A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending January 19, 2012
January 13, 2012 Briefs
• Egyptians Muslim Brotherhood and hardline Salafists capture 69% of votes in first post-Mubarak parliamentary ballot.
• The US Bangkok embassy puts out warning of foreign Muslim terrorist threat.
• Khamenei blames American CIA and Israeli Mossad for death of Iranian nuclear scientist.
• British PM Cameron visits Riyadh, meets King Abdullah and Crown Prince Nayef.
• Arab League head fears civil war in Syria with consequences for its neighbors.
US stations two aircraft carriers opposite Iran, 15,000 troops in Kuwait
13 Jan. Thursday, the Russian National Security Adviser Nikolai Patrushev, one of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's closest advisers, said ominously: "We are receiving information that NATO members and some Persian Gulf States working under the 'Libyan scenario' intend to move from indirect intervention in Syria to direct military intervention."
Moscow has consistently spoken out against any foreign intervention in the Syrian conflict – or even tough UN sanctions. Russia's NATO ambassador Dmitry Rogozin has suggested more than once that the West would use a military adventure in Syria as the jumping-off point for an attack on Iran.
January 14, 2012 Briefs
• A French Mirage and Saudi F-15 collided over kingdom's northern region of Tabuk during unannounced exercise. Pilots of both ejected safely.
• Israeli official dismissed as "absolute nonsense" Friday's Foreign Policy report that Mossad agents posed as CIA officers to recruit Pakistani terror group members for assassinations in Iran.
• Qatari Emir is first Arab ruler to urge Arab troop deployment in Syria to stop bloody crackdown.
• Wall Street Journal: US concerned over possible Israeli strike against Iran over US objections.
• Pentagon has stepped up safeguards for US facilities in case of conflict.
• A suicide bombing kills at least 50 people in the Iraqi oil port of Basra.
• US warships in Persian Gulf threatened twice this week by Iranian Guards speedboats.
• Former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei pulls out of Egypt's presidential race.
US acts to hold Israel back from striking Iran
14 Jan. Israel regards the Foreign Policy account accusing Israeli Mossad officers of posing in 2007-2008 as CIA agents to enlist the Pakistani-based Baluchi Jundallah terrorists for covert attacks in Iran, as part of a smear campaign aimed at undermining Israel's credibility for attacking Iran's nuclear facilities.
January 15, 2012 Briefs
• US sends Iran a letter on Hormuz about its threat to close the waterway. Tehran is studying letter and may reply "if deemed necessary".
• Biggest joint US-Israel military exercise postponed from spring 2012.
• Israel's Dep PM Yaalon: US is hesitant over sanctions against Iran's central bank and oil. Military action is the last option but Israel must defend itself, he said.
• Iran warns Arab neighbors against increasing production to replace its embargoed oil.
• The Counter-Terrorism Bureau warns Israelis to stay away from Bangkok as Thai police hunt Hizballah operatives planning attacks on Jews, Israelis.
• Assad issues general amnesty for crimes committed since start of uprising. Tens of thousands of people have disappeared in Syrian prisons and secret centers.
US, Israel in open rift over Iran: Big joint military drill cancelled
15 Jan. US-Israeli discord over Iran went into overdrive Sunday, Jan. 15 when the White House called off Austere Challenge 12, the biggest joint war game the US and Israel have every staged after Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon accused the United States of hesitancy over sanctions against Iran's central bank and oil industry. He said Obama feared a spike in oil prices and Israel must be ready to defend itself.
He stepped into the middle of the argument between the United States and Israel over Obama's refusal to hear of Israeli military action against Iran.
Friday, Jan. 13, the Pentagon consigned nearly 15,000 troops to Kuwait and ordered to two aircraft carriers to stay in the region, to be joined soon by a third. This massive military buildup of US combat power indicates either that President Obama rates the odds of an Israel attack as high and is bolstering the defenses of US military assets against Iranian reprisals – or, alternatively, that the United States intends to beat Israel to the draw and attack Iran itself.
January 16, 2012 Briefs
• Iran's central bank bans foreign currency trading outside banks to stop massive outflow.
• Netanyahu: Sanctions thus far are ineffective and have no influence on Iran's nuclear program. In briefing to Knesset panel, he called for sanctions against its central bank and oil industry.
• PM is third top Israeli official in 48 hours to disparage US measures as falling short of halting Iran's nuclear bomb program.
• Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, El Al websites back to normal after they were hacked by "Nightmare Group" pro-Palestinian hackers linked to Saudi "OxOmar. Hamas welcomes cyber attacks as boosting war on Israel.
• UN: 400 people killed in two weeks since Arab League monitors deployed in Syria.
• Egypt sets April 15 as first date for presidential candidates to register.
Hizballah planned Mumbai-style attack on Habad Bangkok
16 Jan. The Thai police's capture of a Lebanese-Swedish Hizballah suspect thwarted a terrorist attack on Bet Habad in Bangkok, involving the taking of hostages and blowing up the building – on the same lines as al Qaeda's 2008 assault on the Mumbai Habad center which killed 8 Israelis and Jews – only more ambitious. The Habad Bangkok center is much larger with dozens of rooms for guests. A second team was to have hit the Khao San Road restaurants popular with Israelis and Americans. The only suspect in custody led the Thai police to a large cache of explosive materials. His confederates may still be in Thailand waiting for another chance to strike.
January 17, 2012 Briefs
• Obama tells Jordan's Abdullah: Level of violence in Syria is unacceptable. International pressure will continue until Syrian regime steps aside.
• Access to Saudi stock exchange shut down Tuesday by hackers claiming to be Israeli.
• France is offering the Israeli long-range Heron TP drone as its contribution to NATO surveillance program following a deal between Israeli Aerospace Industries and Dassault.
• Israel defense ministry blocks sale to Abu Dhabi of Dominator XP drone system after review deal's contents.
• Israel chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gantz left for Brussels Tuesday to attend NATO meeting.
Joint US-Israel drill called off by Netanyahu – not Washington
17 Jan. debkafile's sources disclose exclusively that – contrary to reports in Washington, Jerusalem – and this site too – it was Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, not the Obama administration, who called off the joint US-Israeli military exercise Austere Challenge 12, a step unprecedented in Israel-US relations. Netanyahu acted when he judged the Obama administration's resolve to preempt a nuclear Iran to be flagging and moving too slowly on tough sanctions. This step also aimed at freeing Israel's hands for a unilateral strike on Iran's nuclear sites – if necessary.
January 18, 2012 Briefs
• Three rockets fired at the Turkish embassy in Baghdad. One hit an outside wall.
• Iran's FM Salehi arrives in Ankara for talks with Turkish leaders, second Iranian official visitor this week.
• Russian FM Lavrov: Attacking Iran's nuclear sites would be catastrophic. Western sanctions aim at regime change in Tehran.
• Israeli aircraft and tanks hit Palestinian terrorist group heading to sabotage Gaza-Israeli border fence. Three Palestinians killed.
• Opposition leader Tzipi Livni announced sets March 27 as date for her Kadima party's leadership primary.
• Israel's Dep PM Moshe Ayalon in London said allegations of Israeli involvement in the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist were "completely baseless". He dismissed UK Dep. PM Clegg's remarks as gratuitous, ill-informed and irresponsible. Clegg called West Bank settlements vandalism.
Al Qods cells head for Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait to hit oil and US targets
18 Jan. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Turkey have alerted Washington to intelligence reports that Iranian Al Qods Brigades operatives are heading their way to blow up oil installations and American targets. They ask how the US intends to respond. For the second time in a week, a US spokesman Washington disclosed Jan 17 that Al Qods commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani secretly visited Damascus to organize arms shipments. debkafile reports: Part of his mission was to synchronize these attacks.
Tehran's reckoning with Ankara covers its consent for a US radar station against Iranian missiles to be stationed in Turkey and its support for the Syrian opposition.
January 19, 2012 Briefs
• Israeli security forces arrest 10 Palestinians in Jenin breaking up a Jihad Islami cell set to launch a terrorist campaign directed from Damascus.
• Lavrov says outside encouragement of anti-government uprisings in ME and North Africa would lead to a very big war in and far from those regions. He was referring to NATO's Libya operation and US support for the Arab Spring.
• Egypt's military ruler Tantawi holds talks with Iraqi defense minister Al Dulaimi on boosting military ties.
• Obama reaffirms he will take every step available to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. He was responding to Republican criticism and 48:33 percent public disapproval of his handling of Iran's nuclear potential.
• At least 9 people injured early Thursday during police evacuation of unauthorized West Bank outpost near Mitzpe Yericho. Six were residents, 3 police officers.
• Safe containing radioactive materials stolen from Egyptian nuclear power station at Dabaa near Alexandria. debkafile: Violent clashes ongoing two weeks at Dabaa site where protesters accuse authorities of seizing their lands.
• Bank of Israel figures confirm consumer prices in Israel are on average 20% higher than Europe.
Netanyahu: Iran has decided to build a nuke. Action needed before it is too late
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Thursday night, Jan. 19 that Iran had reached the decision to become a nuclear power and complete the construction of a nuclear weapon. Netanyahu said action was needed to stop Iran before it is too late. His statement at the end of a visit to Holland gave Gen Martin Dempsey, on his first visit to Israel as Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the message he will be asked to take back to President Barack Obama. It also contradicted Defense Minister Ehud Barak's statement that Tehran had not yet decided to go nuclear.
Gen Dempsey's visit takes place amid a major falling-out between the two governments over the handling of Iran's nuclear weapon potential. debkafile's military and Washington sources confirm that Prime Minister Netanyahu stands by his refusal of President Barack Obama's demand for a commitment to abstain from a unilateral strike on Iran's nuclear sites without prior notice to Washington.