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Gulf Arabs Pressuring Hamas Not to Go to Iran

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh is reportedly being pressured by Arab leaders in the Gulf not to meet with Iran's Ahmadinejad in Tehran
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 2/8/2012, 12:28 PM

Ismail Haniyeh
Ismail Haniyeh
Flash 90

Gulf Arab nations are reportedly pressuring Hamas Gaza chief Ismail Haniyeh to cancel his scheduled trip to Tehran.

Arab opposition to Haniyeh going to Iran comes as the terror-leader visits Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar and secured promises for financial aid to his administration in Gaza.

However, the Hamas-affiliated Arabic-language newspaper Al-Quds reported that sources close to the meetings told them a visit by Haniyeh to Tehran "would have consequences" which "could be financial."

The pressure not to visit Tehran comes after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad invited Haniyeh to meet with him in what is broadly seen as an attempt to thaw relations with Hamas.

In a fit of pique, Tehran sharply reduced aid to Hamas after the terror groups politburo in Damascus openly criticized the bloody crackdown against anti-regime protesters mounted by key-Iranian ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In the wake of the cut, Hamas has also found itself embroiled in a running feud with Shiite competitors in Gaza. It has moved to shut down foreign-funded Shiite outreach centers in Gaza in recent months, and has had a series of simmering confrontations with Shiite terror competitors, including Hizbullah.

Hizbullah has been a staunch proponent of the Assad regime and has been widely accused of sending fighters to aid in quashing protests in the country – a charge Hizbullah denies.

But with tensions over its nuclear program and a potential Israeli military strike at an all time high, Iran is seeking to tighten relations with anti-Israeli terror proxies like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah in the event conflict erupts.

Gulf Arab nations, who are contending with Iran for hegemony over the Persian Gulf, have repeatedly accused Iran of interfering in their domestic affairs and agitating their Shiite populations to rebellion since the 'Arab Spring' erupted in early 2011.

For his part, Haniyeh told Al Jazeera that relations with Iran had "taken some form" and that Hamas "has always made sure to maintain relations with those countries who support the Palestinian people without political consideration."

"If the Iranians or anyone else want to give us this great assistance," he said. "If they want to begin giving aid again for one reason or another - this has to be an Iranian decision."

Haniyeh is on the second leg of a tour of Arab and Muslim countries aimed at drumming up diplomatic and economic support for Hamas. The first leg included trips to Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, and Turkey.