A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending June 20, 2013

No US intervention against Assad’s decisive Aleppo operation

13 June. The eagerly-awaited White House statement on President Barack Obama’s decision to extend military support to the Syrian rebels was seen by debkafile as his final rejection of the proposals put before him to intervene militarily in Syria – despite the urgency of action to thwart the Syrian-Hizballah offensive to capture Aleppo. The US president also turned down a limited no-fly zone plan which would have entailed no more than 20 US and Turkish fighter bombers for depriving the Syrian Aleppo offensive of air support. Our military sources say the fall of Aleppo and Idlib would make Bashar Assad the winner of the 28-month Syrian civil war, just when its death toll nears 100,000 according to official figures.

June 14, 2013 Briefs

  • Ya’alon: Even if Assad falls, Syria will be left in chaos
    “We can’t see any conclusion to the current situation with or without Assad,” said Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Friday. “The worst outcome is a chaotic solution,” said the minister. “But we can manage it.”
  • Israel-Turkish intelligence dialogue revived
    debkafile: The meeting between the two spy chiefs, Mossad director Tamir Pardo and Turkish intelligence agency’s Hakan Fidan in Ankara on June 10, marked the revival of the strategic intelligence cooperation between the two bodies after three years’ interruption. They traded general assessments on the war in Syria and reviewed Iranian influence on the embattled country.
  • US: 100-150 died in Syria in attacks using sarin
    US intelligence estimates that 100-150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks used “on a small scale” by Syrian government forces, according to a White House statement early Friday.White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Obama had decided to provide military support for the Syrian opposition following the use of chemical weapons by the Assad government.

June 15, 2013 Briefs

  • Egypt breaks off relations with Damascus
    President Mohamed Morsi said Saturday night that Egypt had decided to break off ties with the current regime in Syria, close its embassy in Cairo and recall Egypt’s charge d’affaires, after his party, the Muslim Brotherhood denounced Hizballah’s intervention in Syria and backed calls for a Jihad there.
  • Turkish police round up Al Qaeda-linked Syrian Al Nusra terrorists
    In raids in Istanbul and southern cities near the Syrian border, Turkish police Friday arrested 12 members of al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Al Nusra Front. Found in their possession were four and a half pounds of sarin nerve gas, hand guns, grenades, bullets and documents for what the Turkish daily Zaman reported was a bomb attack on the Turkish town of Adana.

Hizballah units near Golan. Some armed with limited-use chemicals

15 June. The Obama administration and Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on a visit to Washington backed away Friday, June 14, from any effective response to the Syrian ruler’s proven use of chemical weapons against rebel forces. American sources claimed Saturday, June 15, that the “military support” the Obama administration promised the Syrian opposition Friday consisted of automatic weapons, mortars and recoilless rocket grenades (RPGs) for delivery within three weeks through Turkey.
Those items, say debkafile’s military sources, are no more than a mockery of the rebels’ needs, especially when every few hours Russian and Iranian air transports deliver military equipment to cover the ongoing war requirements of the Syrian army and Hizballah.
Those sources meanwhile report Hizballah and Syrian army movements were detected heading toward the Golan and the Jordanian border from the military concentrations building up in the last two weeks around the nearby town of Deraa. They also reported that Hizballah has been awarded “limited-use” chemical weapons.

Guards will fight Iran’s new president on nuclear issue

15 June. Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei views Hassan Rouhani’s election as president as the opening for a more flexible approach on Iran’s nuclear controversy with the West. debkafile: Rouhani’s first task will be to draft a detailed plan setting boundaries for Iranian concessions to obtain the partial lifting of sanctions and restore the flow of oil revenues to the country’s empty coffers. This will bring the president-elect head on head with the Revolutionary Guards, who are already rumored in Tehran to be plotting his removal by a military putsch.

June 16, 2013 Briefs

  • “Price Tag” movement deemed an illegal association
    The cabinet Sunday authorized Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to exercise his authority under emergency regulations to prosecute activists of the Jewish group calling itself “Price Tag” as members of an illegal association rather than terrorists. This decision gives the Shin Bet and police extra intelligence-gathering and investigative tools for bringing those activists to book. They are suspected of avenging Palestinian terrorist actions against Israelis by vandalizing Palestinian property on the West Bank and Muslim and Christian institutions in Israel.
  • Erdogan flies 1,000 riot police into Istanbul
    They were gathered in from remote regions of Turkey, beefed up by military police, and deployed at strategic points in the city, including the Bosphorus Bridge, to prevent protesters from reassembling. The protesters are now looking for a new rallying site.
  • Netanyahu: World must step up sanctions pressure on Iran
    In his first comment on Hassan Rouhani’s election as president of Iran, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned the international community Sunday against “wishful thinking” about Iran’s nuclear program and advised testing Iran by its deeds. He pointed out that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the ultimate authority on all state security policy decisions, including nuclear projects. The world must increase its pressure on Tehran, Netanyahu urged, to end its nuclear program which is the biggest threat to world peace as well as an existential threat to Israel.

June 17, 2013 Briefs

  • UN watchdog chief: Sanctions have not slowed Iran’s nuclear progress
    Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Monday that Iran is making steady progress in expanding its nuclear program – despite international sanctions that do not seem to be slowing it down.
  • Ya’alon concerned West may ease sanctions on Iran
    Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon voiced concern Monday that the West will be gulled by the election of Hassan Rouhani as president to lift sanctions on Iran while its nuclear program remains active. He spoke at Le Bourget when he opened the Israeli pavilion at the French air show.
  • Rouhani: Iran will not halt enrichment. Party over?
    Iran’s president-elect Hassan Rouhani said in his first speech that Iran will not stop uranium enrichment as demanded by the world powers – only make its nuclear program more transparent. debkafile: Rouhani opened the bargaining with the world powers over which parts of Iran’s program would be make transparent. This debate could go on for months, if not years.
  • US: Iran must come clean on its illicit nuclear program
    Presdient Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough said Sunday that Hassan Rouhani’s election as president of Iran was a potentially hopeful sign. “If he is interested in, as he has said in his campaign events, mending his relations… with the rest of the world – there’s the opportunity to do that. But doing so would require Iran “to come clean on its illicit nuclear program.”

Putin will address G8 summit as head of winning Syrian war camp

17 June. The conditions Vladimir Putin will lay down for a G8 consensus on Syria are that Bashar Assad remains in power in any political solution and Iran is part of that solution. He will address the summit opening Monday in Northern Ireland in the interests of his allies, Bashar Assad, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Hassan Nasrallah and demand that the summit acknowledge them as winners of the war. Putin will block any attempt by Barak Obama to use the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president to counter those successes.

June 18, 2013 Briefs

  • Putin warns West to stop sending arms to rebels
    After the G8 summit issued its final communiqué Tuesday, including the controversial Syrian clause, Vladimir Putin cautioned the West that if arms shipments to the rebels (disclosed exclusively by debkafile Tuesday) continue, Moscow will consider transacting more arms deals with the Assad regime.
  • G8 leaders bow to Putin on Syria
    The final communiqué released Tuesday by the two-day G8 summit in Northern Ireland bowed to President Vladimir Putin’s demand to drop any reference to Bashar Assad’s ouster. The seven-part Syrian section called for a diplomatic effort to bring the warring sides to the negotiating table; the convening of Geneva-2 for a political solution; to leave no regime vacuum in Damascus; to cleanse Syria of chemical weapons and terrorist elements; to form a new government representing the consensus of all parts of Syrian society; and to set up a $1.5 million refugee aid fund.

Deep freeze on Syria in Obama-Putin meeting

18 June. Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin ended their meeting at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland Monday night with grudging courtesy. Obama said the meeting was “very useful.” But both side agreed that they were at odds on the key issues, such as whether Assad should step down and arms supplies to the rebels. Putin agreed they would both try and push the warring parties to the negotiating table, but they failed to agree on the make-up of a conference.

Lavrov: Iran agrees to halt 20-percent uranium enrichment

18 June. Iran confirms it is prepared to halt enrichment of 20-percent uranium, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reported Tuesday, June 18. He urged Western nations to reciprocate by lifting sanctions. debkafile: It was not clear whether this is a temporary or absolute stoppage – or a dodge for getting sanctions eased to help the new Iranian president find his economic feet. Jerusalem was not convinced by Lavrov’s positive slant on this development because Iran has already accumulated enough low-grade 5.3 percent uranium for rapid conversion to 20 percent.

First European and NATO heavy arms for Syrian rebels

18 June. In the last 48 hours, two European nations and NATO have airlifted to the Syrian rebels shipments of the long-demanded anti-air and anti-tank missiles as well as recoilless 120 mm cannons mounted on jeeps. They landed in Turkey and Jordan and were transferred to southern Syria and Aleppo, where Syrian rebels are poised to fend off a major Syrian army offensive backed by 2,000 Hizballah troops. Accordingly, the Obama-Putin meeting went badly at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland. Widely expected Russian reprisals portend a longer Syrian war.

June 19, 2013 Briefs

  • The mysterious rocket (s) fired at Ashkelon
    Three Grad rockets were first reported to have been fired from the Gaza Strip at Ashkelon early Wednesday causing no harm. In the next report, they had shrunk to a single Qassam which landed in Hof Ashkelon outside the town. It was finally transmuted into an unspecified type of projectile which exploded in neither place but inside Gaza Strip.
  • Four US troops die in attack on Afghan Bagram air base
    The four American soldiers were killed by “indirect fire” on the big Bagram air base early Wednesday, hours after Taliban’s consent to direct peace talks with the US was announced, and the day after Afghan forces took over security responsibility from NATO.
  • A suicide bomber killed 34 people at a Pakistan funeral
    The victims including a provincial lawmaker were attending a funeral in the Mardan district of the restive Pakhtunkhwa province for a local petrol station owner who was shot dead by unknown gunmen. Another 52 people were injured.

Russian marine and air power head for Syria

19 June. Just one day after Western leaders at the G8 summit failed to ram past Vladimir Putin a resolution mandating President Bashar Assad’s ouster, Moscow announced Wednesday June 19, that two warships carrying 600 Russian marines were heading for Syria "to protect the Russian citizens there." Russian Deputy Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Gradusov said an air force umbrella would be provided if needed. debkafile: Moscow’s pretext thinly disguises the flexing of Russian muscle against continuing Western arms supplies to the Syrian rebels. Incoming Russian air power will impede the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria.

June 20, 2013 Briefs

  • Lebanese President: Hizballah must pull out of Syria
    Lebanese President Michel Sleiman Thursday demanded that Hizballah withdraw from the Syrian conflict. If they take part in the battle for Aleppo, he said, many Hizballah fighters will be killed and it will lead to more tension in Lebanon.
  • Saudis start deporting pro-Hizballah Lebanese and Shiites
    Saudi ambassador to Beirut Ali Awad Assiri said Thursday that Lebanese citizens who support Hizballah will be deported over the group’s role in the Syrian civil war.
  • The IDF ends a major war exercise against Syrian or Hizballah attack
    All IDF ground, sea and air units, including tanks forces, took part in the almost secret exercise from Sunday to Thursday against a massive Syrian missile assault on Tel Aviv. It was synchronized with the US-Jordan Eager Lion maneuver now its second week.
  • US-Taliban Afghanistan peace talks are delayed
    The Afghanistan peace talks between the US and the Taliban scheduled to start Thursday in Doha, Qatar, were put off after an angry Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded a leading role in the negotiations.
  • Russia to send S300 missiles to Syria – after all
    Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow will honor its controversial contract to delilver S-300 air defense missiles to the Assad government.
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