- Created on Thursday, 31 March 2011 02:00
By Adnan Abu Amer
Dubai, by Yommi Eini, a former high ranking member of Mossad, was released one year after the assassination, in Dubai, of Hamas' military leader, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. It poses many questions that deal primarily with security and intelligence aspects, such as whether Mossad was really responsible for the assassination of al-Mabhouh. It further looks at how al-Mabhouh was lured to Dubai and then tracked down, asking, what really happened in Dubai?
Despite the obvious hallmarks of an Israeli-style assassination, the author does not unquestioningly assign culpability for the assassination onto the Mossad. The operation was considered by many as a 'settling of an old score' with the Palestinian leader who had led groups of active cells that had killed and imprisoned Israeli soldiers. This supposition is supported by the fact that numerous high-ranking Mossad officials, as well as the Mossad chief, visited several 'friendly' Arab capitals during the weeks following the assassination.
The Hit Squad
The book looks to shed light on the private details of the Mossad agents responsible for the murder. The agents, who were made up of more than twenty men and women, held fake Italian, Belgian, Dutch, German, and British passports. In addition to this, a European embassy in the United Arab Emirates was used as a station for the hit squad. The identity of this embassy was not revealed in the book, possibly due to Israeli military censorship.
The author looks at three previous failed assassination attempts on al-Mabhouh by the Mossad over the past twenty years. The first of these attempts took place in Dubai, the second in Beirut, and the third in Damascus two months after the assassination of Hizbullah's military commander, Imad Mughniyah. The fourth was the well orchestrated assassination that took place in Dubai, in January 2010, and succeeded in achieving its objective.
The book also speaks of the assassins in what can be read as a flattering manner. These remarks are based on criteria mentioned by Bruce Riedel, a former high-ranking agent, who worked for the CIA for thirty years. Riedel describes the assassins as 'highly professional, resolute individuals, with astonishing athletic capability, and an impressive record of achievements'. [Quote translated from an Arabic translation of the Hebrew text].
In an attempt to circumvent Israeli military censorship that is placed on books of this nature, the author writes in such a way as to remain within the accepted boundaries of censorship regulations. In line with this the author rather hypothesises on the roles assigned to, as well as the tasks and actions of, the members of the Kidon-Mossad unit that were responsible for the assassination. The author speculates that two members committed the assassination, two were used as lookouts or guards, a female member of the assassination squad was employed in co-ordinating the assassination, and a driver was given the responsibility of preparing an alternative escape strategy in case something went wrong in the execution of the original plan. However, it is also possible that there were other Mossad members involved that have gone unnoticed and unidentified, as similar operations usually require more than seven individuals on the ground.
The book does not approach the assassination in a formal, academic style, but rather as a dramatised literary narration. The book reads as follows: 'Al-Mabhouh returned to his hotel room, lay down on the bed and turned on the Television. Although the drapes were closed, unseen eyes were watching his every movement. The door was opened with a duplicate key, and one member attacked al-Mabhouh, bringing him down, while the other guarded the scene. He was electrocuted beneath his ear, and his body showed signs of his last struggle for life.'
The author conjectures that preparations for the operation took at least one year, with al-Mabhouh under constant surveillance, and that the operation's commander issued an order that al-Mabhouh be tracked and hunted down, and then taken out at the earliest possible opportunity. It is likely, and highly probable, that if al-Mabhouh had had a laptop, the hit squad would have focused on formatting it and hacking the data. The assassination went without hitch and would have been a perfect assassination had the Mossad not been sloppy around certain details that resulted in them being fingered for it.
The author himself is not above controversy. Eini is known to have supervised many secret Mossad operations. Further, he has, on at least one occasion used a fake passport to accomplish a task assigned to him by the then Mossad director, Nahum Admoni. According to Eini, the continuous use of fake British passports by the Mossad, which constitutes a legal breach, angered Britain. This was exacerbated by the fact that in 1987 Israel stated that they would no longer use fake British passports.
The author narrates the 'charge sheet' against al-Mabhouh, whose Mossad code name was Plasma Screen. According to the Israelis, al-Mabhouh deserved death in light of these charges. The tracking of al-Mabhouh intensified following Israel's aggression against the Gaza Strip in late 2008 and early 2009 (what Israel termed: Operation Cast Lead ), and in light of Israeli–American intelligence and security cooperation following the war that aimed at stopping the smuggling of arms to Hamas.
Among the tactics employed in the assassination plot against al-Mabhouh was the tracking of sea vessels and land convoys, as well as the penetration of arms smuggling networks. Worth noting here is that the author does not discount the possibility that Israel undertook the assassination in cooperation with many other intelligence agencies, and that that it may have been commissioned to assassinate the Hamas military commander. This speculation arises as Israel's intelligence enjoys a high level of mystery and is capable of facing accusations in the international arena without stirring up any internal crisis.
The author also makes discomfiting remarks about Mossad concerning the crime scene of the assassination. Any intelligence agency, regardless of size or significance, knows in advance whether CCTV cameras are present in the specific location where the crime is to take place. This was not the hit squad's first assassination, and they therefore had experience in such matters. Yet they are still seen looking calm, smiling directly at the cameras. It appears as if Mossad was comfortable, to the point of being lax, in its surroundings, especially due to the fact that they dispatched such a large number of operatives in order to assassinate one individual. This is not to mention that they had an unfair advantage of the surprise factor. This assassination is subsequently considered by Israel as 'a tactical success but a strategic failure'.
With the author taking full advantage of his extensive connections with Mossad, the book's details of the assassination are remarkable. In addition to this, the author sheds light on the implications of the assassination on a military and security level, noting also the implications for the players involved: Mossad, and the level of success and failure resulting from this operation; the Palestinians, and the complicity of some of its members in intelligence and security coordination, as well as looking at Israeli penetration of Arab security apparatuses.
The book also sheds light on Israeli penetration into the Gulf area, and its implications, not only in the security field, but also on a political level and around inter-state relations. It explores the implications of the assassination on strategic relations between Israel and western countries, and thereby revisits the hackneyed line that Israel is the guardian of western interests in the Middle East.
Although the focus of text is a narration of the assassination, a more careful reading reveals a 'defensive' and somehow 'sympathetic' approach towards the Mossad. As the operation unravelled in the media, Mossad lost much face, and its image as as an efficient, professional and hard-hitting force was eroded. This was further compounded by the assassination squad's use of fake passports.
Indeed, the operation has become a scandalous embarrassment, not only to Israel, but also to supporting western countries.
* This review was originally published by Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, and is published here with permission