What’s The Role Of Iran In The Palestinian Resistance?
Hossein Salami, Major-General of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said the Palestinians are “not alone” in their struggle against Israel. “We are with you on this path until the end, and let Palestine and the Palestinians know that they are not alone,” he told the visiting leader of the Islamic Jihad group, Ziad al-Nakhala, during a meeting in Tehran.
Moreover, Iran’s foreign ministry condemned Israel’s attack on Gaza while President Ebrahim Raisi said Israel has “once again showed its occupying and aggressive nature to the world”, according to a statement from his office.
Iran’s support for Palestine dates back to the time of the 1979 Islamic Revolution: under Reza Pahlavi, a pro-Western and the last Shah of Iran, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) held close ties with Iranian opposition groups, to the point that it backed the Iranian Revolution.
Following the revolution, Iran ended its alliance with Israel – even though it supported the new republic during the Iran-Iraq war – and started supporting the Palestinians. This position was confirmed by turning over the Israeli embassy in Tehran to the PLO.
But the relations between Iran and the Palestinian National Authority were restored only after the PNA leader Arafat released imprisoned Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants following the eruption of the second Palestinian intifada in September 2000, after the collapse of Middle East peace talks at Camp David.
Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran officially recognizes Palestine as a state, and the Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei rejects a two-state solution, which implies that Palestine is inseparable.
Iran occupies a prominent place in the so-called “Axis of Resistance”, which involves Iran, Syria, the Lebanese Hezbollah, the People’s Mobilization Forces (Kaitab Hezbollah) of Iraq, the Houthis of Yemen, and the Palestine Islamic Jihad, among other movements.
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s cooperation with the Palestinian resistance has been continually tightening in the heat of the struggle against the Zionist colonial occupation.
“The Palestinian resistance is stronger today than in the past,” Hossein Salami said, adding armed groups have found “the ability to manage major wars”.
Israel has accused Iran of smuggling weapons to Palestinian groups in Gaza. Iran is, indeed, a backer of Hamas – the militant and political organization currently in power in the Gaza Strip – and the Islamic Jihad.
According to Mahmoud Abbas, President of the PNA, “Hamas is funded by Iran. It claims it is financed by donations, but the donations are nothing like what it receives from Iran, which also supplies Hamas with military weaponry”. Technologies provided include rockets as well as drones.
Aid to Hamas increased after Arafat’s death in 2004 and Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. Following the Hamas victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections, foreign aid dried up, leading Tehran to send significant financial aid to support the nearly bankrupt, Hamas-led Palestinian National Authority.
Iran also supplies Islamic Jihad with training, expertise, and money, even though most of the group’s weapons are locally produced. Although its base is Gaza, Islamic Jihad also has leadership in Lebanon and Syria, where it maintains close ties with Iranian officials.
Iran’s strategic relationship with the Palestinian resistance, in particular with Hamas, has provoked a hostile reaction from other regional powers, particularly Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. At the same time, this alliance has generated disagreements with the Palestinian Authority and Fatah, who consider the policy of regional axes absolutely harmful to the Palestinians and, therefore, that Hamas should not get involved with the Iranians.