As if there weren’t already enough factions jockeying for position as the backers of the Syrian revolution, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh staked out his own claim today, effectively cutting the Hamas movement’s longtime ties with the Assad regime.
“I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform,” Haniyeh said, during a speech before thousands of worshipers in Cairo. People in the crowd at the Sunni mosque chanted “no Hezbollah and no Iran, the Syrian revolution is an Arab revolution.”
The move was not a complete surprise, as Hamas has been trying to realign itself, away from its traditional backing of Iran and into the milieu of Sunni nationalist movements that have flourished in the Arab Spring. It is a more natural fit for Hamas, and one that could confer renewed legitimacy on the movement across the Middle East.
The shift further complicates matters in Syria, however, particularly as it relates to US and European efforts to send UN ground troops into Syria to intervene in the ongoing civil war.
Those nations have already shrugged off al-Qaeda’s backing of the rebels, and the influx of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) fighters into the nation. The insinuation of Hamas into the rebellion, however, could be more politically difficult for the US, as it will presumably force a re-examination of how an internationally imposed regime change would impact Israel.