Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The next time the Israelis decide that someone has to get got they need to send someone with real tradecraft, like Zohan.

I didn’t really want to write on this subject but people have been emailing me the craziest conspiracy theories about this. The best one so far was that Sheikh Al Thani of Qatar secretly flew to Dubai to present an offer from the Israelis to pay off Dubai Worlds debts in return for silence on the assassination. Why the Israelis would go through Qatar rather than the US for something like that I don’t know. As embarrassing as this is it’s not exactly a secret that this sort of thing happens but usually the hush money is vastly cheaper than a Dubai World bailout. Sorry Nakheel bondholders, no Zohan rescue for you.

I know this is a politically tense thing, if you’re an Emirati you’re probably really mad. If you’re an Israeli you probably wonder why everyone is so mad. If you’re a poor schlep with a western passport who spends a lot of time in visa lines in the Arab world, get ready to spend a lot more time in them. Personally I don’t really have a dog in this fight. Both the guy who died and the guys who killed him knew the game and that it has only one rule: win or die.

The thing that I don’t understand is why the hit was so sloppy, aren’t these the best guys in the world? It was a neat trick using an electromagnet to close the latch on the guy’s room from the outside. Well done there and they surely used a big enough team to surveil him and then finally get him though they were probably counting having to overcome more security than they did in the end. As for the rest of it however, I’m no expert but I’ve read enough Ian Flemming and Alan Furst to know a few things. So for anyone else planning an assassination here are my tips.

Number one, if you are going to use fake documents to enter a country surreptitiously it is probably NOT A GOOD IDEA TO FAKE THE PASSPORTS OF DUAL NATIONALS WHO LIVE IN YOUR COUNTRY. While this might make it easier for you to make really good copies of the passport it kind of leaves your fingerprints all over the place.

Also, if you are going to do your hit in a major tourist destination with scores or hundreds of hotels like Dubai DO NOT STAY IN EMIRATES TOWERS WHERE YOU WILL BE UNDER CONSTANT SURVEILANCE, TAPES OF WHICH CAN THEN BE PUT ONTO YOUTUBE. There are any number of no-tell motels all over Dubai or better yet stay in the Embassy Suites in Sharjah. The place barely has electricity and running water, they sure as hell don’t have security cameras watching your every move. The getaway car might get stuck in traffic but you can be sure of not showing up on TV.

Most importantly, FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE COUNTERINTELLIGENCE CAPABILITES OF THE NATION WHERE YOU ARE DOING THE HIT. Something tells me that the guys over at Mossad are scratching their heads wondering how in the name of God the Dubai police are all over this thing. I mean even if they got the killers on tape going into and out of the room where they did the killing how did they match them up with the people who checked into all the hotels and went through customs? Granted the disguises were pretty weak but there are literally a huge number of people who check into and out of these hotels from all nationalities every day. How did they do it? And so quickly.

I think I know. Someone once told me that Dubai had implemented a system that the police in Monaco use to track people moving around the city. As every cellphone activated itself in Dubai a computer began tracking and triangulating it and then recording its location as it moved around Dubai as well as recording at the very least who it called, who called it and perhaps even what was said. All this data was then stored in memory and run through pattern recognition software. There were always stories about the Dubai police having an uncanny knowledge of peoples whereabouts or arriving at the home of person who committed a hit and run before they did. I heard that this system was used to keep the Indian labourers from organizing a union. Things like that, but I never believed it. It looks like maybe I was wrong. It looks like perhaps Dubai does have such a thing and the agents were using cell phones which the Dubai authorities were able to triangulate to the room of the victim then go through the database and see who else was in proximity to them. Clever.

Of course there is another reason why the Israeli tradecraft might have been so shoddy: they want you to know.


Anonymous said...

Indeed, your last line was also part of a FT editorial: Mossad's message to Iran that , hey...we can get you anywhere we like, incl UAE/Dubai.
Particularly Dubai of course, which has extensive dealings with Iran and has a large Iranian population inside its borders. As much else in the M.East: what it says on the tin is not the same as what's inside.

thm said...

The reasoning in your last line is plausible enough for Andrew Sullivan to post on it. Well, not that that's a very high bar, but I'm also curious how likely you think it is.

Ken said...

@THM, not really. I think they just underestimated Dubai's counterintelligence capacity.

Doing so public a hit has weakened Israel diplomatically. They got demolished even worse than usual in the most recent UN vote and all the European countries are mad because the Israelis have put their nationals at risk now as well. Indeed, it's really only a matter of time before an Israeli official is similarly murdered. That killing is likely to be met with a yawn now.

Personally, I think if the guy just turned up dead in Dubai from non-natural causes because of who the victim was everyone would have known who killed him. It would have been more frightening if they couldn't be sure how and by whom it was done.

Anonymous said...

There is definitely an advertising component to it.
Why would the Israelis send so many people to take down one guy. They could have easily put out the poor guy in a hit and run car accident or accidentally electrocuted in the bathroom story.
They are just showing the rest of the world that they have the muscle and resources to organise such a big hit.
Methinks they tipped off the Dubai police for some publicity in return

Anonymous said...

If you want to give a message the method of killing would have been different. You do not jump through the hoops to make it look like a natural.

just my two cents

Anonymous said...

Ok.. the latest count is 45 suspects in killing one guy..

Reminds me of "the helicopter crashed in a graveyard and the police has found 1000 bodies and are finding more"

James Bond must be getting quite upset, these guys are an insult to his creed.