Sunday, February 23, 2014

Iran makes clear its strategic backing for Islamic Jihad over Hamas


Iran makes clear its strategic backing for Islamic Jihad over Hamas

GAZA CITY — Iran continues to favor its Palestinian proxy over the Hamas movement.

Palestinian sources said Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was relaying tens of millions of dollars to Islamic Jihad. The sources said the aid was accompanied by Iranian pressure on the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip not to harass Jihad.

"Iran has made it clear that its support of Islamic Jihad is strategic and not a temporary matter," a source said.

On Feb. 5, a Jihad delegation led by secretary-general Ramadan Shallah arrived in Teheran for meetings with the Iranian leadership. This marked the first Jihad delegation to Iran since President Hassan Rowhani took office in August 2013.

"The warm welcome for the delegation reflected Iran's solidarity [with Jihad]," Jihad spokesman Daoud Shihab said.

Shallah was accompanied by deputy secretary-general Ziyad Nakhalah, designated by the United States as a "global terrorist" in January 2014. The sources said Teheran wanted to signal that it would not be deterred from its support of Jihad and other proxies regardless of any rapproachment with Washington.

The sources said IRGC, with liaisons in the Gaza Strip, maintained nearly daily contact with Jihad. The last Jihad leadership session with Iran took place in December 2013 in Beirut, Lebanon during the visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

Teheran's support of Jihad has come at the expense of Hamas. The sources said Hamas was receiving no more than half of its annual Iranian allocation of $250 million while Jihad was being assisted in the production of medium- and long-range rockets, believed the largest in the Gaza Strip.

"Iran considers Islamic Jihad part of the Iranian governmental institution and places it on par with Hizbullah," Ali Nourizadeh, head of the London-based Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, said.

In an interview with the London-based Al Monitor, Nourizadeh said Iran saw Hamas as part of the former's political interests. In contrast, he said, Teheran's relations with Jihad were regarded as "strategic and ideological."

"When Hamas took the decision to distance itself from what was happening in Syria, the aid provided by Iran decreased," Nourizadeh said. "The aid it receives now is unofficial aid."


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