Commentary and analyses on terrorism, intelligence, security, and military and political affairs in the Middle East.

Netanyahu: Unilateral Palestinian steps will be answered in kind

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel had taken big steps for the sake of an accord with the Palestinians, but at the last moment, negotiations were derailed by their refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish national state – even after this was endorsed by the US – and then went on to submit unilateral applications to the United Nations. Speaking at the weekly cabinet session for the first time on the breakdown of US-sponsored talks with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said that any unilateral steps taken by the Palestinians would be countered by unilateral steps.  

Second Chinese detection of possible MH370 pulse signal

The search for the missing Malaysian airliner was being scrambled to a new area, after the black box detector aboard the Chinese Haixun 01 picked up a signal Saturday that would have matched a beacon from the missing MH370’s data recorders in the Indian Ocean, 1500 miles north of Perth.  Sunday, Australian Air Marshal Angus Houston who is coordinating the search said the Chinese ship had detected the pulse signal a second time a few hours later. He warned the data was still unverified but he called the discovery an "important and encouraging lead.” British naval ship HMS Echo and the Australian ADV Ocean Shield are heading to the new area to investigate further. Both have technology able to detect underwater signals emitted by data recorders.

Majority of Afghan voters brave Taliban to vote for president

More than half of Afghanistan’s 13.5 million eligible cast their votes for president Saturday mostly undisturbed by violence.The pressure on polling stations was heavy enough for voting hours to be extended. Security was provided by 350,000 Afghan troops.In isolated incidents,a roadside bomb killed two policemen and wounded two others in the southern city of Qalat; An explosion at a polling station in the southeastern province of Logar injured four voters, rockets landed not far from a voting center in Ghazni, and in the northern province of Faryub, a would-be suicide bomber was arrested. But Taliban failed to sabotage the election although dozens of people were targeted in advance as a warning to voters. Kabul was sealed off from the rest of the country. The three most prominent contenders to take over from Hamid Karzai at the end of his 12 years as president are former foreign ministers Zalmai Rassoul and Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. The victor will have to lead Afghanistan through the critical final phase of the US military presence in the country. Washington has warned that all US troops will be withdrawn unless Kabul signs a bilateral security accord with the US, which Karzai refused to do. He says he will retire as a private citizen although he is widely expected to wield extensive political influence.

Israeli air force struck five terrorist facilities in Gaza

The five Isreli air strikes against Palestinian terrorist facilities overnight Saturday were in reprisal for five Palestinian rockets fired from the Gaza Strip in the last 48 hours, the last one against Hof Ashkelon Saturday. None caused casualties.  Four bottle bombs were lobbed at a club in Jerusalem’s French Hill starting a fire. No one was hurt. In Maaleh Adummim, a Palestinian from Abu Dis was apprehended with a butcher’s knife. He admitted he was on his way to use it against an Israeli victim.

Options for Mid East talks: Carrying on, interim deal, or a turn to the Saudi-UAE-Egyptian bloc

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has proved time and again that he will never endorse any accord for ending the dispute with Israel. US Secretary of State John Kerry has finally accepted this. An interim deal, which he refused to consider, might buy a few years’ grace in the dispute before breaking up, because it is the conflict that keeps Abbas in power. debkafile: Some Palestinian eyes are looking at the Saudi-UAE-Egyptian bloc and its war on the Muslim Brotherhood i.e. Hamas, which the US opposes. Israel too is seriously interested.

Chinese patrol ships detect pulse signal in Indian Ocean

The Chinese news agency reports that the signal was picked up by the Haixun 01 in the Indian Ocean north of the where the Malaysian airliner is being searched by organized team.. There is no confirmation yet of the origin of the signal or that it was related to the missing plane. The vessel's black box detector reported the signal with a frequency of 37.5Hz at around 25 degrees south latitude and 101 degrees east longtitude. If confirmed theis would locate the missing plane's crash site 1,500 miles northwest of Perth. The next stage would be to send down underwater instruments to test whether the signal is coming from the black box of MH370 at a sharply narrowed down location. The Australian government agency coordinating the search from Perth would not immediately comment on the report. 

Time running out to find missing Malaysian airliner

Saturday, exactly four weeks after the MH370 vanished with 239 people aboard, 13 military and civilian planes and nine ships were racing against time to locate the plane and most urgently its flight recorders before their batteries run out. They were joined by the Australian navy’s Ocean Shield and British HMS Echo which carry sophisticated underwater equipment. Search experts warned that this equipment moves slowly over small areas. Scouring hundreds of thousands of square miles of Indian Ocean will be a long business. No sign of the missing Boeing 777 has been sighted so far.

Kerry warns US is evaluating role in Middle East peace talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday Washington was evaluating whether to continue its role in Middle East peace talks. "This is not an open-ended effort, it never has been. It is reality check time, and we intend to evaluate precisely what the next steps will be," Kerry said, adding he would return to Washington on Friday to consult with the Obama administration.


White House sources tell Kerry to wrap up Mid East peace bid

Some circles around US Secretary of State, including inside the White House, are quoted by the Washington Post as believing the time is near for him to say “Enough!” of his Mid East peace effort. Some high administration officials speaking on condition of anonymity say Kerry risks being seen as trying too hard at the expense of other pressing international issues, even perhaps his reputation. “A time will come where he has to go out and own failure.” For now, they say, Kerry needs to “lower the volume and see how things unfold.”
Kerry has made 11 trips to Israel in the past year and shuttled endlessly between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. This week, the process blew up when Abbas filed applications for a “Palestinian state” to join 15 UN agencies, in violation of his prior pledge to the US Secretary and Israel. Israel punished him Thursday with a string of sanctions against the Palestinian Authority after canceling the fourth round of jailed Palestinian releases. 

Russia to back Iran in nuclear talks - Moscow’s “April surprise” for Western sanctions over Ukraine

As the Six Power group and Iran prepared for their third round of nuclear talks in Vienna next week (Tuesday-Wednesday, April 8-9), Tehran frankly admitted to exploiting the holes in the six-month interim deal they forged in Geneva last November by using advanced centrifuges and carrying on with the Arak project. This will be Moscow’s first opportunity to make good on its threat to confront the West and line up with Iran, in retaliation for Western penalties for its annexation of Crimea. Moscow and Tehran are close to a mammoth oil-for-food barter deal.


Dempsey’s Mission: Squash Israel’s Return to a Military Option for Iran

Top US soldier Gen. Martin Dempsey was given the task of deterring Israel from reverting to its plans for a unilateral strike on Iran’s nuclear program. After camvassing Israeli leaders and generals, he left without clear answers.

US Finally Sends Syrian Rebels Arms via Saudi Arabia – Only as Path to Geneva-3

The US begins supplying Syrian rebels – via Saudi Arabia – advanced weapons, including include anti-tank, anti-aircraft missiles, heavy mortars and ammo. All the same, Obama’s welcome in Riyadh was heated rather than warm.

Egypt, Saudis & UAE Push War on Muslim Brotherhood out to US and Western Capitals

Egyptian intelligence circulates a thick file compiled of interrogations of Brotherhood activists which reveal Muslim Brotherhood conspiracies to topple Arab regimes with Qatari connivance. The file was sent to Washington and European capitals.

US Can’t Afford another Diplomatic Debacle in the Middle East

Obama wants to avoid another diplomatic debacle in the Middle East, after Egypt and Syria and so he may cut short John Kerry’s bid to keep Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations going.

A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending April 3, 2014

A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending April 3, 2014

Israeli-Palestinian tensions shoot up

Israel announced the fourth batch of 26 Palestinian prisoners was not released Saturday night, March 30, because the Palestinians had meanwhile applied to 15 UN agencies and conventions and threatened to have international courts “convict Israel’s leaders as war criminals.”The Palestinians Thursday upped their price for returning to negotiations, including recognition of the 1967 lines as borders of a future Palestinian state with east Jerusalem its capital; the release of 1,200 prisoners, including multiple murderer Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat.

Israel hit back with penalties, including the suspension of high-level bilateral communications between governments and the relegation of Palestinian affairs to the Government Coordinator Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordecai; a freeze on the release of third-generation cell phone technology to Palestinian Authority-ruled areas and an end to communications equipment exports to the Palestinian cell phone company owned by Mahoud Abbas’s sons. Finally, the 14,000 dunams of Jordan Valley land already allocated to Palestinian farmers would be held up. The Israeli government said further punitive measures were under consideration

Israeli patrol shot at from Gaza. No one hurt

An IDF patrol came under fire Thursday while moving along the border fence near Kfar Azza - and shot back. There were no casualties.

Dempsey claims Israel satisfied the US will use military option against Iran. DEBKAfile: Israel doesn’t say this

Top US soldier Gen. Martin Dempsey left Israel on April 2 saying its leaders were now satisfied the US was capable of using a military option against Iran. debkafile: The Israeli officials he met did not confirm this, or the “broad Israel-US agreement” on how to deal with the Iranian threat. Dempsey’s remark that the US “will use a military option if the Iranians choose to stray off the diplomatic path,” confirmed that nothing had changed. More about this in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly out Friday. To subscribe, click here.

Abbas dumps another US-led peace effort, Kerry gives up on shuttle, Pollard release recedes

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas did not announce his walkout from the negotiations with Israel or turn down the package of far-reaching Israeli concessions which US Secretary of State John Kerry assembled with Binyamin Netanyahu early Wednesday, April 1. He turned his back on them by sending out applications in the name of “the independent Palestinian state” for membership of 12 UN agencies - in breach of his commitment ahead of the negotiations. The Kerry-Netanyahu bid for an extension of the talks gave Abbas his chance to dump them.

Ehud Olmert convicted of taking bribes five years after being forced out as premier

Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rosen Monday March 31, convicted the former prime minister and mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert of the most severe bribe charges ever leveled against an Israeli public figure, making him liable for a stiff prison sentence. Convicted with him was his longtime assistany Shula Zaken, his successor as Jerusalem mayor, Uri Lupoliansky, and former Bank Hapoalim chaiman Dan Dankner. The judge praised the state prosecution for its perseverance in pursuing the case in the face of formidable pressure from Olmert and his associates.

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