Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stolen Kremlin documents show Soviet involvement in Arab strategy

An amazing article by Claire Berlinski at Tablet:
 Russian exile Pavel Stroilov argues in his forthcoming book, Behind the Desert Storm, “It was the Soviet Empire—not the British Empire—that was responsible for the instability in the Middle East.”
Stroilov, a historian now living in London, fled Russia in 2003 after stealing 50,000 top-secret Kremlin documents from the Gorbachev Foundation archives, where he was working as a researcher. He was given access to the archive in 1999, but Gorbachev refused him permission to copy its most significant documents. Having observed the network administrator entering the password into the system, Stroilov reproduced the archive and sent it to secure locations around the world.
Stroilov’s cache includes hundreds of transcripts of discussions between Gorbachev and foreign leaders, politicians, and diplomats. (The originals are still sealed under Kremlin pressure.)....
Stroilov’s book about these documents, many only now translated into English, challenges the conventional wisdom that Western colonialists are to blame for the chaos in the region. All of its major conflicts, he argues, were caused by Soviet expansionism. Terrorism and the rabid anti-Israeli animus of the Arab world were Soviet inspirations. And the revolutions we are seeing now were inevitable, for the Soviet client states were socialist regimes, and sooner or later socialism exhausts economies and thus the patience of the people who live in them.
Stroilov focuses upon Gorbachev’s intrigues in the Middle East, explaining the Arab Spring as the “final act of the Cold War.” This thesis is overstated—Stroilov is a bit too enamored of his own collection to admit the complexity of these events—but there is nonetheless much in his archives to support this description. The documents clearly suggest that many contemporary conflicts in the Middle East were fomented by the Soviet empire, particularly in the final years before its break-up. And the events he describes have had a significant impact upon the current state of the region—from the conflict in Iraq to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, to the development of a de facto alliance between the European Union and the Arab states. Perhaps most significantly, there is much here to suggest that it is past time to reexamine Gorbachev’s reputation as a reformer and liberalizer. Stroilov’s book suggests that in the Middle East, Gorbachev’s policy was old-school Kremlin imperialism, all the way to the end.
From the close of World War I, the great prize of the Middle East has been the Persian Gulf. During the Cold War, America and its allies in Europe and Asia depended upon its oil for 90 percent of their energy needs; developing countries would be instantly crippled by a sharp hike in oil prices. But for the Soviets, attaining control of the Gulf could be achieved only by direct military aggression. Following the return of British forces to Kuwait in 1961 to defend the Emirate from Iraq’s Abd al-Karim Qasim—whose ambitions for Kuwait were subsequently, if temporarily, realized by Saddam Hussein—it became clear to the Soviets that the West would go to any length to defend the oil. “And so the comrades postponed the conquest of the Gulf,” writes Stroilov, “although some of them were sorely disappointed with that decision.”
What, then, was Plan B? It was “the subversion and eventual destruction of Israel.”
Though not as good as the Gulf oil fields, Israel would also be a big prize. It was the only democracy in the region, the strongest military power in the pro-Western camp and, indeed, the bridgehead of the Western world. Even more importantly, the very process of crusading (or jihadding) against Israel offered fantastic political opportunities. A besieged Israel effectively meant millions of Jewish hostages in the hands of the comrades, and the threat of genocide could intimidate the West into making great concessions in the Gulf or elsewhere. On the other hand, by making the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the central problem of the Middle East, the Soviets could exploit Arab nationalism, anti-Semitism, and even Islamic religious feelings to mobilize support for their policies. Indeed, under the banner of Arab solidarity, the socialist influence in the region grew far beyond the socialist regimes and parties.
The code-name for this operation against Israel, according to Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking defector from the Soviet Bloc, was “SIG”—Sionistskiye Gosudarstva, or “Zionist Governments.” In a National Review article, Pacepa recalls a conversation he had with KGB chairman Yuri Andropov, who envisioned fomenting “a Nazi-style hatred for the Jews throughout the Islamic world. … We had only to keep repeating our themes—that the United States and Israel were ‘fascist, imperial-Zionist countries’ bankrolled by rich Jews.”
In the mid-1970s, Pacepa recalls, the KGB ordered its Eastern European sister agencies to scour the Middle East for trusted agents, train them in disinformation and terrorism, and export a “rabid, demented hatred for American Zionism.” They showered the region with an Arabic translation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and KGB-fabricated documents alleging that Israel and the United States were dedicated to converting the Islamic world into a Jewish colony.
Following the defeat of the Egyptians in the Six Day War, the Soviets came to a second realization: A conventional military confrontation with Israel, and by extension the West, carried too great a risk of escalating into nuclear war. A change of tactics was required. Gen. Alexander Sakharovsky, then head of the KGB’s intelligence arm, explained this to his East European colleagues: “[T]errorism should become our main weapon.” Sakharovsky boasted that airplane hijackings were his own invention; he decorated his office with a world map, covered in flags, each marking a successful hijacking. Though the PLO managed to unite various terrorist organizations, “the supreme headquarters of the whole network was, of course, the Kremlin,” Stroilov writes, and “the evidence accumulated at this point leaves no doubt that the whole system was invented by Moscow as a weapon against the West, and the PLO was a jewel in their crown.”
Pacepa lists examples of KGB-sponsored acts of terrorism:
November 1969, armed attack on the El Al office in Athens, leaving 1 dead and 14 wounded; May 30, 1972, Ben Gurion Airport attack, leaving 22 dead and 76 wounded; December 1974, Tel Aviv movie theater bomb, leaving 2 dead and 66 wounded; March 1975, attack on a Tel Aviv hotel, leaving 25 dead and 6 wounded; May 1975, Jerusalem bomb, leaving 1 dead and 3 wounded; July 4, 1975, bomb in Zion Square, Jerusalem, leaving 15 dead and 62 wounded; April 1978, Brussels airport attack, leaving 12 wounded; May 1978, attack on an El Al plane in Paris, leaving 12 wounded.
Stroilov’s documents indicate that the Soviets and Syrians also took credit for blowing up the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1984.
Read the whole thing.

I've noted before a PLO document that was essentially a blueprint for delegitimizing Israel from 1968, and how it appeared to be influenced by the Soviets. This strengthens that case a great deal.

Although it is obvious that Arab hate of Israel (and Jews) came way before the Soviets started meddling. But they knew how to direct that anger.

(h/t Petra)