As part of its ongoing policy of expanding its influence in the region, Iran is now trying to strengthen its ties with branches of the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East. According to analysts in the Arab world, this was the purpose (Arabic link) of the latest trip by Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, to Doha, the capital of Qatar.
During the visit, Larijani met with Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas’s political bureau. Hamas praised the meeting and noted that it symbolizes a rapprochement between the parties after several years of tension, which grew after Hamas took a negative stance against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Iran froze financial and diplomatic aid to Hamas after the Gaza-based terrorist group failed to fully back Assad, who is being propped up by Tehran.
Analysts believe that Iran’s forgiveness of Hamas, which is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, could lead to it and other Brotherhood branches becoming Iranian regional proxies. The Egypt-based Brotherhood allied itself more to Qatar and Turkey in recent years and less to the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis, but the Brotherhood’s fall from power in Egypt and the decline in its position in the Middle East has led to this rapprochement.
Hamas sees Iran as a source of major funding and weapons, but acknowledges that it cannot achieve the same closeness to Tehran that is enjoyed by the Hezbollah terror organization in Lebanon.
Iran, on the other hand, does not need Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood for the battles it is waging in Iraq and Syria, because it already has massive forces (Hezbollah and Shiite militias) in these countries. But Tehran believes that recruiting Hamas will help it in the struggle against the Saudi ambition to establish a broad Sunni alliance against Iranian expansion in the Middle East.
According to the Al-Arab newspaper (Arabic link), Larijani’s meeting with Mashaal in Doha also indicates that Qatar continues to support radical Islamist organizations in the region, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Therefore, Qatar’s recent rapprochements with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates may be short-lived, as it seems that Doha has returned to the embrace of Iran and its proxies.