US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday attacked Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei for his country’s record on aid to the Palestinians, saying the Islamic Republic provides support for terrorists while only donating small amounts of money to aid organizations.
On Friday, Khamenei tweeted at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying that the Palestinians “should not be neglected even for a second.” The message came after the two met in Tehran in the wake of a summit between the leaders of Turkey, Iran, and Russia to discuss the imminent offensive on the rebel stronghold of Idlib in Syria.
In response, the Trump administration’s top diplomat slammed Iran’s policies on the issue, stating that while the US has provided $6.3 billion in aid to support Palestinians since 1994, “Iran’s morally corrupt regime provided hundreds of millions in aid to terrorists who endanger the Palestinians’ lives and livelihoods.”
Pompeo went on to note that Iran had provided a sum of only $20,000 to UNRWA between 2008 and 2017.
In July US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Iran gave zero dollars to UNRWA in 2017.
The Trump administration announced last week it is cutting nearly $300 million in planned funding for the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees, and that it would no longer fund the agency after decades of support. Instead, it said it would seek other channels by which to aid the Palestinians.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 8, 2018
UNRWA’s spokesman in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, Adnan Abu Hasna, has said that he fears the US defunding of UNRWA would lead to increased terrorism. If UNRWA’s network in Gaza now collapses, he said, “what will happen if there are 300,000 school students in the streets of Gaza.” There would, he said, be “more negative energy — that’s a security danger not only for Gaza… but also for Israel. It won’t help peace; it’s a gift to terror.”
Although Israel has officially welcomed the move, sources in the defense establishment are understood to fear that Washington’s apparent efforts to weaken UNRWA may strengthen the Hamas terror group in Gaza and endanger Israel’s security.
They have reportedly said that serious cuts to UNRWA’s budget would create a vacuum in the provision of basic services in the Strip, where the majority of residents are dependent on the organization. This would be particularly felt in food shortages and a breakdown of education, which Hamas could use to strengthen its grip on the coastal enclave.
Pompeo concluded his tweetstorm by saying that if the Iranian regime had not banned social media, the people in the country would “know the truth about who really cares about Palestinians,” adding that the Iranian people struggle while the government spends money on terrorists.
Authorities in Iran have sought to develop local social media networks and limit the reliance on foreign-based platforms, which Tehran accuses of hosting sites deemed hostile to the Islamic Republic.
In May the Shin Bet said that Iran was providing funding for Hamas for the violent protests on Israel’s border with Gaza. Hamas has strong ties to the Islamic Republic and reportedly draws significant funding from Tehran.