Hassan Haidar
Dar Al-Hayat
May 5, 2011 - 12:00am

The official signing of the Palestinian reconciliation agreement in Cairo yesterday put an end to years of costly political – and sometimes even military – conflicts. The event was filled with numerous meanings, the most prominent of which probably being the fact that the Palestinians placed their own interests ahead of the regional factors which played a role in encouraging the widening of the division between the two major organizations, i.e. Fatah and Hamas. This brought the Palestinian decision back to the institutions of joint legitimacy, enhanced the position of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President Mahmoud Abbas in the face of Israel and the world, and promised the Islamic movement with an international recognition under the cloak of Abu Mazen.

What was noticeable nonetheless was the total Syrian absence from the speeches delivered on this occasion, following Syria’s absence from the sponsorship of reconciliation. Some are even saying that in one of its facets, the reconciliation conveys a decision to withdraw the Palestinian card from Damascus’ hand, after the latter used it for a long time and for multiple reasons. It also conveys a decision to distance Hamas from it, so that Syria only has left the organizations that are closely linked to it but that enjoy no influence or presence on the ground or at the level of the Palestinian decision.

And despite Hamas’s denial of its intention to transfer the headquarters of its political command from the Syrian capital, the arrangements are actually underway to ensure the move of the movement’s officials to other states or to the Gaza Strip.

An Egyptian official had stated that the developments in Syria helped alleviate the situation and secure the reconciliation, because the two Palestinian sides felt they needed it. However, it is no secret that the “positive” contacts between Cairo and Tehran played a decisive role at this level, considering that Iran did not mind handling this file directly – and not via Damascus – especially since it is the one financing and arming the allied Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements in Gaza.

This is not the first time that Tehran decides to put an end to the Syrian competition over the files of the region. Indeed, it had done so in Iraq after it guaranteed a major share of influence within the new regime and forced Damascus to succumb to its request and receive Nouri al-Maliki - who had launched a fierce campaign against it, accused it of exporting terrorism to the Land of the Two Rivers, and threatened to respond to it the same way.

As for the second file in which Tehran amended the “shares,” it is obviously the Lebanon and Hezbollah file, after the latter almost completely exited the Syrian cloak and rendered its decision more connected to the Iranian reference. The biggest proof for this are the complications that were and are still being witnessed at the level of the designation of a Sunni figure to form a new Lebanese government, and the difficulties preventing the proclamation of this government, although the party enjoys a parliamentary majority. It is said at this level that the situation is due to Damascus’ attempts to confirm it still holds pressure cards in the country.

Damascus launched a “preemptive” attack in Lebanon when it accused the Future Movement led by Al-Hariri of instigating and arming the Syrian opposition to justify what it might do later on when the time was right – as it believed it will be able to put an end to the wave of protests quickly. Hence, it probably did the same with Hamas when it accused Palestinians from Al-Ramla camp near Latakia of being involved in the incidents in the city, while awaiting the official investigations’ uncovering of the sides which instigated and funded them when this is deemed necessary!


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