Friday, December 22, 2006

*Matthew Kalman: US Trains (and arms) Fatah driving civil war

This is one of a number of articles lately on US/Israeli arming and training Fatah with the goal of creating a Palestinian civil war, a goal Israel has long desired. A full fledged Palestinian civil war (which according to recent reports seems to have been averted for the moment) would bring closer the day when the bulk of the 3.5 million Palestinians can be expelled.

The Israelis achieved a sort of civil war during much of the Arafat era when they allowed/encouraged his corruption as a way of separating the people from the leadership and by killing or imprisoning nationalists who were likely to challenge Arafat. It's no accident that during his era there was no effective challenge to Israeli colonization of the Territories.
(Thanks to AM for passing this along.)


U.S. training Fatah in anti-terror tactics
Underlying motive is to counter strength of Hamas, analysts say
Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service
Thursday, December 14, 2006

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(12-14) 04:00 PST Jericho, West Bank -- U.S. officials training Palestinian
security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas are emphasizing urban
anti-terrorist techniques as part of a systematic effort to bolster Abbas
and his Fatah loyalists to counter the political success of Hamas, according
to Palestinian analysts and officers receiving the training.

But one officer who has received the training says the purpose of the newly
beefed-up force is to protect the Palestinian president from assassination.

The Presidential Guard, made up entirely of Fatah activists loyal to Abbas,
has been increased to 1,000, up from about 90 officers under his
predecessor, Yasser Arafat. A new black-uniformed rapid deployment force --
Al-Tadakhwal -- has recently been formed to respond to emergencies. The
Presidential Guard is commanded by Gen. Munir Zobi in the West Bank and Gen.
Haj Musbar in Gaza.

Officers have also received training from U.S. officials inside the Mukata,
the presidential compound in Ramallah that contains Abbas' office and
Arafat's grave.

The Chronicle has obtained a training manual distributed to officers of the
Al-Haras Al-Rayassi, Abbas' Presidential Guard, during a two-week course
held in Jericho earlier this year at which the chief instructor introduced
himself as a U.S. Secret Service officer who served during the Reagan
administration. The manual, titled "Advanced Protective Operations Seminar,"
is emblazoned with the logo of the Counterterrorism Training Group, which
includes the U.S. government seal.

Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator to Israel and the
Palestinian Authority, told the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth after news of
the training sessions leaked out that since Iran is helping arm and fund
Hamas political and military activities, the United States wants to prevent
"moderate forces" in the Palestinian territories from being eliminated.

"We are involved in building up the Presidential Guard, instructing it,
assisting it to build itself up and giving them ideas. We are not training
the forces to confront Hamas," Dayton told Yedioth. "Hamas is receiving
money and arms from Iran and possibly Syria, and we must make sure that the
moderate forces will not be erased," Dayton said.

But one of the officers trained by Dayton's team said the American general
is being naive and does not understand internal Palestinian politics.

"Ever since the Hamas election victory, security has been tightened around
(Abbas)," said the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The fear is
that someone from Hamas will try to assassinate him, and we must be ready to
deal with this threat. The main threat to the security of the president is
from the militia of Hamas."

When the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994 with a mandate to
handle its own policing, Arafat set up a string of 14 overlapping and often
competing security forces -- each one controlled by a rival political or
former guerrilla chieftain, but all of them ultimately loyal to him and his
Fatah party. Arafat used these forces to control political opponents like
Hamas and also maintain loyalty through patronage and the payment of

The United States had helped train the initial security forces, but ended
its aid when the Palestinian uprising called the intifada began in September
2000. During the intifada, many trained security officers engaged in attacks
on Israeli targets or joined the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Fatah
militant wing.

Earlier this year, after it assumed control of the Palestinian government
following its success in January's parliamentary elections, Hamas announced
the formation of its own security service, the Executive Force, and placed
Jamal abu Samhadana, a prominent militant, at its head. Samhadana was killed
in an Israeli raid in June.

Abbas had denounced formation of the new police force as unconstitutional,
saying that only the Palestinian president could command armed forces. On
Dayton's advice, the U.S. training program began again over the summer, but
so far it has been limited to the officers directly responsible for the
personal security of Abbas and his VIP guests, including Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice during her visit to Jericho last month.

Training seminars for the Presidential Guard are being held in various
locations around the West Bank. A two-week course called the Advanced
Protective Operations Seminar was recently held at the Intercontinental
Hotel in Jericho, where participants were instructed in counterterrorism
techniques. The manual from that course gave detailed advice on a range of
security issues from airport and event security planning to securing
motorcades, residences and offices. Suggested tactics included the use of
"protective intelligence," "counter-snipers" and a "counter-assault team."

An official from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv traveled to Ramallah earlier
this year to instruct about 60 Presidential Guard officers in securing
vehicles and sites against bomb threats and suspect devices. The session,
according to one of the participants, lasted about two hours and took place
in a large meeting room close to Abbas' office in the Mukata compound.

"We are helping the Palestinian Authority security services to enhance their
abilities, concentrating on the Presidential Guard," said a U.S. diplomat,
speaking on condition of anonymity. "We are also helping the Presidential
Guard take on expanded responsibilities, like security at the border
crossings in Gaza."

The American effort is part of a broader international package of support to
bolster Abbas loyalists as Hamas threatens to increase its parallel
Executive Force to 6,000 men. Training for Fatah forces also is provided by
Egypt, Jordan and Turkey. Britain, Spain and the European Union have
provided communications equipment, vehicles and logistical support.

But there are fears the American assistance program could backfire.

"The U.S.' involvement in attempts to bring down the Hamas government has
only made things worse for Abbas and Fatah," wrote Khaled Abu Toameh,
Palestinian affairs correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, in a commentary
titled "Guns and Poses."

"The U.S. believes that by giving Abbas more rifles and cash, it would be
able to bring about regime change. But in the West Bank and Gaza, there is
no shortage of weapons. Tons of explosives, rifles and missiles are smuggled
across the Egyptian border nearly every day. What the Palestinians need is
not more rifles -- which they never use to stop Hamas, Islamic Jihad or
other militias anyway -- but good governance and credible leaders," he

"American meddling in Palestinian affairs is backfiring, because many
Palestinians are beginning to look at Abbas and Fatah as pawns in the hands
of the U.S. and Israel. This does not help Abbas and moderate secular
Palestinians, who are facing the dangers of the growing power of Islamic

Abbas' guard members wear distinctive green uniforms with a shoulder patch
bearing the name of the force and the Palestinian flag. Each officer carries
a semiautomatic Kalashnikov assault rifle and Motorola communications
equipment. Plans to replace the outdated Kalashnikovs of the Presidential
Guard with lightweight Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine guns were scrapped
because of Israeli opposition.

"It's a great shame the Israelis wouldn't allow us to have the new
equipment. In a hostage situation inside a building, the MP5 is much more
effective than the Kalashnikov, which is too large to handle indoors and has
a very strong recoil," said the Presidential Guard officer who had been
through the training.

The Israelis, this officer said, have refused to permit the supply of new
weapons, tear gas and flak jackets to the Presidential Guard, based on their
experience in the past when the CIA trained dozens of Palestinian security
officers only to watch in dismay as many of them joined the ranks of Fatah's
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades during the intifada.

"I'm not thrilled at the idea of the Americans training Fatah militias or
the Palestinian police," said Yuval Steinitz, a former chairman of the
Israeli parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "Until now, both
Fatah and the Palestinian police have been a great disappointment to those
who believed they could overcome terror as they promised they would. The
opposite has happened. In the best case, they were simply passive. In the
worst cases, they actually encouraged terrorism."



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