Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Muslim Brotherhood-Salafi Alliance

by Khaled Abu Toameh

As the world focuses its attention on the trial of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, extremist Islamic groups are working toward turning Egypt into an Islamic Republic.

If the Egyptian authorities do not move quickly to crush the extremists and regain control, the Sinai Peninsula could soon become a separate Islamic emirate run by Salafis, Hamas and Al-Qaeda.

The Facebook folks who triggered the anti-Mubarak revolution have been replaced by Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

The young, liberal, secular and reform-minded youths who led the revolution against the Mubarak regime have failed to win the backing of many Egyptians, who clearly have more sympathy toward the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis.

Last week hundreds of thousands of supporters of a number of radical Islamic groups gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the biggest show of force since Mubarak stepped down earlier this year.

The demonstrators were supporters of the extremist Salafi group, which is calling for an Islamic state with Sharia law. The group has also established a party called Al-Nour, or "The Light," to contest the next elections in Egypt.

Aware of the possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis would win, the Egyptian government has yet to set a date for new elections. But the government knows that it will not be able to postpone the elections for too long and will eventually be forced to succumb to the demands of the extremists.

The Salafis have become a major player in the Egyptian arena since the downfall of the Mubarak regime. Their supporters have been accused of targeting Churches and Christians, as well as secular, liberal-minded Egyptians.

What is most worrying, however, is the fact that the Salafis and their erstwhile rivals, the Muslim Brotherhood, have joined forces in a bid to form a united front against the secular movements in Egypt.

These two radical groups are now cooperating in the fight against a bill of constitutional principles that the ruling military council is planning to introduce ahead of the upcoming parliamentary election. The Islamic groups are opposed to the bill because it gives the armed forces the authority to play a political role in Egypt.

The differences between the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood are not as significant as some Western experts on Islam have suggested. The Salafis' have always been unhappy with what they see as the Muslim Brotherhood's focus on politics rather than religion. The Muslim Brotherhood, for its part, has always maintained that the Salafis are obsessed with religious matters and fatwas, while displaying indifference to the government.

At the end of the day both parties want to see an Islamic regime in Egypt – one where democracy, moderation and pragmatism are non-existent.

Almost at the same time that the Salafis were demonstrating in Cairo, Muslim extremists attacked police stations and a gas pipe in Sinai, killing and wounding a number of Egyptian security officers.

Egypt's ruling military council has thus far been reluctant to confront the Islamic fundamentalist groups. Instead, Egyptian authorities are busy chasing journalists, human rights activists and peaceful demonstrators who are demanding reform and democracy.

Tahrir Square has already been occupied by the Islamic extremists.

It is only a matter of time before Egypt turns into an Islamic Republic that is aligned with Iran, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Khaled Abu Toameh


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

China: Pakistan’s True Ally

by Stephen Brown

While it blatantly betrayed America for almost a decade regarding Osama bin Laden, recent terrorist attacks by Islamists in western China reveal who Pakistan views as its true ally.

In the middle of July, “an organised terrorist attack” on a police station in western China’s restive, Muslim-majority Xinjiang region left 14 people dead. About 18 Uighurs, carrying a flag with the Arab words for “Holy War” written on it, were blamed for the deadly assault.

The Uighurs are a Muslim Turkic people, native to the region and numbering about ten million out of a population of about 22 million. Some want independence from China and have angrily opposed the influx of Han Chinese immigrants. Simmering tensions between the two ethnics groups exploded in violence in 2009 that saw about 200 people killed.

Last weekend, China experienced two more terrorist attacks in Xinjiang that left 19 dead, including five terrorists. On Saturday, an hour after two bombs exploded, a truck hijacked by two Islamic terrorists slammed into a group of people, after which they got out and stabbed innocent bystanders, causing eight deaths. The following day, after burning down a restaurant, a larger group of Uighur terrorists began to randomly stab passers-by, killing several.

Unlike with other terrorist attacks worldwide with connections to Pakistan, the Pakistani intelligence agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), reacted immediately to last weekend’s Chinese incidents. That’s because a captured Uighur terrorist confessed the leaders of Sunday’s Islamist attackers had received training in Pakistan in camps of the banned extremist East Turkistan Islamic Movement. So in contrast to its stonewalling behaviour regarding bin Laden, the ISI sent straightway Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the agency’s director general, to Beijing. The Pakistani government also stated it was extending its “full support” to China on this matter.

“We cannot allow Pakistani territory to be used for any activities against any neighbour, especially a close ally like China,” said the chairman of the Pakistan-China Institute. “There are strong ties between China and Pakistan, and we are cooperating closely on this issue.”

It’s unfortunate, however, that America does not get the same consideration and “full support,” especially when it comes to jihadists using Pakistani soil to launch attacks against NATO and Afghan troops in neighbouring Afghanistan.

“The United States rarely gets that level of cooperation when it presses Pakistan on militants operating in its border regions,” wrote one analyst.

No kidding. Despite paying Pakistan $1 billion in aid annually for the last ten years to battle the terrorist groups operating on its soil, America still cannot persuade the Pakistani military to invade North Waziristan where the most hard-line Islamist organizations are located. Moreover, the Pakistanis have always prohibited the American military from going in there and doing the job itself.

The main reason for Pakistan’s preferential treatment of China over America is that the Pakistan military has always regarded India as its primary enemy rather than the Islamic terrorists on its territory. This attitude was evident only days after 9/11, when then-Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, said in a speech on television: “We are trying our very best to come out of this critical situation without any damage to them [Pakistan and the Taliban].” Musharraf never condemned either terrorist organization in his address.

Musharraf, who set the lackadaisical Pakistani policy in the War on Terror until he was replaced in 2008, was never a staunch ally of the United States, as the media portrayed him after he resigned in 2008. Unlike America and her allies, he never regarded the Taliban and al-Qaeda as enemies of civilization that had to be destroyed, but rather as tools to be used in Pakistan’s showdown with arch-enemy India, with whom it has fought three wars. In her book Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan, Mary Anne Weaver wrote Musharraf, whom she interviewed, spent his entire adult life “battling India.”

Many in Pakistan’s military also shared Musharraf’s view regarding India as their country’s main enemy – and still do. They have always envisioned using the jihadists in Pakistan’s tribal territories directly against the Hindu foe in the next war as well as in Afghanistan to expand their influence there. Pakistan had used Islamic fighters from its tribal regions in its 1947 war against India when, led by Pakistani army officers, they almost conquered Kashmir. For this reason, Pakistani authorities are only battling those jihadists, like the Pakistani Taliban, who are threatening the Pakistani state and leaving those who fight against NATO in Afghanstan, like the Haqqani organization in North Waziristan, in peace.

But to confront India’s military superiority, Pakistan requires more than just irregular tribal fighters; it needs China’s help. China, which has also fought one war in 1961 against India, has responded, seeing in India its biggest and most dangerous rival in Asia. The Chinese are currently Pakistan’s biggest weapons supplier and have invested tens of millions of dollars in its ally. One of those investments was the Karakoram highway, the highest paved road in the world, which connects the two countries. A large free trade deal also came into effect between China and Pakistan in 2007. China currently also has “several hundred” military engineers working in Pakistani Kashmir.

So it is no surprise that China was the first country the Pakistani leaders ran to after they were discovered harbouring bin Laden. In mid-May, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Gilani went to Beijing “to show it has another major power to turn to,” since relations were souring with the United States. While there, Gilani was promised “an urgent delivery” of 50 advanced Chinese fighters.

But this week is not the first time Pakistan has responded with unaccustomed speed to a terrorist incident involving China. The government attack in 2007 on the extremist Red Mosque in Islamabad, located only 400 meters from Musharraf’s offices, which resulted in the deaths of 80 people, was most likely also owed to Chinese influence.

While the world media praised Musharraf for cracking down on the extremist mosque, he had done nothing for years to shut down this “ideological heartland” of the Taliban until mosque Islamists kidnapped several Chinese women. The mosque’s sharia court intended to put them on trial as prostitutes. The Chinese government, apparently, was not amused and conveyed its unhappiness to Musharraf. Interestingly, three Chinese nationals, and no other foreigners, were murdered in Pakistan’s tribal territories in response to the Red Mosque attack.

The recent terrorist attacks in China may also be an attempt by the jihadists battling the Pakistani state to undermine its alliance with China. Since Pakistan cannot afford to harbour a too-strong extremist movement, as that would alienate its main ally, it will definitely move to eliminate the training camps of the Uighur Islamists.

But that is all. No Pakistani military steamroller will cross North Waziristan, ending the terrorist threat to the world once and for all. America has turned the money supply to Pakistan back on, and nothing has yet come of President Obama’s promise to investigate whether anyone in Pakistan had anything to do with protecting bin Laden. And no one is questioning whether America should withdraw financial support, or at least arms transfers, to Pakistan, since it is getting closer to China.

So with things back to normal, why would the Pakistani military destroy completely the jihadists who are bringing in so much American money? Such exertions, after all, are only made for Pakistan’s true ally.

Stephen Brown


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Qaddafi Claims Alliance With Islamists

by Ryan Mauro

Muammar Qaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, has announced that the regime has struck a deal with its Islamist opposition to turn Libya into a Sharia state and crush the secular rebels. This comes as the top rebel commander, Abdel Fateh Younes, was murdered, possibly by Islamists. The Islamist opposition, however, says Qaddafi is just trying to divide the rebels. Libya is now facing a civil war between a dictator who seeks Islamist support, and rebels with Islamists among them.

Seif al-Islam claims that a joint statement between the regime and its new Islamist friends will soon be released. He said that the agreement was reached when the regime agreed to make Sharia the law of the land. The rebel city of Darna will become “like Mecca” and has already become “Waziristan on the Mediterranean.” After winning the war, he said that “Libya will look like Saudi Arabia, like Iran.” As for the secular rebels, “The liberals will escape or be killed…We will do it together.”

The announcement comes on the heels of the assassination of the top rebel commander, Abdel Fateh Younes. A minister with the opposition’s National Transitional Council claims that a rebel-allied Islamist militia called the Obaida Ibn Jarrah Brigade was responsible. However, others suspect that the Katiba Yussef Shakir militia was behind the murder. The group recently attacked a prison in Benghazi and freed 300 inmates that were on the side of the regime. The rebels have since battled the militia, accusing it of being a “fifth column” that infiltrated their ranks on behalf of Qaddafi.

The Islamist identified by Seif al-Islam as the regime’s new ally, Ali Sallabi, says the regime is lying. He says he supports a civil constitution, and is committed to overthrowing Qaddafi. Indeed, the Islamists have invested their hopes in the rebel cause. The Muslim Brotherhood is active in rebel-controlled Libya now, and Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi has issued a fatwa permitting the killing of Qaddafi. Al-Qaeda is against Qaddafi, and members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group are in the fight. There are also indications that Hezbollah is helping the rebels, but the terrorist group denies this claim.

If it is true that Qaddafi has mended ties with some of the Islamists by offering to make the country a Sharia state, it wouldn’t be surprising. The regime orchestrated numerous terrorist attacks in the 1980s, such as the 1986 disco bombing in Germany and the Lockerbie bombing of 1988. In 2003, Qaddafi used an American member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdurahman Alamoudi, to reach out to Al-Qaeda. He was used to pay the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia $1 million to kill then-Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia following a public spat. The plot was foiled before the attack took place. In recent years, the regime tried to bury the hatchet with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, saying it wanted to “end a tragic period.”

In 2008, one of Qaddafi’s sons, Hannibal, said, “If I had an atom bomb, I would wipe Switzerland off the map” after Swiss authorities arrested him for assault. Qaddafi then used the Swiss ban on mosque minarets to declare jihad “by all means.” “Those who destroy God’s mosques deserve to be attacked through jihad and if Switzerland was on our borders, we would fight it,” he said. Qaddafi later said he was only asking for non-violent retaliation. That same year, Iraqi officials stated that Seif al-Islam was sending suicide bombers to their country.

In February 2010, Qaddafi gave a pro-terrorism speech, saying, “They [the West] want to prevent Muslims from undertaking jihad which means ‘struggle’ by calling it terrorism.” He justified attacks on Israel and violence to “defend” Muslim land from occupation. “We will not abandon jihad because it is Islamic duty,” he vowed. Since the civil war in Libya began, Qaddafi said he’d wage jihad alongside Al-Qaeda, and warned the days would return “where we bomb our cars or put explosive belts around our beds and around our women.”

It is still difficult to see the Islamist opposition switching sides and fighting on behalf of Qaddafi, given the atrocities of the regime and the fact that the rebels are still the most likely victor. Seif al-Islam may very well be simply trying to scare the West, and to divide the ranks of the regime’s enemies. After all, a clash within the opposition is inevitable. On the one hand, the vice chairman of the National Transitional Council flatly states, “There is no place for an Islamic state in Libya.” On the other, some rebel commanders like Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi have waged jihad and fought the U.S. in Iraq. He said that “members of Al-Qaeda are good Muslims and are fighting against the invader.”

On Sharia law, al-Hasidi said, “No Islamist revolution has ever succeeded. Only when the whole population was included, did we succeed and that means a more inclusive ideology.” That does not mean that he is against Sharia-based governance, but that he views democracy as a means to attaining a popularly-supported Sharia state. In any case, there cannot be a long-term reconciliation between the goals of the Islamists and the rebel leadership. A break is inevitable, and Qaddafi is likely trying to make it happen as soon as possible.

The Islamists suddenly find themselves in a strong position. If the rebels win, then they can become a part of the new Libyan government. If Qaddafi wins, he will seek their support to stabilize his rule and hunt down his liberal opponents. It’s a good time to be an Islamist in Libya.

Ryan Mauro


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Mixed Response in Iran

by Ali Alfoneh

It is too early to tell whether the revolutions sweeping across the Arab world will prove the long awaited "third wave of democratization" or will merely substitute Islamist totalitarianism for the existing secular, authoritarian regimes. It is clear, however, that no regional regime is immune to their impact, not even the self-proclaimed vanguard of permanent world revolutions, the Islamist regime in Tehran.

Perceptions in Iran of the nature of the "Arab Spring" vary. While describing it as an "Islamic awakening" inspired by Iran's 1979 revolution, the clerics have not failed to indicate their determination to suppress future dissent and to rebuff any foreign intervention. By contrast, despite tracing the Arab revolts to Iran's June 12, 2009 presidential elections, the opposition has thus far refrained from publicly challenging the regime though more radical forms of resistance may be brewing beneath the surface. Thus, the winds of change have apparently radicalized both rival sides.

People Power Is Good for Some Arabs …

Both regime and opposition responses to the Arab upheavals have varied from case to case, but there has been a clear consistency in the opposition's moral support for all pro-democracy movements whereas the regime has endorsed "people power" only in countries allied with the United States but not in those aligned with Tehran, such as Syria. There was also a great deal of caution in both the regime's and the opposition leadership's responses during the first phase of the uprisings though ordinary opposition members found quick inspiration for their cause as the events unfolded in the region.

Public protests against Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali broke out on December 17, 2010, and by January 15, 2011, the Saudi government announced that it was hosting the former Tunisian president and his family for an unspecified period of time.[1] The first official Iranian coverage of the Tunisian events appeared on the Islamic Republic's Arabic language al-Alam TV on December 28, eleven days after the protests had begun.[2] The first newspaper editorial on Tunisia appeared in the January 4 edition of Iran, more than three weeks after the beginning of the Tunisian uprising.[3] On January 16, the day after Ben Ali's arrival in the Saudi capital, Ali Larijani, speaker of parliament, made the first official comment on the situation, accusing the United States and the West more generally of being "behind repression and pressures imposed on the people of Tunisia under the rule of its former president."[4] Surprisingly, the otherwise opinionated President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made no comment on Tunisia before January 19[5] while Supreme Leader Ali Khamene'i made his position known on February 4. Addressing the people of Tunisia and Egypt in Arabic after delivering the Friday prayer sermon in Tehran, Khamene'i portrayed himself as "your brother in religion," described President Husni Mubarak as a "traitor dictator," and said that the events in Tunisia and Egypt were "natural extensions of Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979."[6]

The Islamic Republic's official responses to the Egyptian revolution were swifter than in the Tunisian case. The first protests in Egypt started on January 25, 2011, and on February 11—the anniversary of Iran's 1979 revolution—Mubarak resigned his post and handed over power to the Supreme Military Council.[7] Again, Larijani was the first official to refer to the situation, toward the end of January[8]—two weeks after the protests had begun but well before Mubarak stepped down. Khamene'i's statement of February 4, which also preceded Mubarak's resignation,[9] shows that the Islamic Republic had an easier time taking a position on Egypt. A few hours before Mubarak announced his resignation, Ahmadinejad, addressing the crowds on the occasion of the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, claimed ownership of the revolutionary movements in the entire region.[10]

Yet from Tehran's point of view, people power is good for some Arabs but not all Arabs. Though there was little love lost between the Islamist regime and those in power in Libya and Yemen, Ramin Mehmanparast, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, condemned NATO's airstrikes, which aimed at defending the very same people to whom Tehran had extended its rhetorical support, catching the regime in a bit of a contradiction.[11] As for Damascus, it was completely exempted from the regime's rhetorical support for people power as there were no commentaries and very little press coverage of the Syrian protests, which began on January 26.[12] Instead of supporting the protesters, Larijani met Syrian prime minister Muhammad Naji Otri on March 10 to discuss the regional developments.[13]

Though Bahrain, with its majority Shiite population, had long been claimed by Tehran as its own, official Iranian responses to the crisis in the emirate were generally more cautious than the regime's reactions to the Egyptian and Libyan crises, with Washington—rather than Riyadh, which had sent troops to suppress the protests—being accused of a "violent crackdown of the popular uprisings."

Official Iranian responses to the crisis in Bahrain came fast but were generally more cautious than reactions to the Egyptian and Libyan crises though some Iranian authorities have claimed the tiny Persian Gulf emirate, with its majority Shiite population, as Iranian territory. Kayhan editor Hossein Shariatmadari, Khamenei's unofficial spokesman, has on several occasions described Ahmadinejad's trip to Bahrain as "a provincial trip."[14] The Bahraini opposition declared February 14 an anti-government "Day of Rage," and by March 16, the Bahraini security forces, supported by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) units, had succeeded in suppressing the opposition.[15]

The first Iranian editorial on Bahrain appeared in the February 16 issue of Quds, which stressed the need for reforms in the emirate.[16] Stepping up the criticism, on February 17, an unidentified source at the Iranian Foreign Ministry described, in an interview on the English language Press TV, the developments in Bahrain as an "internal affair" but called on Manama to "exercise restraint."[17] On February 19, Amir Abdollahian, the Foreign Ministry's director-general for the Persian Gulf and Middle East, stressed that "the demands of Bahraini people can be achieved by democratic and peaceful means; it is regretful to see that the police have resorted to violence in that country."[18] Again, Larijani took the official lead by accusing Washington of complicity in a "violent crackdown of popular uprisings" in Bahrain while addressing the parliament on February 20, 2011.[19] He was followed three days later by 191 Iranian parliamentarians who issued a statement condemning the "merciless massacre of Muslim people in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Morocco."[20] On February 27, 2011, Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of the General Staff, attacked the United States as well, calling it "the flag-bearer of neo-racism."[21] Khamene'i, however, did not comment on Bahrain before his March 21 New Year address.[22]

… But Bad for Iranians

The Islamic Republic may, at least rhetorically, support the idea of people power for the Tunisians, Egyptians, the Bahrainis, and the Yemenis, but Iranians apparently belong to the same category as the Syrians for whom people power is bad.

On February 6, Mehdi Karrubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi in a joint letter asked the Interior Ministry for a permit to demonstrate "in solidarity with popular movements of the region, especially the liberation seeking revolts of the people of Tunisia and Egypt."[23] Not surprisingly, the permit was denied, and the two opposition leaders, together with former president Mohammed Khatami, were put under house arrest.[24] As the state-controlled media pounded the opposition movement as "seditionists," Basij militia chief Mohammed-Reza Naghdi warned that the "Western spy agencies are trying to find a mentally degenerate person [to] self-immolate in Tehran so they can liken this with the beginning of the events in Tunisia and Egypt."[25]

Ignoring the demonstration ban, the opposition rallied on February 14 and March 1 with slogans connecting the fate of the Tunisian and Egyptian dictators with Supreme Leader Khamene'i: "Mubarak, Ben Ali, it is now the turn of Seyyed Ali [Khamene'i],"[26] "Khamene'i, Mubarak, congratulations with your marriage!"[27] and "Those in Iran with motorcycles or those in Cairo with camels, death to the dictator."[28]

Although limited to the major population centers and incapable of mobilizing the millions who had joined the protest movement in the immediate aftermath of the 2009 elections, the anti-regime demonstrations unmasked the duplicity and double standards of the Islamist regime: People power is good for some Arabs but not for Iranians.

Lessons Learned

The regime has concluded that it must decisively suppress dissent to prevent it from snowballing into a major crisis yet seems neither willing nor capable of liberalizing the political system once the crisis is over. Khamene'i's March 21 speech in Mashhad derided the opposition forces in Iran as "[Western] agents, weak, ghoulish individuals who are prisoners of their egos."[29] Such words leave little room for mutual accommodation.

The regime's analysis of the Libyan experience has also strengthened its resolve to pursue its nuclear goals as well as its intent to shape regional developments according to its worldview. In his address, Khamene'i specifically referred to Libya's cooperation with the West, which he believed had led to Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi's problems: "In recent years, he did a great service to the West, which realized that a very simple threat drove this gentleman to dismantle his nuclear capabilities." Khamene'i continued:

Take a look at the position of our nation and the position [the Libyan regime] finds itself in. Our nation witnessed a U.S.-led offensive against Iran's nuclear quest, making military threats, pledging an attack, and what not. The Iranian authorities not only did not retreat when confronted by the enemy, but every year they increased their nuclear capabilities. Over there [in Libya], the people saw that the regime, in the face of Western threats, or Western incentives as they call it, gave the orders to dismantle its nuclear capabilities. Like putting a sour lollypop or chocolate into a child's mouth, they gave them incentives, and they lost everything forever! Well, the nation sees this, its heart bleeds, and its pride is wounded. This can be seen in all the countries in which the people revolted.[30]

Such statements do not provide much hope for a peaceful solution to curbing the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions. Khamene'i also indirectly warned Washington's allies of U.S. perfidy:

These countries [the United States and its allies] have always supported the dictators. They supported Husni Mubarak to the last possible moment, but upon realizing that he could no longer be saved, threw him away! Let this be a lesson to the heads of state dependent on the United States. When they are no longer useful, it will throw them away just like a piece of old cloth and will ignore them![31]

The opposition, however, may also have learned at least one lesson: the need for a division of labor, or even a split, between such reformists on the one hand as Mousavi, Karrubi, and Khatami, who against all wisdom continue to call for reforming the system, and on the other hand, a clandestine, radical opposition, which no longer believes the regime is capable of self-reform and, therefore, might pursue revolutionary goals.


The winds of change sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa have indeed reached the shores of Iran though at no point did the 2011 anti-government demonstrations threaten the regime's survival. Better geared to suppressing internal dissent than other regional dictatorships, the clerics probably have better prospects of weathering the current crisis, but as long as they are unwilling or incapable of liberalizing the political system, increased repression may result in the surfacing of more radical opposition movements inside Iran.

[1] Al-Jazeera TV (Doha), Jan. 23, 2011.
[2] BBC Monitoring (London), Dec. 28, 2010.
[3] Ibid., Jan. 4, 2011.
[4] Ibid., Jan. 16, 2011.
[5] Ibid., Jan. 19, 2011.
[6] Ibid., Feb. 4, 2011.
[7] Al-Jazeera TV, Feb. 14, 2011.
[8] The New York Times, Jan. 29, 2011.
[9] The Christian Science Monitor (Boston), Feb. 4, 2011.
[10] Ibid., Feb. 11, 2011.
[11] Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting World Service (Tehran), Mar. 21, 2011.
[12] Reuters, Mar. 30, 2011.
[13] BBC Monitoring, Mar. 10, 2011.
[14] Asr-e Iran (Tehran), Nov. 20, 2008.
[15] Reuters, Mar. 16, 2011.
[16] BBC Monitoring, Feb. 16, 2011.
[17] Ibid., Feb. 18, 2011.
[18] Ibid., Feb. 19, 2011.
[19] Ibid., Feb. 20, 2011.
[20] Ibid., Feb. 23, 2011.
[21] Ibid., Feb. 27, 2011.
[22] "Payam-e Nowrouzi-ye 1390," Office of the Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamene'i (Tehran) Mar. 21, 2011.
[23] Rah-e Sabz (Tehran), Feb. 6, 2011.
[24] Bloomberg News (New York), Feb. 28, 2011.
[25] Asr-e Iran, Feb. 13, 2011.
[26] "Mubarak, Ben Ali. Now It's Time for Seyyed Ali," YouTube, Mar. 1, 2011.
[27] Iran Press Service (London), Feb. 14, 2011.
[28] Ibid., Feb. 14, 2011.
[29] "Bayanat Dar Haram-e Mottahar-e Razavi Dar Aghaaz-e Sal," The Office of the Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamene'i, Mar. 21, 2011.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Ibid.

Ali Alfoneh is resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Obama's Only Policy

by Caroline Glick

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has explained repeatedly over the years that Israel has no Palestinian partner to negotiate with. So news reports this week that Netanyahu agreed that the 1949 armistice lines, (commonly misrepresented as the 1967 borders), will be mentioned in terms of reference for future negotiations with the Palestinian Authority seemed to come out of nowhere.

Israel has no one to negotiate with because the Palestinians reject Israel's right to exist. This much was made clear yet again last month when senior PA "negotiator" Nabil Sha'ath said in an interview with Arabic News Broadcast, "The story of 'two states for two peoples' means that there will be a Jewish people over there and a Palestinian people here. We will never accept this."

Given the Palestinians' position it is obvious that Netanyahu is right. There is absolutely no chance whatsoever that Israel and the PA will reach any peace deal in the foreseeable future. Add to this the fact that the Hamas terror group controls Gaza and will likely win any new Palestinian elections just as it won the last elections, and the entire exercise in finding the right formula for restarting negotiations is exposed as a complete farce.

So why is Israel engaging in these discussions?

The only logical answer is to placate US President Barack Obama.

For the past several months, most observers have been operating under the assumption that Obama will use the US's veto at the UN Security Council to defeat the Palestinians' bid next month to receive UN membership as independent Palestine. But the fact of the matter is that no senior administration official has stated unequivocally, on record that the US will veto a UN Security Council resolution recommending UN membership for Palestine.

Given US congressional and public support for Israel, it is likely that at the end of the day, Obama will veto such a resolution. But the fact that the President has abstained to date from stating openly that he will veto it makes clear that Obama expects Israel to "earn" a US veto by bowing to his demands.

These demands include abandoning Israel's position that it must retain defensible borders in any peace deal with the Palestinians. Since defensible borders require Israel to retain control over the Jordan Valley and the Samarian hills, there is no way to accept the 1949 armistice lines as a basis for negotiations without surrendering defensible borders.

SAY WHAT you will about Obama's policy, at least it's a policy. Obama uses US power and leverage against Israel in order to force Israel to bow to his will.

What makes Obama's Israel policy notable is not simply that it involves betraying the US's most steadfast ally in the Middle East. After all, since taking office Obama has made a habit of betraying US allies.

Obama's Israel policy is notable because it is a policy. Obama has a clear, consistent goal of cutting Israel down to size. Since assuming office, Obama has taken concrete steps to achieve this aim.

And those steps have achieved results. Obama forced Netanyahu to make Palestinian statehood an Israeli policy goal. He coerced Netanyahu into temporarily abrogating Jewish property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. And now he is forcing Netanyahu to pretend the 1949 armistice lines are something Israel can accept.

Obama has not adopted a similarly clear, consistent policy towards any other nation in the region. In Egypt, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Libya, and beyond, Obama has opted for attitude over policy. He has postured, preened, protested and pronounced on all the issues of the day.

But he has not made policy. And as a consequence, for better or for worse, he has transformed the US from a regional leader into a regional follower while empowering actors whose aims are not consonant with US interests.

SYRIA IS case and point. President Bashar Assad is the Iranian mullahs' lap dog. He is also a major sponsor of terrorism. In the decade since he succeeded his father, Assad Jr. has trained terrorists who have killed US forces in Iraq. He has provided a safe haven for al Qaeda terrorists. He has strengthened Syrian ties to Hezbollah. He has hosted Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror factions. He has proliferated nuclear weapons. He reputedly ordered the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Since March, Assad has been waging war against his fellow Syrians. By the end of this week, with his invasion of Hama, the civilian death toll will certainly top two thousand.

And how has Obama responded? He upgraded his protestations of displeasure with Assad from "unacceptable" to "appalling."

In the face of Assad's invasion of Hama, rather than construct a policy for overthrowing this murderous US enemy, the Obama administration has constructed excuses for doing nothing. Administration officials, including Obama's ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford, are claiming that the US has little leverage over Assad.

But this is ridiculous. Many in Congress and beyond are demanding that Obama withdraw Ford from Damascus. Some are calling for sanctions against Syria's energy sector. These steps may or may not be effective. Openly supporting, financing and arming Assad's political opponents would certainly be effective.

Many claim that the most powerful group opposing Assad is the Muslim Brotherhood. And there is probably some truth to that. At a minimum, the Brotherhood's strength has been tremendously augmented in recent months by Turkey.

Some have applauded the fact that Turkey has filled the leadership vacuum left by the Obama administration. They argue that Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdogan can be trusted to ensure that Syria doesn't descend into a civil war.

What these observers fail to recognize is that Erdogan's interests in a post-Assad Syria have little in common with US interests. Erdogan will seek to ensure the continued disenfranchisement of Syria's Kurdish minority. And he will work towards the Islamification of Syria through the Muslim Brotherhood.

Today there is a coalition of Syrian opposition figures that include all ethnic groups in Syria. Their representatives have been banging the doors of the corridors of power in Washington and beyond. Yet the same Western leaders who were so eager to recognize the Libyan opposition despite the presence of al Qaeda terrorists in the opposition tent have refused to publicly embrace Syrian regime opponents that seek a democratic, federal Syria that will live at peace with Israel and embrace liberal policies.

This week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a private meeting with these brave democrats. Why didn't she hold a public meeting? Why hasn't Obama welcomed them to the White House?

By refusing to embrace liberal, multi-ethnic regime opponents, the administration is all but ensuring the success of the Turkish bid to install the Muslim Brotherhood in power if Assad is overthrown.

But then, embracing pro-Western Syrians would involve taking a stand and, in so doing, adopting a policy. And that is something the posturing president will not do. Obama is much happier pretending that empty statements from the UN Security Council amount to US "victories."

If he aims any lower his head will hit the floor.

OBAMA'S PREFERENCE for posture over policy is nothing new. It has been his standard operating procedure throughout the region. When the Iranian people rose up against their regime in June 2009 in the Green Revolution, Obama stood on the sidelines. As is his habit, he acted as though the job of the US president is to opine rather than lead. Then he sniffed that it wasn't nice at all that the regime was mowing down pro-democracy protesters in the streets of Teheran and beyond.

And ever since, Obama has remained on the sidelines as the mullahs took over Lebanon, build operational bases in Latin America, sprint to the nuclear finishing line, and consolidate their power in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Wednesday the show trial began for longtime US ally former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his sons. During last winter's popular uprising in Egypt, Obama's foes attacked him for refusing to abandon Mubarak immediately.

The reasons for maintaining US support for Mubarak were obvious: Mubarak had been the foundation of the US alliance structure with the Sunni Arab world for three decades. He had kept the peace with Israel. And his likely successor was the Muslim Brotherhood.

But Obama didn't respond to his critics with a defense of a coherent policy. Because his early refusal to betray Mubarak was not a policy. It was an attitude of cool detachment.

When Obama saw that it was becoming politically costly to maintain his attitude of detachment, he replaced it with a new one of righteous rage. And so he withdrew US support for Mubarak without ever thinking through the consequences of his actions. And now it isn't just Mubarak and his sons humiliated in a cage. It is their legacy of alliance with America.

Recognizing that Obama refuses to adopt or implement any policies on his own, Congress has tried to fill the gap. The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently passed a budget that would make US aid to Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and the PA contingent on certification that no terrorist or extremist organization holds governmental power in these areas. Clinton issued a rapid rebuke of the House's budget and insisted it was unacceptable.

And this makes sense. Making US assistance to foreign countries contingent on assurances that the money won't fund US enemies would be a policy. And Obama doesn't make policy - except when it comes attacking to Israel.

In an interview with the New York Times on Thursday, Muammar Qaddafi's son Seif al-Islam Qaddafi said he and his father are negotiating a deal that would combine their forces with Islamist forces and reestablish order in the country. To a degree, the US's inability to overthrow Qaddafi - even by supporting an opposition coalition that includes al Qaeda - is the clearest proof that Obama has substituted attitude for policy everywhere except Israel.

Acting under a UN Security Council resolution and armed with a self-righteous doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect" Obama went to war against Qaddafi five months ago. But once the hard reality of war invaded his happy visions of Lone Rangers riding in on white stallions, Obama lost interest in Libya. He kept US forces in the battle, but gave them no clear goals to achieve. And so no goals have been achieved.

Meanwhile, Qaddafi's son feels free to meet the New York Times and mock America just by continuing to breathe in and out before the cameras as he sports a new Islamic beard and worry beads.

If nothing else, the waves of chaos, war and revolution sweeping through Arab lands make clear that the Arab conflict with Israel is but a sideshow in the Arab experience of tyranny, fanaticism, hope and betrayal. So it says a lot about Obama, that eight months after the first rebellion broke in Tunisia, his sole Middle East policy involves attacking Israel.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

Caroline Glick


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Group Claims to Hoist al-Qaida Flag in Sinai

by IPT News

In a scene resembling an Islamist version of the post-apocalyptic film "Mad Max," dozens of kaffiyeh-covered young men ride into the heart of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on motorcycles and in the beds of pickup trucks into El-Arish. Although they may not be there to pillage and plunder, the al-Qaida flag waved by one militant heralds a dangerous new development.

The video was posted on YouTube last week and followed by a statement Tuesday from a group claiming to be the newest branch of al-Qaida. The statement said that al-Qaida of the Sinai Peninsula promised to transform the dusty backwater of the Sinai into a new Islamic Emirate. It also called for Islam to be the only source of legislation in its new state, and demanded that Egypt's military revoke agreements signed with Israel.

The group also demanded military support for its brethren in the Gaza Strip, where al-Qaida inspired militants have pushed for harsher application of Islamic law and open war with Israel.

The statement and the video seemed to contradict claims issued days before by the governor of the North Sinai province, that Sinai was al-Qaida free.

"El-Sayed Abdelwahab Mabrouk denied on Tuesday any presence of Al-Qaeda militants in Sinai, he also acknowledged that a group that calls itself Al-Qaeda of the Sinai Peninsula has spread calls for Islamisation throughout the Sinai town of Arish," reported state owned Egyptian paper Al-Ahram.

Mosques in El-Arish received demands that Sinai be recognized as an independent Islamic state following recent clashes between gunmen and police, the paper reported. The same militants are suspected of blowing up a natural gas pipeline to Israel, which represents a rare symbol of economic cooperation in the cold peace between Egypt and its Jewish neighbor.

Mabrouk may be right in saying that the militants aren't really al-Qaida. An official statement from the al-Qaida branch has not appeared on popular jihadi forums like, which instead posted news stories about the group from Arabic media. A post on Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum, an up-to-date and well-known forum for English-speaking jihadists, stated that the new group was simply the "Youth of Islam," following the title given to them in their YouTube video post.

There has been no recognition of the new branch from al-Qaida's central division in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Where al-Qaida affiliates have typically been formed by senior militants who fought with the core leadership, as was the case with al-Shabaab in Somalia and AQAP in Yemen, there are few signs that the Sinai branch has the credentials to claim a legitimate connection.

But the lack of any formal membership in al-Qaida may have little effect on the group's potential for terrorism against Westerners, Israelis, and even Egyptians.

With as many as 400 members, according to Egyptian daily al-Hayyat, the group has already carried out "a number of attacks against [Egyptian] security forces in the Sinai city of El Arish."

Tourism in the region presents the biggest opportunity for the branch to strike Westerners. The Sinai Peninsula has been a popular tourist destination for nationals from Europe and Israel, who enjoyed warm, sandy beaches and friendly locals. Israelis have even ignored travel warnings from their government, and a new study shows that they rank concerns of a hostile reception by locals much higher than the threat of terrorism.

Militants from the region have already wreaked economic havoc, targeting a natural gas pipeline to Israel and its Arab neighbors for the fifth time since the beginning of the year. The repeated bombings have disrupted supplies to Israel, Syria, and especially Jordan, which is highly dependent on the supplies for electricity. The Israel Electric Corporation also announced it was forced to pursue other methods to produce electricity, with a price tag of 3-3.5 billion Israeli Shekels [roughly $1 billion U.S.] in emergency funds from the government.

The potential for the movement of armed religious fundamentalists between Gaza, the Sinai, and the Arab world also exists. Claiming more than 11,000 members, Gaza's Jund Ansar Allah declared an emirate in the territory in April 2010.

While it's unclear if Hamas' suppression of these groups has worked - or merely pushed them underground - Salafist forces remain an annoyance and even a threat to Hamas' rule. A Salafist group was responsible for the murder of Italian Hamas-sympathizer Vittorio Arrigoni in April 2011, which embarrassed Hamas by underlining security gaps and drawing attention to violent Islamists in Gaza. Salafi groups have also tried to break Hamas' ceasefire with Israel, by firing rockets at towns and villages around the Gaza Strip.

IPT News (The Investigative Project on Terrorism)


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Friday, August 5, 2011

Land for War

by Efraim Karsh and Asaf Romirowsky

As September approaches, many are waiting with bated breath to learn if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will deliver on his threat to unilaterally declare an independent Palestinian state and seek recognition of it through the U.N. But in putting the Palestinian demand for statehood to a vote, Abbas will end up subverting the international organization's longstanding solution to the Arab Israeli-conflict—U.N. Security Council Resolution 242—with unpredictable results.

Passed in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War, resolution 242 established the principle of "land for peace" as the cornerstone of future peace agreements between Israel and the Arabs, to be reached in negotiations between the two sides. Israel was asked to withdraw "from territories occupied in the recent conflict"—the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

The absence of the definite article "the" before "territories" was no accident: Issued a mere six months after Israel's astounding triumph over the concerted Arab attempt to obliterate the Jewish state, the resolution reflected acceptance by the Security Council of the existential threat posed by the 1949 armistice line, memorably described by Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban as "Auschwitz borders." The Security Council expected negotiations between Israel and the Arabs to produce a more defensible frontier for Israel, one consistent with, in the words of the resolution's other key formulation, the right of every state in the region "to live in peace with secure and recognized boundaries."

In the 44 years that have followed, Israel has persistently striven to make peace with its Arab neighbors. It withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, constituting more than 90% of the territories occupied in 1967, as part of its 1979 peace agreement with Egypt. Repeated efforts to persuade Syrian President Hafez Assad to follow in Egypt's footsteps came to naught, however.

As for the Palestinians, their rejection of resolution 242 was absolute. In 1967, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) rejected the U.N. proposal as a plot "concocted in the corridors of the United Nations to accord [with] the Zionist racist colonial illegal occupation in Palestine," acceptance of which constituted "a treasonable act not only against the Palestinian people but against the whole Arab nation." When the Carter administration informed Arafat of its readiness to inaugurate Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, should he accept resolution 242, the PLO chairman categorically turned the offer down. "This is a lousy deal," he told an intermediary. "We want Palestine. We don't want bits of Palestine."

It was not until 1988, more than two decades after the resolution's passage, that the Palestine National Congress grudgingly accepted resolution 242. While this marked a major shift in PLO public diplomacy, Arafat remained committed to the PLO's phased strategy of June 1974, which stipulated that any territory gained through diplomacy would merely be a springboard for the "complete liberation of Palestine." Shortly after the PLO accepted 242, Arafat's second in command, Salah Khalaf (better known by his nom de guerre of Abu Iyad), declared that "the establishment of a Palestinian state on any part of Palestine is but a step toward the whole of Palestine." Two years later, he reiterated this view at a public rally in Amman, pledging to liberate Palestine "inch by inch from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river."

Arafat remained committed to the PLO's phased strategy even after signing the 1993 Oslo Accords. Five days before the signing, he told an Israeli journalist that one day there would be a "united state in which Israelis and Palestinians will live together"—that is, Israel would cease to exist. Even as he shook Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's hand on the White House lawn, Arafat was assuring the Palestinians in a pre-recorded Arabic-language message that the agreement was merely an implementation of the PLO's phased strategy.

The public diplomacy of Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, also ran contrary to the letter and spirit of 242. The Palestinians have consistently misrepresented the resolution as calling for Israel's complete withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 lines, while claiming that its stipulation for "a just settlement of the refugee problem" meant endorsement of the Palestinian "right of return"—the standard Arab euphemism for Israel's destruction through demographic subversion. They also sought to undermine the resolution's insistence on the need for a negotiated settlement, seeking time and again to engineer an internationally imposed dictate despite their commitment to a negotiated settlement through the Oslo process.

When Israel offered at the American-convened July 2000 peace summit in Camp David to cede virtually the entire territory of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the nascent Palestinian state and made concessions with respect to Jerusalem, Arafat responded with a campaign of terror unmatched in the history of the Jewish state. Seven-and-a-half years later, at yet another U.S.-sponsored summit, Mr. Abbas rejected Israel's offer of a Palestinian Arab state in 97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, and categorically dismissed the request to recognize Israel as a Jewish state alongside the would-be Palestinian state, insisting instead on full implementation of the "right of return."

Since the inauguration of the Obama administration, Mr. Abbas has dropped all remaining pretenses of seeking a negotiated settlement, striving instead to engineer international enforcement of a complete Israeli withdrawal without a peace agreement, or, indeed, any quid pro quo. Were the U.N. General Assembly to fall for the Palestinian ploy, it will not only reward decades of duplicity, intransigence, and violence and betray its own formula of "land for peace," but will be introducing a new and dangerous stage in the century-long feud between Arabs and Jews: that of "land for war."

Efraim Karsh and Asaf Romirowsky

Mr. Karsh is director of the Middle East Forum (Philadelphia) and professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King's College London. Mr. Romirowsky is adjunct scholar at the Middle East Forum and a doctoral student at King's College London.


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Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Palestinians' Imaginary State

by Steven J. Rosen

In a few weeks, an overwhelming majority in the United Nations General Assembly will likely vote for collective recognition of a Palestinian state. But which Palestinian state? Of the three Palestinian states the assembly could recognize, two are real and arguably could meet the requirements for statehood. But it is the third, purely imaginary one that the assembly will endorse, one that neither has a functioning government nor meets the requirements of international law.

According to the prevailing legal standard, the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, a "state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states." Both the Hamas-controlled Palestinian entity in Gaza and the rival Fatah-governed Palestinian entity in the West Bank can be said to meet all four of these criteria of the law of statehood. The one on which the United Nations will vote does not.

In Gaza, Hamas controls a permanent population in a defined territory (i.e., Gaza within the armistice lines of 1949). Gaza has a functioning, if odious, government. And Hamas-controlled Gaza already conducts international relations with a large number of states. From a narrowly legal point of view, the Hamas Gaza entity could become a state, another miserable addition to a very imperfect world.

Of course, a Hamas state in Gaza is not something most of the world wants to see. A Hamas state allied to Iran would be a severe blow to international peace and security, and it would not be a state deserving of recognition by any democracy. It would be a state arising from the military coup of June 2007, a state that engages in large-scale violations of treaty obligations and human rights. Nor does Hamas seek statehood for Gaza alone. Hamas wants eventually to rule the whole of mandatory Palestine, comprising not just the West Bank along with Gaza, but all of today's Israel too. Gaza alone is too small a prize for so grand an ambition. So this possible state is not on the table.

The Fatah Palestinian entity in the West Bank also could meet the legal requirements for statehood, and it would have more international support. It has a functioning government in the Palestinian Authority (PA), a permanent population, and international relations with a very large number of states. It also controls a defined territory, which comprises what are called areas A and B as defined under the Oslo II agreement of September 1995, plus additional territory subsequently transferred by Israel in agreed further redeployments. (Area A is the zone of full civil and security control by the Palestinian Authority, and Area B is a zone of Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control.) The Fatah West Bank entity within these lines also could be recognized as a state under international law.

But Fatah, the PA, and the broader PLO do not seek statehood for this West Bank entity that arguably could meet the legal requirements. Their minimum demand is a state that includes Gaza along with the West Bank, the eastern part of Jerusalem, and all the other parts of mandatory Palestine that were under Jordanian and Egyptian control before 1967. Fatah, the PA, and the PLO are demanding title to lands and authority over populations they do not control, being as they are under the rule of Hamas and Israel.

Unlike the two Palestinian entities that already exist, either of which could be recognized as a Palestinian state because they seem to fulfill the legal requirements, the Palestinian entity that a General Assembly majority will recognize as a state this September does not actually exist on Earth. It is imaginary and aspirational, not real. And it does not meet the legal requirements.

First, it will have two rival presidents pursuing incompatible policies. Mahmoud Abbas is presenting himself as the president of the Palestine that is pressing the claim in the U.N. General Assembly, but he is not considered to be the president anymore by Hamas, the largest political party in the putative state. And Hamas has Palestine's own laws on its side in this dispute. Abbas was elected in 2005 to serve until January 2009, so his term has expired. In 2009, he unilaterally extended his term for another year until January 2010 (an extension that also has expired), but that extension did not adhere to Article 65 of the Palestinian constitution, the Basic Law. Hamas, which controls a majority in the now defunct Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), opposed the extension. According to Article 65 of the Basic Law, the legally empowered president of Palestine, since January 2009, has been PLC Speaker Abdel Aziz Dweik, a deputy representing Hamas. Palestine's ruling party, Hamas, considers Dweik, not Abbas, to be the legal president of Palestine, and it has a strong case.

Second, the Palestine that the General Assembly will recognize also will have two rival prime ministers pursuing incompatible policies. Hamas denies that Abbas has the authority to appoint Salam Fayyad as prime minister, because Abbas is not legally the president of Palestine under Article 65 and because Fayyad has not been empowered as prime minister by the Palestinian Legislative Council as required by Article 66 of the Basic Law. Neither his first appointment, on June 15, 2007, nor his reappointment on May 19, 2009, was confirmed by the PLC as required. Hamas, which controls the majority in the PLC, considers the legal prime minister of the Palestinian Authority to continue to be Ismail Haniyeh, a senior political leader of Hamas. Haniyeh was empowered by the PLC to be prime minister of Palestine in February 2006. Abbas dismissed Haniyeh from the office on June 14, 2007, after the Gaza coup, but Haniyeh counters that this decree violated articles 45, 78, and 83 and that he continues to exercise prime ministerial authority under Article 83. The PLC also continues to recognize Haniyeh's authority as prime minister. Here again, Hamas has the law on its side.

Third, this putative state of "Palestine" will also have a legislature that never meets. Elected on Jan. 25, 2006, for a term of four years, the PLC has enacted no laws, passed on no ministers, and conducted no meetings since 2007. Instead, Abbas says, "It is my right as a president to legislate laws and decisions that are called decrees. These decrees are legal, as long as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) is not able to convene."

It is common for Palestinian observers and their supporters in the West to attribute the PLC's inaction to the fact that Israel arrested 21 of its more radical members in June 2006 after the abduction of Gilad Shalit, most of whom are still in detention. The Carter Center, for example, states, "With most of its representatives in Israeli prisons, the Palestinian Legislative Council never assembled the required quorum for meetings and hence was unable to carry out legislative functions designated to the PLC." But the PLC has 132 members, of whom fewer than 20 are detained by Israel, and a quorum of the PLC requires only one more than half the members -- 67 -- to be present. So it is not Israel that is preventing a quorum.

In fact, neither faction contending to rule Palestine actually wants the PLC to meet, for different reasons. Hamas does not want it brought to session to enact new laws or amendments to existing laws when its majority has been diluted, especially because it fears unfavorable amendments to the election law. And Fatah is only too happy to see the Hamas members in jail, because it too does not want the PLC to meet, lest it enforce the Basic Law by replacing Abbas and Fayyad. PLC Speaker Dweik, whom Hamas considers to be the legally empowered president of Palestine, has said of his own arrest by Israel, "Any action that put an end to our activity in the parliament was welcomed by many, among them the Palestinian Authority."

Fourth, this Palestine that the General Assembly will recognize will also lack the ability to hold presidential or legislative elections as required by Article 47 of its Basic Law -- not because Israel will prevent them, but again because the rival Palestinian rulers will not allow them to happen. Abbas's constitutionally defined term expired in January 2009, and the terms of the PLC representatives expired on Jan. 25, 2010, so new elections for both are overdue. The 2005 Palestinian Elections Law No. 9, Article 2, which Hamas recognizes as legally binding, and the replacement Elections Law unilaterally decreed by Abbas on Sept. 2, 2007, Articles 2 to 4, which Hamas considers an unlawful usurpation of power under the constitution, require elections by now, but no such elections are in sight. Neither of the rivals wants an election to be held under the electoral rules recognized as legally binding by the other, and neither will permit the other to compete freely on territories it controls as required by both sets of regulations.

So there you have it. The General Assembly will make a remarkable decision about all this in the next few weeks. Instead of recognizing either of the two state-like entities that already exist, each having many of the attributes of statehood required by international law, the General Assembly will create an imaginary state that has two incompatible presidents, two rival prime ministers, a constitution whose most central provisions are violated by both sides, no functioning legislature, no ability to hold elections, a population mostly not under its control, borders that would annex territory under the control of other powers, and no clear path to resolve any of these conflicts. It is a resolution that plants the seeds for civil and international wars, not one that advances peace.

Steven J. Rosen served for 23 years as a senior official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He is now the director of the Washington Project of the Middle East Forum.


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