US embassy cable - 87DAMASCUS1746

CHANGES IN ABU NIDAL ORGANIZATION

Identifier: 87DAMASCUS1746
Wikileaks: View 87DAMASCUS1746 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Damascus
Created: 1987-03-27 12:24:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: PTER
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 271224Z MAR 87
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9055
S E C R E T DAMASCUS 01746 
 
TERREP EXCLUSIVE 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL: OADR 
TAGS:  PTER 
SUBJECT:  CHANGES IN ABU NIDAL ORGANIZATION 
 
1.  SECRET - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  AN AMERICAN JOURNALIST (STRICTLY PROTECT) WITH WELL- 
ESTABLISHED CONTACTS IN AMMAN AND DAMASCUS WITH DFLP AND 
PFLP PERSONALITIES HAS BEEN TOLD BY HIS PALESTINIAN 
SOURCES THAT THE ABU NIDAL ORGANIZATION HAS OFFERED TO 
MAKE SUBSTANTIAL CHANGES IN ITS ACTIVITIES.  THE OFFER 
WAS EXTENDED DURING THE TALKS WITH QADHAFI AND THE 
OTHER FIVE PALESTINIAN FACTIONS REPRESENTED AT THE 
RECENT TRIPOLI CONFERENCE.  IN ORDER TO GAIN PARTICIPA- 
TION AT THE UPCOMING ALGIERS PNC, ACCORDING TO PFLP AND 
DFLP SOURCES HERE, ANO NUMBER TWO ATIF ABU BAKR AGREED 
THAT HIS ORGANIZATION WOULD ADHERE IN THE FUTURE TO THE 
1979 PLO DECISION FORBIDDING ARMED ACTIONS OUTSIDE THE 
OCCUPIED TERRITORIES. 
 
3.  THE DFLP AND PFLP OFFICIALS WHO PROVIDED THIS 
INFORMATION STATED THAT THERE HAS BEEN FOR SOMETIME A 
DEBATE GOING ON AMONG THE ANO LEADERSHIP AS TO ITS FUTURE 
COURSE OF ACTION.  THEY FEAR THAT THE SARG, BOTH BECAUSE 
OF WESTERN PRESSURES AND ITS OWN POLICIES, WILL INCREAS- 
INGLY RESTRICT ANO OPERATIONS BASED IN SYRIA AND LEBANON, 
AND THAT, IF EXPELLED FROM THESE SANCTUARIES, THEY WILL B 
HARD PRESSED TO FIND A SATISFACTORY BASE OF OPERATIONS. 
AT THE SAME TIME, THOSE ADVOCATING A CHANGE IN STRATEGY 
HAVE BEEN ENCOURAGED BY THE REPUTATION AMONG PALESTINIAN 
YOUTHS THAT THEY HAVE GAINED THROUGH TAKING ONE OF THE 
MOST ACTIVE ROLES IN THE DEFENSE OF THE PALESTINIAN 
CAMPS AGAINST THE AMAL MOVEMENT.  THIS GROUP, REPORTEDLY 
LED BY ATIF ABU BAKR, SUPPOSEDLY HAS DECIDED TO ADOPT 
A MORE MODERATE ROLE IN ORDER TO GAIN POLITICAL RESPECTA- 
BILITY AND REASSERT ITSELF DIRECTLY IN PALESTINIAN 
COUNCILS. 
 
4.  A SMALLER, DIE-HARD FACTION, HOWEVER, REMAINS 
COMMITTED TO AN ACTIVE INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST ROLE.  NO 
MATTER WHAT THE REST OF THE ORGANIZATION DOES, IT WILL 
CONTINUE THEIR ACTIVITIES ALBEIT, PERHAPS, WITHOUT ALL OF 
THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE NOW TO THE ANO.  THE BOTTOM LINE 
IS, OF COURSE, THAT WE WILL STILL HAVE AN ANO EVEN IF IT 
OPERATES UNDER A DIFFERENT NAME. 
 
5.  THE JOURNALIST SAYS THAT HIS PLFP CONTACTS INSIST 
THAT THE SYRIAN GOVERNMENT HAS CLOSED DOWN THE ABU NIDAL 
OFFICES IN DAMASCUS AND EXPELLED ITS OFFICIALS FROM SYRIA 
THE DFLP CONTACTS ON THE OTHER HAND SAY THAT THE ANO 
OFFICES ARE OPEN BUT THAT ABU NIDAL PERSONNEL ARE 
COMPLETELY RESTRICTED IN THEIR MOVEMENTS BY THE SYRIAN 
INTELLIGENCE SERVICES.  ALL OF THE DAMASCUS PALESTINIANS 
AGREE THAT WITHIN THE CAMPS IN LEBANON AND SYRIA TODAY 
THE ANO ENJOYS PERHAPS GREATER PRESTIGE THAN ANY OTHER 
PALESTINIAN ORGANIZATION AMONG THE YOUNGER GENERATION -- 
WHAT THEY CALL THE SABRA/SHATILLA GENERATION.  ACCORDING 
TO THE YOUNG PEOPLE "ONLY THE ANO IS DOING ANYTHING." 
THE JOURNALIST SAYS THAT THIS IS A FACT REFLECTED IN HIS 
OWN EXPERIENCES IN AMMAN WHERE THE CHILDREN OF HIS MIDDLE 
CLASS PALESTINIAN FRIENDS VOCIFERIOUSLY SUPPORT ABU NIDAL 
IN THE FACE OF THEIR MODERATE PARENTS. 
 
6.  COMMENT:  WHILE SOME OF THE LOGIC OF THE ARGUMENT 
THAT THE ANO MUST CHANGE ITS STRIPES OR RISK LOSING ITS 
SANCTUARIES MAKES SENSE, FROM EVERYTHING WE KNOW ABOUT 
THE ANO, WE FIND IT DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE THAT ATIF ABU 
BAKR OR ANY OTHER LEADER IS WILLING TO ESCHEW 
TERRORISM AGAINST ARABS AND OTHERS OUTSIDE ISRAEL AND 
THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES.  WE HAVE GREAT CONFIDENCE IN 
OUR SOURCE, HOWEVER, AS HE IS AN ACCURATE AND EXPERIENCED 
REPORTER WITH VERY GOOD TIES IN PALESTINIAN CIRCLES 
AND CANNOT DISMISS HIS REPORT OUT OF HAND.  FURTHERMORE, 
ANO -  IF IT THOUGHT IT FACED A LOSS OF ITS SYRIAN BASE - 
MIGHT GO QUITE FAR TO KEEP ONE IN LIBYA AND ESTABLISH 
ITS PALESTINIAN CREDENTIALS.  WE WILL CONTINUE TO DO 
EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO FOLLOW UP.  END COMMENT. 
 
7.  DEPARTMENT SHOULD RETRANSMIT TO OTHER POSTS AS 
APPROPRIATE. 
 
 
RANSOM 

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