Are Cairo and Doha Reneging on Deal with US to Separate Hamas from Tehran?
Wrapped in a Free Syrian Army flag, Hamas’s Khaled Meshaal made a point of shaking his fist at his erstwhile host Syrian President Bashar Assad during his three-day visit to the Gaza Strip (Dec. 7-9).
This was interpreted as a gesture against Hamas’s relations with Tehran as well.
Meshaal also accompanied the vituperation he poured on Israel with a false report to Arabic media alleging that Israel had warned Cairo that if Jihad Islami Secretary Ramadan Shelah and his deputy Ziyad Nahala were permitted to cross into the Gaza Strip, Israel would make sure they didn’t leave alive.
The stance was put on for show and Israel never sent this warning to Cairo.
Indeed, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources report that behind the scenes, the Hamas-Tehran relationship had been put back on track, although its severance was one of the main goals of Israel’s eight-day Gaza operation last month.
On Dec. 6, just before Meshaal began strutting and posturing in the Gaza Strip, the high profile Hamas leader, Imad al-Alami, wound up three days of secret, brass-tacks discussions in Tehran., He left with the consent of top Ira.
nian Revolutionary Guards and intelligence officials, including al Qods commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, to assist in repair operations for the Iranian and Hizballah arms smuggling tunnels into the Gaza Strip, in order to resupply the Palestinian missile and ammunition stores depleted by the Israeli operation of Nov. 11-21.
Al-Alami was advised by his Iranian hosts that Hamas acted precipitately in breaking its ties with Assad, who they said, was not quitting any time soon. But they accepted the Hamas leader’s argument that, in any case, those differences need not interfere with the strategic ties established between Tehran and the Palestinian extremists. Tehran therefore agreed to meet its obligations under the mutual defense and arms supply pacts signed secretly with a Hamas delegation which visited Tehran and Beirut in the second week of September – as this publication revealed in former issues.
Hizballah like Iran resumes business with Hamas
According to our military sources, Iran thereupon notified Hizballah that the ties with the Gaza rulers were back on track and Iran would be picking up the momentum for building up a stake in the Palestinian enclave which had been slowed down by the Israeli offensive against terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip.
As the Hamas leader flew out of Tehran, Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah summoned his top chiefs to inform them that the organization was resuming business with Hamas. He renewed the directive held in abeyance for Israel’s eight-day air offensive in the Gaza Strip, and reported that shipments of “specialized arms” to Hamas were to resume.
But he stressed there was to be no “political talk” between the two sides. Hizballah members were forbidden to criticize Hamas in their media, including the social networks.
In the wake of Al-Alami’s talks in Tehran, Nasrallah reported fresh efforts to reopen the secret highways for money and weapons to reach the Gaza Strip. In Tehran, the Hamas representative Khaled Kadom summed up the state of relations with Iran as “hierarchical.” He said: “There is a ceiling that neither side can exceed, no matter how much they disagree in politics.” He noted that when disagreements with Syria rose to high levels, Iran asked both to show restraint – and they obeyed.
Back to before the US-Egyptian-brokered Gaza ceasefire
The steps taken by Hamas, Iran and Hizballah switch to reverse the arrangements US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her visit to Cairo in the third week of November, developed with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the Turkish and Qatari prime ministers and Israel for a ceasefire which terminated Israeli-Hamas violence, as we reported in mid-operation (DNW 566 of Nov. 14: Egypt’s Brotherhood Contrived Gaza Rocket Offensive – This time, Israel Fought Back).
The ceasefire accord, by preventing an Israeli ground operation in the Gaza Strip, was designed by Washington as a fulcrum for a new anti-Iran Sunni Muslim bloc in the Middle East that would pull Hamas away from its Iran connection and open the door for progress in the Israel-Palestinian peace process.
So how did this plan come undone?
There were indications this week that the revived Hamas-Tehran relationship was accompanied by the beginning of rapprochement between Cairo and Tehran for which Qatar was pulling the strings.
Qatar pulls the strings for Cairo-Tehran rapprochement
Wednesday, Dec. 12, an exclusive debkafile report bared the secret behind the seizure in Naples, on an Israeli tip-off, of weapons packed in five containers for passage on an Egyptian ship. An Egyptian national was detained. (Naples arms seizure busts Iran’s Balkan-Italian arms smuggling routes.)
The inquiry is now focusing on Egyptian involvement in the Iranian arms smuggling network from Europe via Egypt to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Amid this probe, Cairo announced Wednesday night that an Iranian ship carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza would be permitted to dock for the first time at El Arish port in northern Sinai and an official Iranian delegation allowed to disembark for the first official Iranian visit ever to the Palestinian enclave.
It is an open secret in Washington and Jerusalem that President Morsi never makes a move in foreign policy or security matters without first conferring with the emir of Qatar or his son, Prime Minister and intelligence chief Hamad bin-Jassim al Thani. It is therefore suspected that the Qatar is working behind the scenes to bring both Cairo and Hamas closer to Tehran.