Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How Gaza became a Hamas stronghold

The article is already a year old - but I just discovered it. It tells with painful details how misguided US policies led to the present situation in the Gaza strip.

First the US more or less ordered the Palestinians to have elections (they were due, but due to Arafat's death a year before Fatah wasn't ready). When Hamas won (56% of the votes) in januari 2006 the US administration was flabbergasted. Their intelligence was so bad that they hadn't expected anything like that. And there immediate reaction was not to accept the result and start a dirty war.

The first move was made with the Middle East diplomatic “Quartet”—the U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations. They demanded - on US instigations - that the new Hamas government renounce violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and accept the terms of all previous agreements. As Hamas predictably refused (they saw these as bargaining chips) sanctions were announced.

Notice the repetitiveness in US foreign policy. They put seemingly reasonable demands that they know will be refused and when these then are refused they announce sanctions. One can see similar patterns with Kosovo 1999, Iraq 2003 and recently with North Korea. In Gaza too there certainly were moderate forces with whom the US might have been able to work out a solution.

Next the US began to pressure Fatah to start a coup against Hamas. When after a period of dirty war this finally led to open conflict Fatah was quickly beaten. Since then Hamas has become a kind of dictatorship.

What is most striking about the story is the level of amateurism on the American side. Important diplomats involved knew virtually nothing about the Middle East. The US promised Fatah aid that never materialized. And as usual the US has as it favorite a big, well-dressed, salonfähig guy who isn't afraid of a bit of violence: the similarities between Kosovo's Thaci and Fatah's Gaza leader Muhammad Dahlan are striking. Condoleeza Rice gets most of the blame in the article.

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