The commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force today called leaders of Palestinian “resistance groups” to pledge Iran’s “all-out support” for them in their armed struggle against Israel, Sepah News, the official outlet of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) reported. According to the read-out of the phone conversations with the leadership of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Major General Qassem Soleimani also emphasized that other groups within the “resistance axis in the region” are also ready to defend the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
Separately, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called Hamas’ political leader, Ismail Haniya, to discuss President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “The oppressed nation of Palestine and the Islamic community – with their unity, resistance and fortitude – will undoubtedly defeat this American-Zionist design,” Rouhani reportedly told Haniya. “We are confident that a new intifada will continue its path to attain the rights of the Palestinian nation.” The Hamas leader reportedly thanked Iran for its support and stressed that the latest Palestinian intifada against Israel will continue.
Comment: Iranian leaders are apparently trying to exploit Trump’s last week announcement on Jerusalem for their political ends in the region. One the one hand, Tehran is portraying itself as the “real” defender of Sunni Palestinians in an effort to change the regional perception that it is promoting a sectarian agenda by aiding only Shiite armed groups in the Middle East. Tehran also hopes that Washington’s decision to unilaterally declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would help Iran’s efforts, as one analyst wrote in I.R.G.C.-affiliated Tasnim News Agency, to further strengthen the “resistance front” in the region against the United States and Israel.
The read-out of Soleimani’s phone call did not disclose which regional groups the Quds Force commander was referring to as willing to help the Palestianian struggle against Israel, but several Iranian-supported regional Shiite groups have recently expressed readiness to join the fight against Israel once the battle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria is over. These groups include the Lebanese Hezbollah, Afghan Fatemiyoun Division, and Iraqi militia groups such as Harakat al-Nujaba and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq.
Many Iranian leaders also claim that Trump’s decision justified their views that the only way to achieve a Palestinian state is through armed “resistance” rather than diplomacy. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, an aide to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, on Friday called for an uprising against Israel. “With this decision, Trump rejected all negotiations of the past seven decades and demonstrated that the only and only way to achieve the Palestinian aspiration is through intifada, which would change the Zionist regime’s daylight into a dark night. You should rage against this occupying regime; and the more you inflict damage to this usurper and criminal regime, the closer you have taken a step toward pleasing God,” he told worshipers during today’s Friday prayer in Tehran.
After a period of tension and uncertainty, Tehran and Hamas recently took steps to improve their relationship. The Hamas leadership’s decision not to support the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad and to move closer to Saudi Arabia and Qatar had soured the militant group’s ties with Iran. Tehran may be finding a solace now that Hamas is returning to the Iranian orbit. In October, a senior Hamas delegation visited Tehran and met with top Iranian leaders as the militant group in control of Gaza reached a reconciliation agreement with its Palestinian rival Fatah, which runs the West Bank.