A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending May 31, 2012

May 25, 2012 Briefs

  • UN inspectors find uranium enriched to 27 percent at Fordo
    According to the UN nuclear agency (IAEA)’s quarterly report, samplings taken Feb. 15 from the Fordo underground facility “showed the presence of particles with enrichment levels up to 27 percent.” This is the highest level so far reported and moves the purity of Iran’s uranium enrichment closer than ever before to weapon grade.

May 26, 2012 Briefs

  • US diplomat: Israel is right to be concerned that time is running out on nuclear Iran
    In an unusual briefing to reporters in Tel Aviv, Saturday, May 26, the US official, described as having intimate knowledge of the Baghdad talks, said: Israel’s concerns are justified and “we are doubtful it is possible to reach an agreement with Iran, but we must exhaust the diplomatic path because the alternative, whether a nuclear Iran or a regional war, is very serious.” The official went on to say that the US would continue to pressure Iran with sanctions until it ceased enriching uranium.

Netanyahu, Barak US refuse to see US official

26 May. The rupture between the US and Israel over Iran’s nuclear program widened further Friday, May 25 when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were not available to hear the briefing brought to Jerusalem from Baghdad by Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman who headed the US delegation to the Six Power talks. Her report was no progress due to Iran’s refusal to give way on enrichment.
Although the participants agreed to reconvene in Moscow in three weeks, the Iranian delegation stressed that there would be no progress until the US and the other five world powers confronting them (Britain, France, Russia, Germany and China) recognized Iran’s absolute “right” as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium.
The IAEA disclosed Iran doubled its 20-percent enriched uranium since February to 145 kilos. The centrifuges at the Fordo facility rose to over 500 from 300 in the last report. Using IAEA figures, debkafile calculates that if Fordo goes on producing 23.9 kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium per month, Iran will by the end of December have accumulated 6,232 kilograms of near-weapons quality uranium.

May 27, 2012 Briefs

  • Netanyahu “appalled” by Syrian slaughter
    For the first time since the Syrian uprising began more than 14 months ago, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned the atrocities committed by the regime against innocent civilians and called for “action by the international community to act in the light of continuous Syrian atrocities.” He stressed that “Iran and Hizballah cannot be separated from Assad’s massacre.”
  • Russian envoy says Houla dead were victims of “blatant murder”
    Russian UN envoy Alesandr Pankin told UN reporters that most “civilians killed at Houla were victims of blatant murder. They were either shot in the temple from short distance or their throats were cut. Very few of the people who died at Houla were killed by artillery shelling.”
  • NATO investigates reported Afghan family killing
    A family of eight, including six children, was reportedly killed by a NATO air strike over the eastern Afghan province of Paktia. Afghan officials say they were not involved in terrorist activity. In the south, four NATO soldiers were killed early Saturday by roadside bombs. The notice did not reveal their nationalities.
  • US condemns “unspeakable atrocity” at al-Houla
    Hillary Clinton says Washington would work with its international allies to increase the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad and his “cronies,” to end their “rule by murder and fear.”

The Al Houla atrocity: Outcome of Iran diplomacy

27 May. The Iranian nuclear impasse and the Syrian civil war are more tightly interlinked than ever by President Barack Obama’s decision to cooperate with Moscow for solutions of both – a partnership that promises the eventual three-way carving-up of Middle East influence. The six-month break Israel allowed Obama for diplomatic solutions before exercising its military option, gives Tehran the freedom to defy the six powers in nuclear negotiations and ties US hands against Bashar Assad’s atrocities. That path is already cluttered with daunting obstacles.
The wanton slaughter by Syrian forces of 92 confirmed victims, 32 of them children under ten, at the Homs village of Al-Houla Friday, May 25, was the most horrifying atrocity in the Middle East this week, but not the only one: In Sanaa, six days ago, al Qaeda’s suicide bombers, having penetrated Yemeni military ranks, detonated two tons of explosives at a parade rehearsal killing more than 100 soldiers and civilians and injuring 400.
Yet according to the New York Times, after 15 months of bloodshed, President Barack Obama is working on a plan for pushing Bashar Assad out of office, while “leaving remnants of his government in place, on the Yemeni model”.

May 28, 2012 Briefs

  • Lavrov blames both sides in Syria for Houla massacre
    At a joint news conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague, the Russian Foreign Minister blamed both the Assad regime and the rebels for the massacre in al Houla new Homs Friday.

US-Arab exercise drills Iran landing, Syrian rebels obtain German machine guns

28 May. The 12,000-strong special forces exercise, the US-Arab Eager Lion 2012, ending in Jordan Wednesday, May 30, broadened the orbit of international intervention in the Arab Revolt and preparations for war with Iran. The ground section took place near the Syrian border, while the marine section practiced landings on Aqaba beaches and mountain terrain resembling strategic sites in Iran, including the three islands of the Strait of Hormuz.
In the ground combat section of Eager Lion 2012, large scale US and Arab special forces carried out practice operations backed by air and armored strength including assault helicopters in northern Jordan near the Syrian border.
debkafile’s military sources report that Gen. James Mattis, head of the US Central Command, secretly visited both sections of the exercise. If President Barack Obama orders an attack on Syria or Iran, he will be in command.

May 29, 2012 Briefs

  • UN: Fewer than 20 of 108 Houla victims killed by artillery fire
    The UN death toll of the Al Houla atrocity was a least 108 people including 34 women and 49 children. The attack on the farming village northwest of Homs began Friday and continued through the night. Most of the victims were “executed” by shooting or stabbing at close range in their homes.
  • NATO kills Al Qaeda’s No. 2 in Afghanistan
    Sakhr-al-Taifi, aka Mushtag and Nasim, killed in airstrike in E. Kunar, was responsible for commanding foreign terrorists in Afghanistan and directing attacks on NATO and Afghan forces on orders from senior al Qaeda leaders.
  • Western powers kick out Syrian diplomats, differ on intervention
  • The White House says it doesn’t believe in military intervention in Syria at this time since it would lead to more carnage. In an apparent contradiction, US military officer Gen. Martin Dempsey warned Syria it might face armed intervention as international outrage grows over the massacre of women and children by tanks and artillery. ''There is always a military option.''
    New French President Francois Hollande then stated he does not rule out armed intervention in Syria if approved by the Security Council.
  • Annan comes away from Assad empty-handed
    UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan told Syrian President Bashar Assad that his only recourse was to comply with the six-point peace plan put before him a month ago. Assad pinned the blame for the violence on foreign-backed “terrorist groups.”
  • Palestinian terrorist gang nabbed
    The Shin Bet has broken up the self-styled “Holy Fighters Battalions” established in Hebron and the Gaza Strip and thwarted a plot to kidnap an Israeli as hostage for the release of jailed Palestinian terrorists. The group was responsible for missile attacks against Israel, gunfire on Israeli troops and explosive booby-traps on the Gaza border fence, all funded, armed and trained by Hamas.
  • German president at Yad Vashem
    On his first state visit to Israel, German President Joachim Gauck said Israel should live in peace within secure borders. He stressed that a nuclear Iran is a threat not only to Israel but to Europe too but was against an Israeli attack on Iran.
  • Yaalon: Nuclear talks with Iran achieved nothing
    Dep. PM Moshe Yaalon said nothing was achieved at the talks except that Iran won another three weeks to pursue its nuclear project until the next meeting in Moscow. He suggested some Western nations may be happy to see the negotiations drag on.
  • “Flame” virus hit Israel as well as Iran
    Cyber experts say “Flame” affecting computers for the past five years in many places, Israel and Iran included, rates as one of the common or garden viruses. It is not in the same class as Stuxnet, the only malworm that seriously disrupted Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2009 until it too was overcome. debkafile: Since then, cyber warfare has moved onto a higher plane as was discovered when Chinese experts downed the US RQ-170 spy drone over Iran in December 2011.

Putin turns arms ship back from Syrian port and mulls his policy

29 May, Vladimir Putin, after taking stock of the early days of his third presidency, concludes that Moscow’s handling of the al-Houla massacre and Syria’s ongoing collapse into civil war will go down as a Russian foreign policy failure. He personally comes out of it as the patron of a bloodthirsty tyrant. He has quietly ordered the Russian arms ship Professor Katsman to leave the Syrian port before unloading its cargo. Putin is now taxed with determining his next steps on Syria.

May 30, 2012 Briefs

  • Larijani: Western intervention in Syria would engulf the Zionist regime
    The Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani warned that a western military intervention in war-torn Syria would result in a regional upheaval that would undoubtedly engulf Israel. The US and the West seeking to pave the way for a new crisis, he added. “US military officials should be aware of their dangerous game…creating another Benghazi in Syria would spread to Palestine, and ash rising from the flames would definitely engulf the Zionist regime,” he said.
  • Putin’s spokesman: Russia is not considering changing its stance on Syria
    This statement reinforced the Russian Dep. FM earlier assertion that Russia would not allow the UN Security Council to authorize military intervention in Syria. It clarified Putin’s position as firmly behind Bashar Assad, the day after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow does not support the Assad regime – only the six-point Annan peace plan – and debkafile reported the Russian president was floundering on Syria after the al-Houla atrocity.
    Beijing also stated its opposition to armed intervention in Syria.
  • Turkey orders Syrian diplomatic personnel to leave
    Ankara is the ninth country to expel Syrian envoys and the first to order all Syrian diplomats including consular staff in Turkish cities to leave the country within 72 hours.
  • Japan is the 8th country to expel Syrian envoy
    Australia, several European countries, the US and Canada asked Syrian ambassadors and charges d’affaires to leave Tuesday in protest against the Syrian regime’s atrocities.
  • Barak: No sleep for us because of Iran’s nuclear machinations
    Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “We can’t sleep quietly” so long as Iran is able to generate circumstances which preclude American or Israeli attacks on its nuclear program. In the last reckoning, Israel will have to face up to deciding whether and when to strike Iran because the fate of Israel and possibly world Jewry hangs thereby.
    For the Iranians the calculus is simple, said Barak: They say: We waited 4,000 years for a nuclear capability so why not another few weeks in order to avoid provoking an Israeli or American attack?
  • First Israeli step toward recognizing non-Orthodox rabbis
    Fifteen Reform and Conservative rabbis outside the cities will be recognized as rabbis of non-Orthodox communities and put on the state payroll for the first time – on a par with Orthodox community leaders, following a Supreme Court ruling. They have a long way to go before their authority is accepted for performing marriages, conversions and other religious matters along with Orthodox and Haredi rabbis

Obama nixes French-Saudi plan to bomb Assad’s palace

30 May. US President Obama recently vetoed a detailed Franco-Saudi plan for ending President Bashar Assad’s rule by a massive air strike against his palace that would wipe him, his family and top leadership circle out, DEBKAfile reports. French warplanes from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier off Syria and Saudi and United Arab Emirates bombers flying in through Jordan would devastate the palace atop Mount Qassioun northeast of Damascus. The US was asked to pitch in by disrupting Syrian air defenses and providing a central command to coordinate the operation.
But Obama is determined to stay out of armed action for unseating President Assad and focused on a deal with the Russians as part and parcel of a comprehensive accord on Syria and Iran’s nuclear program.

May 31, 2012 Briefs

  • Iran general in provocative visit to Hormuz islands
    Revolutionary Guards chief Gen. Mohammed Ali Jafari visited his forces stationed on the three disputed islands of Abu Musa, Big Tumb and Little Tumb which control access to the Strait of Hormuz. They are claimed by the United Arab Emirates.
  • Two American tourists kidnapped in Sinai are released
    They were snatched by armed Bedouin while driving along the Red Sea coast from Dahab to Nuweiba. Egyptian security forces are spread out for a large-scale hunt.
  • Israel delivers bodies of 91 terrorists to Palestinian Authority
    Israel sees the handover as a confidence-building gesture by Binyamin Netanyahu to draw Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas back into stalled peace talks. Among the remains, most destined for the West Bank and some to the Gaza Strip, are bodies of notorious suicide bombers who blew up a Jerusalem bus, seized the Savoy Hotel and attacked Café Hillel causing scores of Israeli victims.
  • US may bypass UN for action against Assad regime
    US Ambassador Susan Rice warned the UN Security Council that if it does not act swiftly to pressure Syria to end its crackdown, members may have no choice but to consider acting outside the UN and the Annan plan..

Exclusive: Obama acts to prevent Assad’s WMD reaching al Qaeda

31 May: US President Barack Obama is preoccupied with what he regards as a tremendous threat to the world: a potential grab for the huge Syrian stock of chemical and biological weapons by Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations, to prevent which, debkafile reports, he has reached out to Russian President Vladimir Putin with a fresh plan for Syria: 5,000 international monitors, most Russian, to guard those stocks – the first 3,000 to be approved by the UN Security Council and take immediate charge of the six WMD stores and the rest later.
Obama warned Putin: “If only one barrel of anthrax reaches the hands of a Caucasian terrorist group, Russia will face its greatest ever terrorist threat. Millions of Russians may perish.”
The US has also warned Israel of its peril if the deadly weapons are smuggled into terrorist hands on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Our sources reveal that Syria’s vast stocks of Sarin (GB), Tabun (GA) and VX nerve gases, some four kinds of mustard gas and anthrax, are stored in underground bunkers at Al Safir, the main Syrian missile base in the north; Cerin, a biological research center on the Mediterranean shore; military facilities at Hama and Homs; the Syrian naval base leased to the Russians at Latakia; and Palmyra on the highway link between Homs and Aleppo.

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