Tag Archives: israel covert action

The Covert War in Sudan; Yarmouk military complex bombed

Satellite images of the aftermath of an explosion at a Sudanese weapons factory this past week suggest the site was hit in an air strike, a US monitoring group said Saturday (Oct. 27, 2012) The Sudanese government has accused Israel of bombing its Yarmouk military complex in Khartoum, killing two people and leaving the factory in ruins.  The images released by the Satellite Sentinel Project to the Associated Press on Saturday showed six 52-foot wide craters near the epicenter of Wednesday’s explosion at the compound.  Military experts consulted by the project found the craters to be “consistent with large impact craters created by air-delivered munitions”, Satellite Sentinel Project spokesman Jonathan Hutson said.  The target may have been around 40 shipping containers seen at the site in earlier images. The group said the craters center on the area where the containers had been stacked.

Israeli officials have neither confirmed nor denied striking the site. Instead, they accused Sudan of playing a role in an Iranian-backed network of arms shipments to Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel believes Sudan is a key transit point in the circuitous route that weapons take to the Islamic militant groups in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.  Sudan was a major hub for al-Qaida militants and remains a transit for weapon smugglers and African migrant traffickers. Israeli officials believe arms that originate in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas go through Sudan before crossing Egypt’s lawless Sinai desert and into Gaza through underground tunnels.

The Satellite Sentinel Project is a partnership between the Enough Project, a Washington-based anti-genocide advocacy group and DigitalGlobe, which operates three commercial satellites and provides geospatial analysis.  The project was founded last year with support from actor George Clooney, and in the past has used satellite images to monitor the destruction of villages by Sudanese troops in the country’s multiple war zones.

Opened in 1996, Yarmouk is one of two known state-owned weapons manufacturing plants in the Sudanese capital. Sudan prided itself in having a way to produce its own ammunition and weapons despite United Nations and US sanctions.  The satellite images indicate that the Yarmouk facility includes an oil storage facility, a military depot and an ammunition plant.

The monitoring group said the images indicate that the blast “destroyed two buildings and heavily damaged at least 21 others”, adding that there was no indication of fire damage at the fuel depot inside the military complex.  The group said it could not be certain the containers, seen in images taken 12 October, were still there when explosion took place. But the effects of the blast suggested a “highly volatile cargo” was at the epicenter of the explosion.  “If the explosions resulted from a rocket or missile attack against material stored in the shipping containers, then it was an effective surgical strike that totally destroyed any container” that was at the location, the project said.  Yarmouk is located in a densely populated residential area of the city approximately 11km southwest of the Khartoum international airport.  Wednesday’s explosion sent exploding ammunition flying into homes in the neighborhood adjacent to the factory, causing panic among residents. Sudanese officials said some people suffered from smoke inhalation.  A man who lives near the factory said that from inside their house, he and his brother heard a load roar of what they believed was a plane just before the boom of the explosion sounded from the factory.

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s explosion, Sudanese officials said the government has the right to respond to what the information minister said was a “flagrant attack” by Israel on Sudan’s sovereignty and right to strengthen its military capabilities.  In a Friday speech marking Eid al Adha, Islam’s biggest holiday, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir called Israel “short-sighted,” according to comments published by the Egyptian state-owned paper Al Ahram. The president likened the incident to the 1998 bombing by American cruise missiles of a Khartoum pharmaceutical factory suspected of links to al-Qaida.

Some Israeli commentators suggested that if Israel did indeed carry out an airstrike causing Wednesday’s blast, it might have been a trial run of sorts for an operation in Iran. Both countries are roughly 1,000 miles (1,600km) away from Israel, and an air operation would require careful planning and in-flight refueling.

Satellite pictures suggest Sudanese weapons factory hit by air strike, Associated Press, Oct. 27, 2012

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Israel-Iran Covert War based in Azerbaijan; US Leak

Reports that Israel has access to airbases in Azerbaijan, Iran’s uneasy northern neighbor, could point to a strategic shift in the battle lines between the Jewish state and the Islamic Republic — and could affect the smoldering U.S.-Iranian standoff.  Having the use of air bases right on Iran’s doorstep would completely change the military situation for Israel by eliminating one of its major headaches: the distance its strike jets would have to fly to reach their targets in Iran and return to their bases.  The round trip total in excess of 2,200 miles and would necessitate one — possibly two — in-flight refueling, during which the strike aircraft as well as their aerial tankers would be highly vulnerable.  Israel only has a handful of aerial tankers, limiting the size of the strike force.

Having bases in Azerbaijan, a Soviet republic until 1991, would mean the attacking F-16I and F-15I jets could reach their targets without in-flight refueling because, if the reports attributed to U.S. officials are correct, the planes could land in Azerbaijan to fill their fuel tanks and head home.  The Azeri government in Baku has denied it has made any deal with Israel and Israel has refused to validate the reports.  But in recent years, Muslim, pro-Western Azerbaijan has established strong military and intelligence links with Israel while Baku’s relations with Iran have steadily deteriorated.

The U.S. magazine Foreign Report, in its March 28 edition, quoted four senior U.S. diplomats and military intelligence officers as saying Israel has been granted access to airbases in Azerbaijan…..

Now the whole issue gets rather murky.  There are growing suspicions that the report, true or otherwise, was deliberately leaked by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama as a signal to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the leading proponent of attacking Iran, to back off unilateral Israeli action the U.S. administration believes will ultimately cost America dearly.  “Clearly this is an administration-orchestrated leak,” said Republican hard-liner John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.  “It’s just unprecedented to reveal this kind of information about one of your allies.”

What is clear is that Israel and Azerbaijan are drawing increasingly closer for their mutual advantage and defense.  But Israel’s prime concern is definitely Iran.  Azeri security authorities, in conjunction with the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, have thwarted several plots to attack Israeli targets in Baku, including a school and the embassy.  These operations were blamed on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite al-Quds Force and Hezbollah of Lebanon, Tehran’s main proxy in the Middle East and widely perceived as being run by the Guards Corps. The Mossad maintains a sizeable presence in Azerbaijan and reportedly runs clandestine operations inside Iran from there.

Then in January, Israel Aerospace Industries announced it had secured a $1.6 billion contract with a state that wasn’t identified, apparently for censorship reasons…..

U.S. report shifts Israel-Iran battle lines, UPI.com, April 3, 2012