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That Little Affair In Dubai
At first it seemed to be obvious: this must have been done by Mossad. And no doubt many well-wishers, and not only in Israel, derive a pleasurable thrill at that thought.
But there are two things that puzzle. One is the business of the hotel cameras. Any plotter or planner would know that a luxury hotel would have those cameras on all the time. But what if those cameras simply did not matter? What if those planning the operation knew they needn't worry about those cameras because they were sure that they would be long gone when the hotel personnel knew enough to alert the authorities in Dubai or, more importantly, knew that even if some of them were caught, it would not matter? They may simply not have cared.
And the second thing is the number of people involved: eleven, or at least eleven. That is a lot of people to need, and to risk, and then to have to be sure you can whisk out of the country. The number, in fact makes me think of that C.I.A. operation in Italy to kidnap someone believed to be a terrorist, an operation that attracted such unwanted attention later on.
Whatever the government responsible for sending those eleven agents would have had to have been sure it could, in a pinch, have used its influence with the government of Dubai -- or perhaps more accurately, with the Ruler of Abu Dhabi (for it is he, or his family, the Al-Nayhan, who can call the shots in recently-bailed-out Dubai)--to get those agents quickly freed, or never taken into custody in the first place.
Now it would be crazy for the Israelis, or anyone else, to send eleven operatives all the way to Dubai just to eliminate someone who had once had two Israeli prisoners killed. But if that person were also involved, as was the case here, with obtaining weapons from Iran, then Israel, but also one other country -- the United States -- would have a reason to eliminate him, and make the transfer of such weapons that much more difficult. For weapons sent, say, either to Hamas, in Gaza, or to Hezbollah, in Lebanon (Iran in this respect does not differentiate, though so far Hezbollah has received most of Iran's weapons largesse -- but only because it was easier to ship weapons, via Syria, to Hezbollah in Lebanon than it is to land them first in Egypt, and then to smuggle them to Hamas in Gaza).
Is there another interested party here, one that might not be quite so worried about television cameras because, if any of its operatives were held by Dubai, it had the power and might to demand their release -- and to expect the cooperation of the ruler of Abu Dhabi, and therefore of the ruler of Dubai? One forgets that unlike Dubai, where Iranians have been free to invest money, Abu Dhabi is less ostentatiously open-to-the-world come-one-come-all, and it is Abu Dhabi that claims three islands in the Persian (or "Arabian") Gulf -- the Greater and Lesser Tunb Islands, and Musa. These islands, and the oil that may lie in their waters, are also claimed by Iran. And that is not the only worry for the sheikdoms of the Gulf; 75% of the Arabs in Bahrain are Shi'a; most of the population in the oil-bearing eastern province of Al-Hasa in Saudi Arabia are Shi'a, and keenly resentful of their treatment at the hands of the Saudis.
It is conceivable that the operatives in this case were not Israelis, but Americans, though no doubt benefiting from Israeli cooperation in the matter of some of the passports and, possibly, in tracking the movements of their target. It is also possible that, despite the ostentatious "disapproval" by some Western governments, that some at the highest levels of those governments were aware that passports of their citizens were, in a few cases being used. One would not be surprised if the governments of France, Germany, and even, possibly, Great Britain knew this, and are now going through the motions. As to Ireland, it has declared that the passports in question never existed; perhaps the government of Ireland has not been as alarmed as the others about Iran, and could not have been trusted to be a quiet participant.
There are those who say the Americans would not dare to do this, are not capable of such things. Really? Is only the Mossad able to perform acts of derring-do? It simply isn't true. I admit, it is pleasing to think that it was a Mossad operation. But only American agents could be certain that in case of being caught, they would be sure to be promptly released. The whole point of the operation was, after all, to do what? It was to make it more difficult for Iran to send dangerous weapons into Gaza. These weapons would likely be used against Israel, in order to keep Israel distracted, or busy, so as to cause the Israelis sufficient worry so that they would hesitate, even more than they already are, about attacking the nuclear project. But it is in the interests of the United States (and of the Gulf Arabs, or at least of many of them, such as Abu Dhabi, that do not share Dubai's interest in Iranian investments or making the Gulf welcome to Iranian investors) to allow Israel's threat to Iran to be as credible as possible.
These considerations are merely some, among the many possible plausible variants, that could be suggested. That's what makes the case fascinating. In the civilized world, we all agree that the result was good. And many will be pleased with the idea that tiny Israel did it again. But we shouldn't assume, even if it is thrilling to think so, that the only secret service capable of such exploits is that of Israeli. There are others in the Western world, with some remarkable achievements to their credit. And that includes the Americans who, at times, have shown themselves, when they are allowed, to be dab hands at the same game.
Still, it is more satisfying -- let's face it -- to think that it was a Mossad operation, and I'm sure the Israeli government would like to po-facedly say nothing but hope that others assume, and keep assuming, it was. It makes their job of deterrence easier, if it is believed that they can accomplish such things. And deterrence -- that is the belief that Israel can take care of itself, and then some -- is the only thing that keeps the peace, or the best version of the peace that one can hope for -- between Arabs conducting an endless Jihad and their particular local victims, the Jews of Israel.