Did Mohammed Dahlan Poison Arafat?

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


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I still think a lot of the polonium poisoning stories about Arafat are dubious. Arafat was 75 and was not exactly known for living a healthy life. And that’s not even taking into account the allegations of AIDS, some of which have come from his own people.

There’s no real reason to think that his death was an inexplicable event.

But assuming that Arafat was indeed poisoned by polonium, it wouldn’t have been the Israelis who did it. It’s not that Israel doesn’t assassinate terrorists, but if it had wanted Arafat dead, it had plenty of opportunities. Instead Israel kept trying to negotiate with him. Even when he was isolated, he was never arrested or pushed all the way to the wall.

And, more to the point, Israel uses poisons of its own manufacture, the way it did when it tried to take down Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. The advantage of that is Israel has antidotes to the poisons it uses so its own agents don’t end up dying, the way the Litvinenko assassins probably did.

Israel doesn’t go around playing with polonium. The only people who use that as an assassination tool are well-equipped thugs. Which is to say the Russians. Poisoning someone with polonium often makes a mess and sends the message that only a country with access to those kinds of materials could have done it.

Israeli assassinations come with ambiguity. You’re supposed to wonder about the possibility, but not know for sure.

Russian assassinations, especially post-Communism, don’t even bother with plausible deniability. You’re supposed to know that they did it. There’s usually a trail of bread crumbs, sometimes radioactive, leading all the way back to Moscow.

Does that mean the Russians killed Arafat? Doubtfully. There wasn’t much motive, except petty sabotage of American foreign policy. For the Russians to have killed Arafat, they would have had to believe that he would, at that late date, make real peace and stabilize the region. And no one outside Brussels or Washington is that stupid.

However the PLO and Russia’s intelligence services go back a long way. And bribes happen.

The question is who would have done it? My guess would be Mohammed Dahlan.

Mohammed Dahlan was the readiest to come up with bold plans and put himself at the disposal of foreign powers. Dahlan had already been on the outs with Arafat and was compulsively ambitious. He was the first to aggressively try and take advantage of Arafat’s death.

Khaled Abu Toameh suggested that Dahlan had been behind much of the chaos afterward. And it’s quite likely that Dahlan was behind the murder of Moussa Arafat, Arafat’s nephew.

These accusations have been made before within the Palestinian Authority.

A Palestinian commission of inquiry has concluded that ousted Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad Dahlan was involved in the “poisoning” of former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat.

The commission’s report was published on Sunday by a number of Arab news websites, including al-Jazeera.

According to the 118-page report, which was prepared by top Fatah officials Azzam al- Ahmed, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, Othman Abu Gharbiyyeh and Nabil Sha’ath, the deposed Fatah official was involved in sending poisoned medicine to Arafat before the latter’s death.

The report also accused Dahlan of stealing $300 million provided by the United States.

All that would make Dahlan a bit of a Shakespearean villain, killing everyone in sight to seize power, playing the United States against Russia and Israel.

Bill Clinton liked Dahlan. He was, until Abbas, the only Palestinian Arab figure to get a private meeting with President Clinton, except for Arafat. The Clinton Administration had quietly signaled that Dahlan was the future. But by then, the moment had slipped away and Bush had replaced Clinton.

It would take a certain kind of crazy ruthlessness to obtain polonium from a Russian source, poison Arafat, kill his nephew and hope to leverage that into power. And Dahlan had it. He was uniquely vicious and ruthless, eager to take dangerous risks… even when compared to his fellow terrorist gang leaders.

Dahlan was willing to take on Arafat and Hamas. His men killed his rivals and ruled over Dahlanistan. If there was anyone who had the nerve to finish off Arafat and hope to profit from the chaos, it was the Palestinian Authority’s version of Titus Andronicus’s Aaron.

And Mohammed Dahlan is still launching desperate gambits from exile, like suing the Palestinian Authority in the ICC. And there’s still a ton of money in play.

And the most dangerous villain, even by Palestinian Authority standards, may only be escalating his gambits by funding Al Qaeda in Gaza to undermine Hamas.

If you have to pick out the kind of mind that would set everything on fire for a long shot chance of taking over, it would be the twisted mind of Mohammed Dahlan. Dahlan is still a crazy bastard. And he nearly got his way.

And he’s making a comeback from his base in Dubai.

The Fatah movement in the Palestinian territories and abroad is living through a historic and difficult stage, given its widening differences. The latter is not with Hamas — as is presumed — but between two essential Fatah currents, one led by the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, and the other led by Mohammed Dahlan, a member of the Legislative Council who has been separated from the movement since June 2012

The differences between Abbas and Dahlan have reached the “bone-breaking” stage, as described to Al-Monitor by a source close to the Palestinian presidential headquarters. This quarrel heated up after Dahlan, who lives in Dubai, put a lot of effort, using his money and his political connections, into surpassing Abbas within Fatah’s ranks. Perhaps what made things worse between them was when Abbas learned that Dahlan had managed to attract a number of Fatah leaders to his side, according to the same source.

He added that Dahlan’s strongest card is his alliance with Marwan Barghouti, a senior West Bank Fatah leader still in an Israeli jail.

The Clinton Administration repeatedly pressured Israel to release the murderous Barghouti. They failed. But Obama has a pretty good track record of forcing Israel to free terrorists.

If Barghouti gets out and Dahlan returns, we may be looking at the climax of the entire plot.

  • blert

    Iago plays MacBeth?

    We already have the three witches: Hillary, Susan, and Samantha!

    Will this play as farce or tragedy?