Proliferating Terror Alerts
The earlier debkafile report (further down this page) of peaking terror alerts in the US, Europe and Israel, was underscored Tuesday, December 18 by the US defense secretary in Brussels and Israel’s military intelligence chief at the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee.
US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, addressing a private NATO defense minister’s meeting in Brussels straight from Kabul, spoke graphically of the threat: “As we look at the devastation they unleashed on the US, contemplate the destruction they could wreak in New York or London or Paris or Berlin with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons,” he told his 19 colleagues. “The world remains a dangerous place… Western democracies must be ready to defend themselves, and each other, if we are to secure our freedom in the tumultuous decades ahead.
He noted that Afghanistan is not the only country where terrorists operate and al Qaeda is not the only terrorist network, repeating President Bush’s statement that countries which harbor terrorists “will be held to account”.
“It should be of particular concern to all of us that the list of countries which today support global terrorism overlaps significantly with the list of countries that have weaponized chemical and biological agents and which are seeking nuclear, chemical and biological weapons – and the means to deliver them.”
Rumsfeld told fellow ministers that now is the time – while Sept. 11 is still fresh in the minds of people everywhere – to increase defense spending.
The text of the Rumsfeld address was circulated to reporters in Brussels, just as US Homeland Security Office spokesman Gordon Johndroe announced in Washington:
“The alert remains in effect because the threat still remains.”
This meant that the high terror alert declared in the United States on December 3 remained in effect, in view of continuing intelligence that more attacks are being planned by al Qaeda and sympathetic terrroist groups.
Of particular interest was Rumsfeld’s reference to the possibility of terrorists getting hold of cruise missiles, a complex weapon capable of low-flying strikes passing through tree branches and sneaking past most American advance warning and detection devices. Their computers can also be pre-programmed for their targets with maps or guided by satellite. Rumsfeld’ suggestion that terrorists possess cruise missiles capable of hitting big cities is serious indeed. An additional danger comes from their warheads, which could be either conventional – no more than 130 kilos – or non-conventional, meaning small but capable of mass destruction like a neutron bomb. Some cruise missiles are also capable of delievering multiple warheads.
debkafile ‘s military sources point out that the only countries with cruise missiles are the United States, France, Israel and China. Russia possesses a low-grade type, while Britain and Germany have acquired American products. If bin Laden has got hold of cruise or ballistic missiles, he either stole them or bought them for exorbitant sums, and he must have hidden them either in Afghanistan or in one of the Central Asian former Soviet republics.
It is also very possible that, when the United States attacked bin Laden’s Afghanistan bases in August 1998 – in reprisal for the East African embassy atrocities – al Qaeda gathered the unexploded missiles. In that raid, 70 missiles were reportedly fired, some cruise missiles, and only 30 exploded.
To fire them at a European city, the terrorists could do without satellite-guidance; the targets are large enough and close enough for them to shoot blind.
The US defense secretary did not specify which type of missile he meant, but debkafile‘s military sources believe his stark warning in Brussels may have been influenced by the fresh information he received during his Caspian tour and Afghanistan. At the US base in Bagram, he must have been told of the evidence US intelligence officers turned up, possibly in Kandahar, attesting to Osama bin Laden’s nuclear, chemical and biological capabilities and the missiles that were in his possession.
Last week, a very senior Israeli officer spoke of a terrorist attack on Israel from overseas, a broad hint at missiles.
Signs are mounting meanwhile that the United States is moving ahead with preparations for war againstIraq. Former Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, speaking in Herzliya Tuesday, urged the Israeli government to hurry up and prepare to protect the population against a mass attack from Iraq, in retaliation for an American offensive, which he believed was coming soon.
On the Palestinian question, Israeli military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Malka said that Yasser Arafat’s speech Sunday was for foreign consumption. “The number of terrorist attacks in preparation at this very moment is unprecedented, yet Arafat does not raise a finger to prevent them – although they are all linked and coordinated with Palestinian Authority bodies and personnel”.
In Ramallah, two days after telling the world that he had ordered a halt to Palestinian armed violence – including suicide bombings – Arafat confided to a small group of Palestinians: “I would sacrifice 70 martyrs to kill a single Israeli,” adding: “It was a conspiracy that brought the Jews to Palestine. It is our holy land and we will continue to fight for it.”
He will have no argument from the Hamas, the Jihad Islami, the Tanzim and the Popular Fronts, all of whom announced they had no intention of halting their attacks. According to official Israeli figures, Palestinians carried out a total of 2,790 terrorist strikes against Israelis in the year 2001, most of them committed by Arafat’s Fatah-Tanzim. There were 27 suicide assaults during the outgoing year.