A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Oct. 24, 2013
Obama mulls release of $12bn in frozen Iranian assets, followed by the $35 held in Europe
18 Oct. Iran stands to gain access to nearly $50 billion if the Obama administration decides to free up Tehran’s $12 billion in frozen assets in the US, inevitably followed by Europe’s release of another $40 billion. The White House was reported Friday, Oct. 18 to be weighing this plan as a means, debkafile reports, to ease sanctions, without having to refer to Congress to repeal or amend sanctions laws. This plan would fly in the face of calls by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Congress for harsher measures against Iran after failed diplomacy in Geneva.
October 19, 2013 Briefs
- Lebanon reports Israeli AF flights over Beirut
According to Lebanese media, Israeli fighter jets flew low over Beirut and the Beqaa Valley Friday night. Reported Israeli flights over Beirut are infrequent.
- Three US senators push for more sanctions on Iran
Three Republican senators call for increased sanctions against Iran in the face of administration objections. They are Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, a junior member of the Senate banking committee, Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. They said in a statement, “The end of talks in Geneva this week with no change in Iranian behavior means the US should not suspend new sanctions, nor consider releasing limited frozen assets before Tehran suspends its nuclear enrichment activities. “
- Syrian rebels release 9 Lebanese hostages
Syrian rebels release 9 Lebanese captives abducted last year on a pilgrimage to Shiite shrines in Syria against the release of 282 women held in Syrian prisons. debkafile: This episode is the first outward sign of secret direct contacts between Syrian rebel groups and the Assad regime in certain war sectors.
October 20, 2013 Briefs
- Suspected Iranian-Belgian spy remanded in custody
A dual Iranian-Belgian citizen Ali Mansuri, was remanded in custody Sunday by the Lod district court for the investigation into the charges that he was recruited by Iranian intelligence to spy on Israel and act against Israel’s national security on behalf of an enemy.
- Karnit Flug picked as Bank of Israel Governor after long delay
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid finally agreed Sunday to tap interim central bank chief Karnit Flug, 58, for the top spot, after dickering for four months. She will step into the shoes of Stanley Fischer who retired at the end of June, after beating three other candidates: economics professor Zvi Eckstein, former Argentine central banker Mario Blejer and former United Mizrachi Bank Chief Executive Victor Medina.
Syrian rebel factions in deals with local army commanders
20 Oct. Some Syrian rebel commanders controlling Damascus outskirts are clinching private ceasefire deals with local government army officers, a trend spreading to other cities. debkafile: These local deals are evolving into joint patrols of rebel-held districts. This offers the prospect of wide areas seized by the rebels reverting to government control without a fight and the two camps joining forces to combat the spreading encroachments of Al Qaeda. Assad sees this trend as improving his standing in Washington and easing the pressure on his regime over the chemicals issue.
The discovery that Turkey was arming Al Qaeda units fighting Syrian Kurds caused outrage in NATO and Washington.
Last Palestinian terror attacks do have common thread
20 Oct. In less than a month, Palestinians have committed six acts of terror against Israeli soldiers and civilians and launched a new terror conspiracy against the Israeli population abutting the Gaza Strip. Two soldiers and a reserve colonel were murdered. Yet Israeli spokesmen deny evidence of a “connecting thread” or “a common factor.” debkafile: Hamas is highly visible as one common factor, especially after Ismail Haniya, Gaza prime minister, called on Oct. 19 for a Third Intifada. Instead of denial, the IDF needs to nip this peril in the bud.
October 21, 2013 Briefs
- Two Syrian mortar shells explode on Golan. No one hurt
There were no casualties from two Syrian mortar rounds which exploded Monday in the southern Golan near Tel Fares. They reached the enclave from a battle on the Syrian side.
- Large explosive device on Gaza border rigged to hit IDF unit
Israeli soldiers Monday disarmed a large explosive device hidden in vegetation on the border of southern Gaza near Kissufim route. It was rigged to hit a passing IDF patrol. Last week, a long underground tunnel was discovered running under the border fence from southern Gaza up to a point near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. It was designed to spirit terrorists into Israel.
- Gunmen shoot up an Egyptian Coptic wedding, kill three
Gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on a wedding party outside a Coptic Christian church in Cairo Monday, killing three people, including an eight-year old girl and injuring nine others. There was no claim of responsibility. debkafile: Egypt’s 6-11 million native Coptic adherents are periodically victimized by Muslim extremists and their churches vandalized – especially in recent weeks for backing the military coup against the Muslim Brotherhood.
Russia and Iran expand military cooperation and arms trade
21 Oct. In his trip to Tehran, Russia Air Force Chief Gen. Viktor Bondarev and his host, Brig. Gen. Hassan Shasafi laid the groundwork for transactions to upgrade military ties between Moscow and Tehran as never before, and challenge America pre-eminence in the region. Iran wants Russian technology to upgrade its missiles, extend their range and improve their precision, as well as Russian fighters, interceptors, transports and refueling planes for its air force.
October 22, 2013 Briefs
- Friends of Syria in London agree no role for Assad in transition
The 11 foreign ministers meeting in London to discuss the Syrian crisis agreed that Bashar Assad can have no role in the country’s future government. They called on the moderate Syrian opposition to put up a united delegation for the Geneva II conference next month.
- Despite sanctions, UK reopens North Sea gas field co-owned with Iran
The big Rhum North Sea gas field, co-owned by BP and Iran, which was shut in 2010 by EU sanctions on Iranian firms, was allowed by the British government to resume production.
- Iran to produce its own fuel for Bushehr reactor within 3 months
Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Tuesday: "The production line of enriched uranium dioxide (UO2) for the provision of fuel to the Bushehr power plant will be fully operational within next three months.
- Israel forces shoot dead terrorist wanted for Tel Aviv bombing
The Palestinian Jihad Islami operative wanted for a bus bombing in Tel Aviv on Nov. 21, 2012 was run down by Israel military and Shin Bet forces in a cave in the West Bank village of Bil’in north of Highway 443 to Jerusalem. He was killed trying to shoot his way out.
- Female suicide bomber blew up Russian bus killing seven
The woman killed seven people and injured 30 on the bus she blew up in Volgograd in southern Russia Monday. debkafile: The terrorist from Dagestan was the widow of an Islamist suicide bomber who remarried a Russian and converted him to radical Islam. He is now the target of a federal manhunt.
Obama tells Tehran to come back with a better proposal
22 Oct. Washington has quietly told Tehran that the “proposals” put to last week’s Geneva conference were too meager for further nuclear diplomacy. “Go back and start from scratch,” was the message.
Abbas set to slam door on talks with Israel, revives revolving door for detained terrorists
22 Oct. Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas plans to derail talks with Israel straight after the release of the second batch of jailed Palestinians next week. US Secretary of State John Kerry will try to head off the crisis by cajoling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when they meet in Rome Wednesday, Oct. 23, to make Abbas an offer he can’t refuse of sovereign Israel land, namely one-third of Dead Sea territory. The Palestinian leader is also unraveling longstanding counter-terrorism security cooperation with Israel by reviving the “revolving door” for detainees.
October 23, 2013 Briefs
- Kerry-Netanyahu’s 7-hour talk focused on peace process
Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent seven hours talking in Rome about security arrangements following Israel’s withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, debkafile reports Kerry said to the prime minister: “Don’t tell me what you want. Tell me what you need and we’ll think about ways to achieve it together.”
- Netanyahu speaks against partial nuclear accord with Iran
Before his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented that the West appears to be nearing a nuclear deal with Iran, but warned against acceptance of a partial accord with Iran – any more than it would have worked for Syria’s chemical weapons. Kerry repeated that no deal was better than a bad deal.
- Ya’alon: We destroyed a Syrian gun. Iran will not rescind its nuclear option
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Wednesday: “Israel is watching the Syrian war and will not permit chemical weapons to reach hostile hands or allow Israel’s sovereignty on the Golan to be breached” On Iran, he said, “Tehran is cheating the world,” and Israel stands ready to defend itself by itself.
- Kuwaiti paper: Israel bombed Syrian missile shipment to Hizballah
According to the Kuwaiti Al Jarida of Wednesday, the Israeli Air Force last Sunday bombed a consignment of advanced Syrian missiles to prevent them reaching Hizballah in Lebanon.
- Saudi prince: Obama’s Syria policies “perfidious”
Saudi Prince Turki said Wednesday, ”The current charade of international control over Bashar's chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious. And designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down (from military strikes), but also to help Assad to butcher his people. The shift away from the U.S. is a major one. Saudi doesn't want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent."
- Accused Libyan terrorist in second NY court appearance
Libyan government hires attorney Bernard Kleinman to defend suspected terrorist mastermind Abu Anas al-Liby before a New York federal court where he has pleaded not guilty to plotting the 1998 bombings of US embassies in E. Africa.
- Incumbent mayors returned in Jerusalem and all Israel’s main towns
In Jerusalem, Nir Barkat edged past challenger Moshe Leon – the joint candidate of Avigdor Liberman (Israel Beitenu) and Arye Deri (Shas) to retain his seat; in Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai won a fifth term; Yonah Yahav re-elected in Haifa, and Rubik Danilovitch, who won big (92 percent) in Beersheba. Mayors, Shlomo Lahiani in Bat Yam and Yithzak Hochberger in Ramat Hasharon, kept their seats although they are under indictment for corruption charges.
The average national turnout was a low 51.9 percent in response to lackluster campaigns.
debkafile Exclusive: Abbas signs accord with Bashar Assad
23 Oct. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas this week signed a secret cooperation agreement with President Bashar Assad, debkafile reveals here for the first time. They concluded the deal unbeknownst to US Secretary of State John Kerry, shortly before he sat down in Rome Wednesday, Oct. 23, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Abbas is the first Arab leader to break ranks with the united Arab front boycotting Assad and deal with the Syrian ruler on behalf of an anti-regime minority, i.e. the Palestinians.
October 24, 2013 Briefs
- The elite IDF Golani gets its first Druze commander
Chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz Thursday named Col. Rassan Aliyan as first member of the Druze community to command the IDF’s elite Golani Brigade.
- Yadlin: An Israeli strike would slow Iran’s nuclear program by 5 years
Ex-AMAN intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said in an interview to New Republic Thursday that fi diplomacy doesn’t work, Israel doesn’t need America for a military strike to buy a five-year delay in Iran’s nuclear development.
- Kerry fails to bring Israel and Saudis round on US nuclear deal with Iran
Secretary of State John Kerry was not able to convince Israel or Saudi Arabia that Washington is not giving away too much for a nuclear accord with Iran. Netanyahu told reporters in Rome Wednesday that nothing short of the complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program should elicit sanctions relief.
- US eavesdropping scandal continues to outrage Germany
Efforts made by the White House to allay Berlin’s indignation over the discovery that the NSA monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone have fallen on deaf ears. After Merkel called Barack Obama Wednesday to voice her outrage, the US Ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry in Berlin.