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    Middle East
     May 16, 2007
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Document details 'US' plan to sink Hamas
By Mark Perry and Paul Woodward

On April 30, the Jordanian weekly newspaper Al-Majd published a story about a 16-page secret document, an "Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency" that called for undermining and replacing the Palestinian national-unity government.

The document outlined steps that would strengthen Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, build up Palestinian security forces under his command, lead to the dissolution of the Palestinian

Parliament, and strengthen US allies in Fatah in a lead-up to parliamentary elections that Abbas would call for early this autumn.

The Majd document is based on a Jordanian government translation of a reputed US intelligence document that was obtained by the newspaper from a Jordanian government official. The document, an official at the newspaper said, was drawn up by "Arab and American parties" and "presented to Palestinian President Abbas by the head of an Arab intelligence agency". The document is explosive.

Should Abbas give his agreement to the plan - which is not yet certain - he would be complicit in a program to undermine his own government.

Understanding the implications of the document, Jordanian government officials ordered that the publisher's printing house stop the presses while that edition's plates were confiscated. "The Jordanian security services, which censor newspapers in advance, intervened during the night to stop our print-run," confirmed Fahd Al Rimawi, an editor at Al-Majd.

On May 1, the Jordanian government explained its decision in a statement issued by the president of the Jordanian Press Association, Tareq al-Moumani. The statement claimed that Al-Majd had repeatedly published reports "based on information taken from intelligence sources and offends the country's security and interests".

Moumani explained that the printing house of the Jordanian Press Foundation had refused to print the April 30 edition because it included news reports that were harmful to Jordan "and offended a sisterly state". The "sisterly state" referred to is the Palestinian Authority (PA), according to published sources.

On May 2, the Jordanian government and Moumani gave further background on the Majd case. Moumani claimed that Al-Majd's report was "totally false" and not based on reliable sources. Nevertheless, two days later, Moumani was again being quoted in news reports, this time saying that the press association demanded "the lifting of the ban and insisted on abolishing any censorship".

(Al-Majd, which describes its editorial position as "Arab nationalist", has been in several scrapes with the Jordanian security services - including one incident when the newspaper was banned for two months over an editorial on Saudi Arabia.)

The Jordanian government's action brought swift condemnation from the international Committee to Protect Journalists. "This flagrant act of censorship is further evidence of the poor state of press freedom in Jordan," CPJ executive director Joel Simon said. "Officials should allow Al-Majd to be printed immediately."

The pressure seems to have worked. By the end of last week, Moumani announced that Jordanian authorities had lifted the ban and that the April 30 edition of Al-Majd would be reprinted.

Even so, Al-Majd's publication of the "Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency" might have faded into obscurity were it not for a May 4 article by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz detailing a US-sponsored "Benchmarks for Agreement on Movement and Access". The "Acceleration Benchmarks" document detailed a series of deadlines for Israel to begin dismantling a large number of its security obstacles and checkpoints in the West Bank - allowing increased access in the occupied territories.

The appearance of the "Benchmarks" document within days of the disclosure of the Majd document suggests a connection, though despite appearances, the former may not in fact be a component of the latter. On the contrary, the disclosure of the two plans in quick succession may reflect competing agendas coming from the US State Department and the White House.

Not surprisingly, the US press has failed to pick up on either the Majd or Haaretz story and has ignored the existence of the White House program aimed at undermining the Hamas government (see No-goodniks and the Palestinian shootout, Asia Times Online, January 9). The Majd document came to the attention of a wider audience when the Amman incident was reported in the weblog Missing Links, which translated sections of the document from Arabic and provided analysis on the proposed plan.

The details of the Majd incident, the publication of the "Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency", the commentary provided by Missing Links, and the subsequent publication of the additional US document in Haaretz have now made it possible to detail how the United States (or at least one faction of policymakers inside the administration) intends to implement its program to implement a "soft coup" against the Palestinian unity government.

America's 'action plan'
In the wake of the February Mecca Agreement, which called for the formation of a Palestinian unity government, White House officials scrambled to recast their anti-Hamas program. The resulting "action plan" relies heavily on the disbursement of US funds to build President Abbas' security forces at the same time that it escalates the delivery of money to specific development projects affiliated with his office.

The plan as delivered to Abbas, according to a Fatah official, is quite detailed - salaries would be provided to those parts of the Palestinian government closely affiliated with Fatah and supported by Abbas. The plan envisages delivering "a strong blow to Hamas by supplying the Palestinian people with their immediate economic needs through the presidency and Fatah". At the same time, the international boycott of Hamas would stay in place and Hamas-affiliated programs would be starved of funds.

Senior Fatah officials who oppose the program confirm the Majd claim that the action plan was drawn up between the White House and Arab intelligence officials. "You can see the hand of [Egyptian intelligence chief] Omar Sulieman in this," a Fatah official said. "It is no secret that he has been working with the Americans to strengthen Fatah."

But this Fatah official refused to implicate anyone in the Jordanian government, who he claimed "would be much more skeptical of this kind of thing - which may be why the document was leaked in the first place". And while this Fatah official could not say for certain who in the White House would author such a program, the document reflects the long-held views of White House Middle East adviser Elliott Abrams - known as the major impetus behind the rearming of Abbas' security force.

US worries over the increasingly weak position of Abbas are made clear in the action plan's language: "In the absence of strong efforts by Abbas to protect the position of the presidency as the center of gravity of the Palestinian leadership, it can be expected that international support for him will diminish and there won't be enthusiastic cooperation with him," the plan says.

"And a growing number of countries, including the European Union and the G8 [Group of Eight], will start to look for Palestinian partners that are more acceptable and more credible, and more able to make advances in security and governance. And this would strengthen the position of Hamas within Palestinian society, and would further weaken Fatah and the Palestinian presidency. And it would also diminish the chances for early elections."

The plan re-emphasizes the US commitment to building Abbas' security service, a program now funded by some US$59 million in direct congressionally approved security assistance. The money "will deter Hamas or any other faction from any attempt at

Continued 1 2 

Hamas' lesson for Indonesia and the US (Feb 11, '06)

Talking with the 'terrorists' (Mar 31, '06)


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