May 6-7, 2011 Briefs
• Al Qaeda message confirms bin Laden's death. Jihadist forums Friday threaten reprisal against the US, urge Pakistanis to revolt. Promise to release recent recording of dead leader made a week before his death.
• US drone-borne missile kill 15 in first attack on al Qaeda stronghold in Pakistan after OBL's death.
• At least 40 killed in clashes between protesters and security forces in some 24 Syrian cities. Most died in Homs. Demonstrations also in Damascus and Aleppo. Lab test results awaited on jet oil contaminant which grounded dozens of flights out of Israel Thursday. First flights took off Friday using fuel from emergency stores.
• A drone attack missed Anwar al-Awlaki in S. Yemen Thursday days after bin Laden killed.
US pushes Pakistan to the wall on bin Laden sanctuary
7 May. The Obama administration is presenting the successful Osama bin Laden hit as an epic American solo operation, unparalleled in military and intelligence annals, while leaning hard on Islamabad to sack certain officers of the powerful military intelligence army ISI including its head Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, accusing them of keeping the dead al Qaeda leader hidden for eight years. Islamabad is fighting both US tactics. debkafile: The feud could boomerang against Washington as a Taliban revenge attack.
It now appears that bin Laden first arrived in Pakistani in 2003 and stayed in the small village of Chak Shah Mohammad near Haripur 40 kilometers north of the Pakistani capital. His wife said the family stayed in the village two and-a-half years before moving to Abbottabad in 2005.
The ISI used Abbottabad and other similar compounds as safe houses for terrorists from other organizations, some heading for Kashmir. In summer, high-ranking Pakistani foreign office staff used it as a holiday villa.
Washington is taking pains to deny Pakistan credit for the successful Bin Laden operation, while disparaging the ISI officials in touch with Taliban so as to clear them out of the way of direct US-Taliban engagement for ending the Afghanistan war.
May 8, 2011 Briefs
• US asks Pakistan for access to three bin Laden wives, several children for questioning. They were detained by Pakistani security forces after US commando raid.
• Hamas leader Meshaal: Decision about recognizing Israel rests with future Palestinian unity government.
• Israeli marks its 63rd Independence Day with memorial ceremonies Sunday night and Monday for its 22,867 fallen soldiers, 183 since last Memorial Day. Also remembered are 2,443 civilian victims of terror, to whom 13 names were added in the past year. Independence celebrations begin Monday night.
• The West Bank has been sealed by security forces until Tuesday night, except for emergency cases.
US Special Forces go after top Taliban, al Qaeda chiefs
8 May. The US is sustaining the momentum of the war on terror by sending more Special Forces and drones into Pakistan after the late Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, the Egyptian Ayman al Zawahiri, Taliban leader Mullah Omer and al Qaeda's chief operations officer, Seif al Adal. debkafile: Washington suspects their whereabouts are known to Pakistan's Inter-Services-Intelligence agency (ISI) and has given Islamabad an ultimatum: Cooperate in their capture or else US troops will take up the pursuit in your country.
The videos of bin Laden the Pentagon released Saturday from the raid on his Abbottabad compound show an ageing man with a straggling grey beard, huddled under a blanket and watching his own performance on a TV screen – a far cry from the well-known tall, commanding presence.
Still, US spokesmen are now insisting that the master-terrorist they killed remained active, dangerous and occupied with plotting attacks on the United States.
May 9, 2011 Briefs
• Pakistani PM Yousuf Gilani dismissed as absurd allegations of official complicity or incompetence over bin Laden's Abbottabad hideout. ISI information was critical in the operation against bin Laden.
• Egypt's military rulers promise iron hand against sectarian tensions after overnight Muslim-Christians fights left 12 people dead and two Cairo churches in flames.
• Israel celebrates 63rd anniversary of independence.
Israel's next challenge: Obama's outreach to Muslim Brotherhood
9 May. Israel celebrates the 63rd anniversary of its independence in good cheer. Neither by word nor hint have its leaders referred to the challenge facing the country from Barack Obama's choice of the Muslim Brotherhood as partner for promoting American interests in the Arab world. His courtship of this organization, which he regards as moderate, was the rationale for his bold decision to get rid of Osama bin Laden, say debkafile's sources. Obama's main policy objective is a US-Brotherhood pact although he does not expect to achieve it in one fell swoop.
First, he needed the Arab revolt to pave the way for the new relationship to become the centerpiece of US-Arab relations. Next, he had to eradicate the terrorist threat posed by Islamic extremists to make sure that the Muslim Brotherhood did not fall into radical arms.
Third, he promoted a Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, which is a Brotherhood offshoot.
As the White House juggles its Middle East policy balls, Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to Washington is not expected to yield momentous results.
May 10, 2011 Briefs
• Iran's first nuclear reactor at Bushehr has begun operating at a low level, says Russian company that built it.
• US president Obama congratulates Israel on its 63rd independence anniversary. Message pledges to work with Israel and others for a two-state solution and a peaceful, secure future.
• Independence congratulations to Israeli people also from Russian president Medvedev.
• Hamas' Meshaal: US had no right to kill bin Laden.
NATO whittles down Qaddafi's strength but Europe weakens
10 May. The five huge blasts that shook Tripoli Tuesday, May 10 aroused little interest because most of the buildings are empty and the ruler, his family and top lieutenants abandoned the city after May 1 when NATO missiles struck a Qaddafi family residence and killed his son.
NATO's lingering two-month campaign in Libya is whittling down Muammar Qaddafi's strength but also sapping its own. debkafile's military sources report that Washington and NATO HQ suspect Qaddafi is now getting early warning of incoming coalition strikes from advanced electronic devices newly installed at a foreign embassy in Tripoli. The fact remains that without substantial US military input NATO's European members cannot break Qaddafi's strength. So far, Qaddafi' is still in power, while his army's fighting spirit and the loyalty of the main tribes and high commanders remain unshaken.
Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf are taking note.
May 11, 2011 Briefs
• IDF patrol comes under fire from Gaza Wednesday in breach of Hamas pledge to Cairo to hold its fire as part of Palestinian unity accord.
• Outgoing Shin Bet chief Diskin: Hamas has not changed its spots. It will not recognize Israel.
• Libyan rebels claim capture of vital Misrata airport from Qaddafi's forces.
• Iran State TV reports another delivery of Russian fuel shipment for Bushehr nuclear reactor.
• Dead and injured in fresh clashes in Yemeni capital Sanaa.
• New mobile phones in the US will be fitted with chips for terror alerts. Users will be able to opt out of local alerts except those from the President.
• Bin Laden family asks why their father was not arrested and tried before a court of law.
• Syrian forces conduct mass arrests, close neighborhoods in Banias, Latakia, Idlib, Kurdish owns and Homs.
• Turkish PM Erdogan says more than 1,000 civilians already killed in Syrian crackdown on protest.
Cairo to move Meshaal's Hamas base to Gaza. Assad threatens Israel with war
11 May. Egypt's military rulers have promised to let Hamas' political leader Khaled Meshaal move his base out of troubled Damascus to the Gaza Strip as an inducement for his signing the Palestinian unity pact with Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah on May 4. In Damascus, Bashar Assad's cousin Rami Makhlouf threatened Syria would go to war against Israel and/or send weapons to the West Bank and to Israeli Arabs for use in terrorist attacks unless the US and Europe backed off from supporting the anti-regime uprising.
This means the Assad regime is holding Israel hostage for its survival against the groundswell of popular disaffection now in its third month.
Meshaal's transfer to Gaza serves Cairo and Damascus alike for opposite reasons:
For Cairo, it is a return to an active role in the Palestinian arena, whereas for Damascus, a boosted Hamas in Gaza is an instrument for pursuing Makhlouf's threats and will enable Assad to call the shots for the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week dropped Amos Gilad as political adviser at the defense ministry and go-between with Cairo and replaced him with his personal adviser Yitzhak Molcho, who travelled to Egypt earlier this week.
May 12, 2011 Briefs
• Syrian army threatens to cross into Lebanon, debkafile reports exclusively.
• Damascus accuses "terrorist gangs" of smuggling arms to opposition.
• White House: Obama has not yet decided to include Israel-Palestinian issue in speech to Muslim world.
• Netanyahu visits the White House May 20.
• A Munich Court convicts Jo Demjanjuk, 91, of aiding the murder of 27,900 Jews in the Sobibor death camp. He was sentenced to five years prison.
• UK permits Libyan rebels to open office in London.
• Shortly after Muammar Qaddafi was filmed meeting tribal notables Thursday, NATO bombed government buildings in Tripoli. It was Qaddafi's first public appearance since NATO missiles killed his son earlier this month.
• Vogue takes interview with Asma Assad, Syrian president's wife off its Web site. The cover-story profile was headed: A Rose in the Desert.
Bin Laden stayed obsessed with mega-attacks for toppling America
12 May. The al Qaeda leader never wavered from his basic conception that only a mega-attack on an American city devastating enough to rock the US economy would make Washington withdraw its forces form the Middle East. He discounted the value of small-time terrorist activity.
This is confirmed in the files taken from the Abbottabad villa after he was killed on May 2. Otherwise the materials examined so far contribute no hard intelligence to the war on al Qaeda or the prevention of another mega-attack in the US and are therefore disappointing.