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Iran-Palestine Ties, a Political Tale of Reserved Support - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Ramallah-The first official to have ever set foot in Iran after the cleric-led revolution took over the country in 1979 was Palestine’s former chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Yasser Arafat.

Arafat’s attachés revealed that the freedom fighter was astonished by the attitude and approach the Iranian revolution was being formed into—Arafat had believed that the ‘Islamic Revolution in Iran’ would be a complementary chapter in the long Palestine struggle for freedom.

Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the revolution, when meeting with Arafat had ordered in a Persian interpreter, despite that Khomeini is well aware of and fluent with the Arabic language. Far from regional solidarity, Khomeini had drifted into monopolizing Iran alone after the revolution.

Arafat went out of his way to sustain ties with Iran, but the latter kept pushing beyond what is considered reasonable. During the 1980s Iran–Iraq War, Arafat was demanded to side with Iran.

Tehran made it clear that Arafat will have to choose a side, and that negotiating his way out of the considerably sticky situation was not an option. Arafat made his choice, the Iranian ultimatum was not enough for him to turn a cold shoulder to Arabs.

Ever since Arafat’s decision to stand with all other Arabs in the region, Iran cut all military support and funds off. Palestinians, once united, then descended into chaos, as Iran saved no effort in implementing a divide and conquer method, in addition to extorting Palestinian fighters for receiving weapons. The cost of getting Iran funds was the complete obedience to orders coming in from the Tehran regime.

Iran claims to have been providing limitless and unreserved support to all factions belonging to the Palestinian resistance. Boastfully publicizing its support for the Palestine “cause,” facts check Iran’s flow of support otherwise.

As regional developments took place, it was evident that Iran’s support for Palestine was indeed discontinuous, and for some factions on complete and utter hiatus. Hamas, a fundamentalist organization in Palestine-which refused signing a peace contract with Israel- and still loudly voices its quest for Palestinian freewill, has not received a penny in support from Iran.

Iran cut off any support sent to Hamas for the mere reason that the latter refused to propagate Iranian agenda in Syria and support Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The Palestinian organization, unlike Iran, had widely supported the Syrian revolution against dictator Assad.

The price set by Iranian intelligence and authority to resume funds and artillery support was that Hamas officials support Assad’s regime.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal openly stated in March 2016 that the dispute rising between Hamas and Assad will inflict sizable damage on ties with Iran. “Tehran has lowered its support for the group, after having it been one of its principal benefactors,” said Mashaal.

Despite the Hamas authority refusing to be extorted into supporting Assad, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Iran resorted to sub-Hamas branches in hopes of buying off supporters for Syria’s regime.

Iran attempted to sway the Hamas military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, to defy and take on the political and social service wing, Dawah, said sources.

Iran decided to provide fixed financial support to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement, sources close to the movement stated.

Truth be told, Iran indeed was able to incite unrest within Hamas’ ranks. Divide was most apparent during Hamas’ 2012 war, as Mr. Mashaal in his speeches chose to skip Iran when citing support—shortly after co-founder of Hamas Mahmoud al-Zahar, famous for his extreme fondness of Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, raised an arm in public saying at the top of his lung “this weapon is Iranian.”

Iran’s backing for Palestine never carried through–most Palestinians reiterate the monumental lack of support when Arafat was left sieged in Beirut, Lebanon in 1982 as Iran-allied Lebanese Shi’ite militias committed mass genocides in Palestinian concentration camps.

The Siege of Beirut took place in the summer of 1982, as part of that year’s Lebanon War, which resulted from the breakdown of the United Nations brokered cease-fire. The siege ended with the PLO being forced out of Beirut and Lebanon.

Senior political analyst Hani al-Masri says that Iran, like any other nation, has specific interests which draft its agenda. Palestinians have been outright exploited, as Iran took advantage of the internal rifts they suffered. Had Palestinians not been divided, the relationship with Iran would have been better in control, with Palestinians cooperating to their best interest and withdrawing at cases of disadvantage or moral comprise, says Mr. Masri.

The Hamas-Iran ties were established three years post Hamas’ founding, and were first conceived at the Tehran First Palestinian Intifada Support Conference in 1990. A year later, Tehran opened an official branch office for the organization and appointed Imad Alalami as party representative in Iran.

Iran bolstered its ties with Hamas only after its relationship with the PLO subdued.

After Israel sent over 400 Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas leaders to exile in 1992, most of them moved to south Lebanon. The leaders’ presence in Lebanon served as an extremely fertile ground for the organization to further nurture its ties with the IRGC, and establish new ties with its Lebanon proxy Hezbollah.

IRGC training of militants during their stay in Lebanon had played in favor of the Palestinian party restoring control over the Gaza Strip.

Analysts believe that the Iran, Syria, Hamas, PIJ and Hezbollah forged alliance, anchored in Damascus, is the main orchestrator of Palestine’s regional and international orientation and agenda.