A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending August 23, 2012

August 17, 2012 Briefs

  • Brother of Istanbul synagogue bomber killed in Aleppo, Syria
    New evidence of Al Qaeda’s participation in the Syrian revolt against Assad came with the revelation Friday by the Turkish Hurrriyet that Metin Ekinci, a Turkish citizen killed in Aleppo, was the brother of the mastermind behind the 2003 coordinated Al Qaeda bombings in Istanbul which left 57 people dead and injured 700. A car registered in his name was used in the bombings. In the first wave, on Nov. 16, 2003, the Neveh Shalom synagogue was blown up packed with worshippers. Twenty-three people were killed. A second synagogue, Beit Israel, was attacked next. The chief rabbi of Istanbul and his son were among the six dead as well as 14 passers-by. The HSBC and British General Consulate were the last targets.
  • Afghan policeman shoots dead two US soldiers
    Upon receiving the gun as a gift at the start of his training in the far Western province of Farah, the newly-recruited village policeman turned it on the American soldiers training him and killed two of them. This was the seventh time in two weeks uniformed Afghanis had attacked US troops.

Syria’s neighbors braced for chemical threat

17 Aug. The disclosure Thursday night, Aug.16 by an American source that a worst-case scenario could require up to 60,000 ground troops for securing chemical and biological weapons sites was meant as psychological preparation for chemical warfare, say debkafile’s military sources.
Medical preparations are also in place. The US and France are flying special military hospital facilities trained in the treatment of chemical weapon injuries to Turkey and Jordan. Israeli hospitals are on war alert and have begun opening fortified emergency wards making them ready for patients. Tuesday, Aug. 14, IDF Home Front Command units embarked on a series of chemical attack drills in the towns of the northern district down to Afula, which is 52 kilometers east of Haifa and 110 kilometers north of Tel Aviv.The soldiers taking part those drills wore new anti-contamination suits.
In Tel Aviv, city hall announced underground parking spaces would be available in an emergency as bomb shelters for up to 850,000 people.
The Syrian ruler may decide transfer chemical explosives to Hizballah in Lebanon. Israel is on record as warning it would prevent this. Wednesday, August 15, Assad, now armed with Tehran’s pledge of all-out support delivered by Saeed Jalili, threatened to give Turkish PKK Kurdish rebels SA-8 anti-air missiles if any more Stingers are delivered to the Syrian rebels. Ankara: That would mean war.

August 18, 2012 Briefs

  • An Israeli attack would enable Iran to get rid of the Jewish state forever
    More anti-Israel vituperation from Tehran Saturday. Air Force chief Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said an Israel attack on Iran’s nuclear sites would be welcome “as a reason to retaliate and get rid of the Jewish state forever.” Friday, President Ahmadinejad called Israel’s existence “an insult to the human race.” Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Iranian proxy, Hizballah, bragged he could destroy tens of thousands of Israelis with just a few rockets.
  • UN Secretary censures Iran leader’s offensive anti-Israeli rhetoric
    Friday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told hundreds of thousands of demonstrators screaming “Death to Israel!” “Death to America!” that the new Middle East would soon have no trace left of Americans or Israelis.

An US-Israeli deal on Iran? No Israeli strike now if Obama pledges a spring attack

18 Aug. The White House this week scrambled to reconnect with Jerusalem after the Obama administration realized Israel was seriously contemplating a military operation against Iran’s nuclear program this fall – notwithstanding the heavy opposition guns aimed at it at home and from Washington. As Israel embarked on home front defense measures, Obama asked what it would take to hold Israel back before the Nov. 6 US presidential election. The answer: A solemn, binding US guarantee to strike Iran next spring.
That is one of the four points discussed for averting an Israeli attack now. Another would be a presidential visit to Israel to deliver the guarantee in person. Another: Upgrading Israel’s military, intelligence and technological capabilities up until spring 2013 so that if President Obama (whether he is reelected, or is replaced by Mitt Romney) backs out of this commitment, Israel will have the resources for unilaterally inflicting mortal damage on Iran’s nuclear program and so reduce the gap between their ticking clocks.

August 19, 2012 Briefs

  • Home Front Minister: Israel faces its first existential peril
    New Home Front Minister Avi Dichter took issue with opponents of an Israeli attack on Iran and said Sunday that Israel is facing its first real mortal danger. “Our enemies are building up their aggressive capabilities to confront us with strategic threats from Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Syria while Iran is targeting our very existence. Dichter spoke at the changing of the guard at the Home Front Ministry. The outgoing minister Matan Vilnai, designated ambassador to Beijing, remarked that Israel’s entire population has become a civilian war front.
  • Sudanese minister among 31 killed in plane crash
    Witnesses heard an explosion shortly before a Sudanese plane carrying 31 officials including Guidance and Religious Endowments, Ghazi al-Sadiq Abdel Rahim, came down in South Kordofan, en route from the capital Khartoum. There were no survivors.
  • Iraq is helping Iran stand up to sanctions
    US media report that a network of Iraqi financial institutions and oil smuggling operations have provided Iran with a crucial flow of dollars to overcome the squeeze the Iranian economy is suffering as a result of sanctions against its nuclear program. The network is made up of members of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s clique.
  • Algerian diplomat confirmed as Syria peace envoy
    Veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi was approved by the United Nations to replace Kofi Annan as the international mediator on Syria. Syrian Vice President Farouk a-Shara whom opposition reported had escaped to Jordan and defected to the rebel side has still not been seen in Damascus – even at Eid worship attended by President Bashar Assad Sunday morning.

August 20, 2012 Briefs

  • Obama warns Assad chemical weapons are red line for US
    US President Barack Obama told an unscheduled White House briefing Monday: "A red line for us is (if) we see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around, or being utilized.” He said “at this point” he had not ordered US military engagement in Syria, but “That would change my calculus.” The use of such weapons of mass destruction, which Syria has, would widen the conflict considerably.
  • Seven killed in bomb car explodes at Western aid HQ for Syrian rebels in Turkey
    Seven people were killed and 40 injured in a remote-controlled bomb-car explosion Monday in the Turkish town of Gaziantep, the seat, debkafile reports, of Free Syrian Army headquarters and its liaison center with the US and other Western intelligence agencies.
  • Dempsey: US and Israeli clocks on Iran tick at different tempos
    Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Armed Forces, attributed the difference to the fact that the US is not exposed like Israel to a direct Iranian threat. The two have different evaluations of incoming intelligence and reach different conclusions, he said. The general reported that he talks with Israel’s chief of staff every two weeks to share information and evaluations on Iran. Dempsey said once again that Israel had the capabilities to delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capacity. He did not refer to debkafile’s finding last week that it is too late for both America and Israel alike to achieve destruction.

Illicit Egyptian tank presence in Sinai is Cairo’s bargaining chip for massive US aid

20 Aug. Israel has asked the Obama administration to intervene with Cairo for the removal of 19 Egyptian M60A-3 tanks deployed without Israeli permission in Sinai, fearing they are there to stay. This has become tangled up in broader issues: President Mohamed Morsi hints that substantial US economic aid is the key to the tanks’ removal, the launch of a major Egyptian offensive on al Qaeda-linked Sinai terrorists and his refusal of an invitation to visit Tehran for an Egyptian rapprochement with Iran.
Israel posted an Iron Dome battery in Eilat five days after two Grad missiles were launched from Sinai against Israel’s southernmost town.

Two Hamas spies uncovered among Abbas’s guards

20 Aug. Two agents of Hamas’ Ezz e-Din Qassam military arm were able to penetrate the handpicked unit guarding Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and spy on him for some years, debkafile reports exclusively. They were finally uncovered and arrested Sunday, Aug. 19. The realization that Abbas’s closest secrets had been passed to Hamas deeply shocked American and Israeli as well as Palestinian security services. They now suspect the entire Palestinian national security apparatus may be riddled with Hamas clandestine cells. The two detained men, planted under cover among the Palestinian leader’s 170-strong personal guard, are under intense interrogation with certain Western and Arab agencies attending. Abbas has ordered a total blackout on the affair.

August 21, 2012 Briefs

  • Lavrov warning to West after Obama threatens Syria
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West Tuesday Aug. 21 against unilateral action on Syria, saying that Russia and China agree that violations of international law and the United Nations charter are not permissible. Lavrov spoke after US President Barack Obama said in his strongest language yet on Syria that he would reconsider his abstinence from action against President Bashar al-Assad if if chemical weapons are used
  • Gen. Dempsey unhurt in rocket attack on Afghanistan air base
    Two rockets struck the big Bagram air base in Afghanistan overnight damaging the door of the C-17 used by Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had departed in another plane earlier.

Iranian leaders in Israel’s sights after calling for its destruction

21 Aug. Some Western intelligence circles suggest that Israel may choose to disable Iran’s nuclear program by eliminating its leaders who tirelessly call for Israel’s destruction regardless of whether or not Israel goes on the offensive. They cautiously refer to this process as “decapitation.”
Israel’s new Home Defense Minister Avi Dichter responded to three days of Iranian leaders’ diatribes against the Zionist entity’s very existence by stating that “while Syria, Lebanon and Gaza confront Israel with a strategic threat, Iran imperils our very existence.”
Hizballah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah knows the score: He has spent six years hunkered down in a fortified bunker, taking care never to to broadcast his inflammatory speeches calling for Israel’s destruction live, only by video.

August 22, 2012 Briefs

  • Triple explosions hit Turkish military convoy
    The attack in the Hakkari’s Semdinli district near the Turkish-Syrian-Iraqi border junction was attributed to Kurdish PKK rebels now based in Syria.
  • The Russian navy would evacuate Tartus if attacked
    Vice Adm. Viktor Chirkov said in a radio interview that the personnel on duty at the Syrian port of Tartus would be evacuated in the event of a hostile attack. debkafile: This was the first official Russian reference to a possible hostile attack on the Syrian port.
  • Khamenei orders Qods Brigades to step up attacks on West
    The Daily Telegraph’s senior security commentator reported Wednesday that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered Qassem Soleimani, the Qods Force commander, to activate Unit 400 (overseas operations) against “America, the Zionists, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar” to show them Iran’s “red lines” for their support of Syrian rebels’ bid to overthrow the Assad regime and tough sanctions against Iran.
  • Egypt finds it hard to justify unauthorized Sinai tanks to Washington
    Sunday, Aug. 19, debkafile revealed that Egypt was holding M-60 tanks in northern Sinai without coordination with Israel as a bargaining chip for gaining substantial US economic aid and against refraining from a rapprochement Iran. Since there is still no sign of Egypt launching its promised major offensive against al-Qaeda-linked jihadi strongholds in Sinai, Cairo is finding it hard to explain the tanks’ unauthorized presence there and keeps on coming up with lame excuses.

US, UK, French units on standby for seizing Syrian chemical weapons

23 Aug: US C130 transports stand ready at Middle East air bases to fly into Syria US elite units especially trained in combat against chemical and biological weapons and tactics for securing their arsenals against their use or fall into radical Islamic rebel fighters’ hands. Western intelligence sources reported Thursday, Aug. 23 that those units are on standby at bases in Israel and Jordan. debkafile: Direct American military involvement in the Syrian conflict has effectively begun before action against Iran, although this may follow. Also on standby for Syria are British special operations forces in Cyprus and French units trained in unconventional warfare in Jordan. One important Washington faction hopes that direct US action in Syria, aside from grappling with the unconventional warfare menace looming over the region, may persuade Tehran to cave into American demands for halting uranium enrichment and turning aside from its race for a nuclear weapon in order to save itself from attack.

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