March 9, 2012 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 808

Iran-Hamas Crisis: Iran Accuses Hamas of Relinquishing the Path of Resistance

March 9, 2012 | By A. Savyon and Yossi Mansharof*
Syria, Palestinians, Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 808


Hamas Political Bureau head Khaled Mash'al's signing of a February 6, 2012 agreement in Doha to form a national unity government with Fatah, headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas, prompted Tehran to warn the Hamas leadership against abandoning the path of "resistance" and adopting Yasser Arafat's way. Likewise, the Iranian regime's dailies attacked Mash'al for signing the agreement.

Statements by the head of the Hamas administration in Gaza, Isma'il Haniya, on February 24, in support of the anti-Assad rebels in Syria elicited no public reaction from the Iranian leadership. However, lower-level regime figures, most of them columnists, expressed Tehran's fury over Haniya's statements and over his and Hamas's "ingratitude" towards Iran and the Assad regime. Their statements reflected Tehran's fear that Hamas's rapprochement with the Arab monarchies would deal a sore blow to the "resistance axis." Reflecting Tehran's dismay, they explained the change in Hamas's position as the result of pressures exerted on its leadership by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and accused these countries of using their "petrodollars" to persuade Hamas to shift its loyalty and abandon Tehran and the resistance axis in favor of their own camp.

It seems that Iran, Hamas's patron, fears that the "Tehran-Damascus resistance axis" might crumble as a result of the grave situation of the Assad regime and the loss of Tehran's influence over its proxies, especially the Arab-Sunni Hamas, whose leadership has already moved out of Damascus. Tehran is therefore following the strategic decisions of Hamas's leadership with considerable trepidation. Specifically, it seems to fear that under the influence of the rich Arab countries – namely Qatar and Saudi Arabia – the Hamas leadership will accept Fatah's authority and even join it in signing an agreement with Israel.

This report analyzes Tehran's reaction to Hamas's moves.

Tehran's Reaction to the Doha Agreement: Khamenei Tells Haniya to "Learn a Lesson from Arafat's Fate"

At a February 12, 2012 meeting with Haniya, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei publicly warned Hamas to purge from the movement all those willing to compromise on the issue of resistance, hinting at Mash'al's rapprochement with Fatah. Khamenei warned that Hamas leaders who would emulate Arafat, who had abandoned the path of resistance, might also share Arafat's fate. He added: "Care must always be taken not to let the resistance organizations be infiltrated by appeasers, because this will lead to a gradual death."[1]

Several days later, the conservative daily Jomhouri-ye Eslami, which is close to the religious seminaries of Qom, published a verbatim account of Khamenei's remark about Arafat. He said to Haniya: "One must take a lesson from the fate of Yasser Arafat, who was ostracized by the nations of the region for abandoning the path of resistance, after meriting acclaim for years for his steadfastness. Everyone must know that resistance and steadfastness are what earn [leaders] the support of the people, and that they are the greatest asset, which must be preserved."[2]

Khamenei promised Haniya that Tehran would always stand by the Palestinians in their resistance, because "the Palestinian cause is an Iranian and Islamic cause." He urged the Palestinians to fulfill their duty of upholding the resistance: "We do not doubt your steadfastness or that of many [other] brothers [in Hamas]. The public expects nothing from the Palestinian resistance but steadfastness."[3]

Iranian Explanations for Hamas's Moves

Iranian Diplomat: Hamas's Future Is Uncertain

An article posted on the website, by a former Iranian ambassador to Jordan and Lebanon, Mahmoud Irani, reflected Tehran's dismay over Hamas's latest moves. Irani called on the regime to be cautious in its handling of the Hamas leadership's crisis, warning that Hamas's future is uncertain in light of Mash'al's resignation, the exodus of his people from Damascus, and the movement's alignment with Qatar and Turkey. Irani analyzed the differing perceptions in Iran of Hamas's recent moves: the pessimists claim that this movement is gradually turning into a political party and abandoning the armed struggle against Israel – which is why it has aligned itself with Turkey and Qatar. They believe that it will strive to attain primacy within the PLO or within a national unity government with Fatah. The optimists, on the other hand, claim that the increasing power of the Muslim Brotherhood in various countries of the region is strengthening Hamas, which is consequently upgrading its relations with Turkey, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, and emerging as a key regional player and a Fatah competitor.[4]

Prominent Reformist to Regime Circles: Hamas's First Concern Is the Palestinian Interests

In a March 3, 2012 article in the daily Etemad, reformist Abbas Abdi, a former senior official in the regime, called on the regime to realize that Hamas's first concern is guaranteeing its own national interests, namely the liberation of Palestine. Since supporting Assad is no longer to its benefit, it has changed its policy, adapting it to the changes in the Arab world. Abdi advised the regime to distinguish the national dimension of Hamas's activity from the Islamic one in its future relations with this movement.

He wrote: "... Fatah is known as a national force that does its utmost to look after the Palestinian interests, whereas Hamas is [usually] presented as an Islamic movement that does not only struggle to [liberate the Palestinian] lands, but [also] acts out of supra-national beliefs and ideological motives. Consequently, Iran's official policy has been to strengthen the force whose ideas are similar to its own, i.e., Hamas. However, the truth is that, despite the differences between Fatah and Hamas, they do not disagree about the Palestinian cause and interests, but only over the ways in which the goals should be achieved.

"Several years ago, when Saddam Hussein was executed, Hamas and the people of Gaza defended him. This should have taught us that Hamas, just like the PLO, is concerned more with defending... the Palestinian interests than with defending Islam. [At the time,] we believed that [the support for Saddam] was merely an emotional response. But today, [by] removing its political bureau from Damascus and turning its back on the Syrian regime, [Hamas] has shown us that in today's world, the primary concern of any political force is to defend the national interests and the rights of its people, [and only later] to choose its friends and its enemies. Therefore, if supporting the Syrian regime can harm these interests, [Hamas] will withhold this support, even though the Syrian regime has supported it in the past and provided it with a place [for its political bureau], with funds, and with weapons, and also with a passageway for [this] armed assistance.

"In order to pursue an effective policy vis-à-vis the Palestinian cause, Iran must draw a line between the national dimension and the Islamic one, and thus avoid making mistakes in its relations [with the Palestinians], and [also avoid the mistaken impression] that the Palestinians are being selfish..."[5]

Conversely, Hossein Ruivaran, a columnist for the Tehran Times, the mouthpiece of the Iranian foreign ministry, conveyed a reassuring message. He argued that the Doha agreement did not reflect real unity between Hamas and Fatah, which differ fundamentally in their ideologies, but was merely meant to give both sides some political breathing space. He assessed that Hamas would not abandon the path of resistance.[6]

Former Diplomat Warns of Hamas's Withdrawal from Resistance Axis

In a February 26, 2012 interview with the website Asr-e Iran, Morteza Nematzadeh, a former cultural advisor at the Iranian embassy in Syria, explained that Hamas joined Assad's detractors as a result of "many pressures, especially from [Hamas's] popular support base, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Arab states." He added: "Many Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, want to lend the resistance [against the regime] in Syria a religious character... Hamas has been under these pressures for a while, but it has not yet officially announced a shift in its positions. The media presented Haniya's speech at Al-Azhar as if it [reflected] a change in Hamas's positions."

Nematzadeh continued to stress: "Hamas did not condemn Assad explicitly. It acknowledged the intifada of the Syrian people, but did not directly denounce the regime. We must not create the impression that Hamas has completely turned its back on the Syrian regime."

Asked what impact Hamas's current position would have on Iran's relations with it, Nematzadeh replied: "In the short run, it will have no effect. But if the process continues to deepen and Hamas joins the anti-resistance camp officially, problems may emerge between Hamas and Iran. But, in the current situation, there is no problem... We must not expect Hizbullah and Hamas to take the same stance vis-à-vis Iran. The Iran-Hizbullah-Hamas unity rests upon a joint framework. If this framework breaks, a new set of circumstances will emerge."

In response to the question "If Hamas continues to oppose the Syrian regime, what message will this convey regarding Iran-Hamas relations?" Nematzadeh said: "As has already been noted, there is a stream within Hamas that is trying to replace jihad and the armed resistance with talks and a peaceful resolution vis-à-vis Israel. If Hamas [adopts] this position, or increases its opposition to Syria, it will leave the resistance axis and a new balance of power will emerge [in the region]."

Nematzadeh explained that "the circumstances in the region put pressure on Hamas, for instance the non-revolutionary stance of the [Egyptian] Muslim Brotherhood vis-à-vis Israel, which was one of the factors that influenced [Hamas]. Following the recent revolutions in the Arab world, the Muslim Brotherhood became an official player in the political arena, and took a passive stance regarding Israel. Hamas may take a similar position. A change in Hamas's stance on Syria and the armed resistance in the region will have a fundamental impact on Iran-Hamas relations."[7]

Hossein Sheikh Al-Islam: Hamas' Statement Harms the Resistance Axis

Hossein Sheikh Al-Islam, secretary-general of the International Conference for Supporting the Palestinian Intifada, advisor to Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, and former Iranian ambassador to Syria, was the most senior Iranian official who censured Hamas for its recent statements. In a February 27 interview with the Mehr news agency, he condemned the Hamas leadership for being "ungrateful" towards Syria. He also revealed Tehran's concern that Hamas's alignment with the anti-Assad camp could harm Iran's strategic interest of preserving the resistance axis. He explained that Hamas, in its current predicament, had succumbed to pressure from the Arab countries.

He wrote: "Hamas was born out of the [Egyptian] Muslim Brotherhood, and is a branch of that movement. However, Hamas' birthplace is Syria, and this places it in a quandary. Syria was the one who provided Hamas with a place to operate, when no other country was willing to do so. Syria helped Hamas to prosper, and [also] assisted it during the 2008 Gaza war.

"Hamas, [however], failed to withstand the pressures, and eventually expressed a position against [Assad]. This was a very dangerous move on its part. [This movement] must distance itself as much as possible from the domestic affairs of the countries [in the region] and concentrate on Palestine, because this position, especially the statement against Syria, could severely damage the resistance [axis]. This unfortunate [statement] against Syria came despite [Syria's] support of Hamas."[8]

In another statement to on March 1, 2012, Sheikh Al-Islam repeated that losing Hamas would be a sore blow to the resistance axis.[9]

Iranian Political Columnist: Haniya and Hamas Are Ingrates

In a February 25, 2012 article titled "Hamas's Historic Mistake," Iranian political columnist Hassan Hanizadeh, a regime loyalist and a member of the editorial board of the conservative news agency Mehr, complained that Hamas was showing Iran ingratitude at a difficult time. The article, on the conservative website Asr-e Iran, personally and sharply criticized Isma'il Haniya, enumerated the historic mistakes made by the Palestinian leadership, both Fatah and Hamas, and claimed that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are working against Palestinian interests. The following are the main points of his article:

"It is already known that throughout the 64 years that have passed since the establishment of the Zionist regime, the political leaders of Palestine have not learned their lesson from history, and are repeating their previous mistakes. The first historic mistake of the leaders of Palestine was that they believed the ruse of the past leaders of the Arab world, and [in 1948,] convinced the Palestinian people to leave occupied Palestine while promising them that they would quickly return to it. Thinking that their exile would be brief, the Palestinian people emigrated to Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq – but did not get to return [to Palestine]...

"Hamas, which began its struggle in 1987 with the 'intifada of the stones,' managed to gain high status among the Muslim masses and in Palestine. Hamas fighters were successful in tipping the domestic, regional, and international balance towards the Palestinian people – but Hamas's leaders made another historic mistake.

"The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan asked Hamas to abandon the phase of military belligerence and to enter the political phase of forming the [Palestinian] government. In 2005, Hamas ran in the [Gaza] parliamentary elections, believing that the establishment of a revolutionary government would push Israel into further concessions. But while Hamas successfully formed a government after it won most of the parliamentary seats, not one of the heads of the Arab regimes was willing to officially recognize the Hamas government, despite their previous assurances.

"Today, again, Hamas is making another strategic mistake – intending to sacrifice the gains of its struggle for the vain, mendacious promises of the Saudi, Bahraini, Qatari, and UAE leaders.

"In effect, Hamas Prime Minister Haniya's visit to several Arab countries and Iran stemmed from the recent events in the Arab world. The fall of [the regimes of] Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Zine El 'Abidine Ben 'Ali in Tunisia, and Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi in Libya shifted the political situation in the region in favor of Hamas and against Fatah. Fatah, under the leadership of Mahmoud 'Abbas, lost its traditional allies in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, and attempted to draw close to Hamas. The Hamas leaders thought that the situation in Syria had gotten out of control and that there might, in the future, be some changes there, which is why they threw themselves into the lap of the leaders of the Persian Gulf states and Fatah.

"Though the recent talks between Hamas leaders – [such as] Isma'il Haniya, Khaled Mash'al, and Moussa Abu Marzouq – and PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas, in Doha and Cairo, were an internal issue linked to the Palestinians, an incident during Haniya's speech at Al-Azhar University [went beyond this,] weakening Hamas's status among the Iranian nation.

"All the nations in the world know well that the Iranian nation has paid a heavy price during the past 33 years due to its unstinting support for the Palestinian resistance movements. The accusations, the economic sanctions, the [1980-1988] Iran-Iraq war, the expropriation of Iranian assets, and the attempt to politically isolate [Iran] – these are only some of the consequences of Iran's aid to the Palestinian liberation movements, and particularly to Hamas.

"[But] during Haniya's most recent speech, at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, a group of known individuals, influenced by Saudi petrodollars, began shouting anti-Iranian slogans, which did not merit any reaction from the Hamas prime minister. With no prior warning, Saudi Arabia's Salafi mercenaries shouted, 'Neither Iran nor Hizbullah,' and with his smile and his silence, it appeared that Haniya was joining in.

"What Haniya should have done was to clarify to the misguided, ignorant Salafi mercenaries, who are on the Saudi payroll, that without Iran and Hizbullah, neither Hamas nor Palestine would exist today. Haniya should have pointed out to them that during six days in June 1967, Israel occupied 80,000 square kilometers of Egyptian and Syrian land – eight times the area of Lebanon – but that during the 2006 Lebanon war, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, following the heaviest defeat it had ever known...

"However, most unfortunately, in his Friday [February 24, 2012] speech at the Salafi conference at Al-Azhar, Haniya made the harshest of statements against the anti-Zionist Syrian regime, and expressed support for the Salafi terrorists who oppose that regime. At the very least, Haniya should have expressed appreciation for the honorable hospitality extended to the 500,000 Palestinian residents of Syria during the past 60 years, and should have taken a more balanced stance vis-à-vis the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.

"If Haniya thinks that the Arab Spring is a time to sing like a drunk and forget his old friends, he is making yet another historic mistake – because the heads of the Arab regimes never have been and never will be faithful to the Palestinian people.

"The chameleon leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE will not solve the Palestinian issue, which is a complex issue with nebulous political, international, and security aspects, which exceed their understanding and their intellect.

"Haniya and his Hamas comrades must know that the Iranian nation has never stopped supporting the Palestinian nation, even in the worst possible conditions of economic and international blockade, and that there is no room for ingratitude in the political and social lexicon of the Iranian nation.

"During the 2009 Qods Day [i.e., Jerusalem Day][10] ceremonies, the great and loyal nation of Iran silenced those few known individuals who shouted, 'Neither Gaza nor Lebanon' [a reference to supporters of the protest movement in Iran] – and expected that Haniya would likewise silence those who shouted the slogan 'Neither Iran nor Hizbullah.'"[11]

Article on Alef Website: Toppling Assad Won't Serve Hamas's Goals

On March 2, 2012, columnist Yahya Sadaqat wrote on the Alef website, which is identified with senior conservative Majlis member Ahmad Tavakoli, accusing Haniya of ingratitude and of having a short memory. He said that toppling Assad would not help Hamas because Assad's opponents, who would replace him, did not share Hamas's positions on Israel, and voiced the Iranian regime's concerns that the axis of the resistance might be in danger. He wrote:

"At the meeting in Egypt, Hamas prime minister in Gaza Isma'il Haniya openly drew his sword against Bashar Al-Assad's regime, showed that he would not sit quietly as long as his interests are not assured, and harshly criticized the Assad regime. [But] who has forgotten that in the not-so-distant past, this same Haniya and his comrades sat quietly and safely in that same regime's land – [the regime] which Haniya [now] calls blood-spilling – and went on with their lives, supported by that regime and by Bashar Al-Assad.

"Yes, Haniya, according to public opinion in the region, your memory is weak, and you... did an about-face and made declarations that completely contradicted statements you have made in the past, once you saw that the situation in Syria was worsening. But you must know that if the Syrian demonstrators overcome the Assad regime, they will not support you, nor permit you to use their land as a base for the resistance against Israel. This is no exaggeration; it is reality. The Syrian demonstrators do not share your views on Israel.

"What happened to your memory that it's so short? Once upon a time, when no country or regime agreed to officially recognize you, this one – which you [now] call oppressive – supported you, and held receptions for you fit for a president. Now, in this sensitive situation, have you abandoned your oldest ally, and, incredibly, renounced him?

"Mr Haniya, the slaughter of the innocent everywhere in the world is condemnable, whether they are Muslims, Christians, or Jews, or even of no religion... While everyone knows that your speech in no way stemmed from support for the Syrian people, but [was] rather a settling of personal accounts, it will doubtless yield you nothing but a weakening of the [axis of] resistance – because you will lose Syria as a base of support for it."[12]

Iranian Websites: Haniya Supports the Syrian Demonstrators Because of Saudi-Qatari Pressure

While the Asr-e Iran website assessed that Haniya's statements in Cairo in favor of the Syrian rebels expressed Hamas's official point of departure from the Assad regime,[13] the Tabnak website explained that his statements resulted from pressure and financial promises from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which hoped to keep the failure of the Friends of Syria conference in Tunisia under wraps. Tabnak explained that only an announcement by Hamas that it had separated itself politically from the Syrian regime could divert attention from the blow Saudi Arabia and Qatar had suffered at the Doha conference due, inter alia, to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statements that the military option against Syria was off the table.[14]

The Saham News website, identified with protest movement leader Mehdi Karroubi, who has been under regime-ordered house arrest for the past year, noted that Haniya's statements in Cairo were a continuation of the Arab governments' new moves to ratchet up the pressure against Assad.[15]

In an analysis on his website, and also in the reformist daily Sharq, reformist intellectual Sadeq Zibakalam wrote: "Hamas, as a popular movement, cannot distance itself from the masses in the Arab world... Hamas has invested tremendous efforts in its attempt to take a neutral position vis-à-vis the crisis in Syria, but was forced to take a stand following the changes in Syria and the backing that Assad's opponents received from the Islamists in Egypt and Tunisia.

"It is no coincidence that the first to take a stand in Hamas was Mash'al; he was in Damascus and witnessed the firestorm there from up close. [Subsequently,] the Hamas leadership moved from Damascus to Jordan. Haniya knew that Tehran would not be thrilled about the change in the Hamas leadership's inclination, and tried to mollify its hosts [in Tehran, during his visit] with the eternal anti-U.S. and anti-Israel slogans, and slogans about jihad continuing till the end. It would be unreasonable for Tehran [to continue] to ignore the volte-face in Hamas's stance.

"The truth is that an earthquake struck the Arab world, which began aspiring to democracy, and Hamas's leaders could not ignore it. They realized that their future depended on the movement striving for democracy in the Arab world, and therefore were forced to submit to pressure by the Arab critics of Assad...

"Haniya knows very well in his heart that the future of Palestine is in the hands of the popular pro-democracy movement in the Arab world – and not in the hands of the anti-West radicalism."[16]

Jomhouri-ye Eslami: Mash'al Has Put Hamas at Risk of Splintering

In a series of articles, the daily Jomhouri-ye Eslami claimed that in the Doha agreement, Mash'al was set up by Fatah and Qatar. It accused him of putting the Hamas leadership at risk of splintering into factions, and of betraying the principles of the movement. The daily criticized Hamas for being enticed by Qatar's petrodollars.

On February 15, 2012, Jomhouri-ye Eslami said that criticism of the Doha agreement from Hamas officials, including Mahmoud Al-Zahar, signaled "the beginning of a major conflict in Hamas, which will decide its fate... [This criticism indicates that] Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Mash'al has lost his support and influence among Hamas leaders, and that he cannot make important decisions – as he did in Doha – without their consent. This reality will affect the structure of Hamas and cause numerous problems. This is precisely the Zionist regime's longstanding goal. It wishes to render this organization useless by creating internal schisms and rifts... [thus] strengthening itself against a powerful Palestinian organization...

"It seems that Fatah has fulfilled its mission - together with the sheikhs of Qatar and their oil revenue - to the satisfaction of the Zionists, and has snared Hamas in its grand trap. Weakening Hamas, the strongest anti-Zionist resistance organization in the Palestinian arena, is a main goal of Fatah [in general] and of Mahmoud 'Abbas, personally. The leaders of Hamas are aware of this, and have stated it several times. It is precisely for this reason that Khaled Mash'al's move is altogether strange and unjustifiable... That is why Mahmoud Al-Zahar, one of the Hamas leaders, was outraged and explicitly [spoke out] against this breach by Khaled Mash'al, claiming that all Hamas leaders were discouraged by Mash'al's signing of the Doha agreement, which is not practicable and must be thoroughly redrawn...

"According to the agreement, leadership of the national unity government would be given over to Fatah's leader, while Hamas would hold no responsibility. In these conditions, elections would be held for the PA president and for parliament delegates. It is clear that Fatah... which would lead the government during the elections, would work to skew the results in its favor and according to Zionist goals, and Hamas would be elbowed out of the arena. In such a situation, a Hamas protest regarding the manner of the elections would be useless, and would lead to internal battles and conflicts within Hamas. [This has all been] set in motion by the signing of the Doha agreement...

"An even greater danger is that these conflicts, and Hamas leaders' handling of the issues that will stem from them, will tie up Hamas in political games and uproot its spirit of struggle, which is this movement's essence. This achievement is more advantageous for the Zionists, and they are already pining for it... Signing an agreement with an organization with such a sordid reputation [i.e., Fatah] is a form of naiveté and the beginning of a process that will end in reconciliation with the enemy [i.e., Israel] and an abandonment of arms and the struggle.

"The Hamas leaders' concern over the Doha agreement and their objection to Mash'al's move stem from the air of reconciliation that he exudes, a fragrance brought to life by the Qatari sheikhs' petrodollars. The Qatari sheikhs are known as the Zionist regime's mediators in the Arab Middle East and as servants of the U.S., and in the current situation, also as pioneers in applying pressure on the Syrian government on behalf of the U.S., Israel, and the Arabs conciliatory [toward Israel]. It is clear that these corrupted sheikhs, who operate on behalf [of the West], are not in the service of the Palestinian nation's interest, and, in hosting the signatories of the Doha agreement, had no other but to drag Hamas into reconciliation. The main damage [caused by the agreement] will [in fact] affect Hamas, as the head of the political bureau [Mash'al] agreed to enter [into a unity government] with Fatah, and placed Hamas in danger of splintering and reconciliation."[17]

Jomhouri-ye Eslami: Palestinian Unity Must Not Come at the Cost of Reconciliation with Israel

On February 9, 2012, Jomhouri-ye Eslami wrote: "This unexpected development [i.e., the signing of the Doha agreement] came as a surprise. Neither the Palestinian people nor public opinion in the region expected such a move from Hamas, considering the reputation of its [armed] struggle and its anti-Zionist policy – and they awaited clarifications from Hamas officials.

"Among regional public opinion, the question arises as to why Hamas officials agreed to relinquish the initiative for action to the Palestinian conciliatory movement [i.e., Fatah], which has an unwelcome stance vis-à-vis the Palestinian ideals.

"In the recent elections, Hamas managed to win most of the votes of the Palestinian people because of its anti-Zionist slogans and its opposition to reconciliation [with Israel]. But its new positions run contrary to its early slogans.

"Unity among the Palestinian factions is desirable... but it cannot justify handing the destiny of the Palestinian nation over to those who would reconcile [with Israel].

"There are unverified reports that the wealthy Arab rulers, headed by the government of Qatar, used dollars from oil [revenues] to lure several of the Palestinian leaders and encourage them to accept these new terms. Clarifications from the Palestinian officials would help clear up this matter."[18]

Kayhan: Mash'al, Who Was Absent During the Gaza War, Has Been Seduced by Qatar, Saudi Arabia

The daily Kayhan, which is close to Khamenei, also criticized Mash'al, whom they described as enjoying a comfortable life outside Palestine, for his willingness to openly reconcile with Fatah. In a February 15, 2012 article titled "Talks between the Wolf and the Sheep – 'Abbas and Mash'al," the daily criticized Mash'al for becoming a "diplomat," in contrast to Haniya, who has adhered to the path of resistance, and slammed him for allowing himself to be seduced by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, like other Palestinian leaders before him, such as Muhammad Dahlan.

The article stated: "Those corrupt Arab leaders [of Qatar and Saudi Arabia], who have turned the PLO and the PA into rubbish using economic levers, and who have sacrificed the Palestinians' prestige to the Zionist hangmen, have recently begun chasing after Hamas, [Islamic] Jihad, and the jihad groups that belong to them [i.e., the Resistance Committees] – with the aim of applying the 'Arafat model' to the leaders of these forces. Some jihad leaders who have been far from the battlefields [of Gaza], and who are diplomats more [than warriors], were seduced by the Arab leaders and their attempts to influence [them].

"This is no secret. And if we compare the tone of the statements by [Hamas] leaders in Gaza with [the tone of the statements by Hamas] leaders living in neighboring countries, we will notice the difference... It is no coincidence that Isma'il Haniya, who experienced the bitterness of the oppressive five-year siege on Gaza at first hand, has said explicitly... that he regards the liberation of Palestine, from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] sea, as a tangible strategy, whereas others, who were absent from the battlefield [i.e., Mash'al], exhibit fatigue."[19]

In another article, Kayhan stated that the U.S. and Qatar have a secret understanding whereby the latter will increase its anti-Iranian activity in the region, and that, as part of this understanding, the U.S. has charged the Qatari Emir of reaching out to Hamas, Hizbullah, and Islamic Jihad in attempt to distance them from Iran's influence.[20]

* A. Savyon is Director of the Iranian Media Project; Y. Mansharof is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1], February 12, 2012.

[2] Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), February 16, 2012. In an article titled "'Arafat's Strategic Mistake," posted February 15, 2012 on the website of the Supreme Leader's office, Hossein Sheikh Al-Islam, secretary-general of the International Conference for Supporting the Palestinian Intifada and advisor to Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, explained that Khamenei's goal in saying this to Haniya was to prevent a repetition of the "strategic and irrevocable" mistake that 'Arafat and 'Abbas had made.

[3], February 12, 2012;, February 12, 2012. At the meeting, Haniya echoed Khamenei's statement that "we are in the era of Khaybar and Badr," and said that liberating all of Palestine and eliminating Israel were among Hamas's strategic objectives.

[4], February 11, 2012.

[5] Etemad (Iran), March 3, 2012.

[6] Tehran Times (Iran), February 22, 2012.

[7] Asr-e Iran (Iran), February 26, 2012.

[8] Mehr (Iran), February 27, 2012.

[9], March 1, 2012.

[10] World Qods Day was initiated in 1979 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and is marked by rallies throughout the Muslim world in support of the Palestinian resistance.

[11] Asr-e Iran (Iran), February 25, 2012.

[12] Alef (Iran), March 2, 2012.

[13], February 25, 2012.

[14], February 26, 2012.

[15], February 24, 2012.

[16] Zibakalam, February 23, 2012; Sharq, (Iran), February 26, 2012.

[17] Jomhouri-e-Eslami (Iran), February 15, 2012. On February 16, the daily claimed that "the new move by Hamas, and Haniya's visit to Qatar and Bahrain [before arriving in Tehran], and his acceptance of plans that smack of deviation from the resistance, have raised doubts among the nations of Islam, for which Hamas should be accountable. Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), February 16, 2012.

[18] Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), February 9, 2012. The paper also hinted that Qatar had bribed Palestinian officials in order to persuade Hamas to enter into the national unity government.

[19] Kayhan (Iran), February 15, 2012.

[20] Kayhan (Iran), February 21, 2012.

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