On Wednesday, April 22, Egypt's intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman held wide-ranging talks in Jerusalem with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman and defense minister Ehud Barak.
Contrary to media reports, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were only incidental subjects of their conversations; unlike the Obama administration, Egypt holds out little hope of progress on the peace track at this time. Two linked topics command most of Cairo's attention these days and therefore dominated Suleiman's Jerusalem talks. They are the top-priority need to check Iran's spreading domination of the Middle East, especially in Lebanon and Iraq, and the Hizballah spy-cum-subversion ring caught working against Egypt.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's counter-terror sources report that the Iran-backed Hizballah ring uncovered by Cairo was run by the “Israel Perimeter Division” of Hizballah's Unit 1800 for clandestine external operations.
That division, headed by Mohammad Kabalan, is responsible for the Lebanese Shiites' covert operations in Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Kabalan took a personal hand in the Egyptian project. It was he who placed the Lebanese Mustafa Mansour, codenamed by Hizballah Sami Shihab, in charge, with the mission of setting up and running an “Egyptian station.”
Egyptian intelligence, under Suleiman's leadership, succeeded in rolling up the network after five months' painstaking effort. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources report that Cairo was able to gather recordings and transcripts of conversations between the ring's Beirut headquarters and its local agents by breaking into the codes of Iranian intelligence networks in the Middle East.
Egypt reserves more explosive data for later use
They caught Hizballah agents red-handed using regional Iranian communications networks and codes – proof that Tehran was the controlling hand behind the subversive Shiite network planted in Egypt – and not just there. Egyptian intelligence managed to draw a map of the Islamic Republic's Middle East undercover networks and covert agents.
Its agents furthermore identified the people in regional state and military organizations who were secretly collaborating with Iranian intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards external terrorist arm, the Al Quds Brigades.
The Egyptians got their first break when they caught the head of the Hizballah network and turned him round. Mustafa Mansour went back to his command post in the Hizballah network and for three months, from Dec. 2008 to Feb. 2009, secretly fed high-quality intelligence to Cairo.
His requests to his Beirut controller for information and funds were dictated by Egyptian intelligence and quickly met by his Beirut controller. The unsuspecting Kabalan often asked Iranian intelligence personnel stationed in Beirut and Damascus for help in summoning requested data directly from Tehran.
For now, Cairo has not tipped its hand on all the material it has collected in the Hizballah case.
According to our sources, a fraction has been used for only four limited purposes:
1. Egypt sent a list of the Lebanese figures and state officials who collaborated with the Iranian and Hizballah networks to Beirut with a demand for their public unmasking. Most of them provided Lebanese passports and other documents granting bearers entry to Egypt and other Middle East countries.
Cairo warned the Fouad Siniora government that the papers of every Lebanese landing in Egypt will be meticulously examined as of next week.
Hizballah acquires top-value real estate as launching pads
Wednesday, April 22, Lebanese justice minister Ibrahim Najjar tried to placate Egypt by promising a state probe to discover how a fake passport came to be issued for Sami Shehab. “He must have given the authorities a false ID,” said Najjar. It is premature for us to take an official position on this.”
This reply is unlikely to satisfy the Egyptian secretary of the Arab League, Amr Moussa who descends on Beirut Saturday, April 25, with some hard questions for the Lebanese government about the Hizballah cell.
2. Cairo alerted Amman to a parallel Hizballah-controlled network in place in Jordan. Its operatives, mostly Hamas extremists, were arrested and given long prison sentences.
3. Incriminating Egyptian data similarly enabled Saudi intelligence to shut down the dangerous Iranian/Hizballah networks operating in the kingdom.
4. Egyptian intelligence uncovered extensive real estate properties covertly purchased in Egypt proper and Sinai for conversion into clandestine Iran/Hizballah bases of operation.
The list presented here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources is impressive:
· Six penthouse apartments in Cairo's high-rise buildings overlooking major sites and landmarks in the Egyptian capital.
Suleiman's analysts believe they were acquired as anti-aircraft missile launching pads for taking down civilian and military planes. Their huge balconies could also have accommodated anti-tank weapons for bombarding important military and government buildings in Cairo.
· Another eight penthouses were bought in the Upper Egypt towns of Mena and Asyout.
· A vast villa in the City of Suez was chosen for its view of the Suez Canal and maritime traffic from a panoramic balcony.
· Thirteen houses were acquired across the Sinai peninsula, most in Rafah, al Arish and Sheiikh Suweid, all commanding major arteries and intersections.
Egypt is playing hard ball with Lebanon and its Shiite leaders. Lebanon's Shiite Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri offered to travel to Cairo to quietly mediate the feud with Hizballlah. He was told not to bother. The Mubarak government would be satisfied by nothing less than a public pledge by Hizballah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah never to allow his followers to operate on Egyptian soil for any purpose – political, military or under cover.
This pledge would have also covered the Lebanese Shiites' efforts to smuggle arms through Sinai to the Gaza Strip for Hamas, a part of their network's mission on Iran's behalf.
Nasrallah is under orders from Tehran to hold out against Cairo's stipulation.
But he did make the gesture of informing Cairo through Beri that he had sacked Mahmoud Kabalan and expelled him from Hizballah.
Cairo does not believe him.