by DEBKAfile

4 June 2002

"America has finally taken off the gloves to Arafat. This time, when CIA director George Tenet called on Yasser Arafat in Ramallah Tuesday, June 4, he gave it to him straight from the shoulder ... America, he said, expects the Palestinian leader to drop the double game he has been playing for two years, turn away from violence and sack his terror-mongering security chiefs. No other reforms would satisfy. If Arafat refused, Tenet hinted he risked being treated by the US government as a terrorist, with all the consequences entailed. With no desire to interfere in Palestinian lives, Washington insisted only that they turn their backs on terrorism.

Tenet was following President George Bush's new proactive counter-terror strategy as enunciated in his West Point speech Saturday, June 1, when the US leader declared America means to 'take the battle to the enemy', through pre-emptive strikes.
Aside from Arafat himself, the senior dispensers of terror on the Tenet list are pretty much the same as those DEBKAfilehas often named: Col. Tawfiq Tirawi, the West Bank general intelligence chief and secret commander of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the suicide arm of Arafat’s own Fatah. Another leading light is Muhamed Dahlan, head of Gaza Strip preventive security, who is credited with refining terrorist techniques, one being the use of cell phones to detonate explosives; another, extra-powerful bombs adapted to blowing up Israel’s Chariot tanks.

As to the flood of reports in the last ten days claiming that Dahlan was the preferred candidate to head the security bodies post reforms, some emanated from Israel defense minister and Labor leader Binyamin Ben Eliezer, whose choice he was for the new post and as de facto heir apparent to Arafat. Ben Eliezer laid his arguments in Dahlan’s favor before the CIA director on Monday, June 3 - to no avail. Dahlan is viewed in Washington as an out-and-out terrorist and therefore ineligible for any post in the reformed Palestinian Authority. In any case, the last thing Arafat wants is an heir apparent; he has no intention of stepping aside in the foreseeable future. To emphasize this point, Arafat announced he would head the security force in person, as he has always done. He also flatly turned down the CIA chief’s demands to purge the Palestinian Authority of terrorist chiefs.

Tenet went into his meeting with Arafat furious over another of the Palestinian leader’s actions. An official Palestinian Authority delegation, headed by minister of posts Imad Falouji, was dispatched from Ramallah to the Palestinian terrorist summit convened over last weekend in Tehran under the auspices of Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Present were the leaders of all the radical Palestinian groups, including the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmed Jibril’s PFLP-General Command, Hamas and Jihad Islami, as well as the Lebanese Hizballah.

The CIA chief took it for granted that, prior to their interview, Arafat had aligned his positions with the most extremist leaders of the Arab-Muslim world – Ayatollah Khamenei, Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah, Syrian president Bashar Asad, and the Palestinian groups which reject any diplomatic transactions with Israel.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that in the last 48 hours, Washington and Jerusalem discovered the twin objectives of the Tehran convention of terrorists: first, as a provocative riposte for President Bush’s West Point Speech Saturday, June 1; second, to kick off a series of clandestine rendezvous for the planning of mega-terror strikes in Israel.

Tuesday, June 4, Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres put in a panic call to UN secretary general Koffi Anan, calling for something to be done to avert the mega-terror disaster, 'before the entire Middle East falls apart'.

A few hours earlier, Israeli army intelligence head, Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevi warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee that the Hizballah was planning an imminent series of mass attacks against Israel - both across the border from Lebanon and inside Israel. Zeevi noted that the Hizballah had arrayed thousands of different types of missiles along the frontier, pointing them at Israel’s cities and strategic facilities.

In the same parliamentary briefing, the intelligence commander disclosed that, not long ago, Israel had come very close to landing a strategic strike against Syria of unprecedented proportions.

DEBKAfile believes he was referring to the retaliatory operation Israel refrained from launching after two particularly bloody terrorist attacks – an assault on a main Galilee highway in March, followed soon after by the suicide massacre at Netanya’s Park Hotel. The IDF operation was scheduled for the first half of April and would have targeted Syrian units in Lebanon and locations inside Syria but for the intercession of US Secretary of State Colin Powell who was in the region at the time. He shuttled frantically between Jerusalem and Damascus and persuaded both to step back.

In recent weeks, the Syrians have stepped forward again to mount a new threat. Not only are they waving Hizballah’s arms supplies from Iran through Syrian military airfields, but they are providing the Shiite terrorists with chemical warheads and giving them other advanced items manufactured in Syria’s weapons industry.

While nobody is saying this out loud, the date on every mind in the Middle East this week is June 6, the day when the Six-Day erupted 35 years ago, ending in Israel’s victory and capture of the West Bank, historic Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.

DEBKAfile’s political and military sources report that on two occasions in recent weeks, the United States cautioned president Assad that a mass-casualty terror attack launched against Israel and linked in any way to Syria or Lebanon would bring forth a crushing Israeli blow in the heart of Syria. The caution was first conveyed last month, when a senior Syrian delegation visited The Baker Public Affairs Institute at RiceUniversity in Houston,Texas. It was repeated by assistant secretary of state William Burns in Damascus on Monday, June 3.

The mega terror threat to Israel, the IDF’s potentially massive retaliation in Lebanon and Syria, as well as the coming US offensive against Baghdad, will dominate the discussions in the White House between the US president and his Egyptian visitor, president Hosni Mubarak, over the weekend and with Ariel Sharon next Monday."