A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending March 8, 2012
March 2, 2012 Briefs
Netanyahu: Dismantling Fordow is one precondition for preventing an attack
Israeli has three conditions for holding off an attack on Iran, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu disclosed after his talks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa Friday, March 2: 1) Dismantle Iran’s underground uranium enrichment plant at Fordow. Underground, they are beyond the reach of an Israeli strike and Washington gets its wish to prevent one; 2) The removal of enriched uranium stocks to international control; and 3) no more enrichment past 5 percent grade. Netanyahu made this reply to President Barack Obama’s comment to The Atlantic published Friday that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon and an attack would be “premature.” The two leaders meet at the White House Monday, March 5 amid major divergences on when and how to stop a nuclear Iran.
Russian bank abruptly closes Iranian embassy staff accounts
It could be a Russian bid to line up with US led sanctions, as the Iranians charge, or a warning to Tehran ahead of the international nuclear talks opening in Istanbul next month to play by the big power rules. Friday, the state-controlled VTB24, the retail banking arm of Russia’s second biggest bank, closed accounts of the Iranian embassy staff at short notice and blocked Ambassador Seyed Mahmoud-reza Sajjadi’s own credit card.
Obama cautions against “a premature attack” on Iran
2 March. In an interview to The Atlantic Friday, March 2, US President Barack Obama held to the line that “Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon” and cautioned against a “premature attack” on the Islamic Republic. debkafile: This assessment is certainly not shared by Israel.
In a New York Times article published Thursday, former Israel Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin wrote:
“Asking Israel's leaders to abide by America's timetable, and hence allowing Israel's window of opportunity to be closed, is to make Washington a de facto proxy for Israel's security – a tremendous leap of faith for Israelis faced with a looming Iranian bomb.”
He went on to say: “The moment of decision will occur when Iran is on the verge of shielding its nuclear facilities from a successful attack – what Israel’s leaders have called the zone of immunity.”
March 3, 2012 Briefs
- China calls for end of Syrian violence and the start of political dialogue
US military buildup in Turkey opposite Iran, Syria
The US Navy’s “The Sullivans” Aegis guided missile destroyer, which operates in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean, anchored Friday March 2 in the Turkish Aegean port of Bodrum. This week, 50 US soldiers took up position at the radar station set up in the eastern Turkish air base of Kurecik as part of the US shield against Iranian missile attack. The station will work in sync with the US warship.
- Putin qualifies support for Assad
- In a pre-election interview, presidential candidate Vladimir Putin withheld unequivocal support for Syria’s Bashar Assad, saying “We have no special relationship with Syria, only interests in seeing the conflict resolved. We cannot support either side, only get them to sit down and cease fire.” Significantly too Russia, along with China and Cuba, supported a UN Human Rights Council resolution calling on Syria to end violence against civilians immediately and grant humanitarian organizations access.
Israel’s FM offers aid to Syrian victims
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel was prepared to offer humanitarian aid to victims of the violence in Syria as soon as it is requested.
March 4, 2013 Briefs
Israel State Comptroller criticizes ex-chief of staff
Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss sent a draft of his 200-page report on the “Harpaz Affair” to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Former Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi and incumbent Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and State Attorney Yehuda Weinstein. Although the document has not been released, it is understood to be severely critical of Ashkenazi’s relations with (Res) Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz, who is associated with a forged letter defaming Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant to block has appointment as former chief of staff.
Ashkenazi is taken to task for his handling of this episode and his personal campaign against the defense minister. Addressees are asked for their comments before the state comptroller completes his report and submits it next month.
Khamenei’s election victory setback for Obama
More than three-quarters of the seats in Iran’s new parliament (majlis) will be occupied by the ultra-hardline loyalists of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s, following Iran’s general election Friday, March 2. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s followers were badly beaten.
debkafile: Ahmadinijad’s defeat is also a setback for Barack Obama’s Iran policy of engagement with Tehran on its nuclear program, which relied heavily on the president exercising a moderating influence on the Iranian leadership.
Syrian army “executes” rebels outside Homs too
Bashar Assad’s troops are performing summary executions of civilians in village after village in the Syrian-Turkish border region. debkafile’s sources report bodies piling up in the snow, some of them headless. Thousands of rebels managed to cross into Turkey.
March 5, 2012 Briefs
- Egyptian gas pipeline to Israel blown up 13th time since revolution
Amano: Iran has tripled its month output of highly enriched uranium
The head of the U.N. agency nuclear agency Yukiya Amano spoke Monday of "serious concerns" that Iran may be hiding secret atomic weapons work and its possible military dimensions.
Brent crude nears $124 in Singapore
Price boosted by fears of sanctions-induced Iranian supply crunch after India slashed import deal.
North Korea tested Iranian nuclear warhead or “dirty bomb” in 2010
5 March. German and Japanese intelligence sources Monday, March 5, confirmed to debkafile that Western intelligence had known for 11 months that North Korea’ had carried out at least one covert nuclear tests in 2010 on an Iranian radioactive bomb or nuclear warhead. Shortly after the first test in April, a large team of Iranian nuclear experts arrived in Pyongyang to prepare the second one in May, after which Iran transferred to the North Korean nuclear energy commission the sum of $55 million.
It is not by chance that this incriminating disclosure about Iran saw the light Monday, just hours before US Barack Obama received Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the White house.
March 6, 2012 Briefs
- Obama: Israel doesn’t have to decide on an Iran attack Iran in the next two months
- Bipartisan US congressional bill supports Israel’s right to self-defense
- Pakistan accepts German firm tender for gas pipeline to Iran
US bunker-busters and aerial refueling for Israel alongside diplomacy
6 March. American sources disclosed Tuesday March 6, that President Barack Obama had decided to let Israel have weapons systems suitable for long-range military operations and strikes against fortified underground targets. They include four KC-35 aerial refueling aircraft, doubling the number already in the Israeli Air Force inventory, and GBU-31 Direct Attack Munition-JDAM bombs of the type which serve US bombers especially those based on aircraft carriers.
This followed the announcement that the Six Powers had sent Tehran an offer to resume negotiations on its nuclear program and Iran invited international inspectors to inspect the Parchin base where nuclear explosive tests are suspected. The inspectors were twice refused access.
Monday, March 5, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano declined to refer to suspicion that the Iranians needed time to remove the nuclear evidence from Parchin. "But I can tell you that we are aware that there are some activities at Parchin and it makes us believe that going there sooner is better than later. “
Netanyahu to Obama: We can’t wait much longer, Iran has not one but ten Fordows
6 March. Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu brought 14,000 pro-Israel lobby cheering delegates to their feet repeatedly when he pledged Monday night, March 5, “Never again would our people have to live in the shadow of annihilation.”
Earlier, he and US President Barack Obama talked for three hours, briefly without advisers, on practical ways and means for stopping Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. Obama admitted privately that the Fordow underground uranium enrichment plant can no longer be destroyed by bombs and missiles, only slowly stifled by blocking its vents. Netanyahu responded: Iran is building not one Fordow but ten. We can’t wait much longer.
Obama: There is no intelligence that Iran has made a final decision to pursue a nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu: Time is growing short.
Although the Obama-Netanyahu summit did not resolve their dispute, the prime minister convinced American Jews and members of the US Congress that a nuclear weapon would allow Tehran to terrorize every nation in the world. An Israeli attack on Iran is therefore to be expected at some time in the coming months.
March 7, 2012 Briefs
AP: Iran may have cleaned up nuclear work
Diplomats reported spy satellites showed trucks and earthmoving vehicles cleaning up radioactive traces at the Parchin military facility Two said those traces could have come from the “testing of a small neutron trigger” used to set off a nuclear explosion. Tuesday Tehran promised to open Parchin up to international inspection. but is since dragging its feet.
China suddenly airlifts its civilian workers out of Syria
debkafile’s military sources report exclusively that a Chinese airlift began operating Wednesday night, March 7, from several Syrian airfields. It is evacuating thousands of nationals, some employed in Syria’s oil and military industries. No explanation was offered. China is one of Bashar Assad’s three backers, along with Iran and Russia. The evacuation may be prompted by early warning of an escalation of the 12-month violence in Syria or foreign military intervention.
- Putin denies Russian asylum for Assad was ever on the table
- Netanyahu arrives home from five days in Washington
UK ministers briefed on Iranian nuclear threat
Prime Minister David Cameron warned Iran is developing an intercontinental nuclear missile that could target Britain. He spoke after he and his ministers received an unusual top-secret intelligence briefing on the growing threat from Iran and expectation of an Israeli pre-emptive strike to curtail it.
FBI posts $1m reward for information about ex-agent missing in Iran
Robert Levinson disappeared five years ago while visiting Kish Island off the Iranian coast.
Top US danger rating for Syrian chemical-biological missiles
7 March. US military officials said on Wednesday, March 7, that, contrary to the prevailing impression, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke away from their dispute over an attack on Iran for a serious discussion of the Syrian crisis, focusing on the hundreds of surface-to-surface missiles armed with chemical and biological warheads possessed by Syria. Because this peril has risen to the top of America’s chart of the threats facing Israel and Turkey, Obama advised Netanyahu to hurry up and mend ties with Ankara.
US sources postulated that Assad might use his WMD in the event of foreign intervention in Syria, an Iranian request to back up a preemptive strike against the US or Israel, or even transfer them to Hizballah in Lebanon. This would call for a combined US-Turkish-Israeli operation to smash them.
March 8, 2012 Briefs
Israeli soldier badly injured, Palestinian assailant killed on West Bank
An Israeli soldier was badly injured in a counter-terror operation at Yata village in southern Mt. Hebron Thursday. Two Palestinians attacked the soldier and stabbed him in the neck. He shot one assailant dead and wounded the second.
Khamenei welcomes Obama’s anti-war comments on Iran
Iran’s Supreme Leader praised US President Barack Obama for “damping down talk of war against Tehran. This talk is good talk and shows an exit from illusion.”
Russia: Libya is training Syrian rebels
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin accused Libya of running a special training center for “Syrian revolutionaries” who are sent back to attack the government.
Riyadh and Moscow trade accusations on Syria
Saudi Foreign Ministry spokesman accused Russia of falsely accusing it of supporting terrorism in Syria and urged Moscow to “take moral, legal and criminal responsibility for backing the crimes of President Bashar Assad's regime.”
Panetta: US may provide Syrian rebels with nonlethal aid
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says Washington is looking at providing Syria’s opposition forces with such items as radio equipment. UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos visited the Baba Amro district of Homs in Syria and found it devastated and deserted. The outflow of refugees to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan continues. Syria is reported planting mines on the Lebanese border to stop the movement.