Iranian regime officials claim they had no warning of the October 7 invasion of Israel by its proxy Hamas, according to Reuters.
The claims come as the world’s eyes are on Tehran, which has long funded the group designated a terror organization by the likes of the UK and US. Tehran has also provided military, technical and operational support to Hamas for years.
According to Reuters, three sources have claimed that “Iran’s supreme leader delivered a clear message to the head of Hamas when they met in Tehran in early November … You gave us no warning of your Oct. 7 attack on Israel and we will not enter the war on your behalf.”
This message apparently delivered by three regime officials contradicts a string of meetings between the top echelons of the Islamic Republic and leaders of both Hamas and Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, over the course of this year. This went as high up as the Supreme Leader when in April, Hamas announced that its political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, was visiting the Supreme Leader in Tehran.
Reuters claims that on this latest visit earlier this month, “Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Ismail Haniyeh that Iran — a longtime backer of Hamas — would continue to lend the group its political and moral support, but wouldn’t intervene directly.”
As soon as war broke out, the US voiced its support of Israel, sending warships and personnel to the region, fearing a wider escalation with Iran at the helm.
Iranian officials have repeatedly made the claim that they were not involved in the terror attack, but the government immediately on October 7 praised the invasion and ordered street celebration, with large banners erected within hours.
Yet regime and Hamas sources speaking to Reuters claim “The supreme leader pressed Haniyeh to silence those voices in the Palestinian group publicly calling for Iran and its powerful Lebanese ally Hezbollah to join the battle against Israel in full force”.
While Hamas and Hezbollah leaders had met with increasing frequency in the lead up to the attack which was to be the most deadly single day for Jews since the Holocaust, with the murder of 1,200 mostly civilians and a further 240 taken hostage, regime insiders dispute Hezbollah also had knowledge of the devastating attack which was to take place.
“Hezbollah too, was taken by surprise by Hamas’ devastating assault last month that killed 1,200 Israelis; its fighters were not even on alert in villages near the border that were frontlines in its 2006 war with Israel, and had to be rapidly called up,” Reuters reported.
One Hezbollah commander told the news agency, ”We woke up to a war”, in spite of multiple meetings in recent months.
The latest statements distancing himself from the war, which has seen Iranian proxies in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen launch attacks on Israel, will shock the Supreme Leader’s domestic audience who have for years heard his cries of annihilating the Jewish state and his ‘final solution’.
On Israel’s northern border, Hezbollah has engaged in the heaviest clashes with Israel for almost 20 years, but has avoided a full-fledged war. Speaking to Israel Today, Middle East expert Professor Meir Litvak reiterated the final command of its proxies will always come from Khamenei.
“Khamenei detests Israel with all his heart and wishes for its destruction. He also did not hide his great joy at what happened to us. However, he is cautious. He does not want direct Iranian involvement, and it is very important to him that there be no Israeli hit inside Iran. That is why he is determined and sophisticated in using his proxies, Hezbollah for example, who will do the job,” he said.
“Khamenei had an opportunity on October 7, but he also has a historical vision, so he is not in a hurry to destroy Israel right now. His ideological view is that Israel’s blood must be shed, brought to its collapse so that it will submit to Iran’s demands and no longer exist as a Jewish state.”
In what appears to be the most coordinated attack since the regime was founded in 1979, it seems unlikely that Tehran has not been at least highly informed of operations at the highest levels. Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against A Nuclear Iran, noted the Reuters report’s sourcing. “It’s Iran’s regime and Axis of Resistance, so what they’re telling Reuters is meant to protect Tehran. A lack of Iranian foreknowledge of October 7 is hard to believe,” he said.
“But Tehran not intervening directly, only through proxies, as well as Khamenei’s frustration of Hamas operatives complaining about Iran’s regime’s support and requests to silence them are more believable,” he added.
Iran-backed proxies have even attacked US forces in Iraq and Syria, triggering fears of a full scale war. But as the US now enters discussions with Iran to unfreeze yet more funds, the likelihood is that Tehran knows it is the time to step back.
Last month, Iran’s foreign minister said that US officials had tried to discuss restarting nuclear talks but insisted Washington must first release $10 billion of Tehran’s frozen funds as a sign of good will.
Indirect talks to revive the 2015 nuclear accord broke down in June and Iran has since rejected direct talks with the United States.
However, while Iran has billions of dollars of its frozen assets in foreign banks, mainly from exports of oil and gas, which it cannot access due to US sanctions on its banking and energy sectors, the war in Gaza and annihilation of Israel, may be lower down the list.
Earlier this year, the US unblocked $6bn from south Korea in exchange for the release of five dual-nationals held in Iran, a move which drew international condemnation fueling fears of its emboldening the regime and reinforcing its diplomatic hostage policy.
As Iran’s economy is on its knees and the world watches the number one sponsor of state terror, according to the US, and its next moves, it is perhaps playing a long game.