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Quiet Diplomacy & Counter Terror

Israel Hopes Diplomatic Flap With Britain Can Be Resolved Smoothly

Israel Has Not & Unlikely To Accept Responsibility For Mabhouh's Assassination

Mabhouh's Elimination Expected To Hamper Hamas Weapons Flow From Iran To Gaza

Mossad Chief Meir Dagan

Who were the ten men and one woman who arrived discreetly at Dubai airport, tracked down Hamas kingpin Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, assassinated him in his hotel room and then departed all within nineteen hours. The fact that six of them traveled on fraudulent passports in the names of six British citizens now living in Israel pointed to the Mossad Secret Service known for its daring operations in the past. At Dubai's request, Interpol has issued warrants for the eleven suspects while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ordered a 'full investigation' after the summoning of the Israeli ambassador for an explanation at the Foreign Office. Israel is staying mum although quiet contacts will likely calm the diplomatic storm.

Binyamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Israel now hopes the diplomatic storm with Britain over forged British passports used by agents who killed Hamas kingpin Mahmoud Mabhouh in Dubai, will eventually blow over. For her part, Israel has not accepted responsibility for the assassination. When asked to respond during his visit to Moscow, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu replied: "I heard about it in the media"and Foreign |Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated: "There is no proof of Israel's involvement". Although conjecture is rife and the Dubai authorities say there is a 99% probability that Mossad agents carried out the killing, in the absence of real evidence, it's anticipated that Britain, involved in its own clandestine war against terrorism, will suffice with warnings about the unlawful use of her passports. However it should come as no surprise that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called publicly for a 'full investigation', he could do no less. In the ongoing war against terrorism, there are two separate tracks: high-profile diplomacy and the clandestine cooperation that goes on among intelligence organizations.

For their part, the Brits are old hands at this skulduggery. Author John le Carre, has had a spectacular career, writing spy-novels based on his experience garnered while serving in Britain's MI-6 secret service. In Northern Ireland, British 'hit teams' from the vaunted SAS commando unit relentlessly tracked down and shot dead IRA suspects, culminating in the killing of three unarmed suspects in Gibraltar in 1988.

What was so crucial about al-Mabhouh that his executioners were sent on such a dangerous mission inside an Arab country. The fact that Mabhouh was traveling without bodyguards indicates that even he did not suspect that anyone would dare attack him inside Dubai, known for her relatively sophisticated photo surveillance at its airport and luxury hotels. Obviously the assassination's planners were also aware of the risks involved of either being apprehended or identified. So why did they take the considerable chance and risk the diplomatic fireworks, primarily with Britain? What is known is that Makhouh has ranked high on Israel's most wanted list for two decades, ever since he participated in the separate kidnappings and executions of two Israeli soldiers, Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa'adon in 1989.

At present, Mabhouh was the Hamas linchpin for Iranian arms supplies being smuggled into the Gaza Strip. Perhaps it was not only a 'payback' by bringing him to justice, but also a very serious blow to the Iranian weapons channel to Gaza now that the Egyptians are playing a more serious role in blocking this conduit from Sinai. One that justified the risks involved. Dr. Mishka Ben-David is a former Mossad agent, who also writes spy novels. Interviewed on Channel 10 TV, Ben-David first said he had no idea who was responsible for killing al-Mabhouh, nonetheless he could envisage a scenario. Reliable intelligence information indicated that al-Mabhouh would be flying into Dubai, on January 20th and staying at the hotel. A quick decision had to be taken on whether to exploit the opportunity to execute him; it was decided that the mission justified the risks. The plan was to try and make it appear as if he had died of natural causes - no suspicions aroused and no questions asked. However, although it took some time, the Dubai authorities detected that al-Mabhouk had not died of natural causes but of foul play. From then on it was only a matter of time before a study of the ample photo surveillance at the airport and the hotel revealed the suspects and their fraudulent passports. So much for Ben-David's speculation.

The cost-benefit analysis favored taking out Al-Mabhouk. It recalls the bomb blast that killed Hezbollah's military commander Imad Mughniyah in Damascus on February 12,1988. Hezbollah has reportedly not yet recovered from the liquidation of Mughniyah failing to find a successor of his caliber. Ironically, such a replacement would have already found the way to retaliate, although Israel has not accepted responsibility for that assassination. But it's not only personal, it goes farther than downgrading guerrilla operations on a daily basis. Other guerrilla leaders must take the time and energy ensuring their own safety. The assassinations, that are obviously made possible by inside information, also arouse suspicions that high- level informers are in contact with the enemy.But if the passport identities of British citizens living in Israel has been stolen by the perpetrators of the al-Mabhouh assassination, this is undoubtedly an unlawful usurpation of their rights possibly putting them in danger. Then there is the current diplomatic fallout and Israeli ambassadors being summoned to foreign ministries abroad. Writing in Yisrael Hayom, commentator Yoav Limor wrote: " In London, Paris and Berlin they know full well whether it is Israel or Hamas that is on the side of the good guys and no one there is mourning the death of Al-Mabhouh. But if Israel was involved, it is both possible and necessary to resolve any problems quietly, our good guys with theirs because Brown, Sarkozy and Merkel are feeling the public heat".

Mossad Director Meir Dagen, recently praised by even the usually anti- Israeli Al Aharam daily in Cairo, as being Israel's 'Superman ' in delaying the Iranians from developing an atomic bomb, may be in the hot seat. But if Israel were involved, most commentators think the green light would have come from Dagen's boss, Prime Minister Netanyahu.

NETANYAHU COMMITMENT TO RUSSIANS?

Meanwhile, Israel's Prime Minister went to Moscow to try and persuade President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin to support the current campaign, headed by U.S. President Barack Obama to impose new, stiff enough sanctions to deter Iran from producing nuclear weapons. Also at the top of the agenda is the pending delivery of Russia's sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to the Iranians, weapons that would pose a serious threat to aircraft attacking Iran's nuclear facilities and lending the Iranians credibility to continue its nuclear weapons project despite the international hue and cry. Note these developments: One day before Netanyahu's arrival a senior Russian official is quoted in the press as saying Moscow will go through with the S-300 delivery to Iran. After meeting Medvedev and Putin, when asked at a news conference if Israel will attack Iran's nuclear sites Netanyahu declares: "Israel is not planning wars against anyone!" The day after the Israeli leader flies out of Moscow, the Russian media report there are some 'technical hitches' with the S-300 delaying the delivery to Iran. The conclusion seems to be this - Netanyahu told the Russians that Israel will not consider an air strike against Iran as long as there is a chance that sanctions will work. In return, Russia agreed not to supply the S-300 to Iran for the present.

For years Egypt's Dr Mohammed al Baradei served as chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN body in Vienna. Throughout that period, Al Baradei was photographed hugging Iran's President Ahmadenijad and saying there was still no clear cut evidence the Iranians were in fact producing nuclear weapons. That still remained to be proved and the international community must show patience for Iran's legitimate aspirations and concerns. Now Yukiya Amano of Japan no less, is the new Director General of the IAEA and for the first time the organization has revealed extensive evidence of 'past or current undisclosed activities to develop a nuclear warhead'. The latest IAEA report also ran counter to the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate released with fanfare in 2007 that the Iranians suspended nuclear weapons activity at the end of 2003. As reported by IsraCast at that time, Israeli intelligence experts were flabbergasted by the American estimate and their assessment that Iran has been going full tilt to develop the bomb has now been vindicated. The IAEA has concluded that Iranian weapons development continued beyond 2004.

GOLDSTONE & MARJAH

NATO forces in the current Marjah campaign in Afghanistan are battling Taliban fighters who have copied the tactics of Hamas during the IDF's 'Cast Lead' operation to suppress the rocketing from the Gaza Strip last year. News reports from the battle zone indicate clearly that Taliban is also using innocent civilians as human shields. In his report accusing the Israel Defense Forces of war crimes during the Cast Lead Operation against Hamas in Gaza, Judge Richard Goldstone declared that Israel naturally had the right of self defense against the Hamas rockets but he accused the Jewish state of violating the accepted norms of other democratic states in warfare. The judge, who himself served on the bench during the apartheid regime in South Africa, should for example take an example from how the U.S. forces make war in similar situations. IsraCast invites Judge Goldstone to consider the news reports now coming out of Afghanistan. For example:

AP- Feb. 16th
Marjah - Afghanistan

Three more Afghan civilians have been killed in the assault on a southern Taliban stronghold, NATO forces said Tuesday, highlighting the toll of the population from an offensive aimed at making them safer.
The deaths - in three separate incidents- come after two errant U.S. missiles struck a house on the outskirts of the town of Marjah on Sunday, killing twelve people , half of them children. Afghan officials said Monday that three Taliban fighters were in the house at the time of the attack.

In two of the most recently reported incidents. Afghan men came toward NATO forces and ignored shouts and hand signals to stop , NATO said. The troops shot at the men and killed them.

In the third incident , two Afghan men were caught in the crossfire between insurgents and NATO forces . Both men were wounded and one died of his injuries despite being given medical care, NATO said.

David Essing

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