A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Another Twist in the Dubai Tale: Some Pertinent Questions

The Dubai investigation goes on. Here, from Gulf News, is a new twist: the role, or possible role, of Yuval Tal, Israeli entrepreneur whose Payoneer service is mixed up in the credit card side of the plot Ex-IDF, apparently a guy who bragged about his IDF exploits.

In general, when I hear of somebody bragging about their military exploits, I assume real covert operators would avoid them like the plague. But who knows? Maybe they used his services without his knowledge; maybe they didn't mind exposing him; maybe it's all bogus. But the Dubai authorities are not just screaming "Zionist plot!": they're documenting the links.

If the story linked above is correct, this guy doesn't sound like a reliable (from operational security viewpoints) asset for a covert operation. But I'm starting to wonder if this operation was supposed to be transparent, and obvious, with a big "F*** You, signed Mossad" or rather, "we can hit you, leave fingerprints and calling cards and appear on all your cameras and all over YouTube and still get our man, get away, and laugh at you"? Mossad has tripped over its own feet much more frequently than its admirers like to admit, but this was so obvious and thoroughly documented that one wonders if it was really intended to remain covert, or if the whole point was intended to be obvious.

If that were the case, then the question is what was the real motive of the hit?: was it to get the target (presumably at least part of the motive); or to proclaim Mossad's invincibility and omnipresence; or perhaps, to genuinely embarrass a country that has always had a softer line toward Israel than most Gulf states? Why do it in Dubai? Didn't Mabhouh ever go to Beirut or Damascus where Israel operates with less restraint? Was this deliberately intended to undermine the limited links already existing between Israel and the UAE?

And if so, why? Can anyone have thought that this would not become the center of attention? Or was that the intention?

And if it was a deliberate provocation — I'm not convinced of this but I'm trying to figure it out — was it a rogue act by Mossad chief Meir Dagan? It's not like it would embarrass the Foreign Ministry, as it presumably would if anyone but Avigdor Lieberman was the chief of diplomacy, but it still seems that if this many fingerprints were left behind, either Mossad has gotten sloppy, or someone was deliberately sending a message. That makes me think it goes higher than Dagan, and was a decision of state.

Of course, I can't prove that Israel did it, but if someone else did, they sure knew how to leave Israeli fingerprints all over the crime scene.

I've been around the track a few times and have spent decades dealing with the Middle East, so I'm not exactly naive when it comes to these sorts of shadow war operations. The real stuff is usually nasty and not usually limited to one side. It's a game fought in the shadows and it's usually rather grittier and less defined than some of the old Eric Ambler Istanbul/World War II stories; I think some of David Ignatius' novels might come closer. Four or five people I knew personally, maybe more, have died in those shadows, most of them not part of the game. (AUB President Malcolm Kerr and AUB Professor Leigh Douglas are two I can name without hesitation, both killed in Lebanon.)

So I'm not naive. But there's still something wrong with this story. Either Mossad's operational security has gone south with a vengeance, or they wanted all this publicity.

I won't, at the moment, speculate on why, if that is indeed what happened.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you believe the 1001 nights style tales from Dubai, I have a bridge to sell you.

I Accept cash or credit cards.