March 18, 2010
March 18, 2010
MI5 is worried about sex. In a 14-page document distributed last year to hundreds of British banks, businesses, and financial institutions, titled “The Threat from Chinese Espionage,” the famed British security service described a wide-ranging Chinese effort to blackmail Western businesspeople over sexual relationships. The document, as the London Times reported in January, explicitly warns that Chinese intelligence services are trying to cultivate “long-term relationships” and have been known to “exploit vulnerabilities such as sexual relationships … to pressurise individuals to co-operate with them.”
This latest report on Chinese corporate espionage tactics is only the most recent installment in a long and sordid history of spies and sex. For millennia, spymasters of all sorts have trained their spies to use the amorous arts to obtain secret information.
The trade name for this type of spying is the “honey trap.” And it turns out that both men and women are equally adept at setting one — and equally vulnerable to tumbling in. Spies use sex, intelligence, and the thrill of a secret life as bait. Cleverness, training, character, and patriotism are often no defense against a well-set honey trap. And as in normal life, no planning can take into account that a romance begun in deceit might actually turn into a genuine, passionate affair. In fact, when an East German honey trap was exposed in 1997, one of the women involved refused to believe she had been deceived, even when presented with the evidence. “No, that’s not true,” she insisted. “He really loved me.”
Those who aim to perfect the art of the honey trap in the future, as well as those who seek to insulate themselves, would do well to learn from honey trap history. Of course, there are far too many stories — too many dramas, too many rumpled bedsheets, rattled spouses, purloined letters, and ruined lives — to do that history justice here. Yet one could begin with five famous stories and the lessons they offer for honey-trappers, and honey-trappees, everywhere…
March 18, 2010
The Arab world today is ruled by contradiction. Turmoil and stagnation prevail, as colossal wealth and hypermodern cities collide with mass illiteracy and rage-filled imams. In this new diversity may lie disaster, or the makings of a better Arab future.
October 6, 1981, was meant to be a day of celebration in Egypt. It marked the anniversary of Egypt’s grandest moment of victory in three Arab-Israeli conflicts, when the country’s underdog army thrust across the Suez Canal in the opening days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War and sent Israeli troops reeling in retreat. On a cool, cloudless morning, the Cairo stadium was packed with Egyptian families that had come to see the military strut its hardware. On the reviewing stand, President Anwar el-Sadat, the war’s architect, watched with satisfaction as men and machines paraded before him. I was nearby, a newly arrived foreign correspondent.
Suddenly, one of the army trucks halted directly in front of the reviewing stand just as six Mirage jets roared overhead in an acrobatic performance, painting the sky with long trails of red, yellow, purple, and green smoke. Sadat stood up, apparently preparing to exchange salutes with yet another contingent of Egyptian troops. He made himself a perfect target for four Islamist assassins who jumped from the truck, stormed the podium, and riddled his body with bullets.
As the killers continued for what seemed an eternity to spray the stand with their deadly fire, I considered for an instant whether to hit the ground and risk being trampled to death by panicked spectators or remain afoot and risk taking a stray bullet. Instinct told me to stay on my feet, and my sense of journalistic duty impelled me to go find out whether Sadat was alive or dead.
I wove my way through the fleeing crowd and managed to reach the podium. It was pandemonium. Wild-eyed Egyptian security men were running every which way, trying to apprehend the assassins and attend to the scores of foreign and local dignitaries present, seven of whom lay dead or dying. The utter chaos allowed me to get close enough to witness another unforgettable scene: Vice President Hosni Mubarak emerging from beneath a pile of chairs security men had thrown helter-skelter over him for protection. He was brushing dirt off his peaked military cap, which had been pierced by a bullet.
Mubarak, lucky to be alive, pulled himself together admirably that day to take over leadership of the shaken Nile River nation. But Egypt and the rest of the Arab world would never be the same. For centuries, Egypt had prided itself on being the center of that world. Seat of a 5,000-year-old civilization that at times had thought of itself as umm idduniya, “mother of the world, ” it was the most populous and economically and militarily powerful Arab state, a center of culture and learning that supplied physicians, imams, and technical experts to other Arab nations. Under Sadat and his predecessor, the pan-Arab hero Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918–70), Egypt had reasserted its primacy as the Arabs broke free of colonial rule after World War II and entered an era of soaring hopes. Sadat had even begun some pioneering reforms—allowing opposition political parties, implementing market-oriented economic changes—that might have rippled through the Arab world had he lived. Though many reviled him for signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Egypt remained the most dynamic force in Arab affairs.
Mubarak’s accession would bring an abrupt end to Egypt’s preeminence. Cautious and unimaginative, the former air force commander has never in his 29-year reign come close to filling the shoes of his predecessors. Afflicted by health problems, he will turn 82 in May and is not expected to reign much longer. Cairo is awash with speculation about who will replace him. Its discontented intelligentsia is debating intensely whether Egypt any longer has the wherewithal, or vision, to shape Arab policies toward an immovable Israel, a belligerent Iran, fractious Palestinians, or an imposing America, much less grapple with the Islamist challenge to secular governments.
During the Mubarak years, other voices and centers have arisen, particularly on the western shores of the Persian Gulf. There, monarchies once thought quaint relics of Arab history—including Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates—have taken on new life. The accumulation of massive oil wealth in the hands of kings and emirs amid soaring demand and prices over the past few decades has given birth to a far more diverse and multipolar Arab world. It has made possible innovations in domestic and foreign policy and supplied vast sums for the building of glittering, hypermodern “global cities” that lure Western and Asian money, business, and tourists away from Cairo.
As the Mubarak era nears its end, Egyptians are not alone in wondering whether a new and more dynamic leader will restore the nation to its central role and take the lead in giving the Arabs a stronger and more united voice in global affairs. Whether any Egyptian leader, or for that matter any Arab leader, can rise to lead this fragmented world will be a central issue in the years ahead. Another is whether Arab unity is any longer a desirable goal.
Arabs have long shared an unusually strong sense of common identity and destiny. The Arab states, unlike those of Western Europe, Africa, Asia, or Latin America, are bound together by a common language and shared religion. They have a border-transcending culture rooted in 1,400 years of Islam, with its memory of the powerful caliphates based in Damascus and Baghdad. With the exception of Saudi Arabia, which escaped the European yoke, they also share a history of fervent anticolonial struggle against France and Britain that began with the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The Ottomans had ruled the Arabs for nearly 500 years, deftly dividing them while governing with a relatively light hand. The Arab Revolt (1916–18) against the Ottoman Turks, led by the emir of Mecca, Sharif Hussein ibn Ali, and abetted by Britain’s legendary Lawrence of Arabia, ignited the dream of a reunified Arab nation…