A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending June 6, 2013

June 1, 2013 Briefs

  • An American and a Briton killed in Syrian fighting
    T
    he American was identified as Nicole Lynne Mansfield, 33, a Muslim convert from Flint, Michigan, and the Briton as Ali al-Manasfi, 22 from London, UK. They were killed in the fighting in Syria. A Syrian monitoring group said they were taking photos of military positions on the road between Harim and Idlib when government troops ambushed them.
  • More then 1,000 die in Iraqi May violence
    According to UN figures, more than 1,000 people died in sectarian violence which al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents stepped up in the month of May. They directed their attacks on the Shiite majority and Shiite-led Baghdad government demanding an end to the “marginalization” of the Sunni minority.
  • Turkish police injure more than 1,000 in anti-government demos
    Anti-government riots erupted across Istanbul, Ankara and other Turkish towns Friday night and spread Saturday after police failed to break up a sit-down protest over the uprooting of trees in Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park. More than a 1,000 people were injured by police tear gas and water canon and 80 people arrested. Amnesty and the US condemned the Turkish police for using excessive force against the protesters.
  • Prospects fade for international Syria conference
    Informed circles in Washington and London estimated Saturday that the Geneva international conference for a political solution of the Syrian conflict will be postponed. A British diplomat said that if Geneva doesn’t take off, Britain will start arming the rebels.

June 2, 2013 Briefs

  • Abbas names Palestinian provisional prime minister
    The new provisional prime minister named Sunday by Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas is President of Najah University Rami in Nablus, Hamdallah. debkafile: Hamdallah is not a strong figure who has no political or financial experience in administration large bureaucracies like the Palestinian Authority.
  • Israeli Air Force jets over Beirut
    Israeli warplanes were reported by Lebanese security officials flying over Beirut Sunday after making low passes over other parts of Lebanon.

Israeli Arrow II ready for Syrian missiles. US Patriots for Jordan. Moscow backs Hizballah

2 June.The IDF has disclosed that Israeli Arrow II missile batteries stand ready to intercept Syrian missiles launched against Israel. Israel Air Force Colonel Zvika Haimovich told reporters Friday: “Syrian batteries are in a high state of operability ready to fire at short notice…We have not yet been called into action on the northern front, but I believe we will be.” The US has assigned Patriot interceptors and F-16 warplanes to Jordan. DEBKA reports close coordination between the Israeli Arrow and US Patriots deployments in Jordan and Turkey.
“We are looking at all aspects, from the performance of weaponry to the way the Syrians use it, said the Israeli air force officer. “They have used everything that I am aware exists in their missile and rocket arsenal [against Syrian rebel forces]. They are improving all the time, and so are we… but we need to study and be prepared.” Israel has beefed up its deployment to more than four nationwide batteries for repeated interception.

June 3, 2013 Briefs

  • Gantz: Budget cuts force reduced reservists’ training
    Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz informed the General Command Monday that the operational duties planned for reservist battalions for the rest of the year will have to be cancelled due to budget cuts. Infantry and armored corps reserve brigades will be given priority, while the Home Command will face reduced training time. The Engineering and Artillery Corps will confne its courses to basic training.
  • Erdogan says “foreign powers” behind Turkish protests
    Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters Monday that Turkish intelligence is looking into possible links between the incidents in Taksim Square and foreign powers. He accused foreign actors of being behind the [Taksim Square protests]. “It is not possible to reveal their names. But we will have meetings with their heads,” said Erdoğan.
  • Iraq: Consequences if Israel flies over to strike Iran
    Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shaharstani cautioned Israel Monday not to use Iraqi air space for an attack on Iran – or there would be consequences. He did not spell them out.

Gulf sources: Ahmadinejad, Jalili “accidents” were attempted assassinations

3 June. Twelve days before Iran’s presidential election, stubborn rumors were making the rounds that two “accidents” which took place Sunday, June 2, were in fact attempts on the lives of outgoing Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a leading presidential hopeful, Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. Both escaped unhurt. The rumors pointed the finger of suspicion at supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or his underlings in the wake of a secret Ahmadinejad-Jalili deal for the former to be awarded the vice presidency if the latter won.
On May 26, debkafile’s Iranian sources reported that Khamenei had warned the president that if he did not stop his intrigues for delaying the election, he might not survive a “road accident.”

June 4, 2013 Briefs

  • Cracks in structure of Iran’s only nuclear reactor
    The earthquakes which struck Iran in April and May left cracks several meters long in one concrete section of the Bushehr nuclear reactor, according to foreign diplomats monitoring Iran’s nuclear program. The damage was not visible around the highly reactive reactor core, they said.
  • White House: French Sarin report in Syria uncorroborated
    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday that lab tests on samples taken from unspecified locations in Syria had shown the presence of sarin in various locations. The results were referred to the UN.
    White House Spokesman Jay Carney commented in answer to a reporter’s question: France too says more work needs to be done to establish who used the poison gas and the circumstances around it. “We need to expand the evidence and have it corroborated before we make any decisions.”
    In a new report, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon detailed evidence of "sickening and staggering" Syrian war atrocities – massacres, sieges and violations of children's rights. Children have been taken hostage, forced to watch torture and even participate in beheadings, says the report.
  • Putin says S-300s not yet sent to Syria
    Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia hasn’t yet fulfilled a contract to send sophisticated S-300 air defense missiles to Syria. But he defended the deal saying it isn’t against international law. This left open Moscow’s option for delivering the S-300 missiles to Syria in the future.
  • Turkish government apologizes for police violence
    The government in Ankara apologized Tuesday to people wounded in protests rallies and blamed police for sparking the initial clashes. Two people have been killed as the unrest entered its fifth day. In Istanbul’s Taksim Park, a young protester was run over and killed by a car while a second was shot dead by an unknown assailant in a rally near the Turkish-Syrian border. Trade unions representing 250,000 public sector employees started a two-day strike Tuesday to protest police violence.
  • New US sanctions target Iranian currency
    New US sanctions on Iran target its currency and car industry, stepping up pressure over Tehran's nuclear program. An executive order by President Barack Obama on Monday authorized sanctions on foreign financial institutions that make transactions in the rial currency or keep accounts denominated in the rial outside the country.

Battle for Damascus is over. Is Israel intelligence too slow on Syrian war?

4 June. When Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon informed a Knesset panel Monday, June 3 that Syrian rebels still occupied four Damascus districts, debkafile’s intelligence sources reported the battle for the Syrian capital was all but over. Barring small pockets of resistance, Bashar Assad’s army had regained control of the city. The Russian and Iranian transports bringing replenishments for keeping the Syrian army fighting can again land at Damascus airport after months of rebel siege.
Senior IDF officers criticized the defense minister’s briefing on Syria to a Knesset panel Monday as drawing on flawed intelligence which, they feared, must lead to faulty decision-making.
For instance, while focused on making sure that advanced missiles and chemical weapons don’t reach Hizballah, Israel missed Hizballah militia units when they first streamed into Syria. Now they are getting read to reach the Israeli border through the southern Syrian Horan province.

June 5, 2013 Briefs

  • Turkish protest casualty figure mounts to 4,100 – 43 serious
    Medical authorities in Turkey reported Wednesday that more than 4,100 people had been injured and two killed in the five days of riotous demonstrations across the country. They include 43 in serious condition.
  • Syrian jets blast Syrian rebels fleeing Al Qusayr
    Western sources report that Syrian aerial bombardments are decimating the rebels in flight from al-Qusayr after its capture by Syrian army and Hizballah units Wednesday. Many are being killed. Syrian troops have denied medical teams access to the 1,200 wounded trapped in the town by the fighting.
  • Two Syrian shells explode on Israeli Golan
    The shells landed on open ground near an IDF army post in the central Golan. No one was hurt and there was no damage. The explosions were heard across the enclave.
  • Samantha Power new US Ambassador to UN
    Samantha Power, a National Security Council official, was named by President Barack Obama US ambassador to the United Nations. She replaces Susan Rice, who takes over from Tom Donilon as White House National Security Adviser. debkafile: Power is reputed to be one of Israel’s strongest opponents in the US administration.
  • Obama replaces security adviser Donilon with Susan Rice
    President Barack Obama Wednesday announced the resignation of Tom Donilon as national security adviser and replacement by Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice. Republicans forced Rice, 48, to withdraw from the running as foreign secretary over her statements on the Benghazi attack in which al Qaeda murdered four US diplomats. Her appointment, which does not require Senate approval, will strongly antagonize the Republican side of the house.

Large US Marine force lands in Aqaba for Syrian border

5 June. A large American military force disembarked early Wednesday, June 5, at the southern Jordanian port of Aqaba – ready for deployment on the kingdom’s Syrian border, debkafile reports. The force was to head north along the Aqaba-Jerash-Ajilon mountain road under heavy Jordanian military escort. The 1,000-strong 26th Marine Expeditionary Force unit, the largest the US has deployed in Jordan, was carried aboard the USS Kearsage amphibious assault ship.
Their arrival is not directly related to the annual joint US-Jordanian exercise. Jordan has asked the US force to leave its weapons systems behind when the exercise ends.

June 6, 2013 Briefs

  • Austria to pull its unit from UN Golan force
    The Austrian government decided Thursday to withdraw its 380 troops from the UN peacekeeping force policing the Golan separation zone between Syria and Israel. During the day shellss from the battle between Syrian troops and rebels around Quneitra exploded in the UN camp.
  • Israel’s forces reinforced along Syrian Golan border
    Reinforcements were sent to Israel’s Golan border with Syria Thursday as fighting around Quneitra raged between Syrian troops and rebels. Two Syrian missiles landed on Israeli Golan Thursday. The IDF declared the area around the Quneitra crossing a closed military area and prevented farmers and other locals from reaching their fields. At the same time, Israel admitted injured Syrian rebels at the Quneitra crossing and transferred them to hospital.

The al Qusayr debacle for the West and Israel. Aftershocks in Lebanon, Golan and Gaza Strip

6 June. Assad’s al Qusayr victory Wednesday, June 6, presented the US, Israel and the Western alliance with a major strategic debacle; they paid the price of leaving the Syrian-Hizballah military machine orchestrated by Iranian officers a clear field. In contrast, a broad alliance of Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hizballah helped Bashar Assad turn the tide of war and seize the initiative. The Syrian-Hizballah machine is already geared up to capitalize on its success and trample Aleppo and southern Syria. Israel is next in its sights. Palestinian leaders will not sit down for peace talks when they see Israel threatened from two fronts, Gaza and the Golan.
Syria’s Druzes, sheltering from the conflict in their Jebel Druze mountain villages, were given an ultimatum by Hizballah to proclaim their loyalty to Bashar Assad or face attack – with repercussions of Lebanon’s Druze community.
Hamas leaders in Gaza are under pressure to turn away from their ties with Turkey and Qatar and renew the military pacts with Iran and Hizballah.

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