U.S. warning allies of Hamas takeover of Palestinian Authority
Geostrategy-Direct, www.geostrategy-direct.com, October 11, 2005
Bush officials and congressional sources said the administration has been
quietly bracing for a Hamas takeover of the PA. State Department officials
have been briefing Arab and Western allies about the prospect that Hamas
would dominate either the Palestinian government or PA areas by mid-2006.
"There is a very serious risk that unless we make much more progress on the
peace process than I now think is likely, that regardless of Hamas we may
see the Islamists take over there," Anthony Cordesman, a senior researcher
at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the House Armed
Services Committee on Sept. 28. "And while they're not Islamist extremists
of the kind [Al Qaida chief Osama] Bin Laden is, the broader this alliance
is, the more dangerous it is."
[On Sept. 30, Hamas was reported to have won more than 20 percent in
municipal elections in the West Bank. The ruling Fatah movement was said to
have won 60 percent of the vote.]
The administration has determined that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will not be
able to stop Hamas's bid for power. Officials said Abbas has lost control
and failed to reform the economy, government or the security forces.
"Their [PA security forces'] ability to crack down on group like Hamas is
limited to put it mildly and perhaps nonexistent," Daniel Byman, director of
Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University, told the
House Armed Services Committee hearing. Administration officials said Abbas
is one of the few members of the PA who values an alliance with the United
States. But they acknowledge that the PA chairman has failed to translate
his calls for democracy and reform into action.
"This is one of the most substantial and difficult challenges of the current
leadership of the Palestinian Authority," said Assistant Secretary of State
David Welch. "They have been in office for nine months and they have a focus
in tackling the issues of corruption and law and order."
During a Sept. 20 meeting, the Quartet - officials from the European Union,
Russia, the United Nations and the United States - discussed a Hamas
takeover of the PA. Officials said the Quartet, which plans to allocate $3
billion to the PA over the next three years, concluded that the
international community could not prevent such a prospect. "How do you deal
with this question of the role of armed groups and militias in this
political process?" asked Welch, who attended the Quartet meeting. His
comments were made to a House International Relations subcommittee hearing
on Sept. 21.
The prospect of a Hamas takeover of a Western-funded PA has alarmed
Congress. Members of the House subcommittee on the Middle East and Central
Asia, who have been receiving frequent closed-door briefings on the decline
of the PA, warned that Hamas could eventually use Western funding and
weapons to fight the United States.
"What are we going to do to preclude that from occurring?" asked Rep.
Thaddeus McCotter. "My nightmare is what if all the security assistance and
training would be run by them [Hamas]? My concern is that we are staring at
Under U.S. law, Washington would be unable to deal with any foreign
government controlled by groups deemed by the State Department to be
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been designated terrorist organizations, and
the former intends to run in elections for the Palestinian Legislative
Council in January 2006.
"Hamas has already been in government in the Palestinian Authority," Welch
said. "Under American law, we can't deal with them. I don't see that law
changing after January."
Still, neither Congress nor the administration plans to offer an alternative
to the current PA leadership. Officials and congressional sources said that
despite growing PA instability, the United States did not have any near-term
alternative to Abbas.
"Let's be honest," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, a senior member of the House
International Relations Committee. "On its good day, the Palestinian
Authority is rife with corruption and riddled with political hacks and
thugs. It is never one news cycle away from political emasculation. Yet,
this is the horse we're betting on. And truth be told, it's the right bet.
There's no one else to bet on."