dinsdag 18 december 2007

Washington, Cairo en de wapensmokkel naar Gaza

Zonder een einde te maken aan de grootschalige wapensmokkel vanuit Egypte naar de Gazastrook, is vrede onmogelijk en een Israëlische invasie in Gaza onvermijdelijk. Dat lijken de Amerikanen nu ook in te zien, maar men aarzelt om de rol van de Egyptenaren te erkennen en daar naar te handelen.


The Smuggling Tunnels
By Amos Harel / Haaretz / Last update - 09:33 17/12/2007

The U.S. administration's willingness to talk with the Egyptians about ideas for halting weapons smuggling across the Gaza-Egypt border reflects Washington's belated recognition of the severity of the problem. Even the United States now understands that the smuggling industry - and especially its contribution to Hamas's military build-up in Gaza - is liable to result in an Israeli invasion of Gaza, thereby further undermining the regional situation.

But based on the reported American recommendations, it seems that Washington has understood only the gravity of the threat - not what is needed to cope with it. Like Israel before it, the U.S. is currently engaged in searching for a technological magic wand. All of the solutions proposed in the American document, from digging a canal along the Gaza-Egypt border to building a fence along the Israeli-Egyptian border, have already been discussed (and rejected) by Israel over the last six years, both before and after its withdrawal from Gaza.

What the U.S. apparently refuses to understand is that the first requirement for any solution to the problem must be substantive, not technical: As long as Cairo does not view the war on weapons smuggling as a genuine Egyptian interest, no real progress will occur. The challenge is first and foremost an intelligence problem: Egyptian intelligence must identify the various links in the smuggling chain, which begins at the Sudanese border. This is crucial to stopping the flood of arms into Gaza, which has recently totaled dozens of tons of explosives and other weaponry every month.

There is no reason to demand 100-percent success of the Egyptians. The smuggling is partly driven by genuine economic need, and that is hard to fight. But even 50-percent success would be a change for the better.

The problem is that Washington is already leaning toward accepting the Egyptians' claim that only by increasing their forces along the border (which would require amending the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty of 1979) can they contend with the threat. But the U.S. has erred in its assessments of this part of the world before - from the border-crossings agreement that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice forced on the parties in November 2005 (which was never fully implemented) to the exaggerated confidence that U.S. security coordinator Keith Dayton demonstrated in Fatah's ability to fight Hamas in Gaza just six months ago.

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