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Monday, June 11, 2007

Fatah's connected to Iran too

I have often argued that 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen's Fatah is no better than Hamas and I have questioned what Israel has to gain by supporting Fatah. Until now, the one advantage Fatah seemed to have over Hamas - at least in terms of being a party with whom Israel could do business - is the lack of a connection to the Mad Mullahs of Iran. Until now.
Iran’s direct connection to Hamas is openly discussed and widely acknowledged. Where Fatah is concerned, the issues are more complex; but the link has been established. In March, Brig. Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari, a Senior Research Scholar with the Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, wrote an Issue Brief for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in which he noted: “There is a growing strategic alliance between Iran and the radical Palestinian forces in the territories. Iran is involved in supporting both the Islamic factions and Fatah, as well. Today, at least 40 percent of Fatah’s different fighting groups are also paid by Hezbollah and Iran.”

Corroborating Harari’s analysis, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, head of the IDF Southern Command, wrote an Issue Brief for the JCPA one month later in which he observed: “A few years ago, Fatah's Al Aqsa Brigade in Judea and Samaria was bought out by Iran.” Checks with various security and intelligence sources have provided additional confirmation of this information. Iranian funding of Fatah is not direct, but comes through the conduit of Hezbollah and goes in the main to Al Aqsa Brigades.

The government of Israel, living in that aforementioned bubble, maintains that Al Aqsa, although originally a spin-off from Fatah, is no longer part of Fatah and no longer answers to Abbas. This spin makes it possible to continue to promote Fatah as potentially moderate, in spite of Al Aqsa’s very radical connections. Experts refute this scenario, however. Said one security source who provided background information: “Abbas is formally the commander of Al Aqsa…he has little to do with them to ensure deniability…but privately supports Al Aqsa. US money to PA security agencies go to Al Aqsa people as well. Indeed, Abbas has ensured that most of the Al Aqsa people are on the payroll.”

Col.(Ret) Jonathan Fighel, who was previously with IDF Intelligence and now serves as a Senior Research Scholar for the Institute for Counter-Terrorism, expressed regret that the Israeli government was maintaining its current position: “In order to justify the on-going dialogue with [Mahmoud Abbas]…this misleading information is presented,” he said. “As far as I know Al Aqsa Brigades are part of Fatah. The claim that they are an undisciplined faction is true. But still they belong to Fatah and are loyal to its agenda. Their violence can be used also by [Abbas] himself for political reason.” The bottom line: “One should be very careful with the Palestinian claim that Al Aqsa Brigades are completely separate, which is not true.”

It would be naïve in the extreme to assume that Abbas is unaware of the Iranian support provided to a militia loyal to him, or that he would fail to utilize that support for his purposes. The implications are enormous and counter all notions of his being a “moderate.” In the face of the evidence, the decision to uncritically bolster Fatah looks like a very bad idea, indeed.


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