Gjesteskribent

Liberale østkystpublikasjoner avslører maktmisbruk i Washington. David Rose i Vanity Fair har fått fatt i dokumenter som han hevder viser at det var Condoleezza Rice og Det hvite Hus som lå bak den åpne kampen mellom Fatah og Hamas. USA nektet å godta Hamas-regjeringen, og ville at president Mahmoud Abbad skulle avsette den. Da det ikke gikk, ville USA fremprovosere en konfrontasjon Fatah skulle vinne. Hevder Rose.

Men storyen holder ikke hva den lover. Likevel blir den øyeblikkelig plukket opp av journalister i Europa som er ivrig etter å avsløre Bush-administrasjonen, med et langt tyngre ideologisk avtrykk enn amerikanerne. I USA bruker man uttrykket «the circuit» om hvordan en story spres og «gjør runden». Med i runden er nå også europeiske journalister som føler de har moralsk rett til å ramme USA. NRK tok opp saken under introduksjonen: -Hvilket ansvar har USA for det som har skjedd? og overlot ordet til PRIO-forsker Ola Tunander som står klar til å tro det verste om USA.

Hvis NRK-journalistene hadde giddet lese historien ville de sett at den kaster lys over utenriksminister Jonas Gahr Støres anerkjennelse av samlingsregjeringen under Hamas. Gahr Støre var på Mekka-møtet der partene ble tvunget til å samarbeide av Saudi-Arabia. Norge var først ute anerkjennelse av vestlige land, og det har vært spekulert i om Gahr Støre gjorde dette med USAs godkjenning. Ifølge Rose var USA mot regjeringssamarbeidet. Utenriksminister Rice ville ikke at Hamas skulle få «satt seg».

Men Roses egen fremstilling av utviklingen viser at det ikke er dekning for å påstå at USA ville fremprovosere borgerkrig blant palestinerne. En slik versjon ville gjøre Hamas’ kupp til et forkjøps-kupp.

Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)

But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.

Some sources call the scheme «Iran-contra 2.0,» recalling that Abrams was convicted (and later pardoned) for withholding information from Congress during the original Iran-contra scandal under President Reagan. There are echoes of other past misadventures as well: the C.I.A.’s 1953 ouster of an elected prime minister in Iran, which set the stage for the 1979 Islamic revolution there; the aborted 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which gave Fidel Castro an excuse to solidify his hold on Cuba; and the contemporary tragedy in Iraq.

Within the Bush administration, the Palestinian policy set off a furious debate. One of its critics is David Wurmser, the avowed neoconservative, who resigned as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser in July 2007, a month after the Gaza coup.

Wurmser accuses the Bush administration of «engaging in a dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship [led by Abbas] with victory.» He believes that Hamas had no intention of taking Gaza until Fatah forced its hand. «It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen,» Wurmser says.

Rice besøkte Abbas i oktober. Da hadde Hamas sittet i tre kvart år. Abbas kviet seg for å avsette en valgt regjering som på det tidspunkt var populær. Rose beskriver et møte som State Department-utsendingen Walles hadde med Mahmoud Abbas i november.

«We need to understand your plans regarding a new [Palestinian Authority] government,» Walles’s script said. «You told Secretary Rice you would be prepared to move ahead within two to four weeks of your meeting. We believe that the time has come for you to move forward quickly and decisively.»

The «talking points» memo, left behind by a State Department envoy, urging Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to confront Hamas.

The memo left no doubt as to what kind of action the U.S. was seeking: «Hamas should be given a clear choice, with a clear deadline: … they either accept a new government that meets the Quartet principles, or they reject it The consequences of Hamas’ decision should also be clear: If Hamas does not agree within the prescribed time, you should make clear your intention to declare a state of emergency and form an emergency government explicitly committed to that platform.»

Walles and Abbas both knew what to expect from Hamas if these instructions were followed: rebellion and bloodshed. For that reason, the memo states, the U.S. was already working to strengthen Fatah’s security forces. «If you act along these lines, we will support you both materially and politically,» the script said. «We will be there to support you.»

Abbas was also encouraged to «strengthen [his] team» to include «credible figures of strong standing in the international community.» Among those the U.S. wanted brought in, says an official who knew of the policy, was Muhammad Dahlan.

On paper, the forces at Fatah’s disposal looked stronger than those of Hamas. There were some 70,000 men in the tangle of 14 Palestinian security services that Arafat had built up, at least half of those in Gaza. After the legislative elections, Hamas had expected to assume command of these forces, but Fatah maneuvered to keep them under its control. Hamas, which already had 6,000 or so irregulars in its militant al-Qassam Brigade, responded by forming the 6,000-troop Executive Force in Gaza, but that still left it with far fewer fighters than Fatah.

Hamas hadde sin milits. Det er ikke spesielt merkelig at USA ville ruste opp Fatah til å kunne ta et oppgjør med, eller motstå, Hamas.

A State Department official adds, «Those in charge of implementing the policy were saying, ‘Do whatever it takes. We have to be in a position for Fatah to defeat Hamas militarily, and only Muhammad Dahlan has the guile and the muscle to do this.’ The expectation was that this was where it would end up—with a military showdown.» There were, this official says, two «parallel programs»—the overt one, which the administration took to Congress, «and a covert one, not only to buy arms but to pay the salaries of security personnel.»

Men Fatah fikk bare lette våpen i første omgang.

Legal or not, arms shipments soon began to take place. In late December 2006, four Egyptian trucks passed through an Israeli-controlled crossing into Gaza, where their contents were handed over to Fatah. These included 2,000 Egyptian-made automatic rifles, 20,000 ammunition clips, and two million bullets. News of the shipment leaked, and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, an Israeli Cabinet member, said on Israeli radio that the guns and ammunition would give Abbas «the ability to cope with those organizations which are trying to ruin everything»—namely, Hamas.

Avi Dichter points out that all weapons shipments had to be approved by Israel, which was understandably hesitant to allow state-of-the-art arms into Gaza. «One thing’s for sure, we weren’t talking about heavy weapons,» says a State Department official. «It was small arms, light machine guns, ammunition.»
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On February 1, 2007, Dahlan took his «very clever warfare» to a new level when Fatah forces under his control stormed the Islamic University of Gaza, a Hamas stronghold, and set several buildings on fire. Hamas retaliated the next day with a wave of attacks on police stations.

Unwilling to preside over a Palestinian civil war, Abbas blinked. For weeks, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had been trying to persuade him to meet with Hamas in Mecca and formally establish a national unity government. On February 6, Abbas went, taking Dahlan with him. Two days later, with Hamas no closer to recognizing Israel, a deal was struck.

Bakgrunnen for presset mot Hamas var at de nektet å godkjenne Israel og inngåtte avtaler. Saudi-Arabia forsøkte å «square the circle».

Under its terms, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas would remain prime minister while allowing Fatah members to occupy several important posts. When the news hit the streets that the Saudis had promised to pay the Palestinian Authority’s salary bills, Fatah and Hamas members in Gaza celebrated together by firing their Kalashnikovs into the air.

Once again, the Bush administration had been taken by surprise. According to a State Department official, «Condi was apoplectic.» A remarkable documentary record, revealed here for the first time, shows that the U.S. responded by redoubling the pressure on its Palestinian allies.

The State Department quickly drew up an alternative to the new unity government. Known as «Plan B,» its objective, according to a State Department memo that has been authenticated by an official who knew of it at the time, was to «enable [Abbas] and his supporters to reach a defined endgame by the end of 2007 The endgame should produce a [Palestinian Authority] government through democratic means that accepts Quartet principles.»

Like the Walles ultimatum of late 2006, Plan B called for Abbas to «collapse the government» if Hamas refused to alter its attitude toward Israel. From there, Abbas could call early elections or impose an emergency government. It is unclear whether, as president, Abbas had the constitutional authority to dissolve an elected government led by a rival party, but the Americans swept that concern aside.

Security considerations were paramount, and Plan B had explicit prescriptions for dealing with them. For as long as the unity government remained in office, it was essential for Abbas to maintain «independent control of key security forces.» He must «avoid Hamas integration with these services, while eliminating the Executive Force or mitigating the challenges posed by its continued existence.»

In a clear reference to the covert aid expected from the Arabs, the memo made this recommendation for the next six to nine months: «Dahlan oversees effort in coordination with General Dayton and Arab [nations] to train and equip 15,000-man force under President Abbas’s control to establish internal law and order, stop terrorism and deter extralegal forces.»

The Bush administration’s goals for Plan B were elaborated in a document titled «An Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency.» This action plan went through several drafts and was developed by the U.S., the Palestinians, and the government of Jordan. Sources agree, however, that it originated in the State Department.

The early drafts stressed the need for bolstering Fatah’s forces in order to «deter» Hamas. The «desired outcome» was to give Abbas «the capability to take the required strategic political decisions … such as dismissing the cabinet, establishing an emergency cabinet.»

Men i den fiendtlige atmosfæren som eksisterte ville alle lekkasjer om opprustning føre til mistenksomhet og mottrekk.

On April 30, 2007, a portion of one early draft was leaked to a Jordanian newspaper, Al-Majd. The secret was out. From Hamas’s perspective, the Action Plan could amount to only one thing: a blueprint for a U.S.-backed Fatah coup.

Fra våren 2007 eskalerte overgrepene i Gaza-stripen og her må Rose selv konstatere at det var Hamas som gikk foran i brutalitet. De brukte dum-dum kuler mot motstandere.

By the end of May 2007, Hamas was mounting regular attacks of unprecedented boldness and savagery.

At an apartment in Ramallah that Abbas has set aside for wounded refugees from Gaza, I meet a former Fatah communications officer named Tariq Rafiyeh. He lies paralyzed from a bullet he took to the spine during the June coup, but his suffering began two weeks earlier. On May 31, he was on his way home with a colleague when they were stopped at a roadblock, robbed of their money and cell phones, and taken to a mosque. There, despite the building’s holy status, Hamas Executive Force members were violently interrogating Fatah detainees. «Late that night one of them said we were going to be released,» Rafiyeh recalls. «He told the guards, ‘Be hospitable, keep them warm.’ I thought that meant kill us. Instead, before letting us go they beat us badly.»

Hamas forsto at Fatah ville bli rustet opp til å utfordre dem. Det ville de ikke finne seg i, og bestemte seg til å slå til først.

On June 7, there was another damaging leak, when the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Abbas and Dayton had asked Israel to authorize the biggest Egyptian arms shipment yet—to include dozens of armored cars, hundreds of armor-piercing rockets, thousands of hand grenades, and millions of rounds of ammunition. A few days later, just before the next batch of Fatah recruits was due to leave for training in Egypt, the coup began in earnest.

Fatah’s Last Stand

The Hamas leadership in Gaza is adamant that the coup would not have happened if Fatah had not provoked it. Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas’s chief spokesman, says the leak in Al-Majd convinced the party that «there was a plan, approved by America, to destroy the political choice.» The arrival of the first Egyptian-trained fighters, he adds, was the «reason for the timing.» About 250 Hamas members had been killed in the first six months of 2007, Barhoum tells me. «Finally we decided to put an end to it. If we had let them stay loose in Gaza, there would have been more violence.»
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Unlike Fatah, Hamas fired exploding bullets, which are banned under the Geneva Conventions. Some of the men in the apartment were shot with these rounds 20 or 30 times, producing unimaginable injuries that required amputation. Several have lost both legs.

Sakens kjerne er at en politisk bevegelse med en væpnet gren som nektet å anerkjenne nabostaten vant valget. Det ønsket USA gjøre noe med, men Hamas slo til først. Man kan vanskelig si at dette gir USA ansvaret for den palestinske borgerkrigen.

The Gaza Bombshell