Is it Surprising? “PLO’s Abbas Was a KGB Agent”

[This article was written by Yossi Melman, co-author of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, for The Jerusalem Post newspaper.]

The revelation that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah nom de guerre is Abu Mazen, was a KGB agent shouldn’t surprise those knowledgeable of the PLO movement and the Soviet Union’s methods.

Since its creation in 1959, the Fatah group and later the PLO were influenced and supported by various Arab intelligence communities, the KGB, and its satellite security services in the communist bloc. Beyond solidifying ideological bonds, the cooperation was a marriage of convenience.

The PLO needed financial support, military training and weapons. The Soviet Union, entangled in the Cold War with the West, wanted to increase its influence in the Middle East.

The Soviet Union and its client states in Eastern Europe supported “progressive” movements and groups around the globe, including those who were involved in terrorism.

Abbas and his Cabinet in Ramallah: Only KGB Spy is Man in the Middle?

Abbas and his Cabinet in Ramallah: Only KGB Spy is Man in the Middle?

While the Soviet Union tried to keep its hands clean, it instructed the security services of its client state to do the dirty work. The East German Stasi and also the Hungarian and Bulgarian agencies trained PLO officers, gave them weapons and documents, and hosted notorious terrorists such as Abu Nidal, Carlos and Wadi Haddad. The Black September terrorists who killed the 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics traveled via East Berlin.

Yasser Arafat himself was photographed by the Securitate, the Romanian security service, in an intimate position in his hotel room in the company of his bodyguards while visiting Bucharest.

The Soviet Union gave grants to and hosted thousands of students from Asia, Africa, South and Central America at its universities.

The Soviet generosity was also a tool to recruit agents of all sorts among the foreign students.

Based on the belief that “quantity will turn into quality,” the KGB method was to recruit as many agents as possible, hoping that some of them would reach the top of their countries or organizations and be a quality agent.

Was Abu Mazen one of them? It shouldn’t be ruled out, despite his denials. In such circumstances, a denial by the president of the Palestinian Authority is only to be expected.

If it’s true, it happened when he studied in the early 1980’s at Moscow’s Oriental University, where he submitted his PhD thesis. But we still don’t know — from the Soviet-era document that reportedly names Mahmoud Abbas as a KGB mole in the PLO — how long he was run as an agent, how often he met with his controller, whether he was a paid agent and if so how much was he paid, or whether he was just an agent of influence who from time to time shared bits of information or estimates with his Soviet contacts.

If indeed he was a full-fledged agent, it was a good catch for the KGB. Abu Mazen was among the founding fathers of Fatah and a close friend of Arafat and the other top leaders of the group. Although throughout his career he mostly dealt with political and diplomatic matters, Abu Mazen must have known at least about some of the terrorist attacks carried out by the PLO against Israel, Jewish targets and Western targets.

One can assume that if he was an agent, he passed some of his knowledge on to the Soviets.

The KGB was a successful professional intelligence agency.

It managed to recruit and plant good agents in many Western countries, including the US and the UK. It also reached the Israeli top echelon, having agents in the Mossad, Shin Bet, IDF, the Foreign Ministry, the Ness Ziona Biological Institute and probably in other government ministries. It can be assumed that not all of them were caught by Israeli counter-intelligence.

One more interesting observation regards the intriguing relations between the Middle East and the world of espionage.  The KGB and its satellites were not alone in the game. The CIA and British and French intelligence agencies also went on fishing expeditions, and their catch was not bad at all.

Many Arab leaders were either paid agents or agents of influence for these services.

King Hussein, for example, was a paid agent of the CIA and also worked closely with British intelligence. And so were Syrian leaders in the 1950s and ‘60s. Even Ali Hassan Salameh, who was Arafat’s chief of security and responsible for the planning of the Munich Olympics massacre, turned out to be an asset for the CIA in Beirut. In 1979 Mossad operatives killed him in the Lebanese capital.

The Israeli intelligence community, Mossad and military intelligence didn’t stand idle.  The Israelis were also very successful in penetrating the Arab world and the PLO — recruiting leaders, top government officials, scientists and senior military officers. It is interesting to note that, during the Israeli-PLO negotiations in the ‘90s, it was revealed that the Mossad managed to plant a listening device in Abu Mazen’s desk in his office in Tunis.

September 8, 2016

Prior Book by Melman and Raviv Now an E-book, includes Israeli and U.S. Spies

The authors of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars (available now as a trade paperback and e-book) have written several books together, and they all include Israeli and American intelligence operatives.  In their book, Friends In Deed: Inside the U.S.-Israel Alliance, 1948-1994, they illustrate that cooperative and competitive covert activities were a significant part of the story.

Levant Books has now seen to it that Friends In Deed is available (for the first time) for the Nook:  http://bit.ly/KInNdv
It can also be purchased for Kindle readers and the Kindle app for iPad and many smartphones:  http://amzn.to/144oBIM
The list price is only $2.99.
  –  –  –  -
Like other books by Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv, Friends In Deed has the true-life stories of dozens and dozens of people whose collective efforts form a coherent, significant history.

From Library Journal

This is one of the most readable accounts of U.S.-Israeli relations in recent years. Both authors have impeccable credentials in the field of journalism and Israeli politics and successfully coauthored Every Spy a Prince, which detailed the activities of the Israeli intelligence community. As they chronicle the political give-and-take between the two countries from Harry Truman’s presidency onward, fascinating pieces of the hardball reality that is international politics float to the surface. Thus, we learn that it was the Israelis who suggested focused bombing raids to eliminate Saddam Hussein during Desert Storm; during the 1980s, Israel was so well received in Washington that Secretary of State George Shultz and others would solicit Israeli help in getting certain pieces of legislation passed by Congress. Eminently readable, Friends in Deed is highly recommended for all libraries with collections in this field. (1994)
April 24, 2013

Veteran Reuters Correspondent in Middle East Gives Rave 5-Star Review to Spies Against Armageddon

The first review by a reader who has read Spies Against Armageddon has been posted at Amazon.com  by Alan Elsner, who covered Israel for many years for the British news agency Reuters.

 He gives the book 5 stars out of a maximum 5 and writes:
Spies Against Armageddon, israel spy, covert operations, dan raviv, yossi melman

israel spy, covert operations, Dan Raviv, Yossi Melman, Spies Against Armageddon

This detailed and exciting account of the history of the Israeli secret services, including the Mossad, the Shin Beth and others less well-known to the public, should be required reading for anyone interested in the history and politics of the Middle East. It is even more relevant because its opening chapter deals with the ongoing Iranian nuclear crisis and Israel’s clandestine efforts to derail and delay the Iranian nuclear program.
The book clearly benefited from detailed interviews the authors conducted with leading players, some now deceased. The authors themselves are a winning team of a well-known Israeli reporter and a veteran American correspondent (full disclosure, I was a reporter in Israel for several years in the 1980s and knew one of the authors quite well.)Starting with the founding of Israel in 1948, the book runs through some well-known episodes such as the kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann from Argentina to stand trial in Jerusalem. But there are many other vignettes that were unknown to me — and I consider myself something of a professional student on Middle Eastern history. There is a comprehensive account of how Israel built its own nuclear program with help from France and others. The story of how Israel managed to persuade an Egyptian Air Force pilot to defect, bringing with him his top secret Soviet plane, could be the subject of a fantastic movie all by itself. Thus, Israel became the first Western nation to acquire a Soviet MiG-21 and it was a treasure trove for U.S. intelligence.In another chapter, the authors describe Israel’s success in protecting its civilian aircraft from hijackers and bombers — and America’s refusal to imitate some of the Israeli techniques despite repeated warnings. Had our leaders listened, we may have averted 9/11.The authors show that contrary to popular opinion, the Mossad has generally been reluctant to kill its adversaries. It preferred to threaten and deter them if possible, with assassination a last resort. But they state unequivocally that Israel has been behind the murders of several Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years.There is also a vivid and full account of the decision to destroy a Syrian nuclear plant in 2007. I had no idea before reading this account how close the Syrians were to developing a weapon. Their graphite reactor would have gone operational and started to produce plutonium within weeks had the Israelis not taken it out in September 2007.

The Mossad and especially the Shin Beth are not perfect. They have made major blunders — such as failing to anticipate the start of the Yom Kippur War. The Shin Beth fell victim to excessive brutality against Palestinians in the territories and mishandled the two Intifadahs. Israel has made strategic decisions, such as invading Lebanon in 1982, that produced short-term success and longer-term disaster.

But what comes across to me most vividly in this book is the resourcefulness, courage and sheer inventiveness the men and women of these services have so often displayed. Israel is still at war, surrounded by enemies who wish to destroy it. These secret services are on the front lines. Often, what they do averts greater threats through their ingenuity.

Since its early days, Israel has developed a doctrine of not relying on others for the defense of the nation. This doctrine comes out of the painful lessons learned during the Holocaust. But the Iranian crisis is testing many long-held beliefs and assumptions, confronting policy-makers and especially the Prime Minister, with one of the most agonizing decisions any Israeli leader has ever faced.

This book will make readers more aware of the stakes, the opportunities and the dangers.

July 11, 2012

Where To Find ‘Spies Against Armageddon’ By Dan Raviv And Yossi Melman

By Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman

We’re thrilled to have received some questions at SpiesArmageddon@gmail.com and through Twitter where we are @SpiesArmageddon—including folks asking where the book can be ordered.  Well, official publication date is July 9, 2012, so no one’s supposed to have our book until then.  But it can be ordered now!
Spies Against Armageddon

israel spy, covert operations, Dan Raviv, Yossi Melman, Spies Against Armageddon

In the new world of publishing, including websites that have truly transformed the books industry, the roll-out of a new product is not perfectly predictable.  But, to let you in on the process, here is the state of play.

First, we don’t mind sharing with you the decision by Levant Books, and we agree, to dispense with the expensive hardcover book stage.  We believe there are some urgent issues and revelations in our book, and we wanted to make it available as widely, affordably, and quickly as we could.  So Spies Against Armageddon will be a paperback right away—and an ebook, in all the various forms of ebooks.

 

At Amazon.com the paperback of Spies Against Armageddon can now be pre-ordered, for delivery on the publication date: http://amzn.to/MyVmTQ

 

We expect that the ebook version for Kindle will also be at Amazon, any day now.

 

At BN.com our book is now available as an ebook for the Nook, and we hope you will find $7.55 to be an attractive price: http://bit.ly/MsYwqY .

 

An interesting ebook site called eBookPie.com has our book, readable on most any computer or smartphone, at: http://bit.ly/LqInPn

 

You will also see there our previous book, about U.S.-Israel relations, called Friends In Deed.

 

Another ebook site we can recommend is Kobo, which has a strong following in Europe.  Our books are at:  http://bit.ly/Opocrf

 

Thank you for your interest, and as authors we are finding the new world of publishing quite interesting.  We hope you’ll see us in the media, discussing Israeli espionage, the West’s confrontation with Iran’s nuclear program, and other Middle East issues, starting around July 9.
June 27, 2012


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