A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending August 11, 2011
August 5, 2011 Briefs
• IDF positions Iron Dome rocket interceptor in Ashkelon.
• Libyan rebels claim another Qaddafi son, Khamis, was killed in a bombing attack. The claim is unconfirmed.
• Israeli air force attacks five targets in Gaza Strip early Friday to stem the escalating Palestinian missile offensive against Israeli locations.
Russia: NATO close to military intervention in Syria ahead of Iran attack
5 Aug. Twelve hours after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Assad he faced a "sad fate" if he failed to introduce reforms, Moscow's envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin accused the Western alliance of planning a military campaign against Syria to help overthrow the Assad regime "with the long-reaching goal of preparing a beachhead for an attack on Iran."
In an Izvestia interview Friday, Aug. 5, Rogozin added: "This statement means that the planning [of the military campaign] is well underway. It could be a logical conclusion of those military and propaganda operations, which have been carried out by certain Western countries against North Africa."
debkafile's Moscow sources that the Rogozin statement added Yemen to his remarks on NATO: He said he agreed with the opinion that Syria and later Yemen could be NATO's last steps on the way to launching an attack on Iran.
"The noose around Iran is tightening," he said. "Military planning against Iran is underway. And we are certainly concerned about an escalation of a large-scale war in this huge region."
The Russian envoy made a point of citing NATO – never once mentioning the United States in his remarks although Washington was his objective. Russian diplomats have repeatedly warned Tehran that it incurs the danger of American attack on its nuclear facilities. Now Syria is included in this warning. The envoy added that having "learned the Libyan lesson, Russia will continue to oppose a forcible resolution of the situation in Syria."
Mass executions in Hama's main square as resistance mounts
5 Aug. Thursday night, Aug. 4, the commanders of Syria's military crackdown on the city of Hama ordered suspected protesters to be picked up off the streets for summary execution. Within hours, hundreds of victims were "executed" by firing squad in Nasser Square. The order was issued by Generals Mohammad Deeb Zaitoun, head of Syrian Political Security Department and Abdul-Fattah Qedssiyeh, head of the Military intelligence Department, when the military failed to overcome mounting resistance.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Syrian President Bashar Assad: "We are watching how the situation is developing. It's changing and our approach is changing as well. Regrettably, large numbers of people are dying there. That causes us grave concern."
Thursday, Aug. 4 debkafile carried the following report under the caption: Orontes River runs red as Syrian anti-aircraft guns pound Hama.
Horrifying images of bodies and limbs floating in the Orontes River in Hama were aired by Syrian state TV early Thursday, Aug. 4. Contrary to official claims that they belonged to Syrian soldiers torn to pieces by protesters, debkafile reported they were the victims of Syrian tank fire and ZU-23 automatic artillery trained on residential buildings and streets in the last 48 hours. Citizens confined indoors threw their dead out of windows and off the roofs into the river.
August 6, 2011 Briefs
• S & P downgrades US credit rating from AAA to AA+ first time ever. "The political brinkmanship of recent months highlights America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective and less predictable than what we previously believed," said statement.
• China: World cannot be held hostage to election politics in Washington.
• Obama called Merkel and Sarkozy Friday night for joint decision to clamp down harder on Syria and Assad.
• This week, Syrian army estimated to have killed more than 300 people – 58 in Hama alone Friday,
• US citizens urged to leave Syria immediately.
• A gunman who fired at a checkpoint outside Saudi Interior Minister's Jeddah palace shot dead. No word whether Minister Prince Nayef, crown prince candidate, was present.
Navy SEALs unit which killed Bin Laden loses 22 men in Afghan helicopter crash
6 Aug. In a signal strategic achievement, the Afghan Taliban shot down a US helicopter killing 30 US troops and 7 Afghan commandos in the rugged Wardak province east of Kabul early Saturday, Aug. 5 – the single largest US loss of life in the Afghan War. Among the dead were 22 members of the elite Navy SEAL Six, the same unit which killed Osama bin Laden in May.
US military sources say it is unlikely that any of those who took part in that operation were aboard the helicopter. Even so, the Taliban who downed the Chinook will claim they have made good on their vow to avenge the al Qaida leader's death.
Downing a helicopter apparently by a rocket-propelled grenade, which is not a standard anti-aircraft weapon, indicates that the Taliban has perfected methods for shooting down low-flying American helicopters with the basic weapons in their possession.
So far this year, 365 coalition troops have died in Afghanistan, 42 in July.
debkafile's military sources report that the hints of direct talks with the Taliban thrown out by the White House amount to field commanders interacting with insurgents on a local level – not so far talks with the Taliban high command and its leader Mullah Omar. A negotiated end to the Afghan war is therefore not in sight.
August 7, 2011 Briefs
• Somali rebels evacuate capital Mogadishu for first time in years "for tactical reasons".
• Tel Aviv 25 Index plunged 7 percent in Sunday trading after delayed opening. It was first market to open after US credit rating downgraded from AAA to AA+.
• The TASE dive accounted for by global markets losses Friday and two weeks of Israeli demonstrations for higher living standards.
• More than 300,000 in five Israeli towns demonstrated Saturday night against high cost of living, housing, education.
• Netanyahu names Social and Economics Ministerial Cabinet plus experts to address popular grievances with end of September deadline.
• FM Lieberman warns Palestinian planning violent disturbances September, including mob rush on West-Bank Jerusalem roadblocks. Israel must cut ties with Palestinian Authority, he says.
• Mild earthquake of 4.2 magnitude rocks Israel Sunday from epicenter 40 km out to sea.
Syrian tanks storm Deir al-Zour
7 Aug. After subduing the northern town of Hama, Syrian President Bashar Assad Sunday, Aug. 7, sent a division of 200 tanks and dozens of armored vehicles to blast their way into Syria's oil center of Deir el-Zour in the Euphrates Valley, a town of half a million inhabitants. At least 70 people were reported dead. debkafile: Local tribesmen withdrew to the papyrus groves to prepare for guerrilla warfare against Syrian forces. debkafile recalls that these are the very transnational tribes which from 2003 to 2006 joined al Qaida in bloody warfare on US forces in central Iraq, preventing Anbar and the central Iraqi towns of Falujja and Ramadi ever being completely subdued.
It was only the Awakening Councils plan put forward by Gen. David Petraeus, the current CIA Director, which involved substantial monthly payments to the tribal chiefs for warfare against al Qaida that finally pacified Al Anbar.
Assad's offensive against the two eastern towns also places at risk Syria's small daily oil product worth $8-10 million a day, his primary source of revenue for sustaining his war on the uprising.
August 8, 2011 Briefs
• Assad replaces defense minister Ali Habib with chief of staff Gen. Daoud Rajha.
• debkafile: Habib was one of Assad's few advisers who urged him to ease his violent assault on protest.
• Kuwait and Bahrain recall their ambassadors from Damascus after Saudi Arabia.
• Three mortar shells fired from Gaza caused damage in Eshkol farm district Sunday night.
• Clinton asks Turkey to press Syria to return its military to barracks.
• Israel ministerial panel fails to agree on flotilla apology to Turkey.Yaalon: It is unwarranted and won't change Ankara's hostile attitude to Israel.
Assad sends Davotuglu away empty-handed
9 Aug. Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu left Damascus empty handed after six hours of talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad Tuesday, Aug. 9. Assad indicated the military operation against the protesters would soon be over, but refused to commit to a deadline. That was up to the rebels, he said, not him or the Syrian army. He only pledged to "pursue the terrorists." It remains to be seen whether Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan makes good on his ultimatum to Assad to end the bloodshed or face military intervention and warning that if the Syrian ruler carried on slaughtering civilians, he would share the fate of Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi. The death toll in the Syria's five-month uprising is estimated at 2,500 or more.
World in crisis: Global markets nose-dive. Rampaging mobs burn London
9 Aug. An air of crisis descended on the world Tuesday, Aug. 9 as markets continued to tumble steeply and London succumbed to uncontrolled violence. More than $70 billion were wiped out in global trading Monday hours after US President Barack Obama said America will always be a Triple A country. Heads of the European Union and national leaders, with no solutions for the debt crises plaguing two major members Italy and Spain, are in a panic over the threat to the Eurozone and euro currency.
Thanks to deft footwork by its economic managers, Israel has so far escaped the worst of the backlash, but may not remain unscathed much longer. Alarm bells rang this week:
1. Standard & Poor applied its downgrade of America's credit rating to Israel's $6billion worth of US-backed bonds, lowing their rating from AAA to AA+.
2. The big demonstrations protesting soaring prices and demanding economic reforms to bridge the social gap now enter their third week. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is skating on thin ice between expenditure to satisfy their demands and defuse a movement jeopardizing his government – or keeping the budget intact and the economy on an even keel.
Meeting even some of those demands could quickly tip Israel over into the abyss of economically-distressed countries.
August 10, 2011 Briefs
• London fairly quiet overnight Tuesday as mob riots spread to northern Britain and Midlands, focusing on Manchester. Met police deployed 16,000 officers in the capital after three days of looting and burning.
• Libyan government takes foreign reporters to building where 85 civilians claimed killed by NATO air strike – the highest number of civilians since the operation began. Libya says the fatalities in the attack over Majar village near Ziltan included 33 children and 22 women. NATO states the bombers attacked a military target but rights groups demand a probe.
• A statement issued to Syrian TV purportedly by Gen. Ali Habib claimed he resigned as defense minister because of ill health.
• debkafile: The general did not appear in person. His photo was accompanied by a voiceover.
Syria goads Turkey by attacking towns along their border
10 Aug. Less than 24 hours after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu handed Bashar Assad in Damascus "a final warning," to stop the bloodshed or else, Assad demonstrated coolly that he is not scared by the prospect of Turkish or NATO military intervention or deterred by new US sanctions against Syria's biggest bank and mobile phone company.
Assad not only brushed aside Davutoglu's final warning on behalf of Turkey as a NATO member he added insult to injury by sending tank forces to enter three towns in the Turkish border region. The five-month conflict between the Syrian army and rebels is now in its bloodiest week, raging on two additional fronts: Deir al-Zour and Abu Kamal near the Iraqi border and the Damascus suburbs of Duma and Kharasta.
Assad was cheered, debkafile's sources report, by the weakness he noticed in the Turkish foreign minister when they conversed Tuesday and the guarantee of a missile shield against a prospective Turkish or NATO attack from Iran.
August 11, 2011 Briefs
• Five NATO troops killed by roadside bomb in S Afghanistan, raising to 51 foreign service personnel killed in Afghanistan this month. The NATO spokesman gave no details.
• At least two people killed by a bomb rigged in a car in the Christian quarter of Beirut.
• Four killed, 1,000 arrested in five days of mob violence in the UK cities.
• Syrian army and tanks storm new towns on the Turkish border in the north and two Damascus suburbs.
• China launches its first aircraft carrier for trial run.
• A woman bomber and a roadside bomb killed 7 people in NW Pakistan city of Peshawar.
• US drone kills 23, demolishes Haqqani training camp in North Waziristan, Pakistani officials.