By Aaron Klein
While the Obama administration and major world powers continue nuclear negotiations with Iran in Vienna, Tehran in recent weeks has been busy financing terrorism in the Gaza Strip and reaching out to the most radical jihadi elements based in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, KleinOnline has learned.
Firstly, for the second consecutive month, in July Iran transferred money to pay the salaries of Hamas’s so-called military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades terrorist organization, Mideast defense officials said.
The money was intended only for the Brigades and was not meant to pay salaries for the tens of thousands of Hamas municipal and government workers.
The cash for Hamas’s terror Brigades comes as Hamas’s political leadership has been locked in an internal dispute about the group’s future relationship with Tehran amid more successful outreach talks with Sunni Arab countries, primarily Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
By providing funds for Hamas’s “military wing” only, Iran may be seeking to cause a fracture within the Hamas leadership, especially as Hamas strongman Salah al-Arouri, currently based in Turkey, continues to amass significant power within the terror group’s infrastructure and directs his own rival Hamas wing from his sanctuary in the NATO country.
Iran may also be seeking to bolster its waning influence in Gaza via Hamas’s Brigade. Jihadist sources in Gaza told KleinOnline that Islamic Jihad, traditionally backed by Iran, has not received funding from Hamas for the last five months because of the terrorist group’s refusal to provide support for the embattled regime of Iran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile, Hamas fighters are not the only Mideast jihadists to be targeted with Iran’s financial largesse.
An Egyptian security official said that some Salafist terrorists captured in the Sinai Peninsula by Egypt in recent weeks admitted under interrogation that Iranian agents initiated contact with their groups with an offer to supply weapons from Libya and Sudan to the Sinai jihadists.
The security officials said the Salafists who divulged the Iranian offer were not members of the Islamic State, but were other rebel Salafist jihadists who have been aiding in the campaign to target the Egyptian military infrastructure in the Sinai.
For the last two weeks, ISIS and other jihadi groups in the northern Sinai Peninsula have been facing off with the Egyptian military in what news media here has described as some of the deadliest battles on the peninsula since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
This is not the first time Iran has been accused recently of financing terrorism. Last month, the U.S. State Department’s annual report on terrorism activity documented that Iran’s “state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remained undiminished.”
The report was released about two weeks before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Vienna as part of the extended negotiations with Tehran regarding its nuclear program.
On Friday, Kerry told reporters that progress had been made in the negotiations, while praising what he called the “constructive” atmosphere.
“I think we have resolved some of the things that were outstanding and we’ve made some progress,” Kerry told reporters. “We have a couple of different lines of discussion that are going on right now. The atmosphere is very constructive,” he added.