A New Iran Deal Would Empower Palestinian Islamic Jihad

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August 30, 2022 | Flash Brief

A member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. (Getty Images)

 

Iran would receive approximately $275 billion in sanctions relief during the first year of a new nuclear deal and more than $1 trillion by 2030, according to an FDD analysis. If past is prologue, a significant portion of these funds would likely flow to Iranian-supported terror organizations in the region, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), based in Gaza and the West Bank. In the year after the implementation of the original 2015 nuclear accord, Iran’s military budget increased by 90 percent, enabling the regime to shower its regional proxies, including PIJ, with additional resources.

Expert Analysis

“Palestinian Islamic Jihad is an arm of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Khamenei and the IRGC are fanatically devoted to weaponizing Palestinian terror groups to destroy Israel while brutalizing Iranians at home.” – Mark Dubowitz, FDD Chief Executive

Israel Recently Fought a War With PIJ

In August, the Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Breaking Dawn to preempt attacks by PIJ, which the United States has designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization since 1997. During the 66 hours of fighting, Palestinian militants launched over a thousand rockets at Israeli targets, while millions of Israelis took refuge in bomb shelters.

PIJ Profile 

Founded in 1981, PIJ is the second-largest militant group in Gaza after Hamas. Like Hamas, PIJ seeks Israel’s destruction. But unlike Hamas, PIJ does not participate in the Palestinian political process or provide social services to Palestinians in Gaza. In the 1990s and again during the Second Intifada from 2000 to 2005, PIJ targeted Israeli civilians with suicide bombings, including the Netanya mall bombing in 2005, which killed five Israelis and wounded 50.

Although PIJ is Sunni, it took inspiration from the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which the terror group views as a model for the creation of a Palestinian state. PIJ’s founder, Fathi Shikaki, published a book expressing support for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeinei, the founding father and first supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Israel killed Shikaki in 1995.

Iranian Support for PIJ

Since the early 1990s, Iran has provided PIJ with financial and military support, including small arms, rockets, and explosive-laden unmanned aerial vehicles. In 2019, PIJ Secretary General Ziad al-Nakhaleh said, “The resistance is capable of crushing the Zionist cities with over 1,000 rockets a day for months.”

According to the State Department’s 2020 Country Reports on Terrorism, “PIJ receives financial assistance and training primarily from Iran. PIJ has partnered with Iran- and Syria-sponsored Hizballah to carry out joint operations.”

At the onset of the recent fighting between PIJ and Israel, Nakhaleh was visiting Iran, where he met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and General Hossein Salami, the commander of the IRGC.

IRGC-Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani’s Support for PIJ

In 2021, Nakhaleh said Qassem Soleimani—when he was serving as commander of Quds Force, the IRGC’s expeditionary arm—had “traveled to various countries, made plans, and set up guidelines to deliver” missiles and other weapons to the Gaza Strip. “And indeed, these weapons were delivered [to the Gaza Strip]. I can say that the missiles that [Soleimani] delivered to the Gaza Strip were the ones used to attack Tel Aviv.” Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in January 2020 in Baghdad, Iraq.

FDD

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