A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Nov. 22, 2013
November 15, 2013 Briefs
- Lavrov confirms arms deal with Egypt
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and a Rosoboronexport official Mikhail Zavaly confirmed debkafile’s reports about a large-scale sale of Russian arms to Egypt worth, they said, $2 bn. It would include advanced helicopters, air and missile defense systems and MiG-29/M2 warplanes. Negotiations are still ongoing on the MiGs. Some of the items were kept under wraps. The export agency official commented: “There is never a vacuum on the international arms market. If one supplier goes away, then another one appears.
- US official: Interim nuclear deal with Iran is getting close
The US and other powers are getting close to an inerim deal with Iran that would prevent its nuclear program from advancing and roll it back in key areas, a senior administration official said Friday. Such a deal would "extend the breakout time" that Iran would need to achieve a nuclear weapon and "shorten the time to notice if they tried," the official told reporters five days before the next round of negotiations takes place in Geneva.
- Putin calls Assad for first conversation in Syrian war
Vladimir Putin had held his first telephone conversation with Bashar Assad since March 2011, to “positively assess” the Damascus government’s willingness to send a delegation to the peace talks in Geneva planned for Dec. 12 and destroy chemical arms.
Israeli document proves US strategy spurs Iranian nuclear weaponization
15 Nov. Thursday, Nov. 14, Israeli sent the White House in Washington a confidential document outlining blow by blow how and when Iran will attain a nuclear weapon if the Obama-Kerry strategy for dealing with the issue goes through. The document was addressed to the National Security Council headed by Susan Rice, which debkafile reports takes issue with State Department policies on Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The Israeli document illustrates in technical detail how American proposal will shorten Iran’s route to breakout for a nuclear weapon, instead of delaying it.
November 16, 2013 Briefs
- Israel reserves right to act after powers reach deal with Iran
Home Security Minister Gilead Erdan said Saturday that Israel does not recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium. It Tehran is allowed to reach the pre-nuclear weapon threshold Israel will consider all its options. He warned that the interim deal returning to the table in the next round of talks between the powers and Iran next Wednesday may well become a permanent accord if sanctions are eased.
Hollande and Netanyahu to consider forming a joint French-Israeli-Arab front against Iran
16 Nov. French President Francois Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrive in Jerusalem Sunday, Nov. 17. Their talks with Israel’s leaders will show if France is willing to stand by its independent stance against Washington’s détente with Tehran and throw in its lot ad hoc with Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. Their outcome will determine whether Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu goes to Moscow next Wednesday alone or with French and Saudi backing. The next round of nuclear negotiations in Geneva on Nov. 20 will also be influenced. In a recent speech, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius commented: “The United States seems no longer to wish to become absorbed by crises that do not align with its new vision of its national interest. Because nobody can take the place of the United States, this disengagement could create major crises left to themselves. A strategic void could be created in the Middle East, with widespread perception of Western indecision.”
November 17, 2013 Briefs
- France raises four points for an interim nuclear deal with Iran
All Iranian nuclear installations must be put under international supervision right now; 20 percent uranium enrichment must be suspended; existing stocks reduced and construction halted of the Arak heavy water plant. All parties say they are optimistic that the interim deal sought by the US will be confirmed in Geneva Wednesday.
- Massive bomb blast kills 31 Syrian troops near Damascus
Among the 31 Syrian troops killed in a massive bomb blast Sunday night were three generals and a brigadier general, said a monitoring group. The explosion leveled an administrative building in the army transport base of Harasta in a suburb northeast of Damascus.
- Nine Muslim attackers, two police killed in clash in Chinese province
Chinese state media report that nine axe-wielding assailants were shot dead during in attack on a police station in China’s restive Xinjiang province and two police officers killed.
- Washington Post: Israeli defense shield for Gulf
As the US winds down its Middle East interests, the Gulf emirates and Saudi Arabia seek an Israeli military shield after a deal signed by the six powers in Geneva leaves Iran with a nuclear weapon capacity.
- Mossad-Saudi contingency plans for attack on Iran – report
The Sunday Times reports that Riyadh has agreed to let Israel use Saudi airspace for a potential attack on Iran in the event that the Geneva deal Wednesday fails to curb Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon. A Saudi diplomatic source as quoted as saying an Israeli attack may be helped by Saudi cooperation in the use of drones, rescue helicopters and tanker planes.
Nuclear deal may sink in Geneva
18 Nov. According to debkafile’s intelligence and Iranian sources, the way ahead to a signed interim deal at the next round of nuclear in Geneva Wednesday, Nov. 20, is still bristling with mines. Iran’s Hassan Rouhani and Javad Zarif fear their heads would roll at home for yielding, while France and Israel toughen their demands. Binyamin Netanyahu reiterates that a “bad deal” won’t bind Israel and brandishes Israel’s military option.
Yakov Amidror, until recently Netanyahu’s national security adviser, said the Israeli Air Force had for years been practicing long-range flights in preparation for covering the 2,000km distance to Iran for a potential air strike on its nuclear facilities. ”We aren’t America, but are still capable of stalling the Iranian program for a long time. debkafile: The latest US intelligence evaluation of Israel’s lone capacity estimates it could hold Iran’s nuclear program back for seven to 10 years.
November 19, 2013 Briefs
- Multiple Israeli air strikes over Gaza after Hamas mortar attack
Israeli air strikes Tuesday targeted a Hamas rocket factory, a military position and the openings of tunnels designed for cross-border terrorist operations, following a Palestinian mortar volley aimed at the Eshkol district earlier in the day.
- Two Israeli checkpoint guards slightly hurt when rammed by car
A Mitsubishi with an Israeli number plate crashed the Israeli Al Zaim checkpoint near Jerusalem Tuesday and tried to run over the two sentries. One of them opened fire and hit the fleeing vehicle as it drove off towards Jerusalem.
- Dempsey: If Israel strikes, the US will meet its obligations
Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday that if Israel were to strike Iran in an effort to damage the country’s nuclear program, the United States would meet “some defined obligations.” He added: “I feel like we have a deep obligation to Israel. That is why we are in constant contact and collaboration.” In a talk to the Wall Street Journal CEO Council, Gen. Dempsey credited Israel with being "an example of what could be" in the Middle East.
Iran and Hizballah engineer Beirut bombings as diversionary tactic
19 Nov. A highly sensitive Saudi warning advised Western intelligence agencies, including Israel on Nov. 14 of an Iranian-Hizballah plot to set off a big terrorist operation in Beirut as a diversionary stunt, debkafile reports exclusively. Three days later Tuesday, Nov. 19, twin suicide bombings struck the Iranian embassy and the Hizballah stronghold in Beirut, killing 25 people and injuring nearly 150. The attack, warning of which reached debkafile’s desk on Nov. 17, was devised, according to Saudi intelligence, to convince 3,000 Hizballah fighters, consigned against their will to the Syrian battlefield, that they were fighting to defend their own homes, and not just risking their lives for the sake of a major Assad victory in the strategic Qalamoun Mountains in northwestern Syria. Our sources add that the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which took responsibility for the twin attacks, are in fact Hizballah stooges.
Four Iranian noes block nuclear accord at Geneva
19 Nov. Early Tuesday, Nov. 19, the US and Russian presidents went into action for a last-ditch bid to rescue a nuclear deal between the six powers and Iran in the face of four noes coming from Tehran, to halting enrichment and the Arak reactor, exporting uranium stocks and signing the NPT clause expanding international supervision. In Tehran the hardliners are evidently calling the shots rather than the president and foreign minister.
November 20, 2013 Briefs
- A multinational fleet needed to destroy Syria’s chemical arms
Destroying Syria’s chemical weapons at sea is the only remaining option after no country would agree to host the operation of demolishing Syria’s stockpile of 1,300 tonnes of toxic materials.
- Khamenei: Iran will not step back one iota, says Zionists are like animals
Calling Israel “the roguish, filthy, rabid dog of the region,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the (Israeli) Zionist regime is a regime whose pillars are extremely shaky and is doomed to collapse. Zionist officials cannot be called humans, they are like animals, some of them,” said the ayatollah to commanders of the hard- line Basij militia force in Tehran in remarks broadcast live Wednesday on state TV.
Referring to the nuclear talks in Geneva between Iran and the Six Powers, Khamenei said Iran will not step back “one iota” from its “nuclear rights. Pressure from economic sanctions will never force the country into unwelcome concessions. A senior US official said it was “uncomfortable” but did not condemn Khamenei’s remarks as unacceptable like the French President Francois Hollande. The British Foreign Secretary William Hague declined any comment at all, fearing to rock the boat in Geneva.
- David’s Sling interceptor passes live test
The new Israeli interceptor, dubbed David’s Sling developed with the United States passed its second live trial Wednesday. Its deployment date has been rushed through to next year. The interceptor is designed to counter missiles of ranges between 100 km and 200 km held by Syria and Hizballah, providing the interim anti-missile defensive tier between Iron Dome and Arrow.
- Sinai car bomb attack kills at least 10 Egyptian soldiers
A convoy including a bus full of Egyptian soldiers heading for Cairo was struck by a roadside bomb near El Arish killing at least 10 soldiers and injuring 35.
- Netanyahu to Putin: Resolve Iran nuclear like Syrian chemical issue
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a press conference with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Wednesday after their talks that he had suggested resolving the Iran’s nuclear issue by the same method used for eliminating Syria’s chemical arms.
Western nations rush back into business with Iran
20 Nov. As the six powers’ negotiators sat down in Geneva for resumed nuclear talks with Iran Wednesday, Nov. 20, some Western powers and companies were scrambling to restore business ties with Tehran, banking on Washington’s eagerness for a deal. The sanctions architecture is therefore likely to crumble fast, even in the absence of an accord, so Tehran has every incentive for delaying one.
November 21, 2013 Briefs
- Iranian Dep. FM in Beirut to meet Nasrallah
Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Beirut Thursday and was immediately closeted with Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah. They discussed the twin bombing attacks two days earlier which blasted the Iranian embassy, killing 23 people including the cultural attaché and injuring 150.
- Saudi citizens advised to quit Lebanon at once
Saudi ambassador to Beirut Ali Awadh Asiri Thursday advised all the oil kingdom’s nationals to quit Lebanon without delay for their personal security.
- Unusual Israeli air force activity reported over Lebanon
Lebanese sources report unusually intense Israeli air force over-flights Thursday over South Lebanon, Beirut and the Beqaa Valley.
- Iran demands oil and banking sanctions ended for Geneva deal
Abbas Araghchi, the Iranian deputy foreign minister, made it clear in three hours of talks Thursday with the EU’s Catherine Ashton that any accord reached at the Geneva nuclear negotiations must include the lifting of the toughest sanctions restricting Iran’s ability to sell oil and conduct financial transactions. The US State Department’s Jen Psaki replied that these “core sanctions” would remain in place.
- US drone kills Taliban-linked Haqqani leader in NW Pakistan
A local police officer said the drone fired three rockets at a madrassa in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region just before sunrise Thursday. The dead included Maulvi Ahmad Jan, an adviser to Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the network allied with Taliban which carries his name.
- Six mortar shells fall in Saudi Arabia near Iraqi-Kuwaiti borders
The six mortar shells, which landed in an uninhabited desert area near the al-Auja border guard center of Hafr al-Batin in the Eastern Province, caused no damage.
- Brandeis suspends partnership with Palestinian University
Brandeis University has suspended its partnership with the Palestinian Al Quds university over its leadership’s failure to condemn an on-campus demonstration by masked marchers wearing black military gear, armed with fake automatic weapons, and raising the traditional Nazi salute.” They also lofted banners with images of dead suicide bombers.
Iran stands fast on Arak heavy water reactor for plutonium-fired nuclear weapon
21 Nov. The Iranian team faced the six world powers in Geneva Thursday, Nov. 21, with strict orders not to give ground on the two major sticking points for a first-step deal on their nuclear program: The heavy water reactor under construction at Arak for plutonium production and Iran’s “right” to uranium enrichment. debkafile: If Tehran wins those two points, any other concessions it may offer are worthless, because Iran will be left in possession of two optional nuclear weaponizing tracks instead of one – plutonium as well as enriched uranium.
November 22, 2013 Briefs
- Herzog wins an upset victory as Israel’s Labor party leader
He wrested the leadership from Shelly Yacimovich by a 58.5 percent lead in the Labor party’s primary election held Thursday. This party,which founded the state of Israel under David Ben Gurion, has declined over the years and dropped to 15 seats in the last Knesset election under Yacimovich’s leadership. Herzog, a 53-year old father of three, who has served as minister in several cabinets, was backed by the Old Guard against the woman they saw as a pushy parvenu who failed to deliver. Herzog is strong on diplomatic policy and likely to push a left-of-center agenda.