The U.S. Should Not Let a Jewish Archive Return to Iraq

In 2003, the American military came upon an enormous cache of Jewish historical documents in the headquarters of the Saddam Hussein-era security service. After securing permission from the new Iraqi government, the U.S. moved the archive to Washington, DC for restoration and preservation—on the condition that it would later be restored to Iraq. Preservation and digitization are now complete, but Edy Cohen argues that it would be wrong to let the document go back:

This decision is both absurd and pathetic, like giving a thief back what he stole. . . . Why should the U.S. return the collection to a place that is no longer home to Jews? Returning the archive to the Iraqis is like returning the belongings of European Jews to the Nazis; it’s stolen Jewish property.

Even though the Jews of Iraq lived in Babylon before the advent of Islam and before the Prophet Muhammad came along, there are no Jews there today. More than 150,000 Iraqi Jews left the country over the course of the 20th century, some motivated by Zionism, and others by fear for their lives. Iraq didn’t know how to protect its Jews, and as early as 1941, hundreds of Iraqis were slaughtering Jews in a massive pogrom known as the Farhud.

When Israel was founded in 1948, and hatred toward Jews continued to mount, the Iraqi government permanently revoked the citizenship of Jews and expelled them from the country, freezing their bank accounts and confiscating their property, which today is worth hundreds of billions of dollars. . . .

Iraq is now well on its way to being a failed [state]. . . . Therefore, it is upon the Israeli government to pressure the Trump administration to ensure that the archive of Iraqi Jewry isn’t returned to Iraq. It isn’t a question of heritage; it’s a question of historic justice.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: History & Ideas, Iraqi Jewish Archive, Iraqi Jewry, U.S. Foreign policy

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy