Saleh al-Arouri (L), Hamas deputy chief, meets with Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's National Security Council, in Tehran, Iran October 21, 2017. .
(photo credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Top Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk has said in an interview to London’s Al-Hiwar television station that Hamas-Iran relations were the closest they had been since the Syrian civil war blew up in 2011.
His comments were reported on Wednesday by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center after years of the Syrian war in which Hamas and Iran reduced their cooperation as Iran supported the Shi’ite-allied Assad regime and Hamas supported a range of Sunni rebel forces.
But with the Assad regime having mostly defeated the Sunni forces and with Hamas’ resources and allies limited to a historic low, Abu Marzouk said that no one had any right to criticize Hamas for accepting military or economic aid from Iran.
Even with the civil war largely over, some Gazans criticize Hamas for cooperating with Iran, the heart of the Shi’ite enemies for Sunnis everywhere, including Palestinians.
Moreover, the Palestinian Authority harshly criticizes cooperation with Iran routinely for allowing outsiders to interfere in Palestinian affairs.
A January report by the center noted the trend had already started and that the “rapprochement has been manifested by an increasing number of visits by Hamas delegations to Iran and by public statements from senior Hamas figures about” the importance of Iranian military support.
That report also said that “the declaration of [US President] Donald Trump and America’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel provided Iran with another opportunity to emphasize its support for the Palestinians and to join Hamas in encouraging a new intifada against Israel in Judea and Samaria.”
It noted that “following Trump’s declaration, Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, spoke to senior figures in the military- terrorist wings of both Hamas and the PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] and expressed Iran’s readiness to support them in every way possible.”
Providing Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups with rockets and missiles can help “deter Israel by creating threats” along the border with the Gaza Strip, said the report.
Still, Wednesday’s report signaled that the Hamas and Iranian cooperation has multiplied to a whole different level even in the few months that have passed.
Separately, Meir Amit Center report also noted that Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that Tehran’s regional adventures in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere are important to frustrate US designs to distract Muslims from focusing on the struggle against Israel.
His comments on the eve of the Iranian new year were framed by the intelligence center as a new attempt to stifle domestic criticism of the Islamic Republic’s regional adventures and their domestic cost.
Khamenei said that Iran does not get involved in any of its neighbors’ domestic issues and only invested militarily in Syria and Iraq at the invitation of those countries’ rightful governments.
In contrast, he explained that US involvement in all Middle East countries is targeted at deflecting attention from the once unifying struggle against Israel.
Similarly, some Islamic preachers have been justifying Iranian involvement in other countries in their Friday sermons, explaining that Iran has a right to a certain stake in the future decisions and markets of Syria and Iraq after it helped save them from ISIS.
Even some Iranians who do not trust the West have questioned the extent of Iranian involvement in neighboring countries following the loss of Iranian fights and the economic toll that intervening has taken on Iran.
Under the message of worrying about Iran’s domestic needs first, they have criticized the regime for getting too involved in others’ conflicts at the expense of the citizens of Iran themselves.
The Meir Amit Center indicated that Khamenei and various preachers’ comments were an attempt to push back against the criticism and regain the public relations initiative.
Iran is also concerned about improving relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia leading into Iraq’s upcoming May elections and has sent representatives to meet with key influential Shi’ite and militia leaders to help shape events, said the report.