A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Feb. 12, 2015

February 6, 2015 Briefs

  • Outrage over Obama’s likening ISIS to Crusaders
    A torrent of outrage greeted President Barack Obama’s comments at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday which drew a parallel between the atrocities of the Islamic State and the Crusaders. After roundly condemning the Islamic State and its “unspeakable deeds of barbarism,” the President
    went on to say: "Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ… and in our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."
    Criticism of Obama’s comments ranged from “an attempt to deflect guilt from Muslim madmen” to “an offense against every believing Christian in the United States.”

February 7, 2015 Briefs

  • Jordanian air strikes against ISIS with US air escort
    Jordanian F-16 planes raided ISIS in Syria for the third straight day Saturday in reprisal for the murder of their pilot. debkafile: They were escorted by two US F-22 Raptor tactical fighter stealth planes tasked with neutralizing anti-air fire directed from ISIS bases against the Jordanian bombers.
  • Israeli opposition leader lays into prime minister at Munich
    In a speech at the Munich Security conference Saturday, Yitzhak Herzog, leader of the opposition Zionist Camp party strongly urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to call off his forthcoming speech on the Iranian peril to the joint House of Congress on March 3.
  • Rebel Houthis declare their Revolutionary Committee Yemen’s government
    Pro-Iran Houthi leaders Friday proclaimed their Revolutionary Committee Yemen’s supreme governing authority after dissolving parliament in Sanaa. Jubilant supporters waved banners bearing slogans “Death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews and victory to Islam.”
    White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the United States was "deeply concerned with this unilateral step," but it would not affect US counterterrorism efforts there.
  • Pro-Israel American-Jewish leaders divided on Netanyahu speech
    Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League was quoted by Forward Friday as urging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to scrap his address on the Iranian peril to Congress on March 3, because of the political “circus” it has created. The opposite view is advocated by Jewish groups supporting the Republican Party. Vice President John Biden would not attend the session in his capacity as President of the Senate because he was “traveling abroad,” said an official statement. The event takes place two weeks before Israel’s general election.

February 8, 2015 Briefs

  • Jordanian Air Force Chief reports 56 sorties against ISIS
    Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Jabour, commander of the Jordanian air force, reported Sunday that 56 sorties had been carried out against ISIS targets in the last three days. debkafile: Less than 20 air strikes a day are not enough to be effective.
  • France detains six suspected terrorists in Toulouse area
    Six suspects of involvement in a network for sending Islamic fighters abroad were arrested Sunday morning in the Toulouse-Albi region of southern France.
  • Zarif: Last window of opportunity for nuclear deal
    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif warned Sunday that a window of opportunity for a nuclear deal is now open and may not return. In Tehran, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said obliquely: “The Americans keep saying no deal is better than a bad deal; we also agree with that. No deal is better than a deal which would be in contradiction with the interests of our nation.”

Iran and US partnered in engineering Houthi Yemen coup

8 Feb. The strings of the pro-Iranian Houthi rebels’ coup which toppled the Yemeni government in Sanaa were pulled from Tehran and Washington. Their partnership helped the Houthis reach their goal, which is currently confined to dominating parts of central Yemen and all of the North. debkafile: The uprising’s dominant figure is none other than Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted as Yemen president in 2012. Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, Jordan and Israel fear the Obama administration is using the war on Islamists as a façade for promoting Tehran’s regional ambitions.
The Iranian-US gambit has placed Yemen under the sway of two anti-American radical forces – the pro-Tehran Houthis and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

February 9, 2015 Briefs

  • Netanyahu determined to give his Iran speech to US Congress
    Despite criticism from the opposition at home and Democratic circles in Washington, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday emphasized his determination to appear before the US Congress and make the American people understand that a dangerous nuclear accord is taking shape with Iran in Munich. Differences between the Israeli and US governments have cropped up in the past, Netanyahu noted, but the friendship binding the countries remained firm.
  • Large Fatah-led terror network uncovered in Jerusalem
    A long list of indictments before the Jerusalem district court Monday revealed the apprehension of a large terrorist network involving scores of Palestinians resident in the Jerusalem district of A-Tur. Their leaders are Fatah activists Khalil Marwan Jiyassi, 21 and Bechar Abd All-Maghrabi, 22, who live in the neighborhood. They were detained for harassing security forces with bottle bombs, fire crackers and large rocks as well as lobbing explosive devices at Jewish homes in the district. More arrests are impending.
  • Group of British lawmakers initiate rules against anti-Semitism
    A group of cross-party British MPs have proposed urgent action after the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country peaked last year. The group proposes cracking down on the “disturbing” incidence by applying to this form of racial hatred the same ban that restricts the access of sex offenders to social media like Twitter and Facebook. “Hitler” and “Holocaust” were among the most frequent words used on Twitter last summer during the Israeli anti-terror operation against Hamas.
    They also propose setting up a government fund to cover the costs of security at synagogues and establishing an independent council on anti-Semitism.
  • Hooded gunmen fire on police in Marseille
    Hooded gunmen armed with Kalashnikov rifles fired on police in Marseille Monday when Prime Minister Manuel Valls was on his way to visit the southern French city. There were no initial casualties.
  • Prime minister butts heads with leading Israeli news publisher
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu used his Twitter account Monday to accuse Noni Moses, publisher of the tabloid Yedioth Aharonot and popular news site Ynet, of orchestrating a smear campaign against Netanyahu himself and his wife Sarah. In an unprecedented frontal attack on a media proprietor, Netanyahu charges Moses with backing an unscrupulous vendetta to topple the ruling Likud and shut down the rival newspaper, the pro-Likud Israel Hayom.

ISIS-Sinai plans attacks in sync on Israel and Egypt

9 Feb. Egyptian and Israeli intelligence have discovered the former Ansar Bait al-Maqdis – reborn as the Islamic State’s operational arm in Sinai – is well into advanced preparations for a large-scale terrorist offensive targeting Israel forces manning the Egyptian frontier, along with another multiple assault on Egyptian targets in Sinai, the Suez and Cairo. debkafile: Elated by the success of their Jan. 29 multiple attacks that left at least 40 Egyptians dead and more than 100 injured, the Islamist group is determined to keep going. Israeli forces are well prepared.

February 10, 2015 Briefs

  • ISIS affiliate beheads 10 alleged Sinai spies for Israel, Egypt
    The Sinai Province of the Islamic State – formerly known as the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis – posted an online video Tuesday purporting to show the beheading of 10 men in Sinai accused of spying for Israel and the Egyptian military.
  • Putin and El-Sisi hold talks in Cairo on regional issues
    Russian President Vladimir Putin was greeted by President Abdul-Fatteh El-Sisi on arrival in Cairo Monday night. They prepared to discuss major regional security issues Tuesday morning, including conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the war on ISIS and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Assad is informed on US-led war on ISIS by “third parties”
    In a rare interview, Syrian leader Bashar Assad told the BBC that he is being updated by third parties – among them Iraq –on the US-led coalition battles against the jihadist Islamic State. He said there had been no direct cooperation since air strikes began in Syria in September.

February 11, 2015 Briefs

  • Obama asks Congress for authorization to use force against ISIS
    President Barack Obama Wednesday asked Congress to authorize US military force against the Islamic State group, limited to three years. In his letter, he said ISIS "poses a threat to the people and stability of Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East and to US national security." His proposal would ban "enduring offensive combat operations” i.e. large-scale ground operations, but asked for flexibility for “ground combat operations in other more limited circumstances.” These would include rescue missions, intelligence collections and special operations forces for possible military action against ISIS leaders.
  • Unprecedented flow of foreign fighters to ISIS – US report
    Foreign fighters are streaming into Syria and Iraq in unprecedented numbers to join the Islamic State or other extremist groups, including at least 3,400 from Western nations among 20,000 from around the world, US intelligence officials report.
  • Rouhani: Any nuclear deal must end sanctions
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that a nuclear deal must remove the “humiliating sanctions” imposed on his country. Speaking at a rally for the 29th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, Rouhani added: If there is to be peace and stability in the region, and terrorism is to be uprooted, there is no other way than with the presence of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
  • Australia thwarts imminent IS attack
    Australian counter-terrorism police arrested two men in Sydney Tuesday, thwarting an imminent attack linked to the Islamic State, New South Wales Dep. Police Commissioner Catherine Burn told reporters Wednesday. The items found on their premises, she said, included a machete, a hunting knife, a home-made ISIS flag and a video depicting a man talking about the planned attack.
  • Netanyahu: I’m not going to Washington to confront Obama
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday night: “This is not a personal disagreement between President Obama and me. I deeply appreciate all he has done for Israel in many fields.” He then stressed: "I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the President, but because I must fulfill my obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country."
    It is a deal allowing Iran to break out to a nuclear weapon in a short time, and within a few years, have the industrial capability to produce many nuclear bombs.

Syrian army tears through the south to sweep Iran and Hizballah up to Israel’s Golan doorstep

11 Feb. A large Syrian force – combined with thousands of Shiite and Hizballah fighters – Sunday, Feb. 8 launched its broadest southern offensive in the four-year conflict, heralding Act III of the Iranian-Hizballah drive for a foothold on Israel’s Golan border, debkafile reports. By Wednesday, Feb. 11, “Operation Ali Allah Dadi for Quneitra Martyrs,” had reached to within 5-6 km south and east of Quneitra, ready for its final assault on the Syrian Golan town. Israel’s failure to curtail their advance would bring Iran to a forward position on Israel’s doorstep.

February 12, 2015 Briefs

  • Arab Balad MK Haneen Zoabi, Baruch Marzel barred from March election
    The decisions go to the High Court of Justice for endorsement. The Central Elections Committee voted 27:6 to disqualify Haneen Zoabi, Knesset Member of the Arab Balad list, from running for re-election on March 17. She is accused of inciting and supporting armed conflict against Israel in rhetoric and actions that crossed the line of free speech. The vote to bar Baruch Marzel was a much closer 17 for and 16 against – on the grounds offered that he was spokesman for the Kach organization, which was founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane and banned in Israel some years ago for propagating hate for Arabs.
  • Suspected shooting at London kosher restaurant
    London police are investigating reports of shots fired from a car driving past the Orli’s kosher restaurant in heavily Jewish suburb of Edgware in the northwest of the city. No-one was hurt, but windows were badly damaged.
  • Greece plans joint military drills with Israel, Cyprus, Egypt
    The Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said in Cyprus Wednesday that the newly-elected government in Athens planned joint military exercises in the coming months with Israel, Cyprus and Egypt to enhance regional security in view of tensions with Turkey over oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • ISIS threaten air base where US Marines train Iraqi troops
    Islamic State insurgents took control on Thursday of most of the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, threatening an air base where U.S. Marines are training Iraqi troops, officials said. Al-Baghdadi, about 85 km (50 miles) northwest of Ramadi in Anbar province, had been besieged for months by the radical Sunni Islamist militants.
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