Calls are mounting within the IDF’s Southern Command to launch a large-scale offensive against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip continued rocket attacksover the weekend.of
On Saturday night, the Israel bombed a number of targets in the Strip in response to the firing of a number of Grad-model Katyusha rockets into Israel. One landed in Beersheba on Saturday. In another attack, an RPG was firedat an IDF patrol along the border with Gaza.“There is no need to wait for a provocation to launch an offensive against terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip,” a senior officer in the Southern Command explained. “The ongoing attacks – by rockets and along the border with Gaza"Last month, The Jerusalem Post revealed that the IDF General Staff had ordered the Southern Command to speed up preparations for a possible large-scale operation in the Strip within the coming months.Preparations included finalizing operational plans and distributing them between the various units that would be deployed inside Gaza.e border – are cumulatively more than enough to justify immediate action.”
Visits to Jerusalem by senior U.S. officials this week reflect a growing concern in Washington over the possibility that Israel will decide to attack nuclear sites in Iran. The Americans are particularly worried about the hawkish line that Defense Minister Ehud Barak has adopted on the matter. They apparently have the impression, however, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to come to a final stance on the dispute.
The number of visits that have been made here by senior members of President Barack Obama’s administration in recent months is unusual. A delegation headed by U.S. National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon arrived Saturday evening; and later this week, Israel will host James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence. On separate visits this past fall, the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, paid a visit to Israel, as did U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, whose trip here came shortly after a visit to the United States by Barak.
Washington, like Jerusalem, appears to be under the impression that Barak will play a key role in Netanyahu’s decision-making. According to various assessments, in the constellation of forces within the senior forum of eight capital ministers, Barak represents the hawkish camp, while ministers Moshe Ya’alon, Dan Meridor and Benny Begin are leading the opposition to an assault at this time.In a report in the New York Times about two weeks ago, U.S. administration officials were critical of Barak, who has warned against the prospect within a few months of Iran entering a “zone of immunity,” after which it would be impossible to destroy its nuclear facilities. Barak defines the “zone of immunity” in accordance with Iran’s progress in installing centrifuges at the Fordow underground site near Qom, the location of which would make an aerial assault much more difficult.
In Washington the top US military officer, General Martin Dempsey, said intervening in Syria would be "very difficult" because it was not another Libya.
"It would be a big mistake to think of this as another Libya," Dempsey, chairman of the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria.
Syria's army is "very capable," with a sophisticated, integrated air defense system and chemical and biological weapons, Dempsey said.
He also thought it was premature to arm the opposition movement in Syria, because "I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point."
Iran continues to behave as though it is calling the shots. The first formal announcement of the resumption of Iran-world powers nuclear talks (confirming DEBKAfile’s exclusive) came from its Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Selahi who Sunday, Feb. 19, named the venue as Istanbul, Turkey. Saturday, two Iranian warships got away with delivering arms for Bashar Assad’s crackdown on protest without US or Israeli interference.
They docked at Tartus port Saturday alongside a Russian naval flotilla, symbolizing their joint effort to preserve Assad.
The US and Israel therefore let Iran get away with establishing three disagreeable facts:
1. A precedent for bringing arms to the Assad regime and the Lebanese Hizballah group without being challenged;
2. Flaunting its comradeship with Russia for buttressing the Assad regime and warding off Western-Arab military intervention by their military strength. Its warships entered Tartus and docked alongisde the Russian naval flotilla.
3. Tehran felt it could safely ignore the warning that “Israel is watching Iran’s military movements in the Mediterranean” which came from “military sources” tardily after the two warships were berthed at Tartus ready to unload their cargo.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources note that Israeli is paying a heavy strategic price for the interminable wrangling over an attack on Iran going back and forth between Washington and Jerusalem for months. It is forcing the Netanyahu government to sit on its hands in circumstances where inaction is dangerous and watch its deterrent strength drain away. Therefore, not a finger was lifted to break up Iran’s latest breakthrough to a seaborne route for replenishing Assad’s depleted arsenals.
It appears that Iran is feeling very confident these days, and they also seem very assured of their relationship with Russia. Iran (aka "Persia") is the first country/region that is mentioned in the Ezekiel 38 listing of Gog-MaGog coalition members. A close alliance between Iran and Russia is exactly what we would expect at this time.