A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending May 16, 2013

May 9, 2013 Briefs

  • Damascus sharpens threats against Israel
    Syrian Dep. Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad said Damascus would respond instantly to any further Israeli attacks. Speaking to AFP Thursday, he said the Syrian army had been directed to hit back with powerful and painful blows without referring back to government authority for permission.
  • An American stabbed outside US embassy in Cairo
    An assailant stabbed an American man outside the US Embassy in the central Cairo neighborhood of Garden City on Thursday. He was rushed to a nearby hospital.
  • Washington Post follows debkafile on Russian S-300s to Syria
    “There are concerns” in Washington that Moscow may soon deliver S-300 air defense batteries to Syria, a US official told the Washington Post Thursday. That paper cites the Wall Street Journal as first out with this disclosure Wednesday evening. Russia’s decision to supply Syria with these advanced air defense systems first appeared in debkafile of Tuesday, May 7, at 2.19 pm IDT in its report on President Vladimir Putin’s phone call to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
  • Demonstrators attack Israeli embassy in Amman
    The foreign ministries of Jordan and Egypt summoned the two Israeli ambassadors to protest the brief detention of the Mufti of Jerusalem on suspicion of leading a Muslim disturbance which broke out on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem when a group of Jews visited the shrine. Muslim worshippers at the al Aqsa mosque hurled chairs at Israeli police officers striving to maintain order. In Jordan, special police dispersed rioters who tried to storm the Israeli embassy.

May 10, 2013 Briefs

  • Kerry: Russian S-300 to Syria “destabilizing” for Israeli security
    US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Rome: “We have made it crystal clear that we prefer Russian would not supply” the S-300 anti missiles to Syria. “That is on record. That hasn’t’ changed,” he said following debkafile’s disclosure Tuesday, May 7 of Moscow’s plan to send these advanced weapons to Syria.

US envoy’s secret mission in Syria: Turkey’s chemical dossier

10 May. The Obama administration’s slowcoach policy on Syria has given Iran and Hizballah unfettered access for military intervention in the Syrian civil war, magnifying its lethality and heightening the prospects of its spilling over into Israel, Turkey and Jordan, says debkafile. The injection of highly advanced Russian weapons into the conflict, will “destabilize Israel’ security,” US Secretary of State John Kerry warns. Matters will further deteriorate when Washington’s expectations of an international conference inevitably turn out to be not shared by Moscow and therefore unfounded.
Moscow will on no account countenance the exclusion of Assad’s representatives from any international forum or transitional government whereas Washington insists Assad must go.
US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford quietly crossed into northern Syria from Turkey for secret meetings with leaders of rebel groups fighting in Aleppo and Idlib before crossing back to Turkey.
debkafile: This was a message from Washington that Russian S-300 anti-air missiles for Syria would be countered by weapons to enable the rebels to knock Syria warplanes out of the sky.
At the same time, the coalition of Syrian, Hizballah and Iranian Bassij troops is turning the tide of war against the rebels, pushing them out of one captured area after another, including Damascus and Aleppo.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who meets the US President at the White House on May 16, promises to bring with him a dossier containing evidence from Turkish physicians who diagnosed rebels they treated as suffering from poison chemicals.

May 11, 2013 Briefs

  • Pro-Assad Palestinian group to fight Israel from Syrian Golan
    The radical Popular Palestinian Front – General Command, led by Ahmed Jibril, announced Saturday that he was setting up special units for mounting attacks on Israel from the Syrian Golan. He called for Syrian volunteers. debkafile: Jibril is bringing forward Bashar Assad’s planned war of attrition on Israel. His call for Syrian volunteers will bring Syrian Alawites and Shiites from Lebanon and Iraq to reinforce the ranks of the Palestinian terrorist group. This group, the PFLP-GC, is funded directly from Tehran and maintains bases in the Lebanese Beqaa Valley under Hizballah protection.
  • Death toll rises to 40 from car bombings in Turkish town near Syria
    Turkey accuses Syria of the twin car bombings Saturday which killed 40 people, injured more than 100 and razed complete buildings in the town of Reyhanli near the Syrian border.
    debkafile: This outrage by Syrian military intelligence was evidently a signal of what Turkey may expect from continuing to support the Syrian rebel movement and Erdogan delivers his “chemical dossier” against the Assad government to President Barack Obama on May 16.
  • Outrage over Washington News Museum plan to honor two Hamas “journalists”
    Washington’s Newseum in its annual tribute to journalists who died reporting the news plans to honor Mahmoud Al-Kumi and Hussam Salama, who were killed by an Israeli air strike Nov. 20, 2012. They were employed by Al-Aqsa TV, an outlet designated by the US Treasury in 2010 a terrorist organization “financed and controlled by Hamas,” whose content is “designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers.” Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said: "Hamas is a designated terrorist organization responsible for the murders of at least 26 American citizens, including children,” Kirk said. “I would urge the Newseum to reconsider this decision.”
  • Former PM Nawaz Sharif claims victory in Pakistan vote
    Partial results point to the victory of Nawaz Sharif, twice Pakistan prime minister over cricket star Imran Khan in Pakistan’s first civil transfer of power in its 66-year history. Hours after polling stations opened Saturday morning, four bomb blasts hit Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar, killing 17 people and injuring 22. The turnout was high among Pakistan's 84 million registered voters high despite Taliban's efforts to violently sabotage the vote.

May 12, 2013 Briefs

  • Lebanese sources: Intense Israeli air and ground activity on borders
    Various Lebanese sources report intense Israeli military activity Sunday along the Israeli-Syrian and Lebanese borders. Witnesses describe Israeli warplanes making aerial passes over south Lebanon, ground forces moving along the Golan border with Syria and attack helicopters flying over Mts Hermon and Dov and the Shaaba Farms.
  • Turkey detains 9 suspects for Reyhanli bombings
    All nine are Turkish citizens who are suspected of abetting the Syrian secret service accused of setting up the two car bombings in the Hatay town of Reyhanli near the Syrian border Sunday. Of the 46 killed, 38 have been identified and include three Syrians.

Russia staffs Mediterranean fleet

12 May. Russian Navy Admiral Viktor Chirkov said Sunday, May 12, that a permanent staff of 20 officers is in place to run Russian fleet operations in the Mediterranean Sea. It comprises five to six warships and possibly nuclear submarines which, say our military sources, are armed with nuclear ballistic missiles. debkafile: Russia’s step aims at safeguarding the Assad regime and securing its Hizballah and Iranian allies. It also signals Moscow’s Middle East comeback after a 21-year absence – to confront Israel and Turkey. Putin clearly regards Obama’s decision to keep the US clear of military involvement in the Syrian conflict as an open gateway for this comeback.

May 13, 2013 Briefs

  • Turkish F-16 fighter plane crashes on Syrian border
    Turkey's military reports that an F16 fighter plane flying along the Turkish-Syrian border crashed Monday and the pilot’s body was recovered. There was no indication of the plane’s mission, the circumstances of its crash or of the pilot’s death.
  • Home Security Minister: Iron Dome can’t handle mass missile strike
    Home Security Minister Gilead Erdan warned Monday that Israel may face a simultaneous launch of hundreds of long-range missiles against the civilian population. The Iron Dome system is not capable of intercepting a massive missile offensive, he said.
  • US and South Korea launch joint naval maneuver
    The three-day exercise led by the USS Nimitz nuclear aircraft carrier takes place opposite the North Korean coast. Pyongyang says it would react if a single shell landed on its soil. The North Korean armed forces commander was replaced for the third time in a year.
  • Turkey: Reyhanli bombing explosives smuggled in from Syria
    Turkish sources say the explosives for the two car bombs that devastated the border town of Reyhanli Saturday and killed 46 people were smuggled in from Syria.
  • Obama calls for more progress towards Assad’s ouster
    At a joint news conference with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron Monday, US President Barack Obama urged greater pressure on the Assad regime and a start on the process of transition of power that would exclude the Syrian president. Cameron said the UK would act to have the European embargo on arms supplies for the Syrian rebels revoked and offered them British armored cars and body armor.

Saudis explore Iranian options for Syria, Lebanon

13 May. Saudi Arabia has decided to explore dialogue with its great regional rival Iran for ending the Syrian conflict and assuring Lebanon’s political stability, after giving up on US policy for resolving the Syrian conflict and its impact on Lebanon. debkafile’s Gulf sources report. The Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers got together Monday, May 13. in Jeddah. Both were intent on outmaneuvering Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan before he confers with President Obama at the White House Thursday, May 16.

May 14, 2013 Briefs

  • Moscow expels US diplomat charged with recruiting Russian spy
    Ryan C. Fogle, whom the Federal Security Service detained on charge of attempting to recruit a Russian intelligence officer, was expelled from Moscow. He was accused of being a CIA agent working under cover as third secretary at the US embassy. FSB said he was found in possession of “special technical equipment, written instructions for recruiting a Russian citizen and a couple of wigs for disguise.
  • Syrian activists: More than 82,000 dead in Syrian civil war
    he opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 82,000 people have been killed and 12,500 are missing after two years of civil war in Syria. Some 35,000 civilians, including almost 5,000 children, were among the dead.
  • Syrian rebel video-taped cutting out soldier’s heart
    The pro-opposition Human Rights Watch identified the rebel as Abu Sakkar, head of the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade from the town of Homs and said his actions, including taking a bite out of the soldier’s heart, were a war crime. He declared: “I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog.” The main opposition coalition said Sakkar would be put on trial.
  • Dollar rises to 3.64 shekels per dollar – up by 2 percent
    This dollar strengthened sharply Tuesday the day after Israel’s central bank cut interest by a quarter percent to the 1.5 percent level in a bid to halt the sliding dollar. Bank analysts foresee further pressure on the dollar from rising revenues from Israel’s Mediterranean gas deposits. The bank therefore plans to purchase $2.1 billion in the course of 2013.

Another Putin hands-off for Netanyahu on Syria

14 May. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent three hours with President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Tuesday, May, 14. He came to head off advanced Russian anti-air S-300 missile systems sales to Syria. Instead, the Russian leader issued a warning relating to Israel’s air strikes against Damascus on May 3 and May 5.
Moscow prepared for the interview by leaking to the London-based Arab press a report that the S-300 missiles had already arrived in Syria. According to Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Moscow had delivered 200 launchers (probably missiles) and the Syrian missile teams already knew how to use them.
By this leak, the Israeli prime minister was being informed that his journey to Sochi was a waste of time and that the use of S-300 missiles for shooting down Israeli Air Force planes was no longer controlled by Moscow but by Damascus.

May 15, 2013 Briefs

  • NYT: If Assad attacks Israel, he risks forfeiting his regime
    This warning to Assad was confirmed after the New York Times quoted an unnamed Israeli official as contacting the paper to warn: “Israel is determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hizballah” and “considering further military strikes on Syria to stop the transfer of advanced weapons to Islamic militants. Their transfer to Hizballah will destabilize and endanger the entire region. If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies, he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate,” the NYT quotes an Israeli official as saying.
  • Egypt foiled Al-Qaeda attacks on French & US embassies
    Egyptian state news agency reported Wednesday that the three suspected terrorists tied to al Qaeda detained this week plotted attacks on the French and US embassies in Cairo.
  • A British analyst: Stuxnet actually enhanced Iran’s nuclear capabilities
    Ivanka Barzashka, an academic at King’s Collect London has found from analyzing data collected by the International Atomic Energy Agency that the Stuxnet malworm attack in 2010 exposed vulnerabilities in Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. Production actually went up in the year after Stuxnet was discovered.
  • Six Israeli security men injured in Palestinian “Naqba” unrest
    Palestinians marking Naqba (the “Disaster” of Israeli independence) Wednesday clashed with Israeli police and army forces in and around Jerusalem. Outside Damascus Gate of the Old City, police repeatedly broke up disturbances. Two were injured by flying rockets in riots north of Jerusalem at Kalandia and the Givat Zeev junction on Highway 443. Near Hursa, west of Hebron, a bottle bomb injured four Israeli soldiers when their jeep overturned and caught fire. Several Israeli civilians were beaten up in the Old City by Palestinian protesters. And a rocket fired by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip exploded harmlessly in the Eshkol region.

May 16, 2013 Briefs

  • Powerful blast hits US convoy in Kabul, kills at least sixteen
    At least 6 American military advisers and 10 Afghanis were killed including two children and 30 more injured when an explosives-packed car was blown up by a suicide bomber next to two American military vehicles Thursday in the Karta-e Naw district of Kabul.
  • Three Egyptian policemen, four soldiers kidnapped in Sinai
    Their two minibuses were ambushed by unidentified gunmen between El Arish and Rafah on their way to Cairo Thursday. The kidnappers have not yet issued demands, but they are believed to belong to al Qaeda linked Salafi gangs who have staged abductions in the past to procure the release of jailed terrorists.

Syrian-Israeli war of words via Putin edges into Syrian-Hizballah war of attrition.

16 May. Binyamin Netanyahu left his meeting with Vladimir Putin Tuesday in Sochi after his bid to halt the supply of S-300 anti-air missiles to Syria had fallen on deaf ears and with the feeling that Moscow had given the go-ahead for Assad to make the Syrian Golan the platform for a war of attrition against Israel with the help of Hizballah armed with advanced weapons and other proxies. The next day, a pro-Assad Palestinian terrorist organization shelled Mt. Hermon. Israel countered swiftly with a threat to remove Assad from power.
Depending on the next move decided on by Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, this incident could mark the tipping-point of a slide towards a war confrontation against Israel by Syria, Hizballah and other Assad proxies.

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