ThreatsWatch.Org: PrincipalAnalysis

Persian Whispers of Escalation in Meshaal’s Ears

By Steve Schippert

Escalation in the fighting in Gaza and the West Bank is looking imminent, as the new Hamas tactic of kidnapping and execution of Israeli civilians looks to trump the kidnapping of the IDF soldier over the weekend. The body of 18 year old Israeli citizen Eliahu Asheri has been found, reportedly burned, and the Popular Resistance Committees have claimed that he was executed for Israel’s failure to end the incursion. Aaron Klein reported from Israel that the body of a 62 year old man was also found. He had been missing since Friday. [TW Note: See update below.] Klein also noted that there were reports of many more kidnappings in the West Bank in what appears to be a clear tactic being employed by Hamas of abduction and execution, not unlike the tactics employed by al-Qaeda in Iraq. With this development, the Israeli incursion will no doubt no longer hinge solely on the fate of the captured IDF soldier.

Hamas' Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh blasted the United States for the incursion as he called on the UN to intervene, saying that the US had "given the green light to aggression." But the aggression has been primarily displayed by Hamas terrorists via Izzadin el-Kassam and Hamas’ various farm teams, including the Popular Resistance Committees, the Saladdin Brigade and the Army of Islam.

Even al-Jazeera noted that, regardless of the size of the Israeli incursion and the bombings and artillery barrages, no Palestinians have been hurt.

The “green light to aggression” was clearly given from Damascus, not Washington. For its sake, the US Secretary of State, Condolleezza Rice, criticized Israel for “not giving diplomacy a chance” to work. And if he is to be taken at face value, Hamas’ Gaza-based Prime Minister Haniyeh has found himself powerless as his calls for the Hamas-dominated PRC to release the captured Israeli soldier - and thereby end the incursion - have gone not only unheeded, but rebuffed. Simply put, at this point, Haniyeh has no effective or recognized authority over the Hamas operations, attacks, abductions and executions.

To understand who is calling the shots, one must first look to Damascus and Khalid Meshaal, Hamas’ ‘political’ leader who keeps Hamas headquarters operations in Damascus – along with Iran’s foreign policy arm, Hizballah - under the protective arm of Syria. But Meshaal does not and indeed cannot operate independently, especially when the effects include massive Israeli military response. Meshaal hears two birds chirping loudly in his ear, one chirping in the Arabic of his host and the other chirping in the Persian of the global terror masters.

It may be coincidence, but Iran has been relatively quiet in the past month, specifically Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose public comments are normally and regularly controversial and/or defiantly confrontational. If Iran is attempting to fly beneath the radar, one way of doing so is to have the collective radar redirected in another direction entirely. Iran has the influence and control to do precisely that through an Arab-Israeli escalation via Hamas & Hizballah proxies.

In late January, Recall that Ahmadinejad met with Hamas and Hizballah leadership in Damascus earlier this year, reportedly with Imad Fayez Mugniyah in tow. Much was made of this reported appearance by the notorious international operational leader of Hizballah.

Thomas Joscelyn noted and speculated that Iran wanted Mughniyah to be seen, sending a clear message. Wrote Joscelyn in January, "Why was Mughniyah at the terror summit? I would bet that the Iranians wanted us to see him there. They know that his presence indicated that terrorism was still their preferred foreign policy tool."

The terrorist arm connected to that preferred foreign policy tool is Hizballah, itself a creation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in 1980. The Iranian created, funded and guided Hizballah has been coordinating, arming and funding Palestinian terrorists, ever more increasingly since Hamas’ electoral victory gave Iran a new window of influence in both Gaza and the West Bank. Palestinian terrorists themselves have confirmed this. Zakariya Zubeidi, al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades’ Jenin leader said openly, "Without the help of our brothers in Hezbollah we could not have continued our struggle. They give us money and weapons. We coordinate our military operations.”

Can there be any doubt that the same cooperation and coordination exists between Hizballah and Hamas as well, in addition to Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, et al? And where there is Hizballah, there is Iran standing behind, beside and over them, guiding the beneficiaries of their bankroll. Even to the skeptical must recognize the significance of Ahmadinejad’s openly publicized January meeting with his own new ‘Coalition of the Willing’ and and the fact that Hamas’ own headquarters are practically across the street from that of Hizballah in Bashar Assad’s Damascus.

Earlier this year, Hamas terrorists were arrested, charged with and confessed to smuggling weapons into Jordan from Syria. Jordan had found several weapons caches in the kingdom and the arrested men who confessed had "monitored Jordanian intelligence officers and foreign tourists, apparently for a possible attack." Recall for context the Hamas connections to the recent bombings of the tourist resorts in the Sinai in Egypt.

Factor in the new weaponry wielded over the weekend, with advanced anti-tank missiles that took out a world-class Merkava tank. Hamas is not acting alone. Not in Gaza. Not in the West Bank. Not elsewhere.

Israel knows this plainly and sent a message to Bashar Assad (and indirectly to Tehran) when IAF fighters served up a dawn wake-up call in the form of a sonic-boom, flying at low altitude directly above the Syrian dictator’s seaside home. Curiously, both Syrian state television and a commentator guest on CNN defiantly boasted that Syrian air defenses had fired on the flight of jets. Any anti-aircraft professional worth his weight in salt would inform them that, unless there was a splash or two, perhaps the reaction should be more reserved. The Israeli aircraft fired no ordnance and the Syrian anti-aircraft, if it indeed did fire (which is questionable), clearly missed. It was a message, not an attack.

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer ominously teased the coverage of the Israeli flight as a sign of possible serious escalation of the conflict. While a serious further escalation of the conflict is not out of the question and quite possibly likely, the Israeli dry flyover is not the cause. It is in reaction to an existing escalation.

Though not as visible and as easy to report as a flight of IAF jets, the escalation has already existed - through both Hizballah and Meshaal - in the form of Syrian and Iranian direction. Through Syrian and Iranian command, cooperation, coordination, funding, training, and arming, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups are currently fighting their sponsors’ war.

More executed Israeli civilians dumped on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza and this bloodless limited incursion will take on a whole new face.

[UPDATE: After speaking with Mr. Klein, I had incorrectly transposed his words and the body of a 62 year old man missing since Friday had not been found last night. He did advise today, however, that the elderly man was found this morning and had died of natural causes. Nonetheless, the kidnapping tactic remains. Our apologies to both Aaron Klein and our readers for the error.]