Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Gaza/Hamastan, Platform for Iranian Destabilization of the Arab World

From IDC Herzliya, 5/1/09, by Dr. Ely Karmon - ICT Senior Researcher [very brief excerpts only, from an important comprehensive analysis - please follow the link to the full article - SL]:

...an extremist state, allied with Iran, Syria and Hizballah, could emerge on Israel's southern border, with a good chance of taking over the West Bank and affecting the stability of Jordan, Egypt and possibly also the Islamic Movement in Israel.

Historical relations
In the late 1980s, Iran-Hamas relations were only marginal, principally because Iran's interests were in mobilizing Shiites in the Gulf.

... The Tehran regime decided to support the "Palestinian resistance" and establish a high-level committee to unite radical organizations hostile to negotiations with Israel in an Islamic front under Iranian leadership. Iran-Hamas relations were put on a formal basis in October 1992, when a Hamas delegation, led by the then Secretary General Mousa Abu-Marzuq and spokesman Ibrahim Ghawshah, visited Tehran for talks. Iran permitted Hamas to open an office in Tehran and pledged $30 million a year to the organization, and they agreed to have the Revolutionary Guards train thousands of Hamas activists in Iran and in Hizballah camps in Lebanon....

Sabotaging the peace process
The signing of the Declaration of Principles (DoP, known as Oslo I) by Israel and the PLO on September 13, 1993, presented the leadership of Hamas with its most difficult strategic challenge: the choice between faithfulness to ideology, and the need to take pragmatic measures aimed at preventing loss of its hold on Palestinian society. The dilemma was further aggravated by the establishment of the autonomous Palestinian National Authority (PA) and the elections for the Autonomy's Legislative Council on January 20, 1996.

...Violent attacks perpetrated by Islamist activists proved crucial in determining the pace and direction of the Israeli-Palestinian political process. The attacks cultivated doubts among Israelis concerning Palestinians' genuine intentions as well as concerning the PA's ability to control elements opposing the implementation of the agreement, and thus the very ability to advance a solution to the historical conflict....

The second Palestinian intifada
... the so-called “al-Aqsa intifada” of September 2000 was a premeditated violent campaign against Israel tainted by strong religious connotations intended to rally around it not only the Palestinians but also the Muslim world at large. ...With the beginning of the violence in October 2000, the PA liberated all the Hamas and PIJ militants arrested during the previous years, but never put on trial for their terrorist activities against Israeli targets, and they began the long run of escalating the intifada with the suicide bombings.

Since the outbreak of the intifada, Iran holds a central position in granting political, propaganda and morale assistance and also material aid to the Hamas.

The Hamas external leadership, which lost its important Jordanian asset, found in Teheran a vital prop. They were received with respect and honor by all the Iranian leaders, from Khomeini to Rafsanjani, by the President and the Foreign Minister, and were allowed to use the Iranian media for their purposes. Iran is also important from the wider Islamic aspect, having tried to advance the Hamas’ aims at the Islamic Conference, as well as every other possible Islamic forum....

The disengagement from Gaza
....Hamas presented the Israeli disengagement as an affirmation that its strategies for resistance had paid off and had led the Palestinian people to victory and that this could be converted into political power through participation in the legislative elections....Hamas’ electoral victory was immediately followed by a Quartet statement conditioning the recognition by the international community of a Hamas government and continued financial support by Hamas’ meeting three requirements: recognition of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements signed by the PA and the PLO, and renunciation of violence. Hamas was quick to reject all three.

Following the growing conflict between the Hamas government and the Fatah controlled PA establishment, Saudi Arabia acted on two levels: to pacify the escalating fighting between them, which threatened to degenerate into a civil war and spill over to Egypt and Jordan. On February 8, 2007, Saudi leaders brought warring Fatah and Hamas leaders together in Mecca to hammer out an agreement on a unity government that would end the internecine violence and the chaos in the Palestinian territories. However, the Mecca Agreement focused only on establishing Palestinian unity and ignored the peace process because, for the Saudis, the most important issue was to prevent the PA from succumbing to Iranian influence.

The Mecca agreement was a victory at points by Hamas leaders, who did not compromise on any of their ideological and strategic goals in exchange for a unity government that gave them the opportunity to obtain international legitimacy and financial support.

The Hamas – Iran strategic partnership
The 18-year struggle by Hizballah in Lebanon provided a model for what Tehran would like to recreate on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip: another Lebanon.

The Hamas victory in the elections was seen as a golden opportunity to enhance Iran’s influence in the region. In mid-April 2006 Iran organized a three-day conference in Tehran which brought together some 600 Palestinian leaders and their supporters from Muslim countries. Hamas’ secretary general Khaled Mashaal declared at the conference that his government would never recognize Israel. On the last day of the conference Iran pledged $50 million in aid to the Hamas government after the US and the EU froze financing.

The price of this support was the escalation campaign against Israel as requested by president Ahmadinejad during his visit to Damascus in late January 2006. He stressed that the jihad of the Hizballah and several Palestinian terrorist organizations, was an important component of a global jihad against the US-led West: "Palestine is the center of the final stages of the battle between Islam and Arrogance."

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told Iranians that Palestinians would never bow to pressure to recognize Israel and would keep fighting, thanks in part to support from Iran. “We have a strategic depth here in the Islamic Republic of Iran and throughout the Islamic-Arabic world,” he said.

Iran sent over $120 million in 2006 to the Palestinian Authority to offset the shortfall caused by the Western financial blockade on the Hamas-led government.

... The year 2006 witnessed a significant increase in Israeli-Palestinian violence, despite the agreement in December on a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Similarly, intra-Palestinian violence threatened to escalate into civil war in Gaza, despite the continued efforts of Fatah and Hamas to put together a national unity government. Even after the agreement, Hamas forces continued to expand quickly and to get more sophisticated weapons, especially longer range rockets, and training from Iran.

Hamas finally took over Gaza in June 2007 by a military coup. Fatah's armed forces collapsed in the face of a long-planned, well-executed campaign targeting the headquarters and leadership of the PA's security organizations. Fatah’s collapse was largely due to the weakness of their leadership, which failed to mobilize the faction's superior numbers to thwart the assaults. The coup and the horrid violence that accompanied it reveal much about Hamas' politics and long-term objectives.

Hamas began building a military and security force on the example of Hizballah...

Threats of Iranian intervention
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has issued a decree to act against Israel...: "All Palestinian fighters and all believers in the Islamic world .. who dies in this legitimate and sacred defense is a shahid [martyr]." ... over 20,000 Iranian students ...signed up ...to be sent to Gaza if necessary...

...Iran's close cooperation with its Lebanese proxy organization, Hizballah, is the most efficient tool to intervene in the Gaza conflict, if it deems necessary....

Regional implications of Hamas control of Gaza
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit responded to Nasrallah's threats: “They have actually declared war on Egypt….” And when he says “they” he means Iran, Syria, Hizballah, and Hamas.

It should be noted that even before the takeover of Gaza Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak expressed great concern over the increasing strength of Hamas..

...Egypt and Jordan consider that Hamas’ success in gaining control of the PA could not only radicalize the Palestinians and the conflict with Israel but also constitute a dangerous precedent for their own Islamists. At the same time they worry that too much opposition to Hamas could produce instability in the West Bank and Gaza and do not want to be portrayed as adversaries of a democratically elected Palestinian government.

Arab countries appeared deeply divided over how to respond to the latest escalation in fighting between Israel and Hamas, with sharply differing comments from foreign ministers at the opening of an emergency Arab League meeting in Cairo on January 1, 2009. Moderate Arabs blamed Palestinian disunity for the crisis and more radical states, some of whom did not attend, urged collective action to defend the Palestinians against Israel. In the most striking comments, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, criticized the Palestinians for their inability to remain united behind President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah - an implicit condemnation of Hamas.

Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, has made similar criticisms, and he has essentially told Arab nations - and Iran - that want Egypt to come to the defense of Hamas to mind their own business. The chairman of the Egyptian parliament's foreign affairs committee openly declared that "Egypt won't tolerate the existence of an Islamic state at its border."The state-controlled Egyptian media have blamed Hamas for refusing to renew the six-month cease-fire with Israel and being the main cause of the current violence, for which it also condemns Israel.

...The real conflict is Iran-Syria against Egypt-Saudi Arabia. Islamists are seeking to conquer the region from Arab nationalists....

The present conflict in Gaza must therefore be understood in its broad regional context.

Israel is fighting not only Hamas, a radical Islamist religious/political movement whose ideological and strategic goal is to destroy the Jewish state in order to build on it a Taliban-style one, but is facing a coalition of radical actors – Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas – which is responsible for the destabilization of the entire Middle East for the last two decades.

This is an axis of destabilization led by the radical Khomeinist regime in Tehran, whose president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad threatens to wipe out Israel from the map of the world but in reality is striving to achieve a hegemonic position in the Middle East and the Gulf as a basis to become "an invincible global power... as soon as it achieves advanced technologies," as he proudly declared in October 2006.

Unfortunately, as a result of the inconclusive results of Israel's Second Lebanon War of July-August 2006 and the impotence of the international community to effectively implement the Security Council resolution 1701, Hizballah has rearmed to the teeth with Iranian and Syrian support and has now an evaluated arsenal of 30,000 to 40,000 missiles, twice the number it possessed in 2006, many of which can hit Israel's main population centers.

The campaign against Hamas is raging only months from the spring 2009 elections in Lebanon and the very real possibility that Hizballah would take control of its government, and in the year during which Iran could attain the nuclear capability.

Hamas is a crucial element for Iran because it is the only Sunni member of the coalition, a faction of the broader Muslim Brotherhood movement (the Sunni Syria is actually led by an Alawi/Shia dictatorship), and represents the Palestinian cause, so dear to the Arabs and Muslims worldwide.

Hamas entrenched and victorious in the Gaza Strip represents a deadly threat to the moderate leadership in the West Bank and affects the stability and possibly the survival of the moderate regimes in Jordan and Egypt, thus playing in the hands of the hegemonic aspirations of Tehran.

It is imperative therefore for Israel to win decisively the present war against Hamas, the first step in order to back off the until now successful Iranian coalition.

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