UPDATED 1/26/13: Blast kills Iranian/Hezbollah officers in Syria. Russians-Iranians fuel Syrian President Bashar Assad’s survival plans.
“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 debkafile that 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.”
Russia lifts nationals out of Syria. Moscow, Iran arm Assad for major armored push
DEBKAfile Special Report January 21, 2013, 10:19 PM (GMT+02:00)
The Russian emergency ministry said Monday, Jan. 21 that it is sending two planes to Beirut to evacuate 100 Russians from Syria – the first such effort since the uprising against Bashar Assad began in March 2011. Moscow also announced contingency plans to lift 30,000 Russian nationals from the embattled country.
This evacuation of Russian nationals starting Tuesday was decided after the Syrian high command received orders from President Assad to organize mobile armored strike groups with massive fire power for a big push to run the rebel forces out of the towns, villages and areas they have captured, mostly in the north and southeast.
debkafile’s military sources report that, because they are in a hurry, the Syrian army chiefs decided to use only seasoned officers and men with experience in active service against the rebels, rather than new recruits who would need weeks of combat training. The divisions or brigades holding the line in such trouble spots as Aleppo, Homs and Deraa, are being depleted, some of their units detached for service in the new armored strike groups. Our sources report that Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps officers are supervising the effort for what Assad sees as his biggest assault yet to finally crush the revolt against his regime. Its timing marks two fundamental developments in Syria’s bloody civil war:
1. The self-confidence of Assad and his top military staff is gaining in direct contrast to the weakening of the insurgency. It was therefore decided in Damascus that the time was ripe for a major offensive to push the rebels out of the strategic areas from which they could threaten central government.
2. Western-Arab arms supplies to the rebels have slowed down steeply because the funding from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAR has dried up. The high-grade weapons still in rebel hands were mostly looted from Syrian army bases and stores.
3. According to debkafile’s military sources, Russian officials up to the level of President Vladimir Putin examined the Iranian-Syrian armored strike group tactics and approved. These developments, according to Western intelligence sources familiar with the Syrian situation, explain the recently intensified coordination between Moscow, Tehran and Damascus and the resulting accelerated flow of Russian and Iranian weapons to the Syrian army.
Russian arms ships are lining up at the Syrian port of Tartus to unload their freights, while Iranian air transports are touching down and taking off at speed from Damascus and Aleppo military airports
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 14 (UPI) — Syrian President Bashar Assad and his family have been living on a warship, with security provided by Russia, intelligence sources told a Saudi newspaper.
An Al-Watan report Monday says the family and Assad aides are residing on the ship in the Mediterranean Sea and that he travels to Syria by helicopter to attend official meetings and receptions.
Otherwise, he stays on the warship, the sources told the Arabic language newspaper.
When he flies to his embattled country, the president lands at undisclosed locations and is transported to the presidential palace under heavy guard, the sources said.
The Russian-guarded warship provides a safe environment for Assad, who has lost confidence in his own security detail, the report said.
Assad’s presence on the warship suggests he has been granted political asylum by Russia but there has been no official comment from Moscow, the newspaper said.