Vol. 14, Issue 638, June 6, 2014
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Europe Jittery over “Blond Islamists”
Western Agencies Grope in the Dark without Databases or Technology

At their June 5 meeting in Luxembourg, European Union interior ministers picked up the hot potato of the thousands of their young men who volunteer to fight in Syria with Islamist militias – and return home fired up for jihad.
New statistics assign Paris the dubious distinction of being the “terror capital of Europe,” the target of 63 of the 152 terrorist attacks launched on the continent in the course of 2013.
The ministers were advised to focus their discussions on a paper drawn up by EU Counter Terrorism Coordinator Gilles De Kerchove, which covers work on nationals returning from foreign Islamist battlefields and advances constructive proposals for dealing with the threat, including preventive measures.
DEBKA Weekly's counterterrorism sources say the cautious bureaucratic language used to discuss the issue could not gloss over the striking imbalance between the terrorists freedom to operate in Europe with impunity and the governments, counterterrorism and intelligence agencies which lag way behind them in the skills and tools of pre-emption.
According to authoritative estimates, 11,000-12,000 of the 60,000 fighters fighting in Syria for Al Qaeda’s Syrian and Iraqi branches are Muslims from non-Arab countries. Jabhat al Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) draw the largest number of European Islamist fighters of any other militias of this ilk.


No dossiers, watch lists or databases


More than half of this number (some 5-6,000) - from US, Canada, Russia, China, France, Britain, Holland, Germany, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia – do not figure on any files or watch lists of Western intelligence agencies. Neither do they appear on any terrorist databases.
It must therefore be presumed that hundreds of Islamists, highly trained for combat on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, are on the loose in North America and Europe. They may not strike any time soon, but the possibility of an unknown number being ticking bombs primed for violence against major US and European cities cannot be overlooked.
In grappling with the shadowy menace of native European jihadis, counterterrorism organizations face six major hurdles:
1. Al Qaeda’s recruitment levels are at their highest since the mid-1990s, and thousands of new foot soldiers are crisscrossing the globe under the radar screens of every intelligence agency. Al Qaeda and other extreme Islamist organizations have managed to create a global strategic reserve that is in constant motion, ready to move at a moment’s notice.
2. By staying constantly on the move, they are able to throw intelligence and counterterrorism trackers agencies – and their targets - off the scent. A terrorist may board a plane in Paris, fly to Turkey, travel on to Kuala Lampur and then head to Amsterdam without committing an attack – just to dodge a tail. These terrorists may not know their own routes in advance, receiving their destination, tickets, and sometimes money and identification documents from incognito operatives.
3. A further complicating factor is that no single hand appears to be moving the chess pieces on the board, or controlling their migration patterns.
Whether or not the Islamist movement has a true controlling master is unclear. The best counterterrorism agencies can do is to pick up the recruiting agents that haunt mosques and Muslim community centers and enlist fervent young men to fight in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.


Young Caucasians don’t raise airport security flags


Often, the recruiters don’t know for whom they are working. They say they are signing up volunteers for Muslim aid, medical and educational societies with international bases. The funding for this enlistment drive comes from Saudi sources and wealthy Gulf families.
4. Just two weeks ago, we uncovered established jihadist routes through Sweden, Turkey and Morocco. (DEBKA Weekly. 636 of May 23, “New US Database for Foreign Islamists in Syria: Al Qaeda Flummoxes Belated Western Efforts to Track Jihadis Entering and Exiting Syria.”)
These pathways have already changed. Fighters are now directed to Holland, Belgium, and Iraqi Kurdistan. While we can’t confirm the rationale behind the frequent route changes, we believe that it is easier to move around and obtain forged passports in quantity in those places.
5. A new generation of Islamists, dubbed by intelligence agencies the “blond Muslims,” is proving especially exasperating. The young (sometimes aged only 16) children or grandchildren of American and European converts to Islam are chomping at the bit to fight in Syria, Iraq, or Yemen, and later come back to attack the West.
Young Caucasian men with genuine European passports and nondescript names pass easily from country to country without raising airport security flags or arousing the interest of intelligence bodies.


Some jihadis are self-driven, others moved by mystery controller


In the past few weeks, Holland, Belgium and France have tried and failed to build an up-to-date list of suspects with links to terrorist organizations, DEBKA Weekly’s counterterrorism sources report. Intelligence experts were unable to create any sort of database, which would have separated Muslim and non-Muslim persons of interest.
European and North African interior ministers who met recently in Brussels were given this disappointing news.
6. Intelligence agencies have strained all their resources to try and nail the brain or authority manipulating the new generation of jihadis. They have concluded that the neo-al Qaeda movement has no single controller and its individual devotees may to some extent be self-driven.
Radicalized individuals eager to sacrifice themselves in the name of jihad may undertake the entire operation from first to last - pick a target, perform reconnaissance, obtain weapons, map escape routes and find safe houses.
French intelligence assigned this pattern of conduct to 24-year-old Mohamed Merah, who in March 2012 shot dead three French soldiers and four people at a Jewish school in Toulouse before French police shot him dead.


Technology and tools urgently needed to prevent next attack


But the vast terrorist networks causing European intelligence agencies sleepless nights also confound French investigators: Merah made more than 1,800 calls to 180 contacts in 20 countries before committing his crimes. He made most calls on disposable mobile phones that were later destroyed.
This week, the French and Belgian investigators looking into the May 24 attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, which left four people dead, faced similar obstacles when interrogating their suspect, 29-year-old Mehdi Nenmouche from northern France.
They know he was active in radical Islamist circles and likely fought in Syria in 2013. He was caught with guns and a video camera containing an audio clip, in which he claims responsibility for the attack. But he himself refuses to say a word. His lawyers say he stole the murder weapon from a parked car in Brussels.
Until a database is created that can identify the thousands of terrorists, along with software to pin down their shifting identities and track their travel patterns, DEBKA Weekly’s sources say there is no way to stave off future catastrophes in the US or Europe.


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Another Iranian Brainchild
Creating a New Palestinian Hizballah to Take off from Gaza
Ismail Haniyeh

Just one day after Palestinian leaders hailed the burial of their seven-year feud under a new power-sharing government on June 2, Hamas leaders in Gaza City declared, disingenuously, that it had handed governing authority in the Gaza Strip to the unity government of Ramallah.
Hamas’ Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh resigned, summing his action up in this loaded sentence: “We [Hamas] leave the government but stay in power … we give up the chair but not the role we play.”
The Hamas leader clearly spoke from a position of strength. His movement was stepping aside but not relinquishing power.
The patching-up of the feud between the radical Hamas and its rival Fatah is a multidimensional story, whose immediate applications all portend an uptick in Hamas’ power.
1. Hamas’ political institutions have not changed their spots and will continue to promote their fundamental tenets irrespective of their role in the new government in Ramallah.
2. Under the new order, Hamas will continue to command and control its military, security and intelligence forces of 20,000 men. Those frameworks will not be dismantled or defer to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and certainly not to the new Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Hamas is not even going through the motions of detaching a token number to Ramallah’s control.


Hamas keeps control of border crossings


3. In every previous Fatah-Hamas draft agreement, the supervision of border crossings between Gaza, Israel and Egypt was assigned to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and members of the presidential guard. Not this time: Under their unity accord, the Hamas border administration remains in charge of the Gaza Strip’s international borders with Israel and Egypt and retains control of official crossings, including the Gaza port terminal.
It is not clear who will determine relations with the Palestinians’ opposite numbers, the Israelis and Egyptians manning the other halves of the crossings – whether Hamas or Ramallah. But the strong Hamas presence at these sensitive points gives Hamas the upper hand – although it quickly ran into a major obstacle.
Citing an Egyptian commitment to re-open the Rafah crossing as soon as the new Palestinian government was installed, Hamas came in for a cold shower from Cairo, which made it clear that the crossing would stay shut.
4. Hamas took full advantage of its seven autonomous years of rule in the Gaza Strip to pad public sector offices with no less than 50,000 of its adherents. Their payroll was covered by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. They are unlikely to be sacked en masse and so continue to dominate everyday life in the territory.
5. Hamas likewise plans to continue to develop its military industry, which turns out M-75 missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. This is a violation of Abu Mazen’s pledge to Washington that the new government would embrace the principle of Palestinian demilitarization.
6. Smuggling networks will also continue to run arms to Hamas in Gaza from Iran, Libya, Hizballah and the Sinai Peninsula.


Once through the door to Ramallah, Hamas will not be pushed out


DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources warn that Hamas’s grip on the Palestinian territories could grow to become like Hizballah’s powerful stranglehold on Lebanon. Just as the Lebanese group’s might far surpasses that of the Lebanese Army, so too Hamas’ military muscle is far superior in strength and training to the Palestinian security battalions in the West Bank.
Hamas’s forces are armed with heavy weapons, like surface, anti-air and anti-tank missiles and rockets, unlike their West Bank counterparts. And just as Hizballah holds sway over whole regions of Lebanon, - the South, sections of southern Beirut, and the Beqaa Valley, Hamas’ access to the Mediterranean from Gaza is a crucial strategic asset.
Hamas and Hizballah use the same epithets to justify their war on terror, claiming “resistance” is their bounden duty in answer to Israeli “aggression.”
Hamas’ decision to make up its quarrel with Fatah and share power in a new government did not come from a spontaneous outburst of good fellowship. Following the Hizballah script, the Palestinian Islamists took a well-calculated step to open the door for its well-organized political, military and intelligence establishments to gradually move in and take over the Palestinian Authority’s organs, including the supreme ruling bodies of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Once through the door the Americans and Europeans opened for them in Ramallah, Hamas will be very hard indeed to push out.


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Obama Reverts to Muslim Brothers
US Sees Hamas’ West Bank Role as Auguring Muslim Brotherhood’s Restoration

Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s trouncing of his rivals in the Egyptian polls, and the new government in Ramallah, may set both US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu back to the square they occupied in November 2012, say DEBKA Weekly’s Middle East experts.
At that time, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attempted to engineer a new alliance in the region, including Turkey, Qatar, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. (For more details on this short-lived initiative, see next item in this week’s issue).
Since Obama has gained the reputation of once getting hold of an idea, never letting go, Middle East and Washington mavens shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that, despite temporary deviations, he never really dropped its patronage of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Wednesday, May 4, after El-Sisi’s win became official, the White House said politely the US “looks forward to working with El-Sisi to advance our strategic partnership and our many shared interests” but then went on to demand that the new president adopt democratic and political reforms and to express concerns about the “restrictive political environment” of his landslide victory.
Couched in diplomatic vernacular, Washington was telling the new president that future relations hinged on his lifting the ban on the Muslim Brotherhood and giving it free rein to operate as a political party.
That message was reinforced two days earlier by US acceptance of the Palestinian unity government in Ramallah, which opened the door to American recognition and acceptance of Hamas, banned in Egypt (like the US) as a terrorist organization.
El-Sisi has a special beef with Hamas, as offspring and ally of the Brotherhood and harboring its underground in the Gaza Strip for organizing subversive and terrorist operations against the Egyptian army and regime.


US military aid to Egypt first unfrozen, then suspended


Then Wednesday, delays cropped up in the delivery of the Apache helicopters which US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had promised Egypt to aid its counterterrorism operations in Sinai.
The delays were accompanied by a demand to improve Cairo’s human rights record, and most of all, end the crackdown that has put hundreds of Brotherhood operatives on death row.
El-Sisi was incensed by this delay, viewing it as inappropriate US pressure and interference in Egypt’s domestic affairs.
However, in the meantime, the frequent assaults launched by the Brotherhood, abetted by Hamas and al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Sinai, began to tail off towards the end of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014 - ostensibly due to effective Egyptian intelligence and security counteraction.
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources offer a different explanation: US undercover operatives in Gaza and Sinai are reported to have acted preemptively to bring Muslim Brotherhood attacks on Egypt military and regime targets to a standstill, as a step toward promoting the burying of the hatchet between Sisi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
(More details about the political consequences of this US move in a separate piece in this issue).


Obama turns to using proxies for military action


This step was part of a larger American master plan, which calls for a major push for stability under friendly regimes in a broad region encompassing Egypt, Libya and its oil fields and crossing the Suez Canal to sweep up the lawless Sinai Peninsula and terrorist-ridden Gaza Strip.
The Obama has fixed on this blueprint as his primary goal for the Middle East.
Disheartened by his attempts to establish game-changing alliances in the region, the US president is now working through trusted surrogates – nations or groups – for military action to reach his objectives.
(In this regard see also DEBKA Weekly 636 of May 23, “America’s Quiet Return to the Mid-East – Stabilizing Libyan oil to Offset Russia’s Energy Leverage against Europe.”)
The seed planted in Cairo in November 2012, for Hamas’ attachment to a regional alliance and bid to isolate - if not unseat Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - through the ballot box, is discernible in current US actions.
The healing of the seven-year rift in the Palestinian movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank authorities has given Washington the chance to let Hamas into the West Bank by the back door, while paying lip service to the ostensibly Hamas-clean “government of technocrats.”


Washington envisages Muslim Brotherhood flag on West Bank too


So while Abbas has won kudos for forging the united government as a stage on the road to a Palestinian state - and a kick in the teeth for Israel and Binyamin Netanyahu – the Jan 2, 2015 elections to the Palestinian presidency and parliament will almost certainly raise Hamas to power against Fatah.
Obama would be rewarded by seeing the Muslim Brotherhood flag planted on the West Bank and its takeover of power in the future Palestinian state, as a stage in restoring the movement’s fortunes in Egypt.
But Abu Mazen is not done yet. He has announced he will go to Cairo for El-Sisi’s inauguration as president and no doubt use the opportunity to forge ties with the new Egyptian ruler. But standing in his way is his archenemy, the disgraced Fatah high-up Muhammad Dahlan. After being exiled from Ramallah, Dahlan built a fortune in the Gulf and moved to Cairo, where he has the ear of President El-Sisi. Dahlan makes no bones about his ambition to supplant Abbas whom he calls the “Palestinian dictator.”
Given the troubles in his home camp, Abbas by choosing Hamas as partner demonstrated weakness and his shrinking options, rather than strength.


Israel’s shrinking options and widening rift with Washington


In November 2012, the Israeli prime minister trusted in Clinton’s new alliance to empower him for undercutting Mahmoud Abbas’ scheme to bypass direct peace negotiations with Israel and achieve Palestinian statehood unilaterally.
Netanyahu’s views have not changed, only the players; and the dilemmas he faces today are more daunting than ever.
By quiet under-the-counter understandings with the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates and the new Egyptian president, the Israeli prime minister hopes to check Abbas’ moves.
At the same time, that would give Hamas the edge - which his new allies, who are fighting the Muslm Brotherhood tooth and nail, would not tolerate. They regard Hamas as an integral arm of their enemy.
For Israel, too, Hamas and its leaders are incorrigible terrorists, who are dedicated to its destruction.
So where does that leave the Netanyahu government?
With vanishing options and a widening rift with the Obama administration over its backing for Hamas - on top of the gaping abyss dividing them over Iran, Syria and Hizballah.
The gap will not shrink if Netanyahu goes through with his plan to persuade the US Congress to veto the continuation of US funding of approximately half a million dollars per annum to the Palestinians under their new Hamas-backed government.
Calculating that he has not much left to lose, Netanyahu promoted a new wave of settlement construction that keeps most of his coalition partners off his back.


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The Shadow of 2012 Pursues Palestinian Reconciliation
How Hillary Clinton’s Master Plan for the Mid East Went Awry
Hillary Clinton, Mohamad Morsi

Seventeen months ago, on Nov. 21, 2012, Hillary Clinton, then US Secretary of State, and the since deposed Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi were putting their heads together in Cairo to fashion a bold new Middle East realignment.
It never took off but its shadow pursues the region up into the present.
The new alignment was to be composed of Turkey, Qatar, and the Palestinian extremist Hamas which ruled the Gaza Strip and headed up by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Israel would covertly support the alliance with intelligence assistance and, if need be, military support.
This grouping would serve the Obama administration’s goals of making Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood top dog of the region and, in so doing, curbing the momentum of the radical Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah axis and muting the influence of the Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia.
While Clinton and Morsi were communing on this plan in Cairo, the Israeli Army was massing one mechanized division and six armored battalions at the gates of the Gaza Strip, awaiting the order to move across and round off Operational Defensive Cloud by delivering the coup de grace to Hamas and putting an end to the missile campaign bedeviling southern Israel for nearly a decade.
Simmering under the surface of these events, Al Qaeda plotters in Egypt and Libya were secretly plotting assaults on the US Embassy in Cairo and the US Consulate in Libya.
Twenty days later, on September 11, 2012, the consulate was stormed by terrorists who murdered US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three of his CIA-linked staffers were murdered.


Netanyahu suspended 2012 Gaza operation to bolster Hamas against Abbas


To this day, US administration officials refuse to connect the two events, although the Benghazi episode may yet haunt the former Secretary of State if she runs for president.
But back in 2012, Clinton was busy building the new US-backed “moderate” alliance. She offered the Egyptian president a deal: If Morsi agreed to join, the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, she had been informed, would call off his projected military incursion of the Gaza Strip and, for good measure, let Egypt, Turkey and Qatar in to rebuild its ruined infrastructure and lay the ground for its economic and political stability.
Asked to elaborate, she explained that Netanyahu had consented in secret talks to the buttressing of Hamas as a counterweight to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his Fatah faction in Ramallah. At the time, Abbas was bent on procuring Palestinian statehood by an application to the UN to avoid peace talks with Israel.
Morsi accepted the deal. But on the quiet, he ordered his minions to set in motion the Al Qaeda-Muslim Brotherhood terrorist conspiracies – both in Cairo and Benghazi.
Netanyahu, for his part, put his Gaza infantry operation on hold and endorsed the Egyptian-brokered negotiations for a ceasefire.


Morsi’s ouster broke up the nine-month old alliance


The Obama administration plan carried forward by Secretary Clinton envisaged Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government as the responsible enforcer of peace, starting with the Hamas-Israeli ceasefire.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan played his part in the nascent alliance by putting the brakes on his harsh anti-Israel rhetoric to start resolving the feud sparked by the Israeli Navy’s assault on the Turkish Mavi Marmara vessel earlier that year to prevent it breaking the Gaza blockade.
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who in October 2012 became the first Arab ruler to visit the Gaza Strip, chipped in with a hefty transfer of millions of dollars to Hamas in Gaza, to start the Clinton ball rolling.
But, just nine months later, the new bedfellows were abruptly thrown apart by Morsi’s ouster July 3, 2013 in a coup d’etat led by Egyptian strongman and military chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, whose rule was cemented this week by a 97-percent vote in the elections for president.
Whether or not El-Sisi was helped to his victory by Israeli intelligence is moot. At all events, at a given moment, Israel turned away from Clinton’s bloc and decided to work with El-Sisi and Saudi Arabia against her plan, for reasons that deserve close examination as a separate topic.
However that sequence of events is highly relevant today, because it leads directly, according to DEBKA Weekly’s Middle East intelligence sources, to this week’s decision by the Obama administration.


Netanyahu government’s Palestinian strategy in tatters


The establishment of a Palestinian government of reconciliation in Ramallah Monday, June 2, was immediately accepted by Washington. The State Department spokeswoman stressed that the US regarded the new Cabinet as made up of technocrats and that it was willing to do business with it.
"At this point, it appears that President Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include ministers affiliated with Hamas," she told reporters.
"Based on what we know now we intend to work with this government but will be watching closely to ensure that it upholds principles that President Abbas reiterated today," she said, referring to Abbas' commitment to honor past peace deals and the principles underlying the peace process with Israel.
Washington’s haste in accepting a government backed by the very same Hamas radical movement badly upset the Netanyahu government, which was not mollified by its promise to keep a close watch on the new regime.
Jerusalem pulled out a written commitment that Netanyahu said he had received from Clinton in November 2012 as part of the multiple deal she pulled off in Cairo. It was a pledge to withhold US recognition from any Palestinian government in which Hamas was a participant.
Washington countered with a document of its own that showed the US commitment as having been not to support a Palestinian government whose ministers promote violence (without citing Hamas by name) but free to accept a Palestinian unity government, in which Hamas did not participate. Israel was entitled by this document to freely voice its objections
Since the administration asserts that the new Palestinian administration is manned by technocrats, not politicians, Washington was not breaking its commitment.
Set back by this exchange, Netanyahu’s initial public reaction to the event in Ramallah was milder than might have been expected – much heated talk, but no significant concrete action.


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Iran Nuclear Talks Go Well – for Tehran
Obama again Backpedals on Military Option for Iran
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Barack Obama

Sources with a line into Western diplomatic circles report that no one is giving any odds for Iran and the P5+1 managing to cut a final deal for curbing Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief by the July 20 deadline.
These leaks are designed to prepare the public in America, Europe and the Middle East for the Iranian nuclear issue being left up in the air and shunted by the Obama administration over to his successor when he/or she moves into the White House in January 2017.
DEBKA Weekly’s sources in Washington and Tehran reported on this deferral back in May, (see DEBKA Weekly 635 of May 16, “Obama Pushes Nuclear Deal Deadline to January 2015; Seeks Congress Nod for Military Action”).
Although no one in Washington or Tehran believes that Barack Obama would really push the button if congress approved military action, the president decided to go that route to head off the legislators who constantly clamor for intensified sanctions against a cheating Iran. He can then shut them up by asking; Who needs more sanctions when at any moment I can activate our military option, the toughest sanction of all?


Obama backpedals on military option against Iran


This week, the sanctions bill proposed by Senators Mark Kirk (Republican of Illinois), Bob Menendez (Democrat of New Jersey) and 59 other co-sponsors, showed new signs of life after being stalled for a while by an administration onslaught. Is this the sign of a White House rethink as a result of Obama’s loss of credibility in Tehran?
The state of play at the moment is that Washington’s concessions for the sake of a deal have the effect of making Ayatollah Ali Khamenei a tougher bargaining partner.
Nonetheless, the president took another step back by giving up his plan to open up a military option, according to the May 28 foreign policy speech he gave at West Point.
Now, we have an opportunity to resolve our differences peacefully. The odds of success are still long, and we reserve all options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But for the first time in a decade, we have a very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement – one that is more effective and durable than what would be achieved through the use of force. And throughout these negotiations, it has been our willingness to work through multilateral channels that kept the world on our side."
Less than a week later, the administration was backpedaling on the deadline for a nuclear accord too. And once again, he drew a pugnacious response from Tehran.


Khamenei responds with belligerence


The supreme leader said that years of “troublemaking” by the arch-foe the US had not broken the Islamic Republic, which must face its domestic and foreign problems head on.
“We should understand the obstacles on the path taken by Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini],” Khamenei said on the 25th anniversary of the death of the Islamic Republic’s founder in a televised speech at Khomeini’s tomb.
"The external challenge before Iran is the troublemaking of the global arrogance -- frankly speaking, that of the United States," he added.
“Military action is not currently a priority for the US after its losses in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said the supreme leader, discounting in advance any possible US military strike.
Last week, Khamenei vowed that Iran would fight the US until America was destroyed.
On June 1 and 2, Tehran welcomed a rare visit by the ruler of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah-Jabar Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who arrived for an attempt to broker the quarrel between Iran and the Saudi royal family. Khamenei refused to receive him and he had to be satisfied with meeting President Hassan Rouhani who has little say in Tehran.
The emir’s mission was therefore foredoomed to fail – not least because the Saudis were not exactly eager to take up his offer. But it gave the Iranian leader another chance for harsh behavior. He directed Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to turn down an invitation to visit Saudi Arabia received from Prince Saudi al-Faisal, his opposite number in Riyadh. He said he had to be in Vienna on June 16-20 for multilateral talks on Iran’s nuclear program and could therefore not make it.
Of course, Zarif could have rescheduled his Saudi visit, but that would have been an act of defiance against the supreme ruler.


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HOT POINTS
A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending June 5, 2014

May 30, 2014 Briefs

  • First Palestinian caught with bomb vest in years
    Friday, after two days of Palestinian disturbances in Jerusalem, Israeli border police apprehended a Palestinian man in his 20s with a bomb vest strapped to his chest at the Tapuach junction of the northern West Bank region of Samaria. The police officers became suspicious when they spotted the man wearing a heavy coat on an extremely hot day approaching their post on foot. It was the first time in years that a Palestinian was found wearing a bomb belt, the most common cause of multiple deaths in the Palestinian suicide bombing war on Israel in the early 2000s.


May 31, 2014 Briefs

  • US, French, Algerian forces take on AQIM in S. Libya
    British intelligence sources report that the US, France and Algeria have sent special forces against Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) in South Libya. They are hunting for its leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, notorious for the Algerian gas field attack in 2012. and aim to block AQIM reinforcements against Gen. Khalifa Hafter’s offensive to rid Libyan government of Islamist factions.
  • Russia credited for sudden improvement in Syrian air force
    Western military sources credit Russian advisers with the improvement in the Syria air force’s recent improved performance. In Hama alone, Syria made 1,864 air sorties from early March up until May 20.
  • US warns China to stop “destabilizing” steps in Asia
    US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel accused China of destabilizing, unilateral actions in the South China Sea and warned that Washington “will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are challenged.” He was addressing the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Tokyo perceived an "increasingly severe regional security environment."


The US President’s foreign policy leaves Ukraine’s chocolate king in a box


31 May.
Wednesday, June 4, President Poroshenko has a date in Warsaw with US President Barack Obama, who is coming to assure East European leaders that America is there to defend them against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s designs. He will find its leaders hard to convince. Obama left them, as well as Middle East leaders, deeply worried by the policy messages he delivered at West Point last Wednesday, when he said that for the “best American hammer not every problem is a nail” and advocated instead isolation for Russia and diplomacy for Iran.


June 1, 2014 Briefs

  • Israeli counters Syrian mortar fire with artillery
    A mortar shell from the Syrian side of the border fell near an IDF position on the Hermon range early Monday. It caused no casualties or damage. Israel aimed its artillery against the Syrian source of fire. An Israel air strike hit “terrorist targets” in southern Gaza after a rocket raised a Code Red alert at Sha’ar Hanegev Sunday evening.
  • Controversy over US soldier swap for five top Taliban prisoners
    The Taliban prisoner swap for Sgt Bowe Bergdahl approved by President Obama is raising controversy in Washington amid suggestions that it may endanger American lives, among other objections. Freed from Guantanamo Bay were these top Taliban commanders who must stay in Qatar for one year.
  • MK Tzachi Hanegbi confirmed as Dep. Foreign Minister
    The government Sunday confirmed Knesset Member Tzachi Hanegbi as Deputy Foreign Minister. He takes over from MK Zeev Elkin who was appointed Chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Security Committee.


Is Mehdi Nemmouche the Brussels Al Qaeda killer – or accomplice who removed the evidence?


1 June.
Incriminating evidence links Mehdi Nemmouche, 29 the jihadi arrested Friday, May 30, at Marseille bus station, to the murders of four people, including the Israeli couple Mira and Emmanuel Riva at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on May 24. The guns in his luggage were of the same types as the murder weapons. He also spent a year in Syria fighting for Islamist militias. His record of constant travel also suggests he served as hired bagman for smuggling weapons among terrorist groups and in other roles as terrorist accomplice. But many questions remain unanswered about whether he was indeed the perpetrator of the Brussels murders. So far, he is not cooperating with the investigation.


June 2, 2014 Briefs

  • The US will work with new Palestinian government
    State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US intends to work with the new Palestinian government despite Israel's concerns. She said the US will continue to send aid to the Palestinians, but will closely watch what she called the "interim technocratic government." The EU followed suit.
    Both major Western powers therefore brushed off Netanyahu’s call on the world to shun the new government over its partnership with a terrorist organization.
  • Kuwait ruler ends two-day visit to Tehran
    Denoting a certain thaw in Gulf-Iran relations, Kuwait’s ruler Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al Jaber Al-Sabah, ended a two-day visit to Tehran Monday. debkafile reports however that the emir met President Hassan Rouhani, but was not invited to see Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  • Rami Hamdullah sworn in as PM of Palestinian unity prime minister
    The Palestinians have a single, united government for the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the first time in seven years. Its ministers headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdullah took their oaths of office Monday in Ramallah before Mahmoud Abbas after resolving last minute disputes.
  • Israeli returns Syrian mortar fire with artillery
    Several mortar rounds from the Syrian side of the border fell near an IDF position on the Hermon range early Monday. It caused no casualties or damage. Israel aimed its artillery against the Syrian source of fire. An Israel air strike hit “terrorist targets” in southern Gaza after a rocket raised a Code Red alert at Sha’ar Hanegev Sunday evening.


Second Palestinian terrorist killed in four days in Nablus roadblock clash. An Israel Border Guardsman injured


2 June
. A Palestinian gunman in a car opened fire on an Israeli border guard checkpoint at the Tapuach checkpoint outside Nablus before dawn Tuesday, June 3. The soldiers returned fire and killed the gunman. One soldier was hit in the leg. It was the second encounter in four days at the same spot between an Israeli security force and a terrorist. It happened shortly after Washington said the US would work with the new Palestinian unity government, despite Israel’s concerns about the participation of the Hamas terrorist organization. Israel voiced deep disappointment.


US brushes off Israel’s objections to new Palestinian government


2 June.
The US will work with and send aid to the new Palestinian government despite Israel's concerns, US Secretary of State John Kerry informed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday, after Mahmoud Abbas sealed his partnership with Hamas by swearing in their shared government in Ramallah. The EU echoed the US decision. Both therefore brushed off Netanyahu’s call to shun the new government for co-opting a terrorist organization. Israel responded with a decision to hold the new government responsible for rocket fire and terrorism out of Gaza and other punitive measures?


June 3, 2014 Briefs

  • Ten Nigerian generals guilty of abetting Islamist Boko Haram
    Ten generals and five other senior military officers were found guilty in courts-martial of providing arms and information to help Boko Haram extremists attack military targets.
  • Obama arrives in Poland, brings E. Europe cautious security pledges
    President Barack Obama arrived in Warsaw Tuesday at the start of a four-day trip to Europe to demonstrate US commitment to E. European security after Russian intervention in Ukraine.
  • Police curb Muslim access to Temple Mt, allow Jews and tourists
    The Jerusalem police opened Temple Mount to free access by Jews and tourists for the first time Tuesday, Shavuot Eve. Access to Muslims was restricted after tips were received of plans for another stone-throwing rampage against the police and Jewish worshippers. This policy reversal by the Jerusalem police followed months of Muslim disturbances directed against non-Muslim visits to the shrine and Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall.
  • Syria holds presidential election amid raging civil war
    Bashar Assad and his wife cast votes Tuesday for Syria’s presidential poll as the civil war went into its fourth year without let-up. Sixteen million eligible voters began casting their votes at 12,000 polling booths with only one real option: Assad’s reelection for a further seven years.


Netanyahu plans to counter US acceptance of Palestinian unity by blocking future West Bank elections


3 June
. The US-EU decision to continue funding the Palestinian Hamas-backed government, is a landmark: for the first time, the US and Europe will be bankrolling an organization they have listed as terrorist, as well as its armed militia, the Ezz e-Din al-Qassam Brigades. debkafile: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s comment that he is “deeply troubled” underscores his government’s disarray over this development. Tuesday, June 3, he confided to his close advisers that he will not repeat the mistake made by his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, and let Palestinian elections take place, knowing Hamas will sweep the board.


June 4, 2014 Briefs

  • Three killed in suicide bombing on Gen. Hafter’s residence
    Three people were killed and four injured in a suicide bombing targeting General Khalifa Hafter, who has been leading an offensive against Islamist domination of Libya. His spokesman said he was unhurt. But Libyan military officials said the ex-general was injured and taken to Benghazi hospital.
  • Taliban releases video showing US soldier’s handover
    The Taliban released a video Wednesday showing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s handover to the US in return for five high-profile Taliban leaders. The sergeant was hustled into a helicopter by three Americans in dark uniforms while a Black Hawk cruised overhead. “Don’ come back to Afghanistan” (misspelled) was the last image written on the clip.
  • Obama admits Taliban prisoner swap could harm America
    Facing bipartisan criticism at home, President Barack Obama admitted Tuesday that the five high-profile Taliban prisoners swapped for Sgt Bowe Bergdahl could rejoin jihad against America. “That’s been true of all prisoners released from Guantanamo,” he said. A Middle East official said the released Taliban leaders were moving around in Qatar unhindered and unmonitored and preparing to return to the battlefield. Senator Dianne Feinstein said: ““I certainly want to know more about whether this man (Bergadhi) is a deserter or not.” A deputy national security adviser had called her office Monday, she said, to apologize for the administration’s failure to notify her as the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee before Saturday’s swap.
  • Former US ambassador to Syria laments American policy
    Had the US provided more assistance to the Syrian rebels early on, the opposition would have gained ground more quickly and been able to negotiate from a much stronger position, said Robert Ford, former US ambassador to Syria in a deeply critical CNN interview Tuesday. He added that "the ability of al Qaeda and Islamist extremist groups to recruit away from the moderates would’ve been less. And we would have less of an extremism problem in Syria now… Even a year or two ago it would've made a big difference." He ended his tour in February, saying “I could no longer defend American policy.”
    Ford followed former defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta in lambasting President Barack Obama’s Syria policy.


June 5, 2014 Briefs

  • Second round of Israeli building starts approved across Green Line
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Thursday ordered another 1,800 new apartments to be approved by the Planning Council of the West Bank Civil Authority in locations outside the Green Line. Earlier, Housing Minister Uri Ariel announced government plans to build 1,100 new housing units – 400 in Jerusalem and the rest in Judea and Samaria. Ariel said this was in response to the formation of a Palestinian “terrorist government.”
  • Iron Dome fails in first Golan performance
    Several rockets and mortar shells from Syria landed on Israeli Golan after midnight Wednesday igniting fires. The incoming projectiles were not intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-rocket battery, recently posted opposite the Syria border. Israeli forces did not return the fire.
  • Israeli officials: Kerry broke commitment to Netanyahu
    Sources close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accused US Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday of reneging on their agreement that the Obama administration would not rush to accept the Palestinian unity government but give Israel time to prepare its response. Israel was caught unawares by Washington’s announcement of its willingness to accept and continuing funding the new Palestinian line-up just hours after it was sworn in in Ramallah.


Kerry in Beirut promotes US engagement with the pro-Iranian Hizballah terrorists, after Hamas


5 June
. US Secretary of State John Kerry, by holding talks in Beirut on June 4 with Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam, whose government includes Hizballah ministers, established a new rule: It is okay to engage governments backed by terrorists, whether Hamas in Ramallah or Hizballah in Beirut, so long as they “don’t cross the line." Kerry did not say what that line was or how the Obama administration would treat any “crossings” thereof. He went still further by inviting Iran and Hizballah to take part in a political solution of the Syrian crisis.


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