A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending September 27, 2012
September 21 Briefs
US takes Iranian exile opposition MEK off terror list
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to inform Congress of her decision to take the Iranian exile group Mujahedin-e-Khalq, or MEK, off a State Department terror list. It was listed in 1997 after the killing of six Americans in Iran in the 1970s and an attempted attack on the Iranian UN mission in 1992. debkafile: This step is a severe blow to Tehran. It means that its archenemy is now free to openly campaign against the Islamic regime of Iran in Europe, the Middle East and the United States with American support.
Violent anti-film protests killed 19 people in Pakistan
In the violent protests after Friday prayers, 19 people were killed in Pakistan – 12 in Karachi, the rest in Peshawar and other towns. Violent crowds filled the streets of Pakistani cities despite the airing on local TV of an ad producing by the US embassy in Islamabad featuring President Obama and Secretary Clinton denouncing the video. Ahead of expected outbreaks of protest after Friday prayers, France shut down embassies and schools in 20 Muslim countries following the publication of satirical cartoons in a French weekly. France and other European governments took steps to forestall protests by their own Muslim minorities.
An Israeli soldier killed, second injured in clash with terrorist bombers from Sinai
Corp. Netanel Yahalomi, 20, from Nof Ayalon was killed and a second Israeli solider was seriously injured in a clash with terrorists from Sinai. The attackers reached the border near Mt. Harif in southern Israel wearing bomb belts and heavily armed with automatic weapons and grenades for a major terrorist attack and opened fire on the troops guarding work on the border fence. In the heavy exchange for fire, all three terrorists were killed. Both Sgt. Yahalomi and his wounded comrade were yeshiva students serving in the Artillery Corps. The clash occurred on the Israeli side of the Negev border in an area which is still unfenced because of the difficult mountainous terrain.
The hyped-up Iranian weapons paraded in Tehran are not new
A military parade Friday in Tehran opened a week of ceremonies marking the 32nd anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war. On display were the Raad or Thunder air defense system, touted as more advanced than its Russian predecessor, the Shehab-3 and Senjil ballistic missiles whose reported ranges are from 1,300 to 2,000 kilometers, and the Kadar. They are all veterans of Iran’s military arsenal. debkafile: The absence of new weapons systems on parade attests to Iran facing mounting difficulties in developing new, upgraded hardware.
Iran responsible for cyber attacks on leading US banks
The Iranian government carried out continuing cyber attacks this week that slowed down the JPMorgan and Bank of America websites. The hackers claimed they were protesting he film mocking Prophet Muhammad.
September 22, 2012 Briefs
Another Benghazi atrocity
The Ansar al-Sharia militia which murdered US Ambassador Chris Stevens and four US diplomats “executed” six Libyan security officers after its Benghazi compound was stormed Saturday by angry Libyans demanding an end to militia rule. After the militiamen agreed to abandon the compound “to contribute to town’s security,” the six bodies were found shot in the head.
No end to Iran threats against Israel
Revolutionary Guards chief Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said Saturday: An Israeli war on Iran “will eventually happen” but the Jewish state will be subsequently destroyed.
US Senate: Containing nuclear Iran is not enough
By a majority of 90-1, the US senate reaffirmed the efforts to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and said “containment of a nuclear-capable Iran is not an option.” The nonbinding measure specifically stated that it should not been interpreted as authorization for the use of military force or a declaration of war.
Washington’s mock war scenario vs. Iranian, Israel war preparations
22 Sept. Not all the Israeli units taking part in a major military exercise on the Syrian-Lebanese borders on Sept 19 returned to base after Iran began airlifting elite al Qods fighting strength and weapons into Syria and Lebanon. US intelligence sources have accused Iran of “secretly transporting to Assad large quantities of weapons and military personnel by civilian aircraft – almost daily.”
An estimated two IDF divisions are in place in case Syria and Hizballah decide to attack Israel with Iranian reinforcements. A mixed bag of US and Iranian figures this week cited 2013 as the year in which the United States would go to war on Iran. Among them was Iran’s atomic commission director Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk and players in the US-Iranian war game staged at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington.
Their purpose: to prove to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that it was unnecessary to attack Iran before the US presidential election. At the same time, the war game omitted to take into account the key factor of Syria, not just Iran, as a likely venue for the approaching conflict.
September 23, 2012 Briefs
Iran threatens Israel and the US with “preemptive strikes”
Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh who is in charge of the Revolutionary Guards missile systems spoke Sunday of World War III breaking out from an attack on Iran. He also said that if Israel was preparing an attack, Iran might launch a preemptive strike against the Jewish state. Any Israeli attack he said would be deemed authorized by Washington. Therefore, “we will definitely attack US bases in Bahrain, Qatar and Afghanistan."
Morsi: Egypt will uphold peace with Israel provided the US commits to Palestinian self-rule
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi placed his government’s commitment to the 1979 peace pact with Israel and future ties with the United States squarely at Washington’s door. Talking to the New York Times on his way to the UN General Assembly, Morsi said that if Washington is asking Egypt to honor its treaty with Israel, Washington should also live up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule. He demanded that the US respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values. It is up to Washington to repair relations with the Arab world and revitalize the alliance with Egypt, the Egyptian president said.
Israeli FM against rewriting Egypt peace treaty military clauses
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman sharply rejected Egypt’s demand to revise the military clauses of its 1979 peace pact with Israel. “The problem,” he stressed, “is not the size of the forces but their willingness to fight, bring pressure to bear and do the job.”
Hamas committed to an Iran-led war on Israel
23 Sept. Hamas leaders Mahmoud A-Zahar and Deputy commander of its military arm Marwan Issa spent the second week of September in Beirut and Tehran finalizing and signing protocols covering a detailed and binding commitment by the radical Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip to join Iran, Syria and Hizballah in a war on Israel, debkafile’s exclusive military sources disclose.
This war might arise from an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program or the involvement of Iran’s allies, Syria and Hizballah, in hostilities against Israel. Hamas agreed to place its 22,000 trained fighters under their joint command and Tehran agreed to resume economic aid and weapons supplies to the Palestinian extremists.
With Egypt unequal to the task of exercising control over lawless Sinai, Israel military sources are asking whether Iran and Hamas will continue to run their own al Qaeda cells and other military groups in the peninsula or effect a merger.
September 24, 2012 Briefs
Prosecution to appeal ex-PM Olmert verdicts and light sentence
The state prosecution plans to appeal the acquittals of ex-prime minister Ehud Olmert on two corruption charges and the light sentence handed down against him Monday for breach of faith by the Jerusalem district court. He received a one-year suspended sentence for three years and a fine on three counts of breach of trust, which the court itself castigated as “extremely serious, corrupting and prejudicial to the core values of public service.” A sentence of more than three months of community service would disqualify the former prime minister from public office in government or parliament for seven years. The current sentence allows him to make a political comeback. The prosecution has 45 days to appeal. Olmert’s lawyers said an appeal would amount to persecution.
Obama rejects Israel’s “red lines” as “noise out there”
24 Sept. US President Barack Obama added the last stroke to his rejection of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s quest for cooperation in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat in an interview Sunday night, Sept. 23, to CBS “”60 Minutes” program. He said he understands and agrees with Netanyahu's insistence that Iran not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons as this would threaten both countries, the world in general, and kick off an arms race. But then added, "When it comes to our national security decisions – any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out – any noise that's out there." By saying he will be ruled solely by American security interests, he showed Israel’s leaders that they must be guided equally by Israel’s security interests. So forget about red lines for America.
His blunt, contemptuous dismissal of Israel’s concerns as “noise out there” coincided with Iran’s dismissal of Israel as, on the one hand, lacking the military capability and courage to go forward with an attack on Iran and, on the other, facing destruction if it does.
September 25, 2012 Briefs
Iran test-fires missiles during US-led big naval maneuver
The Revolutionary Guards general Ali Fadavi said Iran test-fired four missiles in the Strait of Hormuz in the course of a big US-led sea maneuver taking place there. He claimed the missiles hit a big target the size of a warship and sunk it within 50 seconds. The 12-day exercise conducted by 25 Western and Arab navies, aimed at keeping the strategic straits open against Iranian attempts to block it, has just ended.
Apparent stray Syrian mortar shells explode on Golan
Mortar shells exploded in the fields of Kibbutz Elrom close to the Golan border with Syria early Tuesday. No one was hurt and there was no real damage. The shells are thought to have strayed across the border from a nearby battle between Syrian and rebel forces.
West Bank sealed off for Yom Kippur
Israel forces closed off the West Bank for Yom Kippur between Monday and Wednesday nights, Sept. 24-26. Israeli airspace was closed and road traffic halted from Tuesday midday until the end of the Day of Atonement, a day of fast and repentance, the most solemn on the Jewish calendar.
Jordan on the brink: Muslim Brothers mobilize for King Abdullah’s overthrow
25 Sept. Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood has scheduled Oct. 10 for the start of mass protests against King Abdullah and ordered its members to start mobilizing at least 50,000 protesters for daily demonstrations. The king has until then to accept the MB’s demand for Jordan’s transition to a constitutional monarchy and free elections. debkafile also reports. Israel is worried about the Arab Spring throwing up another Islamist state next door. Saudi royals fear they are next in line.
The Jordanian monarch has three options (as first reported in last week’s DEBKA-Net-Weekly):
Bow to the Brotherhood’s demands and transfer executive power to an elected government which it will inevitably dominate; order a crackdown on protest and risk the sort of carnage which is afflicting Syria; or try and negotiate a compromise. Most observers think the king has left it too late: the Muslim Brotherhood has got the bit between its teeth. And since the Arab Spring, he can’t count on Obama saving him.
September 26, 2012 Briefs
At least 4 killed in two big bomb blasts targeting Syrian army HQ
The General Staff main building in the heart of Damascus was damaged by two bomb blasts. IN the heavy fighting between Syrian rebels and government troops, four people were admitted killed by Damascus. Other sources report multiple casualties. Tuesday, several bombs went off inside a Damascus school used by regime forces as a security headquarters. Several people were wounded.
Iranian officers reshape Assad’s Shabiha militia into a second al-Qods
26 Sept. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has leapt into the Syrian battle arena by undertaking the transformation of Assad’s loyal Alawite Shabiha militia into a new corps, retrained and reorganized on the model of the elite Al Qods Brigade. More than 2,200 Iranian military instructors have so far been airlifted into Syria along with up-to-date weapons for the militiamen. When the project is completed, Bashar Assad – if he survives that long – will have a new corps of highly-trained 50-60,000 elite troops.
All US efforts have failed to dissuade Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to stop the Iranian airlift taking a short cut through Iraqi air space. Tehran’s willingness in these tense times to withdraw thousands of crack military personnel from Iran points to low expectations of an imminent attack on its nuclear program. And if an attack does take place, crack Iranian troops will be standing ready to retaliate from across the Syrian-Israeli border.