DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 25, 2005
A virtual nobody on Iran's national scene, Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 49, was picked by Iran's radical Islamic leaders and swung ahead of the presidential race to deal "the heaviest psychological blow to Iran's enemies." Those words were uttered by the new president in his first post-election statement Saturday, June 25. They attested to the fact that Iran had chosen him as its tool for getting back at the Bush administration for seeking to bring regime change and democracy to the Middle East and Iran in particular. debkafile's Iran experts note that this is the second victory Iran's unelected spiritual ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has scored against Washington in a month.
In early June, the Bush administration quietly gave up hope of the European-Iranian diplomatic track - or even UN Security Council penalties - persuading Tehran to relinquish its nuclear weapons program.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 21, 2005
21 June: By Monday night, June 20, rumors were swirling around Tehran that Iran's non-elected strongman, Ayatollah Ali Khameni had found a way of rigging the presidential election. Round one took place last Friday, June 17, and the run-off is scheduled for Friday, June 24. The favorite, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, barely pulled ahead of a contestant who popped up out of the blue, the extremist Tehran mayor Mahmud Ahmadinez. He faces him again on Friday.
Rafsanjani, speaking of a "tarnished" election, was not alone. The Guardian Council was forced by more such accusations to allow a recount of 100 randomly selected vote boxes in between rounds.
debkafile's Iranian experts maintain that "spiritual ruler" Khameini would never have left the presidential election to chance. A special brew must have been cooked up in his bureau for a near nonentity like Ahmadinez to pick up 5.7 million votes compared with the charismatic former president Rafsanjani's 6.1 million ballots.
Reformist candidate Dr. Mostafa Mo-In, who came in fifth, accused the all-powerful body of spending millions to mobilize hundreds of thousands of Islamic militiamen to get a hardliner president voted in. By any true standards, Mo-In should have done much better in a country where half the electorate is under 30 and pining for a better life and democratic liberties.
Another complainer was former majlis speaker Hojjat-ol Eslam Mahdi Karrubi, a reformist candidate widely expected to place second. He was blunter than Mo-In, charging a general call-up had been arranged on voting day for Revolutionary Guards officers, men and reservists who were sent to cast their ballots for the Tehran mayor.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 13, 2005
The Bush administration has given up on the battle against Iran's nuclear armament. This is the meaning of Washington's decision to back the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA's board vote Monday, June 13, to reappoint Mohamed ElBaradei as agency director for a fifth term. Israel thus finds itself alone in the ring with the Iranian nuclear menace. Nothing now remains to stop Tehran attaining its goal of a nuclear bomb or bombs by the end of 2006 or early 2007 - except for the extreme eventuality of direct Israeli military action against Iran's nuclear facilities. The question is what brought about this drastic reversal in Washington? And why are Bush administration officials willing now to endorse ElBaradei after reviling him for four years (not forgetting the row over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction) as responsible more than any other international agent for letting Iran run off with a military nuclear capability?
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 20, 2005
The Ukrainian prosecutor-general Svyatoslav Piksun created a major international flap Friday, March 18, when he admitted to the Financial Times that 18 X-55 strategic cruise missiles, also known as Kh-55, had been "exported" - 12 to Iran and 6 to China in 2001. He could not explain how the "significant leak" of technology from the former Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal occurred, but said the missiles had been sold without nuclear warheads. The X-55 has a ranged of 3,000 km and is capable of carrying 200 kiloton nuclear warheads. Launched from Su-24 long-range strike aircraft in the Iranian air force, it can put Japan, all of Russia and Israel within range. Piksun's admission is the first official confirmation of the Ukrainian missile sale that was first made public last month by a Ukrainian parliament member.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 13, 2005
President George W. Bush said on Friday, March 11: "I look forward to working with our European friends to make it abundantly clear to the Iranian regime that the free world will not tolerate them having a nuclear weapon." He spoke after the Europeans agreed to refer the issue to the UN Security Council of diplomacy failed to bring Iran round. But Iran has been discovered stepping up activities in the tunnels running underneath the Isfahan nuclear facility where raw uranium is being converted into gas for use in uranium enrichment at the Natanz plant. Iran hopes the underground facility will be safe from any US bomb attack. Our intelligence sources have discovered that the Iranians found a way to remove IAEA seals from centrifuges at Natanz, a trick they may have picked up from the North Koreans. The United States, according to our military sources, is pressing ahead with its development of infrastructure for an Iranian underground opposition.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 5, 2005
mg class="picture" src="/dynmedia/pictures/LebanonFinal_t.jpg" align="right" border="0">
To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE. Syrian ruler Bashar Assad gave nothing away on Lebanon in his unscheduled address to parliament in Damascus Saturday, March 5. Repeatedly contradicting himself, he said: "We will not stay one day if Lebanese consensus asks us to leave". He then added: but we cannot desert the Lebanese president to whom we have a commitment. Assad's decision to redeploy Syrian troops eastward to the Beqaa Valley up to Syrian border sidestepped the issue. The Syrian ruler did not promise to pull a single Syrian troop or secret agent out of Lebanon. He also declared for good measure that Syria`s role in the country would not end with a military withdrawal (which he did not promise.) Sunday, February 20, Iranian military transports put down in Damascus military airport. They were the tail end of the biggest military airlift Iran has launched in the Middle East to date. Its objective was to set up shared Iranian-Syrian safeguards against attacks on the Islamic Republic's nuclear installations and/or Syrian strategic targets.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 1, 2005
The international ensemble dancing around Iran's nuclear program appears to have regrouped: the European Union and Russia are suddenly lining up against America barely a week after US President George W. Bush held talks in Europe to patch up differences with both. The crisscross movement began the minute Air Force One took off from Europe for Washington last Thursday, February 24. It was then that a private plane landed in Paris and the man who stepped out briskly was Iran's supreme national security council director and senior nuclear negotiator Hasan Rohani. Rohani returned to Tehran in time to receive Alexander Rumyantsev, head of Russia's Federal Energy Agency, who had come to sign the nuclear fuel delivery agreement Moscow had avoided for two years. According to debkafile's intelligence and Washington sources, the rationale behind this rush of events is simple: The Bush administration had decided to put the issue of uranium enrichment to one side after concluding that Iran has already secretly procured sufficient fissile material to make a bomb or warheads for nuclear missiles; Tehran is most likely in possession of most of the quantity it needs - or else has access to the missing portion. Therefore the offensive against enrichment has become almost irrelevant.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 19, 2004
To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman announced Sunday December 19 that intelligence minister Ali Younessi would "soon" report to the government on an eight-member spy ring that gathered information for Israel. No further information was offered about the identities of the "spies," the nature of the "information" they had gathered or when. debkafile's intelligence sources classify this vague, unverifiable charge as a typical Iranian exercise to cover up a fiasco. (Only recently they claimed to have put unnamed al Qaeda terrorists on trial.) It came two days after DEBKA-Net-Weekly broke the story that Iranian and Iran-sponsored surveillance teams has been discovered hanging about outside Israel's diplomatic missions in the United States, South America, West Europe and the Middle East. Team members rounded up by the American FBI and Egyptian intelligence in the last ten days admitted under interrogation that they were collecting information for Iranian intelligence.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 19, 2004
No one familiar with Iran's record of broken promises on its hidden nuclear weapons program will be surprised by the allegations leveled against Tehran this week. On Wednesday, November 17, outgoing US secretary of state Colin Powell said to reporters during a South American tour: US has intelligence that Iran is working to adapt missiles for the delivery of nuclear weapons. According to debkafile's Washington sources, the Pentagon's most recent game model on military measures to dispose of Iran's nuclear threat concludes it will be necessary to topple the Islamic republic's regime at the same time. The first stage would be a bombing mission against the regime's primary prop, the Revolutionary Guards. The second stage would be the destruction of known and probable nuclear sites.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 16, 2004
To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE.
A mystery-submarine's intrusion into Israeli territorial waters last week provided the sequel for another unfinished tale: the one about Israel's failure to intercept a Hizballah drone that flew over the northern Israeli town of Nahariya on November 8.
Examination of the images the drone MIrsad-1 carried back to its senders, as shown four days later by Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah over al Manar television Friday, November 12, raises serious questions in the minds of debkafile's military sources.
For unknown reasons, the Patriot anti-missile missile battery normally posted in western Galilee to monitor Israel-Lebanese border airspace had been removed on that particular day. Deployed there was only an improved Hawk missile battery. The Patriot's radar would have spotted the Hizballah drone and transmitted the information early enough for it to be downed. Because the Hawk's radar is incapable of picking up a small flying object, the little invader-craft had at least 12 minutes for leisurely surveillance without fear of being shot down by Israel's anti-air defenses or air force.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 22, 2004
debkafile's intelligence and military sources uncover determined Iranian steps worldwide to undermine Israel's strategic positions by engendering its international isolation, a tactic reminiscent of the excesses of the Arab boycott. Iranian officials are going around capitals on three continents telling governments friendly to Israel to chill their military and other ties. Tehran believes it can make short shrift of Israel's military links in the region before tackling the major issue of the US military presence in the same countries. The Sharon government looks as though it is too weighed down by the political obstacles constantly bedeviling the prime minister's disengagement and evacuation plans to properly address the Iranian offensive, even though it has already begun hurting Israel's foreign strategic relations.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 8, 2004
Saturday night, August 7, Iranian defense minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani came out with a disturbing announcement. He said Iran will soon test an improved version of its new ballistic Shehab-3 missile whose 1300-km range covers every part of Israel. "These improvements do not only concern its range, but other specifications as well," said the Iranian minister, adding "The Israelis are trying hard to improve the capacity of their missiles, and we are also trying to improve the Shehab-3 in a short time." He offered no details on either upgrade, saying only: "We will improve the missile and when we test it, in the very short future, we will let you know." If attacked, Iran would not leave its people without defense, he stressed. Shamkhani also denied any Iranian cooperation with North Korea in missile technology - as suggested in Washington - stressing that the Islamic Republic does not need it. In between emphasizing defense, Shamkhani issued a dire warning to Israel not to dare attack its nuclear sites.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 8, 2004
Until recently, Washington was resigned to putting on hold any showdown with Iran over its clandestine nuclear weapons program. The Bush administration lacked support in the International Atomic Energy Agency for referring the issue to the UN Security Council and possible international sanctions and decided to postpone go-it-alone steps until after the November 4 presidential election. That situation has changed dramatically. Tuesday, June 8, France, Britain and Germany overcame their reluctance to get tough with Iran and took the bull by the horns. Without waiting for the UN nuclear watchdog to submit its report at the June 14 Vienna board meeting, the three European governments circulated a draft UN nuclear resolution that would sharply rebuke Iran for not cooperating fully with the lAEA.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 31, 2004
Brushing aside all the international obstacles placed in its path, Tehran is clearly advancing full steam ahead in the race for a nuclear device. Sunday, March 28, the International Atomic Energy Agency learned that Iran's freeze on its uranium enrichment was at an end when the head of Iran's nuclear commission, Golmazeh Aghazadeh, announced production had started at the Isfahan facility and the process would be completed at the Natanz centrifuge plant. On the state of the Isfahan plant, the Iranian official reported vaguely that the contractors had announced it was up and the facility functioning. He added: "In three weeks' time the Iranian people will hold a grand celebration to mark full operation at the Natanz plant."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 10, 2004
Tuesday, March 2, as Khalil al-Zaban, 59, sat down behind the wheel of his car in downtown Gaza City, five men in ski masks approached. One opened a conversation and still talking pulled out a gun and shot al-Zaban in the head. The other four pulled out weapons and continued shooting. Then they all made off. In the hospital, twelve bullets were found in the body. The cold-blooded assassination shocked many Palestinians - not so much in the Gaza Strip where it took place but in Yasser Arafat's Ramallah sanctum. For many years, he and al Zaban was very close. The dead man acted as his personal spokesman and trusted director of the Palestinian News Agency, as well as close companion from the days of Palestinian combat in the 1970s Lebanese civil war until their arrival in Gaza in 1994 from years of Tunisian exile.
To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE. In recent years, their friendship cooled, although Arafat awarded al-Zaban a modest budget to put out a small inoffensive weekly on human rights in the Palestinian Authority.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 17, 2003
This week, Israel's Iranian-born defense minister Shaul Mofaz made the unique gesture of answering questions from listeners in Iran - in their own language - in a live broadcast over Israel Radio's Farsi-language service. The questions came thick and fast. In answer to one, he promised everything would be done to protect the environment against radioactive fallout should Israeli forces destroy Iran's nuclear capability.
Shaul Mofaz was only six when his family emigrated from Iran to Israel. His knowledge of Farsi is rudimentary at best. But that didn't stop the Israeli defense chief from getting his message across to a stream of callers from the Islamic Republic who appealed to him for help on Israel Radio's Farsi service this week.