Why Iraqis Reject the Palestinian Cause

In northern Iraq last week, some 300 tribal leaders, politicians, and other notables—among them both Sunnis and Shiites—gathered to call for peace with Israel. The government swiftly responded by moving to arrest all the attendees, while Iran-backed militias threatened them with violence. Hussain Abdul-Hussain sets the event against the backdrop of Saddam Hussein’s longstanding support for Palestinian terrorism, and Palestinian leaders’ support for him:

When Iraqis think of Islam, they think of their capital Baghdad, the Jewel of the Abbasid Caliphate, which was the apex of Muslim civilization when Muslims were leading the world in knowledge, science, literature, and economics. When Iraqis think of Islam, or Arab nationalism, they rarely think of Jerusalem, and hence, Palestine rarely meant much to their Muslim or Arab identity.

When America launched Operation Desert Storm to eject Saddam’s troops from Kuwait, the Iraqi dictator calculated that he could line up the Arabs behind him by firing scud missiles at Israel. . . . The Arabs—including radicals like Syria’s Hafez al-Assad and Libya’s Moammar Ghadaffi—never took Saddam’s side. Only Palestinians took to the streets and cheered for Saddam, shouting “Oh Saddam our love, hit Tel Aviv.” (It rhymes in Arabic).

After the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the UN imposed an embargo on Iraq, which emptied Saddam’s coffers. Saddam still paid enormous sums to [the families of Palestinians “martyrs”] while Iraqis were suffering a famine. Inside Iraq, Palestinians and their families were Saddam’s most notorious [domestic] intelligence operatives, and enjoyed Saddam’s generosity while Iraqis lived in poverty. When America toppled Saddam, Iraqis brought down Saddam’s statues and ejected his Palestinians.

But for Iran and its proxies—which exercise enormous influence in Baghdad—the anti-Israel cause is of paramount importance. It is they, according to Abdul-Hussain, who are pushing to punish those calling for peace with Israel.

Read more at House of Wisdom

More about: Iran, Iraq, Palestinians, Saddam Hussein

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy