Despite the fact that the Iranian government is the champion for radical Shia Islam and Hamas being the armed Palestinian front for the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, the two organizations have had a long history of cooperating in order to confound Israeli interests. Yet, Iran’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad during the civil war damaged theretofore close relations between Iran and the political wing of Hamas, who supported the Sunni Islamist factions opposing Assad. At least, until now.
On Free Fire recently, we spoke about continuing Iranian support for Hezbollah as well as Hamas. Reports state that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have resumed transferring tens of millions of dollars to the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing. The funds were transferred under direct orders of Qasem Soleimani, the head commander of the elite Quds Force, who also created an annual budget devoted to funding Hamas.
Allegedly the funds are primarily to fund the rebuilding of Hamas’ tunnel network that was severely damaged in the Israeli counterstrike to Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israeli cities, as well as purchase more missiles for future attacks. Despite the sectarian differences between Iran and Hamas, both organizations are dedicated to the destruction of the Israeli state.
Such a move should be no surprise, given Iran’s closer involvement in the Middle East with Iran being active in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. If Iran can repair their relationship with Hamas, it would give them access to Israel’s southern border. Hezbollah operates along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.
In response to Iran’s closer ties with Hamas, the Palestinian Authority has urged Saudi Arabia to take a more active and stronger stance against Hamas, even going so far as to request the Saudis launch an attack on the Gaza Strip – despite Hamas condemning Israel for committing war crimes when Israel did the same last year. With Hamas terminating the unity government with the PA back in November, relations between the two organizations are at an all time low. Perhaps Iran and Saudi Arabia will expand their proxy war from Yemen to Israel next.
Sean MacCormac is a research analyst at the Center for Security Policy.