Why can’t Hamas abide by the ceasefire? Because of the possible consequences of defeat for themselves, the Qataris and the Iranians.
Everybody in the Middle East sees that Hamas lost the latest round in the Gaza War. Its rockets were nullified, its tunnels are largely destroyed, and its top leaders lived shamelessly in luxury hotels far away from the battlefield. It was not only a defeat, but a humiliation, and Hamas now faces challenges to its rule. Sharing power with Fatah is unacceptable — a defeated Hamas would be the junior partner, especially after the revelation that Hamas was organizing the assassinations of Fatah leaders — and turning Gaza over to Fatah would likely doom Hamas.
In contrast to its previous armed conflicts with Israel, this time Hamas’ support from the Arab world was quite limited. Important Arab governments, such as Egypt’s, were openly rooting for, and even working in tandem with, Israel. Indeed, two of Hamas’ most boisterous and bloodthirsty foreign supporters were not Arab at all, but the Persian regime in Tehran and the Turkish regime in Ankara. This cannot fail to have an impact on the Sunni Arab citizens of Gaza. They know the majority of their brethren have turned against Hamas, and that their fighters are supported in large part by non-Arab Shi’ites.
Proof? The Israelis’ successful operations against top Hamas military commanders and a colleague in Islamic Jihad bespeak good human intelligence. They were betrayed by fellow Gazans, who delivered them to the Israelis. Hamas knows this and have already executed three of their own for collaborating with the enemy. Just as victory in battle attracts new recruits, as we see with ISIS, defeat discourages support and encourages defections and betrayals.
Iran — a source of weapons, money, intelligence and training — may well have similar problems. Iranian leaders have been quite outspoken in support of Hamas. Ergo, the defeat and humiliation of Hamas will also be seen as a defeat and humiliation of the Islamic Republic, both regionally and domestically. President Rouhani has just suffered a notable Parliamentary defeat at the hands of the hard-line faction, which impeached his minister of science and technology. The former minister, Reza Faraji-Dana, is one of the most respected reformers, very popular among university students, very well educated, and not particularly controversial. His purge must be seen as a blow aimed at Rouhani’s government.
Defeat discourages support within Iran, and, as in Gaza, also spurs the regime to execute its real and presumed opponents. According to MEK reports, 11 dissidents were recently hung in a mass execution, and when other prisoners demonstrated, security forces opened fire on them, killing five more.
Protests are not limited to prisoners facing death; a reliable Iranian source tells me there is a substantial strike under way by miners in Yazd province, the second time in five months they have protested against non-payment of poor wages.
I rather suspect there are signs of unhappiness in Qatar as well. I don’t know much about internal Qatari politics, but it would surprise me if there weren’t grumbling about all those billions going to support a failed movement in Gaza.
Finally, there is the big religious issue. Hamas is a fanatical mass movement. As the ayatollahs claim for their own regime in Tehran, Hamas claims divine support for its global mission. Both envisage the triumph of jihad against a decadent, infidel West, with Israel and America their prime targets. Every time they win a battle they proclaim it is a sign of their inevitable triumph: Allah has blessed their efforts and doomed their enemies.
So when they lose, the believers inevitably wonder if Allah has changed sides. When I was in Israel a few days ago, everyone was talking about the miraculous gust of wind that blew a Hamas rocket out to sea, just when, having evaded Iron Dome, it was about to strike a heavily-populated area in Tel Aviv. You can be sure that story has made the rounds of the Middle East…adding to the woes of Hamas and the Iranian regime.
If we had strategists worthy of the name, we’d be whispering to the opposition in Iran and Gaza that it’s time to get out from under these failed tyrants and join the winners. Instead, incredibly, Obama et al stick by their failed vision of joining with Iran in the regional war, and saving Hamas from its well-earned doom.