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Neocon Iraq war architects want a redo in Gaza

Neocon Iraq war architects want a redo in Gaza

Post-conflict plan would put Western mercenaries and Israel military into the mix, with handpicked countries in charge of a governing ‘Trust’

Middle East

Several key architects of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq 21 years ago are presenting a plan for rebuilding and “de-radicalizing” the surviving population of Gaza, while ensuring that Israel retains “freedom of action” to continue operations against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The plan, which was published as a report Thursday by the hard-line neo-conservative Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, or JINSA, and the Vandenberg Coalition, is calling for the creation of a private entity, the “International Trust for Gaza Relief and Reconstruction” to be led by “a group of Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates” and “supported by the United States and other nations.”

With regard to Palestinian participation, the report by the “Gaza Futures Task Force,” envisages an advisory board “composed primarily of non-Hamas Gazans from Gaza, the West Bank, and diaspora.” In addition, the Palestinian Authority, which is based on the West Bank, “should be consulted in, and publicly bless,” the creation of the Trust while itself undergoing a process of “revamping.”

In addition to granting Israel license to intervene against Hamas and Islamic Jihad within Gaza, the plan calls for security to be provided by the Trust’s leaders and “capable forces from non-regional states with close ties to Israel,” as well as “vetted Gazans.” The Trust should also be empowered to “hire private security contractors with good reputations among Western militaries” in “close coordination with Israeli security forces,” according to the report.

The task force that produced the report consists of nine members, four of whom played key roles as Middle East policymakers under former President George W. Bush and in the run-up to and aftermath of the disastrous Iraq invasion in 2003.

The group is chaired by John Hannah, who served as deputy national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2001 to 2005 and then as Cheney’s national security advisor (2005-2009), replacing Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who resigned his position after being indicted for perjury. Libby, who was later given a full pardon by former President Donald Trump, is also a member of the Gaza task force.

Another prominent member of the task force is the founder and chairman of the hawkish Vandenberg Coalition, Elliott Abrams, who served as the senior director for Near East and North African Affairs in the National Security Council under Bush from 2002 to 2009 and more recently as the Special Envoy for Venezuela and Iran under Trump. Ironically, Abrams, who also served as the NSC’s Senior Director for Democracy under Bush, played a key role in supporting an attempted armed coup by Hamas’s chief rival, Fatah, in 2007 after Hamas swept the 2006 Palestinian elections. The coup attempt sparked a brief but bloody civil war in Gaza, which eventually resulted in Hamas’ consolidation of power in the Strip.

Amb. Eric Edelman (ret.), a fourth member of the task force, served as Cheney’s principal deputy national security adviser from 2001 to 2003 and then as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the number three position at the Pentagon, under Rumsfeld and his successor, Robert Gates, from 2005 to 2009, as U.S. troops struggled to contain the mainly Sunni resistance to the U.S. occupation in Iraq.

In addition to their collaboration during the Bush administration, the four men have long been associated with strongly pro-Israel neoconservative groups, having served on the boards or in advisory positions for such organizations and think tanks as the Hudson Institute, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the ultra-hawkish Center for Security Policy, as well as the Vandenberg Coalition and JINSA. Indeed, such groups have promoted policies that have been generally aligned with those of the Likud Party led by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Thus, the report’s “key findings” prioritize as considerations: [these are quotes]

  1. restoring the deterrence and security needs of Israel, both for its own people and its standing as a powerful regional ally and essential component of resisting Iran’s ambitions; and
  2. dismantling Hamas as a military and governing force and protecting against its reconstitution through Israel’s continued freedom of action against it and against Palestinian Islamic Jihad; and by de-militarizing, de-radicalizing, and improving conditions in Gaza such that major terrorist attacks like October 7 can’t and won’t happen again…

Its proposed Trust, according to the report, should involve the United States and concerned states that accept Israel’s role in the region” and “should provide the humanitarian assistance and help to restore essential services and rebuild civil society in Gaza as intense combat and over subsequent months. Its activities should be governed by an international board composed of 3 to 7 representatives from the key states supporting the Trust, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others. At least one notable omission from the list is Qatar, which has provided tens billions of dollars in assistance to Gaza over the last decade.

In an echo of Washington’s disastrous de-Baathification campaign in occupied Iraq, the report puts special stress on “deradicalization” efforts. “The Trust, recognizing that years of radicalization by Hamas has complicated the task of reforming and restoring Gaza, should focus on a long-term program for deradicalizing the media, schools and mosques,” according to the report which adds that “Gazans and the Gazan diaspora should play an active role in developing and implementing these plans, alongside the Trust’s Arab members who have hands-on experience in successful deradicalization efforts in their own societies.” Such efforts in Gaza, it goes on, could “serve as a model to encourage a similar program there that will be essential if a credible two-state solution is to be revived.”

The task force urges the Trust to coordinate with other states’ efforts and with those of NGOs and international organizations, including the United Nations. But, in an echo of a key Likud talking point, “it should recognize that the activities of UNRWA serve to perpetuate and deepen the Palestinian crisis.”

The report said UNRWA’s immediate assistance in providing relief may be necessary, but “plans to replace it with local Palestinian institutions or other international organizations committed to peace should be developed and implemented.”

All of these efforts should be pursued within the more general context of countering “Iran’s aggressive campaign to derail regional peace efforts, including by constraining the threat posed by Hezbollah and resuming progress toward normalizing Israel and Saudi Arabia,” according to the report.

Elliott Abrams, then- US envoy on Venezuela speaks to media after UN Security Council meeting in 2019. (Photo: lev radin via shutterstock.com)

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