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US Moved To Create Civil War With Palestinians

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Editor's Note:

Here is a blockbuster story that is not really penetrating
the MSM. It shows how the our government acted to subvert
the democratic process and create a civil war amongst the
Palestinian people. This is a long article and will be
broken up into two parts.

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in the region is going down. Part 2 will be delivered

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"A Dirty War"

The Al Deira Hotel, in Gaza City, is a haven of calm in a
land beset by poverty, fear, and violence. In the middle
of December 2007, I sit in the hotel's airy restaurant,
its windows open to the Mediterranean, and listen to a
slight, bearded man named Mazen Asad abu Dan describe the
suffering he endured 11 months before at the hands of his
fellow Palestinians. Abu Dan, 28, is a member of Hamas,
the Iranian-backed Islamist organization that has been
designated a terrorist group by the United States, but
I have a good reason for taking him at his word: I've
seen the video.

It shows abu Dan kneeling, his hands bound behind his back,
and screaming as his captors pummel him with a black iron
rod. "I lost all the skin on my back from the beatings,"
he says. "Instead of medicine, they poured perfume on my
wounds. It felt as if they had taken a sword to my

On January 26, 2007, abu Dan, a student at the Islamic
University of Gaza, had gone to a local cemetery with his
father and five others to erect a headstone for his grand-
mother. When they arrived, however, they found themselves
surrounded by 30 armed men from Hamas's rival, Fatah, the
party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. "They took
us to a house in north Gaza," abu Dan says. "They covered
our eyes and took us to a room on the sixth floor."

The video reveals a bare room with white walls and a black-
and-white tiled floor, where abu Dan's father is forced to
sit and listen to his son's shrieks of pain. Afterward, abu
Dan says, he and two of the others were driven to a market
square. "They told us they were going to kill us. They made
us sit on the ground." He rolls up the legs of his trousers
to display the circular scars that are evidence of what
happened next: "They shot our knees and feet—five bullets
each. I spent four months in a wheelchair."

Abu Dan had no way of knowing it, but his tormentors had a
secret ally: the administration of President George W. Bush.

A clue comes toward the end of the video, which was found
in a Fatah security building by Hamas fighters last June.
Still bound and blindfolded, the prisoners are made to echo
a rhythmic chant yelled by one of their captors: "By blood,
by soul, we sacrifice ourselves for Muhammad Dahlan! Long
live Muhammad Dahlan!"

There is no one more hated among Hamas members than
Muhammad Dahlan, long Fatah's resident strongman in Gaza.
Dahlan, who most recently served as Abbas's national-
security adviser, has spent more than a decade battling
Hamas. Dahlan insists that abu Dan was tortured without
his knowledge, but the video is proof that his followers'
methods can be brutal.

Bush has met Dahlan on at least three occasions. After
talks at the White House in July 2003, Bush publicly
praised Dahlan as "a good, solid leader." In private,
say multiple Israeli and American officials, the U.S.
president described him as "our guy."

The United States has been involved in the affairs of the
Palestinian territories since the Six-Day War of 1967,
when Israel captured Gaza from Egypt and the West Bank
from Jordan. With the 1993 Oslo accords, the territories
acquired limited autonomy, under a president, who has
executive powers, and an elected parliament. Israel
retains a large military presence in the West Bank, but
it withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

In recent months, President Bush has repeatedly stated that
the last great ambition of his presidency is to broker a
deal that would create a viable Palestinian state and bring
peace to the Holy Land. "People say, 'Do you think it's
possible, during your presidency?'?" he told an audience
in Jerusalem on January 9. "And the answer is: I'm very

The next day, in the West Bank capital of Ramallah, Bush
acknowledged that there was a rather large obstacle stand-
ing in the way of this goal: Hamas's complete control of
Gaza, home to some 1.5 million Palestinians, where it
seized power in a bloody coup d'état in June 2007. Almost
every day, militants fire rockets from Gaza into neighbor-
ing Israeli towns, and President Abbas is powerless to
stop them. His authority is limited to the West Bank.

It's "a tough situation," Bush admitted. "I don't know
whether you can solve it in a year or not." What Bush
neglected to mention was his own role in creating this

According to Dahlan, it was Bush who had pushed legislative
elections in the Palestinian territories in January 2006,
despite warnings that Fatah was not ready. After Hamas—
whose 1988 charter committed it to the goal of driving
Israel into the sea—won control of the parliament, Bush
made another, deadlier miscalculation.

Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since
corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which
lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and
implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and
Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to
provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces
led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at
America's behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to
remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government
from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)

But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further
setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead
of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah
fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total
control of Gaza.

Some sources call the scheme "Iran-contra 2.0," recalling
that Abrams was convicted (and later pardoned) for with-
holding information from Congress during the original Iran-
contra scandal under President Reagan. There are echoes
of other past misadventures as well: the C.I.A.'s 1953
ouster of an elected prime minister in Iran, which set the
stage for the 1979 Islamic revolution there; the aborted
1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which gave Fidel Castro an
excuse to solidify his hold on Cuba; and the contemporary
tragedy in Iraq.

Within the Bush administration, the Palestinian policy set
off a furious debate. One of its critics is David Wurmser,
the avowed neoconservative, who resigned as Vice President
Dick Cheney's chief Middle East adviser in July 2007, a
month after the Gaza coup.

Wurmser accuses the Bush administration of "engaging in a
dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship
[led by Abbas] with victory." He believes that Hamas had
no intention of taking Gaza until Fatah forced its hand.
"It looks to me that what happened wasn't so much a coup
by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted
before it could happen," Wurmser says.

The botched plan has rendered the dream of Middle East
peace more remote than ever, but what really galls neocons
such as Wurmser is the hypocrisy it exposed. "There is a
stunning disconnect between the president's call for
Middle East democracy and this policy," he says. "It
directly contradicts it."

Preventive Security

Bush was not the first American president to form a
relationship with Muhammad Dahlan. "Yes, I was close to
Bill Clinton," Dahlan says. "I met Clinton many times
with [the late Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat." In
the wake of the 1993 Oslo accords, Clinton sponsored
a series of diplomatic meetings aimed at reaching a
permanent Middle East peace, and Dahlan became the
Palestinians' negotiator on security.

As I talk to Dahlan in a five-star Cairo hotel, it's
easy to see the qualities that might make him attractive
to American presidents. His appearance is immaculate,
his English is serviceable, and his manner is charming
and forthright. Had he been born into privilege, these
qualities might not mean much. But Dahlan was born—on
September 29, 1961—in the teeming squalor of Gaza's Khan
Younis refugee camp, and his education came mostly from
the street. In 1981 he helped found Fatah’s youth move-
ment, and he later played a leading role in the first
intifada—the five-year revolt that began in 1987 against
the Israeli occupation. In all, Dahlan says, he spent
five years in Israeli jails.

From the time of its inception as the Palestinian branch
of the international Muslim Brotherhood, in late 1987,
Hamas had represented a threatening challenge to Arafat's
secular Fatah party. At Oslo, Fatah made a public commit-
ment to the search for peace, but Hamas continued to
practice armed resistance. At the same time, it built an
impressive base of support through schooling and social

The rising tensions between the two groups first turned
violent in the early 1990s—with Muhammad Dahlan playing a
central role. As director of the Palestinian Authority's
most feared paramilitary force, the Preventive Security
Service, Dahlan arrested some 2,000 Hamas members in 1996
in the Gaza Strip after the group launched a wave of
suicide bombings. "Arafat had decided to arrest Hamas
military leaders, because they were working against his
interests, against the peace process, against the Israeli
withdrawal, against everything," Dahlan says. "He asked
the security services to do their job, and I have done
that job."

It was not, he admits, "popular work." For many years Hamas
has said that Dahlan's forces routinely tortured detainees.
One alleged method was to sodomize prisoners with soda
bottles. Dahlan says these stories are exaggerated:
"Definitely there were some mistakes here and there.
But no one person died in Preventive Security. Prisoners
got their rights. Bear in mind that I am an ex-detainee
of the Israelis'. No one was personally humiliated, and
I never killed anyone the way [Hamas is] killing people
on a daily basis now." Dahlan points out that Arafat
maintained a labyrinth of security services—14 in all—and
says the Preventive Security Service was blamed for abuses
perpetrated by other units.

Dahlan worked closely with the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., and
he developed a warm relationship with Director of Central
Intelligence George Tenet, a Clinton appointee who stayed
on under Bush until July 2004. "He's simply a great and
fair man," Dahlan says. "I'm still in touch with him from
time to time."

"Everyone Was Against the Elections"

In a speech in the White House Rose Garden on June 24,
2002, President Bush announced that American policy in
the Middle East was turning in a fundamentally new

Arafat was still in power at the time, and many in the U.S.
and Israel blamed him for wrecking Clinton's micro-managed
peace efforts by launching the second intifada—a renewed
revolt, begun in 2000, in which more than 1,000 Israelis
and 4,500 Palestinians had died. Bush said he wanted to
give Palestinians the chance to choose new leaders, ones
who were not "compromised by terror." In place of Arafat's
all-powerful presidency, Bush said, "the Palestinian
parliament should have the full authority of a legislative

Arafat died in November 2004, and Abbas, his replacement
as Fatah leader, was elected president in January 2005.
Elections for the Palestinian parliament, known officially
as the Legislative Council, were originally set for July
2005, but later postponed by Abbas until January 2006.

Dahlan says he warned his friends in the Bush administra-
tion that Fatah still wasn't ready for elections in
January. Decades of self-preservationist rule by Arafat
had turned the party into a symbol of corruption and
inefficiency—a perception Hamas found it easy to exploit.
Splits within Fatah weakened its position further: in
many places, a single Hamas candidate ran against several
from Fatah.


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"Everyone was against the elections," Dahlan says. Everyone 
except Bush. "Bush decided, 'I need an election. I want 
elections in the Palestinian Authority.' Everyone is 
following him in the American administration, and everyone 
is nagging Abbas, telling him, 'The president wants 
elections.' Fine. For what purpose?" 

The elections went forward as scheduled. On January 25, 
Hamas won 56 percent of the seats in the Legislative 
Council. Few inside the U.S. administration had predicted 
the result, and there was no contingency plan to deal 
with it. "I've asked why nobody saw it coming," Condoleezza 
Rice told reporters. "I don't know anyone who wasn't caught 
off guard by Hamas's strong showing." 

"Everyone blamed everyone else," says an official with the 
Department of Defense. "We sat there in the Pentagon and 
said, 'Who the fuck recommended this?'?" 

In public, Rice tried to look on the bright side of the 
Hamas victory. "Unpredictability," she said, is "the nature 
of big historic change." Even as she spoke, however, the 
Bush administration was rapidly revising its attitude 
toward Palestinian democracy. 

Some analysts argued that Hamas had a substantial moderate 
wing that could be strengthened if America coaxed it into 
the peace process. Notable Israelis—such as Ephraim Halevy, 
the former head of the Mossad intelligence agency—shared 
this view. But if America paused to consider giving Hamas 
the benefit of the doubt, the moment was "milliseconds 
long," says a senior State Department official. "The 
administration spoke with one voice: 'We have to squeeze 
these guys.' With Hamas’s election victory, the freedom 
agenda was dead." 

The first step, taken by the Middle East diplomatic 
"Quartet"—the U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the 
United Nations—was to demand that the new Hamas government 
renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and 
accept the terms of all previous agreements. When Hamas 
refused, the Quartet shut off the faucet of aid to the 
Palestinian Authority, depriving it of the means to pay 
salaries and meet its annual budget of roughly $2 billion. 

Israel clamped down on Palestinians' freedom of movement, 
especially into and out of the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip. 
Israel also detained 64 Hamas officials, including 
Legislative Council members and ministers, and even 
launched a military campaign into Gaza after one of its 
soldiers was kidnapped. Through it all, Hamas and its new 
government, led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, proved 
surprisingly resilient. 

Washington reacted with dismay when Abbas began holding 
talks with Hamas in the hope of establishing a "unity 
government." On October 4, 2006, Rice traveled to Ramallah 
to see Abbas. They met at the Muqata, the new presidential 
headquarters that rose from the ruins of Arafat's compound, 
which Israel had destroyed in 2002. 

America's leverage in Palestinian affairs was much stronger 
than it had been in Arafat's time. Abbas had never had a 
strong, independent base, and he desperately needed to 
restore the flow of foreign aid—and, with it, his power 
of patronage. He also knew that he could not stand up to 
Hamas without Washington’s help. 

At their joint press conference, Rice smiled as she 
expressed her nation's "great admiration" for Abbas's 
leadership. Behind closed doors, however, Rice's tone 
was sharper, say officials who witnessed their meeting. 
Isolating Hamas just wasn't working, she reportedly told 
Abbas, and America expected him to dissolve the Haniyeh 
government as soon as possible and hold fresh elections. 

Abbas, one official says, agreed to take action within two 
weeks. It happened to be Ramadan, the month when Muslims 
fast during daylight hours. With dusk approaching, Abbas 
asked Rice to join him for iftar—a snack to break the fast.

Afterward, according to the official, Rice underlined her 
position: "So we're agreed? You'll dissolve the government 
within two weeks?"

"Maybe not two weeks. Give me a month. Let's wait until 
after the Eid," he said, referring to the three-day 
celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. (Abbas's 
spokesman said via e-mail: "According to our records, 
this is incorrect.")

Rice got into her armored S.U.V., where, the official 
claims, she told an American colleague, "That damned 
iftar has cost us another two weeks of Hamas government."

"We Will Be There to Support You"

Weeks passed with no sign that Abbas was ready to do 
America's bidding. Finally, another official was sent to 
Ramallah. Jake Walles, the consul general in Jerusalem, 
is a career foreign-service officer with many years' 
experience in the Middle East. His purpose was to deliver 
a barely varnished ultimatum to the Palestinian president. 

We know what Walles said because a copy was left behind, 
apparently by accident, of the "talking points" memo 
prepared for him by the State Department. The document 
has been authenticated by U.S. and Palestinian officials. 

"We need to understand your plans regarding a new 
[Palestinian Authority] government," Walles's script said. 
"You told Secretary Rice you would be prepared to move 
ahead within two to four weeks of your meeting. We believe 
that the time has come for you to move forward quickly and 

The memo left no doubt as to what kind of action the U.S. 
was seeking: "Hamas should be given a clear choice, with 
a clear deadline: ...they either accept a new government 
that meets the Quartet principles, or they reject it The 
consequences of Hamas' decision should also be clear: If 
Hamas does not agree within the prescribed time, you 
should make clear your intention to declare a state of 
emergency and form an emergency government explicitly 
committed to that platform." 

Walles and Abbas both knew what to expect from Hamas if 
these instructions were followed: rebellion and bloodshed. 
For that reason, the memo states, the U.S. was already 
working to strengthen Fatah's security forces. "If you act 
along these lines, we will support you both materially and 
politically," the script said. "We will be there to support 

Abbas was also encouraged to "strengthen [his] team" to 
include "credible figures of strong standing in the 
international community." Among those the U.S. wanted 
brought in, says an official who knew of the policy, was 
Muhammad Dahlan. 

On paper, the forces at Fatah's disposal looked stronger 
than those of Hamas. There were some 70,000 men in the 
tangle of 14 Palestinian security services that Arafat 
had built up, at least half of those in Gaza. After the 
legislative elections, Hamas had expected to assume command 
of these forces, but Fatah maneuvered to keep them under 
its control. Hamas, which already had 6,000 or so irregulars
in its militant al-Qassam Brigade, responded by forming 
the 6,000-troop Executive Force in Gaza, but that still 
left it with far fewer fighters than Fatah. 

In reality, however, Hamas had several advantages. To begin 
with, Fatah's security forces had never really recovered 
from Operation Defensive Shield, Israel's massive 2002 
re-invasion of the West Bank in response to the second 
intifada. "Most of the security apparatus had been 
destroyed," says Youssef Issa, who led the Preventive 
Security Service under Abbas. 

The irony of the blockade on foreign aid after Hamas's 
legislative victory, meanwhile, was that it prevented only 
Fatah from paying its soldiers. "We are the ones who were 
not getting paid," Issa says, "whereas they were not 
affected by the siege." Ayman Daraghmeh, a Hamas Legislative
Council member in the West Bank, agrees. He puts the amount 
of Iranian aid to Hamas in 2007 alone at $120 million. 
"This is only a fraction of what it should give," he 
insists. In Gaza, another Hamas member tells me the number 
was closer to $200 million. The result was becoming 
apparent: Fatah could not control Gaza's streets—or even 
protect its own personnel. 

At about 1:30 p.m. on September 15, 2006, Samira Tayeh sent 
a text message to her husband, Jad Tayeh, the director of 
foreign relations for the Palestinian intelligence service 
and a member of Fatah. "He didn't reply," she says. "I 
tried to call his mobile [phone], but it was switched off. 
So I called his deputy, Mahmoun, and he didn't know where 
he was. That's when I decided to go to the hospital."

Samira, a slim, elegant 40-year-old dressed from head to 
toe in black, tells me the story in a Ramallah café in 
December 2007. Arriving at the Al Shifa hospital, "I went 
through the morgue door. Not for any reason—I just didn't 
know the place. I saw there were all these intelligence 
guards there. There was one I knew. He saw me and he said, 
'Put her in the car.' That's when I knew something had 
happened to Jad." 

Tayeh had left his office in a car with four aides. Moments 
later, they found themselves being pursued by an S.U.V. 
full of armed, masked men. About 200 yards from the home 
of Prime Minister Haniyeh, the S.U.V. cornered the car. 
The masked men opened fire, killing Tayeh and all four 
of his colleagues. 

Hamas said it had nothing to do with the murders, but 
Samira had reason to believe otherwise. At three a.m. on 
June 16, 2007, during the Gaza takeover, six Hamas gunmen 
forced their way into her home and fired bullets into 
every photo of Jad they could find. The next day, they 
returned and demanded the keys to the car in which he 
had died, claiming that it belonged to the Palestinian 

Fearing for her life, she fled across the border and then 
into the West Bank, with only the clothes she was wearing 
and her passport, driver's license, and credit card. 


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