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Whodunnit?

Well, the general consensus is that the most likely suspect for Mabhouh’s untimely death is Mossad. That is certainly the premise upon which the British Government is operating. I am assuming that there is good intelligence, which for obvious reasons can’t be made public, on which that judgement is based. Or, alternatively, we may just be operating on the basis that “it’s obvious, innit”.

After all, Mabhouh was reportedly on an arms buying trip, and was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers, Ilan Sa’adon and Avi Sasportas, in 1989.

But wait! There is the question of the arrested Palestinians. Fatah claims that they are Hamas men:

The PA has …  claimed that two men were actually Hamas operatives. A spokesman for the Palestinian security forces,, Adnan al-Dmeiri, said that the two detainees received their rankings from the Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip and are members of the Islamic movement’s militia.

“If their claims are correct, they can reveal the names of the suspects and the organizations in which they worked. We, for our part, do not want to reveal the names and are leaving this up to the Dubai police,” said al-Dmeiri.

Haaretz, by contrast, has named the two Palestinians arrested in Jordan and suggests that they are Fatah linked:

Ahmad Hasnin, a Palestinian intelligence operative, and Anwar Shekhaiber, an employee of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, were arrested in the Jordanian capital Amman.

The two were residents of the Gaza Strip until Hamas seized control there in 2007, a Hamas source told Haaretz.

Both moved to Dubai, where they were employed by a real estate company belonging to a senior official of Fatah, the political faction headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Ah – so perhaps it was the Palestinian Authority, paying back Hamas for all those defenestrated Fatah members!

Not so fast! A third Palestinian has been arrested. According to the Guardian:

A key security operative of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas was under arrest in Syria tonight on suspicion of having helped an alleged Israeli hit squad identify Mahmoud al-Mabhouh before he was assassinated in Dubai, the Guardian has learned.

Palestinian sources in the Gulf confirmed Nahro Massoud, a Hamas security official, was in detention and under interrogation in Damascus in connection with the 19 January killing, which is now widely assumed to have been mounted by Israel’s Mossad secret intelligence service.

Khaled Mishal, Hamas’s political leader, denied the allegation. “It is not correct at all,” he said, as Hamas sources suggested a disinformation campaign by the group’s Fatah rival. But informed Palestinian sources insisted Massoud was being questioned amid mounting speculation that potentially senior Palestinian defectors may have assisted in the plot.

A Hamas defector? Or perhaps an internal feud within Hamas, with Mossad as the patsy: knowing full well that Israel will neither confirm not deny its involvement in this assassination. Perhaps the Palestinian Authority has been working with factions in Hamas. Or could this be a joint venture with Israel?

Nobody is really that bothered that Mabhouh is dead. Our own government kills its enemies with targeted assassinations in Afghanistan (and, formerly, Iraq) all the time. The warranted outrage, of course, is that actual live British citizens – living in Israel – appear to have had their passports cloned. By contrast, the French, German and Irish passports appear to have been wholly fake, and match up with no corresponding genuine passport holder.

This is pretty much all we know, at the moment. And good heavens, isn’t it fertile soil for conspiricising? This is Murder on the Orient Express mixed – as many have noted – with Oceans 11.

The loose end at which people will be most tempted to pull will be the cloning of the passports of actual British residents in Israel. Not only did that put these poor fellows’ lives at risk: it would also be a crime under Israeli law. Israeli commentators are very unhappy.  So are the individuals whose identities were stolen.

We now enter the realms of reverse 9/11 Troof. Just as it is commonly believed in the Arab world that “Arabs are not sophisticated enough to fly planes into towers”, one might advance the argument that just about the stupidest thing that Mossad could do would be to clone the passports of actual identifiable citizens, living in Israel, of one – and only one – of its allies. Including one chap with a rare name and (until a couple of days ago) an open Twitter feed! Could Mossad really be that stupid?

Yes, of course it could be. That conclusion will sit uncomfortably with the widely held conception that Mossad is fiendishly clever, however. In which case, no doubt, it will be argued that the spectacular incompetence of the choice of cloned passport-holders its itself evidence that forces unknown are either trying to frame Mossad or force Israel to break its “no comment” policy.

Really good conspiracy theories are premised on the notion that the absence of evidence is the best evidence of the most powerful conspiracy possible. In this case, however, there are a superabundance of suspects – with Israel leading the pack – and a whole host of clues, not all of which point in the same direction. But, hey, perhaps feigning incompetence is part of the conspiracy!

Sit back, and enjoy the fun. Feel free to conspiricise further below.

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