by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 2, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1435)
Relations between Islamic Iran and Hamas are back on track after a hiatus caused by Hamas’ rash decision to burn its bridges with Damascus following eruption of the imperialist-zionist-Wahhabi inspired conspiracy in Syria.
Islamic Iran is the most important regional player; Hamas is one of the most important resistance groups. Relations between the two should, therefore, not only be cordial but close. This was the case until very recently, especially in the wake of the eruption of foreign-inspired conspiracy in Syria to dislodge the government of Bashar al-Asad.
Unlike most countries in the world, Islamic Iran conducts its foreign policy in a mature manner. This is most clearly evident in its relations with Palestinian resistance groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The foreign inspired conspiracy in Syria created fissures in the long-standing relationship primarily because some Hamas leaders adopted an emotional rather than a clear position on what was underway in the Levant. They ignored the fact that Syria had provided offices and facilities for Palestinian resistance movements for more than 20 years without any restrictions. This is something no other Arabian country has done. They also ignored the fact that the uprising in Syria was an imperialist-Zionist-Saudi conspiracy to undermine al-Asad’s government because he was supporting the resistance front.
Hamas made a hasty decision in siding with the rebels without taking all these factors into account. It also assumed that since an Ikhwan-led government had emerged in Egypt and that together with Turkey and Qatar, Hamas could count on much greater support so it could afford to forego its former allies. This was a major miscalculation and immediately put Hamas at odds not only with Syria but also with Iran and Hizbullah. Islamic Jihad did not fall into this trap; it relocated its offices from Damascus but did not spoil relations with the two players — Hizbullah and Iran — that matter the most in the current situation. The Hamas leadership was conspicuously absent from international conferences in Tehran over the last two years. This was not because Iran had not extended an invitation; Hamas chose not to show up. Islamic Jihad leader Dr. Ramadan Abdullah Shalah was always there and fully participated in the deliberations.
Recent developments, however, have forced Hamas to rethink its strategy. President Mohamed Mursi’s government was overthrown in a military coup; the Saudis not only backed the coup but have also turned extremely hostile to the Ikhwan as well as Hamas. Its offices in Egypt have been shut down and the Egyptian military has turned out to be even more oppressive and hostile than the Zionists. Even Qatar’s support is unreliable since it can change its policy at any time. That only leaves Islamic Iran as a credible ally.
In recent weeks, there have been renewed contacts between Iranian officials and Hamas. Islamic Jihad leader Dr. Ramadan Abdullah Shalah has acted as go-between to facilitate the visit of Khaled Mesha‘al, head of the Political Bureau of Hamas, to Tehran. This is likely to materialize soon including a meeting with the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei. It must be pointed out that not everyone in Hamas was happy with the policy shift. Mahmoud Zahar, for instance, has always maintained that Islamic Iran is an important player and its support is crucial for the movement’s struggle. On March 10, he announced steps to restore bilateral relations between the two. This was also confirmed by Iran’s Majlis Speaker, Dr. Ali Larijani, who said, “Iran is supporting Hamas on the grounds that it is a resistance movement…”
Hamas officials have realized that developments in the region have altered the ground realities radically. Saudi-Egyptian hostility toward the Ikhwan and Hamas as well as warming of relations between Tehran and Doha have also contributed to influencing Hamas’ thinking. While Hamas’ leadership should carefully think through their policies and not jump to hasty conclusions, it is important that Islamic Iran, as the senior partner in this relationship show magnanimity and forgiveness. It has done so. These are the hallmarks of a truly Islamic State.
At the same time, Hamas’ leadership should consider whether it was appropriate to turn against Syria given that Damascus had hosted them for 20 years. The Qur’an is very clear about upholding agreements (2:177). There is no condition that such an agreement should be with Muslims; the only condition is that the other party does not violate the agreement or turn hostile. For all its faults — and there are many — the Syrian government had not shown any hostility toward Hamas, Islamic Jihad or any other Palestinian factions based in Damascus. Further, the uprising in Syria has been instigated by an unholy alliance of imperialism, Zionism and Wahhabism. Surely Hamas leaders could not have been oblivious of this fact.
It is time they too show greater maturity, and not allow belonging to a certain orthodoxy to trump what is right. One hopes the recent disruption in relations with Islamic Iran is now part of history, not to be repeated again.
Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought