Vol. 14, Issue 652, February 13, 2015
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US & Iran Vs ISIS
Can Obama Shift Lead Role in War on ISIS from America to Iran?
Barack Obama

President Barack Obama has undertaken a delicate, high-wire gambit for using the nuclear accord with Tehran as the fulcrum for removing the “heavy lifting” of the war on ISIS from America’s shoulders and passing it on to Iran.
This plan, still in play between the two parties, is revealed by DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources, as the motivation behind the extravagant leeway America is allowing Iran for developing its nuclear capabilities.
According to those sources, the draft of a US-Iran nuclear accord is finished. Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif had resolved the last outstanding clauses and had the document ready for signing when they met in Munich Sunday, Feb. 8.
The last hurdle was removed by President Obama’s consent to reprieving Iran from having to answer still pending questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the military aspects of its nuclear projects. It was decided that Iran will not have to face any more agency inspections on those aspects.
President Obama appears to be impervious to the widespread criticism of the accord as a “bad deal.” He also seems undaunted by the US House leader John Boehner’s invitation to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address Congress on March 3 on its dangerous shortcomings. President Obama is racing forward to get the accord sealed by the end-of-March deadline – come what may.

Obama wants to shelve nuclear issue, move on to Part II of his game plan

Only one man can stop him now: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His intentions are still an enigma - not just to Washington, but even to Iran’s own president Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister, who await instructions about signing.
(Khamenei’s considerations are analyzed in a separate article in this issue.)
A broad hint to future US-Iranian strategy for the war on ISIS may be inferred from President Rouhani’s speech Wednesday, Feb. 11, at a rally on the 39th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
There can be no nuclear deal without ending the “humiliating sanctions,” he said, adding that peace and stability in the region and “the uprooting of terrorism” cannot be achieved without Iran.
In the last couple of weeks, Obama has been behaving as though everything is going his way: the nuclear deal is in the bag, Iran’s attainment of pre-nuclear power status is a foregone conclusion, and the time has gone by for American, Israeli or joint military pre-emption.
The US President seems to be saying: Let’s move on. It is time to shelve the nuclear issue and turn to Part Two of my game plan for the Middle East and the war on terror.

Obama proposes to dump the war on ISIS in Iran’s lap

So where is this going?
During the 14 years since Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on America, the United States expended thousands of lives and enormous treasure on great wars for defeating Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan and overthrowing the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.
Because America bore the onus of these campaigns, Iran counted on America again assuming the burden of defeating the contemporary arch-foe, the Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The ayatollahs reckoned at first that they could sit back and watch the United States executing another cleanup before departing the scene and leaving Tehran to enjoy its benefits.
But Obama is maneuvering to turn this pattern on its head.
Instead of leading US into another costly new Middle East war for eradicating the Islamic State, he proposes dumping it in Iran’s lap. His plan hinges on choreographing the Iranians into shouldering the lead role in the war on ISIS by presenting them with two buttons marked “nuclear” and “sanctions.”
So long as Iran sticks to its commitment to remain a pre-nuclear power and doesn’t cross the threshold to the bomb’s manufacture, the US will gradually ease the sanctions regime.
That is why the Washington and Tehran are still dickering over the timeline for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Iran gets free rein to go for assets in Mid East trouble spots

But most importantly, the Obama administration is meanwhile giving Iran free rein to move in on Iraq, Syria and Yemen and get involved in every possible Middle East trouble arena, so long as Tehran coordinates its interventions with Washington.
The US President counts on Iran’s boundless aspirations bringing it up squarely at some point against its arch-foe, the ultra-belligerent Islamic State. A duel is inevitable for the crown of top dog of the region.
According to the Obama script, the United States will stay on the sidelines of this historic collision between two rampant radical Muslim forces, after giving the Shiite side his vote.
Nevertheless, Wednesday Feb. 11, he asked Congress to authorize US military force against the Islamic State group, limited to three years, to counter “a direct threat to the United States.” He proposed a ban on "enduring offensive combat operations” (no more full-dress wars on the scale of Afghanistan or Iraq). But he did ask for “flexibility for ground combat operations in other more limited circumstances.”
One of the examples he offered for this circumstance was a special operations attack on an ISIS command or leader – a single event by its very nature.
In the view of DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources, this type of flexibility would give Washington leverage for keeping Iran in line and in coordination with the US while, at the same time, allowing the US administration to pick and choose a special forces operation spectacular enough for American kudos without dragging it into long-term involvement.

Iran will play ball with Obama in the short term – then go for a nuke

When Obama met the new Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on Jan. 27, he was asked by court officials how the US proposed to contain Iranian expansion through the Middle East and Gulf. Obama replied by offering to act as broker for a political and security pact between Riyadh and Tehran.
Asked on another occasion, where his transactions with Iran would leave Israel, he answered curtly that Israel was not important and had no part to play in these events.
Is the Obama game plan practicable?
DEBKA Weekly’s Iran experts think not. Tehran will naturally seize on the freedom of action in the Middle East on offer by the Obama administration. At the same time, the Iranians will act solely in their own interests - not those of the United States. The ayatollahs’ regime is bound by the fundamental tenet that holds them to disseminating their revolution to every corner of the Muslim world as a bounden duty.
They no doubt welcome Obama’s unexpected support in the pursuit of their sacred goals in the immediate term. But their revolutionary paths and aspirations are their guiding star. Their resort to a full-scale nuclear weapons capability will become unavoidable for achieving their revolutionary objectives and preserving them.
But by then, Barack Obama may be gone from the White House and, barring any more unforeseen shifts in the region’s landscape, his successor be forced to contend with a nuclear-armed Iran.

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The International War on ISIS Is Shrinking
Jordan May Be the Lone Arab Survivor of the US-Led Coalition Battling the Islamic State
Gen. John Allen

The Obama administration is going to considerable lengths to keep Jordan in the international coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant since last September, after most of the other Arab members have quit.
This week, the group’s US coordinator Gen. John Allen gave Jordan’s official Petra news agency an assurance that a ground offensive against the jihadis would start soon.
“In the weeks ahead, when the Iraqi forces begin the ground campaign to take back Iraq, the coalition will provide major firepower.” He added that the US “is doing all it can to deliver its support as soon as possible.”
The American general’s big news (sic) was that coalition forces are “training and arming 12 Iraqi brigades in preparation for a large ground offensive against ISIS.”
DEBKA Weekly’s military and counterterrorism sources report that the Jordanian government and King Abdullah were not exactly elated by the news that Iraqi brigades would be providing the main firepower for the promised “large ground offensive.”
Gen. Allen avoided offering dates for the offensive to get started – not just because he doesn’t know when those Iraqi brigades will be ready to fight, but because he can’t tell how they will handle themselves when they reach the firing line against ISIS fighters.

UAE bulldozed by Washington to help Jordan

Their past performance eight months ago was, to say the least, hardly reassuring. In their first brush with the black-clad ferocious ISIS forces last June, the US-trained Iraqi divisions turned tail, threw off their uniforms and headed for home.
They left $100 bn worth of top-line American munitions and equipment on the battlefield, whereupon the enemy, ISIS, transformed itself into the best armed terrorist group in the world, its arsenal enriched with a profusion of quality American weapons.
Sunday, Feb. 8, the United Arab Republic let itself be bulldozed by Washington into sending a squadron of 16 F-16 fighters to Jordan, as a mark of solidarity with the Hashemite Kingdom for the burning alive of its air force pilot Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh.
Tuesday, the state news agency WAM reported that “aircraft of the UAE F-16 squadron based in Jordan bombed positions of Daesh, hitting their targets and safely returning to base in Jordan.”
Like the Jordanian air strike Monday, emirate planes were escorted by US F-22 Raptor stealth fighters for protection against ISIS ground fire.
The UAE’s return to full participation in the coalition air offensive, which it suspended last December, is still up in the air.

Saudis, Kuwait, Qatar go AWOL on fight against ISIS

In Riyadh, the US was unable to overcome Saudi reluctance to make good on its promised participation in coalition air raids. From the time of the group’s inception last September until this week, the Saudi Air Force had not conducted a single air strike against ISIS.
Kuwait has followed Riyadh’s lead and withheld its aerial strength from combat, while Qatar has limited its air missions to surveillance flights over Iraq, the usefulness of which is completely lost on coalition headquarters in Tampa, Florida, and every other military watcher in the region.
Jordan’s air offensive is also limited in scope – and not only because of the small size of its air force. Communiqués from Amman have suggested that they are bombing jihadi targets both in Syria and Iraq. But the fact is that the raids are strictly confined to Syria - because, our sources reveal, the Baghdad government, on instructions from Tehran, warned the Jordanians off bombing or intruding on Iraqi territory and threatened reprisals if the warning was disobeyed.
Even Jordan’s bombardments over Syria are confined to the east of the country and to hitting occasional targets on the move around the Euphrates River. Its air force does not appear to have a tactical “bank of targets.”
The Jordanian Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Mansour Jabour’s claim Monday, Feb. 9 to have “destroyed 20 percent of [ISIS] fighting capabilities” was treated by military experts in America and the Middle East as no more than hollow bluster.
Most experts don’t see the Jordanian air campaign lasting much longer.

The international campaign against ISIS treads water

No one in Washington or the region has the slightest hope of Egypt joining the international coalition battling the Islamic State considering the ice overlaying US-Egyptian relations.
The disconnect is so complete that even America’s vestigial day-to-day military ties with some Arab states in the Middle East and North Africa have been shut down with Cairo. In particular, DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources report, all traffic has dried up between US and Egyptian high command centers in America and the Middle East, as well as interaction between their intelligence agencies.
President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice and the rest of her team are no longer in touch with any policy-making, military or intelligence levels in Cairo.
This deep freeze is the result of the profound mistrust generated by the realization in Washington that President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi has no intention of coordinating his steps with the Obama administration’s Middle East and Gulf policies, with which he finds no common ground.
As almost every other Arab government shrinks back from an active role in the international lineup against Daesh, the war is treading water instead of embarking on a dynamic campaign to crush the fast-expanding Islamist peril.
Its commander, Gen. Allen, in an ABC News interview this week, rated ISIS as far superior to its forerunner, and “at an entirely different level than Al Qaeda was.” This terror group is “better organized. Its command and control is better.”
Asked whether the Islamist State is a threat to the home front, Allen said, “We should take it very seriously.”

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Israel & Egypt Close Ranks to Fight ISIS
Israeli Drones Boost Egyptian Fight against Islamists’ “Sinai Province”

In stark contrast to its non-participation in the international coalition against ISIS, Egypt is fully engaged in fighting Islamist terror at home - to the point of welcoming neighborly support against the common foe.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources disclose that Israel’s advanced missile-borne Heron drones are now integrated in the ongoing Egyptian war on terror in the Sinai Peninsula, having joined Egyptian warplanes in strikes against the Islamic State’s Sinai arm.
This collaboration was approved at the highest level by President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Aside from the United States, Israel is the only Middle East power engaging in drone warfare against Islamic terrorists. After Sinai, Israel may be amenable to extending its UAV operations to the Islamist threat in other parts of the region, as well.

The Egyptian counter-terror war goes forward on three fronts

1. The Libyan frontier. This broad desert expanse, inhabited sparsely by nomadic Bedouin, is crisscrossed by well-trodden smuggling trails. They are used to secretly transfer to Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Sinai, the weapons the Islamic State purchases at the Libyan arms bazaar.
Egypt has made no headway in shutting down this front, thwarted by the close collaboration between the Islamist smuggling rings and local Bedouin tribes.
These collaborators are turning the Egyptian-Libyan border into another lawless region like Sinai. Egyptian security control over large swathes of land in this part of western Egypt is passing increasingly to bands of terrorists, smugglers and Bedouin.
In the past month, the Egyptian army’s high command decided to cut down on ground operations there and substantially switch over to air strikes. The bulk of the air force was therefore relocated from central Egypt to the west, at the expense of air operations in Sinai.

2. Cairo and the Nile Delta cities: A new terrorist organization has sprung up alongside the Muslim Brotherhood’s armed groups. It calls itself Agnad Misr – Soldiers of Egypt – and made its first appearance on Jan 24 with a message asserting “Retribution is Life.”
A mixture of radical Salafists and former activists of the old Egyptian Islamic Jihad - a co-parent of the original al Qaeda - Agnad Misr, in league with ISIS-Sinai, has made a specialty of terrorist attacks in Cairo and its environs.
Cairo’s security and intelligence services are deeply disturbed by the chain of terrorist organizations running from Sinai through the Egyptian heartland up to its Mediterranean shores, because it presents acute hazards both to Egypt’s northern ports, chiefly Alexandria, and to Suez Canal towns and shipping, including oil tankers.

3. Sinai under Iraqi ISIS command. Under the command of Iraqi ISIS officers, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, renamed the “Sinai Province of the Islamic State,” is escalating its violent assaults on Egyptian military and police targets day by day. (Their arrival from Iraq was first revealed by DEBKA last year).
Tuesday, the Sinai Islamists released a video depicting the beheading of 10 alleged collaborators with the Israeli Mossad and Egyptian intelligence, and the dumping of their bodies on the main road between El Arish and Rafah.

Egypt still lacks central command for counter-terror war

The Egyptian government last week upgraded the force assigned to fight these jihadis by setting up a new Sinai Command under Gen. Osama Rushdie Askar, who was elevated to the rank of Field Marshal.
Even after this extraordinary measure, Egypt’s armed forces have proved unable to concentrate their widely-spaced anti-terror operations across the country under a single roof-command.
Most of the 10 commando battalions of the Egyptian army’s elite Saiqa Forces have been attached to the Sinai Command. To perform their mission, these battalions require extensive air support from advanced air force units, equipped with intelligence technology and instruments capable of prying out and liquidating the bands of terrorists hiding in the craggy rock landscape and lofty cave warrens of the Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt lacks this technology. It is now provided by Israel.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources report that President El-Sisi and Prime Minister Netanyahu have charted a military strategy which calls on the Israeli air force to step in to liquidate a terrorist threat in situations arising when the Egyptian army is hamstrung by its intelligence and operational shortcomings.
The understanding reached between the two leaders does not specifically refer to Sinai or mention ISIS.
Left open, therefore, are options for armed Israeli drones to take a hand in the Egyptian war on Islamic terror - not just in Sinai but in other parts of Egypt as well, and also against terrorist organizations other than ISIS.

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Zarif Challenges Iran’s Hardliners
Rev Guards Push for Nuclear Arms to Bolster Iran’s Dominance of 4 Mid East Cities
Mohamed Javad Zarif

Two extra bodyguards have been added to the retinue of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif. His plane is meticulously scrutinized before he takes off for another round of nuclear negotiations outside the country. DEBKA Weekly’s Iran sources disclose that during this week, Zarif was bombarded with threats to his life if he gave ground in the nuclear negotiations taking place in Munich.
It would not be the first time that persons undesirable to the Islamic revolutionary regime were liquidated in “accidental” air crashes.
Zarif was reported as warning US Secretary of State John Kerry when they met on the sidelines of the Munich security conference that the failure of their talks would bring down President Hassan Rouhani’s administration and finish Iran’s “moderate” camp.
Although this was denied by Iranian and US officials, radical circles in Iran know it is true, because it stems from a known contingency plan to deal with troublesome figures by physical or political liquidation.
On Sunday, Feb. 1, President Rouhani called on supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with an urgent message. Iran can no longer carry on in its present situation, he said. Sanctions have paralyzed the economy and the sharp drop in oil prices has caused unsustainable damage. If the decline is not halted, the regime stands at risk of a popular uprising that could bring about its downfall.

Rouhani’s warnings of catastrophe brushed off in Tehran

Although the president delivered his message behind closed doors, the influential radical cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati answered him the next day. The people are standing up well to the sanctions, said the cleric, but certain incompetent persons in government are sounding false alarms. “God will remove them from our shoulders,” he said, invoking the Farsi adage which is tantamount to a death curse.
Then, Monday, Feb. 2, Khamenei declared firmly in a tough speech that the Islamic regime is not scared of sanctions. Their removal would be desirable, he said, but “the people will continue to withstand them heroically.”
He went on to reject any “framework accord” preceding the signing of a comprehensive deal or any postponements of the deadlines for an accord – March 23 for the outline and a detailed document before June 2015.
Although he briefly agreed with President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that a bad deal was worse than no deal, their reasoning was poles apart. For Israel, a bad deal would recognize Iran’s status as a pre-nuclear power, whereas for Tehran, a bad deal would hold it back from going forward with its nuclear development and slow down the ending of sanctions.

Mushrooming Shiite militias bolster Rev Guards’ sway

On the face of it, Barack Obama’s concessions to Tehran on the nuclear issue and the free rein he allows Iran for military intervention in Iraq, Syrian and Yemen - provided coordination with Washington continues (see separate article in this issue) - ought to gladden the hearts of Iran’s hardliners and most of all the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)’s leaders.
After all, the IRGC has gone from strength to strength in the three years since early 2012. Then, only a few thousand Al Qods Brigades armed men and agents ran back and forth to execute all of Iran’s external operations. But by early this year, the IRGC had raised those modest footholds into formidable strongholds for asserting their sway in four Middle East capitals: Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut and Sanaa.
The Guards now command whole armies and new legions outside Iran: Hizballah in Lebanon; the Syrian Popular Army in Syria; a clutch of Iraqi Shiite militias, the most prominent of which are the Badar Force and the Iraqi Popular Army which is modeled on its Syrian counterpart.
The elite Al Qods Brigades are now busy building more Shiite militias among Iran’s minority communities.
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and counter-terrorism sources name two: the Hazara and Zaynubian militias. The first was mustered from among the two million Afghan Shiites who fled persecution in their country at the hands of the the Sunni Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorist groups; the second consists of Pakistani Shiites brought to Iran for military training.

New Shiite militias augment Syrian-Hizballah drive to retake S. Syria

Both these armed groups are taking part in the battles led this week by the Syrian army and Hizballah for wresting southern Syria from rebel control. (For more on this campaign, read debkafiles article on Feb. 11.)
So all in all, the hard-line Revolutionary Guards this week raised Iran to a new peak of political and military influence in the region.
But at this point, it is up to Obama and possibly Rouhani too, to convince the IRGC chiefs that by giving up on their drive for a nuclear bomb, they will enhance their weight in the region rather than diminishing it. But they don’t appear to be making much headway with this proposition in the hurly burly of Iranian politics and can’t tell if the supreme leader has bought it.
Foreign Minister Zarif is sticking his neck out for a solo campaign against the hard-liners.
He has said publicly that certain domestic interests own an interest in keeping the sanctions in place, a transparent broadside against the IRGC which controls most of Iran’s import trade and rakes in astronomical profits.
Zarif’s campaign has had the effect of hardening the Guards’ determination to do away with him and get rid of President Rouhani at the same time, as the most effective way to deter Khamenei from giving his blessing to a comprehensive US-Iranian nuclear accord.

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Saudis Play Musical Chairs with US, Egypt, Russia
Salman Revives Nuclear Pact with Pakistan, Blocks Russian Access to Cairo
Saudi King Salman

Saudi King Salman, a month after acceding to the throne in Riyadh, has moved fast to shore up his reign with external props. In a reversal of the late King Abdullah’s policy, he has acted to restore close ties with Washington as insurance for the House of Saud’s survival, on the one hand, while, on the other, he has underscored the oil kingdom’s reliance on Pakistan’s military assistance for urgent contingencies of unforeseen perils.
The nuclear element figures prominently in the latter move.
A short time after Pakistan tested two nuclear weapons in 1999 Saudi Defense Minister at the time, Prince Sultan, visited the uranium enrichment plant at Kahuta outside Islamabad.
The two governments entered into an unwritten agreement for Riyadh to fund large sections of Pakistan’s military nuclear program, in return for which Pakistan would make a nuclear weapon available to the oil kingdom if a strategic need arose.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources have discussed this pact more than once in past issues, outlining the arrangements for its execution put in place by the Pakistani National Command Authority, which is in charge of the country’s nuclear arsenal and air bases.

Pakistan offers Saudis both nuke and missile for its delivery

Not surprisingly, several alarm bells went off in Washington on Feb. 3, when the Chairman of Pakistan’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Gen. Rashad Mahmoud, landed in Riyadh for talks with King Salman and Saudi military and security chiefs.
For President Barack Obama, the revived Saudi-Pakistan nuclear connection might well jeopardize the almost complete accord with Iran. It could provide its opponents in Tehran with fodder for persuading supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to back away from an accord with Washington now that the Saudis have gained access anew to their own nuclear option.
Obama was further perturbed by the Gen. Mahmoud’s Riyadh visit coming a day after Pakistan announced the successful flight test of its Raad air-launched 22-mile range cruise missile, which is claimed to be able to deliver nuclear and conventional warheads with “pinpoint accuracy.”
This was seen as a strong message to Riyadh from Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who spent years of exile in Saudi Arabia and is friendly with its royal rulers, that not only a weapon but a nuclear-capable Pakistani missile would be available to Riyadh for its delivery.
Salman acted with the same speed to unpick another of his predecessor’s commitments.

Saudis call off Russian arms deal with Egypt, fund French arms instead

DEBKA Weekly’s sources disclose that late last week, the king phoned Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi and informed him that, after consultations with Abud Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, it was decided that Saudi Arabia and the UAE would go back on their promise of two years ago to put up $3.2 billion for a major arms transaction between Egypt and Russia.
Cairo was to have received a large number of Russian MiG-29 fighter jets to replace the Egyptian Air Force’s American-made aircraft. To compensate Egypt for this loss, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi were prepared to put up a larger sum for a bigger transaction with France, consisting of 24 Rafale jets, a Fremm naval frigate and MBDA air-to-air missiles worth a total of 5-6 billion euros ($5.65-6.78 billion).
Since a squadron of French fighter jets is based in Saudi Arabia and France maintains air and sea bases in the UAE, the arms deal would propel Egypt into integration in the French-Saudi-UAE defense alliance, while also requiring Cairo to adjust its policies to guidelines laid down by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
In this way, the new Saudi king also managed to block President Vladimir Putin’s bid to open up affluent Arab markets to the Russian arms industry.

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A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Feb. 12, 2015

February 6, 2015 Briefs

  • Outrage over Obama’s likening ISIS to Crusaders
    A torrent of outrage greeted President Barack Obama’s comments at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday which drew a parallel between the atrocities of the Islamic State and the Crusaders. After roundly condemning the Islamic State and its “unspeakable deeds of barbarism,” the President
    went on to say: "Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ… and in our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."
    Criticism of Obama’s comments ranged from “an attempt to deflect guilt from Muslim madmen” to “an offense against every believing Christian in the United States.”

February 7, 2015 Briefs

  • Jordanian air strikes against ISIS with US air escort
    Jordanian F-16 planes raided ISIS in Syria for the third straight day Saturday in reprisal for the murder of their pilot. debkafile: They were escorted by two US F-22 Raptor tactical fighter stealth planes tasked with neutralizing anti-air fire directed from ISIS bases against the Jordanian bombers.
  • Israeli opposition leader lays into prime minister at Munich
    In a speech at the Munich Security conference Saturday, Yitzhak Herzog, leader of the opposition Zionist Camp party strongly urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to call off his forthcoming speech on the Iranian peril to the joint House of Congress on March 3.
  • Rebel Houthis declare their Revolutionary Committee Yemen’s government
    Pro-Iran Houthi leaders Friday proclaimed their Revolutionary Committee Yemen’s supreme governing authority after dissolving parliament in Sanaa. Jubilant supporters waved banners bearing slogans “Death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews and victory to Islam.”
    White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the United States was "deeply concerned with this unilateral step," but it would not affect US counterterrorism efforts there.
  • Pro-Israel American-Jewish leaders divided on Netanyahu speech
    Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League was quoted by Forward Friday as urging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to scrap his address on the Iranian peril to Congress on March 3, because of the political “circus” it has created. The opposite view is advocated by Jewish groups supporting the Republican Party. Vice President John Biden would not attend the session in his capacity as President of the Senate because he was “traveling abroad,” said an official statement. The event takes place two weeks before Israel’s general election.

February 8, 2015 Briefs

  • Jordanian Air Force Chief reports 56 sorties against ISIS
    Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Jabour, commander of the Jordanian air force, reported Sunday that 56 sorties had been carried out against ISIS targets in the last three days. debkafile: Less than 20 air strikes a day are not enough to be effective.
  • France detains six suspected terrorists in Toulouse area
    Six suspects of involvement in a network for sending Islamic fighters abroad were arrested Sunday morning in the Toulouse-Albi region of southern France.
  • Zarif: Last window of opportunity for nuclear deal
    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif warned Sunday that a window of opportunity for a nuclear deal is now open and may not return. In Tehran, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said obliquely: “The Americans keep saying no deal is better than a bad deal; we also agree with that. No deal is better than a deal which would be in contradiction with the interests of our nation.”

Iran and US partnered in engineering Houthi Yemen coup

8 Feb.
The strings of the pro-Iranian Houthi rebels’ coup which toppled the Yemeni government in Sanaa were pulled from Tehran and Washington. Their partnership helped the Houthis reach their goal, which is currently confined to dominating parts of central Yemen and all of the North. debkafile: The uprising’s dominant figure is none other than Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted as Yemen president in 2012. Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, Jordan and Israel fear the Obama administration is using the war on Islamists as a façade for promoting Tehran’s regional ambitions.
The Iranian-US gambit has placed Yemen under the sway of two anti-American radical forces – the pro-Tehran Houthis and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

February 9, 2015 Briefs

  • Netanyahu determined to give his Iran speech to US Congress
    Despite criticism from the opposition at home and Democratic circles in Washington, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday emphasized his determination to appear before the US Congress and make the American people understand that a dangerous nuclear accord is taking shape with Iran in Munich. Differences between the Israeli and US governments have cropped up in the past, Netanyahu noted, but the friendship binding the countries remained firm.
  • Large Fatah-led terror network uncovered in Jerusalem
    A long list of indictments before the Jerusalem district court Monday revealed the apprehension of a large terrorist network involving scores of Palestinians resident in the Jerusalem district of A-Tur. Their leaders are Fatah activists Khalil Marwan Jiyassi, 21 and Bechar Abd All-Maghrabi, 22, who live in the neighborhood. They were detained for harassing security forces with bottle bombs, fire crackers and large rocks as well as lobbing explosive devices at Jewish homes in the district. More arrests are impending.
  • Group of British lawmakers initiate rules against anti-Semitism
    A group of cross-party British MPs have proposed urgent action after the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country peaked last year. The group proposes cracking down on the “disturbing” incidence by applying to this form of racial hatred the same ban that restricts the access of sex offenders to social media like Twitter and Facebook. “Hitler” and “Holocaust” were among the most frequent words used on Twitter last summer during the Israeli anti-terror operation against Hamas.
    They also propose setting up a government fund to cover the costs of security at synagogues and establishing an independent council on anti-Semitism.
  • Hooded gunmen fire on police in Marseille
    Hooded gunmen armed with Kalashnikov rifles fired on police in Marseille Monday when Prime Minister Manuel Valls was on his way to visit the southern French city. There were no initial casualties.
  • Prime minister butts heads with leading Israeli news publisher
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu used his Twitter account Monday to accuse Noni Moses, publisher of the tabloid Yedioth Aharonot and popular news site Ynet, of orchestrating a smear campaign against Netanyahu himself and his wife Sarah. In an unprecedented frontal attack on a media proprietor, Netanyahu charges Moses with backing an unscrupulous vendetta to topple the ruling Likud and shut down the rival newspaper, the pro-Likud Israel Hayom.

ISIS-Sinai plans attacks in sync on Israel and Egypt

9 Feb.
Egyptian and Israeli intelligence have discovered the former Ansar Bait al-Maqdis - reborn as the Islamic State’s operational arm in Sinai – is well into advanced preparations for a large-scale terrorist offensive targeting Israel forces manning the Egyptian frontier, along with another multiple assault on Egyptian targets in Sinai, the Suez and Cairo. debkafile: Elated by the success of their Jan. 29 multiple attacks that left at least 40 Egyptians dead and more than 100 injured, the Islamist group is determined to keep going. Israeli forces are well prepared.

February 10, 2015 Briefs

  • ISIS affiliate beheads 10 alleged Sinai spies for Israel, Egypt
    The Sinai Province of the Islamic State – formerly known as the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis – posted an online video Tuesday purporting to show the beheading of 10 men in Sinai accused of spying for Israel and the Egyptian military.
  • Putin and El-Sisi hold talks in Cairo on regional issues
    Russian President Vladimir Putin was greeted by President Abdul-Fatteh El-Sisi on arrival in Cairo Monday night. They prepared to discuss major regional security issues Tuesday morning, including conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the war on ISIS and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Assad is informed on US-led war on ISIS by “third parties”
    In a rare interview, Syrian leader Bashar Assad told the BBC that he is being updated by third parties – among them Iraq –on the US-led coalition battles against the jihadist Islamic State. He said there had been no direct cooperation since air strikes began in Syria in September.

February 11, 2015 Briefs

  • Obama asks Congress for authorization to use force against ISIS
    President Barack Obama Wednesday asked Congress to authorize US military force against the Islamic State group, limited to three years. In his letter, he said ISIS "poses a threat to the people and stability of Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East and to US national security." His proposal would ban "enduring offensive combat operations” i.e. large-scale ground operations, but asked for flexibility for “ground combat operations in other more limited circumstances.” These would include rescue missions, intelligence collections and special operations forces for possible military action against ISIS leaders.
  • Unprecedented flow of foreign fighters to ISIS – US report
    Foreign fighters are streaming into Syria and Iraq in unprecedented numbers to join the Islamic State or other extremist groups, including at least 3,400 from Western nations among 20,000 from around the world, US intelligence officials report.
  • Rouhani: Any nuclear deal must end sanctions
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that a nuclear deal must remove the “humiliating sanctions” imposed on his country. Speaking at a rally for the 29th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, Rouhani added: If there is to be peace and stability in the region, and terrorism is to be uprooted, there is no other way than with the presence of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
  • Australia thwarts imminent IS attack
    Australian counter-terrorism police arrested two men in Sydney Tuesday, thwarting an imminent attack linked to the Islamic State, New South Wales Dep. Police Commissioner Catherine Burn told reporters Wednesday. The items found on their premises, she said, included a machete, a hunting knife, a home-made ISIS flag and a video depicting a man talking about the planned attack.
  • Netanyahu: I’m not going to Washington to confront Obama
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday night: “This is not a personal disagreement between President Obama and me. I deeply appreciate all he has done for Israel in many fields.” He then stressed: "I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the President, but because I must fulfill my obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country."
    It is a deal allowing Iran to break out to a nuclear weapon in a short time, and within a few years, have the industrial capability to produce many nuclear bombs.

Syrian army tears through the south to sweep Iran and Hizballah up to Israel’s Golan doorstep

11 Feb.
A large Syrian force - combined with thousands of Shiite and Hizballah fighters - Sunday, Feb. 8 launched its broadest southern offensive in the four-year conflict, heralding Act III of the Iranian-Hizballah drive for a foothold on Israel’s Golan border, debkafile reports. By Wednesday, Feb. 11, “Operation Ali Allah Dadi for Quneitra Martyrs,” had reached to within 5-6 km south and east of Quneitra, ready for its final assault on the Syrian Golan town. Israel’s failure to curtail their advance would bring Iran to a forward position on Israel’s doorstep.

February 12, 2015 Briefs

  • Arab Balad MK Haneen Zoabi, Baruch Marzel barred from March election
    The decisions go to the High Court of Justice for endorsement. The Central Elections Committee voted 27:6 to disqualify Haneen Zoabi, Knesset Member of the Arab Balad list, from running for re-election on March 17. She is accused of inciting and supporting armed conflict against Israel in rhetoric and actions that crossed the line of free speech. The vote to bar Baruch Marzel was a much closer 17 for and 16 against – on the grounds offered that he was spokesman for the Kach organization, which was founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane and banned in Israel some years ago for propagating hate for Arabs.
  • Suspected shooting at London kosher restaurant
    London police are investigating reports of shots fired from a car driving past the Orli’s kosher restaurant in heavily Jewish suburb of Edgware in the northwest of the city. No-one was hurt, but windows were badly damaged.
  • Greece plans joint military drills with Israel, Cyprus, Egypt
    The Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said in Cyprus Wednesday that the newly-elected government in Athens planned joint military exercises in the coming months with Israel, Cyprus and Egypt to enhance regional security in view of tensions with Turkey over oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • ISIS threaten air base where US Marines train Iraqi troops
    Islamic State insurgents took control on Thursday of most of the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, threatening an air base where U.S. Marines are training Iraqi troops, officials said. Al-Baghdadi, about 85 km (50 miles) northwest of Ramadi in Anbar province, had been besieged for months by the radical Sunni Islamist militants.

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