Iran’s Supreme Leader (R) with Hamas Political Bureau leader Ismail Hayniyeh in Tehran (File)
UPDATE NOV 16:
Iran’s Supreme Leader reportedly berated the political head of Hamas in a meeting on November 5, declaring that the Gazan organization gave Tehran no warning of its mass killings inside Israel on October 7.
“Three senior officials” from Hamas and the Iran regime also say Ayatollah Khamenei told Ismail Haniyeh that Tehran “will not enter the war on your behalf”.
The Supreme Leader pressed Haniyeh to silence those in Hamas calling for Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah to enter the battle in full force.
Hamas has responded that the claims, published by Reuters, are “baseless”.
“Three sources close to Hezbollah” said the Lebanese group was also taken by surprise by Hamas’s killing of more than 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals. They said their fighters were not even on alert in villages near Israel’s northern border, and had to be rapidly called up.
“We woke up to a war,” said a Hezbollah commander.
“Six officials with direct knowledge of Tehran’s thinking” say the regime will not directly intervene in the conflict unless it is attacked by Israel or the US.
However, the regime plans to keep carrying out drone attacks through Hezbollah and Iran-backed militias on Israeli and American personnel.
The US and Israel have responded with airstrikes on the positions of the Iran-supported militias inside Syria.
UPDATE, OCT 12:
The US and Qatar are denying Iran access to $6 billion in unfrozen funds, part of an agreement for Tehran’s release of five American-Iranian political prisoners last month.
The money was moved from South Korea to Qatar, with authoritization for the funds to be used for humanitarian purposes such as food and medicine.
US Deputy Treasury secretary Wally Adeyemo has told House Democrats of the suspension of access, according to a Congressional source.
Legislators of both the Republican and Democratic parties had called for the step after Hamas’s attacks on Israel.
UPDATE 1747 GMT:
“Multiple sources familiar with the intelligence” say US information indicates senior officials of Iran’s regime were caught by surprise by the timing of Hamas’s attack on Israel.
They said this casts doubt on claims that Tehran was directly involved in the planning, resourcing, or approval of the operation.
But the sources said that the US intelligence community is not ready to reach a full conclusion about whether Iran was directly involved, and that it continues to look for evidence.
One source explained that while Hamas maintains operational independence from Iran, its existence relies on Iranian support.
“That’s why you can speak out of both sides of your mouth on this,” the source said.
UPDATE, OCT 11:
“A regional source familiar with the thinking” of Hamas says that, to maintain secrecy, Iranian officials — while providing finance, training, and weaponry for the Gazan group — knew only in general terms that the movement was planning a major operation inside Israel and did not know the timing or the details.
The source that Iran’s regime knew the operation was being developed, but that it was not discussed in any joint operation room with Hamas and Hezbollah.
“It was a very tight circle,” the source says.
Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian insisted on Tuesday, “What happened is 100% a resistance decision [despite] claims that other countries are behind [it].”
He maintained that Hamas had become self-sufficient in producing missiles, rockets, and drones.
UPDATE 0859 GMT:
Addressing a graduation ceremony for armed forces cadets in Tehran, Iran’s Supreme Leader has cheered the Hamas mass killings in Israel, declaring that “the Zionist regime has suffered irreparable damages like being hit by a devastating earthquake”.
Ayatollah Khamenei tried to distance the regime from any involvement in the attacks.
#Iran leader: Zionist regime's supporters & officials blame Iran for this. They’re wrong. Palestinians did this by themselves. However, we support #Palestine & its struggle. We salute & honor the Palestinians who planned it. It’s a miscalculation to assume it was not Palestinians pic.twitter.com/DppX5NkKSA
— Iran Nuances (@IranNuances) October 10, 2023
UPDATE, OCT 10:
“Current and former Western and Middle Eastern intelligence officials” say Gaza’s Hamas began planning its assault on Israel at least a year ago, with “key support from Iranian allies who provided military training and logistical help as well as tens of millions of dollars for weapons”.
The officials say Hamas received large amounts of funding from Iran, as well as technical help for manufacturing rockets and drones with advanced guidance systems and training in military tactics, including in camps outside Gaza.
A spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said, “Iran is a major player but we can’t yet say if it was involved in the planning or training.”
The Biden Administration has also held off from saying that Iran’s regime authorized or coordinated Hamas’s attack.
But Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer, the White House’s deputy national security adviser, said in a televised interview:
What I can say without a doubt is that Iran is broadly complicit in these attacks. Iran has been Hamas’s primary backer for decades. They have provided them weapons. They have provided them training. They have provided them financial support.
And so, in terms of broad complicity, we are very clear about a role for Iran.
UPDATE 1141 GMT:
The Supreme Leader’s foreign policy advisor and former Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, has again pointed to Iran’s motive in supporting — and possibly enabling — Hamas’s attack on Israel: halting the process of “normalization” between the Israelis and Saudi Arabia.
Velayati used a Sunday phone call with the Assad regime’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad to declare:
Those who believe they can tackle their problems through so-called normalization of ties with Zionists and severance of relations with Muslim nations of the region should learn a lesson from the events and realize they are seriously endangering the security of the region and fighting nations with groundless and immature schemes like the formation of corridors in the volatile West Asia region.
We warn certain governments in the region to learn a lesson from the fate of the countries that have followed the path [of normalization] and now cannot respond to the resistance front.
UPDATE 1052 GMT:
Iran’s currency has lost more than 8% in value since Hamas attacked Israel on Saturday.
The rial now stands at 533,500:1 v. the US dollar, having closed at 493,000:1 on Thursday for the Iranian weekend.
The rial has fallen sharply since early 2018, when it was at 45,000:1. Early this year, during the nationwide protests for “Woman. Life. Freedom”, it plummeted further, breaking 600,000:1 at one point.
Central Bank intervention brought some stability, with the rial hovering around 500:1 since the spring.
UPDATE, OCT 9:
Senior officials of Gaza’s Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah have confirmed that they coordinated with Iran over the launch of Hamas’s attacks on Israel.
Citing the officials, the Wall Street Journal says planning took place in Beirut since August with officers from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The final decision to attack was made last Monday.
The Biden Administration continues to say publicly that it has not confirmed Iranian involvement. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “We have not yet seen evidence that Iran directed or was behind this particular attack, but there is certainly a long relationship.”
However, a European official and an advisor to the Syria’s Assad regime supported the account of the Hamas and Hezbollah officials.
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Mirdawi maintained the public position that the group planned the attack on its own. Iran’s mission to the UN said, “The decisions taken by the Palestinian resistance are completely autonomous and unwaveringly in line with the legitimate interests of the Palestinian people.”
Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kan’ani insisted on Monday afternoon, “The accusations linked to an Iranian role… are based on political reasons.”
He proclaimed that Iran does not intervene “in the decision-making of other countries, including Palestine….Talking about an Iranian role aims at turning public opinion and at justifying [Israel’s] potential future actions.”
ORIGINAL ENTRY, OCT 8: Iran’s regime has loudly proclaimed its support for Saturday’s deadly attacks by the Gazan group Hamas on Israel — and indicated that it may have approved the assault in advance.
Hamas, in control of Palestine’s Gaza since 2007, fired more than 3,500 rockets and followed up with a ground assault by fighters on southern Israel. Several towns and kibbutzes were occupied.
More than 300 Israelis have been confirmed killed and more than 1,500 wounded. Scores of troops and civilians appear to have been abducted.
With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of war, Israel’s forces responded with bombing of Gaza, killing more than 230 people.
Did Iran Regime “Green Light” Hamas Attack?
Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad said Iran’s regime had advance knowledge of the assault, granting its support for the operations, as Iranian State media put out a stream of statements, articles, and broadcasts praising the attacks.
The Supreme Leader’s foreign policy advisor and former Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, led the campaign. He hailed a “successful” operation which would “definitely accelerate and facilitate” the “collapse and imminent elimination” of the Israeli system.
Ayatollah Khamenei’s military advisor Yahya Rahim Safavi declared backing of the attacks “until the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem”.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan by phone that Hamas’s strike were “an outcome” of Israel’s “incessant crimes against the people of Palestine”. Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kan’ani declared “a new point and a new chapter” over Israel.
None of the officials confirmed if Iran’s approval had been necessary for Hamas operations, and neither gave Tehran’s specific motives.
However, the Supreme Leader offered a clue in a high-profile speech on Tuesday.
Ayatollah Khamenei betrayed the regime’s concern with the ongoing efforts at “normalization” between Israel and Gulf States. Israel signed agreements with Bahrain in 2020 and the UAE in 2021, and intensive talks — supported by the US — are ongoing with Saudi Arabia.
In March, Iran restored diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, broken in 2016, and each country has re-established its embassy in the other’s capital. However, the initiative has not checked Riyadh’s discussions with the Israelis.
Khamenei said on Tuesday:
The Islamic Republic firmly believes that governments that have the normalization gamble with the Zionist regime on their agenda will be in harm’s way.
This regime is dying and those states are betting on the losing horse.
Israel’s Netanyahu responded, “Just as Iran hasn’t prevented us from achieving the Abraham Accords, Iran will also not prevent us from expanding the circle of peace for the benefit of the citizens of Israel, the people of the region and all of humanity.”
On Saturday, alongside Hamas’s attack, the Iranian regime’s leading English-language outlet Press TV posted an opinion, “‘Zionist Regime is Dying’: Muslim World Must Heed Leader’s Call for unity”. Author Xavier Villar noted cryptically:
Interestingly, the well-coordinated military operation by Hamas, which has also got the support of other Palestinian groups, followed Ayatollah Khamenei’s warning against normalization with the [Israeli] regime.
Khamenei met a Hamas delegation including Political Bureau leader Ismail Haniyeh in June in Tehran. The readout from the Supreme Leader’s office said the men discussed developments in Palestine, especially in the West Bank and Jerusalem, with the Supreme Leader declaring “the continuation of Iran’s support for the Palestinian people, their resistance and their just cause, as a legitimate duty that cannot be ignored”.
But in a televised speech on Saturday, Haniyeh targeted Arab states:
We say to all countries, including our Arab brothers, that this entity, which cannot protect itself in the face of resistors, cannot provide you with any protection.
All the normalization agreements that you signed with that entity cannot resolve this (Palestinian) conflict.