Mubarak Dare not Risk Attending Arab Summit
Egyptian president Hosni Mubarakescaped two known assassination attempts by Osama bin Laden and Egyptian Islamic extremists in 1993 and 1995. Since then, he takes no chances.
Three weeks ago, according to debkafile ‘s intelligence sources, he was quietly warned that al Qaeda, the Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian militias based in the Ein Hilweh refugee camp of south Lebanon – who defer to Yasser Arafat – are plotting terrorist operations against the Arab League Summit opening in Beirut next Wednesday, March 27. The two first designated targets are the Egyptian ruler and King Abdullah of Jordan. Yasser Arafat therefore had no intention of turning up in Beirut – as debkafile reported previously.
That warning was couched in general terms. Follow-up intelligence reports informed the Egyptian president that he had been marked for assassination. The lead conspirators were two senior al Qaeda operatives reported to be in Lebanon – the Lebanese-Palestinian-Iranian terror master, Imad Mughniyeh, recently sighted in the Beqaa Valley of East Lebanon, and Abu Zubaideh, who received asylum with the Palestinians in south Lebanon after fleeing Afghanistan via Iran.
The plot, Mubarak was told, is part of a wider conspiracy for a chemical and biological assault on Arab summit participants. Anthrax was specifically mentioned.
Simultaneously, Muslim extremists and Palestinians were to take advantage of the absence of the state heads from their capitals to stir up disturbances in Egyptian and Jordanian cities.
Egyptian president’s non-attendance decision was motivated by this dual threat – not indignation over the Saudi peace initiative pulling the carpet from underEgypt’s leadership position in the Arab world, as was widely suggested.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources add that if Mubarak persists in staying away, the entire conference may cave in. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Jordan’s King Abdullah may well follow suit, leaving low-ranking functionaries to act in their stead.
Thus, under the threat of anti-Arab terror, the event heralded as a pivotal Arab meeting to forge a common stand on such key issues as the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation and America’s offensive against Iraq, has scant chances of lifting off.
In any case, the Arab League has little unity to boast of. It is deeply divided into to main camps: First, pro-American (explicitly or discreetly): Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman. Second, the opponents of US strategy: Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Iraqi and the Palestinians, with the non-Arab Iran and the Hizballah lurking in the background of this camp.
Up until the Wednesday, Mubarak will be the object of intense diplomatic pressure to change his mind. By shunning the summit, he will upset a vital plan put together by US vice president Richard Cheney, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and President Bush’s ceasefire broker Anthony Zinni, whereby the Israelis and Palestinians declare a ceasefire and Yasser Arafat is allowed to travel to the Arab summit in Beirut.
Sharon was so keen on this gambit (See previous article on this page: Sharon Will Let Arafat Go to Beirut) that he was prepared to forego the publicly-announced pre-condition of a genuine halt in Palestinian violence.
From the first, debkafile‘s analysts saw the prospect of a breakthrough being thus achieved as flimsy at best because it failed to take Arafat’s true motivations into account.
The Palestinian leader is by now closely coordinated with the most extreme elements in the Arab world – from Hizballah to Baghdad. His ambitions have soared off the chart: they now encompass the subversion not only of Israel but also of US allies and moderate Arab regimes. He has used the diplomatic kowtowing and bargaining at his door to escalate and expand his terror offensive to new heights and targets.
Hosni Mubarak who has repeatedly and sharply condemned Israel’s targeted assassinations of terrorist activists is now targeted himself by the ticking bombs Israel seeks to eliminate. But he is no more eager than any Israeli to fall prey to a suicide bomber. With the Middle East in its present state, his decision to stay home in Cairo was the only logical step he could take to keep himself and his regime safe. But the four days remaining before summit opening are a very long time in the Middle East.