A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending October 20, 2005
A Palestinian Perception of Abbas: “He Dances with Wolves”
20 October. This week, a distinguished Palestinian researcher Khaled Duzdar voiced the gloom engulfing his people in a letter to his friends published on October 14. Under the heading “He Dances with Wolves,” Duzdar asserts that Abu Mazen’s appeasement of armed groups who maraud Palestinian streets night after night and prey on the innocent and each other will plunge the people in yet another calamity. Palestinian towns and villages have been reduced by the anarchy and lawlessness to a simulacrum of Somalia, he says.
debkafile‘s Palestinian experts are quite sure after watching Abbas perform that he is not genuinely feeble; he plays the weakling to advantage. He works on the principle that the greater the chaos in the areas he rules, the more he can squeeze out of America, Europe and Israel and the less they will demand of him.
In Washington, therefore, Abu Mazen continues to plug the message which has brought the Palestinians to their sorry state: Hamas and terrorist groups must be absorbed into government rather than dismantled, and international aid and Israeli concessions are the precondition for his survival – regardless of continuing terrorist attacks.
Abu Mazen’s policies have degraded Palestinian forces of law and order. Even the terrorist organizations are losing their grip and becoming swallowed up by an ungovernable assortment of warlords and criminal gangs. One of Abbas’s closest associates, the civil affairs minister Mohammed Dahlan, has moved to Montenegro.
He tells visitors he has washed his hands of Abu Mazen for good.
UN investigator Detlev Mehlis states he excised five senior Syrian officials’ names from his interim Hariri report
21 October: debkafile‘s intelligence sources identifies them. The first two are President Assad’s close relatives: Maher Assad, his younger brother and head of the presidential guard, and Gen. Assef Shawqat, the president’s brother-in-law and military intelligence chief.
The other three are: Gen. Roustum Ghazali, head of special external intelligence and former Syrian military intelligence chief in Lebanon, Gen. Hassan Khalil, liaison between the various Syrian intelligence bodies, and Col. Mohsein Hamoud, a former military intelligence officer who served in Lebanon. Hamoud is the colonel who drove the Mitsubishi Canter bomb car from Syria to Lebanon on Jan. 21
Bashar Assad & Mahmoud Abbas Are Teetering
23 October: The presidential palace in Damascus has set up an emergency response team to ward off the hammer blows dealt by two damning UN reports. But it is only a facade; it does not affect the turmoil raging inside the close Assad family circle: the president, his sister Bouchra (regarded as the toughest and most corrupt), her husband Assef Shawqat, head of general intelligence, who is a reputed professional hitman, and Maher Assad, Bashar’s younger brother.
The first crack in the family’s cohesion was forced by interior minister Ghazi Kenaan and his death (whether murder or suicide). Kenaan provided the cement for the strong bond between the president and brother-in-law Shawqat. Hariri’s assassination convinced Kenaan to pull away from that partnership. This made him a liability and his days were numbered. Then came the traumatic night of Oct. 20, when the unrevised Mehlis report on the Hariri murder handed to the UN secretary implicated Maher Assad and Shawqat by name.
This foursome is now locked in together in stifling proximity. Given the slightest hint that any formation of three is willing to sacrifice the fourth member to save themselves will tip the group over into a life-and-death struggle. That is the moment the Assad clan’s enemies are watching and waiting for. They all judge the Assad family as being on the brink of imploding – which is why condemnation rather than sanctions will come out of the Security Council session Tuesday.
The situation of the Palestinian Authority’s Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is no less shaky. As though synchronized with the mortal UN findings against Damascus, Abbas called on the White House on Oct. 20 only to make the disturbing discovery that he was no longer President George W. Bush’s blue-eyed boy. Washington would back economic measures to improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians, but Abu Mazen’s refusal to crack down on the terrorists had cost him the White House’s support for his leadership. Lacking a solid domestic power base from the start, he lasted in office for most of a year, only because he was propped up by Washington and Jerusalem. The Palestinian organizations, including Fatah, found him useful as their external diplomatic face for only as long as the Americans and Israelis accepted him. Without the American crutch, his own ruling Fatah may find it has no more use for him.
Mahmoud Abbas in October 2005 is placed in a position analogous to the late Yasser Arafat in August 2000. He faces three options:
1. To bow to Washington’s will;
2. To emulate Arafat and choose the path of terror and war;
3. To do nothing.
Syrian president Assad faces three similar options:
A car bomb blast killed 9 people in Kurdish Suleimaniya, home of chief judge of Saddam Hussein tribunal
25 October: This was first attack in two years on the northern Iraqi town, which is president Talabani’s PUK base. The blast went off near the Kurdish militia’s regional headquarters. debkafile adds: Rizgar Mohammed Amin, the chief judge of the tribunal trying Saddam Hussein – and the only judge photographed in court – hails from Suleimaniya.
UN envoy denounces Hizballah’s participation in Lebanese government while remaining an armed militia
Special UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen sharply criticized the Hizballah’s unchanged status in Lebanon as failure to implement Security Council Resolution 1559’s order to disband militias. In the report he submitted to the UN secretary in the implementation of 1559, the envoy challenges the Hizballah’s claim to be “a legitimate resistance movement” fighting for the liberation of the Shebaa Farms from Israeli occupation. This interpretation is in stark contrast to the United Nations position that Israel has fulfilled all Security Council resolutions and withdrawn all its forces from Lebanese territory.
Regarding the Hizballah;s inclusion in the Siniora government – for the first time ever, this group holds a ministerial portfolio – Roed-Larsen stresses that despite its readiness for an internal dialogue and the possible transformation of the Hizballah from an armed militia to a political party – operating as a political party and as an armed military is contradictory. The carrying of arms outside the official armed forces is impossible to reconcile with the participation in power and government in a democracy. The UN envoy notes that, according to its own leadership, the Hizballah has more than 12,000 missiles at its disposal.
Israel‘s UN Ambassador Danny Gilerman submits demand for the UN Security Council to debar Iran from membership of the world body
He acted on instructions from prime minister Ariel Sharon following Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s call to wipe Israel off the map and threat of a Palestinian offensive to destroy the Jewish state. The Iranian president has been universally slammed for his remarks.
Israel vice prime minister Shimon Peres urged the international community to take his threats seriously in the light of Iran’s projects to develop nuclear arms and acquire long-range missiles to deliver them.
Five Palestinian Jihad Islami operatives killed in an Israeli air raid in Jebalya, Gaza, Thursday night. Two children also died in the attack
27 October: Fourteen people were injured. Among the dead was Shadi Mahana, a senior Jihad operative in Gaza who directed Qassam missile fire and numerous terrorist attacks.
The raid took place the day after a Jihad Islami suicide bomber blew himself up in Hadera’s open market. Five Israeli civilians died, 30 were injured.
Earlier, Sharon pledged a “broad, nonstop anti-terror offensive” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip until there is an end of terrorism
There would be no more meetings with Abu Mazen, he said, until the Palestinian Authority takes serious action against terrorists. Sharon blamed Palestinian laxity in this regard for the lack of progress on the road to peace.
A Nigerian terrorist group linked to al Qaeda claims Bellview plane crash that killed all 118 aboard
27 October: debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that a group identifying itself as Coalition for Militant Action in the Niger Delta (COMA) has claimed the crash on Oct. 23. The plane bound for Abuja came down at Lissa village minutes after takeoff from Lagos airport. Aboard were senior Nigerian officials who have never been identified by the authorities. Before disappearing from the airport radar, the pilot sent a distress signal.
COMA threatens more attacks on “Nigerian agents and infrastructure” until its leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari is released from detention. The detained man has asked his followers to cease violent action, but they publicly rejected his request and threatened strikes against Nigeria’s oil pipelines.
The Nigerian group claims to be linked to al Qaeda and operating under the command of Abu Musab al Zarqawi. One theory is that the plane was brought down by a missile.
Israel continues select operations against Palestinian terrorists – but refrains from turning up the heat
27 October: To meet escalating terrorist attacks peaking in the Hadera bombing, Mofaz gave the IDF the go-ahead for ongoing air force activity over the Gaza Strip, targeted assassinations, detentions, temporary closures of border crossings and preparation for possible ground operations. Wednesday night and Thursday Oct. 26, Israel warplanes struck Qassam missile sites in N. Gaza and plowed up the road to Beit Hanoun. Half a dozen arrests made in the West Bank, including 3 Jihad Islami operatives. The high security alert imposed after the Hadera bombing in case of further attacks is still in place.
debkafile‘s security sources describe these actions as deliberately low-key. They are aimed less at deterring terror and more at keeping alive the positive impact on world opinion of the evacuation of the Gaza Strip, while trying to show Israelis that national security has not been impaired.
The Hadera suicide bomber spent 10 days in a safe house in Israel before his murderous attack
27 October: Hassan Abu Zeid 20, who murdered 5 Israelis and injured 30, when he detonated a large bomb at a falafel stand in the Hadera open market, left his home in Kabatya, Jenin, Sunday Oct. 16, ten days earlier – or Oct 17 at latest. He headed straight for a safe house prepared for him in an Israeli Arab village of the Triangle, which abuts the northern West Bank. This is reported by debkafile‘s exclusive counter-terror sources. This fact contradicts the Jihad Islami claim that the Hadera attack, like the Qassam missile bombardment, was staged in revenge for the death of its West Bank leader Louai Saadi, who died in a shootout with Israeli troops on Oct 24. The more likely triggers were the 10th anniversary of the liquidation of the Jihad Islami founder Fathi Shkaki by the Mossad in Malta and the gigantic Jerusalem Day march planned in Tehran and Beirut for Friday, Oct. 28.