SWI NEWS: Wed, Apr 11, 2012 19 Nisan, 5772

Former US Official: Pollard May Yet be Released

Former US undersecretary of defense Lawrence Korb says Jonathan Pollard may yet be released, perhaps in June.

By Gabe Kahn

First Publish: 4/10/2012, 9:18 PM

Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan Pollard

Israel news photo: Flash 90

Former undersecretary of defense Lawrence Korb said Tuesday that convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard may be released soon. "Given Jonathan's deteriorating health they may consider clemency," Korb said in remarks that contradicted reports that Pollard's release was were baseless. "There is a chance." Korb also rejected that US President Barack Obama's silence on anemergency plea for Pollard's release from Israeli President Shimon Peres on humanitarian grounds was a definite "no" on clemency for Pollard. "Obama didn't respond to a letter sent by Prime Minister Netanyahu over a year ago, either, to my knowledge," Korb said. "He may be waiting for the right time." Korb added: "I think maybe they were planning to in June – at least I hope so – but in light of Jonathan's deteriorating health, maybe they will do it early." Obama is expected to award the Medal of Freedom to Peres in June. At that time Peres is expected to deliver a letter from 80 Israeli lawmakers asking for Pollard's release. Peres is also expected to make his now-third formal request for Pollard's release in June. He first requested Pollard's release when he met with Obama at the White House in March. "I think it's important, because if he is released right now he will not have to go back to prison, and he could receive proper healthcare at a civilian hospital," Korb said. "Treatment beyond prison walls is much better in of itself . If it is released now he can be reunited with his wife, and I think it will help him heal faster. " "There is no doubt he should be freed," Korb said. "Even if he was healthy, he has served 27 years for a crime most people receive much shorter sentences for – providing information to a friendly country." "I'm optimistic," Korb said. "I am optimistic by nature. And as Winston Churchill said of the United States, we always sought to right our mistakes." Earlier on Tuesday, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor responded to Peres' emergency plea saying "Our position has not changed". Pollard was hospitalized Friday before Passover began at a medical facility for prisoners after reporting severe pain. Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst for the US Navy, was arrested in 1985 and has been serving a life sentence since 1987 for one count of conspiracy to deliver national security information to a foreign government. Pollard told Wolf Blitzer that year that he provided Israel with satellite photography of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headquarters in Tunisia, specific capabilities of Libya's air defenses, and "the pick of U.S. intelligence about Arab and Islamic conventional and unconventional military activity." Others convicted of the same crime, including those who pass intelligence data to hostile nations, have been given average sentences of 7 years or less in prison. Israel granted Pollard citizenship in 1995, but denies he was an Israeli agent. In 1998, Israeli officials said Pollard had worked for an "unauthorized rogue operation." The disparity of Pollard's sentence with those of others convicted of the same crime has turned his lengthy incarceration into an issue for American Jewry. Jewish and Israeli leaders have been joined by numerous US officials and lawmakers in calling for Pollard's release.

Abbas Threatens Renewed UN Statehood Bid

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas said he will turn to the UN General Assembly for recognition if Israel does not capitulate to his demands

By Gabe Kahn

First Publish: 4/9/2012, 7:50 PM

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

Flash 90

President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday he will turn to the UN General Assembly for recognition if Israel does not capitulate to his demands. A previous bid for recognition in the United Nations Security Council – which must approve all moves for full membership in the world body – was stopped dead by the specter of a veto from the United States. Approval would require 9 affirmative recommendations in the council and no negative recommendations from the five permanent, veto-wielding, members - Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States. The PLO – currently listed as an observer "entity" with no voting rights – applied for full membership of the UN on Sept. 23. An admissions committee said on Nov. 11 it had failed to reach an agreement on the bid. Even without the promised US veto in play, the current composition of the 15-member decision making council remains unfavorable to the PA bid as Ramallah cannot muster sufficient affirmative votes. It had been suggested that Ramallah could instead seek upgraded observer status via the General Assembly to make it a non-member observer state – like the Vatican – but Abbas angrily rejected the proposal. Nonetheless, Abbas' change of heart on Sunday is no surprise. Last Tuesday, Abbas telegraphed the move saying a unilateral track at the United Nations “is our right and we will turn to the UN again." The threat to again pursue a unilateral track at the United Nations in violation of the 1994 Oslo Accords comes as chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat prepares to deliver a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu outlining Ramallah's demands. The letter is expected to reiterate Ramallah's preconditions that Israel accept the indefensible pre-1967 lines as the future borders of a PA state, release all Arab terrorists from its prisons, and again halt all construction in the 'disputed territories.' Presidential adviser Nimir Hammad indicated earlier that Palestinian envoys would deliver the message next week, but negotiator Saeb Erekat told Ma'an on Sunday they were still waiting for Israeli confirmation of the meeting. Last week, sources close to Netanyahu said the Prime Minister will reply to Abbas demanding he returns to negotiations without preconditions. Netanyahu is also expected to demand Abbas recognize Israel as a Jewish state and agree to security arrangements in any peace agreement. The official said Netanyahu would finalize his response after receiving Abbas' letter. Critics say Netanyahu's government has failed to adapt to a new paradigm in which PLO officials pursue a unilateral track while forestalling bilateral talks with unacceptable preconditions. In December 2011, PLO officials announced "a strategy based on continuous efforts along with the international community to secure full recognition and full United Nations membership, pursuing internal reconciliation, and keeping up the popular resistance."

IDF weighs interceptors for offshore gas platforms


04/10/2012 01:30

Fearing missiles, Navy seeking budget for 4 new vessels to improve defense coverage of Mediterranean Sea.

Leviathan holds 453 billion cu.m. of gas.Photo: Albatross The IDF is considering the deployment of missile interceptors on gas rigs that Israeli companies plan to construct in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in the coming years, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Israel’s concern is that Hezbollah will try to attack the platforms with anti-ship missiles or explosives-laden vessels.

The navy is particularly concerned about Syria’s recent purchase of the Russian Yakhont anti-ship missile, which could be transferred to Hezbollah and used to target the gas rigs. Syria already tested the Yakhont in recent maneuvers. The weapon is said to be a sophisticated missile with a range of about 300 km. Last February, the navy seized an Iranian arms ship whose cargo, Israel said, was destined for Islamic Jihad. The vessel was carrying six Iranian Nasr-1 radarguided anti-ship missiles. The navy has yet to decide which type of missile defense system it would deploy on the gas rigs, but the two options under consideration are David’s Sling, which Israel is developing for use against medium-range rockets and cruise missiles, as well as the Barak-8, which protects large navy vessels against anti-ship missiles. The navy has already increased its patrols in the Mediterranean and is also using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to increase the range of its surveillance. It currently operates Israel Aerospace Industries’s Heron UAV, which comes with a special electro-optic payload for maritime operations. Until now, the navy has focused on protecting Israel’s sea lines of communication (SLOC), which span the length of the Mediterranean and around the Magreb region of North Africa. Some 99 percent of all goods arriving in the country come by sea, including security-related supplies and military hardware. “The area we will need to protect at sea will significantly increase with the construction of the new gas rigs,” a senior naval officer said. “We are also very concerned with the military buildup in the region, which is seeing an increase in sophisticated weapons systems like anti-ship missiles.” In addition, the navy is in talks with the Defense Ministry about the need for four new vessels to more effectively cover its new area of operations. It is seeking a larger platform than the Sa’ar 5-class corvettes it operates. The vessel will have to accommodate an advanced radar system, a helicopter and a launch system capable of firing long-range air defense and surface-to-surface missiles. The navy has also informed the energy companies that it will need to install radars on the gas rigs, and the government is considering ordering the companies to help finance some of the cost. In February, the Defense Ministry and navy ordered the Israel Electric Corporation to bolster security around a natural gas buoy that is being built off the coast of Hadera. The buoy will enable Israel to import natural gas in place of Egyptian gas, which has come to a near standstill since the revolution in Egypt last year.

‘Lebanese targets fair game in war with Hezbollah’


04/11/2012 01:12

Defense officials: It was a mistake not to have made this clear during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Hezbollah, Lebanon flags near Beirut airportPhoto: REUTERS/Sharif Karim Israel will attack Lebanese government targets during a future war with Hezbollah, senior defense officials said amid speculation that a war could erupt in the North following a future strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. “It was a mistake not to attack Lebanese government targets during the War in 2006,” a senior defense official explained. “We will not be able to hold back from doing so in a future war.”

After the outbreak of the 2006 war, the official said, the US asked Israel to refrain from bombing Lebanese government targets so as not to weaken the prime minister at the time, Fuad Siniora, who was aligned with the West. Israel complied and restricted its bombings to Hezbollah targets. “This will not be the same in the future, particularly now that Hezbollah and the government are effectively one and the same,” the official said. In general, the IDF has significantly boosted its “target bank” since the 2006 war. Today’s bank is said to contain thousands of Hezbollah targets, compared to the approximately 200 that the IDF had on July 12, 2006, when Hezbollah abducted reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Hezbollah is believed to have amassed over 50,000 rockets and missiles, and most of the weaponry is thought to be stored in some 100 villages throughout southern Lebanon. The new thinking regarding bombing government institutions is part of a revised IDF strategy on how to damage Hezbollah and facilitate a faster end to a war than the 34 days it took in 2006. The guerrilla group, which embeds its military capabilities within civilian infrastructure, does not have a clear power base, which if destroyed could help end such a war. Talk of the possible bombing of Lebanese government targets comes as Israel prepares for a possible war with Hezbollah that could result from either an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities or a preemptive strike to stop the transfer of sophisticated weaponry from Syria to Lebanon. Western countries have prepared various contingency plans for such a scenario, including the possible bombing of a convoy if it were detected, as well as the possible insertion of commando forces to secure the chemical stockpile if and when Syrian President Bashar Assad falls.

Big US-Arab Gulf air force exercise draws Iranian warning to stop at once DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 9, 2012, 11:04 PM (GMT+02:00)

Tags: US aircraft carriers US-Persian Gulf GCC Joint exercise

Saudi Air Force warplanes

At least 200 American and Arab Gulf fighter-bombers thundered overhead Sunday, April 8 at the outset of the biggest air force exercise ever conducted in the Gulf region. They are simulating war with Iran and an operation for reopening the strategic Straits of Hormuz if it is closed by Tehran. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that 100 of the warplanes took off from the USS Enterprise and USS Abraham Lincoln which are cruising with their strike groups opposite Iranian shores. The Saudi, UAE, Kuwaiti and Bahraini air forces contributed the other 100. In an unprecedented show of military solidarity with the US, Bahrain, which hosts the US Fifth Fleet High Command, was also chosen by Gulf Cooperation Council – GCC - members for their unified exercise headquarters to be located at the Shaikh Isa Air Base. Tehran was being told that neither the Obama administration nor the Gulf Arab governments were deterred by its threats of retaliation against emirates placing bases at the disposal of foreign forces for an attack on Iran. However, shortly after the exercise began, Iranian ambassador to Kuwait Rouhullah Qahremani called urgently on Kuwait Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Khalid Al-Sabah with a warning that the Iranian air and navy would attack the Gulf nations taking part in the exercise unless they withdrew at once. The Kuwaiti army chief took Iran's threat to the GCC Secretary General for Military Affairs Maj. Gen. Khalifa Humaid Al-Kaabi. Kuwait and Riyadh also briefed the Americans. The exercise is due to end on April 15, the day after the six world powers launch resumed nuclear negotiations with Iran in Istanbul. However some Iranian sources were hinting Monday that they would not come to the talks under military threat. Although the participants are keeping the exercise’s scenario under wraps, DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources are able to outline its five segments: 1. A practice operation to pry open the Strait of Hormuz should Iran try to block the waterway through which one-fifth of the world’s oil is exported - whether by deploying warships, scuttling old vessels, strewing sea mines or firing shore-to-ship missiles from the Iranian-controlled islands of Abu Musa, Great Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Sirri Island. The combined US-Gulf force is practicing air and naval assaults against those Iranian island bases and the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ mainland facilities facing them from Bandar-e-Abbas, Bandar-e-Lengeh and Qeshm island. They plan to  cut off Iranian reinforcements en route to Hormuz. 2.   They also aim to prevent Iranian air or sea assaults on the Persian Gulf emirates’ oil facilities and export terminals, focusing mainly on Saudi, Bahraini and Kuwaiti oil facilities and fields. 3.  Air strikes are conducted against Iranian naval vessels, including speedboats, in a simulated exercise to head them off before they strike American aircraft carriers and warships or Gulf fleet vessels. 4.  Testing the degree of coordination between US air, sea and marine forces and their Persian Gulf counterparts. 5.  The Gulf exercise is in fact the sequel of Noble Dina 12, the US-Israeli-Greek war gameconducted earlier this month in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. That war game practiced runs by Israeli fighter-bomber from their home bases to the big American facility on Crete, fueled in flight by American and Israeli tanker planes. The distance between the two points is roughly equivalent to the 1,200 kilometers between Israel and Iran. In a furious response to that maneuver, the Iranian Chief of Staff Gen. Seyed Hassan Firouzabadi, declared Saturday April 7: “Iran will bulldoze and destroy the illegal Zionist nest.

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