A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending November 17, 2011
November 11, 2011 Briefs
• Hizballah leader threatens that if Iran or Syria is attacked war will engulf the region.
• IDF fire mistakenly killed Rabbi Dan Mertzbach, 53, from Otniel, injured two women in his car on a West Bank Route 60 early Friday.
• The shooting came from a road block set up to intercept a suspicious Palestinian vehicle following an alert from the Beit Haggai security guard. The Israeli vehicle failed to halt when hailed at the road block. The suspicious vehicle then ran over a soldier and fled leaving him injured.
• Clinton urges China to use its influence to warn Iran it was on a dangerous course.
• Syrian troops step up seven-month violence, kill 40 demonstrators Friday. Arab League to meet Sunday on failed intervention to stop Assad's crackdown.
• Syrian demonstrators to NATO: We don't have Libyan oil but we'll sell our houses to pay for your help!"
Libyan mercenaries reach Gaza with Grad multiple rocket launchers
11 Nov. Fifty Libyan Muslim Brotherhood mercenaries arrived in the Gaza Strip from Tripoli last month – in time to take part in the Jihad Islami's last missile offensive against Israel starting Oct. 29, debkafile's military sources report. They arrived at the wheels of minivans on which were mounted the new Grad multiple rocket-launchers which Palestinian terrorists fired for the first time last month. These mobile rocket-launchers were last seen on the Libyan battlefield in use against Muammar Qaddafi's army.
Their effectiveness was demonstrated most strikingly in the Gaza Strip, where they instantly improved the Palestinian extremists' aim against Israeli locations. Most of these rapid-firing missiles were also able to evade Israel's Iron Dome missile interceptors. When the Palestinians reverted to their old weapons, they continued to miss their aim.
November 12, 2011 briefs
• Bahrain and Qatar arrest 5 Bahrainis plotting terror attacks. Targets included the King Fahd Causeway, the Interior Minister and Saudi embassy. They admitted they were told to head to Iran through Qatar and Syria for terrorist acts in Bahrain.
• Obama praises Arab League's important decisions including the suspension of Syria's membership. Assad faces political and economic sanctions as well as suspension.
• Iran calls IAEA evidence of its nuclear activities "fabricated" as agency presents members with more evidence Friday.
• Turkish security forces ended Saturday a 12-hour hostage drama by killing a Kurdish rebel hijacker who commandeered a ferry with 18 passengers.
• Cars torched, anti-Semitic graffiti daubed in New York Jewish neighborhood on anniversary of infamous Nazi Kristallnacht Friday. Midwood setion of Brooklyn is home to group of Holocaust survivors. Park benches were covered with swastikas.
Iran loses its top missile expert in Guards base explosions
12 Nov. Brig. Hassan Moghadam, head of Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) missile development and sections of its nuclear program, was killed in explosions that hit IRGC bases 46 kilometers west of Tehran Saturday, Nov. 12. The official fatality figure is 32.
Our sources report increasing evidence that the explosion was caused by a failed effort to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.
It was powerful enough to shatter windows and damage shops in Tehran.
November 13, 2011 Briefs
• Islamic extremists arrested in El Arish charged with terrorists actions in Sinai against Egyptian and Israeli targets. Mohammed Eid Muslih Hamad is named the group's leader. They include murders of 6 Egyptian soldiers during the Eilat highway terrorist attack last August which left 8 Israelis dead. Also sabotage of Egyptian natural gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan. debkafile: Israeli security sources doubt that one Islamic group was responsible for all these acts.
• Turkey has withdrawn diplomatic families from Syria after mob attacks on its embassy in Damascus and Turkish and French consulates in Latakia. Mobs also smashed their way into Saudi and Qatari embassies.
• Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann warns "the table is being set for a nuclear war against Israel".
Senior Iranian's son murdered by same method as Hamas' Mabhouh
13 Nov. Shortly after explosions rocked Iranian Revolutionary Guards bases near Tehran Saturday, Nov. 12, Ahmed Rezaie, 31, was found dead in Dubai's Gloria Hotel. He was the the son of a high-ranking Iranian official, Mohsen Rezaie, secretary of the powerful Expediency Council and former IRGC commander. The cause of his death strongly resembled the method by which Hamas' contact man with Tehran, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, was slain on Jan. 19, 2010 in another Dubai hotel – injected with a muscle relaxant and smothered with a pillow.
Our Iranian sources add that Ahmad Rezaie left for the United States in 1998. There, he gave interviews to American and Western media, including the Voice of Israel's Farsi station, in which he openly criticized Iran's rulers especially Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. At one point he contacted Israelis with an offer to help run down what happened to the Israeli navigator Ron Arad, who has been missing since 1986 when his plane went down over Lebanon.
Mid-East war fears heightened by Iranian base blasts, Syria's Arab League suspension
13 Nov. The potential for a regional flare-up shot up Friday and Saturday, Nov-11-12, with the blasts at Iranian arms bases which killed at least 32 Revolutionary Guards men including Iran's top missile expert, and the Arab League Foreign Ministers' decision to suspend Syria's membership over Bashar Assad's brutal military crackdown on civilians. Even he understands that the AL is preparing more steps "to protect Syrian civilians." Middle East capitals are on edge over the linked scenarios.
The AL decision was praised by US President Barack Obama and backed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. This penalty hurts Bashar Assad more than would a threatened Turkish invasion and seizure of a buffer enclave to serve the Syrian opposition. It conveys the Arab world's rejection of the legitimacy of his regime.
November 14, 2011 Briefs
• Syrian FM Moallem threatened an extreme response to a NATO attack. Israel will be the first target. We are not Libya. Syria is in confrontation with Israel.
• The Arab League and Arab human rights groups agree to create a 500-strong "fact-finding team" for Syria.
• Iran's Supreme Ruler Khamenei attends funeral of missile chief Brig. Hassan Moghadam in base blast Saturday.
• Jordan's King Abdullah urges Syrian Bashar Assad to step down in his country's interest – BBC. He is the first Arab leader to openly call for Assad's resignation.
• Lavrov says suspending Syria's Arab League membership was a mistake.
• US to send 1,000 agents to secure the London Olympics.
• After Qassam fire, Israeli air force bombed a N. Gazan Hamas target Sunday night. Palestinians report one killed, four injured.
• Britain has contingency plans "in the locker" should Iran's nuclear program or a deteriorating situation in Syria necessitate UK military action – top UK soldier.
Iran will have five nukes by April 2012. Only 2-3 months left for military option
14 Nov. By April 2012 Iran will have five nuclear bombs or warheads, according to intelligence reaching US president Barack Obama and relayed to Jewish leaders at a closed meeting in New York Sunday, Nov. 13, debkafile's sources report. The window of opportunity for stopping Iran attaining a nuclear weapon will slam shut in late March after which any military action would generate radioactive contamination across the Gulf oil region. Our sources refute claims that Saturday's Iranian base blasts were caused by the CIA or Mossad.
Obama said later Sunday that, while his strong preference was to resolve the Iran issue diplomatically, "We are not taking any options off the table. Iran with nuclear weapons would pose a threat not only to the region but also to the United States."
This was the first time the US president had called a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to the United States. Until now, official statements limited the threat to "US regional interests and influence."
November 15, 2011 Briefs
• The Arab League meets Syrian opposition leaders, asks them for plan for power transition in Damascus ahead of conference on Syria's future.
• Syrian opposition leaders talks in Moscow end in discord.
• IDF Chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz warned a substantial offensive operation in the Gaza Strip would be necessary to stop the unending attacks on southern Israel. He addressed the Knesset defense panel Tuesday, stressing that this operation must be as short as possible.
• Bank of Israel Governor Fischer is optimistic about Israel's ability to weather global economic crises, especial in Europe, if it acts responsibly.
• French consul and daughter slightly injured by flying glass, his wife miscarried, from an IAF air raid on a Hamas position in the Gaza Strip. France complains to Israel. The raid followed a Qassam missile attack on Israeli villages.
• Clashes in S. Syrian town of Deraa Monday left 70 dead: 27 civilians, 34 soldiers, 12 army deserters.
• Emergency at Israel's public hospital as hundreds of residents quit over drawn-out pay dispute followed by 100 senior medics.
Israel to help build E. African coalition against fundamentalism and Iran
15 Nov. Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga ended his visit to Israel this week with a promise from President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to help establish a new alliance to combat the spread of fundamentalist Islam into the predominantly Christian African nations Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan. Their combined populations total 138 million. Israel agrees to supply drones, fast naval boats and electronic surveillance equipment to help Kenya "rid its territory of Islamist elements" and counter Iranian expansion.
Israel owns a strong interest in curtailing the presence in these strategic lands not only of Islamist terrorist groups but also of Iran. It needs naval bases along the Gulf of Aden and eastern Indian Ocean where Iran has in the past year built up a naval presence close to Israel's southern border.
It remains to be seen whether Israel's military assistance will help Kenya achieve this objective.
Syrian army deserters strike first big security facility at heart of Assad regime
16 Nov. The Assad regime suffered a shock Wednesday Nov.16 when self-styled "Free Syrian Army" deserters firing shoulder-borne rockets and heavy machine guns struck its biggest security complex at Harasta west of Damascus. This was the first rebel attack on a major strategic target and a potential game-changer. debkafile: It was undoubtedly part of a well-laid plan drawn up by Turkey, the Persian Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan to topple Iran's closest ally, Bashar Assad.
"The Air Force Intelligence Service," targeted for the attack is a misnomer. This 20,000-strong body is the regime's primary covert arm for suppressing opposition and shoring up its minority Alawite rule. Its officers are posted in every Syrian diplomatic and trade mission abroad, while its elite units specialize in cutting down the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and other foes and keeping the Kurdish, Druze and Syrian Catholic minorities in check.
Israeli Prime Minister "is acting to stop" Iran's nuclear armament
16 Nov. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu informed the full Knesset plenum that "all options are on the table when it comes to Iran's nuclear program." This short statement which a minister read out to the Knesset Wednesday, Nov. 16, said: "The prime minister and the authorized bodies are acting to stop the nuclear armament of Iran. The efforts are ongoing and we will do everything possible to enlist states in the international community, "he continued "because the Iranian threat is a danger not only to the State of Israel but to world peace."
Earlier, the supreme commander of Iran's armed forces Gen. Hassan Firouz-Abadi warned "the Zionist regime cannot escape its bitter fate – an implied nuclear threat.
November 17, 2011 Briefs
• Angry protesters in Ramtha, a Jordanian town near Syrian border, rioted after a Jordanian said to have helped two Syrians buy arms died in detention.
• Lavrov: The situation in Syria is beginning to resemble civil war.
• Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay and Israel's Ehud Barak end talks in Ottawa with decision to expand their defense treaty.
• The Arab League gives Assad three more days to stop killing anti-regime civilians.
• Kenyan, Ugandan, Somali leaders agree to intensify effort to defeat Somali Islamists at first meeting.
• Morocco and France recall ambassadors from Damascus • Moroccan and UAE embassies attacked with sticks and eggs.
• Condaleezza Rice: Obama erred in insisting Israel freeze settlement construction. No Israeli PM can go through with this step and Palestinians could not be less Palestinian than US president.
Barak: Iran is testing uranium- and plutonium-based bombs – not tactical nuclear arms
17 Nov. Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the PBS interviewer Charlie Rose Wednesday, Nov. 16 that none of the experiments Iran was conducting was based on a neutron source. "It's always simultaneous explosions on heavy metals and certain other activities which cannot be explained," he said.
debkafile's military sources note his stress on the lack of evidence that Iran was trying to develop tactical neutron bombs. Tehran, he said, was experimenting with uranium- and plutonium- based explosives, meaning large nuclear bombs rather than small, tactical warheads. Barak warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would touch off a Middle East nuclear arms race drawing in Egypt and less responsible regimes headed by the Muslim Brotherhood. He did not believe sanctions would stop Iran in its nuclear tracks.