October 22, 2003

The Post-Arafat Scene Check out

The Post-Arafat Scene

Check out this interesting article.

The IDF has been gaming potential post-Arafat scenarios. The conclusion? At least in the short term, and this even if Arafat died of natural causes, there could be an uptick in violence in the Holy Land.

This is probably part of the reason that Arafat doesn't fully groom a successor--to so do would not only facilitate U.S. and Israeli efforts to marginalize him but would also give IDF planners less concerns about the post-Arafat security scene. And if a charismatic leader with street cred emerged (Barghouti is in jail, not sure Dahlan fits the bill) the concerns outlined below would be mitigated.

"The post-Arafat forecasts were said to have been mooted last week in simulation war games held with the participation of officials from the IDF's Military Intelligence, the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service and army units
operating in the West Bank.

The scenarios were contained within contingency plans bearing the unpromising code name "Yom Sagrir" - a term describing a day of gloomy, inclement weather. Among the scenarios, outlined in frightening detail on state-owned Israel Radio and in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper, were the following:

-- A funeral march by tens of thousands of Palestinians sweeps in a human tidal wave over and past IDF checkpoints and barriers, heading for Jerusalem with a furious determination to bury Arafat where the intifada began, the Temple Mount - sacred to Muslims as the site of the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, and to Jews as site of the ancient Temple.

Israel would prohibit the burial of Arafat on the site, but would be hard-pressed to stop the multitude without a huge price in Palestinian casualties.

-- The Palestinian Authority could dissolve and the territories could be plunged into wholesale anarchy on a scale heretofore unimaginable, driven by unstoppable rioting and unrestrained violence by rogue militias.

-- Palestinians could mount a campaign to take over settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This could trigger violent responses from threatened settlers, who could form militias of their own."

These concerns are likely a bit overblown. The IDF, after all, is wise to game worst-case contingencies. But they're certainly not fantastical or hyperbolic.

The article also makes it clear how much Arafat would love to outlast Sharon:

"Fresh speculation was prompted Tuesday, when senior aides to Arafat said the chairman, acknowledged to have been weakened by recurrent vomiting and diarrhea, would need to undergo surgery to remove gall stones in the near future.

Still, if past experience is a guide, Arafat may rally indefinitely, rendering the scenarios theoretical for years to come - perhaps long enough to realize his dream of watching a discredited Sharon leave office."

Guess who else is dreaming of outlasting a prominent political leader? Not Sharon, but rather Bush?

Saddam Hussein, of course.

Deep down, Saddam's fantasy is probably to outlast yet another Bush in the White House. You can almost hear him rooting for a Howard Dean or Wes Clark to unseat Dubya while he remains unapprehended through the inaugural handover. Remember, the election is just over a year from now on November 2, 2004.

Of course, a year is a long time. And I'm not going to sit here and play arm-chair general. But I will ask a few questions.

Out of our total troop presence on the ground--how many are tied up with force protection duties? How many are in areas where Saddam isn't? How many Special Forces are looking for him round the clock? Should we "flood the zone" with more boots in the regions where the likely hiding places are? Put simply, are we fully confident we've devoted the requisite resources to apprehending Saddam?

We probably are. But here's stressing that we should be absolutely sure we are doing everything possible to get Saddam and not create another protracted UBL-hunt scenario. Let's squash Saddam's 'outlasting-Bush-fantasy' from the get-go--before it begins to appear a real possibility as the months roll along.

Posted by Gregory at October 22, 2003 11:37 AM

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