Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov spent two days in Jerusalem, Wednesday and Thursday, Oct 26-27, to test Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon‘s response to a proposition which Moscow hoped he would find irresistible.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s political sources obtained the gist of the offer, which went something like this:
Look around you, said Lavrov, when he and the prime minister were alone, and see what is happening in the Middle East. Every day, the Americans and the British dig themselves deeper into trouble in Iraq. Very soon, they will be up against a horrendous terrorist campaign with the Iranians taking a hand.
The outcome of American steps in Syria and Lebanon is not clear and the situation there may well veer into anarchy and descend into a war of terror like the one raging in Iraq. The Hizballah will go underground and fight from there.
The Egyptians, according to the Russian foreign minister, are incapable of tackling the al Qaeda cells infesting Sinai or reining in the Palestinian terrorists of Gaza. All these circumstances drive the Palestinians, and especially the terrorist organizations, into greater extremism and bring them together for stepped up violence. This trend has swept up the groups once regarded as moderate, like the Fatah, which today aligns itself with the most radical groups, such as the Jihad Islami and al Qaeda.
When we look at the Palestinians, Lavrov went on to argue, we see that strenuous efforts by the British secret service, MI6, and Egyptian military intelligence to build a new Palestinian intelligence and security superstructure supervised by the CIA have got nowhere.
And that is where they will stay for the foreseeable future.
Russia could do better than MI6 or the Egyptians
Therefore, Lavrov told the Israeli prime minister, your war on Palestinian terror is at an impasse which blocks the road to diplomatic progress or even a military breakthrough.
So you might as well listen to what we, in Moscow, have to say.
Israel has already allowed 15 Russian military and intelligence experts to enter the Gaza Strip. So why not let Moscow take over the mission which the British and Egyptians have failed to pull off of creating new Palestinian security and intelligence services. We, the Russians, have special relations with Mahmoud Abbas, we trust each other and we talk the same language. We can build efficient anti-terrorist security and intelligence services for the Palestinian Authority. Your interests will be at the front of our minds and we will make sure that the new forces fight terrorists.
If you decide to buy this idea, said Lavrov, try and sell it to the Americans too.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Jerusalem sources add that the Russian senior diplomat dropped a heavy hint that if Sharon should view the Russian offer positively, Moscow would be prepared to amend its policy on the Iranian nuclear issue, reduce its involvement in Tehran’s nuclear program, and play along with the international drive via the IAEA in Vienna to make Tehran accept restrictions on its nuclear activities.
Our sources report that the Russians cleverly stage-managed their feeler to the Israeli prime minister. The morning it was presented in Jerusalem, Iran launched its first space satellite, the Sina-1, built by Russia and blasted off aboard a Russian Kosmos 3M rocket from Plesetsk in northern Russia.
Most Western military experts say the Sina-1, equipped with a telecommunications system and cameras, is the first Iranian spy satellite. Russian technology and funding have enabled the Islamic republic to be the first Muslim nation to acquire this intelligence capability and an enhanced logistic base for launching a nuclear weapon.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report that Ariel Sharon, one of US president George W. Bush‘s closest allies, informed his Russian visitor politely that he needed time to consider Moscow’s initiative.