Hamas divided over Iran links

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 3, 2013

Hamas is split over the question of its ties with Iran in the wake of the civil war in Syria.

The Palestinian movement shut down its offices in Damascus last year and aligned itself with Egypt and Qatar but, following recent regional developments, it has found itself without supporters.

Not all Hamas leaders were in favour of cutting its ties with Iran, despite the fact that the Tehran regime was the main supporter of the Assad government in Syria, which has been fighting Hamas’s closest ideological and sectarian allies — the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood rebels.

The anti-Iran faction was led by the head of Hamas’s political bureau, Khaled Mashal, who left Damascus and tried to upgrade the movement’s ties with Egypt, Jordan and Qatar.

Despite the initial success of that policy, it has now backfired. The military coup in Egypt not only ousted its Muslim Brotherhood supporters, but Hamas is now being accused by the new regime in Cairo of working with the Brotherhood to subvert the Egyptian authorities.

Neither has Jordan, dealing with its own Muslim Brotherhood problems, proved eager to host Hamas. Qatar’s new Emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, has also reversed his father’s pro-Hamas policies.

With Hamas’s sources of funding drying up and growing competition for Iranian backing from other radical movements such as Islamic Jihad, some of Hamas’s leaders are trying to get back in with Tehran. These include members of the movement’s military wing who were always closer to Hizbollah.

A series of meetings in Beirut and Tehran have been held between representatives of Hamas, Hizbollah and the Iranian government. These meetings have, so far, failed to yield results, despite Iran’s interest in repairing the ties.

Last updated: 4:45pm, September 3 2013