Via Meadia has already reported that Hamas may soon be in the market for a new patron to replace Syria (more background here). It’s no surprise that other regional powers, especially Turkey and Iran, are gearing up for a bidding war, as one can easily see by reading between the lines of this NYT story on the first official foreign tour of Ismail Haniya, Hamas’s Prime Minister in Gaza:
“The Hamas leadership currently lives in Damascus,” Mr. Haniya said . . . declining to elaborate on a possible move. “Everything, however, remains open to discussion.”In a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Sunday, Mr. Haniya thanked him for Turkey’s continuing support for the lifting of the Israeli embargo on Gaza, and he briefed senior Turkish officials on civilian hardships in Gaza. Mr. Haniya also praised Turkey’s acceptance of 11 Palestinians, former prisoners who were released last year as part of the exchange that led to release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Of course, Haniya won’t admit that Hamas wants to dump its stock in Butcher Assad & Co., but that much is plain from the itinerary of his tour of the region: Egypt, then Sudan, Turkey, Iran, Qatar, Tunisia and Bahrain. All these states have an interest in either financially backing the Islamist group or at least providing a new headquarters as an alternative to Damascus.Turkey and Iran, which are vying for power in the region, are certainly the two most likely to enter competitive bids for Hamas’s affections — though Qatar will also probably help out. Turkey helped Hamas in trying to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza in 2010, and in recent months it has actively pressured Hamas to cut ties with Syria. Iran, meanwhile, stands as an enemy-of-my-enemy kind of friend to Hamas. Both share a common interest in Israel’s demise, and both could benefit from a relationship in which Iran funds Hamas activity in Gaza.Iran is likely to be left on the outside looking in when all is said and done. Sunni Islamists are geographically and ideologically closer, richer, and better placed to help Hamas politically. Turkey’s AK party and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are both close to Hamas ideologically (though not necessarily on a range of issues connected to Israel). Replacing the secular Fatah with the Islamist Hamas as the leading force in Palestinian affairs would please ‘moderate’ Islamists everywhere.Hamas has clearly benefited hugely from the Arab Spring and it is likely to be much better funded and politically connected than before; how it manages its affairs in the newly favorable regional climate remains to be seen.