A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending July 28, 2011
July 22, 2011 Briefs
• France condemns Syrian repression in Homs where dozens killed in recent days. Syrian authorities "arrest and kill own population daily". They will be held to account.
• Lebanon and Iran deepen energy and water cooperation ties. According to new memorandum, Iran will help Lebanon in gas and oil exploration.
• Thursday, UN Lebanon coordinator Michael Williams urged Israel and Lebanon to promote offshore oil and gas exploration despite their maritime border dispute. Such disputes are common around the world.
Norway under multiple terror attack with scores of victims
22 July. European cities are on terror alert after the Norwegian prime minister's office in Oslo was rocked Friday, July 22 by huge bomb explosions, leaving at least 7 dead and 15 injured, following by a massacre by a gunman shooting an automatic weapon on an island youth camp shortly before a visit by Prime Minister Jen Stoltenberg. The prime minister said he and members of his cabinet were safe at an undisclosed location. Oslo residents were advised to stay indoors.
debkafile reports: Anders Behring Breivik, 32, a grower of vegetables, melons, roots and tubers, described as a "Conservative nationalist" and admirer of Churchill, Kant and Plato, is in Norwegian policy custody. He owns the company Breivik Geofarm. Before his capture, Norwegian authorities believed the country was under al Qaeda attack, one of whose targets was their prime minister.
Syrian cities surrounded by tanks, Homs stormed
22 July. Since Thursday, July 21, Syria's entire operational fleet of 1,500 tanks surrounds the country's most active anti-Assad protest cities such as Homs, Hama, Deir al-Zour, Abu Kamal and the big Damascus suburb of Harasta. The same evening, tank-backed forces stormed Homs, shelling densely populated districts at random, causing many casualties and burning buildings. Five months into the uprising, these flashpoint cities are out of control. The army refrains from going in except in large contingents backed by heavy armor and live fire.
debkafile's military sources report that Syrian army bases have been emptied of all usable tanks in support of another desperate attempt by Syrian President Bashar Assad to crush the long uprising against his rule. This makes him the first Middle East leader ever to hurl an entire tank force against a rebellious population.
In the western town of Homs, armed militias in four Sunni neighborhoods stand ready to shoot any Syrian soldiers. In Hama, the rebels control the entire city and have set up local governing committees.
The Syrian army has lost control of the towns of the entire Euphrates Valley of eastern Syria.
July 23, 2011 Briefs
• In Syria, explosions and gunshots heard early Saturday from the military academy in Homs.
• An Aleppo-Damascus passenger train derailed Saturday, killing driver, injuring passengers. The train with 480 passengers caught fire near Homs. Syrian TV accuses "saboteurs" of ripping up tracks.
• Mahmoud Abbas opens Palestinian Liberation Organization world conference in Istanbul. Turkish PM Erdogan was present.
US Warns Jordan's king: Revolt is on your doorstep
23 July. Jordan's King Abdullah II was warned in Washington this week to hurry up and introduce political reforms because a revolt against the throne was knocking at his door from neighboring Syria, debkafile's Washington sources report. US intelligence updates informed him the threat came from the potential spillover of the tumult rocking Syria by means of shared family and tribal ties between the two countries and the Muslim Brotherhood. Both will want to reciprocate the aid the Syrian branches received in their fight against Assad from their Jordanian kinsmen and coreligionists.
If the revolt spread to Jordan, Israel would have to decide whether to step in to save the Hashemite throne as well as preventing the unrest infecting West Bank Palestinians and Israeli Arabs communities. Its security chiefs would have to take into account that the spread of unrest from Jordan could coincide with and support the Palestinian disorders predicted for September when the Palestinians plan to seek UN recognition of their statehood.
The Americans were disappointed in the king's reluctance for speedy democratic reforms and give up substantial royal authority and prerogatives.
Slain Iranian scientist was working on a nuclear bomb detonator
24 July. Daryush Rezaee-Nejad, 35, who died Saturday, July 23, when two motorcyclists shot him in the head and throat in front of his home in Tehran, was a rising star of the new generation of Iranian nuclear scientists. debkafile's Iranian sources disclose he was attached to one of the most secret teams of Iran's nuclear program, employed by the defense ministry to construct detonators for the nuclear bombs and warhead already in advanced stages of development.
This was another in the series of mysterious attacks of top-flight scientists attached to the Iranian nuclear program in the past year.
His dual employment as a student and member of top-flight flight nuclear team and Tehran's reluctance to admit how deeply its nuclear program had been penetrated account for the Iranian media's conflicting accounts of Razaee-Nejad's role.
Initially, he was described as "a nuclear scientist working for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran," then as "an electronics master's student."
July 25, 2011 Briefs
• Qaddafi and family can stay in Libya, says opposition leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil. But he must give up power and rebel leaders will decide where and how he lives.
• Israel intercepts Dead Sea boat smuggling arms and explosives from Jordan to West Bank. Two boatmen arrested. Small inland sea is bisected by Israeli-Jordanian border.
Norwegian mass-killer boasts he acted "in a cell" with two more waiting
25 July. Anders Behring Breivik, who admitted to carrying out twin terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utoya island Friday, July 22, boasted in court Monday he had acted in a cell and "two more cells" were prepared to carry out further attacks. He was remanded for eight weeks in solitary confinement.
Police refrained from confirming that UK internal security agency MI5 had reported on his contacts with right-wing extremists in London. They said chemicals may have been purchased in Poland for making the bomb he used against government buildings in Oslo. From March he was on an intelligence watch list.
The police statement also revised the death figures from the two attacks – the number of victims shot dead at the ruling Labor youth camp on the island near Oslo was reduced from 86 to 68, while the new figure for the bombing attack was eight instead of seven. Neither figure is yet final.
Even if the court throws the book at the gunman and convicts him of the most extreme charges, the maximum prison sentence against him would be 21 years. After murdering 76 innocent people at the age of 32, therefore, Anders Breivik would be a free man at 53.
July 26, 2011 Briefs
• PM Netanyahu unveils reform program in response to 13 days of popular demonstrations for affordable housing: Two new laws before summer recess to cut planning red tape, release state land at cut-prices for 50,000 new apartments in 18 months. Half fares on public transport for students living far from universities and colleges. Cheap state land allotted developers guaranteeing low-rent and bottom-price apartments. Free land for 10,000 new student dorms.
• Israeli finance minister Steinitz pledges to demonstrators: We beat unemployment and we'll beat rocketing prices. Unemployment rate continued to fall, reaching 5.7 percent in May.
• Iran, Syria, Iraq sign $10 bn deal for pipeline to carry Iranian gas to Mediterranean.
• US begins process for removing Iranian opposition MEK from terror list.
US, Saudi Arabia smuggle satellite phones to Syrian rebels
26 July. Iranian intelligence experts in Damascus have been disrupting the opposition movement's telephone and Internet links with the outside world and among fellow-protesters in the country. In the last two week, the US and Saudi Arabia have smuggled thousands of satellite phones to opposition leaders, debkafile reports.
This is the first time the Obama administration has stepped in with direct assistance for the Syrian opposition in its drive to unseat Syrian President Bashar Assad in a way, moreover, that challenges Iran's contribution to the regime's survival. A new Saudi-funded TV station representing the Syrian opposition began broadcasting on July 19.
July 27, 2011 Briefs
• Ahmadinejad names Revolutionary Guards Brig. Gen. Rostam Qasemi, targeted by international sanctions, oil minister. As second largest OPEC producer, Iran holds the cartel's rotating presidency with influence on prices and quantities.
• debkafile: Qasemi's appointment is a mark of contempt for US, EU and Australia which imposed sanctions on him for heading the firm which built the facilities for Iran's nuclear bomb program.
• Kandahar mayor killed in his office Wednesday by suicide bomber who hid explosives in his turban – another Taliban strike in S. Afghanistan.
• The UK expels Libya's entire embassy staff from London, recognizes the rebel administration.
• Foreign Secretary Hague conceded Tuesday that the UK would not object to Col. Qaddafi staying in Libya.
• Syrian security and army forces kill at least 10 people Tuesday as opposition announces nightly Ramadan rallies from July 30.
• Hizballah warns Israel not to encroach on Lebanese waters in gas and oil exploration.
• At least 5 French UN peacemakers injured by roadside bomb against their armored vehicle in S. Lebanese port of Sidon. It was planted by Palestinian al Qaeda cell in Eil Hilwa camp.
Young Israeli "tent city" protesters ape Arab Revolt, go political
27 July. The motley group which two weeks ago set up a "tent city" to protest the unavailability of affordable housing, has assumed attributes of the Arab uprisings: It enjoys backstage foreign political support – some from certain circles in Washington; it exploits genuine popular grievances for political capital; it wants regime change, namely, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's head – and is building up to achieve this as the UN votes on Palestinian statehood. A new government will then recognize Palestine within 1967 borders.
The common features stop there: Israel's democracy is alive and kicking with an over-abundance of parties, an active opposition, an independent judiciary, full employment (falling to 5.7 percent in May) and a thriving entrepreneurial and innovative economy.
The protest movement grew out of the fragile underpinnings of that economy – an underpaid, overtaxed workforce; a professional 20-50 aged class that can't make ends meet between overpriced food, housing (rents or mortgages) and schooling for their children; no prospects of change and the widest social gap in the Western world.
July 28, 2011 Briefs
• Three US military servicemen arrested for allegedly plotting another attack on Fort Hood, Texas – Fox News.
• In November 2009, US army major of Jordanian-Palestinian descent gunned down 13 servicemen at Fort Hood.
• Taliban launch a gun-suicide bombing attack in southern Afghan province of Uruzgan killing 17 people including a local BBC reporter. Machine gun, RPG, assault rifle battle ensued in town market with NATO providing air support for Afghan forces.
• At least 12 killed outside a bank in Tikrit, Iraq, when a car exploded in center followed by a suicide bomber.
• Palestinians fire Qassam missile at Ashkelon early Thursday • No casualties or damage.
• At least 20 Syrian tanks storm Latakia Thursday. Explosions heard by witnesses.
• PM Netanyahu names Finance Minister Steinitz to hold talks with Trade Unions leader Ofer Eini who takes lead of tent-city talks on housing and other benefits.
Russian-US cooperation in Mid East and Afghanistan in jeopardy
28 July. Russia has threatened to freeze the "reset" ties with the United States, which recently produced valuable cooperation and friendly understandings between the two powers in vital global arenas. debkafile's Moscow sources report the areas most affected are likely to be the Israel-Palestinian dispute, the Libyan war and the Russian supply route for US forces fighting in Afghanistan.
Wednesday night, the Kremlin sharply denounced the travel ban to America US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quietly imposed on a group of senior Russian officials tied to the death in prison of the Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky. "Clearly, we won't let such hostile steps happen without a response and will take adequate measures to protect our country's sovereignty and our citizens from such wrongful actions by foreign states," said Moscow.
The affair clouding Russian-US relations dates back two years when Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer employed by Hermitage, a big Russian investment firm, died in a Moscow prison after exposing a $230 million theft by senior officers of the company. His friends say he was thrown into jail by the embezzlers' friends in high places and deliberately left to die from harsh conditions and the withholding of the medical care which he needed.
When the Senate began drafting a bill imposing a travel ban on 60 Moscow officials, Clinton jumped in with a more modest sanction hoping to save the day. It didn’t work. Moscow retaliated at the expense of diplomatic cooperation with Washington starting with a slowdown of its effort to broker an end to the Libyan war.