TEL AVIV – Recent actions show that Gaza-based terror group Hamas is looking to restore its eroded alliance with Iran, an analyst from one of Israel’s leading think tanks claimed on Thursday.
In a policy paper for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, IDF Lt. Col. (ret) Jonathan Halevi noted that Hamas sent a high-level delegation to Tehran earlier this month with the aim of “opening a ‘new page’ in their relations.”
The delegation, which included founder of Hamas’ military wing Salah al-Aruri, met with several senior Iranian officials including Chairman of Parliament and Holocaust-denier Ali Larijani, Senior Adviser to the Supreme Leader for International Affairs Ali Akbar Velayati, and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif – one of the chief negotiators of the Iran nuclear deal.
According to Halevi, the ties between Sunni Hamas and Shiite Iran became frayed during the Syrian civil war, starting when Hamas supported Iran-backed dictator Bashar al-Assad’s ouster in 2012 and continuing with the Islamist group moving its operations from Damascus to Turkey. However, Tehran is now demanding that Hamas reaffirm its commitment to the regime if it is to continue to receive support.
“The Iranian regime is telling the Hamas leadership in no uncertain terms that the Islamic movement must make a ‘correct’ strategic decision, consistent with the changing balance of power in the Middle East, and align with Iran, which has become a regional superpower,” Halevi said. “The fact that Iran is waging a campaign against Sunni Muslim forces in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and other Middle Eastern countries does not — Hamas implied — preclude aligning with it.”
“By joining the Iranian axis, Hamas reveals its leadership’s order of priority now that (senior Hamas political chief) Ismail Haniyeh is at the helm,” he added.
In Tehran, the terror group presented its positions, which included, chiefly, “fortifying its relations with Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, and Islamic Jihad based on the common denominator of fighting Israel.”
According to an article published August 10 in the Gaza-based Palestine Paper, Hamas told the Iranian delegation that “the threat posed by Israel does not stop at the geographic borders of Palestine; its hatred for humanity and the chaos it sows affect all of the Arab and Islamic homeland.”
Hamas also believes that Iran may undermine King Abdullah’s regime in Jordan, in which case being aligned with Tehran will prove a boon for the Islamist group’s standing in the Palestinian-majority country.
For Iran’s part, Halevi said, “the renewed alliance with Hamas will enable it to strengthen its zones of influence along Israel’s borders, including within the West Bank where Hamas and Islamic Jihad give it a foothold.”