A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending May 3, 2012

April 27, 2012 Briefs

  • Barak warns a nuclear Iran would set off a dangerous arms race
    It would also stand more powerfully behind Hizballah, Jihad Islami and Hamas. Defense Minister Ehud Barak rated the prospects of Iran responding to demands to terminate its nuclear weapon program as extremely low. The Iranians are determined, he said. Jerusalem and Washington are on different Iranian time-clocks and that is the main difference between us.

April 28, 2012 Briefs

  • First Syrian rebel seaborne attack
    Damascus sources admit a firefight between Syrian troops andt Syrian rebels landing near Latakia in in three commando inflatables. Both sides suffered fatalities. debkafile: The boats were most likely dropped from a Turkish ship.
  • Iran threatens UAE over three Gulf islands
    If a war breaks out over the three Persian Gulf islands occupied by Iran, the United Arab Emirates which claims them will be the first to suffer serious damage, says Tehran.
  • Chinese PM lays wreath at Auschwitz
    Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited the Auschwitz memorial Friday after two days of talks in Warsaw. Paying homage to the 1.5 million people who died there, Wen said the lessons drawn from these atrocities should help build a safer future for the world.
  • Jordan gets third prime minister in 17 months
    King Abdullah II has appointed Fayez Tarawneh new prime minister. He has already served in this post as well as holding the jobs of defense, foreign affairs, ambassador to the US and head of the Hashemite royal court. He replaces Awn Khasawneh who was criticized for being too slow in instituting political reforms.
  • US may cede on up to 5 percent enrichment by Iran
    Washington is deliberating accepting continuing Iranian enrichment of uranium up to 5 percent purity provided Tehran accepts unrestricted UN inspections and safeguards, according to the Los Angeles Times.
  • Obama restores Palestinian Authority funding
    The US president signed a waiver to remove curbs on a $192 million aid package frozen by Congress last September when the Palestinians moved to gain statehood at the UN in place of direct peace talks with Israel. This step was explained officially as “important to the security interests of the US.”

Ex-Shin Bet chief runs down Netanyahu and Barak as war leaders

28 April. The criticism former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin leveled against current government leaders Friday, April 27, was intensely blunt and personal. “I don’t believe in either the prime minister or the defense minister,” he said, going on to accuse Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak of misleading the public when they say an Israeli attack would keep a nuclear bomb out of Iranian hands.
debkafile’s military experts say an Israeli or American strike may indeed be too late to pre-empt a nuclear Iran. But the ex-Shin Bet chief’s claim that “many experts” maintain an Israeli attack would accelerate an Iranian nuclear race, is misleading. In the past year, without being attacked, Tehran has transferred accelerated uranium enrichment to the underground Fordow facility near Qom, was able to double the pace of its progress and is believed to be close to producing dirty bombs.

US drills reaction to strike on Iran, deploys F-22s to Gulf

28 April. US Navy, Air Force, ground, intelligence and special forces units took part this week in a special exercise ordered by President Barack Obama to simulate reactions to a potential US/Israel strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Advanced US stealth F-22 fighter bombers were also transferred to the Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE joining the F-15s of the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Wing which were transferred to the Al Udeid base a month ago.
Washington is thinking of attacking core elements of Iran’s nuclear program to weaken its hand in negotiations, destroying Iranian air force and air defense batteries so as to clear the way for US and Israeli bombers to go into action against Iran’s nuclear sites and the strategic infrastructure of its army and Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Leon Panetta and Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey reached three conclusions from the drill.
1. Iran’s response to a military strike will be “measured.”
2. The Iranians will soon go back to building a nuclear weapon;
3. The attack on core elements will take the Iranians down a couple of pegs in negotiations.

April 29, 2012 Briefs

  • Government wins two-month stay for demolishing Bethel buildings
    Partially acceding to the government’s request, three High Court judges allowed two more months for executing the order to demolish two illegal buildings built on privately-owned Palestinian land in Bethel. The court accepted the argument that the government needs time to review its policy.
  • Iran: US F-22 Gulf deployment is a US-Israel plot
    Prominent Iranian lawmaker Kazem Jalali condemned the deployment of America’s most sophisticated stealth plan the F-22 Raptor at the UAE air base of Al Dhafra as a US-Israeli pot to create regional instability.
  • British Red Cross doctor’s body found in Pakistan
    The body of Red Cross doctor Khalil Dale who was kidnapped in January was found beheaded in Quetta, a Taliban stronghold in Baluchistan.
  • Surface-to-air missiles to be posted on London building
    The UK Army plans to position surface-to-air missiles on an apartment block in the densely populated east London neighborhood near the Olympic stadium as one of its security measures for the games this summer. There will also be ground-based defense systems, fast jets and helicopters overhead.

Netanyahu’s choices: Strike Iran before or after elections

29 April. Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak are facing another periodic opposition campaign to unseat them. New faces have joined the opposition lineup, including a fledgling party, “There is a Future.” They are campaigning against an Israeli attack to preempt a nuclear Iran, questioning both leaders’ credentials for leading one and calling for an early election. However, debkafile’s analysts report, Netanyahu may calculate that a successful operation against Iran would maximize his win at the polls.
Diskin’s assault on Netanyahu and Barak as not to be trusted to lead a war and guided by “messianic” feelings was launched Friday, April 27, directly after Independence Day celebrations, at the same time as two leading opposition parties, Labor and Kadima, set the stage for an early election to stem the right-of-center government’s constant gains in opinion polls. Netanyahu may give them their wish.

April 30, 2012 Briefs

  • Ban condemns “terrorist bomb attacks” on Idlib and Damascus
    This was the first time the UN Secretary had condemned attacks on Syrian government and security locations as “terrorist attacks.”
  • Sderot alerted to Palestinian Qassam incoming from Gaza
    The missile exploded harmlessly Monday night on vacant ground.
  • Israel starts building defensive wall on Lebanese border
    The Israel military started work Monday, April 30, on the 10-meter high, 2 kilometer-long separation wall to protect the border town of Metullah from sniper fire coming from Kfar Kila across the Lebanese border.
  • Third blast in Idlib against Syrian security sites
    The third blast struck near the Popular Army office in the northern Syrian town of Idlib Monday after the first two killed at least eight people – 20 according to opposition activists. One exploded near Air Force intelligence headquarters.
  • Prof. Benzion Netanyahu dies at 102
    The noted historian, dedicated Zionist and father of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu died at his Jerusalem home Monday, April 30. He held to the view that Jews would never be free of discrimination and that efforts to compromise with Arabs were bound to fail.

Bombings as Al Qaeda seizes control of Syrian rebel factions

30 April. A year after the death of its iconic leader Osama bin Laden at the hands of US special forces, Al Qaeda is making an operational comeback, notably in North Africa and Syria. The suicide bombings hitting Damascus and Idlib in the last 24 hours were the work of Al Qaeda in Iraq – AQI, whose operatives have been pouring into Syria in the last two weeks, debkafile reports, fully armed with quantities of explosives. They quickly join up with the hundreds of al Qaeda fighters from Libya present at the Free Syrian Army training camps in southeast Turkey.
Without US intervention, al Qaeda will be able to use Syria for attacking its neighbors too.

May 1, 2012 Briefs

  • Another failed Iranian plot against Saudi ambassador
    Egyptian security services foiled an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Cairo, Ahmed Qattan. Three Iranians were arrested.
  • Osama bin Laden death anniversary stirs firefight on Israel-Gaza border
    Palestinians opened fire on an Israeli army border patrol from Gaza Tuesday, damaging two vehicles but causing no casualties. IDF tanks rescued the patrol and air units hunted the assailants. debkafile: It is believed in the IDF command that the “Mujahidin Battalions,” the largest Salafi organization in the Gaza Strip, which is linked to al Qaeda networks in Sinai, staged the attack in an effort to mark the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death by waylaying Israel troops.
  • Tzipi Livni gives up her Knesset seat
    Tzipi Livni’s plans are uncertain after she lost the Kadima party’s leadership to Shaul Mofaz.
  • Ehud Barak restates case for military strike on Iran's nuclear program
    Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak urges a military strike on Iran's nuclear program before it reaches the "immunity zone." The military option would be complicated but this is outweighed by the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran.
  • Three-quarters of Israelis: If no one else stops Iran, we must
    New opinion polls show nearly half of Israelis favor an independent strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Other surveys show three-quarters view a nuclear Iran an existential threat to the Jewish state and support a strike with US backing. A majority hopes Netanyahu is prepared for an IDF strike in case no one else stops Iran.

Military steps by US, Israel, Iran

1 May. The US, Israel and Iran embarked on significant military steps Tuesday, May 1, refuting US media reports of a lessening in war tensions over Iran: Shortly after Israel launched a big war exercise on its northern borders with Syria and Lebanon, Iran’s border guards initiated naval drills along its southern coast where nuclear facilities, Revolutionary Guards bases and oilfields are situated. Monday, Israel started building a defensive wall 10-meter high, 2 kilometer-long along its border with Lebanon to protect the Israeli population and highways in northern Galilee from sniper fire.
A week after the F-22 squadron was deployed in the Gulf, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, special assistant to President Obama and senior director for European affairs at the National Security Council, disclosed Monday that the completion of the initial phase of the US-backed missile network in Europe would be announced at the NATO summit meeting in Chicago on May 20.

May 2, 2012 Briefs

  • Law and order breaks down in Cairo after 20 protesters killed
    The attack by “unknown assailants” on Salafist demonstrators outside the Egyptian defense ministry Wednesday left twenty people dead and hundreds injured, some seriously. The Salafists were holding a sit-down protest near the Egyptian ministry against the decision to disqualify their leader Sheikh Abu Ismail as presidential candidate.
  • Taliban attack kills 6 in Kabul hours after Obama pledges end of Afghan war
    At least 6 Afghans, including a student, were killed in a Taliban suicide car bombing and shootout in the Afghan capital early Wednesday shortly after President Barack Obama ended a surprise visit. And pledged an end to the Afghan war.

Israeli politicians scramble for posts ahead of election

2 May. The government has tabled a bill for dissolving the Knesset. The date is still missing, but would-be candidates for seats at the post-election cabinet table are lining up. Defense Minister Ehud Barak launched his bid to carry on in defense at a news conference Wednesday, May 2. Other bidders, on the assumption that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will head the next government, aim to cut Likud’s current right-wing and religious partners out of his coalition and push Likud into a centrist role.
With election fever rising, the defense minister had nothing to say at his news conference about the three possibilities confronting Israel on the Iranian nuclear question:
A deal under which the US and five world powers let Iran carry on with its nuclear program in curtailed form, striking that program alone or with the United States.
One new face is already making waves: The youngish former broadcaster Yair Lapid who unveiled his new party, Yesh Atid (There is a Future), with a speech which recalled some of Barack Obama’s mannerisms.

May 3, 2012 Briefs

  • Israeli Navy takes delivery of fourth German-made Dolphin submarine
    Navy Commander Maj. Gen. Ram Rothberg and Defense Ministry Director General Udi Shani were in Kiel Thursday, to take part in the ceremonial handover of the fourth submarine commissioned from the Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems shipyard. debkafile: The vessel still has to undergo sea trials and operational tests before delivery. The Kiel shipyard is already building the fifth Dolphin ordered by the Israeli Navy. Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently signed a contract for a sixth submarine for delivery in 2017.

Palestinian Authority reneges on security ties with Israel


3 May. For the first time since 2006, the Palestinian Authority’s security services on the West Bank have stopped cooperating with the IDF in operations and intelligence-sharing for countering terrorism. Arrests and interrogations of suspects, the most effective way to thwart terrorist plots, have been discontinued and replaced with the old “revolving door” tactic practiced by Yasser Arafat. Israel has accordingly upgraded its terror alert on the West Bank and along its borders with Israel, fearing a resurgence of Palestinian terrorism. The cozy relationship developing between Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has fueled those fears.

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