A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending March 10, 2011
March 4, 2011 Briefs
• Clinton says US continues to be concerned about Qaddafi's actions against his own people amid confusion about events on the ground. For now we are focusing in helping refugees, she said.
• Reuter reports 30 dead in fighting between pro- Libyan forces and rebels at Zawiiyah Friday. One source reports rebel commander among killed.
• Interpol issues international alert for Qaddafi and 14 of his associates. British coast guard seizes large consignment of Libyan dinars worth app. 100 m sterling on ship heading out of Harwich port.
• Demonstrations in Tripoli after Friday prayers forcibly dispersed.
• Jordanian capital of Amman saw thousands of protesters on the streets.
• Israeli PM Netanyahu invited to address two US Houses of Congress in May.
Mubarak faces probe on gas sale to Israel, arrest warrants for Israeli, US partners
4 March. The prospects of Egypt resuming its $2 billion p.a. gas supplies to Israel dropped to zero Thursday, March 3 when Egypt's state security prosecutor Abdel Magid Mahmud announced that deposed president Hosni Mubarak would be summoned for questioning next week about allegedly corrupt deals for selling Israel Egyptian gas at knock-down prices, debkafile's Cairo sources report.
Mahmud claimed he had documentary evidence that Egypt lost more than half a billion dollars in gas sales to Israel and sought to follow up suspicions that the difference was shared out between the Mubarak family and the Israeli and American partners in the transaction, against whom he threatens international arrest warrants.
The flow of gas to Israel was suspended on Feb. 5 when Hamas blew up the pipeline running through Sinai during the Egyptian uprising. Our sources confirm that supplies will not be renewed until the end of the corruption inquiry which could go on for years. Egyptian gas fueled 40 percent of Israel's electricity requirements. In the meantime, world fuel prices have shot up and Israel has been forced to convert its power stations from gas to heavy fuel, incurring extra outlay running into hundreds of millions of dollars a month.
March 5, 2011 Briefs
• Saudi Arabia bans all demos and protests.
• Heavy fighting since pro-Qaddafi's forces launched counter-offensive Friday night for control of northern towns. Battle casualties counted in scores with no confirmed figures.
• Two explosions at ammunition dumps in Beghazi Friday left 27 dead, wiped out rebel ammo stocks.
Qaddafi troops regain Zawiyah, most oil towns. Obama names Libya intel panel
5 March. Pro-Qaddafi forces offensive to recapture control of Libya's most important towns and oil centers, launched Friday, March 4, resulted Saturday in the recapture of the key town of Zawiya and most of the oil facilities around the Gulf of Sirte. In Washington and London, talk of military intervention on the side of the Libyan opposition was muted by the realization that field intelligence on both sides of the Libyan conflict was too scrappy to serve as a basis for decision-making.
American military advisers and intelligence officers attached to the Benghazi-based rebels in the east often contradict each other and appear unclear about who is in command of the assorted militias in revolt against the Qaddafi regime. Armed civilian groups cohere informally into small militias who then decide whether to seize a certain piece of territory or town and hold it against military pressure. When there are no troops around, the rebels claim victory.
Inside information about Qaddafi's forces is just as sparse. He is known to be supported by three elite brigades under the command of two of his sons, Khamis and Mutassim and the Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Abu Baker Younis Jaber, but intelligence about them is hard to come by, except that the most effective professional unit is the Khamis Brigade No. 32 of the Libyan army.
March 6, 2011 Briefs
• Jerusalem municipal worker badly injured by exploding pipe bomb planted in Gilo garbage bag.
• In Yemen, four members of Abdul Saleh's Republican Guard killed in shooting attack in Sanaa early Sunday.
• Iran's oil revenues hit $80 m last year. debkafile: Soaring oil prices wiped out sanctions losses.
• Two investigative journalists jailed by Turkish court for links with alleged coup conspirators. Six other journalists detained Thursday, drawing criticism in West and from rights groups.
Libyan army strikes rebels, halts their advance on Sirte
6 March. Sunday, March 6, pro-Qaddafi forces followed up their gains of Saturday – a cluster of Gulf of Sirte (Sidra) towns east of Tripoli and Zawiya west of the capital – by breaking through to the bridge leading to the center of the key town of Misratah. Rebel forces preparing for a last stand in the town were bombarded form the sea, while the anti-Qaddafi forces heading for Sirte were pounded from the air. Several army colonels defected to the opposition.
March 7, 2011 Briefs
• Obama says US and NATO considering military response to violence in Libya.
• Russian foreign minister says Moscow is against any foreign intervention in Libya.
• Libyan armored forces adopt in-and-out tactic in rebel-held towns.
• PM Essam Sharaf presents his government Monday, Egypt's second in six weeks. Nabil Elaraby replaces Ahmed Aboul Gheit as foreign minister. New interior minister is Gen. Mansour El Essawi.
• Barak: Palestinian independence and peace do not conflict with Israeli security needs.
Israel's most important security asset is partnership with the US.
• Syria denies its airmen piloted a Libyan army helicopter downed by rebels Sunday.
• Gates arrives unannounced in Afghanistan Sunday.
• Ban names Jordanian ex-FM Abdullah al-Hatib special UN emissary for Libyan civil war.
• White House plea to US committee studying Al Qaeda's efforts to radicalize American Muslims to focus also on Muslim community's support for anti-terrorism.
Obama builds up military option for Libya
7 March. US President Barack Obama launched a number of diplomatic and military steps Monday March 7 pointing toward preparation for US and NATO intervention in the Libyan civil war – notwithstanding objections from the Pentagon and US military chiefs. debkafile's sources report the administration was behind the UAE appeal Monday for UN Security Council protection for the Libyan people. The UAE was clearly seeking a mandate for military action, but Moscow quickly declared its opposition to any foreign intervention in Libya.
In Brussels, NATO sources reported that Awacs surveillance flights over Libya would be extended from 10 to 24 hours a day.
White House spokesman Jay Carney denied that a no-fly zone was planned – only operations against Libyan helicopter gunships and air control towers. "The option of providing military assistance to the rebels is on the table," he said.
Israel diplomatic initiative now would draw an backlash from the Arab revolt
7 March. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has joined the foreign and domestic chorus pushing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to launch a fresh initiative to end the stalemate in the peace process with the Palestinians. debkafile's analysts advise Netanyahu to hold his horses until the Arab revolt is better defined and the shape of the Palestinian leadership and state emerging from the Middle East turmoil is clearer. Arab protesters are ignoring Israel and it would be a good idea to let the conflict with the Palestinians remain a non-issue.
Sunday, March 6, the prime minister Sunday, March 6, told a joint news conference with visiting Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, whose government recognized a Palestinian state: "We are willing to sit down and negotiate peace. But the Palestinians have found a variety of excuses not to do so."
He accused them of avoiding talks in the hope of persuading the international community to impose a solution on Israel. "Basically, they say, we don't have to negotiate, we can sit back, we can teach our children to idolize mass killers – they named a public square in Ramallah for a terrorist who murdered 400 innocent Israelis; they can do that and get away with it."
Netanyahu went on to list five gestures had made in the last year for advancing the peace process, including a 10-month freeze of settlement construction and the removal of numerous checkpoints.
Barak urged the prime minister not to wait to unveil his new peace program until late May when he has been invited to address both US Houses of Congress, but to go public now.
March 8, 2011 Briefs
• Obama and Cameron review full spectrum of options for ousting Qaddafi, including a no-fly zone.
• debkafile: This means no military intervention for now as military tide shifts in Qaddafi's favor.
• Serious clashes between Christian Copts protesting against persecution and Muslims south of Cairo Tuesday.
• Women's protests for more rights and employment broken up by radical Muslim men in Tahrir Square, Cairo.
• Netanyahu: The IDF must hold the River Jordan in any accord with the Palestinians. The river is our security border, said PM on tour of Jordan army positions.
• At least 24 killed, 100 injured in car bomb attack on gas station near ISI HQ in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
• Man arrested in Glasgow in connection with Stockholm suicide bombing.
• Netanyahu cabinet resolves to raze all illegal West Bank outposts built on Palestinian-owned land by year's end.
• Ahmadinejad victory over opposition: Ex-President Hashem Rafsanjani loses chair of Iran's powerful Assembly of Experts.
• Obama lifts freeze on military trials, restarts tribunals for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
Massive Qaddafi offensive east and west opens road to Cyrenaica
8 March: After three weeks of savage warfare, Tuesday, March 8, Col. Muammar Qaddafi reached the tipping point of his offensive against rebel forces and his troops are advancing toward Ajdabiya, their first destination in the rebel-held eastern region of Cyrenaica, debkafile's military sources report. The anti-Qaddafi militias appeared to have folded and are no longer able to post a defense line to stop the government advance. Their appeals for outside aid fall on deaf ears.
President Barack Obama has not yet reached a decision about US military intervention in Libya and British Prime Minister David Cameron has backed away from his high rhetoric about a British military role in the war.
Not a single Arab ruler or government is willing to dip a toe into the Libyan cauldron. In the last few hours, Egypt's military rulers have notified Washington that they will not help the Libyan opposition, even by sending arms.
March 9, 2011 Briefs
• Saudi security, intelligence, army, navy on high alert for Day of Rage Friday.
• New York reports oil markets braced for even higher prices as global spare capacity wears thin.
• NATO troops in Afghanistan intercept Iranian rocket shipment to Taliban in Nimruz province. New rockets would have doubled range of attack.
• PM Netanyahu names (Ret.) Brig, Yaacov Amidror head of National Security Council. He is former head of Military Intelligence Research Division.
• US delegate Glyn Davis reports increasingly apparently military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program.
• Clinton: No-fly zone in Libya should be UN-led not enforced by the US alone. debkafile: This shuts the door on the US president acting unilaterally or with Europe.
• Libyans will fight if a no-fly zone is imposed by the West, said Qaddafi to Turkish TV reporter in Tripoli.
West offers Libyan ceasefire for Qaddafi's pledge to save Benghazi
9 March. Following Muammar Qaddafi's military successes Tuesday, Western-backed parties Wednesday, March 9, discreetly solicited him on the Libyan rebels' behalf for diplomatic understandings to stop his forces short of marching on rebel-held Cyrenaica in the east, debkafile's exclusive sources report. In return, the rebels would accept an informal ceasefire and let the oil facilities return to normal. Early exchanges on this deal are led by Egypt's Field Marshal Mohammad Tantawi, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and Vienna-based diplomats.
Qaddafi's pre-condition for diplomacy was a prior NATO pledge that its members would refrain from military intervention in the Libyan conflict. NATO would not intervene in Libya because it had no UN authorization to do so. Earlier, three Libyan executive jets were sighted flying towards Cairo, Athens and Vienna. debkafile reports that the first carried the Libyan logistic supplies authority's chief Maj. Gen. Abdel Rahman Ben Ali al-Sayyid al-Zawy. He handed Tantawi a message from Qaddafi.
March 10, 2011 Briefs
• Saif al-Islam: Time has come for full-scale military offensive on the rebels. Libya will never surrender even if western powers intervene. Qaddafi's son also said: Libya is committed to introducing democracy and freedom.
• Clinton: We are worried about Qaddafi's potential chemical weapons.
• France becomes first government to recognize the rebel National Council as Libya's legitimate ruler. Qaddafi considers severing ties with Paris.
• EU decides to expand sanctions against Libya by freezing profits from its oil sales. Moscow: Any foreign intervention in Libya is unacceptable. This was response to NATO and EU FM meetings in Brussels to discuss no fly zone without UN sanction.
Obama accepts prospect of nuclear-armed Iran
10 March. An annual intelligence report to Congress has dropped language stating that Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions are a future option and speaks in terms of the present, indicating a radical switch in US policy on Iran. As rocketing oil prices triggered by Arab uprisings wiped out the sanctions damage to Iran, Washington confirmed the worst Saudi and Israeli suspicions that Barack Obama had come to terms with a nuclear-armed Iran.
This discovery has dealt America's allies in Riyadh and Jerusalem their second letdown in three months, on the heels of White House encouragement of the uprisings against a select number of Arab rulers.
The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper presented the Senate Armed Services Committee this week with a "revised" version of the controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate which claimed originally against all the evidence that Iran had halted work on nuclear arms in 2003.
It is now confirmed that the misinformation contained in the original NIE was the pretext for holding back – not only an Israeli attack on Iran but also direct American action for keeping nuclear arms out of Iran's hands. Instead of hedging round the issue, the Obama administration shows it is willing to come to terms with the reality of Iran's wide-open option to develop nuclear weapons.