The Israeli-Iranian conflict, which will reach a decisive point this summer, is drawing attention from other fascinating processes currently taking place in the region. One of these surprising processes is the growing conflict between Iran and Hamas.
The root of the conflict lies with Syria. Iran and Hamas reached a point of conflict following Hamas’ unwillingness to support Bashar al-Assad’s actions against his own people. Hamas even began to fold in on itself in Syria. The conflict between the parties revealed that the coordination that lasted several years between the two was not based on true love, but rather, a scorching hatred for Israel. As a matter of fact, the people belonging to Hamas and Iran hate one another, primarily due to profound religious differences (the Iranian regime belongs to the Shiite faction of Islam, whereas Hamas is a devout Sunni movement).
None of the hawkish sides has an interest in emphasizing this, but the quarrel between Hamas and Iran is absolute. Iran has completely halted funding to Hamas, which is why Khaled Mashal has been spending time in Qatar and Saudi Arabia in recent weeks trying to raise donations for his organization. Even more important, in the past few months, Iran has halted weapons supplies to Hamas. The weapon arsenal it sends to the Gaza Strip is intended solely for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and to organizations such as the Popular Resistance Committees. In return for their support, the organizations are asked to fire at Israel on occasion, such as in the southern round of fire from two weeks ago, and in the next round, which will probably happen soon.
Hamas Will Not Take Off
As far as Hamas is concerned, this is not a glorious period. After the impressive accomplishment of the release of prisoners in the Gilad Shalit deal, the organization sunk into a difficult period. It is losing its popularity in the Gaza Strip to Islamic Jihad, and is finding it difficult to raise its head in Judea and Samaria. It is in this sector that Israel and the Palestinian Authority continue close intelligence cooperation intended to stop Hamas from organizing.
As far as the Israeli Shabak and PA intelligence are concerned, there is no significance that the political negotiations between the two sides are at a standstill. The rule that the enemy of my enemy is my friend is permanently valid. The shared enemy, Hamas, decisively unites interests. However, will the animosity shared by Israel and Hamas towards Iran result in closer ties between the two? Forget about it.
Hezbollah Is Thriving
Meanwhile, Assad is bleeding in the north. According to all Israeli intelligence assessments, the situation there is continuing to deteriorate, but the regime remains stable. The civil war is reaching new heights, with additional military forces joining the rebelling side, and assassinations aimed at the Allawite elite loyal to the president, which included the murder of a senior officer with the rank of brigadier general.
It is Russia and Iran who are helping Assad’s regime to narrowly hold on. The Russians are determined to show the world, and primarily their allies, that they aren’t like the Americans, who rushed to renounce Egyptian President Hosni Mobarak upon the eruption of the uprising against him. Instead, they are boundlessly supporting the regimes that side with them.
Iran’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War is increasing and breaking records; Iran is sending weapon shipments directly to Syria via flights over Iraqi territory, and continues to exploit the US withdrawal from Iraq. Iran is also sending snipers and intelligence measures intended for fighting rebels, including electronic warfare equipment for blocking communications.
And what of Hezbollah? It is thriving, and preparing itself for the large task for which Iran has been building its forces for more than 20 years: it will be Iran’s forward force to attack Israel should Israel dare to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. In addition, Hezbollah is only growing stronger due to the apparent collapse of the Assad regime (despite Iran’s support).
This column has previously revealed that there is concern that advanced antiaircraft measures have already been transferred from Syria to Lebanon. Israel's latest concern is the transfer of a Syrian chemical weapons arsenal to Hezbollah.
Another clear sign of Assad’s deterioration: Lebanon’s Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, who always supports the stronger side in Lebanon-Syria, is abandoning Assad. So what will happen the day after Assad? Assessments in the West say that the country will remain united under an interchangeable Sunni regime and there will not be a tribal bloodbath like the one that transpired in Libya after the death of Muammar Gaddafi.
This week, the tender for selecting the next CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to replace Yitzhak Nissan, who will conclude his position and retire in October, ended. One of the terms of the tender was that the candidates possess experience in managing companies with a volume turnover of at least hundreds of millions of dollars. This condition is intended to ensure that there aren’t too many candidates, and it will allow the company chairman, Dov Barhav, and the Minister of Defense to select a CEO to their liking.
Whoever the next CEO might be, his chief task will be to privatize IAI, should there be a privatization. The timing for privatization is excellent – IAI released excellent reports this week, with a backlog of nearly $9 billion.
One of the candidates for the role of next CEO of IAI is the outgoing Air Force Commander, Major General Ido Nechushtan, who will conclude his role in May, and is presently undergoing an IDF farewell tour (he parted from his subordinates at the Ramon base on Tuesday).
On Wednesday, he participated in an evening marking 50 years for the reception of the Mirage aircraft in the IDF, and in memory of the late mythological pilot, Avi Lanir, commander of squadron 101, who fell to Syrian captivity during the Yom Kippur war and was tortured to death. Nechushtan also met with Lou Leonard, that last American volunteer pilot from squadron 101’s original foursome, which attacked the Ad Halom bridge in 1948.
** Photos: A Hezbollah activist (Archive: AP); The 50 year event for the reception of the Mirage aircraft