BEIRUT, Lebanon – With the recent election of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Hamas in the Gaza Strip has renewed its ties with the Islamic Republic.
Iran’s relations with Hamas had been significantly limited after Tehran backed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the ongoing three-year Syrian civil war.
But now senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar says the relationship has been restored, signifying that the financial assistance cut off after the break will once again begin to flow.
At the same time, Zahar said Hamas also will continue economic ties with Egypt, even though its military regime ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi earlier this year.
While the interim Egyptian military regime has severed many of the supply lines from Egypt into Gaza, Zahar said Gaza will need to continue relying on Egypt for goods and fuel. However, the Egyptian regime, he said, isn’t interested in diplomatic relations with Hamas.
Zahar, in a statement, added that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank doesn’t represent the Palestinian people.
He said that any agreement coming out of what he called Oslo 2 would not apply to all Palestinians, since the PA is “compromising on Jerusalem, refugees and borders in cooperation with the American government and the Israeli occupation.”
In renewing ties with Hamas, Shiite Iran also will maintain close ties to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood which it also helped finance, resulting in Morsi’s election there two years ago.
Shiite Iran for years has given backing to Sunni Hamas since it opposes Israel, their common enemy.
Despite Hamas’ disagreement with Iran over Syria, Zahar said that their ties never were completely severed.
“Our relations with Iran were not cut, and we don’t wish to cut ties with any Arab countries, either, even those that are fighting against us,” he said. That was a reference to Egypt, which took a hard line against the Palestinian group following Morsi’s ouster in July.
Once headquartered in Damascus, Hamas received substantial funding from Iran, which also worked with the Muslim Brotherhood for years to create conditions that led to the successful election of one of its prominent members, Morsi, to the Egyptian presidency in 2011.
Hamas had decided to take advantage of the Arab Spring Sunni uprising, including the conflict that evolved in Syria. Hamas believed that the developments throughout the Middle East would increase its strategic depth and give it an opportunity to bolster its power and reconstruct its position in the region.
With the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2012, Brotherhood-affiliated Morsi came to power, giving strength to Hamas’ dream of extending its influence.
But that dream lasted only a year before Morsi was toppled and Hamas receded, as the Brotherhood in Egypt became the whipping boy of the Egyptian military.
Hamas then turned to Qatar and Turkey, but Qatar had issues with the Brotherhood because the country is a monarchy, which the Brotherhood opposes. Turkey, which backed the Brotherhood, was going through its own domestic crisis. Now, Hamas has turned back to Iran.
Sources believe that because Tehran supports the Palestinian movement, it won’t turn its back on Hamas. And if the Syrian leadership issue is resolved in favor of Assad, then the past animosities also will go by the wayside, since Syria and Iran are strategic partners.
“Hamas has played a vital role in the Palestinian resistance movement in the past and will continue to play the same role in the future,” according to Middle East expert Mohammad Ali Sobhani, who also was an Iranian ambassador to Lebanon and Jordan.
“On this basis,” he said, “Iran cannot choose between the government of Syria and Hamas. The Islamic Republic should, on the contrary, try to prevent the gap between two major arms of the resistance – that is, the Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas – become deeper and help them to get close once again.”
Sobhani pointed out that of all Sunni political elements, the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology is the closest to Iran’s ideas.
“Unlike the radical Sunni and Salafist currents, this movement cherishes modern ideas and believes in democracy, freedom and development,” Sobhani said.
He said that Iran should not allow the Syrian crisis to affect its relations with the Brotherhood and the Hamas movement.