Hamas redefines itself after leaving Syria for new allies

Dalia Hatuqa reports: This month, Hamas’s political leader Khaled Meshaal took part in a conference hosted by Turkey’s ruling AKP party. A commentator on Syria’s state-run Al Dunya television channel compared Mr Meshaal to “an orphan” looking for shelter after being rebuffed by other countries, further admonishing the group’s leader for his seeming ingratitude to Syria.

The commentary displayed just how frayed relations have become between Mr Meshaal and the state that granted him sanctuary after Jordan expelled him in 1999. Syria had long provided Hamas with a safe haven in addition to economic and logistical support. Despite the stark differences between the Baathists’ secular mandate and Hamas’s religiosity, the two parties found common ground in their opposition to Israel.

In February, after months of standing on the sidelines of the uprisings gripping the Middle East, Hamas was forced to make a defining decision. The party declared it was closing up shop in Damascus, signalling a tectonic shift between Hamas and its Syrian hosts.

The implications of this shift for Hamas’s relationship with its other traditional patrons in Iran is open to question. Speaking to the Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm, Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy chief of Hamas’s political bureau, acknowledged a change in relations with Tehran as a consequence of events in Syria, but still took a distinctly diplomatic tack on related questions. Mr Meshaal and Khaled Ghadoumi, the chief of Hamas’s political bureau in Iran, recently affirmed the strategic relationship. [Continue reading…]

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