Iran can produce a nuclear weapon in just over a year and diplomatic efforts have just less than that to halt Iran’s drive to the bomb, US President Barack Obama said Thursday, intimating that should diplomatic efforts fail this year or early next year, America will be forced to carry out military action against Iran.
Contrary to statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the moment of truth concerning Iran’s nuclear program was spring 2013, Obama said that the US estimates that Iran can produce a bomb only in about a year given its current rate of progress.
“There is a window, not an infinite period of time, a window of time where we can resolve this diplomatically,” Obama said. ”Right now we think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but we obviously don’t want to cut it too close.” Continue reading
Russia’s UN Ambasador Vitaly Churkin then spoke of “a very new and dangerous phenomenon” of armed groups operating in the Golan area of separation. “It’s something which potentially can undermine security between Syria and Israel,” said Churkin, who is acting Security Council president for March. He pointed out that the UN peacekeeping force is unarmed and unable to cope with this new situation. Israel and Syria are technically in a state of war.
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources note that the exchange of warnings between Israel and Russia touched two sensitive nerves:
1. It occurred the day before definitive talks open in Moscow between the Syrian government and opposition. The Russians fear Israel might embark on military action in response to the round of shells fired from the Syrian Golan Saturday, and force a delay in the talks. The last time this happened, in late January, Israel reacted with a cross-border attack on Syrian military installations.
2. Saturday, too, debkafile exposed the no-man’s lands unfolding along Syria’s borderlands with Israel and Jordan following the withdrawal of the bulk of Syrian forces from these areas. Moscow fears additionally that Israel’s armed forces will seize strategic points in the abandoned territory to clear out armed bands of the pro-al Qaeda Jabhat al Nusra, which are believed responsible for the latest round of shelling into the Israeli Golan.
Full article: Russia and Israel each warn trouble building up on Golan border (DEBKAfile)
LONDON: Israel is preparing for a ground attack on Iran before Christmas, after conducting commando dry runs in the Iraq desert, a media report said.
Israeli leaders have reportedly made it clear they are ready to launch military action alone – if the US does not help.
Late October or early November have been identified by intelligence analysts as a likely time because of the US elections on Nov 6.
“We know the Israelis have been active in the Iraq desert, it would appear preparing forward bases for a ground assault. Bombing Iranian nuclear installations will most likely be a part of their plan, but the only way to confirm they have destroyed what they need to is to put boots on the ground,” an unnamed British official was quoted as saying.
An “anonymous senior Israeli politician” — believed to be defence minister Ehud Barak — made it clear to The Sun that Israel had already decided to act alone.
“We can’t wait to find out one morning that we relied on the Americans but were fooled because the Americans didn’t act. Israel is strong and Israel is responsible, and will do what it has to do,” the minister said.
Full article: Israel preparing to attack Iran: Report (The Times of India)
Should this be confirmed, be ready to possibly hear that all hell is breaking loose in the middle east (and possibly on the homeland) as described in a previous post — and soon.
Unconfirmed first reports from British, French and Turkish sources say British special operations forces crossed from Turkey into northern Syria Tuesday, May 26, and advanced up to 10 kilometers inside the country. The same sources report heavy fighting around the Presidential Guards compound on the outskirts of Damascus.
debkafile’s military sources note that this compound exists to defend Bashar Assad’s presidential palace on Mount Qaisoun overlooking Damascus.
British and Gulf TV stations are again running interviews with dozens of Syrian soldiers taken prisoner by rebel forces and transferred to Free Syrian Army centers in South Turkey. But this time, they are being aired in conjunction with those two developments, indicating pivotal and coordinated military action inside the embattled country, or even the start of western intervention against the Assad regime. Later Tuesday, Gulf military sources confirmed the presence of British special forces in Syria.
Our military sources estimate that the British military drive into Syria, if confirmed, is designed to establish the first safe zone along the Syrian-Turkish border, to be followed by more Western military incursions to establish additional zones of safe asylum in other parts of Syria.
This follow-up action would depend substantially on Syrian, Russian and Iranian (+ Hizballah) responses to the initial stage of the operation.
The reported British incursion, if confirmed, occurred at the tail end of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 24-hour visit to Israel Tuesday morning and would have posed a direct challenge to his repeated warning that Moscow would not tolerate Western military intervention in Syria and actively prevent it. Similar warnings have issued from Tehran.
As for the timing, the double military drive against Assad also occurred hours before a NATO “consultation” in Brussels on the shooting down of a Turkish warplane by Syria last Friday, June 22, which Ankara stated Monday “must not go unpunished.”
The two-pronged operation – the reported British incursion and major clash at the front door of Assad’s presidential palace – would appear to be designed to widen the cracks in his regime and speed its final breakup.
Full article: British forces in Syria, Assad presidential compound said under attack (DEBKAfile)
There are unmistakable signs coming out of Iran that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei is laying the groundwork for a possible deal with the United States. This shift began in February, when Khamenei reaffirmedhis opposition to nuclear weapons on both religious and strategic grounds. The following month, Khamenei praisedPresident Barack Obama’s “good and wise statement” at AIPAC that time for diplomacy still existed, conveniently ignoring that the U.S. leader had also indicated his willingness to undertake military action if necessary. As negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 got underway, Khamenei’s appointees in the clergy, judiciary, and media all sounded a note of optimism. It’s now being reported that Iran is willing to limit the scope of its uranium enrichment.
Most have speculated that Khamenei’s sudden willingness to compromise is the result of his desire to avoid the looming sanctions against Iran’s oil exports. Although there may be some truth to this, at least as important is surely Khamenei’s recent consolidation of power at home. By purging his political competitors, the Supreme Leader has eliminated a significant source of his past opposition to a deal – his fear that his internal opponents would most benefit from it.
The aging Khamenei is also likely thinking of his legacy. Whereas Imam Khomeini is revered for toppling the Shah, creating the Islamic Republic system, and repelling Saddam Hussein’s invasion in 1980, Khamenei’s tenure as Supreme Leader has been rather forgettable. While curbing some of the excesses of the Khomeini era, social and political rights remain restricted, the economy underperforms, and Iran is viewed with suspicion if not hostility abroad. As it stands today, Khamenei’s tenure as Supreme Leader is easily forgotten. By achieving a rapprochement with the United States, Khamenei would ensure himself an eternal spot in Iranian history.
Full article: Khamenei Preparing for a Deal? (The Diplomat)
Convinced that the Syrian ruler would never allow himself to be pushed into accepting UN intervention, the Americans continue to keep limited military intervention on the table.
They will let it simmer there until the Six-Power nuclear talks with Iran beginning Saturday, April 14, in Istanbul are well under way, so as not to give Tehran pretexts for toughening its bargaining position or pulling out of the negotiations.
Turkey too is moving closer than ever before to real military action, not just empty words. Armed Turkish assault helicopters flew Tuesday over the Syrian border. They were there to warn Damascus that if Syrian soldiers again fired across the border into Syrian refugee camps as they did Monday, April 9, they would be targeted by the Turkish gunships.
Sources in Ankara reminded local and Arab media of the existence of the mutual defense cooperation pact known as the “Adana agreement” which Turkey and Syria concluded in 1998.
Article 1 states that “Syria, on the basis of the principle of reciprocity, will not permit any activity that emanates from its territory aimed at jeopardizing the security and stability of Turkey.”
Under this article, Ankara feels Turkish military intervention in Syria is legitimate. This reminder was offered the media, our military sources confirm, to provide the legal grounding for a potential Turkish military move across its border into Syria.
Full article: US weighs limited military action against Assad. Turkey may join (DEBKAfile)
It should be no secret that the Saudis are both fed up with the Obama administration and seek an end to the Iranian regime. They have even threatened to go nuclear should Iran be allowed to continue its nuclear program.
Hardly a day goes by without the Obama administration pointing out in some US media outlet the futility, wrongheadedness, hazards, superfluity etc. of Israel military action for pre-empting a nuclear Iran. The public has been informed, for instance, that it would only set Iran’s program back by a year, and that the ayatollahs have put their nuclear bomb program on hold. So what’s the hurry?
But about the equally strenuous White House effort to hold Saudi Arabia back from attacking Syria as well as Iran – hardly a word sees the light of day.
The fuss and pother about Israel’s intentions distract attention from the very real fears in Washington about the Saudi royal family’s plans for military action against Iran and its allies, Syria and Hizballah, and Riyadh’s efforts to draw the heads of the Gulf oil emirates into the action.
Riyadh puts no trust in the sanctions and embargo Washington and its Western allies have put in place to curb Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Instead, they see sanctions becoming a boon for Tehran
Tuesday, March 20, oil fell by only 1 percent after the Saudis announced their most detailed steps yet to make good on any shortfalls generated by the embargo on Iranian oil and the cutoff from March 17 of Iran’s banks from transactions through the Belgian-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), which facilitates most of the world’s bank transfers.
Money in Iran’s pocket from sanctions-boosting oil prices
Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi announced the kingdom was pumping 9.9 million barrels per day – the highest level in decades – and was willing to turn the taps up to a maximum capacity of 12.5 million bpd to meet its customers’ every request.
Iraq, too, added 30,000 barrels per day to its production of 2.1 million bpd.
But these steps failed to reverse the upward price trend.
And the sanctions’ deleterious impact on Tehran was offset by profits from skyrocketing oil prices: Not only were the extra costs of circuitous trade routes covered, but the declining value of the Iranian rial flattened.
“We are ready and willing to put more oil on the market, but you need a buyer,” Al-Naimi said bitterly, aware that no matter how much more oil Saudi Arabia may pump, Tehran is still ahead of the sanctions game. Only if China, Japan and India can be persuaded to line up behind the Obama administration and make genuine cutbacks in their oil purchases from Iran, would the topped-up Saudi oil production come into play.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in the Gulf report that the Saudis suspect the Obama administration of publicly talking up the latest round of sanctions (Barack Obama: “We’ve applied the toughest sanctions ever on Iran”), while assuring Tehran in quiet talks (See the item in this issue about secret US-Iranian talks), that, so long as they keep the dialogue going, sanctions will put Iran in the black.
US stalls British-Saudi arms sales
This week, US acted to stymie Saudi operations in two key arenas:
1. Iran was the first: They suspect the White House of ordering US International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) to stall the sale of British precision-guided Paveway IV bombs developed by Raytheon UK, a weapon that would enable Saudi Arabia to attack key Iranian Persian Gulf sites, such as its naval bases on the Sirri, Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb islands around the strategic Strait of Hormuz, and strategic locations on Iran’s Persian Gulf coast.
The Saudis believe the US administration is deliberately keeping those assault weapons out of their hands to frustrate a potential attack on Iran.
They had pinned their hopes on British Prime Minister David Cameron interceding on their behalf with President Barack Obama during his visit to Washington in mid-March and getting the weapons released to Riyadh.
But the bonhomie and shared jokes aside, Cameron made no headway in budging the US president from his opposition to the sale, although British interests are also at stake. The sale to Saudi Arabia of 72 Eurofighter Typhoons delivered by BAE Systems (the combination of British Aerospace and Marconi Electronic Systems), is still up in the air because without the precision-guided bombs, those bomber jets are not much use to the Saudis.
Washington stops Jordan allowing Saudi troops transit to Syria
2. The Obama administration is firing every stratagem in its quiver to hold Saudi Arabia back from military intervention in the Syria crisis.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in the Persian Gulf disclose exclusively that, two weeks ago, SaudiKing Abdullah secretly asked Jordan’sKing Abdullah for permission to send Saudi military forces into Syria by way of the Hashemite Kingdom.
Senior Saudi princes, including Saudi Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, had already been in touch with their Jordanian counterparts to discuss detailed plans which designated the routes Saudi forces would take, the Jordanian bases they would use and the Saudi Air Force’s tactics for covering the advancing Saudi troops and shielding the Kingdom of Jordan against potential Syrian air force action.
The Saudis plan to send troops in to the Syrian Druze Mountains and Horan regions for setting up safe havens to protect the beleaguered civilian population from Syrian military and security forces.
On March 15, Prince Salman attended a military parade on the grounds of the Eighth King Fahd Brigade in Tabuk in northern Saudia near the Jordanian border.
It was attended by a high-powered lineup: Chief of Staff Gen. Hussein Al-Qubail, Gen. Abdul Rahman Al-Binyan, Director General of the Prime Minister’s office, Gen. Prince Khaled bin Bandar, commander of Land Forces, and Maj. Gen. Eid Al-Shalawi, Commander of the Northern Region.
The parade of military prowess and resolve was mean to impress on Jordan that the Saudis were serious about getting a force into Syria through its territory.
The two Abdullahs in deep discord
This Saudi plan was soon nipped in the bud.
Riyadh was informed that US officials had warned the Jordanian monarch against acceding to the Saudi request. Stuck in an impasse, the Hashemite king stopped answering insistent Saudi calls for clarifications.
Seeing their plans for intervention in Syria in ruins, the Saudis decided to get their own back.
In an unprecedented move against a fellow Arab ruler, they arranged for an Arab diplomat, who remained anonymous, to inform the Omani Gulf News agency that Saudi arms were being pumped to the anti-Assad Syrian rebels and the first shipment was on its way to destination through Jordan.
By spilling the beans about Jordan’s clandestine role in this traffic, Riyadh exposed the kingdom to Syrian punitive action.
This maneuver brought the Jordanian king hurrying over to Riyadh for a secret visit.
Our sources report that when he tried explaining to the Saudi king that if Assad was toppled his successors would be worse, he was brusquely brushed aside. Saudi King Abdullah, who is twice the age of the Hashemite royal, reproved him sharply and told him it was time to make up his mind on which side he was in the Middle East.
The two kings Abdullah parted in deep discord.
Saudis are gunning for the US and Turkey
As for Syria, Bashar Assad will have understood by now that Riyadh is rolling up its sleeves for military action against him as soon as a way can be found. Four complications are unfolding:
First: The disclosure that weapon shipments to anti-Assad rebels were passing through Jordan has revived the Saudi pledge of a military and air shield for the Hashemite Kingdom against Syrian aggression. This may lead to military and aerial clashes between Syria and Saudi Arabia on Jordanian soil very near the sensitive junction of Jordanian, Lebanese and Israeli borders.
With this eventuality in mind, Riyadh is reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources to have selected the Druze Mountains and Horan region as potential safe havens for persecuted Syrians.
Second: Saudi-US relations are in sharp decline: Riyadh’s Syrian initiative is an act of protest against Washington’s decision to refrain from military intervention to stop Assad’s brutal suppression of the revolt in Syria – even after at least 8,000 Syrian civilian deaths.
The encounter three weeks ago in Tunis between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, ended with Faisal angrily stalking out with words to the effect of: if you don’t take action against Bashar Assad, we will.
The Saudis fully intend now to make good on that threat.
Third: The Saudis are gunning for Turkey. They intend to show up Ankara’s toothlessness in the fight against Assad in contrast to its leaders’ high rhetoric about their prowess as a Middle East Muslim superpower.
Most of all, they can’t abide Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s pretensions as go-between for the back-channel dialogue the Obama administration is conducting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (See a separate item in this issue.)
Fourth: Riyadh finds it essential to counteract Iran’s airlift of arms and equipment into Syria through Iraqi airspace. The Saudis refuse to stand by idly while Iran enhances its position in Syria and Iraq.
Full article: Obama Holds Saudis Back from Striking Iran – and Syria Too (DEBKAfile)
Should any hostile nation in the region or their respective terrorist proxies (Hezbollah/Hamas) go beyond conventional warfare and use chemical or biological weapons that could result in depopulating entire cities, they will have crossed the line drawn in the sand of warfare. For those that pay heed to Bible prophecy, one must also consider a nuclear strike on Syria as well, in particular the city of Damascus. Isaiah 17:1 underscores this point.
No private citizen is truly in a position to judge the rationality and the intentions of a government such as is now in control of Iran. The opacity of lines of responsibility and decision making processes in Iran make such a judgment properly within the purview of national intelligence organizations of the various sovereign governments. With that said, the public statements of the Iranian leadership lead me to believe that they will not be diverted from their goal of achieving nuclear weapons. The same public statements also do not engender much confidence in the rationality or judgment of Iran’s leadership.
The history of the Israeli state and its location in a sea of enemies has in an almost unique way trained the leaders of Israel to think the unthinkable. If Israel determines the Iranian nuclear program is in fact a threat to its very existence, then it will strike, and strike in such a manner as to be successful. This will require nuclear weapons. If Israel determines it can live with Iran as a nuclear state, then expect there to be no overt military action but a continuing series of low-level sabotage and covert intelligence actions.
Full article: Israel and Iran: Everyone Is Asking the Wrong Question (Foreign Policy Research Institute)
Russia has been preparing for the prospect of an Israeli or U.S. air strike on Iran in 2012.
Officials said the Kremlin has ordered the military to draft options for a Russian response to any foreign attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. They said the Defense Ministry has established a facility to monitor Teheran, an ally and trading partner of Moscow.
Full article: Russian military drafts options for responding to attack on Iran (World Tribune)