The Egyptian Spy Who Might Have Saved Israel

Jan. 24 2017

In 1970, Ashraf Marwan—a chemistry student at a British university who happened to be Gamal Abdel Nasser’s son-in-law—telephoned the Israeli embassy in London and offered himself as an intelligence asset. Marwan, who soon became an important adviser to Nasser, continued spying for Israel until 1998. In The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, Uri Bar-Joseph, an Israeli intelligence operative turned professor, tells Marwan’s story and goes to significant lengths to show—contrary to the claims of Eli Zeira, who served as the head of Israeli military intelligence during the Yom Kippur War—that he was not a double agent. Amy Newman Smith explains:

The argument about whom Marwan was actually working for cannot be untangled from the one surrounding Israel’s unpreparedness for the Yom Kippur War and the devastating casualties that resulted. . . .

Based largely on information from Marwan, by [1972] the Israelis had developed what they called “the concept,” an intelligence paradigm that held that Egypt would not launch a war without “weapons of deterrence,” primarily anti-aircraft batteries and missiles capable of hitting Israeli cities. But by the fall, plans were coming together to partner with Syria and engage in a limited war to take back only the eastern bank of the Suez Canal. Marwan passed along information on the developing war plans to [his handler]. The paradigm had changed, but not everyone in Israel felt the shift. . . .

Zeira and his organization continued its allegiance to “the concept” despite Marwan’s warnings as well as data from other sources. . . . When Egypt pushed back the date Marwan had initially passed on for the attack, Zeira used that to discount all the information, rather than seeing changes in plans as an inevitable feature of war planning. Fortunately for Israel, the IDF chief of staff David Elazar [took Marwan’s warnings more seriously]. The traumatic encounter between Israel and the allies Syria and Egypt that began on Yom Kippur in 1973 could have [otherwise] been much bloodier than it was.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Gamal Abdel Nasser, History & Ideas, Intelligence, Israeli history, Mossad, Yom Kippur War

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy