Hamas Leader Visits Saudi Arabia
Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia today. This would be the first high-level visit of a Hamas representative to the kingdom in years. Also in the entourage are Haniyeh’s right-hand man, Saleh al-Arouri, and senior Hamas figure Khaled Mashal.
Media reports suggest the group will first pay pilgrimage to Mecca before holding talks with the government. High on the Palestinians’ priority list is the release of prisoners held by the Saudis.
Where were relations before? Relations between the Saudis and Hamas went sour in 2007, the year the jihadist terror group took over the Gaza Strip. Since then, the Saudis have imprisoned Hamas members and sponsored Hamas’s main rival in the West Bank, Fatah. But Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority, has been losing popularity with Palestinians on the ground. A rapprochement with Hamas could be a signal that Saudi Arabia is also losing patience with Fatah.
A ‘deal with the devil’? The latest announcement follows a similar détente with Hamas’s sponsor, Iran. Iran, the world’s largest sponsor of Islamic terrorism, sets up proxy groups throughout the Middle East. Hamas is one of its most prominent proxies. Saudi Arabia and Iran have historically competed with each other for influence over the Arab world. But last month, Iran and Saudi Arabia announced they wanted to restore diplomatic relations. This was followed with Saudi overtures to end their fight with the Houthis, Iran’s proxy in Yemen.
To this point, Saudi Arabia was one of America’s most important partners in the Middle East. Iran, on the other hand, is America’s biggest rival in the region. Part of the reason America has sided so much with the Saudis is to make them a counterweight against Iran. But it looks like Riyadh sees good relations with Tehran as a bigger priority than toeing America’s line.
What the Trumpet wrote:
Saudi Arabia knows Iran is not a country to be trusted. Iran sees itself as the leader of an ongoing Islamic revolution and has been building an Islamic power bloc across the Middle East and northern Africa. Saudi Arabia has the same goal, and the Middle East is not big enough for both. Saudi Arabia is publicly courting China [who mediated the March Iran deal], arguably America’s biggest geopolitical rival. These recent developments appear to show the Saudis are disengaging from the U.S. and looking for new international partners.
—“Did America Just Lose Saudi Arabia?”