February 15, 2010

On the Brink

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Bad news keeps piling up for the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Fatah has already been under intense international and domestic pressure. The U.S. has been pressuring President Abbass to forgo his public pledge not to meet with Prime Minister Netenyahu until Tel Aviv declares an all inclusive freeze on settlement activities. Domestically, many Palestinians were rather exasperated at what they perceived as Ramallah's complicity in foiling the Goldstone Report at the UN Human Rights Council.

The recent revelations about Fatah personnel's alleged involvement in the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, a military leader of Hamas, as well as involvement in sexual blackmail of state employees are bound to significantly tarnish the image of President Abbass' party among Palestinians and Arabs. Dubai Police announced today that the assassination team that killed the Hamas leader met with a high-ranking officer in the Palestinian Authority shortly before the operation had taken place.

Meanwhile an estranged former Palestinian intelligence officer released a video tape of President Abbass' personal secretary sexually harassing female applicants for government jobs. Officer Tamimi warned that the tape which aired on Israeli television was only "a droplet from a flood" of evidence he holds against Fatah officials including the sons of President Abbass.

This spells trouble for the Palestinian Authority that is struggling to persuade its people that its crackdown on "resistance" militants was going to jump-start the peace process. It did not. Fatah's old image of corruption is now back in full swing, despite Prime Minister Fayyad's best efforts to the contrary. Additionally, Palestinians are quite suspicious of a ruling authority that, in their minds, seems to adopt a harsher stance towards Hamas than towards the Israeli government. All of this makes it highly likely that should new elections be held today, it is quite probable that Palestinians would vote Hamas into government once again. This time, not even the president's position might be secure.

February 2, 2010

Chill Out: Why Iran Won't Actually Develop Nuclear Weapons



My good friend Tom Ricks and I had a little debate over his yesterday's post regarding the future of peace and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Even though we did not see eye to eye on the subject, he was kind enough to publish my "rebuttal" in his Best Defense blog today. Check it out.

http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/02/02/chill_out_tom_why_iran_won_t_actually_develop_nuclear_weapons

January 17, 2010

Quick Notes on the Road

As I am on the road, I decided to briefly post some of the most remarkable news making headlines throughout the Middle East. They are listed in no particular order:

1) Neither Turkish prime-minister Receb Tayyeb Erdogan, nor President Abdullah Gul agreed to meet with Israeli Defense minister Ehud Barak. The boycott comes after a recent diplomatic spat between the two concerning a Turkish TV show. Turkey demanded an official apology after Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister literally talked down to Turkey's ambassador to Tel Aviv.

2) President Mahmoud Abbass Abu Mazen personally asked the Palestinian Authority's representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council to postpone the discussion of the Goldstone Report for six months. This news serves yet another blow to the credibility and legitimacy of Abbass with the Palestinians.

3) Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood elected its eighth "Supreme Guide." Dr. Muhammad Badie', a low-profile conservative, to fill in the post. His term begins after a harsh crackdown on many members of the Islamist group, and ahead of the much-anticipated parliamentary and presidential elections. Most analysts expect the Muslim Brothers not to actively partake in the political process for the foreseeable future, and focus instead on social services and Islamic preaching.