A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending May 2, 2013

Obama’s decision on Syria would affect nuclear Iran

26 April. President Barack Obama faced a tough decision Friday, April 26, after warning that Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons would be “game changer.” US intelligence has evidence that Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people and so crossed the red line Obama laid down for a US response. His failure to take firm action would show the world that the US president’s red lines are meaningless. Israel is concerned by the application of this loss of credibility to a nuclear Iran.
Tehran and Pyongyang will take US inaction against Syrian chemicals as a license to carry on developing their nuclear and other sophisticated weapons without fear of forceful interference. At some stage, Assad will transfer to Hizballah chemical weapons as a reward for the terrorist group’s stalwart battle in support of his regime. debkafile’s military sources have learned that preparations are already in train for the transfer.

April 28, 2013 Briefs

  • Iraq suspends 10 TV satellite channels
    Media regulators in Baghdad have suspended the licenses of 10 TV channels – domestic and foreign, including al Jazeera – accusing them of coverage that incites more violence after a week in which 170 people died in sectarian unrest. Most of the channels are accused of being pro-Sunni and critical of the Shiite-led government of Nouri al-Malaki.
  • Moscow moves forward command post for Syria to Beirut
    debkafile’s sources disclose that Moscow has established a special political-military forward post at the Russian embassy in Beirut to monitor the soaring crisis in Syria. It is headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov now visiting the Lebanese capital. Saturday, he met with Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Russia estimates that the situation on Syria’s borders with Turkey, Israel and Jordan is on a downward curve.
  • Netanyahu: Israel won’t tolerate trickle of rockets
    At the Sunday cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel would not stand for the slow trickle of rockets from the Gaza Strip in reference to the rocket fired harmlessly from Gaza Saturday against Sdot Hanegev Saturday. debkafile’s sources: This is another item which the prime minister has declared Israel will not tolerate, such as chemical warfare in Syria, violations of Israel’s airspace like the drone that was launched against Israel from Lebanon last week and Iran’s nuclear program which has shot past Netanyahu’s red line.

Tehran pushes Assad for sophisticated arms to Hizballah

28 April. Israeli jets were reported flying over Damascus in the last few hours Sunday (April 28) by foreign sources. debkafile: Iran is pushing Bashar Assad hard to let Hizballah have sophisticated weapons, including self-propelled SA-17 interceptor missile systems. The Syrian ruler owes Hizballah for the deployment of 5,000 out of its 8,000 combat-ready fighters for keeping him in power. Assad is therefore in no position to spurn Tehran’s demand.
The Israeli Air Force is monitoring preparations in Syria for the transfer. The Israeli security cabinet discussed this new crisis Sunday.
The drone launched on April 25 from Lebanon, which Israeli fighter planes shot down opposite Haifa, is seen now as a counter-warning from Tehran that if Israel strikes an arms convoy on its way from Syria to Lebanon, the next drones flying over Israel would be armed and come in numbers.

US Patriots to relocate from Gulf to Jordan. Israel &Turkey pool Syria intelligence

28 April. Israel and Turkey last week agreed to pool their incoming intelligence on the Syrian civil war, debkafile reports exclusively. Exchanges are to take place at the highest level between Mossad Director Tamir Pardo and Hakan Fidan, head of Turkey’s MIT.
The United States is to boost Jordan’s security by the relocation of Patriot missile interceptors from West Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to northern Jordan opposite the Syrian border. Washington is clearly shifting its military focus from Iran to the Syrian front.
The new Patriot deployment indicates that the Obama administration is now treating the peril to its allies from Syria as greater than the Iranian menace.

April 29, 2013 Briefs

  • Obama-Putin conversation on Syria – inconclusive
    President Barack Obama phoned President Vladimir Putting Monday to find a solution for Syria’s chemical weapon. Although they both released communiqués saying the two presidents had agreed to strengthen their intelligence ties on the issue, DEBKA file reports that they reached no real agreements.
  • Russian passenger plane escapes missile fire over Syria
    An aircraft belonging to the Russian charter air carrier Nordwind Airlines with 200 passengers aboard was flying over Syria from the Egyptian Sinai town of Sharm el-Sheikh Monday when it was targeted by two ground-to-air missiles. The pilots managed to maneuver the plane to safety without damage or casualties.
  • Syrian PM unhurt in assassination attempt in central Damascus
    Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki survived an assassination attempt Monday when an explosion hit his convoy as it traveled through the central Damascus district of Mazzeh.
  • Three Iraqi children come to Israel for open-heart surgery
    The children ages 1, 4, 5, will be treated without charge at Israeli hospitals under the Save a Childs’ Heart scheme which, since it was established in 1996, has treated 3,000 children from overseas with congenital heart defects. The have come from Iraq, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Zanzibar, China, Georgia and Romania. The organization also trains doctors from developing countries.
  • MK Ben Eliezer estimates: Syria’s chemical weapons certainly reached Hizballah
    Former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer said in a radio interview Monday that he has no doubt that Bashar Assad has used chemical weapons to fight rebel forces. Ben-Eliezer, an opposition Labor lawmaker, said he was amazed at the world’s inaction in the face of the war of genocide taking place in Syria amid the use of unconventional weapons. Israel was obliged to prepare to intervene in the Syrian war, said the lawmaker, because “I have no doubt Syrian chemical weapons have reached Hizballah – i.e. a terrorist organization which won’t hesitate to use them.” Israel’s security is direct jeopardy from just over its border, he said.

Hizballah loses two high officers in major defeat in Syria

29 April. DEBKAfile reports Hizballah’s elite Al Qods Brigade suffered a grinding defeat – its gravest since first intervening in the Syrian civil war – at al Qusayr in the Homs sector Monday, April 29, and lost its two top commanders along with scores of combatants dead and wounded in a surprise ambush mounted by rebel militias reinforced by radical Salafists from Lebanon. They were newly armed with Grad rockets.
The rebels this week attacked two Syrian army short-range rocket bases in southern Damascus and outside Aleppo.
With regard to chemical weapons, our military and Washington sources report that the Obama administration strongly complained to the offices of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon over the claim by a senior Israeli official (unnamed) of “clear evidence based on raw, real and solid material” – not just assessments – that Bashar Assad is using chemical weapons against rebels.

April 30, 2013 Briefs

  • Obama still hedging on military action for chemical use in Syria
    In impromptu answers to questions Tuesday, President Barack Obama repeated previous statements: There is evidence of the use of chemical weapons inside Syria, but he still did not know when they were used and by whom. Evidence of their use, he said again, means “we would have to rethink the range of options…”
  • Israeli air strike over Gaza kills wanted Palestinian terrorist
    The Israeli military reports that an air strike Tuesday targeted Hitham Maskhal, the jihadi activist responsible for firing rockets against Eilat on April 17. He was identified as the rocket and explosive devices expert of a Salafist organization operating in the Gaza Strip tied to Al Qaeda. Palestinian sources say he was caught riding a motorbike near a Hamas training facility. A second rider was injured.
  • Palestinian who stabbed, then shot dead an Israeli man was just out of jail
    Evyatar Borovsky, 31, father of five from Yitzhar, was waiting for a lift at the Tapuach junction near Ariel when he was attacked by a Palestinian who repeatedly stabbed him, then snatched his victim’s sidearm and shot him dead. The Palestinian then turned the gun on Border Police officers and was shot and injured himself. Salem Asad from a village north of Tulkarem was released a month ago from four months jail for lobbing rocks and bottle bombs at passing Israeli traffic. A claim of responsibility for the attack was released by a Palestinian group over a TV network associated with Hamas.

Surprise Israeli military drill on Syrian, Lebanese borders. Reservists mobilized

30 April. Israel’s armed forces launched a snap division-scale drill along the full length of the Syrian and Lebanese borders Tuesday, April 30, for which call-up orders were issued for thousands of reservists. Our Washington sources report that President Barack Obama is poised for a momentous decision on whether to pursue military action against Syrian military targets, including Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons facilities.
debkafile’s military sources report that the surprise Israeli military exercise and concentration of reserve units along the borders of Syria and Lebanon place the IDF including its air and naval branches on the ready for a role in a potential American military operation against Syria or reprisals by Iran, Syria or Hizballah.

May 1, 2013 Briefs

  • Netanyahu: Root of conflict is not land
    In his first direct response to the Qatari proposal of minor land swaps for peace with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday: "The root of the conflict isn't territorial. It began way before 1967. The Palestinians' failure to accept the state of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is the root of the conflict. If we reach a peace agreement, I want to know that the conflict won't continue – that the Palestinians won't come later with more demands." He added however that Israel is not laying down any preconditions for peace talks with the Palestinians.
    The Qatari proposal is a modifier of the original 2002 Arab peace initiative which called for a direct trade between Israel’s full withdrawal to pre-1967 lines and normal relations with the Arab world.
  • Three associates of Boston Bombers arraigned
    Three more suspects connected with the Boston Marathon bombings were arraigned before a federal court Wednesday on charges of conspiring to obstruct justice and lying to federal investigators. Two Kazakhs in the US on student visas and a US citizen are accused of disposing of the computer and backpack containing fireworks in the apartment of the younger bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after he made that request in a cell phone call while he was on the run. Investigators recovered the computer from the Boston landfill.
    debkafile reported straight after the deadly attack that the two bombers must have had accomplices.
  • Three British soldiers killed in Afghanistan
    The three British soldiers died in a roadside bomb attack on their heavily armored vehicle in Helmand Province Tuesday. Six others were injured. Several civilians were also killed in an upsurge of violence across Afghanistan Tuesday.

Israeli reserves called up for military drill next Sunday

1 May. The Israeli military reserves call-up for the Syrian and Lebanese borders starting Tuesday, April 30, will continue until the end of the week, ready for a military maneuver starting next Sunday, May 5. debkafile: The phased mobilization, expected to exacerbate regional tensions, is planned to keep pace with President Barack Obama’s cautious military momentum on Syria’s chemical weapons. Hizballah is also playing for time: Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech that Israel’s military steps should be viewed solely in the Syrian context.

May 2, 2013 Briefs

  • Justice Minister Livni and PM’s adviser Molcho fly to Washington
    Tzipi Livni, who doubles as justice minister and senior peace negotiator with the Palestinians, and prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s political adviser Yacov Molcho are on their way to Washington. They are to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the re-launching of Middle East peace negotiations.

Kerry’s plans double peace track: Israel vs Palestinians and vs Arab League

2 May.US Secretary of State John Kerry has managed to bring Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas aboard his novel plan to run peace negotiations on two simultaneous tracks – Israel versus the Palestinians and, for the first time in its history, Israel face-to-face with the Arab League to discuss a comprehensive peace. This is reported exclusively by debkafile.
Kerry hopes talks can begin this summer, although he says more work lies ahead. Still he got his foot in the door by persuading a group of Arab ministers to address Israel’s objection to a full return to pre-1967 lines by accepting President Barack Obama's formulation, which provides for "comparable and mutually agreed minor swaps of the land.”
The Secretary of State is unusually running his initiative virtually single handed without recourse to the usual bevy of Middle East experts.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email