The Iraqi Elections Were Not an Unqualified Win for Iran

Iraq held its national elections on Saturday, and some observers, based on the preliminary results, see the success of Shiite parties with ties to Tehran as a sign of the Islamic Republic’s ever-growing influence in the country. But Michael Rubin urges against jumping to conclusions:

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, [who has been wary of Iranian interference], fared more poorly than expected, behind Hadi al-Ameri’s Fatih coalition, [which has ties to Iran but has also cooperated with the Americans], and the surprise winner, the Iraqi populist [Shiite cleric] Muqtada al-Sadr. Also doing surprisingly well, albeit farther down the list, is Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, an Iranian-backed offshoot responsible for the murder of U.S. servicemen inside Iraq. . . .

[But] Iraq’s elections are not winner-take-all. Many figures run separately but come together in the post-election shuffle to form a coalition. . . . Sadr has accepted Iranian patronage before, but he is almost as mercurial toward the Iranians as he is toward the Americans. Neither Sadr’s success nor Ameri’s necessarily translates into an Iranian ability to dictate to Iraq. [Furthermore], the former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s poor showing undercuts the narrative that Iran is the victor. . . .

Abadi remains personally popular enough to have a chance at winning a new term. He presided over the defeat of Islamic State and implemented some important reforms. Oil is on the upswing and, alongside it, Iraq’s economy. Baghdad is booming and, according to United Nations’ statistics, terrorist incidents have plummeted. If Abadi can’t patch together a new government, a compromise candidate may emerge. Any successful compromise candidate would likely need to appeal to both those factions with a more sympathetic outlook to Iran and those who seek a more Western model. In other words, a new prime minister, like Abadi and those before him, will likely have to be someone who can compromise and guide Iraq through the minefield of regional and great-power diplomacy and interests. . . .

[Finally], it is important to . . . celebrate the fact that Iraq may now have its fifth successful transfer of power—in a region where many other leaders aspire to rule for life and will kill those who seek a vote to end that rule. That’s good for Iraq, good for the broader region, good for the United States, and a notable juxtaposition to the dictatorship suffered by Iranians.

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Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Arab democracy, Iran, Iraq, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

In Gaza, Israel Must Try to Restore Deterrence While Avoiding War

Oct. 22 2018

Early Wednesday morning, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beersheba, striking the courtyard of a home. (The woman who lived there, and her three children, barely escaped.) Israel responded swiftly with airstrikes, and the IDF reported that this weekend was the quietest along the Gaza separation fence since March 30, when the weekly riots there began. Yet some 10,000 Palestinians still gathered at the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades, and makeshift explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side. Meanwhile, writes Eran Lerman, Jerusalem faces a difficult decision about how to proceed:

The smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza—Islamic Jihad, which operates as a satellite of Iran, and radical Sunni groups inspired by Islamic State—are the primary ones that want to ratchet up the violence into a full-scale war. For them, a major war in Gaza could be an opportunity to build themselves up on the ruins of Hamas. It also looks as if Iran, too, has an interest in escalating the situation in Gaza and pulling Israel into a war that will detract from its ability to focus on its main defense activity right now: keeping Iran from digging down in Syria.

The third player consistently working to worsen the situation in Gaza and torpedo Egypt’s efforts to broker a cease-fire is the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, for whom—as he once said in Jenin— “the worse things are, the better.” . . .

All of these considerations are counterbalanced, paradoxically, by Hamas’s interest in continuing to dictate the terms of any cease-fire with Israel while refraining from a war, which the Hamas leadership knows would be self-destructive. Its moves to escalate the conflict—arson balloons, breaches of the border fence—have been intentionally selected as ways of taking things to the brink without toppling over into the abyss. . . .

And Israel? A harsh, well-defined blow is vital for it to maintain its mechanism of deterrence. A missile hitting Beersheba is not a trivial occurrence. However, as far as possible, and given the broader considerations of the regional balance of power as well as Israel’s fundamental interest in avoiding a ground war, it would be best to make the most of Egypt’s mediation.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority