Thursday, March 15, 2012

Iran's War in Gaza

This time, it's not Hamas firing rockets into Israel -- it's Iranian proxies seeking to create havoc.

Israeli jets pounded the Gaza Strip on March 12 in the latest volley of fire since violence broke out late last week. But they were not fighting Hamas, Israel's traditional bête noire in Gaza. Though radical factions have now fired more than 200 rockets into Israel, the self-described Islamic Resistance Movement has yet to claim responsibility for a single attack. It may be the first time the organization has refused to lead the charge to battle against Israel.

Hamas has a different fight on its hands. Iran, through the use of its proxies, is fomenting instability in Gaza that it is ill-equipped to handle. Indeed, Tehran is punishing Gaza's de facto rulers for leaving their long-standing alliance.
...Maan News Agency, an independent Palestinian news source, reported that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh engaged in intense talks brokered by Egypt to bring a halt to the violence. Those negotiations resulted in a cease-fire that went into effect Monday night, although several rockets have already reportedly been fired since.
In fact, the last thing Hamas needs is a war. The militant faction faces its greatest challenge since its creation in 1987: While it has the hardware necessary to fight Israel, it lacks the foreign backing to mount a sustained campaign.
...Numerous reports now indicate that Hamas is drifting from the Iran-Syria axis. While Hamas has not ruptured its relations with Tehran in the same manner that it abandoned Damascus, Iranian leaders are clearly irked that the Palestinian faction has refused to stand by Assad, a key strategic figure for Tehran in the region.
Whereas Iran once respected Hamas's wishes and helped maintain a modicum of calm inside Gaza, the gloves are now off. Iran is using its smaller and less-expensive proxies, the PRC and PIJ, to create unrest on Hamas's turf.
As the Iranians see it, Hamas has outlived its usefulness. In the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009, during which Israel delivered punishing blows to Hamas in retaliation for rocket fire into southern Israel, the group has become more cautious. Ideologically, it has not changed. But practically, it seeks less to destroy Israel than to preserve its own existence...
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