A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending March 1, 2012
Feb. 24, 2012 Briefs
• Israeli PM’s office: New IAEA report reaffirms accuracy of Israeli assessment that Iran has expanded uranium enrichment and tripled its stockpile in four months.
• Two Palestinian missiles fired from Gaza fourth night running. No casualties or damage.
• One Palestinian killed, 6 injured, by Israeli army fire Friday night in Kalandia, north of Jerusalem against rioters.
• Six Palestinians injured, one seriously, in clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem village of Issawiya.
• At least 11 Israeli policemen injured by rocks thrown by Palestinians on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount Friday.
• Iranian Defense Minister Vahidi: Zionists make a lot of noise but their war rhetoric is “ridiculous.” Any move against Iran will put an end to the Zionist regime’s existence.
Feb. 25, 2012 Briefs
• NATO command recalls all personnel from Afghan ministries after two US officers, a colonel and a major, shot dead inside Interior ministry in Kabul Saturday.
• British embassy withdraws military and civilian advisers from institutions in Kabul.
• US-Chinese trade insults: Clinton blasted Russian and China as “despicable” for blocking UN Syria vote. Chinese news agency: US and Europe harbor "hegemonistic ambitions" in Syria and hide a dagger behind a smile.
• US National Intelligence chief James Clapper holds talks in Israel under total blackout. Friday he met PM Netanyahu.
Red Cross corridor to Homs marks onset of foreign intervention in Syria
25 Feb. Under US, European, Turkish and Arab protection, the first Red Cross convoys reached Homs Friday, Feb. 24. They began evacuating injured victims and bringing medical aid to the city bombarded for three weeks by Bashar Assad’s troops – and opened the door to foreign intervention in the Syrian crisis. debkafile reports exclusively that Washington and Ankara warned Assad through confidential channels that if he interfered in this emergency route, US and Turkish warplanes would fly in from East Turkey with air cover.
The next day, the Red Cross was denied safe access to Homs, putting a stop to the evacuation effort.
US President Barack Obama said the International community must continue sending the message to Syria’s president to step down, and “use every tool available to prevent the slaughter of innocents. It is time for a transition and time for that regime to move on.”
Feb. 26, 2012 Briefs• Baku: Deal signed for sale of $1.6 bn worth of Israel Aerospace Industries drones, air and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan. Last week, Azeris uncovered large Iranian-Hizballah terror network. They faced Iranian demand to prevent Mossad launching anti-Iranian operations from their country.
• Israel, Greece, Cyprus secretly building large Israeli military base in S. Cyprus, says Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Erogulu. debkafile’s sources: 5,000 Israeli personnel to be posted there including special ops, air and naval forces.
• Red Cross still unable to enter Homs’ Baba Amr district. Negotiations with Damascus continue as well as bombardments. Two Western journalists remain stranded there. Bodies of two dead Western correspondents still not evacuated.
• Seven US troops injured in grenade attack on their base in Kunduz, Afghanistan over Koran burnings.
To draw Iran into talks, Obama keeps Assad in power
26 Feb. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal marched out of the Friends of Syria conference in Tunis Friday, Feb. 24, after it fell in behind US plans for avoiding direct action against Syria’s Bashar Assad. Riyadh accuses Washington of reducing Assad’s butchery to the level of a humanitarian issue to save his regime and keep Iran on track for nuclear negotiations.
When Tuesday, Feb. 21, UN inspectors arrived in Tehran, they were certain of being admitted to Parchin – only to run into their second Iranian refusal this month. But Obama the eternal optimist has not given up. He is treating Tehran’s latest spell of intransigence as no more than a hiccup in the run-up to parliamentary elections after which Khamenei will revert to the negotiating track.
The Saudis accuse the US and Russia through their different polices of granting the Syrian ruler a license to keep on massacring his people. Netanyahu is likewise opposed to the Obama administration’s interconnected policies on Syria and Iran. His White House meeting with Obama on March 5 is not expected to put this dispute to rest.
Syrian-based Russian electronic station upgraded to warn Iran of attack
27 Feb. The upgrading and interconnection of two Russian equipped Middle East electronic and surveillance stations – on Jabal Al Harrah south of Damascus opposite Israel’s Sea of Galilee, and on Lebanon’s Mt. Sannine – have been tailored by Moscow to give Tehran early warning of a US or Israeli attack, debkafile reports. The two facilities now cover all of Israel and Jordan, the Gulf of Aqaba and northern Saudi Arabia, as well as US and Israeli naval and aerial Mediterranean movements up to Cyprus and Greece.
According to our sources, the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kutznetsov’s stay at the Syrian port of Tartus through most of January and up to mid-February had the special mission of keeping an eye out for any Israeli preparations for attacking Iran, Syria or Hizballah.
Feb. 28, 2012 Briefs
• Dempsey denies counseling Israel against attacking Iran. His talks with Israeli leaders were about the time issue. Asked whether a US military strike was off the table, he said “Absolutely not.”
• President Sarkozy retracts confirmation that Edit Bouvier is safe although British correspondent Paul Conroy was smuggled out to Lebanon Tuesday. debkafile: British and French special operations forces were responsible for the escape.
• Justice Asher Grunis is new Israeli Supreme Court President. Justice Dorit Bainisch ends her term of office as first woman president.
• US forces now manning new radar site in Turkey, Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, US Army commander in Europe, discloses.
• Netanyahu: Oil prices will skyrocket and strangle world economy if Iran gains control of Persian Gulf energy sources.
• New Syrian constitution keeps Bashar Assad in power until 2028.
• Venezuela will keep Syria supplied with fuel
• Armed clash on Israel-Egypt border. At least one gunman killed Monday night in firefight with Israeli special ops troops on Route 12, near spot where two bombs were defused last week. debkafile: Hamas bribes Bedouin up to $150 to toss bombs over the border.
• Monday’s Syrian deal toll rises to 140 – mostly in Homs. Red Cross was unable to evacuate the bodies of two journalists killed by Syrian shelling or two wounded reporters.
• Vahidi: Syria and Lebanon main anti-Zionist resistance fronts.
• Legendary Nazi-fighter Beate Klarsfeld, 73, runs for German presidency.
US-Israel intelligence Iran update for Obama-Netanyahu summit
28 Feb. US and Israeli government officials agreed in their recent talks to join forces on a reevaluation of their pooled intelligence on the state of the Iranian nuclear weapon program and to present their conclusions to President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at their White House meeting March 5. In Tehran, reports like the AP claim that Israel might be allowed to use US bases in the region from which to attack Iran are treated as more US-Israeli exercises in deception.
February 29, 2012 Briefs• US and North Korea agree to moratoria on uranium enrichment and nuclear and ballistic missile programs, to be verified and monitored by UN inspectors, for 240,000 metric tons of food aid. The Yongbyon nuclear reactor to be dismantled.
• Iran accepts gold for oil instead of dollars.
• Wounded French journalist is back in Homs. The vehicle smuggling Edith Bouvier, who has a broken leg, out of Homs to safety was forced to return to Baba Amr by Syrian security forces attack.
• Unemployment in Israel drops to 32-year low of 5.6 percent.
• Syrian death toll spiraled past 100 civilians a day, more than 7,500 in all in 11 month uprising. Homs, Idlib and Hama are the worst hit.
• Seven American pr-democracy activists are allowed to leave Egypt, so easing a serious crisis in Egyptian-US relations. The other nine had quietly left already.
Obama rules out military intervention in Syria
29 Feb. US President Barack Obama Tuesday, Feb. 28, vetoed plans submitted to him last week for Western-Arab military intervention to stop it, debkafile reports. He is weighing an alternative plan for setting up “humanitarian corridors” in the most embattled areas. That too would be contingent on Russian endorsement, because Obama believes Moscow holds the key to Assad’s consent – or at least abstention from sending his army to attack the aid routes. No Russian response as yet to feelers from Washington.
Ankara’s evasiveness on participation provided the clincher for the US president’s decision against military intervention in Syria. The plan has nowhere to go without Turkey’s cooperation and the use of its bases from which Western and Arab forces would mount the operation.
March 1, 2012 Briefs
• British embassy staff withdrawn from Damascus
• In his first visit to Riyadh, Russian FM will discuss Syria. debkafile: The Saudis set the visit up as a lesson to Washington that its refusal to take action for unseating Assad is not the end of their drive for this objective.
• The Pentagon has contingency plans for Iran strike, US Air Force Chief
• China welcomes US-NKorean nuclear freeze-for-food deal.
• Clinton warns Pakistan to back off Iran gas pipeline
Thousands of Syrian troops seize Babr Amr
1 March: The besieged Homs district of Bab Amr has fallen after more than three weeks of savage bombardment. Bashar Assad’s brother, Maher, is leading thousands of Syrian troops in a purge of the surviving rebels amid civilians. Several Western correspondents, some wounded, are stranded there but the town is cut off from contact with the outside world since the army jammed electronic communications for the whole of Homs excepting Alawite neighborhoods.
Pentagon prepares “aerial refueling” for Israeli planes striking Iran
1 March: In a dramatic U-turn showing Israel that Washington is serious about its military option against Iran’s nuclear program, Pentagon officials disclosed Thursday, March 1, that “military options being prepared start with providing refueling for Israeli planes and include attacking the pillars of the clerical regime. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in Washington’s first public reference to possible joint military action with Israel against Iran.
Earlier, Israel asked the Obama administration to finally set red lines for Iran’s nuclear program and abandon its “shifting red lines” policy, and also to spell out US military contingencies instead of using the worn-out “all options are on the table” mantra.
In an earlier report Thursday, debkafile noted the deep discord marking the US-Israeli approach to the threat of a nuclear Iran and the probability of US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu still at profound cross purposes on Iran when they meet at the White House on March 5.