DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 10, 2006
Israel's prime minister Ehud Olmert embarks on a European tour this week that takes him first to Rome and the Vatican, then to Berlin Tuesday, Dec. 12.
In an interview with the German Der Spiegel, Saturday Dec. 9, he expressed the hope that the international community would take firmer action against Iranian president Ahmed Ahmadinejad for seeking to wipe Israel of the map. "Such talk is criminal," he said.
Questioned on Iran's nuclear program, Olmert said he does not object to the proposal to engage Tehran in direct talks if they lead to the program's suspension.
As to an Israeli pre-emptive military attack on Iran, the prime minister said: "I rule nothing out."
If Olmert's Der Spiegel interview is Israel's definitive commentary on the new ground Gates has broken in US foreign policy, Ahmanidejad may be forgiven for assuming that Israel has nothing to say to his threats and Putin for believing he can get away with evasions on effective sanctions against Iran.
Timid diplomatic rhetoric will no longer serve. debkafile's military sources say the time has come for Israel to talk as though it has arrows in its quiver and is capable of using them.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 2, 2006
The artificial efforts to keep the lid on violence while US president George W. Bush was in the region Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 29-30 for talks on Iraq, were abandoned as soon as he boarded Air Force One for Washington. This was predicted by Jordan's King Abdullah when he warned that three civil wars were on the point of erupting in the Middle East.
Saturday, Dec. 2, Mahmoud Abbas updated the PLO Executive Committee in Ramallah on the collapse of his unity talks with Hamas, after advising US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice of the stalemate in Jericho Friday, Dec. 1.
Fatah spokesman Azzam al Ahmad came out and called the Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya to step down or else Abu Mazen would have to call an early election to solve the constitutional crisis. Ismail Radwan of Hamas shot back that this kind of talk inflamed relations and would treated as a coup threat.
Fatah was blowing in the wind. It lacks both the popular and parliamentary numbers to bring about an early poll.
The threat is out in the open: If Abu Mazen tries to dismiss the Hamas cabinet and call a new election, Hamas will resume its Qassam missile war against Israel, calibrating the level of fire to the state of affairs on the internal Palestinian front.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 27, 2006
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One of the most pressing pieces of business the US president George W. Bush must tackle in Amman later this week is the demand for an international conference on Iraq which must be dominated by a built-in agenda on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. Palestinian leaders, picking up the new tones in Washington, decided to cash in by announcing the cessation of Hamas' Qassam missile attacks on Israeli civilian locations, starting Sunday, Nov. 26.
Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, loath to relinquish the high diplomatic ground to the Palestinians, promised Monday that after the kidnapped Israeli soldier is released, Israel will free many jailed Palestinians, including long term prisoners, as a confidence-building gesture to prove Israel seeks peace. As soon as a Palestinian unity government is formed, Olmert said, immediate negotiations could start with Mahmoud Abbas on the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly disclosed on November 24 that the brain behind this new strategy belongs to Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to three Republican presidents, the live wire behind the latest US foreign policy departures and the pivotal figure behind the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group.
This panel - which submits its final report to Congress on Dec. 10 - recommends an international conference on Iraq attended by leaders from Europe, Russia, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and the main Muslim nations.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 22, 2006
debkafile's military sources disclose that Israel's security cabinet decided Wednesday, Nov. 22, that there is no option but to launch a major offensive against Hamas and its terrorist allies in the Gaza Strip - both to pre-empt their war build-up and reduce Qassam missile attacks, which climbed to 80 in the last 10 days. The date remains to be set.
The prime minister was finally convinced that the time for foot-dragging was over by intelligence data which showed Hamas hectically engaged in constructing state of the art fortifications for withstanding deep incursions into the Gaza Strip. They are assisted by dozens of military advisers pouring in from Syria and Lebanon.
As Palestinian missile attacks on the Israeli population proliferate, Sderot's distress becomes intolerable and the popular clamor rises to curb the menace, the IDF has switched its counter-missile tactics in the Gaza Strip. Instead of the air force, special ground forces backed by Shin Bet units are spearheading strikes which target top Hamas missile commanders.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 16, 2006
debkafile's military experts dispute the common Israeli government assertion that there is no way to stop the Qassam offensive against Sderot. They offer two solutions which do not entail reoccupying the entire Gaza Strip or Beit Hanoun, or using artillery to bombard civilian locations.
One is the deployment of small commando units across the Egyptian border in northern Sinai. These units would pre-empt the smuggling by attacking the convoys of weapons and funds and blowing them up before they reach the Gaza border.
The same tactic is applicable to the Gaza Strip.
Swarms of Israeli commando units should fill the areas from which the Qassam missiles are fired, including orchards. Ambushes at every corner will deter the missile crews and make them afraid of being liquidated on their way to launchings. This tactic was tried only once before in a location outside Beit Lahiya, next door to Beit Hanoun. It caused heavy casualties among the Palestinian gunmen and the Qassam teams gave this location a wide berth for some time.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 7, 2006
"Operation Autumn Clouds" wound down early Tuesday, 7 Nov. after Israeli forces occupied the northern Gazan town of Beit Hanoun for six days, for the loss of an Israeli soldier, 1st Sgt Kiril Golanshin, 21, from Shekef. Most of the 58 Palestinians killed were armed Hamas adherents.
In Beit Hanoun, the Givaty Armored Infantry Brigade and smaller units demonstrated a new combat method which Israeli special forces first tested in the Aug.1 raid on Baalbek during the Lebanon War, adding improvements for the Gaza operation. Police anti-terror squads joined the operation for practice.
The tactic consists essentially of select groups of elite fighters swooping at speed on defined populated urban areas for pinpointed missions. This method is part of the tradition of the select IDF commando units called Sayarot. In Gaza, Givaty applied the same tactic to larger units of up to brigade and battalion strength.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 23, 2006
Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert informed the nation Sunday night: "Our soldiers will be trained to stand up to the threats confronting us, principally from Iran, and we have already started work." Already, he said. So what have "we" been doing till now? Handing the Gaza Strip to the Iranian-armed Hamas?
He was addressing a group of his Kadima party followers.
The new star poised to expand the government coalition this week, Israeli Beitenu's Avigdor Lieberman, added his two bits: "I'm joining he government," he said "to save Israel from the Iranian nuclear (threat)."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 4, 2006
On Yom Kippur, Oct. 2, 24 hours after the last Israeli soldier left South Lebanon and the day before UNIFIL published its rules of engagement, Hizballah placed roadblocks on all the approaches to the central sector of the South and the entrances to the towns and villages reoccupied by its forces and their rocket units.
debkafile's exclusive military and Western intelligence sources report that neither the Lebanese army which moved south nor the international peacekeepers of UNIFIL venture to set foot in these enclaves. Nor did they raise a finger to block the first broad-daylight consignment of advanced Iranian weapons to be delivered in Lebanon via Syria since the August 14 ceasefire.
The Olmert government fully colludes in reducing this body to the same ineffectiveness as it displayed in the 28 years leading up to the Lebanon War. By their silence and passivity, Israeli leaders hope to hide the true outcome of that bungled campaign from Israeli and world opinion. Foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who proudly held up the UN force's deployment as the war's only success and the formula for Israel's successful exit strategy, has strangely been struck dumb.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 1, 2006
Only one third of the 15,000 international peacekeepers the UN Security Council pledged for an expanded UNIFIL has in fact been deployed in South Lebanon. And even that paltry force has made no effort to stop Hizballah restoring its presence and replenishing its stocks of rockets and missiles to points in South Lebanon within firing range of Israel. In most ways, therefore, UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of Aug. 14 is a dead letter.
While withdrawing the bulk of its force gradually, Israel kept the last units behind in a futile effort to persuade UNIFIL commanders to uphold key provisions of the resolution. They refused even the minimal demand to restrict Hizballah's military movements along the Israeli border. They claimed they could only act with the permission of the Lebanese government. By finally giving way on this point, the Israeli government accepted the determination that UNIFIL is the instrument of the Lebanese government - not the enforcer of UN resolutions or Israeli security.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 13, 2006
Israel`s prime minister stands by his refusal to establish an independent commission with the judicial authority to fix responsibility for an admitted Israeli defeat on both the military and the home fronts. Maybe he is right; the politicians and military leaders still hope to get away with the blunders of the Lebanon war, although their responsibility is in plain sight and the subject of discourse in every part of the country, except where it counts. Rather than owning up to gross misgovernment and negligence, those same political and military leaders are playing the blame game, while at the same time laying down a smokescreen to protect themselves from public rancor.
Maj.-Gen Udi Adam's belated resignation as OC Northern command exposes his superiors in the chain of command - the chief of staff, the defense minister and ultimately, the prime minister - to intensified pressure to step down and assume responsibility for the mismanagement of the Lebanon War. The manner of their going and who should be blamed for what are less urgent for Israel now than the fact that its enemies, Iran and al Qaeda, are no doubt keeping a close watch on the infighting among these decision-makers in order to fix on the right moment for their move.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 12, 2006
Mahmoud Abbas, who carries the formal title of President of the Palestinian Authority, is pushing hard for a government coalition between his own Fatah and the ruling Hamas. The incentive for Hamas' prime minister Ismail Haniyeh is the prospect of an escape from the international boycott and aid embargo dogging his government. But extremist supreme leader Khaled Meshaal who is based in Damascus is unlikely to let him run very far.
Abu Mazen knows the unity government is a non-starter because it would carry with it only a small group of Hamas leaders and leave the Islamist movement fatally split. The military arm ruled by Meshaal, Damascus and Tehran would soon eliminate Haniyeh as a renegade.
But when he looks around him, Abbas sees no reason why he too should not try and hawk non-existent merchandize like everyone else.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 25, 2006
Whereas Israel initially conceived of a multinational force as a guarantee of its border security against terrorist attack and a boost for the Lebanese army to displace Hizballah, the European governments contributing contingents to this force have their own ideas - and interests.
Less than two weeks into the UN-brokered ceasefire, the swiftly-evolving situation in Lebanon is casting the international force in the role of protector and shield for the rapid buildup of a new, beefed up Iranian-Hizballah military deployment in Lebanon up to the Israeli border.
The force dubbed by Kofi Annan UNIFIL-2 has no operational plan to enforce the UN arms embargo which would entail stemming the heavy flow of Iranian arms shipments entering Lebanon day by day along two Syrian tracks.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 15, 2006
President George W. Bush and prime minister Ehud Olmert in speeches on Aug. 13 laid down the law on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. Bush said the motion marked a pivotal moment in the Middle East and would end Hizballah's state within a state.
This term was borrowed from an earlier Lebanon reality: The stranglehold Yasser Arafat's PLO held on South Lebanon and Beirut in the 1970s.
Tuesday morning, an Israeli spokesman emphasized that Hassan Narallah "must" obey the Security Council resolution. If he failed to do so, Israel "would have to do the job."
debkafile's exclusive sources in Beirut report that Nasrallah's machinations represent a reality which is a world away from this kind of rhetoric.
debkafile's sources add: Scrutiny of the refugees flooding back to the south since the ceasefire declared Monday morning by Israel shows that this traffic was kicked off by the massive transfer of Hizballah's cohorts to the south in the guise of distressed refugees.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 12, 2006
Israeli forces are pressing forward with the wide-scale operation against Hizballah which debkafile reports was launched four days ago on Wednesday, Aug. 8.
The campaign will continue until the ceasefire called for in Security Resolution 1701 approved Friday, Aug. 11, is enforced on the ground - if and when that happens.
It is carried forward by four expanded divisions of 11 brigades, about 12,000 fighting men. Head of the Ground Forces Branch Maj.-Gen Benny Gantz is leading the IDF's South Lebanon command.
The first stage of the new operation has succeeded in its objective of encircling Hizballah's 1,500-strong force in a large swathe stretching from the Litani River in the north, to Tyre in the southwest.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 12, 2006
"That's the best we can do for you," US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice told Ehud Olmert Friday, Aug. 11, after 15 UN Security Council members unanimously endorsed the revised US-French resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities in Lebanon.
One of the resolution`s demands is for the withdrawal of Israeli troops "in parallel" with the deployment of Lebanese forces for taking control of the south. Israeli soldiers are thus required to pull out before the arrival of the beefed up UN force.
The call for an "unconditional release" of the two Israeli soldiers, whose July 12 abduction sparked the conflict, is not accompanied by any tangible steps for its implementation.
There will be an uncertain interim period as Israeli forces stay in place to make sure no vacuum is formed for Hizballah to recover its positions before the ceasefire is enforced on the ground - as and when this happens. However, the UN secretary is required to report back to the Security Council within a week on how well its resolution has been implemented.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 10, 2006
Hassan Nasrallah's recorded statement over Hizballah's Al Manar television Wednesday night, August 9, at 20:15 local time, had a nail-biting audience: US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in Washington, French president Jacques Chirac at the Elysee in Paris, prime minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem and his Lebanese counterpart Fouad Siniora in Beirut.
debkafile's military sources note that Nasrallah in throwing down the gauntlet is undertaking the biggest gamble of his life. A defeat at Israeli hands would finish him and his militia off for the foreseeable future. At the same time, he does not have to beat Israel to claim victory; it is enough for him to hold on for another month and keep up his rocket offensive against northern Israel to come out on top.
Nasrallah is not the only side throwing all his chips on the table; so too is Ehud Olmert. The Israeli army has had a bad month, culminating Wednesday in the highest death toll on the battlefield in 30 days - 15 dead and 34 injured - 7 seriously. Nine belonged to special operations units.
Olmert will be gambling on the IDF's ability to wrench the wheel round and start winning.
But if Hizballah forces in the south are not subdued and the rocket blitz continues, the war will intensify and Israeli forces will be in trouble. So too will Olmert.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 8, 2006
Tuesday night, Aug. 8, the UN Security Council was to begin discussing a resolution drafted by the US and France calling for a full cessation of hostilities based on the immediate halt of all Hizballah's attacks and immediate end of all Israeli offensive military operations.
An Arab League delegation arrived at the UN in time to overshadow the deliberations with a strong representation of the Lebanese position, which insists on an Israel's withdrawal after a ceasefire starts.
France pushed for two changes in the original text to address the Arab-Lebanese demands: one, calling for the Israeli pullout before an international force is in place, the other, the handover of the tiny disputed Shebaa Farms enclave to UN. And France, as the Bush administration's conduit to Hizballah and Tehran, may be heeded.
Of course, Israel is still free to accept or reject these terms.
Until it is decided which way diplomacy is going, both Hizballah and Israel will intensify their effort to gain the upper hand on the battlefield.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 5, 2006
In the middle of the fourth week of the Lebanon War, the tide began to turn in Israel's favor. debkafile's military sources report the battlefield finally responded to the effect of Israel's air might, its tank columns, the pounding by mobile artillery and naval craft and its repeated armored infantry assaults.
But as soon as Israeli ground forces shifted to the massive, long-distance firing mode which they knows best, the impact on the warfront was immediate. The battle went their way with a minimum of casualties. In places where Israeli troops adhered to the close combat tactics practiced in the first three weeks, they continued to suffer high casualties.
Hizballah soon showed signs of distress. Lacking the weapons and resources to stand up to IDF's precise-shooting juggernaut, their commanders quickly pulled their men out most combat sectors of South Lebanon and ordered them to regroup in five places.
Hizballah's shadowy leader, the long-wanted Imad Mughniyeh, was hurriedly appointed commander of the southern front as a last resort to save South Lebanon from falling to Israel.
As to the rocket barrage, as long as Iran`s airlift is not severed by bombing the Syrian stopover air facilities, Iran will continue to top up Hizballah's stockpile.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 2, 2006
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Israel's audacious commando raid of a Hizballah stronghold near Baalbek more than 100 km north of the border recalled the old panache associated with Israeli military feats in the past. However the 22 days of the Lebanon war have shown an army hampered and slowed down by tactical and intelligence deficiencies which showed up in the costly Maroun er-Ras and Bin Jubeil operations in South Lebanon - and again this week in the Ayta a-Chaab battle.
The officers direct most of their criticism at the Northern Command's handling of the war, arguing that the IDF should have kicked off the entire campaign with a series of audacious assaults like Tuesday's Baalbek operation so as to catch Hizballah off-balance.
On July 28, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 263 cited its military analysts on the IDF's six principal failings in the Lebanon war.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 1, 2006
When on Monday, July 31, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert told the city leaders of the rocket-blitzed north: "The war goes on. There will be no ceasefire in the coming days!" the script was ready for the next stage of the Israeli offensive to its push Hizballah back behind the Litani River. It was approved by the inner cabinet unopposed that night with no time scale.
debkafile's military analysts say it would be wrong to assume that that the Israeli advance to the Litani comes in the form of troops fanned out the full width of the southern Lebanese front. This is not so. The ground forces are in fact quite far from the river. They are driving forward in three spearheads in the western, central and eastern sectors, battling heavy Hizballah resistance in their path.
The IDF aim to carve out and control three enclaves along the Lebanese-Israel border in an area not yet cleansed of Hizballah fighters in nearly three weeks of combat. The operation to push Hizballah out of the south past the Litani River is proceeding very slowly and is still in its early stages.
are still very much up in the air. Until then, even after Israeli forces reach the Litani, they face more combat to defend the pockets they have occupied.