Iran, a Shi’ite state, has long funded Hamas, a Sunni entity, because the Sunni-Shi’ite jihad was less important than the jihad against the Jews. But now the Sunni-Shi’ite jihad escalating in Syria is challenging the lovefest.
“Iran cuts Hamas funding over Syria,” by Robert Tait for the Telegraph, May 31:
Iran has cut up to Â£15 million a month in funding for Hamas as punishment for the movement’s backing for the uprising in Syria, the Palestinian Islamist group’s leaders have admitted.
The two former close allies have also ceased military cooperation, effectively ending a warm relationship that saw Tehran provide weapons, technical know-how and military training to Hamas fighters.
The rupture has been caused by Hamas’s refusal to toe the Iranian line by supporting President Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite regime is religiously loosely related to the Shia Islam practiced by Iran’s ruling theocracy.
Hamas – which runs the Gaza Strip – has sided with its Sunni co-religionists trying to unseat Mr Assad, in common with other mainly Sunni countries like Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Ghazi Hamad, Hamas’s deputy foreign minister, described relations with Iran frankly as “bad” before adding: “Diplomatically, I have to use other words.”
Asked about Iranian funding, he said: “I can say it is not like the past. I cannot give you the exact amount. For supporting the Syrian revolution, we lost very much.
“I cannot deny that since 2006 Iran supported Hamas with money and many [other] things. But the situation is not like the past. I cannot say that everything is normal.”
He added: “I cannot say there is military cooperation.”
While Hamas officials have previously said they would not retaliate on Iran’s behalf if Israel attacked the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities – citing disagreements over Syria – they have previously been coy about funding from a country that is Shia and non-Arab.
Iran gave Hamas an estimated Â£13-15 million a month after its victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections – enough to cover its governing budget, said Dr Adnan Abu Amer, assistant professor of political science at Gaza City’s Ummah University.
Tehran still sends a “tiny amount” to maintain ties and keep its much-trumpeted support of the Palestinian cause alive, he said. But relations have been all but severed.
Hamas’ bureau in Tehran, just off the city’s main boulevard and long treated as a de facto embassy, no longer has a permanent representative and is run by a skeleton staff.
“The Iranian support for Assad was the kiss of death to the relationship,” said Dr Abu Amer, who is close to Hamas. “Hamas has lost from the disagreement financially and military and so far, no-one has replaced the Iranian support.
“Iran has lost its influence not only in Gaza but in Palestine as a whole and across the Arab world because it backed the Assad regime. Iran successfully presented itself after the 1979 Islamic Revolution as the champion of the poor and the oppressed and an opponent of imperialism and American influence. They have lost in two years what they gained in 30 and I think it won’t be properly repaired.”
Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ prime minister in Gaza, called Iran’s support for Mr Assad “shocking” and accused it of acting out of “sectarian” motives.
“We never expected that a country like Iran, which talked about oppressed people and dictatorial regimes, would stand behind a dictator like Assad who is killing his own people,” he said. “To us, it shakes the basis of the Islamic principles that Iran has recited all these years after the Islamic Revolution.”
They’re shocked! Shocked!