Arafat Tells Israel: “You Don’t Scare Me”
Vol: 5 Issue: 18 Monday, February 18, 2002
A defiant Yasser Arafat said Monday he was not rattled by new calls in Israel for harsher strikes against his Palestinian Authority, while Israeli security forces said they intercepted five Palestinian assailants, including two would-be suicide bombers, over a 24-hour period.
The Al Aqsa Brigades, a militia linked to Arafat’s Fatah movement, said it was behind Sunday’s failed attack on a military base in northern Israel in which two assailants were killed one in a gunbattle with police and the second in an explosion he set off while being pursued by officers.
A leader of the militia said Monday that there would be no letup in attacks. “We will continue our attacks on Israeli cities and against the Israelis as long as (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon continues his aggression against our people,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, for fear of Israeli reprisal.
Iraq Attack Foregone Conclusion, Mubarak Told
CIA Director George Tenet told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during their meeting Saturday in Sharm el Sheikh that the United States has already decided to attack Iraq, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Mustaqbal reported Sunday.
According to a source with knowledge of the Tenet-Mubarak talks, the Beirut daily reported that the U.S. intelligence chief asked that Egypt not publicly express opposition to an attack on Iraq.
Mubarak warned Tenet of the repercussions from an American attack on Iraq. According to the Egyptian president, the attack would endanger stability in the entire Middle East.
The daily also reported that Syrian President Bashar Asad will soon arrive in Egypt for a summit with Mubarak. It specified that they would discuss developments in regard to the Palestinians and Iraq.
US Holding Russians At Guantanamo
Moscow says the United States is holding an unknown number of Russian citizens among the al-Qaeda detainees in Cuba, according to the Russian news service Ivestia. It says the US has seized several dozen Taliban fighters carrying Russian passports, mostly Uzbeks and Chechens.
Moscow says the US has denied the Russian Foreign Ministry consular access to the Guantanamo Bay detainees as the war on terror continues to strain US-Russian relations.
Saddam Deporting Non-Arabs
To prevent the possibility there could be anywhere left on earth sympathetic to Iraq, Saddam Hussein continues to deport non-Arabs from Northern Iraq, which remains under Baghdad’s control. Those regarded as non-Arabs are being forced to leave the area for the nearby Kurdish autonomous zone or the south. This includes Assyrians, Kurds and Turkmans.
This is just the latest allegation by Iraqi and Kurdish sources that Saddam was expelling or threatening to eject Kurds and other non-Arabs from the north. The sources said Iraqi government agents had launched attacks on key Kurdish families to ensure their flight.
The deportations are part of Saddam’s preparations in advance of an attack on Iraq by the United States. Saddam’s agents have tried to evacuate Kurdish areas in the north for the establishment of anti-aircraft bases. Kurdish leaders have publicly opposed a U.S. attack on the Saddam regime.
The US is hoping to rally the anti-Saddam opposition forces within the country to fight the ground war, following the Afghanistan model. Saddam wants to ensure there’s nobody there to join the US side.
Syria Purging Leadership
Syria is purging both its military and civilian leadership as part of a sweep led by Syrian security chief Assaf Chawkat. Chawkat is regarded as the strongman behind President Bashar Assad.
Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas could be the next target by Chawkat. The Jordanian daily A-Dustour said Assad has already demanded and obtained Tlas’s resignation. The pro-government daily said the resignation will take effect in July and end Tlas’s 30-year tenure as Syria’s defense minister.
Syria Aiding al-Qaeda
Damascus has helped at least hundreds of Bin Laden agents find haven in Syria and Lebanon. Intelligence sources said the route begins in western Afghanistan, through Iran, Iraq and Syria. The sources said Saudi Arabia is helping finance the effort.
So far, at least 100 Bin Laden agents are believed to be in Lebanon, many of them in the Bekaa Valley and in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein Hilwe. But the sources said there is evidence that thousands of others are either in Syria or on their way. The object is to reach the Palestinian areas and join the war against Israel. Some have expertise in non-conventional weapons.
What Washington is now trying to do is pressure Syria to stop harboring al Qaeda insurgents. The method now being used is a virtual embargo of Syria by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. Another pressure point is to stop the international community from implementing aid programs to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.