Under pressure from Turkey and Qatar, Hamas has decided to completely abandon its Political Bureau in Syria. The Political Bureau has been in effective operation since 2001 and has become responsible funding and logistics for the organization. The decision comes after months of denials from Hamas regarding any decision to leave Syria. What’s more, according to the Wall Street Journal, Hamas has been quietly divesting from its various investments in Syria, which suggests that this move may not be temporary.
Assad, despite assuring Hamas that Syria stood with the Palestinians, has viciously attacked Palestinian refugees in his own country. In August, Syrian gunboats fired upon the al-Ramel Refugee Camp in Latakia as part of the regime’s effort to contain unrest in the city. al-Ramel has been the site of frequent protests against the regime, as seen below with Syrians chanting “The People want the execution of the president”.
Thousands of Palestinians fled from the camp and an UNRWA spokesman said four were killed.
Hamas’s position during the Syrian revolution was always awkward, as the revolution forced a choice between its sources of funding and training vs. its ideological credibility. Hamas is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been one of the major driving forces behind the Syrian Revolution. Muslim Brotherhood leaders across the Arab World have been harshly condemning the Assad regime, while Hamas has maintained silence over the issue. What’s more, the Syrian MB has taken a hard stance against Hezbollah and Iran.
أكد المراقب العام لحركة “الإخوان المسلمين” في سوريا محمد رياض الشقفة أنه لا توجد أي علاقات بين “الاخوان” و”حزب الله”، وقال: “إن حزب الله وإيران يشاركان في قمع الشعب السوري عبر ما يمدان به النظام من أجهزة ومعدات وخبراء في العنف والتنكيل، ولدينا معلومات مؤكدة أنه في غرف العمليات في سوريا هناك خبراء من الحرس الثوري الإيراني يقودون العمليات ضد الشعب السوري”.
Mohammed Riad al-Shaqfa, Syrian Brotherhood Comptroller, stressed that there is no relationship between Hezbollah and the MB, and said: “Hezbollah and Iran are providing the Assad regime with equipment and training to suppress the Syrian people, and we have information that confirms that in mission planning rooms in Syria there are experts from the Iranian Republican Guard leading operations against the Syrian people.”
In May, Iran supposedly threatened to completely cut off Hamas if they fled from Syria. In August, it was reported that Iran had cut back or stopped their funding of Hamas for the organization’s failure to stage pro-Assad protests, suggesting that they found it reasonable to stage pro-Assad protests in areas that the Syrian army had shelled.
Hamas’s move to Cairo will impact how the organization operates in the future. As mentioned in my previous post on Palestinian public opinion, Hamas has received extremely poor marks for its economic management of Gaza. Loss of Syrian and Iranian financing will hurt their position in Gaza further, and it is likely that they will solicit funding from Turkey and the Gulf States like Qatar. These countries will have far different interests than Syria and Iran with regards to Hamas’s approach with Israel and the United States.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah came out of seclusion (he makes rare public appearances for fear of assassination) to give a speech in which he loudly defended the Syrian regime.
For weeks, Hezbollah seemed less strident in its public support for Mr. Assad, but Mr. Nasrallah’s statements on Tuesday were unambiguous. He called Mr. Assad’s government “a resistance regime” and lashed out at Mr. Assad’s opponents, in particular an opposition group organized in Turkey, the Syrian National Council, accusing them of working with the United States and Israel to try to “destroy Syria…”
“The American administration abandons its followers and allies at the first crossroad to search for its interests,” he said. “Our Arab and Islamic nations should know that the American administration is the enemy and the threat.”
Hezbollah’s position with regard to Syria is unpopular across the Arab world except at home, and his talk is unlikely to convince anyone. The speech was done at a time in which Hezbollah is increasingly becoming aware that it’s ally in Syria is going down. Nasrallah probably felt compelled to make a statement that to Israel and the West that Hezbollah will still be a challenger after Assad is done and out.
About MeNews producer. Blogger on politics and culture of the Middle East, specializing in issues of public diplomacy.
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