x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Hamas puts Iran on notice

New statements from Hamas leaders suggest that it is moving away from Iran, not just from Syria, an Arabic-language editorial notes. Other topics: Syria and Libya.

The new position taken by Hamas goes beyond Syria, and suggests a break with Iran as well

The Islamic resistance movement Hamas is undergoing an unprecedented strategic transformation, the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi said in its Thursday editorial.

The change includes, among other things, reviewing its previous regional alliances and weaving new ones that may lead to a clean break with the ways of more than 20 years, the paper said.

The transformation began with the movement declaring its support for the pro-democracy uprising in Syria. "By doing so, it turned its back on the regime that welcomed it with open arms and sheltered its leadership for years. All of Hamas's leaders left Damascus and now live in other Arab capitals," said the paper.

Khaled Meshaal, the chief of Hamas's political bureau, operates now from new headquarters in Doha; his deputy Moussa Abu Marzouq is working from Cairo.

The reassessment phase doesn't stop at the break with the Syrian regime; it is about to extend also to Iran, another state that has been offering moral and financial support for Hamas.

On Wednesday, two top Hamas leaders surprised the international community by announcing that the movement wouldn't interfere in support of Iran in case of an Israeli attack on the Islamic Republic. Hamas wouldn't be unleashing missiles on Israel, and would take a neutral position towards the conflict, they said.

Salah Al Bardawil, a member of Hamas's political bureau, explicitly said in an interview with The Guardian that was published on Wednesday that Iran is Shiite while the Palestinians in Gaza are Sunni.

His colleague Ahmed Youssef, the foreign ministry adviser, explained that Hamas wouldn't take sides or take part in such a war, should it happen, since Hamas isn't part of any military or political axis, and its operations are restricted to the Palestinian Territories only.

"These statements will surely surprise many, especially in Iran, with their timing," said the paper. "The timing is significant with increasing US and Israeli statements about the likelihood of a military attack to destroy Iran's nuclear programmes."

It is clear that this switch in positions has been intentionally made public to confirm the movement's gradual - and most probably definitive - departure from the Iran-Syria-Hizbollah axis.

This brings Hamas closer to the Arab moderate camp including Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Egypt. And is more harmonious with the positions of Islamists, mainly the Islamic Brotherhood. "Hamas is back to its natural host, the Islamic Brotherhood. It is a step aimed at rectifying an "error" and acquiescing to mounting pressure from the mother movement especially in light of the changes brought about by the Arab Spring," the paper concluded.

Syria's minorities must reassure themselves

Much is being said about the need to reassure Syria's minorities, to encourage them to turn their backs to Bashar Al Assad's regime, wrote Tariq Al Homayed, editor of the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat.

In truth, it's not that all of Syria's minorities support Mr Al Assad. Rather they are reluctant to take a decisive position, he wrote.

"Those minorities, specifically the Alawites and the Christians, are aware that Al Assad's boat is sinking," he said.

The best reassurance Syria's minorities could have is a chance to participate in designing the post-Assad map for their country. This requires that the minorities declare a clear position at the earliest if they are keen on preserving Syria's unity and guaranteeing their future in it.

As matters stand in Syria now, the minority is killing the majority. How can the minority ask for reassurances while the majority is being slaughtered? "It is unreasonable," said the writer.

However, recent developments show that not all of Syria's minority groups are choosing to live in denial; some of them are taking part in the uprising. Just this week the first Alawite battalion was formed within the Free Syrian Army.

Hesitation and claims that the uprising is Sunni aren't in the best interests of Syria, its people or the entire region. The dictator must be punished and this dark page of the region's history must be turned once and for all.

Barqa declaration a lesson for others

Until its eastern region was declared semiautonomous earlier this week, Libya had no place on the list of states endangered by division, columnist Hussam Kanafani wrote in the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

The declaration gave rise to fears of a wave of divisive federalism that could take over the African Plateau, he went on.

"The problem began [years ago] when the entire Arab region often failed to implement federalisation or decentralisation, which were often cover for separatist tendencies," he said.

In political science, federalism doesn't mean division and any separatist orientations that may exist within certain categories of a population must be amended.

The oil-rich eastern region of Libya was marginalised for years by the central regime. Its recent declaration of semiautonomy was its only option for attracting much-needed attention.

This doesn't mean that Barqa's step was acceptable, but it does send a message to other fledgling Arab governments, that peripheral regions are no less important than the centre.

"The Barqa declaration will surely fail," projected the writer. "But this shouldn't be a reason for laxity in dealing with provinces that remain sidelined despite their crucial role in the forging of the revolution."

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem

rmakarem@thenational.ae