Vol. 15, Issue 675, August 21, 2015
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Israel’s Northern Forces on the Ready
Iran Talks with Syrian Rebels, Engineers Five New Fronts against Israel

Israel’s military preparedness is gearing up in the face of Iran’s drive to engineer border aggression across a broad spectrum. This drive has accelerated sharply since the July 14 nuclear accord empowered the Islamic Republic as top dog in the Middle East. With the Hizballah of south Lebanon already in Tehran’s pocket, secret Iranian emissaries have for the first time opened direct talks with Syrian rebel and Palestinian groups and are egging them on to activate a new South Syrian front against Israel.
It was this looming showdown that sent Israel’s top leaders on visits to the Golan and IDF Northern Command headquarters Tuesday, Aug. 18.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott inspected the military forces strung out on the Golan and Lebanese borders. They were then briefed on their disposition against the proliferating threats by OC Northern Command Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and the heads of the IDF divisions and brigades.

Six alarming events, multiple new fronts

Netanyahu told the troops: “We are here for a close look at the forces and their disposition” and are satisfied that “we are ready to face up to any scenario.” He added: “Anyone wishing to harm us, we will harm them.”
The defense minister accused Iran of seeking to “inflame the region.”
This was the second time in three days that Israel’s security authorities had mentioned the nation’s military preparedness opposite the Syrian Golan and Lebanese borders.
They had in mind six events, disclosed here by DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources:
1. Iranian Al Qods Brigades officers serving in Syria are for the first time in dialogue with certain Syrian rebel leaders. Tehran has hitherto refrained from contacts with President Bashar Assad’s enemies. But as the Syrian war enters its fifth year, the ability of his army and Hizballah ally to pull ahead and win the war is declining. And so, in the last couple of weeks, Tehran has switched course, turning away from the military option to open up highly confidential talks with Syrian rebel groups in search of a political solution for ending the war.

Why not employ Syrian rebels to fight Israel?

2. Tehran’s tactics typically turn to more than one goal. If Iran’s talks with the Syrian rebels ripen into cooperation, its strategists see no reason why they can’t serve a second purpose, namely, the displacement of the US, Jordanian and Israeli footprint in southern Syria, won in the past three years by fostering select Syrian rebel groups.
This goal slipped through Iran’s fingers on the battlefield. The Syrian army and Hizballah forces were beaten back last year when they tried to oust the rebels from the Golan town of Quneitra and the southern Syrian town of Deraa. This setback left Tehran disappointed in its plan to plant a Hizballah missile base on the Syrian Golan face to face with Israeli military positions.
Putting this defeat behind them, the Iranians are trying to persuade Syrian rebel groups to play ball after the long years of confrontation.
3. If they are won over, Israel and Jordan will face a new Iranian-backed belligerent right on their borders for the first time. Neither can rely on the Americans to head off them off when the Obama administration was itself responsible for conferring on Iran its empowered status. In fact, Washington is more than likely to lend the Iranians a helping hand, commending their outreach to the Syrian rebels for a diplomatic resolution of the Syrian war, and playing down Tehran’s aggressive designs as a collateral issue.

Tehran digs out three fanatical terror groups for the Golan front

4. The creation of a new Eastern Front for “effacing” Israel was first revealed by debkafile Monday, Aug. 17.
Alarming intelligence reports reaching Israel in the last two weeks depict Iranian Al Qods Brigades and Hizballah officers in the midst of fashioning a new terrorist network for mounting mass-terrorist attacks inside Israel from a new base on the Syrian-Israeli Golan border.
Iran and Hizballah are handing out anti-tank and anti-air missiles to enable terrorists to seize small Israeli locations or urban districts and hold out against an Israeli tank and attack helicopter counter-offensive.
Our counter-terrorism sources disclose the three radical terrorist movements staffing the new network:
One is the hard-line rejectionist Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC).
Another is the Golan-based Syrian Druze group known as Liberators of the Golan. It is headed by the notorious Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze and former PLO member, who was responsible for the 1979 Nahariya outrage, one of the most brutal terrorist atrocities Israel has experienced.
Also harnessed to Iran’s new Golan terror organization is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) which is made up of radical Christian terrorists. This old timer violent group, which is run by Syrian intelligence, took part in the 1982-3 Hizballah bombing massacres at the US Embassy and Marine headquarters in Beirut.
The word in Israeli intelligence is that SSNP activists have arrived in the Quneitra district of the Golan.

West Bank to receive Iranian missiles – with Abbas’ approval

5. The West Bank Palestinian leader, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, appears to approve the latest Iranian plans.
debkafile Monday revealed the secret presence in Tehran of Abbas’ personal representative, PLO executive member Jmail Majdalani. After he was found out, he denied he was setting up a visit to Tehran by Abbas and claimed he was there to “break the ice” between Iran and the PLO and discuss exchanging ambassadors between Tehran and Ramallah.
Abbas is revealed to be willing to give Iran its first diplomatic presence on the West Bank as well as accepting a military role.
Arming Palestinians with missiles, not just in the Gaza Strip, but on the West Bank too, would gravely imperil Israel’s heavily populated heartland and commercial hub. Tehran is additionally working on a project for bringing the most pernicious terrorist groups in history, forerunners of ISIS, to the Syrian Golan on the edge of northeastern Israel. They would sharpen the efforts of Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip to “efface” Israel, in the phrase of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
6. It is hard to imagine Israel lying down for Iran’s expanded, multifaceted terrorist offensive to go forward, or just waiting to be overwhelmed from five points of assault by Iran’s surrogates along its northern, northeastern and southern borders.
Last minute flash: Four rockets from Syria were fired into northern Israel Thursday night. They exploded in the Galilee “Panhandle,” the Huleh Valley and the Golan. They started fires in kibbutz fields and orchards. A red alert sent people living in the area into shelters. The new terror front engineered by Tehran appears to have gone into action.

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Iran Steals a March on Kurdish Issue
Kurdish PKK Command Bolts from Qandil to Iran, Gives Tehran a Coup

Friday, Aug. 14, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to take action if the bases of the separatist Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in the Qandil Mountains of northern Iraq were not shut down.
“If Iraq doesn’t address the Qandil issue, we will do it,” he said in a televised speech.
Little did he expect to be pre-empted by a stab in the back from an unforeseen quarter - even as the Kurdish issue gyrates at dizzying speed from one twist to the next.
The first twist came last month when, after Turkey and the US agreed to fight ISIS together in Syria, Ankara used the deal to get its own back for a terrorist attack by launching a heavy air blitz on PKK Qandil command posts in Iraq and a crackdown on its members, after two years of on-and-off peace talks.
Turkish air strikes hit areas where Kurdish forces had achieved the rare feat of recovering territory grabbed by the Islamic State.
Turkey also turned its ire on the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militias of northern Syria, which had absorbed some PKK officers in its ranks and entertained autonomous ambitions.
These Syrian Kurds had also displayed prowess in pushing ISIS back from its acquisitions near the Turkish border.

PKK bases lifted secretly out of Qandil to… asylum in Iran

Washington tried to put the original deal back on track by demanding that Ankara focus on battling the jihadis. This demand was only partly heeded. Turkey slowed, but did not stop, its air strikes against PKK targets.
The next twist occurred this week. On Tuesday, Aug. 18, PKK leader Cemil Bayik, one of the three-man interim leadership council of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), revealed that his group had indirectly applied to Washington to mediate its feud with Turkey - even though the PKK is listed in the US as terrorists.
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources reveal that this statement was just a decoy and a double-twist.
It masked a totally unforeseen, stealthy PKK step, which completely floored Washington, no less than Ankara, when it came to light.
Bayik and other PKK leaders, having quickly caught on to Iran’s new post-nuclear deal status, decided to see what they could get out of the newly-anointed Middle East big shot.
Their secret negotiations with Tehran ripened overnight into swift action. Over the Aug. 14-16 weekend, Kurdish bases and command centers conducted a moonlight flit from the Qandil Mountains. They were lifted - lock, stock and barrel – to prepared camps in Iran, 20 km from the town of Mahabad, by Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Kurds working on both sides of the Iraqi-Iranian frontier.

Kurds pledge to discontinue terrorist attacks in Iran

DEBKA Weekly’s sources reveal that the PKK’s part of this deal was a pledge to halt forthwith its own military and terrorist operations on Iranian soil – and those of its Iranian counterpart, the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).
By stealing the Turkish Kurdish separatists from under US and Turkish noses, Tehran achieved a coup in four strategic areas:
1. Exclusive domination over the region’s leading Kurdish groups in Turkey, Syria and Iraq, thereby satisfying an old Iranian ambition.
2. A strong card for a deal with President Masoud Barzani, head of the autonomous Kurdish Region, who governs a wide stretch of northern Iraq.
3. A position of strength against Turkey’s Erdogan as middleman between Ankara and the PKK.
4. Syrian ruler Bashar Assad is relieved of rebel Kurdish military pressure on his troops. He too must accept Tehran as the key broker between the Kurds of the Syrian YPG and his regime.
The big losers from the stealthy Iranian-PKK coup are the United States and Turkey.
The Obama administration has long hesitated to grant the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga army the heavy weapons it needs to drive Islamic State invaders out of northern Iraq.
Now, Washington appears to have let this option drop into Tehran’s hands.
As for Ankara, although Iran promised to “take care” of the Syrian Kurds’ quest for autonomy (see separate article), it cheated Erdogan by quietly snatching the PKK right out of his reach.

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Tehran Goes Solo on Syria
Iran: Just Give Us a Free Hand and We’ll End the Syrian War

Since Saudi Arabia opted out of the most recent, short-lived joint initiative for Syria, (DW 674 of Aug. 14: Iran Puts Moscow & Iran at Helm of Next ME Venture), the Islamic Republic of Iran has grabbed the crown of self-styled regional leader, with the Obama administration’s blessing. It is stealing a march on everyone else, especially now with a solo plan for ending the brutal Syrian war, now in its fifth year with 250,000 dead and many millions homeless.
Tehran’s first decision, as revealed by DEBKA Weekly’s Middle East sources, was to sideline the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad and corner him into accepting Iran’s dictate on when and how to step down.
Its second was to co-opt Turkey in a limited ad hoc capacity.
The US and Russia were effectively dropped by the wayside after Riyadh refused to play.
Meanwhile, embroiled in three active wars, Iranian intelligence was getting in over its head for keeping up with the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq and a handle on the political changes and currents swirling around the region.
For some back-up, Tehran invited Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan to take part in its Syrian initiative – starting with intelligence-sharing.

The Turkish intelligence link yields contacts with Syrian rebels

This move went forward smoothly, even though Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called off a visit to Ankara for talks with his opposite number Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the pretext of “a scheduling conflict.”
By then, Iran was busy working the Turkish intelligence mine. On Erdogan’s orders, Fidan Hakan’s Turkish National Intelligence Organization – MIT was feeding Tehran a steady stream of intelligence data and contacts.
The Turkish connection quickly yielded results: Iranian emissaries were able to reach and talk terms with some of the Syrian rebel groups fighting the Assad regime, without letting the Syrian ruler or Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah into their secret scheme.
Their most important connection was established last week with Ahrar al-Sham, a group of multiple Sunni Islamist and Salafi militias fighting the Assad regime and Hizballah.
This mixed group fields 20,000 fighters, making it one of the three top anti-government legions in the field, after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and Al Qaeda’s Syrian arm, the Nusra Front.

Iran’s extravagant offers to win over Saudis, Jordanians and Turks

Iranian emissaries and Ahrar al-Sham’s leader, Hashem al-Sheikh Abu Jaber, quickly agreed on a brief ceasefire in the battle for Zabadani, drawn out by the Syrian-Hizballah offensive’s failure to dislodge rebels from this strategic town, which sits athwart the Damascus-Beirut highway. The ceasefire went into force Wednesday, Aug. 12, allowing Hizballah forces to fall back, and collapsed Saturday.
Meanwhile, according to our sources, Tehran was off and running on a drive to enlist regional partners to its plan for terminating the Syrian war – at least as passive observers.
Substantial incentives were offered:
Saudi Arabia and the Lebanese Sunni factions it backs were promised that Hizballah would abandon its two-year opposition to the election of a new president, a standoff which has seriously disrupted the functioning of government in Beirut.

Syrian Kurdish autonomy bid to be crushed

Jordan’s King Abdullah II was offered invaluable antidotes for two acute headaches:
1. An Iranian elite Al Qods Brigades unit, aided by Iraqi Shiite militias, would be sent to regain Al-Tanf, the only border terminal between Syria and Iraq, which ISIS snatched from Syrian forces on May 22.
Expelling ISIS from this strategic point, DEBKA Weekly reports, would cut the Islamic Caliphate’s only supply route for fighters and military supplies to flow between its Syrian (Raqqa) and Iraqi (Mosul) headquarters. It would also block ISIS access to the western Iraqi province of Anbar. This would relieve the Jordanian commandos fighting ISIS 200km deep inside Anbar since last month of a major threat.
(See DW of July 31: Jordanian troops in Iraq for first real Seek-and-Destroy mission against ISIS).
2. Iran is also offering to make its officers in Syria guardians of Jordan’s northern border with southern Syria and charge them with warding off would-be aggressors, including the Islamic State.
Tehran also offered Turkey, as bait for further commitment to the Iranian venture over and above intelligence-sharing, to “take care” of the separatist Syrian Kurdish YPG. Iran would use military and other means to force the Syrian Kurds to drop their campaign for autonomy in the territory abutting the Turkish border.
This guarantee contradicted another Kurdish move by Iran with regard to the PKK (See separate article.)

Iran’s Syria peace plan is ready for tabling at the UN

Tehran is in a hurry to resolve the Syrian conflict, so much so that it is dangling before Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey hopefully irresistible enticements for easing their most pressing security problems, provided only that they refrain from interfering in Iran’s peace plan for Syria.
The ayatollahs need to move fast, because Assad’s army and allied Hizballah forces are stalled militarily against insurgent forces - and even more so against the Islamic State. His regime could buckle at any moment without warning, plunging Syria into deep turmoil out of Tehran’s control.
Iran proposes to submit its four-point Syrian peace plan to the UN General Assembly next month. According to our sources, it will be built around a national unity government – code for Bashar Assad staying in power for the time being; elections under international supervision; prominent representation in the regime for “moderate” opposition parties; and reforms which also protect minorities.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources report that, given Iran’s record of disruption, religious mayhem and terror-mongering in the region - and far from thrilling military performance in Iraq and Syria - Riyadh, Amman, Beirut and Ankara are thinking hard before buying the merchandise on offer from Tehran.

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Nuclear Deal in Iranian Limbo
Khamenei Stays Enigmatic as Nuclear Deal Passes (unendorsed) from Hand to Hand in Tehran

US President Barack Obama is in the fight of his life to win congressional approval next month for the “historic” Iran nuclear deal signed in Vienna on July 14. Day by day, US senators and other luminaries, including ex-generals, nuclear experts - and even 300 American Jewish rabbis - jump up with words of support.
That’s in Washington.
But in Tehran, it is hard to find a clue to whether or not Iran’s omnipotent supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei intends to grant Obama his anxiously awaited nod.
DEBKA Weekly’s Iranian experts have collected a few of those clues.
On Aug. 15, the influential Hossein Shariat-Madari ran an editorial in the hard-line Kayhan newspaper: headed “The Sole Option,” in which he wrote: “It can certainly be said that [Khamenei] is not happy with the existing draft of the deal at all. Otherwise why did he repeatedly emphasize: ‘We would not give up the revolution’s principles whether the drafted text gets approved or not’ - given the fact that he had in-depth knowledge of the Vienna deal?”
The writer goes on to say: “So this is the non-negotiable duty of the officials who review the Vienna deal’s text: not to approve any ‘article,’ ‘chapter,’ or ‘content’ which is at odds with the principles and foundations of Islam, the revolution and the existence of the regime, so that they will not have a guilty conscience today before the people and tomorrow before Almighty God.”

Revising the nuclear accord to meet “revolutionary Islamic principles”

Shariat-Madari claims that “all officials and experts – without exception” admit that parts of the Vienna deal and [UN Security Council] Resolution 2231 are “not only incompatible with those principles and the regime, but endanger them and, if implemented, might be disastrous.”
Our Iranian experts detect pointers in this editorial and in other events in Tehran:
1. The reference to “officials and experts – without exception”- is a warning to the proponents of the nuclear accord, and not just President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, who signed it, to toe the line the writer sets out.
Their “sole option” if they wish to escape “a guilty conscience today before the people and tomorrow before the Almighty God” is to bring all parts of the nuclear accord, open and hidden, in line with the “principles and foundations of Islam, revolution and the existence of the regime.”
Our experts point out that the editorial revision and censorship of the more than a hundred pages of text to suit Iran’s religious arbiters is a process that could take years. Meeting all their “revolutionary” requirements would, moreover, effectively demolish the content’s content and goals.
But Khamenei is not afraid of approving this process, knowing that Obama will go to almost any lengths to get the deal approved by Iran.

“Purposeful ambiguity” is Khamenei’s watchword

2. The ayatollah can therefore afford to abide by his “purposeful ambiguity” on the issue. Meanwhile, by manipulating the Iranian media and parliament, he can at any moment cause the current nuclear deal to fall apart like past accords.
3. As matters stand at the moment, the Vienna accord need never be tabled in the majlis for endorsement. Although 209 out of 290 Iranian lawmakers signed a letter calling on the supreme leader to submit the document to a parliamentary vote, a majority would definitely reject it. In any case, they are all under Khamenei’s thumb and so the path to the majlis approval is blocked.
4. Fearing a Majlis rejection, President Rouhani is angling for a vote in the Supreme National Security Council instead, although its decisions are legally effective only after they are countersigned by Khamenei.
In Tehran therefore, the Vienna accord has become the proverbial buck which is tossed back and forth from hand to hand and desk to desk, with every official and legislative body in its path shying away from a decision on its fate.
In Washington, White House and congressional officials lobbying for the deal try to argue that US congressional endorsement would strengthen the hand of its advocates in Tehran. Winning that endorsement may not be an insurmountable roadblock in Washington, but it would not count for much in Iran. No one in Tehran will make the slightest commitment without Khamenei’s say-so. And he has consistently declined to drop his cryptic mask of “purposeful ambiguity.”

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The Syrian Alawi Minority
Bashar Assad’s Backing from Iran and His Own Sect Is Melting Away

President Bashar Assad's shrinking support in his clan’s political heartland city of Latakia in western Syria is being further worn down by the Grad rockets the Al-Qaeda-linked rebel Nusra Front and the Islamist Ahrar al-Shams have rained down on the port town in the past few weeks.
The minority Alawi religious sect, which has its center in Latakia, is Assad’s last remaining bulwark, excepting only for a small Christian minority and some of the Druze who stay out of the war.
The blitz began on July 1, when rebel forces shelled the Ingeneer Union building in central Latakia and shot Grad rockets at government forces into Shalfaiya, one of the ancestral Alawi villages. Then, on July 17, the center of Latakia came under Grad fire and, on July 27, six missiles were aimed at the Qardaha woodland at the northern edge of the town.
Two days later, on July 27, the village of Salma was shelled by missiles and mortars and, on Aug. 8, rebel forces had another go with Grads against Shalfatiya.
The shelling of Latakia’s city center peaked Thursday, Aug. 13.

The last straw for loyal Alawis after awesome casualties

The two million inhabitants of this port-town have suffered awesome casualties, like the the Alawi population at large. Out of a quarter of a million Alawi men of fighting age, more than one-third are dead – a hugely disproportionate figure in relation to the community’s 10 percent of the Syrian population of 23 million.
Many Alawi hill villages are left without a single young man. The women are entirely clothed in mourning black. They report that, day by day, at least 30 of their young men return home from the front lines in coffins.
But Aug. 6 was a watershed day in the downward trend of the Assad clan’s standing – even in loyal Latakia.
At 8 p.m. that night, two vehicles approached the city’s Al Azhary roundabout. They were driven by Col. Hassan Al-Sheikh, a Syrian Air Force engineer and scion of a prominent Alawi family, and Suleiman Al-Assad, son of Bashar Assad’s infamous cousin, Helal Al-Assad, who had died in March 2014 in a fight with the opposition, at the head of the Assad clan’s paramilitary gangs known as Shabiha, notorious for their atrocities against civilians
Suleiman tried to cross into the roundabout, but Al Sheikh cut ahead of him. The furious Suleiman drove up to block the other car, stepped out holding an AK-47 machine gun and pumped seven bullets into the other driver’s chest. The colonel, whose wife and children were in the car, died instantly.

Even the Alawis have despaired of Assad winning

From the 2003 US invasion of Iraq until 2010, members of the Assad clan made their fortune - first by granting asylum to the top officers and tycoons of the Saddam regime on the run from the Americans; then by smuggling al Qaeda terrorists into Iraq against payment per head. Other parts of the clan engaged in gunrunning and dope smuggling across the Middle East. Hela Al-Assad and his Shabiha gangs were at the core of this traffic.
However, the denizens of the Bsanada village, the Al Shaikh family home in the Latakia province, had no intention of letting his brutal death at the hands of an Assad thug go unpunished. And so the entire family gathered in the city center for a protest rally, which began on a low note but soon gathered momentum and became a two-day protest against the president himself.
The incident sparked a furious outpouring of Alawi bitterness and despair over the cruel price they were paying for a war without end.

A community divided between ruling thugs and the military

The protesters not only called for the murderer to be executed for his crime, but the brother of his victim wrote on his Facebook page: “How much longer will this family (Al Assad) continue to feed on our blood and flesh? Until when will our homeland be torn by these wild dogs?”
Clearly the loyalty of this community is exhausted.
Alawi desertions from the army keep on rising, many young men fleeing the country rather than dying for what they see as a losing battle.
In attempt to put the lid on the snowballing protests, Assad Monday, Aug. 11, had his cousin arrested for the murder.
But that was not the end of the episode.
Whereas Suleiman Assad is one of the bosses of the Shabiha gangs, Col. Al Sheikh was a high-ranking military officer. The killer and victim hailed from two opposing camps of Assad loyalists within the community. The Shabiha tell the Alawis they ought to be grateful to the Assads for empowering their community as rulers of Syria; criticizing the president is condemned as treason. The army tells the population that they are its shield.
Before this incident too, Alawi unrest was catching on in other communities: in the town of Homs, for instance, the sizeable Alawi population complains it lives under the jackboots of the Shabiha, which took over its protection against the town’s dominant Sunnis.
In Tartus, further up the coast from Latakia, flyers urge people to speak their minds about the mounting war casualties. Activists there have protested the arrests of men who refuse to serve in the army and the abandonment of soldiers taken prisoner and executed by Sunni extremists groups.

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A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Aug. 20, 2015

August 14, 2015 briefs

  • Palestinian firebombs ignite fire at Israeli gas station
    A Palestinian car drove into the Sonol gas station on West Bank Rte 60 near Elei Friday night and hurled firebombs before driving off. The damage was heavy but there were no casualties.
  • Russian missile corvette replaces Egyptian ship sunk by ISIS
    debkafile Exclusive: The Egyptian Navy took delivery Sunday of a Russian Lightning missile Corvette R-32 (NATO coded: Moskit P-27) to replace the ship sunk by an Islamic State Kornet anti-tank missile on July 16 off the Sinai coast of Rafah. The new vessel is already in service with the Egyptian Navy. It is armed with high-speed SS-N-22 rockets capable of Mach 2.2 at low altitude and Mach 3 at high altitude.
  • Germany confirms possible ISIS chemical attack on Kurds
    The German military confirms a possible chemical weapons attack on Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers fighting the Islamic State group (ISIS) in northern Iraq. A group of Western experts has taken samples following claims of shell rounds loaded possibly with mustard gas or chlorine.

August 15, 2015 briefs

  • Second Palestinian stabbing attack Saturday
    An Israeli border police officer was slashed in the neck Saturday by a Palestinian near the Tapuach junction on the West Bank. The attacker was shot dead. His victim is not in serious condition. In an earlier attack, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli soldier in the arm at the Ofer checkpoint on Route 443. Soldiers manning the checkpoint shot and injured him.
  • Hizballah lost 1,000 dead, 10,000 injured in Syrian war – report
    Hizballah has lost an estimated upward of 1,000 dead and 10,000 wounded in its three-year old intervention in the Syrian war. Friday night, the Hizballah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said the Israeli armed forces lack the right strategy for winning another war against his group.
  • Hawkish Danny Danon name Israel’s US ambassador
    Binyamin Netanyahu has named Science and Space Minister Danny Danon as Israel’s new ambassador to the United Nations, making way for a new cabinet member and replacements as head of Likud’s Central Party and other key functions held by the designated UN envoy. Danon was fired as Deputy Defense Minister during the 2014 Gaza operation for criticising government strategy to too lax. His appointment has aroused ire in American Jewish circles. Netanyahu’s foreign media spokesman Mark Regev is expected to be named next Israeli ambassador to London.

Israel’s first ever arms deal with an Arab country – drones for Jordan to fight ISIS

15 Aug.
In its first arms sale to an Arab country, first revealed here by debkafile, Israel has sold 12 advanced unmanned aerial vehicles of the Heron TP and Skylark types to Jordan to beef up its cross-border counter-terrorism campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Like other joint US-Israeli-Jordanian operations ongoing against the Islamic State, the Herons and Skylarks are almost certainly being operated by officers at the US Central Command Forward-Jordan war room north of Amman.
This week, Israeli Air Force KC-707 fuel tankers were sighted over the Atlantic refueling a group of five Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16s flying alongside Israeli aircraft. Both air force groups were heading west to take part in the Red Flag air-to-air training exercise in Nevada from Aug. 17 to 28.

August 16, 2015 briefs

  • ISIS strikes Iraqi forces outside Falluja
    ISIS suicide bombers Sunday drove three explosives-packed military vehicles at Iraqi troops Sunday outside the town of Falluja west of Baghdad. debkafile: The Iraqi troops had held back from advancing on the ISIS-held town and were attacked themselves instead.
  • Kuwait uncovers a large Iranian-Hizballah terror cell
    Kuwait arrests three suspected members of an Iranian Revolutionary Guards-Hizballah terrorist cell, uncovering a large cache of arms, ammunitions and explosives hidden underground at a farm. debkafile: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif last week visited Kuwait to assure its government that Tehran was giving up its terrorist subversion against Gulf regimes.
  • Israeli cabinet approves gas deal with US-Israel consortium
    By a majority of 17:1, the Israeli cabinet Sunday finally approved a much debated deal with the US-Israeli consortium – Noble Energy and Delek Group – for developing the huge Leviathan natural gas field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast. It still requires Knesset endorsement. The consortium will keep ownership of the largest offshore field, Leviathan, and sell off other assets, including stakes in another large deposit called Tamar. Leviathan - one of the world's largest offshore discoveries of the past decade - is due to begin producing in 2018 or 2019 and supply gas to Egypt and Jordan in addition to Israel.

Head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Israel intelligence desk is executed as Israeli spy

16 Aug.
Highly credible Iranian exile sources in Europe have revealed to debkafile that the Director of the Israeli Desk of the Revolutionary Guards clandestine service was executed by a firing squad in late June or early July after he was accused of spying for Israel. Aged 46, Seyyed Ahmed Dabiri was his codename. His real name is not known. The sources report that a Guards martial court found him guilty of tipping Israel off on top military secrets, including the movements of Iranian military commanders in Syria, Iranian arms shipments to Syria and arms convoys bound for Hizballah in Lebanon.

August 17, 2015 briefs

  • Iraq’s ex-PM Maliki may face trial for losing Mosul to ISIS
    raq's parliament on Monday referred to the judiciary a report calling for the trial of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and dozens of other top officials in connection with the fall of Mosul to Islamic State last year.
  • Khamenei: We’ll block Iran to US influence and firms
    Iran's nuclear deal with world powers will not open the Islamic Republic to political or economic influence from the United States, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday. This anti-US bpycott was first revealed by DEBKA Weekly 627 on July 30.
  • Another Palestinian stabbing attack on an Israeli soldier
    A Palestinian who tried to knife an Israeli Border Guardsman near the Tapuah junction Monday was shot and critically wounded. He went up to the troops feigning illness. When they stepped forward to help him, he pulled out a knife. The policeman was slightly hurt. This was the second such attack at the same place in 48 hours and the fourth in three days.

Iran to arm West Bank Palestinians for new Eastern Front to “efface” Israel

17 Aug.
Al Qods commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani this week set up a new Eastern Command of the Revolutionary Guards to fight Israel, debkafile reports exclusively. Its first task is to hand out weapons, including missiles, to West Bank Palestinians to replicate the armed fronts facing Israel from South Lebanon (Hizballah) and the Gaza Strip (Hamas and Islamic Jihad). Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is preparing to pay his first visit to Tehran. In a book he published this month, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refers to Israel in these terms: “nabudi” – meaning annihilation; imha – meaning disappearing or fading out; and “zaval” meaning effacement, for the sins of capturing Islam’s third most sacred city and being the foremost ally of “Big Satan” – America.

August 18, 2015 briefs

  • In first Palestinian drive-by rock attack, five teens were injured
    The five people injured in the first Palestinian drive-by rock attack in Jerusalem Tuesday night were four Israeli teens and one Palestinian. They had just boarded a bus after a session on cardiology at an Israeli-Palestinian youth club in the A-Tur district for youngsters interested in science. The rocks had been sharpened to a fine edge before they were lobbed at their bus from a speeding Palestinian vehicle. The victims were not seriously hurt apart from shock.
  • Turkey arrests four ISIS operatives with drone
    In an anti-terror operation in the southeastern Syrian border town of Gaziantep, Turkish police Tuesday arrested four ISIS suspects, three of them foreigners. Their car, apparently heading for Syria, contained a drone plus apparatus, two night sights for long-barreled weapons, 352 ammunition clips for Kalashnikovs, two rifle scopes, 50 45mm bullets, 18 camouflage smocks and three bandoliers.
  • Nazi swastika daubed on fence of London Jewish school
    A Nazi swastika was found Monday scrawled on the fence outside a Jewish Beis Chinuch Lebonos Girls School in Hackney, in the latest incident of anti-Semitic graffiti in London. With it were the words “yid s**t”. Michael Scher, from the local neighborhood watch group, the Stamford Hill Shomrim, said it was the second time the school had been targeted in little over a month.

Six Russian MiG-31 interceptor aircraft land in Damascus to rescue Assad regime

18 Aug.
Six Russian MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor aircraft from Moscow landed Tuesday, Aug. 18, at the Mezze Airbase in Damascus international airport, debkafile discloses. They were followed shortly after by giant An-124 Condor transports carrying 1,000 Kornet-9M133 third-generation anti-tank guided missiles. This airlift to Damascus betokened Moscow’s continued support for the Syrian ruler against peace plans currently afloat which all entail his removal. It was also intended to block any US-Turkish plans for a no-fly zone over Syria or other direct intervention in the conflict. The Russians sent exactly six MiG interceptors to match the six F-16 fighters the US deployed at the Turkish Incerlik air base on Aug. 9.

August 19, 2015 briefs

  • Eight soldiers killed in PKK attack in southeastern Turkey
    Eight Turkish soldiers were killed in PKK bomb attack in the southeastern province of Siirt. PKK militants remotely detonated a bomb placed on the road linking Sirvan and Pervari districts as a military patrolling convoy passed. Several soldiers were also reported to be wounded.
  • Russian arms lift to Syria continues after MiG landings
    debkafile’s military sources report that the Russian arms lift to Damascus continued Wednesday with a delivery by An-124 transports of heavy Russian M-46 MM1954 130 towed field guns with range of up to 27 km.
  • US launches biggest NATO drill in Europe since Cold War
    Nearly 5,000 soldiers from 11 NATO allies are taking part in four weeks of "simultaneous multinational airborne operations" across Germany, Italy, Bulgaria and Romania that began in Saturday.
  • ISIS beheads 82-year old Palmyra antiquities director
    The Islamic State which seized the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra in May Tuesday beheaded its director of antiquities Khaled Assad, 82. They left his body hanging on an ancient column in the city square.

August 20, 2015 briefs

  • Second Iron Dome battery posted at Beersheba
    Two Iron Dome batteries were posted Thursday opposite Gaza in Ashdod and Beersheba after repeated Jihad Islami rocket threats.
  • Bombing attack at S. Jerusalem checkpoint injures Israeli soldier
    The Israel soldier was injured Wednesday night when an explosive device hit the Tunnel checkpoint at Jerusalem’s southern exit near Beit Jala. The terrorist made off. North of Jerusalem, a father and a two-year old baby were injured earlier when their car was struck by rocks near the Atarot junction on the Rte 443 highway. Inside the capital, the light rail train was damaged by three Palestinian rock attacks. No one was hurt.
  • Cairo explosion: At least 6 policemen injured
    A car bomb exploded near the national security agency building in Shubra Al-Khaima, Cairo early on Thursday morning, injuring six Egyptian police officers. The assailant fled the scene on a motorcycle, it said.

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