Former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh gestures as he delivers a speech in front of portraits of late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, left, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, at a rally in Tehran, February 11, 2012 (AP)

Track Persia- July 30, 2017

The Iranian regime has used  Shi’i branch of Islam to subvert Arab countries through adopting theocratic Shi’i rule. One of the means the theocracy has used to achieve this goal is to find a common ground with the Islamic movements in the region, especially Muslim Brotherhood, the Sunni Islamic transnational party that has strived to establish a regime close to the principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Neither the Iranian regime, which is under the total control of the Supreme Leader, nor the Brotherhood support the principles of democracy, but they heavily use some democratic means such as elections, to legitimise their aspiration of reaching  power.

The links between Iranian regime and  Muslim Brotherhood go back to early years of the second half of the 20th  century when the Iranian terrorist movement, Fadayan-e Islam, under the leadership of Navob Safavi, was inspired by the example of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its leader Sayyid Qutb, especially the Brotherhood supported the principle of the unity between Shia and Sunnis.

Iran, however, does not have a clear and coherent policy towards the Muslim Brotherhood because of the regional problems that can complicate any cooperation between the two. Yet, because the goals and interests of the Muslim Brotherhood in one Arab country differ from other branches despite having a common ideology, the Iranian regime is forced to adopt different approach to each Muslim Brotherhood faction.

Iran- Hamas unsteady relationship

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once compared Izz al-Din al-Qassam, the military wing of Palestinian Brotherhood’s, Hamas, to the Basij (Iranian regime paramilitary forces under the command of the IRGC). This sheds light on the nature of these ties.

Iranian former MP and former Basij commander Javad Karimi Quddusi stated: “The Brigades of Izz al-Din al-Qassam and Basij are under the command of Iran, not under the command of Khalid mash’al or Isma’ail Haniya.. If some countries wish to bribe the leaders of Palestine, the Brigades are under the order of Iran.”

The Iranian military assistance to Hamas is no secret, yet the Qassam brigades were never under the operational command of the IRGC.  Still, as Quddis’s statement indicates, Tehran’s  desire is to add the Palestinian Sunni Islamist movement Hamas to its proxy military organisations in the region.

The ties between Hamas and Tehran became strained  in the aftermath the outbreak of the Arab Spring and the Syrian uprising which Tehran is against and it supports Assad to savagely quell it. As a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas sympathized with the Sunni Arab rebellion against the dictatorship of Bashar Assad.  The  movement declined to support Assad regime despite the fact that its leadership was based in Damascus. The clarity of the Arab and Muslim masses’ choice during the Syrian revolt did not give the movement a chance to stand silent; whether that was in response to its guidelines, or in response to the Sunni Arab masses, which the movement could not risk losing, or for a principled position, which is the same position that pushed the movement to leave Syria after the revolution.

Hamas’s refusal to support the regime of President Bashar Assad, Iran’s major ally in the region, has angered Tehran, prompting it to cut off its financial and military aid to the Gaza-based movement.

Khamenei’s circles did not hide their outrage at Hamas because of the movement’s position on the revolt, especially on Aleppo’s battle. It was clearly expressed by Hezbollah’s newspapers and media outlets in Lebanon, as well as by some Iranian newspapers and media sites, in addition to statements by Iranian officials.

Statements made by the Iranian official confirmed continuous tensions between Hamas and Iran after both sides had denied such thing.

Iranian MP Hashmatullah Flahat Bisha  revealed that conflicts between the two sides are actually deepening, as he disclosed Iranian discontent with the wavering stances announced by Hamas leaders towards the Syria crisis.

In an interview with Flahat Bisha, he accused the Palestinian group of continuing “to support terrorist groups that serve the Syrian opposition.” He actually stressed that Hamas should reconsider its stance towards the Syria crisis if it wishes to remain on good terms with Iran.

Iranians saw  that Hamas is distancing from Iran with its stance on Syria, though Hamas leaders reassured Iranians on this matter.

Furthermore, Bisha spoke of the impact of the Zionist lobby on the change in Hamas’ attitude.

This is not the first time Iran accused Hamas of having connections with Israel, knowing that Hamas issued a previous statement denouncing accusations made by Khosro Arouj, supreme advisor to IRGC commander Ali Jafari that Hamas is in pursuit of holding negotiations with Tal Aviv via Ankara.

Bisha indirectly threatened Hamas leaders, saying: “If Hamas continues to adopt this obstructive political approach, it is certain that Iran will build ties with other Palestinian groups without causing any serious harm to the resistance.”

The attack came after a statement that was issued by Hamas regarding the Battle for Aleppo and after events were held in the Gaza Strip in support of the Syrian people during the movement’s anniversary commemoration festival. This was in addition to the steps Hamas took against some new Shia groups in the Gaza Strip – the so called Al-Sabirin group – which went too far with their insolence when they expressed their joy and celebrated the occupation of Aleppo by Iranian militias under the cover of Russian aviation.

The revolt in Syria placed Hamas in a very difficult situation that forced its leaders quietly to leave the Syrian capital for Qatar and Turkey. This action from Hamas angered Iran that it drastically reduced its aid to the movement.

In its new manifesto released last May, Hamas rebranded itself as an Islamic national movement which severed ties with the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood which is outlawed in Egypt. The release of the new document prompted Iranian media to agree that the new policy document had complicated relations between Iran and Hamas and accuse Hamas of normalization with the Israeli state because it accepted the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 border; unlike Iran that had been against normalization with Israel.

Jomhouri Eslami newspaper of the former disbanded Islamic Republic Party in Tehran said the charter contradicts Hamas’ stance. Despite that the charter does not recognize Israel’s right to exist; it recognizes the pre-1967 border, which can tacitly be considered recognition of the Israeli state.

On May 6, Ismail Haniyeh, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau and former prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority, was elected as the new leader of the Hamas political bureau. Haniyeh succeeded Hamas’ long-time leader, Khaled Mashal, who announced in 2016 that he would not run for the position again.

The failure of Brotherhood in Egypt under President Mursi who was ousted in 2013, further placed Hamas in a dilemma. The Islamic organisation has to choose one of the two options: either finding a way back to the Iranians, or to focus on developing relations with the Arab Gulf states, responding to Iran’s demand. Since it has been suffering from  internal struggle and rifts over its ties with Iran and the Gulf Arab states cannot help Hamas militarily in its struggle against Israel, Iran has become the only ally that can supply Hamas with arms.

According to Iranian officials, Iran has recently renewed funding to Hamas. In August 2015, at a press conference in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham underscored the country’s continued support for “the resistance front in the region, especially the Palestinian Hamas”.

Last May, Iran held meetings with Hamas, in which members of Iran’s IRGC and senior Hezbollah figures were among those at the talks in Lebanon.

The move came after representatives from the Islamic Republic and Hamas conducted intensive discussions in Lebanon lasted two weeks. During the discussion, Iran and Hamas was reported to have agreed to resume diplomatic relations to the level at which they were, before the Syrian civil war, when the sides broke off their close ties. It was also reported that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is expected to visit Tehran in the near future.

The agreement was supported by commander of IRGC’s al-Quds Brigades Kassam Soleimani, Ismail Haniyeh, and Hamas’ Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar.

Hamas reduced its staff and members by 30 percent including the Qassam Brigades because of difficult situations. Iran took advantage of Haniyeh’s elections as head of the organization to reinstate the relationship. Iran supported Haniyeh reaching the leadership and didn’t support senior Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk because of disagreements after Tehran accused Marzouk of falsifying truths when said that Iran was not transferring financial aid to Hamas or the Gaza Strip, and that relations between Hamas and Tehran were frozen.

Since the beginning, Iran was relying on Haniyeh’s diplomacy who leans towards reconciliation with Tehran unlike former leader Khalid Mashaal.

The new relationship is beginning to reveal after Iranian leaders sent congratulatory messages to Hamas leaders. Iranian Foreign Minister Java Zarif congratulated Haniyeh for wining Hamas elections and emphasized in a letter to Haniyeh the continued support of Iran for struggle of the “Palestinian people” until “the Israeli occupation is removed.”

Soleimani also sent a letter to Haniyeh congratulating him on his appointment as the new leader of Hamas. In a letter published by Iranian news agency, Soleimani said that he expects a strengthening of ties with Hamas on the basis of jihad against “the arrogance of the world” and its satellite, “Zionism,” which are “working to divert the jihad of the nation from its Islamic compass.”

Iran’s Shura council leader Ali Larijani also congratulated Haniyeh on his elections and said that the salvation of Palestine is the primary cause of the Islamic nation, adding that supporting Palestinian people is among Iran’s top priorities since the Islamic revolution.

Hamas, on its part, issued a statement about the phone call which showed the improvement in the relations.

Certain members of Hamas, however, refuse the rapprochement with Iran fearing that this could be interpreted as a direct interference in the region’s struggle which could become sectarian.

It is most likely that Iran will continue its military support to Hamas’s military wing and it may enhance the divide within Hamas in order to allow itself to have a greater room to maneuver.

Iran also needs that relationship, not only to use as cover up for its ideological attack on the nation, but also to keep promoting the story of resistance and opposition, although it is no longer compelling to anyone, except for a few who wish to convince themselves to justify their positions.

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.