A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending April 7, 2005:

The Secret Cold War Partnership between Pope John Paul II and White House


2 April: The character of the John Paul II papacy was influenced critically by a chance episode that occurred more than a year before his investiture – revealed here for the first time by debkafile‘s and DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence experts.

In January 1977, Jimmy Carter was sworn in as US President. He appointed Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski from Harvard and Columbia his national security adviser.

A year earlier, the adviser-to-be heard a lecture in Harvard delivered by Polish Archbishop Karol Wojtyla. He was so impressed that he invited the visitor for tea, embarking on a relationship that continued for years after Vojtyla’s investiture as Pope on October 22, 1978.

James M. Rentschler, a former US ambassador and staff member of the Carter administration’s National Security Council, wrote this recollection for the International Herald Tribune of October 30, 1998.

“…an American president (Carter) inspired by the elevation of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla as the first Pole to become Pope, began a secret initiative that some believed altered the course of the Cold War.

“The word came from David Aaron, deputy to President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Council chief, Zbigniew Brzezinski: ‘Zbig’s got the president excited about this. They sense an enormous sea change in East-West relations.’ Mr. Aaron made me his DP, ‘designated papist’. The White House wanted an entire planeload of VIPs for the October 22 investiture.

John Paul II’s courageous pilgrimages behind the Iron Curtain captured world attention from the start. Defying party orders, tumultuous East European turnouts soon made him communism’s liveliest scourge – and the Free World’s most valuable Cold War player.

He and Mr. Brzezinski opened a private channel between the White House and the Holy See, which National Security Council operatives dubbed the Vatican hot line. It was a link that Jimmy Carter and John Paul II soon made operational with a personal correspondence of extraordinary breadth. The strategy fathered at the 1976 Harvard tea party was to prime the religious zeal pulsating in the Soviet Bloc masses as the West’s doomsday weapon in the Cold War. Once the Christians were on the march, Brzezinski proposed persuading militant Islam to join the mission of inflaming the Soviet Union’s teeming Moslems. His strategy had mixed results. The force of Christianity was a major factor in undermining Soviet communist domination of East Europe. The CIA-supported mujaheddin did indeed drive the Red Amy out of Afghanistan, but also spawned Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda, the Islamic jihadist terrorist movement dedicated to destroying the West.


Michel Aoun Will Return from Exile as US-French-backed Presidential Candidate


4 April: US president George W. Bush has set his face in his second term on extinguishing Middle East conflicts rather than starting new fires. The White House prefers now to seek a formula for avoiding war while yet somehow preventing radical Islamic groups from seizing power in Beirut and Ramallah through the ballot box.

In Lebanon, the first step of this strategy was skillfully pulled off by US deputy assistant secretary of state David Satterfield. He successfully negotiated a four-cornered truce between the anti-Syrian opposition Druze and Christian leaders and the pro-Syrian and Hizballah camps (first revealed fully in on April 1) with two immediate effects:

Syria finally buckled and decided to remove its troops from Lebanon, including intelligence and radar units, without further delay, and all four agreed to Maronite General Michel Aoun, 63, returning from his Paris exile and running for the presidency.

But the reconciliation also created negative anomalies.

A. The Hizballah terrorist group will keep its arms as its price for joining the deal.

B. Iranian Revolutionary Guards units remain in place as an integral part of the Hizballah, as do Iranian undercover agents under the Hizballah umbrella.

C. Druzes and Hizballah leaders both want the May election postponed in defiance of Washington’s wishes.

D. As in Iraq, American diplomacy cut the Sunni Muslim factions out of the new Lebanese equation and put their backs up, leaving it stuck withe pro-Syrian Sunni prime minister Omar Karame.

In the third week of March, a US-British team got together in Beirut with a joint Hizballah-Hamas group. On the American team were ex-CIA officers, led by Graham Fuller. The British contingent was led by Alistair Crooke. The third senior member was Dr. Beverley Edwards, an American Islam expert, who teaches at British universities.

Hizballah and Hamas went hand in hand to this meeting because all sides shared the hope of engineering a coupling between political solutions for the Hizballah in Lebanon and he Palestinian Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Our Washington sources stress that Washington sent no delegation and would not in any case pursue any political initiative that could place its vital understanding and cooperation with France on Lebanon at risk.

The situation is Ramallah is trickier. Hamas expects to ride into power through the front door opened by Mahmoud Abbas in parliamentary elections next July. To block Hamas’ rise, large sections of Abbas’ own Fatah, spearheaded by the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, have risen up against him and his interior minister Nasser Yousef, although that is not the only cause of their revolt. Washington had counted on these two leaders to reform the Palestinian Authority and usher in a democratic Palestinian state. Instead, Fatah gunmen now occupy government offices in Ramallah, joined by the national guard which is supposed to protect the PA Chairman. Ahmed Qureia is conspiring with Farouk Kadoumi, the hard-line Fatah leader based in Damascus, to oust Abbas and so thwart Hamas’ bid to dominate the Palestinian Authority. This crisis places leaves Abu Mazen’s visit to Washington later this month very much in the air. It will no doubt figure large in the talks Bush holds with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in Crawford on April 11.


Iraq Insurgents Adopt Large-Scale Assault Tactics


5 April: Palestinian terror chiefs are keenly tracking the tactics employed by Iraq’s insurgents and their al Qaeda allies to see what they can learn. debkafile‘s military experts envision a dramatic shift in the next phase of the Palestinian-Israel.

At 6 am on April 2, for their best-planned most extensive operation in two years, the raiders began creeping through the concealing urban landscape surrounding the Abu Ghraib prison camp and prison. They were undetected from the base until they were close enough to open up with a hellish hail of 81-mm and 120-mm mortars. The din muffled the slow advance of the first bomb car until it drew to a halt opposite the American positions. The vehicle then drew US fire and blew up. It was apparently a decoy to draw the Americans’ attention and firepower away from the second bomb car that was speeding in from the opposite direction. Its function was to breach the prison’s outer wall. However, American gunfire triggered a second explosion when the vehicle was still short of its target. While this was going on, two guerrilla columns, 20-30-strong, were advancing shooting on the American camp – one from the direction of Falluja in the east and the second from the south.

The combined fire and explosive power of the storming units and their bomb cars were so intense that the Marines guarding the camp’s southern wing were forced to retreat, for the first time in the two-year Iraq war. The rebels were only held back from bursting into the US facility by the timely arrival of American reinforcements that called up Apache gun-ships and artillery.

The battle raged fiercely for three hours.

A total of 44 American troops and 12 detainees were injured in the Abu Ghraib battle as well as an estimated 50 insurgents. US military sources calculate from the testimony of the soldiers that took part in the battle that the assault force numbered from 40 to 60 fighting men. debkafile‘s military experts compute the indirect participants in intelligence-gathering, transporting the fighting units to target, evacuation of dead and wounded, must have numbered 150 to 200. It is worth noting that as recently as late last year, the Iraqi guerillas and al Qaeda combined were not capable of mustering an organized force on this scale to withstand the American Falluja offensive.

Our American and Iraqi military sources do not credit Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s claim that his al Qaeda wing carried out the Abu Ghraib action. They do not believe he commands this number of guerrilla fighters. It was most likely waged by the three elements which are the backbone of the Iraqi insurgent movement, ex-Baathists, al Qaeda and foreign Arab fighters.

Iraq’s rebel guerrillas have long drawn heavily on Palestinian terrorist tactics – suicide killers, bomb cars, shooting ambushes. Now, Palestinian commanders are learning from the Iraqi experience, often using as their medium Hizballah officers who fought with the insurgents in Iraq and are now transmitting their acquired skills to willing students in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They are helping the Palestinians perfect their missile strikes against urban centers, upgrade their explosive belts and train for combat in densely-inhabited districts of large towns. They are preparing for larger and deadlier combined strikes with rockets, mortars, suicides, and massed combatants 30-50 strong against fortified military targets and the towns and highways of the southern and central regions.

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