A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending January 7, 2005:
Drone Tug-o-War Brings Chinese Dep. PM to Jerusalem, Involves Rumsfeld
26 December: Chinese deputy prime minister Tang Jiaxuan flew in to Israel secretly Saturday night, December 25. His mission: to recover an unspecified number of Israel-built Harpy unmanned aerial attack vehicles sent back for overhaul or upgrade and held back by Israel at Washington’s insistence.
The Chinese government does not accept the pretext that the Harpy drones are being held back because of the Americans. Failure to send the UARs back will be detrimental to Chinese-Israeli diplomatic relations and prejudicial to the interests of Israeli firms operating in China.
According to debkafile‘s Far East and Washington sources, Beijing hit the ceiling when it learned that the White House had the file transferred from lower Pentagon ranks to defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The file was also passed to the Senate Armed Services Committee. This puts the entire complex of US-Israel defense ties up for review in the light of the UAV case.
The Chinese army, the PLA, has been using the Israel-built Harpy close-range surveillance and targeting UAV for a wide range of functions, including electronic warfare, airborne early warning (AEW) and ground attack roles, as well as reconnaissance and communications relay. Since 1992, Chinese planners have been constructing an advanced AEW electronic system ready for a potential diplomatic or military showdown with the United States on the Taiwan dispute. The key element of its force of killer drones is the Israeli Harpy.
Beijing believes Washington is forcing Israel to withhold the UAVs as part of its overall scheme to impair the airborne intelligence system the Chinese are building, without which an attack on Taiwan is impracticable.
Palestinians Return to the Knife
29 December: The passivity of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), frontrunner to succeed Yasser Arafat in January 9 election, in the face of Palestinian violence is noted by Israeli defense chiefs. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has complained that the Palestinian Authority employs 30,000 security and police officers in the Gaza Strip. Yet they have not taken the slightest step to restrain terrorist attacks on Israel.
Sharon and his government are committed not to make waves that might spoil Abbas’s run for election. But the relentless mortar and missile assaults on Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip are too egregious to ignore or swallow.
It is also a fact that Palestinian terrorism continues – not only in the Gaza Strip, but in mutated form from the West Bank too.
This December saw eight Palestinian stabbing attacks against Israelis. Two Israeli women were slashed to death and two Israeli men were badly injured. In the mixed Jerusalem suburb of Abu Tor, the Shin Beit caught a Palestinian preparing a suicide attack on behalf of the Hebron Hamas – not by himself; he wanted to persuade his 16-year old fiancee to “volunteer” for the deadly role. All these episodes were quickly brushed out of sight.
The Palestinians are believed by debkafile‘s terrorism analysts to be testing the ground for Israel’s reaction. Conspicuous terrorist operations in Israeli cities would damage Mahmoud Abbas’s international standing as a peacemaker and negotiator and jeopardize the flow of foreign funds lavished on him since Arafat’s demise. But small-scale attacks with blades rather than bombs permits Palestinian violence against Israelis to persist without compromising Mahmoud Abbas before voting day.
Israeli authorities, by their low-key handling of these crimes, are helping to plant the illusion in Israeli minds that a new post-Arafat era has arrived.
The impression gained by the Palestinians is that they can carry on with their campaign of terror under Abu Mazen’s rule too.
First al Qaeda Attempt on Life of Saudi Royal
30 December: debkafile‘s exclusive counter-terror sources reveal that the blasts from three remote-controlled car bombs in Riyadh on December 29 were part of a failed al Qaeda attempt on the life of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdelaziz, son of the Saudi interior minister, who is also his deputy and director of the ministry’s security unit which runs the war on terror. This was the first attempt by Osama bin Laden’s organization to assassinate a member of the Saudi royal family.
Had the assassination plot against Prince Mohammed succeeded, a major upheaval would have ensued, the balance of America’s war on Qaeda affected and the ceiling lifted on oil prices.
According to debkafile‘s counter terror sources, the first blast occurred in a traffic tunnel in the town center. Prince Mohammed’s convoy was driving through on his way to a nocturnal conference with Saudi security and intelligence chiefs on the next stage of the crackdown on terrorists. Al Qaeda knew the time and place and his route. The second bomb car was detonated at the reinforced gates of the high-rise interior ministry building, in an attempt to hit the prince as he stepped out of his car.
A third car blew up at the Saudi special forces recruiting center. The most secret Saudi contingency plans are to send senior royals and their families to secure shelters if their lives are threatened. Mohammed’s protected hideout was to be the special forces recruiting center. Al Qaeda knew enough to waylay him there.
Saddam Hussein Speaks: I Prepared Current Guerrilla War Ahead of Invasion. Syria Is Next.
1 January: On December 16, the deposed Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein was allowed to see his lawyer, Khalil Duleimi for the first time. With no one else present and no time limit, Saddam spoke his mind freely.
debkafile‘s Exclusive Middle East sources present here a summary of that conversation.
Recalling the Muslim adage advising believers to stick together and cling to Allah, he stressed that Sunnis and Shiites must not fight but join forces in order to muster strength to stand up to the American conqueror. Two days after Baghdad fell, he ordered the military commanders serving in the capital and its environs to switch to guerrilla warfare. I told the commanders: the Americans will stretch out full length across Iraq like a viper. That will be the moment to attack and lop off each section one by one.” The deposed president bragged: “All the insurgency and guerrilla operations in progress are the fruit of my decision and my pre-planning.”
He went on to disclose that, during the six months leading up to the war, several offers came from Israeli and Western sources of a deal whereby sanctions against Iraq would be called off and diplomatic relations with Washington resumed if he extended recognition to Israel. But he claims to have refused, maintaining it was impossible and forbidden to relinquish holy land.
He predicted “the Americans and Allawi will not succeed in bringing the elections off.” Saddam also said he fears for Syria as America’s second target.
Israeli Intelligence Chief: Disengagement Holds Perils
4 January: The two Lahava Hill outpost’s mobile homes adjoining Yitzhar near the West Bank Palestinian town of Nablus were chosen for evacuation Monday, January 3, by prime minister Ariel Sharon in person as an object lesson for those who would resist his plan to remove 21 Gaza Strip settlements and four in the northern West Bank starting July.
Tuesday, December 4, Sharon received the most explicit warning so far of the perils inherent in his evacuation plan from Israeli Shin Beit intelligence director Avi Dichter, one of the few counter-terrorist executives anywhere with a proven success record.
In his annual report to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Dichter pointed out that for Israel to withdraw from the Philadelphi route that follows the border with Egypt made no security sense. Without an Israeli military presence there – even if Egypt takes over – Gaza-based Palestinian terrorists will transform southern Israel into a second South Lebanon.
He added that handing the northern West Bank to Palestinian control would be a recipe for converting that sector into a second Gaza Strip. The intelligence chief also warned against pinning hopes for change on the Palestinian election next Sunday, January 9. Palestinian-controlled territory, he said, would continue to serve as a terrorist haven.
The Dichter report came on top of the caution from various quarters that a willingness to defy eviction orders was spreading in the armed forces.
He used the Lahava Hill clash as an opportunity for some muscle-flexing. It was also exploited to good effect by the opposition, the most extreme faction of the settler movement.
The Yitzhar clash had some immediate consequences:
It promoted the extremist settler element to the forefront of the settlers’ campaign against disengagement, for one. For another, it stole the thunder of the more moderate settlers’ protest.
New Palestinian Terrorist Coalition Pinions Abbas
5 January: The Qassam missiles and mortar shells raining down on Israeli civilian and military targets on both sides of the Gaza border in the last two weeks are beginning to look like the opening shots of a major Palestinian offensive across a broad front. It is clearly timed to peak as the Palestinian election date of January 9 approaches.
debkafile‘s military and Palestinian sources report that orchestration is now in the hands of an ad hoc coalition formed by seven Palestinian terrorist groups for the post-election goal of showing Mahmoud Abbas, whose win they takefor granted, who is the boss.
These groups are Abbas’s own Fatah, its suicide arm, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Abu Rish Martyrs Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committee’s Battalions, Hamas’s Ezzadin al-Qassam, Jihad Islami and, a newcomer making its first appearance, the Abu Masoud Squads.
The communiques issued by this new alliance indicate its intention of transposing the escalating violence to the West Bank too. This peril was clearly enunciated Tuesday, January 4, by Israel’s domestic intelligence and counter-terror combat ace Avi Dichter who also disclosed that 5-6 shoulder-launched anti-air missiles had been smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Egypt. Israeli security agencies are not just keeping a careful eye on the new weapons, but also on the recently formed Abu Masoud Squads made up of Fatah elements in the Gaza Strip and Hizballah. This group is viewed as a dangerous new increment for anti-Israel terrorist ranks.
After four and-a-half years of warfare, with Abbas running scared and Sharon committed not to make waves before his election, Fatah and Hizballah feel safe enough to come out in the open and run their combined terrorist cells in broad daylight – first in the Gaza Strip and next in the West Bank. Hopes of Abbas being able or willing to deal with the terrorists fade day by day. His embraces with notorious Palestinian terrorist chiefs, which US secretary of state Colin Powell found “disturbing,” are not just a stratagem to boost his majority. The terrorists are in fact embracing him to remind him he is largely in their power both before and after January 9.
As one senior security source put it to debkafile: The terrorists carried him on their shoulders – not as a sign of affection and respect, but as a warning to keep his feet and hands off their territory if he wants to survive.