January 30, 2012

Situation in Syria continues to deteriorate - ADDENDUM

خالد مشعل‎ - Khalid Mish'al
(This adds additional information to my earlier article, Situation in Syria continues to deteriorate.)

The situation in Syria has gotten so bad that the leader of the Palestinian group HAMAS is looking for a new place from which to operate. Khalid Mish'al, the leader of HAMAS, believes that Damascus no longer secure enough for the group's headquarters. HAMAS is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department.

There are concerns other than security that are driving Misha'l out of Syria. HAMAS is an Islamic organization whose goals include the elimination of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state in its place. As such, it is supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, the primary member of the Syrian National Council, the group heading the opposition to the secular Ba'th Party regime of President Bashar al-Asad. It is unseemly that HAMAS would be headquartered in the capital city of the state HAMAS's Islamist allies are attempting to overthrow.

It also appears that HAMAS and Misha'l have found new protectors/sponsors - the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) is an Islamic party and a primary sponsor of the Syrian National Council.

On Erdoğan's watch, Turkish groups have attempted to run the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, with fatal consequences (see my earlier article, The MV Mavi Marmara in the Golden Horn). Turkey has chilled its relations with Israel over these incidents. The country is also moving closer to Iran, an avowed foe of Israel, and coincidentally a major financial and material supporter of HAMAS.

In his attempt to find a new home for HAMAS's headquarters, Misha'l has also visited Jordan. The mechanics of the visit are interesting. Misha'l was listed as a member of the delegation of the Crown Prince of Qatar so as not to offend the United States, a close ally of Jordan. HAMAS has not has an official presence in Jordan since it was expelled a decade ago. Although Misha'l may request a renewed presence for the group in Jordan from King 'Abdullah II, senior Jordanian officials have stated it will not happen. The relationship with Washington is far more important that any benefit that would accrue from having HAMAS in the kingdom.

Misha'l's willingness to leave Damascus for elsewhere is telling. The situation in Syria shows no signs of improving, and Syrian President Bashar al-Asad shows no willingness to step down. It will get worse before it gets better.


* HAMAS is an acronym for the Arabic words حركة المقاومة الاسلامية, harakat al-muqawamah al-islamiyah the Islamic Resistance Movement.