I know that Robert Fisk has his fans and detractors. I’m personally neutral on the subject as I don’t read him regularly enough to have the confidence I do, say that Ethan Bronner or Tom Friedman are intelligent journalist-shills for the Israeli establishment. But Fisk has written an intriguing, suggestive column today claiming that European intelligence agencies collaborated with Israel in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabouh. The information is based on a Dubai source that Fisk trusts implicitly:
The United Arab Emirates suspect…that Europe’s “security collaboration” with Israel has crossed a line into illegality, where British passports (and those of other EU nations) can now be used to send Israeli agents into the Gulf to kill Israel’s enemies.
…A source – impeccable, I know him, spoke with the authority I know he has in Abu Dhabi – to say that “the British passports are real. They are hologram pictures with the biometric stamp. They are not forged or fake. The names were really there. If you can fake a hologram or biometric stamp, what does this mean?”
…”The command room of the operation was in Austria… meaning the suspects when here did not talk to each other but thru the command room on separate lines to avoid detection or linking themselves to one another…
“We have identified five credit cards belonging to these people, all issued in the United States.”
…The Emirates claim that the passport of an Israeli agent sent to kill a Hamas leader in Jordan was a genuine Canadian passport issued to a dual national of Israel.
…For an Arab Gulf country which suspects its former masters (the UK, by name) may have connived in the murder of a visiting Hamas official, this is apparently now too much. There is much more to come out of this story.
I’m scratching my head. I literally don’t know what to make of this. I have compared this caper to the CIA’s kidnapping and rendition of a radical imam in Italy several years ago in which the Italian security services colluded. Through incredibly sloppy execution, the culprits were exposed, leading to a highly embarrassing trial. Could it be that the Mossad arranged for the cooperation of British intelligence in this incident? Could the Brits have been wanting to send a message to Iran, that the west would act to inhibit Iran’s weapons dealing and trouble making in other Middle East countries?
I have to say that given what a bad reputation law enforcement and justice has in the Emirates, I’m amazed that the Dubai police have progressed as far as they have as quickly as they have. I wonder whether they in turn have the cooperation of other foreign intelligence services who were shadowing the Israelis? All speculation, mind you.
The Independent also reports al-Mabouh was lured to Dubai by the Mossad, which may explain the collaboration of two Palestinians who’ve been extradited from Jordan and are undergoing interrogation. The Guardian also adds that a Kuwait newspaper quotes a “well-informed source” (how’s that for air tight sourcing?) claiming that a senior Hamas operative was arrested by Syrian intelligence and is suspected of accompanying al-Mabouh on his trip and of “giving him up” to the Mossad. Some elements of this story are amplified by Maariv, which to me is a red flag. So I would treat this development as suggestive but not definitive.
Gideon Levy displays his usual moral acuity in his own Haaretz column about the killing:
Let’s suppose the Dubai assassination project had worked out well. Mahmoud al-Mabhouh would have received his kiss of death, the assassins would have returned safe and sound to their bases, and no Israeli would have run into identity complications. And then? Mahmoud’s place would have been taken by Mohammed, who also would have tried to kill Israeli soldiers and smuggle Iranian arms into Gaza. Perhaps the heir would even outperform his predecessor, as has happened in several previous liquidations.
We eliminated Abbas al-Musawi? Well done, Israel Defense Forces. We got Hassan Nasrallah. We killed Ahmed Yassin? Well done, Shin Bet security service. We got a Hamas many times stronger. Abu Jihad was eliminated? Well done to the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit – of course, according to foreign news reports. We killed a potential partner, relatively moderate and charismatic. As a bonus, we got revenge attacks like those after “the Engineer” Yihyeh Ayash was slain. We also got the danger hovering over every Israeli and Jew in the world each anniversary of the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, which was also blamed on Israel.
…Between you and me, what are we prouder of, the cherry tomatoes we developed here or assassinations?
Here in this country we’ve debated whether torture overall is an effective tool of counter-terrorism. We haven’t debated enough the utility of targeted assassination which we’ve adopted in Afghanistan and Iraq, emulating again the IDF and Israeli intelligence. I maintain that ulitmately assassination does not work. Even if you embrace such murder as a counter-terror tool (which I do not), it is at best a stopgap tactical measure that is the equivalent of sticking your finger in the dyke to hold back the ocean.
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- Britain Summons Israeli Envoy Over Passports in Dubai Killing (businessweek.com)
- Israelis Share Suspicions in Hamas Leader’s Killing (nytimes.com)