A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending May 24, 2012
May 19-20, 2012 Briefs
Obama at G8: We are unified on Iran
The US President said he was hopeful of progress ahead of a diplomatic meeting with Iran next week. Misuse of Iran’s nuclear program for a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. All of us are firmly committed to continuing the approach of sanctions in combination with diplomatic discussions, he said.
Israel chief of staff in China
Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz arrived in Beijing Sunday as the guest of the Chinese chief of staff Gen. Chen Bingde. They will discuss the Iranian nuclear issue and other Middle East questions.
Lockerbie bomber dies in Tripoli
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was the only person convicted for blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish village of Lockerbie in 1988 killing 270 people. Before 9/11, It was the deadliest act of air terrorism against Americans, many of whom were passengers. The attack was never fully investigated.
Palestinian kidnap plot thwarted against Israeli soldiers
The Shin Bet has disclosed the capture in Ramallah last March of a Palestinian group preparing to kidnap Israeli soldiers as hostages for the release of jailed terrorists. Sunday, a Palestinian armed with a knife was injured in a struggle with an Israeli soldier he attacked at the Gush Etzion intersection.
Syrian opposition “liquidates” Assad’s brothers
In the past two days, Syrian opposition sources have claimed to have liquidated Dep. Chief of Staff, Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law Asif Shawqat Sunday morning and his brother, 4th Division chief Maher Assad Saturday. US intelligence circles soon established that Maher Assad was alive.
Israel gives qualified okay to Obama’s interim deal with Iran
20 May. Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak have decided to stand back for Barack Obama to put his interim deal with Iran to the test, debkafile’s sources report. To answer their reservations, the White House assured them that Iranian violations would result in the immediate termination of negotiations and bring military action forward as the sole remaining option for stopping a nuclear Iran.
Saturday, debkafile exclusively revealed the eight-point interim deal the US put before Iran. Israel will find it unacceptable because it does not provide for Iran to stop uranium enrichment at any grade or dismantle the Fordo nuclear facility. It does give Tehran leeway to carry on developing a nuclear bomb.
May 21, 2012 Briefs
Two killed in heavy fighting between rival gunmen in Beirut
In sectarian fighting fueled by Syrian anti-Assad uprising, gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns Monday in clashes in the Sunni district of Tariq al-Jadidah between ex-Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s Future Movement and the pro-Syrian Arab Movement Party headed by Shaker Barjawi.
Police say nearly 100 killed in Yemen suicide attack
Yemeni soldiers were rehearsing Monday for a military parade due to take place Tuesday in Sanaa when one of their number turned on the rest and blew himself up killing 96 troops and civilians and injuring more than 400. Sunday, unidentified gunmen opened machine gun fire from a car on the vehicle of US Coast Guard instructors at the Red Sea port of Hodeida. One American was wounded.
Egyptian generals appeal to all to accept election results
The SCAF stressed the importance of accepting the choice of some 50 million vote for President Mubarak’s successor in May 23-24 polling. The main contenders are former foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Mussa; Ahmed Shafiq, the last premier to serve under Mubarak; the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Mursi and independent Islamist Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh.
Fatah and Hamas sign Palestinian power-sharing deal – Al Ahram
According to the Egyptian daily, Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed and Mussa Abu Marzuk for Hamas signed an Egyptian-mediated accord in Cairo for ending the factional split. Ahmed reported that an electoral commission would start work on May 27 in the Gaza Strip and launch consultations for setting up a government of independents headed by Mahmud Abbas. This process has been repeatedly stalled by disagreements.
May 22, 2012 Briefs
Arms smuggler killed by car bomb in Port Sudan
A bomb car blew up alongside another vehicle at Port Sudan on the Red Sea killing at least one man. He was identified later as Nasser Awadallah Ahmed Said, 65, a member of the Ababda tribe which commands smuggling routes into Egypt via Sinai into the Gaza Strip, handling many of the Iranian weapons shipments to Hamas and Jhad Israeli. A year ago two Hamas operatives were killed in a similar attack, for which Sudan blamed Israel.
Iranian scientists insert home-made fuel rod in reactor
The day before the P5+1 resume nuclear talks with Iran in Baghdad, the official news agency reported Iranian scientists have inserted a domestically-made fuel rod into the core of a research reactor in Tehran. The rod contained pellets of 20 percent enriched uranium.
Israel mistrusts Amano’s deal with Iran
Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that the deal “for probing suspected work on nuclear weapons,” which UN nuclear agency chief Yukiya Amano reported Tuesday was just an Iranian bid to fake the semblance of progress to stave off international pressure.
Top-of-the-line anti-tank missiles for Syrian rebels okayed by Obama
22 May. Syrian rebels have received their first “third generation” anti-tank weapons, 9K115-2 Metis-M and Kornet E, debkafile reports. They are supplied by Saudi and Qatari intelligence agencies following a secret message from President Barack Obama approving the raising of the military stake in the effort to oust Assad. It is hoped that blazing tanks will undermine morale in the army and regime and delay the movement of armored units between flashpoint scenes. Ankara was also advised to start providing Syrian rebels with IEDs for roadside bombing of government vehicles.
Assad’s Russian and Iranian military and intelligence advisers are warning him that a protracted guerrilla war is in the making, for which the Syrian army is ill-prepared.
May 23, 2012 Briefs
Palestinian sniper fire from Gaza injures two Israeli soldiers
The two Golani fighters were patrolling the Israeli-Gaza border fence near Kisufim Wednesday, when snipers began shooting. Armored and infantry forces reached the scene and opened fire on the snipers’ locations.
Turkish prosecution to seek 10 life sentences for former Israeli chief of staff
Criminal charges drawn up by prosecutors in Istanbul would carry 10 life sentences for Lt. Gen (Res) Gaby Ashkenazi for the deaths of 9 pro-Palestinian protesters aboard the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship on a mission a year ago to break Israel’s Gaza Strip blockade. The protesters died in a clash which developed when they attacked the soldiers.
Denmark recommends embargo on Israeli produce from West Bank
The Danish government has advised supermarket chains to demand that Israel mark its export goods with manufacturers addresses to enable them to blacklist items produced on the West Bank.
An Egyptian policeman shot dead outside a Cairo polling station
He was killed in a fight midday Wednesday in the first incident to mar Egypt’s first presidential election after Hosni Mubarak. The three frontrunners are former foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Mussa; Ahmed Shafiq, the last premier to serve under Mubarak; the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Mursi and independent Islamist Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh. A run-off ballot has been set for June 16.
Japan breaks oil embargo against Iran
23 May. A senior official in Tokyo announced Wednesday, May 23, that the Japanese government will seek parliamentary approval for a bill allowing Japanese firms to insure tankers carrying Iranian oil to Asia if European insurers refused to do so. The nuclear talks between the six powers and Iran in Baghdad Wednesday, instead of taking place under the shadow of tougher sanctions as Israel expected, saw the toughest one, the oil embargo, falling apart.
Russia and the UK, alone of the powers represented in Baghdad, spoke openly about the possible failure of the meeting leading to the outbreak of war with Iran.
The Russians again warned Iran that the West was hiding a military trap behind the screen of negotiations.
In London, British ministers were warned that “contingency plans” were planned for a possible conflict between Israel and Iran. Some sources reported that under discussion was British military and diplomatic aid to Israel, in particular by the deployment of Royal Navy vessels on Israel’s coast.
Israel warns powers to press Iran harder
23 May. Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon warned the Six Powers early Wednesday against blinking first. So long as uranium enrichment is not discontinued, stocks exported and the Fordo plant remains open, Israel must keep all its options on the table and reserve the right to make its own decisions.
debkafile quotes Western intelligence sources as denying knowledge that any deal for expanded inspections of suspect nuclear sites was struck by Yukiya Amano, head of the UN nuclear agency (IAEA), during his two days of talks in Tehran Sunday and Monday, May 20-21. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but the day Amano arrived, Iran’s Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi said, "Iran is committed to the complete destruction of Israel" – a goal the realization of which calls for a nuclear capacity.
May 24, 2012 Briefs
Iran and six world powers fail to salvage Baghdad talks
After breaking up Thursday morning over irreconcilable differences on the core issue of uranium enrichment, they reconvened in the evening to try and produce a communiqué. They agreed to meet again next month in Moscow but on little else.
Israel revives military option on Iran ahead of US election after Obama vetoes its demands of Iran
24 May. Israel has withdrawn its pledge to US President Barack Obama not to strike Iran’s nuclear sites before the November presidential election after his rejection of its minimal demands for the nuclear negotiations with Iran. This is reported exclusively by debkafile as the Six-Power talks with Iran in Baghdad dragged into a second day on Thursday, May 24.
After Obama dismissed Israel’s demands requiring Iran to halt at least high-grade uranium enrichment, export its stocks of enriched material higher than 3.5 percent grade and shut down production at the Fordo nuclear plant near Qom, Defense Minister Ehud Barak had this to say in a radio interview Wednesday: "There is no need to tell us what to do, and we have no reason to panic. Israel is very, very strong, but we do know that the Iranians are accomplished chess players and will try to achieve nuclear capabilities. Our position has not changed. The world must stop Iran from becoming nuclear. All options remain on the table.