Last Updated: Sun Feb 12, 2012 13:09 pm (KSA) 10:09 am (GMT)

Hamas prime minister’s visit to Iran sheds light on power struggle within the party

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah (L) is believed to be at odds with the politburo chief Khaled Mashaal over the party’s position on the Syrian crisis. (File photo)
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah (L) is believed to be at odds with the politburo chief Khaled Mashaal over the party’s position on the Syrian crisis. (File photo)

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah’s trip to the Iranian capital of Tehran highlighted the disagreement between the movement’s leaders at home and abroad, particularly his relationship with Damascus-based politburo chief Khaled Mashaal.

Haniyah’s acceptance of an invitation by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to participate in the celebration of the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, demonstrates the disagreements between Hamas leaders inside and outside the Gaza Strip, said political analyst Mekhimar Abu Saada.

“This division started becoming clear after the reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo between Fatah and Hamas,” he said.

At the time, he explained, Mashaal surprised Hamas by granting Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas a one-year grace period to conduct negotiations with Israel.

However, Abu Saada added, divisions inside Hamas were made clear when the resistance movement was required to take a stance as far as the Syrian crisis is concerned and the general inclination was to reject Iran’s demand that Hamas support Bashar al-Assad’s regime like Lebanon’s Hezbollah did.

“Mashaal was in the camp that favored distancing itself from Iran and Syria and getting closer to the Sunni axis represented by Turkey, Qatar, and the Palestinian president.”

That is why, he pointed out, this visit seems to have been an explicit rejection of Mashaal’s stance and that of the majority of Hamas leaders.

“This move by Haniyah and any similar moves likely to take place by Hamas leaders at home can be attributed to financial factors.”

Abu Saada explained that Hamas in Gaza is more in need of financial aid from external powers and that is why it is in its best interest not to contradict Iran.

“This, in addition to Haniyah’s objection to the rapprochement between Mashaal and Abbas, is expected to encourage the prime minister to maintain strong relations with Iran even though it supports the Syrian regime unlike Hamas’s initial stance.”

According to sources, Hamas leaders abroad as well as several Gulf nations advised Haniyah not to accept the Iranian invitation.

Hamas spokesman in Gaza denied reports of internal divisions within the movement.

“The visit to Iran had been scheduled a while and was part of a regional tour agreed upon by Hamas leaders,” he told Al Arabiya.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

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