Vol. 14, Issue 664, May 29, 2015
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ISIS Grabs Oil, Land & Cash
The Islamists Cash in on Natural Resources in Looted Lands, Can Afford a Nuclear Bomb

The Islamic State of Syria and Iraq is not simply devouring swathes of Iraq and Syria as they fall to hand, it is following a calculated, far-sighted plan. A corner of this plan was lifted this week in the latest edition of ISIS’s English-language online magazine Dabiq. Under the title “A Perfect Storm,” the writer asserts: “The Islamic State has billions of dollars in the bank, so they call on their wilayah (chapter) in Pakistan to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials.”
The piece is attributed to the British photojournalist John Cantlie, who ISIS has held hostage for two years and uses for its propaganda.
He goes on to raise a “hypothetical” possibility, whereby ISIS operatives in Pakistan bribe an official to provide them with a nuclear device, which is then smuggled into America via Libya, Nigeria and Mexico.
On the face of it, this suggestion sounds improbable given the extreme US and Pakistani security measures in place for guarding Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal. But, not too long ago, the frightening speed with which the Islamic State is slashing its way through countries of the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent – and the huge assets it is scooping up along the way - looked just as improbable.

ISIS scoops up energy resources along with territory

In the last fortnight, after broadening the space under its control in Syria and Iraq, armored ISIS columns were reported exclusively by debkafile Sunday, May 24, to be heading out of newly-captured Palmyra for the Jordanian border.
The Saudis woke up in alarm Friday, May 22 when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a Shiite Mosque in the oil-rich eastern Qatif region. The kingdom had obviously been invaded by secret ISIS cells, which were evidently being activated to ignite the Shiite minority into sectarian conflict with the Sunni crown in Riyadh. This uprising would force the world’s biggest oil exporter to wind down production.
When ISIS overran Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria this week, there, too, territory was not the sole objective. Both acquisitions brought the terrorists closer to a grab for Middle East energy resources.
By now, the Islamists not only control three-quarters of Syria, but also 90 percent of its oil, including the al-Furat, al-Omar and Deir Zour fields, which have a combined capacity of 114,000 bpd, although present production runs at roughly 15,000 to 30,000 bpd.
Another half dozen fields have been commandeered in northern Iraq: Ajeel, Himrin, Ain Zalah, Safiyah, Batmah and Qayara, which have a combined capacity of 175,000 bpd and are now producing up to 10,000 bpd.

Not just looting but also sabotaging the enemy’s oil

The Islamists’ lack of technical skills for running the fields poses a great risk of damage to infrastructure.
Nonetheless, they are raking in $10 million to $15 million a day in black market oil revenues – some say as much as $20 - depending on fluctuations in production.
And so John Cantlie’s estimate of “billions of dollars in the bank” is not far-fetched.
But not satisfied with their net gains from the pirated oil fields, ISIS has turned to attacking the resources of its targeted enemies to deprive them of revenue. This tactic is integrated in their Middle East war strategy and highlights the critical importance they attach to oil as a prime strategic and financial asset.
The attack in Qatif was aimed at disrupting the Saudi oilfields by getting at its Shiite workforce.
In Iraq, they are starting fires at the important oil refineries in Baiji.
In central and eastern Libya, Islamists affiliated with ISIS have moved from pillaging facilities to sabotaging them and destroying the oil cargoes destined for export. They are focusing on the fields run as joint ventures with Western companies.
The Middle East as the world’s primary source of oil is under Islamist terrorist assault.

Pillaging Afghanistan’s uranium and precious stones

ISIS has extended its looting-cum-sabotage drive to Afghanistan. Almost unnoticed in the West, the Islamists are moving in on the northern and western provinces, their path smoothed by spending lucre looted from the Middle East on bribing local tribes, militias and villages to pledge their loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and fight the Taliban under his black flag.
In 2010, Afghanistan was estimated to have one trillion dollars worth of untapped mineral deposits. Since then, the US has been sinking $40 million dollars a year in developing these resources, calculating their potential yield for the struggling country as worth app. $2 billion a year.
The two provinces ISIS has targeted were chosen for their promise of rich pickings: Faryab on the border of Turkmenistan, for its wealth of untapped uranium, gas, oil, salt, alabaster and marble; Farah province in the west, for its abundant natural gas, crude oil, precious and semiprecious stones, salt and sulfur.
Selling these treasures on the black market would further bloat ISIS’s ill-gotten fortune.

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Assad is on the Run
The Syrian Army Is Shrinking and Falling Back, Nullifying Assad’s Options

In January 2014, six months before he established his caliphate, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the Iraqi-born leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), made his first bid to gain possession of Deir ez-Zour, the key to control of eastern Syria, its oil fields and its border with Iraq. This prize finally came within his reach on Tuesday, May 26. 2015, when Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered the Syrian army and air force to evacuate their Deir ez-Zour bases.
This amounted to a decision by the Syrian ruler to relinquish his control of eastern Syria. He also sent similar orders out to the troops fighting on the northern, southern and central fronts, where morale had sunk to the pits.
In Damascus, too, the ground had begun shaking under his feet.
ISIS and its rival, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, had launched separate operations to capture the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, 7 km from the presidential palace and General Staff Headquarters in the capital. Having run out of fighting strength, Assad’s army had abandoned the camp’s defense to Palestinian militias still loyal to the regime and Tehran.
(See DEBKA Weekly’s map.)

Palestinian militias move up front as Assad’s mainstay

The Syrian ruler has been reduced to trusting his regime’s survival to a motley legion of Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen, the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah, Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani Shiite militias – and most of all, to the several thousand members of the “PLO’s Military Arm” which, under the command of Mohammed Said, draws most of its fighting strength from the Palestinian camps around Aleppo.
The Palestinians owe Assad a debt of loyalty for the many years their armed groups were given a base of operation and shelter. Most were non-religious factions but, of late, Islamic extremists like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, were also given asylum.
The ISIS grab for the Yarmouk camp has strengthened this alliance. Indeed the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has declared its support for the Syrian army’s operations to defend the camp.
Another previously unknown armed Palestinian group turned up of late in the Qalamoun battle and the fighting around Damascus. It calls itself the “Galilee Forces” or the “Galilee Brigade.” It is an offshoot of the “Return of the Young to Palestine” organization and is commanded by Fadi Al-Malah, popularly known as Abu al- Fadaa.

A 90,000-strong foreign Shiite legion takes over from Syrian army

The fact that Assad has to rely on this loose assortment of Palestinian paramilitary groups to defend the northern gates of his capital is a measure of his plight.
In general, he has fallen back on the large Shiite “foreign legion” of 90,000 Iranians, Hizballah combatants, imported Shiite militias and Palestinians to preserve his regime. Nearly five years of civil war have reduced the Syrian army to a shrunken semblance of its former size and strength. Heavy battlefield losses and the young Syrians who are now shunning military service have taken their toll. The army was forced to cancel the latest draft, the main source of fresh combatants, after very few recruits reported to the army registration centers.
To preserve the last remnants of his army, the Syrian president this week fired officers accused of mistreating the rank and file. The commander of the Aleppo force, army Gen. Khalid Haider, for instance, was sacked for reducing the soldier’s food rations to one pita and one egg a day.
The situation of Assad’s enemies contrasts starkly with Assad’s military plight.

No more parity between pro- and anti-Assad forces, as the opposition swells

ISIS has struck a rich mine of dedicated manpower. Month after month, thousands of young Syrians and thousands more Muslims from other countries flock to its ranks. They are drawn by two powerful inducements:
1. The appeal of a winning side, as the Islamic State keeps on scoring victories.
2. Good pay and working conditions. An ISIS fighter may draw a monthly wage of $1,000 and can stay in touch with the family he left behind and even care for them financially.
Another magnet for volunteers to fight Assad is the new Muslim militia, Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest), founded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, who spend unstintingly on pay as well as training. These fighters are already in the field in northwestern and southern Syria.
According to an updated evaluation by Western and Middle Eastern military and intelligence watchers, the numerical parity once existing between Iranian- backed and Hizballah forces fighting for Assad and the numbers raised by opposition groups plus ISIS is vanishing. The sources of Assad’s fighting manpower have dried up, whereas his enemies are constantly boosted by an influx of fresh young fighters.

Assad could crash without warning

This evaluation has led to the conclusion that Bashar Assad’s slow decline is picking up speed and he could crash without warning.
At any moment, as the Syrian army withdraws from the northern, central, eastern and southern sectors, one or more division or brigade may desert, abandoning uniforms and heavy weapons and diving into the civilian population, like the Iraqi troops who turned tail against ISIS.
A Western military source told DEBKA Weekly that Syrian troops and their officers are avidly following the war situation in Iraq and drawing comparisons with their own fast deteriorating fortunes. Looking around them, they see that nearly 80 percent of Syrian territory has fallen into opposition hands. Soon, they will have nowhere to flee to, if matters get worse.
Lebanon would be a last resort, except that Syrian officers and men don’t believe ISIS will halt its advance at the Syrian-Lebanese border, and no force is there to stop them crossing over.
Seen from this perspective, Assad may not be the last ruler to fall; it would then be the turn of Hassan Nasrallah and his Shiite Hizballah in Beirut.
And seen from Tehran, after losing its foothold in large parts of Iraq, Iran is in danger of losing the major assets it built up in Syria and Lebanon.

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The US and ISIS
Obama Gives Iran Exclusive Carte Blanche for Fighting ISIS in Iraq

It looked at first as though US President Barack Obama had changed course and turned to the West for partners to fight the Islamic State. Tuesday, May 26, he said that the United States was working closely with its NATO allies to partner with other countries in the fight against Islamic State militants and address challenges in Libya.
Speaking at a White House meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Obama said: “NATO is necessarily recognizing a whole range of global challenges, particularly on what we call the Southern Front…making sure that we continue to coordinate effectively in the fight against ISIL.”
But the impression gained from those remarks was misleading.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources report that there is not the slightest sign of US coordination with NATO allies in Iraq. Just the reverse: On the instructions of the US commander-in-chief, Washington has handed Tehran full responsibility for the struggle against ISIS in Iraq. In fact, he has given Iran a free hand in its choice of manpower and tactics for this campaign. Washington will not interfere in these choices, but neither will the US continue to provide Iranian forces with air support.
Partly because of this deal, long Islamist convoys carrying hundreds of fighters were seen this week moving across vast distances in Iraq and Syria, without obstruction.
(See DEBKA Weekly’s map presentation attached to this article.)

Iran’s anti-ISIS campaign led by wanted Iraqi terrorist

Middle East officials define Obama’s carte blanche to Tehran in Iraq as his latest contribution to regional mayhem with three devastating consequences:
First: Since Tehran can’t muster all the troops needed for the four wars it is running in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, it has assigned the campaign against ISIS in Iraq to Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Iraq commander of the Popular Mobilization Committee, who led the Second Battle of Tikrit in March.
The PMC is in fact a department of the Iranian Al Qods Brigades. And Muhandis himself is on the US list of wanted terrorists.
This week, his militia was in the forefront of an operation termed by Baghdad “the battle to retake Ramadi” (which fell to ISIS last week.)
This was a misnomer. The operation had two different goals:
1. To draw ISIS forces away from Baghdad and divert them to the Saladin Province, both to relieve the capital of the Islamist threat and to distance them from the Iranian border.
2. The PMC did not engage the Islamic State’s forces face to face, but acted to cut Ramadi off from northern Iraq. This ploy, though partly successful, still left ISIS with open supply lines from the western province of Anbar.

Millions of Sunni Iraqis flee their homes from Shiite militias

Second: By letting Shiite forces loose against ISIS in Iraq, President Obama has exposed America to the charge of betraying the Iraqi Sunni community - not once but twice in less than a decade. The charge is leveled bitterly by their tribal chiefs. But already, millions of Iraqi Sunni Muslims have begun abandoning their homes in a hopeless mass exodus to seek safe haven from mortal persecution by the Shiite militias. The displacement of millions of civilians has created yet another major Middle East refugee crisis.
Third: Charges of American duplicity also come from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.
Their rulers say that the pledge of protection against Iranian expansionism given by President Obama at their Camp David summit on May 13-14 has proved worthless.

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Islamists Want Syria’s Poison Chemicals
ISIS Primed to Pounce on Assad’s Secret Chemical Weapons Store at Al-Safira

Bashar Assad’s poison weapons arsenal was supposed to have been dismantled in 2013 and 2014 under a deal negotiated between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. But, while various Western experts argued over whether or not it was all removed, DEBKA Weekly reports that the Assad regime concealed from UN inspectors 5-10 percent of its deadly stocks of mustard gas, ricin, and sarin and VX nerve gases, and cached them at a secret military complex in the northern town of al-Safira, near Aleppo.
Today, Assad’s cheating is having unforeseen consequences.
Western intelligence spotters tracking the movements in Syria of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) reported Wednesday, May 27, that a concentration of jihadi fighters was arrayed to attack the Al-Safira complex. Their action seemed to be timed to coincide with the general offensive Syrian rebels are preparing to launch for the capture of both Aleppo and the Al Safira complex.
This complex is no more than 25 km south of the sections of Aleppo occupied by ISIS and opposition forces including Jabhat al-Nusra. It is 146 km away from Raqqa, the Islamist State’s Syrian capital.

US special operations alerted to remove chemical agents

The Western spotters reported Tuesday that ISIS columns had left Raqqa and were heading west to link up with the unit poised to attack Al Safira.
If they succeed, the Islamists will have acquired their first known stock of deadly chemical weapons.
So far, there is no sign of Syrian military preparations to whisk chemicals out of danger to a new hideout, as they have done more than once in the past. The Syrian army may be too short of troops to spare for securing convoys shifting this stock.
But the ISIS threat looks serious enough to alert elite forces from Middle East lands, including US special operations teams, who have been trained to take charge of chemical weapons facilities. They appear to be preparing to step into the fray, take possession of the dangerous stock and remove it from Syria.
Eight months ago, in October 2014, the Syrian rebel Ahrar ash-Sham, one of the local groups linked to al Qaeda, launched an assault on the Al Safira complex. But although it captured a few villages in the vicinity, it failed to get through to the chemicals depot.

Syrian army’s operations chief assassinated in Damascus

Tuesday, May 26, Ahrar ash-Sham was in action again - this time with greater effect. A squad armed with a large explosive device and automatic rifles got through to the heart of Damascus and assassinated the Syrian army’s operations chief Brig. Gen. Bassam Ali Muhanna and six of his bodyguards.
It was the most disastrous attack on a high-level Syrian military figure in the capital since July 2012, when assassins murdered Assad’s brother-in-law Military Intelligence Chief Assef Shawkat and wiped out most members of the president’s inner circle.
Meanwhile, ISIS forces were also making tracks for Damascus, heading south from Palmyra just days after its capture this week.
On the way, they did not neglect to grab the Syrian phosphate mines of Khnaifess beside the highway to the capital, so robbing the Assad regime of an important source of income. This was not the worst of the Syrian ruler’s troubles. Among other setbacks, the cracks deepening at the top of his intelligence and military hierarchy are leading his regime to the edge of a precipice.

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Divide and Rule
More Like President than Prime Minister, Netanyahu Takes Charge of Youthful Cabinet

Roused out of the lethargy that marked his re-election campaign, Binyamin Netanyahu followed up on his strong advocacy of governmental reform by the way he conducted his six-party government coalition in its first two weeks. Fired up for action and unfazed by his wafer-thin 61-member Knesset majority, he is wielding power according to the best divide-and-rule traditions of fully-qualified, omnipotent presidents.
Under Israel’s current system of government, the president is little more than a figurehead most of the time. He can only be fired by a special parliamentary majority, while the prime minister who heads the executive branch can be ousted by an ordinary majority. And so he is now skating on thin ice.
But the constitution is still being written and governance reform is on the table.
To build his fourth cabinet, Netanyahu traded away eight valuable portfolios to win five coalition partners. He then played musical chairs with the overbooked candidacy for the 12 ministries left to his own Likud party. Over-expectant loyalists were appeased with a string of pompous titles.
But when all the ministers settled in their seats this week, DEBKA Weekly’s political analysts ran an eye over the lineup and found nothing random about it; nor was it the result of a right-wing “political circus,” as defined by the sneering domestic media.

First task: Establish unchallenged authority

First, Netanyahu kept his hand on three anchors to support his unchallenged authority in party and government: the premiership, the foreign affairs portfolio, and the defense ministry, which stays in the hands of Moshe Ya’alon with whom he has a perfect understanding.
Secondly, he installed new and relatively young ministers in key posts, dropping the average age by nearly a generation. Netanyahu and Ya’alon are 65. Almost all the new Likud ministers are in their early forties, like most of their coalition colleagues.
By this device, the Likud leader pre-empted a potential party mutiny against him and, by promoting untried, eager politicians to big jobs, he used their inexperience as an asset to make them all the more dependent on the prime minister for advice and for settling turf battles within the cabinet.
Since presenting his government on May 14, sources in Jerusalem say Netanyahu is a new man, compared with the inert figure in the months leading up to the March election: He is constantly on the move, rushing from task to task, sleeping no more than two to three hours a night, in between endless phone calls to parties in Israel and overseas.

Reconstructing the Foreign Ministry, getting gas on flow

Some say he labors under the fear that his government will be short-lived, and he wants to get as much done as he can on matters important to him: e.g. enhanced security, a stable economy, bridging the gap between the haves and have-nots; affordable housing; and boosting foreign relations to debunk his foes’ claims that his policies have led Israel into international isolation.
His efforts have been concentrated in three main areas:
1. Dismantling the foreign ministry mechanisms constructed by the last minister Avigdor Lieberman (now in opposition) and whose policies contradicted those set out by the prime minister. He also ordered the downsizing of the large staff specializing in relations with Russia and East Europe.
This axing he left to the new Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli (36). She and the new Director General Dore Gold will not determine policy; their job is to keep the ministry ticking over smoothly and defuse potential roadside bombs.
Foreign policy will be shaped in the Prime Minister’s Office – and may produce some surprises.
2. Netanyahu also acted expeditiously to solve the nagging issue of Israel’s Mediterranean sea gas bonanza, which had been stuck for many months in an internecine battle over the cartel status of US Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Group.

Netanyahu needs gas revenues to fund big plans

To remove the main obstacle to a compromise deal between the State of Israel and the gas cartel, he simply showed the door to Antitrust Commissioner Prof. David Gilo, who resigned Monday May 25.
This stirred up a storm of debate, but Netanyahu replied that, with all due respect to competition in the economy, insisting on this point would leave the gas on the seabed, instead of reducing the average Israel’s fuel bills. Noble, moreover, had made available the special equipment needed for deep-sea drilling.
Yuval Steinitz, Minister of national Infrastructure, Energy and Water, disclosed that the bureaucratic delay in bringing the gas on line had cost the treasury a staggering NIS20 billon (est. US$5 billion)!
And Netanyahu needs that money to cover two urgent needs:
One: To fund broad relief programs to lift the lower and neglected classes of the population out of poverty, as well as solving certain balance of payments problems. Both will give Likud an advantage in the next general election.
Two: The steady flow of gas can be used as an incentive for improving relations with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians.
At the same time, he whisked gas out of the hands of Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon (55). Although he had campaigned on a pledge to end monopolies, the Kulanu leader bowed to Netanyahu’s show of muscle without demur.

Using rival Internet sites to replace hostile TV channels

3. Plagued year after year by the domestic media’s hostile treatment of himself in person and his Likud party, Netanyahu is striking back against his tormentors. He will finish dismantling the National Broadcasting Authority, whose news programs are a regular platform for the opposition, and also hit the firms which run Television Channel 2. Instead, he plans to establish two new channels, produced by two rival Internet sites – Wallah and i24News. TV Channel 10 will disappear under the burden of debt which the government will no longer cover.
Political circles in Jerusalem wonder how long Netanyahu can maintain his manic drive for change, and still stand up to the unexpected, which is an endemic fact of life in the Middle East.
For now, largely because of the opposition’s weaknesses, he is paradoxically emerging as a strong leader and his government is beginning to look ready and capable of moving energetically into action.

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A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Weeks Ending May 28, 2015

May 15, 2015 Briefs

  • Obama greets new Israeli govt with push for Palestinian state
    Shortly after Binyamin Netanyahu’s new government was confirmed, President Barack Obama said Israel's long-term security would be best served by reaching an agreement to live alongside a recognized Palestinian state.

May 16, 2015 Briefs

  • Jerusalem woman wounded by gunshot from Palestinian area
    A Palestinian sniper’s bullet from Shuafat, north Jerusalem, injured an Israeli woman in neighboring Pisgat Zeev Saturday night. During the day, Palestinians started fires in the wadi separating the two Jerusalem neighborhoods.

May 17, 2015 Briefs

  • Policeman injured, 2 Palestinians held in Jerusalem disorder
    Israeli police broke up Sunday a Palestinian mob lobbing rocks and bottle bombs – first at a group of Israeli civilians, then at police officers come to restore order - at the Jerusalem Old City’s Damascus Gate. One policeman suffered light head wounds. Two Palestinians were detained.
    In another incident, Israeli vehicles were damaged by Palestinian rocks on the Hussan bypass road in south Jerusalem. The incidents occurred ahead of the Jerusalem Day’s Flags Parade which passed through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

US Special Ops raid killing five ISIS chiefs had to be coordinated with Syria and Russia

17 May.
The US Delta Special Operations raid that killed ISIS oil chief Abu Sayyaf Saturday, May 16, could not have taken place without prior US coordination with Damascus and Moscow, debkafile: Washington’s denial of such coordination did not preclude a prior notice to Moscow, which then passed it on to Damascus. The US, Russia and the Assad regime pulled together for the first time against the Islamic State for an operation that killed not one but five top ISIS commanders. John Kerry is believed to have set up the three-way collaboration when he met Vladimir Putin in Sochi on May 12.

May 18, 2015 Briefs

  • New justice minister criticizes inordinate court sway
    Israel’s new Justice Minister Ayalet Shaked said Monday: “The impression gained in recent years is that decision-making and governance are not the province of the people but have been taken over by the courts of justice.” Addressing a meeting of the Israeli Bar Association in Eilat, Shaked commented that “the basic tenet at the heart of judicial doctrine is that court rulings must not contradict the will of the people but serve it.” This issue is at the heart of our public debate, she said. “
  • Shin Bet intercepts 40 diving suits for Gaza
    A consignment of diving suits labeled as sports outfits was stopped by Israeli customs officials at the Nitzana crossing Monday. The Shin Bet suspected they were destined for Hamas’ naval commando unit, which during the IDF Gaza operation last summer, mounted an abortive raid from the sea on Kibbutz Zikim.

Ramadi’s fall opens ISIS road to Baghdad. Jordan warns US air strikes won’t stop the terrorists’ advance

18 May.
Jordan’s King Abdullah has warned Washington that US air strikes alone can’t stop the Islamic State’s advances in Iraq and Syria. Neither are they an obstacle to an Islamist incursion of his kingdom next door, which would also put Saudi Arabia in peril. He criticized Washington’s efforts to play down the Islamists’ core strength. In Amman, the king Sunday fired the Minister of Interior, the head of internal security (Muhabarat) and a number of high police officers. debkafile reports: They were dismissed for losing authority in the southern Maan district against the rising influence of extremist groups identified with Al Qaeda and ISIS.

May 19, 2015 Briefs

  • Herzog to Norwegian FM: Hamas is building more terror tunnels
    Opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog informed visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende Tuesday that, day by day, Hamas is building more terror tunnels from the Gaza Strip for cross-border attacks on Israeli civilians.
  • Arab military chiefs approve Egyptian-led intervention in Libya
    Arab military chiefs held an unpublicized meeting in Cairo Monday to coordinate plans for Egyptian-led regional intervention in eastern Libya (Cyrenaica) to root out the armed extremists who have kept the country locked in chaos since Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster, and install a stable government. Present were the chiefs of staff of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Sudan and the Libyan Tobruk government. Talks are ongoing with France and Libya to pitch in. They own an interest in containing the flood of African refugees beating on European shores from Libya.

May 20, 2015 Briefs

  • US approves large-scale guided bomb, bunker buster sale to Israel
    According to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency announcement, the US has approved the sale to Israel of over 20,000 guided bomb kits and 8,650 associated warheads, including additional 5,000 lb 'bunker busters’ - as well as 250 AIM-120C Advanced Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) and 3,000 AGM-114K/R Hellfire missiles. The total cost is $1.9 billion. The Hellfires were held back during Israel’s operation against Hamas last summer.
  • Three police officers injured when run down by Palestinian vehicle
    A Palestinian driver was shot dead after he ran down three Israeli police officers, one a woman, in Abu Tor, Jerusalem. Palestinian protesters pelted police cars and ambulances as they arrived on the scene.
  • No plan for separate bus lines for Palestinians and Jews
    Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon denied Wednesday any plan to run separate bus services for Jews and Palestinians on the West Bank a few hours after it was widely reported. He referred only to a pilot program to ascertain that Palestinian commuters traveling to work in Israel return to their West Bank homes at the end of the day, but segregation was not part of that plan.
  • Khamenei stands fast on no UN access to nuclear scientists
    Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that, in the ongoing negotiations with the world powers, Tehran would not allow “the privacy of our nuclear scientists…to be violated,” by interviews. Neither would inspections be permitted of Iran’s military sites following Western allegations that they were used for secret tests on a nuclear warhead.

May 21, 2015 Briefs

  • Iran wants 24 days notice for nuclear inspections
    France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius reported that Iran demands 24-days’ notice before international inspectors can visit its nuclear sites in the event of a suspected violation of a deal with world powers. He cautioned that "a lot of things can disappear" in 24 days.
  • Israel’s defense exports total $5.66bn in 2014
    In 2014, Israel’s defense industries signed new contracts for sales worth $5.66bn, according to Defense Ministry figures. This figure breaks down to $2,964 to Asian and Pacific countries; $937 to North America; $716 to Latin America; $724 to Europe; and 318 to Africa. debkafile: The figures have dropped in sales to the US and Europe, and rising for Asia.

The US and Iraqi and Syrian armies fall to pieces against ISIS drive. Alarm in Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia

21 May.
Ramadi’s fall in Iraq and Palmyra’s in Syria proved ISIS’s ability to rock the Middle East to its foundations. Watching the threats closing in on their borders, Jerusalem, Amman and Riyadh grasp they may have to contend alone – not just with Iran but also with ISIS.

May 22, 2015 Briefs

  • E. Saudi Shiite mosque explosion kills twenty
    An ISIS terrorist blew himself up during Friday prayers a the Imam Ali Shiite mosque in the village of Al-Qadeeh in the oil-rich eastern Qatif region of Saudi Arabia, killing 20 and injuring 50 people. Qatif is home to millions of Shiites who are employed in the kingdom’s main oil center. debkafile: ISIS undercover agents aimed to stir up sectarian violence in the Shiite minority against the Saudi crown.

May 23, 2015 Briefs

  • Nasrallah calls for full Hizballah mobilization for Syria
    "This is the time for everyone to mobilize, everyone who can participate. The danger facing us is an existential one that is similar to that in 1982," said Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah Saturday. “If the organization had not fought in Syria, it would have found itself fighting inside Lebanese territory, he said in an attempt to justify the heavy losses the organization has sustained in fighting alongside Bashar Assad’s army.
  • US thwarts anti-Israel vote on ME nuclear weapons ban
    US Under Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller Friday blocked a proposal by Egypt and other Arab countries for the UN Secretary to call a regional conference on banning WMD in the Middle East. That conference would be with or without Israel's participation, without agreement on an agenda and with no discussion of regional security issues. The US veto, backed by the UK and Canada, caused the once-in-five years review of the nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty to end Friday without consensus. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called all three governments to express Israel’s appreciation.

US and Hizballah coordinate spy drone flights over Qalamoun, share US combat intelligence

23 May.
The US has joined the battle for Qalamoun. debkafile discloses that a US special operations unit, stationed at the north Lebanese Hamat air base, is directing unarmed Aerosonde MK 4.7 intelligence-gathering flights over the Qalamoun Mt arena, 100 km to the west. Since Hizballah is operating Ababil-3 surveillance drones over the same battlefield, US-Hizballah coordination became necessary. The US military is working directly for the first time with an internationally-designated terrorist organization. This strange pair of bedfellows has earthshaking ramifications for Israel’s security, strategic ties with the US, intelligence on its northern borders and its surveillance drones.

May 24, 2015 Briefs

  • Two Jewish teens stabbed in Jerusalem Old City
    A Palestinian man was detained by police Sunday after a chase through the Old City of Jerusalem on suspicion of stabbing two 17-old Israeli boys near Damascus Gate. They were taken to hospital with moderate injuries.
  • Yemeni Houthis reportedly down Saudi jet, destroy border crossing
    The F-16 Saudi-led coalition jet was reportedly shot down in the Bani Harith district of Sanaa, the capital, as heavy artillery fire blew up part of the main border crossing between Yemen and Saudi Arabia Saturday night. debkafile: If the F-16 did indeed take off from Yemen’s northern al-Dalaimi air base, it would indicate that the long-neutral Yemeni air force has come down on the side of the exiled president Abd Rabbou Mansour Hadi.

Exclusive: ISIS columns heading from Syria toward Jordan, first targeting the border crossing

24 May.
Columns of ISIS tanks and armored cars (made in the US and taken booty in Iraq) were heading Sunday, May 24, from Palmyra for the Jordanian border – a distance of 250km - with no Syrian troops there to block their advance, debkafile reports exclusively. Their initial target is the eastern section of the border, including the meeting point between the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi frontiers. The US maintains 7,000 special operations troops and an air force unit in the Kingdom of Jordan. President Barack Obama must now decide whether to react to a potential ISIS invasion of Jordan.

May 25, 2015 Briefs

  • Gilad Erdan named Public Security Minister with expanded powers
    After long dickering, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday appointed Gilead Erdan Public Security Minister, with additional powers as Minister of Strategic Affairs, charge over the Israeli Broadcast Authority and membership of the inner security cabinet. He will also be responsible for the government’s information campaign against a nuclear-armed Iran and counteracting international efforts to boycott Israel and deny its legitimacy. MK Benny Begin stepped down as Minister without Portfolio to make way for Erdan to take Likud’s 12th place in the cabinet. The ministers approved the appointment by telephone vote. Former ambassador to the UN Dore Gold was named Director General of the Foreign Affairs Ministry – a portfolio held by the prime minister.
  • Former PM Ehud Olmert sentenced to 8 months prison for corruption
    Jerusalem district court, reversing a former verdict, sentenced former prime minister Ehud Olmert to eight months in prison and NIS100,000 fine on charges of fraud and breach of trust. The sentence, for accepting cash in envelopes from the US businessman Moshe Talansky, was ruled to run consecutively with the six year-sentence imposed on Olmert in the separate Holyland bribery case. He has 45 days to appeal.

No army in Mid East is challenging ISIS. Iran regroups to defend S. Iraqi Shiites, Assad to save Damascus

26 May.
Not a single competent army capable of launching all-out war on ISIS in Syria or Iraq is to be found between the Jordan and the Euphrates and Tigris to the east, or Ramadi and Riyadh to the south. Iran is regrouping to save the Shiite towns and oil of S. Iraq – especially the the shrine towns of Najef and Karbala, as well as the Basra oil fields; Assad and Hizballah, falling back to defend Syrian cities and block the Lebanese border with their depleted armies. May 24, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the Iraqi army had shown no will to fight. UK ex-army chief Lord Dannatt called for 5,000 British ground troops to fight the Islamists in Syria and Iraq. Iranian Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani was quoted as saying: “The US didn’t do a damn thing to stop the extremists’ advance on Ramadi.”

Five long-range rockets from inside Gaza City target southern Israel, claimed by Islamic Jihad and Popular Front

26 May.
Sirens across southern Israeli Tuesday night, May 26, warned of at least five incoming rockets from the Gaza Strip. One long-range Grad rocket exploded in the industrial zone of the coastal city of Ashdod near the Big In shopping mall which was crowded at the time; another hit Frankfurter St in the town. More explosions occurred at the entrance to Gan Yavne. No casualties were immediately reported, except for shock victims. debkafile: The rockets were fired from the Sheikh Ajloun district of Gaza City, and spotted by IDF surveillance by air and land.

May 27, 2015 Briefs

  • Iran: nuclear talks may be extended past June 30
    Iran’s state TV said Wednesday that the self-imposed June 30 deadline for Iran and the six major powers to reach a final nuclear deal may be extended. France's ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud, said on Tuesday that the deal was not likely by that deadline, because differences still remain over inspections

Assad pulls air force out of Deir ez-Zour, the third Syrian air base surrendered to ISIS

27 May.
Just a week after losing the big Palmyra air base to the Islamic State, Syrian military and air units Wednesday, May 27, began pulling out of another big air base at Deir ez-Zour - Bashar Assad’s last military stronghold in eastern Syria. debkafile: In the Islamic State’s sights now, is the Syrian army’s biggest air facility, T4 Airbase, which is located on the fast highway linking Homs with Damascus 140 km away and holds the backbone of the Syrian combat air fleet.

Israeli Air Force strikes four empty “terror” targets in Gaza for five Palestinian rockets

27 May.
Israel resorted Tuesday night, May 26, to its old routine response to the firing of five rockets from the Gaza Strip by the aerial bombardment of four “terrorist” targets. Once again, Hamas hurriedly removed its personnel from the targeted facilities in time to escape casualties. For Israel it was an opportunity missed. The first Palestinian long-range Grad rocket attack since last summer’s Israeli operation in Gaza was a chance to go for really potent terrorist infrastructure, such as the new tunnels the Palestinians are again running under the border.

May 28, 2015 Briefs

  • Syrian rebel Nusra leader: Assad will soon fall
    Abu Mohamad al-Julani, leader of the Syrian rebel Nusra Front, told Al Jazeera in a rare interview aired Wednesday that his group is focusing on Damascus and toppling Assad. Turning to the Alawite community, he said: “If they drop weapons, disavow Assad, and return to Islami, then they are our brothers.”

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