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

Netanyahu praises US friendship and all Obama has done for Israel

After a tumultuous welcome, Prime Minister Binyamin told the AIPAC annual conference in Washington Monday that he is deeply grateful for all that President Obama has done for Israel, including declaring Israel a strategic partner last year and much more hat remains confidential. “Our friendship is stronger than ever and will grow stronger still,” Netanyahu said. “In our part of the world, no one makes alliances with the weak. In defending ourselves we create the basis for alliances and today, we are able to defend ourselves and ally with others to defend our common civilization against common threats.”

The prime minister said he would not reveal the content of his speech to Congress Tuesday, only its purpose, which is to speak out about an Iranian regime that threatens to destroy Israel, devours Middle East countries and exports terror to five continents.

Ya’alon: Attack on Iran still on the table - as last resort

Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that the option of attacking Iran is still on the table, but military action would the last resort. Speaking to the American TV network Al Hura Monday, Yaalon also said that the Gulf states see eye to eye with Israel on the Iranian nuclear threat. Israel would cooperate with any “necessary partners” in handling threats against it.

Kerry warns against “public discussion” of nuclear deal

US Secretary of State said Monday that the public discussion of details from the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran would make it more difficult to reach a deal that prevents the country from developing atomic weapons.
In comments to reporters in Geneva, Kerry said he was concerned about revelations in the “coming days.” He did not elaborate, but the warning was widely seen as aimed at deterring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who will address Congress Tuesday on the potential Iran deal.


Three Israelis indicted in large smuggling ring for Hamas

A long joint investigation of Israel Police, Shin Bet, the Israel Defense Forces, the Defense Ministry, and the Tax Authority has rolled up a 25-member smuggling ring to the Gaza Strip, charging three Israelis and a fourth man with assisting an enemy in time of war, terror financing, fraudulent receipt of an item under aggravated circumstances, money-laundering, tax offenses and other crimes. The defendants are accused of providing $30 million worth of raw materials, including large quantities of iron, directly to Hamas for the manufacture of rockets, missiles and the construction of terror tunnels, as well as generators, and electrical equipment.

The charges are related to five previous indictments against Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority.

Thousands of tons of smuggled goods were trucked into Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing which  the IDF keeps open for the passage of basic goods - even during last summer’s war operation.

They were addressed to the Hamas purchasing agent Osama Zuarov whom Israel has blacklisted as a trading connection. The Israelis brought before the Beersheba District court Monday were named as Mica Peretz.50 a businessman from Moshav Mictachim in the Eshkol District outside the Gaza Strip, Yehoram Alon of Tel Aviv, a Palestinian Nagi Zuareb of Shehade and a fourth businessman whose name was withheld by a gag order.

Iranian forces spearhead Iraqi military drive to recover Tikrit

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi Monday declared the start of the Salahuddin operation to capture the Sunni town of Tikrit from the Islamic State Sunday, during a visit to the government-held city of Samarra to the south where some thousands of troops and Shi'ite militia are assembled for the offensive.

The pace of their progress in Salahuddin is the key to US plans for a spring offensive to recapture Mosul from ISIS hands further north. DEBKAfile has reported that the US plan is likely to be delayed because the US training of Iraqi troops for the Mosul operation is slow and three Arab coalition members or extremely reluctant to take part.

White House itemizes Obama’ support for Israel in six years

The White House Sunday night continued its media ping-pong with the Netanyahu government ahead of his speech to Congress with a list headed “Five facts you need to known about Obama’s relations with Israel.”

  • President Obama has strengthened Israel's defense in concrete and unprecedented ways: 
    Expanded military aid of $20.5 bn p.a. From 2011 $1.3bn for developing Iron Dome. Joint military war games.
  • Under President Obama, the U.S. has led global efforts to defend Israel's legitimacy on the world stage: 
    In 2014, Obama blocked 18 anti-Israel UN motions, as well as casting vetoes to defeat condemnations at the UN Human Rights Council.
  • The President has strongly supported Israel in its quest for peace with its neighbors:
    Under his lead, Secretary of State John Kerry initiated an intensive, collaborative effort to facilitate negotiations for a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
    The President asked foremost military experts to help develop security arranges to ensure a two-state solution leaves Israel more secure, not less.
  • Under President Obama, the U.S. has a strong and robust commercial relationship with Israel:
    US exports to Israel rose in 2014 by 9.6 percent to $15.1 billion.
  • Under President Obama, the U.S. has invested millions in helping Israeli immigrants including refugees.

Netanyahu tries to head off Iran’s machinations after Obama empowers Tehran as favored Mid East ally

Almost the last words Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu heard Sunday, March 1, when he took off for Washington to address Congress on Iran was: “Don’t do it!” They came from a group of 180 ex-IDF military officers who tried to stop the speech lest it damage relations with the US. debkafile: Their protest should be addressed to the White House where, for six years, Barack Obama has eroded those relations.  Netanyahu’s speech is just a tardy attempt to check Iran’s malignant machinations which go forward without restraint. 

IDF central command conducts large-scale snap exercise

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott Sunday ordered the Central Command to conduct a snap exercise deploying the unusually large number of 13,000 troops plus security personnel of the Shin Bet and police. They were to act out scenarios that simulated a sudden outbreak of violent riots and abductions in the areas under their jurisdiction in Judea and Samaria. The IDF Spokesman said the exercise under the command of Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz was a test of IDF preparedness for swift responses to unforeseen events..

Rival Egyptian and Turkish rulers pay separate visits to Riyadh

Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi and Tayyip Erdogan, presidents of Egypt and Turkey, landed separately in Riyadh Sunday for talks with the new Saudi King Salman. Their arrival prompted rumors around Gulf capitals about Salman’s intention to bring the two rival rulers together to fom a possible Saudi-led Sunni bloc with Egypt and Turkey.  Sources in Cairo and Ankara denied these rumors. El Sisi is at daggers drawn with Erdogan over the latter’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood which is fighting to topple the Sisi regime. According to DEBKAfile’s sources, the Egyptian president will lobby the Saudi monarch for a new pan-Arab army to battle ISIS and Al Qaeda’s Arabian affiliate AQAP. Salman has good relations with the Turkish president,  unlike his predecessor King Abdullah. 

Netanyahu flies to the US Sunday for Iran speech to Congress

On the eve of his departure to Washington Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he respects President Barack Obama and has faith in the bonds between Israel and US, through which “we will overcome the disagreements we have and continue to have.” Speaking at the Kotel Saturday night, Netanyahu repeated that it was his responsibility to take care of Israel and vowed to fight a deal which “can threaten our existence.”
The prime minister’s Iran speech to a joint session of the US Congress takes place Tuesday, at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner without coordination with the White House.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration does not see Netanyahu’s visit as bad for the negotiations but added that he has “not presented an alternative” to current diplomacy.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the Israeli premier of seeking to "utilize a fabricated crisis to cover up realities in the region."
A group of bipartisan US senators Friday introduced a motion dubbed the "Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015" that would require the president to submit the text of any nuclear deal with Iran to Congress and ban the lifting of sanctions for 60 days to allow congressional hearings and debate.
Monday, before addressing Congress, the prime minister will speak to AIPAC’s annual policy conference in Washington. The US UN Ambassador Samantha Power and national security adviser Susan Rice will also address the conference.

Cairo court rules entire Hamas a terrorist organization

While Hamas' armed wing was previously branded a terrorist organization, Saturday's Egyptian court ruling was against the entire group on the basis of incriminating evidence of collaboration for terror between the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers and Al Qaeda-linked Sinai terrorists. Hamas condemned the verdict as “shocking and dangerous.” Recordings were presented to the court of Hamas leaders congratulating each other on the success of attacks they and Al Qaeda had conducted against the Egyptian army in northern Sinai
This Cairo court verdict ties in with President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi’s planned offensive against Islamist terrorists gathering within and around Egypt’s borders – in Libya and Gaza alike. He is considering air strikes for the Gaza Strip. Read the DEBKAfile report from earlier today.  

Egypt goes to war on ISIS, masses troops against Islamist Libyan stronghold at Darnah

Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi has massed his troops for all-out war on ISIS strongholds in Libya, the first Arab ruler to challenge Islamist terrorists in a fellow Arab country, debkafile reports. His initiative dramatizes the spillover of the Islamist State’s threat across the Middle East, and the ineffectiveness of the US-led anti-terror coalition’s efforts in Iraq and Syria. Egyptian commando and marine forces stand ready for imminent sea landings to seize Darnah and wipe out the Islamist militias, coupled with an air and ground campaign against their hideouts in Sinai.

A Single Iranian Nuke Could Kill a Million Israelis and Flatten Their Heartland

Binyamin Netanyahu is fighting against a nuclear-armed Iran because of its plan to desolate the Israeli heartland and drown a million Israelis by means of a tsunami triggered by a single nuclear bomb dropped in mid-Meterranean.

Putin Shakes His Fist at Obama: Arm Ukraine and I’ll Send Hi-Tech Weapons to Mid East

Putin is so fired up over the Ukraine dispute with the US and Europe that he is about to upgrade Mid East arsenals and scrap the last remnants of the INF pact that ended the Cold War.

Hurdles Beset Run-up to US-led Spring Offensive to Recover Mosul

The US can’t get its Mosul spring offensive against ISIS off the ground because Iraqi troops are not ready and the Kurds and Arab coalition members are holding back for taking part.

Obama and Salman have Little in Common outside Affinity for Muslim Brotherhood

Obama and Salman have little in common except for their shared affinity for the Muslim Brotherhood. The new king appears to prefer Turkey to Egypt as a close ally.

Mid East Shakeup Leaves Egypt and Israel Out on a Limb, Giving ISIS Benefits

Egypt and Israel are left out on a limb by the Saudi king Salman’s defection to supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and dialogue with Ankara, rather than helping Cairo to stand up to the new ISIS threat from next-door Libya and backing Egypt and Israel against Iran.

A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Weeks Ending Feb. 26, 2015

A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Weeks Ending Feb. 26, 2015

Alongside negotiations with the US on a nuclear deal, Iran practices destroying American Gulf vessels

“Wiping out the American Navy in the Persian Gulf in a few hours,” was the object of the Revolutionary Guards naval exercise Wednesday, Feb. 25, according to guidelines laid down by Adm. Ali Fadavi, head of the Revolutionary Guards Navy, in a secret document, to which debkafile’s sources gained access. A replica of a US aircraft carrier was targeted as the symbol of US might – and not for the first time. On April 27, 2014, debkafile revealed Iran was building a mock-up of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier for its war games last year too.

Israeli fighter jets stage warning passes against Syrian air force intruders over Golan. Air tension high

Israeli fighter jets flew passes over the Golan Monday, Feb. 23  as a warning to Syrian helicopters and fighter planes to stop encroaching on the no-fly zone, in violation of standing Israeli-Syrian armistice agreements, debkafile reports. The Syrian warplanes planes dropped barrel bombs on Syrian rebel forces holding Quneitra. Spotters counted at least 30 bombs dropped by helicopters under cover of Syrian air force jets. Their crews took no notice of the Israeli fighter jets and drones present. However, a repeat performance is unlikely to be tolerated.

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