Iran may have orchestrated last week’s brutal attacks by Hamas militants against Israeli settlers in the West Bank in an attempt to derail the Middle East peace talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. That is the provocative possibility raised by a recently released report by Strategic Forecasting (STRATFOR), a global intelligence company that provides news updates and analysis. STRATFOR cites unnamed sources claiming that Iran communicated directly with militants from both Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—without the consent of the leaders of either organization—and offered a substantial amount of money for attacks on specific targets…

To its credit, STRATFOR admits that there is reason to question the claims made by their sources. For one thing, it is doubtful whether Iran has the ability to completely bypass Hamas’ leadership—whether it’s the Gazan Prime Minister Ismael Haniyah or the leader-in-exile Khaled Mesaal—and communicate directly with Hamas and PIJ militants to coordinate attacks against Israelis in the Occupied Territories. STRATFOR also recognizes that Iran benefits from rumors that exaggerate its power and influence in the region (in fact, STRATFOR suggests that Iran may itself be the source of such rumors). Certainly Hamas does not need orders from Iran to launch the kind of small-scale attacks against Israeli targets that we saw last week. Indeed, Hamas has made no secret of its desire to put a stop the talks between Netanyahu and Abbas, publicly announcing on September 2nd that it had organized thirteen Palestinian militant groups to launch “effective” attacks on Israeli targets with the purpose of derailing the peace talks. Hamas is desperate to demonstrate its relevance in Palestinian politics and, thus, cannot abide being left out of discussions over a future Palestinian state.