A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Weeks Ending Sept. 12, 2013

Countdown begins for solo US military strike on Syria

30 Aug. After the shock Thursday, Aug. 29, of David Cameron’s parliamentary defeat, knocking America’s foremost partner, Britain, out of the coming strike against Syria, the White House stressed that the US would act unilaterally The breakdown of Obama’s coalition strikes at the heart of NATO and undermines US prestige in the Middle East.

August 31, 2013 Briefs

  • Putin calls US CW claims against Assad regime “nonsense”
    Russia's President Vladimir Putin Saturday dismissed US claims that Syria's regime used chemical weapons as "utter nonsense.”
  • Chuck Hagel calls Moshe Ya’alon
    On his way back from the Far East, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called two allied defense ministers from his plane – Israel’s Moshe Ya’alon and France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian. The French minister takes command of the naval and air forces based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and assigned to take part in the coming US military action against Syria.

“Limited” US strike risks leaving Assad with chemical arsenal intact

31 Aug. President Barack Obama confirmed Friday that the forthcoming US military attack on Syria would be “limited” and “narrow” and not open-ended.

Obama delays Syria strike indefinitely by turning decision over to Congress

31 Aug. President Barack Obama shocked a tense world Saturday, Aug. 14, when he dodged a decision on a US strike on Syria by referring it to Congress.

September 1, 2013 Briefs

  • Israel maintains readiness after US strike on Syria delayed
    Israel’s readiness for attack remains in place Sunday despite President Barack Obama’s announcement Saturday of an indefinite delay in America’s military strike on Syria.
  • Suez Canal: First terrorist attack attempted on container ship
    An unsuccessful terrorist attack on a container ship passing through the Suez Canal on Saturday. Two explosions heard as the ship passed through the waterway.

September 2, 2013 Briefs

  • USS carrier Nimitz rerouted to Red Sea to defend Jordan
    The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz strike group, which includes four destroyers and a cruiser, were rerouted Sunday night to the Red Sea, to help support a limited US strike on Syria if needed.

Damascus, Hizballah jack up threats on Israel

2 Sept. President Barack Obama aborted the US strike on Syria, without giving Israel prior warning, Damascus and Hizballah have stepped up their threats to attack Israel in the coming weeks, prompting a warning from Netanyahu that “Anyone wishing to do us harm should know what awaits him.”
The brakes applied suddenly on a finalized US strike against Syria was a watershed event in US-Israeli military relations and a game-changer for the Middle East at large

Apaches rocket terrorists in N. Sinai. “Dozens” of casualties

3 Sept. An Egyptian security official said a par of helicopter gunships fired 13 rockets Tuesday, surprising terrorist gatherings in two locations, Al-Muataa and Touma, south of the town of Sheikh Zuweid near the northern Sinai border with the Gaza Strip. The officials said "dozens" of terrorists were killed and wounded.
debkafile: Egyptian forces are carving out two security zones for blocking the transit of Hamas and Jihad Islami gunmen between Sinai and the Gaza Strip through smuggling tunnels.
Our military sources note that for the first time in eight years, the Egyptian army is honoring the obligation to combat Palestinian terror undertaken by the deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2005, when Israel pulled out unilaterally from the Gaza Strip.
The Egyptian army has embarked on two simultaneous strategic operations:
1. Cleansing the 14-kilometer long, 500 meter broad “Philadelphi corridor” separating Gaza from Sinai,
2. Putting up dozens of checkpoints around Egyptian Rafah to seal the Gaza off from northern Sinai.

Israel conducts joint missile interception test with US in Mediterranean

3 Sept. Tuesday, Sept. 3, Israel carried out a joint missile test with the United States in the Mediterranean Sea, using an “Ankor” (Sparrow) as target for both their anti-missile systems,to prepare for a possible Syrian-Hizballah attack on Israel and Jordan, in retaliation for a potential US military strike on Syria. The test was picked by the Russian Armavir warning station on the Black Sea.

September 4, 2013 Briefs

  • Egyptian military court gives 11 MB members life sentences
    In first sentencing since July 3 ouster of Mohamed Morsi, an Egyptian military court ordered 11 Muslim Brotherhood members imprisoned for life for “aggression” against the army.
  • Syria’s Muqdad threatens World War III for US strike
    Syria's deputy foreign minister Faisal Muqdad said on Wednesday the regime would not give in to threats of a US-led military strike against the country, even if a third world war erupts.
  • Jerusalem police storm Temple Mt. against Muslim attacks
    Israeli police stormed Temple Mount Jerusalem to stop masked Muslim rioters hurling rocks on Jewish worshippers praying at the Western Wall below Wednesday. The shrine was packed with eve-of-New Year worshippers. Police roadblocks were set up on the roads leading into Jerusalem and members of the radical Israeli Islamist movement taken off a dozen buses heading for the capital and the Al Aqsa mosque.

September 5, 2013 Briefs

  • Tehran: Israel, Azerbaijan sign new anti-Iran intelligence pact
    Iranian intelligence sources reported Thursday that Israel and Azerbaijan had recently signed another secret accord for intelligence collaboration against Iran. The two countries agreed to open trade bureaus in Tel Aviv and Baku. The Iranians claim that those trade ties will focus on cooperation in electronic communications, internet and cell phone technology, but will in fact be the front for planting sophisticated eavesdropping devices in Azerbaijan for spying on its neighbor, Iran.
  • The USS San Antonio amphibious vessel docks in Haifa
    The helicopter landing craft docked in Haifa Wednesday for refueling and R &R for the 800 Marines aboard and crew before joining the US flotilla opposite Syria next week.
  • Russian President Putin calls John Kerry a liar
    Further escalating Russia’s anti-US rhetoric, Russian President Vladimir Putin called US Secretary of State John Kerry a liar, claiming he had denied al Qaeda was fighting with the Syrian opposition, even though he was aware of the al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra group. “He is lying and he knows that he is lying. This is sad,” Putin said Wednesday, as world leaders gathered in St. Petersburg for the G20 summit.

Putin choreographs G20 summit in Russia to isolate Obama on Syria

5 Sept. The US president came to the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg Thursday, Sept. 5, determined to act against Syria’s use of chemical weapons. The Russian president was equally determined to oppose it and moreover isolate Barack Obama on Syria by outvoting him, except for the French, Canadian and Saudi leaders.

September 6, 2013 Briefs

  • Another Russian warship heads for Syria
    The addition of the Smetlivy guided missile destroyer will increase the Russian flotilla opposite Syria to six warships. A Chinese landing craft with 1,000 marines is also en route to Syria.

September 7, 2013 Briefs

  • Tip-off of a bomb attack delayed flight from Cairo airport
    housands of Egyptian army and security troops raided 12 villages in the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuwait, to flush out jihadi terrorist hideouts. At least 31 terrorists were killed and scores injured.

US bombers will also target Syria’s air force, missiles, air defenses

7 Sept. Reports coming out of Washington say that US President Barack Obama has expanded his sights beyond degrading Syria’s chemical capabilities to taking down Bashar Assad’s air force, destroying his air bases and knocking out his ground-to-ground ballistic missiles, using giant B-52s and B-2 stealth bombers. For now, Obama is investing heavily in a blitz for congressional support.

Assad mulls a secret new US proposal

8 Sept. Bashar Assad’s remark that he was “not necessarily expecting the United States to intervene” was the key phrase in the interview to be aired on the Charlie Rose Show on PBS Monday night, Sept. 9. It indicated that something new was afoot. Assad also denied he had anything to do with the chemical attack last month near Damascus. debkafile: Washington has handed the Syrian ruler a secret proposal for ending the crisis, which European powers are pushing hard. Israel’s Defense Ya’alon said later: “We are ready for the repercussions – either from a US attack on Syria or the absence of an attack. Whichever is decided we will be affected. Our neighbors, especially the Syrian regime, understand that anyone challenging us will meet the full might of the IDF.”

September 9, 2013 Briefs

  • Egyptian bombardment razes 30 houses on Gaza-Sinai border
    debkafile’s military sources report that the Egyptian army has doubled to one kilometer the depth of the security belt it is carving out between the Gaza Strip and Egyptian Sinai. To this end, some 30 houses were flattened after their occupants were given short notice to leave.
  • Assad: Expect everything if US attacks
    In CBS extracts from his Charlie Rose interview, Syrian ruler Bashar Assad said that in the event of US military intervention, one should “expect everything, every action.” When he was asked if ‘everything” included chemical weapons, he fudged, saying: “If the rebels or terrorists have it, then…”
  • Kerry: Saudis back US strike against Syria
    US Secretary of State John Kerry reported Sunday that Saudi Arabia supports “the strike.” debkafile: Riyadh’s support comes in practical form, willingness for the Saudi Air Force to take part in an attack on Syria and defend Jordan against retaliation.

Russia to Assad: Give up chemical arsenal or face US alone

9 Sept. Russia’s call for Syria to hand over its chemical arsenal to international control, if that would stop a American military attack, was quickly welcomed by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem. Monday afternoon, Sept. 9, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov picked up the gauntlet which US Secretary of State John Kerry had just thrown down in London, when he said that Assad could avert a US attack by turning his chemical weapons over to the international community in the next week.

Syrian, Hizballah rockets for Palestinian anti-Israel reprisal

9 Sept. Syria and Hizballah Sunday, Sept. 8, finished supplying rockets to dozens of Palestinian groups, some ad hoc inventions, and deploying them on the Syrian and Lebanese borders facing Israel, debkafile discloses. An array of Katyusha, Grad and Fajr-5, with ranges of up to 70 kilometers, is now in place. The information reaching Israeli intelligence is that the newly-armed Palestinian groups fully intend targeting the Israeli capital, following which an Israeli anti-missile Iron Dome battery was deployed in the Jerusalem region for the first time.

September 10, 2013 Briefs

  • Security Council emergency session postponed
    At the closed-door session Tuesday night, the US, France and Britain planned to table a resolution for placing Syria’s chemical weapons under international control so that they can be destroyed, with a military option for violations. Moscow balked and demanded a non-binding declaration without sanctions rather than a resolution.

In secret deal, Obama promises Putin not to attack Syria. Assad gets Russian arms

10 Sept. President Barack Obama’s two climb-downs on a US strike against Syria are turning out to be part of a secret deal with Vladimir Putin, presented by the former as an accord for stripping Bashar Assad of his chemical arsenal, and used by the latter as an expedient for saving the Assad regime. Both were ready to sacrifice the Syrian rebel movement to their détente. But when Moscow insisted on pulling the teeth of a tough French-US-British draft resolution at the Security Council, the session scheduled for Tuesday was postponed indefinitely.

Assad is off the US military hook and keeps his chemical weapons

10 Sept. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have patted themselves on the back for a balanced and cautious stance that kept Israel secure during the Syrian conflict. However, President Barack Obama’s decision Tuesday, Sept. 10 to put US military action on hold leaves Israel exposed to a second major WMD threat: Bashar Assad is left with his chemical capability intact. An international control mechanism would take a year or more to put in place and meanwhile, Assad is off the hook for a crushing assault on Aleppo.

Obama again puts military strike on hold for Russian proposal

10 Sept. President Barack Obama contradicted his advisers, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, saying in a series of TV interviews early Tuesday, Sept. 10, he would put on hold military action against Syria, and delay the vote in Congress “for weeks,” to give the Russian proposal for Assad’s chemical arsenal to be handed over to international control a chance. That would provide a non-military solution to the crisis. “We know the capabilities of the Syrian army and that is no big problem for us,” Obama said.
Most Washington observers concluded Obama’s flip-flop was aimed at extricating himself from a major defeat in Congress.

September 11, 2013 Briefs

  • Netanyahu: Tehran must now heed the message for Damascus
    The Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that after the US military strike against Syria was postponed, the Assad regime must be stripped of all its chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons must not be transferred to any other parties (Hizballah), Netanyahu stressed in an address to a naval officers course. The world must ensure that those who use them pay a price, a message that Tehran too must heed. Above all, Israel will always be able to defend itself by its own resources against any threat.
  • Putin to send Iran S-300VM anti-missile interceptors
    After freezing sales to Iran for years at US and Israeli insistence, Vladimir Putin has finally decided to release the sophisticated S-300VM anti-ballistic missile weapons to Iran instead of the S-300PMU requested by Tehran, debkafile’s military and Moscow sources report. The Russian and Iranian presidents have arranged to meet Friday, Sept. 13 in Kirgizstan.
  • Calamitous UN report on atrocities in Syrian war
    The UN report out Wednesday finds that all sides in the Syrian civil war are committing war crimes. Government forces have committed 8 massacres of civilians and bombed hospitals. The Syrian rebels, including Islamist foreign fighters’ war crimes include executions, hostage-taking and shelling civilian neighborhoods.
    Powerful blast in Benghazi
    A powerful blast caused serious damage to a foreign ministry building and central bank branch in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Wednesday, on the first anniversary of the al Qaeda attack on the United States consulate in that town, which killed four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens.
  • Nine Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai bomb blasts
    Two big car bomb explosions Wednesday killed at least 9 Egyptian soldiers and injured 17 at Egyptian El Arish intelligence HQ for Sinai on the Gazan border and a nearby checkpoint. The Rafah crossing has been closed. Earlier, Egyptian officials reported that the major offensive to root out terrorist lairs in Sinai had reaped successes.

Obama-Putin Syrian chemical deal opens door to nuclear Iran

11 Sept. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani makes the UN Assembly his stage for resumed nuclear talks, following which the US started lifting sanctions on Sept. 9. debkafile discloses a US-Russian-Iranian deal is already in the bag following three weeks of secret trilateral exchanges on an agreed formula for defusing the Syrian chemical weapons issue without military force that would provide the key to progress in direct nuclear talks between the US and Iran.

September 12, 2013 Briefs

  • debkafile: Assad says Israel must first ratify chemical arms treaty
    Before taking any steps to implement the Russian proposal for surrendering his chemical weapons stocks and means of manufacture, Bashar Assad wants Israel to ratify he Convention banning Chemical Weapons, Israel signed the treaty in 1993 but never ratified it.
  • US: Russia’s plan for Syria is “doable but difficult”
    Russia’s plan for dismantling Assad’s chemical arsenal was described by US officials Thursday as “doable but difficult” as the meeting in Geneva between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the details of that plan started late. Kerry arrived on time, but the Russian foreign minister made a point of keeping the US delegation waiting, showing who was in the driving seat.
  • Gantz to serve an extra year as IDF Chief of Staff
    PM Binyamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that he has extended Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz’s three-year term as IDF chief of staff for another year.
  • Syrian shells explode on Golan. No casualties
    Several Syrian mortar shells landed Thursday near Givat Orha in the southern part of Golan, apparent strays from the new Syrian army offensive against rebel forces.
  • Israeli general: Syrian army toughened by civil war
    IDF ground forces chief Maj. Gen. Guy Tzur said the Syria army may be weaker in respect of its munitions and stocks, but two and-a-half years of fighting a civil war have toughened its fighting capabilities. “We don’t underestimate the Syrian army,” he said in a radio interview Thursday. Gen. Tzur added that the IDF stood ready to confront any threats coming from the Syrian side of the border. Regarding Hizballah, he said “Israel has a substantial edge over this terrorist organization” and warned that if attacked, Israel would not stand idly by.
  • No one hurt in Palestinian shooting at Joseph’s Tomb worshippers
    A Palestinian opened fire on the soldiers securing 1,400 Jewish worshippers at the Joseph’s Tomb shrine in Nablus early Thursday. The soldiers shot back injuring the gunman. Palestinians outside pelted the worshippers and soldiers with stones as they arrived.
  • Mild Dead Sea earthquake felt in Jerusalem
    A 3.5 Richter magnitude quake occurring in the northern part of the Dead Sea before dawn Thursday caused slight tremor in Jerusalem 30 kilometers away. There were no casualties or damage.
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