GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas appears to be drifting away from its longtime patron Iran — part of a shift that began with last year’s Arab Spring and accelerated over Tehran’s backing of the pariah regime in Syria.
The movement’s top leader in exile, Khaled Mashaal, wants Hamas to be part of the broader Islamist political rise triggered by the popular uprisings sweeping across the Arab world. For this, Hamas needs new friends like the wealthy Gulf states that are at odds with Iran.
For now, Hamas won’t cut ties with Iran or close its headquarters-in-exile in the Syrian capital of Damascus, officials in the movement said.
However, relations have become increasingly strained.
Hamas has reduced its presence in Iran-allied Damascus in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on a popular uprising against him. Hamas also rejected Iran’s demand that the group publicly side with Assad, standing firm even when Tehran delayed the monthly support payments Hamas needs to govern the Gaza Strip, according to a senior Hamas official who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.
At the same time, Hamas is increasingly relying on political and financial support from the Gulf, particularly tiny Qatar, which also has close ties to the West.
This week, Qatar brokered a breakthrough unity deal between Mashaal and his longtime rival, internationally backed Palestini… >>>