In a phone call to the Kremlin Sunday, July 1, Syrian President Bashar Assad said he needed just two months to finish off the revolt against his regime. “My new military tactics are working,” he said, as his regime and the Syrian opposition rejected the UN-sponsored peace plan approved in Geneva Saturday. DEBKAfile also reports exclusively that Assad’s "new tactics" consist of retiring the top army command and replacing it with Shabiha thugs armed with an unheard-of level of fire power. Syrian-Turkish border tension continues to climb.
The European oil embargo taking effect Sunday, July 1 blocks the sale to EU members of one-third of Iran’s daily output of 3.3 million barrels a day. From now on, EU insurance firms withhold cover from governments and firms operating tankers delivering Iranian oil. The embargo was clamped down after diplomatic efforts failed to halt Iran’s nuclear weapon program. Gulf armies led by Saudi Arabia are on alert for reprisals. Two oil pipelines have been activated to bypass the Strait of Hormuz if it is blocked.
Agreement on a Syria-led transition based on mutual consent that includes members of the current government” was reported by UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan from the Action Group on Syria meeting in Geneva Saturday, June 30. He avoided mentioning Bashar Assad, but was not able to conceal the gap between Washington and Moscow over the Syrian ruler’s fate: The US still wants him gone, while Russia is still adamant about propping him up. That is the devil in the Annan peace effort.
US B-2 heavy stealth bomber - key aircraft for Iran strike
Aviation Week reports: “Evidence is mounting that the US defense community and the Obama administration view 2013 as the likely window for a bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear and missile facilities.” The chaos of the Syrian government’s fall could be used “to disguise such an attack,” the journal suggests. “The tools…are all operational.” Friday night, top US and Russian diplomats failed to bridge differences on Syria ahead of a UN-sponsored Action Group parley in Geneva. Military preparations are building up for an attack on Syria.
DEBKAfile, citing Western intelligence sources, reports Thursday, June 28, that the Republican Guard battalion commander charged with the Syrian president’s security has kept Bashar Assad and his family shut away in his palace in what they call “partial siege" since last week. This officer decides whether they can come or go. It is not clear to whom he defers. “"Inside the palace, Assad and his family have become fearful enough to import tasters to check all the food and drink served them,” the sources say.
Unconfirmed first reports from British, French and Turkish sources say British special forces crossed from Turkey into northern Syria Tuesday, May 26, advancing up to 10 kilometers inside the country. Those sources also report heavy fighting around the Republican Guards compound guarding Bashar Assad's palace on Mount Qaisoun overlooking Damascus. This two-pronged assault on the Assad regime, if confirmed, began at the end of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Israel. It challenges his repeated objections to foreign intervention.
In the wake of failed diplomacy, US President Barack Obama is in the process of “reconsidering” his decision to hold off on military action against Iran. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in Riyadh to sound out Saudi rulers on a combined US-GCC operation. In its latest issue, out last Friday, DEBKA-Net-Weeklyexplores the prospects of this operation, along with revelations about President Vladimir Putin’s talk with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. From Jerusalem, Putin issued his “most striking warning to Obama.”
Al Qaeda infiltrators from Libya are spearheading much of this month’s anti-Israel violence from Sinai and the Gaza Strip - a dangerous development Israel, Hamas, Egypt and the US prefer to conceal. It appears to tie in with the arrival of al Qaeda’s ex-Iraq fighters in Syria as part of its leader's master plan. Deeply concerned to check the spillover from Libya into Egypt, Cairo has posted its elite counter-terrorist “999 unit” in El Arish, on Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip and along the northern sector of its frontier with Israel.
Syria Friday shot down the Turkish Super Phantom jet with the sophisticated self-propelled medium range anti-air Pantsur-1 missile recently supplied by Russia. Short of time to master the improved missile system, the Syrian crews would have called on their Russian instructors to help launch them. DEBKAfile: Moscow and Damascus may have decided to stop the almost daily Turkish air force flights over the Syrian coast for spying on Russian arms deliveries through the Russian bases of Tartus and Latakia.
Amid the worsening violence in Syria, US official sources said Saturday, June 16, that US intervention was not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ and defined its format as “Libya lite.” Pentagon officials earlier reported a Russian contingent was on its way to Syria to guard the Russian base at Tartus. As the Syrian civil conflict mounted onto the plane of major power intervention, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood announced that the UN observer mission he heads had suspended activities and patrols.
Ayman al-Zawahiri is challenged by the Syrian jihadist ideologue Abu Musab al-Suri, who preaches the "multi-pede" concept which would end centralized control of the al Qaeda terrorism organiztion and distribute authority for independent decision-making among its franchises. Zawahiri is fighting back.
Israel’s war preparations are based on the estimate that by the end of 2012, Iran will be able to produce a crude nuclear device as well as a dirty bomb. It calculates as high the risk that Tehran will decide to use those devices for war against Israel in the short term and not wait until it has complete nuclear warhead ready for a ballistic missile.
President Barack Obama and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
President Barack Obama's proposals are primed to pre-empt war as his first priority before even pre-empting a nuclear Iran. The deal he is offering Tehran will be hard to refuse because it virtually relieves its nuclear program of effective international oversight. Tehran is nonetheless holding out for an end to sanctions.
US Navy, Air Force, ground, intelligence and special forces units based at home, in Europe and the Middle East, took part this week in a special exercise ordered by President Barack Obama to simulate reactions to a potential US/Israel strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, DEBKAfile reports. Advanced US stealth F-22 fighter bombers were also transferred to the Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE. Washington is thinking of attacking core elements of Iran’s nuclear program to weaken its hand in negotiations.
Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz meets top US soldier Gen. Martin Dempsey in Washington
Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu acted Thursday, April 26, to correct the damaging impression of divided and conflicting perceptions of the Iranian nuclear threat left by statements delivered in the last two days by himself and Defense Minster Ehud Barak. Israel’s chief of staff Gen. Benny Gantz rallied to the task. He commented Thursday that “other countries have readied their armed forces for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear sites to keep Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
Lebanese Tripoli catches fire from Syrian conflict
Bashar Assad has stepped in directly to halt the covert war his Western and Arab foes are waging against his regime through Lebanon. DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose he is now sending Lebanese army commanders direct orders for cutting arms, money, fighters and medical supplies to the rebels, especially in Homs. Last week, Lebanese Chief of Staff Gen. Jean Kahwagi was given a crude ultimatum: Take care of the Syrian rebels’ backers in Tripoli, or else the Syrian army will enter Lebanon and do the job.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov issued a strong warning against a military attack on Iran Monday, April 2, saying that a pre-emptive strike would violate international law. His comments, made during a visit to Armenia, stopped short of threatening (the US and/or Israel) of consequences. DEBKAfile: Moscow and Tehran suspect that the US- Israeli-Greek air-naval exercise codenamed Noble Dina which is in progress across an unusually broad stretch of E. Mediterranean is meant to rehearse war action in the Persian Gulf.