Monday, October 02, 2006

Reshuffling the Cards.Gaza first

(Olmert, Abbas and King Abdullah)
The recent gun fights between Fatah gunmen and Hamas gunmen not only shows the dangerous level of violence that sweeps the Palestinian areas now. The violence that claimed many dead and injured, also shows how bad the political situation has become especially after the election of Hamas to power.

Rioting on streets touting machine guns and torching down government buildings were Palestinian “ anti riot” police who were mostly Fatah loyalists and who were allegedly acting on orders from Fatah leaders to spread chaos and unrest for Hamas government in order to eventually unseat the democratically elected government.

Hamas government, which assumed power with an empty treasury, is facing the daunting task of paying salaries to an army of government employees while facing international pressure and sanctions to force it to recognize Israel.

Adding to this pressure is Abbas collusion with regional and international powers as well as Israel to isolate Hamas and eventually unseat its government.
What’s happening on the streets of Gaza were not simply acts of violence but rather part of a scheme designed to buttress Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah men, and infuse his war chest with tens of millions of hard cash and supply his loyal forces with Israeli and Jordanian weapons for a possible showdown with Hamas militants.

The plan to support Abbas against Hamas comes as part of a larger thinking that wishes to establish a broad regional alliance between Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Abbas to counter another regional alliance that is taking shape between Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah.
( Palestinian "anti riot" police, rioting)

But Hamas is chaotic and not moving forward either, its leadership in Damascus seems to be unwilling to accommodate Abbas or the regional powers other than Syrian and Iran. Hamas in unclear on how it wants to continue govern while it is unable to meet the basic necessities of the people of Gaza and the West Bank. In order to move forward and to stay a viable political power, Hamas has to show some pragmatism on some issues and must shed some of its political rigidity.

US secretary of State Condoleeza Rice who is visiting the region in these days will try to show US support and commitment to such regional alliance which will in the larger scheme of things serve the US interests in the region.
Those interests being:
1. Ensuring the safe flowing of oil at reasonable prices
2. Political stability in the region
3. Continuing unqualified support for Israel

Hezbollah’s recent success against Israeli attempts to smash it or at least weaken it made such alliance an urgent realty that prompted the US administration to call on its allies in the region to play a role in a new,active and "hostile containment" policy against the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions are simply red lines for US policy in the region. At no point will the US live with a nuclear-armed Iran. For the US, a nuclear Iran is like giving a certified nut a machine gun and let him loose on the street. For that, a possible confrontation with Iran is looming before the end of George Bush’s term.

Meanwhile, the Intense violence on Gaza streets should be understood in light of two major events in the region.

1: the press reported a meeting between Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and an “ extremely senior ” Saudi Official. This official some reports speculate to be Prince Bandar Ben Sultan the former ambassador to US and now advising the king on National Security, or the meeting could have occurred with King Abdullah himself. If those reports were true, it would represent a tectonic shift for the Saudi Arabian policy, and underscores the seriousness of the US policy makers intentions not to allow Iran to go nuclear and also shows a yet-offensive US posture in the region.

The Saudis are also playing their own cards in Lebanon through their ally Saad Hariri, a Saudi Citizen, and others in the March 14th movement who oppose Hezbollah.

But the problem for Saudi Arabia in Lebanon, is that it does not have any divisions on the ground, it has no military power or borders with Lebanon, and Syria is in the other camp this time around. Also Israeli internal politics will not permit yet another war, at least in the foreseeable future. Therefore any confrontationS between Hezbollah and the Saudi allies, would smash the later and put Hezbollah in power in Lebanon.

2: Recent meetings at the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba between Abbas, Israeli PM Olmert, King Abdullah, and Mubark confirms that the coordination between those powers is at the highest level and has the current US administration full backing and support.

Elsewhere,the Jordanian government is actively seeking to drive a wedge and possibly split the largest Jordanian opposition bloc, the Muslim Brotherhood, along East Bankers-West Bankers lines, in other words it seeks to isolate pro-Hamas ( a sister organization) groups within the organization through Jordification of the group in line with " Jordan First" slogan.Thus deprive Hamas of local support in Jordan.

This, however, has nothing to do with Jordan in the strategic sense, but it is related rather to the larger regional configurations that are taking place and Jordan is part of it and already on the bandwagon .

For the Palestinians they are in a loose loose situation. They will not reap any major benefits out of their compliance with the new regional formation especially that Olmert is in no mood to dismantle illegal Jewish Settlements in Palestinian lands, and is not ready to allow a viable Palestinian state to emerge. But For Abbas and others in Fatah, this has become a secondary goal.
( A hearty moment)

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