From the joint communiqué issued in Moscow Tuesday, April 2, one would imagine that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin had found nothing at all to discuss about the pressing crises over Korea, Syria and Iran.
All that seemed to happen was a meeting in a “friendly atmosphere” confirming the "special relations" between Russia and China. However, while Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have avoided looking at the connotations of the Korean issue for the two Middle East trouble spots, the Russian and Chinese presidents closely analyzed their reciprocal impact, drew conclusions and resolved to carry on with their Korean and Middle East policies as before.
Interestingly, Moscow and Beijing have never mentioned North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Un whenever they urged restraint on the three parties caught in the spiraling Korean standoff.
And not by chance: DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Moscow disclose that one conclusion shared by Putin and Xi Jinping was that a limited North Korean military adventure might do both their interests in the Middle East some good.
For instance, a smallish military episode in the Far East might have the effect of easing some of the pressure on Syria’s Bashar Assad and save his regime, while also diverting American and Israeli minds from contemplation of a possible strike on the Iranian nuclear program.
Important Chinese and Russian military moves unnoticed
Conveniently for them, Western media watch like hawks the slightest North Korean move, whether real or not, and every US military step, while ignoring Chinese and Russian military movements synchronous with the Korean crisis.
So the Pentagon’s latest decision Wednesday, April 3, to send an advanced THAAD-Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery to the Pacific island of Guam to defend the US base against a North Korean missile attack was widely reported, along with the Pentagon’s expectations of the long-term danger of a North Korean attack.
So, too, were Pyongyang’s repeated war threats against the United States and its allies.
But no one covered Chinese tank and armored vehicle movements and air force flights which continued near the North Korean border in “Daqing in the northeastern Heilongjan Province and the border city of Shenyang in Liaoning Province.”
Neither did Russia’s Black Sea war games, starting on March 28, attract attention, although they were suddenly ordered by Putin without warning. He even caught the Russian chief of staff on the hop.
And the games were no laughing matter: According to Kremlin figures, they involved about 7,000 Russian servicemen: Special Forces and Marine units and airborne rapid deployment troops.
Over thirty Russian warships based out of the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol in the Crimean Peninsula and the Russian port of Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai were mobilized.
All of Russia’s different services were pressed into the mock war game as a test of their interoperability and demonstration of Russia’s capacity to mobilize for any eventuality at the drop of a hat.
How to cool Kim’s enthusiasm for playing brinkmanship with Washington
The young, inexperienced North Korean ruler correctly read the signals from Moscow and Beijing:
On Wednesday, the day after the Russian-Chinese summit, Pyongyang again raised temperatures by advising the United States in its state media to prepare to be "smashed" by "cutting edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means."
Although Beijing, Moscow, Pyongyang, Tehran and Damascus are not bound by formal treaties, they are linked by a strong, invisible thread which is tugged in all five capitals by any sign of American weakness which any or all of them can exploit.
Therefore, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s pledge of a "measured" response to Pyongyang's aggressive threats will not have the desired effect of lowering the tensions emanating from the Korean Peninsula.
It would be much more useful for US Secretary of State John Kerry to take a break from his far less urgent Middle East peace mission (see a separate article in this issue about Mahmoud’s plans for a “civil uprising’) and travel to Moscow and Beijing to discuss an integrated deal covering Iran, Syria, and North Korea.
Some give and take on all three crises might persuade the Russian and Chinese rulers to start bringing Kim Jong-Un to heel.
So long as Putin and Xi Jinping see Washington continuing to pursue separate tracks in the Middle East, especially against Syria and Iran, they have no incentive for curbing young Kim’s enthusiasm for the game of brinkmanship with America.
Informed sources in Washington have disclosed President Barack Obama’s latest posture on North Korean bellicosity as “strategic patience.” None of the sources could explain exactly what this means.
Maybe Kim can.
In celebratory mood, Israel began pumping its first offshore natural gas from the Tamar gas field last week, with the prospect of full capacity within weeks. It took 24 hours to reach the onshore terminal at Ashdod port through a 90-km pipeline.
The Bank of Israel estimates that the Tamar field will boost by one percentage point the country's gross domestic product growth, raising it this year to an estimated 3.8 percent. This is even before the larger, undeveloped Leviathan well goes on stream and makes Israel’s offshore gas finds among the world’s biggest in the past decade.
Former Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Minister for Intelligence and Strategic Affairs in the current government, calculates Israeli earnings from gas will total $450 billion over the next 25 years.
In its annual report, the Bank of Israel has recommended considering additional taxation on natural gas lest low prices encourage the development of a gas-based industry that could accelerate the depletion of the gas reservoirs.
The central bank also criticized the Tzemach Committee’s recommendations against exporting a large portion of the gas and urged the Treasury to save export revenues in a reserve fund as a cushion for the economy in the coming 25 years.
The choice between Russia and Turkey as energy allies
Conflicting recommendations over the gas bonanza have presented Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with a dilemma: He must choose between -
1. Accepting the recommendations of the Tzemach Committee to export just a small portion of the natural gas to clients in the immediate vicinity;
2. Exporting 30 percent of the gas reservoirs’ product;
3. And if so, then to whom – to Europe or to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians?
4. Turning down once and for all Moscow's insistent bid for the concession to Russian national Gazprom corporation for channeling Israeli gas exports to Europe?
Or, bringing Turkey in as Israel’s partner in the export of gas to Europe from the big Leviathan reservoir when it comes on stream?
Assigning Ankara a share in conveying Israeli natural gas to Europe through a pipeline running from the offshore field across Turkey could be the bedrock for a US-backed energy alliance stronger than the Turkish-Israel military cooperation pact which governed relations for decades until it was suspended by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan three years ago.
In effect, DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports, the die has been cast.
Unbeknownst to the Israeli public, the United States took a hand in the choice through Noble Energy of Texas, one of the two biggest shareholders in Tamar and Leviathan alongside the Israeli Delek Group.
Erdogan eager for Israel to join his energy deal with Iraqi Kurdistan
Netanyahu was persuaded to finally reject President Vladimir Putin's offer of Russian financing for production development and a pipeline network from the Israeli gas reservoirs to European markets.
Acceptance of the Putin offer would have made Europe more dependent on Russia for its gas. This Washington was resolved to forestall.
But Putin doesn’t give up easily – especially when Russia’s near-monopoly over Europe’s sources of natural gas is affected. He now aims to purchase at least 30 percent of Israel’s export product and so, over Netahyahu’s head, become an important player in Israel’s burgeoning gas industry.
The Russian president is soliciting aid for his scheme from Israeli billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva, owner of the Delek Group.
While Tshuva tends to eye the megabucks potential of a deal with Moscow, Netanyahu is looking at the strategic potential offered by a strong partnership with Turkey approved by Washington.
Prime Minister Erdogan continues to abuse Netanyahu and policies in public. But in private conversation, he shows his eagerness for an energy alliance with Israel.
His plans are far-reaching: They are to draw Israel into an ambitious partnership with the Kurdish Regional Government of Iraq for Turkey’s Genel Energy to build a multiple gas and oil pipeline infrastructure to bring Kurdish hydrocarbons from Kirkuk to Europe via Turkey.
The first step was taken when KRG Prime Minister Necirvan Barzani visited Ankara last week.
Using energy to power a Turkish-Israeli-Kurdish alliance
This scheme would leave the Baghdad government headed by the Shiite Nuri al-Maliki out in the cold and be intensely disapproved by Tehran.
By carrying it forward, Erdogan would also provide an extra push for Kurdish independence in Iraq and Syria. This would mesh well with the Turkish leaders’ current peace moves with the Turkish Kurdish underground leader Abdullah Ocalan and his historic reconciliation with the Kurdish minority in his own country.
Joining the Turkish-KRG energy partnership would also fit in with the strong strategic, military and intelligence ties Israel has cultivated with the Kurds of Iraq. It would pave the way for the formation of a Turkish-Israeli-Kurdish Middle East Crescent, that would be grounded in an energy partnership which uses Turkey as the highway for exporting gas from the region to Europe.
The Turkish and Israeli armies, navies and air forces would need to restructure for their new mission of defending the gas and oil fields and their pipelines. They would also have to work together and share these duties.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources report that in recent private conversations with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Erdogan promised repeatedly not to act on his harsh verbal assaults on Cyprus regarding the gas issue, or press his claim for the Turkish Cypriot Republic’s right to a share. Ankara, he said, would not force its will on this issue by military means – partly because of its present focus on transactions with Israel and, even more, on cutting down Russia’s share in Europe’s gas supply to a minimum.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has decided to borrow a tactic from his predecessor, the master terrorist Yasser Arafat.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet Abbas in Amman Sunday, April 7, to try and talk him out of launching what he is calling in briefings to Palestinian activists a “civil intifada (uprising)” without guns against Israel.
Kerry will try and hold Abbas to the pledge he gave President Barack Obama during his March 21 visit to Ramallah to abjure violent action so long as the United States actively promotes direct negotiations with Israel.
But Abu Mazen will wave this argument away. He will maintain he is out of patience and has set April 15 as the date for mass Palestinian street action to start and build up to accompany a preliminary US-sponsored meeting of Palestinians and Israelis scheduled to take place in mid-may in Turkey.
But this “intifada,” he will insist, will not go beyond mass protest marches, burning Israeli flags, pelting its security forces with rocks and Molotov cocktails, blocking West Bank highways, and staging collective hunger strikes in which schoolchildren will also take part for dramatic effect.
And indeed, for the past two weeks, he has been gradually fanning popular Palestinian unrest toward this climax,on one pretext or another.
The US Secretary will no doubt argue that any civil disturbances would quickly get out of hand in the tense climate pervading the Middle East.
His point will have been strengthened by the incident Wednesday, April 3 when Palestinians shooting guns and lobbing fire bombs staged their first organized attack in eight years on an Israeli army post just inside the southern border of the West Bank. The raiders, who came from the Palestinian village of Anabta, lost two men in the firefight with Israeli troops. One was captured when they fled the scene.
Shooting while talking, a classical strategy
While Kerry will maintain that simmering Palestinian violence would serve the ends of Syria, Hizballah and Hamas rather than their own interests, Abbas will counter that he can no longer hold the Palestinians down when the rest of the Arab world is on the march – either protesting against or battling its rulers.
He will protest that his job is to keep his people in the Arab flow - not on the sidelines.
But in fact, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Middle East sources, Abbas is adopting this course to replicate the maneuver his predecessor Yasser Arafat pursued profitably thirteen years ago.
In August 2000, when Arafat was invited by President Bill Clinton to sit down for talks at Camp David with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, US and Israeli intelligence both knew that the Palestinian leader had secretly finished his preparations for Intifida No. 2.
The Camp David encounter provided the cover story for the onset of the four-year Palestinian reign of blood and terror which, for the first time in history, pursued the tactic of suicide attacks predominantly targeting civilians - buses, schools, cafes, markets, malls and institutions – disrupting the life of a country and darkening is cities.
Of the 1,030 Israeli deaths caused by Arafat’s war on Israel, 70 percent were civilian, as were 82 percent of the 5,598 injured. They were the casualties of 138 Palestinian suicide attacks, 13,730 shooting incidents and about 450 Qassam launchings.
It took Israel another four years to start recovering.
The Palestinians “lost” 959 – of which 95 percent were self-declared “martyrs” - who died to murder Israelis.
Israel caught and detained 6,005 terrorists.
More than 360 Palestinians were killed by their own extremists.
That uprising saw a steep rise in the number of women, children and civilians volunteering or mobilized for violent attacks, including 292 Palestinian minors.
Although Clinton and Barak knew that Arafat's mind was set on war, they painted the Camp David meeting to their respective publics in upbeat colors as negotiations for peace - not an attempt to stave off his belligerent intent - which is what it really was.
Abbas takes a leaf out of Arafat’s textbook
Abu Mazen hopes to pull off a similar dual-track stratagem.
While orchestrating what he calls a non-violent intifada sans gunfire, he will pretend to follow the Washington guidelines laid down by John Kerry for joining the peace process, just as Arafat faked his cooperation in the early 2000s with the peace efforts of former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell.
Meanwhile, Abbas has gone for the high diplomatic ground on Jerusalem, one of the three core issues in dispute between the Palestinians and Israelis (along with refugees and boundaries). Even before facing Israel at the table, he is building his assets.
On Sunday, March 31, he signed an historic agreement in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in which the Palestinians acknowledged the monarch as the Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem. Abdullah was given authority over the Palestinian waqf (religious foundation) and accorded the status of representative on the Jerusalem question in all international forums and organizations.
By this ploy, Abbas has moved into position for posing at the projected peace talks as having made a grand Palestinian concession to Jordan of religious, diplomatic, legal and security responsibility for Temple Mount and the other Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites.
This posture is in fact mostly make-believe, because the Palestinians never owned any of those rights – only tried claiming them - and were therefore in no position to cede them.
Since every Israeli government has vowed that Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital will never again be divided, Abu Mazen hopes by his Jordanian ploy to detach historic Jerusalem from Israeli sovereignty and force the city’s repartition. The Palestinians would then have a chance of gaining East Jerusalem as their capital.
The Palestinian-Jordanian ploy – may head for confederation
Mahmoud Abbas may be able to pull off his sleight-of-hand ploy internationally. His offer to “give up” real estate he never owned may well be hailed in Washington and European capitals as an important Palestinian concession for peace, and even by some Israelis on the radical Left.
At the same time, the agreement Abu Mazen signed with Abdullah may serve as the starting-point for a broader plan which the Netanyahu government may find more palatable.
Five months ago, on December 27, 2012, debkafile's sources were the first to reveal that Jordan’s Abdullah and visiting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had discussed among other ideas bandied about between Washington, Jerusalem and Amman, a proposal to establish a confederation between the Palestinians on the West Bank and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
This conjoined entity would conduct the final-status peace talks with Israel.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly does not rule out the possibility that the Jordanian-Palestinian deal for transferring custody of Jerusalem’s holy sites to the king - if it is ever realized - may fit in eventually with that proposal.
At all events, Washington is maintaining the impetus for getting the peace dialogue back on track, as Obama promised Abbas.
On May 11, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources report that representatives of Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA Chairman Abu Mazen will be brought together for the first time in two years by Secretary Kerry. Turkish officials will also be there.
This informal meeting is designed to be the starter gun for the resumption of proper negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Abu Mazen accuses Israel of “criminal responsibility”
Abu Mazen’s scheme for keeping up the heat on the conference was already underway on his home ground this week. A handy pretext fell in his lap on April 1, when Palestinian security prisoner Abu Hamadiya, 64, died of throat cancer in the Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. A decade ago, this Hamas militant was sentenced to life for plotting a multiple murder attack on a Jerusalem café.
Blaming Israel’s “negligence” for the death and demanding an international probe, Abbas set up “spontaneous” outbreaks of Palestinian street riots and hunger strikes in Israeli prisons.
Warders had to use tear gas to break up the disturbances. Six warders and three prisoners suffered ill effects from gas inhalation.
Abbas was evidently clearing the way for his demand for the release of hundreds of jailed Palestinian terrorists prior to peace talks.
He deftly used two incidents to put Israel in the wrong ahead of negotiations in Turkey, aiming charges of “criminal responsibility” in the deaths of the Abu Hamadiya and even the two Palestinian gunmen (!).
But he can hardly convince the Americans and Israelis he is capable of keeping the lid on the Third Intifada - and at the same time take part in bone fide peace talks – while Palestinians are encouraged to surge out of control on the streets and Palestinian gunmen are praised for attacking an Israeli military post.
Miles before reaching the front lines in Damascus, Syrian army tanks have been bursting into flames like fire crackers from direct hits by rebel forces using their recently acquired high-tech weapons for the first time on the Syrian battlefield..
This radical shift in the face of the fighting elicited the Assad regime’s most dire threat yet: An unnamed Syrian military commander warned Wednesday, April 3, that any further push into the capital would mean “certain death” for the rebels and their leaders. Talking to the pro-government paper al-Watan, he said “The bravery of government troops on the battlefield is keeping Damascus safe.”
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence and military sources report that the rebel fighters’ newly-acquired antitank guided missiles-ATGM (of both Russian and American manufacture) are knocking over the T-72 tanks of the 4th Republican Guard Division and the 3rd Division, the backbone of the capital’s defenses, while their portable MANPAD air defense systems have brought practically all takeoffs and landings at Damascus International Airport to a standstill.
The port is deserted most hours of the day and night.
Rebels knock out tanks, race to preempt chemical warfare
In the last issue of DEBKA-Net-Weekly issue (No.591 of March 29), we reported that officers of the 3rd and 4th Divisions had received protective chemical warfare suits and gasmasks.
For Bashar Assad and his generals, the entry of the new ATGMs to the battlefield was the final red line. Without tanks, the two loyal divisions can hardly hope to save Damascus from the rebels, and so the most extreme measure, chemical weapons, has been prepared to stop them.
Rebel leaders aware of this train of thought upped their pressure in two ways in the past week: They have been driving hard to breach the defenses of central Damascus by seizing the city’s eastern districts; and are battering the defensive ring around the chemical weapons complex at Dumeir, 40 kilometers northeast of the capital.
It is there that Assad has put together a stock of chemical components, including the nerve gas sarin, for use as the final resort if the rebels are a step before taking Damascus.
For Assad, the ATGMs pose the ultimate threat to his army’s capacity to fight.
So far, the rebels appear to be concentrating the few dozen advanced anti-tank weapons in their possession on the battle to win Damascus. But if their source should increase supplies to several hundred ATGMs, the rebels would have the ability to disable the Syria army’s entire tank fleet across the country.
They could also keep the surviving tanks pinned down uselessly and unable to move from one warfront to another by ambushing the tank transporters as they move along the roads and setting them on fire.
The loss of its tanks would immobilize the Syrian army as well as its Iranian, Hizballah and Iraqi Shiite allies.
Planned rebel Scud blitz on Damascus
The Syrian ruler is also seriously jittery over the rebels’ efforts to start using the Scud C and Scud B missiles, taken booty from army bases, against regime institutions in Damascus, such as the presidential palace and General Staff Headquarters.
According to our intelligence sources, the rebels have got hold of at least six missile launchers from which 12-16 Scud missiles could be launched continuously with a few hours space between firings.
But they appear to still have two difficulties to overcome before using the captured Scuds.
1. Lack of rebel teams trained for the continuous and precise launching of surface-to-surface missiles against defined targets. A handful of their fighters appear capable of sporadic and random launches. But that is not good enough. For effective use of the Scuds, the rebels will have to hire professional missile teams.
Our sources have picked up reports of agents of Arab intelligence services, especially Qatar, propositioning officers from the Libyan army’s Scud units with offers of a $5,000 monthly wage – payable to their families if they are killed or wounded – for service with the Syrian rebels
2. Western intelligence experts don’t believe the Syrian opposition fighters have accumulated sufficient Scud missiles for the continuous blitz they are planning.
Their renewed concentrated assault on the Al Safira military complex near Aleppo in northern Syria aims not just at seizing a major chemical weapons depot. As one of the Syrian army’s main artillery bases, it houses more than 120 surface-to-surface missiles of various types.
Can Moscow or Tehran save Damascus and avert chemical war?
Either way, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources say, the rebels will soon try their hand at shooting Scud missile at government targets in Damascus. At this time, they appear to control East Goutha, which commands eastern access to the city.
Moscow and Tehran are unlikely to stand back and watch this sharp escalation in the force and efficacy of rebel weaponry and their progress toward capturing major sections of Assad’s capital.
However their options are limited.
At this stage of the fast-moving Syrian conflict, it would not be practical to ship to Damascus a large number of Russian tanks – say, 50-100 – of types resistant to the rebels’ weapons as replacements for the crippled Syrian tanks.
Can the Russian and Iranian arsenals yield up tools of war with the superior firing power needed to beat down the rebels’ ATGM and MANPADS? And if so, can they deliver them quickly enough to save Damascus before Assad brings chemical weapons into play?
Divorced as ever from reality, European Union foreign policy Executive Catherine Ashton said Wednesday April 3 that it is very important for Iran to respond to an offer by the world powers if the coming round of nuclear talks is to succeed.
None of the previous rounds have succeeded, any more than the next one in Almaty On April 5-6, is expected to, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources.
Her plea moreover fell on deaf ears in Tehran, although an Iranian delegation always puts in an appearance at the sessions with United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany which Ashton chaires,
A false optimistic note was offered Tuesday, April 2, by The Wall Street Journal’s “discovery” that Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had decided to slow down the Iranian nuclear program for the presidential polls of June.
This report was so wide of the mark that International Atomic Agency (IAEA) Director, the cautious and moderate Yukiya Amano, felt impelled to put the record straight.
He spoke Wednesday of the proof procured by his inspectors that Iran is secretly continuing to develop nuclear weapons. "Iran has done so in the past and is doing so now," he said.
Nuclear watchdog chief fed up with Western claptrap
Even Amano has become fed up with all the current claptrap and false figures put about in the West on Iran’s uranium enrichment and stocks. He has also had it up to here with red lines.
With a single sentence, Amano came right out with the truth which all the policy-makers and Iran mavens know, but avoid spelling out: That Iran continues to secretly enrich uranium to 20 percent, just short of weapons grade.
Indeed, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources, the White House itself has identified three or four small clandestine plants, where at least 30 new IR2 centrifuges are spinning to enrich uranium outside of the big facilities at Natanz and Fordo, which are at least partly monitored by the IAEA.
However those intelligence sources report there are more – at least ten such secret factories.
There may have been a slowdown in enrichment due to technical faults in the new centrifuges rather than politics, disappointing Iranian hopes of doubling of tripling their output. At the same time, this output long ago passed the red lines Washington and Jerusalem laid down.
Iran has by now accumulated enough fuel for several nuclear bombs.
Washington still insists Khamenei is exercising nuclear restraint
This did not deter Catherine Ashton from following the trail of illusions well-trodden by Washington.
On April 1, Gary Samore, until recently the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, insisted – contrary to all the evidence - that the Iranians are “slowing down aspects of their nuclear program for the time being.”
Speaking at the Brookings Institute think tank, he said that “ups and downs and differences and frustrations are going to continue for the foreseeable future in world powers’ negotiations with Iran.”
Still, he added, “Even if there isn’t a formal deal, I do think the Iranians are exercising some constraints on their program for political reasons.”
Those reasons, in Samore’s view, were the care Khamenei was taking “not to come near the red line of advanced uranium enrichment that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu laid down at the UN in the fall, since he doesn’t want to trigger more sanctions or a military attack before the elections are held.”
At the same time, he said, it would be “unrealistic to expect there would be some kind of breakthrough in the talks” with world powers at the end of the week.
A linkage between Iran and Syria? Certainly not
The former Obama adviser went on to knock over the thesis put forward at the same session by
former European Union Iran negotiator Javier Solana, that Iran was unlikely to agree to a nuclear deal at this point unless negotiations were expanded to include the issue of Syria.
There is no connection between the two, Samore argued, reflecting President Barack Obama refusal to see any linkage between the issues.
He also disputed the perceptions of a fellow former White House strategist, Dennis Ross, saying he did not favor trying to pivot to negotiating a more comprehensive “go big” offer with Iran which Ross has advocated, “because,” he said, “there’s little chance it would succeed.”
“The primary factor which determines whether military force will be used is what happens on the ground,” Samore said. “I can imagine [a scenario] in which the diplomacy continues, in fits and starts. But the Iranians remain cautious to not take action that would trigger military strikes."
Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian UN mission, asked to respond on Samore’s comments, said: “Iran’s presidential elections were not a chief impediment to a nuclear deal.
There is a national consensus in Iran on the inalienable right of the country to peaceful nuclear technology, including the right of uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes and any president in Iran must follow this national consensus…which is shared by the Iranian people.."
March 29, 2013 Briefs
March 30, 2013 Briefs
Western arms to Syrian rebels embargoed over resale to al Qaeda
30 March. The West has initiated an arms embargo against the Syrian rebels fighting Bashar Assad since discovering that some of the weapons are being resold to al Qaeda for its conquest of southern Syrian and takeover of positions on the Jordanian and Israel borders and Yarmuk River. This policy reversal was disclosed by French President Francois Hollande Friday, March 29 when also Turkish authorities impounded 5,000 shotguns, rifles, starting pistols, gunstocks and 10,000 cartridges in the village of Akcakale before they were sent across into Syria.
debkafile’s military sources: These steps are effectively putting in place a Western embargo on arms supplies to the Syrian rebels and not only the Assad regime. Saudi Arabia and Qatar remain their only sources of weapons. debkafile: Alarm over the Nusra Front’s territorial gains now tops concerns over chemical warfare in the deliberations of the joint US-Israeli, US-Jordanian and US-Turkish command centers.
March 31, 2013 Briefs
Palestinians open Jerusalem bidding by ceding Holy Sites Custodianship to Jordan’s king
1 April. An historic agreement signed in Amman Sunday, March 31, between Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II takes a new stand on Jerusalem by accepting the king as Custodian of the Holy Sites, with authority over the Palestinan Waqf (religious foundation). He will also represent the interests of the Holy Sites “in relevant international forums…” By laying the foundation for internationalizing the oversight of Jerusalem’s holy sites, the document faces trouble in Israel and also among Palestinians.
The two parties’ communiqués differ in defining “Palestinian sovereignty.” According to the Palestinian version,“The agreement confirmed Jordan’s historic role in caring for the religious sanctuaries. It also confirmed Palestinian sovereignty over all of Palestine, including East Jerusalem as its capital.”
However, Article 3:3.1 of the agreement published in full by Jordan puts it this way: “The Government of the State of Palestine, as the expression of the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, shall have the right to exercise sovereignty over all parts of its territory, including Jerusalem.
April 2, 2013 Briefs
April 3, 2013 Briefs
Israel’s defense minister inspects Golan position as Al Qaeda nears two Syrian chemical depots
3 April. In fierce battles with Syrian troops, Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra front is spearheading the rebels’ advance on two Syrian army chemical weapons depots - at the Al-Safira base in the north and the Dumeir facility 40 km northeast of Damascus. Tuesday, April 2, Israel’s top security officials were on the Golan to inspect the IDF Golan border units’ state of readiness. On his first visit to the territory as defense minister, Moshe Yaalon said Israel would prevent the proliferation of weapons that “could threaten us.”
He was the first leading Israeli figure to state clearly that Israel would act to prevent the proliferation of Syria’s chemical weapons – whether to the al Qaeda or Hizballah terrorist organizations.
As Syrian defenses weakened, the troops fighting at Al Safira and in the Damascus region were issued with anti-contamination suits and gas masks.
April 4, 2013 Briefs
S. Israel on alert for multiple al Qaeda strike. Iron Dome posted
4 March. Intelligence on al Qaeda preparations for a multiple attack on an Israeli location, such as Eilat, and a US military target in the Negev, has put southern Israel and US forces posted there on high terror alert. The IDF is treating the five rockets fired from Gaza Wednesday as the opening salvo for the coordinated attack. An Iron Dome battery has been posted on the Egyptian border north of Eilat and army reinforcements pumped into the South. The word received is that al Qaeda may be planning to strike from two places – Sinai and Gaza. Sandstorms are reducing the troops’ visibility and offer infiltrators good cover.