A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending April 19, 2012

April 8, 2012 Briefs

  • German FM: Putting Israel and Iran on same moral level is absurd
    Guido Westerwelle wrote in Bild am Sonntag that putting Israel and Iran on the same moral level is absurd in a commentary on the German writer Gunter Grass’s presentation of a nuclear Israel as endangering world peace.
  • German poet persona non grata in Israel
    Minister of the Interior Ellie Yishai has declared the Nobel laureate Gunter Grass an undesirable visitor for publishing a poem which says, "The nuclear power Israel is endangering the already fragile world peace” and seeks to destroy the Iranian people. His poem slams Israel’s claim of the right to strike Iran and ignores its leaders’ threats to wipe the Jewish state off the map.
    Yishai accuses Grass of inflaming hatred for Israel and its people by propagating ideas symbolized by the uniform of the Waffen-SS which he admitted he donned in the last part of World War II.
  • Two Grad missiles fired harmlessly from Gaza
    They exploded in the fields of the Merhavim region near the town of Netivot Sunday. Saturday night, an Israeli air strike hit a rocket team of two on a motorcycle near Rafah before they fired.

Heaviest Syrian air-ground assault yet against the opposition

8 April. Certain he is safe from Western-Arab intervention, Bashar Assad Sunday, April 8 unleashed an across-the board offensive against the last surviving rebel locations in 30 towns and villages. debkafile reports that for the first time, heavy long-range artillery as well as air force helicopters pounded the last rebel positions in the northern mountains of Idlib, attesting to Assad’s determination to finish his opponents once and for all with no holds barred and backing to the hilt from Tehran and Moscow.
Our military sources say the rebels, and especially the Free Syrian Army, don’t have the slightest chance of surviving Assad’s killing machine.

Russian radar in Armenia to block an US/Israeli strike on Iran from north

8 April. Moscow has stepped into the vacuum created by US President Barack Obama’s decision to stay out of Middle East troubles while campaigning for a second term. After blocking the way to direct Western and Arab military intervention in Syria through the Mediterranean, Russia sent its Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan – to secure Iran against a potential US/Israeli attack via its northern and eastern neighbors, debkafile reports. Armenia agreed to host a Russian radar station. To counter the US radar set up at the Turkish Kurecik air base.
Just as the Turkish station (notwithstanding Ankara’s denials) will trade data on incoming Iranian missiles with the US station in the Israeli Negev, the Russian station in Armenia will share input with Tehran.
On his return to Moscow, April 6, the Russian army let it be known that highly-advanced S-400 surface-to-air missiles had been moved into Kaliningrad, the Baltic enclave bordered by Poland and Lithuania, in response to US plans for an anti-Iran missile shield system in Europe and the Middle East.

April 9, 2012 Briefs

  • President Obama has no intention of releasing Pollard
    This was the White House’s response Monday to appeals from President Shimon Peres and 80 Israeli lawmakers to grant Jonathan Pollard’s release after 26 years of a life sentenced for spying for Israel. Pollard was hospitalized last week.
  • Syrian fire across two borders
    Syrian cross-border fire killed a TV cameraman in Lebanon and wounded at least five people in a refugee camp in southwest Turkey as hopes for the UN envoy Kofi Annan’s planned ceasefire April 10 collapsed.

Big US-Arab Gulf air force exercise evokes Iranian warning

9 April. Gulf tensions soared Monday, April 9, when Iran warned the US and the Gulf Arabs to halt their joint air-sea exercise, the biggest the Gulf has ever seen – or else. debkafile reports: 200 fighter-bombers launched the exercise Sunday – 100 taking off from the USS Enterprise and USS Abraham Lincoln, 100 contributed by the Saudi, UAE, Kuwaiti and Bahraini air forces. They are simulating war with Iran and an operation to reopen Hormuz in cause it is closed to traffic.

US and Israel give way to Iran on low-grade uranium enrichment

9 April. debkafile’s Washington sources disclose exclusively that the Obama administration and Netanyahu government have secretly agreed on “Formula of 1,000” ending the forthcoming Six Power nuclear talks with Iran. It would let Iran keep 1,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium up to 3.5 percent and stock 1,000 kilograms of the same grade uranium, while giving up its store except for medical research of 20-percent grade uranium which can be jumped quickly to weapon quality.
Iran is treating it as the starting-point for bargaining, not the end result.

April 11, 2012 Briefs

  • South Sudan captures big Heglig oil field
    The oil-rich border area is usually recognized as part of the North but South Sudan disputes this. Both armies are pumping reinforcements into the area.

Iran to put Israel at the center of Istanbul nuclear talks

11 April. The head of Iran’s National Security Council Saeed Jalili suggested enigmatically Wednesday, April 11, that Tehran would present “new initiatives” at the negotiations with six world powers starting in Istanbul next Saturday. debkafile: The “Israeli dossier” tops his tactical agenda: Every demand the world powers make of Tehran will be twisted around and pointed at Israel’s alleged nuclear program.

April 12, 2012 Briefs

  • Ahmadinejad in provocative visit to Abu Mussa on eve of nuclear talks
    The UAE recalled its ambassador from Tehran Thursday, April 12, over the visit by Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Abu Mussa, the UAE-owned island overrun by Iran in the Persian Gulf. Since Abu Musa is the largest of the four islands commanding the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, on which Iran has established military and Revolutionary Guards bases.
  • Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan join big US-Gulf air drill
    Already the biggest US-Gulf air drill every held, the exercise is now expanded to a region-wide war maneuver ranging from the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border up to the southern coast of Oman, to continue up until April 18 – four days after nuclear talks begin in Istanbul.
  • Iran announces first joint Army-Revolutionary Guards exercise
    This year, the largest joint maneuver between the Army and the IRGC will be staged for the first time,” Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan said Thursday. Eight military and air force drills will be held by different forces in various areas.

Obama’s election politics empowers Iran, North Korea, Syria

13 April. In their different ways, the rulers of Iran, North Korea and Syria this week tried to throw US President Barack Obama off balance by exploiting the foreign policy balls he is juggling to win the November election – a combination of tough talk and maneuvers for staying clear of military confrontation.
The Iranian president was obviously crowing over Tehran’s success in preserving Syrian President Bashar Assad in power. North Korea is playing on the same pitch. Despite the breakup of the Unha-3 carrier rocket, Thursday, April 13, North Korea has established that it is on the way to building multistage intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching Washington.

April 14, 2012 Briefs

  • Egypt disqualifies top Islamists, Omar Suleiman from vote
    debkafile: The ban on their running for presidential election next month gives former Arab League secretary Amr Mousa his first chance and brings forward the Brotherhood’s second string candidate Mohamed Mursi and ex-Brotherhood independent Abu Al-Fotouh.
  • Eastern Christians celebrate fire ritual in Jerusalem
    Thousands of Christian pilgrims crowded into Church of the Sepulcher in Jerusalem for the ancient fire ritual celebrated by the Eastern churches at the climax of the Easter Week.

At Istanbul, US puts better ties with Iran ahead of nuclear issues

14 April. Informed European diplomats praised as “constructive” the nuclear negotiations which Iran and six world powers launched in Istanbul Saturday, April 14 because all the participants agreed that it laid the ground for a follow-up meeting in a month or six weeks. debkafile: Tehran has won its first advantage, time for advancing its nuclear weapons program and delay for any US or Israel military action to preempt this advance – up until mid-summer. Jalili refused to meet separately with the US delegation head.

April 15, 2012 Briefs

  • Qassam rocket fired from Gaza
    It was aimed from northern Gaza Strip towards Ashkelon and exploded harmlessly near the border fence.
  • First group of UN monitors arrives in Damascus
    This was announced by UN spokesman Sunday night.
  • Nearly 4,000 arrested in Damascus
    The Syrian defense ministry announced the authorities would not be responsible for the safety of the UN observers on their way to Damascus unless they complied with the rules.

Assad offers Moscow, Beijing $30bn in bonds

15 April. After announcing he is not responsible for the UN observers, President Bashar Assad set in motion steps for prolonging his war on the Syrian people. He has offered Moscow and Beijing $30 billion worth of government bonds to replenish his depleted war chest. And at the UN Security Council, while Russia’s Vitaly Churkin voted for a UN observer team to secure the erratic Syrian ceasefire, Moscow quietly sent warships to Syrian shores to secure the Assad regime.
His most urgent need is for fuel for the tanks, self-propelled artillery, thousands of trucks and tank transporters constantly on the move from one rebel flashpoint to another. Iran covers the payroll for military and security personnel to the tune of more than half a billion dollars a month, according to estimates.

April 16, 2012 Briefs

  • Tehran demands ahead of Baghdad talks
    Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said his country’s nuclear issue can be resolved “quickly and easily” by two simple “confidence building” steps: Lifting sanctions and letting Iran import enriched uranium.
  • Iranian ballistic experts at NKorea’s failed rocket launch
    A dozen heads of the Shaid Hammat Industrial Group which develops and manufactures Iranian missiles were present at the North Korean rocket launch.
  • Israeli experience aided US Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan
    At a ceremony awarding him the US Legion of Merit, Israeli Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Ido Nechushtan was commended for “solidifying US-Israeli military ties and promoting Israel’s participation in the future IAF combat F-35 aircraft.” He was also lauded as “a leader in active defense against ballistic missiles.” Israel’s accumulated experience in operational anti-terror activity was cited for information that assisted USAF operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • 36 Taliban killed in coordinated Afghan attacks
    Eight members of the Afghan security forces and three civilians also died in the 18 hours before the coordinated Taliban attack on government, military and embassy targets in Kabul and three provinces ended early Monday. Taliban called the start of its spring offensive.

Israel’s Amidror holds talks with Lavrov in Moscow

16 April. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov agreed with visiting chairman of the Israeli National Security Council Yaakov Amidror that the prospect of Tehran acquiring nuclear weapons is unacceptable. But he warned that “whipping up tensions around Iran’s nuclear program,” sanctions and the use of force were counterproductive and dangerous.
Until the Russian Foreign Ministry reported the visit on its website Monday, Binyamin Netanyahu’s senior security adviser was not known to be in Moscow on “a working visit” which was another sign of Russia stepping into the central position in Middle East affairs left vacant by the US president’s request for “space” until after the November presidential election. Moscow’s statement reflected only the Russian position on the Iranian question – not Israel’s.

Israel suspects Obama of clandestine deal with Iran

16 April: The rift between US President Barak Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over Iran burst into the open Monday, April 16 when high-ranking Israeli officials close to Netanyahu bluntly accused the president of reneging on the US-Israeli understandings reached ahead of the Istanbul talks, while contracting its real business with Iran through secret contacts in Paris and Vienna.
Sunday Netanyahu accused the US and world powers of givng Tehran a "freebie" of five more weeks to continue enriching uranium without restrictions up until the Baghdad round.
Obama’s response was fast. “The notion that somehow we've given something away or a `freebie' would indicate Iran has gotten something.”
That is the very point on which Israel accuses the US president of playing false. As disclosed by debkafile on April 9, American and Israeli officials reached an understanding called the “1,000 formula” (See April 9). But it was not presented to the Istanbul meeting.

April 17, 2012 Briefs

  • Iran creates radiation defense authority for crises
    Iran’s Civil Defense sets up a Nuclear and Radiation Accidents Crisis Management HQ for radiation and cyber defense headed by its atomic energy director Dr. Fereydoon Abbasi.
  • Palestinian PM’s no show for meeting with Netanyahu
    The appointment for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to meet Salam Fayyad Tuesday, April 17, was fixed well in advance. But instead of turning up as arranged, Fayyad released a statement offering the pretext that the date coincided with the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day and the start of a Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike. He was therefore unable to make it. Netanyahu received no advance notice of the cancellation. The low-level Palestinian delegation presented him with a list of grievances.
  • Iranian army chief calls US warships “sweet targets”
    Chief of Staff Gen. Ataollah Salehi addressing a National Army Day parade was evidently referring to the USS Enterprise and Abraham Lincoln currently deployed in the Persian Gulf.

India confiscates Israel defense firm’s $70m guarantee

17 April. India has, for the first time in its history, penalized a foreign defense vendor, Israel’s Military Industries (IMI), for alleged breach of contract and confiscated its $70 million guarantee, alone of the five defense vendors recommended for blacklisting for involvement in graft. An IMI dossier filed with the Indian authorities counters the charge. India is strongly suspected in Jerusalem of cooling its defense relations with Israel to line up with Tehran and Moscow and their refusal to join sanctions against Iran.

April 18, 2012 Briefs

  • Woman killed, six injured in accident at Israel’s independence day rehearsal
    High sandstorm winds blew a metal tower holding the lighting and sound system onto the stage set up at Mt. Herzl, Jerusalem for next week’s celebrations.
  • An Israeli soldier passes out and dies during a drill
    The soldier suddenly collapsed in the course of a combat engineering exercise in southern Israel. He was dead on arrival in hospital.
  • Israeli officer fired for videoed assault on pro-Palestinian demonstrator
    Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz removed Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner from his post as deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade and banned for command duties for two years after a Palestinian video cameraman caught him striking an anti-Israel Danish demonstrator with his gun butt near Jericho and the tape went viral.
  • Ban: The UN may send planes to Syria if the ceasefire does not hold up
    Since UN observers arrived in Damascus Sunday, the fatality score has jumped.
  • Persian Gulf states back UAE in Abu Musa dispute with Iran
    The United Arab Emirates called a visit by Iranian president to the island near the Hormuz Strait a violation of its sovereignty. The GCC said any aggression against the UAE would be considered a threat to the entire bloc.
  • Egyptian security reinforcements stream to Cairo
    The three presidential frontrunners in next month’s election, having lost their appeals against the decision to disqualify them, call on their supporters to take to the streets.

Obama is ready to yield on Iran’s nuclear transparency. Israel: Tehran will cheat

In the direct, secret exchanges between the US and Iran which led up to the Istanbul talks with the six powers, of Saturday, April 14, President Barack Obama quietly backed off from his demand that Iran “come clean” on its nuclear activities and open up to international inspection, debkafile reports.
This concession paved the way for Tehran’s consent to discuss his framework proposal to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent, halt work at its underground facility for higher enrichment near Qom, and export its stockpile of highly enriched uranium for final processing to 20 percent for use in medical isotopes. This would be presented as a deal for settling the nuclear controversy, of which Israel has not been informed.
Tuesday, April 17, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon sharply criticized the Obama administration for its handling of the nuclear dispute with Iran: "We (Israel) no longer believe in the Americans, and on the Iran issue, we are not in the same boat."
“Three years ago, Iran had 1,200 kilos of low enriched uranium; today it has five and a half tons,” he pointed out. Ya'alon also warned that right after the second round of talks on May 23 in Baghdad, “Israel will review its steps,” citing the classical Hebrew adage: If I do not watch out for myself, who will? (אם איו אני לי מי לי?) .

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