Saturday, January 26, 2013

Syrian - Iran theatre news......Assad attack against Syrian rebels delayed due to mysterious explosion at Syrian regional intel headquarters..... This follows on the reported sabotage attack at Fordow on Monday......winds of war fanned by various quarters.....
( Donor fatigue setting in ? )

UN in funding call as Syria conflict rages

United Nations says will have to cut food ration supplies unless fresh funding found, as battles continue in civil war.
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2013 22:57
The UN will seek more than $1.5 billion in new cash pledges for Syrians at an upcoming donors conference [EPA]
As fighting continues in Syria's civil war, the United Nations has said that it will be forced to cut already reduced food rations to hundreds of thousands of refugees unless a huge cash injection is found.
On Monday, anti-government activists said that government forces battled rebels in several towns and villages around Damascus, including Daraya, Arbeen and Zabadani.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), an anti-government activist group, said the government forces also shelled several of the capital's suburbs.
The areas outside Damascus have been rebel strongholds since the uprising began in March 2011. In recent months, the rebels have used them as a base from which they have been trying to push into central Damascus, the seat of President Bashar al-Assad's power.
In the north, troops clashed with rebels in al-Hasaka province along Syria's border with Turkey, the Observatory said, adding that at least 10 rebels were killed in the fighting that erupted Sunday after the opposition fighters attacked a government checkpoint.
Food ration shortages
At the United Nations, meanwhile, John Ging, the director of the UN's humanitarian operations, said that UN agencies had already cut the nutritional value of rations by half in the past two months, due to funding shortages.
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria
"We are putting it squarely to the donors, more cuts are likely," Ging told reporters ahead of a donors conference in Kuwait on Wednesday.
About four million Syrians rely on international assistance to cope with fallout from the 22-month old conflict in which the UN estimates more than 60,000 people have died. Many of them get daily food rations.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN's secretary-general, will seek more than $1.5 billion in new cash pledges at the donors conference. About $500 million is needed for operations in Syria and the rest for more than 650,000 refugees in countries around Syria.
Ging said that Syrians are now "desperate."
'Weapons and more weapons'
In Paris, the Syrian opposition on Monday appealed for $500 million to step up their revolt against President Assad.
At an international meeting, the main opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) said it needs the funds to set up an alternative government.
"With a state and a society collapsing, it is the Islamist groups that could gain ground if we do not do what we have to do," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, warned the meeting.
"This conference has to send a clear signal, [that] it has one concrete objective: give the Syrian National Coalition the means to act."
George Sabra, head of the SNC, the main body in the opposition coalition, said Assad's opponents were desperately in need of cash and arms.
"We need a minimum of $500 million to be able to establish a government," he said. "And we need weapons, weapons and more weapons."
Arab and Western "Friends of Syria" agreed in December to provide a total of $145 million of support for the opposition, two-thirds of it from Saudi Arabia, but the money has yet to be delivered.
Assad, meanwhile, said his troops have gained the upper hand against rebels in the conflict and could win in "two weeks" should Turkey stop its support for rebels, a Lebanese newspaper reported.
"The army has a very large lead on the ground and has achieved significant gains," Al-Akhbar quoted him as saying. "If the Turkish border was closed to tackle the smuggling of arms and militants, this matter would be resolved in only two weeks."


Iran actively weighs Syrian-Israeli clash. Iron Dome posted in N. Israel

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 27, 2013, 6:38 PM (GMT+02:00)
Tags:  Iran   Israel   Syrian war   chemical weapons   Hizballah   Binyamin Netanyahu   Iron Dome 
Free Syrian Army displays used ordnance
Free Syrian Army displays used ordnance

Tehran is looking seriously at a limited Syrian-Lebanese clash of arms with Israel – possibly using Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons as a trigger,DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources disclose.  Reacting to this news, Israel announced Sunday, Jan. 27, the deployment of Iron Dome anti-missile batteries some days ago to reinforce security in northern Israel and the key Haifa port. 
The Iranians see three strategic benefits in embroiling Israel in a limited war with its two allies, Syria and Hizballah:
1.  A new outbreak of armed violence would direct world attention away from the Syrian civil war:
2.   Israel would be sidetracked from a possible strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities – even a “surgical operation” such as Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke of over the weekend – by being thrown into multiple battles with Iranian forces in Syria and Lebanon, the Shiite Hizballah and the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihadi in the Gaza Strip.
The clash would be programmed to end without winners or losers like Israel’s war against Hizballah in 2006 and its two anti-terror operations the Gaza Strip in 2009 and 2012. But meanwhile Israel would have its hands too full with threats on three borders to pursue military action against a nuclear Iran.
3. Tehran would buy another year’s delay for spinning out its talks with the Six Powers (US, Russia, France, Britain, China and Germany) on their nuclear controversy.
At the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said “Israel faced some of the gravest threats in its existence” and they continue to run riot “in the east, the north and the south.”
Behind his words, was an immediate neighborhood beset in last couple of weeks by al Qaeda’s advance in Mali - now checked by French intervention; the Algerian gas field hostage siege; and the discovery of the strong interface among the various African Al Qaeda branches, including Egypt, in operations, logistics, shared arms suppliers and the pooling of jihadist manpower in the different arenas.Israel’s prime minister and security chiefs are clearly troubled by the perceived danger of the jihadist networks based in Egyptian Sinai and al Qaeda affiliates fighting in Syria joining up to attack Israel from two directions, the north and the south. This would be in keeping with the multiple, multinational terrorist threats surfacing in Africa.
With regard to Syria’s chemical weapons, after convening an expanded security-diplomatic cabinet meeting last Wednesday, Jan. 23, the day after Israel’s general election, Netanyahu remarked: “We have to look around us… What’s happening in Iran and the lethal weapons in Syria, which is falling apart…”
He left the specifics to Deputy Prime Minister Sylvan Shalom, who said Sunday that if chemical weapons reached Hizballah or Syrian rebel hands, “Such a development would be a crossing of all red lines that would require a different approach, including even preventive operations.”
But even Shalom did not specify where the red lines would be – the handover of Syrian chemical weapons to Hizballah? And against whom would Israel take preventive action – Syria, Hizballah or both? And if they reached Syrian rebel hands, would Israel hit them or go straight for the poison gas arsenals?
Neither Netanyahu nor Shalom responded to the Iranian warning issued Saturday by Ali Akbar Velayati, a close adviser to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that an attack on Syria would be tantamount to an attack on Iran.
This warning was intended to drive home to Israel the message that an offensive against Syria would be treated as a direct confrontation with Iran.
This warning aimed at holding Israel back from a military strike against Syria - Syria, not the Assad regime. This is because an Israeli attack on Syrian rebels armed with chemical weapons would also serve Tehran’s purpose very well:  Iranian forces in Syria and Lebanon would use the opportunity to unite the Syrian army and the rebels against the common enemy, Israel, and so start the process of winding down the anti-Assad revolt.
Velayati also avoided mentioning Iran’s key ally in Lebanon, Hizballah. In his warning, he said: "Syria has a very basic and key role in the region for promoting firm policies of resistance [against Israel]... For this reason an attack on Syria would be considered an attack on Iran and Iran's allies."
This high-ranking Iranian figure took care not to draw attention to Hizballah because, according to DEBKAfile’s military sources, parts of the Syrian chemical arsenal have already reached Hizballah and are stashed away in fortified bunkers in the terrorist militia’s Beqaa Valey strongholds, along with a lethal array of long- and medium-range ground-to-ground rockets that too were smuggled secretly across the Syrian border.Some western intelligence sources – especially American – now believe Syrian chemical weapons were secreted to Hizballah during 2012. They were sent over in small packages to avoid attracting US or Israel notice.  By now Hizballah is thought to have accumulated a substantial supply of poison weapons.
Our military sources report that Israel’s military planners have long-range logistical plans ready for dealing with new situations such as this one. It has expanded its undercover penetration of Syria and Lebanon and is making rapid progress in erecting a sophisticated 57-kilometer security force along the Syrian border. This project may take months to complete. But meanwhile, Iran is working on its own plans for jumping the gun before it is finished with a military adventure.


Israel threatens Syria strike if rebels get chemical armsJanuary 27, 2013 08:24 PM (Last updated: January 27, 2013 08:25 PM)By Dan Williams
Israel's Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem December 23, 2012. REUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool
Israel's Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem December 23, 2012. REUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool

JERUSALEM: Any sign that Syria's grip on its chemical weapons is slipping as it battles armed rebels could trigger Israeli military strikes, Israel's vice premier said on Sunday.
Silvan Shalom confirmed a media report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had last week convened a meeting of security chiefs to discuss the civil war in Syria and the state of its suspected chemical arsenal.

 Israel and NATO countries say Syria has stocks of chemical warfare agents at four sites. Syria is cagey about whether it has such arms but says if it had it would keep them secure and use them only to fend off foreign attack.
The Israeli meeting on Wednesday had not been publicly announced and was seen as unusual as it came while votes were being counted from Israel's parliamentary election the day before, which Netanyahu's party list won narrowly.
Should Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas or rebels battling forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad obtain Syria's chemical weapons, Shalom told Israel's Army Radio: "It would dramatically change the capabilities of those organisations."
Such a development would be "a crossing of all red lines that would require a different approach, including even preventive operations," he said, alluding to military intervention for which Israeli generals have said plans have been readied.
"The concept, in principle, is that this (chemical weapons transfer) must not happen," Shalom said. "The moment we begin to understand that such a thing is liable to happen, we will have to make decisions."
Addressing his cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu said he intended to put together "the broadest and most stable government as possible in order, first of all, to meet the significant security threats that face the State of Israel".
Difficult coalition talks could be ahead for Netanyahu with factions representing widely different sectors of the population.
In his public remarks at the cabinet session, Netanyahu pointed to "what is happening in Iran and its proxies and at what is happening in other areas, with the deadly weapons in Syria, which is increasingly coming apart.

"In the east, north and south, everything is in ferment and we must be prepared, strong and determined in the face of all possible developments," Netanyahu said, in apparent reference to Iran, Syria and Egypt.
Raising the regional stakes, Tehran, among Assad's few allies and itself long the subject of Israeli military threats over its nuclear programme, said on Saturday it would deem any attack on Syria an attack on Iran.
Interviewed on Army Radio, Civil Defence Minister Avi Dichter said Syria was on the verge of collapse. But asked whether Israel perceived an imminent threat, Dichter said: "No, not yet. I suppose that when things pose a danger to us, the State of Israel will know about it."
France, among the most vocal backers of Syria's rebels, said last week there were no signs Assad was about to be overthrown.
An Israeli government security adviser told Reuters on Sunday Syria had taken new prominence in strategic planning "because of the imminence of the threat. There the WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) are ready and could be turned against us at short notice."
Syria is widely believed to have built up the arsenal to offset Israel's reputed nuclear weapons, among other reasons.


Unconfirmed Reports of Major Sabotage Attack on Iran’s Fordow Facility

Acting Israeli DM Cheers Reports: Says Any Iran Explosion Is 'Good News'

by Jason Ditz, January 27, 2013
Unconfirmed reports floating around multiple outlets have a major sabotage bombing taking place at Iran’s Fordow enrichment facility, the underground uranium enrichment site outside of Qom.
The stories say that the bombing happened Monday morning, and incredibly hasn’t been even touched on by any more reputable outlets, let alone the Iranian press, nearly a week later. 240 workers are said to be trapped, and Iran reportedly closed several roads, including the bridge between Qom and Tehran. None of these reports are confirmed either.
Despite the purely speculative nature of the reports, former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter, who is Acting Israeli Defense Minister while Ehud Barak is overseas, cheered the reports, saying any explosions inside Iran would be “good news.
Though US and Israeli saboteurs have repeatedly targeted the nation’s civilian nuclear program, this would be by far the single largest attack, and it is hard to imagine that such an incident, particularly timed ahead of planned P5+1 talks with Iran, would be kept secret for so long.

Iranian-Hizballah convoy blown up on Syrian Golan. Border tensions shoot up

DEBKAfile Special Report January 26, 2013, 11:04 AM (GMT+02:00)
Tags:  Syrian war   bombing attack   Golan   Al Qods   Fordo   sabotage 
Syrian Golan site of twin bombing
Syrian Golan site of twin bombing

At least eight officers were killed in a mysterious twin-car bomb explosion Friday, Jan. 25 at Syrian regional intelligence headquarters in Quneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Some of the fatalities were Syrian, but Western intelligence sources disclosed to DEBKAfilethat most were high-ranking Iranian Al Qods Brigades and Hizballah officers. The blasts sent tensions shooting up on the Israeli and Jordanian borders with Syria.  Israeli, Jordanian and US Special Forces posted in the kingdom went on high alert. Heavy Syrian reinforcements were seen streaming toward the two borders.
Syrian regime sources said the explosive devices were attached to the intelligence command building’s outer walls. But the Western sources report that two large bomb cars were lying in wait on both sides of the road leading to the Syrian HQ and were detonated as the two-car convoy of Iranian and Hizballah officers drove by. There were no survivors.
Those sources also refute reports that the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusrah fighting with the Syrian rebels claimed responsibility for the attack. This was a rare occasion when no Syrian opposition group issued any statement at all, they said. The speed with which Syrian army helicopters flew in to remove the casualties indicated their high rank.

In the view of a Jordanian military source, this attack by an unknown hand has delayed Bashar Assad’s advanced preparations for an all-out armored offensive to finally crush the revolt against his regime. His first targets were to have been the rebel-held villages along the Israeli and Jordanian borders.
The Syrian ruler was working to a plan of operations his generals had drawn up with Iranian Al Qods Brigades strategists.
Saturday, Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned that Iran would consider any attack on Syria an attack on itself: "Syria has a very basic and key role in the region for promoting firm policies of resistance [against Israel]... For this reason an attack on Syria would be considered an attack on Iran and Iran's allies."
Meanwhile in Iran itself, the Fordo underground uranium enrichment plant was again reported targeted for sabotage, according to an unconfirmed report published by Reza Kahlil, who is described as a former Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer who worked under cover as a double agent for the CIA until he escaped to the United States.
Kahlil reported that at 11:30 a.m., Monday, Jan. 21, the day before Israel’s general elections, a large explosion occurred 100 meters deep inside the underground plant, trapping 240 nuclear staff in the third centrifuge chamber.  Among them, he said, were Iranian and Ukrainian technicians.
There was no information about casualties or the extent of damage to the 2,700 centrifuges which have been turning out 20-percent enriched uranium.
Khalil cited his source as Hamidreza Zakeri, a former Iranian Intelligence Ministry agent, who said the regime believes the blast was sabotage and the explosives could have reached the area disguised by the CIA as equipment imported for the site or defective machinery.
None of the information about an explosion at Fordo has been verified either by US officials or regime sources in Tehran.
Thursday, Jan. 24, Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and Military Intelligence Director Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi ceremonially promoted Col. G., commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal, to the rank of major general in recognition of his unit’s “outstanding covert operations.”


Iranian Ambassador Hassan Danaie-Far says that the only way the United States can put a halt to Iran's nuclear program is by resorting to war, a move that would prompt the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil chokepoint.
"The only remaining card on the table is war. Is it to their benefit? Is it to the benefit of the world? Is it to the benefit of the region?" Danaie-Far told AFP, adding, "What else (US President Barack) Mr. Obama can do?"
The ambassador also reiterated threats made previously by Tehran to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which around a third of the world's oil passes, in response to any military action by the United States.


Saudi prince calls for Syria militants to be given sophisticated weapons
Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal
Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal
Sat Jan 26, 2013 5:45PM GMT


A senior member of Saudi Arabia's monarchy has called for militants fighting against the Syrian government to be given sophisticated weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief and brother of the Saudi foreign minister, made the remarks on Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"What is needed are sophisticated, high-level weapons that can bring down planes, can take out tanks at a distance. This is not getting through," Reuters quoted the Saudi prince as saying.
He also admitted that his country is arming the militants fighting against the Damascus government and justified Riyadh's anti-Syrian move as "leveling the playing field".

<1>"I'm not in government so I don't have to be diplomatic. I assume we're sending weapons and if we were not sending weapons it would be terrible mistake on our part," al-Faisal said adding that "You have to level the playing field. Most of the weapons the rebels have come from captured Syrian stocks".
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of security forces, have been killed in the violence.

Syria says Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey as well as some Western countries are fanning the flames of violence in the country by arming and funding the terrorists.