DEBKAfile 2.14.14 – Briefs on Israel, Iran & Mideast Developments 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.



From the DEBKAfile:

February 7

US diplomats walk out of Tunis ceremony over Iranian insults

US diplomats on Friday walked out of the ceremony to celebrate Tunisia’s new Constitution after Iran’s representative, Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, accused the United States and Israel of “trying to render the (Arab) revolutions sterile so that Israel can benefit.”


Obama may be in two minds over Kerry’s Israeli-Palestinian peace mission

The give-and-take over an Israeli-Palestinian accord, doggedly kept afloat by US Secretary of State John Kerry, is resolving itself into a complex personal dynamic: Israel’s A-team – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon – are not of one mind on the issues; Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s popular base is infamously narrow and flimsy. And John Kerry, too, needs to overcome reservations in President Obama’s White House team to obtain his blessing for an accord. He is not entirely sure he will get it.Ya’alon is a holdout. However, Lieberman’s defense of the Secretary of State’s views was welcomed by the State Department as “very important to the peace process, given his background on these issues and where his view was.” Friday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s said: “Kerry is a true friend of Israel. I don’t see the point of turning friends into foes. Kerry is leading the process correctly,” Lieberman added. Lieberman’s change of heart may be attributed to his political ambition and desire to attract and lead a strong centrist camp.

February 8

First Iranian warships head for US Atlantic borders

The commander of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet, Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, said Saturday that several warships – the destroyer Sabalan and logistic helicopter carrier Khark – have begun their journey to the Atlantic Ocean near US maritime waters for the first time. They carry a message, he said: “Tehran is responding to US naval deployments near its own coastlines.” He was referring to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet based in Bahrain.The announcement coincided with the tough demands raised by a team of UN watchdog monitors visiting Tehran to open up Iranian’s military-related nuclear facilities, such as the Parchin base.

Khamenei reverts to anti-American abuse

Iran’s Supreme Leader said Saturday: “American officials tell our authorities at talks that they are not after regime change in Iran. They are lying because they won’t hesitate a moment if they had the ability to do so,” he said.US concerned by American-citizen fighters returning home from Syria

The civil war in Syria has become a matter of US homeland security over concerns that “a small number of Americans” have gone to fight with Syrian rebels and returned home,” the new US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Friday. The estimated 7,000 foreigners from 50 countries fighting in the bloody war include those from the United States, Canada and Europe, he said.


February 9


Russian anti-terror drive leaves 10 dead around Sochi

be Islamist terrorists on their home ground or hideouts in Dagestan, Chechnya, Kirgizstan and Kabardino Balkaria, casting a wide safety [ring] around the Winter Olympic Games which opened in Sochi Friday, Feb. 7. Seven terrorists were killed in Russian operations.This safety net has been spread across the Caucasus and France, Austria and Germany, with special focus on suspected female suicide terrorists. This preventive offensive must be sustained at top pitch until the Feb. 23 closing ceremony, which is believed to be a special target for suicide bombers. French police last week detained an unknown number of Chechen women at La Roche-sur-Yon and Strasbourg. In Austria and Germany, our sources report at least 10 terror suspects taken into custody, most of them females. The authorities there are keeping this closely secret.

February 10

Rouhani: Iran test-launches two long-range missiles

The day after being taken to task for cancelling a missile exercise, President Hassan Rouhani disclosed successful launches of two long-range ballistic missiles. One was said to have radar-evading capabilities; the second laser-guided and could be fired from the ground or from aircraft. Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi also revealed a new generation of extra-powerful centrifuges that are 15 to 16 times more powerful than the older types. Iran will therefore lose nothing by diplomacy with the six powers.

Iran spreads its war wings: Hizballah deepens role in Syria. Israel,
Syria, Lebanon declared “regions of conflict” 

In a policy makeover, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has decided to seal off in a separate policy
compartment Iran’s nuclear diplomatic tactics for obtaining sanctions relief – and for dominating the Syrian war negotiations and Iran’s pursuit of its regional goals, in another box. Alongside diplomacy, Al Quds Brigades chief Qassem Soleimani will execute Iran’s drive to expand its regional interventions, Hizballah is already deepening its role in the Syrian civil war, while Lebanon, Syria and Israel are targeted by Tehran as “areas of conflict.”

February 11

Iran’s Rev. Guards chief calls US military option “ludicrous” – USA can’t do ‘damn thing’

Revolutionary Guards chief Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari dismissed the viability of an US military option against Iran as ludicrous. Addressing the “Death to USA Grand Prize” ceremony in Tehran, he added that Iranian military and security commanders are not bluffing about the country’s military capability, concluding that “Americans really cannot do a damn thing.” 


Obama-Hollande talks to cover Iran, Syria, Lebanon, al Qaeda in Africa

Visiting French President Francois Hollande was accorded exceptional honors by his host Barack Obama on arrival for his two-day state visit to Washington. Their talks covered areas where the two leaders are in accord: efforts to resolve nuclear concerns in Iran, ending the civil war in Syria, and fighting al Qaeda incursions in Africa.

Washington asks Netanyahu to hold back from answering Iranian threats

Iran’s leaders celebrated the 35th anniversary of their Islamic revolution Tuesday, Feb.11, with a torrent of hate rhetoric and threats surpassing even the crudely belligerent language used by former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.As his audience burned US and Israeli flags and stamped on placards depicting President Obama, President Hassan Rouhani mocked America’s military option, while Khamenei called for Israel’s extermination as a “cancerous growth” in the Middle East. Yet Barack Obama opted not to react and persuaded Prime Minister Netanyahu follow his lead.

Netanyahu accepts Kerry’s “framework” in principle Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has informed Washington of his acceptance in principle of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework document – subject to reservations raised with US Special Envoy Martin Indyk. A high-ranking US official told DEBKAfile: “We all know the die is cast in Jerusalem and Netanyahu has accepted Kerry’s guidelines. They are now working on the reservations he needs to submit [in order] for his government coalition to survive the expected storm of protest and resistance and for the talks with the Palestinians to carry on.”

February 12

March 3 set for Netanyahu White House visit

The White House announced that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet President Barack Obama on March 3. They will discuss progress in negotiations with the Palestinians, the Iranian nuclear question and other regional issues. That meeting signifies that the prime minister has decided to accept the US Secretary of State John Kerry’s line on the peace talks ongoing with the Palestinians.

Iran’s top soldier joins chorus of war threats

Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces General Hassan Firouzabadi said Wednesday that Iran is ready for the “decisive battle” against the US and the Zionist regime. “We warn them that if an attack is launched on our troops from any territory, we will invade all the enemy’s possessions,” he reiterated.

Egypt’s Gen. El-Sisi in Moscow to sign $2 bn arms deal – Saudi finances 

Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi arrived in Moscow Wednesday for a two-day visit during which he will sign a large arms transaction worth $2 bn, financed by Saudi Arabia – confirming DEBKAfile reporting in recent weeks. The package will include new Russian warplanes and missiles.


February 13

Putin backs El-Sisi’s bid for Egyptian presidency

Although the Egyptian strongman Gen. Abdul-Fattah El-Sisi has not officially announced his run for the presidency, Russian President Vladimir greeted him warmly in Moscow Wednesday, saying: “I know that you, mister defense minister, have decided to run for president of Egypt. I wish you luck.”