced F-15SA fighter-bombers worth $29.4 billion. First deliveries are due in 2015. The package included the upgrading of 70 F-15 planes of the Saudi air fleet. Riyadhis also buying 72 advanced Eurofighter Typhoon fighter bombers. All in all, the oil kingdom will have the largest and most sophisticated fighter-bomber fleet in the Middle East.
Israel leaders reminded the Obama administration of its standing pledge to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. The aircraft supplied to the Saudis will place that edge in doubt.
Continue reading article: Jerusalem concerned: Saudi Air Force to outnumber Israel’s advanced US jet fleet (DEBKAfile)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise if Iran has “the bomb” all of a sudden as western powers, the US in particular, have been behind the intelligence curve for at least a decade and has previously been caught by surprise with foreign country technology and capability from time to time.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu advised visiting Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey Friday, Jan.20 that the time for action against Iran was now, for two reasons: First, the conviction that Iran has passed the point of no return for developing a nuclear weapon; and second, the diminishing prospects for a US-led embargo on Iranian oil to catch on before it is too late.
The Obama administration disputes the Israeli prime minister on both points, insisting there is still time for tough sanctions to incapacitate the Iranian economy and stop Tehran before it reaches the point of no return in its drive for a nuke. Israel insists that this pivotal point was reached four years ago in 2008.
Gen. Dempsey was exhaustively briefed on the Israeli position during his whirlwind interviews Friday with President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and three conversations with Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, one with key General Staff officers.
It was not by chance that Maj. Gen. (ret.) Asher Yadlin, until last year Israel chief of military intelligence, maintained in a detailed article in the Tel Aviv daily Maariv: “If Iranian leaders were to convene tonight and decide to go ahead with the secret production of a nuclear bomb, they already possess the resources and components for doing so. This [capability] was once defined as the point of no return. [As matters stand] now, Iran’s nuclear timeline no longer hinges on the calendar; it rests entirely on a decision in Tehran.”
The former intelligence chief was saying that for four years, the US and Israeli governments colluded in propagating the false assumption that Iran had not reached a nuclear weapon capability. Presenting a highly problematic oil embargo in 2012 as capable of putting Iran off its nuclear stride is equally illusory.
Continue reading article: Nuclear Iran is past its point-of-no-return, yet oil sanctions remain on paper (DEBKAfile)