Posted by Albert Gersh - June 03, 2014
- Veteran Israeli analyst: Hamas used Palestinian unity government to lock in "Hezbollah model" - "bullets plus ballots" - after meetings with Iran figures
- Iran boasts of victory in Syrian election, as former administration ambassador goes public with Syria policy concerns
An article set for Wednesday publication by one of Israel's top veteran journalists will assess that the Palestinian Hamas faction has opted to follow the "Hezbollah model" - "bullets plus ballots" - in establishing a unity government with the rival Fatah faction, with Ehud Yaari reporting that "this means integrating into the general political system while retaining independent, well-equipped armed forces and striving to maintain control of Gaza through its existing grip on local bureaucracy, its wide network of social institutions, and, of course, its 20,000 well-trained military cadres and security personnel." That read of the situation - under which Hamas has sought to follow Hezbollah's example of establishing a better-armed entity-within-an-entity in the midst a weaker central government - has over the last week approached something of conventional wisdom. Hamas figures had openly bragged about it, getting the quick attention of both U.S. analysts and Arabic-language Al Arabiya [Arabic]. Over the weekend Jonathan Rynhold, a senior researcher at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University, told USA Today that Jerusalem is concerned Hamas "will become like Hezbollah in Lebanon before 2007 – an armed militia not responsible to the government operating not only in Gaza." USA Today's foreign affairs reporter Oren Dorell in turn brought the issue up in Monday's State Department press briefing. Dr. Kobi Michael, a former deputy director general at Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told reporters on the same day that the dynamic could be described as "the Lebanonization of the Palestinian arena," at the same time that Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), extensively analyzed it under the headline "The Lebanonization of the Palestinians." By Tuesday Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Lee Smith published that the "Hezbollah model" would allow "the PA [to] serve as legitimate cover while [Hamas] continues to wage its war of liberation against Israel." The potential implications of the model for the unity government - and for a future Palestinian state - are still being unpacked. Yaari's article contextualized Hamas's move as the result of meetings held between the terror organization's top figures and those from Iran and Hezbollah, after which "the group’s representatives were advised to adopt a more ambitious plan than merely defending Gaza, namely, by contesting Fatah in its own West Bank territory instead." The report is in line with deepening concerns that the unity pact will function as a lifeline for Hamas, which has been seeking to halt a year-long downward spiral. Yaari further revealed that, in the Hamas-Hezbollah and Hamas-Iran meetings, "Hezbollah's modus operandi in Lebanon — which can be summed up as “add ballots to your bullets” — was pushed as a model to be emulated."
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf on Tuesday was pressed over a recent letter [paywall] sent to Secretary of State John Kerry by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), in which the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman expressed concerns over a long-reported $20 billion deal that would see Iran trade oil in exchange for Russian goods. Analysts and journalists assessed last January that the arrangement would "substantially undermin[e] Western sanctions," and subsequent reporting in April cited experts worrying that "the deal would ease further pressure on Iran’s battered energy sector and at least partially restore Iran’s access to oil customers." Royce's letter catalogued a range of concerns revolving around Russian-Iranian energy trades, concluding among other things that the oil-for-goods deal "undermine[s] Iran's agreement with the P5+1 and cast[s] serious doubt on Iranian intentions." It also took note of recent testimony given by Kerry to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which the Secretary flatly acknowledged that the Russian-Iranian contracts would "be inconsistent with the terms" of the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA). Iranian media has been covering the controversy as well. A PressTV analyst explained earlier this week that Western concerns were being driven by the Bilderbergers and the neocons, and worried that the latter group will soon "set off a huge 9/11-style false flag attack to launch the next round of bloody imperial conquest." Harf was asked at today's briefing about the details of Royce's letter, and was specifically asked whether the administration "believes that Iran has reached an agreement to provide oil to Russia in exchange for food, arms, and nuclear assistance." After somewhat sardonically declaring "oh, a topic I like talking about," Harf explained that she hadn't heard about Royce's letter but assured the State Department press corps that she would "check on that."
The Washington Post on Tuesday conveyed boasts from top Iranian officials who were - per the outlet - "trumpeting [Bashar al-Assad's] anticipated reelection as a defeat for the United States" and "celebrating not only the affirmation of Assad's continued hold on power that the election represents but also Iran's role in sustaining him." Agence France-Presse (AFP) had reported on reactions from U.S. officials, which had been broadly dismissive and included a statement from State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf describing the election as "a disgrace" and "detached from reality." The Post quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif doubling down on the official election results, declaring that U.S.-backed forces "should admit that there is no way to solve the crisis of Syria other than the willpower of the Syrian people." Meanwhile, the Obama administration's recently retired ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, took to CNN to blast the administration's policy, declaring that he resigned from his post because he was "no longer in a position where I felt I could defend American policy." Ford flatly declared that "there's really nothing we can point to that's been very successful in our policy," and assessed that "had there been more military assistance and logistical assistance and even things like cash... the opposition would have probably been able to gain more ground a couple of years ago... [and] the regime would have been much weaker." He emphasized that "it is now widely known that the State Department thought we needed to give much more help to the armed opposition, and that was as long as two years ago," and urged the administration to launch new efforts to help moderate rebel elements, who are battling both the Assad regime and Sunni jihadists. Reading the interview, Al Monitor remarked that "Ford is hardly the first Syria mediator to quit in frustration," citing among others U.N. Middle East peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday lashed out against CNN correspondent Ivan Watson - branding the journalist a "flunky" and an "agent" who was "caught red-handed" after having "made exaggerated, provocative calls" - amid international attention on a weekend incident that saw Watson assaulted by Turkish authorities as he was reporting on an anti-government protest. The Turkish premier's tirade was promptly picked up by global media outlets and wires. Reuters provided additional context for both Erdogan's speech and the original incident that saw Watson detained. It contextualized the controversy against several incidents in which "Erdogan has repeatedly accused the foreign media and governments of having a hand in... protests, which have erupted sporadically but with far fewer numbers since last June." It further noted that Erdogan "also blames an international conspiracy for a graft scandal that implicated his inner circle in December." The latter reference is to an ongoing corruption probe that has ensnared both Erdogan and top members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Ankara had responded by purging literally thousands of police and judiciary figures who had been involved in the investigations. Another 18 police chiefs were purged this week.
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