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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.

Read more at Fox News

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

Israel Agreed Not to Retaliate During the Persian Gulf War—and Paid a Price for It

Feb. 19 2018

During the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel, killing one person and causing extensive property damage. Under intense pressure from the first Bush administration to sit still—ostensibly because Israeli involvement in the war could lead Arab states to abandon the White House’s anti-Iraq coalition—Jerusalem refrained from retaliating. Moshe Arens, who was the Israeli defense minister at the time, comments on the decision in light of information recently made public:

[W]hat was George H.W. Bush thinking [in urging Israel not to respond]? His secretary of state, James Baker, had accompanied the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles (Chas) Freeman, on a visit to King Fahd in Riyadh on November 2, 1990, two-and-a-half months before the beginning of the war, to obtain the king’s approval for additional deployment of U.S. troops in his kingdom in preparation for the attack on Iraq.

He was told by the king that although they would not welcome Israeli participation in the war, he understood that Israel could not stand idly by if it were attacked by Iraq. If Israel were to defend itself, the Saudi armed forces would still fight on America’s side, the king told Baker. So much for the danger to the coalition if Israel were to respond to the Scud attacks. Israel was not informed of this Saudi position.

So why was President Bush so intent on keeping Israel out of the war? It seems that he took the position, so dominant in the American foreign-policy establishment, that America’s primary interest in the Middle East was the maintenance of good relations with the Arab world, and that the Arab world attached great importance to the Palestinian problem, and that as long as that problem was not resolved Israel remained an encumbrance to the U.S.-Arab relationship. If Israel were to appear as an ally of the U.S. in the war against Iraq, that was likely to damage the image the U.S. was trying to project to the Arabs.

In fact, immediately upon the conclusion of the war against Saddam Hussein, Baker launched a diplomatic effort that culminated in the Madrid Conference in the hope that it would lead to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It didn’t. . . .

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: George H. W. Bush, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Peace Process, Persian Gulf War, US-Israel relations