Bilateral relations between Hamas and Iran have been getting closer since the election of the movement’s current leadership in February 2017. Hamas has made repeated visits to Iran and numerous statements about how strong the relationship has grown.
Most recently, Hamas offered condolences to Iran following the Sept. 22 attack on a military parade in Ahwaz. Iran’s Fares news agency reported that the attack killed 29 people and wounded 70 others.
Hamas quickly issued a statement condemning the attack on Iranian armed forces, expressing its condolences to the Iranian leadership, the Iranian people and the victims’ families. The movement wished security and stability upon Iran and the other Arab and Muslim countries.
Hamas could be employing what can be called “diplomatic condolences” to strengthen its relationship with Tehran. It also offered condolences to Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, following the death of his father in November 2017. In January 2017, Hamas sent a similar message after the death of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Khaled al-Qaddumi, Hamas' representative in Tehran, told Al-Monitor, “The movement does not need diplomatic condolences to strengthen its relations with Tehran. The movement followed protocol and it is its duty to act this way with parties it holds political ties with as well as all Arab and Muslim countries. Although we have a special bond with Iran since we have Israel as our common enemy, our condolences are in no way an intervention in its internal affairs. We are not taking sides. Offering condolences should not be seen as taking sides. We refuse to do this because we have wide relations with the entire Arab and Islamic world.”
However, several Arab and Palestinian parties were against Hamas offering condolences to Iran. On Sept. 23, Saif al-Hajri, secretary general of the Kuwaiti Ommah Party, tweeted, “How does Hamas want us to stand beside it while it shows support to Iran … and offers condolences to the Revolutionary Guards that killed Iraqis and Syrians?”
Sari Orabi, Palestinian political analyst in the West Bank, told Al-Monitor, “Hamas’ condolences to Iran do not mean that they are in agreement on everything. Although it is the only party that supports Hamas with money and weapons, a serious dispute arose between them after the Syrian revolution.”
Orabi noted, “However, Iran did not cut its ties with Hamas and kept providing some support.”
Although information on the extent of Iran's financial support to Hamas is not available, Israeli army chief Gen. Gadi Eizenkot stated that month that Iran had increased its annual spending to $100 million to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Hamas’ condolences to Iran are part the movement's efforts over the past year to build closer ties with Tehran. In March, Mousa Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said that the movement’s relationship with Iran is excellent and that Tehran provides Hamas with more support than anyone else.
In January, Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, wrote in a letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that the Palestinian people praised Iran’s willingness to support the resistance with all kinds of aid.
Khamenei’s adviser Ali Akbar Velayati stated in January as well that Hamas had pinned its hopes on Iran to support the resistance.
Hussam al-Dajani, a professor of political science at al-Ummah University in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “Hamas’ condolences to Iran shows their rapprochement. The movement is thus condemning terrorism and keeping the focus on being against Israel. Hamas does not want Iran to become too preoccupied with its internal affairs that it affects its support to the Palestinians.”
Dajani added, “However, the movement should keep balanced relations with other parties as well, even if offering its condolences provokes Saudi Arabia, which Iran accuses of being behind the attack.”
Following in Hamas’ steps, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance, the Popular Resistance Committee, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine also sent condolence messages. Meanwhile, Fatah’s radio silence could be due to the years of tension prevailing over its relationship with Iran, which Fatah accuses of financing the other factions and further deepening the division since 2007.
A Palestinian journalist living in Qatar told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Hamas offered condolences based on the Iranian narrative, which holds that the attack was an external conspiracy against it. But the movement struck out; there was no need for it to express its opinion on internal Iranian affairs.”
He noted, “Hamas needs to steer clear of all internal affairs not concerning it and avoid getting involved in regional axes. It is not required to express a position on all events in the region. It could have remained silent because Iran benefits from being a supporter of Hamas, which is good for its image after it interfered in Yemen, Iraq and Syria.”
Regardless of the criticism and objections, Hamas seems to be moving forward with strengthening its relations with Iran. The movement believes that its regional options are declining, with Qatar preoccupied with its differences with Saudi Arabia and Turkey now facing major internal and external concerns. Neither country sees Hamas as a political priority. Only Iran, which supplies the movement with money and weapons, still does.
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