The forces of Iraqi Al Qaeda (ISIS), advancing Saturday, Jan. 4, on Baghdad from captured areas of Sunni Falluja and Ramadi, also claimed to have “penetrated the security system of the Party of Satan (Hizballah) and… crushed its strongholds.” This was a reference to the deadly bombing attack Thursday, Jan. 2, on Hizballah’s political headquarters in the Shiite Dahya quarter of Beirut, which accounted for at least 4 people dead and 77 injured.
The Al Qaeda announcement added that this “was a small payment of the heavy account awaiting those wicked criminals.”
Shortly before this, the Lebanese army disclosed that Majd Al-Majid, head of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades tied to al Qaeda, had died in prison of “kidney failure.”
debkafile’s counter-terror and intelligence sources doubt the veracity of this claim. It is far more likely that this high-profile Lebanese al Qaeda operative died under interrogation – or else, under threat of being surrendered to Hizballah unless he came clean on his organization’s set-up in Lebanon, he chose to die by his own hand. He would have known that in the hands of Hizballah, he would be at the mercy of Iranian intelligence officers.
Al Majid was arrested on his return last week from Syria, where he forged a cooperation pact with Abu Muhammad Al-Jolani, head of the Al Qaeda Nusra Front fighting the Assad regime, as debkafile first revealed on Jan. 1st. This would have provided the Syrian jihadists with a logistical base in South Lebanon.
All these events add up to Al Qaeda-Iraq, Al Qaeda-Syria and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades having come together for a mighty push to seize footholds in a vast swathe of Middle East territory, along a line running between three Arab capitals – Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut.
Al Qaeda is turning itself into the Sunni knife for slicing through the Shiite axis linking Tehran to Damascus and the Lebanese Hizballah in Beirut.
Our military sources say a major escalation of this violent confrontation is building up for the near term in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and may not stop there; there may also be spillover into Israel and Jordan.
Over the weekend, Israel began putting its resources in order accordingly:
1. Preparation was made for Al Qaeda’s fronts in Iraq or Syria trying to penetrate Israel for terrorist activity on the same lines as its attacks on Lebanon.
It became clearer than ever before that Israel can on no account afford to consider evacuating its troops from its eastern border, i.e. the Jordan Valley – or abandoning its military and intelligence assets on the West Bank. Both are demanded by the Palestinians as their sine qua non for an agreement and have gained Secretary of State John Kerry’s endorsement.
2. Israel finds itself caught between two equally hostile and dangerous radical forces, both of which enjoy powerful backing. On the one hand, the Obama administration is eager to maintain US rapprochement with Iran to the point of allowing the brutal Bashar Assad to remain in power. On the other, former US ally Saudi Arabia is willing to back Muslim elements close to Al Qaeda, like the Sunni forces in Iraq and their counterparts in Lebanon, for the sake of sabotaging Washington’s current policies.
In these circumstances, Israel finds it increasingly difficult to determine which are its friends in the Middle East arena – and worth helping – and which its foes.
3. Amid these fast-moving circumstances, John Kerry can hardly expect to persuade Saudi King Abdullah when they meet in Riyadh Sunday, Jan. 5, to throw his support behind the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has made acceptance of the US framework proposal for advancing the peace talks with Israel conditional on authoritative Arab endorsement.