In recent days, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the top echelons of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) dispatched threatening messages to Saudi Arabia’s rulers in response to the hundreds of Iranians killed in the stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia, which claimed the lives of over a thousand Hajj pilgrims. Khamenei, along with IRGC commanders and ideological camp leaders, were furious at the Saudi royal family, holding it responsible for the disaster and promising a “harsh and decisive” response if Saudi Arabia continued what they called its deliberate anti-Iran conduct. The daily Kayhan, which is close to Khamenei, even claimed that Saudi authorities had intentionally caused the stampede after it was planned by the Israeli Mossad. Continue reading
JERUSALEM — With Chuck Hagel scheduled to begin his first visit to Israel as secretary of defense on Sunday, Israeli defense and military officials issued explicit warnings this week that Israel was prepared and had the capability to carry out a lone military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke of dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat in an interview with the BBC broadcast on Thursday. Israel has “different vulnerabilities and different capabilities” from the United States, he said. “We have to make our own calculations, when we lose the capacity to defend ourselves by ourselves.” Continue reading
Fierce fighting has been reported between Syrian troops and rebel forces in the suburbs of the capital Damascus.
Witnesses say it is some of the most intense violence in the area since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began more than a year ago.
Reports from activists, which cannot be verified, say rebels clashed with Syria’s elite Republican Guard.
The violence came as Turkey issued a stark warning to its neighbour Syria over the downing of a jet last week.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told parliament that if Syrian troops approached Turkey’s borders, they would be seen as a military threat.
Correspondents say it is rare for fighting to take place near Republican Guard bases and suggests a growing confidence among the rebels.
The elite Republican Guard, commanded by President Bashar al-Assad’s younger brother Maher, is tasked with protecting the capital.
State TV confirmed the fighting but said dozens of “terrorists” had been killed and many others taken prisoner, including foreign fighters.
It said large numbers of armed rebels had moved into al-Hama and tried to take control of a main road to the west in order to bring in more arms and fighters.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP: “This is the first time that the regime has used artillery in fighting so close to the capital.
“This development is important because it’s the heaviest fighting in the area and close to the heart of the capital.”
Earlier, Mr Erdogan spoke of Turkey’s “rage” at Syria’s decision to shoot down the F-4 Phantom last Friday and described Syria as a “clear and present threat”.
“A short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack,” he said.
Full article: Syria crisis: Fierce fighting erupts near Damascus (BBC News)
US President Barack Obama, though widely expected to pursue direct action against Syrian ruler Bashar following the Houla atrocity, is preoccupied with what he regards as a greater threat to the world: a potential grab for the huge Syrian stock of chemical and biological weapons by Al Qaeda’s or other terrorist organizations. This is reported exclusively by debkafile’s Washington and intelligence sources.
The US president is trying to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to accept his new plan for the immediate assignment by the UN Security Council of 3,000 armed monitors to Syria to take charge of the six chemical and biological stores. Another 2,000 will join the team later.
To allay Putin’s suspicions of a trick to insert Western armed forces into Syria against Moscow’s will, Obama suggested that most of the monitors would be Russian or nationals of governments lining up with its support of the Assad regime.
Obama warned Putin that the jihadists have never been so close to getting hold of large quantities of such deadly unconventional weapons, especially now that the Syrian army’s 4th Division, commanded by Assad’s brother Maher, which guards those stores, is additionally assigned with suppressing the revolt and therefore inadequately manned for securing them.
If the Russian President buys his plan for 5,000 international monitors to take over the security assignment, Obama hopes he will also persuade Assad and even Tehran to accept it.
Early Thursday, May 31, the US president held a video-conference call on the subject with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, to brief them on his initiative and his talks with Putin.
The Russian president has not yet given Obama his answer, still suspecting an American ruse for placing Western troops inside Syria. Hence his spokesman’s statement Wednesday: “Russia is not considering changing its stance on Syria and any attempts to apply pressure on Moscow are hardly appropriate.”
Tehran, taking this to mean that Putin has not rejected Obama’s proposal, was put out enough for a forceful threat: “Western intervention in Syria would result in a regional upheaval that would undoubtedly engulf Israel,” said Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani. “It would spread to Palestine and ash rising from the flames would definitely engulf the Zionist regime…US military officials should be aware of their dangerous game.”
This was taken by sources in Washington as an Iranian threat to burn Israel if Obama’s plan to post 5,000 armed monitors in Syria goes through. Iranian sources told debkafile that the threat was aimed equally at deterring Putin from cooperating with it.
Full article: Exclusive: Obama weighs action to prevent Al Qaeda grabbing Syrian WMD (DEBKAfile)
“The threat is always there, so we closely monitor the nuclear program developments of many countries,” Army General Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the General Staff, told RT television.
“The analysis that we conducted together with the Americans confirms that, yes, there is a probability that the threat exists. And we agreed that it is necessary to create a missile defense system,” Makarov said.
Full article: Russian Military Admits Iran, North Korea Nuclear Threat Possibility (Eurasia Review)