Elliot Abrams’ Uncivil War

Is the Bush administration violating the law in an effort to provoke a Palestinian civil war?

Deputy National Security Advisor, Elliott Abrams — who Newsweek recently described as “the last neocon standing” — has had it about for some months now that the U.S. is not only not interested in dealing with Hamas, it is working to ensure its failure. In the immediate aftermath of the Hamas elections, last January, Abrams greeted a group of Palestinian businessmen in his White House office with talk of a “hard coup” against the newly-elected Hamas government — the violent overthrow of their leadership with arms supplied by the United States. While the businessmen were shocked, Abrams was adamant — the U.S. had to support Fatah with guns, ammunition and training, so that they could fight Hamas for control of the Palestinian government.

While those closest to him now concede the Abrams’ words were issued in a moment of frustration, the “hard coup” talk was hardly just talk. Over the last twelve months, the United States has supplied guns, ammunition and training to Palestinian Fatah activists to take on Hamas in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank. A large number of Fatah activists have been trained and “graduated” from two camps — one in Ramallah and one in Jericho. The supplies of rifles and ammunition, which started as a mere trickle, has now become a torrent (Haaretz reports the U.S. has designated an astounding $86.4 million for Abu Mazen’s security detail), and while the program has gone largely without notice in the American press, it is openly talked about and commented on in the Arab media — and in Israel. Thousands of rifles and bullets have been poring into Gaza and the West Bank from Egypt and Jordan, the administration’s designated allies in the program.

At first, it was thought, the resupply effort (initiated under the guise of “assist[ing] the Palestinian Authority presidency in fulfilling PA commitments under the road map to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza,” according to a U.S. government document) would strengthen the security forces under the command of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Officials thought that the additional weapons would easily cow Hamas operatives, who would meekly surrender the offices they had only recently so dearly won. That has not only not happened, but the program is under attack throughout the Arab world — particularly among America’s closest allies.

While both Egypt and Jordan have shipped arms to Abu Mazen under the Abrams program (Egypt recently sent 1,900 rifles into Gaza and the West Bank, nearly matching the 3000 rifles sent by the Jordanians), neither Jordan’s King Abdullah nor Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak believe the program will work — and both are now maneuvering to find a way out of it. “Who can blame them?” an administration official told us recently. “While Mubarak has no love for Hamas, they do not want to be seen as bringing them down. The same can be said for Jordan.” A Pentagon official was even more adamant, cataloguing official Washington’s nearly open disdain for Abrams’ program. “This is not going to work and everyone knows it won’t work. It is too clever. We’re just not very good at this. This is typical Abrams stuff.” This official went on to note that “it is unlikely that either Jordan or Egypt will place their future in the hands of the White House. Who the hell outside of Washington wants to see a civil war among Palestinians? Do we really think that the Jordanians think that’s a good idea. The minute it gets underway, Abdullah is finished. Hell, fifty percent of his country is Palestinian.”

Senior U.S. Army officers and high level civilian Pentagon officials have been the most outspoken internal administration critics of the program, which was unknown to them until mid-August, near the end of Israel’s war against Hezbollah. When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld learned about it he was enraged, and scheduled a meeting with President Bush in an attempt to convince him the program would backfire. Rumsfeld was concerned that the anti-Hamas program would radicalise Muslim groups among American allies and eventually endanger U.S. troops fighting Sunni extremists in Iraq. According to our reports, Rumsfeld was told by Bush that he should keep his focus on Iraq, and that “the Palestinian brief” was in the hands of the Secretary of State. After this confrontation, Rumsfeld decided there was not much he could do.

The Abrams program was initially conceived in February of 2006 by a group of White House officials who wanted to shape a coherent and tough response to the Hamas electoral victory of January. These officials, we are told, were led by Abrams, but included national security advisors working in the Office of the Vice President, including prominent neo-conservatives David Wurmser and John Hannah. The policy was approved by Condoleezza Rice. The President then, we are told, signed off on the program in a CIA “finding” and designated that its implementation be put under the control of Langley. But the program ran into problems almost from the beginning. “The CIA didn’t like it and didn’t think it would work,” we were told in October. “The Pentagon hated it, the US embassy in Israel hated it, and even the Israelis hated it.” A prominent American military official serving in Israel called the program “stupid” and “counter-productive.” The program went forward despite these criticisms, however, though responsibility for its implementation was slowly put in the hands of anti-terrorism officials working closely with the State Department. The CIA “wriggled out of” retaining responsibility for implementing the Abrams plan, we have been told. Since at least August, Rice, Abrams and U.S. envoy David Welch have been its primary advocates and the program has been subsumed as a “part of the State Department’s Middle East initiative.” U.S. government officials refused to comment on a report that the program is now a part of the State Department’s “Middle East Partnership Initiative,” established to promote democracy in the region. If it is, diverting appropriated funds from the program for the purchase of weapons may be a violation of Congressional intent — and U.S. law.

The recipients of U.S. largesse have been Palestinian President Abu Mazen and Mohammad Dahlan, a controversial and charismatic Palestinian political leader from Gaza. The U.S. has also relied on advice from Mohammad Rashid, a well-known Kurdish/Palestinian financier with offices in Cairo. Even in Israel, the alliance of the U.S. with these two figures is greeted with almost open derision. While Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has hesitantly supported the program, many of his key advisors have made it clear that they want to have nothing to do with starting a Palestinian civil war. They also doubt whether Hamas can be weakened. These officials point out that, since the beginning of the program, Hamas has actually gained in strength, in part because its leaders are considered competent, transparent, uncorrupt and unwilling to compromise their ideals — just the kinds of democratically elected leaders that the Bush Administration would want to support anywhere else in the Middle East.

Of course, in public, Secretary Rice appears contrite and concerned with “the growing lawlessness” among Palestinians, while failing to mention that such lawlessness is exactly what the Abrams plan was designed to create. “You can’t build security forces overnight to deal with the kind of lawlessness that is there in Gaza which largely derives from an inability to govern,” she said during a recent trip to Israel. “Their [the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority] inability to govern, of course, comes from their unwillingness to meet international standards.” Even Middle East experts and State Department officials close to Rice consider her comments about Palestinian violence dangerous, and have warned her that if the details of the U.S. program become public her reputation could be stained. In fact, Pentagon officials concede, Hamas’s inability to provide security to its own people and the clashes that have recently erupted have been seeded by the Abrams plan. Israeli officials know this, and have begun to rebel. In Israel, at least, Rice’s view that Hamas can be unseated is now regularly, and sometimes publicly, dismissed.

According to a December 25 article in the Israeli daily Haaretz, senior Israeli intelligence officials have told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that not only can Hamas not be replaced, but that its rival, Fatah, is disintegrating. Any hope for the success of an American program aimed at replacing Hamas, these officials argued, will fail. These Israeli intelligence officials also dismissed Palestinian President Abu Mazen’s call for elections to replace Hamas — saying that such elections would all but destroy Fatah. As Haaretz reported: “Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet Sunday [December 24] that should elections be held in the Palestinian Authority, Fatah’s chances of winning would be close to zero. Diskin said during Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting that the Fatah faction is in bad shape, and therefore Israel should expect Hamas to register a sweeping victory.”

Apparently Jordan’s King Abdullah agrees. On the day this article appeared, December 25, Abdullah kept Palestinian President Abu Mazen waiting for six hours to see him in Amman. Eventually, Abdullah told Abu Mazen that he should go home — and only come to see him again when accompanied by Hamas leader and Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh. Most recently, Saudi officials have welcomed Haniyeh to Saudi Arabia for talks, having apparently made public their own views on the American program to replace Hamas. And so it is: one year after the election of Hamas, and one year after Elliot Abrams determined that sowing the seeds of civil war among a people already under occupation would somehow advance America’s program for democracy in the Middle East, respect for America’s democratic ideals has all but collapsed — and not just in Iraq.



33 Comments

  1. I don’t think so that USA will stop operations which are a part of this program. In my opinion we shall prepare to lebanese scenario from 1982 in which Israeli forces will attack Gaza and West Bank and after destroying Hamas. Israelis soldiers will stand during election in order that Palestinian will choose “right candidates” to their parliament and goverment.

  2. bob k wrote:

    Check out, “Hunting Monsters in Jerusalem” by Tom Berry in August 26, 2006 edition of Asia Times for more background on the man
    in the shadows, Mr. Eliot Abrams.

  3. Laurent Breach wrote:

    Perhaps Abrams is, in fact, the last neocon standing. However, the neocon ideology that has ruined American foreign affairs is still very much alive.

  4. [...] I suggest that this new coalition be renamed to something less technocratic: the Sunni Arab-Dominated Dictatorships Against the Mullahs, or SADDAM. I have to confess I was inspired by historical precedent. In the 1980s, some of you may remember, there was another Saddam who proved rather useful against Iran. Saddam invaded Iran without provocation, sparking an eight-year-long war that was one of the 20th century’s deadliest. Along the way, the U.S. and the Arab states listed above provided much in funding, weapons and turning a blind eye when Saddam got carried away and used chemical weapons against Kurds (it did not raise that much of a fuss when he used them against Iranians, either). By forming SADDAM, the Bush administration hopes to do several things. Firstly, encourage countries with ambivalent policies towards Israel to accept a new regional security arrangement with the Jewish state firmly as its center—the holy grail of the neo-conservatives who, despite reports to the contrary, continue to craft U.S. Middle East policy. (Otherwise, why would Elliott Abrams still have his job?) Secondly, it is securing the support of these countries against Iran, in preparation for a possible strike against its nuclear facilities or some other form of military action, or at least to ensure the recently announced United Nations sanctions against Iran are effective. One tactic is getting the oil-producing SADDAM countries to up production and bring the price of the oil barrel back to under $50, as Saudi Arabia is obviously doing by boycotting calls by fellow OPEC members to cut production. [...]

  5. [...] Abrams and a Fatah Coup “Deputy National Security Advisor, Elliott Abrams — who Newsweek recently described as “the last neocon standing” — has had it about for some months now that the U.S. is not only not interested in dealing with Hamas, it is working to ensure its failure. In the immediate aftermath of the Hamas elections, last January, Abrams greeted a group of Palestinian businessmen in his White House office with talk of a “hard coup” against the newly-elected Hamas government — the violent overthrow of their leadership with arms supplied by the United States. While the businessmen were shocked, Abrams was adamant — the U.S. had to support Fatah with guns, ammunition and training, so that they could fight Hamas for control of the Palestinian government. While those closest to him now concede the Abrams’ words were issued in a moment of frustration, the “hard coup” talk was hardly just talk. Over the last twelve months, the United States has supplied guns, ammunition and training to Palestinian Fatah activists to take on Hamas in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank. A large number of Fatah activists have been trained and “graduated” from two camps — one in Ramallah and one in Jericho. The supplies of rifles and ammunition, which started as a mere trickle, has now become a torrent (Haaretz reports the U.S. has designated an astounding $86.4 million for Abu Mazen’s security detail), and while the program has gone largely without notice in the American press, it is openly talked about and commented on in the Arab media — and in Israel. Thousands of rifles and bullets have been poring into Gaza and the West Bank from Egypt and Jordan, the administration’s designated allies in the program.” Elliot Abrams’ uncivil war [...]

  6. [...] Mr. Abrams according to the Conflicts forum report issued earlier this month , wanted to make a hard coup in Palestine to remove the leaders of “Hamas” by a violent way through arms supplied by the U.S.A ,his supporters in that plan were Palestinian businessmen and with out guessing those businessmen are mostly from “Fatah” members who were making lots and lots of profits through their positions. And since last years members of Fatah were trained in “Ramallah” and “Jericho”, American arms and ammunition were supplied in the time Palestine needed food and medicine in a desperate need,not that only that , wait for another dirty shock Egypt and Jordan had their share in that dirty plan ,oh yes “Fatah members” were trained in Egypt and Jordan , of course both countries mainly Egypt realized the mistake they made in following or taking roles in that uncivilised dirty plan pf Abrams , yet to say the truth I don’t believe Egypt was much involved in training the militias of “Fatah” like in Jordan and my evidence is the excellent relations between Egypt and “Hamas” and it is enough to see the grin of “Ismail Hanya” with “Omar Soliman” in the intelligence headquarter to know that . [...]

  7. [...] Khalidi revealed something that may be common knowledge to some familiar with U.S. Mideast policy but it was news to me. He claims that after Hamas came to power Eliot Abrams advocated a “hard coup” against the Hamas-led PA to be led by Mohammed Dahlan. Bringing Fatah back to power forcibly was to be the essence of U.S. policy toward the Palestinians, Khalidi derisively claimed. [...]

  8. [...] Dahlan’s ambitions clearly coincided with plans drawn up by White House Middle East policy chief, Elliot Abrams ­ a veteran of the Reagan Administration’s Central American dirty wars ­ to arm and train Fatah loyalists to prepare them to topple the Hamas government. If Mahmoud Abbas has been reluctant to embrace the confrontational policy promoted by the White House, Dahlan has no such qualms. And given that Abbas has no political base of his own, he is dependent entirely on Washington and Dahlan. [...]

  9. [...] Dahlan’s ambitions clearly coincided with plans drawn up by White House Middle East policy chief, Elliot Abrams ­ a veteran of the Reagan Administration’s Central American dirty wars ­ to arm and train Fatah loyalists to prepare them to topple the Hamas government. If Mahmoud Abbas has been reluctant to embrace the confrontational policy promoted by the White House, Dahlan has no such qualms. And given that Abbas has no political base of his own, he is dependent entirely on Washington and Dahlan. [...]

  10. [...] You have mentioned in the report that American Defence during the war last summer was supposed to carry out part of this plan. Why did Rumsfeld reject that? [...]

  11. [...] Few Americans are even aware of the Palestinian mini-civil war going on now in Gaza. Fewer still know this civil war is to a large degree the conscious creation of the Bush administration—and specifically of America’s old friend Elliot Abrams. Here’s an article with some details: [...]

  12. jeff ryan mell wrote:

    hamas is controled by israel

    fatah is also controled by israel

    both are own by ower owners. The international bankers.
    This is a mind control program just like, comunism vs fascism. The international bankers own US Russia, Israel, Iran, China, they just want the people to kill each other

    liberty and peace is the hegelian dialect

  13. [...] Only towards the end of the clip does CNN try to address why the fighting is happening, and a mention is made of the US and Israeli-led economic boycott that’s been imposed on the Palestinian government since Hamas won elections a year ago. The Unity government is mentioned, but not the fact that the US was unhappy with the agreement, and insisted Abbas impose Fatah strongman Mahmoud Dahlan as his National Security Advisor, which was never in the unity government agreement. As Time Magazine’s Tony Karon explains, Condi Rice and Elliot Abrams are relying on Dahlan to take out the democratically elected Hamas. [...]

  14. [...] The fact that the Bush administration has been instrumental in trying to foment a Palestinian civil war has been clearly documented by Conflicts Forum, but since the press in Washington has been too timid to dig in to this story, it has largely been ignored.  ::snip:: [...]

  15. [...] He crossed the line when he allowed arch Zionist and former Iran-Contra criminal Elliott Abrams, in the Bush White House, to arm and train his security forces, including those of Mohammed Dahlan, his chief warlord in Gaza. This opened the door to a plot to wage civil war against Hamas in Gaza. When Prime Minister Haniyeh responded by asserting his constitutional control of Gaza’s “public order and internal security”, the plot was soon vanquished, with brutality on both sides. [...]

  16. [...] Rose fails to acknowledge that Conflicts Forum reported virtually the same story in January, 2007, Elliot Abram’s Uncivil War–that is fourteen months ago. The only difference is the latter story was based on a report of [...]

  17. I’m truly annoyed that David Rose’s new Vanity Fair piece doesn’t acknowledge the groundbreaking investigative work you did over a year ago as documented here. Rose’s piece is excellent, but why not acknowledge those who came before w/o whom you might not have been able to current story?

  18. [...] Hamas. The plan failed because Hamas caught wind of it months in advance. The budding story was first reported in January 2007 (about a year after the plan’s conception) by Conflicts Forum. And all this [...]

  19. [...] Abrams (Iran-Contra pal of Oliver “suspend the Constitution” North’s) was so humiliated that he planned an armed coup against the legitimate, popular majority party in Palestine. The operation failed miserably: Hamas [...]

  20. [...] the US began intense planning and cooperation with elements of Fatah to prepare for a military confrontation, so much so, that in the aftermath of the fighting in June 2007, “many Western officials and [...]

  21. Astrid Bullen wrote:

    The Fatah counter-intelligence chief was recently arrested. Hard to believe, after all his careful work hunting Israeli collaborators among Palestinian “peace partners.”

  22. Kelvin24 wrote:

    England was that way until the Puritans became honest brokers and left all the other businesses in the sand. ,

  23. marthafines wrote:

    Merry Christmas to all… and to all a good night.

  24. This type of thing has been going on since the founding of America. Just read The Secret History of America and you will see what I mean.

  25. This is a really good read for me, Must admit you happen to be 1 of the most effective bloggers I ever saw.Thanks for posting this informative article.

  26. [...] on their own, on the Israel-Palestine situation it seems that [Deputy National Security Advisor] Elliott Abrams and Cheney are still very much in control, sufficiently so to prevent any effort by Condi Rice to [...]

  27. [...] more than carpet is getting ruined across town in the Sunni neighborhoods. And throughout the Middle East, for that matter. More troops should help. This entry was posted in Uncategorized by dmahugh. [...]

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