Abrams and a Fatah Coup

“Deputy National Security Advisor, Elliott Abrams — who Newsweek recently described as “the last neocon standing” — has had it about for some months now that the U.S. is not only not interested in dealing with Hamas, it is working to ensure its failure. In the immediate aftermath of the Hamas elections, last January, Abrams greeted a group of Palestinian businessmen in his White House office with talk of a “hard coup” against the newly-elected Hamas government — the violent overthrow of their leadership with arms supplied by the United States. While the businessmen were shocked, Abrams was adamant — the U.S. had to support Fatah with guns, ammunition and training, so that they could fight Hamas for control of the Palestinian government.

While those closest to him now concede the Abrams’ words were issued in a moment of frustration, the “hard coup” talk was hardly just talk. Over the last twelve months, the United States has supplied guns, ammunition and training to Palestinian Fatah activists to take on Hamas in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank. A large number of Fatah activists have been trained and “graduated” from two camps — one in Ramallah and one in Jericho. The supplies of rifles and ammunition, which started as a mere trickle, has now become a torrent (Haaretz reports the U.S. has designated an astounding $86.4 million for Abu Mazen’s security detail), and while the program has gone largely without notice in the American press, it is openly talked about and commented on in the Arab media — and in Israel. Thousands of rifles and bullets have been poring into Gaza and the West Bank from Egypt and Jordan, the administration’s designated allies in the program.”

Elliot Abrams’ uncivil war

Perhaps the only part I find unlikely in this scenario is what he reports as the Israeli position.  He may be correct, but at minimum he should apply the same skepticism to public Israeli comments as he does to Rice’s.

(28 Jan:)  This is the sort of position that makes me doubt Israel’s purported reluctance above:

“Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni warned Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Thursday that should he reach a compromise with Hamas, that would send the diplomatic process into a deep freeze.

“Compromising with extremists will not promote anything, but it can lead to further stagnation,” Livni told Abbas during a session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.”

Livni warns Abbas against striking deal with Hamas

While this does not specifically address the question of a “hard” coup, it does touch on it implicitly, as without “reaching a compromise” with Hamas how else does Israel think Fatah will gain control, which position Israel has made clear it currently adopts.

(5 Feb:)

“Under the U.S. security program, $76.4 million will fund “projects to transform and strengthen elements of the Palestinian Authority’s security structure, specifically the National Security Forces and Presidential Guard in an effort to improve public order and fight terror in the West Bank and Gaza,” the documents said.

“These projects have been developed in coordination with the office of the PA chairman (Abbas), and the overall plan enjoys the support of the government of Israel,” said the documents, marked “sensitive but unclassified”.

Another $10 million would fund security improvements at the Karni commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza.”

U.S. offers to fund an additional 10,000 of Abbas’ soldiers

(11 Feb:)  An analysis of the events leading up to the Fatah-Hamas clashes and how it intersects particularly with US policy:

Palestine, Bush’s Other Civil War

(17 Feb:)  Not quite sure where to put this, it doesn’t really belong here but as it does relate to the proposed aid to Abbas mentioned above shall anyway:

“”Early last week, I placed a hold on the $86 million,” says New York Democrat Nita Lowey, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and the chairwoman of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Subcommittee. This means, basically, that the money cannot be transferred to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

At the end of January, United States President George Bush announced that he will ask Congress to transfer $86 million to the Palestinian Authority in the near future. This money was intended to strengthen PA Chairman Abbas. Bush said that the money would be used to fund training for Abbas’s security forces, and to supply them with uniforms and other equipment.”

American money to the Palestinians? Not so fast

24 May:

Related to American and Israeli support for Fatah:

“Israel agreed to extensive training of members of the Presidential Guard of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in areas near Jericho, in the Jordan Valley.

The Palestinian Presidential Guard is undergoing similar training in Egypt. The training of units can reach battalion size formations, even though during their operations in the territories – in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – the Presidential Guard is unable to operate in such formations.

The request for Israel to permit such extensive training was made through the Americans. Prior to this, Israel agreed to the transfer of thousands of rifles and ammunition to Abbas’ Presidential Guard. The serial number of each weapon was registered in order to maintain at least minimal control over the weapons. On the other hand, Israel refused to approve another Presidential Guard request for the transfer of weapons of larger calibers than rifles, including heavy machine guns.”

Israel to let Presidential Guard train near West Bank city of Jericho

And an article from the Christian Science Monitor on the military aid to Abbas:

Israel, US, and Egypt back Fatah’s fight against Hamas

22 Jun:  From the Gaurdian:

“Documents doing the rounds in the Middle East purport to have evidence for Abrams’s “hard coup” strategy. One text recounts Washington’s objectives as expressed in US officials’ conversations with an Arab government. These are, among others, “to maintain President Abbas and Fatah as the centre of gravity on the Palestinian scene”, “avoid wasting time in accommodating Hamas’s ideological conditions”, “undermine Hamas’s political status through providing for Palestinian economic needs”, and “strengthen the Palestinian president’s authority to be able to call and conduct early elections by autumn 2007”.

The document is dated March 2, less than a month after Saudi Arabia brokered the Mecca agreement under which Abbas finally agreed with Hamas on a unity government. The deal upset the Israelis and Washington because it left Hamas’s prime minister Ismail Haniyeh in charge. The document suggests the US wanted to sabotage it. Certainly, according to Hamas officials whom a depressed Abbas later briefed, Abbas was told to scrap Mecca at every subsequent meeting he has had with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert or with US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Abrams.

Most ominously, the document of US objectives outlined a $1.27bn programme that would add seven special battalions, totalling 4,700 men, to the 15,000 Abbas already has in his presidential guard and other security forces, which were also to be given extra training and arms. “The desired outcome will be the transformation of Palestinian security forces and provide for the president of the Palestinian Authority to able to safeguard decisions such as dismissing the cabinet and forming an emergency cabinet,” the document says.

Alastair Crooke, a former Middle East adviser to the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and current head of a research institute in Beirut, points out that Israel blocked some arms deliveries. It was wary of sending too many into Gaza for fear Fatah might lose them, as indeed has happened. In this sense, only part of the plan went ahead. (Britain has played a small part in helping Abbas’s security forces. It has provided about £350,000 of “non-lethal” equipment this year for protecting the Karni freight crossing between Gaza and Israel.)”

Hamas acted on a very real fear of a US-sponsored coup

4 Mar 2008:

“The Bush administration plan sought to undo the results of elections in the West Bank and Gaza in January 2006 which, to the chagrin of White House and State Department officials, saw Hamas win a majority of seats in the Palestinian legislature.

The project was approved by Bush, Rice, and Elliott Abrams, the hawkish deputy national security adviser.

The 2006 election result was seen as an affront to the central premise of the Bush administration’s policy in the Middle East – that democratic elections would inexorably lead to pro-western governments.

With the victory of Hamas, Rice moved swiftly to try to persuade Abbas to take steps to dissolve the Hamas authority in Gaza. When Abbas did not move quickly enough, the US consul general in Jerusalem, Jake Walles, was despatched to Ramallah to deliver a curt reminder.

The magazine quotes a memo for Walles’s meeting with Hamas as saying: “You should make clear your intention to declare a state of emergency and form an emergency government.”

The central man figure in Washington’s plan was Mohammed Dahlan, who had been Yasser Arafat’s security chief in Gaza and who had established close ties with the CIA as early as the 1990s. The magazine cites three unidentified US officials quoting Bush as saying: “He’s our guy.”

According to the magazine, Rice played a main role in trying to persuade Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to offer training and funding to the Fatah fighters. Israeli officials admitted in December 2006 that Egypt had sent weapons to the Fatah faction in Gaza.

The US effort did not end with the establishment of a Palestinian national unity government. Vanity Fair describes the administration’s plan B, which called for adding 4,700 new Fatah troops with additional training in Jordan and Egypt.

A state department memo put the cost for salaries, training and weapons at $1.27bn (£640m) over five years.”

US plotted to overthrow Hamas after election victory

Published in: on January 16, 2007 at 11:55 am  Leave a Comment  

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