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13 September 2021  

'Covering' Afghanistan: Orientalist binaries

on Afghanistan

by Larbi Sadiki Much of the reporting and commentary on Afghanistan over the past few weeks has been awash in Orientalism. Many of us are guilty of this practice in the process of...

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13 September 2021  

After Afghanistan: Can Europe regain its ‘independence’ from the USA?

on Afghanistan

By Ramzy Baroud Suddenly, the idea put forth by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, late last year no longer seems so far-fetched or untenable after all. Following the hurried ...

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05 March 2021  

Engaging the World: The ‘fascinating story’ of Hamas’s political evolution

on Palestine

Romana Rubeo and Ramzy Baroud On 4 February 2021, representatives from the Palestinian movement Hamas visited Moscow to inform the Russian government of the latest developmen...

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11 February 2021  

How Russia is capitalising on US Retreat in the Middle…

on Palestine-Israel

By Ramzy Baroud Israeli anxiety was palpable after Israel’s prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, waited for days to be contacted by the new US president, Joe Biden, after...

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24 January 2021  

Iran’s risky ‘counter pressure’ against the fallout of Trump’s ‘maximum…

on Iran

By Ali Fathollah-Nejad On 4 January, a day after the one-year anniversary of the US assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iran took two steps as a show...

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14 December 2020  

After Fakhrizadeh killing: Why Iranian over-reaction is unlikely

on Iran

By Ali Fathollah-Nejad The November presidential election victory of Joe Biden against the incumbent Donald Trump raised alarm bells within the anti-Iran front in the Middle East ...

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13 September 2021  

'Covering' Afghanistan: Orientalist binaries

on Afghanistan

by Larbi Sadiki Much of the reporting and commentary on Afghanistan over the past few weeks has been awash in Orientalism. Many of us are guilty of this practice in the process of...

Read more

13 September 2021  

After Afghanistan: Can Europe regain its ‘independence’ from the USA?

on Afghanistan

By Ramzy Baroud Suddenly, the idea put forth by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, late last year no longer seems so far-fetched or untenable after all. Following the hurried ...

Read more

05 March 2021  

Engaging the World: The ‘fascinating story’ of Hamas’s political evolution

on Palestine

Romana Rubeo and Ramzy Baroud On 4 February 2021, representatives from the Palestinian movement Hamas visited Moscow to inform the Russian government of the latest developmen...

Read more

11 February 2021  

How Russia is capitalising on US Retreat in the Middle…

on Palestine-Israel

By Ramzy Baroud Israeli anxiety was palpable after Israel’s prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, waited for days to be contacted by the new US president, Joe Biden, after...

Read more

24 January 2021  

Iran’s risky ‘counter pressure’ against the fallout of Trump’s ‘maximum…

on Iran

By Ali Fathollah-Nejad On 4 January, a day after the one-year anniversary of the US assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iran took two steps as a show...

Read more

14 December 2020  

After Fakhrizadeh killing: Why Iranian over-reaction is unlikely

on Iran

By Ali Fathollah-Nejad The November presidential election victory of Joe Biden against the incumbent Donald Trump raised alarm bells within the anti-Iran front in the Middle East ...

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More from this category

05 March 2021  

Engaging the World: The ‘fascinating story’ of Hamas’s political evolution

on Palestine

Romana Rubeo and Ramzy Baroud On 4 February 2021, representatives from the Palestinian movement Hamas visited Moscow to inform the Russian government of the latest developmen...

Read more

11 February 2021  

How Russia is capitalising on US Retreat in the Middle…

on Palestine-Israel

By Ramzy Baroud Israeli anxiety was palpable after Israel’s prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, waited for days to be contacted by the new US president, Joe Biden, after...

Read more

09 December 2020  

Palestine in the Global South: Israel’s ‘Scramble for Africa’

on Palestine-Israel

By Ramzy Baroud In September 2017, organizers of the ‘Africa-Israel Summit’ indefinitely postponed their event which was scheduled to be held in Lomé, Togo, from 23 ...

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01 December 2020  

UAE-Israel cooperation in the oil market: More political than economic

on Israel

By Nikolay Kozhanov Introduction The Israeli-Emirati Memorandum of understanding and cooperation on the use of storage capacities and pipeline infrastructure ...

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27 November 2020  

Expansion and mass eviction: Israel ‘takes advantage’ of Trump’s remaining…

on Palestine-Israel

By Ramzy Baroud  In a few words, a close associate of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu summed up the logic behind the ongoing frenzy to expand illegal Jewish settle...

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17 October 2020  

Zimbabwe seeks US investment by strengthening relations with Israel

on Israel

Zimbabwe is set to become the latest African country to embrace Israel as it seeks to get off the US sanctions list. Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, vowed to get the emba...

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24 January 2021  

Iran’s risky ‘counter pressure’ against the fallout of Trump’s ‘maximum…

on Iran

By Ali Fathollah-Nejad On 4 January, a day after the one-year anniversary of the US assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iran took two steps as a show...

Read more

14 December 2020  

After Fakhrizadeh killing: Why Iranian over-reaction is unlikely

on Iran

By Ali Fathollah-Nejad The November presidential election victory of Joe Biden against the incumbent Donald Trump raised alarm bells within the anti-Iran front in the Middle East ...

Read more

03 December 2020  

The geopolitical roots of Iran’s economic crisis

on Iran

By Mahdi Ghodsi and Ali Fathollah-Nejad The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged Iran’s already ailing economy, but the country’s economic crisis is rooted in factors beyond the pandemic...

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27 October 2020  

The US election through the eyes of Iran’s moderates and…

on Iran

By Ali Fathollah-Nejad and Amin Naeni The outcome of the 3 November US presidential election will reverberate far beyond the USA, especially in Iran, where it may influence t...

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13 October 2020  

Trump’s new harsh sanctions on Iran could signal more ‘October…

on Iran

By Phyllis Bennis When US president, Donald Trump, announced his latest threats against Iran on Rush Limbaugh’s show last week, it was unclear whether he or his steroids...

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20 September 2020  

Turkish airstrikes in northern Iraq anger Baghdad and expose relations…

on Iraq

Turkish airstrikes against the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in northern Iraq last month attracted the attention of regional and international players and angered Iraq’s...

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05 September 2020  

Internal wrangling dampens optimism of Libyan ceasefire

on Libya

Disputes within Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), highlighted last week by the suspension of the interior minister, Fathi Bashagha, suggests a power struggle w...

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29 July 2020  

Tunisia’s political discord: Crisis of democratisation?

on Tunisia

By Larbi Sadiki and Layla Saleh Introduction: A Turbulent Transition For the third time in six months, Tunisia’s political elites are scrambling to form a new government. This la...

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09 July 2020  

For Tunisian protesters, democracy is not enough

on Tunisia

By Larbi Sadiki  Since 2017, Tunisia’s interior and south have witnessed a wave of ongoing protests, characterised by the slogan ‘al-rakh la’, meaning ‘No Relenting’. These p...

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20 June 2020  

Foreign interests paramount in Libyan war

on Libya

The Libyan conflict has endured for years despite numerous failed attempts at mediating a solution by the UN, African Union, and even Turkey and Italy. A 2011 arms embargo&nbs...

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12 June 2020  

Libya’s zero-sum politics and defiance of legitimacy – Part 2

on Libya

by Mohammed Cherkaoui Retired general Khalifa Haftar stated that his ‘Libyan National Army (LNA)’ had a ‘popular mandate’ to rule Libya and vowed to press his assault to seize Tri...

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09 June 2020  

Libya’s zero-sum politics and defiance of legitimacy – Part 1

on Libya

by Mohammed Cherkaoui Several puzzling questions have emerged in the volatile Arab geopolitical environment after two major developments occurred within less than forty-eight...

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03 August 2020  

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the changing balance of power…

on Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s announcement on 21 July that it had already filled its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to its first year’s target has temporarily quelled tensions ...

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20 July 2020  

Mali’s instability resulting from corruption, militancy and foreign interference

on Sub-Saharan Africa

Recent protests in Mali pose the greatest threat to the regime of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who has led Mali since 2013. Endemic corruption, Keita’s failure to curb the mil...

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12 October 2018  

Ethiopia, Eritrea: An unlikely peace deal in a fractious region

on Ethiopia

The recent peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea, signed 16 September 2018, is set to have lasting consequences for both countries and for the Horn of Africa ...

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06 April 2017  

Ensuring Somalia remains in conflict: Trump’s expanded ‘war on terror’

on Somalia

By Afro-Middle East Centre The 29 March decision by the administration of US president Donald Trump declaring Somalia an ‘area of active hostility’ will likely ensure an escalatio...

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10 October 2016  

South Sudan: Beyond the logjam of UNSC Resolution 2304

on South Sudan

By Majak D’Agoôt and Remember Miamingi No country is entirely self-contained or lacking in interdependencies. These interlocking interests form the critical part of any country’s ...

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28 April 2015  

Nigeria’s elections and future challenges

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle East Centre The election of General Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s president will see a renewed focus by the government on domestic challenges posed by endemic...

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13 September 2021  

'Covering' Afghanistan: Orientalist binaries

on Afghanistan

by Larbi Sadiki Much of the reporting and commentary on Afghanistan over the past few weeks has been awash in Orientalism. Many of us are guilty of this practice in the process of...

Read more

13 September 2021  

After Afghanistan: Can Europe regain its ‘independence’ from the USA?

on Afghanistan

By Ramzy Baroud Suddenly, the idea put forth by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, late last year no longer seems so far-fetched or untenable after all. Following the hurried ...

Read more

23 April 2019  

India in Kashmir: Risking peace as an antidote to war

on South Asia

By Ranjan Solomon On 14 February 2019, a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel on the Jammu Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber ...

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28 August 2015  

Does Pakistan’s refusal to join Saudi Arabia in Yemen indicate…

on Pakistan

By Afro-Middle East Centre Allegedly, the current Saudi-led onslaught on Yemen has already caused destruction that resembles the destruction wrought in Syria over the la...

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31 March 2012  

The feasibility of a continued United States presence in Afghanistan

on South Asia

By Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn Recent events in Afghanistan have fuelled speculation over the ability of international forces to continue their presence in the coun...

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28 February 2012  

Dangerous uncertainty in Pakistan

on South Asia

By Junaid S. Ahmed With relations between Pakistan's civilian government and military incredibly tense, speculation is rife in the Pakistani and international media of a looming m...

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26 April 2017  

IS reorganising to face new challenges

on Political Islam

Reports in January 2017 that the leader of the Islamic State group (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed, reports that he had been captured by Russian troops in Syria, and th...

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07 March 2017  

IS in Africa: Containment and fragmentation

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre With the Islamic State group (IS) losing territory in Syria and Iraq, many believe that the group will use the territory it controls in Africa as a fall...

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14 May 2016  

The Paradox of Survival and Expansion: How the Islamic State…

on Political Islam

Omar Ashour This paper examines the reasons for the military steadfastness of the Islamic State group (IS) in the face of local and international forces that are larger in numbers...

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19 December 2015  

ISIS in Africa: Reality far different from IS propaganda

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre The revelation that the alleged mastermind of the 13 November Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State group (IS) was of Moroccan descent, the tur...

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20 July 2015  

Remaining and expanding: Measuring the Islamic State group’s success in…

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre Since its declaration of a ‘caliphate’ on 29 June 2014, the Islamic State group (IS), the brutal successor to al-Qa'ida, has gone from strength to stren...

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31 January 2012  

The rise of 'Ikhwanophobia': Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood

on Political Islam

By Dr. Mohsen Saleh Introduction Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwanal-Muslimoon), the leading Islamist movement, has gained unprecedented international prominence since the b...

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18 February 2018  

Africa and the problem of foreign military bases

on 'War on terror'

At the establishment of the African Union (AU) in May 2001, discourses about human security and counter terrorism were ubiquitous both globally and on the continent. In Africa, the...

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21 November 2015  

The Paris attacks: Aftermath and the Islamic State group’s future

on 'War on terror'

By Afro-Middle East Centre The terror unleashed on Paris streets on 13 November reverberated throughout the world. From the G20 summit in Antalya to social media debates about how...

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28 May 2010  

Al-Qaeda in the New National Security Strategy

on 'War on terror'

By Mark Lynch The Obama administration's new National Security Strategy has been released today. It goes a long way towards providing a coherent framework for American foreign pol...

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16 February 2010  

Pakistan’s attitude towards Obama’s plan to negotiate with the Taliban

on 'War on terror'

By Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan has generally been welcomed in Pakistan. It is being seen as a vindication...

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07 February 2010  

Mission Absolute: American hegemony in space

on 'War on terror'

By Sourav Roy Come April 2010, officials from the sleepy Polish municipality of Morag will be gearing up for perhaps their most critical assignment in the new decade. Their job wi...

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Murder, spies and alibis: Behind the rhetoric between Mohammed Dahlan and Mahmoud Abbas

That was the period between March and April 2002, a different time. At that time, Dahlan – former Palestinian Authority (PA) minister, former national security advisor, and former head of Gaza’s Preventative Security Service (PSS), which was notorious for its links to the CIA and other Arab intelligence agencies, and for its innovative torture techniques – was (almost) the most powerful Palestinian. All his rivals had conveniently, or coincidentally, been marginalised. Arafat was then imprisoned in his office in al-Muqata’a, and Dahlan’s toughest contender, Jibril Rajoub, leader of the West Bank PSS, had been discredited in a most humiliating fashion. During the most violent Israeli crackdown of the Second Palestinian Intifada from 2000 to 2005, Rajoub had handed over the PSS headquarters with all its Palestinian political prisoners – mostly from Hamas and other opposition groups – to the Israeli army and had walked away. Since then, Rajoub’s star faded into a dark chapter of Palestinian history. For Dahlan, it was yet a new start.

Dark history

To assert their new-found power, Fatah militias loyal to Dahlan and his ‘Gang of Five’ made it clear to any ambitious Fatah leader that the movement had a new leadership. The Gang of Five had ‘put the West Bank faction of Jibril Rajoub in the shade’, reported UPI, ’and Dahlan’s men have even roughed up squads of Rajoub’s bully boys’. The Gang of Five consisted of Dahlan; NGO minister Hassan Asfur; chief negotiator Saeb Erakat; Muhammad Rashid; and Nabil Sha’ath. Asfur and Rashid have recently resurfaced with accusations of involvement in murder and corruption. They were all agitating for a return to direct negotiations with Israel, called for an end to the intifada, especially in its armed form, and wanted to restructure the PA’s security services into one organisation led by Dahlan, supported by CIA and the intelligence agencies of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

This is not a history that the Fatah leadership, including Dahlan, would like to remember. Such history is too dangerous as it highlights the reality that engulfed, and continues to shape the ruling class of the PA in Ramallah, whose reach has touched upon every aspect of Palestinian life. The PA has sidelined the once prominent Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian National Council (PNC). Despite its flaws and hindrances, the PNC had served as a parliament for Palestinians everywhere. Many Palestinians have been distressed to realise that a single party, Fatah – or, more correctly, a small group within the once revolutionary movement, has complete dominance over Palestinian political decision making, economic welfare and more.

The second intifada, which began in September 2000, unlike the first Intifada of 1987, resulted in much harm. It seemed to lack unity of purpose, was more militarised, and allowed Israel to rearrange the post-Intifada and post-Arafat political scene in such a way as to privilege its trusted allies within the Palestinian camp. Dahlan, and current PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected in 2005 for a five-year-term, were spared the Israeli purges. Hamas lost several layers of its leadership, as did the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which, like other leftist groups, suffered massive crackdowns and assassinations. Even Fatah activists paid a terrible price in blood and imprisonments because of the leading role they had played in the Intifada. For Abbas and Dahlan, however, things were more comfortable. In fact, at least for a while, the outcome of the Intifada had been beneficial for some Palestinian leaders who had been relegated to minor roles. Israeli schemes and American pressure helped bring them back into the limelight.

Dahlanistan

Twelve years later, Abbas and Dahlan are again at the centre of attention. Abbas, 79, is an ageing president of an authority that has access to funds but no sovereignty or political leverage (aside from what Israel allows); Dahlan, 52, is in exile in the UAE after his supporters were chased out of Gaza by Hamas in 2007, and then out of the West Bank by his own party in June 2011. This occurred after he was accused of corruption of responsibility in Arafat’s poisoning on behalf of Israel. But Dahlan, aided by powerful friends in Egypt and the Gulf, and by his old intelligence contacts in Israel and the USA, is plotting a comeback.

Abbas knows that his rule is approaching a sensitive transition, and not only because of his age. If the 29 April mediation deadline set by US secretary of state John Kerry passes without any substantial results, as will likely be the case, it will not be easy for Abbas to keep Fatah’s various competing cliques under control. And since Dahlan is sagaciously finding and manipulating gaps to reassert his relevance in a political milieu that repeatedly rejects him, Abbas is lashing out in anticipation of a showdown. Dahlan is answering in kind, partly through the airtime generously gifted him by Egyptian media. Fatah is again in crisis, and because of its political dominance, all Palestinian political institutions will suffer as a result.

How is it possible that Dahlan, accused of appalling crimes during his Gaza reign, remains relevant? He has been accused of torture, spying for Israel, and assassinations on its behalf. Additionally, according to a Vanity Fair investigation in April 2008, he attempted a coup in Gaza against the elected Hamas government that led to a civil war, resulted in Hamas seizing Gaza, and deepened disunity that still plagues Palestinians. Before his ousting by Hamas, Dahlan had commanded a 20 000-strong security force in impoverished Gaza, and led a special unit funded and trained by the CIA. The Gaza Strip was mockingly but tellingly referred to by some as Dahlanistan.

Even after being banished by both Hamas and Fatah, Dahlan’s name continued to be associated with bloody conflicts in other parts of the Middle East. In April 2011, Libya’s Transitional National Council accused him of links to an Israeli weapons’ cache allegedly received by former Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi. Rashid’s name was also mentioned by the Libyans. Fatah had promised an investigation – especially since Rashid was a member of the Fatah Central Committee, but the incident became just another item in a growing file of investigations into alleged Dahlan crimes.

The Hamas ‘common denominator’

Things got uglier when a Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, was assassinated in Dubai in January 2011. While Hamas maintains that Mossad was behind the assassination (as proved by video footage), two of the suspects arrested in Dubai for their purported involvement and for providing logistical aid to the Mossad hit team – Ahmad Hassanain and Anwar Shheibar – work for a construction company in Dubai owned by Dahlan. Their intriguing CVs also link them to a Gaza death cell under Dahlan’s command, and which was dedicated to suppressing dissent among Palestinian groups.

The ongoing Abbas-Dahlan spat, which has again reared its head, is confirming numerous suspicions of Fatah’s detractors regarding the role of the movement’s leadership in conspiring with Israel to destroy the resistance. Strangely, however, Abbas and Dahlan continue to present themselves as the saviours of Palestinians, while accusing each other of collaborating with Israel and of being an American stooge. Most Palestinians are not amused, and even senior Hamas leader, Mousa Abu Marzouk, called on Abbas and Dahlan to ‘refrain from exchanging accusations that serve only Israeli interests’. He added, ‘Hamas distances itself from the bickering between Abbas and Dahlan; even though [Hamas] is a common denominator between both parties.’

Abu Marzouk’s ‘common denominator’ comment referred to Abbas’s list of accusations against Dahlan which included the latter’s alleged role in the assassinations of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh, his family and some neighbours in an Israeli air strike in 2002. Abbas further implied that Dahlan had a role in Arafat’s poisoning in 2004. The PA president referred to ‘three spies’ who worked for Israel and had carried out high profile assassinations of Palestinians. Apart from Dahlan, he was also referring to Hassan Asfur, another member of the ‘Gang of Five’. Hamas immediately called for an investigation.

An obvious question is: if Dahlan was implicated in these crimes, with the knowledge of Fatah leaders and PA officials, why did they continue to entrust Dahlan with sensitive responsibilities? The timing of Abbas’s comments is not arbitrary. Abbas is becoming increasingly wary of an attempt, involving regional powers, to implant Dahlan back onto the Palestinian political scene. For Ramallah, Dahlan’s comfortable stay in the UAE, frequent visits to meet top Egyptian army officials, and access to large amounts of money are cause for concern.

Media access

The media platform for Dahlan’s response on 16 March was interesting. He launched his attack on the privately-owned Dream2 television station in Egypt. In an interview that lasted hours, Dahlan was granted uncontested space to articulate his political agenda. ‘The Palestinian people can no longer bear a catastrophe like Mahmoud Abbas,’ Dahlan said. ‘Since the day he came to power, tragedies have struck the Palestinian people. I may be one of the people who bear the blame for bringing this catastrophe upon the Palestinian people.’

It is not clear how Dahlan is responsible for ‘bringing’ Abbas to power, but it is clear that the showdown between the two men who had once been allies against Arafat has reached a new level. Dahlan attempted to appear stately, but failed. ‘I don’t want to dwell on this ridiculous speech in which Mahmoud Abbas disgraced himself,’ the former security chief said. ‘He doesn’t mind if other people insult him or if he disgraces himself. He is used to people treating him with contempt...When (Fatah was) in Tunisia, they used to call him the president of the Jewish Agency.’

When Hamas raided Dahlan’s house in Gaza in 2007, they discovered a huge cache of unlicensed weapons and thousands of bullets. Stacks of photographs of him with senior Israeli military and intelligence officials were also found. The pictures suggested friendly relations between Dahlan and the Israeli leaders responsible for substantial violence against Palestinians.

But Dahlan’s adventures, it seems, are not restricted to wild statements about the PLO president. His supporters in the Sinai desert are suspected of wreaking havoc and being an integral part of the ongoing violence there. And his wife has been accused of dishing out large sums of money to selected Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon. The Dahlan story is set to grow, and is linked inextricably to the Egyptian coup and role of the UAE in the region. Fatah members and supporters who are loyal to neither Abbas nor Dahlan believe that their movement needs to reclaim its revolutionary identity, the very reason behind its existence.

 

* Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, media consultant, author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story.

 

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18 August 2020  

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