Isis, Hamas and Iran are far from being the same thing

Opinion: Isis proclaims its disregard for national borders. Hamas, on the other hand, is a nationalist organisation par excellence, fighting for a Palestinian state

‘Back at the United Nations, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was explaining that any apparent differences between Isis, Hamas, Iran, Hizbollah, the Assad regime, the Palestinian Authority, etc, etc, were entirely illusory.’ Photograph: John Minchillo/AP

‘Back at the United Nations, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was explaining that any apparent differences between Isis, Hamas, Iran, Hizbollah, the Assad regime, the Palestinian Authority, etc, etc, were entirely illusory.’ Photograph: John Minchillo/AP

 

Watching the news, you can be tempted to think that anyone who isn’t confused by what’s happening in the Middle East hasn’t been paying attention.

In contrast, neither Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi nor Israeli premier Binyamin Netanyahu is confused, albeit that they see events in polar-opposite ways.

In a sermon in Great Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul in July, a month after the city of two million had fallen to his forces, al-Baghdadi effectively declared war on all in the region and beyond whom he held responsible for injury and humiliation inflicted on Muslims.

He listed more than 20 specific grievances, from Kashmir to the Philippines to Bosnia to Palestine.

The states behind this persecution, he told his congregation, included not only the major western powers but, among others, China, India, Burma and the greatest single enemy of Islam as he understood it, apostate Iran.

All these seemingly disparate political and religious factions might appear to be at loggerheads or even at one another’s throats, al-Bagdhadi suggested, but, really, they are all much of a muchness, fundamentally identical, united by a hatred of and determination to extirpate true Islam, aka Islamic State.

Meanwhile back at the United Nations, Netanyahu was explaining that any apparent differences between Islamic State (also known as Isis), Hamas, Iran, Hizbullah, the Assad regime, the Palestinian Authority, etc, etc were entirely illusory.

“Isis and Hamas share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control... Hamas is Isis and Isis is Hamas.”

As the veteran Israeli peace-monger Uri Avneri observed last weekend, “Netanyahu counts on the fact that most people do not know what he is talking about”.

Islamic State proclaims its disregard for national borders. It’s in the name.

Hamas, on the other hand, is a nationalist organisation par excellence, fighting for a Palestinian state and broadly pragmatic about which strategies or alliances might from time to time be useful in advancing this objective.

Its constitution calls, in effect, for the ethnic cleansing of Israelis from the land the Israeli state was built on following the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, but its negotiating position is to seek a return to the 1967 borders – not a distinction which any Israeli spokesperson seems to think worth mentioning.

Islamic State is also Iran, according to Netanyahu. The one may purport to regard the other as spawn of the devil and may be seen in return as a terrorist gang, but no matter.

“Would you let Isis develop intercontinental ballistic missiles? Of course you wouldn’t. Then you mustn’t let the Islamic State of Iran do those things either.” (Actually, the country’s name is the Islamic Republic of Iran).

Both Islamic State and Iran are to be likened to Nazis.

Master race

The notion of Islamic State and Iran as ideological soul mates on a joint mission to impose Islam on the rest of humanity is not just wholly inaccurate but misleading in a way which betokens either fanatical ignorance or deliberate intention to inflame the region even further.

The most powerful leader of the “brutal enforcers” was pictured on the website of Iranian state television last weekend on the battlefield in Iraq, smiling, surrounded by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who have been carrying the fight to Islamic State.

Maj Gen Qassem Suleimani heads a unit within the Revolutionary Guards known as the Quds Force. He is, apparently, something of a pimpernel. Agence France-Presse suggested on Monday that publication of the picture “puncture(d) the mystique of one of the region’s most powerful men”.

Presumably the Iranian regime wanted the mystique punctured so as to openly confirm it has forces in Iraq directly involved in the conflict.

Across the border

Erbil is the largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan.

While some in the West agonise about “putting boots on the ground”, Iranian boots are already on site, stomping towards Islamic State positions. This doesn’t mean good will come from the intervention of Iran or of other states following in Iran’s footsteps?

What it does mean is that neither Islamic State, nor Israel under Netanyahu, is anybody’s partner for peace.

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