Usually, the scene begins as follows: A leader of Hamas goes out in a mass conference or television interview, to single out Iran with thanks in a list of countries to which he is grateful. As soon as Iran is mentioned, a lot of controversy will be associated with it about the nature of the relationship between the two parties, as some consider Hamas a unique Sunni ally of the Shiite state at a time when sectarian conflicts intensify in the region due to popular liberation efforts, and international and regional domination and influence struggles, adding to the complexity of the scene. And raises questions about the nature of the relationship, and how Hamas manages it in light of all these changes and challenges.
However, in order to better understand the relations between Hamas and Tehran, it would be good for us to go back to the roots of Palestinian-Iranian relations that began at the end of the nineteenth century. When Iran opened a representative office in Palestine to take care of the affairs of its merchants there, as its presence continued until the establishment of the Israeli occupation state in 1948, when a distinct relationship arose between the two parties, based on the Israeli strategy known as “pulling the limbs”, which provides for an alliance with the countries surrounding the Arab world , Like Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia, with the aim of besieging it from its outskirts.
Indeed, an emerging alliance between Israel and the Shah of Iran, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, was established. Who supplied it with oil and imported many goods from it, sponsored security cooperation between the Iranian state security apparatus “SAVAK” and the Israeli Mossad with the aim of pursuing the Iranian opposition. He also supported the Egyptian-Israeli settlement path, described the Palestinian armed struggle as a “terrorist” act, and fought all manifestations of sympathy. With Palestine, in parallel with his fight against his Iranian opponents. However, as soon as the Shah’s regime collapsed, and the regime of the Islamic Revolution was established in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini adopted an opposite position from Israel, seeing Zionism as an enemy of Iran and Islam, and a cancerous gland that should be eradicated.
On the political level, the leaders of the Iranian revolution had other aims of allying with the Palestinian revolution. This would gain popularity in the Arab and Islamic world, which considers Palestine its first cause, and give the Islamic revolution an effective tool to extend its soft influence. Indeed, once the Shah was toppled, Iran withdrew its recognition of Israel and expelled its diplomatic mission. It replaced the offices of the Israeli diplomatic representation with the offices of the Palestinian Embassy, and provided political and financial support to the Palestinian revolution and its representative, the Liberation Organization.
However, the relationship between Tehran and the PLO quickly retreated for reasons, chiefly the ideological dispute. The organization’s secularism emerged as an obstacle to Iran’s efforts to Islamize the Palestinian revolution. The first Gulf War due to the pressure exerted by the national forces within the organization.
Despite this, the relationship between the two sides lasted until the signing of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace Agreement in 1993, known as the Oslo Agreement, which fired a bullet of mercy on the fragile alliance, after Tehran accused the organization of abandoning resistance and forfeiting the rights of the Palestinians. In parallel, Iran found a new ally that is ideologically closer to it on the Palestinian arena, which is the Islamic Jihad Movement, which split from the Muslim Brotherhood in 1980 and saw the Iranian revolution as an inspiring model, but its size and activity did not allow it to play the role of the strong ally that Tehran aspires to.
This potential alternative surfaced after the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine announced the establishment of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, in 1987, which quickly shone through due to its leadership of the first Palestinian uprising that broke out at the end of that same year. Three years after its establishment, the relationship between Hamas and Iran began to form in 1990, when delegations from the movement visited Iran, and a diplomatic representation office for the movement was opened there in 1992, which represented Iranian recognition of the central role Hamas plays in Palestine.
Israel’s deportation of hundreds of Hamas leaders to southern Lebanon in 1992 was an important milestone in relations between the Palestinian movement, the Lebanese Hezbollah, Tehran’s ally in Lebanon, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. When the leader of Hamas and its founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was released in 1998, he visited Tehran and met both the Supreme Leader of the Revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei, and the Iranian President at the time, Muhammad Khatami. After the relationship was closer, Tehran provided political and financial support, military manufacturing technology , in addition to military training for the movement’s fighters.
The importance of Hamas and its centrality in the eyes of Iran increased after its victory in the legislative elections in 2006, as it moved from being a resistance movement and a political faction opposed to the Palestinian government. The regional government of Hamas has a fundamental role in pushing the movement towards closer relations with Iran.
The spring of the relationship between the two parties continued until the Arab Spring came and its winds reached Syria, the residence of the Hamas leadership, and the capital of the most important regional ally of the Iranian leadership. The most important test in its history is the test of placing its strategic relationship with Tehran before an unprecedented challenge.
When the Arab Spring began in Tunisia and then Egypt, Iran was pleased with what it described as an “Islamic revolution” in those countries, but as soon as it reached Syria this spring, Tehran quickly considered it “an international conspiracy against the resistance.” However, Hamas, with its Sunni and popular heritage, did not accept the official Iranian or Syrian narrative. Rather, it preempted the winds of the Arab Spring by advising the Syrian leadership to carry out proactive reforms. However, this advice fell on deaf ears.
At the beginning of the revolution, Hamas tried to adhere to its traditional policy of not interfering in the internal politics of countries, but this position was not accepted by both parties. The people and the regime moved to a state of positive neutrality by trying to mediate between the two parties during the events of Daraa, benefiting from its good relations with each of them, but the regime asked the movement to stop its efforts, and this was followed by a request for a statement clarifying its position on the events, and in fact the movement issued a statement that did not satisfy the regime, Who wanted to employ the cause of the resistance and support its factions in his struggle with the revolution.
Within the framework of these regular efforts, the Popular Front – General Command, a Palestinian faction close to the Syrian regime, sought to form a factional force to maintain security in the camps, which Hamas rejected and saw in it an attempt to implicate the factions in the Syrian battle, but the regime did not tire; He called for a public meeting between the factions and the Syrian president, after which he issued a statement of support for him, a meeting that the movement that decided to leave Damascus evaded from, after it confirmed that maintaining mere neutrality has become impossible as long as its leadership resides on Syrian territory.
But the movement has not only the maintenance of non – interference policy after leaving Damascus, but its bias back to the Syrian people, as disclosed head of the movement in the Gaza Strip at the time , “Ismail Haniyeh , ” for his support of the Syrian revolution in a speech from the platform of Al – Azhar, also bore the head of the movement ‘s political bureau at the time , Khaled Meshaal He taught the Syrian revolution, and stated in a speech at the Jerusalem conference from Tehran in 2012 that his movement “is with all peoples in their relentless and legitimate pursuit of freedom, reform, justice, democracy and fighting corruption and tyranny.” In which they formed the ” Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis ” faction .
The exit of Hamas from Syria and its pro-revolution stances later was a shock to Iran, which reduced its support for the movement , and its media and the media of its proxies launched an attack on Hamas that reached an accusation of treason, and it seemed that the relationship between the two parties was heading towards a rupture, but the movement’s steadfastness in the face of the Israeli aggression on the Strip in 2012 prompted Iran called for the resumption of military support for the movement, while trying to distinguish between the military wing in the Gaza Strip and the leadership of the political movement. Indeed, some discrepancy appeared in the discourse and positions between the two parties, as the military’s appreciation of the importance of Iranian military support pushed them to express rapprochement with Iran , While the sensitivity of the political leadership residing abroad was greater towards any expressions of this kind; Due to its frequent mixing with the Islamic popular forces that suffer from Iranian regional policies.
In the background of the scene, the role of Egypt and the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, cannot be overlooked, which has spared no effort to distance Hamas from Iran, by encouraging it to leave Syria and to conduct Palestinian reconciliation with the aim of including it in a Sunni political lineup in the face of Shiite Iran, which is What happened in the Cairo Agreement in 2011 and the Doha Agreement in 2012. However, these countries did not provide a political, financial or military alternative to enrich Hamas’s relationship with Iran. Rather, they were pushing it towards accepting the two-state solution and Abbas’s leadership of the Palestinian political system. The military coup against the Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt in mid-2013, these forces began to exert unprecedented pressure on the movement, which weakened the feasibility of betting on the “Sunni camp” to achieve the goal of the movement’s emergence, which is to resist the occupation until its complete demise from Palestine.
Concurrently, Donald Trump assumed the presidency of the United States, Washington withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Iran, and adopted a policy of “maximum pressure” on it, adding additional reasons for rapprochement between Hamas and Iran. Based on these considerations, the relationship between the two parties gradually improved, at the end of the term of the former head of the movement’s political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, in 2017, and this trend was strengthened with the transfer of the matter to Ismail Haniyeh, who comes from the Gaza Strip, which Tehran considers closer to it than Meshaal.
The features of this rapprochement appeared in the movement’s frequent visits to Tehran, and the emergence of statements regarding the “unity of the fronts , ” meaning that the resistance forces would fight a war together if Israel attacked any of them, and an increase in public expressions about the alliance between the two parties, some of which sparked widespread controversy and reactions in Arab public opinion in many stages, the most prominent of which is Haniyeh’s description of the commander of the Quds Force in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qassem Soleimani, after he was killed in an American strike in early 2020, as “the martyr of Jerusalem.
In the last battle between Hamas and Israel, which Hamas called the “sword of Jerusalem,” a symbolic participation appeared across the Lebanese border, represented by the firing of three rounds of rudimentary rockets, something that would not have happened without the approval of Hezbollah, which completely controls southern Lebanon, and its importance lies In sending a warning to Israel that matters may roll into a confrontation on its northern front if its war with the Gaza Strip continues, but the size of this participation came without the expectations that were talking about “the coherence of resistance fronts”, which raises questions about the limits of truth and propaganda in these statements, and the limits of the agreement And the difference between the parties to the alleged “axis of resistance”.
The interests of Iran and Hamas converge in confronting the Zionist influence in the region, just as they are united by the United States ’rejection of each of them. Tension and hostility have dominated the US’s relations with Iran since the revolution against the shah’s regime in 1979, and the subsequent hostage-taking crisis at the US embassy. . The United States has designated Hamas as a terrorist movement due to its resistance to the Israeli occupation.
As a result, Iran sees its support for Hamas as a means to enhance its regional influence and justify its expansionist policies known as “exporting the revolution.” He was crucified in the Palestinian issue because of the political importance it bears, which lies in the ability to confront Washington and Tel Aviv. Nor can the security dimension be ignored in Tehran’s view of the Palestinian issue, as creating an advanced line of defense with the occupation exempts Iran from directly fighting wars with Israel or the United States.
On the domestic level, the Iranian regime uses the Palestinian cause to strengthen its internal legitimacy, and support for the resistance constitutes a material for political competition and bidding between conservatives and reformists in the context of competition for local power and resources. On the other hand, Hamas seeks, through strengthening this relationship, to form a political and military action front to weaken Israel’s hegemony and its regional influence, to enhance the political legitimacy of the movement and its resistance project, and to provide financial and military support such as training, weapons, and military manufacturing techniques.
In order to control the pace of the relationship and keep itself from drifting towards Tehran’s sectarian and expansionist project, Hamas sets solid determinants for its relationship with Iran, as it seeks to keep it within the limits of military and political cooperation devoted to confronting the occupation. There is no relationship with a cultural dimension, such as educational exchange, for example, no acceptance of Shi’ism, no attribution or support for Iran’s policies in the Arab region. Indeed, Hamas has reserved – in practice – the right to oppose Tehran’s regional policies, as happened previously in the Syrian file.
The Biden administration’s tendency to reinstate the nuclear agreement with Iran poses a new challenge to the relationship of the two parties, as it contributes to strengthening the reform movement in it, which adopts a policy less hostile to Israel, but tends to “accept what the Palestinians accept,” a saying that constitutes an entry point for a retreat from the declared historical policy. The Iranian revolution denotes that Israel is a usurper state that has no right to exist, and the effect of this trend appeared after the signing of the nuclear agreement in 2015, when the Iranian leadership began to document its relationship with the Palestinian Authority after a long period of chill with it, at the expense of its relationship with Hamas.
Another important challenge is the divergence of the two sides’ priorities and their real goals. While their interests in weakening and attritioning Israel coincide, they may differ on the priority of the fronts, as Iran is keen to avoid any war on its territory, and rather prefers that confrontations with its opponents be on another land, whether it is Gaza Mother Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, or Yemen. This approach carries the risk of Gaza being drawn into a confrontation with the occupation, without a decision by Hamas, which is what Iran might seek in the event of an increased sense of threat.
The impact of this challenge is increased by the difficulty that the movement faces in maintaining the balance of its regional relations by building relationships across political divisions in the region and the world, due to the tendency of many Arab countries to rapprochement with Israel and normalize relations with it, and the limited political and financial support ceiling for some other countries. Which makes the movement forced to rely on Iran.
The employment of the sectarian dimension in Iran’s regional policies also poses an important challenge to the relationship, because it creates a popular atmosphere that does not understand the existence of a relationship between a Sunni resistance movement and a Shiite state with a sectarian agenda, especially in light of Hamas’s pride in its Sunni identity and its rejection of attempts to spread Shiism in Palestine, which is what It caused friction between the two parties when Iran’s support for the “Sabreen” movement, which split from the Islamic Jihad movement and established a “Husseiniya” in Gaza, emerged, and Hamas’s response was harsh; The organization disbanded, confiscated its weapons, and arrested its members , based on its conviction that creating a sectarian division in Palestine would only serve the occupation project.
On a parallel level, Saudi Arabia’s efforts to employ the sectarian division as a pillar of regional influence and to export itself as a leader of the Sunni camp in the face of the Shiites creates climates that make managing the relationship between Hamas and Iran more difficult. These efforts, along with Iran’s sectarian policies, have contributed to the spread of theory in The Arab and Islamic community holds that the first enemy is Iran and not Israel, not to mention the efforts made by the Kingdom and its allies to isolate Hamas from Iran, but without offering it an alternative that preserves its anti-occupation identity.
In the midst of this challenging environment, Hamas and Iran are increasingly aware of the thorns in their relationship, and they are trying to avoid them as much as they can, but they are showing an increasing eagerness to strengthen this relationship and reap its increasing fruits, but at the same time they realize that the matter between them is nothing more than a convergence of interests. In the face of occupation and international and regional pressures, and that the relationship was – and will remain – far from the alliance, in its true sense that everyone is talking about.