..CENTER FOR WAR, PEACE, AND THE NEWS MEDIA, January 25 - February 1, 2006
Department of Journalism, College of Communication, Boston University





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Hamas supporters celebrate their stunning election victory

Hamas and the Prospects for Peace
The landslide victory by Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections is not a threat to the peace process; it is a symptom of the collapse of that process. Israel says it cannot negotiate with a Palestinian Authority ruled by Hamas, but it wasn't negotiating with the Fatah-led one, either -- the last substantive negotiations over a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians were held in January of 2001, shortly before the election of Ariel Sharon. Sharon has pursued a unilateral solution to the conflict, eschewing negotiations with the Palestinians and tilting Washington away from a mediating role to one of an enabler of unilateral action -- the Gaza pullout was negotiated, to some extent, but with the Bush administration, not with Mahmoud Abbas. And so it's hardly surprising how easily the Palestinian electorate was willing to dispense with Fatah -- besides the rampant corruption of the PA's previous ruling party, Israel -- with the tacit consent of the Bush administration -- had made abundantly clear to the Palestinians that Fatah had become irrelevant to their fate.

Hamas, however, had not been prepared for total victory -- it had hoped to win enough seats in the legislature to give it veto power over Fatah's decisions, but instead has found itself facing the prospect of having to govern alone. The first response of the West has been to demand that Hamas renounce violence and recognize Israel, but it is unlikely to formally do either for a long time to come. Like Sharon, Hamas is not interested in negotiating a political settlement to the conflict. But its move into the Palestinian Authority, an Oslo institution it once mocked, has set the radical Islamist-nationalist party on a course towards a de facto recognition of and peaceful coexistence with Israel. (The PLO had negotiated the Oslo Accords with Israel adopted in 1994, but had only removed the call for Israel's destruction from its charter four years later.) Early in the intifadah, Hamas could send a suicide bomber into Tel Aviv and simply shrug when Israel responded by pulverizing Palestinian Authority facilities. Now, Hamas is set to take ownership of those facilities, and with it responsibility for the well-being of the population of the West Bank and Gaza. From that perspective, it simply can't afford to continue a war of terror on its more powerful neighbor. Rivers of blood and tears and all manner of splits, twists and turns may lie ahead, but the democratic election of Hamas to run Palestinian affairs may, yet, prove to be a step toward, rather than away from, peaceful coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians. (TIME.com, January 27, 2006)

Hamas Victory: What Next?
  • Zvi Bar'el notes that the immediate challenge facing Hamas is consolidating Palestinian security forces . The movement is likely to use its new authority to move many of its own commanders into the top jobs in the security apparatus of the Palestinian Authority, and to start working towards the consolidation of those forces under a single command as, ironically, has long been demanded by the U.S. Having promised the electorate that it would restore law and order, Hamas will face the challenge of disarming many of the rogue Fatah militias that function as private armies for local warlords. It will also face the challenge of suppressing terror attacks by its own armed wing, and the elements that would presumably begin to break away and make common cause with Islamic Jihad. Much will depend on the response of Fatah and President Abbas, to whom many of the security organizations are directly accountable. And also of Israel and the Arab world. (Haaretz, January 27, 2006)
  • Hamas is ready to negotiate with Israel provided Israel has something to offer on its core concerns -- halting attacks, withdrawal and release of prisoners. In an interview with the Times, the movement's Gaza leader Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar says Hamas will take its cue from Hezbollah, which negotiated successfully for the release of its prisoners. "Negotiation is not taboo," says al-Zahar. "But the political crime is when we sit with the Israelis and then come out with a wide smile to tell the Palestinian people that there is progress, when in fact, there is not. The people before us, the Palestinian Authority, negotiated with them for many, many years and reached lastly a deadlock. So why should we be a new copy like Fatah, wasting the time and money of the people negotiating with Israel for nothing?" (The Times, January 27, 2006)
  • Caught unprepared by Hamas's victory, Israel has threatened to withhold tax revenues to a Hamas-run PA. That would plunge the authority into crisis as early as next week, when salaries to the most important sector of the Palestinian economy are due. But cooler diplomatic heads may prevail in restraining Israel from plunging the Palestinian territories into chaos before Hamas has had a chance to define its behavior in the new situation. (The Telegraph, January 27, 2006)
  • A more telling indication of Israel's likely response comes from discussions at the annual conference on Israeli security at Herzliyah, where politicians of all stripes agreed that the Jewish State's response to the election should be to eschew negotiations and move ahead with the unilateral redrawing of boundaries begun by Ariel Sharon. (The Daily Star, January 27, 2006)
  • Hamas was caught as unaware as anyone else by its victory, writes Chris McGreal. It has not assembled a shadow cabinet capable of moving into office, and is now scrambling for coalition partners. (The Guardian, January 27, 2006)
  • Graham Usher summarizes the dilemmas facing Hamas in government: It won't negotiate "strategic" issues with Israel, but stands ready to talk about "practical" matters. It can't afford to provoke Israel with continued military attacks, yet must find a response to the creeping annexation of Palestinian territory on the West Bank via Israel's "security fence." And it must find a way to deliver jobs in an economy suffering unemployment levels as high as 70 percent, which is absolutely dependent on the donations of suddenly skeptical Western governments and the infrastructural support of Israel. (Al Ahram, January 26-February 1, 2006)
  • Zeev Schiff summarizes Israel's security dilemma in dealing with a Hamas administration. Hamas is sure to reinforce its truce and ensure calm so as to avoid provoking Israeli retalation, he writes. But Israel has long viewed such tactics as designed to build up the movement's strength, and has previously rejected talk of a long-term truce with an enemy it has vowed to destroy. Schiff suggests that Israel will move to shut down access to and from Gaza, and choke off the economic lifelines of a Hamas-ruled PA. (Haaretz, January 27, 2006)
  • Hamas will face a problem familiar to Fatah as its external arm moves to return to the territories, exemplified by the announcement that Damascus-based Khaled Meshal, one of Israel's most wanted men, would be flying home. Meshal insists that the movement remains committed to its basic principles, including resistance and restoring Palestinian rule over all of Palestine, including Israel. But, he says, practical reality demands that Hamas honor Palestinian Authority commitments to Israel, provided that those are in the interests of Palestinians. (Haaretz, January 28, 2006)
  • Paul Reynolds suggests that the the ideology of Hamas makes it far more difficult to envisage it opting publicly for peaceful coexistence with Israel. The best that can be hoped for is a long term truce, a situation that is neither peace nor war. Then again, he observes, that has been the case in the Middle East for the past quarter-century. (BBC, January 27, 2006)
  • Fears that Hamas will seek to impose Taliban-like Islamist strictures on Palestinian social life are unfounded, writes Orly Halpern. The Turkish example suggests that the demands of governance will moderate its Islamist social tendencies. (Jerusalem Post, January 27, 2006)
  • Palestinian analysts believe the election marked a maturing of Palestinian democracy, with the institutions of the Palestinian Authority having been transformed from the "national liberation movement" model of Fatah leadership with its blurred distinctions between party and state, and a full blown democracy with competitive elections defining the relationship between state and society. (Al Jazeera, January 27, 2006)
  • Why Hamas Won

  • Amos Harel writes that Israel's policy of assassinating Hamas leaders, followed by its pullout from Gaza, were the most important factors boosting the movement's standing among Palestinian voters. (Haaretz, January 27, 2006)
  • Turkish analyst Kerim Balci says Fatah's defeat was not only a product of corruption. Palestinian voters perceived Fatah as constantly buckling to Israeli and American demands and getting very little in return, he argues. (Zaman, January 27, 2006)
  • As the dust settled on the Hamas landslide, Conal Urqhart found many Palestinians on the streets who had voted for Hamas but never intended it to become the government. Some were even rather alarmed at what their protest vote had wrought. (Guardian, January 27, 2006)
  • In its own vox-popping, Al Jazeera also found plenty of remorseful protest voters. (Al Jazeera, January 27, 2006)
  • Background on Hamas's Electoral Win

  • Hamas leader Khaled Meshal explains the movement's decision to enter the Palestinian political institutions created by the Oslo Accords. (Al Ahram, 2006)
  • At almost 9,000 words, the Hamas Charter dense and lengthy read. It not only calls for Israel's destruction and the reestablishment of Palestinian control over all of historic Palestine, it also claims that Israel's intentions can be gleaned from "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a conspiratorial propaganda tract authored by the security police of the the last Russian Czar. (The Palestine Center)
  • Having lost almost its entire founding leadership to Israeli assassinations, Hamas's leaders are not exactly high profile, and its decision making is collective and by consensus. Still, a couple of figures have emerged in the course of the election , foremost among them Ismail Haniya and Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar. The BBC offers useful profiles of both men. (BBC)
  • Arab Democracy Empowers the Islamists, What Will the U.S. Do?
    President Bush, in his first attempts to make sense of the Hamas election victory, described it as "a wake-up call for Fatah." A wake-up call, perhaps, but not for Fatah -- instead, the alarm has sounded for the Bush administration's own strategy of promoting democracy in the Middle East. Washington has worked on the assumption that democracy will bring to power the small secular liberal groups whose outlook it prefers to those of the current generation of autocrats, but as the most recent wave of elections in Egypt, Iraq and the Palestinian territories show, democracy in the Middle East frees voters to exercise their preference, which in all three cases has clearly been for Islamist parties that the U.S. prefers to ignore. In Iraq, the practical reality of forging an exit strategy has necessitated practical relationships with the Shiite religious parties who are closer to Iran than to the U.S. But elsewhere, Washington has not yet begun to deal with the fact that democracy will most likely put the Islamists in power. The administration's position of promoting democracy and at the same time hoping to marginalize the Islamists has simply proved untenable. The Hamas victory underscores the challenge facing Washington of developing a modus vivendi with popularly elected Islamist governments in the Middle East. (Dilip Hiro, Tom Dispatch, January 23, 2006)

  • The International Crisis Group predicts that Hamas will now see a protracted internal struggle between more pragmatic and more ideological elements, and the outcome of the struggle to moderate the organization will depend in large part on the reactions of Israel and the West to its electoral triumph. (International Crisis Group, January 18, 2006)
  • Anton La Guardia argues that the West has no option but to accept and engage the Islamists in power, conditioning its own response on their behavior in government rather than on their ideology and past practices. (Daily Telegraph, January 27, 2006)
  • Lebanon's Daily Star, one of the foremost voice of secular liberal democracy in the region, editorializes that the West will be judged in the Arab world by its response to the Hamas election. If it seeks to punish the Palestinians for their democratic choice, Western attempts to promote democracy in the region will be thoroughly discredited. (Daily Star, January 27, 2006)
  • Aluf Benn explains that the outcomes of democratic votes in the Middle East has complicated Israel's diplomatic situation, because it has traditionally worked best with Arab autocrats who have no accountability to their public. Indeed, he writes, "The Israelis warned the Americans that that unsupervised Arab democracy will bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power, not pro-Western liberals. But Washington refused to listen." But the new situation is irreversible, and will force Israel to begin to forge a pragmatic coexistence not just with Arab autocrats, but with the Arab street. (Haaretz, January 28, 2006)
  • Iraq on a Downward Slide
    Despite the best efforts of the White House to put the most optimistic spin on progress in Iraq, the big-picture accounting provided by different arms of government can't hide the obvious: The situation in Iraq is actually declining. Last week, the U.S. military released a report showing that the total number of insurgent attacks for 2005 was 34,131, an average of around 94 a day. More importantly, that figure was a 30 percent increase over the previous year's total. In other words, in the third year since Saddam's fall, in which Iraqis went to the polls three times, the security situation became substantially worse. The government's own reports on reconstruction find spectacular waste and the failure to complete many projects, and oil output right now is about 1 million barrels a day lower than it was at the end of the Saddam era. The mainstays of the U.S. exit strategy are the creation through elections of a representative and inclusive national government and national army. But the election results and the composition of the army point to a deepening sectarian rift. In short, conditions for a successful exit strategy are deteriorating. (USA Today, January 22, 2006)

  • Newsweek reports that the U.S. has opened direct talks with the insurgent leadership. And they have some common ground, principally an antagonism to the Iranian influence that democracy has brought to Iraq, via the Shiite religious parties that have dominated elections. (Newsweek, February 6)
  • David Ignatius reveals that the U.S. is alarmed at the reluctance of the winners of Iraq's elections, the Shiite religious parties, to accommodate the Sunnis, whose community forms the base of the insurgency. In response, U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has warned the Shiites that failure to heed the U.S. suggestions could result in the U.S. cutting back on its training of Iraqi security forces.. (Daily Star, January 25, 2006)
  • But Juan Cole points out that the Shiites would have no trouble replacing U.S. training and support for Iraq's armed forces; Iran would be more than ready to step into the breach. (Informed Comment, January 25, 2006)
  • Gareth Porter shows why the army that is being "stood up" in Iraq is actually largely a sectarian force representing one side of a civil war. (Tom Dispatch, January 23, 2006)
  • Alistair Crooke warns that the sectarian composition of the new Iraqi security forces makes it preferable for the U.S. to withdraw sooner rather than later: Rather than a new national army representing a national consensus, the U.S. is helping build forces that are sectarian partisans in a low-key civil war. If the U.S. departed now, he argues, the Shiites lack the strength to prevail and would be forced to negotiate with the Sunni insurgents. But if the U.S. continues to build the strength of forces that are loyal to their Shiite parties rather than to a national idea, they will feel less need to compromise. (Bitterlemons.org, January 26, 2006)
  • Ian Bremmer argues that the centrifugal nature of Iraq's sectarian politics will weaken the new government in the course of the next year. Power will increasingly devolve on a regional and sectarian lines, in the worst possible way. (Daily Star, January 27, 2006)
  • Previously on Iraq: Election Results Challenge U.S. Exit Strategy
  • China and Russia Thwart Iran Sanctions Bid
    The U.S. and its European allies have had to adjust their diplomatic strategy in response to the Iranian nuclear issue after failing to enlist Russian and Chinese support for efforts to have the matter discussed at the UN Security Council when the IAEA board meets early next month. Having maintained that steps towards uranium enrichment capability constituted "crossing a red line," Washington and the EU have been force to backpedal and rely on a Russian compromise proposal that would actually allow Iran to undertake some of the activities its moves to restart triggered the current showdown. And the Iranians are negotiating over the Russian proposal as if from a position of strength. Plainly, there has been considerably miscalculation by Washington, London, Berlin and Paris of the diplomatic balance on Iran issue -- the trump cards are held in Moscow and Beijing. (New York Times, January 26, 2006)

  • Kaveh L Afrasiabi explains how Iran, China and Russia have engaged in the diplomatic game to thwart the push for sactions. (Asia Times, January 26, 2006)
  • There was better news for Washington's Iran hawks from an LA Times opinion poll, which found that 57 percent of Americans back a military strike against Iran if it remains defiant on the nuclear issue. (LA Times, January 26, 2006)
  • Ehsan Ahrari notes that the U.S. is threatening to scupper a nuclear energy deal with India if New Delhi fails to vote with Washington at the IAEA. But, he explains, India's decision will be based on a complex balance of domestic and regional political forces that combine to forge India's carefully balanced foreign policy. (Asia Times, January 26, 2006)
  • Simon Jenkins warned two weeks ago that the U.S. and its allies have moved to escalate the diplomatic confrontation with Iran without having a viable endgame. The backpedaling now in evidence bears out his analysis. (Observer, January 20, 2006)
  • Previously on Iran: West Lacks an Endgame in Iran Crisis
  • Background Material on Iran

  • Ray Tayekh offers excellent into Iran's strategic thinking. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • The International Crisis Group offered a prescient preview of the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, and provided some thoughtful prescriptions for dealing with it. (ICG, August 2005)
  • The Heritage Foundation sets out the position of the more hawkish element in the Bush administration, arguing that Iran's nuclear ambitions will not be thwarted by diplomacy, but that pursuing the diplomatic course is essential to setting the stage for more coercive actions that must inevitably follow. (Heritage Foundation, January 2006)
  • Ian Davis and Paul Ingram provide a detailed overview of the problems within the NPT as a backdrop to the Iran crisis. (Foreign Policy in Focus, December 2005)

  • Jill Carroll, kidnapped while on assignment in Iraq for the Christian Science Monitor

    'Our Jill'
    Freelance journalist Jill Carroll remains, at the time of writing, in the captivity of unknown kidnappers, who have threatened to kill her unless the U.S. military releases women prisoners in Iraq. One of her former employers, the Jordan Times, where she worked for a year, wrote a moving tribute to Carroll as an exemplary bridge between the West and the Arab world, and appealed to her captors to free her. We reproduce it below in full:

    "Jill Carroll worked at The Jordan Times for one year — long enough for anyone who would come across her to be convinced beyond any doubt of her genuine interest in the Middle East, her sincere admiration for Arab culture and utmost respect for the Arab people. From a professional point of view, her journalistic skills, enthusiasm and competence have been assets from which we would have loved to benefit much longer. But Jill belongs to that special category of people who feel their lives should serve a purpose, and who are gifted with the determination and strength to fulfil their calling.

    "This is why, a few months after the US invasion, she left Jordan for Iraq, prompted by the desire to show to as vast an audience as possible the human tragedies caused by the war and the hardships of the Iraqi people.

    "When she took the courageous step to relocate to Baghdad, she was moved by the belief that the ultimate duty of a journalist is to expose injustice and cruelty. She wanted to be a "real" journalist.

    "We will not hide the fact that many of her colleagues here tried to dissuade her.

    "The kidnappers who abducted her could not have chosen a more wrong target. True, Jill is a US citizen. But she is also more critical of US policies towards the Middle East than many Arabs.

    "Though as a reporter she always complies with the strictest requirements of objectivity and impartiality, Jill has been from day one opposed to the war, to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

    "More than just being sympathetic with average Iraqis under war and occupation, Jill is a true believer in Arab causes.

    "From Arabic food to the Arabic language, Jill has always wanted to know and experience as much as possible about Arab identity, and she is keen on absorbing it, learning, understanding and respecting it.

    "She doesn't just 'like' Arab culture, she loves it.

    "An open-minded, sharp, intelligent, dedicated and highly appreciated professional, Jill makes one of the best ambassadors Arabs could ever hope for. It is simply unconscionable for any Arab to want to harm a person like her.

    "It is simply unconscionable for any human being to even think of remotely hurting such a loyal, noble and unselfish person.

    "News of her current ordeal has left us both shocked and outraged.

    "We pray for her safety and appeal to her kidnappers for her immediate release."

    (Jordan Times, January 15, 2006)

  • The Baghdad Blogger known as "Riverbend" provides a moving tribute to Carroll's translator, Alan Enwiyah, murdered during her kidnapping. "Riverbend" knew him well from the days when he ran her favorite music store, keeping cosmpolitan Baghdadis supplied with tapes of everything from Abba to Marilyn Manson.

    Didier Drogba, star striker of Cote d'Ivoire's national soccer squad, is well aware of his team's power to serve as a symbol of unity to a nation in the throes of a blood civil conflict

    Can Soccer Stop a War?
    Soccer once started a war between El Salvador and Honduras (who briefly clashed after their teams met in a World Cup qualifier in 1969), but today the stars of Cote d'Ivoire are hoping they can prevent one -- at home. The highly rated "Elephants" are currently at the African Nations Cup in Egypt, which will be their warmup for this summer's World Cup in Germany. Many are tipping them to win the honors in Africa, and cause a few upsets in Germany. But the country they represent is in the throes of a crisis deteriorating towards civil war, with violent protests against the presence of the UN coinciding with the team's travel to Cairo. The players are drawn from both sides of the north-south frontline dividing government forces from rebel formations, and they took a moment out of their training this week to conduct a high-profile "prayer for peace" at home.

    "Ivorians, we ask for your forgiveness," they said. "Let us come together and put this war behind us." The national team certainly carry the support of partisans on both sides of the political divide, and protests against the UN began winding down towards the end of the week in preparation for Saturday's match against Morocco. "We stopped so we can watch the Elephants at the Nations Cup," one protester told the BBC. "When they get knocked out, we will be on the streets again!" (BBC, January 21, 2006)

    Cost of Iraq Could Top $2 Trillion
    Properly calculating the cost to the U.S. of the Iraq war requires tabulating not only the weekly budget expenditure on maintaining the U.S. force in Iraq, but also the long-term costs such as those of providing health care to wounded Americans, rebuilding an over-stretched military and other unforeseen expenditures. Using this broader approach, economist Joseph Stiglitz has calculated that the total long-term cost of the Iraq war to the U.S. could top $2 trillion. Stiglitz presented his findings on a panel hosted by Economists for Peace and Security at the American Economic Association/Allied Social Sciences Association annual conference in Boston. "Predicting overall costs when no one knows how long the war will last, or how many US troops will remain deployed and for how long, is an imprecise exercise," writes the Boston Globe on Stiglitz's findings. "But the range of some future expenses can be assessed, such as the likely medical bills and disability payments for the soldiers who have been wounded in the conflict. Twenty percent of them, for example, have serious brain or spinal injuries that will require life-long care. The cost of death benefits to military families and bonuses being paid to soldiers to reenlist and to sign up new recruits can also be tallied. So can secondary costs such as the interest on the rising budget deficit as a result of war spending." On the basis of those and other expenses, Stiglitz suggests $2 trillion may be a conservative estimate. (Boston Globe, January 8, 2006)

  • U.S. Central Command's website and Newsletter
    Updating Info on Iraq, Afghanistan. the Middle East and the Horn of Africa