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Friday, October 20, 2006

A Secret Regional Alliance Against Iran

Intelligence Online has learned from diplomatic sources that Israel and four Sunni Moslem countries - Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey - decided last month to form a regional intelligence alliance to counter Iran both with regards its attempts to build a nuclear weapon and its efforts to create a “Shi’ite Crescent” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. The move was initiated by Jordan’s king Abdallah II.

Secret Saudi-Israeli Contacts. From the very outset of the war between Hezbollah and Israel on Aug. 14, Abdallah II was in constant contact with king Abdallah of Saudi Arabia who is also worried about the risk of a “Shi’ite tide” unfurling over the region. Backed by his prime minister, general Maaruf al Bakhit, former director of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID) and ex ambassador to Israel, the Jordanian leader succeeded in persuading his Saudi counterpart of the need to establish secret ties with the Israel government in order to coordinate action.

Before committing himself to this, however, king Abdallah consulted with prince Bandar bin Sultan, secretary-general of Saudi Arabia’s National Security Council and former envoy to Washington (where he kept in constant contact with the Israelis) as well as with prince Moqrin Bin Abdulaziz, head of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID). After both had voiced interest in opening “channels” with the Israelis, Abdallah also sounded out his foreign minister, prince Saud al Faysal, who is one of his most trusted advisers. The latter also agreed to the idea. The king subsequently consulted with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who immediately dispatched senior officials from Milli Istihbarat Teskilati (MIT) to Riyadh to meet with Bandar and Moqrin. Meanwhile, general Omar Suleiman, boss of Egypt’s General Directorate of State Security, traveled twice to Riyadh, officially to coordinate post-war action in Lebanon and promote the formation of a coalition government in Palestine between Fatah and Hamas. In fact, he was there to convey president Hosni Mubarak’s approval of secret Saudi-Israeli contacts.

Royal Supper in Aqaba. Encouraged by such political and diplomatic support, Abdallah instructed Bandar to hold talks with the head of Mossad, general Meir Dagan. According to our sources, the encounter took place on Sept. 18 in Adallah II’s palace at Aqaba, the Jordanian port on the Red Sea. Dagan was accompanied by prime minister Ehud Olmert’s chief of staff, Yoran Turbowitz, and the head of Olmert’s military staff, general Gadi Shamani.

Bandar turned up with three leading intelligence aides. Abdallah II, who personally greeted his guests, was accompanied by Al Bakhit; the director of GID, general Mohammed al Thahabi (IOL 514); and the Jordanian ambassador to Israel, Ali al Ayed. According to eye-witnesses, the supper took place in a highly relaxed atmosphere, and specially so because Bandar and Dagan had met one another on previous occasions in Washington.

Stepping Up Exchanges. During the talks Dagan reported on the state-of-play with Iran's nuclear program and described the role played in it by Pakistani scientific circles as well as Russian cooperation. Still, the debate focused primarily on Shi'ite terrorism and Iran's efforts to export its revolution, which is being spurred on by "neo-Khomenis" in power in Tehran. Abdallah II agreed with Dagan in considering that no significant political evolution could be expected on Hamas' side because the movement's leadership in Palestine is being undercut by hawks living in exile in Damascus and Tehran. Bandar, for his part, insisted Israel quickly resume talks with president Mahmud Abbas in order to strengthen his hand vis a vis Hamas. In the end it was decided to “build up and accelerate intelligence exchanges” to deal with the Iranian threat. To this effect, Jordan’s GDID will act as liaison office between Saudi Arabia’s GID and Mossad. The cooperation is aimed at laying the groundwork for a regional intelligence alliance that will include Turkey and Egypt. Still, Iran was quick to react to the Aqaba agreement: in recent days it delivered anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to Hamas in Gaza for the first time, raising the possibility of a new clash with Israel.

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