During the Obama administration, it was believed by the White House and State Department that Iran could, with the right amount of carrots (like nukes and pallets of unmarked bills), be wooed from its terrorist lifestyle and be a reliable security partner with the west. That, of course, was pure hokum. They are stictly WYSIWYG. In other words, if you see a hairy, pathological terrorist that is what you are dealing with, not an enlightened statesman.
One of the side effects of that obeisance to Tehran is that Tehran began to extend its tentacles into the Palestinian territories. In particular, they have been trying to turn Hamas into sort of a Cub Scout version of Lebanese Hezbollah.
Today, the Trump administration struck at this alliance.
The Department of State has designated Ismail Haniyeh, Harakat al-Sabireen, Liwa al Thawra, and Harakat Sawa’d Misr (HASM) as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under Section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.
Ismail Haniyeh is the leader and President of the Political Bureau of Hamas, which was designated in 1997 as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and in 2001 as an SDGT. Haniyeh has close links with Hamas’ military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians. He has reportedly been involved in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. Hamas has been responsible for an estimated 17 American lives killed in terrorist attacks.
Harakat al-Sabireen is an Iranian backed terrorist group that was established in 2014. The group operates primarily in Gaza and the West Bank and is led by Hisham Salem, a former leader of the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a State Department designated FTO and SDGT. Harakat al-Sabireen has carried out terrorist activities targeting Israel, pursues an anti-American agenda, and has attracted members and supporters of PIJ. These planned and executed terrorist attacks include firing rockets into Israel in September 2015 and detonating an explosive device targeting an Israeli army patrol in December 2015. Harakat al-Sabireen also previously established a rocket factory in Gaza that was destroyed in the summer of 2014, and the group had plans to carry out attacks against Israel in February 2016. Palestinian Authority security forces arrested five Harakat al-Sabireen operatives who were working under Iranian orders and received funding in Gaza to carry out their attacks.
Liwa al-Thawra is a terrorist group active in the Qalyubia and Monofeya governorates of Egypt. After announcing its formation in August 2016, the group claimed responsibility for the October 2016 assassination of brigadier general Adel Ragai, commander of the Egyptian army’s Ninth Armored Division, outside his home in Cairo. In 2017, the group claimed responsibility for a bombing outside a police training center in the Egyptian city of Tanta.
HASM is a terrorist group also active in Egypt. Formed in 2015, the group claimed responsibility for the assassination of Egyptian National Security Agency officer Ibrahim Azzazy, as well as the attempted assassination of Egypt’s former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa. HASM also claimed responsibility for a September 30, 2017 attack on Myanmar’s embassy in Cairo. Some of the leaders of the violent splinter groups, Liwa al-Thawra and Hasm, were previously associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
All of this is important but there is one part that is more important that others.
As I’ve pointed out in a series of posts (see them here) the strategy of the Trump administration in dealing with the Palestinians is to start withdrawing things that had been on the table as the Palestinians have shown intransigence. First, Israel was given a go-ahead to increase housing density on existing settlements. Jerusalem was recognized as the capital of Israel. The U.S. Embassy is going to move to Jerusalem. Money has been withdrawn from the UN Relief Works Agency that funds Palestinian terrorism. Critically, the Trump administration has successfully defanged the ability of the Palestinians to cause riots in other Arab countries and even inside the Palestinian territories. No violent rent-a-mobs means no pressure on Arab governments to support the Palestinians.
The Palestinians have reacted to this like the House Democrats when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited. They have threatened and blustered.
Perhaps they have miscalculated exactly what the administration is ready to do.
Ismail Haniyeh is a major figure in Hamas, which is part of the governing structure of the Palestinian Authority. He is former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. In the past Haniyeh had been bulletproof because no peace process is complete without a freakin terrorist or two.
Slapping sanctions on Haniyeh basically keeps him from traveling to places other than Iran and Syria and it serves notice on other members of the Palestinian leadership that they might be next.