Israel’s Mossad continued its campaign of sabotage through the Arab world with a bombing at one of Sudan’s national weapons factories in the national capital, Kharthoum. Though Sudan said only two workers were killed in the explosion and several wounded, given the stories told by eyewitnesses on the ground of live ammunition sailing through the air into homes neighboring the factory, I’m guessing the death count is higher.
The Mossad had ascertained that the facility was manufacturing armaments that were smuggled into Gaza via the Sinai and tunnels. Though local residents heard the sounds of airplane engines just as the explosions rang out and rained shrapnel and live ammunition into their homes, the attack came not from the air but from within. The Israeli intelligence agency had either recruited a worker from the factory or a local agent to set off the explosion from within the factory. The diversion caused by the drones allowed the saboteurs to escape the country, according to my highly-placed Israeli source. Israeli drones had overflown the scene to create the impression that an air raid caused the damage.
UPDATE: Sudanese officials are claiming that not only did Israeli aircraft attack the factory, but that they have “undetonated” Israeli missiles. My source tells me the missiles displayed on TV are not Israeli, but rather rockets manufactured in the factory itself, possibly for Hamas. If there are Israeli markings on these missiles I’d like to see them. Any missile-geeks out there can examine this image and tell us what you see. Also, the video footage may yield some evidence of whether the factory exploded from within or was hit by rockets from without. It should be noted that it would be much more embarrassing to Sudan if a local saboteur destroyed the factory, rather than Israeli aircraft.
Though this attack was an inside job, Israel has engaged in similar attacks before within Sudan. It has used drones to attack Iranian weapons convoys making their way from the sea to Gaza via Sudan and the Sinai.
Ehud Barak, doing his best Cheshire Cat imitation, had no comment all the while gloating to the hilt, when asked about Israel’s role (Hebrew) in the explosion:
“I will do my best not to express the emotions I’m feeling.”
While it’s true that local residents were angry at the government for placing a weapons factory in their midst, someone should be equally angry that the Mossad thought it appropriate to destroy an ammunition depot surrounded by a densely built civilian neighborhood. There is no possible excuse for putting innocent civilians in harm’s way. The answer from the Israeli side will simply be–when we had a chance to sabotage our enemy (Hamas and Sudan) we took it. It was far more important to destroy their ability to harm us than it was to protect Arabs, even if they were civilians. Israel has shown time and again that it simply does not value Arab lives. Certainly not the lives of its Arab enemies, but not even those of civilians.
Today’s NY Times contains the most complete depiction yet of the likely Iranian cyber-attack on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil company internal computer system. Those computer security experts who’ve studied the attack believe it was an inside job, that an employee gave the Iranians access. On a day when the hackers knew all the company’s employees would be celebrating a Muslim holiday, they struck, disabling 30,000 computers and paralyzing the internal communications system of the company. Weeks later, the company’s e-mail system is still not working and all of the equipment compromised was junked and replaced.
Though no oil facility was compromised and the physical operations of the company were not affected, the attack was massive and shows a great leap forward in Iranian capabilities regarding cyber-attacks.
I deliberately wanted to juxtapose these two attacks in order to make the point that any act of aggression by Israel against its Arab enemies will be returned in kind. If the U.S. and Israel launch Stuxnet on the world and sabotage Iran’s uranium enrichment program, if they levy sanctions on Iran that threaten to bring ruin on the country’s economy–all of these acts do not happen in a vacuum. They are not unilateral. They are not the sound of one-hand clapping. The true measure of things is that Israel’s enemies are capable of harming Israel’s interests. America’s enemies are capable of harming the interests of American allies like Saudi Arabia:
…[There is] growing concern in the United States among government officials and private industry that other countries have the technology and skill to initiate attacks. “The Iranians were faster in developing an attack capability and bolder in using it than we had expected,” said James A. Lewis, a former diplomat and cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Both sides are going through a dance to figure out how much they want to turn this into a fight.”
…The attack, intelligence officials say, was a wake-up call. “It proved you don’t have to be sophisticated to do a lot of damage,” said Richard A. Clarke, the former counterterrorism official at the National Security Council. “There are lots of targets in the U.S. where they could do the same thing. The attacks were intended to say: ‘If you mess with us, you can expect retaliation.’ ”
Tamir Pardo is sitting smug and pretty right about now in his office crowing about the damage done to Hamas’ weapons capability. But Hamas will figure out a way to replace what it has lost. It will either find a new factory, or a new ally, or a new smuggling route. Israel cannot stop its enemies from trying to harm it. Only one thing can stop this circle of violence: compromise and negotiation. This holds as true with Hamas as it does with Iran.
No one–not Barack Obama, not Tamir Pardo, not Bibi Netanyahu are going to impose their will on their enemies. Until they learn this lesson the region will spin from calamity to calamity. Some of these disasters will directly harm Israel, Israelis, and Israel’s interests. It will not escape unscathed. And the price, which until now has been relatively low compared to the damage inflicted on the Palestinians and other Israeli enemies, will rise substantially. Next time Iran will cause an explosion in the oil field or some other tit-for-tat response. Or one of its agents will take out a high value Israeli target. Israeli will then scream bloody murder. They’ll shriek about the callous terrorist murderers. Leon Panetta will threaten retaliation for such an act of terror.
But Iran will merely point to the acts of terror which Israel and America’s agents have inflicted on the Islamic Republic. There will be a cruel, brutal symmetry in that.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.