Omar Suleiman Promised the 2006 Election in Gaza Wouldn’t Take Place

Back in 2008, David Rose had a fairly explosive article on Condi Rice and Elliot Abrams’ incompetent meddling in Gaza, which he compared to Iran-Contra. Here’s how I summarized its revelations at the time:

The story explains how the Administration pushed an election for the Palestinians, not seeing what every sane observer saw–that Hamas would win. Immediately after the election, Condi started pressuring Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve Parliament. When he refused, the Administration started backing the Fatah strongman, Mohammad Dahlan, in hopes that he could strengthen Fatah and the Palestinian Authority’s security organizations–which had been devastated by Israel during the intifada–sufficiently to overcome Hamas. This set off a civil war between Fatah and Hamas. To end the bloodshed, Saudi’s King Abdullah brokered a national unity government, without warning the US he would do so. In response to Abdullah’s unity government plan, the State Department developed its own $1.27 billion plan, what Hamas considered “a blueprint for a U.S.-backed Fatah coup.” The US handed that plan to Abbas and had him adopt it as if it were his own. Hamas responded by taking over Gaza and capturing the Egyptian weapons intended to strengthen Fatah.

Central to the whole story is how the State Department could have been so stupid as not to see that Hamas would win a democratic election in Gaza in 2006.

Elections for the Palestinian parliament, known officially as the Legislative Council, were originally set for July 2005, but later postponed by Abbas until January 2006.Dahlan says he warned his friends in the Bush administration that Fatah still wasn’t ready for elections in January. Decades of self-preservationist rule by Arafat had turned the party into a symbol of corruption and inefficiency—a perception Hamas found it easy to exploit. Splits within Fatah weakened its position further: in many places, a single Hamas candidate ran against several from Fatah.

“Everyone was against the elections,” Dahlan says. Everyone except Bush. “Bush decided, ‘I need an election. I want elections in the Palestinian Authority.’ Everyone is following him in the American administration, and everyone is nagging Abbas, telling him, ‘The president wants elections.’ Fine. For what purpose?”

The elections went forward as scheduled. On January 25, Hamas won 56 percent of the seats in the Legislative Council.

Few inside the U.S. administration had predicted the result, and there was no contingency plan to deal with it. “I’ve asked why nobody saw it coming,” Condoleezza Rice told reporters. “I don’t know anyone who wasn’t caught off guard by Hamas’s strong showing.”

“Everyone blamed everyone else,” says an official with the Department of Defense. “We sat there in the Pentagon and said, ‘Who the fuck recommended this?’”

But a Wikileaks cable released by Aftenposten may explain why State was taken by surprised.

They may have thought the election itself wouldn’t happen.

In fact, they were warned by Israeli Defense Official Amos Gilad that if elections were held, “it will destroy everything” with attempts to foster stability (in the name of “peace”) in the Middle East. But Gilad also told them Omar Suleiman promised to see to it that there were no elections.

Gilad said he warned Suleiman that if Hamas participates in the January 2006 Palestinian elections “it will destroy everything, as Hamas will take over and start a new process.” According to Gilad, Suleiman and his deputy told him, “There will be no elections in January. We will take care of it.” Gilad requested that the USG closely hold this information and strictly protect the sources. He clarified that neither Suleiman nor his deputy explained how Egypt would stop the elections or elaborated further on the subject. Gilad admitted that he does not know how the Egyptians could prevent the elections from taking place, but said, “The only people the Palestinians can trust now are the Egyptians.”

All of which doesn’t surprise me. But does remind me of two things. First, Obama invited Elliott Abrams to attend an experts meeting at the White House on January 31; Abrams declined to attend.

Elliott Abrams, the former Bush White House Middle East/democracy advisor, was invited but couldn’t go. “I had other commitments I did not think I could fairly cancel at such short notice,” he told POLITICO. While another colleague tried to soften Abrams’s implication he had better things to do than offer counsel to the White House, saying he thought he was out of town, in fact Abrams later said he had already committed to speak to the AJC along with Jordanian former diplomat Marwan Muasher.

So I guess this is the kind of catastrophe Obama thinks we should repeat?

I’m also reminded about Robert Grenier–who was head of CIA’s Counterterrorism Center until just after the Gaza election–talking about American hypocrisy on democracy.

So nice to see that we want to put a guy who promised to prevent a democratic election the US was backing (at least in theory, though Suleiman didn’t deliver on that promise) in charge of transitioning to democracy in Egypt.

Update: Changed description of cable for accuracy.

  1. PhilPerspective says:

    I wonder if Omar Suleiman did that knowing he wasn’t going to stop squat and also looking forward to a day like today. Well, when Mubarak finalls kicks the bucket. Meaning, Suleiman played us for chumps.

  2. nextstopchicago says:

    A follow-up to Mary’s question in the previous thread – in addition to the military involvement in the detention of NYTimes reporters Mehkennet and Kulish, as I explained in that thread, the Guardian live-blog today at 5:09 describes the detention of Daniel Williams of Human Rights Watch during the raid on the Hisham Mubarak Legal Center “by the Egyptian military”, and in the link to the previous live-blog report, they mention “army police”. I take this at face value, though it’s also possible that they were attributing to “army police” something that was actually Intelligence Ministry police or other police.

    At any rate, I’ve seen mention of military involvement in detentions many times, and it’s hard for me to believe it’s all a matter of sloppy use of language.

    • Nell says:

      Army involvement very important point, and one stressed by AJE reporters yesterday to their disbelieving, disruptive bubblehead anchors. Wonderful as it is to have AJE in many ways, in others they can behave like the worst of the US 24-hr cable yakkers. (E.g., ALL DAY LONG on Feb. 2 and into Feb. 3, when the government thugs were assaulting the protesters, the chyron on AJE called them “pro-Mubarak protesters”. U.S. reporters were far franker, much quicker to call them what they were from early on Feb. 2)

  3. WilliamOckham says:

    I think Suleiman made the mistake of thinking that his benefactor (the USG) was a rational actor. He saw clearly that an election wouldn’t be in our interest and assumed that we would pull the plug at an appropriate time. He knew that we just paid lip service to democracy promotion. Unfortunately, he didn’t understand the internal domestic politics (or Bush’s psyche) well enough to know that we would force the elections to take place.

  4. puppethead says:

    Considering what a hawk Hillary has always been it doesn’t surprise me she’s comfortable working with a strongman like Suleiman. America has always liked its controllable dictators.

  5. nextstopchicago says:

    More on the role of the military – Andrew Sullivan’s underbloggers first channel Human Rights Watch:

    >the army was clearly in charge of arbitrary and sometimes violent arrests, even if the beatings and torture had been “outsourced” to other agencies or thugs.

    and then forward some analysis from Foreign Affairs:

    >The private hostility and the public neutrality of the army makes sense if military elite’s main goal is to maintain its access to the treasury. The army is not neutral – it’s tactical.

    I think Sullivan’s blog is doing a great job on Egypt, helping inform a more intelligent and benign stream of conservative opinion. They cut to the quick. We have to look for whatever allies we can find.

  6. nextstopchicago says:

    The 2006 election was pretty close. (I’m going by wiki here. Maybe it’s inaccurate?) Fatah took 41.4 to Hamas’ 44.4. Six other parties had 2-4.5%. Was that outcome partly a result of major fraud? I’m not sure how a loss by 3% could be seen as foreordained.

    None of this challenges your underlying point about Suleiman. Just wondering.

    Something interesting from my search – Fatah is an acronym from Harakat al-Tahrir al Filastini. (I guess the acronym works backwords for some reason. Maybe Hataf doesn’t sound good.) So the Tahrir (Liberation) of Tahrir Square is the same word that is part of their name. Not meaningful, but something I didn’t know before.

    • Nell says:

      Most people in basic support of U.S. policy did not see Fatah defeat coming. I did and was mocked for my prediction by liberal Zionist friends. Basically, it could have gone the other way, but Gazans were so fed-up with Fatah corruption, and the U.S. fed this by pumping $$/projects in during the campaign period in a very obvious, heavy-handed way… But to grasp how fed up, one would have had to be reading Palestinian discussion and media and taking it seriously. Something those making U.S. policy not well known for doing.

  7. radiofreewill says:

    This is frog-boiling the WikiLeaks way.

    There’s a Mubarak and a Suleiman in every US-propped-up dictatorship around the globe.

    A little leak here, a little leak there, and voila! we’re boiling in 50 Countries that we thought were our bought and paid for lackeys.

    Imvho, the only way this is going to stop is if we hand over Bush and Cheney…otherwise, it’s going to get increasingly uncomfortable for US.

      • radiofreewill says:

        You’re right, of course, and that’s a point that bmaz has made, too, but I keep holding-out hope for Justice to find a way.

        It’s like the opening scene in ‘Goin South’ where horse thief Jack Nicholson is whipping the stolen horse to cross a river, followed by a determined posse, and when he gets to the other side, he starts jumping up and down, yelling, “I crossed the border, you poor dumb bastards! You boys can’t touch me now! Ha!” Except, the posse just keeps thundering across the river and drags him back to town.

        nextstop – imo, everything else about Harman is secondary to her Gang of 8 vote – she may very well have sealed the deal for US on the surveillance state becoming an inauditable secret superpower function of the executive branch under the AUMF.

        Even if Bush would still have used his ‘inherent Article ll power’ to do un-reviewable full-spectrum surveillance on the basis of suspicion, instead of probable cause, her vote may have given him the thinnest-patina of green-lighting ‘legitimacy’ – making it look like the Intelligence Committees of the Legislative Branch ‘endorsed’ Bush’s secret extra-Constitutional power grab.

  8. klynn says:

    Okay, this is not good.

    Americans who have accessed the WikiLeaks web site may have violated the Espionage Act, under an extreme interpretation of the law advanced by Air Force officials last week.

    • powwow says:

      Since you bring up WikiLeaks here –

      Can anyone shed any (public) light on why the Twitter account of David House – – has apparently ceased to exist?

      That was the correct address as of late last Sunday (a week ago) when I checked David’s page – clicking through one of the “Following” links on Jane’s Twitter page – to see the update about his visits to Bradley Manning that weekend.

      But as of late last night, and today, when I’ve checked that page again (including by clicking on the link on Jane’s page), I see only this:

      Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!

      I trust and hope that this was a decision made by David himself, for one reason or another related to the harassment of those challenging the military’s pre-trial treatment of Manning, but I thought I should mention it.

  9. Frank33 says:

    If you even are in the same blog as a Wikileak, you are targeted by the neo-cons. We are all criminals now. And Mubarak Obama can murder any of us.

    Almost anyone in the United States, and especially soldiers or the families of US Air Force members, could be under the threat of prosecution by the military, according to a recent “guidance” document issued by the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) public affairs office.

    Potentially, any website could be censored. Assuming Cass Sunstein had not done the censoring first.

    Also according to the legal office, “if a family member of an Air Force employee accesses WikiLeaks on a home computer, the family member may be subject to prosecution for espionage under U.S. Code Title 18 Section 793. The Air Force member would have an obligation to safeguard the information under the general guidance to safeguard classified information.”
    It was unclear whether, or other websites which have carried information related to WikiLeaks’ US State Dept. documents, were currently being blocked on military networks.

  10. nextstopchicago says:

    EW must be busy with something really important, either in real life or blogging life.

    Otherwise I’d think she’d have been here to gloat over Jane Harman leaving the House!

    • emptywheel says:

      As much as I loathe Harman as an arrogant hack, on some issues she has been better than anyone (satellite surveillance in the US, torture). I didn’t know how to write the post capturing that (not least bc it always infuriates people when I give Harman credit for being better on torture than others). So I may or may not write that post tomorrow.

      • Mary says:

        It doesn’t infuriate me – I thought she was better than Pelosi on torture and better than anyone on surveillance as well and had a nice, normal proposal that should have been backed on how to handle FISA surveillance requests and keep everything within a FISA format while cutting the rest off.

        She’s got problems, but I thought she was the best of the bunch (Pelosi I don’t cut as much slack). Getting Reyes was definitely not a step up the ladder.

        BTW – do we know who Suleiman’s deputy that they refer to is? It’s pretty odd to have Gilad saying that the Egyptians are the only ones the Palestinians can trust in the context of a threat/promise by Suleiman to derail the elections.

  11. nextstopchicago says:

    Ay, yay, yay. I have a seasonal business, and my interest and commitment waxes and wanes.

    But I didn’t know how much I’d missed — I thought we liked Goldsmith and disliked Harman. Oh well. I’ll try to stick around longer this time.

    • Mary says:

      There are a lot of people who comment here and who are good guys who do give Goldsmith a lot more kudos bc of the pressure he was under at OLC and the fact that he at least did something. I have just never been ver flexible on Goldsmith or Comey either one, in part because of what they didn’t do as DAG and at OLC, and in part bc of what they did do, and more so bc of what they did preceding those slots – which colors how I think of what they did in the slots. And a whole lot bc of what they haven’t done since leaving those slots.

      For example, when you know that Posner and Goldsmith were out there, selling as doctrine, the kind of stuff that is in his book and other writings about how the US is so big and strong that its Exec can pretty much laugh at international law, you see where guys like Yoo took that and ran with it and it makes Goldsmith’s “shock” over what he saw in the IG’s report much less credible – he frickin helped set the doctrine that took us to those very bad places and only when he thought his name might be in the direct memo chain did he wriggle around to try to make things any cleaner and even then, he went out and immediately began sellig his same wares at Harvard and advocating to disappear the Bush human trafficking victims into forever detentions (or at least, until the GWOT is “won”) in offshored areas like GITMO that are under military control.

      That he could be in the loop on information about how many innocent people were rounded up and disappeared from their families – including CHILDREN – and make that secondary to advocating for his doctrine of forever detentions – – that’s a very-not-good man. IMO. Those who look at what was going on in general (and the hints from Mayer in her book that Comey and Goldsmith were afraid for their lives – – also a bit of fallout from doctrines that say an Exec of a powerful country can do what he damn well pleases) give Goldsmith credit for not being Yoo or Bybee and for challenging Yoo a smidge.

      So it’s not a one tent party on Goldsmith.

  12. emal says:

    It certainly appears that Suleimen was using the US as much as we were using him…I mean with much of the potential blackmail information with US sponsored torture rendition program and now this interesting comment and therefore possible double cross …hmm sounds like we groomed another Chalabi.

  13. MadDog says:

    OT – From your tweet to Marc Ambinder EW, can I assume you’re also dumpster-diving in Rummy’s collection of previously classified and personal Wikileaks-like stolen borrowed classified information dump?

    I know I am. *g*

    From a memorandum (3 page PDF) of a conference call on October 21, 2001 regarding bombing Taliban/Al Qaeda in Afghanistan:

    …The call began with a lengthy discussion of the previous day’s operations in Afghanistan followed by a detailed review of the air operations planned for the 24th. In the course of the conversation, the Secretary asked a series of questions concerning the targeting of Taliban Command and Control elements. In particular, he asked: “How long did it take to target” a suspected Taliban leadership location once detection had been confirmed. During our notetaking, we both noted that the Secretary’s intention and tone “implies that it takes too long.”


    …SecDef: “I’m concerned that the process of deciding high collateral damage is causing us to lose opportunities.”


    …SecDef: “You don’t think we’re missing opportunities because of lags in CIA decision making or lags in determining collateral damage?”


    …SecDef: “The payoff for getting a key leader is high. Look for a new process. Anything to speed it up. I have a high tolerance level for mistakes.”

  14. nextstopchicago says:


    I remembered things like EW’s lede from Nov. 09:
    >I realize that Eric Holder couldn’t really have told the squawking Republicans that military commissions are much riskier a place to charge alleged terrorists than civilian courts. Which is why I’m grateful that Jim Comey and Jack Goldsmith did.

    I’ve lifted it completely out of context, and I’m not quoting it to contradict. Merely because I went back to make sure I wasn’t crazy – that at least at some point, there were semi-positive things said about him here. I have no doubt that by flitting in and out, I missed the broader portrait of him.

    • bmaz says:

      Heh, this may come as a shock, but every now and then wMarcy and I disagree! Goldsmith has done a couple of things that do separate him slightly from the worst of the Bushies. That said, I have always been convinced that both he and Comey only did that to cover their own asses, and did little more than the minimum to grind the gig to enough of a crawl to not have themselves and their departments rolled into the mass criminality exposure they were on the verge of. they didn’t just discover what the hell was going on that day/night at the hospital with poor old John Ashcroft; it just became a bridge too far when they had to have their names on it, especially with the knowledge that the FISA Court was ready to cut their heads off. And they let the majority of the shit get reshuffled and put back in action subsequently. Not to mention the torture stuff of course. So, they get a smidgen of credit, but not much.

  15. nextstopchicago says:

    Let me be the first to tell you the exact moment and cause of the fall of the Egyptian regime:

    The Minister of the Interior is now being charged with the New Year’s Eve church bombings!

    It could be scapegoating, of course. And it could be a false report. But if it holds, it will be the last nails in the coffin.

    Some of the background – there was a campaign of violence against Copts. One might argue that the regime expected to step in and ‘protect’ them, ensuring their continued loyalty.

    Instead, a national movement arose to protect them. Independent groups called for a day of unity when Muslims would attend Coptic churches to ensure their safety – on the Coptic Christmas on Jan. 7th.

    This movement gave people their first sense of common purpose and the power of just appearing in public together – which was ignited two weeks later.

    The fact that the Mubarak regime was behind the bombings will destory the last shred of patience for them, very quickly. I think Friday prayers will be the end.

    • Mary says:

      That’s QUITE a story if it holds up (and you’re right to raise the take of scapegoating as an issue – a nice way to reassure America and Europe if Suleiman is cracking down on a corrupt minister who killed Christians).

      • nextstopchicago says:

        This will not play that way. I had earlier today mentioned my surprise that Cameron seemed to have gotten out in front of the administration on Egypt, and offered a bit of praise. The implication raised in this article is that Cameron did so because of what the British had learned from the escaped prisoners who fled to their embassy. This is going to define the old regime. Suleiman can’t escape from being tarred with it, if it’s true.

        • Mary says:

          That would be nice to think – but al-Adly was already being detained by Suleiman’s guys whent this came out, wasn’t he? Three or four of the old ministers I thought had their funds frozen, couldn’t leave and a prosecutor was on them since a week or so ago?

          I’m hoping that you are right, though.

    • emptywheel says:


      I had been wondering if that was an effort to provoke. And, as you say, it marks a moment when solidarity became stronger than the efforts to polarize society.


  16. nextstopchicago says:

    The al Adly prosecution is sourced to UK diplomatic sources. This is said to be the info behind Cameron’s stronger words about transition earlier today. The people who al Adly had charged escaped from his prison during the revolt and went directly to the British embassy to report what they knew.

    Wow. Just wow. Still no confirmation anywhere (I had followed a Sandmonkey tweet to find the al Arabiya piece).

  17. bobschacht says:

    Brilliant reporting, EW!

    Typo alert: First sentence after second quote block: I think you mean surprise, not “surprised.”

    Now back to reading more…

    Bob in AZ

  18. JamesJoyce says:

    Suleiman is America’s boy. Rendition, torture etc. Reminds me of how after democratic aspirations of the Iranians where crushed in the CIA/M-5 overthrow of a democratically elected leader. Suleiman would have fit very well into the Iranian police apparatus. The Shah’s Savak, trained by Mossad, M-5 and CIA. Murderous murderers, all in the name of oil! Fucking disgusting!

  19. JamesJoyce says:

    “SAVAK increasingly symbolized the Shah’s rule from 1963-79, a period of corruption in the royal family, one-party rule, the torture and execution of thousands of political prisoners, suppression of dissent, and alienation of the religious masses. The United States reinforced its position as the Shah’s protector and supporter, sowing the seeds of the anti-Americanism that later manifested itself in the revolution against the monarchy.

    Accurate information concerning SAVAK remains publicly unavailable. A flurry of pamphlets issued by the revolutionary regime after 1979 indicated that SAVAK had been a full-scale intelligence agency with more than 15,000 full-time personnel and thousands of part-time informants. SAVAK was attached to the Office of the Prime Minister, and its director assumed the title of deputy to the prime minister for national security affairs. Although officially a civilian agency, SAVAK had close ties to the military; many of its officers served simultaneously in branches of the armed forces.

    Another childhood friend and close confidant of the shah, Major General Hosain Fardust, was deputy director of SAVAK until the early 1970s, when the shah promoted him to the directorship of the Special Intelligence Bureau, which operated inside Niavaran Palace, independently of SAVAK.

    Founded to round up members of the outlawed Tudeh, SAVAK expanded its activities to include gathering intelligence and neutralizing the regime’s opponents. An elaborate system was created to monitor all facets of political life. For example, a censorship office was established to monitor journalists, literary figures, and academics throughout the country; it took appropriate measures against those who fell out of line. Universities, labor unions, and peasant organizations, among others, were all subjected to intense surveillance by SAVAK agents and paid informants. The agency was also active abroad, especially in monitoring Iranian students who publicly opposed Pahlavi rule.”

    Support for Suleimen is an extension of those policies, throwing the Egyptian people under the bus, again just as Iranians where thrown under the bus at the behest of Western oil interests. America is involved in a “head on collision with oil addiction,” and the right to self determination, the basis of our revolution, but not for others? Quite messed up! Akin to the illogic of a drunk, a crack addict, or a slave-owner?

    • bobschacht says:

      I conducted fieldwork in Iran before the Revolution, and can verify that SAVAK was much feared. Our fieldwork involved a lot of driving around in rural areas, so we had to have papers from the National Government granting us permission to do what we were doing. On one occasion, at least, our driver was pulled in overnight for questioning by SAVAK. I don’t know any details, but at least he returned to us as a driver, although he appeared to be somewhat chastened and more wary than before. Also, once when we were traveling on back-country dirt roads, we intruded without knowing it onto a military base that didn’t look like a military base (no fencing or signage). Within half an hour to an hour we were greeted by a military vehicle and brought to the command post where we were held for several hours while our papers were examined (and probably phone calls were made), before being released and told not to come back. All that was relatively benign, but I could tell that all of the Iranians were extremely wary of SAVAK. You did not want to get in trouble with them.

      Bob in AZ

  20. joanneleon says:

    Did you read this article in the LA Times?
    U.S. eases off call for swift Egypt reform

    There are a number of quotes from anonymous admin officials in there that are very interesting.

    Also, State Dept threw Wisener under the bus on Saturday but how far off was he? Sounds like his sin was that he let the cat out of the bag.

    Two paragraphs that were the most concerning one to me:

    But U.S. officials privately acknowledged that there is no guarantee that Suleiman, a former intelligence chief closely aligned with the military, is committed to substantial reforms.

    U.S. officials have said privately that longtime allies in the Middle East and North Africa were dismayed at how quickly the Obama administration called on Mubarak to step aside. To them, it raised questions about America’s commitment to its friends.

    Sounds like Cheney. And Biden.

  21. Xboxershorts says:

    Speaking of scapegoating, if I remember correctly, Jimmy Carter was blamed for the Hamas election victory as his Carter Center was on the ground as an election observer and blogs in the conserv-o-sphere dropped and then amplified the conspiracy theory that Carter subverted these elections to bring about the Hamas victory. They just love to hate Jimmy, don’t they? This is something conservative leaders have become extremely good at. Deflecting blame upon their “enemies” when their fairy tale vision of the world turns out to blow up in their faces.