Why the Iraqi Government Fears Peace with Israel

In response to more than 300 leaders and public figures who came together in the Iraqi city of Erbil to call for diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, the country’s president declared the gathering “illegal,” the prime minister accused it of inciting “sectarian hatred,” a court issued arrest warrants for the organizers, and pro-Iranian militias issued death threats. Washington, meanwhile, has been noticeably silent. Eli Lake writes:

[S]o far the U.S. has not offered a word of support for the private Iraqi citizens who are now facing legal and extra-legal threats for seeking [peace with an American ally]. The only public statement from the U.S. came from Colonel Wayne Marotto, the spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq. He tweeted that the U.S. “had no prior knowledge of the event, nor do we have any affiliation with its participants.” In other words, those Iraqis who want peace with Israel are on their own.

In the aftermath of the Erbil conference, one conclusion might be that most Iraqis are just not ready to make peace with Israel. . . . But there is a more plausible conclusion: Israel’s enemies are so afraid of a free debate on the Jewish state that they feel compelled to coerce a false consensus on the matter. As Joseph Braude, an organizer of the conference, told me: “The response has been a massive effort to destroy these people and send a message to the rest of the population who share their views to never open their mouths.”

The U.S. should protect the Iraqis who attended the Erbil conference. This is not only because it is in America’s interest that Iraq have a normal relationship with Israel. It is also because Iraq cannot be considered a free or democratic nation if its militias and courts are used to silence its own citizens.

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Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Iraq, Israel-Arab relations, U.S. Foreign policy

 

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf