By: Mohammad Salim Al-Rashid
In a statement, a senior Hamas official said to the AFP: "Contacts with Syria are improving and relations are on the way to a full return to what they were before," referring to several visits by Hamas leaders to Syria. In addition, he added "Syria supports the cause and the Palestinian people, and that Hamas is keen on the relationship with Syria and all Arab countries."
On the other hand, Khalil al-Hayya, a Hamas leader, said; “The movement has made its internal decision to return to Damascus after an internal and external discussion at the level of the Hamas movement in order to resolve the controversy related to restoring relations with Syria. And cadres, influencers, and even detainees inside prisons, expressed their determination to work for restoring the relationship with Damascus.”
The following factors may explain Hamas' decision, according to political analysis:
First: The formation of a new axis (Arab - "Israeli"):
Hamas is subjected to international and regional pressures after the formation of a state of normalization in the last decade in the Arab region between “Israel” and some Gulf States, Morocco and the Sudan, in addition to Egypt and Jordan.
The isolation of these countries from their functional strategic contexts has led to their transformation from countries trying to use the Palestinian cause as a strategic card to negotiate with "Israel" to countries that integrate within the context of US-“Israeli” policy in the region. Thus, those countries find that their functional mission has turned to confront Iran and its arms in the region and Iran's attempt to enter the nuclear club. This means switching to serving the "Israeli" strategy in investing the financial, oil and commercial resources of the allied Arab countries and ending the dictionary of hostility to leave behind the Palestinian cause, after it was a priority card for the Arab negotiation and solidarity.
With signs of forming a Middle Eastern force that includes “Israel”, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Gulf states, Hamas will become a cacophony and a hotbed of concern. Consequently, it will be a future goal in the face of the Iranian project, i.e. it will not only be an "Israeli" target, but also a target for Arab countries under the umbrella of that Middle Eastern power.
Second: The transformations resulting from the Russian-Ukrainian war:
The Russian war in Ukraine has undermined the international certainty in the western alliance force (Europe and the United States), and has led to the escape and restlessness of regional states such as India, Pakistan, Turkey and some countries bordering Ukraine (such as Hungary), as well as countries like Brazil, South Africa and other United States control and influence. This may break up the unipolar domination of the world, which will lead the world to roll towards the growth of regional and international poles, the most important of which are China and Russia. This war may result in economic, military and financial losses that will be reflected in the political positions of many political bodies. Countries and movements, and those states have begun to think about their strategic and political options for the next decade.
Among those bodies is the “Hamas” movement, whose assessment of the international and regional situation resulting from the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war led Hamas to adopt the narrative that emphasizes the rise of Russia and China and the steadfastness and power of Iran in the region as a balancing factor with the power of the Middle East. One of the effects of this will be the weakening and disintegration of the European alliance with the United States, which will weaken the future hegemony in favor of Russia and China.
This assessment of the situation contributed to the shift in the position of Hamas in the direction of restoring relations with Bashar al-Assad. Then merging with the Iranian strategy in the region, hoping that Iranian financial and logistical support will continue to Hamas and the Gaza Strip, in the absence of Arab support and the shift in the Arab position that normalizes relations with "Israel".
Challenges facing Hamas
Hamas will face several challenges, the most important of which are:
1- The independence of Hamas' political and strategic decision:
After a period of this decision, "Hamas" interests will clash strategically with the interests of the Iranian regime and project in the region. Thus, the question arises: Will Hamas transform from an independent resistance movement into a functional movement in the Iranian project? Hamas has begun to consider this job by exchanging positions of the Lebanese Hezbollah and some of its missions in Daraa and other Sunni areas in Syria, as is rumored.
Hamas will not have the upper hand inside Syria with regard to its strategic policies, as it will remain under the political and legal reality of the Syrian regime, of course. It will be entrusted with a group of tasks in the context of maintaining the coherent Syrian regime, and there are possibilities that it will be exposed to “Israeli” attacks on the Iranian regime’s positions replaced by “Hamas.”. Hamas's combat situation would then be weak and exposed to the Israelis, and it would be easy to strike its positions as well as those of the Iranians and Hezbollah if it were assigned roles to protect the Syrian regime.
This time, Hamaswill return to the Iranian embrace in Syria with weaker conditions, an incompatible organizational force, and a weak position that does not have the upper hand. Is it possible, over time, to employ Hamasto perform the required role in accordance with Iranian strategy rather than in accordance with its independent strategy?
For several years, Hamas has maintained the independence of its decision, but it is certain that this time it has lost its independence due to a reassessment of its position towards international and Arab changes in the region, after it failed to resume any distinguished Arab relationship that balances its relations with Iran.
2- Iran's role in the region
The second challenge is: Will Hamas be able to jump over the goals of the Iranian project in the region? The project that plans to control, humiliate, and oppress the Sunni public and place it under the framework of dictatorial regimes in Iraq and the minority Alawite regime led by Bashar al-Assad. Will Hamas, like some Palestinian forces, become pro-Bashar against the revolution of the Syrian people? The Iranian project in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen has engaged in killing, displacement, destruction, burning and annihilation of the Sunni peoples of these countries under the pretext of resisting “Israel” and America.
In Syria alone, there are more than 11 million refugees outside and inside Syria.
Iran has deliberately changed the demography and spread the Shiite sect in the Sunni areas, colonizing urban areas and turning them into purely Shiite areas.
Iran's resilience and resistance (according to its claims) against the United States (which cooperated with Iran several times and is now negotiating with it on the nuclear project)...is only one of its tactics and not its project.
Iran's project is to control and rule the Arab region stretching between the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, and this is a written project.
The question is: Will Hamas be able to jump over the dynamics of this project under the pretext of finding the protection and support lost from the Sunni side? Or will it turn, over time, into just mere cog in the machine of this project. This is what happened with many Palestinian factions that turned from struggling for occupied Palestine to struggling American and "Israel" in the whole Arab region under the Iranian project and the influence and orders of the Supreme Leader in Iran.
Over time, can the ideological Shi’ism infiltrate into Hamas's youth class and change from political to ideological loyalty? These are challenges for Hamas.
3- The future of Hamas’ relationship with its traditional allies (Turkey and Qatar):
The Turkish role with Hamas has been distinguished over the past two decades because of the policy of the ruling Justice and Development Party. Hamas also has distinguished relations with Qatar, semi-strategic relations, as Hamas moved its offices to Qatar after its exit from Syria. Moreover, Qatar continues to support the civilian budget of the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas.
Hamas's return to Syria and its re-establishment of relations with Bashar al-Assad's regime will confuse the Turkish equation in Syria, as Turkey is in a line of confrontation with the Syrian regime in Idlib and northern Syria.
Ankara is concerned about this strategic move, which will make a difference in the strategic and political alignment. It is no secret that Iran is a strategic competitor to Turkey, and is also attached to Russian control and has been pressing Turkey in many files in the region.
Here, a question arises: Will Hamas be able to convince its allies in Turkey and Qatar of its position, and that it will be neutral in theconflict of rivalry between Turkey and Iran in the region, especially in Syria?
4- The popular and legitimate Sunni position:
Since Hamas aligned itself with Iran and sided with it in many positions, visits and statements, the mental image that used to see Hamas as an independent Palestinian resistance movement changed to see it as a pro-Iranian movement. Legal declarations and fatwas have been issued by legal figures and figures in support of Hamas opposing this relationship, or these statements and visits. Everyone knows the popular and legitimate Sunni position on the visit of Abu al-Abed (Ismail Haniyeh) to Iran and his condolences for Qassem Soleimani and naming him "the martyr of Al-Quds". This statement provoked reprehensible reactions from large sectors at the Sunni popular level.
How will Hamas present its legitimate position in accordance with this shift represented in restoring relations with the Syrian regime, and how will Bashar al-Assad, who has committed all the known crimes in Syria, turn into a strategic ally under the Iranian umbrella? Moreover, how will Hamascompensate for its Sunni incubator in the coming days?
Many symbols, leaders, political and legal figures have defended Hamas in its positions and relations with Iran and the statements of its symbols, justifying their positions with excuses related to corruption, interests and political and necessary constraints. Nevertheless, the political and strategic dose is strong this time around. These symbols and leaders will not be able to defend Hamas' position, which will lead to Hamas losing a large bloc of its popular Sunni incubator and strengthening the position of the hardliners against Hamas's relationship with Iran. It may even reach that Hamas, by taking sides in this position, is going in an opposite direction to the Sunni content in the region. Because of this relationship, Hamas may turn into a legitimate target for confrontation that is exploited by many gloating parties.
Will Hamas be able to promote its position politically, legally and popularly?