Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a long, rambling missive to US President George W. Bush this week. It ended on a somewhat ominous note that seemed to some Islamic scholars to constitute a declaration of war against the US. Ahmadinejad wrote, "Liberalism and Western-style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems."
After declaring the death of the ideals on which the United States is founded, Ahmadinejad explained that "people around the world are flocking towards a main focal point – that is Almighty God." He then challenged Bush, "Do you not want to join them?"
Experts on Islam in Washington have noted that since Ahmadinejad advocates Islamic fundamentalism as the only true religious path, his question to Bush was in fact an ultimatum to convert to Islam or face the consequences. Islamic scholar Robert Spencer put it carefully on his weblog Jihad Watch when he wrote, "this letter could be – but is not necessarily – a prelude to an attack."
Ahmadinejad's letter was delivered on Monday. One would think that if the Bush administration was concerned about the signals Teheran was sending that Bush and top administration officials would be at pains for the next several days to ensure that Iran and the rest of the world understood that the US would not be surrendering any time soon to the dictates of its sworn enemies.
Sadly, the opposite occurred.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the EU's foreign policy chiefs at the UN for a summit of the so-called Middle East Quartet. The meeting was the first official gathering of Quartet members since the popularly elected Hamas government assumed power in the Palestinian Authority and Ehud Olmert formed his government in Israel. It was dedicated to the question of how to continue to give the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid even though they just elected an international jihadist organization to lead them.
Notably, at the same time that Rice was meeting with her colleagues in New York, Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal was meeting with his colleagues in Qatar. Seated at a dais with terror preacher Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi and Islamic Jihad commander Ramadan Abdullah Shalah, Mashaal called on the Arab and Islamic world to send Hamas "weapons, money and men." Mashaal reassured his audience, explaining that their "weapons, money and men" would be a force for good in the world because Hamas is engaged in "resistance, not terrorism."
It should be noted that for years Mashaal has been cultivating Hamas's ties with Iran. Ahead of Hamas's election in January, in one of his almost monthly trips to Teheran, Mashaal reportedly told the Iranian leadership that he wants Iran to view Hamas as a Palestinian version of Hizbullah. That is, like Hizbullah, in exchange for Iranian weapons, money and training, Hamas will act as Teheran's client and subordinate its actions to Teheran's command hierarchy. Iran accepted his offer.
And so, the day after Ahmadinejad wrote his war letter to Bush, Rice was meeting with her associates figuring out a way to give the Hamas-led Palestinians millions of dollars of US taxpayers' money.
While administration officials insist that Rice's decision to agree that the EU can formulate an artificial mechanism to continue to flood the PA with international monetary assistance is not an American okay to flood the PA with international monetary assistance, in fact it is just such an okay. Israel's announcement Wednesday that it would be resuming the transfer of tens of millions of dollars of tax revenues to the PA is proof that Tuesday's Quartet meeting did conclude with a green light to renew Western monetary assistance to the PA.
RICE'S DECISION to enable the funding of the Hamas-led PA is significant, and indeed disastrous for two main reasons. First, by so acting, the Bush administration is ignoring strategic realities that present immediate dangers not only to Israel but to the US as well.
Against the backdrop of Ahmadinejad's letter this week and his constant threats against the US and its allies in recent weeks and months, it is clear that Iran perceives itself as being in a state of active war against the US. It is also a fact that Hamas is now an official client of Teheran. As an Iranian satellite, an empowered and emboldened Hamas is no longer just an Israeli concern. Hamas today can and ought to be perceived as an enemy of the US as well – an enemy to whom the Bush administration just pledged $10 million in medical assistance.
Indeed, even before Hamas subordinated itself to Teheran, the movement was in a declared state of war against America. On December 17, 2001, Hamas published a joint declaration with the Islamic Jihad in which it declared, "Americans are the enemies of the Palestinian people," and Americans "are a target for future attacks." Hamas's rhetoric has customarily been imbued with virulent anti-Americanism. Hamas has financed Palestinian members of al-Qaida and in at least one instance, in 2003, it trained a naturalized Canadian citizen from Gaza in terrorist tactics for the purpose of having him carry out attacks in Canada and the US. Fortunately, Israeli security forces arrested him before he was able to carry out his mission.
As Matthew Levitt points out in his copiously documented and detailed new book, Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad, in 2004 the FBI admitted that Hamas has the capabilities to carry out attacks in the US. In August 2004, a Hamas terrorist was arrested while taking pictures of the suspension cables of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
In its present capacity as an Iranian client there can be no doubt that Hamas's willingness to take action against the US has increased. Its interest in expanding its activities beyond Israel has been on full display in recent weeks in Jordan. For the second time in so many weeks, on Wednesday a Jordanian government spokesman announced the unearthing of Hamas weapons caches in the kingdom, including Iranian-made rocket launchers. The spokesman also announced that Hamas is seeking to recruit Jordanian nationals to undergo terror training in Syria and Iran. The spokesman referred to Hamas's activities in the country as posing "a major threat to the national security of the country."
And yet, even as Hamas devotes all its energies to building up its arsenal and swelling the ranks of its jihadist forces, the US has answered the frenzied call for more aid to the Palestinian people sounded by the usual suspects in the EU, the UN, and (it must be said), the Israeli media.
To Hamas's calls for the destruction of Israel and the defeat of the US, Rice answered on Tuesday by declaring that the goal of the Quartet meeting was "to provide assistance to the Palestinian people so that they do not suffer deprivation and do not suffer an humanitarian crisis." Rice then proceeded to pledge $10m. in in-kind US medical aid to the Palestinian health system, which was widely reported to be short of money for dialysis treatments despite the fact that Israel allowed four truckloads of medical supplies into Gaza this week.
The US and its Palestinian-obsessed European counterparts and the Israeli government claim that the hundreds of millions of dollars they are about to provide the Palestinians in "direct aid" will not benefit the Hamas-led PA. But of course this is incorrect. Firstly, the EU is already making clear that their Hamas-evading mechanism for funding the Hamas-led PA
will facilitate the payment of salaries of PA employees who are supposed to be getting paid by Hamas. That is, the EU will be paying Hamas's bills directly.
Secondly, every cent transferred in "direct aid" to the Palestinians is money that will prevent Hamas from failing. Every well-fed Palestinian welfare case will be a vindication for the Palestinian people's decision to vote Hamas into power. Every penny of Western and Israeli aid tells them that they may both escalate their war against Israel while officially joining the global jihad and eat well on the Israeli/ American/ European dole.
THIS BRINGS us to the second disturbing aspect of the US decision to bow to EU, Russian and UN pressure and open the dam of international aid to the Hamas-led PA. Indeed, it brings us to the disturbing nature of the Quartet to which the US belongs. The fact is that in its decision this week to bow to Quartet pressure and enable the renewal of aid to the Palestinians (after a six-week hiatus), like in its decision in 2002 to agree to the establishment of the Quartet in the first place, the US continues to pin its Middle East policy on a fiction that it is possible to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians through Israeli concessions and land giveaways to the Palestinians.
When the Quartet was founded to "advance the peace process," the peace process had already died. The peace process ended in July 2000 when the late Yasser Arafat rejected Israel's peace offer and the sovereign state of Palestine the offer entailed in favor of war. From then on, all hope of peace in our generation was extinguished as the Palestinian jihad against Israel opened its current round.
The purpose the Quartet was founded to advance was the shunning of reality, in the hope that if reality was rejected strenuously, that reality would change. This was the context in which the Quartet members, with the help of Yossi Beilin and Shimon Peres, wrote their road map peace plan that the Bush administration shoved down Ariel Sharon's throat in May 2004.
In the end, the Quartet's refusal to countenance the reality of war caused Israel to choose the capitulationist policy of unilateral surrender of territory to the Palestinians. Viewing the behavior of Israel and the Quartet, the Palestinians rationally assessed that terror and war were winning strategies and thus elected Hamas to lead them. Now, in light of Hamas's refusal to keep up the fiction of a peace process, the Quartet has engaged itself in a new enterprise. Recognizing there is no chance for a peace process until Hamas ceases to be Hamas, the Quartet is now convincing itself that Hamas is not Hamas.
In short, the US on Tuesday recommitted itself to a Middle East policy that has no connection to reality and thus no chance of ever succeeding. Indeed, failure is inevitable.
It has been argued that the American capitulation to EU, UN and Russian pressure to fund Hamas was undertaken to secure their support for US efforts in the UN Security Council against Iran. If so, then the deal the US struck is both delusional and counterproductive. It is delusional because Russia, Kofi Annan and key EU member states such as Germany will not provide the US with backing for any measure that could possibly succeed in preventing or delaying Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons. And it is counterproductive because the fact is that by aiding Hamas, the US aiding Iran.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.