This didn’t get much play in the press, but it’s really big news. There appears to be a crack in the Axis of Evil love triangle between Iran, Syria, and Hamas. Last Friday, at a grand mosque in Cairo, Egypt, Hamas denounced Assad and overtly supported the opposition forces against him. I was a little stunned on a variety levels.
Iran and Syria have funded Hamas from its creation. They’re its sugar daddies, and Iran is definitely on the Assad bandwagon. Hamas has now made a conscious effort to literally bite the hand that feeds it.
Right off the bat, the pronouncement spits in the face of Iran’s statements that the troubles in Syria are caused by “western powers” fomenting and aiding the rebellion. It’s going to be hard for Iran to continue saying this with a straight face when one of the primary terrorist groups against those same western powers supports the rebellion.
Why, though? Why would Hamas, which even has an office-in-exile in Damascus – well, at least it did – choose to denounce Assad with so much hanging in the balance?
The doomsayers will state that it’s proof positive that al Qaida and other terrorists are behind the rebellion – something that Assad says as well – because why else would Hamas back it? Terrorists always back other terrorists, and Hamas wants to control the new government that comes into power. There is some truth to that statement, but the connection isn’t terrorism. It’s the constituency of Hamas and whom it sees as its future bankroll.
The population of Syria is primarily Sunni, as are the Palestinians in Hamas, while the leadership of Syria is Alawite– a Shia offshoot (debatable, but that’s what they claim). It was no doubt becoming harder and harder for Hamas to sit by the sidelines when its own members were getting a little aggravated by the Sunni bloodshed. Unlike Hezbollah to the North, a Shi’ite group firmly in Iran’s pocket, the constituency of Hamas was demanding action to support its Sunni brothers in Syria.
Even given that, it would take something more for the leadership of Hamas to thumb its nose at two of its greatest benefactors, Iran and Syria. I believe what tipped the scales was the Arab Spring in Egypt. Just a short time ago, Hamas had to deal with a hostile Arab country on its border of the Gaza Strip, namely Mubarak’s government in Egypt. In order to survive, it struck deals with Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria to help in its fight against Israel. Now, Egypt is on the verge of being run by the Muslim Brotherhood – the very organization that created Hamas in the first place when it was an Egyptian underground organization, ruthlessly hunted down in the shadows by Mubarak. It looks like Hamas now believes that the loss of material and political support by Iran and Syria will be offset by the new government of Egypt.
It remains to be seen whether Hamas supporting the revolt is a positive or negative to U.S. national interests. One thing’s for sure: It’s bad for Assad.