Hamas is in a mess! It is fast losing its secret weapon tunnels to the IDF, it is not getting what it wants in any ceasefire proposals and, most significantly of all, it has polarised the Middle East against it in a way that could spell its total destruction.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is behaving as if he actually wants Hamas to keep all its weapons and remain a threat to Israel. His Paris conference with Qatar and Turkey (two Hamas-supporting states) spurned participation from the most important players in the situation; Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
As if this was not enough, Iran has reminded the West that it is Hamas’ main mentor and supplier in the region by affirming that it is a dream to suggest Hamas will ever be disarmed. Qatar is a long-standing major supporter and resource base for the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey yearns for more influence in the region, at Israel’s expense if possible.
How did the US end up on the wrong side of the equation?
There are two keys to the polarisation taking place in the Middle East over Hamas. The first is the historic Sunni-Shia divide. Hamas, although essentially a Sunni organisation, has built a good relationship with Shiite Iran, ever keen to increase its influence in the region. The Sunni states in the Middle East are implacably opposed to increased Iranian hegemony and scared stiff of her potential to become a nuclear power.
The second key is that the Sunni states have seen what happens when extremist political Islamic revolutionaries take control of a country. Hardly ever has there been such a misguided tag as “Arab Spring” for the series of revolutions that have taken place over the past four years. Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria have all been affected to a greater or lesser extent by the creation of leadership vacuums that were left when dictators were ousted from their comfortable palaces.
Egypt’s military saved it from the imposition of sharia law and a harsh Islamist monoculture that was initiated by the (elected) President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Jordan teetered on the edge of the abyss for a while but may have clawed its way back. Lebanon has been drawn into the chaos of the Syrian uprising and Saudi Arabia’s ruling family is petrified of something similar happening there.
These two major keys to what is happening have created the once unthinkable scenario that an axis of Sunni Arab states hates Hamas more than it hates Israel (at least for now)! Further, Egypt’s President Al Sisi needs good co-operation with Israel in his fight against rebel Islamist groups in the Sinai peninsula. these groups have themselves used Gaza for resources and personnel, which further inflamed Egypt’s antipathy towards Hamas.
The US administration is making a big mistake. By talking to Qatar and Turkey but not to the other major players, John Kerry is making himself out to be a supporter of the status quo in Gaza, something not even the Palestinian Authority wants. It is patently clear to everyone except him that Hamas must have its fangs drawn – it must be disarmed and the Gaza Strip must become a demilitarised zone – if peace is to have any chance at all.