9 November: A bureaucratic mix-up in London Friday, November 8, forced British officialdom into the unwilling admission that international terrorists may now wield a nuclear threat and it could be aimed at Britain.
According to DEBKAfile‘s counter- terror sources, potential alerts registered in the second week of November include:
— Possible nuclear or chemical attacks in North American, West European and Middle East cities. The alert for London pinpoints The City, government offices, the Underground and the Thames River.
— In pursuit of massive casualties, terrorists may resort to bomb cars or kamikaze pilots. Ships loaded with many tons of explosives of all types – some containing nuclear substances – may crash into Western harbors such as London, New York, Tel Aviv or Haifa.
— Possible hijackings of trains and subway systems, to be packed with explosives and blown up in city centers.
— Possible sea landings by suicide teams bent on reaching pre-arranged targets.
The warnings against biological warfare for spreading smallpox, anthrax and the like are still current.
DEBKAfile‘s intelligence and counter- terror sources stress that these alerts proliferate the nearer the date approaches for the (official) launching of the US military offensive against Iraq.
Four groups or organizations are mentioned in this regard: Al Qaeda, Iraqi military intelligence – or the secret cells in maintains in North America, Europe and the Middle East; the Hizballah and Palestinian groups. Warnings based on intelligence data also allow for massive terrorist attacks carried out jointly by the four groups in different combinations.
It is important to note that the terror alerts sounded in the past week apply to Israel as much as to any other country. Until last week, Israel ranked second after America as an international terror target; now Britain has come alongside.
Israelis are deeply immersed in their surprise election campaign, their eyes fixed on the high-wire contests between incumbent and former Likud prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu, the wrangling between Labor leader Binyamin Ben Eliezer and his rivals Haim Ramon and Amram Mitzna. All the candidates are still arguing about dates for leadership primaries and voting day. However a massive terrorist attack on a scale described in London by the American homeland minister – and not yet achieved by Yasser Arafat – or a severe Iraqi strike causing heavy casualties or damage, would put an end to Israel’s political contention. The general election due in late January would almost certainly be postponed.
9 November: Friday, November 8, while international attention was fixed on the UN Security Council vote by 15 to nothing in favor of the US-UK-Ireland ultimatum to Iraq to disarm, US aircraft dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets over Iraqi troop concentrations that are building up in southwest Iraq, calling on them not to fire on US and British forces. The leaflets fluttered down over a 250-mile strip running close to the Iranian border from the big Iraqi land and air base at Al Kut, 135 miles southeast of Baghdad in the north, to the Shatt al Arb port city of Basra, Iraq’s only outlet to the Persian Gulf, in the south.
DEBKAfile‘s military sources report the American leaflets targeted two major Iraqi military concentrations in particular – one divided between at Al Halafyah, 22 miles east of Al Amarah – roughly 25 miles west of the Iranian frontier, and Musallan, 12 miles north of Al Amarah; the other Iraqi deployment guards the strategic town of Al Qurnah, 50 miles north of Basra, and Al Muzayriah, 10 miles south of Al Qurnah, at the point where the Euphrates flows into the Tigris.
According to our sources, US-UK and Iraqi forces have been locked for two weeks in the most extensive engagement of the campaign thus far for the capture of the entire region from Ali Gharbi in the north up to Al Qurnah in the south. Fighting alongside American and British special forces are elements of Iranian Revolutionary Guards special and intelligence units. They face on the Iraqi side elite units of the Babel and Republican Guard divisions, as well as contingents of the Saddam Martyrs Brigades, made up of fighting men from Saddam’s own Tikrit tribe. They include paratroop and naval commandos and units armed with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
9 November: Both the US-UK-Iranian alliance and Iraq have in the last two weeks beefed up their elite units in southeastern Iraq. The US-led assault force has two primary missions:
A. Within the 60 days assigned to the UN inspectors for completing their report, the troops aim to assert military control over all southeastern Iraq. They will encircle the great oilfields of Khozistan, but stay outside. This mirrors the situation established earlier in northern Iraq, where US, British, Jordanian, Turkish and Iranian special forces stand outside the gates of Kirkuk and Mosul.
B. When completed, US and allied forces will have caged Saddam Hussein, his family, the ruling Baath and the armed forces in the central region, cornering them in the cities of Baghdad and Tirkit and cutting them off from access to the oilfields and denying him revenues for keeping the Iraqi army fighting.
At present, the fighting in the southeastern region is focused at these points: Halafiyah, northeast of Al Amarah, and Musallan further to the north. Control of these two towns will trap the Iraqi Al Amarah force in a pocket. But even more important, the Tigris River widens out at Musallan for its journey north through the capital. From this riverside town, American units can travel upriver into the heart of Baghdad without having to fight their way past Iraqi land units.
American and allied forces are also battling for the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris at Al DEBKAfile‘s military sources report American deliveries in the combat arena of advanced river-crossing equipment, speedboats, hydrofoils, portable bridges – transportable in retractable sections on truck beds – and amphibian craft, for transporting large-scale forces and heavy equipment across marshland and water. Some of the equipment is going through Iran.
One Iraqi response to heightened US-UK-Iranian military activity in the southeast has been to set fire to the marshes.
Arafat’s Road Map: More Killing
11 November: The terrorists Yasser Arafat’s Fatah admitted sending to Kibbutz Metzer on the Israel-West Bank border carried out their killing rampage on Sunday, November 10, concurrently with the Fatah-Hamas conference taking place in Cairo under the European Union’s aegis.
Far from being mutually contradictory, the two events fit neatly together.
In Cairo, “External Hamas”, and Arafat’s Fatah representatives were charged by their European sponsors with discussing ways and means of ending terrorist and suicide attacks in Israel.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell is the wirepuller behind the EU initiative.
For the White House, Yasser Arafat – like Saddam Hussein – is a political goner.
But not for the secretary of state or the European Union.
In London, Charles Tanner, Conservative foreign affairs spokesman in the European Parliament, was curtly brushed off for demanding an investigation into charges that European taxpayers’ donation of 10 million euros a month to the Palestinian Authority is being diverted to fund terrorist activity. European Foreign Affairs Commissioner, Britain’s Chris Patten, retorted that he wants this investigation “like a hole in the head.”
The Palestinian leader maneuvers adroitly between these conceptual divergences.
The fine European distinctions between pre-1967 and territory across the Green Line, right-wing communities and pacifist villages, are immaterial for any part of the Palestinian terrorist movement. Therefore, EU-State Department efforts to persuade the terrorists to stop striking in Israel alone (killing Israelis across the Green Line is permissible in their judgment) is not only denounced in Israel as two-faced, but also misses the mark.
The attack on the left-wing, pro-negotiation Kibbutz Metzer inside the Green Line illustrates this point to the Palestinians and the Arab nation as they celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. It is Arafat’s renewed battle cry for unity. It also underlines two further political objectives:
1. After taking credit for bringing down the national unity government, Arafat’s next goal is to drag Israel’s right-of-center government into radical reprisals that will provoke international condemnation for ” war crimes”.
2. To prove the Bush “road map” a non-starter.
12 November: For Yasser Arafat, suicide attacks in Kibbutz Metzer, at the Karkur Junction or on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Street are not enough. In the last few hours, reports have reached DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources that the three thousands Jordanian special forces and police, after sealing off the southern towns of Ma’an and Kerak for three days and battling local Islamic zealots, are closing in on their quarry: the assassins who shot dead the senior American diplomat, Lawrence Foley, on his doorstep in Amman on October 28, and their dispatchers. The wanted men include Iraqi military intelligence agents and Palestinian members of the Arab Liberation Front, whose leader, Abul Abbas, has his headquarters in Baghdad.
The diplomat, a senior USAID administrator, was shot dead by a professional marksman who fired 8 bullets from a silenced weapon.
Jordanian intelligence and CIA officers in Amman have homed in on two likely paths of inquiry: One is al Qaeda, which maintains secret cells and operational rings among the Muslim fundamentalist Bedouin tribes of southern Jordan. The most wanted man in Jordan today is Muhammad Shalabi, also known as Abu Sayyaf, with his three top aides.
The second path, as DEBKAfile reported immediately after the murder, has led to Palestinian terror cells in Jordan controlled by Iraqi military intelligence agents. For Saddam, the Palestinian terrorists were convenient surrogates for a mission Iraqi intelligence could not afford to execute directly lest the American be presented with the very pretext they need to overcome international objections to military action. To keep their hands clear, the Iraqi agents swarming in Jordan operate through Palestinian cells set up in the large Palestinian population and controlled by the Baghdad-based Arab Liberation Front. This group performs a dual role; it is the Palestinian operational arm of Iraqi intelligence in Jordan and also the connecting link between Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein, that is Baghdad and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Monday, November 11, the Jordanian authorities announced a number of foreigners had been taken in.
DEBKAfile‘s military and intelligence sources report the detained foreigners fall into three main groups:
Egyptians: Members of the extremist al Takfir Al Hijra, the roof organization of the Egyptian Jihad Islami whose leader, Ayman Zuwahri, is Osama bin Laden’s chief lieutenant and operations officer of al Qaeda;
Saudi Wahhabists from two tribes, the Rashid and the Uteibi, who are zealous followers of bin Laden;
Iraqi military intelligence agents, including Palestinian operatives, members of Abul Abbas’s group who were smuggled into Jordan from Baghdad.
Most of all, the picture unfolding from data garnered from the men rounded up in Ma’an is one of deep mutual commitment and a steady flow of operational exchanges between Saddam’s palatial bunker in Tikrit and Arafat’s ravaged headquarters in Ramallah.