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Islamic Jihad: Open Iranian Embassy in Gaza

The Fars News Agency reports that a representative of the Islamic Jihad in Teheran is calling for the opening of an Iranian embassy in Gaza. “It would be a natural move for Iran to open an embassy or representative office in Gaza,” said Nasser Abu Sharif, because “Gaza is now a region almost free of occupation.” (Islamic Jihad aspires to the total destruction of the state of Israel and condemns any attempt by Palestinians at coexistence or reconciliation.)

As Abu Sharif pointed out, the Palestinians already have an ambassador in Teheran, Salah al-Zawawi. Iran claims to be neutral about the different Palestinian factions and to welcome the Hamas-Fatah unity pact, but al-Zawawi is on record as advocating the expulsion of Israel from Jerusalem and the continuing battle with the Zionist regime, so it’s pretty clear from which camp he springs (if there are, in fact, still two distinguishable camps).

Now, Islamic Jihad doesn’t call the shots in Gaza (so to speak), and Hamas might find a permanent Iranian presence on the ground just a hair too close for comfort — it serves Hamas’s interests, after all, to be perceived as an independent Palestinian actor and not as an Iranian proxy, and there’s no question but that an Iranian ambassador would insert himself into Palestinian affairs. Still, Hamas won’t have a choice if Iran decides that an embassy in Gaza is in its interests. Ultimately, it’ll be a boon to Hamas anyway in terms of simplifying the logistics of arms smuggling.

Israel will obviously not cotton to the idea of an Iranian embassy in the backyard, but our opinion will be held to be irrelevant. And the Americans, who are anxious to cozy up to the Muslim world right now to take the sting out of the bin Laden hit, are unlikely to object very strenuously.

Iran is behaving with a bravura that belies its internal strife. Greater Persia is in its sights. The Syrian relationship is up in the air at the moment, true, but the US and the West are clearly not inclined to step in to ensure the collapse of Teheran’s only regional ally. Iran already has south Lebanon sewn up via Hezbollah and the Gaza Strip via Hamas, and is setting its sights further west. As Abu Sharif noted, just as Iran can have “an active embassy in Gaza,” it can have “the same kind of mission in Egypt in future.”