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

How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America