US Warns Assad: Hands off Iraq, Stop Fomenting Anti-Israel Terror
mg class=”picture” src=”/dynmedia/pictures/WOLFUS.jpg” align=”right” border=”0″>The Israeli-Palestinian deal concluded by defense minister Shaul Mofaz and internal defense minister Mohammed Dahlan Friday, August 15 was the outcome of a pressing American intervention to curb the wave of Palestinian terror Yasser Arafat and Syrian President Bashar Assad kicked off last week. US president George W. Bush, while still on vacation, deployed his emissaries on two key fronts, the Palestinian and the Syrian.
To keep the peace process afloat, Israel agreed to move beyond the aftermath of three attacks – two by Palestinian suicide bombers and one by Hizballah artillery, in which three Israelis died and 15 were injured – and offered to withdraw from four more West Bank towns – Jericho and Qalqilya early this week and Ramallah and Tulkarm in the last week of August. The latter pair of towns will be handed to Palestinian control only if in the interim there are no shooting and suicide attacks and Palestinian security forces genuinely begin battling terror.
Dahlan was told firmly he had better move into full counter-terror mode, or else… He was first ordered to restrain the Islamic Jihad group which is bent on revenge for the death last week of its Hebron commander Mohammed Sidr in his own bomb factory while resisting Israeli arrest. He was also given responsibility for keeping wanted terrorists under close supervision and inactive, as well as for halting the manufacture of extended-range Qassam rockets and the smuggling of arms through the Gaza Strip tunnels from Egypt.
To deal with the second head of the terrorist hydra, debkafile‘s intelligence sources disclose that US undersecretary of state William Burns was ordered on Thursday, August 14, to turn his plane round and head with all speed to Damascus instead of Amman. He was told to deliver a last warning to the Syrian president – to butt out of Iraq and to stop stirring up terrorism against Israel.
Assad was informed that American intelligence had picked up the orders he relayed through Jihad Islamic commanders in Damascus and Hizballah cells on the West Bank and Gaza Strip to rekindle a large-scale suicide campaign against Israel for the purpose of cutting short the partial truce in effect for six weeks.
Regarding Iraq, Burns warned the Syrian ruler that Washington knew all about the guerilla forces he was pumping into Iraq with explicit instructions to torpedo Iraqi oil exports by sabotaging oil installations in northern and western Iraq.
Washington, the American envoy emphasized sharply, would on no account stand for Syrian interference with the Iraq oil industry and exports. As they spoke, the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, northern Iraq’s main conduit to international markets, was set on fire by a bomb, three days after the oil flow was resumed for the first time since March. The blaze near the Baiji refinery town north of Tikrit was not extinguished until Saturday, August 16. The flow of exported Iraqi oil is delayed for another month at least.
Assad had nothing to say to these warnings, according to our sources, but for a curt comment on the Hizballah. He assured his American visitor that the cross-border barrages the group had launched against an Israeli command center on Mt. Dov on August 8 and three days later against the border town of Shlomi, killing a teenager, were a one-time episode and would not be repeated.
In Jerusalem meanwhile, the US presidential envoy John Wolf set the scene for a showdown with the Palestinian internal security minister meant to smooth the way for the Israel-Palestinian deal that was finalized Friday. Wolf has rented a floor of the David’s Citadel Hotel in central Jerusalem for his team of monitors. debkafile‘s sources in Jerusalem disclose that Dahlan grudgingly turned up in Wolf’s office after complaining his appointment book was full.
The encounter deteriorated quickly into a shouting match. The Palestinian turned red when the American official notified him that his time was up and now was the moment of truth for US-Palestinian relations. “This is your last chance to take action against the terrorists,” he said. “Or the Bush administration washes its hands of the Abu Mazen government.”
When Dahlan raised his voice to reply, Wolf handed him the telephone and told him to make an appointment there and then with Shaul Mofaz, just home to deal with the new terror crisis from a shortened overseas vacation.
That same night, Thursday, August 15, Dahlan presented himself to the Israeli minister at the Neve Ilan guest house just outside Jerusalem. Mofaz greeted him with a batch of Israeli concessions just authorized by prime minister Ariel Sharon had just authorized as Israel’s contribution to hauling the peace process back on track:
1. The speedy handover of the first Palestinian towns, Jericho and Qalqilya, was made possible by the Sharon government’s waiver of a previous condition, namely that the senior terrorists sheltering under Arafat’s protection in his Ramallah headquarters and wanted by Israel for major terror crimes be transferred to Jericho into the hands of American custodians. Israel had decided to permit those master terrorists’ repatriation in their home towns or villages in the care of American monitoring mechanisms that will go up in those places. The freed men would have to sign obligations to renounce terror.
2. The same arrangement will be applied to Ramallah and Tulkarm after their transfer to Palestinian control goes through.
Israeli security services have more than 100 terrorists in the four towns on their wanted list. The immunity granted them under the new deal is contingent on the presence of American monitors to ascertain their non-reversion to terror.
3. Yasser Arafat was granted a one-time pass to travel from Ramallah where he has been confined for 18 months to Gaza City and back to join relatives mourning the recent death of his sister. He has since spurned the offer demanding a guarantee for his return from the Quartet. Israel had hoped he would stay in Gaza Strip outside the Ramallah headquarters from which he exerts overall command over West Bank terrorists and feeds them cash.
The package was finally concluded on Friday in a much improved atmosphere.
debkafile‘s political sources report the Palestinian minister, realizing he had been backed into a corner, was eager to display good will; he offered his own list of top terrorists for placing under the eye of the American monitors and promised to leave no stone unturned to prevent Jihad Islami’s suicidal reprisals.
If these arrangements go forward, Arafat will be faced with a joint American-Israeli-Palestinian security-cum-monitoring mechanism with a long reach across the West Bank. A similar apparatus was set up under the 1993 Oslo Peace accords, only to be smashed by Arafat when he launched his armed confrontation in September 2000. Our Palestinian sources confirm his determination to likewise abort the new joint mechanism before it goes into action to constrain his terrorist cells and eventually take over overall security in all Palestinian areas.
debkafile‘s sources report that the top levels of the IDF and Israeli security services expect Arafat to blow up the new deal with a fresh surge of terrorist attacks against Israel targets that will shatter the already shaky truce.
In an instantaneous reaction to the Burns-Assad interview last Thursday, Arafat sent Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath scurrying over from Beirut to Damascus on Friday with a message calculated to counteract any deterrent effect the Burns warnings may have had on the Syrian president and reverse the forward motion of the Mofaz-Dahlan deal brokered by Wolf.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that his Fatah al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and Hizballah cell concentrations in Nablus and Hebron are ready for the next wave of terror, having set up new terrorist infrastructures incorporating the terrorist squads set up by the master terrorists harbored by Arafat and to which they stand to lose access.
This move has pre-empted the distribution of senior terrorists around the West Bank under US supervision and transferred the terror units they were running to freer hands.
A senior Israeli security source commented to debkafile: “Oddly enough, we, the Americans and the new Palestinian government are building a setup that stands or falls depending on its most determined foe, the Jihad Islami here and in Damascus. The bombing of a single Israeli bus or shopping center will suffice to blow the whole deal sky high.”
Arafat in Ramallah and the Jihad Islami’s Damascus-based commanders are known to have ordered their followers to attack. But even they are thwarted, calm prevails and the handover of all four towns goes through, the threat of more terrorist attacks will continue to be ever-present.
Arafat has not neglected to open a diplomatic offensive on the two most sensitive Israeli-Palestinian issues taking the most extreme positions on both: He is again claiming historic Jerusalem as all-Palestinian, also campaigning for a ban on Jewish visits to Temple Mount. He is also openly demanding that all Palestinian refugees be permitted to return to the homes they abandoned in 1948 in most of Israel’s cities as a provision of any peace accord.