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June 9, 2014 3

Hamas-Fatah Unity Deal Raises Many Questions

On Mon­day June 2nd, a tran­si­tional Pales­tin­ian unity gov­ern­ment was sworn in based on an agree­ment reached between Fatah and Hamas. The gov­ern­ment, which is headed by Pales­tin­ian Author­ity Prime Min­is­ter Rami Ham­dal­lah, con­sists of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Fatah and so-called inde­pen­dent “tech­nocrats” who appear to be not directly affil­i­ated with Hamas. The agree­ment requires elec­tions to be held within six months.

Although the US admin­is­tra­tion rushed to pub­licly say it “would work with” the new gov­ern­ment, even they have acknowl­edged there are many ques­tions regard­ing the prac­ti­cal impli­ca­tions and via­bil­ity of this unity gov­ern­ment. After all, sim­i­lar past rec­on­cil­i­a­tions, includ­ing the 2011 Cairo Accord and 2012 Doha Dec­la­ra­tion, both of which are cited as a basis for parts of the cur­rent agree­ment, quickly fell apart.

Hamas Flag

Hamas Flag

At this very early stage, it is fool­ish to pre­dict how the arrange­ment will work in prac­tice, and espe­cially whether free and fair Pales­tin­ian elec­tions will indeed be held in six months. In fact, in the days since the agree­ment was signed, there have been pub­lic dis­putes over finan­cial issues between Hamas and Fatah, and secu­rity forces of both par­ties have detained and arrested offi­cials from the other. Hamas retains its con­trol over a highly trained and well-armed ter­ror­ist para­mil­i­tary force, and an arse­nal of rock­ets and mis­siles which it has used to tar­get Israeli civil­ians. Will the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity secu­rity forces be deployed in Gaza and will Hamas lay down its weapons? If not, how can the pledge by Pres­i­dent Abbas to adhere to the Quar­tet con­di­tions be taken seriously?

Mid­dle East ana­lyst Ehud Yaari argues that by enter­ing into the unity agree­ment, Hamas is fol­low­ing the so-called Hezbol­lah model. Sim­i­lar to Hezbol­lah in Lebanon, Hamas gets polit­i­cal legit­i­macy and main­tains its intim­i­dat­ing and bru­tally effec­tive mil­i­tary force through their Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade. Indeed, Hamas’s secu­rity forces are larger and bet­ter equipped than the Pales­tin­ian Authority’s, and the unity agree­ment makes no men­tion of Hamas dis­arm­ing the al-Qassam Brigade.

Other dif­fi­cult ques­tions about the unity agree­ment that remain murky include what role the so-called tech­nocrats will play in set­ting pol­icy for the new gov­ern­ment, how much influ­ence Hamas’s lead­er­ship will actu­ally have in the Pales­tin­ian Authority’s pol­icy mak­ing, and if or how finan­cial sup­port to the PA from the US and other inter­na­tional donors will be applied in Hamas’s strong­hold over Gaza.

Regard­ing the inde­pen­dent tech­nocrats, there are likely two rea­sons why Pales­tin­ian Pres­i­dent Abbas decided to include them as opposed to actual Hamas offi­cials. First, Abbas cal­cu­lated that the US and oth­ers in the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity would almost cer­tainly reject a Pales­tin­ian gov­ern­ment which included Hamas, a State Depart­ment des­ig­nated For­eign Ter­ror­ist Orga­ni­za­tion. And sec­ond, there are inter­nal Fatah con­cerns about grant­ing Hamas sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence within the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity, and how it could under­mine Abbas and Fatah’s stand­ing among Palestinians.

Yet even with­out its direct par­tic­i­pa­tion, Hamas’s back­ing of the new gov­ern­ment raises seri­ous ques­tions about Pres­i­dent Abbas’s desire and abil­ity to pur­sue a peace­ful end to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict. Despite Pales­tin­ian Author­ity claims that Hamas’s acqui­es­cence to the unity gov­ern­ment is suf­fi­cient to estab­lish its accep­tance of the inter­na­tional community’s cri­te­ria for engage­ment – which includes renounc­ing ter­ror against Israel, acknowl­edg­ing Israel’s right to exist and accept­ing exist­ing Israeli-Palestinian agree­ments – no senior Hamas offi­cial has ever made such a pub­lic pro­nounce­ment. In fact, when asked recently about the unity deal, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh stated emphat­i­cally that Hamas would con­tinue its “resis­tance” efforts against Israel, even in the face of an agreement.

Thus far, the US admin­is­tra­tion has lit­tle or noth­ing to say about all of these open questions.

One last big ques­tion remains — what if new elec­tions are held in the next six months and Hamas wins again, just as it did in 2006?

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May 2, 2014 1

Iran Weekly: Selected News & Developments

The fol­low­ing is a selec­tion of news reports and com­men­tary from Iran­ian media and main­stream pub­li­ca­tions on devel­op­ments per­tain­ing to Iran. This weekly update includes a sam­pling of pub­lished reports from Iran’s Farsi-language media* as well as rel­e­vant arti­cles from the inter­na­tional press.

Iran­ian Media

The IRGC’s mis­siles are in desir­able readi­ness*
(Fars News Agency – April 30, 2014)

In a meet­ing Wednes­day with the IRGC Coun­cil of Ashura Com­man­ders, IRGC Com­man­der Moham­mad Jafari said, “In terms of mil­i­tary and secu­rity readi­ness, our mis­siles are in very good shape; how­ever, the IRGC’s pri­mary objec­tive is to be pre­pared in faith, and this fac­tor makes the IRGC the supe­rior among the world’s armies.”

P5+1 nego­ti­a­tions with Iran have been breath­less*
(Fars News Agency – April 30, 2014)

Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Has­san Qashqavi said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on the sta­tus of the nuclear nego­ti­a­tions that, “The future of the nego­ti­a­tions at present are head­ing toward the direc­tion of a com­pre­hen­sive [set­tle­ment], and talks are sen­si­tive, because the pri­mary issues have not yet been resolved. For now, we can­not directly assess the final out­come of the talks.”

Iran is not after cre­at­ing ten­sions in the region*
(Fars News Agency – April 30, 2014)

Speaker of Par­lia­ment Ali Lar­i­jani said dur­ing a speech mark­ing National Per­sian Gulf Day, “The Per­sian Gulf is a very impor­tant issue, and if we and our neigh­bor­ing coun­tries have the cor­rect approach, we could earn a lot of inter­est from it… Today, the pres­ence of for­eign ships [in the Gulf] have cre­ated impli­ca­tions.” Lar­i­jani added that Iran has “not been after any ten­sions in the region and we will not be. The secu­rity and calm of the region is of ben­e­fit for all, espe­cially for Iran.”

ayatollah-noori-hamadani-iran

Aya­tol­lah Noori Hamadani

Amer­ica does not dare attack Iran due to its fear of the IRGC*
(Basij News Agency – April 30, 2014)

Aya­tol­lah Noori Hamadani, a senior cleric from the city of Qom, said dur­ing a meet­ing with com­man­ders and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Supreme Leader, that, “The poli­cies of the IRGC have fright­ened Amer­ica and the world, and we must pro­mote the spirit of jihad and martyrdom-seeking in soci­ety, espe­cially among the youth.”

Sep­tem­ber 11 was an excuse for Amer­ica to get closer to the region*
(Mehr News Agency – April 30, 2014)

Nader Tale­bzadeh, sec­re­tary of Iran’s annual Inter­na­tional Resis­tance Film Fes­ti­val, praised the 2012 film “Oper­a­tion Ter­ror” by for­mer Cal­i­for­nia mayor Art Olivier, as pre­sent­ing the “truth” about the 9/11 attacks. Dur­ing a review panel of the film, Tale­bzadeh said, “In the first sequence of this film, the Sep­tem­ber 11th events [orches­trated] by the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment are disclosed…”

Iran wel­comes Fatah-Hamas Deal
(Fars News Agency – April 26, 2014)

For­eign Min­istry Spokes­woman Marziyeh Afkham released the fol­low­ing state­ment on recent Pales­tin­ian rec­on­cil­i­a­tion efforts: “The Islamic Repub­lic of Iran wel­comes the Pales­tin­ian groups’ sol­i­dar­ity against the Zion­ist regime and any national rec­on­cil­i­a­tion which leads to Pales­tin­ian unity and adop­tion of deci­sions in line with the mate­ri­al­iza­tion of that nation’s valu­able causes against the expan­sion­ism and aggres­sions of the Quds Occu­py­ing Regime (Israel).”

Inter­na­tional Media

A bold move
(The Econ­o­mist – April 30, 2014)

The long awaited sec­ond round of cuts to sub­si­dies on gaso­line and elec­tric­ity have been imple­mented by Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani. Gaso­line prices were raised by 75%, from $0.16 to $0.28 per liter.

U.S. tar­gets Chi­nese busi­ness­man, says he sup­plied parts for Iran­ian mis­siles
(CNN – April 29, 2014)

New sanc­tions and crim­i­nal charges were announced by the U.S. against a Chi­nese busi­ness­man accused of sup­ply­ing the Iran­ian mil­i­tary with parts for bal­lis­tic missiles.

Tehran book fair to fea­ture works by anti-Semites, Holo­caust deniers
(Access ADL – April 29, 2014)

An annual book fair in Tehran will include domes­tic and foreign-published anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying books avail­able to the public.

Iran to tar­get decoy US air­craft in drills
(The Wash­ing­ton Post – April 27, 2014)

Admi­ral Ali Fadavi of the IRGC’s Naval Forces announced that Iran­ian forces should “tar­get the [mock-up U.S. air­craft] car­rier” in upcom­ing war games train­ing. Fadavi added that the exer­cise will allow the IRGC to “learn about weak­nesses and strengths of our enemy.”

Mean­ing­ful progress with Iran
(The New York Times, Edi­to­r­ial Board – April 26, 2014)

A look into the suc­cesses, and short­com­ings, of the nuclear nego­ti­a­tions between Iran and the West as the July dead­line for a final agree­ment approaches.

Iran gen­eral urges Tehran to make new UN pick
(The Wash­ing­ton Post – April 19, 2014)

Offi­cials from the Iran­ian mil­i­tary have urged the for­eign min­istry to name a new envoy to the United Nations after the U.S. block grant­ing a visa to the Islamic Republic’s orig­i­nal ambas­sador over alleged ties to the 1979 U.S. Embassy hostage crisis.

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