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March 18, 2016 10:26 am

Report: Iranian Commander Assures Hamas Tehran Will Never Cease Fighting Against Israel; Says Nuclear Deal Changed Nothing

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Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani. Photo: Wikipedia.

Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani. Photo: Wikipedia.

Iran has been making serious attempts to restore relations with Hamas, the Hebrew news site Walla reported on Thursday.

According to the report – based on an interview an anonymous Hamas source gave to the Lebanon-based pan-Arab news outlet Al-Mayadeen – Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds force, met with a Hamas delegation in Tehran last month, during the anniversary celebrations of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, to try to mend soured relations.

The source quoted conversations between Soleimani and top Hamas representative in Lebanon Osama Hamdan and Hamas politburo members Mohammad Nasser and Maher Obeid.

“The world has changed since the Arab Spring,” Suleimani reportedly said during the meeting. “Neither Iran nor Hamas is as it was before. But Hamas and Iran have the desire for a strong uprising in Palestine and confrontation against Israeli aggression. It is imperative to create a new basis for our relations. Over the past few years, many mistakes were made, some on the part of Hamas and some on Iran’s part. Nevertheless, we both know that the resistance is in danger, and we know that the only country that can support Palestinian resistance is Iran.”

According to the Al-Mayadeen report, Walla said, Suleimani later met with the rest of the Palestinian delegation and vowed that the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers did not hamper the Islamic Republic’s support for Hamas in its struggle for the liberation of Palestine.

“Our position was staunch prior to the nuclear deal and it has remained so in its wake. It will not change. We will continue to support Palestine,” he said. “Negotiations with the West centered on the nuclear agreement, and nothing else… despite American efforts. We did not give in on the Palestinian issue.”

According to the report, Suleimani continued: “There are people who claim that we support Palestine because of our own interests. That has not been true since the beginning of the revolution, and it’s not true now. We are not willing to negotiate or reach understandings with the United States or its allies on anything relating to the Palestinian issue… [T]ell your brothers that our support for Palestine is continuing. In Iran, everybody loves Palestine, Palestine is also a key issue in our internal affairs.”

Suleimani admitted that there were times when financial aid to the Palestinians was reduced, but stressed that “it was because of our own conditions and economic situation, not because we had changed our political position on Palestine.”

Relations between Hamas and Iran, which had been a big supporter of the organization for many years, seriously deteriorated with the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, when Hamas left its command post in Damascus. Relations went further downhill last July, when Hamas leader Khaled Mashal went to Saudi Arabia, Shiite-dominated Iran’s sworn (Sunni) enemy, where he met with the king. At the end of that visit, Hamas announced that Tehran had ceased all funding of the organization’s operations in Gaza.

But in recent months, attempts have been made at reconciliation, partly brokered by Hezbollah, but Hamas has not wanted to turn its back on Saudi support. According to Walla, the fact that the delegation that went to Iran last month consisted only of low-level representatives and no senior officials, indicates that Hamas does not intend to restore relations with Iran to their previous nature at the expense of its backing from Saudi Arabia.

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