A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending April 5, 2012

March 31, 2012 Briefs

  • Erdogan: Israel has 250-300 nuclear warheads
  • Iran’s oil revenue jumps $16 bn despite embargo
    Its profits derived mainly from soaring prices on world markets, a net gain from the US-led oil embargo.
  • Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood chooses presidential candidate
    The MB goes back on former pledge not to contest the presidency and names its deputy leader, conservative businessman Khairat Shater.
  • French intel chief: detained Islamists security threat
    The head of France’s counterespionage agency said the 17 Islamist radicals detained in a nationwide sweep had a stash of arms, did physical training and may have been preparing a kidnapping and other terrorist strikes.
  • Secret Iranian assassins seek out Jewish, Israeli, Western targets in Turkey
    Western intelligence agencies are hunting members of Unit 400, a secret Al Quds Brigade outfit which answers directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Their procedures for attacks in Turkey are believed in an advanced stage.
  • China rejects Obama’s sanctions on countries buying Iranian oil
    Beijing: Washington has no right to unilaterally punish other nations.
  • Former Argentine President Carlos Menem to stand trial for cover-up
    He is accused of obstructing an investigation into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center by Hizballah agents in which 85 people were killed.

Iran has edge in coming nuclear talks after securing Assad

31 March. Iran, Syria and Hizballah are celebrating Assad’s victory over the 12-month uprising against him and counting the advantages it confers on Tehran against the US and Saudi Arabia. The Iran-Syria-Hizballlah axis is now successfully shored up against the Obama administration’s strategy of isolation and sanctions for squeezing Iran into making concessions at the nuclear negotiations in two weeks. Both are fading.
In Riyadh Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heard King Abdullah place responsibility for the debacle in Syria squarely on the shoulders of the Obama administration for spurning the Saudi intervention plan for establishing opposition sanctuaries in Syria under air force and ground forces protection.
This ought to be a resounding lesson for the Israeli circles who argue that it is up to America to deal with a nuclear Iran, a much-quoted minority chorus led by the ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan.

April 1, 2012 Briefs

  • Fabled Timbuktu falls to Mali’s Tuareg rebels
    “The Pearl of the Desert” was last major northern Mali town to fall to Tuareg rebels backed by al Qaeda-linked fighters since a military junta staged a coup in March 22. Timbuktu is a world heritage site.

April 2, 2012 Briefs

  • Two Israeli women injured in Palestinian rock attack on bus
    A bus traveling on the 443 Route to Jerusalem came under a hail of Palestinian rocks as it drove past the Dor gas station Monday night.
  • Reuters Tehran office suspended indefinitely
    The head of the culture and Islamic guidance ministry shut Reuters down for “mischaracterizing” Iranian female ninjas as “terrorists.”
  • Mutiny in Muslim Brotherhood over Khairat al-Shater candidacy
    Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s rank and file are in revolt – almost unheard of – against the leadership over its choice of deputy leader to run for the presidency in June. The young guard especially threatens to vote for rivals.
  • Damascus accepts April 10 deadline for ceasefire
    Syria will start implementing Kofi Annan’s peace plan by the April 10 deadline, starting with a ceasefire – but not before the same commitment from the opposition.
  • Palestinian Red Crescent personnel detained for shooting attack
    Israeli police have arrested three Palestinian officials suspected of a Kalashnikov shooting attack on Israeli troops during a counter-operation at the Amari camp near Ramallah, the Shin Bet reports. Eight suspected accomplices were also detained. Manzar Abbas, who is the General Intelligence officer in charge of the Red Crescent security detail in Ramallah and an arms trader on the side, provided the guns. The attack was carried out by Red Cross employees Salah Barael and Omer Abu Rayeis.
  • Missile alerts were false alarm
    The army spokesman said that red alerts in Ashkelon and northern Israeli towns at noon Monday were caused by technical malfunctions.
  • Israeli injured in Palestinian axe attack
    A Palestinian wielding an axe attacked an Israeli passerby on Haneviim St. near the Old City of Jerusalem. He escaped with minor injury before his assailant fled.
  • Egypt’s military ruler secretly backed Muslim Brotherhood leader for presidency
    SCAF chairman Field Marshal Mohammad Tantawi cleaned Khaider El-Shater’s slate as candidate by issuing pardons for the crimes of funding and training students for acts of terror for which he served time.

Russia, Iran set to counter attack on Iran

2 April. Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Russia's issued a strong warning against a military attack on Iran Monday, April 2, saying that a pre-emptive strike would violate international law. His comments, made during a visit to Armenia, stopped short of threatening (the US and/or Israel) of consequences.
His words were in tune with the explicit threat from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last Thursday of strong Iranian resistance to foreign intervention in Syria and vow to defend Damascus as the “center of resistance against Israel.”
debkafile: Moscow and Tehran suspect that the US- Israeli-Greek air-naval exercise codenamed Noble Dina which is in progress across an unusually broad stretch of E. Mediterranean is rehearsing war action in the Persian Gulf.

No token US-protected village for Syrian dissidents

2 April. At the Friends of Syria 2 in Istanbul, opposition representative Prof. George Sabra failed to convince US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that a US-protected token safe haven village near Idlib would start splintering the hard face of army loyalty to Bashar Assad. The meeting ended as it began with a US commitment of funding for humanitarian aid and “communications gear for opposition forces” (to fight Assad’s tanks?), leaving Assad under no compulsion to implement any part of the Annan peace plan.
The Christian Orthodox professor was chosen to speak for the Syrian opposition because he is a non-political figure and because he escaped from Damascus only a few days ago and had the most up-to-date news of events there. But he failed to convince the secretary of state and the conference achieved nothing.

April 4, 2012 Briefs

  • Five men to go on trial on 9/11 charges
    All five were referred to trial by a military commission at Guantanamo Bay on charges of planning and executing the attacks on Sept 11, 2011 that caused the deaths of 2,976 people. The charges carry the death sentence.
  • Jordan’s Crown Prince visits Temple Mount, Jerusalem
    The 18-year old Prince Hussein ascended the shrine through the Moghrabi Gate Wednesday accompanied by Israeli security guards.
  • Iran proposes moving nuclear talks from Istanbul to Baghdad or Beijing.
    Our sources report that this change of venue means that the last-chance diplomatic dialogue cannot start on April 13 and must be delayed by a month or two.
  • The disputed Hebron house evacuated
    On orders from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israeli police and soldiers cleared the Hebron house near the Tomb of the Patriarchs of the Jewish occupants who moved in last week saying they had legally bought the property from a Palestinian vendor. They did not resistance evacuation.
  • Two top Somali sports executives assassinated
    A suicide blast claimed by the Shabaab rebels killed at least 10 people including the chairman of the Somali Olympic Committee and head of its soccer federation at the national theater in Mogadishu. The theater was newly reopened for the first time in 20 years of civil war.

Iran ducks away from nuclear talks

4 April. Tehran is seeking a postponement of the nuclear negotiations with world powers set for April 13-14 in Istanbul, debkafile’s Iranian sources report. Washington and Jerusalem see Iran’s maneuvers as guided by two objectives: Having the venue removed from Istanbul and buying a couple more months before the diplomatic crunch, so delaying any military option that Israel or possibly America may choose to exercise if last-chance diplomacy fails.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Tuesday, April 3: “The Middle East standoff could boil over into military action at any moment.” Referring to the massing of military and naval forces in the Persian Gulf, he said: “The pot can explode if the diplomatic valve is not opened.”

April 5, 2012 Briefs

  • Syrian army strikes at several flashpoints
    Violence continued as a UN general arrived in Damascus with an advance team to determine how to oversee the truce due to take effect April 10.
  • Grad rockets fired on Eilat
    Strong explosions shook the southern Israeli town of Eilat early Thursday. The Israel Defense Forces confirmed that three rockets were fired at the town from Egyptian Sinai to the west. Remains of one of the rockets were found outside a residential building in the Shahamon district. No casualties were reported. The Red Sea resort town is packed with visitors for the Passover holiday. In August last year, Palestinian terrorists ambushed traffic on Route 12 north of Eilat and killed eight Israelis.
  • Ten killed, including 3 US soldiers in N. Afghanistan blast
    A suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated explosives in Maimanah, capital of hitherto peaceful Faryab province. Four of the ten victims were Afghan police officers.

Omar Suleiman drops out of presidential race

5 April. Former Egyptian intelligence strongman Gen. Omar Suleiman’s decision Thursday, April 5 to drop out of the race for president in June shocked Washington and Jerusalem and dashed their hopes of a figure capable of challenging Khairat El-Shater. The Supreme Military Council ruling Egypt, the SCAF, were told that Islamist power had become unstoppable after hearing from Suleiman and Intelligence chief Gen. Murad Muwafi that the Islamists had begun penetrating the young army elite and the generals taking over in July from the retiring military leaders were no longer to be relied on for upholding the military’s supremacy.

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