As we enter what looks to be a shaky ceasefire, we have something special for you. The following is a guest post by former agent for Israel’s secret service, The Mossad. He’s the author of a tremendous book, The Volunteer, which I reviewed here. You can find him on Twitter as mrossletters. His tale, in the book, of placing a tracking device on a ship carrying Scuds to Syria is just one of many tales of amazing derring do. I commend you to read it.
The appearance of Iranian supplied Fajr-5 rockets (and indeed all imported arms to HAMAS) in the current round of fighting between Gaza and Israel is not as some are contending, “an intelligence failure”. The failure is one of interdiction and Israel and the U.S. have been putting out the alarm on these shipments since 2009 that these advanced rockets were intended for HAMAS in Gaza. Intelligence bodies far and wide know very well the source of these arms and how they are arriving in Gaza. The problem is that in certain countries, there is a lack of will to do anything about it.
One of the most neglected aspects of Israel’s conflict with Gaza-based Hamas is Egypt’s role in the ongoing strife (including mention of the simple fact that Egypt shares an 11 km border with Gaza that is seemingly invisible to flotilla activists). If weapons systems are being shipped to Sudan and from there onward to Gaza, they have to pass through Egypt’s border with Gaza. In the past, Iran has tried on numerous occasions to make substantial arms shipments by sea to both Hezbollah and HAMAS only to have the shipments intercepted and seized by Israel’s naval commando unit, Flotilla 13.
Under the Mubarak regime, Egypt’s security-intelligence function, the General Intelligence Service (GIS) and in particular its Chief, Omar Soliman, understood that radicalism in Gaza, Iran, and Sudan were threats to the stability of the whole region. Soliman also understood that the supply of arms to HAMAS were a serious contributing factor to that existing instability. Sadly, Egyptian internal politics are not immune to the problem inherent in many countries of the region whereby the strength of competing internal factions dictate to what degree policies are implemented on the ground. In this case, the GIS were advocating strongly for curtailing shipments from Sudan but the Egyptian military, ostensibly tasked with preventing arms shipments from Sudan to Gaza via Egypt, have been reluctant to play ball. The irony in this situation is that it is well within Egypt’s capability to stem the flow of arms from Sudan (and Libya). This is not patrolling the Canada-U.S. border, it’s controlling limited road networks from both shipment origins. Likewise, Sudan could emerge with a better geopolitical posture if it divested itself of Iran and also made concerted efforts to refuse arms shipments destined for HAMAS. It is on these countries that the pressure must especially be applied.
Under Mubarak, Israel and Egypt traditionally enjoyed maintaining a very substantive and cordial bilateral intelligence sharing relationship geared at mutually foiling radical elements posing a threat to regional security. The current state of affairs under Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood rule of President Morsi is probably seeing a very diminished version of that former relationship and this is to the detriment of all concerned – including Egypt. In good faith, Israel’s secret intelligence service, the Mossad, has shared a significant amount of intelligence on arms transfers with Egypt and that will soon come to an end if this intelligence is not used as intended.
True to form, there’s a lot of media scrutiny on this conflict including the various commentary on HAMAS’ use of indiscriminate rockets versus Israel’s attempts to respond while minimizing civilian casualties. There’s plenty of criticism available to both sides to go around but what is really lacking in the discussion are questions about what precipitated this conflict and how measures could have been taken to stem the arms flow to Gaza.
When the smoke clears, Egypt has some explaining to do.
Michael Ross, a pseudonym, is an expert on Intelligence and Terrorism and a former deep cover Mossad operations officer who served in the Near East, Africa and Asia for over 13 years, prior to his appointment as the Mossad’s first Counter-Terrorism Liaison Officer to the CIA and FBI