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Iran's Careful Balance: Backing Hamas, Avoiding Direct War

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

Khamenei and Ismail Haniyeh

During the recent conflict in Gaza, IRGC Quds Force (IRGC-QF) Commander Maj Gen Esmail Qaani assured Hamas of Iran's unwavering support, characterizing their bond as a "brotherly commitment" and lauding Hamas's attacks as pivotal for the region. Iran's stance is supportive of Palestinian groups but remains cautious to avoid direct military involvement and has reportedly stated it will not enter the war on Hamas's behalf. A Reuters report suggesting Ayatollah Khamenei's reluctance to engage directly was strongly refuted by both Hamas, Iranian officials, and state-run media, underscoring the intricacies of their alliance and shared goals in the region.

IRGC QF Commander Maj Gen Esmail Qaani has given assurances to Hamas that "we will do everything it takes" to support the group in its ongoing war with Israel. He relayed the message in a public letter addressed to Mohammad Deif, Izz alDin alQassam, commander of Qassam Brigades, Hamas's military wing, which carried out the deadly onslaught inside southern Israeli territories on 7 October-Code-named Al-Aqsa Flood.

IRGC-QF Letter to Mohamd Deif Izz alDin alQassam Brigades Commander

Qaani, who is in charge of Iran's support to Iran's proxies throughout the Middle East, hailed Tehran's ties with Hamas as a "brotherly commitment" on which the Islamic Republic "firmly stands… in this historic battle". Qaani labeled Hamas attacks as "a magnificent epic," marking a turning point in the history of "Palestine and resistance...You exposed to full light the fragility and vulnerability of the Zionist regime and proved with action that it is weaker than a spider web. "

"Both friends and foes agree that the aftermath of the Al-Aqsa storm will transform Palestine and the region significantly. The resistance's successful attacks against enemy forces demonstrated Gaza's innovative capabilities. This achievement has inspired the nations of the (Islamic) Ummah to greater support and commitment to the Jihad option, with many believing that entry into Al-Aqsa (Jerusalem) is near. Gaza now stands as a symbol of the nation's honor and dignity".

Iran's stance on the war in the Gaza conflict, as articulated, indicates a strategic and cautious approach balancing support for Palestinian groups with a desire to avoid direct military confrontation. Despite Iran's backing and hailing attacks, Tehran maintains a distinction between providing support and having complete and direct command and control over such operations​. Nevertheless, Ansar Allah Iranian officials warned that the war could quickly spread and continuing Israeli attacks could involve other Tehran-backed proxies, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi /Ansar Allah in Yemen.

Qaani reiterated, echoing a consistent official stance that "Your brothers in the "Axis of Resistance" remain unified with you, committed to thwarting the enemy's harmful ambitions in Gaza and Palestine… allies in the Quds axis…will prevent the enemy from pressuring Gaza and its people."

He congratulated the Al-Qassam battalions and the Palestinian nation on their significant victory and reaffirmed the bond of faith and brotherhood uniting them in their cause.

IRGC-QF Commander

The letter did not elaborate further on the nature of the promised support. Yet an exclusive 15 November Reuters report claimed that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had made it clear to the visiting Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Tehran that "We will not enter the war on your behalf." The meeting said to have occurred on November 5, reportedly focused on the situation in Gaza and the West Bank. Citing unnamed sources in Tehran and within Hamas, the report maintained that Khamenei had said so as an expression of unease with how Hamas had kept Iran about the surprise operation.

Both Hamas and Iran refuted the Reuters report. , on November 15, Hamas published a statement dismissing the report as inaccurate and baseless, urging Reuters to maintain precision in its reporting. Israel. Osama Hamdan, a member of Hamas's political bureau, has also categorically dismissed the report as "baseless and filled with lies".

Khamenei’s website also published on November 17 an interview with Zahra Mostafavi Khomeini, daughter of Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, who praised Khamenei for “seriously and strongly” following her father's path for liberating Palestine. She is the head of the board of trustees of The Society for Defending the Palestinian Nation and the Secretary General of the International Union of Non-Governmental Organizations Supporting Palestine.

The interview featured on Khamenei's website, which appears to be heavily indoctrinated, was likely published to reassert Khamenei’s and Iran's unwavering support for Hamas and the Axis of Resistance. This step directly responds to the Reuters report, emphasizing their consistent and doctrinal commitment to the 'Axis of Resistance'.

Zahra Mostafavi : "elimination of the Zionist regime from the map of world"

Zahra Mostafavi Khomeini spoke about the crucial position of Palestine in Imam Khomeini's ideology. Khomeini "intertwined the struggle against the Zionist regime with his broader Islamic movement, aligning it against American influence and the Pahlavi regime based on Islamic principles of supporting the oppressed." His strategic slogan, "Today Iran, Tomorrow Palestine, to support Palestinian resistance actively," provoked the communities of the region and the Palestinian society. She criticized the "historical reliance of Palestinian societies on external groups for liberation, noting their disillusionment with Arab nations' alignment with the West". In this regards after establishing the Islamic system, Khomeini declared the last Friday of Ramadan as "World Quds (Jerusalem) Day," integrating the "Palestinian occupation issue into Muslims' religious consciousness. This move ensured that the Islamic communities remained aware of the Palestinian plight".

Zahra Mostafavi Khomeini also discussed Imam Khomeini's vision for the "elimination of the Zionist regime from the map of the world." Following the Islamic Revolution, significant gestures like repurposing the Israeli embassy in Tehran for Palestine and establishing the IRGC Quds Force underscored Iran's commitment to Palestinian liberation with the specific mission of "liberation of Palestine" and "removing the usurping Israeli regime from the map of the world." She highlighted the critical role of the 'Axis of Resistance' in "supporting the oppressed against aggressors." She emphasized that this goal reflects a fundamental aspect of Iran's revolutionary ideals, which continue to inspire and shape the actions of the 'Axis of Resistance' and its allies in the region.

Mostafavi urged the Islamic world to support Palestinian resistance actively, proposing measures like economic sanctions against the West and Israel and reevaluating participation in the United Nations, which she deemed complicit in Palestinian suffering.

A senior Iranian official, speaking to Lebanese UNews, refuted the report and denied any discussion about Tehran not joining the war or limiting support to Hamas due to unawareness of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood's launch. He emphasized that Iran, along with allies like Hezbollah and Hamas, rely only on official sources for their statements.

He criticized the report for trying to sow discord within the "Axis of Resistance," describing these efforts as an attempt to weaken their united front against Israel. The official underscored Iran's unwavering support for the resistance, dismissing claims about Iran's reluctance to engage directly unless attacked. He affirmed that Khamenei's well-known stances reflect Iran's strong support for the resistance and condemned fabricating statements attributed to him.

On November 18, Kayhan newspaper criticized Reuters for its report on Iran-Hamas relations, suggesting it was part of a "clumsy psychological operation" by Western media. According to Kayhan, this report and others aim to create discord within the "Axis of Resistance," especially after 42 days of war where the Zionist regime, alongside the United States, faced significant setbacks. Kayhan contends these media outlets are attempting to compensate for these failures by spreading falsehoods, pointing out the confusion and contradictory reactions in Western circles regarding the conflict and Iran's involvement.

Reuters's "clumsy psychological operation"



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