A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending November 24, 2011
November 18, 2011 Briefs
• Tehran announces a Guards air defense drill simulating an Israeli attack on its nuclear sites.
• Earlier Friday, the IAEA board meeting in Vienna called for an Iranian response to its report on tests of designs for making a nuclear weapon.
• French FM Juppe in Ankara: Assad has no intention of implementing reforms and now it's too late.
• Israel's fifth earthquake aid shipment arrives in Turkey, consisting mainly of temporary dwellings.
Suspicion in Iran that Stuxnet caused Revolutionary Guards base explosion
18 Nov. Exhaustive investigations into the deadly explosion last Saturday, Nov. 12 of the Sejil-2 ballistic missile at the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Alghadir base point increasingly to a technical fault caused by the computer system controlling the missile and not the missile itself. The head of Iran's ballistic missile program Maj. Gen. Hassan Moghaddam was among the 36 officers killed in the blast. debkafile: The IRGC is investigating the possibility of Stuxnet virus infection of this computer system as the cause of the explosion.
That supposition has got Iran's leaders really worried because it means that in the middle of spiraling tension with the United States and Israel, their entire Shahab 3 and Sejil 2 ballistic missile arsenal may be infected and out of commission. A cleanup operation would take several months.
November 19, 2011 Briefs
• Barak to CNN: In less than a year a nuclear-armed Iran will be unstoppable.
• Egyptian natural gas pipeline is repaired from 7th attack and flow resumed to Israel and Jordan.
• British FM Hague to meet Syrian rebel leaders in London Monday.
Saif al Islam: Bargaining chip in Libyan power struggle
19 Nov. The capture of Muammar Qaddafi's son Saif al Islam, 39, outside Obari near the southern desert town of Sabha is far from being the last chapter of the ex-ruler's family role in the struggle to control of Libya. The Zintan militia (in league with Misurata) is holding him until its demands for top government representation are met. Saif's "capture" may be part of a deal he struck to allot militia funds from the Qaddafi fortune to support its demands.
Friday, Nov. 18, twenty-four hours before Saif al-Islam's capture was announced, Zintan militia chief Abdullah Naker and the Misurata chief Abdulrahman Souweli formed a pact to overturn any new Libyan government which does not assign them the positions of defense minister and head of the army.
The Zintan commander Naker showed the press a video of his militiamen firing Grad missiles and driving T-72 tanks to show them he meant business.
Both militia chiefs were also highly critical of Qatar's deep involvement in Libya's internal affairs.
November 20, 2011 Briefs
• Tripoli reports capture of Muammar Qaddafi's spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi in S. Libya.
• Sunday afternoon 11 killed, more than 1,000 injured as police broke up demonstration with rubber bullets, tear gas and night sticks.
• Turkish president Gul flies to London to discuss Syrian crisis saying regime there has reached a dead end.
• First post-Mubarak election scheduled for Nov. 28/11.
Jordan's Abdullah on short-notice trip to Ramallah for urgent talks on Syria, Hamas
20 Nov. Monday, Nov. 21, Jordan's King Abdullah II arrives in Ramallah at very short notice for his first visit in more than a decade. He comes wearing two hats – one for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates and one for Washington. His mission is to pull Abbas back from a peace deal with Hamas which would deposit the Palestinian Authority in the Iranian-Syrian orbit and try and revive the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace dialogue. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is in the picture.
Factored into this squeeze on Assad were the warnings Israel's chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz twice addressed to the Hamas rulers of Gaza in the last ten days: He has said the IDF will no longer put up with missile attacks by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip disrupting life in southern Israel.
Iran flies Palestinian terrorists to Syria for raids into Israel
20 Nov. Under cover of its four-day military exercise starting Friday, Nov. 18, Iran is reported exclusively by debkafile to be transferring 300 Palestinian "volunteers" into Syria after training them at IRGC Al Qods facilities for cross-border raids into the West Bank and Israel.
Iran and Syria are hitting back for the rebel Free Syrian Army-FSA's armed offensive on military installations and commands centers.
From Sunday, Nov. 20, the maneuver is extending to Iran's five main cities, Tehran, Mashad, Urmieh, Kerman and Bushehr.
November 21, 2011 Briefs
• Egyptian government tenders resignation to military rulers on third day of popular riots.
• Since Sunday night, 30 killed in violent clashes in Tahrir Sq. and other Egyptian cities. More than 1.700 injured in last 48 hours • White House urges restraint on all sides.
• Jordan's Abdullah ends Ramallah visit Monday with pledge to support Palestinian quest for independence within 1967 borders through peace negotiations. A solution to the conflict should address all final status issues, mainly refugees and Jerusalem.
• US Undersecretary of State William Burns called on Netanyahu Monday after talks Sunday with Abbas in Ramallah.
• CIA shuts Beirut station after a dozen CIA "informants" compromised – LA Times.
• Syrian soldiers attack three buses carrying Turkish pilgrims at checkpoint near embattled Homs.
• Arrested al Qaeda sympathizer Jose Pimentel of Manhattan is accused of plotting to bomb New York police, post offices and returning US troops.
• US intelligence probes suspicion that Iran sent 100s of artillery shells filled with mustard gas to Qaddafi regime – WP.
Russian warships off Syria, US carriers near Iran
21 Nov. Washington is underscoring its military option against Iran's nuclear program, while Russia is demonstrating its resolve to prevent NATO from attacking Syria. Monday, Nov. 21, Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov accused Western nations of "political provocation."
Nov. 12, two American carriers, the USS Bush and USS Stennis sailed through the Strait of Hormuz side by side and took up position opposite the Iranian coast. Monday, Nov. 21, presidential sources in Damascus announced three Russian warships had entered Syrian territorial waters outside Tartus port. Arab sources said at least two are equipped for gathering intelligence and electronic warfare.
As the Russian warships entered Syrian territorial waters, Canadian Defense Minister Peter McKay announced that in the light of the Syrian crisis, the Royal Canadian Navy would keep back in the Mediterranean until the end of 2012 two frigates which took part in the Libyan campaign.
November 22, 2011 Brief
• Toppling Assad regime would be serious blow to Iran and further isolate Islamic Republic, Donilon in Washington. He said change in Syria was inevitable.
• Turkish PM says Assad risks same fate as Hitler, Ceaucescu or Muammar Qaddafi unless he steps down.
• US, Canada, UK unveil new energy, banking sanctions against Iran. The US stopped short of targeting Iran's central bank. debkafile: The new sanctions will have little effect since Russia, Chinese and Indian banking systems are open to Iran. Russia slams new sanctions as unacceptable and illegal •
• Damascus: Britain, France and Germany have declared diplomatic war on Syria.
• Eli Hurvitz who made Teva the world's premier generic pharmaceutical company, and advised Israeli governments, dies of cancer aged 79.
• Israel is to send terror consultants to Kenya to help secure major cities against attack.
• Pakistani Ambassador to US Husain Haqqani submits resignation to PM.
Tantawi: Presidential elections in June 2012, Muslims in civil government
22 Nov. The riots in Cairo and other Egyptian cities do not count as the country's second revolution this year. The angry masses battling police in Cairo's Tahrir Square are not backed by any serious political entity, including the Muslim Brotherhood, which Tuesday, Nov. 22 threw in their lot with the military council. Following a compromise deal with the mainstream political parties, the Supreme Military Council chairman, Field Marshal Tantawi, announced decisions to set up a new civilian national salvation government, hold parliamentary polls on time next Monday, Nov. 28, and bring forward the presidential election to the end of June 2012 from some time in 2013.
It has not been missed in the West and Israel that the new civil government allows the Muslim Brotherhood for the first time in its history to hold office in national government.
A former Israeli defense minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, urged the government to start getting used to the disappearance of the 32-year old peace treaty between the two countries, warning it would soon make way for full-blown conflict.
November 23, 2011 Briefs
• US Ambassador Dan Shapiro: US and Israel are coordinated on Iran nuclear issue.
• UNIFIL probing explosions at two illegal Hizballah arms caches in S. Lebanon Wednesday. Armed men prevented Lebanese security forces reaching biggest blast.
• Egyptian protesters reject military concessions, demand generals step down forthwith.
• At least 33 civilians including six children killed in indiscriminate fire by soldiers across Syria Tuesday.
• Zintan Brigades chief Osama al-Juwali wins defense portfolio in new Libyan government. They still refuse to hand over to Tripoli captured Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam. The Misrata militia's Fawzi Abfdelali is new interior minister. New finance minister is former Qaddafi oil executive, Hassan Ziglam.
Medvedev takes aim at US missile shield
23 Nov. After deploying three warships in Syrian waters, Moscow continues to beat war drums against the United States and Israel, followed closely by Tehran. Wednesday, Nov. 23, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said "the armed forces were ordered to develop measures to ensure we can destroy the command and control systems" of the planned US missile-defense system in Europe. debkafile: Those systems also control Israel's missile defenses against Iranian, Syria and Hizballah missiles and the X-Band radar station in the Israeli Negev.
Medvedev's threat to "command and control systems" was therefore comprehensive. It referred not just to the US anti-missile shield facilities planned for Europe, but also threatened measures ("if necessary") in the course of a possible American or Israeli attack on Iran or Syria, for striking the US missile defense systems in Europe before they can intercept Iranian missiles.
Knocking out the European shield would leave Israel completely exposed to Iranian missile attack.
But the Russian president made it clear that the Kremlin will not allow Iran and its Middle East allies to be prevented from missile retaliation in the event of war.
Tehran chipped in by asserting exclusive control of the Strait of Hormuz.
November 24, 2011 Briefs
• Netanyahu is disappointed in new sanctions against Iran as insufficient.
• Arab League: Either monitors are admitted in the next 48 hours or Syria faces sanctions.
• A least 12 dead in three explosions in Basra, S, Iraq.
• Egypt's military council announces Nov. 28 election will be on schedule. Tahrir Square clashes fade Thursday after protesters accept truce.
• Tehran claims 12 US CIA agents arrested for targeting military and nuclear facilities.
• PA Chairman Abbas meets Hamas leader Meshaal in Cairo to discuss Palestinian unity.
• US will continue with its anti-missile shield despite Medvedev's threat to destroy its command and control systems. It is no threat to Russia, said National Security spokesman at White House.
• Abdullah Saleh signs document in Riyadh agreeing to step down after 33 years in power.
• Two Egyptian soldiers killed by Bedouin smugglers near Sinai border with Israel Wednesday night. The smugglers earlier exchanged fire with an IDF border patrol.
• UN Secretary Ban reports 7,000 detainees in Libyan ex-rebel hands, some tortured, children alongside adults and women under male supervision. None have access to due legal protest after civil war.