DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 26, 2005
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debkafile's sources close to the investigation report that Syrian president Bashar Assad has managed to hold back his strongman brother-in-law Gen. Assef Shawqat from interrogation at UN headquarters in Vienna as a suspect in the Hariri assassination. By Friday night, Nov. 26, the Syrian ruler had bowed to the UN investigator Detlev Mehlis` ultimatum to let the suspects be quizzed outside Syria. But debkafile discloses that he did so on his own legal terms and without the senior suspect. He also obtained from Mehlis a pledge that no arrest warrants would be issued against the remaining five. But above all, we reveal, he persuaded Russian president Valdimir Putin to underwrite Mehlis' pledge. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources reveal that the seven Syrian conditions were laid down at a secret meeting that took place in Barcelona on Nov. 18 between Mehlis and the Syrian foreign ministry's legal adviser Riad Daoudi. Our sources have obtained the text of those conditions.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 10, 2005
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Two generals were in Moscow on the same day, September 26: the head of Israel's National Security Council Maj.-Gen (Res.) Giora Eiland and the Syrian chief of staff General Ali Habib. Both also called on the Russian chief of staff, Gen. Yuri Baluyevski. The Syrian general came out of his meeting with a brilliant contract for the sale of the advanced Iskander SS-26 surface missile. The Israeli general ran into a blank wall when he tried to persuade the Russian to withhold the missile from the Assad regime. Last January, when the deal was first broached, the Bush administration stepped in and obtained a promise from president Vladimir Putin to call off the sale, as did Israel's Ariel Sharon during the Russian president's visit in May.
Putin has broken those pledges.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 29, 2005
Israeli officials are not sure what to make of Vladimir Putin's current Middle East tour, the first Russian president ever to initiate a visit to Jerusalem and the first world leader to call on Palestinian Authority leaders in Ramallah. Putin himself made much of the one million Israelis who understood every word he said in Jerusalem. Despite differences over key issues, he and his hosts basked in the warm friendliness of their encounters. Ignored most conspicuously was the enigmatic relationship revived in Ramallah, on Friday, April 29, ten minutes' drive from the Jerusalem venues of the Russian leader's Jerusalem talks the day before. Just as the Russian president made sure to enunciate words Israelis wanted to hear on Thursday ("Tehran needs to do more to assure world it is not trying to build atomic weapons." Returning spent nuclear fuel from Bushehr plant to Russia is not enough. Iran must also "abandon all technology to create a full nuclear cycle"), on Friday, he sang a tune that fell easily on Arab ears in Ramallah.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 24, 2005
Russian president Vladimir Putin and Syrian president Bashar Assad, who arrived in Moscow Monday, January 24, will sign a $70 million deal for the sale of 20 SA-18 Igla-S batteries mounted on Armored Personnel Carriers. debkafile's military sources now reveal that the Syrian missile sale is integral to the Kremlin's new, broad strategic initiative that encompasses secret military assistance to Tehran as well as its overt deals with Damascus. Moscow's objective is partly to secure its investment in Iran's nuclear center at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf against the fate of the Saddam Hussein's French-built Tamuz nuclear center which the Israeli air force bombed out existence 24 years ago. If that was all, it might have passed without too great a hullabaloo. However, the fat hit the fire when the Russians were discovered to be building the same system at Iran's uranium enrichment plants for military purposes in Isfahan in central Iran.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 12, 2005
Disturbing reports were coming out of the Russian capital Wednesday, January 12, about Russian president Vladimir Putin's plan to accede to Syria's request for advanced weaponry during president Bashar Assad's visit to Moscow on January 24. debkafile's US and Israeli security sources quickly contradicted reports that 18 Iskander-M or SS-X-26 surface-to-surface missiles were on the table. The items for sale, they revealed, are advanced SA-10 air defense systems of the type that protects Moscow and shoulder-held SA-18 anti-air missiles, whose transfer to the Hizballah and/or Iraqi guerrillas would move at least two sets of goal posts in the Middle East balance of strength. The SA-10 is an effective defense against Israeli warplanes and missiles, including cruise missiles. Its presence in Syria would therefore knock a serious hole in Israel's deterrent ability against Assad and the Hizballah.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 13, 2004
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On September 10, DEBKA-Net-Weekly reported: The terrorists who ravaged the school and community of Beslan came from a direction startling enough to jolt Russian president Vladimir Putin into taking a hard look at the Islamic terror now rampant outside Chechnya - in at least two additional Caucasian republics. The 32 hostage takers were not Chechens but members of al Qaeda cells, Arabs and natives, known locally as "Wahhabis" (after the austere state religion of Saudi Arabia), from a place whose name is even less recognizable than were the battle arenas of Afghanistan and the Balkans: Nalchik, capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, northwest of North Ossetia. To reach Beslan, they first transited Ingushetia.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 4, 2004
The first cracks are marring the once rock-smooth relations of unity and obedience binding the fundamentalist terror network's various operational branches to the directives handed down by the top leaders. This fragmentation of al Qaeda into ungovernable entities allied with outside forces, embedded in civilian populations and targeting other civilians, seriously hampers the efforts of counter-terror force to catch - let alone prevail over - all its widely-diffused fighting elements - certainly not by conventional military means. Bush was therefore right when he said the war against terror cannot be won outright. But much can be done nonetheless by deploying large forces, including American troops, in many regions of the world to make them less hospitable to terrorists. As these regions multiply, the terrorists will find their areas of operation and freedom of movement increasingly cramped. The spiral of terrorist outrages overtaking Russia, Iraq and Israel in the last 10 days reflects the increasing volatility of the fundamentalists' organizational structure.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 25, 2004
Updated 27 August:
Forty-eight hours after two Russian Tupolev airliners took off from Moscow airport minutes apart and crashed, killing all 89 people aboard, al Qaeda has finally come forward with a claim of responsibility, published by the Islamic Minbar website associated with the Islamist organization. The statement, signed by the "Islambuli Brigades" (named for the killer of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat) claims two groups of five men each hijacked the planes and promises to circulate soon a video clip showing the "martyrs" reading out their last wills and testaments.
From the first, debkafile's counter-terror sources believed, in fact, that the Tupolev-154 which blew up in mid-flight near Rostov was destined for Sochi, further to the south, where Putin was vacationing at his holiday residence. The first doomed craft, a Tuopolev-134 that crashed near Bushelaki in the Tula province may also have been originally aimed at a Russian city and not made it. Putin finally opted to clear the airspace over Russia's main cities, not the whole country, on the assumption that the two-plane assault was the end of the current terror offensive. He hoped that the announcement of tightened security at Moscow's airports would put off any more terrorists who might be heading there for further air hijacks.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 28, 2003
In issue Number 120, published on August 8,DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources reported exclusively that in the second week of July Russia secretly delivered the components of the AVLIS (atomic vapor laser isotope separator) system aboard unmarked military transports. This accelerated and environmentally clean process of uranium enrichment was first developed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California, for the US Department of Energy in the 1970s. In 1998, the Iranians were reported working on their own AVLIS. The version supplied by Russian is apparently based on more advanced technology. While the US energy department suspended AVLIS development in 1998, the Russians appear to have stepped up production, counting on an expanding future exports to governments bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, such as Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, North Korea, India and Pakistan.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 25, 2003
German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder makes a lightning, unscheduled trip to Moscow Wednesday, February 26, heading back home the same evening. What urgent business takes Schroeder to the Russian capital? According to debkafile's intelligence and Russian sources, Russian President Vladimir Putin has stepped into the bipolar crisis over Iraq between the US-led and French-led world blocs with a dramatic proposition for averting war. In this approach, he sees eye to eye with the French, German and Chinese rulers and is eager to consult with the Schroeder on his new plan.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 23, 2002
US President George W. Bush made a point of calling on Russian president Vladimir Putin directly after the NATO summit in Prague, to solicit his support for direct US military action against Iraq. However, Putin, who received his American visitor with pomp at the grand 18th century Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg, was not mollified by Bush's reassurances about Russian interests in post-Saddam Iraq. Instead, he took the US President to task over the way the global war on terror was being handled, brushing aside the capture of al Qaeda's Gulf operations chief, Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri, as marginal to the issue.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 24, 2002
debkafile's sources in Moscow are convinced that Russian president Vladimir Putin, known for his hardnosed approach toward Islamic extremists, will, in a matter of hours, order his Alpha forces to storm the Moscow theater where some 30 to 50 armed Chechens took 700 theater-goers hostage Wednesday night, October 23.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 20, 2001
Negotiations for the evacuation of Taliban-al-Qaeda forces from their last Afghan strongholds of Konduz and Kandahar are shuffling forward sluggishly.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 29, 2001
The shape of the governments-to-be of Afghanistan and Iraq - "when the war is over" - seems to be uppermost in the minds of the US-led alliance engaged in the war against world terrorism. This may be a useful academic exercise, but while it is in process, the war itself shows strong signs of running out of steam.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 6, 2001
The Russian inquiry has always leaned towards the terrorist theory as the cause of the Siberian Airlines 1812 crash into the Black Sea last Thursday, October 4, in which all 67Israel passengers and 11 crew aboard were killed. Russian spokesmen played up the Ukrainian missile theory out of political considerations, although they were perfectly aware of the weighty technical counter-arguments against a stray Ukrainian missile having downed the Tel Aviv-Novosibirsk Tu 154.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 5, 2001
Perhaps the most earthshaking outcome of the epic 70-minute conversation between Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin last week was the nuclear understanding they reached in a flash, as part of a new US-Russian political and military pact to fight international terrorism together.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 2, 2001
The most significant feature of the imminent US assault against Afghanistan is the major role to be played by Russian military might, following the new and far-reaching understanding reached between President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 7, 2000
The carving up of the old Soviet Union goes on in line with fresh interests, new pressures and changing alliances. After maintaining a massive presence in the former Soviet republics of the oil-rich Caucasian and Black Sea regions - and sinking $20 billion in projects to remodel their regimes and nurture cooperation - the United States has begun pulling up stakes in Kazakhstan, Kyrgistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 17, 2000
The icy waters swirling round the sunken Russian nuclear submarine, the "Kursk" are murky, but murkier still are the true circumstances of the disaster that has gripped world attention, obscured as they are by politically motivated disinformation.