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Sunday, June 19, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Despite expulsion by Abbas, Fatah's Dahlan
still viewed as a likely successor

CAIRO — Expelled Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan continues his campaign to take over the Palestinian Authority.


Sources close to Dahlan said the 49-year-old former PA security chief was shuttling between several Arab capitals as part of his campaign to challenge PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. They said his expulsion from Fatah on June 11 has not reduced Dahlan's influence in either Fatah or the PA.

"There has been a lot of criticism within the Fatah leadership for the move," a Dahlan associate said. "The expulsion shows that Abbas cannot tolerate any dissent, and this is bad for the Palestinian people."

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The sources said Dahlan was being quietly supported by at least two Arab states — Egypt and Jordan. They said Arab support for Dahlan was based on the assessment that he would be the key candidate for Palestinian leadership after the resignation of the 75-year-old Abbas.

Dahlan has also been consulting with several Western nations, particularly Britain and the United States. The sources said the reception has been mixed within the United States, but more supportive in European Union countries who see Dahlan as a bulwark to a Hamas takeover.

The sources said Dahlan continues to wield considerable support within Fatah and the PA. They said the bulk of his support comes from Fatah members in or from the Gaza Strip, which Dahlan virtually ruled until 2007. They said Abbas pressured members of the Fatah Central Committee to either support or abstain on the vote to expel Dahlan.

"There is a personal feud between Abu Mazen [Abbas] and Dahlan, and I don't think they could be in the same room together without a fight breaking out," another Dahlan source said.

In November 2010, Dahlan, under threat from Abbas, left the West Bank and relocated his family in Amman, Jordan. Since then, Dahlan, long regarded as mercurial, has formed what the sources termed a working relationship with Egypt, Jordan and several Gulf Cooperation Council states.

"He has learned the value of Arab support where for years he thought that Western support was enough," a Dahlan source said. "He has learned to form coalitions and consult with other players rather than merely dominate. He is much more able to listen."

Still, Dahlan has failed to reconcile with the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. The sources said Dahlan made several efforts to end the enmity with Hamas, but was rebuffed.

At one point, Hamas even refused to acknowledge a written proposal from Dahlan for dialogue. They said a key opponent was former Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, who accused Dahlan of ordering the assassination of both Fatah and Hamas members.

"The main problem is that the Hamas leadership is scared of a backlash in case the rank-and-file finds out that there is a dialogue," the Dahlan source said. "What Zahar says is personal and clearly not the last word of the Hamas leadership, which will probably deal with Dahlan only when it is clear that he will be the next Palestinian leader."

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