Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Iran Encourages Palestinian Reconciliation to Ignite a Third Intifada | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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What the Lebanese majority can do best is to continue to reject proposals that come from abroad through domestic voices in the form of threats, charges, and accusation of treachery. Their aim is to impose the Hezbollah resistance as a substitute for, first, the Lebanese people’s will and, second, for the Lebanese state, which is tired and getting old, and for the army and security forces.

As long as this majority’s rejection continues to loudly reach Iran, the latter will understand that offering Lebanon as a sacrifice for the second time is more difficult than it thinks.

It appears that Tehran began to consider an alternative and turned toward the Palestinians. It began to push them for reconciliation, not to reach a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian issue, but to trigger a third intifada.

At present, Iran aims to take advantage of the tension in the relations between the United States and Israel in order to unify the Palestinian leadership and encourage an Israeli military operation in the occupied territories with the aim of undermining all US and Israeli diplomatic efforts to set up an international coalition against it to impose strict sanctions on it. Such sanctions might be followed by a downfall of the regime or a military strike.

The problem that Iran faces with the Palestinians is the fact that Hamas prefers the intifada to start from the West Bank at a time when some Fatah leaders would like Hamas to begin firing rockets at southern Israel, so that Gaza, which is already ruined, may bear the consequences and Fatah escapes destruction.

The party, which is most enthusiastic toward an inter-Palestinian reconciliation of this kind, is the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which indeed fired a rocket last week to test the reaction. Up until now, Iran does not have complete control over the Palestinian decision makers. However, its influence on Hamas increased in the past years to a point where Hamas began to lose its independence in taking decisions.

When [Hamas Political Bureau Chief] Khalid Mishal went to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait early this year, he told officials in these countries that he rejects the charge that he is an agent of Iran. He said he is not an agent and cannot be one. It is recalled that, at the press conference that he held with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, he asserted his Islamic and Arab identity.

However, at a closed meeting in one of the Gulf countries, Mishal was told that his statement was not convincing. He was told: We understand that you would cooperate even with the devil to liberate your land, but we cannot accept your cooperation with Iran to conspire against the Gulf States.

In response, Mishal was compelled to publicly say that Hamas does not extend assistance to the Huthists in Yemen as part of its cooperation with Iran.

Following reports in the Arab press on 9 December about the assistance, which Hamas extends to Iran in Yemen, Saudi Arabia sent an invitation to Mishal for a visit. And in order to clear the air, a senior Syrian security official promised that Mishal would explain every misunderstanding during his visit.

However, soon after Mishal made statements in the Gulf and returned to Damascus, Hasan Mahdawi, official in charge of the Iranian Qods Force in Lebanon, contacted and asked him to clarify what he meant by his statements.

At the meeting that was held in Damascus, Mishal told Mahdawi that the Saudis used the harshest words in explaining their stand toward Hamas and their opposition to Hamas’s role, which serves “the Shiite interests at the expense of the Sunni interests.” He also told Mahdawi that Gulf officials informed him of their shock how Hamas could join the camp of the enemies.

Mishal said the Saudis did not believe that Hamas was supposed to reach a resolution to its problems in Gaza. He said the Saudis think that Hamas hesitates to achieve reconciliation with the PA and uses all its efforts because it believes that it will become a regional player at a time when it became a card played by many parties.

During the meeting between Mahdawi and Mishal, the latter appeared to be sitting in the confessional booth. He said Saudi Arabia did not level explicit threats at Hamas. He added that, in spite of an agreement between him and Saudi Arabia that any difference of opinion must not become public; the Saudis refused to believe his denial and told him that “Hamas must leave Yemen alone.”

Then he informed Mahdawi that he would refer the promise, which he made to Iran to extend assistance in Yemen, to the Hamas Shura [consultative] Council for discussion.

He said: “Saudi Arabia, which I visited, was not the same as it was before. Its stands against any move that might threaten its interests were severe, especially if Iran is a party to this threat.”

He added: “Saudi Arabia will not accept any activity by Iran or Hamas in its backyard. We were wrong to think that when we managed in the past to bypass Egypt’s interests by smuggling weapons through Sudan, we would be able to do the same thing with Saudi Arabia.”

Mishal’s visit to Saudi Arabia angered the Iranians who told him that he should have consulted with them before accepting the invitation. They also told him that from now on, if any Hamas official receives such an invitation, he must first discuss its acceptance with Tehran.

Mahdawi said to Mishal: “Do not pay attention to the Saudi threat. You can simply reject any invitation from Riyadh.”

He drew Mishal ‘s attention to Egypt, which borders Gaza, and reminded him how Hamas resists its call to sign a reconciliation agreement with the PA and how Egypt procrastinates and looks for a way out after it discovered a Hezbollah activity in its territories.

Following that meeting, the Iranians asked Mishal to fulfill the promise that he made to Iran in the presence of senior Syrian officials, that is, to help Iran in Yemen by sending fighters to that country. The Iranians told him that Hamas’s assistance to Iran in Yemen is a key part of the assistance, which Iran provides for Hamas in Gaza. They said: “Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, and Sudan are all one large playfield.”

Faced with Mishal’s hesitation, Iran reaffirmed that it is willing to provide the financial aid that Hamas needs. Iran said that all what Hamas has to do is prepare a list of its requirements and present it in the next few months and that senior Iranian officials would afterward visit Syria and meet with the Hamas leadership members to discuss these requirements.

To reassure Mishal, Tehran told him that the chasm in the relationship between the Shiites and Sunnis, of which Saudi Arabia warns, has become a thing of the past. Tehran told Mishal: The Sunnis, “including the state that hosts you, which is a rising power in the Middle East”, “peacefully” cooperate with Iran.

After this meeting, which involved discussions, Mishal said that he was convinced of the Iranian proposal and that he would refer a decision on it to the Hamas Shura Council “to consolidate the strategic cooperation between the two sides.”

And, indeed, after heated arguments that lasted three weeks, the Hamas Shura Council approved the decision, which Mishal conveyed to Iran when he met with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in Syria on the 25th of last month.

Three days later, Mishal was in Tehran to take part in the “conference of Islamic and national solidarity for the sake of Palestine’s future.” During the visit, Mishal, Secretary General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Ramadan Shallah, and a representative of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attended a meeting with the supreme guide of the revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

However, Mishal’s most important meeting was with Iranian Security Minister Heydar Moslehi to consolidate the coordination, on the basis of which Hamas will resume its activity in Yemen while avoiding to show any relationship with Iran. Hamas’s representative in Sanaa Jamal Isa was informed of this decision.

In the wake of all these developments, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials, led by Khalid al-Batsh, became active, and Tehran announced its desire to bring Hamas and Fatah together and said it no longer objects to an Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation.

In the past, Tehran used to scold the Damascus-based Hamas officials for their attempt to achieve reconciliation with Fatah. It preferred the division between the two movements to remain deep. Now, however, the Iranian stand has changed because there is a conviction that reconciliation will not lead to the resumption of peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis.

The more Iran draws closer to confronting the zero hour, it becomes in more need for an Arab party in order to cause destruction in any Arab country that can delay the hour of Iran’s confrontation with the world.

And apparently, it is now the Palestinians’ turn.