The US Central Intelligence Agency and Britain’s MI6 are busy building a unique multi-layered intelligence edifice to fill the power vacuum left in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and artificially stiffen Mahmoud Abbas’ leadership of the Palestinian Authority until he can stand on his own feet.
All its elements, the CIA, MI6, Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence, are operating in deep hush.
Dozens of CIA agents have been quietly injected into the West Bank over past weeks. Their staffing levels are now par with those in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources, the Gaza Strip is off-limits to American operatives since the October 2003 killing by Palestinian gunmen of three US security men guarding a diplomatic convoy. Gaza has therefore been made the bailiwick of Britain’s MI6 whose agents are quietly overseeing the work of an Egyptian military intelligence delegation led by General Mohammed Ibrahim, head of the Egyptian MI’s Palestinian desk.
On the West Bank CIA operatives are supervising Jordanian military intelligence agents who report directly to General Ayar Khyar, chief of Jordan’s MI branch in Amman.
What is happening is that Egyptian and Jordanian military intelligence arms are fashioning anew the Palestinian intelligence agencies and some of their security services – monitored closely by the CIA and MI6.
This undercover program, due for completion by the end of this year, is aimed at providing a critical buttress for Abu Mazen’s efforts to cement his grasp on the Palestinian leadership.
Some of its objectives:
1. Abu Mazen will be served by security and intelligence services in whose loyalty he can trust.
2. Two intelligence branches – Egyptian and Jordanian – will be there to ascertain that Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian political and security policies are in step.
3. The US-British intelligence field presence in Palestinian territories will grant him an extra layer of protection for greater stability.
4. The new intelligence system will act as a filter for recruiting new Palestinian security men. It will monitor every step of reformed terrorists’ conversion into disciplined servicemen or intelligence operatives. This program is based on lessons learned from American and British mistakes in recruiting to the new Iraqi armed forces.
Cash and weapons buy loyalty in Gaza
The Jordanians and Egyptians are pursuing the same objectives by different means. In the Gaza Strip, Egyptian intelligence is focusing on taking over the territory by buying up local heads of organizations, while on the West Bank the Jordanians are working piecemeal to gain domination over one district after another.
Progress is more rapid in the Gaza Strip than in the West Bank. Ibrahim is frankly doling out to Palestinian chieftains hefty sums and promises quantities of advanced intelligence and logistical equipment for their refurbished units if they play ball.
By this method, he has co-opted a number of prominent Gazans with murky pasts to the new force.
Rashid Abu Shbak, Gaza Strip General Intelligence Service head.
General Mussa Arafat, commander of Gaza Strip Palestinian armed forces and chief of military intelligence (and director of notorious arms smuggling tunnels).
Amin al-Hindi, head of Gaza’s Palestinian Special intelligence service.
Mohammed Dahlan, Abu Mazen’s “man in Gaza” and civil affairs minister.
In charge of Abbas’ interchanges with Israel, Dahlan is the most senior Palestinian official in direct contact with British and Egyptian intelligence in the Gaza Strip. But our counter-terrorism sources report that Dahlan, who had a long and distinguished career as a super terrorist under Arafat, still runs a private militia of his own in Gaza, dubbed “the death squads.”
His interaction with the British and Egyptians is confined to day-to-day management rather than the shaping of general policy.
In the West Bank, Jordanian intelligence has won over only one influential ally, Jibril Rajoub, Abu Mazen’s national security adviser. He is hardly needed as an intermediary for Jordanian-Abbas contacts as the Jordanians communicate with him directly. But they are helping the former West Bank strongman, the gravel-voiced Rajoub recover his old eminence and rebuilding the dismantled preventive security service he used to head. The force was smashed by Israel during Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002.
Palestinian strife sparked
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources, the clandestine intelligence overhaul in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has touched off fraternal strife among Palestinian commanders and security services – mostly in the West Bank. They are fighting for turf, sources of weapons and money that would give one chief an edge over his fellows in bargaining with the Americans, British, Egyptians or Jordanians.
In the last ten days, the West Bank has been racked by a wave of assassinations against Palestinian officers, shooting attacks on their homes and gun battles between rival groups in Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm, Ramallah and Jericho.
Our military sources have learned that Tawfiq Tirawi‘s intelligence service – he also commands al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – has dispatched agents to kill Rajoub’s men in a bid to stop the CIA and the Jordanians from assuming control of the central and northern West Bank. Gunmen loyal to Tirawi and Rajoub – aiming to keep the Ramallah area “clean” until they wrap up their own battles for other West Bank districts – are both targeting members of Bashir Nafa‘s Palestinian special forces.
The violence has prompted CIA operatives to get out of harm’s way at nightfall and spend the night in Israel. Mornings, they head back to their jobs in the West Bank.
By and large, the US-British effort to stabilize the West Bank and Gaza Strip through control of Palestinian intelligence and security services has achieved very little. Anarchy and violence stalk the streets. Tuesday, March 8, hundreds of curious passersby looked on as two of Rajoub’s officers were gunned down in Ramallah’s main Manara Square.