A Digest of the Week’s Exclusives
31 May: The way wars used to end was by one belligerent conceding defeat and surrendering to the victor. No more. The two wars led by the Bush administration ended in the conquest of most or all of enemy territory. But instead of conceding defeat, the enemy leaders, Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and Saddam Hussein & Sons went to ground and declared they will fight on. For them, being deposed does not equal defeat.
Yasser Arafat and the ruling ayatollahs of Tehran are finding these precedents extraordinarily encouraging. According to debkafile‘s Washington sources, President Bush and his advisers will deal with the Iranian nuclear crisis by continuing the secret diplomatic dialogue conducted since the beginning of this year.
How should Osama bin Laden, Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein interpret the latest American moves in relation to Iran and the war on terror?
Yasser Arafat. Frightened at first by the changes, Arafat now believes he is onto a winner. Even though the terror campaign goes on, his rival Abu Mazen, ceding nothing but vague promises, is getting red carpet treatment from the United State President, the Saudi Crown Prince and other Arab rulers, as well sweeping goodwill gestures from the Sharon government. Israel is being forced to negotiate peace amid Palestinian terror.
He is not worried by the planned counter-terror force either
For six years – 1994 to 2,000 – the American CIA trained and instructed thousands of Palestinians, including Dahlan’s men (in his previous capacity as head of Preventive Palestinian Security in the Gaza Strip), in counter-terror techniques. As fast they were trained, Arafat stole them – including Dahlan himself – away for the parallel terror force he launched with his armed intifada on September 2001, spearheaded by the Fatah-Tanzim and the al Aqsa Martyrs (Suicides) Brigades. The CIA project was thus shattered from within. Armed with upgraded know-how, it became the hard core of Palestinian terror, remaining so to this day.
This failed experiment is about to be repeated in pursuance of the Middle East road map. Palestinians terrorists are now being turned back into anti-terror enforcement officers for the second time under the latest re-re-conversion program already afoot in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Palestinian terrorists, including a substantial number of Hamas and Jihad Islami bombers and gunmen, have begun drawing monthly wages, spanking new uniforms, weapons, training, health care and bases built over the bombed-out ruins left by Israeli counter-terror raids. The CIA instructors will also impart the advanced counter-terror techniques they acquired in Afghanistan and the global war on terror to the “new” generation of terrorist-fighters-terrorists.
Best of all for Arafat, his devotees will have won a badly-needed respite from the heat of Israeli searches and pinpointed liquidations and be ready to drop back in his lap, the perfect fifth column paid for by… the Israeli taxpayer and Uncle Sam.
Osama bin Laden. The al Qaeda leader and Ayman Zuwahri, alive and fully operational (as debkafile reported persistently in the last year.), can safely conclude they can carry on striking at American targets in Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. Their terrorist cohorts are shielded by Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the Hizballah. When necessary, they are whisked out of potential danger to remote arenas, where they can continue terror operations against fresh targets. Even if given up to the Americans, their loss can be written off as the casualties of a long-term jihad.
Saddam Hussein and Sons. debkafile reports exclusively from its intelligence sources that Saddam Hussein and Qusay have wound up in Libya at a location north of Tripoli, while Uday Hussein has made his home base in the Belarussian capital of Minsk, from which he makes trips to the Middle East and Africa. From Libya Saddam can orchestrate from a safe distance the almost daily clashes between US forces and Baathists across Iraq. He believes Shiite xenophobia (directed against both US and Iran) can be fanned into a civil war that will bring him back to power in a reversal that Washington does not have sufficient military strength on the ground to thwart. He has another ace in the hole. He is paying wages to 400 Iraqi scientists working in the Libyan-Egyptian nuclear industry and their development of chemical and biological weapons.
2 June: debkafile reports from its intelligence sources that Abu Mazen and Dahlan worked hard to concoct some sort of ceasefire in time for the Aqaba summit – not by going to the heads of the Palestinian terror groups, but straight to the chiefs of local terror squads. It was not as difficult as they pretended. Dahlan and his minions have more than a passing acquaintance with each and every one of these terrorist chiefs, enough to knock on their doors and winkle them out of their hideouts. The incentives Dahlan offered squad leaders prepared to lay down arms for three months were: 1. Israeli immunity from reprisals backed up by US-Arab guarantee. 2. US dollar cash payouts. 3. Assured employment with the new Palestinian security force at a monthly wage. 4. The release of their co-terrorists from Israeli prisons.
The maneuvers for a ceasefire exploded the myth of a formidable Hamas-Islamic terrorist infrastructure on the West Bank. Together, they maintain only five senior operatives in the territory and hire Arafat’s Tanzim and al Aqsa Suicides Brigades rent-a-suicide squads for their almost daily operations.
In other words, the only functioning terrorist infrastructure on the West Bank belongs to Yasser Arafat.
To mark Palestinian Children’s Day on June 1, he declared to and invited audience of tots aged 3 to 5:”Remember, each martyr wins the mercy of Allah! A martyr who falls in Jerusalem, is worth 40 martyrs who die anywhere else!” Upon hearing this declaration – in the past a call for massive terrorist action – Israeli security forces braced for the next onslaught. It was also a warning to President Bush ahead of the two summit conferences he leads this week that creating a Palestinian security-intelligence force to fight the “martyrs” would be futile; he, Arafat, had raised generation after generation of martyrs from the time they could walk to continue the battle for Jerusalem.
3 June: Someone at Israel’s Shin Beit secret service decided that 2 am Tuesday was just the time to ask Tel Aviv district court to declassify a stream of data from the investigation into the terrorist bombing by two British Muslims, Asif Muhamed Hanif, who blew himself up, and Omar Khan Sharif, who got away, at Mike’s Place Tel Aviv pub on April 30 leaving 3 Israelis dead and 60 injured. Far from shedding light, the new information expanded the gray area surrounding the episode.
Hanif and Sharif belonged to a British cell activated by or linked to al Qaeda. How did their activities go unnoticed by the Israel Mossad and British anti-terrorist agencies? And if the British did spot them, why did they not alert the Israelis? Does this lapse reflect the real state of inter-agency collaboration in combating global terror or merely the fact that it is dangerously selective?
Another example: There is still no consensus among Israeli investigators on how the explosive material which is not in common use by Palestinian terrorists came be in the hands of the British bombers. Did they smuggle it through themselves? Was it landed clandestinely on the Gaza Strip shore by sea, in which case it stands to reason that a larger quantity was unloaded and awaits use.
The odd timing of the latest disclosures – the small hours of Tuesday, June 3 – is of particular interest. With the Aqaba summit less than 48 hours away, someone had an interest in distancing Palestinian terror as far as possible from international terrorist organizations by reinventing the findings of the Tel Aviv bombings. That attempt was inconsistent with known facts:
A. The two British bombers were members of the radical Islamic Al Muhajiroun, a British member-group of al Qaeda.
B. Both were connected with the notorious Finsbury Park mosque in northern London, where also Shoe Bomber Richard Reid was indoctrinated before attempting to blow up an American Airlines airliner in December 2001. Like Hanif and Sharif, Reid also spent time with the Hamas in the Gaza Strip before embarking on his suicide mission.
C. Hanif, the terrorist who died in the attack, worked for two years at the Terminal 3 duty free store of London’s Heathrow airport. The British authorities have repeatedly denied he had access to the runways but have no doubt he took the job with a terror attack in mind, most likely inspired by Egyptian Jihad Islami zealot Hashem Hadayat who ran a limousine service at Los Angeles airport to gain access to the El Al counter, where on July 4, 2002, he shot dead two Israeli passengers. Not until 2003 did the FBI concede that the attack was an act of terror, but never till now, have they attached him to al Qaeda, even though the Egyptian Jihad Islami is known to function as al Qaeda’s chief arm of operations.
D. One of Omar Sharif’s sisters, who is still confined in London as a suspected accessory in the Tel Aviv bombing, was detained at the London home of a Libyan called Altaf Abbasi, known for years for his close ties with Libyan intelligence and influential circles of the extreme political left in the UK. European and Israeli terror experts are also familiar with Abbasi’s clandestine associations with Islamic radical and Palestinian terror groups.
E. The investigation in its first stages quickly established that the pair flew from London to Damascus where they spent months preparing for the attack in Tel Aviv at the Islamic medressas springing up of late around the Syrian capital.
Obscuring the Palestinians-Damascus-al Qaeda-Hizballah operational axis bodes ill for the war on terror in general and reduces the Aqaba summit’s chances of achieving any realistic progress towards eliminating Middle East violence.
4 June: Both prime ministers put their best feet forward and pronounced the words that President George W. Bush wanted to hear at the end of their 90-minute summit in the idyllic Red Sea resort of Aqaba on Wednesday, June 4.
The most striking speech came from Mahmoud Abbas who solemnly declared that the Palestinian-Israeli dispute has no military solution. “We oppose terror and violent actions as contrary to our religion and inconsistent with the state we aspire to. The armed intifada must end and we must resort to peaceful means to achieve our goals. The words were scarcely out of his mouth when a Hamas spokesman angrily rejected them and said the group had no intention of laying down arms or becoming a partner in the deals struck at Aqaba.
Ariel Sharon, sidestepping the loaded word “occupation”, declared that Israel has no interest in governing Palestinians; they should government themselves in their own state, but we cannot undertake to advance towards that goal until violence and incitement are abandoned. Accepting the importance of territorial contiguity for a viable state, Sharon also promised to immediately remove “unauthorized outposts”.
President Bush declared America strongly committed to Israel’s security as “a vibrant Jewish state” (a code phrase in Middle East diplo-speak meaning there is no room for the pre-1948 Palestinian refugees.)
After Aqaba, the Hamas threat to continue bombing Israelis fits into a new context. Now, even if Abbas and Mohammed Dahlan fail to negotiate a ceasefire with the Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashal who has come to Cairo especially, the buck stops there. The onus of putting the lid on anti-Israel terrorism and disarming the terrorists rests with the Palestinian prime minister and his government. Until they do, the road map’s performance-linked provisions are suspended.
In that case, why pour so many words on the Hamas and its intentions? Very simply, to avoid talking about Fatah, Tanzim and al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and, most of all, their creator and boss, Yasser Arafat. After all, Arafat retains control of three-fifths of all Palestinian Authority security bodies, leaving only two fifths to Dahlan. If those three groups had agreed to suspend terrorist attacks, the Hamas would have come on board. But since all three, obedient to the Palestinian president, are determined to continue their violent suicidal assaults on Israelis, and the Palestinian media, controlled entirely by Arafat, will carry on spewing out anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli hate propaganda hour after hour, where do those fine words at Aqaba lead?
President Bush can afford a policy of ignoring America’s enemies. He even ignores Osama bin Laden, whom the Palestinians give top rating as a world leader, according to a poll run by the Paris-based Herald Tribune. Bush can even gloss over the disappearance of Saddam Hussein and his sons. The US president, Ariel Sharon and even King Abdullah and Mahmoud Abbas, would certainly prefer not to think about Arafat and the threat he poses to all their plans. But that is a luxury Arafat will not permit Israelis to enjoy. He will make sure to disabuse the Aqaba Quartet of any illusions they may entertain; the Palestinian “armed intifada”, i.e. terror will go on uninterrupted by anything that happened on the Red Sea shore on Wednesday.