A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending May 5, 2005:
New Palestinian Maneuver
New Palestinian Maneuver
25 April: The high terror alert declared over this year’s Passover for the fourth year in a row was a grim reminder of the 2002 Seder massacre in Netanya. Four months have passed since Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shook hands with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on a truce at Sharm el Sheikh. It was the direct outcome of the Sharon-Peres-Mofaz reversion to the Palestinian policy of their predecessor, Ehud Barak, in the face of the first stages of Yasser Arafat’s suicide terror campaign – appeasement in the face of violence and the threat thereof. Sharon has not only reverted to the appeasement in the face of violence practiced by his predecessor Ehud Barak, he has extended it. Taking advantage of this, the Palestinians are treating Israel’s willingness to withdraw from the Gaza Strip – not as a gesture for peace but an appetizer. They have raised the ante. If Israel wants its pull-back coordinated and orderly, then it must give up additionally control of the international border crossings to Palestinian control – including the Israel-Egyptian crossing – and provide the Palestinians with a corridor from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank cutting through the southern Israeli Negev.
This corridor would cut Israel in two.
The last demand demonstrates in the clearest fashion that a Palestinian state and the state of Israel cannot both have contiguous territory – it is either one or the other. This may be why no American president before George W. Bush endorsed the novel notion of a Palestinian state in the first place. And Bush too had to turn the clock of history as far back as 1949 to make his vision of the first Palestinian state tenable by gouging lumps out of Israeli territory. This fact was glossed over by Sharon in his last two encounters with the US president.
In April 2005, the only coordination taking place is between the offices of Sharon and Abu Mazen, facilitated by Washington in the person of security coordinator Gen. Ward, helped along by special official emissaries, and defense minister Shaul Mofaz in his talks with Dahlan.
Putin’s Mid East Visits Signpost Unfolding Russian Penetration
29 April: Despite differences over key issues, Vladimir Putin and his Israeli hosts basked in the warm friendliness of their Jerusalem encounters. But he brushed aside Israeli objections to the supply of 50 Russian armored personnel carriers to the Palestinians -whose terrorist structures are still thriving, and to the sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. President George W. Bush also said again Thursday that he was unhappy about the missile sale to Damascus. Bush and Putin are due to meet in Moscow in ten days.
Just as the Russian president spoke words Israelis wanted to hear on Thursday (“Tehran needs to do more to assure world it is not trying to build atomic weapons.” Returning spent nuclear fuel from Bushehr plant to Russia is not enough. Iran must also “abandon all technology to create a full nuclear cycle”), on Friday, he sang a tune pleasing to Arab ears in Ramallah. There he conversed freely in Russian with Mahmoud Abbas, an old colleague from their Cold War days in the KGB First (Foreign Relations) Directorate. Last January, Abbas, newly elected to replace the late Yasser Arafat, chose Moscow for his first overseas trip outside the Middle East. There, as debkafile reported at the time, he held secret talks with his former KGB bosses on collaboration and settled with Putin on a Russian-Palestinian arms deal to be unveiled when opportune. The time for that is now.
The Kremlin has embarked on a cautious drive to re-establish itself in the Arab world. Its anti-aircraft missile deal with Syria is believed by debkafile‘s strategic experts to be only a foretaste of much larger transactions to come. Putin sees long-term advantage in strengthening the Syrian ruler’s standing in the eyes of his military. And should a military coup unseat Assad, Russia will already have its foot firmly through the door of any future regime.
While rapping Iranian nuclear weapons aspirations in public, the Russian leader has developed a nuclear relationship with Tehran. Semi-clandestine ties (on the Abu Mazen model) are maintained with pro-Baath Iraqis actively running the guerrilla war against US forces from outside the country. The Russians are also in close contact with such Palestinian radical and terrorist groups as the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine. The Kremlin is thus quietly acquiring an inside track to regional developments and jumping-off points for broader penetrations.
In the war on terror, Moscow has cut Israel out of its counter-terror intelligence loop for a reason. These days, the Kremlin plays its cards very close to its chest. Jerusalem’s bid for intelligence-sharing with Moscow was rebuffed in early 2004 when the Russians indicated they were open only to one-way traffic from Israel.
First Ever Islamic Husband-and-Wife Suicide Team Debuts in Cairo
30 April: In the two Islamic terrorist attacks carried out two hours apart in Cairo Saturday, April 30, two of the three assailants were killed and 15 victims injured, including four tourists. They stand out as landmarks because of three unique features revealed here exclusively by debkafile‘s counter-terror sources:
1. This was the first husband-and-wife (or betrothed couple’s) suicide team al Qaeda has ever mounted. The third accomplice was also a relative. These attacks were staged by the Egyptian Islamic Jihad whose leader is Ayman al Zuwahiri, Osama bin Laden’s senior lieutenant.
2. A death team of two women is also a first in the Arab world, except for the Palestinians.
3. Egyptian authorities are deliberately disseminating conflicting reports on the two incidents to create confusion. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources have discovered exclusively that all three attacks this April were carried out by the same al Qaeda-Jihad Islami cell that attacked three Sinai resorts last October, killing 34, including 13 Israelis and injuring 150 holidaymakers. It has established a substantial network this past year and begun to carry out its first operations inside the country. The network’s two centers, debkafile reveals are Mena, a southern town teeming with Muslim extremist factions and the Nile Delta town of Qalyub just north of Cairo. Only two out of several dozen were positively identified and arrested last week. One died under torture Friday, April 29.
Egyptian efforts to conceal the true perpetrators of last year’s Sinai attacks did more harm than good. The local cell used the official misdirection to cover its preparations for more terror plots. Their failure to uncover and smash this network in the seven months since the Sinai attacks must rank as fiasco of the year in the war on terror. Israel too has kept silent on al Qaeda’s role in the last attacks out of consideration for Egypt. Tens of thousands of Israelis visited Sinai and Egypt over Passover despite a general security warning from Jerusalem, thus proving that denial is not the most effective way to fight al Qaeda or any other terrorist threat, including the Palestinian variety.
Talabani and Jaafari See Their Plans Threatened by Strong Iraqi Army
1 May: In the three days since Ibrahim Jaafari’s partial government was confirmed by the Iraqi national assembly, the country has endured an unprecedented surge of brutal shootings, car bombings and ambushes that left 79 dead, including at least 7 American soldiers.
This terror offensive, launched by Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda’s Iraq commander Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, aim at rocking the new administration, demonstrating that George W. Bush’s Iraq strategy is unworkable, proving that the partial government list representing only Kurds and Shiites is not acceptable and that, if Washington thinks it can starting pulling US troops out in 2006, it had better think again. Not only is the insurgency still going strong, but Zarqawi is highly operational.
Iraq’s neighbors are badly worried by the deteriorating situation in Iraq and its Sunni Muslims are ready to fight the US-backed regime more than ever before. They see no recipe for stability in the awards of the presidency to a Kurd, Jalal Talabani, the premiership to the leader of the Shiite Dawa, which was and is linked to Tehran, and a senior deputy presidency to Ahmed Chalabi, who only last year was branded by US intelligence an Iranian spy. Although Sunni factions were promised 6 portfolios and a deputy premiership in Jaafari’s 31-member government, only four posts were on offer – none meaningful. Indeed, the list is regarded as a ragbag of mostly unknown faces – not fresh, young blood, but a Kurdish-Shiite blend for alleviating extreme pressure from Washington three months after Iraq’s election.
Saturday, April 30, a day before his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan hosted in Istanbul a worried group of ministers from Iraq’s neighbors Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He spoke out strongly against “any ethnic group holding sway over Iraq” or a carve-up of the country. Erdogan voiced concern lest the violence plaguing Iraq spill across its borders. Separately, top Iraqi Sunni scholar Harith al-Dhari said: “We don’t trust this government.”
All the ministers who met in Istanbul last Saturday perceived the Bush administration’s Iraq policy as leading the country towards partition between Kurds and Shiites and leaving the Sunni Muslim community out in the cold. They agreed to pool their resources for a common stand against these perils – and the rising tide of violence in Iraq – to their stability and territorial integrity.
Palestinian Missile Production in Full Swing in Ramallah
3 May: Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has all the time in the world for a decision on the fate of the 10,000 Israelis to be uprooted from their homes and the disposition of the properties, farms and businesses they built there. After all, there are still three months to go before the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank are awarded to the Palestinians under his unilateral disengagement plan. Sharon called a special session of senior ministers in Jerusalem Tuesday, May 3, in order to get something decided. But no decision was taken.
While Sharon dawdles, the Palestinians are racing ahead with rearmament plans for the next stage of their war against Israel – this time from the West Bank. debkafile‘s military sources report that, Ramallah, the West Bank’s urban hub and the seat of Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian government is now the site of a chain of small factories making Qassam missile components. An assembly line turns out 3 to 5 complete missiles per week. A second row of workshops – also in Ramallah – was fitted out in the last month with assembly lines for mortars and shells.
This information, say debkafile‘s sources, was relayed by IDF, police and border guard officers in briefings to local Israeli security teams responsible for the Israeli towns and locations southwest of Ramallah and on the outskirts of Jerusalem: Three disclosures were contained in the briefing:
1. Palestinian terror tacticians are keeping watch on the protective walls under construction along Route 443 which should be completed in a month. Before then, they will have enough Qassam missiles and mortars to bring the traffic on that vital highway to a halt. A similar offensive is ready for the Trans-Israeli Highway 6 in central Israel. It is being set up by the new Palestinian infrastructure building up in Qalqilya, Jenin and Tulkarm, in the northern West Bank.
2. Specially-trained Palestinians attackers will shoot at road traffic over the fence while Israeli troops in pursuit will be encumbered by the very fence meant to defend the road. This flaw was brought to the attention of senior security authorities but to no avail.
3. The Palestinian can be expected to fill the nights with sniper, missile and mortar fire from Ramallah, in the same way as they do against Israeli locations from the Gaza Strip today.
Witnesses traveling West Bank roads in the last few days report that IDF checkpoints are growing slack. They saw long convoys of waiting Palestinian trucks suddenly waved through without inspection. The terrorists are using this laxness to move their war materiel from one part of the West Bank to another.