The Arafat papers; papers seized from Yasir Arafat's compound seem to show
his link with Iran and Iraq - Broadcast 29 September 2002
[With thanks to MidEastweb http://www.mideastweb.org ]
ANCHORS: LESLEY STAHL
THE ARAFAT PAPERS
LESLEY STAHL, co-host:
Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, when the Israelis surrounded Yasir
Arafat's compound in Ramallah earlier this year to dismantle the Palestinian
Authority and confiscate weapons, they also sent in intelligence collection
teams to scoop up top-secret files. What they were looking for was proof of
Arafat's personal involvement in terrorism, but that was the least of what
they found. What they found, they told us, was a paper trail of terror
leading from both Iran and Iraq. The Israelis claim that they now have proof
that the supposedly homegrown Palestinian uprising known as the Intifadah is
neither an uprising, nor homegrown. It is, they claim, violence planned,
funded and directed largely from Iran and Iraq, and they showed us some of
the documents they seized to make their case.
(Footage of raid on Arafat's compound; Stahl and Eisin walking through
hangar filled with boxes)
STAHL: (Voiceover) The Israelis captured tens of thousands of documents when
they bulldozed into Arafat's compound in Ramallah in March. Now the
Palestinian Authority's most sensitive secrets are stacked in a sea of boxes
in an Israeli army hangar. Colonel MIRI EISIN: It's basically all of their
files, all of their documents, everything that we could take out.
(Footage of Stahl and Eisin looking at documents)
STAHL: (Voiceover) Colonel Miri Eisin is a senior intelligence officer in
the Israeli army. She oversees analysis of the documents the Israelis rolled
up and carted away from Yasir Arafat's government.
Col. EISIN: We went into what is the equivalent of the Palestinian CIA, the
Palestinian FBI, the Palestinian Bureau of Education and the Palestinian
STAHL: And you're going through these methodically looking for what? Acts of
terrorism, bank accounts, weapons, that kind of thing?
Col. EISIN: Anything we can find. It can be files about terrorism, it can be
descriptions of terrorist acts.
STAHL: How would you describe this?
Col. EISIN: We've taken their mind, to a certain degree. We took their
(Footage of Eisin in her office)
STAHL: (Voiceover) And in it, she said, they were surprised to find
connections between Arafat and a terrorist in Iraq. The database, she said,
is filled with smoking guns.
Smoking gun number one: That Iraq has infiltrated teams of operatives and
weapons into Israel for what Israeli intelligence considers megaterrorism.
This puts Iraq in the terror business to a far greater degree than the
Israelis had realized.
(Footage of Stahl and Hecht)
STAHL: (Voiceover) Ido Hecht, a senior Israeli intelligence official, told
us that the Israelis have caught and interrogated members of a Palestinian
terrorist cell who admit they were trained in Iraq by Iraqis this past June.
Mr. IDO HECHT: They were trained in an Iraqi base near Tikrit, Saddam's home
STAHL: Tikrit, right?
Mr. HECHT: Saddam's home town and a Republican Guard installation. The
Republican Guard is Sa--Saddam Hussein's bodyguard. They were trained by
people from the Iraqi intelligence. So this was an operation that was--that
had full Iraqi backing.
STAHL: And--and what--what kind of training? What were they trained
specifically to do?
Mr. HECHT: Firearms of various types, RPG, anti-tank rockets, how to
manufacture explosives, how to make those explosives into actual bombs.
(Footage of Hecht and Stahl)
STAHL: (Voiceover) And most alarmingly, he said, they were taught how to
shoot down an airliner.
Mr. HECHT: The training included use in--of shoulder-launched anti-aircraft
missiles, equivalent to the American Stinger, SA-18.
STAHL: The SA...
Mr. HECHT: SA-18.
STAHL: Were they given instructions, specific instructions, to shoot
down--What?--a civilian aircraft, a military aircraft?
Mr. HECHT: We don't know about the specific instructions, but they were
operating in the area of Ramallah. They had information about Ben Gurion
Airport. Ben Gurion Airport is a civilian airport. Ramallah is next to Ben
Gurion Airport, so the obvious target would be a civilian airliner.
(Footage of Abbas; Achille Lauro; coffin being loaded on truck)
STAHL: (Voiceover) He says the group was recruited by Abul Abbas, the
notorious international terrorist of the 1970s and '80s who Saddam Hussein
has reactivated in Baghdad. Among other things, Abul Abbas hijacked the
cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985 and killed an American hostage. But what's
the connection between him and Yasir Arafat?
Mr. HECHT: He provides money for Abul Abbas' operations. We have one
document that we captured which ha--which has Arafat's signature on it,
providing money for 50 members of Abul Abbas' or--organization, so that we
know that there is a connection.
(Footage of boxes of documents)
STAHL: (Voiceover) Something else the Israelis say they discovered in the
Arafat documents: That Saddam Hussein has been using the Palestinian
Authority as a middleman in his illegal selling of oil.
So Saddam Hussein was using the Palestinian Authority--Arafat--to smuggle
oil, and giving them what? Kickbacks, is that what you'd say?
Col. EISIN: That would be the term, that's true. It's kickback money.
STAHL: Do you know how much money the Palestinian Authority made that way?
Col. EISIN: We don't know exact sums, but it's certainly in millions and
probably in double-digit numbers.
(Footage of Stahl and Eisin looking at various weapons)
STAHL: (Voiceover) The Israelis claim the money went to buy these weapons
and many more that they seized from a cargo ship in January--everything from
rockets to land mines; machine guns and guided missiles run remotely with a
joystick. Just as troubling were the tons of explosives.
Col. EISIN: This is how they come in--don't touch it. This is the notorious
C-4 plastic explosive. It almost bends. And essentially, I would be putting
it into a suicide belt in around my whole body. You would just be putting in
different pieces in and around. On a belt, you could have 10, 15, maybe 20
slots to put in these bricks.
STAHL: You're saying that's 10 kilos, and they sent how many tons?
Col. EISIN: Two tons just of C-4.
STAHL: Two tons, and one suicide bomber just takes 20 kilos.
Col. EISIN: So we're talking about supplying suicide bombers for--I don't
even want to think how long.
(Footage of weapons; Iranian city)
STAHL: (Voiceover) The weapons may have been paid for by Iraqi oil money,
but they came from Iran, another country in President Bush's axis of evil.
Iraq is a threat, but Israel considers Iran an even bigger and more
(Footage of Hezbollah guerillas; Israeli army post)
STAHL: (Voiceover) That's because of its links to various terrorist
organizations like Hezbollah. We're on an Israeli army post in the north,
only a stone's throw from positions manned by Hezbollah guerillas, who've
been firing rockets into Israel from southern Lebanon.
This is the border, right here. This is the electric fence, what they call
the blue line. Those men behind me are Hezbollah. They are said by the
Israelis to be owned and operated by Iran.
(Footage of Hezbollah look-outs and officers)
STAHL: (Voiceover) When we got here, Hezbollah lookouts came out into the
open to look us over, and then some senior Hezbollah military officers
Hello. They won't talk to us.
(Footage of Ford Expedition)
STAHL: (Voiceover) At one point, another group drove up in a late-model
$45,000 Ford Expedition.
So this is how close the two sides are: eyeball-to-eyeball; Israel to
Major General BENI GANTZ: When they will fire them, we need those...
(Footage of Gantz and Stahl; bunker)
STAHL: (Voiceover) Major General Beni Gantz, head of Israel's Northern
Command, told us that Iran funds, equips and trains Hezbollah and tells it
what to do. He says Iranians are even operating here.
Maj. Gen. GANTZ: A few weeks ago, we had Iranian patrols, you know, like
supervisors or experts that came with Hezbollah and patrolled the entire
area from the mountain to the ocean, along the border.
STAHL: Right here?
Maj. Gen. GANTZ: Absolutely, ma'am.
STAHL: Iranians themselves here?
Maj. Gen. GANTZ: Iranians with Hezbollah all along this area.
(Footage of Stahl and Gantz; Stahl and Eisin)
STAHL: (Voiceover) But what they're doing along the border is only part of
the picture. Iran supports other militant organizations inside Israel and
the territories. The captured documents spell out how much money Iran spends
to do that.
Col. EISIN: $400,000, $700,000. These are huge sums of money to buy weapons,
to train, to fund, to educate.
STAHL: Are the Iranians doing training themselves?
Col. EISIN: We have been interrogating hundreds, thousands of Palestinians
from April of this year, and talking to them, we have found some that have
been trained in Iran.
STAHL: Trained for what? For suicide?
Col. EISIN: Let's put it this way, they weren't taught how to--you know,
STAHL: No, but for what?
Col. EISIN: Some of them...
STAHL: Bomb making? What?
Col. EISIN: Explosives, some of the--divers--we've had divers in the Gaza
Strip trying to get into Israel proper through the sea--taught their diving
capability in Iran.
(Footage of Safuri in custody)
STAHL: (Voiceover) Iran provides training and funding to the terrorist
organization this man belongs to. Haj Ali Safuri, now in Israeli custody,
admitted that he helped plan suicide attacks.
Mr. HAJ ALI SAFURI: (Through Translator) I did arrange martyrdom operations
inside the territory of Palestine. I don't dispute any of that.
(Footage of Safuri and Stahl)
STAHL: (Voiceover) Haj Ali is a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad,
another Iranian proxy. He's already been through intensive interrogations,
and is now in this maximum security Israeli prison.
I have some documents from the Palestinian Authority.
(Voiceover) I read to him his description in the document as a prominent
Mr. SAFURI: (Through Translator) Truthfully, I mean, how did you get this
from the Palestinian Authority? These are secret documents. They are not
supposed to be disclosed.
STAHL: (Voiceover) But now those secret documents are in the possession of
the Israelis, and they say the man you're looking at masterminded and set in
motion at least 10 suicide attacks. I quoted to him from one of the
documents taken from Arafat's compound, which says...
You played an important role in preparing explosive belts and explosive
charges. You made them. This true?
Mr. SAFURI: (Through Translator) I would defend my people in every manner at
my disposal, whether by explosive belts, explosive charges or by opening
STAHL: Did you?
Mr. SAFURI: (Through Translator) I did. I did prepare them.
(Footage of various terrorist attacks)
STAHL: (Voiceover) According to the documents, Haj Ali's group and other
militant organizations funded by Iran were instructed by Iran to commit
their terrorist attacks at critical junctures.
Col. EISIN: This is Arafat's...
STAHL: This is Arafat's handwriting?
Col. EISIN: Yes, it is. Here at the bottom of the page.
(Footage of Stahl and Eisin looking at documents; excerpts from documents)
STAHL: (Voiceover) Colonel Eisin showed us a document from Arafat's files
about meetings of terrorist groups in late October 2001, just six weeks
after 9/11. Iran sent a message telling the groups, 'You must not allow a
calming down at this period. Carry out suicide attacks against Israeli
targets in Gaza, in the West Bank and inside Israel.'
Well, what--what do you think the Ir--Iran's main motive in asking that they
increase the violence here after 9/11?
Col. EISIN: 9/11 is a watershed day in the world, certainly for those who
are for violence, because for them, they're now the ones who are in the
focus of the axis of evil.
STAHL: What--what we certainly have seen is a diversion from what happened
at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon to the violence in Israel.
Col. EISIN: What we have here is a document which says, for the Iranians,
is, 'Let's divert the ite--attention from us, the Iranians.' I think the
Iraqi documents say, 'From us, the Iraqis, to the Palestinian issue.' Sadly,
I can say that they've almost made it work. I think that the world's
attention has been that the Palestinian issue is the problem, and everybody
has sort of forgotten that the Iranians fund it, that the Iraqis fund it,
that they send in these terrorists and that they train them from afar.
(Footage of boxes of documents; White House)
STAHL: (Voiceover) Israeli intelligence continues to mine their treasure of
Arafat's database and to keep the Bush administration informed. In fact,
Israeli intelligence officers were at the White House just this week to
brief the administration.
People in the States are going to want to know why you're putting this
information out now, and a question will come to mind whether this is meant
as ammunition for President Bush to go after Iraq.
Col. EISIN: The Iraqi documents we've only had for around six weeks. So for
us, it's a question of bringing them out as we study them and understand
STAHL: But you know that people are going to think that.
Col. EISIN: Should we, because of that, keep it under wraps, when at the
end, for us, it's important to show the whole picture of what's going on
here in the Palestinian Authority areas?
STAHL: Now in the past, Arafat has accused the Israelis of fabricating
evidence against him; forging documents. I wouldn't be surprised if he
claims that you've created these documents.
Col. EISIN: Around two months ago, they officially requested for us to give
back all of these archives.
STAHL: And your answer?
Col. EISIN: These are part of what we call the booty of war. We have them,
and they're here to stay. We have no intention of giving them back.
STAHL: In those meetings with the Bush administration earlier this week, top
Israeli intelligence officials also shared evidence about contacts between
al-Qaida and senior members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party. And the
Israelis briefed the administration on yet another threat from another
country: Libya, they say, is getting close to having chemical weapons and
the long-range missiles that deliver them.