Canada denies secretly giving Israeli assassin a new identity after he helped kill Hamas leader

n13-iconNational Post reports: A week after a Montreal businessman claimed Canada had provided a new identity and passport to an Israeli Mossad agent involved in the assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai, the government denied the sensational story on Friday.

While Ottawa is usually reluctant to comment on national security matters, the allegation of Canadian involvement in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was apparently considered so damaging it required a response.

“There is no truth to these allegations that the government of Canada provided support to protect those wanted in the 2010 death of a Hamas leader,” said a government official with knowledge of the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The charge that the government had secretly resettled a member of the hit squad that drugged and suffocated Mr. Al-Mabhouh in a five star hotel room was made last weekend by Arian Azarbar, an Iranian-Canadian businessman.

He told the Ottawa Sun he learned about it from a Passport Canada employee with whom he had an affair. The passport officer, a member of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, had been investigating Mr. Azarbar and has since been suspended. [Continue reading...]

A non-denial denial? It depends on whether the individual in question had been identified as one those “those wanted.”

The Montreal Gazette adds: [A] Montreal police detective was reportedly reassigned in January after allegations surfaced that he, too, leaked information to Azarbar. The businessman is identified in Montreal police documents of being a possible Iranian spy, according to Montreal media reports.

Azarbar said Tuesday he has known the police officer for years, but said he had nothing to do with the officer’s reassignment. He also categorically denied any involvement with his native Iran. He said he has lived in Montreal’s West Island community since the age of five.

“I’ve been to Iran once in my whole life for two weeks,” he said.

He said his troubles began when he received a government letter asking him to meet with federal agents.

There followed one or two initial meetings with Kennedy and a man he believes was from the Department of Foreign Affairs. He said they were most interested in learning about his business trips to Venezuela, where he sells housing construction products.

He said he also had spent time around Hugo Chavez, the country’s fiery socialist leader who died last year.

“Did I work for the Iranian government? No, never. Did I like Chavez? Absolutely. I thought he was one of the greatest men in the world.”

Azarbar blamed much of his situation on a federal customs official in Toronto. Azarbar believes the man was jealous of his relationship with Kennedy, who has been separated from her husband, he said.

“When he found out about my relationship with Trina, he went berserk. It’s him that made this whole story.”


UAE is a dangerous place to express political opinion

Human Rights Watch: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2013 stifled free expression, and subjected dissidents to manifestly unfair trials marred by credible allegations of torture, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2014.

A court sentenced 69 dissidents to prison terms of up to 10 years in July on charges of aiming to overthrow the government, though most of the evidence the court cited in the 243-page judgment suggested that they had only engaged in peaceful political activities. Many of those convicted, and another group of 30 dissidents facing similar charges, said they experienced mistreatment in pretrial detention that in some cases amounted to torture.

“The UAE’s repressive laws and dysfunctional justice system belie the government’s efforts to present the country as moderate and progressive,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The UAE might seem like a safe place to shop, do business, or take a winter holiday but it’s becoming a very dangerous place to express a political opinion.” [Continue reading...]


Arab states show cautious optimism on nuclear deal

The Wall Street Journal reports: Saudi Arabia maintained a pointed silence Sunday on the new nuclear pact between world powers and Saudi Arabia’s top rival, Iran, while other Gulf and Arab states gave a cautious welcome to a deal hoped to ease tensions in a region bloodied by proxy battles between Shiite Iran and Sunni Arab states.

Saudi political commentators voiced persistent fears that Iran would now see itself as freed to advance on other, non-nuclear fronts against its Middle East rivals.

By early Monday in the Middle East, most of the region’s Muslim powers — Turkey, Egypt, and at least four of the six wealthy Arab Gulf countries — had issued statements expressing support for the deal. The United Arab Emirates., a commerce-minded nation that traditionally has thrived on doing business with both Iran and Arab states, welcomed the deal as one it hoped would protect the region “from the tension and danger of nuclear proliferation,” the emirates’ council of ministers said.

Saudi Arabia, the most powerful of the Arab states and the most intensely suspicious rival of Shiite Iran, made no public comment on the pact Sunday, and its foreign ministry didn’t return requests for comment. [Continue reading...]


With Gulf support, Palestinian strongman attempts to reclaim power

Paul Mutter wrotes: Youth organizer turned leg-breaker, charity worker turned embezzler, and nationalist propagandist turned bargaining chip for foreign aid donors.

All three of these descriptions fit just one person: Mohammad Dahlan.

As we enter another round of “did they resign or didn’t they?” for the Palestinian negotiating team led by Saeb Erekat, for sheer chutzpah, this has to take the cake: Daoud Kattab reports that Dahlan, formerly Fatah’s enforcer-in-chief in Gaza (emphasis on “former” – more on that below) may yet return to the fold of the party that he was expelled from in 2010.

Reportedly, his reintegration into Fatah is being accomplished by the promise of Emirati foreign assistance to the PNA: Dahlan’s exile saw him take up an advisory position to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, and this is his vehicle for returning to political life in the Territories, not unlike how American aid was his vehicle for the abortive 2007 operation to disarm Hamas before it could consolidate military control over the strip.

Absent from this account of Dahlan’s coming in from the cold, though, is one important detail about Dahlan’s career, perhaps the most important one. In the institutionalization of internal Palestinian political violence, Dahlan has a strong claim to be first among equals for his actions in Gaza after Oslo. But he is the former enforcer-in-chief in Gaza precisely because his attempt to force a confrontation with Hamas after it won the 2006 elections there backfired. Even though his efforts were backed by the US, Fatah’s paramilitaries and party officials were unable to implement their plan properly, and Hamas took the initiative, meting out violence to Fatah and the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Service (PSS) equal to that inflicted upon their own cadres by Dahlan’s forces. [Continue reading...]


Israel hopes to strengthen ties with Gulf rulers in anti-Iran alliance

The Times of Israel reports: Israel has held a series of meetings with prominent figures from a number of Gulf and other Arab states in recent weeks in an attempt to muster a new alliance capable of blocking Iran’s drive toward nuclear weapons, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Wednesday.

According to the report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been supervising a series of “intensive meetings” with representatives of these other countries. One “high ranking official” even came on a secret visit to Israel, the report said.

The report came a day after Netanyahu, in an overlooked passage of his UN speech, noted that shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear program “have led many of our Arab neighbors to recognize… that Israel is not their enemy” and created an opportunity to “build new relationships.”

The Arab and Gulf states involved in the new talks have no diplomatic ties with Jerusalem, the report noted. What they share with Israel, it said, is the concern that President Hasan Rouhani’s new diplomatic outreach will fool the US and lead to a US-Iran diplomatic agreement which provides for “less than the dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program.” [Continue reading...]


Why is Britain rolling out the red carpet for the UAE’s Sheikh Khalifa?

The New Statesman: On Tuesday next week, Britain will roll out the red carpet for the leader of a country which not only has a terrible record on human rights, but has even tortured our own citizens.

Sheikh Khalifa – the unelected President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – will be given the honour of a State Visit to the UK, while back in his country, three British citizens continue to be held over eight months after they were arrested and brutally tortured by police in Dubai.

The ordeal of the three young men – Grant Cameron (25), Karl Williams (26) and Suneet Jeerh (25) – included savage beatings resulting in broken bones, and electric shocks administered to the testicles from stun batons; after which they were forced to sign documents in Arabic, a language none of them understand. They were then charged with drugs offences, to which they have pleaded not guilty.

This took place against a wider context of rampant police torture and extensive fair trial violations in the UAE – notably in the ongoing mass trial of 94 political activists which has been condemned as “shamelessly unfair” by Human Rights Watch.

The three Brits – from London and Essex – are expecting the verdict in their case on Monday, the day before Sheikh Khalifa is set to arrive in Britain. Their trial has proceeded despite the UAE’s failure to properly investigate their torture; in fact, the authorities in Dubai have even gone so far as to put the police officers who abused the men on the witness stand to testify against them. [Continue reading...]


UAE’s bizarre, political trial of 94 activists

David Hearst writes: A strange trial has opened in Abu Dhabi. For most of the past seven months, up to 70 of the 94 activists accused of plotting to overthrow the government of the United Arab Emirates have been held in secret detention.

It was only after their families threatened a sit-in that their relatives were brought to the court blindfolded, some showing obvious signs of torture, malnutrition and mistreatment. Some pleaded with their jailers to “give them the tablets”. All were terrified to speak.

The evidence against them is also a mystery. The state prosecutor’s file, which was only sent to the court a few days before the trial began, relies heavily on the forced confessions of two of the accused. On the first day, one of them, Ahmed Ghaith al-Suwaidi, had a dramatic change of heart. Denying the charges, he pleaded with the court to protect his family: “I know that what I am going to say may cost me my life, but I deny the charges and I ask the court to protect my life and the life of my family,” he said, according to witnesses.

The accused come from all walks of Emirati life. The leader of the alleged plot, Sheikh Sultan bin Kayed al-Qassimi, is the cousin of the ruler and a member of one of the UAE’s seven ruling families. There are three judges, two human rights defenders, lawyers, teachers, academics as well as students. The social spread of the group is at least consistent with the sweeping nature of the charge. The state hopes to convince the court that the members of the group were plotting to form nothing less than a parallel government. [Continue reading...]


Dubai torture allegations: Britain puts economic interest before citizens

Nesrine Malik writes: On a Cambridge University panel on the future of the Arab spring late last year, I nodded and agreed wholeheartedly as a fellow panellist criticised the west’s complicity with fallen Arab dictators, citing the sale of arms to Middle Eastern despots as an indicator of the west’s apathy towards poor human rights records in the region. After rapturous applause, a retired British diplomat in the audience raised his hand, and politely proceeded to dampen the speaker’s moral indignation by stating that the UK was in a difficult situation. Diplomacy, he said, was a far less black and white affair. He pointed out that lucrative military and oil contracts sold to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Gulf provided, especially in a time of recession, both much-needed revenue for the state and employment opportunities in the UK.

He acknowledged that human rights abuses in an ideal world should be a primary concern for the west, but said that there were more immediate needs that subordinate such crimes. He even went on to suggest that selling arms, and generally putting trade first in this context, was patriotic – fulfilling a country’s duty to look out for the interest of its citizens. Put starkly, would you take food off British tables to uphold a moral cause abroad?

The extremes of this diplomatic tension occurred in stark uncomfortable proximity this week. The human rights charity Reprieve yesterday claimed that three British tourists arrested for the possession of a synthetic form of cannabis, who have been in custody in the UAE for seven months, had been tortured. Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning, the father of one of the three detainees detailed the extent of the mistreatment they endured. A spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) confirmed it had been providing “consular assistance” and added the usual “The FCO takes all allegations of mistreatment and torture extremely seriously”. If this is how seriously the British foreign office takes the alleged torture of its own citizens, spare a thought for those non-western prisoners and expats without such representation.

Meanwhile, it was announced two days ago that the UAE had purchased $1.4bn worth of military defence contracts, including drones, from the US. Last year, David Cameron visited the country peddling Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets in a deal apparently worth over £3bn. [Continue reading...]


As Clinton arrives, UAE closes down U.S.-financed democracy group

The New York Times reports: On the eve of a summit meeting here between the United States and Arab nations of the Persian Gulf to deepen security ties, one of those countries, the United Arab Emirates, announced that it had shut down an American-financed organization that promotes democracy, State Department officials said.

The United Arab Emirates announced the shutdown on Friday of the office of the National Democratic Institute, State Department officials said, a day before the meeting on Saturday attended by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The country, which has good relations with the United States, did not explain the action, which seemed especially provocative with Mrs. Clinton in the region.


Dubai’s skyscrapers, stained by the blood of migrant workers

Nesrine Malik writes:

Visiting Dubai on a work trip, I was wandering the resplendent hallways of my a hotel searching for an ATM when a commotion occurred. Some of the hotel staff were scurrying about, looking obviously distressed. I asked one of them if there was any trouble and he responded with a glossy smile. There was no trouble, madam, and was there anything he could help me with?

A few hours later, I discovered that there had indeed been trouble. A man – an Indian worker – had jumped from Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, and a symbol of Dubai’s prowess. It is a needle-shaped skyscraper which impales the bleak Dubai sky.

Originally known as Burj Dubai, the building was planned during the city’s orgiastic construction phase, where the sky was the limit, but completed after the bubble had burst. It was then renamed in honour of Abu Dhabi’s ruler, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, who rescued Dubai from its debt crisis.

Gossip about the suicide was horrifyingly callous. “It only took 10 months” [after the opening of the hotel], one person said. “He’s inaugurated the building,” another almost laughed. “Why did he jump?” I asked. People shrugged. He’s probably an expatriate worker, I was told – it’s usually them.

There is nothing remarkable about people being desensitised to suicides. London commuters on the underground can probably understand, but when the suicides are almost exclusively from one minority working in certain jobs, it is nothing short of inhumane. The dark underbelly of Dubai is never far away and sometimes we see the effect of this uglier side lying lifeless on a pavement.

The man, apparently an Indian cleaner who had been denied a holiday, was scraped off the floor on which he landed on and life went back to normal. Tourists and expats lapped up the luxury and sunshine, while workers from south Asia, little moving dots on the facades of the buildings under construction throughout the city, were ferried in buses to and from their living quarters. A couple of days later, another Indian man jumped from Jumeirah Lake Towers.

The Indian consulate in Dubai has since revealed that at least two Indian expats commit suicide each week. The consul-general stated that most are blue-collar workers who are either semi-skilled or skilled.


Secret desert force set up by Blackwater’s founder

The New York Times reports from Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates:

Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.

The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.

The U.A.E.’s rulers, viewing their own military as inadequate, also hope that the troops could blunt the regional aggression of Iran, the country’s biggest foe, the former employees said. The training camp, located on a sprawling Emirati base called Zayed Military City, is hidden behind concrete walls laced with barbed wire. Photographs show rows of identical yellow temporary buildings, used for barracks and mess halls, and a motor pool, which houses Humvees and fuel trucks. The Colombians, along with South African and other foreign troops, are trained by retired American soldiers and veterans of the German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, according to the former employees and American officials.

In outsourcing critical parts of their defense to mercenaries — the soldiers of choice for medieval kings, Italian Renaissance dukes and African dictators — the Emiratis have begun a new era in the boom in wartime contracting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And by relying on a force largely created by Americans, they have introduced a volatile element in an already combustible region where the United States is widely viewed with suspicion.


Military assets in battle for Libya

After numerous statements from officials and military experts on how difficult and time consuming it would be to put a no-fly zone in state, the Pentagon now says that it’s already effectively been put in place.


Bahrain regime promoting sectarian division

Marc Lynch writes:

While the American and international debate over Libya continues, the situation in Bahrain has just taken a sharp turn for the worse. A brutal crackdown on the protestors followed the controversial entry of security forces from Saudi Arabia and three other GCC states. Media access has been curtailed, with journalists finding it difficult to gain entry to the Kingdom (I was supposed to be in Bahrain right now myself, but elected not to try after several journalists let me know that they were being denied entry and several Embassies in Doha warned me off). The road to political compromise and meaningful reform now appears to be blocked, which places the long-term viability of the Bahraini regime in serious question.

The response of the Bahraini regime has implications far beyond the borders of the tiny island Kingdom — not only because along with Libya it has turned the hopeful Arab uprisings into something uglier, but because it is unleashing a regionwide resurgence of sectarian Sunni-Shi’a animosity. Regional actors have enthusiastically bought in to the sectarian framing, with Saudi Arabia fanning the flames of sectarian hostility in defense of the Bahraini regime and leading Shia figures rising to the defense of the protestors. The tenor of Sunni-Shi’a relations across the region is suddenly worse than at any time since the frightening days following the spread of the viral video of Sadrists celebrating the execution of Saddam Hussein.

The sectarian framing in Bahrain is a deliberate regime strategy, not an obvious “reality.” The Bahraini protest movement, which emerged out of years of online and offline activism and campaigns, explicitly rejected sectarianism and sought to emphasize instead calls for democratic reform and national unity. While a majority of the protestors were Shi’a, like the population of the Kingdom itself, they insisted firmly that they represented the discontent of both Sunnis and Shi’ites, and framed the events as part of the Arab uprisings seen from Tunisia to Libya. Their slogans were about democracy and human rights, not Shi’a particularism, and there is virtually no evidence to support the oft-repeated claim that their efforts were inspired or led by Iran.

Mohammed Ayoob writes:

The real reason for the establishment of the GCC in 1981 was not defense against external enemies threatening the security of GCC states but cooperation against domestic challenges to authoritarian regimes. Its main task was and continues to be coordination of internal security measures, including sharing of intelligence, aimed at controlling and suppressing the populations of member states in order to provide security to the autocratic monarchies of the Persian Gulf. The establishment of the GCC was in large measure a reaction on the part of the Gulf monarchies to the Iranian revolution of 1979 in which people’s power toppled the strongest autocracy in the neighborhood. The Arab autocracies of the Gulf did not want to share the Shah’s fate.

That ensuring the security of autocratic regimes was the principal reason for the existence of GCC has become crystal clear with the military intervention by Saudi-led forces in Bahrain to put down the democracy movement and prevent the freedom contagion from spreading to other parts of the Gulf. It is true that the Saudis are apprehensive of the Shia majority coming to power in Bahrain because of the impact it could have on its own restive Shia minority in the oil-rich east of the country. Riyadh is also worried about the impact of a change in regime in Bahrain on the balance of power between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the region. (One can, however, argue that Saudi military intervention in Bahrain’s affairs will in fact redound to Iran’s benefit in the long run by further de-legitimizing the al-Khalifa rule in Bahrain).

But these are secondary explanations. The primary concern of the Arab autocracies in the Gulf is the suppression of democratic movements regardless of the sectarian character of the populations engaging in democratic struggles. They are worried that if any of the autocracies fall or even reach a substantial compromise with democratic movements it will have a domino effect in the entire Gulf region consigning all of them to the dustbin of history. The GCC was established as an instrument to protect and prolong autocratic rule on the Arabian littoral of the Gulf. Its military operation in Bahrain has clearly shown this true colors.


Arming democracy’s opponents

The Daily Telegraph reports:

Facing budget cuts at home, western arms firms are desperate for a share of the lucrative Middle East market. “The post-financial crisis reality,” said Herve Guillou, president of Cassidian Systems, a subsidiary of European aviation defence group EADS, “is that today it is clearly the Middle East that is seeing the biggest growth.” Iran’s growing military power has pushed Gulf states into their largest-ever military build up, making purchases worth £76 billion from the US alone in 2010. The largest acquisitions were made by Saudi Arabia, which is spending £41 billion on F-15 fighter jets and upgrades for its naval fleet.

The six Gulf Cooperation Council countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait – along with Jordan will spend another £41 billion on defence in 2011, according to Frost and Sullivan, a research firm.

Libya and Egypt are among the states which have representatives at IDEX [the International Defence Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi]. Global Industrial and Defence Solutions, a Pakistani exhibitor, lists Libya as being among the “key customers of our products.” Renault also issued a press release before the exhibition, saying it had contracted to supply military trucks to Egypt. Libya’s al-Musallah magazine, which covers arms-trade related issues in the country, is also among the exhibitors.

Simon Jenkins writes:

I must be missing something. The present British government, like its predecessor, claims to pursue a policy of “liberal interventionism”, seeking the downfall of undemocratic regimes round the globe, notably in the Muslim world. The same British government, again like its predecessor, sends these undemocratic regimes copious weapons to suppress the only plausible means of the said downfall, popular insurrection. The contradiction is glaring.

Downing Street is clearly embarrassed by Egypt, Bahrain and Libya having had the impertinence to rebel just as David Cameron was embarking on an important arms-sales trip to the Gulf, not an area much addicted to democracy. Fifty British arms makers were present at last year’s sickening Libyan arms fair, while the resulting weapons are reportedly prominent in gunning down this week’s rioters. Cameron reads from the Foreign Office script, claiming that all guns, tanks, armoured vehicles, stun grenades, tear gas and riot-control equipment are “covered by assurances that they would not be used in human rights repression”. He must know this is absurd.

What did the FO think Colonel Gaddafi meant to do with sniper rifles and tear-gas grenades – go mole hunting? Britain has tried to cover its publicity flank by “revoking 52 export licences” to Bahrain and Libya for weapons used against demonstrators, in effect admitting its guilt. This merely locks the moral stable after the horse has fled, while also being a poor advertisement for British after-sales service. What is the point of selling someone a gun and telling him not to use it?

Gaddafi turns US and British guns on his own people


How the Dubai debacle showcased Israeli arrogance and Mossad’s incompetence

In a feature article for GQ Magazine, Ronen Bergman, senior political and military analyst for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, describes the rise and fall of Israel’s Mossad under the leadership of Meir Dagan.

“Dagan’s unique expertise,” Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon once said, “is the separation of an Arab from his head.”

Under Dagan’s command, dozens of Mossad’s elite operatives are now fugitives as a result of the bungled assassination of the Hamas commander, Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, in Dubai in January 2010.

The organization Dagan is credited with having resuscitated from a coma has now been thrown into disarray.

[I]n 2002, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tapped Dagan, a former military commander with a reputation for ruthless, brutal efficiency, to restore the spy agency to its former glory and preside over, as he put it, “a Mossad with a knife between its teeth.” “Dagan’s unique expertise,” Sharon said in closed meetings, “is the separation of an Arab from his head.”

Notorious for his aggressive, verbally abusive style of leadership, he is an ideologically rigid man who, according to several people inside the organization, shows the door to anyone who dares to voice an opinion different from his. As one Mossad veteran told me, “It is extremely difficult to get your opinion heard in his presence, unless it supports his. He is unable to accept criticism or even another opinion. It’s almost as if he treats his opposition like an enemy.” Dagan is also reported to have stated on several occasions that he does not believe there is anyone within the Mossad today who is worthy to replace him.

Bergman provides a detailed account of the Dubai operation and the numerous mistakes made by the Israelis in spite of the risks they were running, operating in a hostile country.

As far as the Mossad is concerned, there are two types of countries in the world. There are “base countries” (essentially, the West), in which the Mossad, like most other intelligence agencies, is able to operate with relative ease. In these countries, operatives have access to multiple getaway routes in case of emergency (and there are Israeli embassies to escape to as a last resort); it is assumed that if a Mossad spy is caught in a base country, a discreet solution can likely be found with the assistance of the local intelligence services—an option referred to in the Mossad as the “soft cushion”). “Target countries,” however, are enemy states in which operating undercover is significantly more dangerous. There are no easy escape routes (and no friendly embassy to run to), and being caught in these countries will almost certainly result in physical torture and either a protracted jail term or, quite possibly, death.

[On January 19, 2010] Al-Mabhouh is expected to land in Dubai at 3 p.m. At 1:30, Kevin Daveron [who along with Gail Folliard and Peter Elvinger were the operation's commanders -- each of these being assumed names] leaves his hotel and heads to the team’s designated meeting place—the lobby of a different hotel, where none of the team members is staying, that was selected in advance for its convenient location. On the way to the meeting, he walks through the lobby of a third hotel and enters the rest­room. When he emerges, he is no longer bald but now has a full head of hair and is wearing glasses. The security camera outside the entrance to the men’s and women’s bathrooms was recording all of this in real time. Had an alert guard noticed what was going on, the mission might have ended quite differently, with the target alive and the team members imprisoned in a hostile country.

Gail Folliard also leaves her hotel and on her way to the meeting uses the same restroom entrance as Daveron, from which she too emerges in a wig. Oddly, Folliard and Daveron are the only ones at the meeting who have changed their appearances. Given that the operatives are under the constant gaze of security cameras throughout the city, the “new” Daveron and Folliard run the risk of being linked to the “old” Daveron and Folliard through the identity of the individuals they’ve met with and passed by throughout the day—the kind of mistake that is almost incomprehensible for an elite Mossad team to make.

Despite the fact that Dubai is a hostile environment—a distant Arab state with ties to Iran—many details of the mission suggest the Mossad treated it as if they were operating inside a base country. The use of Payoneer cards is one obvious example. For the most part, prepaid debit cards are only used domestically within the United States, and while Payoneer does issue debit cards that are valid internationally, these are relatively rare. That several of the team members were using the same type of unusual card issued by the same company—one whose CEO, Yuval Tal, is a veteran of an elite Israeli Defense Force commando unit—gave the Dubai police a common denominator to connect the various members of the team.

Why did the Mossad permit things to go so wrong in Dubai? In a word, the answer is leadership. Because Dagan refashioned the Mossad in his own image, and because he drove out anyone who was willing to question his decisions, there was no one in the agency to tell him that the Dubai operation was badly conceived and badly planned. They simply did not believe that a minnow in the world of intelligence services such as Dubai would be any match for Israel’s Caesarea fighters.* As one very senior German intelligence expert told me: “The Israelis’ problem has always been that they underestimate everyone—the Arabs, the Iranians, Hamas. They are always the smartest and think they can hoodwink everyone all the time. A little more respect for the other side—even if you think he is a dumb Arab or a German without imagination—and a little more modesty would have saved us all from this embarrassing entanglement.”

The Dubai fiasco caused a great deal of damage to Israel, to the Mossad, and to its relations with other Western intelligence organizations. It led to unprecedented revelations of Mossad personnel and methods, far more than any previous bungled operation. A number of states who believe that their passports were forged or otherwise misused by the agency have expelled Mossad representatives. The British response in particular was furious. And Israel’s long-standing security-and-intelligence cooperation with Germany has also been dealt a hugely damaging blow. In early June, the head of the Caesarea unit in the Mossad—who had been considered the leading contender to eventually replace Dagan—offered his resignation. As for Dagan’s future, before Dubai he had hoped that the liquidation of Al-Mabhouh would ensure yet another extension of his tenure as director of the agency. But that has not come to pass. At the time of this writing, it is assumed that he will not continue. And so the Mossad “with a knife between its teeth” likely is entering another period of confusion and self-doubt.

“There is no doubt Dagan received an organization on the verge of coma and brought it back to its feet,” one Mossad veteran of many years told me. “He increased its budget, won great successes, and most important, he rebuilt its pride. The problem is that multiplying its volume of activity many times over came with the price of compromising on security protocols. And along with success came hubris. Together, they brought the Dubai debacle. And now, in some areas, his successor will find a Mossad even worse off than Dagan found in 2002.”

*Most of the operatives here are members of a secretive unit within the Mossad known as Caesarea, a self-contained organization that is responsible for the agency’s most dangerous and critical missions: assassinations, sabotage, penetration of high-security installations. Caesarea’s “fighters,” as they are known, are the elite of the Mossad. They rarely interact with other operatives and stay away from Mossad headquarters north of Tel Aviv, instead undergoing intensive training at a separate facility to which no one else in the agency has access. They are forbidden from ever using their real names, even in private conversation, and—with the exception of their spouses—their families and closest friends are unaware of what they do. As one longtime Caesarea fighter recently told me, “If the Mossad is the temple of Israel’s intelligence community, then Caesarea is its holy of holies.”


State Dept spokesman P J Crowley is a liar

Richard Silverstein writes:

On February 25, 2010, State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley lied when he told a press conference that he wasn’t aware of any request from Dubai for assistance in tracking the Mossad killers of Mahmoud al-Mabouh. To those who say that Wikileaks hasn’t told us anything we didn’t already know–think again.

Wikileaks has just released a February 24, 2010 cable in which the embassy relays the specific credit card numbers used by 14 of the 27 known Mossad suspects to State with a request for assistance from authorities investigating the killing, and confirms that the UAE foreign minister made the exact same request directly to Secretary Clinton on February 23rd:

On the margins of a meeting with visiting Secretary [of Energy] Chu, on Feb 24 MFA Minister of State Gargash made a formal request to the Ambassador for assistance in providing cardholder details and related information or credit cards reportedly issued by a U.S. bank to several suspects in last month’s killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai. According to a letter Gargash gave the Ambassador (which transmitted details of the request from Dubai Security authorities to the UAE Central Bank), the credit cards were issued by MetaBank, in Iowa.

Comment: Ambassador requests expeditious handling of and reply to the UAEG request, which was also raised by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in a February 23 meeting with Secretary Clinton in Washington.

Given that the State of Israel’s role in the assassination of Mahmoud al Mabhouh and in the theft and fraudulent use of British and other passports, it comes as no surprise that as these facts become matters of public record, the new chief of Mossad is about to issue an apology to the British government and promise not to commit such crimes in the future. This is not to suggest that either the Israelis or the British are opposed to similar assassinations being conducted in the future — merely that Mossad is expected operate its death squads in such a way that Israel’s allies can be saved from embarrassment.