DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 23, 2009
The Syrian ruler Bashar Assad has publicly rejected Barack Obama's overtures for a Washington-Damascus detente - which was supposed to hinge on detaching Syria from Iran - and blocked the path to peace talks with Israel. Next week, Assad flies to Tehran, announcing his purpose is to strengthen ties between the two countries.
Follow the sequence of events leading to this breakdown of Obama's Middle East program in debkafile Exclusive Report below.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 21, 2009
Japanese intelligence has learned that in late May, Iran, Syria and North Korea secretly test-launched in southern Syria a new short-range ballistic missile developed jointly by Pyongyang, Tehran and Damascus as a substitute for the outdated Scuds still in use in their armed forces, debkafile's military sources report.
After two weeks' preparation, two of the new projectiles had their first trial-launch - and failed with disastrous results.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 12, 2009
In less than a month after US president Barack Obama renewed sanctions against Syria over the Assad regime's involvement in terrorism. Another of his envoys, George Mitchell, is on his way to Damascus to explore the chances of renewed Syrian-Israeli peace talks. A US military delegation will discuss the expanded flow of terrorists from Syria into Iraq.
None of this, any more than the UN nuclear agency's discovery of "man-made uranium particles" near Damascus, has slowed the American dash to thaw relations with Syria.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 5, 2009
Monday, March 30, the international court prosecuting the four-year old assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri asked Lebanon to transfer its authority in the case, signaling the start of legal proceedings. Four jailed Lebanese generals will be requested next to testify on the ties with Syrian conspirators.
debkafile's intelligence sources disclose that two weeks before the request was received in Beirut, three Syrian generals suspected of this role in the murder disappeared from their homes.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 4, 2009
Washington and Jerusalem are bracing for a flareup on the Syrian and Lebanese borders with Israel as the international tribunal for prosecuting the Rafiq Hariri assassins prepares to start sittings next Sunday, March 1. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has engineered a delay in full court hearings by insisting on tight security measures being put in place. But Syrian president Bashar Assad will have to accept the failure of his best efforts to stymie the tribunal or persuade the Barack Obama administration to help remove this cloud hovering over his regime.
debkafile's military sources report that Israel's armed forces, the four Syrian divisions arrayed along Lebanese and Israeli borders, the Lebanese army, the United Nations peace force and Hizballah are all in a high state of suspense for trouble.
On the surface, hectic US diplomatic activity presages a thaw in relations with Damascus. But when it comes down to brass tacks, Barack Obama is not letting the Syrian president off the hook on longstanding bones of contention.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 17, 2009
Prime minister Ehud Olmert accused Hamas Monday night, March 16, of hardening its position on terms for the release of the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit, reneging on past understandings and raising new, excessive demands in the face of generous Israeli proposals for closing the gap between them.
This statement followed the report by Olmert's envoys, Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin and special negotiator for prisoners Ofer Dekel, on their return from Cairo.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 14, 2009
The summit conference planned in Riyadh for Wednesday, March 11, between the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Kuwait may be the Obama administration's first Middle East breakthrough, according to debkafile's Washington and Middle East sources.
They hope it will usher in a parting of the ways between Syria and Iran as a result of their overtures to Damascus and signal Syrian ruler Bashar Assad's reacceptance by the moderate Arab camp.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 10, 2009
Syrian president Bashar Assad has ordered 40 intelligence and army officers arrested and replaced by men personally loyal to him in preparation for planned moves to recover his grip on Lebanon, debkafile's sources in Washington and Beirut disclose. The Obama administration warned the Syrian ruler to desist from his maneuverings to orchestrate a victory for Hizballah and its allies in Lebanon's July 7 elections.
In picture: State Department's Jeffrey Feltman carries hands-off Lebanon warning to Assad.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 3, 2009
Washington and Jerusalem are bracing for a flare-up on the Syrian and Lebanese borders with Israel as the international tribunal prosecuting Rafiq Hariri's assassins starts sittings Sunday, March 1.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has engineered a delay by insisting on tight security measures for the court. But Washington has refused to postpone its hearings which Syrian president Bashar Assad sees as a ticking bomb for his regime. He may therefore retaliate.
Read more in debkafile's Exclusive Report below.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 13, 2008
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As part of the incipient thaw in US relations with Damascus, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has relayed a friendly message to Hamas political leader Khalid Meshaal through Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem's aides.
The message, described by Moussa Abu Marzouk, one of the heads of Hamas' Damascus headquarters, as a "verbal communication." was received as four Syrian divisions completed their deployment on Lebanon's borders last week (see exclusive map). In the message, Rice praised the Palestinian terrorist group for halting its missile fire into Israel.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly 369 of Oct. 24 exposed the complete deployment - from the Syrian 4th Division along Lebanon's northern border and the 10th, 12th and 14th Divisions on Lebanon's eastern frontier opposite the Hermil mountains and the Beqaa Valley, and down to the Hermon Mountains facing South Lebanon and northern Israel.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 11, 2008
In the face of Damascus' refusal to allow UN inspectors access to three suspect "research laboratories, Western agents recently carried out a daring covert operation to collect water samples from the Orontes river in Syria where it drains into the Mediterranean, debkafile's intelligence sources reveal. Their discoveries, confirmed Syria had gone back to the plutonium project Israeli cut short in September 2007.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 8, 2008
debkafile's military sources report that a large-scale arms deal for Syria, paid for by Iran, is in advanced negotiation in Moscow and Damascus. It includes fighter-bombers and an assortment of anti-air, anti-missile and anti-tank missiles, as well as substantial upgrades of Syria's antiquated Russian tanks.
Our sources disclose that the S-300PMU-2 and Iskander-E are still on the list under discussion. In the broader context of its contest with Washington, the Kremlin regards the American FBX-T anti-missile radar system installed in the Negev in September to be an integral part of the US missile shield deployed in the face of Russian protests in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The advanced missiles to Syria would be part of its payback.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 24, 2008
The final report of the International Atomic Energy Agency Wednesday, Nov. 19, says the Syrian complex bombed by Israel 14 months ago bore features resembling those of an undeclared nuclear reactor. "Significant" amounts of man-made uranium particles were found in situ.
debkafile's military sources stress that the IAEA report attests to one of the most formidable feats of Israel's Mossad in conjunction with the CIA.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 15, 2008
Syrian president Bashar Assad has drawn encouragement to go ahead with a drive to recover his grip on Lebanon from signals coming in from Barack Obama's team and from the peace overtures of Israeli transitional prime minister Ehud Olmert, debkafile's Beirut sources report.
The Syrian president has concocted an improbable disinformation cocktail to discredit the Lebanese majority leader Saad Hariri and oust the pro-western government.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 15, 2008
A senior Vienna-based diplomat reported Monday, Nov. 10, that the latest findings are significant enough for the nuclear watchdog to place Syria right after North Korea and Iran on its agenda for further investigation.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 10, 2008
Lebanese sources and eye witnesses report Syrian tanks, artillery and commando units have taken up battle positions in four villages around Hasbaya opposite Mt. Hermon and northern Israel.
According to debkafile's military sources, Syrian tanks and artillery units continued to move into their new positions Sunday and Monday, Nov. 2-3.
Senior IDF officers are perplexed by the Israeli government's failure to pursue deterrent action against the Syrian tanks poised in battle array on its border.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 4, 2008
Diplomats in Vienna said Tuesday, Oct. 28, that freshly evaluated soil and air samples provide enough evidence to warrant a follow-up probe by the UN nuclear watchdog at the suspected Syrian nuclear site at El Kibar bombed by Israel in September 2007.
debkafile's military sources reported exclusively on Oct. 4 that Syria had resumed its nuclear program.
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DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 1, 2008
debkafile's Middle East sources report that Damascus and the Lebanese Hizballah have alerted their forces to a possible Israeli strike against Hizballah's arms smuggling routes, supply sources, and stocks, using as a precedent the US cross-border raid which killed eight people at an al Qaeda base in northern Syria Sunday, Oct. 26.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 29, 2008
Two days after Sunday's US helicopter-borne commando raid at Abu Kemal inside northern Syria, the Damascus government ordered the American cultural and school shut down and proteste to the UN Secretary General and Security Council Chairman. Baghdad which at first supported the US action has denounced it under pressure from Tehran.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 28, 2008
Speaking to reporters in London, Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem accused the United States of carrying out "criminal terrorist aggression" in its helicopter-borne raid of an alleged al Qaeda haven in northern Syria Sunday, Oct. 27. He declared: "If attacked again, we will defend our territory." Iraq too must answer questions.
Earlier, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh Monday, Oct. 27, described the Syria site attacked the day before as the scene of activities of "terrorist groups operating from Syria against Iraq."