Thursday, March 20, 2014

The mysterious resurrection of the exiled Fatah-leader Mohammed Dahlan
Mohammed Dahlan.

The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, recently made headlines when he, seemingly out of the blue, made a scathing attack on Mohammed Dahlan, a former leader of the security services of Fatah in the Gaza Strip and a powerful member of the Fatah-movement, till he in 2010 was stripped of his position in the Fatah leadership and forced into exile. 
At a closed meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council on 10 March, news of which came into the open only a few days later, Abbas accused Dahlan of a whole series of crimes, like murder, spying for Israel en possibly involvement in the death of former leader Yasser Arafat. According to Amira Hass of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, who quoted Palestinian sources, it came down to the following:
* Dahlan was behind the murder of six senior members of the Fatah movement (two of them prior to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority).
* Dahlan, Yasser Arafat’s moneyman Mohammed Rashid and Hassan Asfour, formerly a close associate of Abu Mazen (Abbas) who participated in the Oslo negotiations, put together a “collaborators’ trinity” close to Israel and the U.S. At Camp David they tried to lure Arafat into accepting unacceptable American and Israeli proposals for a solution.
* Money that came into Dahlan’s hands disappeared in mysterious ways.
* He knew in advance about Israel’s plan to assassinate Salah Shehadeh, head of the Hamas military arm (on whose home Israel eventually dropped a bomb, killing him together with 15 civilians in July 2002).
* Close associates of Dahlan spied against Hezbollah in Lebanon and against Hamas in the Sinai, passing information to the Israelis.(Hass does not mention this, but according to other sources (among them Egyptian ones) the information Dahlan gave concerned also Hezbollah positions during the Israeli intrusion in Lebanon in 2006 and positions of Hamas leaders during the Israeli operation 'Cast Lead' in Gaza in 2009. 
 During this last operation Dahlan seemingly also tried to re-occupy Gaza and was waiting in Egypt to this end with adveral hunderreds of men, but to no avail). 
* Several months before Arafat’s death, Dahlan and his associates led a campaign calling for the leader’s ouster, in order to open the way for the younger generation. 
 Abbas, who turns 79 this month, said he did not have any proof that Dahlan was involved in the death of Arafat, but he read out several statements in which his 52-year-old rival had allegedly criticised Arafat."Who killed Yasser Arafat? This is not evidence, but indications that deserve consideration," he supposedly said at the Fatah meeting on March 10.
What was strange about the accusations, was that they were directed against somebody who was expelled from the West Bank in 2010, and whose membership in Fatah's Central Council was suspended, after revelations that he planned a coup against Mahmoud Abbas. One would think that a person like him wouldn't be powerful enough anymore to warrant such an attack. The truth however is that that Dahlan has skilfully worked towards a come back during the past years. The ex-security chief has been living these years in both the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. He still has, as it turns out, a power base left inside Fatah, among its cadres and also among the security troops, part of which were recruited and built up under his command. Also he maneged to get secure financial backing from the Gulf. His wife was reported some time ago to have been going round in Lebanese refugee camps distributing several millions of dollars in his name. And these past few months Dahlan suddenly came to the foreground again. That happened after the Egyptian military got rid of the Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi and once again became the de facto rulers of Egypt. Immediately after that the relationship between Egypt and the Hamas-regime in Gaza (which had been cordial under Morsi, Hamas is an off shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood after all) cooled considerably. The military leaders, who were met with resistance in the Sinai, accused Hamas of complicity, closed the border and proceeded to destroy the smuggle tunnels that provided much of the goods that could not be brought in otherwise due to the Israeli blockade.
And that is where Dahlan entered the picture again. Using his contacts in the Egyptian military, particularly his relationship with none other than marshal Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, the minister of Defense himself, he transpired as a go-between between the Egyptians and Hamas. It was a thing that was born out of need. The Egyptians did not want Gaza to dry up completely, as it would make itself culpable of the same misdeeds that Israel commits and sent him off as an envoy to Hamas. And Hamas that hates Dahlan's guts deeply, did have no other choice than to use the one channel that it was offered. As it seems, one of the things that Dahlan engineered with Hamas, is a way to remit money from the Gulf to Gaza, without having it to pay to the coffers of Hamas, as the Egyptian military would not allow a financial stream that strengthens also the regime. 
And so one of the reasons for Abbas to burst out in his recent angry accusations, seems to be that the Egyptian marshal al-Sisi told him, in a recent conversation, that he has to mend his fences with Dahlan. The newspaper Rai Al-Youm quoted ''informed sources'' who revealed details of this conversation bewteen El-Sisi eand Abbas: The PA chief was speaking about Palestinian reconciliation when Al-Sisi interrupted him: "Let's put aside Palestinian reconciliation and talk instead about Fatah's internal reconciliation," a reference to the differences between the movement and Dahlan. Abbas responded by telling the Egyptian coup leader that Fatah "is OK" but Al-Sisi interrupted yet again, telling him, "No, it's not OK!"
 According to the media reports Al-Sisi's remarks suggested that his message to Abbas was that Fatah needs to reconsider its decision to expel Dahlan. The minister of Defence received Dahlan in Cairo recently, sending out a strong signal that the coup regime supports him.

Abbas was by far not the only one who was angered by pressure to bring back Dahlan. In the Fatah movement there was a discussion in February of which the conclusion was that there was no way that Dahlan could be restored in his old positions. And in Egypt the question Dahlan was mentioned in newspapers and on Twitter, under the hash tag ''Dahlan mercenary'' (Dahlan 'amil). And not without reason. Dahlan started his career as a Fatah leader during the first Palestinian intifada (uprising) in the late 1980s. After being arrested and released by the Israeli occupation authorities, he joined Yasser Arafat’s Tunis-based Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). He became a key player within the PLO and was closely involved in the covert talks with Israel that eventually led to the 1993 Oslo peace accords. After these he returned with Arafat to Gaza in 1994, where he became the leader of the preventive security services. Already in 1994 there was a collision between these forces and Hamas, in which 15 Hamas-warriors were killed. In later year scores of people we4 arrested and tortured by his services.  During the second Intifada in 2000, his forces began to persecute Palestinian groups  — particularly Hamas — even more severely and in the following years, PA security agencies under Dahlan became known for arresting resistance activists and providing Israel with intelligence on suspected resistance activity.
In the summer of 2007, this culminated in a failed coup plot against Hamas, in which Dahlan played a leading role. It all started shortly after Hamas won the Palestinian election s in 2006. The US, together with Israel, at the time started to train and arm Fatah elements in order to oust the Hamas leadership, that then ruled Gaza jointly with Fatah from the Strip. The plan, later known as the Dayton Plan (after the American general Dayton, who later on was to ''reform'' the security services of the Palestinian Authority),  was managed by Dahlan. However, after Hamas learned of the plot, it kicked out Fatah and took control of the Strip which it maintained ever since.
Dahlan’s failure to finish off Hamas in 2007 quickly served to erode his influence within Fatah. For some time he did not hold  any important Palestinian position. in 2009, during the Israeli ''Cast Lead'' assault  the Lebanese daily Al-Safir reported that Dahlan had arrived in Egypt in hope of reasserting Fatah control of Gaza. “Some 400 Palestinian police followed Dahlan to Egypt, where they concentrated in al-Arish (close to the Egypt-Gaza border) to await orders to enter the strip in the event that the Hamas leadership was destroyed or if it surrendered,” Al-Safir reported. The paper went on to note that, while in Cairo, Dahlan also “supplied detailed information about Hamas targets in Gaza to Israeli officers.”The same story of providing information to the Israelis circulated during the Israeli incursion in Lebanon in 2006, then about information concerning Hezbollah.
Nevertheless Dahlan managed to obtain a position in the Central Committee of Fatah and as the leader of the presidential guard of Abbas. In 2010 however, he was kicked out, after allegations that he planned a coup against Abbas and subsequently banned from the West Bank.  
After that his name disappeared from the news for some time, although after the murder of Hamas' arms dealer Mabhouh in a hotel in Dubai by agents of the Israeli Mossad in , his name was brought up by the Dubai police. 
A frightening thought that this man might return to the stage.

No comments: