Four Interlinked Terrorist Events in One Afternoon

On a single afternoon, Tuesday, March 8, four key events took place – all them highly relevant to the landmark speech on global terror President George Bush was then delivering to the National Defense University in Washington.
He was saying…”the Lebanese people are demanding a free and independent nation. In the words of one Lebanese observer, ‘Democracy is knocking at the door of this country and, if it’s successful in Lebanon, it is going to ring on the doors of every Arab regime.'” Almost to the moment, a huge crowd of Lebanese, modestly estimated at 200,000, packed Beirut central Beirut in support of Syria and roared after Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah: “America out! Thank you, Syria!” and “Death to Israel!”
Nasrallah yelled back: “We are not Ukraine! We are not Georgia! We are Lebanon!” And “Sharon, Mofaz, Shalom, forget your Lebanese dreams! Lebanon belongs to the Lebanese!”
Lebanon’s devout Shiite community is Lebanon’s largest minority. Nasrallah can easily whip up a mass audience several times a year. This time, debkafile‘s Beirut sources report, he was ably assisted by hundreds of Lebanese, Syrian and Iranian secret agents who were determined to rebuff the US president in the most dramatic way possible.
Again, Bush’s address was punctuated by the breaking news of the death of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov at the hands of elite Russian troops in a special operation at Tolstoy-Yurt in northern Chechnya. mg class=”picture” src=”/dynmedia/pictures/MaskhadovA.jpg” align=”left” border=”0″>
The report was delivered to Russian president Vladimir Putin from the North Caucasian special counter-terror command.
As the American president wound up his speech, Russian state TV aired photos of Maskhadov’s dead body with bared torso.
Then, as dark fell, the terrorist pendulum swung back to the Middle East. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas held his first conversation since the Sharm al-Sheikh summit with a high-ranking Israeli official defense minister Shaul Mofaz at Gaza Strip’s Erez border terminal. They met to try and revive the bilateral security dialogue cut off by the Palestinian suicide attack that killed five Israelis at a Tel Aviv night club February 25. On the agenda was Israel’s offer to start handing five West Bank towns to Palestinian security responsibility. They agreed that Tulkarm and Jericho would be transferred within days – Jericho first, possibly the following day, March 9.
Weaving round these happenings, Bush said: “The bombing in Tel Aviv is a reminder that the fight against terrorists is critical to the search for peace and for Palestinian statehood.” The US president then added a phrase left out of the text the White House published later. Sourcing the attack to Damascus and attributing its implementation to radical Palestinian organizations, Bush concluded that this strategy had a good chance of recurring.
The four interconnected events occurring on a single afternoon graphically illustrated the huge obstacles still facing the United States in the global war on terror.
President Bush demanded the exit of all Syrian troops including intelligence agents from Lebanon by early May. Even if Damascus obeys him to the letter, debkafile‘s military sources reveal exclusively President Bashar Assad and Lebanese chief of staff General Michel Suleiman have cut a deal for Syrian troops to quit Lebanon by June, but to leave behind Syrian-Iranian early warning stations, their crews and Syrian secret agents. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards units will remain in Hizballah bases. These forces will ascertain that nobody in Lebanon can disarm Hizballah or the radical Palestinian organizations based in Lebanon in compliance with the same Security Council resolution 1559 that calls for Syrian withdrawal – certainly not if the radical Shiites assume a dominant role in Lebanese politics.
That same epic Tuesday saw Hizballah stepping out from under Syria’s wing and taking the lead of Lebanon’s anti-American front and the Middle East terrorist movement at large. Nasrallah turned the Bush argument against him. If democracy and the majority government are to rule Lebanon, then, fine, Hizballah’s Shiite following has proved it outnumbers the pro-American, anti-Syrian opposition and it proposes to fight its way to power through the ballot box without renouncing the bullet.
Nasrallah is determined to give the Americans a run for their money. debkafile‘s Lebanese sources report he has booked anti-American, pro-Syrian rallies every three days in a different Lebanese city: Friday, March 11, in the northern town of Tripoli, next Monday or Tuesday, March 14 or 15, in the southern town of Sidon; Friday March 18, Nasrallah faces his biggest challenge in Zakhle, the Maronite Christian capital and bastion of pro-US sentiment.
HIzballlah’s threat is broad and manifold. Rated by our counter-terror sources as the best organized and trained armed terrorist militia targeted by the US-led war on terror – bar none, including al Qaeda, it controls a strong territorial base with the solid logistical, strategic and financial backing of Iran. The Hizballah is the Iraqi guerrillas’ senior recruiting agent in Lebanon and Syria. Its intelligence network runs efficient cells from Latin America to West and East Africa and the Persian Gulf; its operatives are dug in deep among the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and Israeli Arabs. Hizballah maintains active ties with al Qaeda in Europe, Iran, Pakistan and Chechnya.
If Bush and Chirac succeed in ridding Lebanon of Syria, Hizballah and its Iranian sponsors will come up smiling.
The Palestinian terrorists are following a similar route. Groups like Hamas and Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades go along with a non-binding form of truce because Abu Mazen has promised to let them stand in the Palestinian general elections on July 17, about six weeks after the Lebanese election. The anti-Abbas rebellion in their ranks is meanwhile swelling. Once they are entrenched in the Palestinian political establishment, who will disarm them or dismantle their organizations? Certainly not Palestinian security services which Abu Mazen has directed to recruit the hard men and hand them regular pay checks and new uniforms in the hope of taming them.
With Israeli troops out of the way, the Palestinian security units replacing them in West Bank towns will give the terrorists a free hand. Since Hamas and the Hizballah work hand in glove, Palestinian operations against Israel is likely to run along parallel lines to the Hizballah’s anti-American drive in Lebanon.
It is hard to believe that the death of Chechen leader Aslan Maskharov during President Bush’s speech was an accident. Aside from the claim that he was killed in a special operation on Tuesday, March 8, Moscow is cagey about it came about. debkafile‘s counter-terror experts liken the Chechen revolt’s loss of Mazkhadov to the Palestinians’ loss of Yasser Arafat as a political guide and symbol. But while Arafat died in bed, Putin disposed of the Chechen leader violently to demonstrate to the US president that the only one way to beat terrorist kingpins is to kill them, not try and convert them to democracy.

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