Vol. 14, Issue 672, July 31, 2015
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Inside Iran’s Financial Power Center
Khamenei Shuts US Firms out of Iran’s Post-Sanctions Economy

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has put three teams to work in his office to interpret the complex permutations of the nuclear accord signed in Vienna this month. Their work is split up among the headings of the economy, international relations and the region.
Even when their reports are in, the supreme leader will be in no hurry to pronounce on the deal. In fact, he may never ratify it at all, preferring to redefine his position from time to time in accordance with the state of play between the camps of advocates and opponents. He defines this strategy as a true reflection of the popular or collective common sense. But it really reflects the prevailing mood - not of the common people, but the political, military and religious elite.
Meanwhile he is keeping everyone guessing about his ultimate decision.
At present, a tug-o’- war is in full tilt between President Hassan Rouhani, who is fighting with all his might to sell the Majlis the advantages of the nuclear accord, and the Revolutionary Guards, whose leaders openly criticize its impact on the country’s continued armament. No one talks openly about any major setback to Iran’s national nuclear program; it is euphemistically defended for allowing “continued nuclear scientific development” and supporting “the effort to retain the nation’s deterrent strength.”
The lawmakers of the majlis may be expected to line up behind Khamenei, whatever he decides. But the Guards will not be reticent about leaning hard on him to demand amendments and improvements in the original text.

Khamenei holds back ratification of nuclear accord

Khamenei’s delayed response to the nuclear accord owes much to pride. The Islamic Republic would be painfully humiliated if the US Congress rejected the deal after he had approved it. This is not likely to happen, but Congress was given 60 days to determine its position on the Vienna deal, and the ever-cautious supreme leader is not about to risk his hand.
In the meantime, DEBKA Weekly’s sources in Tehran reveal exclusively that the ayatollah has banned all business with American firms in a secret directive to the country’s economic and financial leaders. The ban extends to the Chevron and Exxon giants and applies to business dealings and opening for US firms to take part in any Iranian development projects. It is in force, until the supreme leader rules otherwise.
For now, he has decided to apportion the economic rewards of the nuclear deal among four countries:
The administration and development of Iran’s gas fields go to Germany and Italy.
Russia gets the oil industry and its development as well the contracts for more nuclear reactors.
The oil refineries including new construction go to China.
For now, Khamenei is pointedly excluding the United States from a share in the economic boom expected to arise from the Vienna deal to keep the heat on the current Obama administration – and, if necessary, its successor. He trusts corporate America to keep the president under relentless pressure to get Iran’s doors opened up for US business to compete with the Russians, Germans, Italians and Chinese. When Washington comes knocking on Tehran’s door, that will be the moment for the ayatollahs to play the economic card for squeezing US concessions on its nuclear program and forcing a blind eye to its violations.

Negative rhetoric on the nuclear accord

Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif defended the concessions made for the deal by explaining that negotiations are “give and take” and Iran couldn’t take without giving something. Rouhani drew on football to illustrate his point: If you strike three goals and the opposite team gets two, you win the game. So if Iran gave certain concessions, its winnings were greater than its losses.
Khamenei’s foreign affairs adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, who often acts as his mouthpiece, tried sounding tough, without however, knocking the accord over, when he said: “With great courage, we conducted negotiations with six world powers. We gave and we received, but we never compromised on our national security.”
The supreme leader too praised the work of the negotiating team on his Facebook page, without however commenting on the accord’s content. He is still biding his time. But anyone looking for pointers to his intentions would have found a hint in Velayati’s comment partly in support of the Revolutionary Guards chief Gen. Ali Jaafari’s indignant protest at the restrictions Iran accepted on its missile development and military armament.
These two issues, he said, should have been non-negotiable.
Defense Minister Gen. Hossein Dehqan agreed and declared that Iran would never acquiesce to inspections of its nuclear facilities or interviews with its nuclear scientists.
Khamenei then declared that Iran would never abandon its struggle against the “global arrogance’ of the United States and Israel.

First official Iranian admission of a military presence in Yemen, Iraq

Saturday, July 25, a mocking depiction of President Barack Obama appeared on Khamenei’s Twitter account: “The US President has said he could knock out Iran’s military,” the tweet said. “We welcome no war, nor do we initiate any war, but…” A silhouette image of Obama putting a handgun to his head is then depicted.
The supreme leader’s senior adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, came forward on state television to explain his boss’s message. It was the ayatollah’s way of underscoring the strategic importance to Iran’s security of its massive presence in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, he said, a presence Tehran will never forego, because it lies at the core of the country’s border security.
This was the first time any Iranian official had openly admitted to an Iranian military presence in Yemen and Iraq.
Velayati’s TV statements betrayed some of the arguments that went back and forth between Iran and the six powers over the wording of various clauses, especially on the issues of inspections and the freeze demanded on Iran’s military development plans and future generations of centrifuges.
Contradicting the US president, Velayati solemnly declared, “Not a gram of enriched material will leave Iran,” adding “Iran will continue to pursue its plans in all spheres.”
Even so, DEBKA Weekly’s Iran experts do not foresee Iran violating the accord so flagrantly that a Security Council would be called to restore sanctions.

Tehran’s potential money trail is already a maze

While Israeli sources refer to “hundreds of millions of dollars” that will be potentially released to Iran with the lifting of sanctions on frozen assets, the Iranians mention much smaller sums.
The governor of Iran’s central bank spoke of $32 billion, of which $23 billion repose in Chinese banks. Another sum cited is $130 billion. But it is generally admitted that China is holding onto the money and is demanding that Iran accepts Chinese goods in the same value according to prices set by… Beijing.
Within the Iranian regime, estimates vary of the total assets held in the banks of different countries, which are due to be unfrozen when sanctions are removed.
The ordinary Iranian has mixed emotions about the nuclear deal. While a small band of young people turned out on the streets of Tehran to celebrate it, people are by and large skeptical about any of the riches about to descend on the country filtering down to improve their lives.
The popular view is that the disparities and disputes over the size of the forthcoming flow of assets is rooted in the rush by high-ups for slices to feather their nests in private bank accounts abroad. It is taken for granted that substantial amounts will be awarded to Bashar Assad in Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Shiite forces fighting in Iraq.

Future of relations with the US cloudy

The future of relations with the United States is uncertain. Some improvement is expected, but since the nuclear accord was signed, the supreme leader has made no bones about America being the ultimate enemy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He has not ruled out continued dialogue, but only so long as the Americans continue to demonstrate their good will in the application of the nuclear accord.
In the short term, the two governments will soon embark on secret talks on the exchange of prisoners. Tehran is holding three Iranians of US nationality in its prisons, charged with jeopardizing Iran’s national security.
At least eight individuals of various nationalities (including an Iranian woman) are held in US jails for smuggling arms and military technology to Iran. Khamenei is eager to get them released and returned to Iran.

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Hashemite Kingdom Takes up Islamist Challenge
Jordanian Troops in Iraq for First Real Seek-and-Destroy Mission against ISIS

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is the only country whose army has taken up the challenge to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in two arenas outside its borders – Iraq and Syria. The campaign, initiated by King Abdullah II, and launched around a fortnight ago, may be labeled the “Silent War,” owing to the thick blackout imposed by Amman and Washington. Baghdad and Damascus go along with this shutdown on war information because there is nothing they can do to about it.
For different reasons, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf States prefer to stay mum about the Jordanian campaign because it serves their own interests in undermining ISIS. So why rock the boat?
Israel also deems it prudent to stay silent on its direct involvement in the operation, in the form of air cover and real-time intelligence relayed to the Jordanian command forces in the field through US Central command Forward-Jordan headquarters located north of Amman where Israeli liaison officers are also staffed.
The Jewish state has a profound interest like Jordan in distancing the Islamists from its gates.

Jordanian commandos seek out ISIS in broad stretch of Anbar

According to DEBKA Weekly’s military sources, Jordanian forces are battling ISIS across a 518,000 sq. km. expanse of Syrian Desert that unfolds into Iraq, Syria and Jordan. (See attached map.) Since no army in the world can control, conquer or hold a territory this size, the campaign is being fought on the move by means of mobile Jordanian commandos, Sunni Arab tribes in the Iraqi province of Anbar, American satellites and Israeli air units.
When ISIS movements are sighted, Jordanian commandos are airborne and flown by helicopters to challenge and pick off the jihadi group.
No information is available on Jordanian or Islamist casualties in these engagements.
Most of the 90,000-strong Jordanian army is strung out along its borders with Iraq and Syria on high war preparedness, except for the 1st Division which defends the capital, and two brigades deployed in the South, where ISIS enjoys a following, and the southern border with Israel.
The occasional news item offers a glimmer through the dense blackout of a war in progress.
On July 16, the only Jordanian-Iraqi border crossing at Trebil was closed until further notice. It was explained in Amman and Baghdad as action to prevent ISIS attacks on the goods trucks driving to the Gulf via Iraq.
This was just an excuse. The goods freights to the Gulf have long been diverted from overland trucks to the sea route from the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba via the Red Sea.

Jordanian forces have penetrated as far as Ar Rutba

The real reason for the terminal’s closure was to give the Jordanian army untrammeled passage free of civilian traffic into western Iraq and the Anbar Province.
A second glimmer came on July 23, when US sources unusually disclosed the transfer of 16 Israeli combat Cobra helicopters to the Jordanian army, revealing for the first time that the US, Jordan and Israel were collaborators in the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
To confuse the issue, the Americans stressed that the choppers were for “border security” and had first been sent to the US for overhaul and repairs.
Jordanian commandos fighting in Iraq have meanwhile penetrated as far as Ar Rutba, the largest district of the Al Anbar Government and the most sparsely populated, with no more than 25,000 inhabitants. It is also the westernmost corner of Iraq and the only one bordering Jordan.
Ar Rutba lies 250 km west of Baghdad, 150 km west of ISIS-held Falujah, and 160 km west of Ramadi, over which heavy fighting has been raging for a month. Small Iraqi units and large pro-Iranian Shiite militias have been struggling without success to recover this important town, which the Islamists captured in May.

Saudis aids Jordanian generals in supplying Sunni tribes arms and funds

In strategic terms, the Jordanian incursion was intended to open a second front in Iraq against ISIS to stifle the jihadis’ freedom of movement in a broad area. So far, the state of the fighting has not changed in the two weeks since elite Jordanian troops slipped across the border. But it is still early days.
Jordanian generals have taken a leaf out of the US surge tactic, which turned the tide of the Iraq war in 2006-2007 by harnessing the Sunni tribes of Anbar and eastern Syria to their effort. They give the tribesmen arms - and the tribal chiefs funds to pay the wages of tribesmen under arms.
Saudi Arabia has come to the aid of Jordan’s war initiative with funds, indirectly helping the United States.
According to DEBKA Weekly’s military sources, King Salman has put up generous sums of money to buy the loyalty and participation in the war of the Shammar, the largest and most influential Arab tribe in the region.
It is estimated to number four million members – 3 million in Iraq, more than 1.5 million in Saudi Arabia, around half a million in Syria and an unknown number in Jordan.
The Shamar tribe’s control of large stretches of the Syrian Desert, including the part which covers eastern Syria, affords the Jordanian forces freedom of movement in that part of Syria.
In Iraq, Jordan uses funds supplied by Washington to buy the loyalty of the Dulaim tribes and their chief Ali Hatim Al-Suleimani.

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A Surfeit of Taboos
Wrangling over Targets Brings Havoc to the US-Turkish Campaign against ISIS

The US-Turkish plan for a new, collective offensive against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant looked good on paper. It set out a neat division of labor as follows: Iran takes on the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and recruits Hizballah for the task in Syria and Lebanon; Turkey goes into action against ISIS mostly in Syria but also in Iraq. Jordan has already embarked on a pre-emptive operation behind Islamist lines in the Iraqi province of Anbar (see separate article); Egypt, with Israel’s backing, is battling the most poisonous ISIS arm outside the Islamic Caliphate, the Ansar Beit Al-Magdis of Sinai. Saudi Arabia is grappling with the insidious Islamic State influence spreading among its young men.
Even the Syrian insurgents were also supposedly in the mix.
The United States undertook to provide these military forces with air support, but also the occasional Special Forces operations as needed.
But when it got down to brass tacks, this formidable army tailored to vanquish Daesh fell into a messy heap, its components sizzling with conflicting interests and arguments and bound by constraints.

US agrees to withdraw Roosevelt as good will gesture to Iran

The Obama administration stepped forward on the right foot when, at long last, Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan consented to US warplanes using Turkish bases to take off for air strikes against the Islamic State. This provides the US air campaign with a major short cut, operationally and cost-wise, compared with the distance US bombers have been flying from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the only US aircraft carrier left in the region.
US Navy commanders welcomed the deal with Ankara for closing the “US carrier gap.”
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources disclose that this was a reference to the Roosevelt and its strike group’s impending exit from the region, leaving a gap of several months before it is filled by another carrier – just at the moment that the latest US-led coalition campaign against the Islamists was supposed to start coming together.
Its departure is the result of a secret pledge the Obama administration gave Tehran to whisk the carrier out of Gulf waters. The promise, our sources report, was contained in one of the unpublished clauses of the nuclear accord signed in Vienna on July 14. It was meant as a show of American good will, as well as a test of Iran’s good behavior.
Iran’s leaders needed the Roosevelt’s exit to demonstrate to hardline critics at home of the nuclear accord that it had come up trumps for the Islamic Republic. The US administration needed it to show the accord’s opponents, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, that Tehran would stick to its obligations under the accord even in the absence of US military strength.
In any case, it would only be for a couple of months, after which US warplanes would have the more advantageous option of Turkish air bases for air strikes against the Jihadis.

More don’ts than dos in the US-Turkish anti-ISIS plan

The jihadists show no sign of being scared by the formidable new army taking shape to fight them. If anything, they seem to be encouraged. Taking the opposite view to the US military planners, who find strength in the size of the coalition, ISIS tacticians see its weaknesses. The more Middle East forces co-opted to the coalition fighting them, they believe, the sooner they will fall out amongst themselves and against Washington.
The Islamists are watching as the new front starts falling into disarray, opening up new opportunities for the Islamic Caliphate to add to its territory.
The surprise agreement for a joint anti-ISIS campaign signed last week between Washington and Ankara contained more don’ts than dos.
1. The US will be allowed to strike ISIS from Turkish air bases, while Turkey is permitted to conduct a dual operation against the Islamic State and “Kurdish terrorists” – as US officials referred to the outlawed Turkish PKK (Kurdish Workers Party).
2. Immunity from attack was guaranteed the Assad regime’s army and the forces fighting in its cause, like the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Al Qods Brigades, Hizballah or the pro-Iranian Shiite militias. This followed a pledge Tehran had demanded of Washington and Ankara.

Ankara directs 90 percent of its air strikes against Kurds; 10 percent against ISIS

3. Neither the US nor Turkey may deploy ground forces on Syrian soil, although Turkey broke this commtment Saturday, July 25, by sending its tanks 2.5 km deep into Syria.
This prohibition was embodied in the US-Turkish plan after Moscow warned both capitals through back channels, that any ground forces treading on Syrian soil would cross a Russian red line against NATO intervention in the Syria war. Moscow would respond by dispatching Russian ground troops to Syria to defend the Assad regime.
Judging from its three guidelines, the joint US-Turkish campaign against the Islamic State looks like a sideshow for more pressing concerns.
Ankara sees its chance - not just to crack down on its veteran foe, the violent PKK, but also to put a big spoke in the wheel of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) separatist aspirations. Even though the Kurds have proved to be the only fighting force capable of recovering land seized by the Islamic State, the Erdogan regime is determined to crush the Kurdish group, along with its grand plan for an autonomous Syrian entity to link up with the Kurdish Republic of Iraq. This would create a continguous Kurdish state running from Irbil in the east to the Mediterranean in the west.
Therefore, our sources reveal, Turkey has directed 90 percent of its air strikes since Friday against PKK bases in Iraq and the YPG militia in Syria, directing only 10 percent against the Islamic State.

US disputes Ankara’s ISIS-free zone plan in Syria

Days after the US and Turkey announced their deal for fighting ISIS, they were already at cross-purposes on the scheme for a buffer zone in northern Syria. While Ankara was eager to designate a strip of land as an “Islamic State-free zone,” US officials began insisting Wednesday, July 29, that -- contrary to reports – Washington definitely has no plans for a “safe zone” inside Syria - or any other zone at all.
The sudden dispute arose from the confusion in Washington over how to grapple with the Islamic State.
Ankara and Washington originally agreed on a strip of northern Syria to be carved out as an “Islamic State-free zone” – although the Americans wanted it to be smaller than the area Turkey charted. This was to be 90 km long and 40km wide and run from Marea in the west to Jarabulus on the Euphrates River bank, to the east. (See attached map.)
But Ankara’s scheme was to make it also a Kurdish-free zone, that would split Kurdish lands into two separate halves – a goal which had nothing to do with fighting ISIS, but everything to do with blocking any Kurdish drive for independence.
The Turks argued that if the Kurds were not held back, they would soon overrun the safe zone to achieve their goals. That they would also drive the Islamists out proved to be of minor concern to Ankara.

Turkey’s anti-Kurd maneuvers leave no ground force to preserve the safe zone

And so the Turkish account against the Kurds was neutralizing the only effective force capable of forging an “ISIS-free zone.” No other boots on the ground are in sight, following the pledge Ankara and Washington gave Tehran and Moscow. And aerial warfare alone has time and again in Mid East wars proved incapable of routing an enemy or expelling it from captured terrain. The US attempt to put forward “moderate” Syrian rebels for the task was ridiculed everywhere in the Middle East. Even Washington is cooling in its support for those insurgents, disappointed in their performance on the battlefield. Saudi Arabia, too, has qualified its assistance to those US-backed rebels, after discovering that their spearhead, the pro-Al Qaeda Nusra Front, works with the Islamic State ad hoc in certain operations.
This impasse left the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s decision-making body with scant leeway for active decisions at the rare emergency meeting its 28 members held Tuesday, July 28, at Turkey’s request. Ankara invoked Article 4, which allows member states to request a meeting if they feel their territorial integrity or security is under threat.
The meeting proclaimed “strong solidarity” with its member’s fight against the Islamic State group. But a NATO official said members used the closed-door meeting to call on Turkey not to use excessive force in reaction to terror attacks, and to pursue peace efforts with representatives of the Kurdish minority.

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Erdogan’s Secret ISIS Dossier
Turkey Turns against ISIS to Join Syria, Iraq, Egypt on the Front Line against the Islamists

It was hard to say what made Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suddenly decide to link up with the United States for the struggle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, when, for nearly a year, he had maintained clandestine ties with the Islamists.
In September 2014, Erdogan and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi concluded a tacit truce for the recovery of the 49 Turkish diplomats and spies taken hostage when ISIS seized the Iraqi town of Mosul and with it the Turkish consulate on July 11 of that year.
The consulate was in fact the public façade of Turkey’s military and intelligence headquarters in Iraq, which is why Al Baghdadi, who knew this, went for the compound as a prime target in the northern Iraq city.
The ISIS leader also knew that Erdogan could not afford to sacrifice high-value personnel who had served the country on the Iraqi front line through thick and thin. It would therefore be possible to squeeze him for an exorbitant high ransom to get them out.
He was right. And Ankara paid through the nose, though not directly in cash, with three major concessions:

Turkey’s blind eye for jihads crossing to Syria - explained

1. Turkish security authorities agreed to turn a blind eye to the foreign jihadis arriving from North America, Australia, the UK, Western Europe and Muslim countries as volunteers to fight with ISIS. They were allowed to pass through to Syria unobstructed. Counter-terrorism experts calculate that some 5,000 volunteers used this route.
2. Turkish intelligence agents helped the Islamic State reach the black markets for arms in the Balkan countries of Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo to acquire the weapons systems they were short of, or to sell surplus stocks looted in Iraq and Syria.
3. Turkey brokered sales on the international market of the oil Abu Bakr’s men were plundering from captured Syrian oil fields. For this traffic, a third partner was cut in - none other than Syrian President Bashar Assad. The trio set up a mechanism for the smooth sale of the oil ISIS was pumping from captured Syrian oil fields. The profits were divided up between Raqqa, Damascus and Ankara.

ISIS punishment could ruin Turkey’s $30bn tourist trade

But in the last two weeks, a seismic shift took place in Ankara. It happened after Gen. John Allen, the retired US Marine who is President Barack Obama’s special envoy for the war on the Islamic State, met Turkish leaders in Ankara earlier this month. It was then that the Erdogan government agreed to turn its back on its covert relations with the Islamic State and go on the offensive instead.
At the same time, Ankara also finally acceded to Washington’s longstanding request to use Turkish air fields for flying air missions against ISIS.
It is certain that the jihadists will never let Ankara escape this relationship without harsh punishment for its defection.
The first sign of this intent came on July 20, when 20-year, Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz, a Turkish Kurd who had joined ISIS in February, blew himself up at a cultural center in Suruc near the Syrian border and killed 32 young Turkish victims.
Turkey’s MIT intelligence service has warned the government in Ankara that worse retribution was yet to come. The jihadist group had planted sleeper cells across Turkey, their members trained for terrorist attacks at tourist resorts, like the shooting attack that killed 39 mostly British holidaymakers at the Tunisian seafront on June 26. Just one attack of this nature would bring ruin to the tourist trade, on whose estimated revenue of more than $30 billion per annum, the Turkish economy is heavily dependent.

Is Turkey aligning with the forces promoting Assad?

Ankara’s amenability to joining the war on ISIS may be partly explained by the free hand Washington granted for its crackdown on the Kurdish PKK movement. But, according to DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and counter-terror sources, that motive was not powerful enough to swing Turkish leaders right round so far as to lay the country open to the most high-cost peril it has faced since Kemal Ataturk rejected the Ottoman Caliphate legacy a century ago.
They suggest that President Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu had, for the first time since the 2011 Arab Spring, perceived advantage in jumping aboard the anti-Sunni camp, although the Turkish population is predominantly Sunni.
So is Ankara reverting to its former policy of alignment with the Bashar regime? In July 2011, Davutoglu traveled to Damascus to persuade the Syrian president of the benefits of hitching up with Turkey.
Now too, Turkish leaders may have discovered, as they look around them, that Washington, Moscow and Tehran are all staked in shoring up the future of the Assad regime and decided to join the party.
Whatever their motives and risk, they have placed Turkey at the forefront of the next stage of the struggle against the Islamic State, alongside Syria, Iraq and Egypt.

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A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Weeks Ending July 30, 2015

July 20, 2015 briefs

  • Cutbacks in IDF non-combat personnel in next budget
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen/ Gady Eisenkott Monday released his five-year plan for cutting back on military spending. It entails reducing regular forces by 2,500, slashing the reserve army by 100,000 men and women, as well as the artillery brigades and light infantry battalions. Eisenkott also proposes reducing the age of field brigade commanders from an average 40-42 to 32.
  • At least 32 killed in first ISIS suicide attack in Turkey
    In the first ISIS attack in Turkey, an 18-yeard old suicide bomber Monday blew up a municipal culture in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa’s Suruç district near the Syrian border, killing at least 32 people and injuring more than a hundred.

Israel to Ashton: Iranian forces mustn’t be allowed to dump ISIS on Israeli Golan

20 July.
Israeli leaders’ main business with visiting US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter when they meet Monday, July 20, is their concern about Tehran’s possible endgame in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. They asked Carter to make sure that the US did not let Tehran harness Hizballah and Syrian troops to help its Shiite militias push ISIS onto the Golan and the Jordanian borders.

July 21, 2015 briefs

  • US pilot hailed as ”The Man Who save Tel Aviv” is dead
    Louis (Lou) Lenart, an American fighter pilot, hailed as “The Man who saved Tel Aviv” during the opening days of Israel’s War of Independence, has died, aged 94 in Raanana, Israel. At 17 he enlisted to the US Marine Corps and saw action the Battle for Okinawa and other Pacific missions. In early 1948, Lenart joined the clandestine effort to smuggle surplus planes to the nascent state of Israel. On May 29, large Egyptian forces had advanced to within 16 miles of Tel Aviv when Lenart, as only of four Israeli fighter pilots, led the attack on the Egyptian columns. They retreated. That was how the US pilot became “The Man Who Saved Tel Aviv. Lenart produced six feature films, including “Iron Eagle” and “Iron Eagle II.” He is survived by his wife Rachel, his daughter and grandson.

July 22, 2015 briefs

  • The EU targets Israeli banks in labeling goods made in settlements
    The European Council for Foreign Relations Wednesday proposed including Israel banks in the boycott measure for labeling Israeli goods made in “settlements” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It would now cover bank loans and mortgages, qualifications earned in settlement institutions and the tax-exempt status of European charities that deal with Israeli settlements. Under European Commission guidelines from 2013, EU- and member-state-funded lending cannot be provided to Israeli businesses and individuals operating in the “occupied territories.” Israel has denounced Europe’s steps as discriminatory, wrongheaded and anti-Semitic.
  • First French Rafale fighter jets delivered to Egypt
    Egypt has taken delivery of the first three of the 24 Rafale fighters jets bought from France in a 5.2 billion euro deal. They are armed with advanced ordnance including guided air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and come with a missile vessel to be launched at the ceremony marking the widening of the Suez Canal on Aug. 6.

Iran buys 100 Russian refueling aircraft for its air force to reach any point in the Mid East

22 July.
Iran has ordered 100 Russian IL78 MKI tanker aircraft for refueling its air force in mid-flight, debkafile reports exclusively. The transaction runs contrary to the ten-year arms embargo embodied in the nuclear accord the six world powers have just signed with Iran. Able to simultaneously refuel 6-8 warplanes, they bring Israel, and the Middle East at large - within easy range of Iranian aerial bombardment. It puts Iran ahead of Israel in mid-air refueling resources.
Secretary of State John Kerry can expect some really hard questions during his trip on exactly how the Vienna accord makes the region safer.

July 23, 2015 briefs

  • Roadside bomb kills four Egyptian servicemen in Sinai
    An Egyptian officer and three soldiers were killed when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb Thursday near the Sinai-Gaza border town of Rafah. The attack came a few days after seven soldiers died in an attack by the Islamic State Sinai affiliate on a checkpoint.

Israel gives Jordan 16 Cobra helicopters to fight ISIS – with US approval

23 July.
In the first publicized Israeli military hardware transaction with an Arab nation, Israel has handed Jordan 16 decommissioned Cobra combat helicopters free of charge in support of its large-scale aerial-commando operation in the Iraqi province of Anbar to carve out a security barrier against ISIS intrusion.

ISIS infiltrates Egyptian special forces, joins with Hamas to occupy N. Sinai, liquidate Sisi

23 July.
The Islamic State’s success in infiltrating elite military units and banding together with the Palestinian Hamas poses mounting danger to the life and rule of Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi. debkafile: A large group of Egyptian officers and men has defected to ISIS led by Hisham al-Ashmawy, who is seen as the hand behind the prosecutor general’s assassination and other attacks on regime officials. Tuesday, July 21, the Multinational Force and Observers in northern Sinai came under attack for the first time by a joint ISIS-Hamas force. The attack is ongoing.

July 24, 2015 briefs

  • US, Turkey impose partial no-fly zone over Syria
    Turkish military sources reported Friday that the US and Turkish air forces had established a “partial no-fly zone” 40-50km deep inside Syria and 90km in length. It covers all the Idlib province of northern Syria up to the Aleppo.
  • Jordan shuts only Iraqi border crossing “indefinitely”
    In view of its war operations in Iraq, the Jordanian army Friday shut down the only border crossing between the kingdom and Iraq “indefinitely.” The Trebil terminal, athwart the Amman-Baghdad highway, was cleared of civilian traffic to make way for reinforcements and supplies to reach the units battling ISIS in the Iraqi province of Anbar without delays.

Jordan launches war on ISIS in Iraq, Turkish warplanes hit ISIS in Syria. US and Israel involved in both operations

24 July. The Middle East woke up Friday, July 24, to two new fully-fledged wars launched by Jordan and Turkey for cutting down the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The US and Israel are involved in both campaigns. Jordanian armored, commando and air forces have struck deep inside Iraq, aided by Cobra helicopters provided by Israel; Three Turkish F-16s struck three Islamic State targets in northern Syria. Both conducted mass arrests of suspected Islamist terrorists. Ankara also approved US air strikes against ISIS from Turkish air bases, including Incirlik.

July 26, 2015 briefs

  • White House justifies Turkey’s use of anti-ISIS operation against Kurds
    White House spokesman Alistair Baskey justified Turkey’s “right to defend itself against terrorist attacks by Kurdish rebels” – a green light for Turkish forces to use their proclaimed anti-ISIS operation to settle accounts with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in Syria and Iraq. The PKK thereupon declared its two-year truce with Ankara at an end.
  • Palestinian rioters on Temple Mount hurl rocks at Tisha Be’Av
    ens of thousands of Jews gathered at the Kotel (Western Wall) Sunday, the 9th Day of the month of Av, the annual day of mourning, fast and lamentation for the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Overhead, on Temple Mount, masked Muslim rioters had stored a supply of rocks, bottle bombs and fire crackers overnight in Al Aqsa mosque, for hurling at police guards as they arrived to secure visitors and pilgrims on the mount and worshippers at the Kotel against attack. Three police officers were injured.
    The police, under a hail of flying objects and streams of an unidentified liquid, drove the rioters into the mosque and shut the heavy doors.

July 27, 2015 briefs

  • IDF rehearses surprise large-scale call-up of reserves
    Automated call-up messages were tested Monday for the first time by the IDF for the surprise mobilization of reservists from all branches of the armed forces – air, land, sea and Home Front Command. Thousands were told to report to recruitment centers to drill responses to different kinds of attack, including strikes against national infrastructure, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip or Lebanon and other war scenarios, including cyber attack. The Home Front Command will rehearse rescue operations in Holon and Neurim. The exercise lasts until Wednesday.

Assad in a position of strength after Vienna deal with Iran

27 July.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, in his first public speech in a year, Sunday, July 26, admitted to losing territory. But debkafile reveals he was quietly handed a new Iranian rehabilitation plan for his army, which reorganizes divisions and brigades into three armored commando super-divisions, one each for the northern, southern and Damascus fronts.

July 28, 2015 briefs

  • Jonathan Pollard to be released on Nov. 20
    Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced Tuesday night that the US Parole Commission has decided to release Jonathan Pollard on Nov. 20, after 30 years in an American prison. He was convicted of spying for Israel during his employment with the US Navy as an intelligence analyst.
  • CNN poll: Most Americans reject nuclear deal
    A majority of Americans want Congress to reject the recently-negotiated nuclear deal with Iran, even as President Barack Obama's approval rating continues to stand in net-positive territory for the second month in a row, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. Overall, 52% say Congress should reject the deal, 44% say it should be approved.
  • Hollande warns Iran: Face attack if you break nuclear accord
    French President Francois Hollande has warned his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani that if Iran fails to fails to uphold the nuclear accord signed in Vienna, Israel and a coalition of other nations may decide to attack its nuclear facilities.
  • Eisenkott: Comprehensive military exercise is key to victory
    Lt. Gen Gady Eiskenkoot, IDF chief of staff, while inspecting the progress of Israel’s large-scale reserve call-up drill launched Monday, said: “We decided to press the entire army into the current exercise in order to gauge its full potential for defending the country against every possible threat and achieving victory.”

July 29, 2015 briefs

  • Erdogan to discuss a missile deal in Beijing
    Although Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Beijing Wednesday with 100 business executives. Ankara has tentatively transacted to purchase a $3.4 bn Chinese missile defense system.

ISIS wipes out the Syrian army’s largest strategic arsenal, flattens sections of Al Safira complex

29 July.
As the US and Turkey got started on a new air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria, the jhadis pulled off their most devastating attack yet on the Syrian army’s biggest arsenal. They subjected the giant Al-Safira military complex north of Aleppo to a steady blitz of an estimated 50 Grad missiles from Monday night to Tuesday, July 28. debkafile’s military sources report that Facility No.790, a large depot of the Syrian army’s strategic weapons, including chemicals, was set on fire and flattened. Many Iranian technical personnel were present at the facility.

July 30, 2015 briefs

  • Justice Minister: Remove land disputes from High Court
    After two Beit El buildings were torn down Wednesday in obedience to a High Court ruling, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (pro-settlement Bayit Yehudi Party) proposed removing land disputes in Judea and Samaria from High Court jurisdiction and referring them to regular courts. The two buildings were demolished after three days of clashes between protesters and the police.
    Later, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu approved 300 new housing units in Beit El, as per a three-year old government promise of alternative housing in another part of Beit El for hundreds of voluntary evacuees from the Givat Ulpana district, that was built on Palestinian land.

Iran orders from China 150 J-10 fighter jets that incorporate Israeli technology

30 July.
Iran is about to purchase from China the Chengdu J-10 multirole jet fighter, known in the West as the Vigorous Dragon, according to an exclusive report from debkafile. Beijing has agreed to sell Tehran 150 of these sophisticated jets, which are comparable to the US F-16. From Moscow, Tehran has ordered 250 the highly-advanced Sukhoi-Su-30MK1 fighters as well as 100 in-flight refueling planes. The scale of Iran’s multibillion acquisitions from China and Russia indicates that Tehran’s top spending priority for funds released by the lifting of sanctions will be the construction of a spanking new air force.

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