Sunday, February 12, 2012

Contentions: Hamas-Iran Alliance Still Alive and Well

by Jonathan S. Tobin

Just when some veteran Middle East peace processors and critics of Israel were making some progress trying to persuade the world Hamas was changing its stripes, the terrorist organization torpedoed talk about its new moderation with a gesture of friendship with Iran.

Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of Hamas’s Gaza terror state, arrived in Tehran on Friday for a visit that should disillusion those who assumed there had been a break between the two. The warm welcome given Haniya by the Islamist regime is an indication that the alliance between Iran and one of its terrorist auxiliaries is still very much in place. It also ought to be a reminder that Hamas participation in the Palestinian Authority’s government in the wake of its unity pact with Fatah will provide Iran with an influential ally that will render the prospects for peace with Israel moot.

Iran has been Hamas’s principal supplier of cash and munitions in recent years. But the flow of aid from Iran to Gaza has been affected by Tehran’s financial difficulties as international sanctions slowed its economy. That led some optimists to conclude Hamas had broken with Iran, particularly after its exiled leadership fled their Damascus headquarters as a result of the Assad regime’s difficulties. The perception is that Hamas was dumping Assad while Iran stayed loyal to the tyrant.

This may be a sign of a real break between the faction of Hamas’s leadership under Khaled Meshal that formerly sat in Damascus and the Gaza-based party. Meshal is the one who negotiated the agreement with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and it could be the Iran visit is a signal the Gazans are not going to be sandbagged by the unity pact.

Nevertheless, the visit is proof the Hamas-Iran alliance is still alive and well. Iran has no intention of letting Hamas slip out its sphere of influence. Nor is there any real difference between the two on the issue that interests them both: the destruction of Israel. For all of the expectation that Hamas will abandon violence and adopt a more pragmatic stance on the peace process, there is no reason to believe their goals or their methods have changed. The Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas axis is a natural alliance that brings together Islamist rejectionists who wish to keep the flames of conflict burning. Though Hamas is Sunni and Hezbollah and Iran are Shia, they still need each other and have too much in common to break up.

Iran has not changed its goal of eradicating the Jewish state, and Hamas is still dedicated to this, too. Creating a new independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza will not only threaten Israel, it will be a strategic victory for Iran as well.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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