Vol. 14, Issue 658, April 3, 2015
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Perpetual Negotiations
US-Iranian Recipe: Keep Nuclear Talks – and Program - Rolling on until End of Obama’s Term
John Kerry

Iran has hit on the perfect recipe for keeping its nuclear bomb program moving along, while luring the US and world powers into never-ending diplomacy in pursuit of a deal for curbing its drive for a nuclear weapon. The pursuers never catch up with their goal. Iran keeps them running in place by negotiations that never come down to earth or tie its nuclear hands.
As DEBKA Weekly reported first at the end of 2014, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei articulated this prescription by allowing Iranian officials to engage in negotiations with the world powers led by the US – so long as they never entered into any commitments to curtail Tehran’s national nuclear program.
This open-ended diplomacy, into which the five other world partners were drawn, also suited the book of US President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry.
DEBKA Weekly 655 of March 13 captioned an article: Likely Death Blow to Obama’s Nuclear Diplomacy: Khamenei Finally Vetoes Nuclear Deal.
Yet the two US leaders, while understanding that the current round of talks was going nowhere, made sure it stayed afloat and kept the world on tenterhooks for a deal that was predestined never to come about.


Iranian negotiators haggle, while following Khamenei’s diktats


When the Iranian delegation proposed winding up this stage with face-saving spoken communiqués, in place of a proper framework accord, Kerry insisted on two documents to show that the US had come away with something solid from the excruciatingly tiresome talks. He wanted one to say that more talks were scheduled to remove remaining differences and the other specifying areas of agreement.
Tehran dug in its heels even on that compromise, because it defied a Khamenei diktat.
President Obama had laid down the procedure to be “agreement in two stages” - the first ending on March 31 and the second, a comprehensive accord to be negotiated by June 30.
But as early as Feb. 18, the supreme leader said he objected to this procedure. An agreement must be reached not in two stages, but in one against the June deadline, he said, and carry with it “the removal of all sanctions on Iran.”
The Iranian delegation knew better than to give ground on the supreme leader’s directive – or, for that matter, on almost any of the original positions held at the outset of the talks.
The Iranian negotiators therefore faithfully followed the course he laid down, which was to knock down, one by one, the US demands for diminishing Iran’s nuclear capabilities, while demanding a faster pace for the easing of sanctions.


Iran ends this round of talks with a row of noes


DEBKA Weekly lists hereunder Tehran’s ten rejections:

  • Enriched uranium stocks will not be removed from Iran
  • Sanctions will be lifted immediately – not incrementally
  • No intrusive or snap inspections at nuclear facilities
  • No halt on research and development projects
  • No change in the features of the Arak heavy water reactor to limit its production of plutonium
  • The Fordo underground enrichment facility will not be closed down
  • Nuclear activity will not be subject to any restrictions upon the expiry of the agreement
  • The long-range missile program will not be a subject of discussion
  • No disclosure will be required on Iran’s former record of clandestine military nuclear activity and tests
  • No inspections of military sites suspected of conducting nuclear activity.



Diplomacy rolling for the rest of Obama’s term


Given this record of “progress,” it is hard to understand how anyone could have expected the talks to have a successful outcome – especially after they overran the March 31 deadline. The negotiations were not defined by their goal, which was to ascertain that Iran would not be able to make a nuclear bomb, but by Iran forcing the world powers led by the US, step by step, to give up on the be-all and end-all of the process.
It turned out that President Obama and the Iranian leader shared a common desire, which was to keep nuclear diplomacy staggering on between “crises” until the US president leaves the White House in January 2017 and during that time, keep a military collision between their countries at bay.
This tactic would allow Tehran to use the mostly aimless palaver to forge ahead with its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development – untroubled by US interference.
For years, Iran has used the “nuclear diplomacy” tactic for making large strides towards its nuclear objective
The result for America was to be to leave the next president with a fully-fledged nuclear-armed Iran. The Islamic Republic would have by then raced far past the “nuclear threshold” goalpost, in which many Western columnists and pundits appear to believe.
Obama and Kerry didn’t appear too worried by this prospect. America has, after all, lived for years with a nuclear-armed Israel, North Korea, India and Pakistan. So what if Iran joins the roster?


Iran was already cheating on the interim accord


There is no point in protesting to the White House that this policy is begetting a nuclear race, joined by Saudi Arabia, Japan, Turkey, Egypt and other less stable Asian and Middle East nations. Obama has always been willfully deaf to this warning, although it figured large in every intelligence forecast put on his desk.
Khamenei cannily played on Obama’s attitude with a well-judged scam. In 2013, he fixed the election of Hassan Rouhani as president and presented Washington and the West with a smiling moderate, a welcome relief from the ferocious Ahmadinejad and a friendly partner for negotiations on Iran’s suspect nuclear program.
It soon turned out that Rouhani was just as much a pawn on Khamenei’s policy chessboard as his predecessor.
The next piece of trickery was the interim nuclear accord – the Joint Plan of Action – JPOA – signed with the six powers in November 2013 and touted by Tehran as a step on the road to a comprehensive accord on its controversial nuclear program. Obama and Kerry swallowed the bait to the point of ignoring Iran’s brazen violation even of that preliminary deal. Using the “creep-out strategy,” Tehran topped up its approved quota of 7.5 tons stock of 3.5 percent grade enriched uranium and raised it to 8.5 tons, instead of converting the extra material to oxides in compliance with its JPOA commitment.


No way will Iran ship its uranium stocks abroad


Given that behavior, how could anyone realistically expect Iran to say yes to shipping out its enriched uranium stock to Russia?
In case anyone did entertain this illusion, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi set them straight with a statement on Sunday, March 29: “The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program and we do not intend sending it abroad.”
US officials refrained from criticizing Araqshi’s comment, although it contradicted the versions of the deal they had put out. They took the line that the issue had never been decided in closed-door talks, even tentatively.
If that is so, the powers had better forget about exporting Iran’s enriched uranium stocks – even under the comprehensive accord they have scheduled for negotiation up until June 30.
Worth noting here is the view of the nuclear experts consulted by DEBKA Weekly that, even if Iran did agree to ship the bulk of its enriched uranium overseas and kept only 500 kilos, that amount would still be sufficient to build two to three bombs.


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Saudis Lead Sunni War in Yemen
US and Iran Bowled over by Saudi Yemen Operation – and Efficient Intelligence

Washington and Tehran alike are smarting over the success of the new Saudi rulers to pull the wool over their eyes and surprise them by launching a general offensive against the Yemeni revolt in their southern back yard. This operation was planned in total hush by the new monarch, King Salman, Defense Minister and Royal Court Chief, Prince Muhammad bin Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Muhammed bin Nayef.
The failure of US and Iranian intelligence services to pick up on Riyadh’s intentions was all the more inexplicable when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt had already been deep in operational planning for three months.
This secrecy was all the more remarkable in the notoriously leaky Arab world and the Middle East. Indeed, on Wednesday, March 25, the day before the Saudi operation began, debkafiles military sources reported: Saudi Arabia has moved significant mechanized infantry forces with heavy military equipment including artillery to its southern border with Yemen… The Saudis appear poised to intervene in the civil war.


Saudis suddenly emerge as independent operators


Tehran in particular was still haring off on the wrong track. Just hours before the Saudi Air Force went into action over Yemen, Iran’s national television channels were still reporting that Houthi factions were in control of the city of Aden in the south and that President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi had fled the country.
Neither claim was accurate. Iranian intelligence services had clearly not taken the trouble to find out what was going on, relying on the easy availability of information in a country over which they exerted dominance through the Houthi rebels they championed. Up until then, the Houthis had held the upper hand in their anti-government insurgency.
The Iranian government also relied on the Obama administration, its ally in Iraq, to look after Tehran’s interests in Yemen too, by extending support to the Yemeni Houthis as their shared gun for containing Al Qaeda in Arabia (AQAP).
No one in Tehran imagined that Riyadh would flout Obama administration’s policies and launch its own independent venture in Yemen, or be able to quietly muster a coalition of 10 Sunni Muslim nations for the effort.


No intelligence heads-up for US or Iran


The CIA was no less taken aback. And so, there were no heads-ups on the coming Saudi intervention in the Yemeni conflict for President Obama, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, or the US Central Command chief, Gen. Lloyd Austini.
Washington was given notice of the event just one hour before it started - and only then, politely and formally, by the Saudi Ambassador to Washington, Adel Al-Jubeir, in person.
By then, it was too late for the Obama administration to intervene and hold the Saudis back and, not least, too late for Washington to tip off Tehran in time to forewarn the Houthis.
Our Saudi experts point out that the action taken by the new king in Riyadh and the advisers closest to him was totally at odds with the royal house’s traditional wary, non-proactive style of conduct. Two younger-generation princes Muhammad bin Nayef and Muhammad bin Salman, suddenly emerged as key players at the court of King Salman. What’s more, they handled a crisis in a manner that was quite new to the House of Saud. The two princes were clearly ready to gamble their future on the success of the Yemen expedition to support heir claim for prominence in the heavily overcrowded princely dynasty.


The anti-Iran coalition in the Mid East gathers adherents


In the first five days of the operation, the Saudis employed electronic surveillance to evaluate the military capabilities and electronic equipment in the service of the Houthi forces and the military units loyal to Yemen’s ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, which had joined the rebel cause.
Our military sources report that the Saudi military plan was accordingly organized into seven unfolding stages: (1) Destruction of Yemeni air power and air defense systems; (2) Demolition of air bases; (3) Control of Yemeni air space; (4) Control of the war arena; (5) Hunting down and apprehending rebel leaders;
(6) The redeployment of national Yemeni army forces; (6) The deployment of Yemeni Army Special Forces for ground combat in conjunction with the tribes and factions loyal to President Hadi; (7) The intervention of Arab coalition forces with air support for ground operations.
Click HERE for the full-sized map.
As a counterweight against the regional coalition against the Islamic State headed by the United States and Iran, Riyadh enlisted a Sunni bloc, which numbered, in addition to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan and Pakistan. This project snowballed for months – again without either the US or Iran paying heed.
Even Sudan’s breakaway from its close alliance with Iran escaped their notice.
Since February, President Omar Al-Bashir , who gave Iran naval bases last year, has had a change of heart and moved into the Gulf Arab sphere. It was Sudan’s role in the anti-Houthi operation in Yemen which was discussed during Al-Bashir’s visits to Abu Dhabi and Riyadh last week.
Turkey is another candidate for the Sunni coalition against Iran. President Reccip Tayep Erdogan has taken to inveighing against Iran’s imperial pretensions. He too has turned to the Gulf from which he distanced Turkey during the years he backed the Muslim Brotherhood.


Last minute war developments:
Heavy Saudi air bombardments Wednesday and Thursday slowed the advance, but failed to prevent, Houthi rebels and the Yemeni army’s 11th Brigade fighting under ex-president Ali Saleh from entering the key Red Sea port town of Aden. The brigade’s tanks reached the town center. By late Thursday, after heavy fighting with forces loyal to President Hadi for control of the city, the rebel forces were forced to retreat from the town center under massive Saudi air bombardment, but held onto the presidential palace.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report that the Saudis had to delay their plan to land ground forces from the sea to save Aden because of a shortage of landing craft to drop their marines units ashore. Subsequently, there were unconfirmed reports of some Saudi and Egyptian troop landings.
Our sources do confirm that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sent four warships to the Red Sea as back-up for Saudi-Egyptian operations against the Iranian-backed Houthis.


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Iran’s Plague of Darkness for Turkey
How Iran’s Cyber Warriors Blacked out Turkey’s Cities

Ankara and Istanbul, along with most of Turkey’s main cities, were hit by devastating power outages Tuesday, March 31, a scary foretaste of the power of cyber warfare to wreak mass havoc when wielded by a hostile government or malicious groups of terrorists.
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources and cyber experts were able to uncover the source of the attack and its methods. Their findings are reported here exclusively.
A piece of code acting as a ticking bomb, fitted with a monitored delayed action device, subject to remote control by malware, was planted deep inside the computers controlling the Turkish electricity grid – almost certainly by Iran’s cyber warfare unit.
Half of Turkey was thrown into chaos. Its neighbors were also affected by the shutdown of Turkey’s blacked out airports and traffic, which also cut off the lighting, heating, computers, traffic lights, medical facilities and elevators in 44 out of Turkey’s 81 provinces.
A population of more than 80 million, half of Turkey, was for twelve hours plunged back into the Stone Age.


Turkey’s unforgivable sin: Impugning Iran’s national honour


This was a demonstration of how far the Islamic Republic of Iran next door was prepared to go when it believed its national honor had been impugned by none other than Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
On March 26, he defended the Saudi intervention in Yemen by accusing Iran of trying to dominate the Middle East. He said that its actions had begun to annoy Ankara as well as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.
Erdogan posed a rhetorical question: “Can this be allowed [Iran’s meddling in other countries]? This is really intolerable and Iran must see this.”
The Turkish ruler had committed the unforgivable sin of querying Iran’s pretensions to regional dominance, and further advancing his own counter-claim.
Monday, March 30, Iran summoned Turkey’s top diplomat in Tehran, its charge d’affaires, to respond to “the Islamic Republic’s objections and regret for the president’s inappropriate and unusual comments.” The Iranian foreign ministry’s spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham stressed: “We demand a clear and convincing response.” When no response came from Ankara, Tehran’s cyber experts were sent into action to punish Turkey with the plague of darkness.
DEBKA Weekly’s cyber experts attribute this digital offensive to the information technology specialists employed by Iran’s secret cyber army. One of its units is known as the Ashiyane Digital Security Team. It is totally committed ideologically to the regime.
Their technical prowess has been demonstrated in the past by repeated intrusions of Western government and intelligence networks by breaking through their defense measures.


Iran may have planted similar digital “bombs” in Western infrastructure too


Ironically, Iran’s clandestine cyber army is under the jurisdiction of the office of President Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian leader singled out in the West as a moderate with whom it is possible to do business.
Iran’s cyber offensive against Turkey exposed two new facts:
Firstly, that its cyber warriors stand ready for swift responses. After downing Turkey’s power network, they may have already planted fresh pieces of code in other critical systems, such as civil aviation, finance, water, transportation, health or security – all waiting for an electronic signal to go into deadly action.
Iran must also be presumed to have similarly invaded infrastructure in key Western countries, including the United States, planting pieces of code that stand idle until triggered by remote signals.
As in most Western countries, the Turkish national electrical grid has two sections: production and transmission. Power stations are distributed across the country, most of them near seaports for access to the regular shipments of coal and oil and usually operated automatically.
A simultaneous strike on the command and control systems of a large number of power stations is virtually impossible.


Iran’s cyber attack targeted the transmission control room


But the transmission system feeding current to the power stations, which supply the nation’s infrastructure, government, industry and homes, is by contrast much more vulnerable.
One central control room distributes and gauges consumption, its screens displaying at all times a comprehensive view of all sections and sub-sections of the grid.
This hub was the target of the Iranian cyber attack Tuesday.
Secondly, Tehran clearly commands the vast resources needed to shut down a central electricity control room on foreign soil, together with the necessary capabilities, skills, experience, multi-disciplinary technological expertise and advance intelligence for the act of cyber aggression committed against Turkey.
The Iranians must have counted on an insider for assistance. After hackers attacked the computers, Iranian electrical engineers familiar with the target took control of the mechanisms for switching the current off then on again.
They also had the experience. Under a longstanding economic treaty between Turkey and Iran, the Iranian electricity grid supplies power to some Turkey’s eastern provinces near their common border – hence Iranian engineers’ familiarity with the Turkish network and easy access to its operations.


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The Riddle of Iranian Finances
How Does Sanctions-Ridden Iran Bankroll Four Major Mid East Wars?

This March, Iran committed a vast fortune, funneled through its Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), to supporting six armies fighting in four wars in four Middle East lands, which are targeted for embrace in the Islamic Republic’s expanding sphere of influence.
Month after month, Tehran forks out close to half a billion dollars - and sometimes more - to keep those conflicts on the boil – spending all in all, a grand total of $6-8 billion dollars a year.
How Iran manages to keep this war chest flowing so abundantly from an economy crippled by international sanctions has never been explained.
DEBKA Weekly finds the Iranian military thrusting for dominance in an increasing number of Middle East war arenas:


Four Iranian command centers run Assad’s war


As the Syrian war enters its fifth year, Iranian Revolutionary Guards are found running it from four command and control centers, DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources report:
1. In Damascus, the IRGC operates as a part of the Syrian General Staff, with two imported pro-Iranian militias at its independent disposal. This command center has three tasks: To oversee the Syrian general staff and monitor its operational planning; to guard President Bashar Assad’s regime and his family; and defend key locations such as the military airport and Shiite shrines.
2. In the Aleppo region of the north, IRGC officers are engaged in drawing up plans for the impending general offensive to rout rebel forces out of positions they have captured in the city. Tehran attaches prime importance to a peak effort for the recapture of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. The IRGC command has transferred large-scale Hizballah forces from Lebanon to this arena, along with Afghan and Pakistani Shiite militias. Thousands of these combatants underwent training at specialist IRGC bases.
3. In the Qalamoun Mts., which are situated athwart the Syrian-Lebanese frontier, Tehran has given high priority to flushing rebel forces, including the Nusra Front and the Islamic State, out of the pockets they have seized on the mountain slopes, so as to clear the mountain roads for the passage of Hizballah units.
4. In South Syria, Iranian officers have been leading a large-scale offensive for more than a month to drive rebel forces out of the area they hold between Deraa and Damascus, in order to position Iranian-led Hizballah and pro-Iranian militia forces face to face with the Israeli army on the Golan.


Tehran establishes – and pays for - new Syrian army


Iranian officers have established, trained and equipped a new 70,000-strong fighting force called the Syrian National Defense Force. Its operations, including the soldiers’ wages, are financed from Tehran’s pocket.
Iran runs airlifts day by day to re-supply the Syrian army with weapons systems and ammunition, and the Syrian Air Force with bombs and ordnance for attacks against rebel forces. Intelligence sources estimate that Iran’s expenditure in the Syrian conflict now hits $200 million per month – around $2.5 billion a year.


Iran bankrolls Hizballah from top to bottom


The 25,000-strong Lebanese Shiite Hizballah operates under the direct command of IRGC officers. All its military equipment comes from Tehran, which also draws up its annual budget. Each month, Iran transfers to Beirut $150-200 million, as well as paying for all the Lebanese militias’ expenses in the maintenance of an expeditionary force in Syria. Hizballah costs Tehran an approximate $2 billion per annum.


An all-Shiite “people’s national army” for Iraq, re-supplies for Yemen


Iran’s deep military intervention in Iraq (which has been covered in detail by DEBKA Weekly) includes the creation of an all-Shiite “people’s national army.” If follows the same template as the Syrian National Defense Force and consists of the same number of fighters – 70,000 troops.
Tehran has also invested in barricades to fortify Baghdad against invasion from the north and the west.
The offensive to retake the Sunni town of Tikrit from the Islamic State is led by Iranian officers, and fed constantly with high-quality weapons systems, including missiles and tanks.
All the war materiel required by the Iraqi army and Shiite militias fighting the Islamic State is airlifted to Baghdad, some directly from Iran.
There is no reliable estimate of the Islamic Republic’s current contribution to Iraq’s war budget (estimated at a quarter of a billion dollars per month) because part of the cost is carried by the Iraqi government from oil revenues.
In Yemen, Iran is directly involved in the civil war as the champion, sponsor and moneybags of the Zaydi Houthi rebels. Tehran runs military supplies by air and sea to the Houthis and their allies, Yemeni army units who have thrown in their lot with the insurgency.
This year alone, Iran has so far invested an estimated half a billion dollars in a Houthi victory.


Sanctions are no deterrent to Iran’s ambitious


This arithmetic attests to Iran’s mysteriously deep pockets and the inefficacy of US, European and UN sanctions as levers for deterring Tehran’s military push to the pinnacle of power as hegemon of the Middle East and Gulf regions, no matter how many billions of dollars of national treasure this may cost.
The crushing burden of this aspiration plus sanctions on the economy weigh heavily on the lives of ordinary Iranians. The partial relief from sanctions offered Iran for signing an interim nuclear agreement (the Joint Plan of Action) last November has not eased daily living conditions. Businesses are hamstrung by restricted access to international banks. Galloping unemployment hits university graduates hard and the housing market is stagnant.
President Hassan Rouhani, who won election on a pledge to improve the lives of ordinary Iranians by getting international economic sanctions lifted, finds his government has to struggle to pay out regular cash subsidies to citizens.


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Lost in Yemen: Large Stock of US Arms
Enough US Military Gear to Outfit a Small Army Went Missing in Yemen

In the chaos of the civil war besetting Yemen, the disappearance of a huge arsenal of new American military equipment long escaped notice (click HERE for the full-sized diagram).
The US has supplied more than $500 million in military aid to Yemen since 2007 through programs managed by the Defense Department and State Department for combating terror. But in January, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, whose regime was recognized by the West and Saudi Arabia, was driven out of Sanaa, the capital, by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, partly in protest against US drone strikes against Al Qaeda in Arabia (AQAP) terrorists, which had set up bases in the country.
It was only belatedly that the valuable US weaponry and equipment was found to have been mislaid.
Why did it take so long?
The president’s flight put the government in Sanaa in total disarray, making it impossible for the Defense Department to track the whereabouts of the missing war equipment. US officials also explained that the volatility of the Yemen conflict is such that weapons move around unpredictably and at random among diverse combatants.
The equipment became harder than ever to trace after the US closed its embassy in Sanaa in February and withdrew its military advisers.
Challenged in Congress to account for the disappearing hardware, Pentagon officials were forced to admit in closed sessions that Al Qaeda in Yemen or the Houthis – or both - had walked off with enough gear to outfit a small army. Some may have been purloined for trading in the illicit weapons bazaars which do a roaring trade in the Middle East.
Here is a list of the items unaccounted for to date:

  • 1,250,000 rounds of ammunition
  • 200 Glock 9 mm pistols
  • 200 M-4 rifles
  • 4 Huey II helicopters
  • 2 Cessna 208 transport and surveillance aircraft
  • 2 coastal patrol boats
  • 1 CN-235 transport and surveillance aircraft
  • 4 hand-launched Raven drones
  • 160 Humvees
  • 250 suits of body armor
  • 300 sets of night-vision goggles

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HOT POINTS
A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending April 2, 2015

March 27, 2015 Briefs

  • US welcomes Israel’s release of funds to Palestinian Authority
    State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke commented Friday after Israel announced the release of frozen tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority: “We think it’s an important step.”
  • Netanyahu renews tax revenue transfers to Palestinian Authority
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Friday ordered the release of frozen tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority. The funds were suspended three months ago, after the PA threatened to file war crimes charges against Israel at the International Court in The Hague. Netanyahu accounted for his decision to resume the transfer of some NIS 500 million (app. $125 million) in accrued in tax revenue - parts of which will cover PA indebtedness to Israel for electricity, water and medical costs - by humanitarian distress in Palestinian areas and Israel’s wider interests. “In the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, it behooves us to act responsibly and prudently, while taking a strong stand against extremists,” he said.


March 28, 2015 Briefs

  • Putin phones Netanyahu with congratulations
    Russian President Vladimir Putin called Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Saturday to congratulate him for winning his re-election bid and wished him luck on forming a coalition, according to an official statement from the Kremlin. The two expressed concern about the escalation in Yemen.
  • At least 17 dead before Somali troops end Al-Shabaab hotel seizure
    Somali elite troops Saturday took control of the Maka Al-Makarramah hotel in Mogadish 12 hours after Al-Shabaab terrorists carried out a suicide car bombing and occupied two floors. Among the 17 people killed were the Somali ambassador to Switzerland and an unknown number of terrorists. Four of the 28 wounded victims died in hospital. The hotel was a favorite haunt of Somali government officials.


Iranian general in Sanaa to organize Yemeni rebel counter-offensive against Saudis


28 Mar.
Iran’s top war commander, Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, landed in Sanaa Friday, March 27, debkafile reports, to organize a counter-offensive for the Saudi-Gulf-Egyptian operations against Tehran-backed Houthi rebel advances. By opening its third direct Middle East warfront after Syria and Iraq, Tehran is holding the Obama administration to its promise of support for its role as the leading Middle East power, in return for signing a nuclear framework deal by March 31. Solemeini’s must urgently restore Iran’s sea and air supply lines to Yemen, cut off by Saudi-led air strikes, and determine whether or not to co-opt Iranian air and sea forces to the Yemeni front for head-to-head battles against Saudi Arabia and its ten Sunni allies.


March 29, 2015 Briefs

  • Former US Intel chief: Stop talks with Iran and take hard look at Mid East
    Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, described President Obama’s Middle East policy as one of “willful ignorance.” Recent developments in the region “are moving in a bad direction” for America, with Iran “clearly on the march in a regional sectarian war.” The US appears to be siding with Iranian-backed rebels against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but opposing such fighters in Yemen, while at the same time negotiating a nuclear deal with Tehran, a sponsor of terrorism. This is “’incredible policy confusion,” said Gen. Flynn. Nuclear diplomacy with Iran should be halted and everything else stopped while “we take a hard look at everything going on the Middle East.”
  • Arab League summit agrees to set up joint military force
    Heads of the 22-nation Arab League meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh agreed Sunday to the principle of creating a joint Arab military force to counter threats to the security of any member. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said a high-level panel will, under the supervision of Arab chiefs of staff, work out within four months, the structure and mechanism of the force of around 40,000 elite troops, backed by jets, warships and light armor. The summit agreed that Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen, further south on the Red Sea would continue until “Shiite rebels withdraw and surrender their weapons.”
  • Saudi air strikes break up Yemeni Houthi advance on Aden
    debkafile’s military sources report that Saudi-led air strikes broke up the advance on Aden of Yemeni forces allied with the Houthi rebels. But the Iran-backed Houthis continued to push along the country’s Red Sea coast and down to the east on the Indian Ocean coast.


US surrender on breakout time to a bomb in hope of negotiating breakthrough


29 Mar.
US leaders assured the world that the nuclear deal to be signed with Iran in Switzerland this week would give the powers a year’s warning from the Islamic Republic break-out to an operational weapon. debkafile: To clinch the framework deal in Lausanne, even this concession, which imperils Israel, the Gulf and the Middle East at large, was not enough. The president authorized the US delegation to fall back again and cut this year down to six or seven months.


March 30, 2015 Briefs

  • Two US Congressmen table bill to counter BDS
    Two Republican Congressmen, Doug Lamborn and Ron DeSantis, have introduced a bill designed to counter the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) campaign promoted on American academic campuses. The “Boycott our Enemies, not Israel” act is designed to require companies to certify that they do not boycott Israel in order to earn government contracts. False certifications would also incur stiff penalties.
  • Olmert found guilty. District Court reverses Talansky bribes acquittal
    In the case of the fraudulent misuse of donated funds against former PM Ehud Olmert, the retrial by a panel of three Jerusalem District Court judges Monday reversed his acquittal by a former panel in 2012. They overruled his defense arguments and judged that he knowingly used $150,000 in the envelopes received from US businessman Morris Talansky for personal purposes and was therefore guilty of misusing funds, breach of trust, grave fraud and perjury The court dismissed the reasonable doubt argument accepted by the former bench to acquit him, after hearing the new evidence presented by the prosecution of tapes and diaries secretly kept by his former secretary Shula Zaken while in his employ. She illegally received $30,000 of the moneys. The crimes were committed during Ehud Olmert’s term as Minister of Commerce and Industry. The court headed by Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman will hand sentence down – up to five years jail – on May 5.


Pakistan minister due in Riyadh with troop airlift for Saudi coalition in Yemen


30 Mar.
The US-led world powers and Iran Monday, March 30, entered the last tense hours for a nuclear deal as though Lausanne was on a different planet from the Middle East, where the Yemen war, in which Iran is deeply involved, abruptly scooped up a power outside the region, Pakistan, whose defense minister is due in Riyadh following a government pledge to support its Saudi ally. debkafile: Several Pakistan brigades are being airlifted to relieve Saudi forces of border and oil security tasks for ground operations in Yemen. Egyptian air and warships forces blast Aden.


March 31, 2015 Briefs

  • The 20th Knesset holds first session with 39 new members
    Israel’s newly-elected Knesset held its first session in Jerusalem Tuesday with President Reuven Rivlin taking the chair for the ceremony. Of the 120 members sworn in, 39 were elected for the first time last month and 29 were women. When the house stood for the national anthem – Hatikva - members of the Arab Joint List left the chamber. The outgoing Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of Likud was to be re-elected in the first vote held by the new House. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said his door was open to all the elected parties without exception. He also warned again that the nuclear accord in Lausanne paves the way to a nuclear-armed Iran.
  • Canadian parliament extends military mission against ISIS
    Canada’s parliament approved Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to extend its military mission against the Islamic group for another year, to include air strikes over Syria as well as Iraq. Canada will be the first NATO country other than the US to conduct air strikes in Syria.


Khamenei sends naval forces to Bab el-Mandeb. Iran arms store bombed in Libya


31 Mar.
Control of the strategic Red Sea Bab el-Mandeb Straits passed Tuesday, March 31 to pro-Iranian Yemeni forces when the Yemeni Army’s 117th Brigade handed positions guarding the waterway to two Houthi commando battalions, debkafile reveals. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered two task forces to sail to the region to reinforce Houthi control of the strategic straits. Iran was involved in another regional development Tuesday, when unidentified aircraft bombed a base in Burak, southwestern Libya, used by Iran to store arms purchased in Sudan for transfer to Hamas in the Gaza Strip by smuggling routes through Egypt a d Sinai. The weapons were destroyed.


April 1, 2015 Briefs

  • David’s Sling defense system ready for Hizballah’s missiles
    The David’s Sling defense system, designed to intercept medium-range rockets and missiles, has passed advanced tests, and is on course for deployment against the Hizballah rocket threat in a few months time. The system’s range ensures intercepts of hostile missiles before they come over Israel.. “Two David’s Sling batteries will cover the whole of Israel.
  • Netanyahu in last call for a better deal in Lausanne
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a call from Jerusalem Wednesday to the diplomats engaged in winding up a round of nuclear talks in Lausanne. “Now is the time” he said, “for the international community to insist on a better nuclear deal, stop Iran’s aggression in the region and its terrorist activities around the world, and relinquish its threat to annihilate Israel.”
    Tuesday, Gen. Mohammad Raza Nakdi, commander of the Iranian Basijj popular militia declared in Tehran that the aspiration to wipe Israel off the map had never been negotiable.
  • Nuclear talks miss dealine in confusion
    Wednesday morning, as the nuclear talks between the six powers and Iran overran their March 31 deadline into April, there was no consensus on how to ring the curtain down. The French foreign minister Lauren Fabius threw up his hands and left, followed by his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeyer.
    In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu again blasted the proposed deal, saying that whatever came out of the Lausanne talks, Iran would be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon quickly. "In our estimate, it will be reduced to perhaps a year, most likely much less than that."
  • US releases suspended military aid to Egypt
    President Barack Obama notified Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh el-Sissi in a phone call Tuesday that the US would be releasing some of the military aid he had suspended after the 2013 overthrow of the Morsi government. Egypt would soon receive 12 F-16 fighter jets, 20 Harpoon missiles and up to 125 tank kits, in an effort to boost Cairo’s ability to combat extremists in the region. Another $1.3 billion is still withheld.
  • US House Leader Boehner calls on PM Netanyahu in Jerusalem
    A delegation of congressional Republicans arrived in Jerusalem Wednesday headed by House Speaker John Boehner, weeks after the furor over his invitation to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address the US Congress on the dangers of a US-Iranian nuclear accord. Boehner said in an interview Sunday that the House would act quickly to tighten sanctions on Iran should the nuclear talks fail.
    The House delegation came from visits to Jordan and Iraq.
    The group also included Reps. John Kline of Minnesota, Devin Nunes of California, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Tom Cole of Oklahoma. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell visited the country over the weekend and also met with Netanyahu.


April 2, 2015 Briefs

  • First Saudi marines land in Aden
    After Houthi rebel forces backed by rogue Yemeni army units broke through to the center of Aden, the first Saudi marines began landing on the town’s coast Thursday. Some sources report they were joined by “foreign marines” – possibly Egyptian.
  • Would-be Palestinian infiltrators stab an Israeli soldier
    An Israeli soldier suffered a knife wound Thursday when a group of Palestinians trying to infiltrate Israel attacked the soldiers manning the Oranim check post on the Trans-Samaria highway.
  • Gunman kills 17 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai
    A man armed with a shoulder-borne missile opened fire Thursday on a line of Egyptian army positions in Sinai. He killed at least 17 soldiers and injured another nineteen. No organization has claimed responsibility.
  • Assad’s army and Iranian, Hizballah allies suffer defeats
    The Syrian army and its Hizballah and Iranian backers suffered a row of serious defeats this week on three Syrian warfronts. After the fall of Idlib in the north Saturday to an Islamist alliance led by the Nusra Front – the largest piece of territory lost to Assad’s forces since the fall of Raqqa to the Islamic State - ISIS went on Wednesday to seize the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, which lies a few kilometers from the presidential palace and central Damascus. Wednesday too, Syrian rebels won the battle for the Nasib crossing to Jordan, which commands the main highway link between Damascus and Amman. They are now able to cut off this main land route from Syria to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries and make free use of access to Jordan.

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