What else did ex-NASA contractor Edward Snowden purloin from the American intelligence database before he did a runner – in addition to the bombs he has planted under US ties with foreign leaders?
One answer to this question is that no one knows – but many spy agencies worldwide are not waiting to find out before preparing for the worst, especially now that he lives in asylum in Moscow under heavy SVR guard, the Russian equivalent of the CIA.
The CIA and NSA, which employed Snowden for seven years, from 2006-2013, will have been the first to try and evaluate the damage he caused, determine what data he unloaded and which revelations may still be out there. They have already dubbed Snowden’s actions the most deleterious leak in US intelligence history.
Notwithstanding the diplomatic fallout suffered by the US administration, the key issue is not which world leaders’ phones US intelligence bugged, but how many secret foreign intelligence agency Internet sites were breached by US eavesdroppers and whom they were monitoring?
This data was carried off by the former NSA contractor who lives under Russian intelligence protection.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande were justly furious over clandestine US taps on their phones, but their own spy agencies were jolted even more to discover how big were the ears listening in on and recording their most secret communications.
A mad race to pull endangered agents
However close their government’s alliance with Washington may be, the BND German foreign intelligence agency which defers directly to the Chancellor’s Office, the DGSE French General Directorate for External Security and the Israeli Mossad all possess tons of precious data which do not always reach their bosses in government, certainly not by cell phone.
So if the NSA and other US agencies did indeed penetrate foreign spy agencies, Snowden will have got away with inside knowledge of their undercover spy rings and operations.
Since that is almost certainly the case, DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources have every reason to believe that a major upheaval is in progress - not just in US intelligence networks but across the board of the espionage industry around the world in a mad race to shut down, recover and replace the blown networks.
Hundreds if not thousands of double agents are most probably being abruptly pulled out before they are burned and the governments running them identified by their host-governments, by cross-checking the information leaked by Snowden with their own records.
The last major hullabaloo in the intelligence world, necessitating a comprehensive housecleaning, occurred 19 years ago when Aldrich Hazen Ames, chief of CIA counterintelligence against Russia betrayed a list of American and other Western spy rings to the KGB.
Damage caused by Snowden likened to Ames’ devastation
Back then, in mid-1994, the electronic transfer of information was much less developed and so spy agencies were less dependent on this tool for covert communication. Yet even then, Ames by secretly gaining control of the computers serving US intelligence, the Pentagon and scientific research institutes of US nuclear and military industries, was able to funnel a huge volume of top-secret data directly to Moscow and sell many American undercover agents down the river.
To this day, US intelligence hates to admit that many of America’s diplomatic and military foul-ups in the ‘80s and ‘90s may have been down to Ames’s gift to Moscow of an open sesame it had never had before to the heart of US intelligence digital systems.
So grave was the damage that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and member of the commission probing the Ames affair, made a comment which no one has ever explained: In the light of the Ames affair, he said, there was no choice but to shut down the CIA.
Western intelligence officials have already been heard remarking that the damage caused by Snowden, acclaimed by many Americans as a whistleblower who exposed the unlawful invasion of their privacy, may eventually turn out to be no less serious than the trouble caused by the traitor Aldrich Ames.
Top Russian security office becomes Snowden’s lawyer
Few people in the world of espionage are ready to accept the Snowden claim that his flight to Hong Kong followed by Moscow was a lone escapade. Subsequent rumors that his final destination was Ecuador and Iceland were quickly discounted as red herrings.
A report carried by the Russian newspaper Kommersant offered a strong clue to his intentions: He was said after arriving in Hong Kong and shortly before he flew out to Moscow to have resided at the Russian consulate.
This account was denied in Moscow, but the identity of the denier was even more instructive than the story itself.
Anatoly Kucherena stated firmly that Snowden “did not enter into any communication with our diplomats when he was in Hong Kong.”
Now, it just so happens that Kucherena was then head of the Russian Interior Ministry’s public council and a member of the Russian Federal Security Service FSB. It also happened that he was the lawyer who took the fugitive American’s case in July. These clues supported the suspicion that Snowden had previous ties with Russian intelligence prior to his move.
Explaining his motives on June 9, 2013, Snowden said: “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong. …I don’t want to live in a society that does these sorts of things (surveillance on its citizens)… I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded… My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
Snowden’s sudden change of face
However plausible and praiseworthy these sentiments may be, they do not quite explain his travel route and eventual destination.
Since his escape, several intelligence sources are alleging that Snowden, using the pseudonym “TheTrueHOOHA,” authored hundreds of posts on technology news provider Ars Technica’s chat rooms, even before he had joined the CIA (and later the NSA), to raise various issues.
In a January 2009 entry, three years into his employment with the CIA, TheTrueHOOHA exhibited strong support for the United States’ security state apparatus and said he believed leakers of classified information “should be shot in the balls.”
But then, in February 2010, TheTrueHOOHA wrote, “I wonder, how well would envelopes that became transparent under magical federal candlelight have sold in 1750? 1800? 1850? 1900? 1950?”
These posts sound suspiciously like an offer of state secrets to the highest bidder, or perhaps a secret message by pre-arranged code. It is therefore hard to believe that they failed to attract the notice either of the CIA, the FBI or the NSA.
ELINT: A corridor for clandestine inter-agency interaction
Our intelligence experts recall the Cold War netherworld which in the second half of the 20th century ran a hidden “intelligence corridor” used by double agents of opposing agencies to rendezvous clandestinely at different locations. They would trade secrets with their opposite numbers – often without the knowledge of their handlers - and try to turn them round for recruitment. For the most part, the Russian services were craftier players at this game and chalked up successes. For this reason, US intelligence agencies shifted the focus of their operations over the years away from HUMINT - intelligence gathered in interpersonal contacts – preferring to embrace ELINT, electronics signals intelligence, in the arts of which America had a strong technological advantage.
Edward Snowden, may have operated in a digital version of the “intelligence corridor” - except he would not have needed to travel undercover to foreign places to interact with rival double agents, whether Russian, Chinese, French, German or Israeli. He could engage them online by the medium of electronic intelligence – all of them using false identities as is customary on the social media.
The computer experts of the various spy agencies working on ways to hack into rival intelligence computers may also form personal acquaintanceships with their opposite numbers. The cyber war in the world of espionage brings individual and groups into a variety of associations.
Damage to US intelligence will unfold in future upsets
It is very possible that three months after Snowden high-tailed it to Hong Kong, the NSA and CIA have uncovered leads to his foreign associates in the clandestine electronic world, discovered how his views were turned round from pro- to anti- American, and found how he came to end up in Moscow in the hands of Russian intelligence.
The Obama administration has stopped making a fuss about Moscow harboring a fugitive agent wanted for trial in the United States, mostly to avoid rocking the boat at a time of active Russian collaboration in pushing along diplomatic tracks the two toughest issues in the Middle East – Iran’s nuclear program and the bloodbath in Syria.
But some European intelligence officials offer an alternative theory: US intelligence capability vis-à-vis Russia and Iran has been seriously compromised by Snowden’s defection in which Moscow may well have had a hand and serious upsets may still be coming as his revelations eat at the innards of America’s clandestine machinery.
Some stirrings of turbulence in the intelligence world are seen waiting a chance to surface, DEBKA Weekly reports.
The aspersions cast by US media on Saudi Intelligence Director Prince Bandar Bin Sultan’s competence were designed to put him off his stroke in his campaign to contest the Obama administration and its agenda.
They denigrate him variously as seriously misguided for relying on Russia and China to step into America’s shoes as the oil kingdom’s chief arms supplier and protector of the royal family.
They depict him as lacking the trust of King Abdullah and assert that his schemes for obstructing Washington on the Syrian and Iranian questions are doomed to fade into nothing in the long run.
Some US analysts even say Bandar “must have gone clinically insane. Either that or it is the entire House of Saudi has gone mad – maybe as a consequence of its degenerate lifestyle. Who knows?”
Prince Bandar, who is well up on American thinking and Washington politics from his 23 years as ambassador there (1983-2005), is unfazed by these insults.
He is sticking to his guns and has opened three new fronts – not against the United States, but against the President Barack Obama and his policies.
Strikes against Obama in three sensitive arenas
Contrary to media insinuations, he is fully supported by the monarch and submits all his actions to the king and Crown Prince Salman, who is also defense minister, for approval.
(See exclusive DEBKA Weekly report in issue 604 of Sept. 27: The First Break with Convention - A Saudi Quartet Pursues Pro-active Policy against Obama).
Our Gulf sources reaffirm that Bandar obtained King Abdullah’s blessing for each of his plans of action. They were further endorsed by the king’s personal secretary, the influential President of the Royal Court Khalid al-Tuwaijri, whose position is equivalent to prime minister.
The Saudi intelligence chief has rolled out three major fronts for stymieing Obama administration plans – for Iran - initially via Pakistani Baluchistan - Egypt and Taliban.
The Baluchi Army of Justice, which claimed responsibility for the Oct. 25 ambush which killed 19 Iranian soldiers on the Pakistan-Iran border, is a new terrorist organization which Saudi intelligence has established, armed and trained, DEBKA Weekly reveals.
Most of the soldiers killed were conscripts from Seravan, a town in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the Iranian side of the border with Pakistan.
The Saudis set up the Baluchi Army of Justice to strike military targets inside Iran. It was the first - but not likely the last - such group that Bandar is expected by our intelligence sources to build for stirring up anti-regime unrest among the many minorities making up Iranian society.
Saudi-Iranian terror war may upset US-Iran nuclear agenda
Tehran reacted swiftly by ordering 16 prison inmates hanged on the day of the ambush. Eight of the condemned men were members of Jundullah, a Pakistani Sunni Baluchi organization that was responsible for past terrorist attacks on civilians, as well assassinations and kidnappings.
Ironically, Iran’s Basij militia leaders blamed the US and Israel for orchestrating the Baluchi attack.
Tehran carefully abstained from directly accusing Riyadh. But an Iranian reprisal is to be expected against Saudi Arabia or one of its Gulf allies, and its handling has been assigned to an expert, Gen. Qassem Soleimeni, the Al Qods Brigades chief, who is in charge of the Iranian military forces deployed in the Middle East, including those fighting for Bashar Assad in Syria.
A war of terror has therefore been declared between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is likely to intensify. This will complicate President Obama’s bid for a nuclear accord and détente with Iran, no less than would an Israeli military strike on its nuclear sites.
According to DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources, the Saudi prince is working hand in glove with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his effort to inflame the Iranian Baluchistan province.
Widening the Cairo-Washington rift
Sharif was in Washington just this week and met President Obama.
In this context, it may be recalled that the Saudi royal family and intelligence have long been closely associated with Taliban leaders of both the Afghan and the Pakistani movements.
So for Obama to get on the same page with the Pakistani prime minister for the sake of a smooth US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan next year may not suffice. Saudi elements may goad Taliban at some point to disrupt the process.
Bandar started working on his scheme to downgrade Egypt’s relations with the Obama administration in July with a visit to Moscow and a long talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin. His three-month effort culminated on Oct. 28 in the arrival in Cairo of the Russian deputy chief of staff and intelligence director, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Kondrashov, at the head of a large military delegation.
He first approached the Russian president with a three-stepped plan in mind:
1. To draw both Saudi Arabia and the most populous Arab country (Egypt: 85 million) out of the American orbit.
2. Bandar helped restore the Egyptian military to power after the generals pledged to wage an uncompromising war on the Muslim Brotherhood. This movement, he is determined to diminish in all parts of the Middle East – not just as a rival – but because it was favored by the Obama administration as a moderate Muslim force with whom the West could do business.
The Saudi prince viewed the Egyptian military as the right instrument for reducing the Brotherhood to an inconsequential player.
3. Aware that the Obama administration was likely to cut off arms and military equipment to any Arab regime persecuting the Brotherhood, Bandar prepared a substitute. He opened the door for a Russian comeback to Egypt as a military and intelligence provider - 41 years after the Soviet Union was expelled from the country in 1972.
Tuesday Oct. 29, debkafile headlined exclusive revelations about negotiations for a major arms deal, with Egypt bidding for the advanced hardware items withheld by Washington, thereby bring one aspect of Bandar’s plan full circle.
Russia seeks a naval base at an Egyptian port
The Egyptian wish list is topped by intermediate-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles able to reach targets across the Middle East.
Gen. Kondrashov produced a list of his own. His led off with a request for a Russian naval base on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, DEBKA Weekly’s exclusive military sources report. The Russian general pointed to four suitable locations:
- Alexandria. The use of some sort of dock or berth in the big port of Alexandria and a group of port warehouses, to be developed into naval facilities like the ones Russia built in the Syrian port of Tartus. The visiting generals did not say the Egyptian facility was needed instead of Tartus, but they raised the question with enough urgency to suggest that an alternative base on the Mediterranean to the Syrian port would be welcome in case the Russians were forced to move out of Syria in a hurry. In any case, Tartus has only been partly operational in recent months.
- Damietta. This port is located on the western tributary of the Nile, 15 km from the Mediterranean Sea, and 70 km from Port Said. Its port installations cover an area of 11.8 sq. km.
- Port Said, which lies in northeast Egypt, extends about 30 km along the Mediterranean coast, north of the Suez Canal.
- Rosetta (Rasid) is located in the Nile Delta, 65 km (40 mi) east of Alexandria.
Our military sources say that a naval base at any of these four ports will give Russia a foothold on a central Mediterranean shore. It would make Moscow the only superpower with a naval and military presence positioned for control of the vastly important Suez Canal waterway, which is the principle marine link connecting US naval and military forces in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf.
It was this position of vantage which Prince Bandar offered President Putin.
Russia has just proposed convening Geneva II for a political solution of the Syrian conflict in Moscow instead of the Swiss town.
This week, after nearly three years of warfare in Syria, Moscow has finally come around to agreeing with the Obama administration that President Bashar Assad must somehow be pushed out of power.
In search of a way to achieve this, DEBKA Weekly’s Moscow sources report that the Russians have taken three steps:
1. They are secretly recruiting Syrian political figures below the top rank which are not part of the Assad or his clan’s following, or leading lights of the main military and government establishments in the capital. They are to be put forward as Syrian delegates (with still undefined status) to Geneva II.
This summit may not take off at the end of the month as scheduled.
The delay will give Moscow more time to pick the right Syrian figures for their purpose. They must be sympathetic to Russia - like many second-line regime officials - hold with keeping Syrian government institutions in place, yet of the opinion that it is time for Assad to go.
The first candidate the Russians chose was Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil.
He is a top leader of the People’s Will Party and the Popular Front for Change and Liberation, which maintains ties to the Syrian communist party.
Jamil had been spending most of his time in Moscow and traveled to the Syrian capital only when he had Russian consent and Russian security guards.
More than a year ago, on Aug. 21, 2012, Jamil offered the view that Assad’s resignation could be considered provided the opposition was willing to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the Syrian uprising.
Assad strikes back
The Syrian president received word of the Russian change of face on his removal on Oct. 29. On the spot, he fired Jamil from all his government posts.
The message to Moscow was clear: The Russians had better think again if they think they can easily get rid of Assad. And if they keep on trying, they will run into the same wall as the Americans did.
A few hours after he was sacked, Jamil was on the air of the Russian Arabic-language channel broadcasting from Moscow and reading out a written statement asserting that he would be back in Damascus in a few days.
2. The Russians were finally telling Washington in their recent contacts that, after three years of digging in their heels against discussing Assad’s future, they were amenable to a deal for settling his fate, in the same way as the two powers had cooperated on an arrangement for Syria’s chemical arsenal.
Asked to specify, the Russians said they were looking for ways to ease Assad out of power.
3. Moscow is also exploring the prospects of bringing Saudi Arabia aboard this deal, in the belief that Assad’s isolation by the concerted lineup of Washington, Moscow and Riyadh would make him reconsider his decision to stand for election to another term as president next year.
He may then announce a decision to step aside to avoid becoming an obstacle to national reconciliation – or so Moscow hopes.
Differing views on the effect of Moscow’s defection
The urgency of their quest for this trilateral front appears to have closed Russian minds to the fact that Syria is one of the principal bones of contention between Riyadh and Washington. (See the article on the three Saudi fronts against the US).
The Syrian president, for his part, has put on an air of nonchalance over the big-power schemes to unseat him.
When he met the UN-Arab Syrian envoy, Lakhdar Brahami in Damascus Wednesday Oct. 30, Assad put forward a long list of complications that would undermine the peace conference for Syria. He said they could only succeed if foreign powers – namely the US and Saudi Arabia – ended their material support of the Syrian rebels.
Furthermore, only the Syrian people would decide in free elections on its choice for ruler - not the foreigners arming the rebels.
By these comments, the Syrian ruler left open a decision on whether or not he would run for reelection.
According to DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence experts on Syria, analysts in Washington, Moscow and Tel Aviv can’t make up their minds about his prospects or intentions. Most agree that the change in Moscow’s attitude limits his survivability in power and he will eventually fall.
Some say time is in Assad’s favor
The minority view is that Assad is methodically bolstering his strength at home and will once again confound all the experts and surprise them by hanging onto power regardless. They point to the ceasefire pacts between rebel and Syrian army commanders spreading across the battlefield. It is only a matter of time, they say, before the Assad regime begins serving the civilian populations in those pacified rebel-held areas with supplies and services.
In this way, the pacts between the field commanders will soon restore large areas to government control. Assad may then come out the war smiling and more unready to quit than ever.
The Kremlin claimed in a message to the White House this week that Moscow had managed to steer Iran into accepting a state it calls “nuclear restraint” for all parts of its disputed nuclear program. This has convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin that Washington and Tehran are provided with enough common ground to lay their nuclear controversy to rest and sign off on a final accord between the Six Powers and the Islamic republic by year’s end.
(See the last DEBKA Weekly issue 608 of Oct. 25: Penultimate Draft for Nuclear Deal by Christmas?)
A close look at the four Russian “achievements” presents a picture that is far from cut and dried:
1. Tehran will not suspend uranium enrichment up to 20 percent. It will accept a quantitative ceiling on such material to be established in agreement with the P5+1 negotiating forum (US, Russia, France, China, UK and Germany).
This lets Iran off the hook of a commitment to stop producing weapons-grade uranium.
Al the conflicting statements issued by Iranian officials in the last week were no more than a smokescreen to disguise this achievement.
2. Tehran will not be asked to reduce the number of centrifuges enriching uranium to various levels – 3.5 percent up to 20 percent. However, since only 9,000 of the total 19,000 machines are in use at the moment, Iran is ready to keep the remaining 10,000 centrifuges inactive.
While Moscow presents this as a major Iranian concession, DEBKA Weekly’s sources find it is no more than a façade set up by the Russians and Iranians to screen the substantial hardening of Tehran’s position.
Moscow buys Iran’s Ifs and buts as “concessions”
At one point in the past, our sources recall, Iran looked like buying the US proposition to leave no more than 5,000 centrifuges spinning for the production of the low 5-percent enriched material – and nothing but. The rest were to be dismantled.
The Iranians appear now to have wheedled the Russians into accepting that their entire stock of centrifuges be left intact –so that, should they renege on their deal with the six powers, the centrifuges will be available at a moment’s notice to return to full-scale military-grade enrichment and provide them with the capacity to produce several atomic bombs in the space of 10 days.
By the time Washington catches on and reacts – not to mention the UN nuclear watchdog and other international organizations, Iran will be way ahead in the process of building nuclear bombs or warheads.
3. Iran has agreed, say the Russians, “to restrain weaponization processes.”
Up until now, Iran maintained that it had had no weapons programs. Russian officials supported this position. President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov stated more than once that they had seen no proof that Iran was running a nuclear weapons program.
Tehran’s offer to “restrain” weaponization – meaning the production of warheads that can be delivered by aircraft and missiles – gives the lie to its protestations of peaceful intentions.
4. The Kremlin boasted to the White House of persuading Iran to ‘freeze’ is nuclear projects as they stand now.
Our sources confirm that this “concession” permits Iran to put its program on hold without letting go of a single integral element or component.
Moscow is in a hurry for a deal before Israel strikes
The Kremlin has been relentlessly pressing the Obama administration to buy the “nuclear restraint” package it has negotiated with Tehran. According our sources in Moscow and Washington, Putin is intent on modeling an Iranian nuclear settlement on the understanding the US and Russia reached for Syria.
He is in a hurry, fearing that a single Israeli military strike could potentially not only cripple Iran’s nuclear program but also sweep away the Kremlin’s entire Middle East strategy.
(See the article on Russia’s return to Egypt).
American and Russian officials alike are keenly aware of the updated assessment by the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies of Israel’s military capacity. They now conclude that the Israeli Defense Forces have attained the ability to attack Iran’s nuclear plants without US or any other military assistance.
And whereas it was commonly assumed in the last three years Israel on its own could not hold Iran’s program back by more than two to three years, this assessment has been revised upwards. The experts now estimate that Israel is armed with the means for retarding Iran’s nuclear development by up to 10 years if the operation is fully successful. Even a less successful operation could push the program back by seven years.
US and intelligence surveillance report that in the last couple of weeks, Israel is intensifying its preparations for a strike against Iran. The Russians hope to convince President Barack Obama that ongoing negotiations are the best way to hold Israel’s hand against such an attack lest it be accused of sabotaging diplomacy. For this reason, they argue, Israel is doing its utmost to stall the talks by demonstrating that Iran is cheating and campaigning for tighter sanctions.
Obama resolved to stick with Putin – even at risk of Israeli attack on Iran
In an apparent riposte to the Israeli campaign, US Secretary of State John Kerry came out Monday, Oct. 28, with a forceful defense of diplomacy “as the way to try to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear weapons program.”
Addressing a disarmament forum, Kerry said that the United States has "an opportunity to try to put to test whether or not Iran really desires to pursue only a peaceful program, and will submit to the standards of the international community in the effort to prove that to the world.”
He added “… not to explore that possibility would be the height of irresponsibility…
In response to Israel’s demand for more pressure on Tehran, Kerry commented cuttingly, "some have suggested that somehow there's something wrong" with giving diplomacy a chance. “… We will not succumb to those fear tactics and forces that suggest otherwise."
The next day, a group of Jewish leaders was invited to meet National Security Council officials at the White House for a briefing on the negotiations with Iran.
Abe Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, took the opportunity to sharply criticize John Kerry for his “inappropriate” criticism of Binyamin Netanyahu for using what he called “fear tactics” - although Kerry never mentioned the prime minister by name.
By inviting the Jewish leaders to the White House, the Obama administration was making an effort to defuse the acrimony in its relations with Jerusalem. But it was made clear that the president will pursue his close collaboration with Vladimir Putin for a diplomatic resolution of the Iranian question, even at the risk of pushing Israel ever closer to exercising its military option against Iran’s nuclear program.
Oct. 25, 2013 Briefs
The Big Fraud: Tehran’s ScanEagle gift to Russia covered handover of secret US R170 drone technology
25 Oct. Iranian video cameras homed in on the presentation of a replica of the US-made ScanEagle drone by Iran’s air force chief Farzad Esmayeeli to Lt. Gen. Viktor Bondarev, the visiting Russian air force chief on Tuesday, Oct. 22. debkafile: This incident, an affront to the US, will also go down as a major military intelligence fraud, because it provided cover for the discreet handover to the Russian general of a replica complete with technology of America’s most secret drone, the sophisticated RQ-170 Sentinel, a prize long coveted by Moscow. The RQ-Sentinel was downed over Iran on Dec. 13, 2011. Tehran has clamed its engineers succeeded n replicating and using its top-line technology in their own drones.
Oct. 26, 2013 Briefs
Al Qaeda’s thrust toward Golan alarms Israelis, Saudis alike
26 Oct. The Golan villages defense units along the Israeli-Syrian border will be put through their paces in an IDF exercise next week to build up their readiness and freshen their tactics against terrorist incursions. debkafile: It is estimated that the figure of 6,000 jihadists of Al Qaeda and affiliates present in Syria will have doubled by next spring. Israeli alarm is shared by Saudi Arabia, which sees al Qaeda massing in Syria and on its borders with Jordan, Iraq and Yemen and threatening to overrun Lebanon and Jordan.
In a lecture at Bar Ilan University, Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz postulated several dire scenarios of terrorist incidents blowing up into full-scale wars.
The Syrian army has meanwhile halted its advance on regions abutting the Israeli and Syrian borders as two Islamist militias stood in their path.
Oct. 27, 2013 Briefs
Oct. 28, 2013 Briefs
Khamenei’s 3-week seclusion for nuclear deal with US
28 Oct. Spy services have been mystified by the unusual three-week absence from public view of Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Various theories claimed he was ill or in seclusion to escape the furor in Tehran over the future of Iran’s nuclear program and relations with the United States. debkafile: Khamenei stayed home to work on the draft US-Iranian-Russian deal for resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. The accord is now in the bag. This secret will be revealed in stages - first by President Barack Obama, in the third week of December.
Palestinians mark prisoners’ release with tougher negotiating terms
28 Oct. It is hard to see why Israel is going through with the release of 26 Palestinian terrorists convicted and jailed for murder when the Palestinians have slapped down on the negotiating table 16 harsh terms - first revealed here by debkafile - that will even defy even US Secretary of State John Kerry’s bridging skills. Every one of those demands, such as Israel’s withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines, withdrawal from E. Jerusalem, including the holy shrines and acceptance of 1948 refugees, is calculated to finally stall any diplomatic solution of the Middle East dispute. Acceptance of the 1949 lines add extra chunks of sovereign Israel to the Palestinian state over above the West Bank and Jerusalem areas claimed on the basis of the 1967 borders.
Abbas is insisting that all parts of the future Palestinian state will be clear of any Israeli civilian or military presence. Only when the refugee issue is finally resolved will the Palestinians agree to declare their dispute with Israel at an end.
Oct. 29, 2013 Briefs
Cairo bids for brand-new Russian SS-25 ballistic missiles
29 Oct. Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Kondrashov, Russian Deputy chief of staff and deputy GRU military intelligence director, spent his first day in Cairo, Tuesday, Oct. 29, with Egyptian military chiefs going through the list of Russian hardware they want to buy in their first major arms transaction in decades. They included advanced weapons withheld by the United States, and medium-range Intercontinental ballistic missiles able to reach Iran and most of the Middle East. debkafile: Cairo appears to be after the new 2000-mile range Russian SS-25 ground-to-ground missile.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said he planned to visit to Egypt in the coming weeks.
Oct. 30, 2013 Briefs
Oct. 31, 2013 Briefs
Braced for imminent US-Iranian nuclear accord, IDF stays ready
31 Oct. Israel’s high command, working on the assumption that an American-Iranian nuclear accord is near its final stage, plans to continue preparations for a unilateral military strike on Iran’s nuclear program into 2014 – hence the IDF’s request for a supplemental NIS3.5bn (app. $1bn) defense budget this week.
debkafile: The main body of the accord is complete. All the same, President Barack Obama plans to announce before Christmas that only partial agreement has been achieved negotiations will continue - to avoid coming clean on the full scope of the deal with Tehran.