The Iraqi Elections Were Not an Unqualified Win for Iran

Iraq held its national elections on Saturday, and some observers, based on the preliminary results, see the success of Shiite parties with ties to Tehran as a sign of the Islamic Republic’s ever-growing influence in the country. But Michael Rubin urges against jumping to conclusions:

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, [who has been wary of Iranian interference], fared more poorly than expected, behind Hadi al-Ameri’s Fatih coalition, [which has ties to Iran but has also cooperated with the Americans], and the surprise winner, the Iraqi populist [Shiite cleric] Muqtada al-Sadr. Also doing surprisingly well, albeit farther down the list, is Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, an Iranian-backed offshoot responsible for the murder of U.S. servicemen inside Iraq. . . .

[But] Iraq’s elections are not winner-take-all. Many figures run separately but come together in the post-election shuffle to form a coalition. . . . Sadr has accepted Iranian patronage before, but he is almost as mercurial toward the Iranians as he is toward the Americans. Neither Sadr’s success nor Ameri’s necessarily translates into an Iranian ability to dictate to Iraq. [Furthermore], the former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s poor showing undercuts the narrative that Iran is the victor. . . .

Abadi remains personally popular enough to have a chance at winning a new term. He presided over the defeat of Islamic State and implemented some important reforms. Oil is on the upswing and, alongside it, Iraq’s economy. Baghdad is booming and, according to United Nations’ statistics, terrorist incidents have plummeted. If Abadi can’t patch together a new government, a compromise candidate may emerge. Any successful compromise candidate would likely need to appeal to both those factions with a more sympathetic outlook to Iran and those who seek a more Western model. In other words, a new prime minister, like Abadi and those before him, will likely have to be someone who can compromise and guide Iraq through the minefield of regional and great-power diplomacy and interests. . . .

[Finally], it is important to . . . celebrate the fact that Iraq may now have its fifth successful transfer of power—in a region where many other leaders aspire to rule for life and will kill those who seek a vote to end that rule. That’s good for Iraq, good for the broader region, good for the United States, and a notable juxtaposition to the dictatorship suffered by Iranians.

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Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Arab democracy, Iran, Iraq, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy