Monday, June 9, 2014

War Watch June 9 , 2014 -- Iraq battlefield between Islamists and the Iraqi Government spreading toward Turkey , Israel ( keep an eye on what Israel decides to do to confront Islamists on their doorstep ) and has already merged with Islamists held territory in Syria ! Will the Kurd's Peshmerga be drawn into the fighting - early reports indicate the answer may be yes as Islamists are attacking in Kurd Regions in Iraq ( and have already taken control in Kurdish areas in Syria ...... Syria Updates from Syria Direct ( looking at the state of the war raging on in Syria ) ........ Iran nuclear talks updates --- With the next set of talks set for June 16 - 20 , 2014 , is there momentum to strike an improved Interim Deal ? Bilateral talks betwen Iran and the US set for June 9-10 in Geneva to attempt to pave the way for the looming P5 + 1 talks .....


IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz’s cryptic remark Monday, June 6, that “The Israeli Air Force will next month dramatically change its mode of operation,” meant that a decision has been taken to start directing the IAF’s fire power against military and terrorist targets in the Syrian and Iraqi arenas – in particular the al Qaeda forces foregathering ever closer to Israel’s borders with Syria, Iraq and Jordan. By aerial fire power, the general meant not just warplanes but also Israel’s long-range unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters.
He was lecturing to the Herzliya meeting of the Interdisciplinary Center’s policy and strategy institute.
On May 28, foreign sources were quoted as reporting that the Israeli Air force had shut down its last AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters squadron, which had served manly for strikes against armored and ground targets. Instead, lighter and cheaper drones have been commissioned for use against those targets.

Asked what he meant by “a dramatic change in the IAF’s mode of operations,” Gen. Gantz replied: A different kind of enemy is at our door. It is “more mobile, better at concealment and comes from farther away.”
If we count the jihadists present in the northern part of the map (.i.e., north of Israel) and add them to those scattered in the south and east (Iraq, Jordan and the Sinai Peninsula), we come to a total of 50,000 armed Islamist fighters, he said..

So how do we handle them? Two divisions? That may work for the Gaza Strip. But this enemy is widely scattered and not susceptible to our usual military tools. Still, we are obliged to deal with this menace and “we also have the opportunity to do so.”

That was all the chief of staff was ready to say on the subject.

He made it clear that conventional military divisions are obviously no use for combating Al Qaeda’s 50,000 terrorists because they are not a standing, regular army deployed on fixed front lines. They move around stealthily in deeply remote desert regions and wadis, which are often unmarked even on military maps.

But they do have command centers, some of them mobile, and are beginning to take over strategic points in Syria and Iraq, including main road hubs, bridges, small towns and oil fields and pipelines.

The intelligence to support aerial combat against these targets is also different from the kind which supported the IDF hitherto.

Gen. Gantz touched on this when he said: “We understand that we must turn to a method of warfare that hinges on intelligence, which means bringing our intelligence into those places.”

In other words, before Israeli aerial vehicles approach jihadist targets, Military Intelligence Corps combat field units must be on hand, operating over broader stretches of terrain than ever before.

All this adds up to the IDF and IAF undergoing a process of radical change in its military-air-intelligence strategy, which, say DEBKAfile's military sources, brings them close to the American methods of operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan to be introduced after the US troop withdrawal at the end of the year.

It is safe to assume that the two armies will work together in close rapport in the war on Al Qaeda.

The Gantz doctrine has not been accepted by all of Israel’s generals and commanders. On May 21, former Navy Chief, Brig. (Res.) Elie Merom made bluntly critical remarks on what he referred to as the “monopoly on firepower in depth” which Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon proposed to award the IAF. He said this imbalance was unhealthy, that the air force has many limitations and putting all one’s eggs in one basket is asking for glitches and uncertain consequences.

Merom added: “These days, automatic fire can be initiated from any platform just as well and accurately as from airplanes. It’s also cheaper.”

A kind of competitive dispute has sprung up among the IDF’s top generals and commanders over whether it is the task of the armed forces to define and locate targets for the air force to strike, or whether other combat units can manage to provide firepower of the same quality, efficacy and precision as the air force.

Major Fighting as al-Qaeda in Iraq Sets Sights on Mosul

Provincial Govt Seeks Kurdish Aid as AQI Offensive Grows

by Jason Ditz, June 08, 2014
Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) already controls much of the Anbar Province, and seems to be expanding northward this weekend, as major fighting erupted in the oil-rich northern city of Mosul.
On Saturday, AQI fighters captured large numbers of police, executing them, and scores were killed in the city. 38 more died on Sunday as the clashes continued andIraqi military forces aimed to retake neighborhoods from the Islamists.
The Iraqi military hasn’t had a great record in fighting AQI in Anbar, and provincial officials didn’t seem to hold out much hope here, either, pleading with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to send their paramilitary force, the Peshmerga, to fight for the city. Early reports have emerged of Peshmerga arriving in the city.
Ideally, many of the civilians would like to flee in this situation, though with AQI controlling most of the highways into town, getting out isn’t easy or safe. Exactly how much of the city AQI controls is unclear, but some reports put it as high as 50 percent.
Between their possessions in Syria and Anbar, AQI holds some pretty substantial cities, but nothing nearly the size of strategic importance of Mosul. The loss of the city would be a huge blow to Iraq, and would underscore AQI’s growing territory as a de facto nation of its own.

82 Killed, 110 Wounded Across Iraq As Kurdish Party HQ Bombed
by , June 08, 2014
Clashes continued in Mosul where dozens of militants of were killed, but the worst attack occurred in Diyala province where suicide bombers blew themselves up at a political party office. At least 82 people were killed today and 110 more were wounded.
In Falluja, shelling left four dead and five wounded, possibly all from the same family.
Six militants were killed near Falluja during a helicopter assault on their camp.
Police in Hit discovered the body of a policeman who was shot in the head.
At least 19 people were killed when two bombs exploded at a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan headquarters in Jalawla. A suicide bomber parked a car bomb near the office and while another bomber made his way inside and attacked first responders. At least 65 people were also wounded. Jalawla lies in territory claimed by the Kurdistan region. Arbil and Baghdad had argued bitterly for years over security in the region, but Baghdad eventually allowed Peshmerga fighters to return to the heavily Kurdish area.
In Mosultwo security members were killed in ongoing clashes. At least 30 militants were reported killed in them. Eight civilians were killed and 15 more were wounded during selling; it is unclear who was behind the attack. A roadside bomb injured a civil officialTwo more militants were killed later in the day.
In Tikritthree people were killed and nine more were wounded when a bomb exploded, possibly at a schoolOne policeman was killed and another was woundedwhile trying to defuse a separate bomb. Three policemen were wounded in a third bombing.
An unknown number of militants were killed during an operation in Iskandariya.

Bombing Attack on Iraqi Kurdish Party HQ Kills 30

Car Bomb and Suicide Bomber Strike PUK Headquarters

by Jason Ditz, June 08, 2014
An attacker driving an explosive-laden car and wearing a suicide vest launched a double bomb attack against the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party in Jalawla.
The car was timed to detonate, while the bomber managed to sneak himself into the building to detonate his own vest and increase casualties. Initial figures were 18 killed and 185 wounded, but the toll has risen now to at least 30 dead, as many of the wounded did not survive.
Jalawla in Diyala Province, and on the frontier between Iraqi Kurdistan and the rest of the nation. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has sought to expand control in the area, which has rubbed some Sunni Arabs in the mixed city of Jalawla the wrong way.
The PUK is the second largest of Kurdistan’s political parties, behind the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The party is led by President Jalal Talabani, and jointly runs the KRG with the KDP.

Syria .......


Al-Waer truce negotiations suspended, rebels say
Negotiations between rebels and the government in the regime-encircled Homs district of al-Waer have reportedly been suspended, as the al-Waer Operations Room, negotiating on behalf of the rebels, published a “working paper” on Monday detailing rebel demands for a settlement.
“The proposal was submitted to the regime and rejected,” Hassan Abu al-Zein, a spokesperson for the operations room, told Syria Direct on Monday.
“The regime proposed a second proposal that would be carried out this month, but an agreement has not been reached.”
The suggested rebel settlement includes a surrender of rebel weapons, the release of regime-held female prisoners, the opening of all roads into al-Waer and the safe return of displaced families into Old Homs.
Meanwhile, Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi denied reports that negotiations between the two sides had ground to a halt, as reported by pro-government newspaper al-Watan on Sunday.
In May, rebels in the 13 encircled neighborhoods of Old Homs agreed to surrender the neighborhoods, leaving al-Waer the last remaining rebel-held district in Syria’s third-largest city.
al-Waer NeighborhoodNegotiations have stalled between regime and rebel troops in Al Waer district, the final remaining opposition-held neighborhood in Homs, rebels said on Monday. Photo courtesy of Lens Young Homsi.
Regime hits ISIS-held a-Raqqa
Syrian warplanes struck two Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) headquarters in a-Raqqa Sunday, striking ISIS’s Finance Headquarters and the  Governorate Building, the group’s principal headquarters in the city.
“The air force targeted the principal headquarters of the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham…in the a-Raqqa Governorate Building,” pro-government newspaper al-Watan reported. Meanwhile, pro-ISIS media confirmed the regime airstrike had damaged the building, while reporting the strike had also killed an Azerbaijani foreign fighter who had arrived in “the land of the Sham” last Thursday.
The airstrike was the first regime attack on a-Raqqa in “nearly two months,” pro-opposition media activist Abu Mohammed told Syria Direct Monday.
Since January, when ISIS consolidated control over the majority of a-Raqqa province, ISIS has been primarily engaged in clashes with other rebel groups inside Syria, most fiercely in the eastern province of Deir e-Zor, south of a-Raqqa. 
On Saturday, ISIS crucified two young men in the Aleppo city of Menbej, accusing them of cooperating with the sahwat, a derogatory term ISIS has adopted to describe other rebel groups.
Missile attacks in Douma
The Syrian government launched a missile attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma Monday, killing five people and wounding more than 50 others, pro-opposition Aks al-Sir reported. The attacks targeted a popular vegetable market in the middle of the city.
“Most of the victims hit in the attack were from a group of citizens in the market who were trying to rescue another group of victims that had been hit in a previous missile strike,” pro-opposition Syria Mubasher reported
Duoma, 10 km northeast of Damascus, is part of the Ghouta area east of Damascus is currently controlled by Islamist militias and has been under heavy siege by regime forces.


Iran: Direct US Talks Essential for Nuclear Deal

Meetings Key to Bridging Gaps on Final Pact

by Jason Ditz, June 08, 2014
Iranian officials are praising the recent direct talks with the United States on the sidelines of P5+1 nuclear negotiations, saying they were the key to bridging the significant gaps remaining on the final pact.
Efforts to carve out a final nuclear settlement by mid-July have hit several stumbling blocks, mostly surrounding Iran’s civilian uranium enrichment program and efforts to fuel their Russian built nuclear power plant at Bushehr.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed Iran has sharply reduced its 20 percent enriched nuclear stockpile and will likely use the last of it soon, as their enrichment sites are only going at the 3.5 percent level needed for Bushehr now.
Iran’s existing enrichment facilities are much too small to fully fuel Bushehr, and they have a contract with Russia to sell them fuel for the next decade. Past sanctions have Iran jumpy about the reliability of any overseas suppliers, however, and they are keen to have at least the capability of self-sufficiency.

The US delegation to the bilateral talks with Iranian officials taking place in Geneva on June 9-10 has been directed by the White House not to leave the table empty-handed. The meeting was initiated for a supreme effort to cover up the fact that the P5+1 negotiations with Iran are at an impasse, with no chance of achieving their goal of a final nuclear accord by the July deadline – or even by the extended timeline of Jan. 15, 2015 (first revealed by DEBKAfile on May 24.), and have something to show for the venture into nuclear diplomacy.

A US official said that the bilateral stage was fitted in ahead of the full-dress round between all six powers and Iran on June 16-20 “to engage in as much active diplomacy a we can to test whether we can reach a diplomatic solution with Iran on its nuclear program.”

The avowed objective which the negotiations started out with, of a comprehensive agreement finally setting to rest the issues of Iran’s nuclear program, has obviously been dropped from US officialese. But the optimistic comments of “progress” accompanying round after round of failed discussions had to be explained away.

To this end, US President Barack Obama whipped out the undercover team which had been running his back-channel to Tehran from Oman in the past year. It was on that track that the real business was contracted between Washington and Tehran, whereas the P5+1 forum was pretty much a showpiece (as DEBKAfile reported.)

Therefore, for the Geneva meeting starting Monday, US Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, who headed the back-channel team in Oman, was brought out in the open. He supersedes Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who failed to make any headway in the formal rounds of talks. With him is another team member, Vice President Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan.

President Obama brought the team out for a last-ditch effort to save the day because of four developments:
1.  Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has forbidden President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif to make any further concessions, especially on uranium enrichment and nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, thus foredooming to failure the diplomatic process Obama so cherished. Khamenei dug in his heels after he heard the US president virtually rescinding America’s option against Iran in his West Point speech.

2.  Obama and his advisers came to the conclusion that the most the Iranians can be expected to cede – and only then in the second half of 2014 - is an improved version of the interim nuclear accord struck by the six powers and Iran last November.

DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that William Burns is under orders from the White House to clinch an “improved interim accord” in Geneva. This is vitally important in order to turn the failed nuclear negotiations around and hold them up as a success.

3.  Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi announced Saturday that Iran would take part in the bilateral talks, but would go straight from the meeting with the US delegation to a separate one with Russian negotiators in Rome on June 11-12.

Tehran has thus provided itself with the option of improving on Washington’s offer by getting a better deal from Moscow. This maneuver also brings to the attention of the Obama administration that Iran means henceforth to line up its Middle East policy and strategy with Moscow.

The American source commented wryly that the two-day Geneva encounter would undoubtedly provide the stage for further US concessions if the delegation wishes to come out with any sort of accord in hand.