For obvious security reasons, every effort is being made to closely guard the details of US President Donald Trump’s itinerary during his forthcoming visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian Authority on May 22-24.
Nevertheless, three or four terrorist organizations and other troublemakers are planning major disruptions:
The Islamic State and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) terror arms lead the pack. They are closely followed by the Shiite Hizballah. The Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan is not averse to stirring up mayhem either.
The Islamic State
Several intelligence services had been tipped off about intense ISIS preparations for a coordinated high-voltage, terror blitz during the visit by gangs of suicide bombers striking simultaneously from the Iraqi-Saudi, the Iraqi-Jordanian, the Syrian-Jordanian, the Jordanian-Israeli and the Egyptian-Israeli borders.
They don’t expect to penetrate the US President’s tight ring of security, only to mount a deadly spectacle that will completely overshadow his first foreign trip since entering the White House.
Local security and military forces were this week putting preventive measures in place.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Israel this week as the guest of Israel’s Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott in time to check out the security measures arranged for the presidential visit.
Egyptian air force bombers expanded their targets to strike weapons-laden smuggling convoys as they crossed in from Libya, before they could distribute their wares to terrorist networks in Egyptian cities. ISIS quickly shifted the freight from trucks to smaller four-wheel drive vehicles able to negotiate desert trails, counting on some getting through even if some were smashed.
In Sinai, the Israeli air force has ramped up its bombardments – in coordination with Cairo – to the point that it is shouldering the brunt of aerial operations against ISIS in the peninsula.
To the north, American and Jordanian armored, commando and attack helicopter contingents are massing on the Hashemite Kingdom’s borders with Syria and Iraq for the annual US-Jordanian Eager Lion war game. With some weeks still to go, the exercise offers a pretext for the real mission, which is to act as a barrier against ISIS penetrations of Jordan and possibly on from there into Israel
Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC)
The hardline IRGC is not taking aim directly at President Trump, but plans to use his visit as the stage for hostile action and intensified saber-rattling against Saudi Arabia and Israel. In the last couple of weeks, Iran has conducted frequent test-launches of a variety of missiles in the Gulf region, focusing on the Strait of Hormuz. Embattled Yemen, Iraq and Syria are available to the Guards as jumping-off sites for consigning Shiite terror squads to attack Saudi and Israeli targets, while the US president is being welcomed in Riyadh and Jerusalem.
Iran’s Lebanese Shiite proxy, Hizballah, always stands ready for terror attacks. It has planted covert cells in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and among Israeli Arab communities, especially in the Galilee, for reaching into Israel’s heartlands at a given signal.
The Turkish president
President Erdogan, less than a year after signing a reconciliation pact with Israel, unleashed Monday, May 8, the most strident and hate-filled anti-Israel speech heard from any Middle East leader in years. He called on all Muslims to flock to Al Aqsa (Temple Mount). “Every day that Al Aqsa is under Israeli occupation is an insult to us,” he said, while condemning Israel’s “crimes against Palestinians.”
Erdogan’s call to Muslims and its focus on Jerusalem were calculated and precisely timed.
The Turkish ruler sought to throw a spanner into the wheels of the Trump visit to Jerusalem as payback for the high-powered delegation he sent to Washington to prepare his visit to the White House on May 16, returning home empty-handed. The administration refused to develop common ground with Ankara on the Syrian crisis, despite the efforts of Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, Director of the Turkish MIT spy service Hakan Fidan and presidential press officer Ibrahim Kalin.
Above all, Erdogan thinks that by his fiery rhetoric on Jerusalem, he can snatch the championship of the Muslim cause from Saudi Arabia, although he may also fire up Muslim mobs into an unquenchable frenzy that could rock the Middle East as dangerously as any terrorist attacks by ISIS or military aggression by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.