The Dubai Murder Mystery—figuring out who killed Hamas weapons man Mahmoud al-Mahbouh in Dubai last month (hint: probably Mossad), and how—took a turn for the yet crazier today, with the revelation that two of the 26 suspects, both of whom carried fake Australian passports, escaped to Iran following the January 19th assassination. This suggests either that it wasn’t Mossad, or (more likely) that Mossad is yet more badass than previously thought.
Spy correspondent Yossi Melman holds out the possibility that some of this information—nearly all of which originates with the Dubai police force—could be tenuous or deliberately (or accidentally) false:
It is hard to believe that, if the Mossad intelligence agency carried out the operation, the planners were so irresponsible as to dispatch nearly 30 agents and to expose an entire select operational unit on one assassination operation. … Either the new revelations are another salvo in Dubai’s psychological warfare or the police investigators are groping in the dark.
Another intelligence expert agreed: “Mossad believes if two people can do something instead of three people, then send two.”
We’re learning more and more about the folks whose names were used on those fake passports: much of it is amusing, until you imagine that it was your name, at which point it seems less enjoyable. These folks’ names are now in the public domain as associated with the killing, after all, although these names are matched to the pictures of the actual suspects. Adam Korman visited the United Arab Emirates three times in the past year … except Korman, an Australian-Israeli dual national, has never been to Dubai; someone who had a forgery of his Australian passport was the frequent flyer (“I have been frightened and shocked since receiving the news,” says Korman.) Then again, Philip Carr, an Israeli citizen whose British passport was faked, is taking the incident more in stride: “It’s a bit of a shock,” he said, “it’s surprising, but it’s more interesting than annoying.” He added: “That picture is certainly not me. He’s wearing glasses. I’ve got 20-20 vision.” (Also, for the record, France believes that all three of the French passports used by suspects were forged.)
The effect the incident could have on Israeli diplomatic relations and intelligence-gathering is starting to look minimal. A senior Israeli intelligence official tells the Washington Times, “There is a lot of hyperventilating about this in the public arena,” but “the countries that coordinate the war on terror with allies like Israel and the United States and Europe are not as exercised about this.”
Al-Mabhouh was a disguise expert, who routinely wore colored contact lenses and dyed his hair, and possessed multiple identities; he even underwent cosmetic surgery. Yet most reports have it that al-Mabhouh traveled as himself, undisguised, and without bodyguards. Something remains fishy, in other words.
Finally, while it’s reasonable to believe that Israel benefits from al-Mabhouh’s death—he was a prime weapons smuggler for Hamas, after all—the entity that most unequivocally comes out ahead in all this is the company that sells kitschy pro-Mossad t-shirts: sales are reportedly up ten-fold.
Inquiry Grows in Dubai Assassination [NYT]
Was Mossad on a Fantastic Adventure in Dubai? [Haaretz]
Israeli Official: Mossad Hit Didn’t Upset Intel Ties [Washington Times]