Israel Begins Planning For Post-Saddam, Post -Arafat Era

by DEBKAfile

3 August 2002


: Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has quietly assembled a new, trusted team to assist in the charting of Israel’s Middle East role in the post-Saddam, post-Arafat era. Sharon’s planning, a closely guarded secret not shared with his own ministers, is tightly woven into the design for the defeat of global terror which President George W. Bush began plotting after America’s September 11 shock.

The US president has kept his circle of confidants down to the bare minimum, as the first, covert steps in realizing the design are taken.

Sharon’s task force is composed of both the new and retired chiefs of staff, Lt. Gens. Moshe Yaalon and Shaul Mofaz, the incoming Mossad director Maj.Gen. (ret.) Meir Dagan, the outgoing Mossad director Efraim Halevy, who is tapped as head of the national security council, the Shin Beit Director Avi Dichter, the military intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi, and the prime minister’s former military secretary, designated as OC Central Command, Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky. This group will be entrusted with the details of Sharon’s plan and its execution.

A second tier group, whose members will not be let into the overall political, military and economic planning or Israel’s role in Washington’s scheme, will be told only as much as necessary for them to carry out their assigned tasks. It is made up of two ministers - Binyamin Ben Eliezer in defense and the Sylvan Shalom in finance, as well as a flock of major generals: deputy chief of staff Gaby Ashkenazi, air force commander Dan Halutz, navy commander Yedidya Yaary, general staff planning chief Giora Eiland, head of operations division Dan Harel and head of general staff manpower division Gil Regev.

Each member of this group will be restricted to the area of the general plan that affects his own sphere of operation.
In the course of next week, DEBKAfile will report on the early stages of the American special forces operations which have begun unfolding inside Iraq – despite the claims of some commentators that the White House has still not decided on how and when to handle the campaign against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Our most credible sources confirm that the campaign is secretly marching forward - precisely according to the game plan Bush conceived and promised the American people in the speeches he delivered in September, October and November 2001. He said then that parts of the war on global terror would go forward in secret and never be known.

Since Sharon has wholly embraced the Bush approach to the war on terror, DEBKAfile can disclose no more than that proactive military initiatives are in progress around Israel’s frontiers – some of them dangerous, as in every war. These steps are initial and risk-laden, but they are intended to culminate in the construction of a new conceptual geo-strategic edifice for the Middle East as a whole.

The reconstruction of Palestinian instruments of governance and security is a key factor in this project. The importance the Bush administration attaches to its Palestinian project goes far beyond the Palestinian arena; it is America’s first experiment in building a modern democracy for a Middle East Muslim society. If the experiment works, it may prove applicable for the autonomous Kurdish, Shi’ite and Turkoman regions America hopes to set up in Iraq – or even, in the best case, radiate farther afield to transform the lives of additional ethnic majorities in the region and affect even the most hidebound Arab regimes.

Secretary of state Colin Powell’s willingness to receive a Palestinian delegation in Washington next week was misread by some Israeli media as a willingness to resume the US dialogue with Yasser Arafat’s regime – despite the terrorist outrage that cost seven lives, five of them American, at the Hebrew University Frank Sinatra Cafeteria last Wednesday, July 31. In fact, Powell stipulated that he only wanted to see “future” Palestinian leaders, namely Abdel Razek Yahya, interior, and Salam Fayyad, finance.

Washington’s new approach, as epitomized in Powell’s diplomatic refusal to meet members of Yasser Arafat’s regime, has elicited a new stage in the Palestinian campaign of terror. The remote-controlled bombing by cell phone on Mount Scopus hit a building at the heart of an American enclave on the Hebrew University campus; the Frank Sinatra Student Center abuts on the Barbra Streisand Garden, the Harry S. Truman Institute of Peace and the Nancy Reagan Plaza.

The blast was meant to blow up a symbol of the deep strategic collaboration and ideological affinity binding the United States and Israel.

The fine points of such targeting are beyond the capacity of a local Hamas terrorist operative. DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources rather detect the mark of the intelligence and military cooperation already reported in the past between Yasser Arafat, Iraqi military intelligence agents operating in the West Bank and the Hizballah’s terror-cum-intelligence apparatus, which Arafat invoked when his own terrorist cells were pinned down by Israeli military action. The senior coordinator of this coalition for terror is Gen. Tawfiq Tirawi, founder and commander of the Fatah’s al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

The London Sunday Times reports in its August 4 issue that Saddam Hussein has set up Palestinian terrorist cells and equipped them with mobile biological weapons systems. Since mid-March 2002, we have reported that, some months ago, Iraqi agents secreted these and other deadly mechanisms into the West Bank.

Now they are only waiting for Arafat’s signal to go into action.

With the cafeteria bombing, Saddam, Arafat and Nasrallah embarked on a course of terror aimed at turning aside the political-ideological assault on their regimes, as well as upsetting the early stages of US-led military action in Iraq. The fact that five of the seven fatalities last Wednesday were Americans was no accident. The close to 100,000 American nationals, Israelis and Palestinians, living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, would do well to take notice.