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Iran, Hamas seek benefits of mutual military support

As the United States becomes more involved in the Middle East, its actions are driving Hamas and Tehran closer.
TEHRAN, IRAN - JULY 22: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY  MANDATORY CREDIT - "IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER PRESS OFFICE / HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei (2nd R) meets Saleh al-Arouri (3rd R), deputy leader of Hamas, in Tehran, Iran on July 22, 2019. (Photo by IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER PRESS OFFICE / HANDOUT/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Iran and Hamas are strengthening their reconciliation, one that could greatly benefit both parties as tensions rise between Tehran and Washington, and Hamas’ concern grows over the pending US peace proposal for the Middle East. 

Both parties are trying to leave behind what happened between them during the Syrian civil war, as Iran supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the Hamas military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, directly fought Assad's forces and Iran-backed militant groups in Syria.

After eight years of strained relations, Tehran and Hamas need each other more than ever now. 

This year, Iran has been strengthening its ties with Hamas and has welcomed Hamas initiatives in this regard.

Iran donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than 9,000 families in Gaza affected by previous wars with Israel, building homes for Palestinians released from Israeli prisons, distributing more than 20,000 iftar meals in Gaza during Ramadan each day. It also paid $651,000 to the families of those killed in the Gaza protests at the border fences with Israel on the anniversary of International Quds Day.

Iran knows that under the current volatile circumstances in the Persian Gulf and the possible launch of a US-led naval coalition, it would need the deterrence power of its regional allies. For Iran, an important factor that could prevent a possible US war against it is America's fear of retaliatory attacks by Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and Palestine against Israel. According to some reports, that very fear of Tehran's allies prevented a US strike on the country after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down a US drone June 20 over the Persian Gulf.

Therefore, Iran considers a well-armed Hamas a security factor.

A high-ranking Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran in late July and met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a number of other top-level Iranian officials. According to some sources, Iranian officials promised Hamas they would provide al-Qassam Brigades with pinpoint-accuracy missiles, anti-tank guided Kornet missiles, shoulder-fired missiles and suicide drones, while also increasing financial assistance to the movement.

It’s clear that US President Donald Trump's positions have played a role in rebuilding relations between Iran and Hamas. Trump’s actions include pulling the United States out of the nuclear deal with Iran, expressing overwhelming support for Israel, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights and proposing a peace plan that is expected to favor Israel.

Hamas’ main motivation for rapprochement seems to be its concern over the peace plan, which the United States calls the “deal of the century.” The plan, which is set to be unveiled after Israel's snap legislative elections Sept. 17, has secured the backing of some influential Arab states, but has been roundly rejected by Hamas and other Palestinian groups. Some media reports suggest the plan would require Hamas to hand over its weapons and its rule of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian National Authority.

Hamas believes the plan’s implementation would mean total destruction of the Palestinian cause. The group is preparing itself for the consequences of its opposition to the plan and a possible full-scale military confrontation with Israel in the not-too-distant future. Saleh al-Arouri, who headed the Hamas delegation to Tehran, said that in its meeting with Kamal Kharrazi, head of Iran's Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Hamas' main expectation of Iran was to prevent the implementation of the Trump administration’s plan.

“We are confident that Iran, as a regional and international power, will spare no efforts to prevent the realization of the 'deal of the century,’” Arouri said.

Hamas knows it can’t count on any other country’s assistance. Attempts to reconcile with the Saudis proved fruitless: Saudi Arabia is a major backer of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, an archrival to Hamas in Palestine’s politics.

Hamas also hasn’t been able to rely consistently on Egypt. Hamas’ past hostile stance against Assad and friendly relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt considers a terrorist group, didn’t help. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government has tightened control over Hamas activities and helped Israel with its blockade on the Gaza Strip. Egypt and Israel are said to have had close security cooperation against Hamas.

Therefore, Iran is left as Hamas’ only reliable choice. Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, said in May that Iran is the only country in the world that has armed Hamas with missiles and rockets, "while Arab states left us and … sold [out] the Palestinians."

Hamas political bureau head Ismail Haniyeh recently penned a letter to Ayatollah Khamenei thanking him for his readiness to arm Hamas with whatever weapons it needs. Haniyeh also vowed to stand fast by Iran as the country that spearheads all the resistance movements. He described the promises made by the supreme leader to Hamas as having the potential for significant impact on the strategic aspects of the fight against Israel.

According to Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, which has close relations with Iran-backed resistance groups, the Hamas delegation and Iran officially acknowledged the principles of "Unity of All Fronts.” They reportedly agreed that an attack against one ally of the Axis of Resistance is considered an attack against all allies and would be confronted by all of them.

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