These are the known facts: The Dubai police claim that 26 visitors entered and exited the emirate over the past year on false British, Irish, Australian, German and French passports. Some or all were involved in the assassination of senior Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who also entered Dubai under a false identity. The Dubai police chief has accused the Mossad of the January 19 hit. He has presented no proof, but more than half of the fake passports in Dubai bore the names of Israelis.
The European Union and the countries whose passports were counterfeited have criticized the misuse of their identity documents without mentioning the names of those responsible. French President Nicolas Sarkozy termed the assassination utterly unjustified - "nothing more than a murder." Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in Mabhouh's killing or in falsifying the documents, but former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz said that such actions attributed to Israel "deter terror organizations."
It is unclear whether terrorist groups are more deterred than in the past. What is clear is that the plot is thickening as more suspects are uncovered. If the claims of Israel's responsibility are correct, what appears to be cumulative damage is getting worse.
The main question pertains to the planning of the operation, or operations, in which the 26 holders of false passports were involved. It seems that the planners did not take into consideration Dubai's ability to cross-reference information from surveillance cameras in the airport, hotels and malls with computerized information from its passport control. Even if none of the suspected agents were caught in the act, clearly they will have difficulty taking part in similar actions in the future. It's also possible that the investigation will lead to the exposure of other suspects or other operations. A week before the hit on Mabhouh, a nuclear scientist was killed in Tehran, and Iranian leaders accused Israel.
The group that took out Mabhouh was exposed due to one weak point: the use of false passports from Western countries bearing the identities of real Israelis with dual citizenship. From now on, it will be much more difficult to use such passports, and all Israelis with dual passports will be suspected of being intelligence agents. There is no doubt that this revelation endangers, or at least complicates, other operations.
Did Mabhouh's assassination justify taking such a risk? Was there negligence or contempt for the adversary on the part of the planners, the commanders and those who approved the operation (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to foreign reports)? Were other operations compromised, that were even more essential than the killing of a Hamas weapons smuggler? Is criticism by countries whose passports were falsified just for the record, or will it limit operatives' freedom of action in other hits? Will the affair increase Israel's international isolation and present it once again as a lawless state?
If foreign reports are true about Israel's responsibility for the Mabhouh hit and the forged passports, then a thorough clarification is warranted, which can lead to conclusions about both organizations and individuals.
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