As one Palestinian Hamas leader, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, heads to Tehran, the Hamas politburo in Damascus, contrary to reports in the West of a cutoff, firmly maintains his ties with the Assad regime, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards operating in the Syrian capital and Beirut as well as with Hizballah, debkafile's Israeli and Western military sources report.
debkafile's intelligence sources also stress there is no sign of Hamas leaders seeking to break their ties with Iran, which has for years supplied them with funds and weapons.
Indeed, the forthcoming Haniyeh visit to Tehran is welcomed by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas's parent organization, as the lock for opening a secret back channel through which the Brotherhood is keen to mend its fences with the Iranian leadership.
Some Hamas politburo officials have indeed left Damascus, but its operations and intelligence command centers remain in situ. debkafile's Middle East sources report that Meshaal for the past two years has resided in the Qatari capital of Doha, and his wife and children live in Amman, Jordan; his deputy, Musa Abu Marzouk, moved this year with his family from Damascus to Cairo; Mohammad Nazal, Hamas political bureau secretary, relocated with family to Jordan; and Imad al-Alami, who commanded Hamas cells in Lebanon and moved in the past six months to Doha.
The rest of the staff hold down the Hamas fort in the Syrian capital under the command of intelligence chief Izat Rishak who is in regular touch with the various Syrian intelligence and security commands in Damascus and Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers.
Izak has risen to the status of Hamas strongman, according to our sources, and the recognized superior commander of the Gazan military wing Ezz e-din al-Qassam and its chief Muhammad Jabary.
Some Western and Israeli circles have presented the Hamas as bolting from its Damascus headquarters as evidence that the Palestinian fundamentalists have turned their backs on the radical Iranian-Sytrian-Hizballah bloc and opted to throw in their lot with the pro-Western moderates of the Arab world. Speculation has been rife that Meshaal, 55, who was said to have offered to resign the politburo post after 14 years, was about to line up with the Palestinian Authority Chairman, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and his tactic of declaring opposition to terrorism and advocacy of "popular resistance" to Israel.
This, according to our sources, is far from the true state of affairs.
Our Middle East sources cite the conditions under which Meshaal was allowed to officially visit Amman Sunday, Jan. 29 for the first time since King Abdullah's father Hussein threw him out of the kingdom in 1999.
Abdullah II, who works closely with Saudi and Qatari intelligence, refused to receive the Hamas leader and his delegation as an independent delegation. They were only admitted as part of the entourage of Qatari Crown Prince Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. The Hamas group was forced to wait outside until the king and the Qatari prince had finished their conversation and only then were invited to enter the palace guest chamber.
Over the lunch the Jordanian monarch held for his guests, the Qatari prince and entourage sat at the top table with the king, while the Hamas officials were relegated to a smaller side table.
The king made it clear that Meshaal was only invited to Amman after signing a Palestinian unity accord with Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo last month. His next visit was contingent on his upholding it. On no account would the Jordanian king hear of Hamas opening offices in Jordan or carrying out any diplomatic or military business from the kingdom – certainly not among West Bank Palestinians.
The Hamas leader promised to refrain from activity among Jordan's Palestinian community.
Our Middle East sources say that the Jordanian monarch was briefed by Riyadh and Doha before receiving Meshaal & Co. According to their intelligence, Meshaal and his three colleagues ' removal from Damascus had nothing to do with any wish to distance their organization from the beleaguered Assad regime. They received orders from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to relocate outside the Syrian capital for three reasons:
1. The Hamas politburo could not afford to be seen in bed with Assad while his regime was hounding the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to extinction.
2. The Hamas politburo was ordered to get ready to seize control of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah – as the terrorist group did in Gaza – as part of the Muslim Brotherhood's strategy for attaining rule in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and soon Syria.
3. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's relations with Tehran and Damascus are at a low point but need not always stay that way. Maintaining the ties between the Palestinian Hamas and Iran gives the Brotherhood a useful back channel for mending relations. Haniyeh is travelling to Tehran with the Egyptian Brotherhood's blessing.
Therefore, the claim that Khaled Meshaal has turned moderate and away from extremist Iran and Syria has no foundation in fact.