The Obama administration is signifying its strong disapproval of Israel and Egypt taking matters in their own hands in the last two weeks, debkafile’s military and Washington sources report: Israel was accused of independent military action against Syria, and the Egyptian army of persecuting the Muslim Brotherhood after deposing President Mohamed Morsi.
Washington is also highly displeased with the campaign the Egyptian army launched after the coup, with Israel’s active support, to root out the Islamist terror blighting the Sinai Peninsula. US warships and marines are now parked off Egypt’s Red sea coast as a deterrent to the generals in Cairo.
For whipping Israeli into line, the administration used another method, i.e., Pentagon leaks naming Israeli air strikes as responsible for the explosions at the Syrian weapons depot outside the port town of Latakia on July 5, which demolished a fresh stock of Russian Yakhont (NATO codenamed SS-N-26) shore-to-ship missiles along with their advanced radar.
Although CNN ran this leak Friday, July 7, sourcing it to three separate unnamed US officials, the New York Times repeated the story Saturday and it was picked up by more US media for the third day running on Sunday.
Israel declined to comment on the report.
This over-exposure of alleged Israeli culpability certainly risked prodding Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad into retaliating for the Latakia bombardment.
Our sources find a second US motive behind this tactic – this one relating to the standoff between Washington and Moscow over Edward Snowden, who has been holed up for three weeks in a hotel in the transit area of Moscow international airport tin defiance of US demands for his extradition to face trial for espionae.
Putin has steadily refused to hand him over to America.
The idea in Washington was to put the Russian president’s credibility on the line and embarrass him by showing Moscow as having "lost" a large consignment of Russian missiles for Syria.
When Putin appeared inclined to offer the young American political asylum, Washington seems have decided to use the Latakia incident to apply the screws and, at the same time, teach him a lesson: If the Russians want Washington to keep the Israeli military on a leash, they must stop disregarding US views on the Syrian question and start playing ball with Obama.
For teaching the Egyptian generals a lesson, the administration resorted to tangible military steps: two amphibious assault ships carrying 2,600 Marines were moved to the southern Egyptian Red Sea coast.
Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, reported Thursday that the huge USS Kearsarge (1,800 Marines) and the USS San Antonio (with 800 Marines) had “moved up into the Red Sea and parked off Egypt,” a couple of nights ago, “because we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
debkafile’s military sources report that the two vessels also carry a fleet of helicopters for ferrying the Marines to distant ground arenas.
The US has placed additional Marine units at Signonella base in southern Italy and Moron in Spain on the alert with orders to be ready to move at 60 minutes’ notice.
To calm the tension, the US Embassy in Egypt said on its website Saturday: "We deny false claims in the Egyptian press that US naval ships are in the vicinity of the Arabian Peninsula and the Suez Canal to militarily invade Egypt."
According to our sources, the US flotilla was brought in to warn Egyptian strongman Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his generals that if they took their persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood too far, American Marines stood ready to step in.
They are also on hand for two additional contingencies:
1. Should shipping through one of the world’s major world arteries, the Suez Canal, be imperiled – as in case of sabotage by the Muslim Brotherhood or the armed Salafists of Sinai, a menace raised repeatedly by debkafile – the US military would be there to take charge of securing international shipping in the waterway.
2. The US maintains 1,000 army personnel in Sinai, most members of the 1st Cavalry Division, as part of the multinational force which monitors the 1979 Egyptian-Israel peace treaty provisions. The Obama administration is keeping a close eye on the mounting Islamist violence in the peninsula and the Egyptian military campaign which was mounted, in close intelligence cooperation with Israel and the IDF, against two terrorist elements –the armed Salafist Bedouin associated with al Qaeda and the Palestinian Hamas of Gaza, whose operations have spilled out into Sinai.
US strategists see the fighting in Sinai escalating and spreading and allow that American military intervention may be called for – especially if US MFO service personnel are in harm’s way.