We’ve previously seen how everyone from Arab governments to lower-level Hamas officials have been signaling Israel that they’d have no problem if something “happened” to Iran’s nuclear program. Now Hamas’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has told the international media explicitly that the group will stay out of any Iranian conflict with Israel. Reports Reuters:
The Islamist movement Hamas will not let itself be dragged into a war against Israel if it attacks the nuclear facilities of Hamas ally Iran, Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Thursday.“Hamas is a Palestinian movement that acts within the Palestinian arena and it carries out its political and field actions in a way that suits the interests of the Palestinian people,” he said at his headquarters in the enclave.
All statements from Middle Eastern political actors must be taken with a healthy sprinkle of salt, but the mere fact that Haniyeh is willing to make such a public statement is telling. And there’s certainly reason to believe him: with the Gazan economic situation as precarious as it is, it’s quite plausible that Haniyeh and Hamas would seek to avoid confrontation with Israel.Iran will be heartened by Hezbollah’s steadfast hatred of Israel (“Today we are not only able to hit Tel Aviv as a city but, God willing, we are able to hit specific targets in Tel Aviv and anywhere in occupied Palestine,” Hassan Nasrallah said recently), but the news from Hamas is bad for Tehran. Haniyeh’s pronouncement removes–or at least calls into question–one negative impact of a potential Israeli strike and diminishes Iran’s confidence in its ability to respond.Worse, it shows just how far Hamas has drifted away from its unnatural relationship with Iran back to its Sunni roots; the religious movements helping to influence governments in Turkey and the Arab Middle East today are for the most part as anti-Iranian as the Israelis. Those who fund and support Hamas are singing all singing the song John McCain made famous: “Bomb Iran.”Iran’s regional strategy was based on establishing itself as the symbol of Islamic resistance to Israel and the West. The Sunni world has rejected that claim, and the loss of Hamas support destroys the last shreds of credibility the Shiite mullahs had as Islamic rather than sectarian leaders.