Thursday, August 01, 2013

Iran Reining in Hamas?

Since Hamas has refused to support Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war, the group has had a strained relationship with its long-time backer Iran.  Today the New York Times reports that Iran is offering a boost to Hamas's even more radical rival Islamic Jihad:
The food boxes bore the logo of Islamic Jihad and the Iranian flag alongside the Palestinian one. Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed extremist militant group, often challenges the larger Hamas.
Organizers at the packaging center said that the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation, a Beirut-based Iranian charity, was financing the $2 million food aid project. Islamic Jihad has been granted the honors of distributing the 40,000 parcels, giving it a boost at a delicate time when Hamas is struggling to cope with a shifting regional landscape...
There are signs that Hamas is now trying to mend its relations with Iran. This week Hamas joined other groups at a meeting in an Islamic Jihad office in Gaza to help plan activities for International Quds Day, a day of solidarity with Jerusalem that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini instituted when he came to power in Iran in 1979 and which falls on the last Friday of Ramadan. In recent years only Islamic Jihad observed the event, with small demonstrations in Gaza.
In what was perhaps a gesture meant to lower tensions further, an Islamic Jihad official said that the group had allocated 3,000 Iranian-financed food packages to Hamas for distribution to needy families on its lists. 
Iran's real aim here could be to simply rein in Hamas, which still makes a much better Palestinian ally than the smaller Islamic Jihad and which stands in need of support from somewhere given the fall of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

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