Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Endgame

Back in April, I talked about what the Hamas-Fatah coalition deal meant, that essentially Fatah (led by Mahmoud Abbas) had gone to Iran. What was not evident at the time, however, was the strategy Iran had for the territory Abbas presided over.

At the time, the move seemed strange and only advantageous to one side: why would Iran need such a strategically weak partner like Mahmoud Abbas when it's other proxy forces surrounded Israel (in Lebanon and Gaza)? Only now with the headline 'Hamas is against the PA Statehood Bid' have things begun to fall into place.

Hamas flags and portraits of Mahmoud Abbas being waved at the same rally

What has become evident is that the PA's bid at the UN is a last ditch effort to salvage Mahmoud Abbas' PA and 'his' territory from the clutches of Iranian control. Over the last several months we've been reading news such as Hamas flags going up all over the West Bank. While this might seem normal if both factions are in a unity deal, what was clear was that no portraits of Mahmoud Abbas were going up in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

In other words, the Hamas-Fatah unity deal was Mahmoud Abbas' 'death sentence'. Once Abbas had accepted the partnership, he effectively ceded control to Tehran. All Tehran had to do then was sit back and wait for the international community to distance itself from the coalition, thus leaving the PA vulnerable to the influence of Tehran, via Hamas.

With Abbas and his PA isolated, all Iran had to do was to was give Hamas free reign to start spreading its influence in the West Bank, thus not in fact making Abbas stronger, but weaker and more isolated than ever before.

The other side of this power struggle is, of course, the strategic importance of the West Bank. For Hamas, or any other anti-Israel force, having a presence in the West Bank means having 70% of Israel's population centre within short range rocket fire. And even though Hamas and Hezbollah both have rockets that can reach the Israeli population centres from Gaza and southern Lebanon respectively, with Israel's Iron Dome technology largely successful at intercepting rockets, having one more front from which Israel's enemies could harass her would be crucial given the terrorist's reliance on the psychological aspect of their war.

Additionally, it would be less likely that Israel attack Iran if its resources are tied up closer to home.

So Mahmoud Abbas' attempts to have a state recognised will be key in strengthening his hold on power. This will mean that Tehran will be forced to include Abbas in any of its plans.

But as we've been hearing, the US has announced it will veto any statehood bid, thus meaning a Palestinian state is not likely to be created and the US Congress will likely attempt to withdraw funding to the PA. So while this is risky territory for Abbas, we should note that there have been other patrons of the Palestinians, such as the Saudis, most notably during the 2nd intifada. And sure enough, the Saudis have stepped up to attempt to rescue the PA.

Once the statehood vote fails at the Security Council, it is then that the case will move to the UN General Assembly, in which the PA would not be susceptible to a US veto, thus be granted observer status. As we're told this will mean the PA will then have access to other UN bodies such as the International Criminal Court (ICC).

If the continuing fracas over the Goldstone Report is anything to go by, the Israel-Palestine war will likely graduate to a whole new level, and coupled with the international campaign to boycott, divest and sanction Israel (the BDS movement), having arrest warrants from the ICC against Israeli diplomats will serve as one of the biggest propaganda coups in the Muslim world's campaign to excuse terrorism and violence, as well as Islamisation of the West (citing, of course, the West's support for a 'war criminal' Jewish state). And this will be regardless of whether the cases against Israeli officials will have merit or not, as we saw with the recently overturned law in the UK called Universal Jurisdiction.

...and if anyone thinks that the ICC is a legitimate institution, devoid of the influence of the UN, they will be in for a rude awakening.

So if Mahmoud Abbas is able to achieve this reasonable sounding goal, this will not only mean him firmly placing himself at the centre of the 'Palestinian struggle', the Arab and Muslim world will reward him, thus cementing his hold on power. What exactly Abbas, or Tehran (for that matter), have in mind once this process is completed could be anything from the situation laid out above, and/or the continuation of the PLO Phased Plan devised in 1974.

In fact violence in the immediate term seems more than likely to be on the table (as a means to achieve their ultimate goals), with the usual excuses citing either failure at the UN for statehood, or some other pretext as we saw with the 2000 intifada, whether it was Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount (which was in fact carefully coordinatedwith the PA, not as the PA later claimed the 'provocative act which sparked the 2nd intifada), or the forgery that was the al-Dura Affair.

But this is only where we come to the much larger forces at play here in this complex story...

Quite interestingly, this sudden flurry of activity in the Middle East can be traced back to one single event in 2010. Barack Obama's UN General Assembley speech, when he stated that by September 2011 there would be a Palestinian State. What has occurred since then has been nothing short of amazing: WikiLeaks, PaliLeaks, the Arab Spring, the acceleration by Turkish PM, Tayyip Erdogan, of souring relations with Israel, and the announcement that colossal gas and oil reserves have been discovered off the coast of Israel; and the war in Libya under the UN doctrine of R2P (Responsibility 2 Protect).

Further to Turkey souring relations with Israel, Turkey's PM Tayyip Erdogan, is also vying to champion the Palestinian's cause as part of his increasingly bellicose statements regarding reviving the Ottoman empire.

So we have Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the old Middle Eastern enemies attempting to fight it out over a politically important piece of real estate. These are the 1400 year old rivalries of the Middle East, not only between sunni and shia, but between the more recent Wahabis and the Ottomans (who once controlled the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina).

The Bigger Picture

So why are 3 of the biggest Islamic states fighting it out for control of such a small territory? Israel seems to be almost irrelevant in all this. We know that the Palestinian cause is very popular in the Arab and Muslim world. And we have seen in the past how the war with Israel has been used many times by terrorists or dictators to either distract a disgruntled population from uprising, or to manipulate a populous against a leadership, as we're seeing in Egypt and Jordan as the Muslim Brotherhood attempt to win support there, or with Erdogan attempting to rally support for his cause.

But even though the Palestinian cause has never been far away from Arab dictator sound bites, effective support on the ground has always been lacking. As we saw in Lebanon in 1982, these same dictatorships were happy to see Israel expel Yasser Arafat from Lebanon to Tunis. Compare that to the Saudis funding(with the CIA) to the mujahadin in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the same decade, which amounted to $1 billion.

Although Israel would be the icing on this particular Islamic cake, neither the Palestinian issue, nor the Israeli 'problem' are the main issue. The importance of this territory is in its political value. This is the reason the Muslim Brotherhood was founded: the re-establishment of the Caliphate, which was abolished during World War I and which Arabs today say they want to have situated at al-Aqsa Mosque in the heart of Jerusalem...

Having a Caliphate would be a significant game-changer in world affairs and history.

This is a video of one of the earliest radical Islamic groups, Hizb Ut-Tahrir, in a rally on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem (note the black flags, these are a declaration of war - jihad)

So the charge to be either the leader of the newly created Palestinian state, or patron of its cause, will have historic significance. This is the culmination of almost a century's worth of work, in what seems to be the next phase of a global quest by radical Islam for world hegemony, the central battle of which will be in the very heart of Israel.

So goes Israel. So goes the rest of the world.



"Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said Thursday that if the international community will recognize the Palestinian state as a member of the United Nation, the Palestinians will no longer be able to fight against Israel." 


This is due to one aspect I did not cover in my piece: that regardless of whether 'Palestine' becomes a country or elevated to observer status in the General Assembly, the ICC requirements will also be placed on the Palestinians, not just Israel. Therefore Israel will also be able to bring the PA and Hamas before the ICC; a much more worrying prospect for Hamas. (David Benjamin at The Weekly Standard has more on this.)

As hopeful as this sounds, we cannot be too optimistic. Iran has sidelined Hamas in the past in favour of other, more difficult to trace terrorist groups to do its dirty work. Additionally, we have not seen any prosecutions of Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or even Iraq (under Saddam) for sponsoring Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) etc.

The problems in these instances was not the law, but political interests interfering with the law (such as oil). And if the Palestinian state becomes an outpost of the Saudi oil giant, no need to guess what that will mean.