Why the U.S. Should Support the Women Protesting in Iran

On Sunday, Iranian police—apparently caving in to social-media pressure—released a woman who had stood near a public thoroughfare without her hijab to protest her country’s modesty laws. Charges against her have not been dropped, however. Meanwhile, women in the Islamic Republic continue to post pictures of themselves flouting hijab laws. Nina Shea explains why and how Washington can show its support:

Hijab infractions can bring sentences in jails notorious for medieval brutality and deprivations. (Amnesty International reports that five protesters have already died in detention.) Punishments can also include beatings, lashings, “reeducation,” or even the death penalty: a hijab protester was threatened with execution in 2016.

The U.S. already applies a number of sanctions against Iran for its religious oppression. We should give greater support to communications and information-sharing that are key to protecting dissidents like this heroic woman and the freedom cause itself. . . . When the regime blocks one messaging app—as it did with Telegram this month, effectively shutting down the economic protests—we should ensure there is access to others.

[Furthermore], Voice of America should cease uncritical reporting of Iranian propaganda—for example, that the mullahs showed “restraint” toward protesters (nearly 4,000 were arrested and dozens killed). Instead it should ramp up human-rights reporting. . . . The State Department should [also find] ways to expand the reach of U.S. broadcasting inside Iran. . . .

The new U.S. ambassador at large for religious freedom, Sam Brownback, should recognize the hijab protests as the religious-freedom issue that it is and publicize the names and cases of all of Iran’s religious prisoners.

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More about: Freedom of Religion, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy