|05TELAVIV2479||2005-04-20 12:52:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Tel Aviv|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 002479
1. (C) ConGen Jerusalem cleared this message.
2. (C) In conversations over several days in early April,
Brigadier General Samir Siksek told Pol/C and poloff that the
U.S. should keep steady pressure on Minister of Interior
Nasir Yusif to carry out reforms, but that the U.S. should
also take steps to loosen Finance Minister Salam Fayyad's
tight grip on funds that are urgently required if the men in
uniform on the ground are to acquire the tools to do their
jobs. Siksek said that Yusif has thus far been lucky and
able to capitalize on events -- such as the recent riots at
the Muqatta'a to force President Abbas into supporting his
reform efforts. This does not, however, make up for a lack
of administrative skills and planning staff. "Everything is
in his (Yusif's) head," according to Siksek. Siksek said he
expects more personnel changes like the replacement of WB NSF
commander Haj Isma'il Jabr with Nidal al-Asuli, adding that
the Mukhabarrat will also be brought under Yusif's authority
with or without its current head, Amin al-Hindi. Calling
Preventive Security (PSO) head Rashid Abu Shbak "a system"
rather than a person, Siksek predicted that integrating the
PSO into Yusif's overall security portfolio will take much
more time. End Summary.
New WB NSF Commander an Improvement
3. (C) Brigadier General Samir Siksek told Pol/C and poloff
over the course of several conversations in early April that
PA President Abbas and Interior Minister Nasir Yusif were
correct to replace Haj Isma,il Jabr as head of the WB
National Security Forces (NSF), as there was "no hope for
him" as a commander. Siksek characterized Isma,il's
replacement, Nidal al-Asuli, as "not the best", but wryly
added that he would be an improvement over Jabr as commander.
Siksek said that al-Asuli was born in Khan Yunis in 1946 and
has a degree in mechanical engineering. He joined Fatah in
1966, and the Palestinian military in 1968, living in Jordan,
Syria, and Lebanon for the next two years. Al-Asuli
completed unspecified military training in China in 1971,
commando and infantry training in the then-USSR in 1982, and
additional Soviet training in Yemen in 1983. A graduate of
the Iraqi Command and Staff College, al-Assouli also
completed anti-riot training in the Netherlands in 1994, and
a course in advanced strategic studies in the UK in 2002.
4. (C) Siksek said that the attack on the Muqatta'a by armed
elements seeking to disrupt a Fatah meeting there March 30-31
worked to Yusif's advantage, as it forced Yusif and President
Abbas to act. Siksek called the subsequent firings in the
West Bank a "big breakthrough," that helped push back against
what he termed an "overdose of Israeli influence" there. He
termed Jabr,s ouster a sign that President Abbas intends to
back Nasir Yusif, and claimed that he (Siksek) told the
president that he needs to confirm Yusif's authority in
writing. Yusif, if he is smart, will not accept being merely
a figurehead, Siksek said. Yusif would not accept it from
Prime Minister Quraya' previously, and should not accept it
from the president now, Siksek said. (Comment: Curiously,
Haj Isma,il Jaber was one of the few veteran security chiefs
who was actively cooperating with Nasir Yusif. It is
difficult to see how his ouster indicates any incremental
increase in support for Yusif from Abu Mazen. End Comment)
Yusif a "Lousy Administrator"
5. (C) Continuing with his theme that Nasir Yusif is playing
on lucky breaks on the ground, rather than any sort of
coherent planning, Siksek called Yusif a "lousy
administrator." Yusif has no chief of staff, Siksek claimed,
and no team with planning capability: "Everything is in his
head." He added, however, that he is hopeful that Yusif's
contacts with General Ward will motivate him to get his
ministerial house in order. Asked who could be tapped to
provide the necessary administrative skills, Siksek said that
former chief of the uniformed police in Gaza, Ghazi Jabali,
is capable, but lamented that Yusif will not take him because
of his reputation for corruption, legendary throughout both
the West Bank and Gaza. Siksek laughingly added, however,
that Jabali is "an angel" compared to many others. He
suggested that Presidential Security Advisor Jibril Rajoub,
although very much "inferior even to Dahlan," could still end
up with the some authority on security at Yusif's expense,
if Yusif does not begin to act.
6. (C) President Abbas, in Siksek's view, has, in the
aftermath of the Ramallah incidents, at last begun to talk
tough about law and order, and Siksek advised the USG to keep
up the pressure on both Yusif and Abbas to perform. Weekly
meetings with the Ward team to track progress on reforms are
a good place to start, Siksek said, further recommending that
interlocutors stay focused on the mission rather than letting
Yusif digress into politics. Siksek estimated that Yusif has
until PLC elections in July to produce results. Failure
could cost Yusif not only his job, he added, but also his
position on the Central Committee of Fatah, whose party
congress is scheduled for August.
Where Does This Leave Musa?
7. (C) Putting the conversation into a Gaza context, Siksek
said that he had advised Nasir Yusif to "promote" Gaza
strongman and current overall head of security operations
there, Musa Arafat out of the picture, giving him some
position in the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, such as
undersecretary for Public Security ) a grand title with
little substance. Whether Arafat accepts the promotion or
refuses, he will effectively be out of the way, Siksek said,
stressing that President Abbas does not support Arafat.
Arafat is so unpopular, Siksek said, that even arresting him
would not arouse popular unrest, beyond a few small groups of
Arafat loyalists who might seize a moment offered by his
downfall to cause trouble. Siksek predicted, however, that
most would-be troublemakers would be wise enough to see their
own self-interest in refraining to act on Arafat's behalf.
In a subsequent conversation, Siksek suggested that Arafat
would be made subject to the mandatory retirement age of 60,
thereby both forcing his departure and giving him a form of
"cover" for leaving the service. Siksek speculated that
estwhile chief of liaison activities with the IDF Ribhi
Arafat would be tapped to take over Musa Arafat's role as the
head of Public Security in Gaza.
Subordinating All Security Agencies
8. (C) Siksek predicted that Preventive Security (PSO) head
Rashid Abu Shbak will retain his position, but that
Mukhabarrat Chief Amin al-Hindi "cannot continue" in his
current position. Al-Hindi "does nothing," Siksek lamented.
"Anyone (else) would do better." Although he thought that
Mukhabarrat staff might try to fight the placement of the
Mukhabarrat under Minister Yusif's control, Siksek
confidently predicted that the subordination will occur,
"with or without al-Hindi." He later suggested that
al-Hindi, whom he characterized as interested in turning his
hand to private business, would, like Arafat, depart his post
under the cover of the mandatory age-60 retirement rule.
Returning to his assessment of Rashid Abu Shbak, Siksek said
the PSO is another story, adding that "Abu Shbak is not a
person, he is a system," making him far more difficult to
remove. Abu Shbak hopes to add the title of West Bank PSO
chief to his current Gaza credentials, and believes this is
possible now that the GOI is allowing him to travel between
Gaza and the West Bank, Siksek said.
9. (C) Siksek concluded that President Abbas will eventually
subordinate the PSO under the Ministry of Interior as well,
but that it will take more time. Siksek said that, at a
recent meeting with Nasir Yusif, Abu Shbak was almost rude,
refusing to rise from his chair to greet the minister.
Siksek predicted that Yusif would ignore the insult for the
short term, but will deal with Abu Shbak later, reflecting
Yusif's approach of biding his time until he can work his way
step by step through the tangle of loyalties and power in the
PA security bodies.
Unhappy with Fayyad
10. (C) Siksek complained that PA Minister of Finance Salam
Fayyad has "too tight a hold on the money" that Nasir Yusif
needs to run the security services, and accused Fayyad of
funneling money to Muhammad Dahlan under the table. The
police, in particular, need resources to rebuild and
refurbish work space, he said. Calling the recently-created
inter-service units jointly patrolling in Ramallah a farce
) the PA police have few weapons and almost no ammunition )
Siksek said that Yusif has no choice but to use NSF forces to
support him "for the first few months" in the Ramallah area.
Stressing again that the needs of the police can't wait,
Siksek urged the U.S. to "rein in Fayyad."
Abu Ala'a: Help or Hindrance?
11. (C) Although Yusif reportedly expresses the view that PM
Quraya' is supporting him, Siksek said he and many others
believe that the PM is undermining Yusif's authority. Siksek
said he believes that President Abbas will stay the course
with Yusif, "at least for now," adding that PM Quraya' is
also likely to remain in his position, since Quraya, "needs
the protection his position offers from corruption scandals."
Hamas and Hizballah
12. (C) Siksek said that, given the United States' tough
stance against terrorism, Palestinians are uneasy that the
U.S. is reportedly talking to Hamas and Hizballah in Lebanon.
In Gaza, Siksek said, the Hamas training camps are full and
the organization is still importing arms. He claimed to not
know whether recent IDF reports that militants had imported
surface-to-air missiles into Gaza are true, but claimed that,
to his knowledge, for the past year there have been at least
eight of what he termed "eagle eye" rockets in Gaza ) plus
another four that are located in Dahlan's personal compound.
13. (C) Comment: West Bank sources speculate that Rashid Abu
Shbak, who openly flouts Nasir Yusif's authority, will be
promoted to a powerless position, if not immediately, then
soon. They also doubt that Abu Shbak could possibly unseat
incumbent West Bank PSO head Ziad Hib al-Rih. Speculation
remains open as to whether Sliman Hillis or Ribhi Arafat
replaces Musa Arafat as the head of Public Security in Gaza.
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