Report, The Electronic Intifada, 4 March 2008
Muhammad Dahlan speaks during a Fatah rally in the West Bank town of Ramallah, 15 January 2006.
United States officials including President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice participated in a conspiracy to arm and train Contra-style Palestinian militias nominally loyal to the Fatah party to overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas government in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, an investigative article in the April 2008 issue of Vanity Fair has revealed. 
The allegations of such a conspiracy, long reported by The Electronic Intifada, are corroborated in Vanity Fair with confidential US government documents, interviews with former US officials, Israeli officials and with Muhammad Dahlan, the Gaza strongman personally chosen by Bush.
The article, by David Rose, recounts gruesome torture documented on videotape of Hamas members by the US-armed and funded militias under Dahlan's control. Hamas had repeatedly alleged such torture as part of its justification for its move to overthrow the Dahlan militias and take full control of the interior of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.
Vanity Fair reported that it has "obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the US and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams to provoke a Palestinian civil war." The magazine adds that the plan "was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America's behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically-elected Hamas-led government from power."
Abrams was one of the key Reagan administration figures involved in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, whereby the US illegally armed militias in Nicaragua to overthrow the ruling Sandinista government. Abrams was convicted and later pardoned for lying to Congress.
While it has been known that the US engaged in covert activity to subvert Palestinian democracy and provoke Palestinians to shed each other's blood, the extent of the personal involvement of top US officials in attempting to dictate the course of events in Palestine -- while publicly preaching democracy -- has only now been brought to light.
Bush met and personally anointed Dahlan as "our guy" in 2003. In July 2007, The Electronic Intifada reported on a leaked letter written by Dahlan and sent to the Israeli defense minister in which he confirmed his role in a conspiracy to overthrow then Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat for whose replacement Bush had publicly called. Dahlan wrote: "Be certain that Yasser Arafat's final days are numbered, but allow us to finish him off our way, not yours. And be sure as well that ... the promises I made in front of President Bush, I will give my life to keep."
The US planning to overthrow the government elected by Palestinians under occupation began immediately after the Hamas movement won a clear victory in the January 2006 election for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas, however, proved "surprising resilient."
At a meeting at Abbas' Ramallah headquarters in October 2006, Rice personally ordered Abbas to dissolve the government headed by Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh "within two weeks" and replace it with an unelected "emergency government."
When Abbas failed to act promptly on Rice's order, the US stepped up its efforts to arm Dahlan in preparation for the attempted coup. Hamas foiled the coup plot by moving preemptively against Dahlan's gangs, many of whom refused to fight despite being furnished with tens of millions of dollars in weapons and training. The US-conceived "emergency government" headed by a former World Bank official, Salam Fayyad, was eventually appointed by Abbas, but its authority is limited to parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
While the United States and Israel were the driving forces behind the civil war and coup plot, others had a hand including several Arab states and their intelligence services. "The scheme," Rose writes, "bore some resemblance to the Iran-contra scandal" in that "some of the money for the [Nicaraguan] contras, like that for Fatah, was furnished by Arab allies as a result of US lobbying."