WSJ on the Mabhouh assassination

The Wall Street Journal has a very nice long investigative piece on the investigation into the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, focusing especially on one suspect, UK citizen Christopher Lockwood, aka Yehuda Lustig, an Israeli believed to have died in Sinai in the 1973 war. It all sounds like a spy thriller.

Lockwood/Lustig, believed to be the son of early Zionist settlers in mandate-era Palestine, had a nominal British residence but traces of him exist around the Middle East. He came in and out of Dubai, prepared the ground for the assassins, and even shipped a van to Iran (possibly for a related operation, since some of the alleged killers took a ferry to Iran after Mabhouh's death.)

From the end of the article:

When investigators discovered that Mr. Lockwood was once known as Mr. Lustig, the plot appeared to thicken. Mr. Lustig's birth certificate indicated he was born in Glasgow on Feb. 23, 1948. Mr. Lustig's father was a veterinary student who had married in Palestine, then under British control.

Investigators figured he probably changed his name from Lustig to avoid suspicion while traveling in the Middle East, according to people familiar with the probe.

But Mr. Lustig's military service history—described in six Israeli memorials, including an official obituary posted on the Israeli Ministry of Defense's website—indicates the man of that name died in combat in a barrage of rocket fire in the Sinai Peninsula.

That clouded the picture—and suggests that an unknown person fraudulently used the dead soldier's identity to obtain a British passport. Investigators appear to be back at square one in figuring out who that is.

Not so sure about that conclusion. If you look at the pics the WSJ provides of Lockwood and Lustig, they could very well be the same man, 40 years apart.

Lockwood and LustigSimilar nose and eyes, same chin and lips. Maybe Lustig never died in 1973, but was simply made to disappear so he could more easily operate as an agent.

Sponsored links:

Our prep course include COG-612 dumps along with 642-902 exam key, in addition of testking SY0-201 and testking 220-702 dumps. We guarantee 100% victory in testking 642-185.

Things fall apart

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Yeats, The Second Coming

I don't have much to add to all the noise around the Mabhuh assassination, except to say that this is the opportunity to pressure European governments to distance themselves from Israel, notably by freezing any further advanced status talks between the EU and Israel. Ideally, a review of visa regulations for Israeli citizens should also be considered. Politicians need to latch on to this seriously, especially in Britain. Considering what've seen so far is mostly indignation without consequences (and that we can't really rule out the possibility of European cooperation — see Fisk's rant on this, although I am pretty agnostic about it).
I am still forming my own take on the impact of the assassination for the region (as opposed to Europe.) One of the most important things I think it reveals is the level of instability of the regional order — it suggests to me that since at least 2006 if not earlier the dynamic is one of chronic instability where open war is generally avoided (except by the Israelis) but all kinds of dirty games and pressures are being played. Think of the Bush administration's role in training Palestinian Authority forces, the Gaza clashes that led to the Hamas takeover, Hamas being pushed into an incredibly difficult position, the Syrians and Saudis playing all sides, Lebanon entering a post-post-Hariri phase, Iraq still to find a role for itself post-Saddam, Egypt's loss of control internally and externally, and so on and so forth. It's hard to describe today's Middle East, except that it is no longer the Middle East of the Oslo / dual containment era, nor is it something altogether new yet. Birth pangs indeed. 
The other thing that comes to mind is that Mossad was taken off-guard at crime-fighting capabilities of Dubai (despite its slightly buffoonish police chief). The fact is Dubai has been under considerable pressure to bring its role as a Mecca of arms dealers, money launderers, sanction busters and other shady characters under control for the past decade. Tremendous efforts were made by the US to control terrorism financing, and more still to monitor if not stop Dubai's connection with Iran. The fascinating thing about the Mabhuh tapes is that they were probably made using a British CCTV system that was built to keep track of these things, not Mossad operations. Likewise, as mentioned in the Economist story below on Lebanon, the monitoring equipment Lebanon used to uncover Israel's spy network was the result of French and/or Russian equipment brought in in part to improve the monitoring of Hizbullah.  O happy unintended consequences!
(Update: I just saw this WSJ piece that is exactly along these lines. It's by Robert Baer, the former CIA field operative.)
Here's a few links to some of the more interesting coverage I've seen, do send more!
And not really Mabhuh assassination related, but telling of Dubai's role as an international zone of shady deals:
Finally, via The National, this map of the comings and goings of the hit team:
*

The Mabhouh tapes, remixed


"Smile you're on candid camera."

Having started watching the remarkable film released by the Dubai police showing the comings and goings of Mohamed Mabhouh and his assassins on CCTVs, I quickly became bored. The problem: no sound from all these cameras. If I'm going to sit down and watch 27 minutes of surveillance footage, I need a soundtrack. But what to choose?

"Soldier of love"Let's face it, the Mabhouh assassination was almost certainly carried out by our cousins the Israelis. And what are they known for, apart from assassinations, the Dahiyeh Doctrine and its mass targeting of civilians, and of course their traditional foods like hummus and falafel?

The answer: execrable, schmaltzy pop music (remember Dana International?)

So I grabbed the Mabhouh footage and added as a soundtrack the well-known (well, in Israel) singer Eyal Golan's 1999 album, Soldier of Love. Watch the results below — it grows on you.

Click here to view or right-click to download

I think beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and spy scandals, this video really shows to what extent to which all of our comings and goings are increasingly monitored. It's a little bit creepy — not just because this may be the world's first extensively taped assassination operation, but also because it leaves you with the sense that you are always being watched.

It's interesting that this assassination has gotten so much attention. Some of it, notably over the forgery of passports and identity theft, is entirely warranted. I hope the countries concerned will act strongly. But over the larger question of its impact on the conflict, we're still not sure what Mahbouh's death means. Was he an indispensable contact with the Iranians? What secrets died with him? What does it mean for Hamas, especially if reports that it was infiltrated are true? And what does it mean for its relations with Fatah if reports that former Fatah security men were involved are true? Beyond the pseudo-glamour of all this cloak-and-dagger stuff (and if you watch the tape, in fact it's hardly glamorous and the hit team looks like they're on a corporate team-building exercise), there are a lot of unanswered questions here. Not to mention, of course, what mega hit job is being planned to avenge both Mabhouh's and (for Hizbullah) Imad Mughnieyh's death... 

Now for some Mabhouh-related links: