Crossfire War – Rapid Fire News=Tehran – Ramallah – Beirut Watch – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Baghdad – El Arish – Damascus – Beirut – Gaza – Ramallah/Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – Paris – Rome – London – Washington; US Lieut-Gen. Fraser Conducts Closed Door Trilateral Meeting Without Israel DM Barak – Fatah Threatens Popular Revolt Against Mahmoud Abbas – UNMIK Chief Ruecker Demands Serbia Stop Attacking Northern Kosovo
Night Watch: King David Hotel – Washington’s high level military liaison Lieutenant-General William Fraser conducted his first trilateral meeting with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel Friday in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. The meeting was held behind closed doors and significantly was not attended by Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak who was represented by senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad. It was assumed Barak did not attend due to Washington’s opposition to new Israeli settlements in the West Bank but those who have monitored Barak’s critical remarks on Mahmoud Abbas know the settlements are not the real issue. Haaretz reports the PA was represented by Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad. After the meeting, which was intended to coordinate the war against Palestinian militants as the behind the scenes military reality in the “road map to peace”, General Fraser submitted a Confidential Report to U. S. Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice. And I suspect his report concentrated on the real reason for Barak’s absence, because he no longer takes the PA seriously knowing they are extremely weak and can do nothing against the militant groups like Hamas or even Fatah’s owned armed wing the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Abbas is head only the nominal head of Fatah, in reality they take their marching orders from Tehran which has an extremely active Embassy in Ramallah. [HAARETZ]
There is no PA to coordinate anything with, its authority is an illusion, hardly more than a creation of Bush Administration press conferences, a paper state. Jerusalem has admitted if it weren’t for the frequent raids into the West Bank by the Israel Defense Force (IDF) Hamas and other militants would control the West Bank and through them Tehran would be in control of the entire Palestinian State. Realistically speaking there is no chance for any serious trilateral cooperation against Islamic militants by Washington-Jerusalem-Ramallah only potential bilateral cooperation between Washington-Jerusalem. I will be surprised if any more trilateral meetings are called.
Ramallah – A few years ago some members of Fatah admitted during the day they worked with Mahmoud Abbas in his security administration but at night they belong to different Palestinian militant groups very much opposed to Abbas. The Jerusalem Post reports these same militants, Fatah’s armed wing the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, are threatening an open revolt against his government. In Ramallah Friday they distributed leaflets that said, “We renew our call to President Abbas to fire Salaam Fayyad and form a new government that would not abandon the armed struggle.” They also demanded Abbas open a “new page” with Hamas and end all contacts with Israel especially the security cooperation. The “new page” with Hamas is of course military cooperation and concerning Fayyad the militants may re-issue their call for his assassination. That is why the PA representatives met by General Fraser are more concerned for their own safety that with anything else. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades would actually label them as collaborators. [JPOST]
It is also being reported that for quite some time there has been a very real power struggle between Fayyad and Abbas. Washington actually prompted it with media reports the Bush Administration was trying to replace Abbas with Fayyad. Abbas’ extremely suspicious past, beginning as a terrorist alongside Yasir Arafat during the 1960s, and enormous corruption since then has finally caught up with him.
What has given the militants a new sense of urgency was probably the successful attack by the IDF undercover unit Wednesday night that killed four militants based in Bethlehem. Two of them, Mohammad Shehadeh and Ahmed Balboul were leaders of Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa based in Bethlehem. Thousands attended their funeral Thursday with a lot of Hezbollah flags openly displayed as they stated they will renew their attacks against Israel, unless of course they decide to overthrow Abbas and assassinate Fayyad first. I doubt if Abbas’ personal bodyguard could hold out long against the militants so I suspect his best choice is for him and other PA officials to relocate to Cairo.
Kosovska Mitrovica – The best chance for violence to erupt, as a result of Kosovo’s declaration of independence last month, has just taken place in the flashpoint city of Kosovska Mitrovica in northern Kosovo. B92/Beta news reports Kosovo Serb demonstrators have broken through the police cordon around the Municipal and District Court building and are now flying the Serbian flag. The demonstration began Feb. 21, just a few days after the independence declaration, and the demonstrators represent the 200 Serbian employess of the court who were fired in 1999 when Brussels, through NATO and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), took over the province that year after NATO’s 78 day air campaign against Serbia. One of the demonstration leaders is Milanka Prstojevic who stated, “We didn’t bring weapons, we just brought the law and that’s why they should leave us be, put down their weapons, open the gates and let us into the building to revive law and order.” [B92]
An incensed Joachim Ruecker, chief of the UNMIK, has been on the phone to Serbian authorities demanding they “stop all attacks in northern Kosovo.” It seems the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) and the UNMIK unit did nothing to prevent the entry into the court building. Negotiations are ongoing but tense as everyone knows violence could break out any moment. There are currently 30 KPS and several members of the UNMIK on the scene but they could be sent reinforcements which is what I suspect. In the meantime, as according to agreements made between Kosovo’s Albanian administration and NATO before independence was declared, the Albanians have first called on the UNMIK to solve the crisis and if not then the next step is probably to send for KFOR units with NATO to remove the demonstrators forcibly.
Ruecker has stated he has informed the Serbian authorities the international administration would not tolerate “this blatant disregard for law and order.” Belgrade and the Serbs in northern Kosovo knew what his and Brussels’s response would be and must have planned to face it using the responses outlined in Belgrade’s Action Plan most of which has been kept secret. The plan is of course no secret in Moscow which is fully prepared to support Serbia as Belgrade responds to what it calls “unfriendly acts.” I do not see how negotiations can solve this as Serbia never had any faith in negotiations as they and the Albanians probably realized the next war was inevitable. Before the independence declaration Belgrade indicated without the presence of the international administration (Brussels), Serbia and the Albanian community could come to an agreement on their own so when the shooting gets started Serbia will be mostly targeting international forces including KFOR.
Serbia is more prepared for war than in 1999 having re-armed with massive assistance from Russia and signed two security agreements in 2006 with Iran – Greece.