A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending June 12, 2013
June 7, 2013 Briefs
- US drone kills at least 7 in North Waziristan
Three missiles fired by a US drone at a house in the Shawal area of the Pakistani region killed at least seven people shortly after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif swore in his new cabinet. Sharif has kept the portfolios of defense and foreign affairs for himself.
- US Ambassador greets Tel Aviv gay parade
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro conveyed warm wishes from President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and the American people to the gay parade which took place in Tel Aviv Friday. “There’s no better place to celebrate than in Tel Aviv, the friendliest city in the world to the LGBT community,” said the ambassador. “We learned from Israel to let our troops serve in the military without having to hide who they love,” Shapiro added. “We’re not done yet, there is still much to be done.”
- Al Qaeda leader: Syrian rebels must set up caliphate for all-out war on Israel
Ayman Zawahiri, the al Qaeda leader, in his first remarks about the Syrian civil conflict, warned rebel fighters “not to do the West’s work by replacing President Assad with a moderate, democratic government.” Instead, an Islamic caliphate must rise in Syria “to wage all-out war with neighboring Israel.”
- Jalili: Enrichment must reach 100 percent
Leading Iranian presidential candidate Saeed Jalili said Friday” We have to move to a direction that our capacity to enrich [uranium] reaches 100 percent from 5 to 20 percent. Jalili, who is also Iran’s senior negotiator with the six powers on its nuclear program was referring to enrichment up to weapons grade.
Russian troops offered in lieu of Austrian Golan peacekeepers. UN: Thanks but no
7 June. The UN rejected President Vladimir Putin’s offer of Russian peacekeepers Friday, June 7 to replace the Austrian contingent Vienna decided to withdraw from the Golan. debkafile: Putin saw an opportunity to pluck the fruits of his support for the Syrian-Hizballah forces’ successes against rebels, notably at al Qusayr, and place Russian troops face to face with the Israeli army. They would form a barrier against anti-Assad military intervention from Israel. The UN spokesman said Israel-Syrian disengagement agreement precludes permanent Security Council members from serving in UNDOF.
June 8, 2013 Briefs
- Two US soldiers and a civilian killed in Afghan “insider attack”
An Afghan National Army soldier opened fire during lunchtime Saturday at a base in Paktika Province and killed two US soldiers. A second attack by grenade killed an Italian soldier.
- Red Cross evacuates first injured from Qusayr
The Red Cross Saturday began evacuating the hundreds of wounded people from the embattled Syrian town of Qusayr where they were trapped for weeks without medical aid by the fighting between a joint Hizballah-Syrian force and rebels. Wednesday the rebels were defeated.
Putin overrides UN no for Russian troops on Golan
8 June. The Kremlin pointedly disclosed President Vladimir Putin’s chat with Binyamin Netanyahu on Syria Friday June 7 – their third conversation in a month. There was no comment from Jerusalem. debkafile: The frequent communications between the Russian and Israeli leaders speak volumes about who is calling the shots for Syria and the region since the Obama administration opted out. The Kremlin is holding its bid to deploy Russian troops on the Syrian Golan in abeyance – like the S-300 missile interceptors – ready to send them in as back-up for the next Syrian-Hizballah offensive.
Ever the opportunist, the Russian leader has his answer for countering the arrival in Jordan last week of 1,000 American Marines (disclosed exclusively by debkafile on June 5), US Patriot missile interceptors and F-16 fighters, for deployment on the Syrian border.
June 9, 2013 Briefs
- Saudi Arabia warns citizens to leave Lebanon
Riyadh issued the advisory to Saudi nationals to leave Lebanon “due to the deteriorating security situation related to the Syrian conflict.”
- Libyan army chief quits after deadly Benghazi clashes
Libyan army chief of staff Youssef al-Mangoush resigned Sunday after 30 people died and 117 were injured in clashes between protesters and a militia in Benghazi. The post-Qaddafi government has been struggling without success to disband the armed militias running free in the country.
A protester killed outside Iranian embassy in Beirut
A young Lebanese protester was shot dead outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut Sunday while demonstrating against Hizballah's involvement in the fighting in Syria. A firefight broke out between small groups of supporters and opponents of Hizballah.
- Netanyahu to Putin: We can’t leave our security to international forces
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reported to the weekly cabinet Sunday on his conversation with President Vladimir Putin Friday. “We discussed matters relating to Syria,” he said. “The disintegration of the UN Golan force underscores the lesson that Israel cannot entrust its security to international forces.”
- Turkish protest enters second week
Protesters and police clashed in Ankara and Istanbul Saturday night after a week of civil unrest. Police using tear gas and water cannon dispersed the 5,000 demonstrators gathered in Kizilay Square at the center of the capital. In Istanbul, supporters of three rival football clubs set aside their differences to march together to Taksim Square. Earlier, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who returned home Thursday, ruled out early elections.
Syrian rebels clash with Iraqi soldiers. Baghdad bankrolls Assad’s war
9 June. Syrian rebel forces attacked two Iraqi military positions opposite the southern tip of their common border Sunday, June 9 in their first clash in the 28-month war. The Syrian rebels needed to break through Iraqi lines to recover their blocked access to the weapons and fighters Sunni militias of the Western Iraqi Anbar region were sending over. But they failed. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has outdone Hassan Nasrallah in his generosity for propping Assad up by a stream of credit, oil revenues and footing the bills for Assad’s essential imports.
June 10, 2013 Briefs
- Israeli minister: Iran is weeks away from nuclear red line
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said Monday that in just a few weeks, Iran will reach the red line set by Israel on is nuclear development. By Israel’s reckoning, Iran has accumulated 200 kilograms of enriched uranium. With 250 kilograms, Tehran can easily bridge the gap to the 90 percent weapons grade. In the minister’s view, Iran is planning to reach a capacity for manufacturing 30 nuclear bombs per year.
- Syrian army launches Aleppo offensive
debkafile’s military sources report exclusively that the Syrian army has launched its Aleppo offensive dubbed Northern Storm with operations Monday for dislodging rebels from around the big Menagh air base. Hizballah units are stand by as strategic reserve.
- Vienna: Austria starts withdrawing UN peacekeepers Wednesday
An Austrian Defense Ministry official said Monday that the first members of its 377-strong UN contingent on the Golan returning home Wednesday would be support staff.
- Afghan officials: insurgent attack near Kabul airport over
Afghan officials reported that seven gunmen were killed by Afghani security forces in a battle which ended the attack claimed by Taliban on Kabul’s international airport. At least 10 gunmen occupied a five-storey building under construction before dawn Monday for an automatic gun and grenade attack on the airport which also houses a key NATO strategic headquarters.
- Assad serious about opening Golan front against Israel
The Syrian president Bashar Assad told Jordanian opposition politicians Sunday that opening a front on the Golan against Israel was “a serious matter” and would not consist of firing a few improvised rockets. He said, “The resistance will be well-planned and designed to damage the enemy.”
Moscow sets up Russian Golan brigade, warns Israel against Syrian Sunnis
10 June. Moscow is determined to position Russian troops on the divided Golan as part of the UN force policing the separation sector because, said the Russian lawmaker Aleksey Pushkov Monday, June 10, “we cannot exclude… large-scale Syrian-Israel action.” He warned that if Assad was replaced by radical Islamists, he would seem like “an angel from heaven.” He said, “The people who are now offering friendship to Israel would not necessarily see Israel as their partner when they come to power, rather they would see it as an enemy,” Vladimir Shamanov, Russian Airborne Troops chief, disclosed that a new brigade, dubbed “a peacekeeping unit,” had been set up for the Golan and armed with MI-24 combat helicopters. Failing UN sponsorships, Moscow would extend the aegis of the Russian-Asian CSTO pact against terrorism.
June 11, 2013 Briefs
- Putin: Iran adheres to non-proliferation rules, but threats to Israel unacceptable
In a wide-ranging Russia Today TV interview, President Vladimir Putin said he has no doubt that “Iran is adhering to international commitments on nuclear non-proliferation – “because there is no proof of the opposite.” He also said “Tehran cannot ignore regional and international concerns about its nuclear program,” adding “and when we hear … from Iran that Israel could be destroyed, I consider that absolutely unacceptable.”
- Bogdanov: Syria will be destroyed if Geneva-2 fails
This warning came from Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov who said Tuesday: “If the Geneva conference fails, nothing but one scenario will remain: war and Syria’s complete destruction.” He spoke in a joint interview with the Lebanese An-Nahar and Kuwaiti Al-Anba. Bogdanov is the Russian official who last month relayed Moscow’s blessing for Hizballah’s entry to the Syrian war on the side of the Assad regime.
- Russia would consider Snowden asylum request
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia would consider an asylum request from Edward Snowden, who is on the run after leaking information on the US government’s monitoring of Internet use and phone records.
- Two suicide bombers kill 14 in Damascus
At least 14 people were killed, 31 injured, in twin suicide bombings in the busy al-Marjeh Square at the heart of Damascus. One of the explosions took place inside the local police station.
- Syrian Islamist rebels execute 14-year old boy for “blasphemy”
Mohammed Qata. 14, a coffee seller in Aleppo was arrested by Islamist rebel fighters when he reportedly refused to give a customer coffee, saying “Even if [Prophet] Mohammed comes back to life, I won’t.” The opposition Aleppo Media Center reports that his captors brought him back with his body covered in marks from whipping. They then read out the boy’s sentence. In front of a crowd including his parents, Qatta was shot in the mouth and neck as a lesson that anyone who insulted the Prophet would suffer a similar fate. Photos of the dead boy were released Sunday.
Hizballah catches five Hamas fighters in al Qusayr
11 June. Hizballah and Iran have suspended their military and financial ties with the Palestinian Sunni Hamas after discovering its members fighting with Syrian rebels in the al Quseyr battle, debkafile reports exclusively. Hassan Nasrallah ordered their offices in Beirut shut down and Hamas cells expelled from South Lebanon. The regular Iranian stipend was not delivered to the Hamas-ruled government in the Gaza Strip. The discord between the pro-Iran and anti-Syrian factions of Hamas has sharpened.
June 12, 2013 Briefs
- Turkey: Referendum on park possible, but protests must stop
Government spokesman Huseyin Celik said this Wednesday after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan met a delegation of protesters, but many others boycotted the meeting saying the government had handpicked the delegation. Tuesday, riot police moved evacuated Taksim Square, using stun guns and water cannon to clear demonstrators out of the emblematic Istanbul square.
- Shooting incident in West Bank
A Border Guard police jeep came under Palestinian fire early Wednesday at the Jith junction near Ariel on the trans-Samaria highway. No one was hurt. Police scoured the area for the shooters. On Highway 5, the body of an Israeli motorcyclist was found, apparently run over and abandoned. Police are investigating possible Palestinian terrorist crime.
- Israeli, Turkish spy chiefs meet on Syria and Iran
Mossad director Tamir Pardo met secretly with the Turkish intelligence agency’s Hakan Fidan in Ankara on June 10 to swap updates on Syria and review Iranian influence on the embattled country. They also discussed intelligence sharing between their agencies.
Gulf starts expelling Lebanese Shiites over Hizballah’s role in Syria
12 June. Kuwait is the first Gulf emirate to act on the resolution of the recent Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Jeddah to punish Hizballah for its “flagrant intervention in Syria” against “freedom fighters.” The Interior Ministry in Kuwait is about to “end the residency of some 2,000 Lebanese Shiite citizens” and shut down their financial and commercial businesses. debkafile: This forced repatriation of masses of unemployed Shiites will not only be a destabilizing factor in Lebanon but is bound to raise military temperatures between Shiite Iran and the Sunni Gulf. Iran and Hizballah and may activate their sleeper cells for terror attacks in the emirates. The estrangement between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the Arab world is deepening sharply in consequence of the Syrian conflict.