Monday, July 24, 2006

The fog of war - 3

Since the current crisis started in Gaza, it's to Gaza that I return. Harvey Morris, in The Financial Times:
The armed wing takes orders from the Hamas leadership in Damascus and not from the seemingly more moderate representatives on the ground such as Ismail Haniyeh, PA prime minister.

When the crisis erupted Mr Haniyeh was focused on fudging an agreement with Mahmoud Abbas, PA president, that would have averted a national referendum scheduled for July 26 by tacitly acknowledging Israel's existence. Hardliners in the movement did not favour the concession. Neither did others in the region, including Hizbollah, who viewed it as a retreat for the wider Islamist cause.

Israel recognised where the power lay and Tippi Livni, its foreign minister, co-opted the Russian and Turkish governments to act as mediators with Khaled Mashaal, the Damascus-based Hamas leader, who was seen as blocking Egyptian and French diplomacy inside Gaza to secure Cpl Shalit's release. Israeli officials said whatever optimism there was in Jerusalem that the crisis might be defused was abandoned on July 12 when Hizbollah struck.
...
According to an article in The Economist, quoted by Joshua Landis, 'the quandary posed by Hamas has chilled American enthusiasm for change.' Advances towards democracy have been turned back across the region. For example:
Since last year's parliamentary and presidential elections, Egypt's government has backtracked too. Among other measures, it has cancelled some municipal polls, imprisoned the runner-up to President Hosni Mubarak in last year's vote, arrested 600-odd members of the main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, sent police goons to beat up peaceful protesters, passed laws enshrining executive authority over the judiciary and banned two Washington-based institutes that promote democracy from working in the country. ("Democracy in the Arab World: Not yet, thanks", Jun 29th 2006)
See my previous remarks about Egypt in the current crisis.

Update
: (Monday 24 Jul) In the morning, there was disappointment that Condi Rice was not to visit Beirut. She did go of course, on an unannounced visit. More talk about the international force: the French and Italians, but not the Germans, mentioned on the EU side, also Jordan and Egypt. Dominique Moïsi on Europe Today (first item - Listen here ). Channel 4 News, in London, says there are divisions within the French government and military. Russia might want to get involved.

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