Remember a couple of weeks ago, when Saudi King Salman took a somewhat surprising meeting with Hamas’s political leadership? Well, it seems that Hamas might have had good reason for meeting with the chief regional rival to their ostensible Iranian patrons:
Iranian aid to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has drastically decreased, a senior Hamas official said Monday.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Moussa Abu Marzouk said that Iran’s aid “greatly helped the resistance in Palestine; without this assistance it will be hard for us to cope.”
“The relations between Hamas and Iran are not advancing in a direction in which the organization (Hamas) is interested and aren’t improving to the degree the organization wants in order to help the Palestinian issue,” Abu Marzouk said.
Hamas and Iran have been on shaky ground with one another since Hamas elected to back the Syrian rebels against Tehran’s best Arab pal, Bashar al-Assad, and Hamas tried to leverage Egyptian support after the Muslim Brotherhood took over there in 2011, though of course that gravy train didn’t last. If Iran really has cut Hamas off, that could reflect their feeling that Hamas just isn’t a reliable client anymore. It’s even possible, though I wouldn’t bet on it, that Tehran sees its support for Hamas as too big a liability in this post-nuclear deal, and increasingly post-Assad, world.
But the more interesting question is, if the Saudis are about to become Hamas’s new sponsor, is that going to change Hamas? The Saudis have been among those warning everybody who would listen about Iran’s dangerous ties to terrorist groups, group like, ah, Hamas, so it would be pretty beyond the pale, even for a country like Saudi Arabia that doesn’t really have to worry about how it looks to the rest of the world, to simply replace Iran in that role. Plus the US and Israel have a bit of a problem with Hamas, you know, and the Saudis have important relations with both of those countries, even if we’re not really supposed to talk about the ties it has with Israel.
So what if the Saudis insist that Hamas drop its militant activities (and note that Salman seems to have met with the group’s political leadership only, not the leadership of its armed Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade), at least with respect to Israel? Some of the coverage of this new Saudi-Hamas relationship suggests that Riyadh might push Hamas to reconcile with the Palestinian Authority, which would presumably mean that Hamas would have to being the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade under control, or else jettison it altogether and become a purely political party. One big X factor at play here is obviously ISIS, which has made its intentions with respect to Hamas and Gaza pretty clear in recent weeks and whose potential entry into Gaza could have Hamas and Israel working together pretty soon no matter what else happens in the region.
This is all purely speculation, which usually gives me a headache, so I’m going to stop doing it. But this is definitely a story to watch for its potential impact in Israel-Palestine.
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