What is the relationship between Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group recognized as a terrorist organization in Europe and the United States?
Despite the fluctuating nature of the relationship between the Islamic Republic and Hamas, Khamenei claimed this group was “the brightest point in the recent hundred-year history of Palestine.”
While other countries have offered support for Hamas, the Islamic Republic is described as being its main supporter by Israel and Western nations.
Khamenei has engaged with Hamas leaders on multiple occasions and attempted to position Fatah as being more inclined toward compromise.
In 1992, he held a meeting with a group of Hamas leaders, during which Moussa Abu Marzouq, a member of the group’s leadership council, presented a report to the leader of the Islamic Republic.
During the meeting, Khamenei stated, “In response to calls by Muslims and Palestinians, the issue of Palestine will remain alive and steadfast. Through both propaganda efforts and practical initiatives, Muslims can nurture hope for a future in which a Muslim government will replace the Israeli regime.”
In 1998, when he met with Hamas leader Ahmad Yassin, he regarded him and his forces as the genuine representatives of the Palestinian Muslim nation and the forefront warriors in the battle of Islam against disbelief and truth against falsehood.
“Only those who speak in the name of Islam and seek the honor of Palestine can truly claim to represent the Palestinian nation,” Khamenei emphasized. “Those who have attempted to demean Palestine have no right to speak in the name of Palestine’s greatness.”
Two years later, in a meeting with Hamas officials, he said that “the government of the Islamic Republic and the people of Iran will consistently be their defenders and supporters. We will continue to serve the Palestinian people with comprehensive assistance.”
A “Pleasant Surprise” for Khamenei
The rise to power of Hamas in competition with Fatah marked a pivotal moment for Khamenei, and he repeatedly underscored this development in his speeches.
In 2005, during a meeting with Khaled Mashaal, the head of the political office of Hamas, the leader of the Islamic Republic said Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian elections was “a pleasant surprise from God and the fulfillment of God’s promise.”
He went on to say that the Palestinian people and militant groups “did not lose hope and continued their struggle even when it seemed that all doors were closed to them…the liberation of Gaza and the subsequent victory of Hamas came as a surprise to many.”
Following Hamas’s electoral victory, the United States and Europe suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid to the Palestinian government.
In response, Mohammad Zohar, the foreign minister of the Palestinian government, announced that Iran’s assistance, initially promised at $50 million dollars in the spring, had been significantly increased.
During a meeting with Khaled Mashaal in June 2008, Khamenei claimed that Israel was now in a weakened position, unable to confront the determined and resilient Palestinian nation.
In February 2009, Khaled Mashaal presented a report on the 22-day war in Gaza during a meeting with Khamenei.
Khamenei stressed the importance of initiating the reconstruction of Gaza promptly and expressed the Islamic Republic’s readiness to assist in this endeavor.
He pointed out that “the enemy in the war aimed to blame Hamas and the Islamic resistance for the suffering of the people in Gaza, and some neighboring Arab governments were contributing to this narrative.”
In 2009 during a meeting with Khaled Mashaal, Khamenei stated that “one of the main reasons for the enmity of the arrogant powers against the Islamic Republic of Iran was its stance on the issue of Palestine.” He affirmed Iran’s unwavering commitment to this cause.
The relationship between the Islamic Republic and Hamas faced challenges during the Arab Spring.
In 2010, Ismail Haniyeh, the Prime Minister of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, visited Iran, and internal competition between him and Khaled Mashaal became public.
During his visit, the leader of the Islamic Republic cautioned Hamas against compromising in its struggle against Israel and emphasized the need to remain vigilant against the infiltration of compromising elements into the resistance movement.
Hamas’s support for the Syrian opposition and Khaled Mashaal’s trip to Saudi Arabia strained relations between the group and the Islamic Republic for several years.
However, in 2016, communication was reestablished, and Khamenei sent a letter to Ismail Haniyeh expressing the Islamic Republic’s commitment to providing “any kind of support” to Hamas.
In 2019, a delegation of Hamas leaders led by Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy of Ismail Haniyeh and head of the group’s political office, visited Tehran. Following this visit, reports cited Israeli officials as suggesting that Iran’s aid to Hamas increased from $100 million to $360 million per year.
In 2019, during a meeting with a Hamas delegation, Khamenei reiterated that the enmity of some powers toward the Islamic Republic was largely due to its unwavering support for Palestine, but he insisted that Iran will not waver in its position on this matter.
In a subsequent meeting with Ismail Haniyeh, Khamenei emphasized the importance of unity and harmony among resistance groups and said that the “enemy” failed to “sow discord and division during the recent battle in Gaza.”
In December 2008, Israel launched a massive military offensive against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, after which the leader of the Islamic Republic sent a message to Ismail Haniyeh.
In 2018, Khamenei wrote to Haniyeh, cautioning against the unforgivable mistake of engaging in negotiations with “the deceitful, lying, and usurping regime.”
He emphasized that such actions would jeopardize “the victory of the Palestinian nation and lead to losses for the oppressed people.”
A year later, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the political office of Hamas, conveyed Iran’s readiness to provide support to the group.
He declared their unwavering commitment to being “a bastion of enduring resistance, standing alongside all forces of truth, justice and freedom.”
The driving force behind them was the Islamic Republic of Iran, and they pledged their allegiance until the ultimate victory.
Hamas: The Representative of the Palestinian People?
In numerous speeches, the leader of the Islamic Republic described Hamas as the genuine representative of the Palestinian people.
In 1995, he highlighted Israel’s official declaration of intent to assassinate Palestinians affiliated with Hamas wherever they may be found.
“Despite such open state terrorism, those advocating democracy and organizations claiming to champion human rights remained conspicuously silent,” he said.
On April 5, 2002, Khamenei stated that various militant organizations, including Fatah, Hamas, the People’s Front, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and others, recognized that sacrifice was necessary to secure the future of Palestine.
In February 2006, Khamenei pointed out that the victory of Hamas dealt a severe blow to their adversaries. He suggested that they were seeking to compensate for their defeat by targeting Muslims.
The “Brightest Chapter” in the Recent History of Palestine
The leader of the Islamic Republic’s speeches subtly touched upon the dynamics within Hamas and the group’s conflicts with other factions.
In 2007, Khamenei claimed that the Hamas government in Gaza was facing oppression and violence.
Two months later, he criticized Western countries for rejecting the Hamas government and their “clear disregard for democratic principles.” He stated, “Those who embrace democracy only when its outcomes favor them reveal a bellicose and opportunistic approach. If they profess a commitment to peace, it is nothing but falsehood and deceit.”
During a conference, Khamenei emphasized that the urgent task at hand was the reconstruction of Gaza. He referred to the Hamas government as the choice of the vast majority of Palestinians, and described their resistance against Israel as the “brightest chapter in the recent century of Palestinian history.”
“Palestine: The Main Source of Enmity toward the Islamic Republic”
In various speeches and meetings with Hamas members, Khamenei repeatedly underscored that the core reason for the hostility toward the Islamic Republic was its commitment to the Palestinian cause. But he made it clear that the nation stood firm on this issue.
In October 2016, the supreme leader said that the ongoing conflict between the Islamic Republic and the United States would not be resolved easily. He predicted that even if Tehran addressed US concerns over Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, Washington would ask, “Why do you support Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestine?”
In 2010, Khamenei pointed out that “the main violators of democracy were, in fact, the Western nations themselves,” referring to Western interference in democratically elected governments.
Khamenei also noted that the youth in Arab countries were inspired by the actions of Palestinian groups and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In 2011, he mentioned that the youth in Egypt and Tunisia drew inspiration from Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. In 2013, after an eight-day war in Gaza, he praised the Palestinian militant groups for their courage.
Khamenei consistently emphasized that the Islamic Republic provided support to both Sunni and Shia armed groups. In 2012 he said that the Islamic Republic was providing assistance to both the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah and the Sunni Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements.
In 2014, he encouraged the Islamic Jihad and Hamas fighters to redouble their efforts and determination.
The killing of top Iranian General Qasem Suleimani in a US drone strike near Baghdad in January 2020 had a significant impact on the relationships between armed groups aligned with the Islamic Republic. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’s political office, attended Suleimani’s funeral service.
In June 2019, he stated that Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon had exhausted their patience against their adversaries.
Source » iranwire