Pinhas Inbari
(Independent Journalist)

Copyright: Pinhas Inbari on line 

Russia as yet did not extend the cold war to the ME but its regional allies began reacting as if the cold war is already on the door's threshold. We can already witness accelerated movement between Iran, Syria the Palestinian left and radical Fatah that began coordination activity to face the return of Russia as major spoiler in the area.  The Palestinian problem might appear as main tool to spread regional instability. The instable situation inside both the PA and Israel and the immaterialized expectations of Annapolis process look like attractive t spoilers.

As for Israel, the political turmoil that may end in the removal of PM Olmert and FM Livni from the navigation pad already creates uncertainties while the internal splits inside the Palestinian arena poses even more volatile options to the future and can invite spoilers of all kinds to try their luck. We shall put aside the Israeli uncertainties as later this week the political landscape might clear for some extent after the Kadima primaries. We shall concentrate on the Palestinian faults lines in which we assume the on the making "axis of spoilers" may discern as opportunities.

The most telling event in the regards is the last week visit of the Fatah hardliner Faruq Qaddumi in Tehran and his declaration upon coming back that "Iran turned from friend to ally". This means that along the sharp dispute between the moderate Fatah with Hamas a no less sharp dispute is going to develop inside Fatah between Abu Mazen and Qaddumi and the later is going to ally openly with Hamas even to the point of creating new PLO with Hamas based on pro Russian, Syrian and Iranian axis.

In order to understand the implications of such alliance we have first to analyze the current disputes inside the Palestinian arena- the Fatah-Hamas and the internal Fatah. In the Fatah-Hamas arena the main focal dispute now is about the interpretation of the basic law whether President Abu Mazen ends his term in January 2008 or a year later when the Palestinian Legislative Council – the PLC – ends its term and have elections to both presidency and legislative authorities on the same time. Hamas declared that after coming January they will no longer recognize Abu Mazen as president and as far as they are concerned the acting president will be Aziz Dweik the imprisoned speaker of the PLC. On his part Abu Mazen is leaking threats that in case of stalemate he will disperse the PLC.

As more the Fatah-Hamas relations progress towards increased tensions Abu Mazen might need the backing of the PLO and his Fatah fellows, but here he is going to find a second front opened against him by the axis of spoilers. The preparations for the Fatah 6th congress that is to convene in order to adopt a new platform and elect new institutions are now underway and as far as now with no breakthrough to enable Fatah to do the job. What are the focal debates? The composition of delegates whether the majority will be with the "internal Fatah" or "Diaspora Fatah" and hence, whether the venue would be in Ramallah or abroad, and the new platform – will it delude or abolish the basic principle of "armed struggle" or "resistance" or leave this basic principle as is. The debate was hot enough before Qaddumi's visit in Tehran – upon his return finding compromise in all these focal disputes looks impossible.

This latest dispute on the platform needs a further examination: after Fatah expulsion from Gaza the common wisdom said that now Fatah will organize from the West Bank the return to Gaza. In a surprising move Abu Mazen "expelled" Fatah also from the government in the Muqata'a depositing it in the hand of Salam Fayyad who is not a Fatah member and his cabinet was formed of personnel that represented tiny groups such as Fida – a splinter of the Democratic Front, or independents. To make things worse from Fatah's perspectives – Fayyad, together with USA assistance, established a non-Fatah military force that can be directed against them in some point. Hence for them the deluding or omitting the reference for "armed struggle" can be translated as dismantling Fatah as belligerent force turning his to a political party in best case. 

The decisive question is: can the new "Fayyad's force" be competent enough to tackle with both Hamas and alienated Fatah in the moment of truth? And the moment of truth is very close: probably already in next January. This can also affect the nature of what is called in inner Fatah circles: the next Intifada. The dispute over the platform does not mean that the moderate Fatah is against intifada but they claim that non violent intifada focused on the "wall" very much in lines of the old "stone intifada" is far better than the "terror" intifada that rocked Israel under Arafat.

The conclusion of this conflict is not to be decided in Fatah corridors but in the "spoilers axis" that might well come back to organize an all around missiles attacks on Israel from Lebanon, Gaza and terror squads from the West Bank drifting away the Muqata'a on the same time. This is the true meaning of Qaddumi's declaration that Tehran turned from friend to ally. In a way it is another try to have Israel encircled by missile threats from all sides as was preformed in the weapons boat Karin A. So the "peaceful intifada" looks pale in face of the "missile intifada" now planned by Iran and its proxies.

Sum up: Russia did not as yet decide to widen the scope of the global tensions to the ME, but its allies began to prepare for such an eventuality. The Annapolis process failed sop far to bring results what caused it to build instead the platform on which they can exploit the Palestinian problem as main trigger for regional instability. Abu Mazen is facing a major crisis with Hamas in the beginning of next year and he may need the PLO and Fatah to back him, but Fatah was alienated in the West Bank on the one hand and its Diaspora leadership comes closet to Iran and Hamas on the other hand and as a result the power of the "axis of spoilers" is about to increase.                

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