A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Feb. 17, 2011

Feb. 11, 2011 Briefs
• US President Obama praised the military for assuming power without violence. He called on generals to act as responsible caretaker, lift emergency laws, ensure a credible transition to genuine democracy and free elections.
• US continues to be a friend and partner to Egypt. He spoke shortly after Egyptian VP announced Mubarak's resignation and handover of power to the High Army Council.
• Switzerland freezes assets believed owned by Mubarak family.


Feb. 12, 2011 Briefs
• Barak spoke with Field Marshal Tantawi, defense minister and head of military high council Saturday night. They discussed Sinai and Egyptian-Gaza border situation.
• Israel PM welcomes Egyptian military pledge to maintain peace treaty.
• Saab Erekat resigns as Senior Palestinian peace negotiator.
• The Mubarak-appointed cabinet will stay in office until a new one is named. Current and former Egyptian officials banned from leaving country without permission.
• At least 28 killed in suicide bomb attack on Shiite pilgrims near Samara.
• Sinai is up for grabs: Friday, half a million rioters seized towns, oases in demos against Mubarak, Suleiman. Egyptian army, police posts came under RPG and automatic attack.
• In Algeria, thousands of troops and police ranged for anti-regime disturbances Saturday.


Israel's military caught unready for Sinai front. Tantawi is no friend


12 Feb. Friday night, Feb. 11, as Egypt rejoiced over Hosni Mubarak's exit, Israel counted the cost of losing its most important strategic partner in the region. Thirty-two years of peace leave Israel militarily unprepared for the unknown on their 270-kilometer long southern border: an army trained and equipped only for the hostile fronts of Iran, Lebanon's Hizballah and Syria; no experience of desert combat; a dearth of intelligence about the Egyptian army and its commanders, and no clue to the new rulers' intentions.
After signing peace with Egypt in 1979, Israel scrapped the combat brigades trained for desert warfare and stopped treating the Egyptian army as a target of military intelligence. Israel's high command consequently knows little or nothing about any field commanders who might lead units if they were to be deployed in Sinai – even for the welcome task of containing Hamas and al Qaeda terrorists, the drug smugglers and the human traffickers.


Feb. 13, 2011 Briefs
• Ahmadnijead appoints nuclear scientist Fereydoun head of atomic energy commission with rank of vice president. debkafile: Fereydoun survived attack last November which killed centrifuge plant chief Prof. Abassi.
• Soldiers begin clearing Cairo's Tahrir Square of remaining sit-in protesters Sunday.
• Stock Exchange reopens after three weeks.


Will an unknown officer be Egypt's next ruler? Military beefs up Sinai force


13 Feb. Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak phoned the Egyptian council head, Defense Minister Mohamed Tantawi, Saturday night, Feb. 12, to thank him for transferring 900 men of two 18th Division battalions to Sinai to rein in the lawless rampage raging there. A request to curb the rampage also reached the Army Council from Washington. Members of the Multinational Force policing Sinai under the peace treaty, mostly Americans and Canadians, have been locked in their camps for nearly three weeks under virtual Hamas and Bedouin siege.
In Jerusalem, the prime minister welcomed the military's pledge to honor the peace treaty, as having "greatly contributed to both countries as the cornerstone for peace and stability in the entire Middle East."
The 76-year old Egyptian field marshal's manner in the conversation with Barak was curt and to the point rather than affable.


Feb. 14, 2011 Briefs
• Changing of IDF chiefs of staff marked Monday in ceremonies attended by PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak. Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi and his successor Lt. Gen Benny Gantz prayed together at the Western Wall, Jerusalem.
• The new C-of-S thanked Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, the government's first choice, for his long service to the nation. He voiced confidence they would be able to address future challenges together.
• Qassam from Gaza explodes harmlessly in Eshkol district.
• Iran places opposition leaders Mousavi, Karroubi under house arrest, steps up security in Tehran to block protest Monday. Internet blocked, satellite news channels jammed, subways patrolled.
• Abbas reshuffles Palestinian government, re-appoints PM Fayyad.
• At least 18 items disappeared, 70 artefacts damaged in Egyptian museum after protesters chased police off Cairo streets.


Iran cracks down on demos, stops Turkish leader greeting protesters


14 Feb. Monday night, Feb. 14, Iranian Basij heavies were still beating up thousands of anti-regime protesters who turned out in the streets of 30 cities during the day in the first opposition's first substantial opposition demonstration since 2009. In Tehran, one demonstrator was killed and two injured. debkafile reports exclusively that visiting Turkish president Abdullah Gul wanted to meet and greet them but Mahmound Ahmadinejad stopped him, almost causing a diplomatic crisis between the two friendly governments. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also voiced support for the Iranian protesters.


Mubarak moves vast assets from European banks to Saudi Arabia


14 Feb. Hosni Mubarak and his family have moved a large part of their assets – guesstimated at between $20 and $70 billion – from European banks to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Republics against personal guarantees from King Abdullah and Sheik Al Nahyan to block access to outside parties. This is reported by Gulf and West European sources. A Swiss financial source commented: "If he had any real money in Zurich, it may be gone by now." The opposition demands an inquiry into the assets of top Egyptian figures, which the military will no doubt oppose.
Mubarak denies resigning or handing power to the military. "I never knew Suleiman was going to air that statement," he said.


Mullen: Peace treaty safe. Egyptian opposition leader: It's finished


14 Feb. The message Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, brought Israel Sunday, Feb. 13, was that the 1979 peace accord with Egypt is not in jeopardy. He tried giving this assurance to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Gen. Benny Gantz – who became Israel's 20th chief of staff Monday. Both sides tried to ignore Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour's comment earlier that day that "Camp David is finished." Gen. Gantz is landed with the job of adapting the IDF to five fronts.


Feb. 14, 2011 Briefs
• Obama sees "right signals" from Egypt, slams Iran's crackdown on protests.
• Russia will not support future sanctions against Iran, FM Lavrov at joint press conference with FS Hague in London.
• Barak, new C-of-S Gantz and Northern front commander Eizenkott tour Israel's northern border. Utmost caution needed as the slightest spark could inflame the region, said Barak.
• Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood to form a political party, which was banned by the Mubarak regime.
• Oil prices keep climbing on riots in Iran, Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain, strikes in Egypt.
• Israeli embassies placed on alert for "specific terrorist attack" – possibly by Iran or Hizballah. FM has reduced embassy operations in Africa, Southeast Asia and Caucasus and temporarily evacuated some diplomats.
• Israel sharply denounces Jordanian justice minister Hussein Majali for joining demo to pardon soldier who murdered 7 Israeli schoolgirls in Naharayim in 1997. The minister called the soldier "a hero".
• Syria rejects another UN atomic watchdog request to inspect A-Zeir plutonium reactor site bombed by Israel in 2007.
• First Chinese Space Energy Agency delegation in Israel.
• Abbas disbands the Negotiations Support Unit (NSU) after 3 staffers leaked 1.600 documents to Al Jazeera.


Egypt's gas and oil pipelines at a standstill


15 Feb. The pipeline carrying Saudi and Gulf oil from the Red Sea to the Egyptian Mediterranean is idle. Although Cairo and the owners, Arab Petroleum Pipelines, say SudMed is working normally, debkafile's sources confirm the pipeline, which carries 3.1 million barrels of Gulf oil per day from the Red Sea to Egypt's Mediterranean coast, was inoperative up until Tuesday morning, Feb. 15, due to a general strike. The pipeline supplying Israel and Jordan with Egyptian is also inactive since Hamas blew it up Feb. 5.
Spokesmen in Amman admitted Monday that the flow to Jordan had also been suspended.


Feb. 16, 2011 Briefs
• Clashes between pro-government supporters and opposition groups in Tehran Wednesday.
• Iranian opposition leader Karroubi says he will pay any price for reforms after 200 lawmakers called for his and Mousavi's death.
• At least 38 injured in security forces's clashes with first anti-Qaddafi protest in Benghazi, Libya's 2nd largest town.
• Gen. David Petraeus reported about to quit as top US commander in Afghanistan.
• Afghan police's situation dire, in no shape to take over – according to new report.
• Obama warns "autocratic rulers" they cannot maintain power by force and must recognize world is changing.


Saudis ready to aid Bahraini ruler. Rioting persists in Yemen, Jordan


16 Feb. After anti-government protesters defied Bahraini security forces' efforts to dislodge them from Manama's main square, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa Wednesday, Feb. 16, asked for Saudi help, debkafile reveals. Riyadh, fearing its own large Shiite minority in the eastern oil-rich regions of the kingdom would catch fire from Bahrain, Tuesday, rushed security and military forces t the oil facilities and ports in the east, most of which are manned by Shiites, who are close to their coreligionists in Bahrain.
Jordan was confronted with the first outbreaks of Bedouin disaffection with the crown, Syria has geared up for Friday's Day of Anger and Libyan police fired tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters in Benghazi.


Egypt permits Iran to send two warships through Suez to Syria


16 Feb. Forty-eight hours after Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the Egyptian upheaval had no military connotations for Israel, the Iranian frigate Alvand and cruiser Kharg were in position to transit the Suez Canal on their way to Syria Thursday night, Feb. 17. Their passage was termed "a provocation" by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. In Beirut, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah said he was looking forward to Israel going to war on Lebanon because then his men would capture Galilee.
Israel was closely monitoring the Iranian flotilla, whose visit to the Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah on Feb. 6 was first revealed exclusively by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 481 on February 10.
debkafile's military sources report Iran is swiftly seizing on Hosni Mubarak's fall and the Saudi King Abdullah's falling-out with President Barack Obama (see debkafile of Feb. 10, 2011) as an opportunity not to be missed for establishing a foothold along the Suez Canal and access to the Mediterranean.


February 17, 2011 Briefs
• Ankara: Israel shut down its embassy and Istanbul consulate Friday after Hizballah terror alert.
• Protesters in Libyan town Zentan torched security HQ and a police station, demanding ouster of "corrupt rulers". Earlier, 14 dead were reported in security forces' clashes with Libya's protesters.
• Bahrain bans protests, order military to tighten grip after protesters forcibly removed. Tanks earlier rolled into Manama's Pearl Square early Thursday after 6 protesters killed.
• Egypt permits two Iranian war ships to pass through the Suez Canal Thursday night.
• Tehran to expand executions after clashes Wednesday between security and protesters.


Iran roils Bahrain, executes own protesters


17 Feb. Tanks rolled into Pearl Square, Manama, early Thursday, Feb. 17, personally commanded by King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa in full military regalia, hours after his police firing live ammunition and tear gas failed to break up the tent city set up by protesters against his rule. At least six protesters were killed and dozens injured. Later the square was forcibly cleared and protests banned. debkafile: Unlike the other uprisings sweeping the region, Tehran is deeply involved in Bahrain, aiming to overthrow the Al-Khalifa regime and replace it with the first pro-Iranian government in the Arabian Gulf region. This would stir the Shiite minorities to revolt in other oil-rich Gulf states – and especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where they make up around one-fifth of the population.
At home, Iran is expanding executions of protesters and stepping up its brutal crackdown. Friday, millions will hit the streets shouting slogans in support of Ahmadinejad. Sunday, the opposition will again try and get numbers out on the streets.

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