A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending April 3, 2014
March 28, 2014 Briefs
- Two armed men killed after breaking through Golan border fence
IDF spotters detected two armed men Friday night tampering with the special devices attached to the Golan border fence. When they crossed through to the Israeli side, the soldiers opened fire and killed both intruders.
- Obama arrives in Saudi Arabia for dinner with King Abdullah
US President Barack Obama has landed in Riyadh for an overnight visit with only one event scheduled: dinner with King Abdullah at his desert camp outside the capital.
- Russian security official: West is hysterical
“There has been a sharp increase in external threats to the state,” said Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) deputy chief Alexander Malevany to Interfax Friday. “The lawful desire of the peoples of Crimea and eastern Ukrainian regions is causing hysteria in the US and Its allies,” he said, adding that Moscow was taking “offensive intelligence measures” to counter “Western efforts to weaken Russian influence in a region that is of vital importance.”
- Obama accuses Putin of reverting to the Cold War
US President Barack Obama Friday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to “drop his grievance over the breakup of the old Soviet Union” and “take the path forward, not revert back to the Cold War. In a CBS interview capping his six-day trip to Europe, Obama said that if Putin is trying to reverse history and “recreate a dominant, influential nation bursting with nationalism” he is ”misreading the West. He is certainly misreading American foreign policy.”
MH370 stays missing for want of data-sharing among intelligence searchers
28 March. World intelligence agencies, racing to discover the missing Malaysian airliner, could achieve more by openly sharing their data. However they are using the search additionally to try out their own innovative intelligence and military technology; check out their fellow-agencies’ satellite and electronic cyber resources, determine their outer limits and study their rivals’ strengths and weaknesses in the event of potential sea, air or cyber conflicts in one of the most forbidding areas on earth.
March 29, 2014 Briefs
- Obama, Saudi King Abdullah discuss differences on Mid East issues
President Barack Obama and King Abdullah spent two hours Friday night discussing their differences over Iran, Syria and the extremist threat. No other meetings were scheduled for Obama’s flying visit to Riyadh. The king was attended by senior princes led by Crown Prince Salman, the newly-appointed second in line to the throne, Prince Muqrin, and Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal. Obama’s party was led by Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice. The 92-year old monarch was connected to an oxygen feed, but he impressed his American visitors as sharp-witted and shrewd as ever.
- Putin phones Obama to discuss Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned his US counterpart, Barack Obama, Friday to discuss the tenuous situation in Ukraine. The two leaders have been at cross-purposes about what happens next. Putin assured the US president hat he is not planning any further military moves after annexing Crimea.
Syrian rebels allowed to attack Latakia from Turkish soil
29 March. Turkey has ratcheted up its intervention in the Syrian war to an unprecedented level, debkafile reports exclusively. For the first time in the three-year conflict, Turkey is giving Syrian rebel forces, including the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, passage through its territory to attack the northwestern Syrian coastal area around Latakia, the Assad clan’s birthplace.
Ankara’s support for the rebels is inclusive, covering provisions of ammo, fuel, food, mechanical repair crews and medical aid. The Turkish air force gives them air cover and Turkish agents arm them with surveillance data on Syrian military movements ahead.
But if the rebels are thrown back, will the Turkish army come to their aid? If it did, this would be Ankara’s first outright military incursion into Syria and NATO’s first intrusion into its civil war.
March 30, 2014 Briefs
- Egypt sets presidential vote dates for May 26-27
Egypt’s presidential election will take place at the end of May, with results expected by June 5. A second round if necessary would be held in mid-June, although former military chief Abdel Fattah El-Sissi is expected to win hands down – even if he is contested.
- Hamas operatives arrested, suspected of El-Sisi murder plot
Three Hamas militants who infiltrated into Sinai from Gaza were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to assassinate former Egyptian defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is running for president. They carried a coded letter with instructions to execute the assassination, passed them by a senior Muslim Brotherhood official who escaped to Gaza.
- Nasrallah defends sending his troops to fight in Syria
The Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah Saturday defended his organization’s costly participation in the Syrian war on the side of Bashar Assad against critics at home. “For us, the Syrian war is a strategic concern,” he said. “If we don’t fight to win this war, the jihadists will prevail and kill us all in Syria and in Lebanon.” As for Israel, he said, “I don’t want war, but if the Israelis do, Lebanon has enough trees for all their soldiers’ coffins.”
March 31, 2014 Briefs
- North and South Korea exchange artillery fire
South Korea reported that shell fire from a North Korean offshore military exercise Monday landed on the South Korean side of their maritime border and South Korea responded with K-9 self-propelled guns into North Korean waters.
- Erdogan’s ruling party leads in local vote exit results
Prime minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP has scored a major victory in Turkey’s countrywide local elections with 47 percent compared with 27 percent for the main opposition CHP party.
- Kerry and Lavrov end Paris talks on Ukraine without agreement
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spent four hours in Paris Sunday threshing out their differences on Ukraine following the Russian annexation of Crimea. The meeting ended without agreement. They agreed that diplomacy was the way forward to resolving the Ukraine crisis, but while the US insisted on “the legitimate Ukraine government” being part of the negotiations, the Russian side rejected the interim government in Kiev as legitimate partners.
Jerusalem judge convicts former PM Olmert on bribes charge
31 March. Handing down his rulings in a case that has shaken Israel, Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rosen Monday convicted Ehud Olmert, former prime minister and Jerusalem mayor, of taking bribes from developers of the Jerusalem Holyland estate. Convicted with him were former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky and nine other defendants on charges of taking or giving bribes. Among them were former Bank Hapoalim chaiman Dan Dankner and Olmert’s long-term senior aide Shula Zaken.
All the leading defendants face jail time. Judge Rosen praised the state prosecution for going through with the case against formidable pressure from Olmert and his powerful associates, whom he accused of a criminal conspiracy to share out dirty monies obtained from bribes. Three defendants were acquitted.
Olmert got off lightly in his first trial last year for receiving cash in envelopes from a businessman and double-booking his foreign travel fares. The Jerusalem district court acquitted him of three out of four corruption counts. This encouraged him to try and launch a political comeback.
That hope was finally knocked on the head Monday, March 31, by Tel Aviv District Court Judge.
US Fears Russia poised to invade Moldova
31 March. US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Sunday March 30 instructed US Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme commander in Europe, to set out at once from Washington to Brussels for consultations with alliance commanders on a possible Russian invasion after Crimea of Moldova’s Russian-speaking breakaway enclave of Transnistria.
The chairs of US House and Senate Intelligence Committees reported Russian forces massed on Ukrainian borders as well as covert forces inside the country. If they are correct, Vladimir Putin is not just preparing to strengthen Russia’s military positions in the Black sea region but spread Russian control across a larger area up to the Caspian Sea.
Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russia’s US ambassador Sergey Kislyak have all emphatically denied that Moscow has any further military plans for the Ukraine after the annexation of Crimea.
April 1, 2014 Briefs
- NATO suspends cooperation with Russia
NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels Tuesday decided to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation with Russia over its “illegal” annexation of Crimea. They added that dialogue in the NATO-Russian Council could continue as necessary at ambassadorial level to exchange views.
- Russian raises price of gas for Ukraine by 65 percent
The Russian energy company Gazprom Tuesday announced that Ukraine will be charged $385.50 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, up from previous rate of $268.50.
Abbas dumps another US-led peace effort, Kerry gives up shuttle. Pollard’s release recedes
1 April. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas turned his back on US Secretary of State John Kerry’s effort for peace negotiations with Israel by sending out applications in the name of “the independent Palestinian state” for membership of 12 UN agencies – in breach of his commitment ahead of the talks.
This was after the Palestinian leader upped his price for meeting Kerry’s request to extend peace diplomacy from April up until the end of the year. He demanded that Israel raise the number of 26 Palestinians due to be released from jail this weekend, to 1,000, to include Israeli Arabs and multiple murderers. Abbas was not satisfied with Israel’s consent to free another 400 terrorists and a partial settlement freeze, although to obtain it, Kerry dangled the inducement of Jonathan Pollard’s possible release from American jail after serving 29 years of a life sentence for spying for Israel.
Kerry’s peace effort demonstrated once again that to keeping diplomacy moving, Israel must surrender to continual Palestinian blackmail, which in every previous instance also caused its demise.
April 2, 2014 Briefs
- NATO military chief: Russia could move swiftly into Ukraine
NATO's military chief, US Gen. Philip Breedlove, warned Wednesday that Russian troops could begin moving on Ukraine within 12 hours of being given an order.
- US official tries to smooth over breakdown of Israel-Palestinian talks
A senior US State Department official said Wednesday "Both Israel and the Palestinians have taken unhelpful steps over the last 24 hours. But neither party has given any indication…that they want to end the negotiations." The official’s even-handed statement was issued in Brussels, where US Secretary Kerry is attending meetings.
- Egyptian police general killed in Cairo blasts
An Egyptian police brigadier general was killed in Cairo Wednesday in twin bomb explosions outside Cairo University near a police vehicle.Eight people were wounded.
- Malaysia prepares to wind down airliner search
Prime Minister Najib Razak said the reasons for Malaysian Airlines fight’s disappearance en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing may never be known. Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the criminal investigation could go on and on and in the end, “we still may never know” what happened.
Dempsey says Israel and US are now in unison on Iranian threat. No word from Israel
2 April. Top US soldier Gen. Martin Dempsey left Israel visit on April 2 saying its leaders were now satisfied the US was capable of using a military option against Iran. debkafile: The Israeli officials he met did not confirm this, or the “broad Israel-US agreement” he spoke of on how to deal with the Iranian threat. Dempsey’s remark that the US “will use a military option if the Iranians choose to stray off the diplomatic path,” confirmed that nothing had changed. It exposed the Obama administration’s continued refusal to admit that while Tehran sticks to “the diplomatic path” it uses that path to carry on developing its military nuclear capacity undisturbed.
April 3, 2014 Briefs
- Israeli-Palestinian tensions shoot up
Israel announced the fourth batch of 26 Palestinian prisoners was not released Saturday night, March 30, because the Palestinians had meanwhile applied to 15 UN agencies and conventions and threatened to have international courts “convict Israel’s leaders as war criminals.”
The Palestinians Thursday upped their price for returning to negotiations, including recognition of the 1967 lines as borders of a future Palestinian state with east Jerusalem its capital; the release of 1,200 prisoners, including multiple murderer Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat.
Israel hit back with penalties, including the suspension of high-level bilateral communications between governments and the relegation of Palestinian affairs to the Government Coordinator Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordecai; a freeze on the release of third-generation cell phone technology to Palestinian Authority-ruled areas and an end to communications equipment exports to the Palestinian cell phone company owned by Mahoud Abbas’s sons. Finally, the 14,000 dunams of Jordan Valley land already allocated to Palestinian farmers would be held up.
The Israeli government said further punitive measures were under consideration