A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending August 2, 2012
July 28, 2012 Briefs
Lavrov: Moscow has not offered Assad asylum
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied reports that “a Black Sea villa” is waiting ready for the Syrian ruler if he decides to step down and leave the country.
Russia holds war fleet in Mediterranean, but stays clear of Syria for now
Russian Navy chief Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov’s statement Friday that the 10-ship war fleet massed in the Mediterranean with escort vessels will not dock at the Syrian port of Tartus but only hold military drills is seen in Washington and Jerusalem as a last warning against foreign intervention in the Syrian conflict. The warning is underlined by the size of the Russian fleet, its proximity to the Syrian battlefield and the fact that it is carrying marines – resources for an active role.
Concerned for Olympic security, British agents join Burgos terror probe
A British intelligence and anti-terrorist team is in the Bulgarian town of Burgos to examine the remains of the mystery bomber who killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian on July 18 in case he is a Brit belonging to a terrorist cell that may have designs on the London Olympics. His identity remains a mystery.
Nasrallah warns Israel of impending Hizballah aggression
28 July. Hassan Nasrallah has released a video clip recording Hizballah’s 2006 raid which ended in the deaths of eight IDF soldiers and the kidnapping of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Hot military pursuit for their rescue mired Israel in the ill-prepared, misconceived Second Lebanon war, which Hizballah claimed to have won. debkafile: The tape is designed to warn Israel that Nasrallah is still free to launch war with a similar ending any time now, with full Iranian and Syrian backing.
The video shows Hizballah commandos cutting through the Israel fence on July 12, 2006, surging into Israel and jumping an IDF Hummer jeep patrolling the Lebanese border near Zarit after an artillery shelling. They are seen pulling open the car doors. But then, moments before the attackers dragged Goldwasser and Eldad Regev out of the jeep, the tape is cut, a cruel trick to keep Israel guessing to this day about whether the two men were snatched alive or dead.
July 29, 2012 Briefs
Romney calls Jerusalem “capital of Israel”
After his talks with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem, US presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in a speech that America must stand with Israel since both countries believe in democracy, the rule of law and opposition to Iran becoming a nuclear power. Calling Israel a “startup nation,” he said earlier that a nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable and would “respect an Israeli decision to use force to stop Iran gaining a nuclear weapon.” He also voiced support for a two-nation solution to the Israel-Palestinian dispute. A Palestinian official said Romney’s endorsement of as Israel’s capital is “harmful to American interests in our region.”
Syrian FM Moallem on unannounced visit to Tehran
Walid Moalem held talks with his opposite number Ali-Akbar Salehi, Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani and National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili, who is also Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator.
Jerusalem police first permit – then ban – Jewish visitors on Temple Mount
The Ninth of Av, the annual day of Jewish lamentation and fast for the destruction of the First and Second Temples and Exile, coincides this year with the Muslim feast of Ramadan. Jerusalem police first allowed Jews access to Temple Mount Sunday morning – then backtracked for fear Muslims praying at Al Aqsa mosque would clash with the Jewish pilgrims. Jews was therefore confined to the Kotel, the Wailing Wall, and denied entry to Temple Mount, stirring angry protest among the many pilgrims and tourists.
US and Israeli spy agencies at odds over Iran strike
29 July. President Barack Obama can’t be sure the Netanyahu government won’t spring on him a surprise attack on Iran’s nuclear sites earlier than the date under discussion between them. October is now widely cited. debkafile: To forestall Israel, the CIA has spread a broad undercover network of agents across the country to pick up any clue of the IDF switching to operational mode for a strike. It also leaked to AP a detailed article defaming Israel as its “No.1 counterintelligence threat” in the Middle East.
This leak had two objectives, says debkafile:
1. To deter US presidential candidate Mitt Romney from using his visit to Israel Sunday and Monday July 29-30 to promise, if elected in November, to review Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence for spying for Israel.
2. To hit back at the Israel watchers dogging the footsteps of CIA agents planted in a widely-flung undercover network.
July 30, 2012 Briefs
Greece quadruples guards on Turkish border
Athens is boosting its defenses to bar a potential influx of Syrian refugees.
Iran warns Turkey of harsh response if it attacks Syria
The Iranian-Syrian mutual defense pact will be activated, said Iranian sources.
Israeli soldier sues for pay equal to minimum wage
The High Court heard an Israeli soldier’s petition Monday for IDF conscripts pay to brought level with the mandatory minimum wage in the civilian workplace on grounds of discriminatory treatment. He argued that the soldiers’ monthly pay of NIS 350 (under $100) has not been updated for a decade during which it lost one-fifth of its value.
Golan Druze indicted for spying on Israel for Assad
Iyad Johari, 38, of Majdal Shams, Golan was indicted in Nazareth district court Monday after admitting to passing military secrets to three Syrian intelligence officers from 2005 to 2008 when he studied in Syria.
India asks Iran for information on Israel embassy bombers
The Times of India reports that the Indian police investigation into the attack last February on the Israel embassy in New Delhi has fixed the blame on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Tali Yehoshua-Koren, the wife of the Defense Ministry's representative to India, was injured in the attack. The Indian journalist Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi, who is under arrest, was approached by the IRGC a year earlier in connection with the conspiracy to launch terrorist strikes against Israeli targets in Asia.
Israeli cabinet meets to endorse austerity package
Tax hikes and spending cuts in the current year and 2013 are estimated to raise NIS14 billion ($3.4 billion) and avert economic crisis. Cabinet endorsement is expected although some ministers and all the opposition strongly criticize the measures as overly harsh for low-income earner and easy on the rich.
Safe haven bid in Aleppo thwarted
30 July. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta commented Monday, July 30 on his way to the Middle East that the assault on Aleppo, “will ultimately be another nail in Assad’s coffin.” He spoke after the Free Syrian Army’s Saudi and Qatari intelligence backers based in Apaydin, Turkey, admitted that the ferocious Syrian government onslaught had derailed for now their safe haven scheme for the Aleppo region.
At least 200,000 Aleppo citizens (almost one-tenth of its 2.2 million inhabitants) were estimated by the UN to have fled the city by Sunday night.
July 31, 2012 Briefs
Gantz: We dare not ignore Iran peril
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz took angry issue with a campaign some Israeli media were conducting against a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear program by false claims that a whole range of security officials were against it, including the IDF chief.
“None of those reports come from me or represent my views,” said the general Tuesday. “Iran is the only country in the world which is building a nuclear weapon capacity while threatening at the same time to destroy another country. That is a grim problem for the world and the region which we dare not ignore.” Lt. Gen. Gantz added: “For me, ‘all options on the table’ is not a slogan but a working program.”
Fourth day of Aleppo bombardment and clashes
As government forces continued to pound rebel positions in Aleppo Tuesday with artillery, mortars and helicopter gunships amid clashes, rebel forces claimed victory in the surrounding countryside – driving Syrian troops out of the town of Al Bab northeast of Aleppo and from the Anand army checkpoint to the north, thereby easing the movement of rebel reinforcements and supplies from Turkey, 50 kilometers away.
debkafile: The fighting now focuses on control of routes running into and out of the city.
Netanyahu: I won’t let Israel face an Iranian atomic threat
31 July. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, Aug. 31, that he hasn’t yet reached a decision on attacking Iran, but added: “The ayatollahs have inscribed Israel’s destruction on their banner.” He stressed his personal commitment “not to permit Israel to come under Iranian atomic threat.”
Netanyahu spoke shortly before US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said upon landing in Israel that he is not going to discuss potential attack plans with Israeli leaders – only “various contingencies and how we would respond.”
When the prime minister was asked by interviewers why Israel should volunteer to lead the assault on Iran, he replied that no one would be happier if he saw other world nations, especially the United States, solving the Iranian nuclear problem by economic and other pressure. But, he said, Israel has always been guided by the principle of never devolving its destiny to others.
Asked about preventing Syria’s chemical weapons reaching terrorist hands, such as Hizballah, the prime minister replied that he is not looking for a military operation, but not precluding one either.
Bandar’s reported death escalates ME tension
31 July. Disquiet in Washington, Jerusalem and a row of Middle East capitals is gaining ground the longer the Saudi government stays silent on the reported assassination of the newly-appointed Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, purportedly in a revenge operation by a Syrian intelligence death squad. Saudi rulers are feared too traumatized to respond to the report by the fear of clandestine Iranian penetration of the highest and most closely guarded circles of their government, possibly climaxing in Bandar’s assassination.
August 1, 2012 Briefs
Netanyahu tells Panetta time running out on Iran
At the opening of his meeting with visiting US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Iran believed the international community was not actually serious or committed in trying to stop it from obtaining nuclear weapons. Time was running out for a peaceful solution, said Netanyahu. The world must convince Iran very soon that it will face unacceptable consequences if it keeps building its nuclear weapons program.
Turkish military tank exercise opposite Syrian border
The exercise was a show of muscle aimed at the Turkish Kurdish PKK rebels from bases in Iraq who took up position in five Syrian Kurdish towns.
Wind Jacket” intercepts Palestinian anti-tank missile
A Palestinian anti-tank missile fired from Gaza Wednesday was bounced off an Israel tank between Beeri and Kisuffim by the “Wind Jacket” active defense system Israel has developed to identify and repel enemy missile attack on its tanks. No one was hurt. An Israeli force returned fire to the source of the attack.
Egyptian gunfire over Israeli border, Palestinian killed in Gaza explosion
It then turned out to be a clash between Egyptian troops and smugglers on their way to cross into Israel. In the Gaza Strip, one Hamas operative was killed, two injured when their car exploded, apparently booby-trapped by a Salafist group linked to al Qaeda.
Khamenei Warns Iran’s Top Leaders: WAR IN WEEKS
1 Aug. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned a “last war council” of top military chiefs Friday, July 27 that war may be weeks away, possibly by October. Iran is engaged in its biggest fortification program ever to protect its nuclear installations under mountains of rocks, tons of reinforced concrete and steel sheets. Its program of retaliation includes missile and bombing attacks on Israel, Saudi Arabia and US Middle East and Gulf military facilities. Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas and Jihad Islami in Gaza are to be enlisted to pitch in against Israel from the north and the southwest.
That same Friday, the US Air force unveiled its new Massive Ordnance Penetrators. Each bunker buster weighs 30 pounds and is able to penetrate 60 feet of reinforced concrete.
August 2, 2012 Briefs
Israeli tourists advised to leave Sinai over terror threat
The counter-terror office in Jerusalem urged Israelis Thursday to quit Sinai and return home without delay over a specific warning that terrorist squads are heading for the beach resorts patronized by Israeli holidaymakers.
Kofi Annan quits as UN-Arab League envoy for Syria
debkafile: It was long realized that Kofi Annan’s mission had failed. It was strapped from the start by the absence of full backing of all five UN Security Council powers and Bashar Assad’s refusal to cooperate with his plan to start dialogue between the Syrian regime and the opposition. His resignation will have as little effect on the situation in Syria as his mission.