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MER - Washington - MiddleEast.Org - 6 January 2006: Reports are now this morning that Ariel Sharon has either died or is brain dead. As we have said repeatedly, and Sharon's death only underscores at this point, the year just begun seems destined to be one of escalating turmoil, bloodshed, and geostrategic changes that will affect the entire world for many years to come. The U.S. and Israel have severely destablized Syria; the Baath Regime they have targeted there is wobbling 'on the ropes'. Iraq is exploding worse than ever. Preparations to attack Iran unless the regime there can somehow either be brought down or forced to comply are advancing with considerable behind-the-scenes efforts to use bases and capabilities in surrounding countries including Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi, UAE, Oman. Taking down Iran and Syria, and greatly maybe fatally weakening Hezbollah (Lebanon) and Hamas (Palestine), have been major U.S. and Israeli goals all along. And in occupied Palestine the client-regime known as the 'Palestinian Authority' may also be on its last legs after so many years of corruption and co-optation. This interesting report from a news service associated with the Washington Times. The likelihood remains, as we have been reporting for some time now, that even with his power and authority so undermined, Abbas and the VIP Palestinians who surround him, especially the U.S.-CIA-connected Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Shaath, will find the excuses and take the risks of cancelling the fast-approaching election rather than what may be even greater risks of letting it go forward.

Abbas has become 'total non-entity' as Palestinian Authority comes unglued

Abbas's orders to the security forces are routinely ignored. Even his threats to resign do not cause a ripple.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has lost his power.

Abbas's orders to the security forces are routinely ignored. His policy directives fail to echo through the PA bureaucracy. Even his threats to resign do not cause a ripple.

Currently, Abbas is under severe pressure to cancel Palestinian Legislative Council elections, scheduled for Jan. 25. Sources close to Abbas said the chairman has already reached such a decision, but is waiting for an opportune time to announce it, intending to blame Israel for the cancellation.

So far, the Palestinian Central Election Commission has failed to register most Palestinian voters. Foreign monitors have quietly told the PA they will not enter the Gaza Strip, which has been plagued by a rash of abductions, mostly of Westerners.

"It is time to impose the authority of law and order," Abbas said in a New Year message broadcast on Palestinian television. "These events harm our international credibility and strengthen Israel's pretext to undermine peace and stop withdrawals."

The decline of Abbas into obscurity has been rapid. Two weeks ago, Abbas entered the waiting room of his dentist in Ramallah. While the room was full of people, no one looked up or in any way acknowledged the man trumpeted as the president of the Palestinian people.

"It's as if he's a total non-entity," said a Palestinian source who confirmed the story. "No one takes him seriously."

Despite numerous pledges, Abbas has done nothing to impose law and order. Loay Abu Haykel/Reuters
Despite numerous pledges, Abbas has done nothing to impose law and order. PA security forces have failed to take any action against groups aligned with the ruling Fatah movement. The forces have refused to crack down on the Islamic opposition as Hamas and Islamic Jihad gunners maintain missile strikes on Israel. In many cases, PA security officers help Hamas and Jihad in attacks against Israel and Palestinians.

Fatah is responsible for most of the internecine violence. Fatah gunmen have abducted scores of Westerners, demanding jobs and money from the PA. In virtually every case, Abbas has acceded, eroding morale among those officers who still take their job seriously.

Last week, Fatah gunmen abducted a British national and her parents in the Gaza Strip and then released them two later. Kate Burton, international coordinator for the pro-Palestinian organization Al Mezan, was held incommunicado while negotiations took place with the gunmen.

Palestinian sources said Abbas might use the abduction to announce the cancellation of elections. They said he has discussed the issue with Egypt as well as with Hamas.

Hamas has not ruled out postponing the elections, the sources said. But the Islamic movement has demanded key ministries in any new cabinet. This would include the Interior Ministry, responsible for Palestinian security. So far, Abbas has not ruled this out.

"Fatah has turned desperate," a source said. "They know that in any election they would lose badly. They are ready to make all sorts of deals to stop the election."

As a result, the Gaza Strip has descended into chaos. PA security forces have splintered into factions, with each ready to attack government offices and installations to press for their demands of money and power.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, on Jan. 5. Loay Abu Haykel/Reuters
Last week, about 100 PA officers stormed the Rafah border terminal along the Egyptian border in a move that prompted the flight of about 70 European Union monitors. The officers took over the terminal to stop a rival Fatah faction from fleeing Gaza to Egypt. Earlier, the Fatah faction attacked a police station in Gaza City and an officer was killed.

Throughout the crisis, Abbas was helpless. Palestinian sources said he maintained contact with Egypt, which has been his leading ally and responsible for Palestinian security forces in the Gaza Strip. Egypt reportedly advised Abbas not to intervene.

The PA has failed to get tough with terrorists. But PA security officers have been brutal against Palestinian dissidents, including peaceful protesters.

Abbas has also tolerated human rights abuses by PA security forces. On Dec. 26, PA officers shot and wounded four farm laborers who protested against conditions in the southern Gaza Strip. The laborers were employed at greenhouses in the former Jewish settlement of Netzer Hazani in a $33 million project financed by the international community.

The laborers had cut off water supplies to the greenhouses to protest a PA plan to reduce by 50 percent the number of working days. The workers received 60 shekels, or $12.50, a day.

But Abbas's problems are only beginning. Starting this week, Abbas faces a direct challenge from Palestinian terrorist groups. All 11 groups, including Fatah and Hamas, said they would no longer be bound by a so-called "lull" in violence declared in February 2005.

"We insist on our right to respond to any Israeli violation of the calm," Islamic Jihad leader Khaled Jaradat said.

This time, Palestinian terrorist groups promise a much more vigorous fight against Israel. The military wing of Islamic Jihad reported an attempt to manufacture anti-aircraft missiles. A Jihad spokesman said the missiles were designed to strike Israeli fixed-wing and helicopters in the Gaza Strip.

Fatah has also been preparing for a major onslaught. Mohammed Abdul Aal, spokesman for the Fatah-sponsored Popular Resistance Committee, said his group has obtained maps of Israel army bases north of the Gaza Strip.

Abdul Aal said the PRC's military wing, Nasser Salah Eddin Brigades, planned to carry out attacks deep inside Israel.

The PRC said its missiles have been upgraded and now have a range of 15 kilometers. Abdul Aal said the first missiles had a range of only 3 kilometers.

The United States is alarmed by the complete breakdown in the PA, particularly in the Gaza Strip. But the Bush administration has kept its cool and maintains unlimited support for Abbas in an effort to help him survive PLC elections.

At one point, the State Department offered to help Fatah candidates who pledged to campaign against Hamas. Palestinian sources said the U.S. Agency for International Development has been in contact with several Fatah candidates with ties to Israel's Labor Party.

"AID told the Fatah candidates to open bank accounts in Israel, but said they must attack Hamas in their platforms," a source said.

Still, the administration has lost hope that Hamas could be defeated under any circumstances. As a result, Washington has signaled to Abbas that the United States would not object to the cancellation of PLC elections. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has pledged to support any decision by Abbas, one source said.

"The United States believes that a non-government headed by Abbas is better than a functional government headed by Hamas," the source said.

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Source: http://www.middleeast.org/articles/2006/1/107.htm