Spies & the Weapons Trade
Ever wonder what doesn’t make it into a book? Here’s an example, a real-life story that I eventually decided to withdraw from THE LAST SPYMASTER because I already had so many other terrific stories in the book. Hope you enjoy. For a second out-take, check out “The Birth of a Deep Black Program,” also posted in my Spy Files. —Gayle
Spies & the Weapons Trade
Espionage is the hidden arm of war. Yasir Arafat knew that. As soon as the PLO chief received top-secret reports in 1981 that the Israelis were up to something, he decided he needed more weapons for his crack personal security team, Force 17.
But none of us escapes our deeds, not even the good ones. About seven years earlier, Arafat had condemned using force against Israel from outside its borders and negotiated a secret cease-fire. He had even stopped shooting Katyusha rockets at the small country.
The result was he made an enemy among his own — Gen. Tariq Khadra, the militant chief of the Palestinian Liberation Army. Although anyone in the Soviet bloc would happily take Arafat’s money, they would transport guns only through channels, which meant through General Khadra. Arafat would not see a bullet.
So Arafat decided to do the deal on the black market. To finance it, he consigned Lebanese hashish to the Black Bloc — a bloody offshoot of Germany’s Red Army Faction — to sell on the streets of Europe. In return, the Black Bloc would receive free terrorist training in Lebanon.
The problem was, the hash sales could not be made as quickly as Arafat wanted. So he arranged a bridge loan at high interest from a Geneva banker.
Then the Black Bloc was notified Arafat had changed the plan. His people would trade the hash directly for the weapons, and the Black Bloc would be paid in missiles for smuggling the drugs into Europe.
Hamburg, West Germany
At a warehouse, Arafat’s man watched the new arms being loaded into a big shipping container partially filled with raisins. More raisins were poured on top to hide the guns, and the container was sealed.
Satisfied, he left with the seller. The seller meticulously swept an electronic device over the cash to make certain none was counterfeit.
At the same time inside the warehouse, workers hoisted the container to the ceiling, pulleyed it to the rear, and lowered it behind a mountain of others. They replaced it with a duplicate container filled completely with raisins.
Arafat’s man returned, noted the sealed container, and ordered it shipped. He would meet it in Beirut.
In a car, a weapons dealer blind-folded one of Arafat’s two agents and drove to a safe house, where he showed him the shipment of arms. As soon as Arafat’s agent inspected it, he called his colleague to say all was well. The dealer cut the phone line and locked Arafat’s agent inside with the contraband.
Arafat’s second man rendezvoused with the dealer, handed over $3.7 million, received the key and address, and drove to the safe house. The two agents packed a few of the guns, leaving the rest to be picked up later. Meanwhile, the Vienna police received an anonymous tip that a pair of Lebanese terrorists were flying in with weapons to hit a Jewish target.
Guns hidden in suitcases, Arafat’s men arrived at the airport, thinking themselves safe. But as they walked through the terminal, police nabbed them.
Frankfurt, West Germany
After successfully smuggling in Arafat’s hashish, the Black Bloc examined their new missiles, handed over the drugs to Arafat’s man, and left to get their truck.
But when they returned to pick up their booty, the police were waiting, and they learned the awful truth — the missiles were dummies, intended only for trade show displays.
So what really happened?
Arafat’s careful plan was undone by one of the world’s hottest spy shops — Israel’s cunning Mossad.
Israeli spies returned the Hamburg weapons and were reimbursed.
Others snatched most of the guns in the Vienna safe house, leaving a few to support another anonymous tip — that the PLO was stockpiling arms there.
Finally, more Mossad spies sold the hash for $7 million to Panamanians, who unloaded it in the United States for higher profit than they could make in Europe.
In the end, Mossad not only humiliated Arafat and arranged the arrests of several of his top PLO agents, it pocketed between $15 and $20 million — leaving Arafat still owing millions of dollars to the Geneva banker, who was also the banker for the homicidal terrorist who was known as Carlos the Jackal.
How did Mossad manage all of this?
You guessed it — a mole. To supplement his income, Arafat’s personal aide, bodyguard, driver, and Force 17 soldier had secretly gone to work for Mossad.
Undiscovered, the mole continued his clandestine reports each day, accompanying Arafat wherever he went. Still, when the Israeli air force attacked Arafat while he was in Tunis, Mossad neglected to warn the mole. Arafat was untouched in the bombings, but the mole lost a leg. Enraged, he quit both jobs and moved to South America.
As the Russian saying goes, “Tell me who your friend is, and I’ll tell you who you are.” In the dirty underbelly of global arms traffickers, terrorists, drug dealers, and spies, you are nothing without friends. Even with friends, you could be in serious trouble.
— Gayle Lynds