Remembering the Iraqi Intellectual Who Stood Up for the Jews

In May 1941, a bloody pogrom, known as the farhud, ravaged Baghdad, leaving 200 Jews dead, hundreds more injured or raped, and shops and homes looted or destroyed. Between 1950 and 1952, approximately 75 percent of Iraq’s Jews left for Israel, but the remainder—some 10,000 souls—lived in relative piece until the 1960s, when conditions took a sharp turn for the worse. Raad Yahya Qassim recounts the attitudes toward the Jews of his father, Yahya Qassim, who between 1945 and 1958 was the editor of the liberal Baghdad paper al-Sha’b:

In 1946, with al-Sha’b in its second year of publication, the political atmosphere in Iraq started to grow increasingly tense in view of the expected creation of the state of Israel. Iraqi public opinion was roughly divided into three views on this matter: the first view was that of Iraqi political parties and newspapers pushing the Arab nationalist approach, who considered Iraqi Jewry and Zionism as one and the same and exhibiting outright hostility toward the Jewish community in Iraq. The second view, predominant in the ruling establishment, looked at the question through a somewhat more moderate and pragmatic lens, taking into account the pressure exerted by some other Arab governments, particularly Syria’s, to follow a hardline policy toward Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel.

The third view was that of a minority, in which Yahya Qassim was a leading example. This view was embodied in Qassim’s daily editorials in al-Sha’b, arguing that Iraqi Jews were—both de jure and de facto—fully equal to other Iraqi citizens, and that the creation of the state of Israel was a separate and distinct question of Iraqi governmental foreign policy. Furthermore, Qassim argued that sympathizing with the plight of the Palestinian Arabs in no way conflicted with the recognition of the full rights of Jews as Iraqi citizens.

There was, however, no significant voice in favor of pursuing good relations with the new Jewish state, although it posed no strategic threat to Iraq, at that time a pro-Western country. But as the younger Qassim relates, his father also “took on the role of lawyer for hundreds of Iraqi Jews” when the Jewish community faced a bevy of anti-Semitic legislation and regulations.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Farhud, Iraq, Iraqi Jewry, Muslim-Jewish relations

 

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy