A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending February 7, 2013

February 1, 2013 Briefs

  • Putin to Assad: Don’t fan the crisis
    Russian President Vladimir Putin called Bashar Assad Thursday night, Jan. 31, and urged him to refrain from action that might aggravate the crisis after Israel’s air strike on the Jamraya military complex near Damascus Wednesday. His advice coincided with a White House warning to Syria delivered by US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes “not to further destabilize the region by transferring weaponry to Hizballah.”

Suicide blast kills guard at US Ankara embassy – payback for Israel’s Syria airstrike

1 Feb. Turkish interior minister Moammer Guler identified the suicide bomber who detonated an explosive Friday, Feb. 1 at the US embassy in Ankara, killing a Turkish security guard, as Ecevit Sanli, 31, a member of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), an outlawed left-wing terrorist group. He was released from Turkish jail eight months ago.

February 2, 2013 Briefs

  • Turkish foreign minister “finds” Israeli-Syrian conspiracy
    Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister claimed Saturday that Syria never hit back at Israeli warplanes attacking the Jamraya military site last Wednesday because of “a secret deal between the two countries.”
  • Taliban attack kills 35 people in Northeast Pakistan
    Most of the victims of the early morning raid on a Pakistani army post in Serai Naurang town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province were soldiers. Pakistani Taliban claimed the attack saying it was in response to a US drone strike in neighboring North Waziristan last month in which two commanders were killed.

Obama green light for Israel to start sundering Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah military links

2 Feb. The air raid over the Jamraya military complex near Damascus Wednesday, Jan. 30, attributed to Israel by Western sources, was the first time the Assad-Hizballah military pact had been targeted. Obama gave it the green light after Iran speeded up 20-percent uranium enrichment by installing fast centrifuges in Natanz; US lead nuclear negotiator with Iran quit and gave up on diplomacy; and Vice President Biden dismissed further talks until Khamenei gets “serious.”
Obama was telling Tehran that IDF had acted to start breaking up the Iranian-Syria-Hizballah bloc.

February 3, 2013 Briefs

  • Erdogan enlists history for another venomous attack on Israel
    “Those who treated the Israeli government like a spoiled child should know that history will not forgive Israel’s state structure.” Asked about Israeli attacks on Syrian targets, Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan went on to say that Iran should first of all reconsider its attitude against Syria. debkafile: The Ankara government is facing embarrassing questions about why it was left to Israel to strike a military facility of the Assad regime, not Turkey.
  • IDF Chief of Staff on five-day trip to US
    Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz began a five-day American visit Sunday as guest of the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Command Gen. Martin Dempsey. He will review events in the region with US officials. Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkott, his deputy will stand in for the chief of staff in his absence.
  • Netanyahu opens party negotiations for new coalition cabinet
    President Shimon Peres designated outgoing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the task of forming a new coalition government on the recommendation of 82 out of the 120 new Knesset members elected last month. The first round of talks will take place with Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid), Bayit Yehudi (Bennett) and the ultra-religious Shas. In accepting the task, Netanyahu said he is seeking a broad-based coalition for maximum nation unity for facing up to two overriding challenges: preventing a nuclear Iran and thwarting the build-up of dangerous weapons around Israel’s borders.

Barak: Assad’s fall is imminent. Jalili and Assad weigh reprisal for Israeli air strike

3 Feb. After talks with Iran’s security director Saeed Jalili, Bashar Assad said Sunday, Feb. 3 that Syria was able to confront "current threats… and aggression.” debkafile: They discussed activating the secret mutual defense pact binding Iran, Syria and Hizballah in retaliation for Israel’s reported attack on a Syrian military complex. They took into account a harsh Israeli counter-response in the light of Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s tough warning in Munich that Assad’s fall was imminent and a major blow for Iran and Hizballah.

February 4, 2013 Briefs

  • Iranian FM welcomes Biden’s offer of bilateral dialogue
    Ali Akbar Saleh said Monday he saw US Vice-President Joe Biden's offer of bilateral dialogue between their two countries as a sign of a change in approach to Iran by the Obama administration.
  • Iranian security chief: Israel will regret its aggression against Syria
    Iran's security chief Saeed Jalili told reporters during a visit to Damascus on Monday: "Just like it regretted all its wars… the Zionist entity will regret its aggression against Syria." He was referring to the reported Israeli air strike on a military complex and vehicles near Damascus last Wednesday.
  • Palestinian caught trying to stab Israeli man in Jerusalem
    A Palestinian man from Hebron pulled a knife on an Israeli at the corner of Bar-Lev Haneviim Streets in downtown Jerusalem Monday. Seeing he was spotted, he ran before doing any harm, was chased by police and finally apprehended on Suleiman Street in East Jerusalem.

Assad set on arms transfers to Lebanon. Israel responds with no-fly zone

4 Feb. Syrian ruler Bashar Assad has ordered the resumption of weapons transfers to the Lebanese Hizballah, debkafile reports exclusively, after Israel’s reported air strike last Wednesday, Jan. 30 on the Jamraya military complex near Damascus. He gave this assurance to Iran’s National Security Director Saeed Jalilee when they met Sunday, Feb. 3. Israel is anticipating tricks for smuggling the hardware across to Hizballah by posting round-the-clock air force patrols over the Lebanese-Syrian border for monitoring traffic and exercising control.
Without directly confirming the Israel attack on the Jamraya military compound, defense minister Ehud Barak told the Munich security conference Sunday “…what happened in Syria several days ago… that’s proof that when we said something we mean it… and we say that we don’t think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon.”

February 5, 2013 Briefs

  • Third Iron Dome, Patriot for northern Israel
    The IDF has confirmed that a third Iron Dome anti-missile missile battery and an extra Patriot interceptor have been stationed in northern Israel. debkafile: This week, Syrian ruler Bashar Assad said he was determined to retaliate for the Israel air strike against a military complex near Damascus.
  • Bulgarian probe links Burgas attack to Hizballah
    debkafile found that the terrorist who carried the device was not on a suicide mission. He was on his way to plant it in the bus’s freight hatch when an unknown hand detonated it by remote control killing him, five Israeli tourist and the Bulgarian bus driver.
  • Opening session of 19th Knesset in Jerusalem
    Israel newly-elected parliament held its first sitting in Jerusalem Tuesday. Of the 120 members, 48 newcomers were sworn in by President Shimon Peres, who said in his address that the Knesset does not stand above but represents the people, its mission to serve rather than rule. Doyen of the House, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, ceremonially opened the proceedings as acting Speaker. Both in their speeches emphasized the importance of addressing poverty and narrowing the gaps in Israeli society. The new House has a record number of female lawmakers.
  • Syrian rulers reject opposition conditions for dialogue
    A member of Basshar Assad’s ruling party Fayez Sayegh said dialogue between the Syrian government and its political opponents should start without preconditions. He rejected opposition chief Mouaz al-Khatib’s call to begin by releasing tens of thousands of political prisoners as a first step.

Obama to discuss Iran, Syria during his Israel visit amid spiraling tensions

5 Feb. The day Israel announced the posting of extra Iron Dome and Patriot anti-missile interceptors in its northern regions, Tuesday, Feb. 5, the White House in Washington disclosed that US President Barack Obama would be visiting Israel in the spring. The visit had been discussed when Obama phoned Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Jan. 28 to congratulate him on his success in Israel’s recent election.
The US president was coming to discuss issues of common interest such as furthering the peace process but, said the announcement, “the start of Obama's second term offers an opportunity to reaffirm Israel's close relationship with the US and to discuss major issues like Syria and Iran.”
debkafile translates this as referring to the chemical weapons in the hands of Syria and most likely Hizballah as well and Iran’s nuclear program.
debkafile’s sources report that since last month, Washington and Jerusalem are on the same wavelength on the military actions taken by Israel in Syria last week and those still to come. The US will also back Israel against any reprisals.

Ahmadinejad lands in Cairo 4-6 months before Iran reaches nuclear capacity.

5 Feb. As Israeli parties haggle over a new government coalition, Bashar Assad, backed by Iran and Moscow sits firmly in the saddle and plays hardball with the Syrian opposition. Former military intelligence chief Asher Yadlin says Iran can “achieve nuclear breakout in four to six months.” Ahmadinejad invites Egypt to join Syria, Hizballah and a nuclear Iran for an unbeatable coalition to “solve the Palestinian question” and wipe Israel off the map, so that he can pray on Temple Mount, Jerusalem.

February 6, 2013 Briefs

  • Syrian rebels launch major offensive on Damascus
    Rebel forces were Wednesday night converging on the Syrian capital from three directions, aiming to capture central Damascus, debkafile’s military sources report. They are advancing amid heavy fighting with vast amounts of ammo exchanged by both sides. The rebels have managed to break through in only one place, the main road of the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp, where they are reported to have seized positions.
  • Ahmadinejad: Iran is a nuclear state
    Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in Cairo Wednesday: Iran is now a nuclear power and we invite Egypt to partake of our nuclear knowledge and experience.
  • Kerry calls on world governments to crack down on Hizballah
    In one of his first statements as US Secretary of State, John Kerry singled out “our partners in Europe” for immediate action to crack down on Hizballah. Europe, unlike the US and Israel has refrained from designating Hizballah a terrorist group. He praised Bulgaria for conducting a “thorough and professional investigation” into the Burgas attack six months ago which killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver and determining that the Lebanese Islamist group Hizballah was responsible for a deadly terrorist attack on European soil. EU foreign executive Catherine Ashton said that the bloc was studying the Bulgarian report.

Obama’s visit to Israel for consultation on Iran, Syria – not peace process

6 Feb. US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said US President Barak Obama’s visit to Israel in spring would be for consultation – not demands or conditions – on major issues: preventing a nuclear Iran and the collapse of the Assad regime in Syria. The date will be set after a new Israeli government is in place. . debkafile The coming visit strengthens Netanyahu’s hand in coalition negotiations, especially after Washington and Jerusalem were clearly in close rapport on Israel’s military action in Syria. It has switched the agenda from haggling on domestic issues to establishing a broad security-diplomatic front. Party leaders such as Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) are already muting their demands for joining government.


Khamenei shuts door on direct nuclear talks with US

7 Feb. Iran’s Ali Khamenei closed the door on the direct nuclear talks offered by Vice President Joe Biden, arguing, Thursday, Feb. 7 that they “would solve nothing” because, "You are holding a gun against Iran.” debkafile: He was reacting both to the new sanctions US imposed Wednesday and President Barack Obama’s forthcoming visit Israel to confer with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Iran and Syria.
Biden said Washington was prepared for direct talks with Iran "when the Iranian leadership, supreme leader, is serious."
The US has meanwhile cancelled the departure of a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf due to budget cutbacks. Khamenei's rejection of face-to-face talks does not cancel the international negotiations scheduled to take place in Kazakhstan on Feb. 26. It does, however, render them a more pointless exercise than usual.

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