Mahmoud Abbas Purges His Party of Enemies

Fatah—the ruling faction of the PLO that controls the Palestinian Authority—is holding its seventh party congress this week. According to Grant Rumley, Mahmoud Abbas likely sees the occasion as a capstone to his ongoing purge of the party ranks:

In recent years, Abbas has launched an all-out inquisition into dissenters within his own party. He’s fired rival Palestinian officials, stripped his rivals in parliament of their immunity, and even sent his Palestinian Authority security forces into unruly refugee camps to quash dissent. He has fueled his consolidation of power by summarily excommunicating party members. . . .

A bloc of Fatah dissenters met last month in the al-Amari refugee camp in Ramallah to discuss how they would react to the upcoming party congress. When Abbas got wind of the meeting, he ordered the PA security forces into the camp to break up the meeting. . . .

Abbas has taken unprecedented steps to silence dissent [at the congress itself]. . . For one, he has reduced the number of delegates attending from over 2,000 [at the last congress] in 2009 to 1,400. For another, he has changed the location from a hotel in Bethlehem at the last conference to his headquarters in Ramallah, [where security forces loyal to him can keep watch].

The congress this week will allow Abbas to solidify his purges of dissenters within his own party. At the last congress, members of Abbas’ presidential guard roamed the balloting areas and in one instance instructed a delegate on who was “the president’s man.” This time, . . . Abbas will be able to reward his loyalists and sideline his rivals. As Dimitri Diliani, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, told me: “We used to call Arafat a dictator, but compared with [Abbas], Arafat was a champion of democracy.”

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Politics & Current Affairs


The Danger of Hollow Fixes to the Iran Deal

March 20 2018

In January, the Trump administration announced a 120-day deadline for the so-called “E3”—Britain, France, and Germany—to agree to solutions for certain specific flaws in the 2015 agreement to limit the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Omri Ceren explains why it’s necessary to get these fixes right:

[Already in October], the administration made clear that it considered the deal fatally flawed for at least three reasons: a weak inspections regime in which the UN’s nuclear watchdog can’t access Iranian military facilities, an unacceptable arrangement whereby the U.S. had to give up its most powerful sanctions against ballistic missiles even as Iran was allowed to develop ballistic missiles, and the fact that the deal’s eventual expiration dates mean Iran will legally be allowed to get within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear weapon. . . .

A team of American negotiators has been working on getting the E3 to agree to a range of fixes, and is testing whether there is overlap between the maximum that the Europeans can give and the minimum that President Trump will accept. The Europeans in turn are testing the Iranians to gauge their reactions and will likely not accept any fixes that would cause Iran to bolt.

The negotiations are problematic. The New York Times reported that, as far as the Europeans are concerned, the exercise requires convincing Trump they’ve “changed the deal without actually changing it.” Public reports about the inspection fix suggest that the Europeans are loath to go beyond urging the International Atomic Energy Commission to request inspections, which the agency may be too intimidated to do. The ballistic-missile fix is shaping up to be a political disaster, with the Europeans refusing to incorporate anything but long-range missiles in the deal. That would leave us with inadequate tools to counter Iran’s development of ballistic missiles that could be used to wipe Israel, the Saudis, and U.S. regional bases off the map. . . .

There is a [significant] risk the Trump administration may be pushed to accept the hollow fixes acceptable to the Europeans. Fixing the deal in this way would be the worst of all worlds. It would functionally enshrine the deal under a Republican administration. Iran would be open for business, and this time there would be certainty that a future president will not act to reverse the inevitable gold rush. Just as no deal would have been better than a bad deal, so no fix would be better than a bad fix.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Donald Trump, Europe, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy