A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Weeks Ending July 12, 2012
Saudis on high military alert for Syria war
29 June. debkafile reports heavy Saudi troop movements toward the Jordanian and Iraqi borders, as Turkey continued to reinforce armored strength on the Syria border, and Syria deployed 170 tanks near Aleppo. Crucial talks inn St. Petersburg between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov could either prevent or precipitate military intervention.
June 30, 2012 Briefs
Yitzhak Shamir, Israel’s seventh prime minister, is dead at 96
Appointed prime minister in 1983 when Menahem Begin quit government, Yitzhak Shamir had previously served as foreign minister, Knesset Speaker and opposition leader and before that desk director of the Mossad. Before the state, Shamir was a commander of Lehi which fought the British mandate.
Palestinians use Christian shrine in Bethlehem to validate political aims
The Palestinians persuaded UNESCO to list the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem an “endangered World Heritage site” over the objections of the US and the owner-churches (Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian) which fear predominantly Muslim Palestinian interference. The Palestinians hailed the vote as a step towards global recognition of their independence. During their 2000-2002 uprising against Israel, the ancient church, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, was desecrated by Palestinian terrorists and many Christians emigrated from Bethlehem.
Muhammed Morsi vows to free the “blind sheikh”
Sworn in as Egyptian president Saturday, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammed Morsi pledged to protect the rights of all Egyptians and “free political prisoners,” among which he numbered Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric serving a life sentence in America for conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Obama may use Syrian chaos for Iran strike – report
30 June. Aviation Week reports: “Evidence is mounting that the US defense community and the Obama administration view 2013 as the likely window for a bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear and missile facilities.” The chaos of the Syrian government’s fall could be used “to disguise such an attack,” the journal suggests. “The tools…are all operational… Iran’s intransigence over shutting down its uranium-enrichment program will not buy it much more time…” and the US is coming around to suspecting that Iran has already conducted its first nuclear test in North Korea.
EU oil embargo on Iran in force. Gulf braced for backlash
1 July. The European oil embargo taking effect Sunday, July 1 blocks the sale to EU members of one third of Iran’s daily output of 3.3 million barrels a day. Gulf armies led by Saudi Arabia are on alert for reprisals. Two oil pipelines have been activated to bypass the Strait of Hormuz: The Saudis repaired and enlarged the disused “Iraq Pipeline in Saudi Arabia –IPS, running 750 kilometers from eastern Saudi oil fields to the Yanbu refineries and export terminal complex on the Red Sea. The UAE’s new 380-kilometer long Habshan-Fujairah pipeline which is able to carry 1.5 million bpd of this group’s total 2.5 million bpd output out to the Gulf of Oman port of Fujairah.
Assad boasts he can finish revolt in two months
2 July. In a phone call to the Kremlin Sunday, July 1, Syrian President Bashar Assad said he needed just two months to finish off the revolt against his regime. “My new military tactics are working,” he said. debkafile reports exclusively that those tactics consist of retiring the top army command on full pay to make way for a new set of younger commanders, most of them drawn from the brutal Alawite Shabiha militia, which is the ruling family’s primary arm against its enemies. Its thugs are armed with extra fire power for smashing resistance at greater speed, thus accounting for the spiraling rate of casualties.
July 03 2012 Briefs
Pakistan reopens overland NATO supply route to Afghanistan
It took an apology by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to persuade Islamabad to reopen the supply route to NATO forces in Afghanistan. The route was shut down seven months ago after a US airborne missile killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Only one 1,300-km range missile fired in Iranian exercise
debkafile’s military sources refute Tehran’s claim that in the Prophet 7 exercise conducted by Revolutionary Guards this week, a large number of Shehab-3 missiles capable of reaching Israel were fired. Only one out of the 30 missiles tested had a 1,300-kilometer range. It was fired from the Kerman region in southeastern Iran and successfully hit its simulated target in the Dash-e Kavir Salt Desert.
Iranian ultimatum to Turkey: Enter Syria at your peril
Tehran has warned Ankara in a formal note that if Turkish troops enter Syria, Iran and Hizballah will attack military targets inside Turkey.
July 4, 2012 Briefs
Iran says it can destroy US bases and Israel "minutes after attack"
Amir Ali Haji Zadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards aerospace division, was quoted by Fars news agency as saying that if attacked, “35 US military bases across the Middle East “and Israel would be destroyed by its advanced 2,000 kilometers range missiles. He spoke Wednesday, the third day of the Great Prophet 7 ballistic missile exercise.
Who Is Racing Iran for a Nuclear Bomb?
4 July: The Saudis, not invited to join negotiations either on the Syria or Iran, have gone ahead with their own plans for beating Iran to the nuclear draw.
debkafile’s military sources report that Saudi Arabia has set its feet on the path to a nuclear weapon capability and is negotiating in Beijng the purchase of Chinese nuclear-capable Dong-Fen 21 ((NATO-codenamed CSS-5) ballistic missile.
China, which has agreed to the transaction in principle, would also build a base of operations near Riyadh for the new Saudi purchases.
As we reported last year, Saudi Arabia has struck a deal with Pakistan for the availability on demand of a nuclear warhead from Islamabad’s arsenal for fitting onto a ballistic missile.
Who wants Yasser Arafat’s death reexamined? And why now?
5 July: Even the exhumation of Yasser Arafat’s remains by order of his successor Mahmoud Abbas will not yield up all the mysteries around his death – especially now.
Why did his widow Suha, eight years after his death, suddenly collect his old clothes and toothbrush and bring them to Doha for investigation by the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera TV station? And what made al Jazeera send them to a lab in Lausanne to test for polonium 210 – which has a half-life counted in months?
There is no proof that polonium traces were not planted on Arafat’s clothes years after his death, which is why the Swiss lab advised more tests to find out if this poison was present in his body.
It was first used in a murder in 2006 – two years after Arafat died in a French military hospital near Paris – to kill Russian spy-turned-critic Alexander Litvinenko in London.
In 2004, the Palestinian leader’s French doctors said he had died of a massive stroke brought on by inflammation, jaundice and DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation) but did not pin down its ultimate cause. It was speculated then that he had died of AIDS, which was discreetly concealed. The Swiss lab spokesman said his symptoms were not consistent with radiation poisoning.
debkafile: There is little mystery about Suha Arafat’s actions which are typically motivated by financial gain and a craving for publicity.
As for the Al Jazeera probe, it could not have been launched without authorization from the Qatari emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, champion of Hamas and its campaign against Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah, and an inveterate television-driven diplomat.
Moscow threatens to hand Iran S-300s if Assad ousted
5 July. Wednesday, July 4, senior Russian official Ruslan Pukhov warned: “If the Syrian regime is changed by force or if Russia doesn't like the outcome, it most likely will respond by selling S-300s to Iran."
debkafile’s military sources disclose that Israel has developed counter-measures for this advanced Russian system, which would make the targeting of Iranian nuclear sites by US and Israeli warplanes difficult because of its near-zero miss ratio for intercepting ballistic and cruise missiles – even when they come in at very low altitudes.
After losing 8,763 troops, Assad still believes he can win
6 July. In 17 months of brutal operations, the Syrian army has lost 8,763 dead and 21,357 wounded soldiers, 600 tanks and APCs, and a stream of high-ranking defectors. Yet neither Bashar Assad nor his ruling family appears to falter or fear failure. Why? Because Assad has purged the top command of veteran commanders and installed loyal Alawites in their stead. The latest high-ranking defector, Brig.-Gen. Manas Tlass, 105th Brigade commander of the Republic Guard did not abscond to rebel ranks but flew to Paris to join his father, Gen. Mustafa Tlass, former Syrian Defense Minister who served Bashar Assad and his father for 40 years, and his daughter Nahed Ojjeh, widow of the leading Saudi arms dealer Akkram Ojjeh.
Both have good connections around the Arab world and are close to the Russian ruling elite in Moscow.
July 7, 2012 Briefs
Iran is circumventing EU oil embargo
An agreement with European refiners to sell 20 percent of Iranian oil exports through a private consortium gets around the oil embargo just a week after it was imposed by the European Union to force Tehran to halt its nuclear program. Hassan Khosrojerdi, head of the Iran’s exporters’ union, said “minor privileges or discounts” would be given the buyers and with the agreement the problem of the embargo “has been solved completely.”
July 8, 2012 Briefs
Obama invites Egyptian President for September
The new Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi has received an invitation from US President Obama to visit the White House in September. The US State Department’s William Burns, who brought the invitation, denied that Egyptian-Israel relations were mentioned.
debkafile: Simultaneous Iranian, Syrian military exercises – unprecedented
Although Iran completed a missile drill as recently as July 5, it is launching another big exercise Monday, July 8, against alien aircraft and missile incursions. Never before have Iranian and Syrian armed forces carried out simultaneous and coordinated exercises. They are both devoted to the same objective of repelling foreign intervention, having apparently accepted the Russian intelligence presumption that Western military intervention in Syria would create a beachhead for attacking Iran.
Ruling Likud endorses draft law reform
In response to popular demand, Binyamin Netanyahu’s party endorsed the principles laid down by the Plesner panel for making all parts of the population subject to compulsory military conscription or civic service – including ultra-religious yeshiva seminarists and Arab citizens, who qualified for special exemptions under the current, 64-year old law. Netanyahu said the new legislation to be drafted by a new panel would gradually expand the draft without impinging on national unity.
Syrian rebel advance poses WMD threat to region
8 July. “There is still a chance to save the Syrian state from a catastrophic assault that would be very dangerous not only to Syria, but to the region,” said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Tokyo, Sunday, July 8. “… the opposition is getting more effective… and going on the offensive against the Syrian military.”
debkafile: Her over-the-top language comes at a pivotal moment in the Syrian conflict: The rebels are winning more and more territory and not only encircling Damascus, but fighting inside the capital. To save itself, the Assad regime which still controls the army outside Damascus may in desperation open up its arsenals and deploy weapons of mass destruction in a bid to drive off the rebels and spread the flames to other parts of the region, including Israel.
July 9, 2012 Briefs
Israeli intersection hit by heavy machine-gun fire from Gaza
A restaurant and two parked cars at the Yad Mordecai junction were damaged by a sudden volley of heavy machine gunfire from the Gaza Strip Monday night. No one was hurt.
Israel’s Navy prepares to secure Mediterranean gas rigs
Navy chief Maj. Gen. Ram Rothberg said his force takes responsibility for securing Israel’s offshore gas strikes in the eastern Mediterranean and its uninterrupted flow. It will be required to adapt its operational tactics to the new task of defending this vital strategic asset.
Barak: Advanced weaponry is reaching Hizballah from Syria
Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed concern Monday about the transfer of sophisticated hardware from Syria to Hizballah, which together with Iran, is making every effort to keep Bashar Assad in power.
A 5.6 magnitude earth tremor in parts of Israel
No casualties or damage immediately reported from the light tremor felt in many parts of the country at two minutes to 17:00. Its epicenter was out in the Mediterranean Sea.
Israel troubled by Obama’s outreach to Morsi
9 July. Israel was taken aback by US President Barack Obama’s invitation to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi – in breach of his assurances to US Jewish leaders, debkafile reports. His key assurance was not to invite Morsi to the White House until he met certain conditions, the foremost of which was a public and specific statement of commitment to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel as a central theme in his earliest foreign policy speech.
July 10, 2012 Briefs
Ex-PM Ehud Olmert acquitted on two out of three corruption charges
The Jerusalem District Court cleared former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of two out of three corruption charges for lack of evidence proving beyond reasonable doubt that he accepted illegal moneys systematically and knowingly – only that it was done in an improper manner.
US objects to law experts opinion legalizing Jewish settlements
Washington has sharply criticized the Israeli legal panel ruling that Jewish settlements on the West Bank are not illegal under international law: US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Monday: “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity and we oppose any effort to legalize outposts.” The panel headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy found that the term of occupier is not applicable to Israel since the West Bank never belonged to a sovereign nation and its capture before Israel by the Kingdom of Jordan never won international recognition. The team proposed the creation of a special court for property disputes. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu referred the report to the Ministerial Committee on Settlements for decisions on implementation.
Egyptian legislature defies court and generals
The dissolved Egyptian parliament convened Tuesday in obedience to President Mohammed Morsi and in defiance of the ruling military council and the High Constitutional Court, sharply defining the lines of contest in Cairo.
June 11, 2012 Briefs
debkafile: Defecting Syrian ambassador was also top intelligence official
Ambassador to Iraq Nawaf Fares was not only the first serving Syrian ambassador to turn his back on the Assad government, he was only a diplomat in name. debkafile reports exclusively that his real job was deputy director of political intelligence, one of Syria’s seven clandestine branches. His was the second high-ranking official to abandon Assad in less than a week, after General Manaf Tlass, commander of the 105th Brigade of the Republican Guard, flew to Paris. In Baghdad, Fares’s real mission, coordinated with Iranian agents, was to spy on Arab undercover agencies recruiting fighters and organizing arms shipments to the Syrian rebel cause.
Morsi visits Saudi Arabia and UAE
Muhammed Morsi carried out his first foreign visits as Egyptian president Wednesday, arriving at the Saudi summer capital of Jeddah for talks with King Abdullah, following which he will fly to the United Arab Emirates. debkafile: The new president is in urgent need of financial assistance for reviving the economy and feeding the population.
CIA Chief Petraeus in Saudi Arabia
The CIA chief David Petraeus is reported by Saudi sources to have visited King Abdullah in Jedah Monday, July 9.
Turkey begins paying for Iranian oil in gold
Gold exports from Turkey to Iran quadrupled in April compared with the same month last year, rising to $1.2 billion, according to Azerbaijani and Russian sources. This volume remained stable up until June. Those sources say that Turkey is in effect paying for its gas and oil purchases from Iran in gold.
NATO, Russian buildup near Syria, French fleet in Gulf
11 July. At least 11 Russian warships are heading for Syria from their Baltic. Black Sea and North Sea bases; NATO’s rapid response Maritime Group 2 is on its way too and five Israeli warships are already deployed. The French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle-R91 is making for the French naval base at Port Zayid, Abu Dhabi, opposite the Strait of Hormuz.
debkafile’s military sources report that that this week, Syria and Iran held their first simultaneous, coordinated military maneuvers against enemy aggression. While relating it to potential outside intervention in Syria, they are in fact practicing to repel a potential US attack on Iran’s nuclear program, which is now expected in Gulf and European military quarters to take place in October.
July 12, 2012 Briefs
Israel keeps up attacks on Palestinian rocket teams in Gaza
Israeli forces carried out its second strike Thursday against Palestinians poised for cross-border attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip. A Hamas military arm unit was hit in the Zeitun district east of Gaza City before it could launch a missile. One fighter was killed and two injured. Israeli aircraft and tanks earlier struck a group of terrorists on the point of launching an anti-tank rocket from Gaza against an IDF border patrol near Nahal Oz. The Palestinians report four injured men, one seriously.
Two more US carriers, mini-subs rushed to Hormuz
12 July. debkafile reports the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier and dozens of unmanned underwater craft for destroying mines are being rushed to the Persian Gulf. By August, five aircraft carriers will be on site – four American and one French. "If Iran starts spreading underwater mines in international waterways, i.e., the Strait of Hormuz, it will find American forces ready to dismantle them," said a Western military source. US, French and British naval experts say Iran is short of military capacity for sealing the strait altogether – only slowing the traffic including oil tankers down.