A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Two Weeks Ending January 3, 2013

December 15, 2012 Briefs

  • Patriot missiles in Turkey threaten "world war:" Iran army chief
    Iran’s chief of staff Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi said Saturday that deploying NATO Patriot missiles along Turkey’s border with Syria could lead to a "world war" that would threaten Europe as well.

US-Iranian nuclear talks fail. Iran has enough plutonium for 24 Nagasaki-type bombs

15 Dec. The secret, one-on-one talks President Barack Obama launched with Iran on Dec. 1 have run into a blank wall over Iran’s refusal to give up 20-percent uranium enrichment. Tehran has furthermore found it can extract 100 kilos of weapons-grade uranium from the fuel rods removed from the Bushehr reactor, enough for 24 plutonium bombs equal to the WWII bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

US withdraws war fleet from Syrian water

16 Dec. Shortly before the deployment of two American Patriot missiles manned by 400 US servicemen for defending Turkey against Syria was announced Thursday, Dec. 13, Washington quietly recalled from Syrian waters the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier and its strike Group and the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready group and the 2,000 Marines on their decks.

December 19, 2012 Briefs

  • US blocks Security Council vote condemning Israel’s settlement building
    Fourteen council members sharply condemned Israel’s building plan in the E-1 area and construction of 3,000 housing units in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The US blocked a joint presidential statement of condemnation and a council resolution.
  • Jordan issues gas masks to soldiers
    A Saudi paper reports that the Jordanian army has been issued with gas marks against a possible chemical weapons attack from Syria. An emergency was also declared along the Jordanian-Syrian border.

Russian Iskander delivered to Assad

19 Dec. Russians have given Bashar Assad his most sophisticated weapon thus far – the Iskander cruise missile which has a hypersonic speed of 1.3 miles per second. The Syrian ruler now has at his disposal a fearsome armory of chemical weapons and a top-line missile.

Scuds blast Syrian rebel push for al-Safira chemical arms

21 Dec. Assad’s forces Friday, Dec. 21 renewed their Scud missile fire as well as warplanes and helicopters amid the fierce battle to stop the rebel advancing from three directions on the big al-Safira chemical and biological stores. The rebels have come to 1-2 kilometers from the complex’s perimeter fence. Among them are Jabhat al-Nusrah which the US has designated part of al Qaeda. debkafile: NATO chemical warfare specialists are taking part in the rebel push to make sure the WMD don’t reach terrorist hands.

Russian forces take Syrian chemical arms under control

22 Dec. The Syrian chemical warfare threat took an epic turn Saturday, Dec. 22 with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s statement that “Syria has “consolidated its chemical weapons in one or two locations… and they are under control.”

December 23, 2012 Briefs

  • Egypt’s Brotherhood claims 64 pc “yes’ vote for disputed constitution
    After the second and final round of voting for the constitution which divided Egypt, the ruling Muslim Brotherhood claimed Sunday it was passed by a 64 percent “yes” vote. Opposition spokesmen which campaigned against the constitution reported many irregularities in the voting.

December 24, 2012 Briefs

  • More Russian marines and tanks sail for Syria’s Tartus
    Russian defense minister Anatoly Antonov denied Monday the presence in Syria of Russian commandos (as reported by debkafile) plus officers and soldiers operating Syrian anti-air defenses (as The Guardian disclosed). At the same time, the Russian Navy spokesman stated that two large landing craft – the Azov and the Nikolai Filchenkov – had departed Black See Fleet HQ at Novorossiysk for Tartus.
  • US SEALs commander dies suddenly in Afghanistan
    A U.S. military official said the death Saturday of Commander Job Price, 42, in central Afghanistan's Uruzgan Province, was being investigated as a suspected suicide.

Turkey drops boycott of Israel – breakthrough for Netanyahu

24 Dec. Turkey’s consent to revive its strategic cooperation with Israel through NATO is a major breakthrough for Binyamin Netanyahu. He is constantly accused of bringing Israel into deep international isolation as he runs for reelection. NATO and Turkey undercut that charge. Barack Obama worked hard to heal the breach between Ankara and Jerusalem – both to strengthen his burgeoning pro-US Middle East axis and to pave the way for the resuscitation of Israel-Palestinian peace talks in March, 2013 in accord with Netanyahu.

December 25, 2012 Briefs

  • Shin Bet thwarts Palestinian kidnap plot
    Ten members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian were arrested in Ramallah and other West Bank towns before they could kidnap an Israeli as a bargaining chip for the release of their leader, Ahmad Sadaat.

Iran to use Hizballah terror squads to perpetuate Syrian war after Assad

25 Dec. Tehran has plans to maintain its grip on Syria, even while Washington and Russia press on with secret discussions on the fate of Syrian president Bashar Assad and, in Damascus, international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi Tuesday, Dec. 25, gave himself an extra six days to mediate a deal for ending the war. debkafile: Saudi intelligence chiefs at the GCC summit in Manama revealed that Iran intends launching Hizballah and local militias to sabotage any international deals and any transitional regime.

December 26, 2012 Briefs

  • IDF inaugurates Eilat territorial brigade
    The new 260-km fence running down the Israel-Egyptian Sinai frontier is almost finished, said Gen. Tal Rousii, excepting only for the section past Eilat. The general warned that events in the Arab world and the presence of terrorists in the Gaza Strip confront the IDF with new operational challenges.
  • UAE arrests terror cell
    The United Arab Emirates reports the arrest of terrorists planning attacks was made in conjunction with Saudi Arabia. They were members of a “deviant” – the phrase often used by the Saudis for al Qaeda. On Dec. 18, Cairo accused the UAE of masterminding a terrorist plot to kidnap President Mohamed Morsi. The UAE foreign ministry called the Egyptian ambassador to demand a stop to these reports.

What happened to Obama’s and Netanyahu’s nuclear clocks?

26 Dec. While running for reelection, Barack Obama said an Iranian “breakout capacity” must be averted because it meant Tehran could quickly assemble a nuclear weapon, before US or Israeli intelligence caught on and had time to intervene. debkafile: Iran is widely presumed to have passed this stage already, and so “breakout capacity” is just another red line to be blown away by Tehran. The talk of 2013 being a critical year for preempting Iran’s nuclear capacity is nothing but election spin.

December 27, 2012 Briefs

  • Netanyahu: Assad’s air force uses banned weapons
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accused the Syrian air force of bombing civilians and not scrupling to use weaponry banned under international conventions. He stressed that in last month’s anti-terror operation in the Gaza Strip, the IAF used every means to avoid harming civilians – the exact reverse of terrorist organizations which strive to maximize civilian deaths. “Charging Israeli servicemen with war crimes was ridiculous,” he said.
  • Israel Air Force showed fraction of capabilities in Gaza op
    In last month’s anti-terror operation in Gaza, “the Israeli Air Force displayed only a fraction of its capabilities,” said Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel at the passing-out parade of the air crews course at Hatzerim Thursday. The IAF has the range for striking at any would-be aggressors with a force that would resound across the Middle East

Netanyahu, Abdullah discuss Palestinian-Jordan confederation

27 Dec. A possible confederation between a Palestinian West Bank state and the Hashemite Kingdom was the most important subject of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent conversation with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman, debkafile’s sources reveal. This idea has become a focal talking point in Amman, Washington and Palestinian centers. It ties in with the report from US and Jordanian sources that Israel and the Palestinians will resume talks in the spring on a long-term interim accord, which would indefinitely defer the core issues.

December 28, 2012 Briefs

  • Syria uses Iranian-made, more accurate missiles
    Assad’s forces fired at least two Iranian-made, short-range Fateh A-110 ballistic missiles against Syrian rebels, two U.S. military officials told CNN Friday. Armed with inertial and electro-optical terminal systems, they are more accurate than the Scuds used by government forces in recent weeks. They also save aircraft, some of which have been shot down by rebels armed with anti-air weapons. debkafile adds: The Fateh A-110s, also in the hands of Hizballah, have a 300 km range.
  • Iranian navy drill begins in Hormuz
    An Iranian six-day maneuver involving warships, submarines and aircraft began early Friday in the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, and northern parts of the Indian Ocean.
  • Russia urges Assad to open dialogue with opposition
    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that Moscow does not back calls on Assad to step down, but “"We actively encouraged… the Syrian leadership to maximally put into action its declared readiness for dialogue with the opposition.”

December 29, 2012 Briefs

  • Israeli minister: Our connection to Ariel like Britain’s to the Falkands
    Education Minister Gideon Saar said Israel’s connection to Ariel is as strong as the British tie to the Falkands – in the sharp rejoinder to the British Minister for Middle East Affairs Alistair Burt’s remark that the decision to upgrade the Ariel University of Samaria to full academic status was “another obstacle to peace.” Saar said the systematic anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian education system is the real obstacle to peace. Ariel University is a high-prestige institution of higher learning. British academic institutions cooperate with Ariel in important research projects.
  • An Israeli soldier and a civilian injured by Palestinian rocks
    A female soldier was hurt Saturday near Neve Tsuf and the civilian while driving on the 443 highway to Jerusalem near Maccabim – both by flying rocks thrown by Palestinians, who also attacked IDF and Border Guard troops with bottle bombs in three parts of the West Bank. Saturday night, the Nahal Bazelet battalion detained two Palestinians south of Nablus in possession of a pistol, two knives, a bottle bomb and instructions for their use.
  • Nearly 400 killed in Syria Saturday.
    Opposition sources report 364 fatalities Saturday, one of the most horrendous days of the 21-month old conflict. This figure includes 220 individuals executed by the Syrian army after it recaptured the Homs district of Deir Balbah. International envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow that unless the parties to the war sit down and start talking, Syria will become a hell on earth.

Fateh missiles and start of Russian-Iranian military cooperation to bolster Assad

29 Dec. Moscow and Tehran have advanced from a strategic partnership for saving Bashar Assad to military cooperation. debkafile: An Iranian naval maneuver began in the Straits of Hormuz Friday, Dec. 28 – two days after Russia launched its largest naval war game ever in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. As Iranian-made Fateh A-110 missiles were fired this week by the Syrian army under Iranian officers, Moscow rapidly expanded the deployment of its highly-sophisticated S-400 interceptors in southern Russia near the Turkish border.

December 30, 2012 Briefs

  • Israel eases blockade on Gaza, allows building materials through
    For the first time since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel is allowing gravel for private construction to cross into the Gaza Strip. This was first reported by debkafile on Dec. 27.
  • High Court judges Israeli Arab MK Zouabi eligible for re-election
    An expanded High Court bench of nine judges overruled the Central Election Committee’s decision to disqualify MK Hanan Zouabi of the Balad party from running for reelection on Jan. 22. A number of parties demanded Zouabi be disqualified because she was aboard the Turkish Mavis Marmara and collaborated with the attempt mounted by the Turkish IHH terrorist group to break the Israeli naval blockade against the Gaza Strip.
  • Ex-FM Minister Lieberman indicted
    The Israeli prosecution filed an updated indictment against Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman for alleged fraud and breach of trust. The charge against him involves the promotion of an ambassador after he gave the minister a tip-off on earlier charges which were later dropped.
  • Lavrov: No way to persuade Assad to leave
    Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in his most definitive statement yet said there was “no possibility” of persuading Syrian ruler Bashar Assad to leave Syria. When he met international Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Moscow, Lavrov said that insisting on his departure as a precondition for peace talks would cost more lives after it had already killed tens of thousands.

Syrian envoy’s failure brings chemical war closer

30 Dec. Both sides appear to have launched a form of poison chemicals into the Syrian conflict. Western and Middle East military sources say pro-Assad forces may have brought into the Homs battle of Dec. 23 imported gas grenades which Iran used to quell the 2009 Tehran riots. debkafile: Although Jordan claimed Sunday it “would not enter into any alliance to protect itself,” large NATO and US forces have prepared the kingdom for chemical attack. Some intelligence sources estimate Turkey or Israel may be next.

December 31, 2012 Briefs

  • US public support for Israel is stable
    According to a new Pew poll, 50% sympathize more with Israel compared with just 10% who say they sympathize more with the Palestinians; almost a quarter (23%) do not offer an opinion while 13% volunteer that they sympathize with neither side. Among liberal Democrats, 33% sympathize more with Israel, 22% with the Palestinians. These attitudes have been stable for six years.

January 1, 2013 Briefs

  • Gunmen kill 7 aid workers in NW Pakistan, bomb kills 4 in Karachi
    The five teachers and two aid workers were shot dead in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Tuesday on their way home from work at a community center. Extremists have in the past accused health workers of acting as American spies and administering anti-polio shots to make Muslim children sterile. The bomb explosion in Karachi killed at least four people and injured 42 near a furniture market.
  • Scores of Palestinians injured attacking Israeli undercover unit
    The Israel unit came out in the open to arrest a wanted Jihad Islami operative, Murad Beni Ouda, at Kafr Tamun south of Jenin on the West Bank. Under attack by a rowdy crowd of villagers chucking rocks, the unit was safely extricated with difficulty – with their prisoner – by a large military force which surrounded the village and used tear gas to break up the disturbance. Figures of Palestinian wounded are disputed.

IDF and Syrian rebel officers meet clandestinely in Jordan

1 Jan. Israeli officials held talks in Jordan with Syrian opposition officials “in advance of a possible Israeli-U.S. operation in Syria to protect the Golan Heights,” Western intelligence sources reported Tuesday, Jan. 1. There was no further information about this operation. Goings-on on the Israeli and Jordanian borders with Syria are officially blacked out. But European intelligence sources reveal nightly border clashes between US, Jordanian, Israeli special forces and Syrian rebels, on the one hand, and Syrian special forces, on the other.

January 2, 2013 Briefs

  • Iran unveils homemade assault copter
    Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said Wednesday the new combat chopper, Toufan II (Storm II) has the most advanced indigenous technologies for high-precision targeting, as well as electronics, optics, laser and armament capabilities.
  • Israeli Air Force F-16 crash-lands on Ramat David runway
    The pilot and navigator ejected safely from the F-16 fighter bomber as it raced along the base runway, burst into flames and rolled over, before coming to a halt. In a second army accident, a female Israeli soldier was seriously injured during shooting practice.

Ahmadinejad turned social crusader?

2 Jan. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech Wednesday, Jan. 2, “The country’s economy should not be controlled by 3,000 or 10,000 people.” Seventy-six million Iranians still don’t benefit from the country’s oil revenues. debkafile: The president’s new role of social crusader has sent his relations and friends rushing for the exits before Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gets his own back. They know Ahmadinejad’s fate and their own hangs by a thread in a country where car accidents are a common feature of political life.

January 3, 2013 Briefs

  • Syrian rebels claim capacity to produce chemical weapons
    The Free Syrian Army has all the components for producing chemical weapons and the knowhow to use them if necessary, said the political adviser of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Bassam Al-Dada, quoted by Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency. “If we ever use them, we will only hit the regime's bases and centers and only if the regime uses them first.
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