DEBKAfile 1.31.14: Briefs on Israel, Iran & Mid-East Issues sifts through weekly dispatches, recaps the items related to Middle East developments that may be of interest to readers. Articles are from an Israeli perspective, but in most cases are objectively written. Israel lives in a tough neighborhood and these items reflect that tension. The long reach of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard  (IRG) often results in that country’s fingerprints on much of the mayhem. Iran does that through proxy militias that it establishes, funds, trains and occasionally participates with – yet often denies such involvement.


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From the DEBKAfile:

January   24, 2014Netanyahu meets Kerry, says no   Jordan Valley settlements will go

Prime Minister Binyamin     Netanyahu said his 90-minute meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry     went well. Israel, he said, had no intention of evacuating any Israeli     settlements from the Jordan Valley or uprooting any Israelis who live     there. He said he isn’t ignoring the spreading boycott against Israel but     economic pressure will not advance the peace process, only harden     Palestinian rejection.

 Abbas turns to Moscow, dumps US-led   peacemaking
          Palestinian Authority Chairman   Mahmoud Abbas launched his “diplomatic intifada” against Israel and   exit from the Kerry peace initiative Thursday, Jan. 23, from Moscow. His   talks with Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev marked his breakaway from the   peace track with Israel, four months before it was due to expire, and   signaled his bid to replace it with Russian backing for a Palestinian state.   Abbas’s defection caught both Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime   Minister Binyamin – and their intelligence agencies – napping.

January 25, 2014

Iran: No need for nuclear watchdog office of Tehran

“Considering the volume of   nuclear activities in the country, there is no need for a nuclear watchdog   office in Iran,” said Tehran’s delegate at IAEA headquarters in Vienna.   This refuted President Obama’s earlier assurance that the interim accord   guaranteed daily UN inspections.

Palestinians sign bilateral accords with Russia in breach of deals with Israel

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and   Palestinian Authority foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki signed in Moscow   Friday bilateral agreements, including cooperation in customs, police and   health, as part of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s four-day official visit to   Russia and talks with President Vladimir Putin. Those agreements conflict   with accords in force between the Palestinians and Israel on the same fields.

Israel re-evaluates Syrian war neutrality over al Qaeda 30,000-strong buildup
            In a special briefing to foreign correspondents Friday, Jan. 24, a high-ranking Israeli intelligence officer, reported that Israel is rethinking its strategy of neutrality in the Syrian civil war following the buildup of more than 30,000 al Qaeda-linked fighters there. Many are massed closed to its borders and openly threaten to turn their sights on Israel after toppling Assad.

January 26, 2014

Netanyahu believes Jewish settlers should stay in Palestinian state

An official in the Israeli prime   minister’s office said Sunday Binyamin Netanyahu believes Jewish settlers   should have the option of staying in a future Palestinian state. In Davos, he   told the World Economic Forum Saturday that he did not intend to uproot any   Israelis in a peace deal. The prime minister sees no reason a Palestinian   state should be “ethnically cleansed.”

Secret Iranian team in Beirut to counter suicide attacks, upgrade Hizballah intelligence 

Iran has undertaken to urgently rebuild Hizballah’s intelligence and security mechanisms following the ravages inflicted by suicide attacks on its strongholds in Beirut and the Beqaa valley since joining the Syrian war. An Iranian Al Qods-Ministry of Intelligence team assigned to the task arrived in Beirut last week. A top-level Iranian-Hizballah conference concluded that the Lebanese group’s security and intelligence can’t take much more battering without folding. The Iranians will also build a new field intelligence arm for Hizballah’s fighting units in Syria.

January 27, 2014

US warns Erdogan against violating sanctions in Tehran visit

Monday, the day before Prime   Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Tehran, he was warned by David Cohen,   Undersecretary for Terrorism of the US Treasury Department, that “Iran   is not open for business. Sanctions remain in place and … businesses that   are interested in engaging with Iran really should hold off.”

US Senate panel approves Apaches sale to Iraq

The Senate Foreign Relations   Committee has approved the sale of 24 Apache helicopters to Iraq after   receiving assurances from Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki that their use would   be restricted to fighting al-Qaida terrorists and not crackdowns against the   opposition.

West Bank 2013 terror attacks more than double 2012 figure

The Shin Bet General Security   Service report just released shows a rise in Palestinian terrorist attacks in   Judea and Samaria in 2013: 1,271 – compared with 578 in 2012. Six Israelis   were killed on the West Bank as opposed to 10 fatalities from terrorist   attacks in 2012 – all in Israel. Half were stabbed to death, two killed by   snipers and one, the soldier Tomer Hazan, was kidnapped and strangled. Most   attacks took place in the last quarter of 2013.

January 28, 2014

Abbas aide Jibril Rajoub on official visit to Tehran

Arriving in Tehran Monday night,   Jibril Rajib, prominent Fatah official and aide to Palestinian leader Mahmoud   Abbas, was received at the Iranian Foreign Ministry, where they discussed a   range of Middle East topics “especially regarding the Palestinian issue.”   This is the first time in many years that an associate of Palestinian  Authority official from Ramallah has been received in Tehran.

US and Israeli buffer zones under Syrian rebel control designed to contain al Qaeda advances
The Obama administration announced Tuesday, Jan. 28, the supply to selected Syrian rebel militias of American light weapons including anti-tank – but not anti-air – rockets. And Friday, Jan. 24, an IDF intelligence officer revealed Israel was “rethinking” its Syria neutrality policy, in view of the 30,000 al Qaeda fighters massed on its Syrian border. These disclosures amount to a shift in US and Israeli non-intervention policies in Syria. It leads to a plan for two security buffers in southern Syria to block Al Qaeda’s path to the Israel and Jordanian borders.

January 29, 2014

Obama would veto new congressional sanctions bill on Iran

US President Barack Obama warned that   he would veto any new sanctions bill passed by Congress against Iran.   International negotiations on preventing Iran from developing a nuclear   weapon “will be difficult and they may not succeed,” he said in his   State of the Union Address. But “For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.”

Netanyahu, Israel bracing for Kerry’s framework plan on settlements
            US Ambassador Dan Shapiro denied that the framework document Secretary John Kerry was about to present was an “American document” as Netanyahu claimed, stressing that it reflected Israeli-Palestinian points of agreement. The prime minister faces a rising tide of criticism within his government and party when word that he is willing to give up Arab suburbs of Jerusalem to a Palestinian state gets out.

January 30, 2014

The Geneva-2 conference on Syria breaks up

The conference called for a   political solution of the Syrian conflict wound up Thursday without results.   The warring Syrian government and opposition delegations agreed to observe   one minute’s silence together in honor of the war dead of both sides, but   nothing else. They went their separate ways without a date for another conference.

Saudi Arabia grants Egypt another $5.8 billion in aid

The new $5.8 billion grant was   extended by Riyadh Thursday, on top of the $14 already transferred to Cairo,   to stabilize the Egyptian economy and bolster Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s run   for president. Part of the grant will be transferred in cash to Egypt’s   central bank and part in oil products to cover a shortage.

January 31, 2014

Al Qaeda gains easy access to   Europe from new Turkish bases
Israel’s Military Intelligence   chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi revealed the locations of three new al Qaeda   training bases in Turkey and their proximity to S. Europe with unusual   precision, as an illustration for the Obama administration of the deleterious   impact of the US detente with Iran on the Middle East and fellow-NATO   members. Iran, which is in the process of forging a new alliance with Turkey,   also has a history of hosting al Qaeda and then setting its terrorists loose   to strike targets designated by Tehran, like Saudi Arabia.