A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending August 16, 2012

Aug. 11. 2012 Briefs

  • Three more US soldiers killed in Afghan rogue attack
    The shootings by an Afghan civilian worker at a military base in southern Afghanistan took place Friday night shortly after three US Marine special operations troops were killed by an Afghan policeman earlier in the day.

Clinton: Chemical warfare planned for. Syrian rebels get Stingers

11 Aug. Hillary Clinton announced in Istanbul Saturday, Aug. 11, that US and Turkish intelligence services and military were to set up a joint working team to plan for “many contingencies including the very horrible scenario of the use of chemical weapons.” debkafile: Turkey has sent a first batch of anti-air, shoulder-carried Stinger missiles to Syrian rebels in Aleppo. Bashar Assad may regard this as a game-changer in the war and hit back with chemical attacks on the rebels, Turkey, Israel and Jordan.

August 12. 2012 Briefs

  • Seven terrorists killed in battle near MFO’s North Sinai HQ
    Egyptian security officials Sunday reported that government forces had killed seven terrorists in raids of their hideouts in the village of al-Ghora 30 kilometers south of El Arish in N. Sinai. They omitted to mention the battle was fought to lift the Islamist terrorists’ siege on the multinational force’s northern headquarters at al Ghora, most of whose members are Americans.
  • Israeli media report Iran well advanced on building nuclear warhead
    An anonymous senior official in Jerusalem is quoted as reporting substantial Iranian progress towards building a nuclear warhead for its ballistic Shehab- 3 missile, whose 1,500 kilometer range covers Israel. The Iranians are said to be working now on the detonator and trigger.
  • SMS alert messages drilled by home front
    The IDF Home Front Command is Sunday testing its new personalized cell phone messaging system warning of incoming missile attacks by geographic area. The text messages will be sent in Hebrew, English, Russian and Arabic.

Muslim Brotherhood sacks top Egyptian generals

12 Aug. In a lightning move, Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi sacked and replaced the Egyptian Defense Minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the Egyptian chief of staff Gen. Hafez Sami Annan and three more generals, Sunday Aug. 12. He also ordered M-60 tanks moved up to the Israeli border. debkafile was the only publication to report that the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi were exploiting the terrorist attack in Sinai to rid Cairo of the pro-Western military control of the Egyptian government.
debkafile reports: Having gained control of the Egyptian parliament, government and presidency, the Muslim Brotherhood has made itself the unchallenged ruler of Egypt.

US teams up with Israel, Turkey, Jordan against chemical strike

12 Aug. The United States last week began laying plans for the contingency of Syrian chemical warfare by setting up joint military, intelligence and medical working teams with Israel, Turkey and Jordan. All three are feared under threat by Syrian president Bashar Assad, debkafile reports – as are US military facilities there. The White House, the CIA and the Pentagon’s DIA are laying odds on a Syrian unconventional attack and all three countries under potential threat have put their medical services on the ready.
Because Jordan lacks the appropriate medical facilities, the United States and France have freighted over to the kingdom special forces trained in chemical warfare, military hospitals and hundreds of tons of medical equipment.
In Istanbul, Saturday, Aug. 11, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “We have planned for many contingencies, including the very horrible scenario of the use of chemical weapons.”

August 13, 2012 Briefs

  • Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter is new Home Front Minister
    He was offered the post early Tuesday and agreed to give up his Knesset seat as member of the opposition Kadima party to take up the portfolio vacated by Mattan Vilnai, who has been appointed Israeli ambassador to Beijing.
  • Price of subsidized bread goes up in Israel
    From Monday, the price of standard bread goes up by 6.5 percent due to the rising cost of imported US wheat, fuel and the dollar rate. Social movements prepare protests.

Nuclear Iran by Oct. 1. Israel hampered by Cairo changes

13 Aug. Iran will have 250 kilograms of 20-percent grade uranium, exactly enough to build its first nuclear bomb, in roughly six weeks, debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report. That deadline prompted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s comment Sunday, Aug. 12: “All threats against the home front are dwarfed by one – Iran must not be allowed to have nuclear arms!”
He was followed 8 hours later by the Muslim Brotherhood coup in Cairo, which produced a tough security dilemma born of his long foot-dragging on Iran.
Since 20 percent refined uranium is a short jump to weapons grade fuel, Iran will have the capability and materials for building an operational nuclear bomb by approximately October 1.
However Netanyahu and Barak have put themselves in a straitjacket for action:
1. By foot-dragging on their decision for two years, they have led their opponents at home and in Washington – and Khamenei’s office too – to believe that by turning on the heat, they can hold Israel back from military action against Iran’s nuclear program until it is too late. The time has been used to enlist ex-politicians and retired generals at home to the voices, especially in the White House, who believe Israel can learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran.
2. Netanyahu and Barak have behaved as though a decision on Iran is in their exclusive province, insulated from the turmoil and change swirling through Israel’s Arab neighbors in the past two years.
But the Middle East has a way of catching up with and rushing past slow-moving politicians:

August 14, 2012 Briefs

  • Three Chinese warships on friendly visit to Haifa
    This is the first time a Chinese Navy flotilla has visited Israel. Their visit as guests of the Israel Navy will last five days and include ceremonies celebrating the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Israel. The flotilla is commanded by rear Adm. Yang Junfei, deputy commander of the Chinese fleet in the North China Sea, the highest ranking Chinese officer ever to pay an official visit to Israel.
  • Obama’s personal feud with Netanyahu over Iran
    Barack Obama’s quarrel with Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak is becoming more intense and personal the closer Israel comes to attacking Iran’s nuclear program before the Nov. 6 US election.
    The feud fires up certain opposition political circles at home and fuels their virulent campaign to tie the Netanyahu government’s hands and so push it out of office.
  • Morsi seeks to restore Egyptian control over “every inch” of Sinai
    Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi is studying ways of amending the Camp David Accords with Israel to ensure Egypt’s full sovereignty and control over “every inch of Sinai,” said his legal adviser Mohamed Gadallah Tuesday. debkafile predicted that the Muslim Brotherhood’s president would seek changes in the 30-year old peace treaty that would virtually void it of content.
  • Extra US arms for Sinai Multinational Force
    US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Tuesday that extra military equipment would be supplied to the MFO to strengthen its ability to defend itself. The peacekeepers, drawn from 11 nations led by the US, monitors Sinai and the Egyptian-Israel borders under the 1979 Egyptian-Israel peace accords.

Syrian rebels armed with their first T-62 tanks

14 Aug. The Syrian rebels’ Western and Arab sponsors have ratcheted up their military assistance by giving them tanks, 20 Russian-made T-62s from Libya, paid for by Qatar, debkafile reports. The Obama administration first agreed to Turkey arming the Free Syrian Army with FIM-92 anti-air Stinger missiles, as debkafile disclosed last week. The FSA is now equipped to defend safe havens, thereby ushering in the next stage of the 18-month war for turning the tide against Bashar Assad. This development could bring the Syrian ruler closer than ever before to launching his chemical and biological weapons against his enemies.
Monday, Aug. 13, for the first time in the 18-month revolt against the Assad regime, rebels shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet, a Mig-21, over the northeastern town of Deir al-Zour, using shoulder-carried Stingers.

August 15, 2012 Briefs

  • Syrian fighter jet kills 80 people, injures 150 in town of Azaz
    debkafile: The town bombed by the Syrian air force, near the Turkish border, served the rebel FSA as a command post and logistic hub for the Aleppo arena.
  • Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar order citizens to leave Lebanon immediately
    debkafile: Tens of thousands of Gulf emiris on holiday in Lebanon are to leave over kidnap threats tied to the Syrian conflict next door after the abduction by Syrian rebels of 48 Iranians.
  • UN panel finds Assad regime, militia guilty of crimes
    Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and pro-government shabiha fighters have perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity on Syrian civilians, a UN expert panel concluded Wednesday in a report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. It blamed Assad’s government and allied Shabiha militia for the killing of more than 100 civilians in the village of Houla in May, nearly half of them children, perpetrating torture, sexual violence and indiscriminate attacks.
  • Syrian rebels claim attack on General Staff killed 150 officers
    Conflicting reports about a bomb explosion in Damascus Wednesday, claimed by the Free Syrian Army. Syrian State TV reports it was caused by an explosive device attached to a fuel tanker near the hotel housing UN observers and injured three people The FSA reports the blast occurred inside the Syrian army’s General Command building and left 150 officers dead.
    PM Netanyahu: We are responsible for national security in a changing region
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said this at the opening of the government’s defense budget debate.
  • Israel protests EU expansion of Green Line boycott
    The European Union has added the town of Modiin-Maccabim Reut near Ben-Gurion International Airport to its list of settlements whose export products are ineligible for tax breaks. Its inclusion stretches the EU’s boycott area westward and cuts into Israel’s narrow coastal strip. Israel says the EU’s unilateral definition of “the State of Israel” is in breach of signed trade contracts and in any case unacceptable. The town of Modiin was established on a strip of land designated “no-man’s land” in the post-1948 Arab-Israel war armistice.

The US & Israel waited too long to total Iran’s nuclear capacity

15 Aug. US Gen. Martin Dempsey said Tuesday, Aug. 14 Israel could “delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities.” debkafile: Israeli leaders and military chiefs don’t pretend otherwise, because neither Israel nor the US can completely destroy those capacities today. An Israeli attack could delay Iran for a couple of years; an American, for 4-5 years.
2007 was the last moment for totaling the program. But the longer action is held off now, the shorter the delay achievable in Iran’s bomb-building time table.

August 16, 2012 Briefs

  • Seven Americans killed in NATO helicopter crash in Afghanistan
    US and Afghan military officials said the crash site was in Shah Wali Kot, a restive district of Kandahar province. Also killed were three members of the Afghan security forces and a civilian interpreter.
  • Gunmen attack Pakistan air force base suspected of housing nuclear weapons parts
    The attack on the Kamra base, 40 kilometers north of Islamabad, ended in a heavy battle with the eight assailants dead and parts of the base in flames. It hosts fighter jets, including F-16s, as well as some experts suspect elements of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

Obama wants to meet Netanyahu in September

16 Aug. The White House is setting up a meeting between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the Sept. 18 opening of the next UN General Assembly, when Netanyahu plans to call for Iran’s expulsion in a tough speech inveighing against its nuclear aspirations, its calls to annihilate the state of Israel and its widespread anti-Semitism, debkafile reports.
Sources close to Obama admit that the US-Israeli dialogue on Iran has petered out amid a vigorous US campaign to tie Israel’s hands against attacking its nuclear program and this is hurting the president’s campaign for reelection.

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