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  • Yahya Sinwar, leader of the Palestinian Hamas movement, gestures on stage during a rally in Gaza City. Photo: Flash90
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The Hamas and Iranian Connection: expansion and aggression in the region

Johannes de Jong & Ms. Charmaine Hedding - 27 May 2021

”Where is Hamas getting the rockets it fires into Israel?”[1]. This was the question asked by a France 24 anchor to a journalist on the May 11th news broadcast.’ The journalist immediately explained that last September Hamas itself said that they were receiving support from Iran for the technology and construction of these missiles. Indeed, Al Monitor published a crucial article last September 16th, in which they explained in detail that Hamas receives missiles from Iran[2]. “Islamic Jihad” has also confirmed they are supported directly from Iran[3].

The current conflict of May 2021, between Hamas and Israel, is almost exclusively seen as a conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. There is no doubt that this conflict is real. However, the current situation is also a result of Iranian expansion in the region. This article examines how these two facts relate to each other, what this means in terms of how we understand the current conflict, and the consequences for western foreign policy in the region.

Hamas’ missiles and Iran’s timing

The fact that Iran provides Hamas with missiles, missile components, the technological knowledge and funding[4] for the production of missiles, forces us to see the current conflict in a broader perspective. With the support of Iran, Hamas had already built up its stockpile of missiles over the past few years. Already in January 2019, a top Iranian regime official stated: “the precision missiles are in the hands of the resistance forces in Gaza Strip and Lebanon waiting to respond Tel Aviv’s probable folly with a hell”[5]. This means that the current conflict is not caused by property issues in a neighborhood of Jerusalem, but according to Iran, the property brawl in Jerusalem has only been an excuse to carry out an already planned step of aggression. It also makes it clear that Hamas is just a proxy of Iran. There will be no peace between Israel and Palestinians as long as Iran controls Gaza.

This fits into the wider picture in which Iran exploits local conflicts in order to expand its influence in the region through local affiliates and militias. Iran has clearly used the conflicts in Syria and Iraq to increase its influence[6] [7]. At the moment, large parts of Iraq and Syria are controlled by local militias backed and funded by Iran. According to Iran in its own media, Iran is providing the Houthis in Yemen with missile components and technology in the same way as it provides Hamas in Gaza[8]. The relationship between Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon is well-known, and Hezbollah has also received missiles from Iran[9]. The fact that Hamas and Iran both affirm this support also means that the “Shia” versus “Sunni” schism is irrelevant as long as Iran can expand its influence through the principle of a “common enemy”. Especially if that enemy is Israel.

What is happening now in Israel is part of a larger geopolitical clash in the region in which both Iran and Turkey want to increase their influence by manipulating local conflicts, and often at the expense of the local populations. Iran is using Gaza as a missile launch pad or another front against Israel, and Iran has confirmed this strategy. It is essential to see the current conflict from this angle in order to be able to end the conflict with Hamas and the Gaza Strip.

This means that all intended normalization of relations with Iran by the EU and the return of the USA to the JCPOA, must be thoroughly reconsidered. Palestinians, Israelis and people across the region are victims of this Iranian aggression. This also means that EU member states, as well as the EU and the USA, must make serious efforts to stop the supply of rockets, rocket production and remove rocket launchers in Gaza as a condition for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

After all, it cannot be that the EU and the USA are looking away as a totalitarian regime that makes life impossible for women, persecutes Christians, hangs gays and oppresses minorities, extends its influence through violence across the region. If we do look away, we tell the world that these victims are less valuable than our current policies. That would in essence be an untenable racist stance. Therefore, it is time to change direction of the western foreign policy in the region and end any appeasement of Iranian aggression. That is also the only way to achieve peace in Israel.

[1] Jerusalem clashes: Where is Hamas getting the rockets it fires into Israel? – France 24

[2] Hamas opens up on arms, missile supplies from Iran – Al-Monitor: The Pulse of the Middle East (In there the link to the original Al Jazeera broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lkarL5uWeI

[3] PIJ Official Ramez Al-Halabi: The Rockets We Use to Strike TLV Are Iranian | MEMRI

[4] Steckler, Jordan. How Iran Exports Its Ideology, Dec. 2020, pp. 44–45., doi: Access Report

[5] Iran not to extend range of its missiles: Top security official – IRNA English (last sentences)

[6] https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/factbox-iranian-influence-and-presence-in-syria/

[7] https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/iran-backed-militias-iraq-poised-expand-influence

[8] https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2020/09/22/2354460/iran-has-supplied-yemen-with-defense-know-how-spokesman

[9]  How Iran’s Militia Proxies Could Threaten Israel From These Four Countries (forbes.com)

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