Karine-A Seizure Changes US Game Rules for Arafat
It took the New York Times only a few hours to obtain corroboration from “senior administration officials in Washington” for debkafile‘s January 4disclosure that the US was involved in tracking the Palestinian arms ship seized in a combined Israeli naval-air force operations on the Red Sea Thursday. The officials stressed that the US did not participate in the actual seizure. Neither did it have evidence that the weapons were destined for the Palestinian Authority, as Israel claims, rather than the Lebanese Hizballah.
In terms of Arafat’s involvement in the international terror movement, however, either option puts him in very hot water in Washington.
The vessel was purchased by senior Palestinian Authority officials with PA funds; its skipper, now under Israeli interrogation, is a lieutenant colonel of Palestinian Naval Intelligence, three crewmen belong to the same force and a high-ranking Hizballah operative was also captured on the deck of the Karine-A. Arafat has thus been caught red-handed placing his resources, many of which come out of donations from Western governments, into a manifest collaborative operation with a proscribed al Qaeda-linked terror group.
Whether the 50 tons of weapons were destined for the Palestinian Authority or the Hizballah in Lebanon is immaterial in this regard.
debkafilefirst exposed Arafat’s strategic decision to join operational hands with the Hjizballah exactly a year ago. Since then, Lebanese Shiite terrorists have been streaming to Palestinian-ruled areas as military instructors working closely with Palestinian intelligence services, mentors for suicide squads and instructors in the manufacture and use of various types of rockets, including Katyusha surface weapons, and extra-power explosives.
Until now, the US government has avoided acknowledging this collaboration, because it would have meant listing Yasser Arafat as head of a terrorist group and the Palestinian Authority as a terrorist organization. However, the very fact that US spy satellites and planes picked up the trail of the Palestinian weapons ship as it sailed from Iran and passed the word on to Israel in time for its interception – a fact administration officials did not deny to the New York Times – is tantamount to an important administration step towards tightening the noose around Arafat.
Indeed the first thing US envoy Anthony Zinni did when called on Arafat in Ramallah Friday afternoon was to demand an explanation for the arms ship. All Arafat and his aides could produce was a lame denial and the promise of an inquiry.
A senior US source informed debkafile Saturday that the time is past for talking about a Palestinian-Israeli peace or even a ceasefire. Arafat is on the spot he has got to understand that he is under notice to break off all his ties with violent terrorist organizations – the Hizballah in Lebanon, Iraqi military intelligence, through the officers he allows to operate on the West Bank and with whom he works in Jordan, and with the Damascus-based Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestinian.
Aside from those links, he has still not moved to disband the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami. But he will find that the capture of Karine-A has affected a pivotal change in the rules governing Washington’s attitude towards the Palestinian Authority.