Iran has used other foreign allies and proxies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, to help buttress Assad’s rule in the face of both militant and moderate rebel threats. But Hamas has not been among them, although the Palestinian Islamist group has variously received support from Iran in conflicts against Israel, including the brief war in the Gaza Strip last summer.
Around the time of that conflict, Iran was credited with helping Hamas to increase its missile range by a third. Subsequently, Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called upon Muslims around the globe to support Hamas and help to arm the West Bank as the Gaza Strip had already been armed.
These sorts of communications appear to confirm that reconciliation with Hamas is perceived as being in Iran’s interest. But there are mitigating factors, as pointed out by a position paper summarized by The Tower on Wednesday. These factors may help to explain why Meshaal’s planned visit to Iran has been indefinitely postponed.
Iranian officials may have questioned the reconciliation efforts because of lingering resentment over Hamas’ statements acknowledging help from Turkey and Qatar, but not Iran, in last summer’s conflict. Hamas’ opposition to the Assad regime is also a sticking point for prideful Iranian officials.
But these resentments have not been seen as preventing Iran from pursuing reconciliation, and the paper by the Iranian Institute for Diplomacy gives greater attention to Meshaal in seeking to explain why that reconciliation is not yet going forward. The think tank speculates that the former Hamas leader believes Iran’s support for the Palestinian cause is not genuine but self-serving.
The same concerns influence politicians’ and citizens’ perception of Iran in other countries in the region, as well. The Daily Star reported on Thursday that Samir Gaegea, the head of the Christian political group Lebanese Forces had blamed Iran for obstructing his presidential bid and interfering in the affairs of Lebanon, where Iran-supported paramilitary Hezbollah is said to have roughly as much power as the official government. Gaegea says that his potential presidency poses a threat to Iran because it would focus on domestic affairs to the exclusion of at least some of Iran’s self-serving influence in the country.
Meanwhile, in an interview printed at Rudaw on Thursday, Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran leader Mustafa Hejir expressed the belief that the Iranian government was actively standing in the way of reconciliation of a schism within that political group in the country’s autonomous Kurdish region.
Hejir emphasized that this too is deeply self-serving on Iran’s part, in that it threatens to sabotage the Kurdish unity that would help to address the needs and rights of that ethnic minority. “It is important to note that after 35 years it has become clear to everyone that the government of Iran does not value the rights of the Kurds and the other nations, nor is it willing to reach an agreement with them,” Hejir said, adding that the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had led to a series of promises but no actual action on these issues.