The Future of the Relationship between Hamas and Iran

The relationship between Hamas and the Iranian regime has witnessed many ups and downs. Hamas pragmatism towards the Syrian crisis made it volatile starting to be by the side of revolution, then to return back to the regime’s side or more accurately to be with the Iranian position. This paper reviews the reasons behind the volatility of Hamas position, and Iran’s role in changing the attitudes of Hamas throughout the Syrian crisis through a number of topics like:

  • Hamas and its announcement of joining the revolutionary uprising.
  • The participation of Hamas in establishing military battalions against the Syrian regime.
  • Iran’s role in changing Hamas position of the Syrian revolution.
  • The dominance of Iran over Hamas military wing.
  • The financial crisis of Hamas and Iran exploitation of it; did it justify Hamas volatility?
  • The election of (Sinwar) as a sign of returning the strong ties with Iran.
  • The pragmatism of Hamas
  • The Iranian funds to support Hamas are an Iranian theft of the oil in southern Iraq.

The start of Hamas volatility

In the beginning of summer 2011, Bilal Ahmad Bilal the Syrian martyr journalist raised a question to Dr. Mousa Abu Marzook the deputy chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau about Hamas position on crimes of the regime against the peaceful demonstrators in Syria. The response of Dr. Abu Marzook was (Syrian blood is no different from the Egyptian blood and the Syrian people have the right to obtain their freedom).

Indeed Hamas made up then its decision about the Syrian regime, and so its leadership left with no regrets for the many privileges coming from the Syrian regime, including the military training in one of the most important Iranian bases on the Syrian land near to the Lebanese borders. The goal of that base was to provide the logistical support to Hezbollah, in addition to the activities and missions carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in that base. When the departure of Hamas leadership from Syria was completed, Abu Marzook announced from his office at the time in Cairo on February 27, 2012 according to the Associated Press statement, quoted by Sky News Arabia, (that the movement no longer exists in Syria). Mousa Abu Marzook’s statements came whilst the movement was getting its members out of Syria, specifically those who came to Damascus from Gaza or Jordan; nevertheless it left its Syrian Palestinian members who were assigned to support the Syrian armed opposition. And so Hamas made important military formations; the first was in Khan al-Shih camp and its surroundings to the southwest of Damascus in the name of al-Izz brigades, and the second was in Yarmouk camp in the name of Aknaf Bait al-Maqdis which was under the direct supervision of Mohammad Zaghmout the former guard of Khaled Meshaal and who was known as al-Mushir.

In addition, the movement provided some support through the military training in some southern regions of Syria, taking advantage of the trainings received previously by its members inside Syria, and even in Iran itself.

At the time, Hamas was preparing to the best, and was expecting the close end of the Syrian regime, therefore it decided early, and the picture was completely clear at the end of December 2012 when the announcement of Aknaf Bait al-Maqdis was made during its entry to Yarmouk camp with a number of the opposition factions, in addition to Jabhat al-Nusra.

This stage represented with the entry of Hamas into Yarmouk camp a milestone in the Syrian file. The regime, in turn, plunged the Palestinian Liberation Army, which is under its command, in the midst of the armed confrontations with the opposition; furthermore, it established a number of the Palestinian militias from refugee camps such as Neirab camp in Aleppo and Khan Dannon in south Damascus, in addition to the General Command organization controlled by Ahmad Jibril, and the groups of Shabab al-Awdah cotrolled by Yasser Qashlak. In this equation the regime returned its control on the Palestinian file, assuming that the militias supporting it are the ones which represent the Palestinian cause, whilst it worked on destroying many Palestinian camps like Handarat camp in Aleppo and Daraa camp, in addition to Yarmouk camp.

Here, Iran’s voice regarding Hamas was not officially heard, especially that Iran was denying at that stage any presence in Syria, since 2013 was a year of decline in the military strength of the regime, and increase in the influence of the armed opposition and its control over land.

But the Iranian silence wasn’t in vain, as the logistic connection between Iran and Hamas was completely suspended. Damascus airport was the point of direct contact, because the arrivals from Gaza were landing on Damascus airport, and those who were leaving to Iran to complete the military training there, were leaving through Damascus airport without passports in a presence of Iranian special crews who were supervising the travel and return of Hamas members without presenting or registering their official documents.

The relationship between Hamas and Iran remained ambiguous, tended to await the military progress on the ground in Syria, and until the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza on July 8, 2014, relations were cautious on the media level, whereas they were stopped on the ground. Iran suspended all its support for the government of Gaza, in addition to the special financial support for al-Qassam brigades. By the cessation of the war, the remarkable thing was the press conference held by Abu Ubaida, the spokesman for al-Qassam brigades, who declared that the victory achieved in Gaza was basically due to the Islamic Republic of Iran. With this flirtation Hamas was trying to reconnect its relations with Iran especially that the war in Gaza had left huge economic disasters. Hamas needed to repair this relationship, which took a long internal argument, especially the current led by Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahhar who saw the need to resolve this argument.

Until the beginning of 2015, the financial crisis was still ravaging Hamas. What was leaking from inside is that the military sector wanted to restore the relations with Iran, and the dilemma was the starting point that came at the end of March of that year, when the conflicts broke out between the armed factions in Yarmouk camp, and ended with the dominance of ISIS over the majority of the camp and the retreat of al-Aknaf fighters at the entrance of Yarmouk camp, so they, in turn, took refuge in Ahmad Jibril’s militias, the enemies of yesterday, who were besieging Yarmouk camp. And indeed al-Aknaf fighters were transferred to the regime-held areas and their families to the secondary schools for girls next to al-Bashir Mosque near Al-Zahera district, which was under the regime’s control. Later everyone was transferred to some areas near Yilda that was subject to reconciliations, except for the leader of al-Aknaf brigade (Al-Mushir), who was arrested and then appeared on the regime’s television screen making his confessions about Hamas role in establishing al-Aknaf organization.

The real confusion started right after this incident, when Ahmad Jibril announced that Khaled Meshaal had personally contacted him and asked him to protect and help al-Aknaf members; Jibril said that in front of the leaders of the Palestinian factions in Damascus in the presence of Ahmad Majdalani the Palestinian government minister dealing with Yarmouk camp file, who appeared to the media with this piece of information that confirmed an important shift in the position of Hamas from standing against the regime to the existence of this brigade within the regime-held areas. However, the declaration of Sami Abi Zahri, the spokesman for Hamas, and according to a number of agencies on April 13, denied this news, then later denied Hamas, by the official spokesman Mushir Al-Masri, any relation with al-Aknaf brigades, the message that identified the position of Hamas and its next steps, which meant in the time that Hamas started to renounce its military involvement in Syria.

On February 14, 2017 an Arab website published 21 reports titled “what does the election of (Al-Sinwar) as a leader of Hamas in Gaza Strip mean”, in which it reviewed a bunch of opinions that confirmed that the next stage would witness a strong return of relations between Hamas and Tehran. This is what al-Sinwar expressed later in a press conference, when he announced the return of the relationship between Tehran and Hamas to its former state; however it was not necessarily the return described by Sinwar. The financial relation until the end of last May witnessed stifling crises, which affected even the media institutions that Iran spends on including al-Quds television, along with the total cessation of payments to the government of Gaza that tried during the past years to compensate through taxes imposed by Hamas on the citizens of Gaza. While Iran returned its financial support even sporadic for al-Qassam brigades, which raised questions in Gaza about the Iranian support for al-Qassam brigades unlike the other institutions of Gaza Strip including the sectors of Hamas. Is it then the Iranian policy that aimed at putting more pressure on the political wing of the movement to extract more concessions, or the Iranian methods followed in Syria and Iraq, where Iran works on establishing a multi-militia to ensure further Iranian dominance over these groups, conversely it prevents uniting these militias so they don’t form one force that might spin out of its control.

Taking that into account, the equation remains between what Hamas wants and what Iran wants. What Hamas wants is the financial support in order to maintain its control over Gaza as long as possible, and with the scarcity of Arab funds and the desire of Arab countries to close the Palestinian division file in order to call off Iran’s pretext in the region of supporting what it calls the resistance axis, Hamas position tends to maintain the independence of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority, which means further division and further Iranian penetration, and then the continuation of the siege on Gaza Strip and the increased possibility of Arab confrontation to Hamas.

While for Iran it’s only about the exploitation of the Palestinian file as a pretext for the continued penetration in the Arab countries, depletion and making wars, sectarian chaos, destruction and so on.

The question remains, for how long might Iran continue paying funds to Hamas, especially after the new US sanctions on it, which will make the Iranian economy deteriorate rapidly, besides the American and the Russian demands for the exit of Iran from Syria, and the fluctuations in the map of the Iraqi elections inconsistent with the Iranian dreams, all of which means that the Iranian investments in these countries are heading towards disaster too.

But, was Iran paying funds to Hamas from the treasury of the state or from the mullah’s pocket, or was all this money from the thefts carried out by the Iranian militias in southern Iraq that were working on smuggling oil and others in the interest of Iran, especially that the files of corruption and money disappearance in Iraq are the most in the world.

Copyright © 2019 The Middle East and North Africa Media Monitor.