Sunday , 21 April 2024

Iran Highlights Influence By Hosting Hamas And Islamic Jihad

iranintl – The leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad visited Iran last week, attesting to the Tehran’s growing influence on Palestinian politics, almost six months after the October 7th attack on Israel.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau and Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the Secretary-General of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, met with the highest ranking officials in Iran, enjoying such pomp and circumstance as is reserved for heads of state.

And they were courteous enough to reciprocate with exclusive praise for the Iranian regime.

“Iran stands at the forefront of supporting the cause and people of Palestine,” Haniyeh said. “I extend special thanks to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, the President of Iran, and the people of Iran.”

Nakhalah went even further. “Active diplomacy by the Islamic Republic of Iran has had a great role in defining the stance of Palestinian resistance,” he was quoted as saying by the Iranian government’s official news agency IRNA.

Iran has so far avoided direct conflict with Israel, although it has unleashed it armed proxy forces in the region to attack Israel and international shipping. But it has had a major role in shaping and prolonging the war, not least by providing money and weapons and training to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, whose gains in Palestinian politics invariably means a loss for the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its president, Mahmoud Abbas.

At 88, Abbas is far from an inspiring –or at least, authoritative– leader who would be able unite Palestinian factions. He is old and rather feeble. Allegations of corruption and secret security dealings with Israelis have dented his reputation among ordinary Palestinians, even in the West Bank where his Fatah movement rules.

The regime in Tehran knows this, and does everything it can to tilt the balance of power among Palestinian factions away from the Palestinian Authority and towards Hamas and Islamic Jihad, whom, unlike Fatah, Iran considers friends and allies.

The two Palestinian leaders even had a bilateral meeting in Tehran, of which no meaningful detail has emerged. It is hard to imagine that Haniyeh and al-Nakhalah could not have found other opportunities to coordinate their attacks against Israel. Their meeting in Tehran –choreographed and publicized by the hosts as a major event– may be better understood as a show of stature for the Iranian regime rather than a decisive occasion for the two parties involved.

This may also be true with regards to the timing of the visits. To host the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, just before the Iran-initiated International Quds Day, seems like yet another effort by the Iranian regime to underline its position as the one pulling the strings.

Quds Day, coined by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1979, is the last Friday of Ramadan. Muslims of the world are invited to come together on that day in solidarity with Palestinians and in protests against Israel, holding rallies and marching after the Muslim Friday prayer in cities worldwide.

It is by definition an occasion to remember the Palestinian ‘cause’. But this year, it seems to be about showcasing Iran’s Islamic regime’s leadership and righteousness for 45 years, but at least as much as it is about supporting the Palestinian people.

But the visits came also at a time when Israel is threatening to go all the way in its attack on Hamas in Gaza. A full defeat for the Islamist group would be a great setback for Iran that has invested more than two decades of support to make life harder for Israel.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not hesitate in supporting the cause of Palestine and the oppressed and resilient people of Gaza,” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said during his meeting with Haniyeh last week.

What he did not say was that the “cause of Palestine” is yet another means, albeit a potent one, towards the ultimate cause: advancing the interests of Iran’s ruling regime to the detriment of ordinary men, women and children in Iran and beyond.

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