A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending March 3, 2011
Feb. 25, 2011 Briefs
• White House: US will impose unilateral and multilateral sanctions on Libya.
• Saudi Arabia increases output to more than 9 m barrels per day, an extra 700,000 bpd.
• Oil prices have soared to $112 a barrel.
• Nine killed in anti- government rallies in three N. Iraqi towns.
• Protests demonstrations against military rulers in Cairo in Egyptian cities.
• Qaddafi addresses crowds in Green Square, says we must prepare to defend Libya. When necessary we will open arsenals to arm all tribes, he said.
• Libyan UN envoy says Qaddafi will fight to the end and will not be taken alive.
US military advisers in Cyrenaica. Qaddafi's loses his air force
25 Feb. Hundreds of US, British and French military advisers have arrived in Cyrenaica, Libya's eastern breakaway province, debkafile's military sources report exclusively. This is the first time America and Europe have intervened militarily in any of the popular upheavals rolling through the Middle East since Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution in early January. The advisers, including intelligence officers, were dropped from warships and missile boats at the coastal towns of Benghazi and Tobruk Thursday Feb. 24, for a threefold mission: To help the rebels in Cyrenaica establish government frameworks; to organize them into paramilitary units and to prepare infrastructure for the intake of foreign troops. Egyptian units are among those under consideration.
Feb. 26, 2011 Briefs
• Iran admits its first reactor at Bushehr was permanently disabled by Stuxnet virus. Fuel was emptied out on Russian advice.
• Israel bombed five Hamas targets in Gaza Strip Saturday afternoon after a string of Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilian locations.
• Obama issues an executive order blocking transfer or withdrawal of funds by Qaddafi or his children. He also cancelled military contacts with Libya shortly after all US embassy staff flew out of Tripoli Friday night.
• At Tahrir Sq. a demonstration of tens of thousands broken up by Egyptian soldiers after midnight Friday. They beat protesters and tore down tents.
• Gates: The future US army will be smaller and not engage in large-scale wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.
• Jihad Islami training facilities in Gaza struck in Friday night Israeli air attack following Palestinian two-missile attack on Israel.
First demos in Saudi Arabia, Iraq refinery blasted
26 Feb. Iraq's biggest oil refinery at Baiji, 180 kilometers north of Baghdad, was blown up early Saturday, Feb. 26, by an Al Qaeda cell activated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Qods Brigades, debkafile's Middle East sources report. Tehran is using the Middle East turbulence to generate fuel shortages in Iraq and boost oil prices worldwide. Thursday night saw the first signs of unrest in Saudi Arabia with demonstrations by young people demanding political reforms and by Shiites living and working in the eastern oil centers.
The slightest sign of unrest in Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, is bound to affect the price of oil. Iran is the biggest beneficiary of soaring prices. Day after day, Tehran watches the Arab uprisings push up the price of oil and the shrinkage of the damage sanctions has caused its economy.
27 Feb. 2011 Briefs
• Palestinians fire 3 missiles from Gaza Strip at Israeli targets in Shear Hanegev and Erez crossing Sunday night. Israeli air force hit the missile team, killing at least one shooter.
• More than 100 Saudi academics call for sweeping reforms, including constitutional monarchy.
• Tunisian PM Ghannouchi steps down after protesters accuse him of being too close to overthrown president.
• Clinton: US reaches out to Libyan opposition groups in the east.
• Israeli Police raise security alert to B Level nationwide over Gaza attacks, unrest in Arab nations.
• Another missile explodes in Eshkol district Sunday.
• UN Security Council unanimously imposes widespread sanctions on 16 Qaddafi regime and family members. They include travel bans, assets freeze, arms embargo.
• SC called for immediate crimes against humanity probe against them by the International Criminal Court •
• US, UK and French embassies evacuated and shuttered •
• Humanitarian crisis builds up Libya's Egyptian and Tunisian borders as refugees try to cross •
Qaddafi's air force is up again and ferrying fresh troops to defend Tripoli
27 Feb. Hours after the UN Security Council unanimously imposed sanctions on Col. Muammar Qaddafi and his regime, his reactivated air force was flying troop and tribal reinforcements from the south to the military airfields of Tripoli, Misrata and Sirte, debkafile's military sources report. They were immediately deployed Sunday night, Feb. 27 at the main road intersections leading to the capital.
This move lessened the military significance of the rebels' reported takeover of towns around Tripoli, including Al Zawiya.
For now, the rebels face four main difficulties: They lack organized military strength to stand up to Qaddafi's professionally-trained and equipped soldiers; instead of digging in and consolidating their control of the eastern part of the country the rebels went after Tripoli in order to topple Qaddafi, a mission impossible; they reject foreign military and are fighting without air cover.
Early Sunday, Feb. 27, US President Barack Obama called on Libyan ruler Col. Muammar Qaddafi to leave now, having lost the legitimacy to rule since "his only means of staying in power is to use violence against his own people."
In Benghazi, former Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil established a provisional government.
Feb. 28, 2011 Briefs
• UK jury convicts ex-British Airways employee of plotting US-bound airplane explosion with Al Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki.
• Egyptian prosecutor-General freezes assets of Hosni Mubarak and family.
• Former president, wife and two sons prohibited from leaving country.
• debkafile: Since Mubarak's Feb. 13 overthrow, his whereabouts unknown.
• Two Palestinians hit by IDF artillery aimed at Gaza unit responsible for laying bombs and cross-border attacks on Israeli targets.
US weighs hit-and-run raids to disable Qaddafi's air capability
28 Feb. The US is weighing military intervention to break the standoff between Muammar Qaddafi's army and rebel forces over the towns commanding the roads to the capital Tripoli where Qaddafi is barricaded. Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan stated Monday, Feb. 28 that the US "is repositioning its naval and air forces around Libya." His reference to "various contingency plans" related to the USS Enterprise and USS Kearsarge with 1,800 marines aboard soon to be redeployed off Libya.
debkafile's military and intelligence sources report that the presence of the two US warships opposite Libya gives Washington and its allies a flexible option for military intervention should Qaddafi be seen to prevail over the opposition or if the standoff lingers too long, including covert raids under air cover from the Enterprise.
On the sanctions front, the US government Monday blocked a record $30 billion in Libyan assets, the largest amount ever frozen.
Top two Iranian opposition leaders secretly jailed
28 Feb. The White House strongly condemned Iran's "intimidation campaign and blatant violation of its citizens' universal rights," Sunday night, Feb. 28 after a human-rights group said two opposition figures had been taken to an unknown location. They may be too late: debkafile's Iranian sources reveal that the two prominent opposition leaders, Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, were secretly hauled out of their homes in sacks Thursday, Feb. 24 and taken to the infamous Parchin prison in Tehran. Their wives have also disappeared.
Our sources have learned that when they were unloaded in the prison forecourt, the two men could not stand unaided and their faces were streaked with blood. They must have been seriously weakened by enforced hunger while still at home. Not permitted to shop for food, they were told to eat food supplied by their guards, which they refused for fear of poison. Iranian opposition activists were asking this week how come Western leaders are so ready to push Muammar Qaddafi' out when Ayatollah Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rate no more than a slap on the wrist for the savage repression they mete out over the slightest expression of dissent.
March 1, 2011 Briefs
• Gates: We have prepared full range of military options on Libya for president's decision.
• Gates and Mullen played down the no-fly zone option because of its complexity and possibility of "our air assets being taken out of the air". Asked about alleged Libyan mustard gas capability, Gates said it was not of immediate concern. He said numbers killed and reported air attacks on civilians were "still in the realm of speculation".
• Saudi Arabia's benchmark stock index plunged Monday to lowest level since Nov. 2008.
• Dozens of Saudi tanks rolled over bridge to Bahrain to help king suppress protests – eye witnesses.
• Bernanke: prolonged crude prices increase would pose risk to recovery. Oil prices rose Monday $2 to $98.98 a barrel.
• Protesters hold second demonstration in Tehran Monday – this time in face of tear gas and live gunfire. They were protesting imprisonment of Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi and their wives. Journalists banned. Their families deny official claim the two leaders are at home.
• Palestinians shoot anti-tank fire at armored Israeli patrol on Gaza border nea Nir Oz. At least three Palestinians injured by return fire.
• Saif al-Qaddafi accused UK PM Cameron of pushing for regime change in the Middle East "because he wants to be a hero". "He should stop thinking greedily about oil".
• Dior fashion house sacks designer John Galliano for anti-Semitic remarks.
Iran to build permanent naval base in Syria
1 March. Just two days after two Iranian warships reached the Syrian port of Latakia via the Suez Canal, Friday, Feb. 25, an Iranian-Syrian cooperation accord was signed providing for Iran to build its first Mediterranean naval base at the Syrian port, debkafile's military and Iranian sources reveal. It will include a large Iranian Revolutionary Guards weapons depot, anchorage for large warships and submarines and logistical infrastructure for incoming Iranian troops. The Syrian Navy chief said the move would "cripple Israel."
Iran has much to celebrate, debkafile's military sources report. It has acquired its first military foothold on a Mediterranean shore and its first permanent military presence on Syrian soil. Tehran will be setting in place the logistical infrastructure for accommodating incoming Iranian troops to fight in a potential Middle East war.
On Feb. 24, as the Iranian warships headed from the Suez Canal to Syria, Hamas fired long-range made-in-Iran Grade missiles from the Gaza Strip into Israel, one hitting the main Negev city of Beersheba for the first time since Israel's Gaza campaign two years ago.
March 2, 2011 Briefs
• Two American airmen killed in shooting attack on US military bus at Frankfurt airport, Germany. Young Kosovan, who shouted Allah is Great! was arrested as suspect.
• Senate FR Committee chairman John Kerry urges enforcing no fly zones over Libya.
• Troops loyal to Qaddafi recapture several towns from rebel hands.
• Egyptian Al Akhbar reports Mubarak in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, receiving chemotherapy for colon and pancreatic cancer. His wife and sons with him.
• Monday, military rulers issued ban on their departure from Egypt and assets freeze.
• Pakistan's minority affairs minister Shabaz Bhatti shot dead in Islamabad Wednesday. A Christian, he opposed extremist Islamic blasphemy laws.
• The USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponc amphibious assault craft reach Mediterranean Wednesday.
• New French FM Alain Juppé opposes military intervention in Libya without UN mandate. He calls reports that Qaddafi sent aircraft to bomb civilians incorrect.
• The UN suspended Libya's human rights council membership.
• A malfunctioning Israeli homeland defense siren system caused false alarms in many parts of the country Wednesday.
The US, UK, Libyan opposition lack military strength to take on Qaddafi
2 March. Barring changes in the military situation, Muammar Qaddafi looked Wednesday, March 2, like averting the immediate danger of his regime's collapse by dint of a successful counter-offensive against rebel forces. During the day, his armored forces and commandos supported by the Libyan Air Force recaptured parts of Brega, Libya's refinery city, and sections of the Bay of Sirte town of Ajdabiya. In Washington, the Pentagon poured cold water on the prospects of military intervention.
debkafile's military sources say the loss of Brega will cause severe fuel and refined oil shortages in rebel-held Cyrenaica in the east. Saif al-Islam, who has been running his father Muammar Qaddafi's propaganda campaign since the uprising began more than two weeks ago (Feb. 17), told the French Le Figaro confidently on Wednesday: "It's true that it's a bit messy in the east, a few hundred people died there, but within two days everything will be back in order."
March 3, 2011 Briefs
• Obama: The violence in Libya must stop. Qaddafi has lost legitimacy to rule and must leave. He said US planes will help fly Egyptian refugees from Libya to return home. Obama said for first time that Qaddafi must go.
• Ahmed Shafiq steps down as Egypt's provisional prime minister ahead of big protest demo in Cairo Friday.
• The military rulers appoint former transport minister Issam Sharaf to replace him.
• Fighting and Libyan Air Force raids resume Thursday in Brega oil refinery and export town.
• Qaddafi accepts Hugo Chavez proposal of international delegation to mediate with rebels.
• Israel prepares provisional peace plan for low-level Mid East Quartet visit next week. This plan repeatedly rejected by Palestinians.
• Pakistan does not accept Raymond Davis's diplomatic immunity, insists on putting him on trial for killing two assailants.
Tehran's hands-off warning to Riyadh incites Saudi Shiites to revolt
3 March: Ahead of the first Day of Anger planned in Saudi Arabia for March 11, a senior Iranian figure close to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Riyadh Wednesday, March 2, against launching preventive security measures against, or cracking down on, the kingdom's two million Shiites who live and work in the oil regions of the east. In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Iran of using its Lebanese surrogate Hizballah to shape events in the Arab world.
debkafile's Gulf sources report: Iran is for the first time taking an overt stand on the Arab uprisings, using their Shiite minorities as levers of manipulation. It is flexing muscle in the role it covets of regional superpower which calls the shots for the oil states and challenges US supremacy.