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Friday, April 12, 2013

The US's biggest intelligence asset in the 1970's was....

The Wikileaks cables released this week covering Henry Kissinger's tenure at the State Department show a somewhat surprising figure who was one of the United States' biggest intelligence assets in the 1970's: Yasser Arafat.

During the Kissinger years, what mattered most in the Middle East to the United States was the Persian Gulf, because of its vast energy resources. The eastern Mediterranean was important only insofar as it was another venue to contend with the Soviets. Accordingly, Kissinger saw the Israelis as a strategic ally capable of vanquishing Soviet assets—including Egypt, which after the 1973 war jumped from the Soviet camp to the American one. But just because Israel was a valued American ally didn’t mean that Washington would turn its back on Arab figures capable of serving larger American interests by thwarting Moscow’s regional ambitions. The cables show that the Americans were keen to have Arafat on their side.
It’s not clear if the Israelis entirely understood how close the Americans were to Arafat and his outfit. For instance, Israel long believed that Arafat’s intelligence chief Ali Hassan Salameh, one of the masterminds of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic games, was a CIA asset. The truth is that the so-called Red Prince meant much more to the U.S.-Arafat relationship, serving as one of their key intermediaries and a symbol of the nature of their relationship.
The cables show that two years after Munich, the American ambassador to Beirut, George McMurtrie Godley, met with Salameh—described in the cables as Arafat’s “security adviser”—to negotiate the size of the entourage that Arafat would take to the U.N. General Assembly meeting and how many of them would be allowed to carry guns.
When the embassy explained that none of them would be allowed to take arms into the United States, the cable reports that “Salameh purported to be horrified, reporting that ‘Arafat has already developed notion that USG [United States Government] is trying force him into changing his mind by appearing at UNGA by delaying issuance of visas to his party and by ‘demeaning’ his pride and self-image.” Fidel Castro, Salameh noted to the ambassador, “had appeared armed in New York.” In the end, Arafat got his way and brought his weapon to the General Assembly, where he famously offered his audience a choice between an olive branch and his sidearm.
The Americans weren’t stupid or naive. When Arafat sent Salameh to meet with them, he was telling them who he was, his methods, and his goals. When the Americans agreed to meet with Salameh, they essentially signed off on Arafat. Terrorism, from their perspective, wasn’t in itself an insurmountable obstacle. After all, Washington was engaged in a life-and-death struggle with another nuclear superpower. Compared to a nuclear exchange wiping out large American, Soviet, and European population centers, Arab terrorism was small potatoes.
As Ambassador Godley cabled after the May 1974 Maalot massacre, in which members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestinian killed 25 Israeli hostages, 22 of them children: “long-term implications of Maalot tragedy on Fedayeen movement and Israeli-Arab relations are even more upsetting than loss of young lives and anguish of Israeli nation.” The American diplomat might have added that the implications for American interests vis-à-vis the Soviets, who controlled much of the Fedayeen movement, were also dire.
Read the whole thing.

The fact that the 'Palestinians' did not win a state during the Arafat years is testimony to his sheer hatred of Jews. Had he shown any willingness to compromise, it is clear that the United States under Nixon, Ford and Carter (at least) would have forced Israel to go along. But compromise wasn't part of Arafat's makeup.

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