A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Jan. 16, 2014
Ariel Sharon, Israel’s 11th prime minister, dies aged 85
11 Jan. A commanding and controversial figure in Israel’s military and political history, Ariel Sharon, Israel’s 11th prime minister, born on Feb. 26, 1928, died Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. A victorious, innovative and often maverick general, whose power-motivated, divisive style in politics won him the eponym of “bulldozer.” A hawk and early champion of Jewish settlement, he underwent a remarkable transformation in 2005 to orchestrate Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip against stiff party and popular opposition. His last eight years were spent in a stroke-induced coma from which he never recovered.
January 12, 2014 Briefs
- White House: Iran starts eliminating high-grade uranium stocks Jan. 20
“Beginning January 20th, Iran will for the first time start eliminating its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium and dismantling some of the infrastructure that makes such enrichment possible,” the White House said. Under the landmark deal reached in November, Iran will also halt parts of its enrichment program for six months in exchange for modest relief from international sanctions.
January 13, 2014 Briefs
- Kerry, Lavrov seek “localized truce” in Syria ahead of Geneva 2
Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov agreed in Paris Monday to try and bring about a localized truce beginning in Aleppo, and other preparatory steps in Syria before the Geneva 2 conference starts in Montreux, Switzerland on Jan. 22.
- Israeli Air Force strikes terrorist targets in Gaza, Southern on alert
A Jihad Islami position in central Gaza was struck by the Israeli Air Force Monday after two Palestinian rockets were fired at the Shear Hanegev district minutes after the funeral of the late prime minister Ariel Sharon at his farm in the vicinity.
- Late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is laid to rest
Ariel Sharon, Israel’s 11th Prime Minister, was laid to rest with full military honors Monday on a hill near his farm in southern Israel, alongside his late wife Lily. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. General Benny Gantz delivered the eulogy. The coffin was borne by eight major-generals. The ceremony, conducted by the military rabbinate, was attended by Israel’s top officials, representatives of 22 foreign countries led by Vice President Joe Biden, and members of the bereaved Sharon family. One after another, each laid wreaths at the new grave. Due to its proximity to the Gaza Strip, an Iron Dome missile interceptor was deployed near the site, while 800 police officers secured the assembled dignitaries. About two or three hundred members of the general public turned out as spectators.
US agrees to separate Iran’s nuclear issues for its regional conduct
13 Jan. The US and Iran have agreed to treat Tehran’s regional policies as separate from nuclear diplomacy and so prevent obstacles which such opponents as Saudi Arabia and Israel may raise. Monday, Jan. 14, senior US sources admitted: “The US and Iran have sought to insulate the nuclear negotiations from the tensions over Iran’s regional policies.” On the Syrian issue, governments near and far will attend Geneva 2, but Israel is not invited, although events in next-door Syria and Lebanon directly impinge on its security. Sharon would not have taken this snub lying down.
January 14, 2014 Briefs
- Israeli Air Force, Technology and Logistics exercise
The Israeli Air Force and the IDF’s Technology and Logistics section conducted an exercise Tuesday, for which hundreds of reservists were called up. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz took part in a meeting of the Air Force’s Operational Forum and visited the IAF base at Ramat David for a situation assessment with commanders. The Army Spokesman said the drill was part of the annual air force exercise routine.
- Turkey detains al Qaeda suspects in six cities
Turkish anti-terrorism police carried out raids in six cities on Tuesday, detaining at least five people with alleged links to al-Qaeda, including an employee of a prominent Islamic charity group that provides aid to Syria, media reports and officials said.
- The EU conceals nuclear implementation agreement with Iran
The text of an agreement reached Sunday to implement the interim nuclear deal with Iran is not available to the public because the European Union is not releasing it, the White House says. Asked to explain why this is so, the EU foreign policy spokesman Michael Mann said that he will “have to ask about that.”
- Nuclear watchdog visit to Tehran postponed
Tehran postponed without explanation to Feb. 8 an inspection visit to Tehran by the UN nuclear agency monitors scheduled for next week.
- Three Palestinian noes on peace deal
The Palestinians stand by their refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, their opposition to a united Jerusalem, and their uncompromising demand to restore Palestinian refugees to Israeli soil. Arab foreign ministers meeting in Paris Monday seconded the Palestinian refusals, turning down, Secretary of State John Kerry appeal for cooperation.
Biden refuses to level with Israel on nuclear accord with Iran. Tehran denies dismantling its program
14 Jan. US Vice President Joe Biden when he met Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday night, Jan. 13, refused to disclose details of agreements which the Americans claimed were reached by the six powers and Iran in their talks earlier this week on the implementation of their first-stage Geneva accord. This is reported by debkafile. It was the first time US President Barack Obama personally vetoed a briefing to Israel on the content of the international nuclear negotiations he instigated – notwithstanding his private and public pledges to Israel of “full transparency.” This refusal signaled a further sharp decline in US-Israeli strategic relations.
At the same time, Tehran contradicted as “misleading” the White House statement purporting an agreement with Iran to start dismantling its enrichment infrastructure on Jan. 20.
January 15, 2014 Briefs
- Western agencies discuss fighting jihadis in secret talks with Assad
British, Spanish, German and French intelligence officials have recently visited Damascus on the quiet for talks with Bashar Assad on mutual approaches for combating jihadists. These were the first visits and meetings with Assad by Western officials in two years.
- Kerry undeterred by Ya’alon’s remarks
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday he would not let criticism of his Middle East peace efforts attributed to Israel's defense minister deter him from trying to achieve a framework Israeli-Palestinian deal. "We just can't let one set of comments undermine that effort, and I don't intend to because the status quo is untenable," Kerry told a news conference in Kuwait.
Ya’alon apologizes for personally offending Kerry, but does not recant
15 Jan. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was forced to apologize Tuesday night, Jan. 14, for private remarks about Secretary of State John Kerry, showing how far Israel has fallen as a strategic asset for the Obama administration, compared with the new favorite. Only this week, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi said the US President was not telling the truth in stating that Iran would dismantle a key part of its nuclear program. The White House response: Never mind what the Iranians say; it’s what they do that matters – a freedom evidently denied Israel.
Ya’alon was rebuked for grumbling that US Secretary of State John Kerry pursued the oft-stalled Israel-Palestinian peace talks out of “a misplaced obsession and messianic fervor” and dismissing the US security plan as “not worth the paper it was written on.” debkafile: Israel’s military leaders see Kerry dictating to Israel what Washington thinks is best for Israeli security in terms of American interests, but this does not fit Israel’s perception. Ya’alon brought this gap out in the open.
January 16, 2014 Briefs
- Netanyahu on unannounced visit to Jordan
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu arrived in Amman Thursday for talks with King Abdullah on the peace talks ongoing with the Palestinians. debkafile adds: Netanyahu also inquired about the visit Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif paid to Amman this week.
- Iron Dome saves Ashkelon from Gaza missile barrage
The Iron Dome rocket defense system intercepted five rockets fired by Palestinians from Gaza at Ashkelon early Thursday morning. There were no injuries. The Israeli air force retaliated with strikes on four terrorist sites in Gaza, including facilities for weapons manufacture. Palestinian rockets were last fired into Israel shortly after the Ariel Sharon funeral Monday.
- Suicide car attack on another Hizballah stronghold
A suicide car ripped through the eastern Lebanese Shiite town of Hermel, a Hizballah stronghold on the Syrian border, killing at least five people and wounding more than 26. The huge blast hit the local center of government where Hizballah maintains its eastern headquarters. debkafile: Hizballah’s surface missile stocks are also maintained In the Hermel district.
Same plane delivers Iranian and Syrian foreign ministers in Moscow to meet Putin
16 Jan. Iran’s Javad Zarif and Syria’s Walid Moallem disembarked in Moscow from the same flight out of Damascus. They went straight into a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, following Zarif’s consultation with Bashar Assad and a government-building exercise in Beirut. debkafile: Iran is acting out a new division of tasks agreed with the US and Russia, which allots Iran the role of senior Middle East power for setting up political deals with local leaders, fixing disputes, and presenting the results to Putin for approval. He sends them on to the White House.