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Iran plays with plutonium extraction?

Bushehr nuclear plantThe news came from two sources, which demonstrates an unlikely correlation: Debka and Russia’s RIA Novosti both expressed worry over Iranian efforts to extract plutonium from spent uranium rods. Incidentally, we’ve been saying for years that this is the most dangerous aspect of Iran’s nuclear program because the ayatollahs can run any number of peaceful Bushehr-type reactors, only to re-purpose them at a moment’s to harvest massive amounts of plutonium.

Plutonium harvesting is Iran’s last step before weaponization, because reprocessing spent rods would alienate the Russians. Indeed, Novosti presented the story as Russian concern, rather than a typical report on the unfounded worries of Westerners. Russia built the Bushehr only on the condition that Iran send the spent rods back to them, and Iran’s refusal to play along is a great affront.

Israel pushed into a losing battle?

Israeli Dolphin-class submarineDebka has published an astonishing revalation: the White House is pushing Israel to sink Iranian submarines with her own Dolphin-class subs. As a guarantee, Obama even agreed to sell Israel a few GBU-37 bunker-busters.

The idea is suicidal. Iran wouldn’t launch its missiles against Israel in retaliation, but would certainly attack Israel’s soft underbelly of foreign Jewish targets. Palestinian terrorists will be instructed to renew attacks in Israel. And in the end, sinking a vessel or two wouldn’t reverse Iranian policy; if anything, it would strengthen IRGC’s resolve to achieve military superiority over Israel, if not in quality than in numbers.

We believe that Obama views Israel as an expendable spy, a pawn in his game with Iran. After Israel has started a silly conflict, Obama imagines he would be able to talk to the Iranians. But the Iranians would take a limited strike as a signal that the West is ready for war, and would steel their resolve rather than run to negotiate.

An Israeli strike on Iranian vessels in the Red Sea would also amount to clearing the water there for Egypt’s benefit. Washington wants to show the Muslim Brotherhood that it can bring even Jews into their service.

The US side of Shalit

Debka reports that the government’s treacherous deal is a part of a major American game. The White House has agreed to sponsor the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in exchange for Mashaal’s promise to break away from Iran. Of course Hamas—and especially the smaller terrorist groups—will never part with Iran, which trains them, arms them, finances them, and in the end protects them. The US rapprochement with the Brotherhood is a face-saving measure: now that Egypt has fallen to the Brotherhood, Obama wants to show that they are his Brothers. Of course, they will take his aid and run.

The American plan to mold Hamas into a moderate organization is ludicrous. Hamas is already a moderate organization, but only because the fighting is outsourced to PIJ, PRC, PLFP, and others. No doubt Hamas can be made to accept coexistence with Israel, as indeed the Muslims have offered many times. But their own state will necessarily be radical because so many hotheads remember past grievances and villages lost to Israel. There will always be tension. When Saudi Arabia sees civil war, when Iran rules in Lebanon and Syria, when Islamic radicals eye power in Jordan, there is no way to keep the West Bank state as political oasis.

US, Turkey, Iran cooperate against Israeli interests

The US has joined the Iranian-Turkish offensive against the Kurdish PKK rebels. According to the Debka, Washington supplies them intelligence about PKK targets.

The PKK, however, is an important ally of Israel. Unlike the mainstream Kurdish government, which is content with semi-autonomy in Iraq, PKK wants chunks of Turkey, Iran, and Syria for the Kurdish state—and rightly so, since Kurds indeed live in those regions. The PKK, therefore, gives Israel leverage against Turkey and the enemy states of Syria and Iran. When Lieberman merely hinted that Israel might support the PKK in retaliation for Turkey’s hostile actions, his Turkish counterpart went hysterical. In Iran, the PKK serves our interests against nuclear-related targets.

Just as with Mubarak and other examples of threatened Israeli national interests, our government did nothing to protect the PKK.

Could the Saudis be stupid?

MeccaThe Debka reports that Saudi Arabia plans to wrest the Euphrates Valley from Syria in order to create a buffer Sunni state there. Though these plans have been rumored for months, such an attempt would be a mammoth miscalculation for the Saudis.

Assad would fight to his last soldiers in order to keep the Euphrates region, his strategic underbelly. Iraq, still propped up by the US, wouldn’t give up its bank of the Euphrates easily. Iraq will certainly rather turn to Iran for help than lose the region. Local militias, supported by Saudi money and arms-smuggling networks, would stand no chance against the combined interests of Syria, Iran, and Iraq.

Moreover, Middle Eastern politics are no longer dictated by sectarian divides. Shiite Hezbollah cooperates with Sunni Hamas; Shiite Iran and Iraq are at odds with each other; Sunni Pakistan and Saudi Arabia cannot get along any better than Pakistan gets along with Shiite Iran; the Wahhabite Saudis are not fond of the similarly religious Taliban. A Sunni state on the Euphrates is not at all certain to promote Saudi interests in the long term.

The Saudis similarly erred in Yemen, where they also banked on creating a buffer state. So far there is a stalemate with no imminent likelihood of Yemen breaking apart—though in a world where tribal chiefs make all the decisions, that can change in the blink of an eye.

One lesson for Israel is that Assad did not attack the Saudis for such a blatant plan to violate his sovereignty. Israeli intelligence consistently overestimate the hypothetical Syrian reaction to our attacks on their nuclear and missile facilities.

Syria: back to uncertainty

Bashar AssadAfter Assad seemed to prevail against the rebels, fighting broke out in northern Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood and some Kurds have joined the army deserters who have realized that they have little chance of being forgiven by Assad. The bands staged several provocations against government troops, including an ambush which killed 120 soldiers.

Assad’s response so far has been measured. Only a few dozen people have been killed in the rebel towns. Given the very low number of casualties, Assad’s tanks and helicopters are evidently engaged in urban battles rather than the wholesale slaughter of civilians.

The Syrian regime does not appear to be in danger. Even if the rumors, reported by Debka, of a Turkish invasion of northern Syria are true, the incursion will be limited to a narrow border area so that refugee camps can be set up in Syria rather than Turkey. This, by the way, shows Israel what normal countries do to stem the flow of illegal immigrants. Israel, however, lacks the guts to set up refugee camps for Africans in Sinai, and even entertains the idea of allowing Palestinian refugees into the Jewish state.

The Turkish invasion of Syria was probably coordinated with Assad, who only profits by preventing a widely publicized exodus of his citizens, and can also count on the Turks to disrupt the rebels’ movements. Erdogan is probably not so crazy as to comply with Obama’s bidding and send his troops into Syria against Assad’s wishes; the consequence of such an action could well be Syrian missile strikes on Turkey and a pretext for Iran to send troops into Syria.

Saudis ready for nuclear standoff with Iran

Barack Obama and Saudi KingThe Debka has confirmed the Saudis’ procurement of nuclear-capable Chinese CSS-5 missiles. Earlier, the US welcomed the Saudis’ mammoth dual-use nuclear program and accepted the Saudis’ decision to render their nuclear bombs from Pakistan. The Saudis now own a certain number of nuclear devices in return for financing the Pakistani nuclear program.

Apparently, Saudis do not share the opinion, which we also hold, that Iran’s nuclear program is harmless in itself and Iran will only brandish its nukes rather than using them. When trigger-happy Muslims square off against each other in Iran and Saudi Arabia, a nuclear exchange would not be impossible. If the Iranians incite riots among Saudi shiites who sit atop the kingdom’s oil fields, the royal family would have little to lose by launching a nuclear exchange.

Unless Israel destroys the Iranian nuclear program, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will soon go nuclear. Another drawback of Iranian nuclearization would be Saudi Arabia’s annexation of Kuwait and the UAE similarly to Bahrain. That would leave no strategically important American presence in the Middle East.

Obama policies lead to Egypt-Saudi-Iran alliance

Obama policies lead to Egypt-Saudi-Iran axisThe Debka has confirmed a widely anticipated development: in order to snub Obama over his treatment of Mubarak and his inaction on the ayatollahs, the Saudi king has ordered rapprochement with Iran. This engagement of the leading Sunni and Shiite powers marks a creation of an Islamic mega-bloc.

Conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia has historically provided the balance which allowed the United States to play the role of arbiter in the Middle East. The Saudi rapprochement with Iran may be a trick to pressure Obama into action against the ayatollahs, but more probably it is a genuine attempt by the monarchy to survive now that its Western ally has refused to prevent the nuclearization of its Shiite nemesis.

The Saudis drew Egypt into the orbit of their improved relations with Iran by promising to fully replace American aid to Egypt if Obama cuts it.

If such an alliance is indeed formed, Israel will find it hard to survive.

Having his pie and eating it, too

Debka reports that the Iranian government used some of the $20 billion from subsidies cuts to finance its nuclear program. Western sanctions thus would have no effect on Iran’s quest for the bomb.

For now, security forces will suppress popular outcry against the cuts. And after Iran gets the bomb, the United States will offer aid, as it did with North Korea and Pakistan.

You know that I know that you know

Hassan NasrallahIDF conducted large-scale exercises. The army simulated an invasion of Lebanon in response to a Hezbollah terrorist attack, which indeed Hezbollah has promised if Israel attacks Iran in response to Iran’s nuclear program.

Frightening Hezbollah out of attacking Israel would be a stupid reason for the exercises: maneuvers or no maneuvers, Hezbollah knows that Israel can easily defeat it. The terrorist group is transforming itself into a political force, and would not be eager to provoke Israeli reprisals against Lebanese voters.

IDF’s goal in the exercises was probably to force Hezbollah to expose its bunkers, which it actually did with the help of Iranian engineers who came immediately after the maneuvers to inspect Hezbollah’s defenses, as Debka reported.

The Iranians were guarded by Lebanese Army units. Such close cooperation between the US-funded Lebanese army and Iran is to be expected since Hariri surrendered to the ayatollahs.

Hezbollah aims higher

Debka reported that Hezbollah representatives were spotted in London fishing for an international criminal lawyer to defend their operatives before the Hariri tribunal.

That seems to confirm our analysis that Hezbollah aims to take over Lebanon by acting as a political force rather than as a terrorist organization. Otherwise, it would make no sense for Nasrallah to betray his operatives to a show of international justice.

Shalit debacle: Israeli government hits new lows

If a Debka report is to be believed, Mabhouh was not assassinated, but died in the course of a kidnapping attempt. Netanyahu’s government wanted to trade the lynchpin of Hamas’ weapons-smuggling operations for Shalit.

Previously, the government had “only” agreed to trade a thousand terrorists for Shalit, but this means that they would have released for him a person actively involved in current attempts to murder Jews.

Mr.President, tear down this wall

According to Debka, the United States has withdrawn its engineers from the Rafah area, where they had helped the Egyptians to construct an underground metal wall to prevent the Palestinians from tunneling.

As we expected, the wall proved futile: the Palestinians quickly learned to destroy it.

Obama reportedly withdrew his people to pressure Netanyahu into abandoning the blockade of Gaza. In the liberal world of democratic politicians limited to four-year terms of office, rights and common sense do not matter. Obama sides with the Arabs because they are intractable. If the Gaza problem has to be solved at any cost, and Gaza’s government is not willing to accommodate Israel, then the pressure is put on Israeli government to accommodate Hamas.

Al Qaeda, why?

Debka has suggested that the Ethiopian airliner’s crash near Lebanon was a terrorist attack. This is possible, yes, but the plane could have exploded for more innocuous reasons.

But we see no basis for the conclusion that Al Qaeda was involved. Al Qaeda had no good reason to bomb a plane carrying Nasrallah and other Hezbollah leaders. They changed their tickets at the last minute.

It is also unlikely that Al Qaeda tipped Hezbollah’s people to change planes. They would rather call off the bombing than risk leaking their plans. Hezbollah would have informed the Ethiopians about the plan, since the terrorist group depends on Ethiopia for arms trafficking. Al Qaeda had no incentive at all to blow up an Ethiopian jet.

The bombing plot against Nasrallah might suggest Israeli involvement, but it is our long-standing policy to avoid huge collateral damage.

Just how did Lebanon bust the Israeli spy network?

We disagreed with Debka’s report that Russia helped Lebanon uncover Israeli agents there. Indeed, recent leaks indicate that Lebanon discovered suspicious phone-call patterns with Echelon-type software running on its phone hubs. The software could be of American or European origin, most likely from Siemens and Nokia, which delivered similar software scanners to Khomeini, allowing the regime to scan phone calls for suspicious words and patterns.

But Israeli agents in South Lebanon typically use Israeli cell phones, so the phone-scan scenario is also doubtful. In our opinion, the network fell apart because of human errors, as Lebanese Israeli agents are typically talkative. The increased level of spy activity in preparation for the Mughniye assassination likely exposed some of the agents, who led to the rest, as compartmentalization is notoriously bad in Lebanon.

September 22: the unlikely date of Israeli strike on Iran

We had voiced skepticism about Debka’s report that Israel was planning a strike on Iran during the air show there in order to extinguish the Shiites’ air combat capabilities in a single attack.

Now a test case comes out. On September 22 Iran will hold another air show, not as massive as the first one had to be, but still good enough for Israel to attack if there was such plan.

We believe that an Israeli attack on that date is unlikely, although the timing would be very good. The Obama administration so far refuses to go ahead with the talks with Iran (scheduled for October 1) unless Iran specifically agrees to discuss nuclear issues, and the Iranians discount the likelihood of an attack in the coming days in light of their IAEA triumph and the UN General Assembly.

Did Russians bust Israeli spy network?

Debka reports that Russia’s FSB conducted an ultra-advanced search of the radio spectrum in Lebanon, which led to Hezbollah’s interception of an Israeli spy ring.

Our information on FSB capabilities suggests that such a scenario is rather unlikely. FSB uses standard Western electronic surveillance equipment, and is not capable of a long-term, wide-area-cover operation.

We would, however, view the FSB’s involvement as highly encouraging, signifying the messianic pangs:, it would mark for the first time a situation in which the United States, the EU, and Russia all simultaneously supported Israel’s enemies.

CIA certain Israel won’t bomb Iran

Panetta said in a Global Viewpoint interview that Israel certainly won’t attack Iran alone, and doing otherwise would mean “big trouble” for Netanyahu.

This confirms the superiority of our analysis of the Netanyahu-Panetta talks over Debka’s.

S-300 sales to Iran go through Belarus

Debka confirmed our claim that the Russians are supplying S-300 missiles to Iran through Belarus. The sale includes highly effective Iskander-M antiaircraft missiles, which Belarus supplies instead of the less advanced Iskander-E export version.

Syria will also receive the SAMs.

The sale could not have gone through without Obama’s approval: due to the economic crisis, the Russians wouldn’t risk jeopardizing relations with the US, which strenuously objected before. Obama benefits from the sale, as S-300s might deter Israel from attacking Iran.

07 May 2009 Posted in Russia

Debka on Obama’s New Middle East order

Debka on Obama’s New Middle East order

07 May 2009 Posted in work