A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending December 2, 2011
November 25, 2011 Briefs
• Egyptian-Israel gas pipeline sabotaged eighth time since February revolution. Explosives were planted under the pipe some 60 km west of El Arish, N. Sinai. Flow resumed only this week after seventh attack two weeks ago.
• Friday of the Last Chance draws thousands of Egyptian anti-military protesters to Tahrir Sq. The main parties stand aside. The ruling council asks Kamal Ganzouri, who headed government under Mubarak, to serve as interim PM.• Week's violence in Egypt left at least 41 killed.
Four triggers for CIA spy scares in Iran, Hizballah
25 Nov. First, Hizballah reported the unmasking of a CIA network in Lebanon. Then, Wednesday, Nov. 23, an Iranian lawmaker Parviz Sorouri, a member of the Iranian parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, claimed the capture of 12 CIA spies allegedly targeting Iran's military and its nuclear program with the Mossad and regional agencies. Beirut and Tehran had clearly joined forces, debkafile reports to prove they were on top of their security and had smashed dangerous US intelligence networks operating inside their armed forces.
The Iranian Supreme Ruler's military adviser, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, earlier warned that if Iran were attacked, it would not need to launch ballistic missiles at Israel "because all the Zionist cities are within the range of our ally Hizballah's Katyushas."
Both Iran and Hizballah are gearing up for war. Under cover of a military exercise, Iranian forces are organizing in battle array sector by sector.
November 26, 2011 Briefs
• Islamabad gives NATO 15 days to vacate Pakistani Shamis airbase after US cross-border helicopter attack killed 24 border post soldiers. Relations with Washington under review. Earlier, Pakistan shut key NATO supply route to Afghanistan.
• Syria buries 22 members of armed forces including six elite pilots killed by defectors.
• US naval strike force enters Syrian waters.
• At least 36 killed in clashes between Syrian military and opposition Friday.
• The Islamist Justice and Development Party claims victory in Morocco's election Friday amid low turnout.
• Iran will hit Israel's nuclear sites if its nuclear facilities or vital centers attacked. Guards Gen. Yadollah Javani said Saturday Iranian missiles can target any part of Israel.
US carrier strike force enters Syrian waters. Russian carrier en route
26 Nov. The Syrian crisis assumed a big power dimension this week with the build-up of rival US and Russian naval air carrier armadas in Syrian waters – ranged against and in support of Bashar Assad, debkafile's military sources report. The USS George H.W. Bush arrived Wednesday, Nov. 23, with 70 fighter-bombers and 8 guided missile cruisers and destroyers. Russia's only air carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov is due in mid-week to boost the three Russian warships already anchored off the Syrian port of Tartus.
By deploying 70 ship-borne fighter-bombers plus three heavy guided missile cruisers and five guided missile destroyers opposite Syria, Washington has laid down the military support for any intervention the Arab League in conjunction with Turkey made decide on.
Bashar Assad can see for himself Washington has hoisted a nuclear aerial umbrella Washington for the protection of its allies, Israel, Turkey, and Jordan.
November 27, 2011 Briefs
• Iran expels British ambassador over sanctions against its nuclear program. Parliament also voted to reduce ties with the UK.
• Bahrain, Oman and Qatar advise citizens to leave Syria as Arab League meets to confirm sanctions.
• Israeli air force struck two terrorist targets in Gaza Strip Saturday night after missile exploded at Eshkol.
• Gaza farmers start exporting tons of produce to Europe Sunday after Israel eases blockade. They expect to sales of hundreds of tons of strawberries, bell peppers and tomatoes.
Arab sanctions find Syria's 7 neighbors on alert. Russia sends Damascus siege-breaking missiles
27 Nov. Twenty-four hours before the Arab League Sunday, Nov. 27, clamped down sanctions on the Assad regime, the first ever against a member state, the armies of Syria's seven neighbors were scrambling for position on standby for acts of retaliation.
Military suspense mounted after the Arab League vote to cut off transactions with Syria's central bank, withdraw Arab funding from projects and other painful sanctions over Bashar Assad's refusal to halt his crackdown on protest. Military sources in the Gulf report 150 Iranian Revolutionary Guards specialists landed at a military airport south of Damascus on their way to Lebanon to join Hizballah which began bringing its rockets out of their hideouts. Russia is sending Bashar Assad siege-breaking missiles.
Israel, Jordan on alert over threatened Syria revenge for 6 pilots' deaths
27 Nov. Israeli and Jordanian armed forces were on a state of preparedness Friday, Nov. 25, after the Syrian military accused armed terrorists of an ambush killing 10 airmen including 6 elite pilots on the Homs-Palmyra road near the Tiyas airbase Thursday, "with the involvement of foreign parties, the foremost of which is Israel." Bashar Assad cannot afford to renege on the Syrian military's vow "to cut every evil hand that targets Syrian blood."
Our sources add that the ambush was the work of the Free Syrian Army, which must have penetrated the highest levels of Syria's military intelligence command for the attack and was clearly receiving targeting data from inside the armed forces.
The attack took place two days after the FSA using rocket grenade launchers and heavy machine guns smashed into the Air Force Intelligence base of Harasta near Damascus, killing at least 10 Syrian troops. The ruling Baath party headquarters in Damascus was also attacked on Thursday.
November 28, 2011 Briefs
• Bank of Israel cuts interest by 0.25pc to 2.75pc.
• OECD predicts Israel economy will avoid recession but growth rate in 2011 will fall drop from 5.4 to 4.7 pc and 2.9 percent in 2012. Jobless rate will rise to 6 pc next year and fall to 5.8pc in 2013.
• China: Dark clouds of war shrouding Syria, threatening the stability of surrounding states.
• Long queues form Monday at polling stations at nine of Egypt's 27 governates in round one of Egypt's first post-Mubarak election. Between now and March 2012, fifty million Egyptians elect the two houses among 40 parties fielding 10,000 candidates. The Muslim Brotherhood is leading contender.
• Two explosions along Sinai stretch of Egyptian natural gas pipeline halt flow to Israel and Jordan for the ninth time since February.
• At least 19 killed in suicide bombing of prison gate in Taji north of Baghdad, third major attack in Iraq in a week.
• Four thousand Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis hold annual conference in New York.
NATO-Gulf military officers in Turkey prepare for intervention in Syria
28 Nov. A group of military officers from NATO and Persian Gulf nations have quietly established a mixed operational command at Iskenderun in the Turkish Hatay province on the border of North Syria, debkafile's military sources report. Hailing from the United States, France, Canada, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with Turkish officers providing liaison, they are designated "monitors" tasked with establishing "humanitarian corridors" to serve the victims of Bashar Assad's crackdown. Commanded by ground, naval, air force and engineering officers, the task force in reality aims to take over most of northern Syria.
Laying the groundwork for the legitimacy of their operation, the UN Independent International Commission on Syria published a horrendous report Monday, Nov. 28 on the Assad regime's brutalities. It documented "gross violations of human rights" and "patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture including sexual violence, as well as violations of children's rights."
November 29, 2010 Briefs
• Former Israeli mil intel chief Amos Yadlin: Iran has sufficient material to build 4-5 nuclear bombs. Once Iran goes public on this, Israel ceases to be the lead player in the field. It is mandatory for Israel to maintain good channels of understanding with the parties possessing superior operational capabilities to its own.
• Homeland Minister Vilnai: Israel's enemies have made every day-old child and 120-year old man a IDF combatant on our vulnerable home front.
• Hungary denies Iranian FM Ali Salehi's plane passage through its air space.
• Sudan expels Kenyan ambassador after Nairobi court issues arrest warrant for Sudan dictator Omar al-Bashir for Darfur war crimes.
• UN investigators document 256 children dead in Assad's nine-month crackdown on protest. Some were tortured to death, raped in custody.
• Medvedev unveils new radar station in Kaliningrad as part of Russia's response to US European missile shield plan. Russia also plans to deploy Iskander tactical missiles in same enclave.
• Russia rejects arms embargo on Syria to avoid Libyan scenario.
Katyusha fire on Israel was Syrian hands-off warning
29 Nov. debkafile reports that the Katyusha rocket volley from S. Lebanon which hit Galilee in northern Israel in the small hours of Tuesday, Nov. 29, was initiated by Hizballah commanders in South Lebanon, although claimed by the al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Hizballah activated a Palestinian cell it controls in the Ain Hilwa refugee camp on behalf of its Damascus ally, arming the cell with the rockets and marking out their firing positions and targets in Israel's Galilee, after a group of NATO and Arab officers quietly established a command in Turkey for intervention in the Syrian crisis.
One Katyusha blew up near the border, two inside a Galilee moshav destroying a hen coop and a fourth in a wood outside Maalot, causing damage but no injuries. Israeli artillery returned the fire.
In Istanbul meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his government hopes that a military intervention in Syria will never be necessary "but is ready for any scenario."
November 30, 2011 Briefs
• UK orders Iranian diplomats to leave London Wednesday, evacuates British embassy staff from Tehran – but says it is not severing ties.
• Germany recalls ambassador to Tehran, Italy and France weigh closing embassies after the assault on the UK embassy Monday.
• Israel's Forum of Eight approves Netanyahu's proposal to resume payment of receipts to the Palestinian Authority frozen after Abbas' unilateral UN bid. The sum of $200 m will be sent to Ramallah Thursday.
• Germany approves the subsidized sale of another Dolphin-type submarine to Israel. A senior official in Berlin said 135m euros to cover one-third of the cost.
• debkafile: This explosion in Isfahan occurred near the military university, not at the Nuclear UF6 facility.
• Turkey to suspend financial dealings with Syria, freeze government assets in line with Arab League sanctions against Assad government. Deliveries of weapons and military equipment to Damascus will be blocked.
UK hits back for embassy attack, but spares Iran's Islamist power bases in London
30 Nov. The seemingly tough British steps Wednesday, Nov. 30 – to expel Iranian diplomats from London and close the UK embassy in Tehran – fell well short of punishment for their government's action in loosing a student mob against the embassy, debkafile notes. To really hurt Tehran, UK Prime Minister David Cameron would have shut down Iran's English-language Press TV and World Office of Islamic Guidance, Iran's most influential anti-West propaganda machines in the English language.
Heads of Iran's National Security Council, after analyzing the statements made to parliament by Cameron and Hague, forwarded an urgent recommendation to Ayatollah Khamenei to execute damage control without delay.
December 1, 2011 Briefs
• EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels failed to agree on harsh new sanctions against Iran following the student break-in to the UK embassy in Tehran. They only added 180 names to existing sanctions list.
• Cairo: Muslim Brothers net 40pc of vote, Salafi Islamists 20pc in first round of parliamentary voting.
• Israel's Dep PM Yaalon: Iran's nuclear program is in the sights of many intelligence organizations.
• A record number of 2,667 infiltrators intercepted on Egyptian-Israeli border in November. A total of 13,500 caught this year. No figures released on the number who made it.
Barak: We can't wait until Iran declares it has a nuclear bomb
1 Dec. Major US-Israel differences surfaced suddenly Thursday, Dec. 1, over an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, when Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, said: "I don't know whether Israel would alert the United States ahead of time if it decided to take military action against Iran." Three hours later, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak maintained US policy would enable Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon without the possibility of attacking it.
In an interview, General Dempsey admitted a range of differences on two key issues: Expectations from the sanctions and the diplomatic moves being taken by the Obama administration; and their perspective on the future course of events relating to the Iranian nuclear program and the Middle East: “And … because to them this (a nuclear-armed Iran) is an existential threat I think probably that it’s fair to say that our expectations are different right now,” said Gen. Dempsey.
Barak's rejoinder: “They (the Americans) tell us – What’s the hurry with an attack on Iran? Wait until (Ayatollah) Khamenei announces that Iran is abandoning the NPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty). The Iranians will break the locks (IAEA inspection seals at Iranian uranium enrichment plants) and then it will be clear to all that they have a nuclear weapon.”
Barak added: “The difference between us and the Americans is this: We say that because the Iranians are busy moving their nuclear program to underground facilities, they can announce this (that they have a nuclear weapon) after it is no longer possible to attack it." He warned that if Israel is pushed into a corner, “it will have to act.”