Why the al-Aqsa Mosque Is Safest under Israeli Protection

Islamists, Pinhas Inbari explains, are deeply divided over the religious status of the al-Aqsa mosque and of Jerusalem in general. While the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is an offshoot) sees Jerusalem as its symbolic religious center and the mosque as itself holy, Salafists like Islamic State and al-Qaeda suspect the holiness of any site outside of Mecca and Medina and have downplayed the importance of Jerusalem. Further differences divide Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and divide Palestinians among themselves:

One reason for the Muslim Brotherhood’s pronounced emphasis on the al-Aqsa issue is political. They want to unify all the Arab revolutions in all the separate Arab countries into one great revolution under the flag of saving al-Aqsa. . . . Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, for their part, regard this as a political danger and hence do not support the Palestinians’ struggle to entrench their status in Jerusalem; they see the emphasis on Jerusalem as working against them. . . .

In seeking to maintain its status in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority came up with the idea of “religious tourism” to the city. The aim is to flood it with Muslim tourists, who would strengthen its Muslim character and thereby counteract the [supposed] “Judaization” trend in the city. The Muslim Brotherhood harshly condemned this initiative, calling it “normalization.” In their view, inundating the city with tourists sharply contradicts the slogans about battle and warfare to liberate al-Aqsa, with which they hope to unite the whole world of Islam under their flag. . . .

The dominant force in the mosque compound is Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Islamic Liberation party). Deployed worldwide, Hizb ut-Tahrir has adopted the exclusive goal of promoting the idea of the Islamic caliphate and does not hide its intention to proclaim the caliphate from al-Aqsa. Thus, the movement clashes with the PLO on the one hand, as in the ousting of the senior Palestinian official, and with Hamas on the other, but first and foremost with Jordan [which currently has custodianship of the mosque].

Only Israel, Inbari concludes, can be counted on to keep a lid on the intra-Muslim conflicts, and is able to prevent Salafists from taking over and destroying al-Aqsa as they have other Muslim holy places in Syria and Iraq.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinian Authority, Salafism, Temple Mount


An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy