Monday night, Aug. 25, saw one Middle East country after another, including Israel, going on high military alert after they learned that US President Barack Obama had failed to come to an understanding with Tehran on Syria and so avert a US-led operation against Syria over its chemical attacks.
Obama had hoped this understanding would also pave the way to direct dialogue on the nuclear issue with the new Iranian president Hasan Rouhani.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that the US president delegated two emissaries for two separate tracks.
He found cause for optimism in Tehran’s consent to receive Jeffrey Feltman, UN Deputy Secretary, Monday, Aug. 25, although in his former capacity as US Undersecretary of State and US ambassador to Damascus, Feltman was viewed as an adversary of Iran, Syria and Hizballah.
Feltman arrived suddenly in Tehran Monday and was received by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif without delay.
The other intermediary was Sultan Qaboos of Oman, who arrived in Tehran Monday for a visit with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He too made no headway in his attempt to persuade his host that the US was amenable to a last-minute understanding on Syria for holding back an attack.
Khamenei responded with a cold threat: If the Americans attack Syria, “the entire Middle East will suffer from burns,” he said.
This response was the signal for orders to American military assets in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf to go on a state of high preparedness Monday night,DEBKAfile’s military sources report. Iran, Russia and Syria deployed their forces in readiness for a US-led attack on Syria. Syrian units were ordered to leave their bases and spread out across the country’s broad open areas.
The ten military chiefs meeting in Amman focused on coordination of the joint operation against Syria which is expected to begin very shortly.
Participating in the meeting chaired by US chief of staff Gen. Martin Dempsey were the top commanders of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Canada.
The powerful message coming from US Secretary of State John Kerry and the White House spokesman Jay Carney Monday night indicated that the Obama administration was not about to back off its promise of consequences for those responsible for using chemical weapons against civilians and “shocking the world’s conscience.”
Both bluntly accused the Assad regime of the heinous crime of chemical warfare on civilians. “Our understanding is grounded in facts and common sense,” Kerry said: This regime held custody of those weapon stockpiles, had the rockets to use them and was capable of doing so. “Basic humanity is offended by this crime and even more by the attempts to cover it up.
Kerry added: “We have additional information about these attacks. It is being reviewed with our partners and will be released in the coming days.”