Mossad: murder, mistakes and myth

One of the comments I have seen a number of times across a number of different news sites is that it the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai last month couldn’t have been carried out by Mossad because the assassins made too many mistakes.

This belief in Mossad’s infallibility, however, is largely myth, built up by spy novels, films and TV shows. Instead, like most intelligence agencies, Mossad are thuggish and persistent rather than particularly brilliant. Sure, there’s been a number of well-publicised successes in hunting down “legitimate” targets over a long period of time—firstly Nazi war criminals and later terrorists (and the odd national security threat like supergun inventor Gerald Bull)—but there were just as many mistakes along the way including wrong targets, botched jobs, and being caught using foreign passports.

In the Dubai assassination, there is also an underlying racist assumption at work in the argument that Mossad couldn’t have been involved, namely that there is no way a bunch of Israeli uber-spys could be rumbled by a rabble of uncivilised, tent-dwelling camel jockeys.

Let’s for a moment, however, assume that Mossad was responsible and ask ourselves what mistakes were actually made by these assassins.

Well, arguably there was only one and that was underestimating the local police, both in terms of ability and resources. When the Dubai police refused to believe that al-Mabhoub’s death was from natural causes and investigated further, then the secrecy of the entire operation started to unravel very quickly. This point is also taken up by Time:

It would appear that whoever was responsible underestimated Dubai’s security capability. The city-state used sophisticated computer programs to quickly sift through its massive pool of security-camera footage and pinpoint the movements and travel documents of the alleged killers. More embarrassingly, the Dubai authorities are claiming that the hit team stole the identities of Israeli dual-national citizens, and traveled into Dubai using false British, Irish and French passports.

If the Dubai police had accepted the death, then all of the operatives would have disappeared back into the woodwork and the people whose identities where used on the forged passports would have been none the wiser.

Copies of fake passports used in assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh

So, to finish up, a couple of thoughts on what this Dubai incident revealed to us about Mossad spycraft.

Firstly, stealing the identities of unsuspecting Israelis with dual passports is a tactic I suspect Mossad has used successfully for years. Now it’s been busted, can they use it again?

Secondly, only forgeries of old-style passports were used in the operation, indicating that new generation passports containing biometric data might be posing a few problems for spy agencies.

Finally, if we can believe that the assassination team was comprised of 26 members, then Mossad have a bigger travel budget than the national soccer team.

Observations of Tony Blair at the Iraq War Inquiry

I dropped into the live webcast of Tony Blair being questioned by the Iraq Inquiry. Only intending to watch for a few minutes, I was still there two hours later. After a somewhat nervous start, perhaps due to the fact that he no longer engages in the cut and thrust of British parliamentary question time, Blair’s old zealotry was soon on full display.

What quickly became evident here was the Continue reading

Is the re-gentrification of a city a form of colonisation?

Resistance to colonisation is now almost universally regarded as a noble struggle, where the native underdog fights against a more powerful, more advanced, often rapacious, always unwelcome invader. The colonisers, with more resources, including the ability to control Continue reading

Politics of Fear: 1. Minarets: 0.

The people have spoken, the results from the referendum are in, and the Swiss have voted to ban the construction of minarets in their country.

We pointed out yesterday that the referendum in Switzerland calling for this ban was going to be a close call, but that the proposal was likely to be rejected. Now the votes have been counted, we can see  how wrong the opinion polls were  Continue reading

Imagine if … Fox News existed in 1938

Transcript of Fox News “Fox and Friends” for 30th September 1938

Today’s Special Topic: Chamberlain, The Munich Agreement and AppeasementFox '38

Gretchen Carlson: Here today, we’ve assembled a special panel to look at some momentous news from Great Britain where the Conservative Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain has just returned from his historic meeting with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. I’m joined by William Kristol, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limburgh and of course my co-host Brian Kilmeade. Bill, just to get us started, what’s your take on Prime Minister Chamberlain as a leader?

Bill O’Reilly: Well, he’s a leader the world can respect. Chamberlain is not one of these liberals like Roosevelt who is always talking about protecting the immigrants and trade unions. Just quietly, I suspect that democrat FDR is homosexual and will soon be legalising Continue reading

The Governator Strikes Back

Take a look at this letter sent out by California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office. Fairly innocuous, right?

Now, take a closer look and this time imagine you’re a Continue reading

Turkish coffee banned for being … Turkish!

Remember how French fries were relabelled Freedom Fries in the USA after the French refused to join Bush’s incredibly well thought out invasion of Iraq. Well, the puerile pettiness of micropolitics Continue reading

Would you pay $400 for a gallon of gas?

I'd rather walk

Ever wanted to know why it costs billions of dollars a week to wage a war? Check out these figures from the Pentagon as reported in The Hill this week: Continue reading

America’s Going Green: Marijuana under Obama


Big Green Bush

Here at Notes, we’re generally more interested in booze than any other mind- and mood-altering substances, but today I want to take a detailed look at drugs. More specifically, I want to look at what’s happening with cannabis in the U.S. My interest in this has been piqued by a couple of pieces of news/information that I stumbled across this week of which I was previously unaware.

The first of these was the number of U.S. states that now sell medical marijuana, and the second was the changes in law enforcement responses to cannabis  since Barack Obama took office.

And the only reason I started looking into these two aspects of weed was because of the following ad that was Continue reading

Obamarama Action Figures

Just announced, Michelle Obama is joining her husband in the doll/action figure market.  Michelle will come complete with Continue reading

Obama’s Peace Prize an end to “American Exceptionalism”

I cannot let this Wall Street Journal editorial on Obama’s Peace Prize pass without comment. Here are the key paragraphs for your perusal and analysis where the Journal laments the end of American exceptionalism: Continue reading

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize and rebuilding “Brand USA”

Well, the Peace Prize. Wow! What? First thoughts were astonishment, to say the least. How to make sense of it?

Coming so early in Obama’s first term as president, one can only assume that the Nobel Committee has decided to award the peace prize to Obama for political reasons rather than Continue reading

Top Ten Failed States

Failed States

Foreign Policy magazine has just released its annual Failed States Index (it comes with an excellent interactive map which you can use to get the ranking of every country in the world).  The index is constructed by rating a number of different criteria including demographic pressures, economic decline, public services, and human rights.  Coming in at first place for the second year running is Somalia. Yay, Somalia! I guess when your main source of income is derived from piracy, you can’t expect much better.

Foreign Policy magazine finishes its article with the following paragraph, part of which points out that the ratings should be used as “a starting point for a discussion” about what should be done about failed states:

The Failed States Index does not provide all the answers, nor does it claim to be able to. But it is a starting point for a discussion about why states fail and what should be done about them—a discussion, sadly, that we might be having even more frequently this year.

So, a discussion question, then, to kick things off.  Should the presence of failed states concern us much?

I tend to think probably not, because history shows that states can move from stability to failure and back again really quite rapidly. Look at the disintegration of the Balkans or the USSR less than 20 years ago. Now, many of those newly independent countries are seen as relatively stable nations.

Or look at Rwanda and how quickly it has bounced back after the genocide in 1994 – it now sits in 48th place in the index, supposedly even less likely to fail than Egypt.

And one more example. Look at Kenya and how much it has fallen in the past four years, from 34th place in 2006 down to 14th this year. Corruption and famine can quickly push a state over the edge into anarchy.

So, following this up with a second question: Do failed states get a bad rap?

To this, I would say yes, particularly in recent history. I say this because failure may not be all bad. Sometimes countries need to fail badly so they can remake themselves, hopefully better and stronger. After all, back in the 1860s, the USA would probably have occupied first place on such an index for a number of years as it tore itself apart in civil war. Then it rebuilt itself….

We must also remember that the idea of a failed state is, historically speaking, quite a recent concept. It can only come into existence when we have an idea of what a whole, integrated or successful state might look like.  And this idea only really starts to gain currency with the advent of organisations such as the United Nations.

The recent “panic” that surrounds the idea of a failed state arises after 9/11, mainly through fear that such places will become havens for terrorism. But let’s think about this a little more. Don’t you think it would be just as hard for a terrorist to try and survive inside a failed state as the rest of the populace? Turns out that this is, in fact, the case, as Foreign Policy has revealed:

Take Somalia, once again the No. 1 failed state on this year’s index. A recent report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, drawing on captured al Qaeda documents, revealed that Osama bin Laden’s outfit had an awful experience trying to operate out of Somalia, for all the same reasons that international peacekeepers found Somalia unmanageable in the 1990s: terrible infrastructure, excessive violence and criminality, and few basic services, among other factors. In short, Somalia was too failed even for al Qaeda.

Too failed for Al Qaeda! Who would have thought? This means that instead of trying to save Afghanistan, the U.S. should be trying to make it worse. The Pakistanis would probably prefer this, as for them American intervention in Afghanistan has been a nightmare. Now, Pakistan has to deal with threats on several borders (instead of just the Indian border) as well as internal problems caused by Taliban and Al Qaeda entering the country to escape the Americans.

This destabilising effect is now reflected in the index, with Pakistan heading into the top ten. The law of unintended consequence at work here, perhaps?

Knowing what they know now, I’m sure the U.S. regrets not negotiating more with the Taliban back in 2001 in order to get them to hand over Osama bin Laden. It would have been less costly and less harmful to America’s standing in the Islamic world. And the failed state of Afghanistan would probably still be a failed state. Oh, that’s right, it is!

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Question of the Day


Are conservative radio and TV commentators the new tele-evangelists?


Who let the dogs out? America’s right wing is barking

First, Facebook assassination polls; now talk of military coups. What the hell is going on? You’d think the U.S. was burning down and being overrun by hoardes of Commies and Islamo-fascists rather than just progressing though a significant recession.

I don’t mind strong critique when it is either useful, fact based, or done with a little humour, but the tone of some of this material is getting worrisome, especially the now constant reference to the “Obama Problem”, a new catch-all phrase that is never clearly defined. Of course, after the Facebook poll we all know what the final solution to this “problem” is, don’t we?

The John L. Perry* piece below (which has now been taken down from  its original site on, a conservative news site) needs/deserves to be read in its entirety. It was posted a couple of days ago and has caused quite a stir. Is it close to treason? Methinks it might be.

So, read away and let the incredulity begin:

Continue reading