Why did Qatar give $250 million in financial aid to Hamas?


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On 27 February, Hamas officials announced that Qatar was giving the group $250 million to help build infrastructure in the Gaza Strip—the Territory currently governed by Hamas. This is all speculation, but these are the reasons why I think Qatar gave Hamas half of the group’s administrative costs:

1) To wean the group, once and for all, away from Iranian influence: Qatar—evidenced by the Emir’s conversation with Senator J. Kerry in 2010, revealed by WikiLeaks—doesn’t trust Iran. Iran has provided weapons, training and money to Hamas to act as a conduit its war against Israel. But, since the anti-government uprisings began in Syria in March 2011, Hamas refused Iran’s calls to side with Assad—its only Arab ally in the region. Instead, Hamas opted to remain silent. As punishment, Iran apparently halted its financial aid to the group last August. Giving money to Hamas should provide for this shortfall and stop Gaza-based Hamas leaders, such as Ismail Haniyeh, asking for further support from Tehran, which he most likely did during his trip to Iran last month.

2) To further isolate Assad: Qatar has been one of the few Arab countries to have openly supported humanitarian intervention and sending ground troops into Syria to stop Assad’s killing spree. In 1999, Hamas moved its politburo to Syria after being expelled from Jordan. Assad supported Hamas and funnelled weapons to the group. But since the uprisings began last year, the relationship between the two have been strained and Hamas Chief Khaled Mashaal and his close associates are now reportedly living in Qatar (others in Egypt). As noted above, Hamas nevertheless remained quiet about Assad’s crackdown as it had no new home to go to, and its finances had dried up. But, two days before it was announced that Qatar was to give Hamas money, Ismail Haniyeh publicly stated in Cairo that Hamas supported the uprising against Assad, and called the revolutionaries “heroic”. Aid could have been given on the condition that Hamas publicly oppose the regime.

3) To help unity-deal move forward: Fatah and Hamas politburo Chief Khaled Mishaal last month signed the reconciliation deal the two parties began discussing in May 2011, which would see Abbas head an interim unity government until elections are held in the Territories. The implementation of the deal, which was brokered and signed in Doha, has been held up because of rifts within Hamas. The group’s Gaza based leadership is opposed to Abbas acting as interim Prime Minister. The reason cited is that it would be unconstitutional as Abbas is already the President of the Palestinian Authority and Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. The rift risks de-railing the deal, which the Qataris have thrown their weight behind. As such, the Qataris could have given financial aid as an incentive for Hamas leaders to unite behind Abbas.


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