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Palestinian Democracy and the New Iranian Annex

By Steve Schippert | January 26, 2006

The electoral victory handed to Hamas by the Palestinian voters will serve to isolate the Palestinian Territories from the West and its resources while likely transforming it into a de facto annex of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Without US and (potentially) European fiscal support, effectively amounting to cash donations, a rapid domestic collapse of a resource-anemic Hamas-run Palestinian Authority can only be averted (or forestalled) by an influx of funding from another source.

Speaking in Davos, Switzerland, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice offered no nuance in her direct, matter-of-fact response to the Hamas victory in the Palestinian polls.

"As we have said, you cannot have one foot in politics and the other in terror. Our position on Hamas has therefore not changed."

Precisely. The US position on Hamas continues to be to correctly recognize them as a terrorist organization coupled with a standing commitment to cut of US fiscal support and aid to any PA government run by Hamas.

While Hamas was elected in a rejection of al-Fatah, they will be expected to provide solutions for domestic Palestinian problems including but not limited to unemployment and public sanitation. But it will be nearly impossible to successfully tackle such domestic problems with even fewer resources than Fatah had available as the US cuts off PA funding. Even EU leaders are now reconsidering their 350 million Euros in annual payments to the PA, and others are likely to follow.

The Palestinian people have rejected the corrupt Fatah, but were forced to vote into power an aggressive terrorist organization, and in so doing, leapt from the pan and into the fire. It is simply a matter of time before this realization becomes stridently evident to the Palestinian people.

Expect Hamas to keep a low public profile with regards to public support for terrorist attacks and increasingly muzzled vitriolic threats against Israel, while behind the scenes and under the table, fully supporting the same. The trick will be to sniff out the mechanisms of terrorist support that they will now try and keep concealed.

Hamas may ultimately be rejected as ineffective by the Palestinian people, but will it come to pass before Hamas has sparked open warfare with Israel, which, given Hamas’ new-found position of governance, would bring even more destruction to the Palestinian Territories in the form of an Israeli offensive with a ferocity as of yet unseen by the Palestinians?

As Austin Bay puts it,

Is Hamas prepared to fix the potholes (there are many) and pick up the garbage? Nope– Hamas is prepped to fight an insurgency, with friendly powers footing the bills. Fatah now becomes the opposition and is free to criticize.

The answer to that question came last week in Syria. It cannot be forgotten that the leader of Hamas was meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad in Damascus just last week in order to take part (along with Hezbollah, PFLP-GC, Assad's Syria and others) in the new terrorist version of the 'Coalition of the Willing'.

The Palestinian Authority under Hamas will find at least some of the lost resources from the US and the EU replaced by none other than the mullahcracy in Iran, still determined to fight Israel right down to the last Palestinian. But Iran cannot replace all of the lost resources with sacrificing much domestically themselves, and they already find themselves with sizable opposition. The mullahs know that every dollar Iran sends Hamas for internal consumption costs the mullahcracy a dollar's worth of internal stability with an already flagging economy and a restive populace only held at bay by the use of force. They are not likely to sacrifice greatly internally and hinge their futures purely on an adequately-funded PA that still faces the teeth of the IDF. They will, however, sacrifice just enough to keep the Hamas government afloat long enough to serve Iranian aims. Just how long that is remains the question of the moment.

If the PA had any economic resources of their own, after the Hamas victory they could have been considered a State Sponsor of Terrorism. However, lacking any such resources with which to 'sponsor' (other than human resources), the Hamas-run PA is now officially a State Client of Terrorism, and an active (and founding) member of Ahmadinejad's Coalition of the Willing.

Also to be considered is conflict internally, as the bubbling conflict between Fatah factions and Hamas, briefly center-stage after the handover of Gaza following the Israeli pullout, will only get hotter. Will Hamas try and co-opt and absorb the various Fatah factions? Will this be forcefully rejected? The more realistic question appears to be, will Hamas inspire the conflict internally to erupt into a full-blown civil war before they inspire an Israeli offensive? Without considering the will of Fatah, it is worth noting that Hamas will be greatly influenced by their principle financier’s wishes, and Iran surely prefers they look outward rather than inward.

The future of the state of the Palestinian Territories is now as much in the hands of the Iranians as it is in the hands of Hamas.

The Palestinian people had their say. They chose Hamas. Now, only the consequences await them.

Can Iran stave off a Palestinian civil war long enough to trigger a wider Israeli War?

Such is the state of the fate of the Palestinians, a fate freely and democratically chosen.

West Bank

6 Comments

You are way off target here.

Palestinians didn't buy into an anti-Israeli platform. They bought into the only political body in their AO that has a social services structure worth a damn.

Hamas will go through the same splintering process the IRA did with the Real IRA, the FIA did with the GIA, and the PLO did repeatedly.

Hamas is different in that its moderates utilize 95% of its resources, and when their power begins to wane due to international uproar over the new government they'll shift Hamas to a more moderate position.

Extremists will splinter off... again. The proxy Iran is an interim step... one that will actually increase the velocity of this transformation.

Sholky,

You do not make an unfair point, but the question is this: If, as you say, the moderates spend 95% of Hamas' money, at its current levels there is no way that Hamas has enough money to run a government. Now, remove American and European funding from the government Hamas has just assumed control of, and what do you have?

Consider that the American funding came at a price...a cheap one...but a price still: At least give the appearance of condemning terrorism. That was all.

If the Iranians assume the burden of funding the Hamas-run PA, at what price do you think it will come? Giving the appearance of condemning terrorism?

Again, I am not arguing your historical reference, but it appears that the only logical source for funding a dependent quasi-state run by a terrorist organization will be from a state sponsor of terrorism.

I dont't think your references apply to the current situation neatly enough to vociferously claim that the assertion of this analysis is 'way off'.

What remains to be seen, in my opinion, is simply the degree to which Iran funds (and thereby somewhat controls) the dependent quasi-state of the Palestinian territories.

If Iran contributes some but little, we are destined to see a civil war. If Iran contributes greatly, it will be for the purpose of combating Israel. Either way, the Palestinian population will confront much violence.

The Palestinian people are once again shown to be but pawns in a game controlled by others. That may be a bit over-simplified, but I find it difficult to believe that the whole of the Palestinian population desires to take up arms against the IDF and drive Israel 'from the river to the sea'.

The levers are pulled by others, and increasingly and more visibly, this will be Iran.

You make great points as always Steve.

I guess I should clarify - the analysis presented here isn't "way off" as I originally stated. It describes what I think is an intermediate step before we see a moderate Hamas.

A large part of whether Palestine moves beyond this interim state is indeed the extent of Iran's investment; if that is greater than what the moderates would be able to garner from the international community the chances of moving past this scenario are slim. If that foreign input is greater than Iran's... there's a good chance they'll swing towards the center.

"The Palestinian people are once again shown to be but pawns in a game controlled by others."

I'm just not certain, that Iran (on its own) is pulling the levers.

I agree that they are not alone pulling the levers, sir.

I do believe that they are the Prime Movers in this regard, however. And increasingly so day by day.

Interesting topic of discussion. I think if we stop discouraging Arab countries from supporting Hamas and PA then Arabs are better placed to neutralise the influence of Iran. In dealings with Hamas [and now the Government of Palestine] there may be something to learn from a small scale experience of a British University who since 2005 have presumably in the face of competing interests declared Hamas controlled and Hamas run Berziet University as their Twin University. I think it is this kind of policy of positive engagement adopted by this British university that may be the best way forward for West!!!!!