Syrian president Bashar Assad did not have to go far for a hammer to cut down the three special operations brigades US Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton built and trained as the security arm of Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Sunday, May 31, Assad ordered his permanent guest in Damascus, Hamas politburo head Khaled Meshaal, to put an end to the charade of this crack pro-American force.
Three hours later, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence and counter-terrorism sources, this directive was in the hands of Hamas cell leaders on the West Bank.
It had four sections:
1. Hamas operatives must start resisting arrests by Palestinian Fatah-dominated forces on the West Bank, whereas until now they were told to show restraint. Even after 500 of their number were detained, Hamas operatives were not permitted to confront the PA squads come to arrest them verbally or by force. From now on, Meshaal told them, they must shoot the PA Fatah squads and fight back, no longer surrender.
Hamas has also been instructed to end its truce on terrorist attacks against Israel from the West Bank. Now after several years, they are ordered to go back to cross-border suicide and other strikes against Israel.
Hamas' overriding mission now, entrusted them by Meshaal and Assad, is to grind down “Dayton's Boys,” the Palestinian Fatah force which the general, as US Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was responsible for shaping and training.
If after prospectively losing its foothold in Lebanon to Tehran and Damascus, Washington goes on to forfeit its position in the Palestinian Authority as well, US President Barack Obama's prized independent Palestine and two-state solution for the longest-running Middle East conflict would go by the board.
The open secret of US-trained Palestinian force's frailty – except in Washington
President Assad's closest military intelligence advisers have assured him that the Palestinian special force of 1,500 trained men, held by US as a signal achievement for the war on terror, is nothing but a fantasy that will vanish if confronted by real force. So disbanding it should be a piece of cake.
While the Americans hold up their new brigades' success in stabilizing West Bank security, especially in Nablus, Jenin and Hebron, Assad's advisers say it is a sham, made possible only by Hamas' orders not to resist or retaliate.
In Nablus, they say, the PA force holds onto no more than a few buildings in the center. And in Jenin, Fatah troops needed seven hours and heavy reinforcements from Ramallah to overcome four Hamas operatives barricaded in a house. Before the shootout was over, the arresting force had lost four men and Hamas two.
One the three PA battalions stationed in Hebron stands idle because the big local families who run the southern West Bank town keep its Fatah personnel and Hamas well apart.
It is therefore estimated in Damascus that if the special force should be confronted with a serious armed attack by another Palestinian force, in which it does not hold the initiative, it will scatter to the four winds. Some will shoulder their side-arms and head for home; some may even cross over and join Hamas or some other Palestinian terrorist group present on the West Bank.
This Syrian estimate, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources report, is shared by some of the Palestinian Authority's own security experts in Ramallah.
Majd Faraj, head of the Preventative Security Apparatus and a Palestinian security high-up, is highly skeptical of the special operation force's capabilities, if only on the grounds of motivation. The Americans, especially Gen. Dayton, he says, are reluctant to admit that these troops joined up simply for the monthly wage they draw from the Palestinian Authority, but lack any compelling motive for putting up a fight against terrorists.
An excruciating terror war of attrition
Another Palestinian security source notes that the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip are strictly off-limits to US administration officials, bureaucrats and intelligence personnel because they are not safe. Dayton himself is based in Amman, Jordan. Washington must therefore rely on second-hand information and intelligence on the current situation in Palestinian territories from the 40 British and Canadian military instructors working with the Palestinian forces on their home ground.
The US administration lacks first-hand knowledge of day-to-day happenings inside these banned territories and the tools for comprehending that its cherished Palestinian special operations brigades are too frail and unfocused to withstand a drawn-out ordeal at terrorist hands.
Syria and Hamas' Damascus-based leaders have no intention of finishing them off quickly by a short, massive assault, but rather to build up a campaign of attrition and wear them down over slow, agonizing months.
They will start by knocking off Palestinian Authority troops living in isolated places; snipers will be used for long-distance liquidations of individuals. Next, the Fatah brigades will be hit by roadside and car bombs littering West Bank roads and towns.
Although the Obama administration has been fully apprised of the Damascus-Hamas offensive impending to wipe out the US-backed Palestinian force, the White House persists in sending emissaries to Syria to meet Assad.
On Thursday, May 28, US Senator Ted Kaufman and US Congressman Tim Walz paid him a visit.
Without turning a hair, Assad told them how much he “appreciates President Obama's adoption of dialogue as the way to deal with difficult issues,” and stressed the “need to work to lift the obstacles that encumber Syrian-American relations.”
Not a word was said in that conversation about Syria's immediate plans to take over Lebanon or strike out against the pro-American Palestinian force on the West Bank.