Bush Uncompromising on Terror Powell Isolated
Madeline Albright understandably took aim at George W. Bush for “lumping Iraq, Iran and North Korea together” in his evil axis. She went so far as to declare that Washington may appear to the world as having gone out of its mind. Ms. Albright should be excused; the policies she executed as Bill Clinton’s secretary of state are in tatters. She being forced to witness the president opting for the uncompromising line on terrorism advocated by vice president Richard Cheney, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and dropping the more moderate line of her successor. Secretary of state Colin Powell is politically isolated.
The White House has made it clear it will have no patience with the uncommitted. Hard line US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was sent to Munich to warn European allies that Washington would take a dim view of anyone who tried to sit on the fence.
Addressing a 43-nation security conference on February 2, he said NATO needed a “military transformation agenda” to develop its capacities in counter-terrorism. “Nations cannot afford to act like those neutral nations 60 years ago…”
He stressed: “The mission must determine the coalition, the coalition must not determine the mission.” The deputy defense secretary also noted it was a “long way from what the president said (on Saddam Hussein and the “evil axis”) to concluding any course of action.” On the Palestinians, Wolfowitz said Washington remained committed to ending the Palestinian “tragedy” but “unfortunately our main interlocutor on the other side is himself rather deeply implicated in terrorism.”
That being the dominant view in Washington – and given the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s unchanged depiction of Arafat as irrelevant – debkafile‘s political analysts tend to rate as no more than diplomatic smoke Sharon’s meeting with Arafat’s advisers, Abu Ala, Abu Mazen and Mohammed Rashid (See Palestinians Decide Sharon Here to Stay on this page), Shimon Peres’s conversations in New York with Abu Ala and Colin Powell and Binyamin ben Eliezer’s visit to Washington.
A truer sign of the times came from Abdullah II, the Hashemite king of Jordan. When asked after meeting President Bush Friday February 1 where he stands on the “evil axis of Iran, Iraq and North Korea”, he said without hesitation that he “endorsed tremendously” Bush’s view and position since September 11.
Before leaving for the US capital, debkafile‘s military sources report the Jordanian monarch took the precaution of massing troops on high alert on the Jordanian-Iraqi border. They are bolstered by US units stationed in Jordan and other friendly forces. Bush, Abdullah and Sharon, who is due in Washington Thursday, February 7, anticipate that Saddam Hussein may not take the Jordanian king’s wholehearted alignment with the US President lying down. They have taken steps to forestall Iraqi reprisals.
In its latest issue (No. 47, Feb. 1), DEBKA-Net-Weekly affirms from its sources in Washington that the Bush administration’s decision on a final and irreversible break with Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat was conveyed last week to friendly Arab and European governments. One source said: “Now we know that Arafat used his relations with the US administration and intelligence going back ten years at least to cover up his long-active reciprocal ties with terror groups operating in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and West Europe.”
He never really dropped his close association with Imad Mughniyeh, the Iranian-Lebanese terrorist, whom Iran’s hard-line spiritual leader, Ali Khamenei, named to his top terror operational staff. In the 1970s, Mughniyeh was a member of Arafat’s personal guard Force 17 and the two men never lost touch. Their relations intensified after Mughniyeh joined al Qaeda in the mid-1990s, going on to become Osama bin Laden’s chief operations officer.
Arafat’s hidden links with Iraqi army intelligence elements working with terrorist organizations have also come under close scrutiny. Our American source commented: “We would not be too surprised to find him dealing indirectly, or even directly, with Osama bin Laden or his top men.
A number of Middle Eastern and European officials, in a last-ditch attempt to rescue Arafat, asked to be middlemen. They were told Arafat must make the running by publicly confessing to his personal complicity in the aborted Karine-A smuggling attempt, admit his dealings with the Iranian leadership and Mughniyeh and apologize for instigating those connections. Next, he must order the arrest, trial and sentencing – for real – of the organizers of the Karine-A gun-running attempt and, furthermore, direct Palestinian security services to disband, by force if need be, all the Palestinian terrorist organizations, including the Fatah-affiliated Tanzim and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. The discredited Palestinian leader must also expose the Hizbollah and Iraqi military intelligence agents and cells working on his behalf in Palestinian-controlled West Bank and Gaza Strip areas – and then deport them all. Finally, Arafat must hand over the terrorist cells he planted among Israeli Arabs and discontinue his subversive machinations in Egypt and Jordan.
“What we want,” said one American source, “is for Arafat to act like Musharraf and stifle terrorism. But we don’t believe he’ll do it.”
To forestall the furious Palestinian backlash expected from Washington’s actions, Israel’s high command was ordered to stand ready to launch a general offensive against Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after midnight Monday, January 28, to be the biggest military operation ever mounted against the Palestinians. At the last minute, Sharon was asked to stand down. America feared the operation would peak in the middle of the President’s State of the Union address Wednesday, January 30. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak asked for a few days’ grace to try and rein Arafat in. He also broke the ice overlaying his relations with the Sharon government, distributing invitations to Sharon’s advisers to come and meet him. Saudi crown prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz invited Jordan’s King Abdullah for a two-day visit to Riyadh to discuss the crisis.
(The new USMiddle East strategy was covered extensively in the last DEBKA-Net-Weekly, No. 47, published Friday, February 1. To place your order for our special intelligence newsletter for subscribers, click HERE.)
The Bush administration is therefore occupied in shredding Clinton’s foreign policy legacy and its innate diplomatic ambiguities and accommodations. This leaves Colin Powell and his style of diplomacy out in the cold. Bush will no longer let Arafat get away with talking peace by day and engaging in terror by night. Saudi Arabia will not be forgiven for jumping in bed with the anti-American Iraq and Iran; or North Korea, for selling those two nations missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Washington’s response to the formation of a Saudi-Iranian-Iraqi-Syrian-Hizballah-Palestinian bloc was swift and clear: a new pro-American alliance made up of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Turkey.