A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Nov. 14, 2013

November 8, 2013 Briefs

  • Egypt holds parliamentary elections in the spring
    Egypt will hold parliamentary elections in February or March, two months after the country votes in a referendum on a new constitution. Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Fahmy said the Freedom and Justice Party, political arm of the deposed president Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, "is still legal in Egypt" and free to participate in the parliamentary election, he said.
  • Notorious Mullah Fazlullah elected head of Pakistani Taliban
    Islamabad fears the election of Mullah Fazlullah, notorious for his atrocities in the Swat province, as new Pakistani Taliban leader, foredooms the government’s push for peace dialogue with the Islamist movement.
  • Fire bomb attack hurts Israeli mother and children
    In the fourth Palestinian attack in 24 hours, a woman and her children were slightly injured when their car was set ablaze by fire bombs near Efrat Friday morning. The mother extricated the children from the burning car. Thursday night, a Palestinian was shot dead when he tried to stab a Border Police Guardsman at the Bethlehem checkpoint. The officer was unhurt. Another Palestinian was killed when he opened fire on a group of soldiers awaiting a lift at the Tapuah Junction on the West Bank.
  • Kerry: Breakdown of talks will lead to a third intifada
    This warning was broadcast by US Secretary of State John Kerry in a TV interview from Jerusalem Thursday night. He said the alternative to talks between Israel and the Palestinians would be chaos, violence, Israel’s increased isolation and attacks on its legitimacy. The US did not accept the legitimacy of building Jewish settlements on land destined for a Palestinian state, but he said Israel had not promised a settlement freeze for negotiations.

Geneva fallout: Iran becomes a nuclear power. Israel loses trust in Obama

8 Nov. Israel’s most painful lesson from the two-day Geneva conference on Iran’s nuclear program is that the man who guaranteed to defend Israel’s security, President Barack Obama, is now marching hand in hand with Tehran towards a nuclear-armed Iran. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu slams the interim nuclear agreement with Iran as “burying the possibility of a peaceful final accord.” He said: “Israel is not bound by this agreement and will do everything it needs to do to defend itself and its people’s security.” debkafile: This was a dual warning: 1) Israel has abandoned its trust in Barack Obama ever complying with his pledge to its security and will henceforth act on its own. 2) Israel may exercise its military option against Iran’s nuclear capability – whether openly or covertly.

November 9, 2013 Briefs

  • US warships recalled from Mediterranean
    The Pentagon announced the recall of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and the USS Graveley naval destroyer from the Mediterranean. The Nimitz was moved into the eastern Mediterranean earlier this summer in preparation for a potential US strike on Syria, which President Obama called off at the last minute. debkafile: As the US Navy pulls out, Russia is building up its Mediterranean fleet to 18 warships.
  • Russian probe finds insufficient evidence of Arafat’s poisoning
    In contrast to the Swiss lab report, Russian investigators found “the levels of Polonium-210 and the development of Yasser Arafat’s illness do not give sufficient evidence to support the decision that Polonium-210 caused acute radiation syndrome leading to death." Still, Palestinian officials in Ramallah continue to accuse Israel of his assassination.

France’s hold-out aborts Iran nuclear deal in Geneva

9 Nov. France amazed its fellow five powers and Iran by sticking to its guns to the last. They never imagined French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius would go so far as to scupper the Geneva nuclear conference, which came closer than ever before to a joint accord. The intense pressure the US beamed at Jerusalem turns now to Paris. The conference reconvenes on Nov. 20. But meanwhile, President Barack Obama and Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, have suffered a stinging setback, after long secret negotiations.

November 10, 2013 Briefs

  • Iranian Dep. Minister assassinated in Tehran
    Deputy Minister of industry, mines and commerce Safdar Rahmat-Abadi was shot dead in his private car in Tehran Sunday. According to Gulf sources, two professional assassins shot the deputy minister at close range in cold blood.
  • Netanyahu hardens tone on nuclear Iran
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Sunday warned that Israel’s response to anyone challenging its security would be tough and painful. US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, head of the American team of negotiations in Geneva, has arrived in Israel to brief the prime minister on those talks. Secretary of State John Kerry answered Israel’s charges in an NBC interview by saying: “We are not blind and I don’t think we’re stupid. I think we have a pretty strong sense of how to measure whether we are acting in the interests of our country and of the globe. Nobody has talked about getting rid of the current architecture of sanctions. The pressure on Iran will remain.”
  • Netanyahu: I have no illusions about the Iranian nuclear deal
    Opening the weekly cabinet session Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said: “I have no illusions. The agreement between the six powers and Iran will be signed. It allows Iran to avoid any commitment to dismantle a single centrifuge.
    The cabinet met at Negev Kibbutz Sde Boker for a session to commemorate Israel’s first and founding prime minister David Ben Gurion on the 40th anniversary of his death.
  • West offered Iran $20bn worth of sanctions relief in Geneva
    Secretary of State John Kerry offered Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif the immediate release of $3bn of the $50 bn worth of Iranian assets frozen in Western banks, and another $ 16.5 in sanctions relief on gold, petrochemicals and cars, as an incentive to signing a deal for its nuclear program at the Geneva conference, which ended inconclusively Saturday night.
  • Iran: Our right to enrichment is a red line
    Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday that its "rights to enrichment" of uranium were "red lines" that would not be crossed. In his first comment of the Geneva conference’s failure to push through the first interim international accord for Iran’s nuclear program, Rouhani said: The Islamic Republic has not and will not bow its head to threats from any authority.

Iran ponders nuclear flexibility to fill its empty coffers

10 Nov. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif asked Sunday, Nov. 10 for an urgent meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the day after France aborted a nuclear accord at the Geneva conference with the six powers, debkafile’s exclusive sources report. They want to warn him that unless Iran shows flexibility on Western demands regarding its 20-percent enriched uranium stocks and the Arak heavy water reactor, negotiations with the powers will remain stalled. Sanctions relief is urgent because the government is running out of money for current needs.

November 11, 2013 Briefs

  • US slams new Israeli settlement construction planning
    "We are deeply concerned by this latest report” that Israel is planning 20,000 settler homes in the West Bank, said State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki Tuesday. The decision by Housing Minister Uri Ariel to issue tenders for long-term planning was partly suspended by Prime Binyamin Netanyahu, who put on ice the small undeveloped West Bank area of E1, long under dispute with Washington.
  • Britain restores diplomatic ties with Iran
    Their charges d’affaires will take up non-resident posts in the two capitals.

US drive for a deal with Iran tripped up by many feet

11 Nov. Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Dubai Monday, Nov. 11, to try and break up the unique bond between European governments, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Arab states and Israel which stalled the US-Iranian nuclear deal in Geneva. debkafile: Washington shows no sign of toning down its deal with Iran, although US undersecretary Wendy Sherman and EU’s Catherine Ashton are blamed for damaging the process by opening the draft to amendments by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zerif, which even Kerry was not ready to sign.

November 12, 2013 Briefs

  • FM Lieberman makes US ambassador first appointment
    In his first statement as reinstalled foreign Minister Tuesday, Avigdor Lieberman said: “Our relations with the US are paramount, and without that we can’t maneuver in the present world. Disagreements are natural and always existed, and simply don’t need to be heard the way they are outside.” Lieberman called for calm in the current disagreement with the US, without referring to Iran or the Palestinians. He made a meeting with US ambassador Dan Shapiro his first appointment on his first day in office (after a court cleared him of graft charges).
  • Israel: Iran’s nuclear program cost its economy a loss of $170b
    Israeli officials told Western media Tuesday that Iran had invested $40bn in developing its nuclear program and lost another $130bn, according to Israeli estimates, from the international sanctions imposed on its economy.
  • Zarif accuses Kerry of spin on Geneva nuclear talks failure
    Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif refuted US Secretary of State John Kerry’s accusation in Abu Dhabi Monday that Iran had walked out of Geneva. He blamed Western divisions for the failure of nuclear talks. "No amount of spinning can change what happened in Geneva Saturday. But it can further erode confidence,” said the Iranian minister.
  • Israeli Navy thwarts Gaza arms smuggling by sea
    Since the Egyptian army destroyed hundreds of smuggling tunnels through Sinai to the Gaza Strip, Palestinian terrorist organizations have turned to smuggling weapons in by sea. The IDF reports that every week, the Israeli Navy thwarts several attempts to secrete arms shipments, mostly rockets, to Gaza.

Lavrov will confirm major arms deal in Cairo – plus Russian naval facilities

13 Nov. During their two-day visit to Cairo starting Wednesday, Nov. 13, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu will confirm an advanced Russian weaponry deal for the Egyptian army. debkafile: Egypt will receive a sophisticated double-layered system serving defensive and offensive needs: a shield against stealth airplane, drone and cruise missile attack over Egypt and parts of Saudi Arabia, as well as surface missiles able to reach any part of the Middle East, including Iran. The Russian Navy will gain Mediterranean port facilities and docking permission at an Egyptian Red Sea port facing the Saudi coast.

November 13, 2013 Briefs

  • Anti-Palestinian demonstrations after soldier stabbed to death
    Outraged citizens in Natzrat Illit demonstrated Wednesday night against the further release of jailed Palestinian terrorists in return for negotiations, after 19-year old Pvt. Eden Atias was stabbed to death by 16-year old Palestinian youth from Jenin. The soldier, who enlisted just two weeks ago, was asleep on a bus driving to Tel Aviv when the Palestinian youth stabbed him fatally. Overpowered by passengers, the assailant confessed to his interrogators that he took revenge for the life sentences his uncles were serving for murdering Israeli civilians in terrorist attacks.
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accused the Palestinian authorities of stirring up violence by a calculated campaign of anti-Israel incitement in their media, schools and mosques. The angry demonstrators asked what the point was of arresting terrorists when they served in comfortable jails and were freed prematurely by Israel on Palestinian demand.

November 14, 2013 Briefs

  • Israeli air strike against Gaza missile launchers
    The Israeli air force Thursday struck Palestinian missile launchers in the Gaza Strip after a mortar volley was fired against an IDF patrol along the border fence. In Jerusalem, Palestinians lobbed two fire bombs at the Hadassah hospital on Mt. Scopus. No casualties in either attack.
  • Gen. El-Sisi ushers in “a new era in Egyptian-Russian military ties”
    Egypt’s defense minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi had warm words for Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on their first visit to Cairo. Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi, asked whether Russia would replace the US as his country’s chief ally, replied: “Russia’s weight is too heavy to be a substitute for anyone.”
  • Senators skeptical of Kerry’s case for holding off more sanctions
    US Secretary of State John Kerry faced bipartisan skepticism when he tried to persuade the Senate Banking Committee Wednesday that tighter sanctions would destroy the chances of a “historic” deal for Iran’s nuclear program. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer pronounced himself “dubious,” Sen. Robert Mendes, the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he would press forward with sanctions legislation. Mark Kirk (R-IL) described it as “very unconvincing" and “fairly anti-Israeli.” The State Department called Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz’s estimate that even “modest” sanctions relief would put $40 bn in Iranian pockets “inaccurate, exaggerated, and not based in reality.” Addressing the Knesset Wednesday, Binyamin Netanyahu said continued economic pressure on Iran was the better path than two other options, a bad deal and war.

Khamenei’s brush-off for Amano sets back nuclear diplomacy

14 Nov. Nuclear watchdog Director Yukiya Amano was cold-shouldered by Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei a meeting with him was promised for his visit on Nov. 11, to signalthe ayatollah’s go-ahead for continuing talks on Iran’s nuclear program, which were bogged down in Geneva. He was furious at being fobbed off with a worthless piece of paper. debkafile: Tehran has accelerated nuclear enrichment, the production of centrifuges and their installation, and construction at the Arak heavy water plant, while international inspectors are still denied access to suspected weapons development sites.

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