In response to what George W. Bush termed as the Axis of Evil in his 2002 State of the Union Address, a Libyan journalist shortly thereafter re-dubbed the term to be the Axis of Resistance, referring to the countries’ resistance to the hegemonic power of the United States. Today, the Axis of Resistance refers to the alliance between Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. All of these groups are vehemently anti-American.
However, the relationship between the four members has weakened over the past year. First, Iran’s economy has suffered tremendously due to crippling sanctions imposed by the United States and the international community. This loss is particularly troublesome to the alliance because Iran is the largest financial supporter of the Assad regime and of Hezbollah and Hamas. The Assad regime cannot afford to wage a war on its own and Hezbollah and Hamas rely heavily of Iran’s financial backing for their own organizations and operations.
Beyond the economic dimension, the Assad regime in Syria is having intense political trouble with the revolutionary movement. Last week with the creation of an umbrella organization to unite all of the opposition groups, Assad now faces a strengthened enemy. However, Assad has not been alone in his fight to retain political power. Hezbollah too has been drawn into the conflict in Syria, supplying firepower for the regime. However, Hezbollah is having some of its own troubles at home in Lebanon. The group has been accused of carrying out the car bomb attack against the Lebanese intelligence official who opposed the Assad regime. In order for Hezbollah to maintain its strength, it must continue to retain support from the Lebanese people and these accusations may undermine this support.
The Syrian conflict has also led to a conflict between Hamas, a predominantly Sunni group, and the rest of the alliance that is Shia. Hamas officials have stated that they cannot support a regime (Assad) that is suppressing a popular uprising, especially one in which the majority of those in the opposition are Sunni Muslims. This dissent towards the Assad regime was particularly disturbing to the officials in Tehran who demanded the support by Hamas for the Assad regime. This tension is troubling for Hamas because Iran is their main financial backer. However, another powerful regional actor expressed interest in providing financial support to the group. The emir of Qatar, in late October, promised more than 400 million dollars to the Hamas government for developmental projects. If Qatar does indeed provide financial backing for the organization, then Hamas will see a further separation from their traditional allies.
These fissures in the alliance are very worrisome for Hamas now that they are in their own violent conflict with Israel. Israel and Hamas have fired rockets at one another for the past several days. Regional powers are keeping an eye on the conflict to see if it escalates into a larger struggle. The conflict could turn into something similar to the 2005 occupation of Gaza by the Israeli army. Therefore, in this time of crisis, Hamas needs its allies for support. Its traditional allies of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah may be deterred from helping Hamas because Hamas has abandoned the alliance in helping to support the Assad regime. However, it is unlikely that the region, which is generally unfriendly to Israel, will stand by idly as the superior Israeli army attacks Gaza. Who do you think will support the Hamas government in Gaza? Do you think that the Axis of Resistance will come to Hamas’ rescue?