The 'Axis of Evil' Disintegrates

It is hard to claim that former president George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil" still exists in the Middle East. At the least, its Palestinian component, Hamas, has clearly severed ties with the Syrian regime and is on cool terms with Iran, writes Sateh Noureddine. Hamas has instead positioned itself as a part of the Arab reform movement.

al-monitor Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal talks about a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel at his office in Damascus 11/10/2011. Photo by REUTERS/Hamas Office.

Topics covered

syrian uprising, syrian, palestinian-syrian relations, palestinian-iranian relations, moussa abu marzouk, israeli and american fears, hamas, bashar al-assad, axis of evil

Feb 29, 2012

Many Americans and Israelis reiterate that the fall of President Bashar al-Assad's regime will mean the breakup of the “Axis of Evil,” which includes Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. This axis seems to be an illusion anyway, at least regarding its Palestinian component. Hamas appears to have truly dissociated itself from that narrow axis, repositioning itself in the wide-open Arab and Islamic world.

It incredible that those Americans and Israelis who still insist on these views are apparently not following the news confirming beyond any doubt that Hamas has completely turned on its traditional Syrian ally and decided to openly stand with the Syrian people and their revolution for freedom and democracy.

Not a day goes by without a senior Hamas official declaring that the movement has left Damascus for good and that no prominent Hamas leader remains there. Even these leaders’ families have left the Syrian capital and moved to Cairo, Amman, Doha or even to the Gaza Strip itself. Every day, Hamas reveals more about their troubled relationship with the Assad regime. They are also hinting, in the words of Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk, that their links with Tehran have been broken and that the Iranians no longer treat them as they did before.

Hamas' decision to leave Damascus and break with the Syrian regime took place at the outset of the Syrian revolution in mid-March last year — more specifically, when Syrian officials wanted the Palestinians to stand against the revolt and take part in security exercises and political demonstrations. Hamas’ decision, which the Americans and Israelis have ignored and the Syrians deny, represents a strategic shift in the regional balance of power in that it denies Damascus and Tehran the Palestinian card. Now the Islamic Jihadist movement can take control of this discourse, especially since it is no less appalled by the behavior of the Syrian regime and no less supportive of the demands of the Syrian opposition than is Hamas. And none of the smaller Palestinian factions based in Syria can claim to represent the Palestinians.

The "new-old" position adopted by Hamas is not only consistent with the mood of the Palestinian public — which favors the Syrian Revolution — but is also in line with the movement's declared identity. On more than one occasion, and particularly in Tehran, Hamas has asserted that they are part of the Arab people's movements demanding change, and that they seek a mandate for Islamist movements to lead this process. Their position allows Hamas's leaders to enter Cairo and Tunis as either conquerors or contributors to a revolution not originally set off by Egyptian or Tunisian Islamists.

For a while now it has been difficult to claim that an Iranian-Syrian-Palestinian-Lebanese axis still exists — except in the US and Israel. This cannot be a coincidence.

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