President Barack Obama’s hopes of getting a nuclear deal with Iran were knocked on the head Monday, March 9, after Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif had come close to wrapping it up this week in Switzerland.
After long keeping Washington on tenterhooks, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei finally came off the fence and broke his silence on the nuclear deal – typically, leaking a series of negatives through members of his close circle.
Those negatives systematically nullified the diplomatic structure painstakingly put in place by Kerry and Zarif. According to DEBKA Weekly’s Iranian sources, Khamenei refused to allow any principles to be laid down for a nuclear accord, or the itemization of technical data relating to Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Indeed, he rejected the entire concept of a framework accord, on which Kerry and Zarif had been toiling against a March 31 deadline.
So no technical details, no principles and no deadlines, as far as the supreme leader is concerned. But he had one positive thing to say: the nuclear negotiations may continue.
Even that door was shut by Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, when he said that the only way to reach a nuclear agreement “based on mutual interests” is the removal of all sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The sanctions are “cruel, illegal and ineffective” he said at a ceremony for deploying a warship in the Caspian Sea.
Anti-nuclear accord opinion spreads to Iranian street
Khamenei’s blow found Obama already struggling against an anti-nuclear diplomacy revolt as pressure to meet the deadline mounted.
All the reports reaching the Oval Office had one common theme. DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources report: they one and all described the dissent mounting in Iran to Zarif's negotiations with Washington on behalf of President Hassan Rouhani.
The dissatisfaction had spilled over from the radical circles of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and the clerical establishment to sweep up broad sections of Iranian society, such as academics, op-ed writers, relatively moderate clerics and a group referred to locally as “the camp of worriers.”
Critics were also raising their voices in Washington and in ruling circles in Moscow, Berlin and Paris
The US president did his best to paper over the sagging state of his nuclear diplomacy when he spoke on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday, March 8:
“We have made progress in narrowing the gaps, but those gaps still in exist,” he said. “And I would say that over the next month or so, we’re going to be able to determine whether or not their system is able to accept what would be an extraordinarily reasonable deal – if, in fact, as they say, they are only interested in peaceful nuclear programs.”
Unease inside the P5+1 group of world leaders
Khamenei delivered his death blow to the deal the following day.
He is known to have reacted with fury to the French daily Le Figaro report, quoting “Western intelligence sources,” that he was not likely to last more than two years, because “his prostate cancer had reached stage four and started to spread to the rest of his body.”
The Figaro story was meant to warn Khamenei that he had better get a move on and sign off on the nuclear deal before the end of March deadline, so that some of the sanctions crippling the Iranian economy could be lifted.
The supreme leader would then come out with a legacy that credited him with preserving most of the infrastructure of Iran’s nuclear program, while at the same time easing the economic hardships suffered by the Iranian people.
That veiled threat/promise acted like a boomerang.
But not only in Iran is the current nuclear diplomacy unpopular. Objections are coming from inside US negotiating partners in the P5+1 group of world nations facing Iran across the table.
In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin may have their hands full with the crises over the murder of Boris Nemtsov, the 55 year old deputy prime minister turned opposition leader, and Ukraine, but they were very clear about their rebuttal of the deal Washington has been negotiating with Tehran.
French and German parliaments set to subject any deal to review
The Russians have consistently objected to Iran being allowed to reach the nuclear threshold, thereby leaving the Islamic regime with the freedom to choose if and when to go forward and build a bomb.
The Kremlin is also extremely uneasy over the prospect of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards extremists, who are on the march from one Middle East capital to the next, reaching the Volga valley - the banks of the longest river in Europe - and making common cause with the indigenous Muslim population.
Although Berlin has not had its say on the subject openly, a hint came from German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier when he addressed the Bundestag Wednesday, March 4. He said cautiously that he sees “cautious signs of hope” in talks with Iran for a nuclear deal that should exclude “the possibility of Iran getting nuclear weapons.
The French were more candid: “Commitments offered by Iran in talks with six world powers on its nuclear program do not go far enough and more work needs to be done,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Friday, March 6. The situation, he said, was still “insufficient” regarding the “volume, checks and duration of the envisaged commitments.”
When he met Kerry privately, the French foreign minister made it clear that France can’t accept the deal as it stands and it must be changed.
DEBKA Weekly’s sources have learned that the French parliament is preparing legislation that would make ratification incumbent for any accord the P5+1 (US, France, UK, Russia, China and Germany) might conclude on the fate of Iran’s nuclear program. This French initiative would reflect government policy. However, the German Bundestag, less sure of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s response, is making similar preparations more discreetly.
Both legislatures plan to follow the lead of the US senate.
Obama knew the way the wind was blowing in Tehran
As the president’s nuclear policy ran out of steam in Iran, Moscow and Europe, Republicans on Capitol Hill tried to kill it with a tough broadside.
The White House spokesman accused the group of 47 Republican senators of trying to upend diplomatic negotiations with a step that was “tantamount to rushing into war with Tehran.”
He was talking about the open letter the senators addressed to Tehran warning that to be binding and lasting, any accord or treaty must be ratified by a two-thirds Senate vote. Without this, the nuclear agreement would be nothing more than “an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei,” and could be revoked by the next president with “a stroke of the pen.”
Obama snapped back in person the next day by mocking the dissident senators as making "an unusual coalition" with Iran's hard-line religious leaders.
This comparison also betrayed the president’s awareness of the way the wind was blowing in Tehran, as well as Congress, where some Democrats share the view of their Republican colleagues.
A dissident Democrat is unworried by punishment
A leading critic of Obama’s Iran policy from his own party, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, found himself under an unexpected cloud, but promised to carry on business as usual.
On March 6, reports appeared that he is about to be indicted on corruption charges alleging he improperly used his office to benefit a friend and major donor Salomon Melgen. Asked by reporters if he was worried about his career, Menendez said: “I am not.” He also pointed out that he hadn’t been charged with anything - “so you guys are way ahead.”
No one on the Hill doubts that Menendez was targeted as a warning to back off from the initiatives he has led against what he sees as a bad deal with Iran. He promises not to be deterred. He told his friends that any investigation and indictment could take up to eighteen months to two years - or more - to draw up and by then, the president will be on his way out of the White House.
As for Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is following up on his speech to Congress. Next week, he sends the head of Military Intelligence (AMAN), Maj. Gen Hetzi Halevi, to Washington. He will hand US security officials a fresh intelligence update on the state of Iran’s nuclear program which, our sources report, includes data at variance with the information on which the Obama administration is basing its premises for an accord.
For two weeks running, opinion polls have placed Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-of-center Likud second in the forthcoming general election on March 17, with 21 Knesset seats to the left-of-center Zionist Camp’s 24-25.
This is a slim though consistent lead for the opposition party.
The numbers say that neither top party leader can hope to command more than a one-fifth segment of the 120-seat parliament, and neither, whether the incumbent Netanyahu or his challenger Yitzhak Herzog, will be able to form a government without inviting several small factions as coalition partners.
In these circumstances, the candidate able to whip together a majority government would prevail. It could be Herzog who is promised left-wing support, or Netanyahu who has pledges from the right-wing camp. That leaves the centrist and religious parties waiting to be wooed to fill out the numbers.
Alternatively, Netanyahu and Herzog could do a deal to form unity government and rotate the premiership between them.
For now, however, DEBKA Weekly’s political sources describe a mood of despondency has descended on Netanyahu’s close circle. Interior Minister Gilead Erdan and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinetz are quoted as saying that Likud’s defeat is a foregone conclusion. Even Likud adherents canvassed five days before balloting confess they may not vote for their favorite party because “Bibi” has been prime minister long enough and it is time for him to go.
The motto “Just Not Bibi” dreamed up by the opposition has worked as the catalyst of a trend.
Obama’s White House looks forward to new Israeli premier
An election that pushes Netanyahu’s Likud out of office, after 16 years, and installs the Zionist Camp’s Herzog, would be a major upset – and not just for Israeli politics.
The falling-out between President Barack Obama and Netanyahu and its impact on Middle East events has filled endless news and op-ed columns. Already, the president’s aides are setting in motion plans to invite Yitzhak Herzog, who is widely tabbed in Washington as next Israeli premier, to the White House, as soon as he has assembled a cabinet – late May or early June.
And already, the White House and Zionist Camp’s headquarters are working happily on the draft of a joint communiqué to commemorate this first encounter and put on record Israel’s endorsement of the Obama line on nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the Palestinian issue.
The communiqué would tactfully leave out references to Iran’s march of influence through Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. All in all, it would reflect as little reality as Obama’s comments after his visit to Riyadh last month.
For by now, it is obvious that the US president has no intention of revising his approach to Iran, whether on the nuclear question, or their strategic partnership in the Gulf, Syria, Iraq and the war on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Opting for ties with Obama means dropping allies in Cairo, Riyadh
But will Herzog, who is not known exactly for his rugged assertiveness, just glory in this epic burying of the hatchet between Jerusalem and Washington, or use closed-door parley with the president for a stab at repairing some of the damage inflicted on Israel’s interests.
This question is of vital importance to Israel’s standing in the region. Because if Herzog goes through with his pledge to go back to full cooperation with the US administration, Israel will find itself bereft of the special intelligence and military ties Netanyahu secretly wove with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi and the royal court in Riyadh.
This choice may be the new prime minister’s first weighty policy decision.
The Zionist Camp leader also promised to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in an effort to revive the peace track.
To this end, Herzog would have to revoke the steps taken by the Netanyahu government, including the cutoff of tax returns, in retaliation for Abbas’ unilateral action in joining international bodies, including filing indictments against Israel at the world war crimes court in The Hague.
The Palestinian leader will certainly not miss the opportunity to exact more Israeli concessions as the price for a meeting with the new Israeli prime minister.
Abu Mazen gains a finger in Israel’s parliament
In this regard, the new Knesset faces another historic change.
For the first time, Israeli Arab parties are making a successful run with a united list which could net 13-14 seats and become the third or fourth largest party in Israel’s parliament. Herzog would be able to count on this faction siding with his policies against the potential right-wing opposition.
But this is where things could get complicated. The Palestinian leader holds unchallenged sway over the united Arab party and he would be able to bring his influence to bear on Israel’s parliamentary business, as well as on the already tangled relations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.
A Likud victory or a unity government could hold these manipulations in check.
In the wake of the reported death of the Nusra Front commander Abu Hamam al-Shami last month, the organization’s new “emir”, Mohammed al-Jawlani, received an offer he may find it hard to refuse.
Saudi intelligence agents turned up at his headquarters with a check for several hundred million dollars, payable against the consent to convert his organization into a paramilitary militia fully funded by Riyadh as its proxy fighting force in Syria.
The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait are reported by DEBKA Weekly’s Gulf sources to be partners in the Saudi bid.
The offer would require Nusra to break off ties with Al Qaeda, on the one hand, and take the lead of the Sunni Muslim battle against Bashar Assad, on the other - up to and including his overthrow.
The Saudi feeler had the immediate effect of splitting the Nusra Front into fiercely competitive camps between advocates and opponents of the split from al Qaeda, of which the Syrian militia was proclaimed Syrian branch last year.
Saudis don’t believe IS is breaking up or losing traction
The infighting was kicked off by an attempt to purge Iraqi Abu Maria al-Qahtani and Sultan al-Atwi, the leaders of Nusra’s anti-Islamic State faction, so as to block acceptance of the Saudi proposition. Another faction rose in it place, led by the ultra-strict Jordanian Sami Al-Aridi, who took over Al-Qahtani’s role as Nusra’s senior cleric, after ISIS defeated Nusra at Deir ez-Zor in northeastern Syria.
Al Qahtani, who favors the breakaway from al Qaeda, was strengthened by the Saudi bid. He is also popular with the Syrian fighters who joined Nusra to oust Assad and with the tribes and factions of the Deir ez-Zur region.
The deal with the Saudis, if it goes through, would be tantamount to Nusra’s declaration of war on the Islamic State. Clashes between the two Islamist forces would loosen the ISIS’s grip on northeastern Syria, for which Qahtani would be able to enlist help from the local tribes.
But as yet, Nusra’s leaders are too bogged down in inner turmoil to give Riyadh an answer.
The Saudis have another problem.
DEBKA Weekly’s counter-terror sources report that political and military policy-makers in Riyadh take exception to the Obama administration’s latest evaluations of cracks in the Islamic State’s ruling bodies which, the Americans believe, portend its impending collapse.
Local Iraqi Sunnis will oppose not welcome Shiite militias “liberators”
Drawing on long local experience, the Saudis note that a violent organization ruling a large swathe of territory may appear to Western outsiders to be on the point of breaking up. But, they say, this is not happening and neither are the local populations under the jihadist jackboots on the point of revolt, as the Americans appear to believe.
To the contrary, Riyadh has discovered alarmingly that these subject populations in Iraq and Syria would rather live in the ISIS caliphate than submit to alien Shiite “liberators” like Iran’s surrogate Hizballah, from whom as Sunni Muslims they have more to fear than from ISIS.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff, sounded upbeat when he arrived in Baghdad Sunday, March 8, but he was in fact heavily weighed down by the Sunni Arab front’s strong aversion, led from Riyadh, to Iran’s leading role in the war on ISIS. The US-led coalition for fighting the Islamic State is hamstrung in its efforts by this division in its ranks.
The general noted when he landed in Iraq that 23,000 Iranian-based Shiite militiamen, Sunni tribal fighters and Iraqi soldiers were fighting to liberate Tikrit against only hundreds of ISIS fighters.
Dempsey concerned by Iraq divisions undercutting coalition
But this optimistic calculation was quickly overshadowed, DEBKA Weekly’s sources report, by Riyadh’s warning to Washington that, even if Iraqi troops and Shiite militias succeeded by dint of superior numbers to drive ISIS out of Tikrit, it would be a Pyrrhic victory. The local Sunni inhabitants would stand up and fight the Shiite militia conquest, shoulder to shoulder with the jihadis.
Dempsey omitted to mention the key role of the Kurdish peshmerga in this war - although they are the only ground force in the field holding back Islamist encroachments in northern Iraq, and while poorly armed, are fighting valiantly with heavy losses.
The Kurds have every reason to fear Tikrit’s fall to the Iranian-Iraqi Shiite force. They are certain that Tehran wouldn’t miss using the momentum for a further offensive to capture the big northern Iraqi oil town of Kirkuk on the doorstep of the Kurdish republic.
Picking up for the first time on Kurdish concerns, Gen. Dempsey told reporters in Bahrain Monday, at the end of his trip to Iraq that “the overriding goal for Washington and other coalition members” was to ensure that Iraq’s Shiite-led authorities also upheld the rights of its Sunni Arab and Kurdish communities as the key to the coalition’s cohesion. He noted that when he flew over Baghdad, he saw that many buildings had Shiite militia banners and only one flew the Iraq flag.
This untold story is an object lesson on how the clandestine roles played by double or triple spies, moles and informers, affect major conflicts. It also shows how much family attachments mean to a functioning terrorist.
On Aug. 25, 2003, three missiles fired from an Israeli helicopter gunship killed four members of the armed wing of the Palestinian extremist Hamas organization in Gaza City. Witnesses, hearing deafening explosions, saw the missiles strike a group of men sitting near the beach.
The attack followed the Israeli chief of staff’s vow to hunt down the Palestinian terrorists and cut their leaders down.
One of the victims was Ahmad Shteiwi, 24, a senior officer in Hamas’ Ezz a-din al-Qassam armed wing. He was listed by Israeli security officials as the group’s operations chief and mastermind of terrorist attacks.
His brother Muhammad Shteiwi stepped into his shoes then and there.
Exactly eleven years later, on Aug. 19, 2014 – Day 44 of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in the Gaza Strip - the Israeli Air Force dropped six one-ton bombs on a multi-storied apartment building in the Sheikh Radwan district of Gaza City.
After the smoke cleared, the bombardment was found to have killed two relatives of Muhammed Deif, Hamas’ iconic military chief: Wadad Mustafa Harb Deif, aged 28, his wife and his 8-month old son Muhammad Diyab Deif, as well a rocket-man, Ahmad Ravah Dilo, aged 18 – who was no relation.
Deif survives seventh targeted assassination - barely
Muhammed Deif’s body was not found in the rubble of the building. He was presumed to have fled to safety in time to escape the Israeli bombardment. He has not been seen or heard of since. When asked what happened to him, Israeli security officials fall silent.
Shortly after the Israeli air raid, DEBKA Weekly of Aug. 20 quoted Israeli intelligence sources as concluding that their most wanted Palestinian terrorist target, Muhammad Deif, had got away. Like a cat, he had survived six former Israeli attempts on his life in the past 17 years and had managed to do so again.
But they wondered how he had managed it when his closest family was left to die.
The answer is simple. The first two Israeli bombs were duds. They did not explode, but they gave the master terrorist the tipoff to an ongoing air strike on his home. Confronted with the agonizing choice between saving himself or a hopeless attempt to save his family, he opted for the first.
By the time the rest of the bombs were dropped, Deif had reached safety. And so Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip last summer missed one of its primary objectives.
The iconic Hamas chief was sold out by an insider
Deif and Hamas commanders, assisted by Iranian and Hizballah intelligence officers, probed tirelessly to locate the informer who gave the Israeli Shin Bet’s the exact address of the building and apartment occupied by the Deif family and told the Israeli spy agency that Deif would be there on the night of Aug. 18.
The investigation led them to Deif’s most loyal minion, Muhammad Shteiwi, who took over from his older brother Ahmad when he was killed in a previous Israeli targeted assassination eleven years earlier.
The younger Shteiwi had in the intervening years climbed up the terrorist organization’s military ladder. By the time the Israeli operation began in 2014, he was commander of the important Zeitoun Battalion with responsibility for defending the southern sectors of Gaza City.
What his Hamas bosses did not know was that Shteiwi also acted under cover as Muhammad Deif’s trusted henchman and performer of a variety of clandestine tasks and missions.
Deif trusted Shteiwi so implicitly that he asked him to arrange a hideout for him to get together with his family whom he had not seen since the onset of the Gaza war more than a month earlier.
Shteiwi accordingly ensconced Deif and his family in the Sheikh Radwan apartment.
No sooner had he settled them in their hideout, when Shteiwi donned his third hat. He sent a message to his Israeli Shin Bet handlers with an offer of their biggest intelligence scoop – Muhammed Deif.
The mole with three hats awaits Hamas execution
At first, Israeli intelligence officials were skeptical about their agent’s scoop. They had previous experience of his capricious, fickle nature which was combined with boundless avarice.
In once instance, they discovered in the middle of a long rocket blitz from the Gaza Strip that Shteiwi had sold rockets sent him for the attacks on Israel to Jihad Islami rocket teams. From this transaction, he benefited twice, earning a substantial sum in cash while at the same time disavowing responsibility for sending rockets against Israel.
The Shin Bet therefore suspected that either Shteiwi was up to one of his tricks or that Hamas was using him to set a trap.
Nonetheless, they passed the information to the highest officials in command of the war operation – Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
They decided to take it on faith and approved an air bombardment of the apartment building which the Hamas informant had identified as the Deif family hideout.
At the end of this murky episode, both the wanted master terrorist and his betrayer were still alive.
Shteiwi is languishing in a Hamas prison waiting for execution. Gaza’s rulers hesitate to carry out the death sentence, because it would be an admission that the highest-ranking officer of Hamas’ armed wing was a traitor and Zionist mole.
Deif has gone back to the shadows. He lives in hiding and on the run, fearing that Israel’s next attempt on his life would bring to an end his run of luck.
On March 6, Central Intelligence Director John Brennan sent a circular letter to all staff members of the CIA under the heading: Our Agency’s Blueprint for the Future. It laid out the general principles of the profound, wide-ranging organizational overhaul which he hopes will prepare the vast spy agency for contending with future challenges.
Founded in 1947 in the aftermath of WWII, the CIA has undergone many changes, but the current one may be the most significant. This time, the agency must be remodeled to take on perils which are outside America’s past experience.
An intelligence agency is judged by a host of variables in terms of events, timelines, circumstances, the assessments of needs in different dimensions, and the results of their operations. Since most of those operations are hidden from the public view – and responsibility may be shared by diverse competing authorities, it is almost impossible to accurately gauge the value of their contribution to national security.
America has 16 intelligence services in addition to the CIA, including the Pentagon, the Air Force, the Navy, Police forces and other law enforcement agencies. Their areas of operation are often parallel to one another and sometimes overlap.
The CIA warrants close examination, not least in view of its admission, implied rather than explicit, that it missed the boat in its prognoses of the wide-ranging political, civilian, social and military processes besetting the world in the last 25 years, and their overwhelming repercussions on the national security of America and its allies.
Adapting to and exploiting the digital revolution
Brennan placed his renovation program under four main headings:
1. Investing in our people by enhancing our talent and leadership development and preserving a high standard of staff to deepen their distinctive tradecrafts, while also broadening their understanding of CIA, the intelligence profession and the national security mission.
This is to be accomplished by creating –
2. Adapting the Agency to the digital revolution which both gives agents undreamed of tools for levering their operations to new capabilities but also threatens the organization and by extension the United States.
Excellence and Integration
3. Improving the way the CIA “conducts business.” The speed of world events requiring rapid and effective responses calls for a fundamental change in administration that extends to staff and directors broader freedom of action on the basis of solid information. Therefore –
4. Integrating all the Agency’s activities so that all branches will cooperate closely for better results in the complex and challenging tasks ahead.
Interoperability for coping with abounding cyber threats
John Brennan’s Blueprint for the Future, while laying out fundamental improvements also bares the weaknesses that cry out for repair, DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence experts note.
America’s primary intelligence and espionage organization has long suffered from organizational sclerosis and structural inadequacies that rendered it unsuited to function in the contemporary technological and engineering environment of the hi-tech world. Notwithstanding its huge budgets, the CIA is slower in its responses to challenges and not up to the proactive and technological initiatives required for breaking through to leadership roles.
Brennan’s plan, although it comes 20 years late, aims to raise CIA standards level to the big global hi-tech corporations by a structural overhaul of the organization. No more insider bodies keeping tight hold of intelligence, operational and technological resources to serve their exclusive needs, but an opening up of across-the-board collaboration and the integration of resources.
The reform is also framed to blow away the dozens of compartmentalized technological bodies functioning inside the CIA. The excessive overlap and too little cooperation are wasteful and cause the Agency as a whole irreversible damage. They must all come under a single roof body for serving the Mission Centers with all the technology required for a given task.
Security of developed world nations at highest risk of terror
The downside of this reform is that reduced compartmentalization opens the door to leakages of data, systems and the destinations of ongoing missions.
However, the United States like the West at large has no time to lose before going forward to confront the global cyber war which already poses a major peril to the security of world nations.
A terrorist organization may decide to take control of the cooling system of an atomic reactor in central Europe or North America – is one scenario; shutting down powers stations supplying Chicago in a freezing winter, or switching off the signaling lights for oncoming passenger trains – are others.
None of these scenarios may any longer be relegated to horror films or dismissed as he sales pitches of security systems purveyors. The developed countries of the world are the most at risk because their societies subsist on computerized infrastructure with its extreme vulnerability to attack.
March 6, 2015 Briefs
Five injured by Palestinian car crashing into Israel female police officers in Jerusalem
6 Mar. A Palestinian terrorist at the wheel of a car ploughed into a group of female police officers Friday, Feb. 6, injuring four. They were on duty for the Purim festival on northern Jerusalem’s Route One near the police and border guard headquarters. When police began closing in, the terrorist jumped out of the car brandishing a meat cleaver to attack bystanders. He was shot and seriously injured by the border guard. Vandals later damaged Jewish tombstones at the ancient Mount of Olives cemetery.
March 7, 2015 Briefs
US and Israeli intelligence at sharp odds on Iran’s breakout time to a bomb
7 Mar. US and Israeli intelligence experts sharply disagree on the time Iran needs for breakout to a nuclear bomb. The Americans cite one year between a decision by Tehran to cross from nuclear threshold to nuclear bomb – enough time for preventive action; the Israelis say much less and, anyway, US and Israeli can’t be sure to catch the Iranians at it in time to stop its advance to a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia, fellow Gulf States and Egypt are no more convinced than Israel that the one-year timeline is realistic.
March 8, 2015 Briefs
March 9, 2015 Briefs
Iranian general on groundbreaking visit to Amman
9 Mar. debkafile reveals exclusively that Gen. Qassem Soleiman, commander of the Revolutionary Guards elite Al Qods Brigades, paid a groundbreaking visit last Thursday, March 5, to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as guest of Gen. Faisal Al-Shoulbaki, director of General Intelligence, a trusted adviser to King Abdullah II. The visit, encouraged by the Obama administration’s policies, showed one of America’s oldest Sunni Arab allies recognizing trending Mid East reality to jump the lines over to Tehran. Iran’s grab for influence is reaching from four capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Sanaa, Beirut to a fifth, Amman.
March 10, 2015 Briefs
ISIS executes Israeli Arab from Jerusalem as a “Mossad spy”
10 Mar. The Islamic State has put to death an Israeli Arab for the first time. A video tape released by the jihadists showed Said Ismail Musallem, aged 19, from Beit Haninah, East Jerusalem, shot in the head Tuesday March 10 by a 12-year old boy clad in ISIS uniform. He was condemned as an alleged spy for the Israeli external security service, the Mossad. The boy and the terrorist standing beside him were later identified as French nationals. The man, who issued a warning to French Jews, is believed to be the half-brother of the French jihadi gunman Mohammad Merah, who killed three Jewish students and a teacher in Toulouse in 2012 after shooting dead three French soldiers.
Palestinian forces detain 500 Hamas West Bankers, to thwart coup and Abbas assassination plot
10 Mar. On the orders of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian special forces raided all nine PA-ruled West Bank towns in the past 48 hours and detained 500 Hamas suspects, debkafile reports. Abbas had discovered that Hamas had been hatching a plot for some weeks for an armed uprising against the Palestinian Authority, starting in one of the Palestinian towns – possibly even the PA capital of Ramallah – and assassinate him in the process.
At the same time, because Abbas does not entirely trust Palestinian security services to safeguard him, he turned to Israel, which responded by deploying 3,000 IDF soldiers plus 10,000 reservists on the West Bank in case it became necessary to go into Palestinian towns and prevent their capture by the radical Hamas and Jihad Islami.
March 12, 2015 Briefs
Netanyahu is running out of time for re-election
12 Mar. Five days before Israel’s voting day, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appears weary and, behind his controlled façade, shocked to discover that his Likud may actually be thrown out of office on March 17. Yitzhak’s Zionist Camp is overtaking Likud in the opinion polls – not by much but consistently. When the gap reached four Knesset seats, Netanyahu bestirred himself belatedly to go stumping across the country. He hasn’t lost the race yet, but he will need to pull out all the stops and some rabbits out of his hat to pull ahead.