A Hamas commander confirmed to the Times of London what most people assumed: Iran has made Hamas its proxy against Israel. Since the Hamas coup in Gaza in 2006, Iran has provided funding and training to Hamas. The Revolutionary Guard has trained over 150 Hamas fighters, further implicating the Iranian military directly in terrorism:
Last week Yuval Diskin, the head of the Israeli internal security service Shin Bet, said as much when he claimed that Hamas had “started to dispatch people to Iran, tens and a promise of hundreds”. He provided no evidence.
The Hamas commander, however, confirmed for the first time that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been training its men in Tehran for more than two years and is currently honing the skills of 150 fighters.
The details he gave suggested that, if anything, Shin Bet has underestimated the extent of Iran’s influence on Hamas’s increasingly sophisticated tactics and weaponry.
Speaking on the record but withholding his identity as a target of Israeli forces, the commander, who has a sparse moustache and oiled black hair, said Hamas had been sending fighters to Iran for training in both field tactics and weapons technology since Israeli troops pulled out of the Gaza strip of Palestinian territory in 2005. Others go to Syria for more basic training.
It sounds like a corporate training program. Hamas sends its Qassam militia members to Tehran, who receive basic instruction. The most promising remain in Tehran for more extensive training, and then return to Gaza as trainers themselves. Others go into “research” if deemed not tough enough for actual fighting. Syria, meanwhile, continues to provide more basic training for Hamas terrorists.
This gives Iran a devastating one-two punch against Israel. They already control Hezbollah in Lebanon in a similar relationship between themselves and the Syrians. With Hamas in Gaza, the Iranians can impose a two-front war on Israel by proxy. That could already be seen during the last war in Lebanon, when Hamas kidnapped Gilad Shalit and shifted the focus from the sub-Litani region to Gaza — and Shalit has not yet been returned.
Not long ago, the Bush administration tried to declare the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. That met with a serious amount of resistance, some of it well-founded. After all, if the legitimate military of a state engages in terrorism, it isn’t the military that’s the problem. This underscores that problem. The Revolutionary Guard may provide the training, but that decision comes from the highest levels of the Iranian government — and they have to be held responsible for their sponsorship of terrorism, and not just their military.