Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
July 6, 2011

“…it will take place shortly after the Libyan war is brought to a close – ideally by a four-way accord between the US, France, Muammar Qaddafi and the Libyan rebels or, failing agreement, by a crushing NATO military blow in which the United States will also take part.”

The Obama and Sarkozy administrations are working together on a plan to convene an Israel-Palestinian peace summit in Paris on Sept. 2 shortly after the Libyan war is brought to a close, Debkafile’s Washington and Paris exclusive sources disclose.

If they can pull it off, Presidents Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy will join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at a summit in the French capital to announce the restart of Israel-Palestinian peace talks, thereby calling off the unilateral Palestinian request for UN recognition of an independent state.

President Obama’s Special Adviser Dennis Ross and senior French diplomat Jean-David Levitte are leading the effort to get this summit off the ground.

According to the US-French plan, it will take place shortly after the Libyan war is brought to a close – ideally by a four-way accord between the US, France, Muammar Qaddafi and the Libyan rebels or, failing agreement, by a crushing NATO military blow in which the United States will also take part.

The proposed accord would be based on Muammar Qaddafi’s departure and the establishment of a power-sharing transitional administration in Tripoli between the incumbent government and rebel leaders.

The US and French presidents hope to be credited at home and in the Middle East with a triple feat: two diplomatic breakthroughs in the Middle East and a US-French victory in Libya.

To this end, negotiations are going forward with the concerned parties. Russia and the African Union have been drawn into the drive to end the war in Libya. One stumbling block still remaining is Qaddafi’s demand for his sons to be part of the proposed transitional administration in Tripoli.

To clear the way for the Paris summit, Ross recently put before Netanyahu Obama’s revised formula for the starting-point of negotiations with the Palestinians: Israel would accept the 1967 borders with territorial swaps in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people. Just this week, the Israeli prime minister said that if the Palestinians recognized Israel as the Jewish homeland, the other outstanding issues could be easily and quickly resolved.

However, it is not clear whether the revised formula had won prior Palestinian approval before it was presented in Jerusalem or Washington intended to later squeeze this concession out of Mahmud Abbas and so drive a crack in the deadlock which has frozen the peace track for more than seven months.

At all events, Netanyahu’s reply was qualified. He accepted the new US formula in principle, but batted the ball back into the White House’s court. Debkafile’s sources in Jerusalem and Washington disclose that he made acceptance contingent on President Obama publicly and formally affixing his signature to President Bush’s letter of April 2004 to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

This letter constituted a presidential commitment to support negotiations with the Palestinians based on UN Resolution 242 (which promised Israel defensible borders), to refrain from demanding Israel’s return to the 1949 lines, and to acknowledge the existence of major Jewish population centers on the West Bank as demographic changes occurring in the years since the Six-Day War.
The prime minister is now waiting for an answer from the White House.

Our sources in Jerusalem explain that this exchange encapsulates the US-Israeli-Palestinian debate over how much territory the land swaps would leave Israel and the Palestinians respectively in future agreements on their borders.

Up until now, the Palestinians have insisted on a ratio of one kilometer in pre-1967 Israel for every kilometer awarded Israel on the West Bank. This ratio Jerusalem has found to be unacceptable. A comprehensive study commissioned by the prime minister’s office from the National Security Council found that the big settlement blocs on the West Bank cover roughly 8 percent of West Bank area.

Giving up an equal area of Israeli territory would imperil its security no less than a flat return to the 1967 borders. Israel cannot therefore afford to cede more than 4 percent of its sovereign territory at most. The Palestinian demand for parity in the mutual exchanges of land is therefore rejected by Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is reverting to the Bush letter and its reaffirmation of UN Resolution 242 – not just because it better addresses Israel’s security needs more advantageous, but also because, “You can’t just toss out UN Resolution 242 and Bush’s letter to Sharon,” Netanyahu has been saying in recent private talks. In his view, the Obama White House cannot simply ignore a presidential commitment given by his predecessor personally to an Israeli prime minister.

In the opinion of the prime minister and his advisers, the formula incorporated in Obama’s May 19 speech requiring Israel to return to the 1967 borders with mutual land swaps and accept a non-demilitarized Palestinian state is tantamount to giving up on secure borders. The UN 242 and the Bush commitment upheld this principle and is therefore the option preferred in Jerusalem.

http://www.debka.com/article/21091/

As I read internet news today, I have to wonder about the spreading protests in the Arab world. Muslim against Muslim, it seems… the people against their governments in country after country. The headlines and the shouted messages seem to say, the people want freedom. Freedom from corrupt governments, freedom from economic woes, freedom from oppressive rules and regulations.

So far we’ve heard about Algeria. Tunisia. Egypt. Jordan. Lebanon. Yemen. Djibouti – yes, that tiny little country too. Worries from Saudi Arabia and Syria. Maybe Kuwait.

I did a bit of research into the differences between two major Muslim groups today. Here’s an abbreviated synopsis.

“Sunnis elect, Shias appoint”

Sunni Muslims make up the majority (85%) of Muslims all over the world. They elect their leaders.

Sunni = “one who follows the traditions of the Prophet.” Sunni Muslims agree with the position taken by many of the Prophet’s companions, that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job. They believe leadership is not a birthright, but a trust that is earned and which may be given or taken away by the people themselves. No basis for veneration of leaders.

Shias (or Shi’ites) constitute only 10-15% of overall Muslim population worldwide. Their leaders are appointed by Allah or his representatives.

Shia = “a group or supportive party of people.” The commonly-known term is shortened from the historical “Shia-t-Ali,” or “the Party of Ali.” They are also known as followers of “Ahl-al-Bayt” or “People of the Household” (of the Prophet). They believe that following the Prophet Muhammad’s death, leadership should have passed directly to his cousin/son-in-law, Ali. They do not recognize authority of elected Muslim leaders, believe leadership should have stayed within the Prophet’s own family, among those specifically appointed by him, or among Imams appointed by God Himself.

Shias follow a line of Imams which they believe have been appointed by the Prophet Muhammad or God (Allah) Himself. Shias believe the Imam – such as Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran – is sinless by nature, and that his authority is infallible as it comes directly from God. They do venerate their leaders.

So, with the above in mind, let’s look at the Arab world and those countries which are in turmoil right now. (Percentages obtained from Wikipedia, may not be totally accurate.)

Although Sunni Muslims constitute 85% of all Muslims, Shias form a majority of the population in Iran, Yemen (? – see * below) and Azerbaijan, Bahrain and 60% of the population of Iraq. There are also sizable Shia communities along the east coast of Saudi Arabia and in Lebanon.

Iran – majority (89%) Shia. Ayatollah Khamenei (Iranian Supreme Leader) is a fundamentalist Shia. He supports the policies of Iran’s President Ahmadinajab, who says that the “12th Imam” is causing all the uprisings in the Arab world now so that Islam can take over the world. See Joel Rosenberg’s blog 18 Feb 2011: Ahmadinejad claims 12th Imam behind current events. http://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/

Note that Hezbollah is a Shi’ite terrorist group funded and supported by Iran and Syria. This well-known guerilla organization forced the Israelis out of southern Lebanon in 2000 and is still causing problems for Israel. Hezbollah recently caused the government of Lebanon to fall. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hezbollah

Does Iran have a hand in instigating the various Arab world riots, working behind the scenes and perhaps using Hezbollah to do it?

Bahrain – majority of the population is Shia but the King is Sunni. Extreme violence today as police opened fire on protesters, then blocked ambulances from reaching wounded.

Libya – majority Sunni but in 2007 Gaddafi said he wants all of N. Africa to be Shi’ite (in an overture to Iran) – a statement that was considered idiotic by many people in his own country. http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/2137.htm Protests in Libya turned violent today with a number of people killed and many wounded as the government cracks down on protesters.

* Yemen – 52% Sunni, 46% Shia. President is Shia. Prime Minister (appointed by President) is Sunni. Both are men of very bad reputation, associated with Saddam Hussein, terrorists.

Dijbouti – 90% of population Muslim, nearly all Sunni. President is Sunni. Has just started having protests in the streets today.

All of these protests are for better economic conditions, with food and fuel prices high and unemployment also high. Large populations of young people cannot find work after finishing their education. It doesn’t appear to matter whether the government is by a dictator, elected President, military generals or a monarch, they want the government pulled down. To be replaced by who? How, and how soon?

It looks to me like a set-up for a charismatic leader to emerge. It’s going to be an interesting year.

To follow events in these and other middle eastern countries, read “Arab Awakening” in The Star online.
http://www.thestar.com/topic/arabawakening

Post-Mubarak era dawns on Egypt
Al Jazeera online 12 Feb 2011

“…we don’t really know if Mubarak decided to step down or [if] he was forcibly removed by the armed forces…”

People power has spoken in the biggest Arab nation just four weeks after Tunisians toppled their own ageing ruler. Egyptians have woken to a new dawn after 30 years of rule under Hosni Mubarak.

Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, said on Friday in a televised address that the president was “waiving” his office, and had handed over authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Suleiman’s 50-word statement was received with a roar of approval and by celebratory chanting and flag-waving from a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, as well as by other pro-democracy campaigners who were attending protests across the country.

After 18 days of rallies at Cairo’s Tahrir Square, resisting police assaults and a last-ditch raid by Mubarak supporters, people packed not just the epicentre but, it seemed, every street and neighbourhood of the capital. Similar was the scene in other cities and towns across the country.

Fireworks lit the night sky, cars honked under swathes of red, white and black Egyptian flags and people hoisted children above their heads. Some took souvenir pictures with smiling soldiers atop their tanks on city streets. Everyone cried, laughed and embraced in the hope of a new era.

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Cairo, said that in the coming days people will have some concerns. “The obvious thing that is going to be concerning many people is to have some kind of a clear roadmap for the progress towards democratic elections,” she said. “After all this was a revolution not only to overthrow President Mubarak, but also to remove the whole system and install it with one where people would have freedom of choice with [regards to who] who runs the country.”

The top figure in Egypt is now Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the country’s defence minister and head of the supreme council. In its third statement to the nation since Thursday, the council said in a televised address that it was examining the situation “in order to materialise the aspirations of our great nation”.

Nezar al Sayyad, a Middle East specialist, told Al Jazeera that Egypt “is in a very critical stage in terms of what is going to happen next. I think it’s extremely important to remember here that although Omar Suleiman made the announcement that Mubarak made the decision to step down, we don’t really know if Mubarak decided to step down or [if] he was forcibly removed by the armed forces and by the supreme council,” Al Sayyad said.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent opposition leader, hailed the moment as being “a dream come true”. “I can’t tell you how every Egyptian feels today,” he said. “We have been able to restore our humanity … to be free and independent”….

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/201121253441731292.html

TEHRAN (FNA)- Tehran’s provisional Friday Prayers Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said the popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen signify creation of an Islamic Middle-East.

Fars News online
28 Jan 2011

“Incidents that are happening in the Middle-East and the Arab world should not be regarded simply,” Ayatollah Khatami said, addressing a large and fervent congregation of people on Tehran University campus.

“To those who do not see the realities I clarify that an Islamic Middle-East is being created based on Islam, religion, and democracy with prevailing religious principals,” Ayatollah Khatami stressed.

He was referring to the recent historic revolution in Tunisia and massive protests in Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen.

Egypt’s largest opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday called on the country’s people to continue protests. Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Essam al-Arian warned that Egypt would “explode” if the government does not listen to the people.

Meantime, Police clamped down on anti-government protesters in the Egyptian capital of Cairo on Friday.

http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8911080828

————————————-

Internet, Phones Down as Egypt Braces for ‘Day of Rage’
Fox News online 28 Jan 2011

A small gathering of Egyptian anti-government activists tried to stage a second day of protests in Cairo Wednesday in defiance of a ban on any gatherings, but police quickly moved in and used force to disperse the group.

The Internet and cell-phone data service appeared to be cut across Egypt on Friday as authorities braced for demonstrations backed by both the country’s biggest opposition group and newly returned Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.

The government deployed an elite special operations force in Cairo on Thursday night as violence escalated outside the capital, and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood called on its members to take to the streets after Friday afternoon prayers.

Uniformed security forces at least temporarily disappeared from the streets of central Cairo mid-morning Friday, but truckloads of riot police and armored cars started moving back about an hour later.

Unconfirmed reports circulated early Friday on Twitter that police were splashing gas around key squares ready to set them alight when protesters approached.

The Muslim Brotherhood said at least five of its leaders and five former members of parliament had been arrested. The group’s lawyer, Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud, and spokesman, Walid Shalaby, said a large number of rank-and-file Brotherhood members also had been detained.

Egypt’s four primary Internet providers — Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr — all stopped moving data in and out of the country at 12:34 a.m., according to a network security firm monitoring the traffic. Telecom experts said Egyptian authorities could have engineered the cutoff with a simple change to the instructions for the companies’ networking equipment.

The Internet appeared to remain cut off Friday morning, and cell-phone text and Blackberry Messenger services were all cut or operating sporadically in what appeared to be a move by authorities to disrupt the organization of demonstrations.

Egyptians outside the country were posting updates on Twitter after getting information in voice calls from people inside the country. Many urged their friends to keep up the flow of information over the phones.

The developments were a sign that President Hosni Mubarak’s regime is toughening its crackdown following the biggest protests in years against his nearly 30-year rule.

The counter-terror force, rarely seen on the streets, took up positions in strategic locations, including central Tahrir Square, site of the biggest demonstrations this week.

The real test for the protest movement will be whether Egypt’s fragmented opposition can come together, with Friday’s rallies expected to be some of the biggest so far.

The movement’s momentum appeared to gather Thursday with the return of Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Social networking sites were abuzz that the gatherings called after Friday prayers could attract huge numbers of protesters demanding the ouster of Mubarak. Millions gather at mosques across the city on Fridays, giving organizers a vast pool of people to tap into.

The 82-year-old Mubarak has not been seen in public or heard from since the protests began Tuesday with tens of thousands marching in Cairo and a string of other cities. While he may still have a chance to ride out this latest challenge, his choices are limited, and all are likely to lead to a loosening of his grip on power.

Violence escalated on Thursday at protests outside the capital. In the flashpoint city of Suez, along the strategic Suez Canal, protesters torched a fire station and looted weapons that they then turned on police. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that more than 90 police officers were injured in those clashes. There were no immediate figures on the number of injured protesters.

In the northern Sinai area of Sheik Zuweid, several hundred Bedouins and police exchanged gunfire, killing a 17-year-old. About 300 protesters surrounded a police station from rooftops of nearby buildings and fired two rocket-propelled grenades at it, damaging the walls.

The United States, Mubarak’s main Western backer, has been publicly counseling reform and an end to the use of violence against protesters, signs the Egyptian leader may no longer be enjoying Washington’s full backing.

In an interview broadcast live on YouTube, President Barack Obama said the anti-government protests filling the streets show the frustrations of Egypt’s citizens. “It is very important that people have mechanisms in order to express their grievances,” Obama said.

On its website, the Muslim Brotherhood said it would join “with all the national Egyptian forces, the Egyptian people, so that this coming Friday will be the general day of rage for the Egyptian nation.”

The Brotherhood has sought to depict itself as a force pushing for democratic change in Egypt’s authoritarian system, and is trying to shed an image among critics that it aims to seize power and impose Islamic law. The group was involved in political violence for decades until it renounced violence in the 1970s.

ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog and a leading Mubarak opponent, has sought to recreate himself as a pro-democracy campaigner in his homeland. He is viewed by some supporters as a figure capable of uniting the country’s fractious opposition and providing the movement with a road map for the future.

Speaking to reporters Thursday before his departure for Cairo, ElBaradei said: “If people, in particular young people, … want me to lead the transition, I will not let them down. My priority right now … is to see a new regime and to see a new Egypt through peaceful transition.”

Once on Egyptian soil, he struck a conciliatory note. “We’re still reaching out to the regime to work with them for the process of change. Every Egyptian doesn’t want to see the country going into violence,” he said.

With Mubarak out of sight, the ruling National Democratic Party said Thursday it was ready for a dialogue with the public but offered no concessions to address demands for a solution to rampant poverty, unemployment and political change.

Its comments were likely to reinforce the belief held by many protesters that Mubarak’s regime is incapable, or unwilling, to introduce reforms that will meet their demands. That could give opposition parties an opening to win popular support if they close ranks and promise changes sought by the youths at the forefront of the unrest.

Mubarak has not said yet whether he will stand for another six-year term as president in elections this year. He has never appointed a deputy and is thought to be grooming his son Gamal to succeed him despite popular opposition. According to leaked U.S. memos, hereditary succession also does not meet with the approval of the powerful military.

Mubarak has seen to it that no viable alternative to him has been allowed to emerge. Constitutional amendments adopted in 2005 by the NDP-dominated parliament has made it virtually impossible for independents like ElBaradei to run for president.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/01/27/egypt-restricts-internet-access-bolsters-security-forces-anticipation-future/#ixzz1CKj38RyJ

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 23, 2011, 5:47 PM (GMT+02:00)

Less than 24 hours after the breakdown of its nuclear dialogue with the six world powers in Istanbul, Iran announced plans Sunday, Jan. 23, to send a fleet of warships, including a home-made destroyer, on operational and intelligence-gathering missions to the Red Sea and on to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal.

Debkafile’s military sources: Parts of the fleet will in fact be deployed in the three waters around Israel’s southern and western shores.

Tehran is taking advantage of the lack of military and diplomatic momentum on the part of US and Israel for a naval thrust to expand its range of operations and encroach on their areas of control.

It is also a rapid response to the arrival of the USS Enterprise carrier with a strike group carrying 6,000 sailors and marines and 80 warplanes in the Mediterranean at the end of last week on its way to the Arabian Sea opposite Iran.

British ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s call on the West to stop apologizing and react to Iran with force was not lost on the rulers of the Islamic Republic.

The Navy Commander, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari spoke of three or four vessels including Iran’s first home-made destroyer, Jamaran, with back-up operational units standing by for urgent support missions.

His deputy, Rear-Admiral Gholam Reza Bi-Gham said the deployment would last about a year and at some future time, long-distance submarines would join the fleet.

Since Nov. 2008, the Iranian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols between the Gulf of Aden Straits of Bab al-Mandeb off Yemen so some of its units are not far away.

Both admirals reported that a flotilla of Iranian naval officer cadets would soon be dispatched to the Mediterranean and Red Seas to gain experience in these new areas and gather intelligence.

Iran recently purchased three Kilo class submarines from Russia and is using them in the Persian Gulf. Debkafile’s military sources report they belong to a bygone generation of subs and lack advanced electronic systems, making it hard for them to stay deep down underwater for long periods without surfacing.

For two years, Iranian military shipyards have been building miniature submarines, war ships and fast assault craft. Most Western naval give them low ratings in performance especially in view of their outdated electronics.

Debkafile’s military sources, however, estimate that if deployed in support of the warships assigned to the Mediterranean and Red Seas, those mini-submarines and assault craft could be extremely troublesome and give plenty of headaches to American, Israel and Egyptian naval commanders.

http://www.debka.com/article/20580/

Image: Natural gas rig off the coast of Haifa, Israel. Photo credit: Noble Energy.

Excerpted from Joel Rosenberg email update 31 Dec 2010

“… a trail of prophetic clues found in the Hebrew Scriptures that some believe (myself included) indicate that in the “last days” the nation of Israel will be blessed by discovering huge reserves of petroleum that will make Israel quite wealthy.

Those clues suggest Israel will be able to “dip his foot in oil” and draw “oil from the flinty rock.” The Jewish people will find “hidden treasures in the sand” and an “abundance of the seas.” This newfound wealth in the last days will certainly be a blessing for Israel, but it will also draw enemies and may very well help trigger the “War of Gog and Magog” when the nations ask the leaders of the Russian-Iranian alliance that comes against the Jewish state, “Have you come to capture spoil [from Israel]? Have you assembled your [military forces] to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold….to capture a great spoil?”

Are such prophecies now coming to pass? Are such headlines further evidence that we are living in the “last days” before the return of our Lord Jesus Christ? It’s a story worth keeping an eye on, to be sure. ”

Joel’s weblog: http://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com

—————————————

Discovery of giant gasfield sparks frenzy in Israel
The National online 31 Dec 2010

The discovery of the largest gasfield in the eastern Mediterranean set off a frenzy yesterday in Israel, which has long depended on imported energy.

The Leviathan field, estimated to hold 16 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas worth more than US$95 billion (Dh348.93bn), was discovered by Noble Energy and its partners 130km offshore from Haifa, the northern Israeli port.

The discovery will “impact many fields in Israel,” Uzi Landau, Israel’s infrastructure minister, said after the announcement.The discovery is almost three times as large as the nearby Tamar gasfield that a group led by Noble struck two years ago.

It is four times as big as Egypt’s largest gasfield and eight times larger than the Gaza Marine gasfield…

The twin Tamar and Leviathan discoveries mean Israel has more than enough gas to fuel its power stations for decades. It currently depends on Egypt for much of its gas supply.

Israel’s gas find has sparked a trading frenzy in Tel Aviv and New York. The shekel gained as much as 0.8 percent to 3.5432 per dollar, the highest level since October 2008.

Shares of local oil and gas companies have shot up this year, but many pulled back yesterday as investors realised that the path to bringing Leviathan’s gas on stream might not be smooth.

One factor is that Noble, based in the US, and its Israeli partners, Delek Energy, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration, are nervous about the deteriorating environment for oil and gas investment in Israel.

“Realising the potential of Leviathan requires from the developers enormous investment in infrastructure to export gas,” said Gideon Tadmor, the chief executive of Delek Energy, a unit of Delek Group.

Yoram Turbowitz, the group’s chief executive, told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper he was experiencing “a sense of success mixed with worry and concern that we will not be able to utilise the huge discovery … to its limits”.

“[It] will demand enormous investment in infrastructure. The state will need to assist with regulations, planning and accompanying what will become the largest infrastructure project in the country,” he added….

At least part of the 325 square kilometres covered by the Leviathan field lies within waters contested between Israel and Lebanon. The two neighbours do not have diplomatic relations and their maritime border has not been formally demarcated. Beirut stated this year that part of the Leviathan prospect lay within Lebanese territory.

In August, Lebanon’s government passed the country’s first oil exploration law. Gibran Bassil, the oil minister, said the first auction of offshore exploration licences could be held just over a year from now.

The border disputes may not stop there. This month, Israel and Cyprus reached an accord on their border that was promptly rejected by Turkey.

http://www.thenational.ae/business/energy/discovery-of-giant-gasfield-sparks-frenzy-in-israel?pageCount=0

(Did you ever wonder about scriptures suggesting Russia will come against Israel in the last days? Here are some clues as to why that might be: Tamar, Dalit and Leviathan Mediterranean gas fields. Be sure to read both articles below.)

Russian President Medvedev to visit Israel in mid-January
DEBKAfile December 15, 2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s first visit to Israel in mid-January, part of a Middle East tour, is intended to signify a major switch in Kremlin Middle East policy to warmer relations with Israel and correspondingly less intense ties with Iran, Syria and the radical Palestinian Hamas….

Furthermore, the Russians have got two bids in play for a slice of the as-yet untapped Mediterranean gas. While offering to partner Lebanon in exploring the oil and gas potential opposite its shores earlier this month, Debkafile’s sources report that the Russian energy giant Gazprom sent secret envoys to Tel Aviv at the same time.

They came to discuss investment opportunities with the Israeli firms holding the concessions for the Tamar, Dalit and Leviathan Mediterranean gas fields off the Israeli shore and a possible partnership in Israel’s Ashkelon-Eilat oil and gas pipelines.

According to our sources, Russian energy experts calculate that Israel’s offshore gas reserves, currently estimated at about 25 trillion cubic feet, are in fact much bigger, and maintain they could be better explored with Russian professional assistance. Leviathan is seen as the most promising of the three strikes….

Moscow sent five messages to Jerusalem:

1. For the purchase of military UAVs for the Russian army – for which an agreement will be signed – Moscow will guarantee to withhold advanced weapons, such as the sophisticated S-300 interceptor missile systems, from Iran and Syria. By this move, the Medvedev-Putin administration is drawing a line limiting Russia’s vital contribution to their military buildup and upgrade.

2. Moscow shares Israel’s view that any hi-tech Russian military hardware sold to Damascus or Tehran would eventually reach Hizballah. The Russians have no wish to upgrade Hizballah’s arsenal and therefore has a further incentive for keeping this weaponry out of Iranian and Syrian hands.

3. The Kremlin has recently shifted ground on the Palestinian issue and is no longer willing to automatically endorse Palestinian demands of Israel. Unlike Palestinian negotiators headed by Mahmoud Abbas, Moscow is prepared to look at interim solutions for the Palestinian-Israel dispute. The Russians say the Palestinians are aware of the new winds blowing in Moscow….

4. The Russians ask Israel to take note of another change in its favor: Hamas’s Damascus-based leader Khaled Meshaal is no longer welcome in Moscow.

5. Moscow is seeking to exploit the deepening strategic ties between Israel and Greece to jump aboard their plans to build an underwater gas pipeline linking Greece to the Israeli Mediterranean port of Ashkelon. This would link up with the existing Ashkelon oil and gas pipeline to Eilat, Israel’s Red Sea port.

Russian energy strategists are eyeing the planned and existing segments of this route with great interest, having calculated that the quickest and cheapest outlet for marketing Russian gas to the Far East is through Eilat.

Israeli leaders, President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have high hopes of the Medvedev visit.

http://www.debka.com/article/20457/

——————————-

Moscow, Ankara move in on Lebanon’s offshore energy potential
DEBKAfile December 8, 2010

Photo: An effusive Kremlin welcome for Lebanese PM Hariri. With his sharp instincts for chances in the field of energy, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was stirred into discreet action by Israeli entrepreneurs’ discovery in the past year of a gas bonanza – three fields, dubbed Tamar, Dalit and Leviathan, off Israel’s Mediterranean coast, Debkafile’s Moscow sources report.

Their currently estimated reserves of 25 trillion cubic feet would more than cover Israel’s energy needs and enable it to become a gas exporter, revolutionizing an economy which has developed despite a paucity of natural resources.

Neither did Putin miss Beirut’s claim that Israel was “looting” Lebanese gas resources, or that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri had encountered a polite rejection when he travelled to Nicosia on Oct. 21 to ask Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias for help in mapping the borders of oil and gas fields in the Mediterranean.

Moscow accordingly went into action by inviting Hariri for a visit, which took place Nov. 16-17. With his back to the wall in a life-and-death struggle to save his government from falling into the hands of Hizballah, the Lebanese prime minister was granted the rare honor of an elaborate welcome by both Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev.

The Russian prime minister then pitched into his spiel: Moscow could help Lebanon place itself on the map of oil and gas fields and pipelines in the eastern Mediterranean. But to exploit its oil and gas wealth under the sea, Lebanon needed Russia as energy partner and provider of funds, equipment and skilled labor.

Russia would reciprocate with heavy investments in the Lebanese economy that would restore Beirut to its former prestige as financial capital of the Middle East and an assured supply of advanced weapons at token prices to secure those investments.

None of this prevented the Russian prime minister from sending a delegation to Tel Aviv last week to sound out Israel’s gas new tycoons for opportunities. On offer were Russian investments in funds and equipment and a Russian-Israeli partnership in laying the gas pipeline which Israel and Greece are planning as part of their evolving strategic alliance.

The Lebanese prime minister left Moscow with an understanding in his pocket on three points. As a mark of Russian goodwill, he was promised the gift of six MI 24 helicopters 31 T-72 tanks, 36 130 mm cannons complete with half a million shells and thirty thousand artillery shells – an unprecedented donation to a country outside Moscow’s sphere of influence. Their understanding extended to three key areas:

1. They would discuss big Russian firms building a number of gas-powered electricity plants in Lebanon, backed by Kremlin guarantees and financing – against a Lebanese guarantee to purchase their output over a 30-year period.

2. The Russian-built Arab Gas Pipeline Project Phase II, designed to bring gas from Egypt and run through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, would grow a Lebanese branch. On Dec. 5, a Kremlin official said: “We want to study a possibility of gas shipment from Syria to Lebanon, for example, by using the Arab Gas Pipeline capacity.”

3. Moscow offered to build three nuclear power plants in Turkey.

The second understanding was the real reason for Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Beirut Wednesday, Nov. 24 and his talks with Hariri. Erdogan now has a new interest in defusing the tensions in Lebanon and keeping Hariri in power.

Debkafile’s military sources say that, in addition to his abiding interest in energy, Vladimir Putin keeps his eye on the big Russian naval base going up in Tartous, Syria. As headquarters of the Russian Black Sea and Mediterranean fleets, this base will also guard Moscow’s investments and holdings in gas and oil fields in the Mediterranean.

http://www.debka.com/article/20435/

DEBKAfile Special Report November 1, 2010

Hizballah last Thursday, Oct. 28, conducted a command exercise in all parts of Lebanon to test its armed militia’s readiness for what its leaders called “zero hour;” i.e. asserting its grip on Lebanon and “cornering” Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Debkafile’s military sources report the exercise took all day and led up to the sabre-rattling speech delivered by Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah that night, which was interpreted by all Lebanese factions interpreted as a declaration of war on their government and the prologue to heating up the border with Israel.

(To read our Oct. 30 report on the speech and its impact, click here: http://www.debka.com/article/9115/)

The Shiite terrorist group made no bones about the reasons for its war stance – just the opposite:

1. Hizballah found it necessary to answer the Israel Defense Forces’ recent “electronic exercise,” in keeping with a top-level Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah decision never to leave any American or Israel military step without response.

2. It was a practice for the military action planned for the hours leading up to the Special Lebanese Tribunal’s issuance of indictments against Hizballah leaders for complicity in the assassination of Lebanese ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri five years ago.

The “zero hour” exercise demonstrated, according to Hizballah sources, “the quick implementation on the ground” of the necessary deployment. They claimed that in “less than two hours” they were able to “maintain a security and military grip of large areas of Lebanon.”

Our sources note that this is the first time Hizballah has leveled publicly about its plan for seizing control of Lebanon by force of arms – even without waiting for the STL indictments to be issued. The disclosure was made five days after the critical command exercise in order to establish a fact. It took advantage of a moment when its key opponents were otherwise engaged.

President Barack Obama has his hands full with the Democrats’ sliding rating in polls ahead of the Nov. 2 midterm elections to Congress.

Saudi King Abdullah had an eye on an ambitious initiative to convene a national conciliation conference of all Iraqi factions for breaking the long impasse over the formation of a new government in Baghdad. The Saudi king was seeking an al-Arab breakthrough that would push Iran off the board.

And in Jerusalem, political circles in Jerusalem are full engaged in the trivia of domestic scandal, such as the illegal employment of a foreign worker at Defense Minster Ehud Barak’s home or endless bickering over the stipends for yeshiva students with families.

Hizballah also feels it can safely send its gunmen out on the streets of Beirut and vent its ire on Israel without being jumped on by Western media because they are all totally absorbed in al Qaeda’s bomb package plot and its intercontinental ramifications.

http://www.debka.com/article/9118/

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
October 12, 2010

Chinese Su-27 over Iran and TurkeyThe arrival of a new Middle East player startled Washington and Jerusalem: debkafile’s military sources disclose that when Turkish Prime Minister Tayyep Erdogan met Syrian president Bashar Assad in Damascus Monday, Oct. 11, they talked less about the Kurdish question and more about the role China is willing to play in the military-intelligence alliance binding Syria, Iran and Turkey.

Erdogan took the credit for China’s unfolding involvement in the alliance in the role of big-power backer. Two recent events illustrate Beijing’s intent:

1. From Sept. 20 to Oct. 6, the Turkish Air Force conducted its regular annual Anatolian Eagle exercise, this time without US and Israeli participation. Israel was not invited and America opted out. However, their place was taken by Chinese Sukhoi Su-27 and Mig-29 warplanes making their first appearance in Turkish skies.

Our military sources report that the Chinese warplanes began touching down at the big Konya air base in central Turkey in mid-September for their debut performance in the Middle East and Europe. Konya has served NATO and the United States for decades as one of their most important air bases.

2. Our sources add that the Chinese planes refueled only once on their journey to Turkey – in Iran. When they touched down at the Gayem al-Mohammad air base in central Iran, their crews were made welcome by the Iranian air force commander Gen. Ahmad Migani.

It was the first time Chinese fighter-bombers are known to have visited the Islamic Republic.

The Gayem al-Mohammed facility, located near the town of Birjand in South Khorasan, is situated directly opposite the big American base of East Afghanistan near the Afghan-Iranian border town of Herat.

The Turkish prime minister painted the military alliance binding Tehran, Ankara and Damascus in rosy colors for Assad’s benefit as more central to the region and more powerful than Israel’s armed forces after overcoming the IDF’s military edge.

If you can’t bomb them from above, bomb them from within… their computer control systems, that is.

Deadly new Stuxnet, soldier in cyber war against Iranian nuclear facilities
DEBKAfile 23 Sept 2010

Debkafile’s military and intelligence sources note US press leaks appearing since Monday, Sept. 20, which maintain that the United States has embarked on a clandestine cyber war against Iran, and that Israel has established elite cyber war units for this purpose.

According to Washington sources, Obama has resolved to deal with the nuclear impasse with Iran by going after the Islamic republic on two tracks: UN and unilateral sanctions for biting deep into the financial resources Iran has earmarked for its nuclear program, and a secret cyber war which the US is conducting jointly with Israel for crippling its nuclear facilities.

Debkafile’s sources disclose that Israel has had special elite units carrying out such assignments for some time. Three years ago, for instance, cyber raiders played a role in the destruction of the plutonium reactor North Korea was building at A-Zur in northern Syria.

On Monday the Christian Science Monitor and several American technical journals carried revelations about a new virus called Stuxnet capable of attacking and severely damaging the servers of large projects, such as power stations and nuclear reactors. All the leaked reports agreed on three points:

1. Stuxnet is the most advanced and dangerous piece of Malware every devised.
2. The experts don’t believe any private or individual hackers are capable of producing this virus, only a high-tech state such as America or Israel.
3. Although Stuxnet was identified four months ago, the only servers known to have been affected and seriously damaged are located in Iran.

Some computer security specialists report lively speculation that the virus was invented specifically to target part of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure, either the Bushehr nuclear plant activated last month or the centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Debkafile’s sources add: Since August, American and UN nuclear watchdog sources have been reporting a slowdown in Iran’s enrichment processing due to technical problems which have knocked out a large number of centrifuges and which its nuclear technicians have been unable to repair. It is estimated that at Natanz alone, 3,000 centrifuges have been idled.

None of the reports indicate whether other parts of Iran’s nuclear program have been affected by Stuxnet or the scale of the damage it may have caused.