A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Aug. 29, 2013
August 23, 2013 Briefs
- Intense US-Israel military exchanges on Syria
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz talked by phone Friday night with top US soldier Gen. Martin Dempsey on the situation in Syria, 24 hours after a conversation between Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
- Twin explosions in Tripoli, Lebanon, kill 42, injure 500
Two simultaneous car bomb explosions rocked Friday the Lebanese city of Tripoli, killing 42 people and injuring 500. One of the blasts struck the area near the home of outgoing Prime Minister Najib Mikati, while the other hit the Sunni Salam Mosque in Mina as worshippers were coming out of Friday prayers.
- Syrian war’s one-million child victims
UN agencies report that half of the 2 million refugees from Syria are children – three quarters of them under the age of eleven. Anthony Lake of UNICEF said these children are “ripped from home, maybe even from a family, facing horrors we only begin to comprehend.” Even after they cross a border to safety, they are “traumatized, depressed and in need of a reason for hope.” They have not only lost their homes and family members but also their futures.
- Israeli overnight air strike in Lebanon after Galilee rocket attack
Israeli Air Force struck a terrorist target south of Beirut, Lebanon, on Thursday night in response to Thursday afternoon’s missile attack from Lebanon on northern Israel.
According to the IDF statement, a direct hit was identified and all aircraft returned safely to base.
debkafile: The air strike targeted the Naama underground base complex, 15 km south of Beirut, which houses two radical Palestinian organizations – Ahmed Jibril’s PLO-General Command and the pro-Iranian Jihad Islami. Both operate in Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip under direct Iranian command.
August 24, 2013 Briefs
- Syria: Attacking us would ignite the Mid East in flames
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi threatened Saturday night that if the US attacked his country “A mass of flames will ignite the Middle East.”
- debkafile: Three US options for destroying Syria’s poison weapons
debkafile’s exclusive military sources reported Saturday that President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel were weighing three options: One: Striking the Syrian unit which perpetrated the poison gas last Wednesday east of Damascus. Two: Destroying the Syrian army’s three chemical weapons depots. Or Three: Coordinated attacks on the first two targets.
For Option Two, the attack would have to destroy all the poison shells without them exploding and leaking their contents across wide regions of Syria and neighboring Turkey, Israel and Jordan. The Syrian ruler is capable of having the shells’ contents mixed and armed ready for use, thus maximizing the deadly impact of deadly gases across a broad Middle East region.
- US media: US poised to lauch cruise missile attack on Syria
Warships have been sent to the region for possible cruise missile attacks or other action, CBS TV reported Saturday.
- The White House: No order yet to attack Syria
The White House, Pentagon chief and other defense officials made clear that no decision had been taken on whether to employ military force against Bashar Assad's regime following its alleged use of chemical weapons.
Sarin shells on Damascus followed by rockets on Israel, bombings in Lebanon
24 Aug. Within 48 hours, Assad and Iran launched a three-point punitive offensive against foreign intervention in the Syrian war, debkafile reports. The facts: The sarin nerve gas shells which claimed more than 1,000 Syrian lives Wednesday, Aug. 21 were fired from Mount Kalmun by the 155th Brigade of the Syrian army’s 4th Division commanded by Gen. Maher Assad. This atrocity was followed by a rocket attack on Israel from Lebanon and deadly blasts in Tripoli.
August 25, 2013 Briefs
- Iran warns US against crossing “red line” on Syria
Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces said Sunday: "America knows the limitation of the red line of the Syrian front and any crossing of Syria's red line will have severe consequences for the White House." This statement reacted to possible military intervention in Syria, said the Fars news agency.
- Bomb attack kills 6 Yemeni AF members
Witnesses report a bomb attack killed 6 Yemeni Air Force members and injured 26 on a bus carrying them to their base in Sanaa.
US rejects Syrian access to chemical site as “too late”
25 Aug. The US has little doubt the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians,” a senior US official said Sunday, Aug. 25. "At this juncture, any belated regime decision to grant access to the UN team would be considered too late to be credible, including because the evidence available has been significantly corrupted.,” he said. This reaction indicated the White House had not backed away from military intervention, even after Tehran warned the US not to “cross red lines” in Syria and Moscow advised Washington to “avoid tragic mistakes.”
Western, Mid-East military action prepared for Syria
25 Aug. Washington, London and Moscow began moving Saturday night and Sunday morning, Aug. 25, toward a first strike against Syria in response to the Assad regime’s chemical attack last Wednesday. The first targeted strike may well unfold into a series of US-led attacks aimed at toppling the Assad regime. Behind the soothing words from Israeli officials, the IDF military and intelligence arms are fully braced for Syria to loose retaliatory missiles against Israel, as well as Jordan and Turkey. Russian forces have gone on war alert.
August 26, 2013 Briefs
- Kerry harshly accuses Syria government of “heinous crime”
US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a powerful and harsh message Monday night, accusing the Assad regime of the heinous crime of chemical warfare on civilians. He said: This regime held custody of those weapons, had the rockets to use them and was capable of doing so. “Basic humanity is offended by this crime and even more by the attempts to cover it up. “The US will hold those responsible for this crime against humanity accountable,” Kerry vowed. “We have additional information about these attacks. It is being reviewed with our partners and will be released in the coming days.”
- Lavrov: Diplomatic solution for Syrian crisis derailed
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded to Kerry by charging that diplomatic attempts to resolve the Syrian crisis were being derailed. He said the West has no “cogent proofs” of Syrian government responsibility for the chemical attack in Damascus on Aug. 21. He called for the stalled Russian-US initiative of last May for Geneva 2 to go forward.
- Damascus: Any attack on Syria deemed coming from Israel
A Syrian official spokesman warned Monday that any attack on his country would be deemed aggression by Israel and meet with an appropriate response. He said that Syria had strategic weapons pointing at Israel. The Middle East would go up in a ball of fire.
- Ten top national commanders meet in Amman on Syria intervention
The ten military countries began a two-day conference in Amman Monday to discuss joint action in the emergency posed by the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian wary. The meeting is chaired by US chief of staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.
- Three Palestinians killed, 15 injured in clash with Israeli troops
At the Palestinian camp in Kalandia north of Jerusalem, Israeli soldiers were attacked by a mob Monday when they came to arrest suspected terrorists. The soldiers opened fire to cover their escape, killing three Palestinians and injuring fifteen.
Middle East region including Israel on high war alert
25 Aug. Monday night, Aug. 25, saw Middle East countries, including Israel, on high military alert after learning of US President Barack Obama’s failure too reach an understanding with Tehran to avert a US-led operation against Syria over its chemical attacks. debkafile: Obama’s two emissaries were Deputy UN Secretary Jeffrey Feltman and Sultan Qaboos of Oman. Khamenei replied: If the Americans attack Syria, “the entire Middle East will suffer from burns.” Tehran’s rebuff was the signal for orders for US military assets in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf to go on high preparedness. Iran, Russia and Syria redeployed in readiness for Syria to come under attack.
August 27, 2013 Briefs
- Israel will react powerfully to any attempted attack
Commenting on US preparations for an operation against Syria, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel was ready for any scenario. Although uninvolved in the Syrian crisis, Israel will not hesitate to react to any attempted attacks – and will do so forcefully.
- Russian aircraft land in Syria to evacuate Russians
The Emergency Situations Ministry’s Ilyushin-76 jet landed at Latakia airport with 20 tons of humanitarian aid and was set to return to Russia with 180 Russians who had expressed a desire to leave Syria.
- Syrian FM: A US strike would benefit Israel, Al Qaeda
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem at a news conference in Damascus Tuesday accused US Secretary of State John Kerry of falsehoods and fabricating evidence of a Syrian government chemical attack. He said Syria would use all available means to defend itself against a US attack, whose only objectives, he said, would be to serve the interests of Israel and al Qaeda’s Nusra front in Syria.
- French carrier sent to Syrian coast
The Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier has been ordered to join the US Navy fleet cruising off the Syrian coast.
Assad may hit back at Israel for US strike, trusting Obama to tie Israel’s hands against major reprisal
27 Aug. There is little logic in the Netanyahu government’s public assurances that the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad would not risk a major showdown with Israel for fear of an IDF response powerful enough to topple his regime. debkafile: President Barack Obama would not countenance an Israeli military strike against Syria disproportionate to a US operation, or capable of endangering Assad’s rule. His Russian advisers have undoubtedly briefed Assad on Israel’s tied hands. Even a limited US strike is likely to spread since Syria’s allies will not stand by idly.
August 28, 2013 Briefs
- Cameron denied mandate for UK military action in Syria
British premier David Cameron has no hope of support in the House of Commons Thursday for UK involvement in the US military operation against Syria. He has therefore diluted his proposal and will call for action focusing on alleviating the suffering caused by chemical warfare in Syria.
- Military jury sentences Ford Hood shooter to death
Maj. Nidal Hasan was sentenced to be executed Wednesday for murdering 13 military personnel in a shooting rampage at the Fort Hood US base in 2009. He defended himself at the military trial by saying he acted to in defense of the Muslim peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq against US forces and refused to repent his crime.
- Turkish army on war alert
“We are now at a more alert position … Turkey will take whatever measures necessary aagainst any security threat from Syria and elsewhere… and retaliate within the framework of its own strategic interests," Foreign Minister Davutoglu told reporters Wednesday. Turkey has the longest border with Syria of any of the wartorn nation's neighbors.
- Khamenei: US Syria intervention “disaster for the region”
Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday: "The intervention of America will be a disaster for the region. The region is like a gunpowder store and the future cannot be predicted."
- Coordinated bombings kill 71 around Baghdad
The blasts in quick succession by explosive cars, bombs and suicide bombers targeted shoppers, markets, restaurants and people going to work in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad. The attacks, killing 71 and injuring 200, bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda.
- Australia backs action against Syria, with or without UN
Foreign Minister Bob Carr said if it was proven that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons, the world had a mandate to respond, even if the UN failed to agree on such action. Australia takes over the rotating Security Council chair next Sunday.
Partial Israel reserves call-up. US bolsters Qatar air base. Syria moves units into sheltered sites
28 Aug. Ahead of the US strike on Syria, Israel conducted the partial mobilization of selected IDF reservists belonging to rocket, Air Force, missile interception, Home Defense command and intelligence units. Anti-missile Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome systems were spread out widely across the country. Gas mask distribution stations were mobbed. US B-1B bombers and F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were brought over to the big Al Udeid base in Qatar from other US Mid East air facilities on Masirah and Diego Garcia. Syrian army personnel, weapons and air assets were moved to safe places to reduce their exposure to US assaults. Baring last-minute hold-ups, debkafile’s military sources report the US operation is scheduled to start Friday night-early Saturday Aug. 30-31 or early next week at latest.
August 29, 2013 Briefs
- Assad: We shall win our historic confrontation with US
Syrian president is quoted on state television as saying that Syria will defend itself and come out ahead of its historic confrontation with the US ant its allies.
- Britain sends six Typhoon fighter-bombers to Cyprus
Six RAF Typhoon fighter-bombers are posted at the Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus to defend British sovereignty at its facilities, but not to take part in a military operation against Syria. debkafile: The UK appears concerned about a potential Syrian raid on its bases in reprisal for an American attack.
- Ban: UN chemical experts end mission Friday
UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon announced Thursday that the UN chemical expert team will wind up its investigation of the Aug. 21 Syrian chemical attack Friday and leave the next day.
- Israel police and emergency services prepare for missile attack
Police chiefs and heads of Israel’s emergency services met Thursday to coordinate their operations for the contingency of missile attacks on Israel from Syria, Lebanon or the Gaza Strip, in reprisal for a US strike against Syria.
- Russia boosts its war fleet in east Mediterranean
A Russian anti-submarine ship and a missile cruiser will be sent in the coming days to the eastern Mediterranean, according to the Interfax news agency Thursday quoting the Russian armed forces general staff. debkafile: The missile cruiser is the “Moskva” – flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet – which boasts the strongest fire power of any Russian warship.
- Russian, Iranian presidents discuss Syria by phone
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani agreed in conversation Wednesday night that the use of chemical weapons was unacceptable but so was outside military intervention (sic) in the Syrian war.
- US boosts carrier presence in Gulf
The US Navy doubled its aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf from one to two.
Obama buys time for deal with Putin on softened strike against Syria
29 Aug. Although Barack Obama had decided to attack Syria over its use of chemical weapons – either Friday-Saturday, Aug. 31, or after Labor Day of Sept. 2, according to most estimates, he is now saying there is no decision yet. debkafile: Obama is stalling in order to buy time for Secretary of State John Kerry to strike a secret deal with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov: The US would soften its strike on Syria to the level of a token blow, following which the US and Russian presidents would announce the convening of Geneva-2 for a negotiated solution to end the Syrian war.
The Kerry-Lavrov has not yet achieved results and so, Thursday, the fate of the US strike on Syria was fluid and its timeline changeable.