Assassination of Sheikh Yassin and the 'Spring Offensive'

Peshawar, Pakistan – 2004-03-22 – QeRN: As journalists try to piece together the psychological and military components of the U.S. ‘Spring Offensive’ in Pakistan/Afghanistan, a picture of an almost incredible plan is starting to emerge.

First, the announcement of the military plans by the U.S. military were almost invariably dismissed in intelligence circles as a camouflage for the real plans. According to Pakistani intelligence sources, they were meant to elicit communication attempts and to plot the paths of those communications. The monitoring of these new paths would then replace the monitoring of stale channels that al-Qaida knew were being monitored.

Secondly, some news agencies in Pakistan are reporting that the stories being fed to the media will be intriguing enough to keep the writers busy while the real plan unfolds. This will build on the very successful experiment with embedded reporters in the Iraq war.

The last leg of the psychological campaign will be to impart a mutually complementary spin to international events. News of events in Palestine can be effectively filtered to provide the right noises at the right time.

Part of the Spring Offensive is to strike at the informal network of Islamic organizations throughout the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. After a series of attacks by militants in these two countries in the past year, the governments of both countries are fully on board. In addition, a string of recent official visits by U.S. officials to Middle Eastern countries and to Indonesia is solidifying the political groundwork.

As it is determined to be successful in the capture or assassination of al-Qaeda leadership, the U.S. administration must be planning for the political fallout for the governments that are co-operating with it. In certain social segments of these countries, the al-Qaeda leadership enjoys a sympathetic following – and governments in the Middle East, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia have to be prepared for the fallout of U.S. success.

Israel could have assassinated Sheikh Yassin at any time, but chosing to do so at this time, and a few days into the alleged retaliation for the twin port bombings, raised some eyebrows. On March 20, Israel was asking the U.S. administration to be on board for the ‘withdrawal plan’ from Gaza.

According to at least one Pakistani analyst, Ahmed Qureishi, the timing and co-ordination of these events lead to the inevitable question: what is the benefit to the U.S. in this shared plan with the Israelis? According to Mr. Qureishi, Palestine has become a laboratory for testing out various strategies of the ‘war on terrorism’. With almost complete control by Israel, experiments can be conducted in a controlled environment. “I am sure the CIA will be studying Palestinian reaction to the death of a spiritual leader in great detail.”

It remains to be seen whether this analysis is conjecture or an accurate portrayal of part of the complex U.S. Spring Offensive.