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January 5, 2011 12:32 AM   Subscribe

The Dubai Job: One year ago, an elite Mossad hit squad traveled to Dubai to kill a high-ranking member of Hamas. They completed the mission, but their covers were blown, and Israel was humiliated by the twenty-seven-minute video of their movements that was posted online for all the world to see. Ronen Bergman reveals the intricate, chilling details of the mission and investigates how Israel's vaunted spy agency did things so spectacularly wrong (previously)
posted by allkindsoftime (73 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
did things so spectacularly wrong

Assassinating someone in the first place was the first big mistake.
posted by Malor at 12:42 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Assassinating someone in the first place was the first big mistake.

Not really, whether or not you agree with it, these things can be successfully done.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:51 AM on January 5, 2011


What I like about GQ is that they expose these kinds of assassination plots while telling me how to dress in a stylish fashion.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:51 AM on January 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


And so the Mossad "with a knife between its teeth" likely is entering another period of confusion and self-doubt.

I'm still reading the article, but the whole thing makes me really wonder about who is responsible for the tendency lately for Iranian nuclear scientists to go "boom." Is it the Israelis trying to prove that they've still got the touch, or is it coming from someone else?
posted by wandering steve at 1:02 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


somehow managing to leave the room chained from the inside

Rubberband and a tack or adhesive.
posted by clavdivs at 1:07 AM on January 5, 2011


No, spectacularly wrong is when Mossad murder innocent people on the streets of the sorts of peaceful democracies the Israeli government likes to claim kinship with. I'm no fan of state-sponsored assassins, but this is no-where near as bad as that was.
posted by rodgerd at 1:20 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's some pictures of the assassins. Needless to say, the names attached to the red notices are those of people whose passports were faked, and who are now going to have trouble at every airport, border crossing, and police stop they ever go through.
posted by Ahab at 1:25 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


The really weird thing is that the Palestinian news service Ma'an reported that
Hamas' armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, announced the death of its co-founder in exile Mahmoud Al-Mabhuh, who died of terminal cancer in a hospital in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.
This was the same day as the alleged "hit". So was he actually being treated for cancer or were they just trying to explain his presence in Dubai? And whatever the reason for the false story, they came out with it remarkably quickly given that his death was supposed to be a surprise.

Here's a link to an earlier comment of mine where I pointed this out.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:26 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


keeps ya guessing
posted by clavdivs at 1:34 AM on January 5, 2011


Not really, whether or not you agree with it, these things can be successfully done.

You can also successfully punch your mother-in-law in the face. It will not bring you peace or security.
posted by srboisvert at 1:38 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


The really weird thing is that the Palestinian news service Ma'an reported that

Hamas' armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, announced the death of its co-founder in exile Mahmoud Al-Mabhuh, who died of terminal cancer in a hospital in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.

This was the same day as the alleged "hit". So was he actually being treated for cancer or were they just trying to explain his presence in Dubai? And whatever the reason for the false story, they came out with it remarkably quickly given that his death was supposed to be a surprise.

Here's a link to an earlier comment of mine where I pointed this out.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:26 AM on January 5 [+] [!]


That is indeed interesting, Joe. Because according to the article here:

"It was only when Al-Mabhouh failed to contact his headquarters in Damascus that his Hamas colleagues began to suspect something was wrong and sent one of Al-Mabhouh's men to the Dubai city morgue, where he was shocked to discover his commander's body.

It was at that point, approximately a week after his death, that the Hamas leadership in Damascus contacted Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, chief of the Dubai Police, and informed him that they believed Al-Mabhouh had been killed by the Mossad."

I reckon someone's telling fibs.
posted by Ahab at 1:59 AM on January 5, 2011


The botched war in Lebanon against Hezbollah.

The botched raid on an unarmed merchant ship.

The botched assassination in Dubai.

Much more success like this and people aren't going to take these guys seriously any longer.
posted by three blind mice at 1:59 AM on January 5, 2011


Was Israel humiliated? I'm not so sure. The mission did what it was supposed to. The agents got back home safely, apparently. Their true identities are not publicly known. Mossad's chief got quietly replaced, but it's business as usual. The diplomatic fall out with countries whose passports were used does not appear to be that severe.

Sure, Mossad's London head of station was recalled home and Israeli ambassadors in Europe had some difficult conversations, but that is fairly mild considering what could have happened. Less than 12 months later, the new Mossad chief is making nice with the UK.

Ultimately, for western intelligence agencies, Mossad is still probably the best source of human intelligence on what is going on in the middle east. By way of example, apparently back at the start of the first Gulf War, Israel was the only country with any decent sources in Iraq. The article I've linked to makes it clear how western intelligence agencies still need Mossad. I suspect this is still true, and the middle east and Afghanistan remain major concerns for western governments.

"Mossad has placed deep cover agents in areas where MI6 cannot easily operate in Asia, Yemen and Iran. It has also established the strength of China's cyber war ability to attack the West. Mossad also has agents in Afghanistan tracking the Taliban."
posted by MuffinMan at 2:37 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ahab wrote: I reckon someone's telling fibs.

I agree - and at least one of these people is Dubai's police chief, as the article makes clear. Perhaps Al-Mabhouh was planning to disappear, and the news story was his cover? Perhaps he really was dying of cancer and the news story was a planned obituary that was run by mistake? It's just weird that none of the news media picked up on this discrepancy.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:55 AM on January 5, 2011


How was this botched? Assuming it was Mossad, the target was killed and everyone got away quietly. The operatives who did it are probably shuffling papers or training the next class of button men. Israel got a slap on the wrist some official got replaced but that was it.

Does anyone think that the perpetrators were not aware of CCTV cameras or that the photos of the assassins would not be broadcast worldwide?
posted by PenDevil at 3:06 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I read Bergman's The Secret War With Iran; it was an interesting read. It's, of course, based primarily on Israeli intelligence perspectives, with the strengths and weaknesses that carries, but gives a good view of Iranian and Iranian-backed jihadist covert activity in the Middle East and elsewhere and Israeli and (to a lesser extent) US/European responses to it. His upcoming book on the history of Mossad assassinations should prove interesting as well.
posted by acb at 3:20 AM on January 5, 2011


The Mossad only assassinated Mabhooh because plan A (to frame him for rape by means of a honey-trap, destroying his credibility in the public sphere) was unsuccessful.
posted by acb at 3:29 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


You can also successfully punch your mother-in-law in the face. It will not bring you peace or security.

That really depends on the situation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:21 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


How was this botched?

Because plausible deniability is important in international diplomacy for some reason. Because now that spooks have a clear view of how Mossad behaves in the wild, they can look for similar patterns and familiar faces and possibly uncover other operations mounted by Mossad in the past. Because it alienated allies and potential allies inside other intelligence outfits, and institutions have long memories.
posted by Ritchie at 5:44 AM on January 5, 2011


Does anyone think that the perpetrators were not aware of CCTV cameras

only the super-sleuths on the internet.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:48 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The botched war in Lebanon against Hezbollah.

The botched raid on an unarmed merchant ship.

The botched assassination in Dubai.

Much more success like this and people aren't going to take these guys seriously any longer.


It's the stuff that you don't hear about that keeps them taken seriously.
posted by Thistledown at 5:54 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think Dubai publishing such detailed information and pictures was very unexpected and without precedent.
posted by Bovine Love at 5:56 AM on January 5, 2011


Yeah, the "elite" part is the bit I think is worth a question or two.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:56 AM on January 5, 2011


Seeing Dubai spelled as do-buy cracks me up.
posted by telstar at 6:10 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


they completed the mission, but their covers were blown, and Israel was humiliated...
Please. Israel doesn't give a rat's ass about what the rest of the world thinks. The team accomplished their mission. Period. The fact that their cover was blown is more of a minor inconvenience (damn. we can't use those guys anymore) than anything. I suspect the only humiliation felt was by the officials who lost a side bet on which team member made the kill shot.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:24 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ronen Bergman^ is the senior political and military analyst for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth...
posted by XMLicious at 7:04 AM on January 5, 2011


Even if Israel doesn't give a rat's ass what the rest of the world thinks, it can still matter. When they do shit like this, their allies become less willing to play ball with them. The last paragraph on page 6 talks about the British intelligence agencies cutting off all ties after some Israeli agents faked bunch of British passports. Mistakes like that are indeed humiliating, even if they pretend not to care.
posted by echo target at 7:06 AM on January 5, 2011


No, spectacularly wrong is when Mossad murder innocent people on the streets of the sorts of peaceful democracies the Israeli government likes to claim kinship with. I'm no fan of state-sponsored assassins, but this is no-where near as bad as that was.

I'm not actually very familiar with Mossad's history - when and where was this?
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:16 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just as important is plausible deniability for PR reasons. When Hamas can show a clear link between an assassination and the Israeli government, it helps them recruit. If someone dies a mysterious death, it could have been in-fighting, and potentially makes Hamas (or whomever) look bad instead. If they can actually manage to make it look natural (illness, food poisoning, whatever), then they get away with it completely.

The point is that whether or not Israel can weather terrorist attacks and/or outright war, it's better for the health of the nation and its people if they don't have to weather such things.
posted by explosion at 7:24 AM on January 5, 2011


Presumably the risk of exposure was figured into the decision to go forward with the mission and accepted as being worthwhile. While the outcome was not optimal, it certainly wasn't that bad. I'm not sure I'd call it "humiliation." Having the agents get caught on their way in, tried and convicted for attempted murder, that would qualify, but what actually happened seems like it might be a fair tradeoff for killing the target if they were honestly that afraid of him.

Without knowing how many of these things the Israelis do a year (was this a once-in-a-lifetime operation? or are they going around doling out heart attacks left and right?), or having any other experience in the field, it's impossible to judge their competence.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:32 AM on January 5, 2011


Even if Israel doesn't give a rat's ass what the rest of the world thinks, it can still matter. When they do shit like this, their allies become less willing to play ball with them. The last paragraph on page 6 talks about the British intelligence agencies cutting off all ties after some Israeli agents faked bunch of British passports. Mistakes like that are indeed humiliating, even if they pretend not to care.

And, according to the US ambassador to New Zealand, the Mossad did New Zealand a favour by attempting to steal its nationals' identities, because cutting off relations with Israel did wonders for New Zealand lamb exports to the Middle East.

OTOH, while the US and Europe have interests in the Middle East, the Israelis, as troublesome as they may be, are very useful, as they have agents on the ground who speak the languages. The other option is to forge alliances with Iran, as Brazil seems to be moving towards.
posted by acb at 7:33 AM on January 5, 2011


I'm not actually very familiar with Mossad's history - when and where was this?

Ahmed Bouchiki; the debacle is generally referred to as the "Lillehammer affair."
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:35 AM on January 5, 2011


"
You can also successfully punch your mother-in-law in the face. It will not bring you peace or security."

true. But what if your mother in law has a history of trying to murder you, destroy you, shoot at you repeatedly? Do you ignore it?
posted by Postroad at 7:50 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


what if your mother in law has a history of trying to murder you, destroy you, shoot at you repeatedly?


You should start treating her daughter better
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:14 AM on January 5, 2011 [14 favorites]


I'm not actually very familiar with Mossad's history - when and where was this?

Ahmed Bouchiki; the debacle is generally referred to as the "Lillehammer affair."


Gerald Bull is another extrajudicial killing linked to Mossad. He was a Canadian engineer who had designed weapons and launch systems for Iraq, leading to the "supergun" project and the arms to Iraq scandal. He was shot in the head outside his apartment in Brussels. This one wasn't a mistaken identity, but shooting people in the face is still kinda against the law in Belgium.
posted by rh at 8:24 AM on January 5, 2011


i am sort of fascinated by this only in that could this be the, umm, death knell for covert action like this? At least in fairly wealthy areas of the globe. Security cameras, electronic trails, video cameras, difficult to counterfeit digital passports, it is getting harder and harder to pull off an op like this.

I don't know if the Mossad didn't realize how much of an electronic trail they'd leave or if they said, (in Hebrew) Fuck it, it is worth the risk.

Of course in downtown Mogadishu, Gaza, or Camden NJ, or any other really fucked part of the globe, it is still feasible.
posted by xetere at 8:35 AM on January 5, 2011


true. But what if your mother in law has a history of trying to murder you, destroy you, shoot at you repeatedly? Do you ignore it?

Are you talking about the Palestinians or the Israelis? You can't make the case that violence demands more violence, but only for one side of the conflict.

I don't think if this story was about Palestinians shooting Netanyahu in the back of his head in Washington DC that people would be so gung-ho about "successful operations" and fawning with reverence at how awesome Mossad is. They would accurately describe the act as terrorism, and accurately describe the parties involved as terrorists.

Of course, that would lead to uncomfortable realities about which state is really in the business of sponsoring terrorists...
posted by notion at 8:35 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gerald Bull is another extrajudicial killing linked to Mossad.

The death of British newspaper magnate & longtime Mossad asset Robert Maxwell, the man responsible for selling rootkitted copies of PROMIS to the world's elite, was another Kidon (Mossad assassination team) success.
posted by scalefree at 8:51 AM on January 5, 2011


Shooting the prime minister of a nation is hardly the same thing as killing a member of a team out to kill your people, as many as possible, and to destroy your state. The analogy simply is absurd. Now Define what you mean by terrorism. Assange says this: the willful killing of someone for political purposes, to bring about political change. When our CIA and other secret ops do it, I do not believe it is intended to destroy a nation but rather to keep your nation viable, safe from those who would eliminate it.
violence begets violence. Yes. Sorry about that. I am not like Ghandi, who urged the Jews to show passive resistance to the Nazis and go quitley to the gas chambers. Passive resistance works when you are dealing, as Ghandi was, with England, a civilized nation.
posted by Postroad at 9:03 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


For any Mossad fanboys I do recommend Gideon's Spies by Gordan Thomas.
posted by Damienmce at 9:21 AM on January 5, 2011


When our CIA and other secret ops do it, I do not believe it is intended to destroy a nation but rather to keep your nation viable, safe from those who would eliminate it.

Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. The hawks in the Israeli government believe that in order for Israel to survive, they must destroy even the idea of a Palestinian state. That does not make their actions moral in any way.

Passive resistance works when you are dealing, as Ghandi was, with England, a civilized nation.

The same England that strapped POWs to cannons and blew them apart? The same England that routinely continued to ship food to London while millions starved in the colonies? The same England that regularly massacred Indians well into the 20th Century to keep them in line? Perhaps we have different definitions of civilized.

However, I will agree with you that since the Israelis are not civilized, passive resistance for the Palestinian people may not be an option anymore.
posted by notion at 9:21 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


When our CIA and other secret ops do it, I do not believe it is intended to destroy a nation but rather to keep your nation viable, safe from those who would eliminate it.

Do you indeed?
posted by atrazine at 9:40 AM on January 5, 2011


Shooting the prime minister of a nation is hardly the same thing as killing a member of a team out to kill your people, as many as possible, and to destroy your state.

This makes the sweeping assumption that the prime minister of a nation cannot be a member of a team out to kill your people, as many as possible, and to destroy your state. Much, much less the elected / appointed / de facto leader of said team. Which I think history has shown us is a distinct possibility.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:42 AM on January 5, 2011


notion, if you see moral equivalence between imperial Great Britain and the Nazi's. well, you've lost the thread long ago. Good luck with that.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 9:45 AM on January 5, 2011


There isn't equivalence, but there are similarities. The most obvious and dangerous is a belief that my race and my culture is superior to yours, so I have more of a right to your life than you do.

The racism and depravity of the British Empire may have spread over a few hundred years, but as far as the number of people it worked to death, forced into slums, and deprived of life and liberty, I would feel more comfortable nearing my side of the argument than yours.
posted by notion at 10:14 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Quote: "Al-Mabhouh has been on the Mossad's list of assassination targets [...] since 1989, after he [...] abducted and murdered two Israeli soldiers, [one of them shot] in the face and in the chest"

Well, well... Payback is a bitch. This retaliation is righteous, and not the least bit wrong to me.
posted by livingdots at 10:24 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


For any Mossad fanboys I do recommend Gideon's Spies by Gordan Thomas.

As a gatherer & aggregator of information Thomas is excellent. I'd be careful about letting that spill over into trusting him too far as an analyst or synthesist however. His understanding of technical subject matter is frankly substandard, leading him to lend more uncritical credibility to technical sources than they may deserve. For instance he imputes a nearly mystical Strong AI capability to PROMIS, which in reality was just an early prototype of SNA software. Another example of this is the whole matter of Wen Ho Lee & his alleged work on Project HP, a "holographic portal" that allows travel through time & space & sounds suspiciously like the Gate in Stargate SG-1. He does come up with excellent info you won't find anywhere else in open source world, but he can also ruin it with his wide-eyed credulousness.
posted by scalefree at 10:25 AM on January 5, 2011


Killings will continue until Arab morale improves. Thank you, The Management.
posted by Xoebe at 10:36 AM on January 5, 2011


How was this botched? Assuming it was Mossad, the target was killed and everyone got away quietly. The operatives who did it are probably shuffling papers or training the next class of button men. Israel got a slap on the wrist some official got replaced but that was it.

But...but...they've received the opprobrium of Metafilter! How can Mossad and Israel possibly survive that harsh criticism?
posted by happyroach at 10:38 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does anyone think that the perpetrators were not aware of CCTV cameras

barney told Phelps that he forgot the mutli-laser camera blink out loop thing.
posted by clavdivs at 11:07 AM on January 5, 2011


Well, well... Payback is a bitch. This retaliation is righteous, and not the least bit wrong to me.

Right, because an eye for an eye makes everyone happy.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 12:21 PM on January 5, 2011


Right, because an eye for an eye makes everyone happy.

Or unable to find each other in the dark so they can hit them.
posted by scalefree at 12:35 PM on January 5, 2011


Passive resistance works when you are dealing, as Ghandi was, with England, a civilized nation.

Hm ... I think the man himself might have disagreed with that.
posted by iotic at 12:37 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


One would think such a thing is a violation of the 6th Commandment, but I'm sure such things have been rendered quaint by the Israeli government.
posted by Chuffy at 12:42 PM on January 5, 2011


The same England that strapped POWs to cannons and blew them apart?
notion at 9:21 AM

Citation?
posted by fartknocker at 2:09 PM on January 5, 2011


He's talking about the Sepoy Rebellion.
posted by XMLicious at 2:57 PM on January 5, 2011


While I do not have a horse in the race that notion started, I found this discussion, in which Churchill is indeed compared to the Nazis, by an Indian academic who is willing to back up everything she says with citations, to be both challenging and enlightening.

In it, the Sepoy rebellion, and, more extensively, the intentioal institution of famine in India both during and after the war, are discussed.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 3:18 PM on January 5, 2011


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blowing_from_a_gun

You'll probably want to read about the 1857 Rebellion:
Some British troops adopted a policy of "no prisoners". One officer, Thomas Lowe, remembered how on one occasion his unit had taken 76 prisoners - they were just too tired to carry on killing and needed a rest, he recalled. Later, after a quick trial, the prisoners were lined up with a British soldier standing a couple of yards in front of them. On the order "fire", they were all simultaneously shot, "swept... from their earthly existence". This was not the only mass execution Lowe participated in: on another occasion his unit took 149 prisoners, and they were lined up and simultaneously shot.

The British press and government did not advocate clemency of any kind, though Governor General Canning tried to be sympathetic to native sensibilities, earning the scornful sobriquet "Clemency Canning". Soldiers took very few prisoners and often executed them later. Whole villages were wiped out for apparent pro-rebel sympathies.
The main difference between a Nazi and a British soldier at that time would be that if you professed loyalty to the British and they also believed you, that your life could be spared. It's a meaningful difference I suppose, but not one as great as most people would like.
posted by notion at 3:22 PM on January 5, 2011


Yikes. Thanks for the history lesson.
posted by fartknocker at 4:44 PM on January 5, 2011


I really feel MuffinMan has a significant point. The GQ article -- and others I've read on this topic -- seem to leave it as a given that Israel was humiliated, its methods exposed, its agents burned, and so forth. In particular, that Western intelligence agencies are furious and have turned on Mossad. But isn't that what they have to say? The major damage here may have been to Dagan's career, but he was already superannuated in the job.

GQ goes on and on about how this or that was a "major mistake" -- but if the assassination was successful, how can it really be a mistake? Perhaps a few elements of the mission could have been performed a little more carefully to avoid piecing the puzzle together afterward, but it's hard enough to get an assassination accomplished without also doing everything you can to make it invisible.

I was also a bit dubious of the claim that all Dubai would have to do would be to shut down the airport and lock the country shut. A country on a seacoast. I'm sure there had to be fallback safe houses and extraction routes for an operation of this magnitude, and when the prize is this big, yes, an intelligence agency has to be willing to throw away some assets if they want to guarantee success.

Possibly it may become harder and harder to do this sort of thing in the future. Maybe that day arrived sooner than they had expected. Certainly that applies not just to Mossad but to all intelligence operations. I really think the things GQ points to "worked" just fine in the human context of fooling staff and guests at the hotel long enough to achieve their objective, and are well within the range of what most intelligence agencies already do on a regular basis for any type of work, not just the wet type.

The biggest error was probably not tactical here, really, but strategic. I think they expected Dubai's police/intelligence regime to operate as most Middle Eastern potentate nations have -- in stony silence and wreaking its revenge in ways similar, but perhaps blunter, to the Mossad's own. I wouldn't even discount the possibility that Tamim not only surprised everyone by taking such an open, Western approach to his investigation, but did so as much to aggressively counter the idea that Israeli agents could operate openly in his country, as they perhaps had been permitted to do so as long as they didn't assassinate. Without real sources, it's hard to do more than guess, but Israel is known to have had pragmatic dealings with the Saudis on matters of mutual interest, and the Gulf States are close to the Saudis if no one else.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that there is much more to this than the straightforward approach that GQ looks at, and better articles on intelligence matters would at least consider and dismiss them.
posted by dhartung at 6:41 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's the "wilderness of mirrors." We have no way to know whether any of the "mistakes" cited in the article were actually mistakes. They got their man and got out of the country. All the rest might have been message-sending: we can put 27 people on the ground and kill you; you can study our wigs and false beards later.
posted by Mid at 8:38 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


‘What the blown identities of the operatives illustrate more than anything is the now seemingly insurmountable problem posed by twenty-first-century counterespionage systems. False identities and cover stories are no longer any match for well-placed security cameras, effective passport control, and computer software that can almost instantly track communications and financial transactions.’ -GQ article.

sure. ok.


Not the "wilderness of mirrors". They wore ballcaps. More like levered mirrors.
posted by clavdivs at 9:07 PM on January 5, 2011


You can also successfully punch your mother-in-law in the face. It will not bring you peace or security.

Yes. Three favorites! I wasn't arguing that it would. Anyway, that's like . . . your opinion, man.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:11 PM on January 5, 2011


Dhartung writes:
I think they expected Dubai's police/intelligence regime to operate as most Middle Eastern potentate nations have -- in stony silence and wreaking its revenge in ways similar, but perhaps blunter, to the Mossad's own

What makes you think so.

I wouldn't even discount the possibility that Tamim not only surprised everyone by taking such an open, Western approach to his investigation, but did so as much to aggressively counter the idea that Israeli agents could operate openly in his country, as they perhaps had been permitted to do so as long as they didn't assassinate.


I'm sure there had to be fallback safe houses and extraction routes for an operation of this magnitude, and when the prize is this big, yes, an intelligence agency has to be willing to throw away some assets if they want to guarantee success.

'Fallback safe house'…I’ll let that go before I incur your annoyance.
The toss away assets would the agents themselves no? Planned that way perhaps as to keep logistical and human assets in-place. The 27 people should be enough to convince this was a broad and specific yet ad-hoc OP, in evidence the “hi, you- have -the- time-here- you dropped-your-diamonds" delaying tactic, the manner of death. Locked door mystery.

Which is all just speculation from a nation that denies this alleged crime.

Guy with kitty
posted by clavdivs at 11:47 PM on January 5, 2011


Passive resistance works when you are dealing, as Ghandi was, with England, a civilized nation.

When I'm feeling charitable I think the non-teaching of our [Britain's] history of genocide is not to ignore it, but to spare us the sight of our peers cheering the barbarity.
posted by fullerine at 3:06 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, the Saudis have captured one of Mossad's spy vultures.
posted by acb at 3:50 AM on January 6, 2011


What makes me think so, clavdivs? Mostly reading, like Miles Copeland, which admittedly might be 50 years out of date.

Let me rephrase my statement. I think the Mossad are used to fencing as warriors against primarily Arab intelligence agencies -- none of which, by the way, have the same reputation for efficiency or elegance (if anything, they're more known for domestic enforcement). It may have surprised them to be treated as a criminal investigation CSI style. I can't imagine they thought that the hotel tapes might never be examined, for example, but the assumption may have been that it would be privately as a classified investigation, for later retaliation and/or mitigation efforts.

But Dubai as a city-state may not have a robust intelligence apparatus, and striking back via the media might be the only effective means at their disposal. It's still an interesting turn toward the modern, a kind of "not in my well-run city" tone that you almost expect from someplace like Singapore. But then Dubai increasingly resembles that model.

The geographic and logistical weights tend toward this crossroads city as a place where this sort of targeting is likely in the future. All those well-heeled exiles, all those regional loose balls bumping up against each other. Places like Beirut and Cyprus used to play that role.

I also can't imagine that Mossad per se Mossad has no significant assets in such an important destination, but you may be right that mixing them with this hit squad would have squandered them in undesirable ways. My point with that comment was that GQ was silly to think that the airports would be the only way out.
posted by dhartung at 11:52 AM on January 6, 2011


Meanwhile, the Saudis have captured one of Mossad's spy vultures.

Heh heh. To be fair, there was Project Acoustic Kitty after all. I would wonder whether given miniaturization and cat movies and all that if this maybe isn't such a bad idea. "We're just doing science" is always a good cover for some espionage.
posted by XMLicious at 12:11 PM on January 6, 2011


It may have surprised them to be treated as a criminal investigation CSI style.

The CSI surprise you mention was not a surprise. It would seem an operational asset.
posted by clavdivs at 5:21 PM on January 6, 2011


Are vultures naturally drawn to anything that might indicate secret underground facilities? That's the only possible intelligence value of vulture tracking that I can think of that wouldn't be accomplished more easily by other means.
posted by acb at 7:01 AM on January 7, 2011


Everyone's probably seen this, but Gladwell had a good article about the "wilderness of mirrors" problem in trying to decipher the actions of intelligence agencies. It comes down to: there's no way X would do Y, that's crazy; but then again, maybe they want me to think that they would never do Y, and that's what they are going to do; but then again, maybe they just want me to think that they will do Y, but they would never really do it; etc.

There's no way Mossad could be this clumsy; but maybe that's exactly what they want us to think, because they are not clumsy at all . . .
posted by Mid at 9:54 AM on January 7, 2011


Sorta botched my own analogy.

I can't believe how clumsy the Mossad was; but wait, maybe they're just pretending their clumsy because they are not and they want to lull us; but wait, maybe that's exactly what they want us to think, when, in fact, they are clumsy; etc.
posted by Mid at 9:56 AM on January 7, 2011


now your getting it
posted by clavdivs at 10:25 AM on January 7, 2011


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