A Loss for the “Moderates” in the Iranian Election Is Good for Both Iran and the U.S.

This Friday, Iran will hold its presidential election. Among the frontrunners is the supposedly moderate incumbent Hassan Rouhani, during whose term executions have continued at an alarmingly high rate, freedom of speech and association has been restricted ever more harshly, and Tehran has become more aggressive abroad. Elliott Abrams is endorsing one of Rouhani’s opponents, Ibrahim Raisi:

Raisi [is] as hardline an Iranian cleric as one can find. . . . In Iran he is best known for his service on the “Death Commissions” as one of four judges who oversaw the executions of 4,000 to 5,000 political prisoners in 1988. The deputy supreme leader at that time, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, called those executions “the biggest crime in the history of the Islamic Republic.” . . . That was a long time ago, but Raisi has not changed. . . . [So] how could any American possibly want him to win?

It’s simple. Raisi is the true face of the Islamic Republic, while Rouhani is a façade. Rouhani has shown himself powerless to effect any change in the regime’s conduct and his only role is to mislead the West into thinking “moderates” are in charge. We are far better off, as we were when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president, when there are no illusions about Iran’s regime and the men who lead it.

If there is a fair election Rouhani will most likely win, and then we can expect a barrage of newspaper stories about how Iran is moderating, modernizing, and changing—so we must not push it too hard, and should instead help Rouhani improve Iran’s economy. . . . While it would be useful to empower true moderates, tough policies that make hostile regimes . . . pay a high price for repression and aggression are far more likely to help moderates than weak policies that mean the regimes pay no price at all.

If Raisi wins, two things will happen. First, it will be evident—especially to Iranians—that the election was stolen, so the Iranian people will be that much more alienated from their rulers. The day the regime falls will have been brought that much closer. And second, the entire world will have a much clearer view of the nature of that regime today.

Read more at Politico

More about: Hassan Rouhani, Iran, Iranian election, Politics & Current Affairs

To Defeat the Legacy of Islamic State, Start Rebuilding the Communities It Destroyed

Now that the borders of Islamic State (IS) are slowly contracting, argues Alberto Fernandez, there is a moral and strategic imperative to reconstruct some of the non-Muslim communities that it has destroyed—and the U.S. should encourage local government to help:

Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate is crumbling, if all too slowly. Sadly, though, its ultimate collapse will not be the end of the story. It will leave behind a still-lethal insurgency that will almost certainly attempt to stage terrorist attacks around the world as well as a wide swath of physical destruction and devastated lives stretching from Aleppo to Ramadi.

And yet, even while the Islamic State is “losing,” there is no denying that it has also “won” some things. It has created grim facts on the ground. It has wiped out communities that will never rise again. Many Yazidi villages and towns within its orbit are destined to remain permanently empty because of slaughter and the flight of despairing survivors. IS jihadists also succeeded in destroying the ancient Christian community of Mosul, whose surviving members were robbed of everything they had when they were expelled from the city in July 2014. Many of the survivors of these same minority groups remain scattered around the region, and some still haven’t decided whether they should stay, with all the risks that it would entail, or leave forever. Islamic State has torn a hole in the fabric of the region’s millennia-old diversity that can never be fully repaired. . . .

But we should consider fresh ways for Muslim leaders to show concrete support for restoring what IS sought to exterminate. Even the resurrection of a single community would be a powerful message of solidarity and diversity in a Middle East that is becoming increasingly monochrome. . . .

In . . . Israel, one kibbutz incorporated and commemorated survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and other Jewish partisans. Imagine the resurrection of a non-Muslim community that the Islamic State sought to exterminate. What a powerful message that would send. And the message would resonate even more strongly if the work were to be done with the support of Muslim states.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: ISIS, Middle East Christianity, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Yazidis