June 27/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 7,6.12-14. Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces. Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.

Free Opinion
 Palestinians: "Taliban" versus "Mujahideen"?. By: Walid Phares, June 27/07
Olmert's summit gesture to Abbas was more insult than overture-Daily Star. June 27/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 27/06/07
Fighting Drags on at Nahr al-Bared-Naharnet
US praises Lebanese resilience in face of crises-Reuters
Iraqi refugees stuck on border with Syria in desperate need of help-Reuters
Officials denied access in Lebanon-Sydney Morning Herald
Saniora Doesn't Have High Hopes on Paris Meeting-Naharnet
After the bomb-Economist - UK. June 27/07

Rice Seeks To Bolster Lebanon Government-Guardian Unlimited
Spain Mourns Its Soldiers Killed in South Lebanon-Naharnet
UNIFIL Commander: Lebanon Not Yet Iraq or Afghanistan-Naharnet
Slain U.N. Troops Arrive Home After Somber Farewell Ceremony in Lebanon-Naharnet
Spain voices resolve to fulfill UNIFIL mission-Daily Star
War-battered Lebanese village mourns-France24
Lebanon Links UNIFIL Attack to Nahr al-Bared Standoff-Naharnet
Al-Qaida Fingerprints on UNIFIL Bombing, Report-Naharnet

Setting Priorities Straight in the Struggle: On Iran-Monthly Review
Life imprisonment for 10 Hezbollah culprits-Sabah
The Low-Tech War Against Terrorists-Washington Post
Hezbollah, Hamas, and Humanitarians-American Thinker
Visiting US legislator insists America does not interfere-Daily Star
Siniora offers condolences to Spanish people-Daily Star
Fatah al-Islam snipers claim two Lebanese soldiers as fighting rages on-Daily Star
Spain voices resolve to fulfill UNIFIL mission-Daily Star
Cabinet ties attack on peacekeepers to army's battle with Fatah al-Islam-Daily Star
Experts say C4 explosives used in attack on UNIFIL-Daily Star
Is Nahr al-Bared just a small taste of even worse to come?-Daily Star
Condemnations pour in for 'heinous attack' on UNIFIL-Daily Star
All sides protest killing of peacekeepers, warn of attempts to create instability-Daily Star
Syrians 'unlikely' to pull out of Lebanese banks-Daily Star
Between bombings, Lebanese hit the beach-Daily Star
Diplomats seeking access to Aussies arrested in Lebanon-ABC Online
AJC Dismayed by Killing of UN Peacekeepers in Southern Lebanon-American Jewish Committee (press release)

Rice Seeks to Bolster the Lebanese Government
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought on Tuesday to bolster Premier Fouad Saniora's government during a meeting between the two leaders in Paris.
Rice held morning talks with Saniora to close a two-day visit to the French capital. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Rice "emphasized our continued support as the government confronts the threat posed by violent extremism." "She underscored her support for the Saniora government in their political and economic reform efforts," he said. Her spokesman quoted Rice as saying it is "remarkable how well the Lebanese people and Prime Minister Saniora (are) standing up to the many challenges facing Lebanon." Rice's morning meeting with Saniora wrapped up her two-day visit to Paris. Saniora was to hold a working lunch with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday. Lebanon and the situation in Gaza were also on the agenda for separate talks the same day between French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Arab League chief Amr Moussa. Before her meeting with Saniora, Rice emphasized the importance of U.N. efforts toward an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the Feb. 2005 assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and noted the active U.S. and French roles in Lebanon in recent years.
"We have accomplished a lot," Rice said on France's TF-1 television Monday night. "But now we are in a phase in which we need to carry through on the tribunal, in which we need to carry through on the obligations of the U.N. Security Council resolution that will not tolerate Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs, and to support the Saniora government."(AP-Naharnet)

Al-Qaida Fingerprints on UNIFIL Bombing, Report
A car bomb attack that has killed six U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon carries the fingerprints of the al-Qaida terrorist group, the daily As Safir reported Tuesday. It said initial evidence and analysis indicate that al-Qaida fingerprints are on the bombing that targeted Sunday the Spanish contingent of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon. As Safir, citing Lebanese security sources, said the attack resembled "al-Qaida style" bombings.
It said the explosives used in the attack were "very sophisticated," adding that the car was rigged with 50 kilograms of TNT in addition to explosive powder designed to double the impact of the bomb and ignite fire. The daily said Hizbullah reportedly has vowed to extend a hand to UNIFIL and the Lebanese army in the probe.
It said Hizbullah, which has denounced the bombing, has already started "gathering information and data" on its own. Beirut, 26 Jun 07, 09:45

Lebanon Links UNIFIL Attack to Nahr al-Bared Standoff
The government on Monday linked the attack on U.N. peacekeepers to the deadly standoff between Fatah al-Islam terrorists and the Lebanese army in north Lebanon and appealed for international help to prevent the country and the region from spiraling out of control. No group has claimed responsibility for Sunday's bombing that killed six members of the Spanish contingent -- three Spaniards and three Colombians. The Cabinet issued a statement Monday saying the bombing was "an attack on Lebanon's security and stability and posed a challenge to the international community, which is standing on Lebanon's side."Information Minister Ghazi Aridi pointed a finger at the Islamists, based on confessions extracted from Fatah al-Islam gunmen captured during fierce fighting at the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared which is now in its sixth week. "There is a link between the attack which targeted the Spanish contingent of UNIFIL and the combat between the Lebanese army and the terrorists of Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared," Aridi told reporters. "Lebanon is the victim of a terrorist wave striking from the north to the south in which the latest target was the Spanish contingent. This attack was preceded by confessions from arrested terrorists about preparations against UNIFIL." Security has been tightened in south Lebanon following the attack, which has further rattled the fragile security situation in the deeply divided country. Aridi told reporters after the special meeting that Lebanon needed outside support. "We call on all the international community to help Lebanon because it is not permissible for Lebanon to be left alone," he said. "The collapse of this situation in Lebanon will lead to a collapse of the situation in all states in the region."
The attack on the peacekeepers was the first since the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon was reinforced following last summer's Israel-Hizbullah war.
Media reports earlier this month said interrogations by Lebanese authorities with captured militants revealed plots to attack the U.N. force. In addition, al-Qaida's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, in videos broadcast in September, has denounced the reinforced UNIFIL. (AP-AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 26 Jun 07, 07:17

UNIFIL Commander: Lebanon Not Yet Iraq or Afghanistan
Gen. Claudio Graziano, commander of the U.N. peacekeepers in this conflict-ridden country, said Lebanon is not yet like war-torn Iraq or Afghanistan where suicide attacks and car bombs are regular occurrences. Graziano said the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) does not know who was behind Sunday's car bombing that killed six members of the Spanish contingent -- three Spaniards and three Colombians. But the Italian general told The Associated Press in an interview from Ibl el Saqi in south Lebanon that he was sure the attackers aimed to undermine peace in Lebanon and the region. The car bomb that blew up an armored personnel carrier was the first attack against U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon since an expanded force deployed almost a year ago to monitor a cease-fire that halted last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah. That attack carried some similarities to the roadside bombs targeting U.S. and allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan -- attacks that were carried out by militant groups, including al-Qaida. Asked whether he foresees a similar situation in south Lebanon, Graziano replied: "Not yet."
"Now there are some elements -- minor for sure -- some small elements who want to hamper the peace process for many reasons that we don't know yet. At this point, it is very difficult to mention that it is becoming something similar to Iraq and Afghanistan while the situation is completely, totally different," he said.
"That doesn't mean they are not trying because a terrorist has to carry on his agenda," he said at the Spanish contingent's base in this southern town just after the commemoration ceremony for the six fallen peacekeepers.
Graziano would not speculate whether it was al-Qaida or other groups behind the attack, saying it was too early to tell. "I'm not in a condition to speculate ... There are a lot of people working and investigating." But he added: "For sure, we can say we have to look maybe to who has interest in keeping disorder in the south of Lebanon." UNIFIL is a 13,000-member peacekeeping force from 30 countries whose mandate is to implement a U.N. Security Council resolution that ended the 34-day war, create an area free of weapons in southern Lebanon and bring about peace on the Lebanon-Israel border.
Since the arrival of the reinforced UNIFIL force last summer, Graziano said the peacekeepers received many threats, "and we took all the threats very seriously, even if they were not direct." "But of course we can understand there are people who don't like at all 1701 (the cease-fire resolution), don't like at all the peace process, to see a stable south Lebanon. So we took always (the threats) very seriously," the general said. He said security measures were taken but "it's very difficult to make any preventive action when such kind of terrorist action happens." Graziano would not say what security precautions peacekeepers were taking after Sunday's attack, saying they would remain confidential. However, those familiar with the UNIFIL movements say that since Sunday, troops have donned helmets and flak jackets all the time, in contrast with the more relaxed atmosphere before the attack.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 26 Jun 07, 08:33

Slain U.N. Troops Arrive Home After Somber Farewell Ceremony in Lebanon
The bodies of six U.N. peacekeepers killed in a car bomb attack in southern Lebanon arrived back in Spain early Tuesday to a somber reception at an airbase outside Madrid, Spanish media reported.
Spanish television showed images of the Airbus plane touching down just after 2:30 am (0030 GMT) before the coffins of the six victims — three Spaniards and three Colombians — were transferred to the hangar at the Torrejon airbase where Crown Prince Felipe was on hand for a somber handover.
King Juan Carlos decreed an official day of mourning for Tuesday, when flags were from midnight flying at half mast from all public buildings ahead of the soldiers' funeral at 11 am at their parachute regiment's base just outside Madrid. Prince Felipe was to attend the ceremony along with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. As dozens of weeping relatives looked on, a priest gave a brief oration to the fallen, saluting them for "fulfilling their duties with courage even to the point of laying down their lives" in service. The king will be unable to attend the state funeral himself for the fallen six as he is on an official visit to China
In Lebanon, grieving U.N. troops loaded Monday the flag-draped coffins into helicopters and bid farewell to the six peacekeepers. The coffins of the soldiers were carried into a closed hangar at the Spanish-led force's headquarters, minutes drive from the blast site. Blue berets were placed on the coffins, which were wrapped in Spain's red-and-yellow flag. "I am sure the Spanish people recognize your sacrifices," said Spain's Defense Minister Jose Antonio Alonso.In Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe said his countrymen's deaths were "an offering to the world from the heroic people of Colombia in its fight against terrorism."
After the 90-minute ceremony, the bodies were carried onto the U.N. transport helicopters, which circled the base three times before heading northwest to Beirut's Rafik Hariri international airport for the journey back home.The six members of the 1,100-strong U.N. contingent were killed when the bomb struck their armored personnel carrier Sunday on the main road between the southern towns of Marjayoun and Khiam. Two others were seriously wounded.(AFP-AP-Naharnet)
Beirut, 26 Jun 07, 07:34

Palestinians: "Taliban" versus "Mujahideen"?
by Walid Phares, Ph.D.
World Defense Review columnist
Most analysts tend to agree (as of the end of June 2007) that a new reality has transformed the geopolitics of the Palestinian territories to the disadvantage of all parties claiming to represent the "Palestinian cause." And certainly among the most extreme critics of the recent events in Gaza are the Palestinian citizens who witnessed the horrors that took place in those areas. Since 1947, generations of civilians have lost hope and paid the price of misjudged and misused leadership, which continues to allow the repetition of what we, today, see are the victims of the latest bloody civil war among Palestinians.
Today there is a new reality in the two Palestinian enclaves: A Taliban-like power has taken shape in Gaza with a full Hamas control, and across the 40 km of Israeli territory, a beleaguered Palestinian authority struggles to maintain the West Bank's enclaves under its wings. A thorough reading in geopolitics leaves us with little doubt: a Jihadi regime has emerged between the Mediterranean Sea and the Negev desert. Indeed Hamas is an Islamic Fundamentalist movement, which believes in Jihadism as an ideology and employs terror as its means of accomplishing its objectives. Not only will it use extreme violence against the civilians of its declared enemy, Israel, but it has recently committed – according to Palestinian civilians in Gaza – "war crimes."
Today questions arise from all corners of the region and the world: Was Hamas' military victory in Gaza predicted? What are Iran's and Syria's roles? Will the Palestinians accept the new reality? Will the Arabs, Israelis, Americans, Europeans and others address the situation? And last but not least, what are the direct consequences of the Hamas coup d'Etat?
Was Hamas's military takeover of the Palestinian authority's agencies and institutions across Gaza predictable? Many in the media and some in academia expressed their surprise at the rapid developments that took place in that enclave. They were among those who advocated the peaceful and "democratic" choices of Hamas within Palestinian politics. Scores of intellectuals and commentators in the West were singing the praises of Hamas' "transformation" into a politically democratic body, which – as they argued – obtained "a legislative majority." Many European legislators and commissioners were attempting to convince their electorates that Hamas – like Hezbollah – is neither terrorist nor fascist. This advocacy logically ended last week with the bloody coup organized by the thought-to-be-civil organization. But aside from the failed expertise and myopic political statements in the West, was Hamas' leap into full military power in Gaza foreseeable? Absolutely yes, if we had perceived the group into what it was and continue to be: Jihadist. For, in comparative politics, a sound projection comes from an accurate description. Because many in the West, particularly Europe defined Hamas as a democracy-leaning "political" movement, all subsequent analytical predictions collapsed. For Hamas, as we understood it –based on its own literature and history – is a Jihadi Salafi organization, formerly financed by the Wahabis and currently funded by the Iranian regime. Hence the ballistics of its planning couldn't be clearer: First, infiltrate. Second, penetrate. Third, takeover and form a Jihadi regime.
Hamas's past strategy
Since its inception as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group evolved as of the 1980s from one intifada to another until it claimed a "political" victory in 2006 in Palestinian legislative elections. Obviously, the two decades of financial support from regional regimes and the full control of the political education of the enclave produced a militia-inspired political win. But Hamas played it wisely inside the Palestinian landscape. It surely had several opportunities to strike at its competitors, including Fatah and the PLO as of 1986 and the Palestinian Authority as of 1994. But it opted to grow slowly under the wings of patience and a stream of Syro-Iranian lifeline, until time came: Actually until Tehran and Damascus ordered the final crunch against the Palestinian Authority. Like the old Soviet strategies, the Jihadi "long term plans" have also been used by the Islamists of Hamas. And as it practiced internally, the group also refrained from striking externally against the U.S., the West and its Arab enemies, and here again, until "orders" will came from the regional master.
Iran and Syria's long arms
Hamas, acronym of Harakat al Muqawama al Islamiya (Movement of Islamic Liberation) is Jihadi ideologically but has developed extended regional cross-sectarian and cross-ideological alliances. Another example of Western intellectual failure in seeing beyond ethnocentric lenses is how academics and commentators exhausted their energies in convincing audiences that Shiia and Sunni fundamentalists cannot strike deals and nationalists and Islamists cannot work together, when needed. After failing to "see" it in Iraq, then in Lebanon, the elite's analysis also evaporated with Hamas external ties.
Undaunted by the sectarian divide the "very Sunni" Hamas received significant support from the "very Shiite" Iran. And against all so-called mainstream thinking in Europe and North America, the very "Islamist" Hamas struck an alliance with the very "Arab nationalist and secular" Syria. In short, Tehran and Damascus gained long arms in the region by feeding Hezbollah and other groups in Lebanon as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories. Hence, those strategic leaps by the "long arms" were and are in fact moves executed within the wider scope of the Syro-Iranian axis. Only such an analysis could explain why would Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah triggers a war last July and Ismael Hanieh of Hamas launch a blitzkrieg in Gaza this spring.
Post Arafat: Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas
As long as Yassir Arafat was alive, Hamas wouldn't attempt to take over ultimate power among Palestinians, even though it may have had the strength. No Palestinian warlord, even though many have been backed by Arab regimes in the past decades, would have been able to accomplish that task. Once the "abu Ammar" (nick name of Arafat) was gone, the clock began ticking in Hamas' war room. First, they pressured Abbas (replacing Arafat) for legislative elections while they were still armed and well funded. The results were obvious: they would grab the seats of all districts under their militia control, most of Gaza. Then they formed a cabinet, "playing democracy." And as they controlled the central part of the executive branch they slowly infiltrated the main PA military and security agencies, upsetting Fatah, also armed. Since both elections, Presidential and legislative the civil war was inevitable. The two camps knew it was inevitable and both lied to their constituencies. Hamas said it would never turn its weapons against other Palestinians, but it did. Abbas said he would not allow a coup to occur, but he did. The ballistics leading to the clash was so obvious over the past few years, rather months. The Hanieh "cabinet" was working extra hours to create a state militia (the "executive force") and put it under the ministry of interior. Instead of a police force, the "executive units" looked more like a modernized Taliban.
The latter became the pillar of the coup last week. The Fatah militiamen and the Presidential guard were fully aware of the mounting threat but Mahmoud Abbas never gave them the order to strike first. The reason is clear: Abu Mazen made the choice to appoint Hanieh as a Prime Minister and thus couldn't send his forces to eliminate his own government: He needed an alibi. While many critics in the West – rightly so – blame Abbas for not acting earlier, reality in Palestine is a little bit more complex. Abbas had perhaps the constitutional power to disband the cabinet and had enough forces to resist the "Talibanization" of Gaza, but he lacked the legitimacy to do so in the context of the dominant political culture in the Palestinian national community. Here is why:
Political Culture
For decades, the PLO, then followed by Hamas and PIJ in the 1980s, produced a one way ideological path to the solution of the crisis: the destruction of the state of Israel. Hence, when in 1993 a breakthrough occurred via the Oslo process, the heavy machine of the Palestinian Authority wasn't even able to reverse the ideological trend fully. Arafat himself wasn't capable (some say unwilling because he was one of its founders) to reign in on radicalism. This dominant "ideological culture" loomed over the public discourse in the territories and of course in the regional Palestinian Diaspora. Hamas and PIJ took advantage of the radicalized discourse to shield them selves from any criticism as they developed their suicide bombing tactics. In other words, even though the PA resented Hamas and was practically in a state of undeclared civil war with the latter, it was nevertheless unable to utter the word "terrorist" about a group which was launching attacks on Israel. Abbas was locked in an equation that forced him to wait for the Jihadists to strike first and hard. He was bound by an ideological culture created by his predecessors.
Hamas's final leap
So why did Hamas decide to proceed to the final leap? The short answer: Because it is moving to the next stage of its goals. Hamas as a movement was patient for 21 years until it reached two major benchmarks: One, its consolidation within Gaza. Two, the fact that it formed a "government." Western political culture rarely understands the "long term plans" of the Jihadists. The second benchmark wasn't in Hamas' hands but in the axis'. The blitzkrieg waged by Haniah's men against Fatah and Abbas' positions inside the enclave was strategically "ordered" by the Ayatollahs' regime in the global movements to crumble Peace processes and democratic movements. The chess players in Tehran and Damascus are racing to crumble the situations in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and within the Palestinian Territories. Regionally, Hamas is a pawn moved around by its funding sources, hence it responds to the latter's strategic orders. While domestic tensions with Fatah are the changing variable, the orders from Tehran are the central matrix. As for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza leaps at Khamenei's clock. The calculations made by both partners, in Palestine and Iran (as well as in Syria ) were thorough and followed an extremely detailed study of the situation of the foe, both Abbas and the United States. Hamas preparations to strike (as well as Hezbollah's in Lebanon) were parallel to the weakening of America's resolve against Ahmedinijad and Assad.
Last year's congressional elections in the U.S. were read positively by the "axis" not in terms of partisan results but in terms of divisions which would affect U.S. foreign policy. The offensives led by Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza few months after the issuing of the Baker-Hamilton report are organically linked to the latter. When bipartisan advice to the president recommended "talking" to the Iranian and Syrian regime about the "future of the region," followed by a high level visit to Assad led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi; the "axis" kitchen gave the green light to the spring offensives. In their minds, the anti-democracy planners of the region projected a non-response by Washington. Hamas' offensive against Fatah finds its roots in the perceived general mollification in the U.S. and in the belief that Israel has been significantly contained in Lebanese and Palestinian affairs.
Hamas's gains
By launching a coup-like multidirectional offensive against all sites of Fatah, PA and presidential services in the enclave, Hamas took out the capacities for a counterattack by its opponents. In other words, Hanieh's forces had to take over "all" positions of their enemies, with the high price in human casualties only because they (Hamas) couldn't afford leaving any type of holes in Gaza, which could be used by Abbas as beachheads. From this perspective, military analysts can understand the logic of Hamas brutality: it was part of a psychological deterrence, a type of terrorism, applied against any Palestinian who would dare consider retaliation. Gaza had to be cleansed from all Palestinian security presence other than Hamas (and its allies) in a very brief moment. This may explain the beheadings, torture, executions and other horrors committed by the Jihadists in the enclave. Hamas' brutality bought repugnant images never seen by Palestinians before, even at the hands of whom they believe were their worse enemies in Israel, Jordan and Lebanon over four decades. The Jihadi massacre of PA and Fatah members and their relatives will create shock and awe among the civilian population in Gaza and beyond. Hamas wanted this treatment a la Taliban to serve as a deterrent within its own new borders, but no one knows exactly how the extreme bloodshed by Hamas will work in terms of reaction. For Palestinian political sociology could produce different and possibly opposed reactions, but it is too early to judge.
However, the "Palestinian-Taliban," now in charge of the zone can only go forward. With all ties to Mahmoud Abbas broken, the Ismael Hanieh (Gaza) – Khaled Mishaal (Damascus) junta has to rapidly consolidate its grip over Gaza and even begin a campaign to destabilize the West Bank. A Hamas-only "regime" in Gaza, free from the PA international commitments would most likely resort to transform the enclave into a super-bastion for Jihad. This would include:
A mass mobilization, in an attempt to levy an Army of more than 60,000 fighters. Hamas' expectation is to see Iran and eventually Syria and Hezbollah heavily involved in providing weapons and training. But such a projection could be mitigated by international opposition.
The creation of dozens of "Fallujahs" in the strip in anticipation of an "outside" offensive at some point. A series of no-surrender fortresses to deter any would-be attacking force.
An attempt to deploy a wider and more complex battery of missiles while using the civilian population as shields.
Use civilian travel to the West Bank to insert cells and individuals inside the PA territories.
Link up with the Hamas supporters within the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, Jordan and also inside Israel.
The Gaza "regime," free from Abbas supervision, will activate its overseas operations (including in the United States and the West) to deter potential American and international reprisals in the future.
Last but not least, the Palestinian-Taliban could become the recipient of future Iranian non-conventional weaponry, including the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons.
Western response
In view of the above, a Western response is strategically obligatory but not necessarily automatically. The rise of an Iranian-backed military entity between the Israeli and Egyptian borders, with an access to the Mediterranean is a direct threat to Arab moderates, U.S. and Western presence, and the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis. Hence, other than Iran and Syria's regimes, this new reality isn't very attractive to the region. But the bigger question now is unavoidably the following: what can be done and by whom?
The Israelis have the military might, but because of many obvious reasons, and aside from last resort defense in a regional war, they shouldn't use it alone: it would –according to projections and lessons from Lebanon – give Hamas all that it needs: legitimacy. The PA units of Abbas should be the ones to counter this project but can't win now: they've just lost all their bases in Gaza and are too weak to defeat Hamas at the present stage. An international force dispatched to the area would be fought by the Jihadists, both locally and internationally with barbaric terror. Without a strong international commitment under UN Security Council special resolutions, a multinational force at this point would be obsolete. The Arab moderates, particularly Egypt have a direct and vital interest in opposing the rise of a Taliban-regime in Gaza. The bombings by al Qaeda in the Sinai over the past two years are only the appetizers to what is to come if such an "emirate" is established. But Egypt needs an Arab backing, which could be fought against by Syria, and ironically too by Qatar, the new champion of the Islamists in the region. Finally, the U.S. is engaged in Iraq and in Afghanistan and its units are called upon in various hot spots around the world: Marines landing in Gaza is not the best idea for now.
So what is the answer to the question and is there one? In fact, as in the cases of Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Somalia, the answers are hard to find because it took a long time for the victims of Jihadism, in this case the Palestinians, to realize how deep the problem was (and is).
But I do argue that a strategic response to the challenge of "Hamastan" is possible under a set of conditions, the most important of which is coordination between the various parties called upon to address the challenge. A lot of change of attitude must take place in the region and significant change in direction has to develop in Washington and Brussels.
The immediate future
Expect Hamas and its regional allies to do their utmost to consolidate their "acquisition" for now. Iran and Syria will move regionally and internationally in multiple directions to confirm the new status quo. Damascus and Tehran will deploy all skills in the Arab world to waste as much time as possible, and diplomatic "initiatives" will fly all over. Hamas will play two games: One, to deepen the control and widen the defenses of Gaza. Two, to reassure everyone they can that they are no threat. Khaled Mashaal, the Syrian-based boss of Hamas used airtime – generously offered by al Jazeera – to assuage feelings and fears.
"Yes we are Islamists but we aren't establishing a fundamentalist religious state (yet)," he said, repeating almost word-for-word what the spokesperson of the Somali Islamic Courts said after their takeover of Mogadishu earlier this year.
"We have good relations with Iran and Syria, but that doesn't mean anything," he continued. Then he offered a panoply of psychological gadgets: Hamas still recognizes Abbas as a president; it would work on liberating the British hostage (before it would grab more in the future); it welcomes Arab initiatives; it will keep the Palestinian flags higher than Hamas'; and to make sure Jihadi energies are still up, the group's leaders pledged they will continue their relentless fight against Israel.
In fact, attacking Israel with missiles and suicide bombers is what Hamas has in mind if its feels the threat would come too close from all opposed parties together. It thinks that striking against the "Jewish entity" would be the best shield against a counterattack by the PA and its allies. Thus, it is important that the government appointed by Mr. Abbas and headed by Salam Fayyad would take the initiative internationally and press for an isolation of the terrorists. The key to the next stage is in the hands of Abbas-Fayyad but in view of Fatah's heavy past, and the significant reforms the movement needs to undertake before it is considered a full partner in the War on Terror, time is now a dangerous factor. It is the temporal space between Abbas cleaning up his enclaves and reforming the PA radically and Hamas taking the offensive into the West Bank while dragging Israel into confrontation. The immediate future of Hamastan needs hyper-skills on behalf of Washington and Brussels to calibrate the response to the regional Syro-Iranian threat.
And until the fog of uncertainties disappears, Palestine is now divided between the equivalent of Afghanistan's "Taliban" and "Mujahideen."
— Dr Walid Phares is a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington, D.C., and director of the Future Terrorism Project of the FDD. He is a visiting fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels. His most recent book is Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West.
Dr Phares holds degrees in law and political science from Saint Joseph University and the Lebanese University in Beirut, a Masters in international law from the Universite de Lyons in France and a Ph.D. in international relations and strategic studies from the University of Miami.
He has taught and lectured at numerous universities worldwide, practiced law in Beirut , and served as publisher of Sawt el-Mashreq and Mashrek International. He has taught Middle East political issues, ethnic and religious conflict, and comparative politics at Florida Atlantic University until 2006.
Dr. Phares has written seven books on the Middle East and published hundreds of articles in newspapers and scholarly publications such as Global Affairs, Middle East Quarterly, the Journal of South Asian and Middle East Studies and the Journal of International Security. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, BBC, al Jazeera, al Hurra, as well as on radio broadcasts.
Aside from serving on the boards of several national and international think tanks and human rights associations, Dr. Phares has testified before the US Senate Subcommittees on the Middle East and South East Asia, the House Committees on International Relations and Homeland Security and regularly conducts congressional and State Department briefings, and he was the author of the memo that introduced UNSCR 1559 in 2004.
***Visit Dr. Phares on the web at and © 2007 Walid Phares

After the bomb
Jun 26th 2007
From the Economist Intelligence Unit ViewsWire
Six UN peacekeepers are killed in Lebanon
The bomb attack that resulted in the death of six UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon on June 24th has opened up a new front in the regional conflict pitting Islamist militants (of various hues) and their presumed state sponsors against Western interests. The incident appears to be tied to the emergence in Lebanon over the past few months of Fatah al-Islam, a jihadist group that has been engaged in a bloody conflict with the Lebanese army in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in the north of the country since May 20th. Fatah al-Islam has presented itself as an organisation seeking to carry on the fight of Islamist insurgents in Iraq in other theatres. The Lebanese government has suggested that the group's actions are part of a campaign directed by Syria with the aim of destabilising Lebanon, enabling Syria to recover its hegemony over the country and nullifying the international tribunal on the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister.
The six victims were members of the Spanish contingent of the 13,000-strong UN interim force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)--three were Colombians on secondment, and the remainder were Spanish. Their vehicles were destroyed by a roadside bomb as they were patrolling near the southern Lebanese town of Khiam. UNIFIL's forces were strengthened in August 2006 in the wake of the conflict between Israel and guerrillas of the Shia Hizbullah group earlier that summer. It was the first major attack on UNIFIL since it bolstered its forces in the area. It came a few days after the launch of a number of Katyusha missiles from south Lebanon into Israel, again the first such incident since last year's war. Hizbullah has made clear that its units were not involved in either the missile launch or the roadside bomb, a claim that seems to be credible in light of the lack of friction between the Shia group and the UN forces since the end of last year's war.
The Spanish Ministry of Defence has let it be known that it considers it likely that Fatah al-Islam may have been responsible for the attack. According to documents captured by the Lebanese army in Nahr al-Bared, UNIFIL was among the targets that Fatah al-Islam had intended to attack when it set up its base in Lebanon.
The appearance of Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon towards the end of last year coincided with the ratcheting up of efforts by Syria's allies in the country to block the approval of a treaty between Lebanon and the UN on the establishment of the Hariri tribunal. These efforts had the effect of paralysing the Lebanese government, but the tribunal was eventually established anyway on June 10th after the UN Security Council took matters into its own hands. The following day the UN Security Council issued a statement expressing "deep concern" at the reports of increased flows of weapons and fighters into Lebanon across the Syrian border. Syria denounced the statement, and alleged that Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN envoy responsible for reporting on these matters, had been repeating falsehoods peddled by Israel. Syria has also denied suggestions that it is in any way connected to Fatah al-Islam. The group's leader, Shaker al-Abssi, a Palestinian now in his early 50s who had previously served in the ranks of the mainstream Fatah movement, was detained by Syria in 2002 on suspicion of being involved in terrorist activities. He was released three years later, a remarkably short period of incarceration given the gravity of the charges against him. He has confirmed in interviews with the Western media that he had previously worked with Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, the late leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.
Fatah al-Islam appears to have drawn recruits from the same pool of Sunni Arab militants that has furnished many of the fighters and suicide bombers that have joined al-Qaida in Iraq. Syria claims to have been unable to stop the flow of such recruits into Iraq--the US maintains that Syria has not even been trying. Syrian denials of any connection to Fatah al-Islam are even less convincing, given the intimate knowledge that Syria has build up of all of the possible smuggling routes between its territory and Lebanon over several decades. Syria has also refused point blank to countenance the participation of any international forces in the policing of the Lebanese side of the border.
The militants of Fatah al-Islam may indeed have their own agenda (although it is curious that the group has refrained from spouting any of the anti-Shia propaganda that is the staple of al-Qaida in Iraq), but there can be little doubt that they have benefited from some assistance from Syria, even if this has merely involved turning a blind eye to their activities.