Hamas official: Ties with Tehran hurt, not severed

Salah Bardawil says his movement would rather fight Israel than Iran and Hezbollah

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil. (YouTube screenshot)
Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil. (YouTube screenshot)

Despite having abandoned its Damascus headquarters in early 2012, Hamas has not severed its ties with Syria’s patron, Iran, a Hamas spokesman said on Monday.

“I cannot say the relationship with Iran was severed, but it was affected,” Salah Bardawil, a spokesman for the Hamas movement in Gaza told the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, commenting on the recent intervention of Iran and its ally Hezbollah in fighting alongside the Assad regime in Syria.

“Hamas is uninterested in declaring war on Iran or Hezbollah. Our only direct war is with Israel,” the Hamas official said, refusing to divulge whether Iran’s funding for Hezbollah had stopped.

Hamas reoriented its political affiliation in February 2012, when it shuttered its headquarters in Damascus and dispersed its political leadership between Turkey, Qatar and Egypt. Hamas denied reports that its offices in Tehran were closed by the government over the abandonment of its Syrian ally.

Last week, the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on a rift within Hamas between the military wing, the Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades — which supported the continued alliance with Iran and its regional proxies — and the political leadership, which initiated the break. Abu-Ubaida, a spokesman for the Qassam Brigades, denied the report, stressing his loyalty to the party’s political leadership.

Bardawil also doubted that his party’s military branch, and especially its head, Marwan Issa, would express an opinion contradictory to Hamas’s stated positions.

“Marwan Issa does not intervene in political matters since he is a military commander, and the military leadership is subordinate to the political leadership,” said Bardawil.

The Hamas leader rejected the daily’s assertion that Hezbollah had “deceived” Arabs and Muslims about its true character before entering the battlefield alongside Assad.

“That is between it and God,” he said, adding that Hezbollah committed a “grave mistake” by joining the Syrian regime; causing it to lose popularity and casting doubt on its role as a resistance party.

Bardawil refused to answer on whether he thought Hezbollah should be included in the Gulf Cooperation Council’s list of terrorist organizations, saying only that Hamas was sensitive to the use of the word “terror” since it was also considered a terrorist organization by the West.

“It has become a dirty word due to double standards,” Bardawil said.

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