Debka: Washington, US at odds over Iran intelligence. Debka reports: 'Washington does not buy Israel intelligence’s two-year timeline for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon. Ten days before Ehud Olmert pays his first visit to Washington as Israeli prime minister, US intelligence is digging in its heels on its own timeline, which estimates that Tehran needs at least three to four years in stages to reach the point of being able to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium for a bomb and nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. The view there is that military action need not be considered before then. This distancing from the Israeli estimate cut the ground in advance from the main theme Olmert proposed to raise in his talks with US leaders. The message Washington delivered in advance of those talks was that Jerusalem would not be allowed to dictate American moves – diplomatic or military – on the Iranian crisis. The Olmert government would be best advised to line up behind Washington on this issue, as did the Sharon government in 2003 before the US invasion of Iraq. ... The Bush administration turned tough, according to DEBKAfile’s Washington sources, after receiving a briefing from two high-ranking US officials on secret talks they held with top Israeli government officials last week. The visitors, Stuart Levey, US Treasury Undersecretary for countering terrorist financing and a National Security Council Iran expert, found the Israeli government ill-informed and unfocused on the specifics of the Iranian nuclear program.' Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post covers Olmert's upcoming visit to Washington: 'Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's advisors Dov Weisglass and the Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister's Office, Adv. Yoram Turbowitz, left Israel for Washington early Sunday. They are expected to meet with senior American officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Advisor Steven Hadley. Olmert will follow in a few days, and is expected to meet with President Bush, Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and heads of the Senate and House of Representatives. Olmert will speak before both houses.' (Debka, JPost)
Iran gave Al-Qaeda In Iraq Russian-made SAM-7 missiles. Iraq the Model: 'According to this report from Azzaman, Iran's revolutionary guard corps is supplying Zarqawi's al-Qaeda in Iraq with Russian-made anti-aircraft weapons including the infrared guided, shoulder-born missile Sam 7 (Strela) in addition to other weaponry like machineguns and improved IEDs. ... Moreover, this doesn’t seem to be the first incident where similar weapons pass into Iraq from Iran; interesting that the state found al-Sabah newspaper-that is not normally in agreement with what Azzaman publishes-had a report on a similar smuggling incident that dates back to late April: Sources in the border guards in Diyala province said that there are anti-aircraft weapons entering Iraq as part of deals between smugglers and insurgent groups in Iraq. Brigadier Nadhum Sherif commander of Diyala border guards told al-Sabah that on April 24-2006 his forces foiled the delivery of weapons to terror groups in the area of Qara-lous…weapon smuggling operation take place in remote areas far from the eyes of our forces but our corps received intelligence that weapon smugglers were about to deliver large amounts of weapons to the terrorists including Russian-made anti-aircraft weapons produced in 2005…we found the weapons left in hidden caches in the mountainous area…' Iran Focus: 'Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had provided the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq heavy weapons including anti-aircraft missiles, it emerged on Friday. The Iraqi daily az-Zaman which is published in London and Baghdad quoted credible Iraqi sources as revealing that the IRGC had given al-Qaeda in Iraq, Strela-type SAM-7 surface-to-air missiles, modern explosives, and a large number of personnel arms including Kalashnikovs and BKC machineguns. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is believed to be led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is on the United States’ wanted list. The report said that representatives of al-Zarqawi’s group met in Beirut with members of the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah and through them established channels with Tehran. Three close aides to al-Zarqawi travelled to Iran via a security checkpoint in the Iraqi border province of al-Amara from where they met with Iranian officials, the report added.' Meanwhile, Vital Perspective reports: 'Pakistani media is reporting that Iran received "35 [Stinger] missiles... by mistake." The comments were made by Lt. Gen. (R) Hameed Gul, the former D-G of Pakistan's ISI intelligence organization. Gul also said the ISI had supplied 50 - 70 Stinger missiles to the former prime minister of Afghanistan, Gulbadin Hekamtyar. He said most of the missiles should have been exhausted because of redundancy in their batteries, and only few of them might still be operational.' (various)
Telegraph: Foreign ministers not feeling the love at diplomatic summit. The Telegraph: 'The American secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, traded barbs during bad-tempered talks at a foreign ministers' summit in New York on Iran's nuclear programme. The exchanges provided a candid introduction to diplomacy for Margaret Beckett, the new Foreign Secretary, who attended the tetchy session at the end of her first full day in the job. The row, which further undermines hopes of a diplomatic solution to the Iran crisis, reflects deepening rifts between the United States and Russia. Tension surfaced at a private meeting hosted by Ms Rice in the Waldorf Hotel for the Russian, British, French, German and Chinese foreign ministers, and spilt over into a much-delayed dinner. One official in Washington said: "It was a pretty extraordinary session and everyone's been talking about it in private since. It was certainly quite an introduction to the rough and tumble of the new job for Mrs Beckett." Mr Lavrov arrived at the Waldorf for the meeting seething about a speech on Kremlin policies delivered by Dick Cheney, the vice-president, the previous week in Lithuania. The Russian repeatedly complained about the comments and then threatened to veto a Security Council resolution, drafted by Britain and France and backed by the US, that would force Iran to abandon enrichment of uranium.' UPDATE: Via LGF, the Times reports: 'MI5 is being accused of a cover-up for failing to disclose to a parliamentary watchdog that it bugged the leader of the July 7 suicide bombers discussing the building of a bomb months before the London attacks. MI5 had secret tape recordings of Mohammad Sidique Khan, the gang leader, talking about how to build the device and then leave the country because there would be a lot of police activity. However, despite the recordings, MI5 allowed him to escape the net. Transcripts of the tapes were never shown to the parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC), which investigated the attacks. (Telegraph, Times)
The Scotsman on Britain's security challenges. The Scotsman gives a sobering appraisal of Britain's security situation in the post- 7/7 era: 'The bosses and operatives of MI5 have travelled the same final expedition of Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain, and Germaine Lindsay many times since July 7, 2005, and the journey has always been desperately difficult. But the reverse journey, tracking back from their brutal, murderous deaths to their unremarkable lives, has yielded disturbing evidence about the true state of national security and the ability of the security services to maintain it. ... What has been conspicuously absent from the blanket coverage of the 7/7 attacks, almost a year later, is any assurance that the harsh lessons of this most brutal assault have been learned by the people who matter most.' The article continues,
After an extensive reassessment of existing and new intelligence material, the service has come up with the estimate that some 400 al-Qaeda-linked terrorist suspects are at large in Britain - and that the figure could be swollen by up to 200 if all those thought to have returned from combat training in camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere are included. The figure reportedly includes a "hard core" of between 40 and 60 trained fighters with the capability and the intention to carry out attacks in Britain.
However, the most significant element of MI5's "terror audit" is the production of a map of Britain highlighting the places with the highest concentrations of pro-al-Qaeda suspects. The "thermal map" of terror hotspots across Britain is believed to identify a particularly strong concentration in the Manchester area.
MI5 has received funds to open offices in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham and Glasgow, with others planned for Wales and the south-west. But Scotland on Sunday understands that the service's visible "regionalisation" masks a subterranean effort to penetrate target communities in those areas; the establishment of actual offices has been preceded by the placement of operatives, the formation of surveillance teams and the recruitment of informers. MI5 has increasingly called in the help of Special Reconnaissance Regiments to carry out the most important work.
Full article at the link. (Scotsman)
Jihad in Baghdad. Kat at The Middle Ground continues her analysis of the situation in the Iraqi capital:
It is clear in Afghanistan that the mujihadeen and taliban are attempting to regroup and press more operations in Afghanistan. Without the battlefield of Iraq, drawing in would be mujihadeen to a second place, Afghanistan, with it's much more complicated geography and established cave complexes, would have attracted many if not all of these fighters to that location. Iraq has forced them to split their material, financial and human resources.
When we attrited their forces and resources, when we forced them to fight for a symbolic and historical center of the "caliphate", we also forced them to re-align their over all plans and re-define their priorities. The fact is, Baghdad is the historical and symbolic center of the caliphate. We did not define it as that, they did. We did not say they wanted this caliphate, they did. As soon as they had established this as a primary goal for themselves, it is our responsibility to plan, to counter, to attack to insure failure of that plan.
While it may be difficult to comprehend, in a very real sense we have forced them to speed up operations. I'm sure they would have preferred to only have Afghanistan as a battlefield and used their other resources to attack in other theaters with a bomb here and a hi-jacking there. Death by a thousand cuts. By forcing them to fight, we haven't just forced them to use their resources in a fashion faster than they might have wanted, but also forced the development and acceptance of their ideology to be experienced and evaluated by other Muslims who might otherwise have been content to sit back and support the movement with little cost to themselves.
But don't take Kat's word for it - take theirs. Full article and resources at the link. (TMG)
Commentary. I've often asserted that a strike on Iran is likely, because the success of the Bush Administration's policy hinges on the downfall of the islamofascist regime in Tehran. It's hard to know what to make of the Debka report; perhaps Washington is trying to persuade the Israelis to hold off so that the US can do the job without interference. Given the state of US-Russian relations, I don't think there's going to be much more time wasted worrying about the elusive Russian stamp of approval in the Security Council. Still, one wonders why the Russians are pushing the notion of a "new Cold War". Perhaps they think their luck will improve this time around?
Cross-posted at Dreams Into Lightning - TypePad.