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Russia Slaps Down Tentative Western Military Moves for Syria
Jun 1st, 2013
Daily News
Categories: Today's Headlines;The Nation Of Israel

The Syrian civil war is fast assuming a new shape which foreshadows an imminent showdown among concerned parties. Staunchly backing Bashar Assad, Russia unsheathed its claws to dissuade the US, Israel or such European powers as Britain and France from venturing to step into the conflict.
The new shape’s outline is breaking surface.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources, Israel is forced to reckon that an air strike against the advanced Russian S-300 missile batteries delivered to Syria, with collateral harm for their crews of Russian officers and advisers, would place it in jeopardy of Moscow’s retaliation, such as the shooting down of Israeli air force jets flying over Syrian or Lebanese airspace.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon strongly implied that an Israel attack was on the cards Tuesday, May 28, when he said that Israel thinks the missiles haven't yet been shipped. But when they are, he said, "we’ll know what to do."
Ya'alon's remark echoed the message Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered in person when he visited Russian President Vladimir Putin at his Black Sea villa in Sochi on May 14. Netanyahu warned his host that the delivery to Syria of the S-300 missiles had the potential for putting Israel and Russia on track for a military clash.
But Putin was not swayed in the slightest. He accepted the risk of a military joust with Israel as the price for his all-out championship of Assad.

Tentative Western moves to raise military tension around Syria

After that, US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron fixed their sights on a political solution of the Syrian mess emerging from the US Secretary of State John Kerry’s discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on an agreed format for a Geneva summit in early June.
But then, they found nothing changed since our report last week (DEBKA-Net-Weekly 585) that the odds on a successful conference – or even getting it off the ground – are low-to-nil.
Moscow still insists on inviting the Iranian government and President Assad’s representatives - or else, they say, the conference is off.
Washington, London and Paris tried motions towards notching up the military tension around Syria to soften the Russian position.
Monday, May 27, US Senator John McCain visited US forces stationed in Turkey and slipped quietly into Syria for a quick interview with Gen. Salem Idris, commander of the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council. Next, European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels acceded to the British and French demand and voted to lift their arms embargo against the Syrian rebels.

Moscow moves into position for sending troops to Syria

Although the Europeans had no intention of actually sending arms to the Syrian rebels, only pressuring Moscow, Russia slapped them down with three counter-moves:
1. The EU’s lifting of the arms embargo, they announced, placed the Geneva Summit 2 in doubt;
2. Deliveries of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria would go ahead as a deterrent for foreign intervention. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called the missiles a "stabilizing factor" for dissuading "some hotheads" from entering the conflict. This was a jab at Washington, London, Paris and Jerusalem by dismissing them as “hotheads."
3. To show that Moscow means business, four regiments of S-300 air defense systems were deployed at the Ashuluk firing range in southern Russia to check the Russian army’s combat readiness, the Defense Ministry announced. The regiments were airlifted Thursday, May 28, by military transport planes to designated drop zones for a variety of missions simulating the defense of Russian airspace from massive attacks by "enemy" missiles and aircraft.
"The missions will be carried out in conditions of heavy electronic warfare to test the capabilities of the air defense units to the highest limits," the defense ministry said.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources say the southern location of the new concentration of Russian military forces - a total of 8,700 personnel, 185 warplanes and 240 armored vehicles – points to an intention to ship some of those units to Syria.
In the face of hesitant Western military steps, substantial Russian military strength is therefore already on the move.
President Putin has poised his army ready for open Russian military involvement in Syria should the need arise.

Can Russia outdo Israel’s air defense and electronic capabilities this time?

A first regiment of S-300 air defense systems may have already reached Syria – flown in by the giant transport which landed at Latakia Tuesday night, May 28, with 60 tons of unidentified cargo.
Russian land and air forces are in position to follow next.
Moscow is therefore prepared to respond at zero notice to any Western or Israeli military moves against Syria.
Such moves would include any attempt by US, Turkish, British and French air force planes to impose no-fly zones sealed to Syrian warplanes over the embattled country. The S-300 missiles will now be on hand to shoot down any flying intruders on this errand.
Furthermore, any attempt to supply the rebels with advanced anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to offset Syrian Army and Hizballah’s military supremacy (See separate articles in this issue with details) will be thwarted.
The reference by the Russian defense ministry to missions carried out “in conditions of heavy electronic warfare to test the capabilities of the air defense units to the highest limit" is addressed to Israel.
Israel is sure - and so are the Americans - that their super-sophisticated electronic warfare capabilities can shut down the S-300 batteries. Moscow is warning them not to be so sure and that in future strikes against Syria, Israeli Air Force jets may be shot down.
The verbal dueling between Russian and Israeli spokesmen this week brought much closer the moment of truth and a showdown to prove which of the two has got it right.

That proof can only emerge in real combat

This would not be Russia’s first passage of arms with Israel on Syrian soil.
Between1982 and 1986, Israeli warplanes bombed Russian anti-aircraft missile batteries and engaged in dogfights with Syrian Air Force warplanes flown by Russian pilots.
The contest then was between Soviet Russia’s air force and Israel’s superior electronic warfare capabilities.
Much later, in September 2007, the IDF disabled Russian Pantsir-S1 (NATO codename SA-22 Greyhound) systems to clear the way for its raid to destroy the plutonium reactor Iran and North Korea had built in northern Syria.
Now, after six years, the message from Moscow is that, this time, Israel will not be allowed to repeat that feat by knocking out the S-300 missile batteries.
It may be bluff – or not. The only way to find out is to put the Russian S-300 missiles and electronic warfare systems to the test in real combat.
If Russian superiority is then proven, the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus-Hizballah lineup will win a major boost. But if Israel’s electronic warfare and air force capabilities gain the upper hand, Moscow will be seriously set back in its bid for an anti-West alliance under its patronage.

Moscow Throws Down the Gauntlet for Jerusalem
Jun 1st, 2013
Daily News
Categories: Today's Headlines;The Nation Of Israel

The furor over the sale of Russian S-300 anti-air missiles to Syria has served Moscow for ducking a head-to-head with Washington and shifting some of the action over to the Israeli playing field.
On Tuesday, May 28, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon asserted that the shipment of Russia S-300 missiles for Syria had not yet embarked for its destination.
The missiles are a threat, he said: “I can testify that the deal is not making headway. The shipments have not left yet. Let's hope they won't, and if they do, we'll know what to do."
Thursday, May 30, National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror was quoted as saying that if the Russian S-300 missiles reached Syria, Israel would strike them before they became operational.
Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens said he does not believe Russia will send these missiles to Syria because Moscow knows the Israeli Air Force could destroy them.
For this reason, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources, Moscow has kept on reminding everyone that the missile batteries will come accompanied by Russian officers. And therefore, if Israel attacks them while still in crates, it risked harming Russian maintenance officers.
In the harsh words on this eventuality exchanged between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when they met at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on May 14, both were careful not to spell out what exactly would happen if Israel went through with demolishing the missiles and causing Russian military casualties.

Moscow shifts the action from Washington to the Israeli playing field

It was on Tuesday night that a big Russian transport plane landed at Syria’s Latakia airport carrying 60 tons of unidentified freight labeled "humanitarian aid to Syria."
This label most likely concealed a military shipment of some kind, or even possibly components of the S-300 batteries.
In a sneering comment aimed at Israel, Syrian President Bashar Assad told an interviewer at the Hizballah Al Manar TV Thursday, that the first shipment of Russian S-300 missiles had already arrived in Syria and the second consignment was on its way.
By claiming that the S-300 had reached Syria and would shortly be operational, Damascus and Moscow were throwing down the gauntlet for Jerusalem and goading Israel and its armed forces to see if they would make good on their threats to bomb them.
(A potential duel between the Israeli Air Force and Russian missiles is discussed in a separate report.)
The situation presented by this standoff has three main components:
1. Assad backed by Moscow is thrusting the S-300 provocation in Israel’s face. Taking a leaf out of Iran’s nuclear book, President Vladimir Putin and his advisers on the Middle East are counting on President Barack Obama keeping Israel’s hands tied firmly against bombing the Russian batteries - just as the US president stalled an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Will Israel get US backup against reprisals for striking the S-300s?

2. Before striking the S-300 missiles, Israel needs to invoke a US guarantee of military backup in case a strike on the Russian anti-air missiles spirals into a major and continuous conflict with the allied forces gathered in Syria around Bashar Assad. This US backup might come in the form of advanced US weapons systems for giving Israel the edge over Russian weaponry.
3. The Netanyahu government and Israel’s war leaders must prepare for Obama to reject or only partially meet Israel’s request for guaranteed US backup. This would be consistent with his refusal to intervene militarily in the Syrian conflict. Once again, the US administration may leave Israel the single option of acting alone in its defense.
Israel’s leaders understand that their failure to knock out the S-300 missiles before Syria uses them to keep Israeli warplanes confined to their hangars, will come at a high price in terms of credibility and deterrence. No one will any longer credit Israel with the will to exercise its military option for preempting a nuclear Iran .
Both the US and Israel have already paid a price for letting thousands of Hizballah fighters cross into Syria and fight for Assad. They acted on the assumption that military intervention would make Syria “Hizballah’s Vietnam.” By the end of this week, neither Washington nor Jerusalem was sure this of this, and beginning to appreciate their error.

Washington wakes up to menace of Hizballah in Syria

On Wednesday, May 29, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki finally came out with a statement demanding the withdrawal of Hizballah forces from Syria and calling their presence “unacceptable” and “dangerous.”
Ignoring Washington, a fresh Hizballah contingent made its way into Syria Thursday, May 30.
(See the item on Hizballah's military functions in Syria).
The new force was not sent to any of the three active war fronts where Hizballah troops were already fighting - Damascus, Al Qusayr and Homs – but to the city of Deraa, capital of the southern Horan region bordering on the Golan.
This brought a Hizballah force to within 30 kilometers of the Israeli Golan. Under surveillance, these troops were seen gearing up to stay on the move with equipment that included Iran-made missiles with a range of 150-200 kilometers and multiple-firing Katyusha rockets with a range of 50 kilometers.
The Lebanese Shiites are therefore in position to start attacking Israeli targets on the Golan at any time.
In a television interview Thursday night at the close of this issue, Syrian President Assad said the Syrian government would not stand in the way of groups wishing to fight Israel for “the liberation of the Golan.”

Hizballah in position for missile war from Golan

All this portends the end of the 1974 Israel-Syrian separation of forces accord which gave the Golan almost forty years of peace. Israel is being shaken awake to a radical change in its security situation: Instead of facing Hizballah’s hostility from Lebanon, Israel (along with Jordan), is about to be confronted by Hassan Nasrallah’s militant units, rather than Syrian troops, from across the Golan border.
Moscow, Damascus and Beirut have made their moves. Israel will have to find out whether it is destined to face this multiple menace alone or can count on US support.

More Than Half of Hizballah’s Eight Brigades Fight in Syria – Plus Missile Unit
Jun 1st, 2013
Daily News
Categories: Today's Headlines;Contemporary Issues

The Hizballah army has eight combat brigades.
They are not brigades in the usual Western military sense of tactical military formations composed of three to six battalions each plus support elements. Hizballah brigades are spread out and enlist manpower on a territorial basis, each with jurisdiction over its respective turf and a local manpower pool from which to draw recruits and which differs from unit to unit.
A typical Hizballah brigade consists of approximately 3,200 to 5,500 troops and three to four battalions and numbers no more than 2,000 to 3,000 fighters.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources list the eight brigades which command the Syrian and Israeli borders in eastern and southern Lebanon and their functions:

  • Al Harmel Brigade is responsible for the Beqaa Valley district and Lebanon's northeastern border with Syria and houses Hizballah’s main secret rocket storehouse. Some are hidden in underground silos in areas covered by deep forest.
  • Baalbek Brigade is named for the biggest town in the Beqaa Valley east of the Litani River. Hizballah's main military bases and ammunition dumps are located in and around the city.
  • Western Beqaa Brigade is entrusted with defending the rest of the Beqaa district.

Hizballah keeps three brigades in southern Lebanon:

  • The Tyre Brigade guards the Mediterranean coast and western areas abutting on northern Israel.
  • The Jabal Amel-Bint Jbeil Brigade is responsible for the mountain region of central South Lebanon.
  • The Shebaa Brigade for eastern Lebanon up to the borders of northern Israel, the Golan and Mount Hermon.
  • The two Beirut Brigades: Hizballah's military intelligence, logistical and administrative headquarters are located in the Dahiya quarter of the Lebanese capital. Housed there too is the joint Iran-Hizballah military command center for the Syrian conflict.

Hizballah starts sending over troops fully armed

As of Saturday, May 25, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources say four Hizballah brigades were fighting alongside the Syrian army – two of them going in as their leader Hassan Nasrallah in his broadcast speech that same day vowed to fight for Bashar Assad to the finish.
Our sources offer an exclusive map of Hizballah’s fields of operation, functions and tactics in the Syrian war arena:
Those four brigades, accounting for half of Hizballah’s combat strength, are battling rebels in the main war sectors of Al Qusayr, Homs and Damascus.
Nasrallah boasted that with two words, he could muster tens of thousands of holy fighters to join the battle.
However, Sunday, May 26, Hizballah was pushed enough for manpower to secretly call-up all of its reserves.
Thursday, May 30, a fresh increment of Hizballah troops crossed into Syria and headed south to the rebel stronghold of Deraa, 30 kilometers from the Israeli border.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources report that, while the two brigades fighting in Al-Qusayr arrived sans arms or equipment, collecting them from the Syrian army, the second two entered fully equipped and armed with heavy weapons, such as BM-1 Katyuhsa rockets, heavy 240-mm shells, and surface-to-surface missiles, including the Iranian-made solid propellant Zelzal-3 missiles which have a range of 200 kilometers.

Missile units attached to Hizballah combatants in Syria

And that was not all. According to a Western intelligence officer serving in the region and monitoring Hizballah military movements, the second group of Hizballah troops entering Syria was weighed down with a vast array of every imaginable weapon - from automatic side-arms to the Iranian-made medium-range Fajr-3 ballistic missile, whose range is an estimated 2,000-2,500 kilometers.
The decision to send fighting brigades into Syria complete with every kind of military gear including missiles was taken, according to our sources, at an emergency meeting on Syria convened by Hizballah’s general staff Saturday, a few hours before Nasrallah’s speech.
Is top decision-makers feared that launching missiles from Lebanese territory would lay Hizballah open to the charge of dragging Lebanon into the Syrian war. This charge that was leveled at the Shiite terrorist group last week by the United States, for whom the 8,000 Lebanese Hizballah mujahedeen fighting Assad’s war was incriminating enough.
The Hizballah general staff is a tight group of four, consisting of Hassan Nasrallah, General Secretary; Talal Hamia, Supreme Commander of Hizballah forces in Syria – promoted from his former job as chief of the organization’s clandestine targeted assassination and terrorism arm; Wafiq Safa, Deputy Commander in charge of the transfer of troops and intelligence from Lebanon to Syria as well as logistics. Safa is also Hassan Nasrallah's second cousin; and the fourth member, Sheikh Nasser Al Din, head of the Hizballah Central Committee.

Hizballah also relieves the Syrian army of sundry tasks

The second two brigades entering Syria did not join the Al-Qusayr battle. One made for eastern Damascus to reinforce the Syrian army’s operation for repulsing a rebel attack on the city's airport.
The second headed for Homs. After flushing out the last pockets of rebel resistance there, the Lebanese Shiite fighters will turn to the last remaining rebel strongholds in Idlib province and the Mount Zawiya region, near the Syrian-Iraqi border.
Our sources reveal some other of Hizballah’s support functions for the Syrian army.
Backed by Iraqi Shiite miltiamen, Hizballah fighters stand guard over the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque, an important Shiite shrine built at the tomb of Zaynab, the daughter of Ali, their first Imam.
> From there, they provide back-up for Syrian forces fighting to push the rebels out of the Damascus neighborhoods of Tadamo and Hajar al-Aswad and the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk.
The Lebanese Shiite fighters are in action in the rural districts of Homs and along the Syrian border with Lebanon.
Hizballah detachments keep the Damascus-Beirut highway open and police the traffic of people, goods and fuel at the crossing-points between Syria and Lebanon.

Let the Headlines Speak
Jun 1st, 2013
Daily News
From the Internet
Categories: Today's Headlines;Contemporary Issues

Judge Orders Google to Comply With FBI Warrantless Demands for Customer Data
A federal judge has ordered Google Inc. to comply with FBI warrantless demands for customer data. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston on Tuesday rejected Google’s argument that the so-called National Security Letters the company received from the FBI were unconstitutional and unnecessary. Illston ordered Google to comply with the secret demands even though she found the letters unconstitutional in March...  

Report: New Iranian Missile Launchers Could Overwhelm Israeli Defenses
Iran could have enough launchers to send a salvo of medium range ballistic missiles that would overwhelm Israeli ballistic missile defense systems, according to a Wednesday report from IHS Jane’s. A May, 26 broadcast on Iranian television showcased a collection of transporter erector launchers (TELs) capable of launching the Iranian Shahab-3 guided ballistic missiles.  

US and Germany urge Russia not to arm Syria military
The US and Germany have called on Russia not to supply Syria's military with an advanced missile system they say could prolong the conflict there. US Secretary of State John Kerry said the delivery of Russian weaponry would have a "profoundly negative impact" and put Israel's security at risk. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged Moscow not to hinder the chances of mooted peace talks.  

Turkey protests: PM Erdogan defiant as clashes rage
Turkey's PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to press ahead with a controversial park redevelopment that has sparked violent clashes. Mr Erdogan said he would not yield to "wild extremists" and urged an end to the protests. Clashes over Gezi Park in Istanbul began on Friday and continued there and in the capital, Ankara, on Saturday.  

5-year-old Interrogated By School Over Toy Cap Gun Until He Wet Himself With Fear
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2 dead when tornado hits Oklahoma City area
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Asteroid 1998 QE2 flies past Earth
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American Woman Nicole Lynn Mansfield Killed in Syria Firefight
An American woman killed in a Syrian firefight and labeled a terrorist by the Syrian government was identified today as Nicole Lynn Mansfield, a Muslim convert from Michigan. Mansfield's body was recovered following fighting near the rebellious Syrian city of Idlib. According to Syrian state media, she was wearing a head scarf and was found with a Michigan driver's license and U.S. passport on her. Photographs of those documents were released by the Syrian regime.  

Religious conversions a growing source of stress – and violence – in Egypt
In one case, an Egyptian Christian man stabs his wife after she converts to Islam with the support of hard-line Islamists. Then after surrendering to police, he dies in mysterious circumstances, falling from a court building window. At about the same time, a Muslim woman in another small village converts to Christianity and elopes with a Christian man.  

NKorean farmers planting rice with profits in mind
North Korean farmers knee deep in muddy paddies across the country have a new incentive during this year's crucial rice planting season: possible bonuses that are part of an economic shift echoing ally China's steps three decades ago toward embracing capitalism.  

Pakistan may be next in line for an IMF bailout
With foreign reserves diminishing fast, Pakistan is on the brink of an economic crisis that may force its new government to ask for an unpopular bailout from the International Monetary Fund requiring a sweeping overhaul of the country's economy.  

IRS Involved In 47 Obamacare Provisions
In the midst of the widening Internal Revenue Service (IRS) conservative targeting scandal, the Obama Administration and Democrats are scrambling to downplay the IRS’s role in implementing Obamacare.

Iranian UAVs Swarm Over Mid - East Skies As U.S. Cuts Down on Their Use
Jun 1st, 2013
Daily News
Categories: Today's Headlines;Contemporary Issues

Iran has discovered the attractions of its new unmanned aerial vehicles and is using them for increasingly reckless missions over strategic Middle East sites.
On April 25, a drone with no identifying marks flew south from Lebanon and was downed by Israeli Air Force jets 8 kilometers out at sea opposite Haifa.
Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon accused Hizballah: "We're talking about another attempt by Hizballah to send an unmanned drone over Israeli territory," he said.
A blackout was imposed on the Israeli Navy’s search in the sea for its wreckage. No one admitted that the UAV had reached the Haifa vicinity just as an Israeli military helicopter was nearing the port town with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his personal aides and bodyguards aboard.
When Israeli radar picked up an unidentified aerial vehicle approaching the helicopter, the prime minister’s flight was brought into land before reaching Haifa. It took off again only after the mystery drone was intercepted and brought down.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence and military sources, the recovered wreckage has given up the drone’s secrets: It was identified as an Iranian Ababil-5 medium-range reconnaissance and surveillance drone, launched by a special Iranian Revolutionary Guards unit stationed in the Beirut area.
An Iranian unit is therefore on hand in Beirut and at liberty to launch an UAV from an Arab capital city at any destination it chooses.

Iran is not afraid to provoke Israel

Tehran clearly had no qualms about attacking an Israeli military flight over Israeli airspace - or even possibly about an attempt on the life of its prime minister – although it has not been established whether Iran knew who was in the helicopter – so eager are the Iranians to test the limits of their new unmanned flying vehicle.
This episode was illuminating in several ways:
1. The Iranians are not afraid of military provocations against Israel, up to and including outright belligerence, on the assumption that Israel will refrain from military reprisals either against the unit responsible for the drone incident or Iran proper. Tehran is counting on President Barack Obama’s refusal to sanction any Israeli military action against an Iranian target - to date.
2. Netanyahu is bucking the counsel of his key security advisers and IDF generals by abstaining from action against Iranian or Hizballah targets in Lebanon in order to stay disengaged from the Syrian civil conflict. (See the opening article of this issue.)
3. Tehran is so caught up in the development of its unmanned vehicles and the operational techniques, tactics and procedures –TTP – for their use that it is not averse to engaging in high-risk maneuvers to test their performance in real time and conditions.

Iranian drones now swarm over Middle East strategic and military sites

4. Iran is using technology lifted from the top-secret CIA RQ-170 Sentinel drone it captured in December 2011 - with the aid of Chinese electronic experts – to conduct regular courses for its forces and air defense teams in counter-surveillance measures and specialized counter-UAV techniques.
By reverse engineering of some of the RQ-170 design features, the Iranians are presumed to be replicating its signature reduction capabilities - particularly in electromagnetic shielding, the use of materials and the topology of elements, and lending their newer drones low “observability.”
Their Haifa operation would have given Iranian engineers valuable information about the performance of those features.
It wasn’t the first. In October 2012, the new Iranian Shahed 129 flew in from Lebanon and was able to conduct a reconnaissance mission of some 30 minutes over southern Israel before it was intercepted.
These operations teach the Iranians the limits of the Ababil’s stealth quality and help them reduce their drones’ detectability and signatures.
5. Up until the present, this was a military technological intelligence issue just between Israel and Iran.
But since April this year, it is beginning to impinge on the security of the entire Middle East and Persian Gulf.
Iranian UAVs are turning up everywhere. Tehran is now freely sending drones over southeastern Saudi oil fields and fortress cities and US army bases in Kuwait; Bahrainis report daily appearances of Iranian UAVs; they are frequent fliers over US facilities on Masirah island and the UAE; Yemen reports Iranian drones sweeping over its southern war zones and the Gulf of Aden, as well as a regular presence in the skies over US Air Force and Marine personnel bases on Socotra island.
> From Lebanon, Iranian Revolutionary Guards keep large numbers of UAVs on surveillance over the battlefields of Syria.
Across the region, Iranian drones are filling the vacuum left by President Barack Obama’s decision to cut down on their use over combat areas.

Baghdad Jumps Into Syrian War on Orders from Tehran
Jun 1st, 2013
Daily News
Categories: Today's Headlines;Contemporary Issues

Far from the world’s top headlines, Iraq is being sucked relentlessly into the Syrian war - while itself embroiled in a vicious sectarian conflict.
Late Friday, May 24, US Vice-President Joe Biden called Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki to voice Washington’s deep concerns about the security situation in Iraq. “He pledged continued US support for Iraq in its fight against terrorism,” said a statement from Biden’s office.
Just this week, a wave of bombings and attacks across Iraq claimed more than 500 lives – 125 in one day, Tuesday, May 28. Biden urged Maliki to reach out to leaders across Iraq’s political spectrum to defuse the galloping violence.
At the same time, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources report that their conversation was in fact dominated by the Syrian issue.
Biden referred to intelligence obtained by Washington from sources in Baghdad that Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister was on the point of placing his armed forces at the disposal of Bashar Assad’s war on the Syrian rebellion on orders from Tehran.
His first instruction from Iran was to hunt down and destroy the al Qaeda-in-Iraq command center at its secret location in the Anbar province of western Iraq. This center serves the units which recently joined the the Syrian rebel movement under the command of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Maliki promises Biden to keep Iraqi troops out of Syrian war

Tehran gave Maliki the coordinates of the targeted strategic and logistical command center. Another Iranian order was for the Iraq army to range along the 600-kilometer Iraqi-Syrian frontier to seal it against any further Iraqi al Qaeda ingress into Syria. The Iraqi units must be ready to conduct raids deep inside Syria in pursuit of rebels, he was told.
The last attempt by a military force to seal the Iraqi-Syrian border was conducted seven years ago by US units assigned to obstructing the flow of Al Qaeda fighters and arms in the opposite direction - from Syria into Iraq.
Tehran now warned Maliki that, just as Al-Baghdadi had led his jihadis across into Syria, he might well lead them back – only then, they would be reinforced by the Syrian al Qaeda branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, and bent on bolstering Sunni resistance to the Shiite prime minister’s rule in Baghdad. So the Iraqi prime minister would be acting in his own interests by crushing them before this happened.
Biden asked Malliki if he could confirm this intelligence. And if it was correct, what were his intentions.
The US Vice President did not expect much in the light of his long experience of dealing with Nuri al-Maliki – none of it productive.

Iraqi troops on “big operation” to combat al Qaeda inside Syria

For instance, Biden has been nudging him for months to stop - or at least inspect - the frequent Iranian flights bound for Syria over Iraqi skies. The Iraqi prime minister kept on promising to stop them, but then sat on his hands.
Secretary of State John Kerry publicly accused Maliki of turning a blind eye to what Washington is certain are Iranian military shipments of supplies for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
The same thing happened to Biden’s latest approach last Friday.
Once again, the Iraqi leader solemnly assured the American vice president that he did not intend involving the Iraqi armed forces in Syria warfare and that Iraqi military movements were wholly directed toward putting down armed Sunni aggression in central and western Iraq. He accused the Sunni militias of a bloody campaign of terror in Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities.
The next day, May 25, sure enough, Maliki was at it again. Regardless of his promise to Biden, 20,000 Iraqi troops were strung out along the 600-kilometer Iraqi-Syrian border under the command of the Ground Forces Chief of Staff, Gen. Ali Ghaidan Majieed.
”This is a big operation,” said Gen. Majeed. "It has resulted in the arrest of several Al Qaeda members and the destruction of some of their strongholds. The target of the operation is also to clean the desert of the terrorist elements that exist there."

Maliki opts for obeying Tehran instead of combating terror in Iraq

“The [Iraqi military] cleansing operation is being pursued in parts of the border provinces of Anbar and Nineveh, where we are concerned that Sunni militant groups opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and to Iraq's Shiite-led government have set up camp," said the Iraqi general.
In short, our military and intelligence sources report that Iraq’s Shiite prime minister has opted for deferring to Iran’s interests and bolstering the Assad regime in Damascus rather than grappling with the deadly terrorism devastating his own country.
His next step will be to send Iraqi troops on military operations against Syrian rebels in eastern Syria, at Iran’s behest.
Tehran is showing off its wide-ranging clout for hitching multiple Middle East military resources to its strategic bandwagon. Both the Lebanese Hizballah army (see the next item in this issue) and the Iraqi national army have now been harnessed to the war in Syria.
Israel and Jordan are deeply worried by Iraq’s military intervention in Syria on orders from Tehran. No less concerned are Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which share common borders with Iraq.

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