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Monday, February 13, 2017

Ahead of Netanyahu-Trump talks, Abbas woos Iran

EXCLUSIVE: Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has pivoted towards Iran in a move to pre-empt a possibly impending US embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the friendly talks scheduled to take place in Washington Wednesday, Feb. 15, between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
This is revealed by DEBKAfile’s exclusive intelligence sources.

Our sources report that the Abbas has opened a direct channel of communications between Ramallah and Tehran as a permanent fixture. Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub is in charge of the Palestinian end of the relationship and will lead the first official Palestinian delegation to Tehran.

For some months now, he has served as Abbas’s senior spokesman and the Palestinian Authority’s “foreign minister.” In the third week of January,Rajoub declared: “In our opinion moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a declaration of war on the Muslims.”

Two weeks ago, Palestinian and Iranian delegations met secretly for the first time in a European country. Two more encounters followed and dealt with such urgent matters as the fate of Palestinians stranded on Syria’s battlefronts and in former refugee camps. They also discussed the Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon and their problematic relations with Iran’s Shiite surrogate, Hizballah.

At their third meeting, the Iranian delegates asked where the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah stood vis-a-vis a political resolution of the Syrian conflict. They decided to talk about this some more at the next Iranian-Palestinian meeting on a date this month and a location yet to be arranged.

As part of his pivot towards Tehran, Abbas made sure to send the Palestinian Authority’s warm congratulations to Iran’s rulers on the anniversary of their Islamic revolution: He asked God “to bring more stability and prosperity to Iran and its brotherly people as they celebrate this occasion, and more progress and advancement the brotherly relations between our peoples.”

Abu Mazen’s pro-Iranian shift is intended as a signal to five parties, DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report: President Trump, the Presidents of Russian and Egypt, the rulers of the Gulf Emirates and King Abdullah of Jordan.

He is warning Trump that the US embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem and the strengthening of US-Israeli ties would be countered by a parallel enhancement of Palestinian relations with Tehran. The message to Vladmir Putin is that, even though he is fully engaged in Syria, he can’t afford to abandon the Palestinians; Abdel-Fatteh El- Sisi, the Gulf rulers and Jordan’s monarch are put on notice that if they have a problem with rising Iranian influence in Baghdad, they had better be prepared to find Tehran’s imprint in Ramallah too.