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Two Dubai Killers Entered U.S.; Mossad Used Australian Passports for Spying in Syria, Iran, Lebanon

I tell ‘ya, this story just gets weirder and weirder.  Apparently, trying to implicate as many western nations in the Dubai assassination as possible (thinking that if they all were embarrassed they’d leave Israel alone??) the Wall Street Journal reports that two of the assassins traveled to the U.S. immediately after the killing.  There is no record of their exit, though that may mean they left using other identification especially given that the assassination was discovered presumably while they were still in the country.

Now, the FBI has even less reason to shrink from pursuing this case in a muscular fashion.  Until now, the many threads of the case that reached the U.S. were curiously avoided by government officials who made no public comments whatsoever.  They still have not done so (“A U.S. State Department spokesman declined to comment”).  Though I hope that will change soon given that the new twist is that fraudulent passports were used to enter and exit this country by assassins who violated international law and are now wanted by Interpol.

The Australian government is alleging that the Mossad used Australian passports to enter Syria, Iran and Lebanon in the recent past.  Three Australians who made aliyah to Israel within the past ten years applied to change their names from Jewish-sounding, to Anglo-Saxon sounding names.  One suspect applied to change his name twice and another did so three times.  One of the suspects also has British citizenship and did the same with his British passport:

ASIO is investigating at least three dual Australian-Israeli citizens who they suspect of using Australian cover to spy for Israel.  The investigation began at least six months before last month’s assassination of the Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh…

The new passports have been used to gain entry to a number of countries that are hostile to Israel including Iran, Syria and Lebanon. All three do not recognise Israel and forbid Israelis from entering. Israel also forbids its citizens from travelling to those countries for security reasons.

The Herald understands that the three Australians share an involvement with a European communications company that has a subsidiary in the Middle East. A person travelling under one of these names sought Australian consular assistance in Tehran in 2004.

The Herald has contacted two of the men, both of whom emphatically denied they were involved in any kind of espionage activity.  Both men confirmed they had changed their surnames, but said that the proposition they had done so in order to obtain new documents to travel throughout the Middle East were, in the words of one, “totally absurd”.

“This is a complete fantasy,” said the man when contacted in Israel. “I have changed my name for personal reasons.”

The other man, who was not in Israel when contacted, expressed shock at the suggestion he was under any kind of surveillance and said that he had also changed his name for personal reasons.  “I have never been to any of those countries that you say I have been to,” he said. ”I am not involved in any kind of spying. That is ridiculous.”

That’s just what I’d expect a Mossad agent or someone assisting the Mossad to say.  But this passage really made my antennae shoot up:

In January the Herald visited the offices of the European company that connects the three men.  The company’s office manager confirmed to the Herald that one of the men being monitored by ASIO – the same man believed to hold a British passport – was employed by the company but was “unavailable”.

The company’s chief executive later emphatically denied that this man was ever employed by his company, and totally rejected that his company was being used to gather intelligence on behalf of Israel.

I’d like to know how the CEO reconciled his claim with that of the office manager.  Was his manager daydreaming, making it up? In this case, the first response seems far more credible than the second.

And given the fact that the Mossad has been quite active in all three countries in covert operations involving assassinations and military assault, especially in Syria, makes the story all the more intriguing.

If anyone hears any reports including the names of the suspects or the telecommunications company please let me know.

To give you an idea of how insular and uncritical the latest Israeli thinking about this assassination is, consider this statement from minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer:

“What is there to criticise? Right now all I’m interested in from this tsunami is one simple thing. Is he dead or alive? And the answer to that is clear.”

He added: “The [Hamas] organisation knows one thing – there is no one who cannot be caught up with or who cannot be reached. For me, this is deterrence.”

But is it really?  How hard will it be to replace al-Mabouh?  And if Israel kills the next ten al-Mabouhs, how hard will it be to find another 10 or 20 or 100?  In fact, they’ll be lining up in Gaza or Damascus to do so.  Robert Baer, a former CIA agent, wrote a sharp op-ed for the Wall Street Journal asking whether the al-Mabouh hit was worth the cost for Israel:

…Was Mr. Mabhouh worth it? Other than taking revenge for killing the two Israeli soldiers, he will be quickly replaced. Arms dealing is not a professional skill, and as long as Hamas’s militants are at war with Israel they will find people to buy arms and smuggle them into Gaza. In short, it’s looking more and more like Mr. Mabhouh’s assassination was a serious policy failure.

In cold prose, it sounds inhuman, but there should be a cost-benefit calculation in deciding whether to assassinate an enemy. With all of the new technology available to any government who can afford it, that cost has gone up astronomically. Plausible deniability is out the window. Obviously, if we had known with any specificity 9/11 was coming, we would have ignored the high cost and tried to assassinate Osama bin Laden. And there’s certainly an argument to be made that we should have assassinated Saddam Hussein rather than invade Iraq. The bottom line, it seems to me, is that assassination is justified if it keeps us out of a war. But short of that, it’s not. The Mabhouhs of the world are best pursued by relentless diplomatic pressure and the rule of law.

On a related matter, Dubai released autopsy reports on the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabouh which indicated he was paralyzed with a muscle relaxant before being suffocated by his Mossad assassins.  Ironically, the drug they used is the same drug used in some U.S. executions and notable murder cases.  That seems fitting for the Mossad to use a drug favored by executioners, though at least in the case of U.S. executions a trial precedes carrying out the sentence.  Israel apparently dispenses with those niceties.

The National article also indicates that Mossad had attempted to kill al-Mabouh at least twice prior to his assassination.

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  • Syed March 1, 2010, 9:02 AM

    These countries should require people to give up their citizenship when they make aliyah to Israel or move to any other country for that matter. Why doesn’t Avigdor Leiberman include this condition in his ‘loyalty oath’ demands – all Israelis should renounce every other citizenship to get their Israeli citizenship.

  • Fawn Rainforest March 1, 2010, 10:38 AM

    Whoever did it and by whatever means, kudos to them. The targets both used and flaunted International Law to wreak murder and mayhem. Let us stop bemoaning the exacters of justice and instead celebrate those who do the “dirty work” so that we may sleep peacefully in our homes at night.

    • Richard Silverstein March 1, 2010, 1:50 PM

      This is an odious post, but one that makes Mossad and assassins everywhere quite pleased. But what about when Hamas or Hezbollah use the exact same argument to kill an Israeli target? Then you’ll somehow find a distinction bet. the acts of callous murder.

      • mary March 1, 2010, 8:43 PM

        No sane person would ever sleep peacefully at night knowing that any country’s government can send out hit squads against persons it believes are criminals. This would be a homicidal free-for-all which no civilized country should ever engage in. We did not develop a system of criminal justice only to send thugs out into the night to murder people we believe are guilty of crimes or may commit them in the future.

        Just because Israel says someone is a terrorist does not make it so. Just because Israel claims someone is a killer does not give them the right to disregard laws that have been put into place to protect the rights of all persons. A squad of people barging into a hotel room to murder another human being is no different than a suicide bomber detonating himself inside a pizzeria, when you get right down to it. Both are forms of vigilantism and are unconscionable.

  • Mary Hughes-Thompson March 2, 2010, 8:13 AM

    Fawn Rainforest flaunts his/her own ignorance. It is the killers of Mahmoud al-Mabouh who flouted international law by assassinating him.

    • mary March 2, 2010, 9:03 AM

      Mary, please be so kind as to send your email address to Richard, and I will kindly ask him to pass it on to me. Thanks.

  • Fawn Rainforest March 2, 2010, 8:43 AM

    Hi Mary:

    I don’t expect you to agree with me because we effectively live in different moral dimensions with completely different ethical guidelines. I understand you; in your world all killing is evil, thus the person who murders innocents while they enjoy a slice of pizza is the moral equivalent of the person who kills the planners and facilitators of the pizzeria attack.

    In my moral universe the killer of innocents is not the same as the killer of murderers. Those with my worldview deplore the murder of innocents and celebrate the removal from this earth of those who commit those murders.

    Oftentimes clarity is better than agreement.

    Best wishes,

    Fawn

    • mary March 2, 2010, 9:01 AM

      You completely miss the point, Fawn. Read Mary Hughes-Thompson’s short and succinct comment and perhaps you will get the drift.

      At the risk of repeating myself (endlessly, I think), Israel (and in fact, no nation) has the right to act unilaterally and extrajudicially against any human being for the purpose of killing them. You are completely wrong in thinking there is any justification for this kind of activity, both morally and legally.

      To applaud and condone murder is despicable. We have courts of law to determine the fate of accused criminals. You absolutely fail to see the difference between what Israel does and what terrorists do – that there is no difference at all. What an appalling blind spot to have, really.

      And of course, Israel is always right, it murders “terrorists,” but the Palestinians have no right to fight back. When they do, they’re called “murderers,” “thugs,” and “terrorists.”

    • Richard Silverstein March 2, 2010, 12:57 PM

      Those with my worldview deplore the murder of innocents and celebrate the removal from this earth of those who commit those murders.

      Yours is not a ‘moral dimension’ nor a set of ‘ethical guidelines.’ Your philosophy will reap the nihilist amoral whirlwind. You’re in favor of murdering your enemies & allowing your own to get off scot free. While Israeli civilians are “innocent” Israel is not.

      • mary March 2, 2010, 1:09 PM

        And not a word of concern from Fawn about the many innocent Palestinians who have been killed while Israel so morally dispatches its “enemies.” There is nothing ethical in her philosophy; it is entirely narcissistic and self-serving.

  • Fawn Rainforest March 2, 2010, 10:44 AM

    Not all extrajudicial killings are unlawful. Every soldier who kills an enemy combatant engages in an extrajudicial killing, as does every policeman who shoots a fleeing felon. There are several complex legal questions involved in assessing these situations.

    First, was the person who was killed a combatant, in relation to those killed him? If Israel killed Mabhouh, there can be absolutely no doubt that he was a combatant. He was actively participating in an ongoing war by Hamas against Israeli civilians. Indeed, it is likely that he was killed while on a military mission to Iran in order to secure unlawful, anti-personnel rockets that target Israeli civilians. Moreover, Hamas combatants deliberately remove their uniforms while engaged in combat.

    The Goldstone report suggests that Israel cannot lawfully fight Hamas rockets by wholesale air attacks. Richard Goldstone, in his interviews, has suggested that Israel should protect itself from these unlawful attacks by more proportionate retail measures, such as commando raids and targeted killing of terrorists engaged in the firing of rockets. Well, there could be no better example of a proportionate, retail and focused attack on a combatant who was deeply involved in the rocket attacks on Israel, than the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Not only was Mabhouh the commander in charge of Hamas’ unlawful military actions at the time of his death, he was also personally responsible for the kidnapping and coldblooded murder of untold numbers of civilians through his Salah al-Din Brigades.

    Obviously it would have been better if he could have been captured and subjected to judicial justice. But it was impossible to capture him, especially when he was in Dubai. If Israel was responsible for the killing, it had only two options: to let him go on his way and continue to endanger Israeli civilian lives by transferring unlawful anti-personnel weapons from Iran to Gaza, or to kill him. There was no third alternative. Given those two options, killing seems like the least tragic choice available.

    Best wishes,

    Fawn

    • mary March 2, 2010, 10:53 AM

      Gimme a break, please. What nonsense, to compare a soldier in war to a murder committed by a state-sponsored terror group on foreign soil.

      I also make it my policy not to debate Goldstone with hasbarists; besides, it is not the subject of this thread.

      You are also being willfully dense by claiming Israel had the right to protect its civilians by killing a man in another country. You, like Israel, obviously think that violating international law is OK when you believe it suits your purposes.

  • Fawn Rainforest March 2, 2010, 11:22 AM

    Mary:

    If Israel did this, it would not have been a violation of International Law (wishing it to be so does not make it so), it would however be a violation of Dubai law. Thus Dubai could request the extradition of the involved parties should they ever be identified. Hpwever Dubai’s options are limited should the responsible party be Israel, since Dubai has no extradition agreement with Israel.

    I await the day when there is equal anguish, indignation and wringing of hands on this website when Israel’s enemies commit their atrocities. As I said before, we live in different moral dimensions. In any case thanks for engaging.

    Have a great rest of your day,

    Fawn

    • mary March 2, 2010, 11:42 AM

      A government agency committing extrajudicial assassination on foreign soil is indeed a violation of international law. Your Mossad chief, and Netanyahu himself, can conceivably be brought to the Hague and charged.

      You don’t give a damn about equal anguish, and please spare me the hasbara nonsense about “Israels enemies” and their “atrocities.” Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians vastly outnumber anything any Palestinian has ever done in fighting the occupation. As I have said many times before on this website, the Zionist victim card has been played so many times that it’s beyond dog-eared.

      And as for the rest of my day, I will enjoy it much more when the murderers of Mahmoud Mabhouh are brought to justice.

      • josh March 2, 2010, 2:06 PM

        What it comes down to is that with all the shortcomings that are pointed out on this blog as well, I’m glad to be on the Israeli side that glorifies life and has rules of engagement that make efforts to prevent collateral damage as opposed to the other side that couldn’t really give a care who dies in its ‘campaigns’ against the Zionist enemy.

        • mary March 2, 2010, 3:19 PM

          Israel “glorifies life”? Explain that to me…no, explain it to the 1,400 dead Gazans Israel killed last year. While you’re at it, you can explain how they “made efforts to prevent collateral damage.”

          Hasbara is falling on this website like dirty rain.

  • Fawn Rainforest March 2, 2010, 11:45 AM

    You see Mary, clarity IS better than agreement, and you could not be any more clear. Fascinating.