A Dramatic Break From Iran

From the September 2012 Trumpet Print Edition

Hamas was once firmly in the Iranian/Syrian camp. Not anymore.

As Syrian President Bashar Assad began his brutal crackdown on his own people last year, Hamas suddenly found itself on the same side as bad guys. It had always painted itself as the friend of the weak, against the strong oppressor. Now, it was quickly losing credibility across the Middle East.

At first Hamas kept quiet, not wanting to offend its patron, Iran, on the one hand, and fearing the loss of popular support on the other. It resisted pressure from Iran to organize demonstrators to support Assad, and Iran began withdrawing its support.

But the dramatic break came in February. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh publicly rejected both Assad and Iran while on a visit to Egypt. “I salute all the nations of the Arab Spring and I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform,” he told thousands of supporters in the al-Azhar Mosque.

“We are marching towards Syria, with millions of martyrs,” chanted the crowd. “No Hezbollah and no Iran.”

At the same time, Hamas moved its central politburo in exile from Syria to Qatar. Since then, Hamas has been courting alternative donors. At the end of June, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal met with both Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Hamas has also been rebuilding its relationship with Jordan. Meshal returned to Jordan in January this year for the first time since being kicked out in 1999. He met Jordanian King Abdullah ii both in the January visit and in June.

Hamas seems to be steadily moving away from Iran and into a relationship with the Gulf states, Turkey and Jordan—exactly as the Bible prophesied.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah is also finding itself under pressure. Faced with the same dilemma as Hamas—torn between public opinion and Iranian backers—Hezbollah, so far, has stuck with Iran. The group was set up by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, so its ties with Iran are stronger. It is a Shiite movement, unlike the Sunni Hamas.

As Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told thousands of Shiite supporters in south Beirut in July: “Our missiles are Syrian.” Syria supported Hezbollah when it was still in the cradle. And Nasrallah vows to return the favor, even as the Assad regime crumbles.

But Hezbollah’s stance is hurting the group. As the Assad regime falls, Hezbollah, and perhaps the entire Shiite population of Lebanon, is likely to take a major hit. “Hezbollah’s vast arsenal is already in the crosshairs of an increasingly emboldened Sunni opposition,” Daniel Nisman wrote in the Times of Israel, referring to a growing anti-Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, especially within the past year.

In another piece, also in the Times of Israel, published July 26, Mitch Ginsburg spelled out a probable scenario for a post-Alawite-led Syria. He predicted it would lead to a rise in power for the Sunni Muslims in Lebanon and that it could push the country toward another civil war.

Lebanon will eventually join the Arab camp that opposes Iran. That’s not what we see on the map today, but it is coming! The civil war in Syria is making this happen. It has pushed Hamas away from Iran. That same pressure will eventually pry Hezbollah and Lebanon away from Iran too, or it will break Hezbollah entirely.