August 1, 2014 | Quote

Did Iran Scuttle the Ceasefire in Gaza?

As Iran analyst Ali Alfoneh noted yesterday, “Arm Hamas . . . was the main message of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s speech on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, the feast marking the end of the month of Ramadan.” Support for Hamas marked a shift in Khamenei’s rhetoric, as Alfoneh explains. Relations between Hamas and Tehran have been chilly ever since the two parties came down on different sides of the Syrian conflict, with Iran fully backing its client Bashar al-Assad and Hamas wary of supporting a brutal suppression of their Sunni co-religionists.

As Tony Badran, a research fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explains in an important column for NOW Lebanon today, Iran and Hamas have been clearly signaling each other during the conflict.

“After the war broke out,” Badran writes, “senior Iranian officials, including Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, expressed strong support for the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah also phoned the head of Hamas’s politburo, Khaled Meshaal, and Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Shallah. Iran's relationship with Hamas has been strained for the past couple of years, so these statements mark a reinvigoration of the ‘Resistance Alliance.’ The rebirth of the Iranian-led axis provides the essential ingredient for a new explanation of Hamas's decision to go to war with Israel.”

There’s war in Gaza because the interests of Hamas’s men in uniform are aligned with those of the clerical regime in Tehran. As Badran writes, the war “was a necessary gateway for Hamas to resume its place in the resistance axis.” The current conflict, Badran concludes, “has served to clarify Hamas’s mission and place on the regional map.” In short, it has returned to the Iranian fold.