Iranian Militias Are in Iraq to Stay

Last month, reports appeared in Arabic-language media that Israeli jets had attacked Shiite militia bases in Iraq. Whether or not these reports are accurate, Jerusalem has good reason to fear that Tehran will use its proxy forces to do in Iraq what it has done in Lebanon and is currently doing in Syria: that is, turn the country into a staging ground for attacks on the Jewish state. The Iraqi prime minister, meanwhile, issued a decree on July 1 that these Iran-backed militias must fully subordinate themselves to the country’s military or disband. But John Hannah doubts that much will change:

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi no doubt believes that the act of issuing the decree, and perhaps enforcing parts of it against less powerful [Iranian-sponsored militias], will buy him time and credit with the United States. . . . The Iraqi leader is also surely suggesting to Washington in private that defeating Iran’s powerful proxies will be a long-term process—one that requires patience, the avoidance of direct confrontation, and the slow but steady process of strengthening state institutions that will eventually smother and neutralize these militias through largely peaceful bureaucratic maneuvers.

Unfortunately, if history is any guide, it’s not at all clear that time has worked in favor of those seeking to oppose Iran’s entrenchment in weak Arab states using powerful Shiite militias. Lebanese Hizballah is of course the archetype. Despite ever-greater amounts of Western assistance to strengthen legitimate state institutions, in particular the Lebanese army, Hizballah’s primacy as Lebanon’s most dominant actor has only expanded—to the great peril of Israel, the Middle East, and U.S. interests. . . . It’s not at all clear what could prevent the full “Hizballah-ization” of Iraq at this point—but it’s unlikely to be the weak tea of Mahdi’s decree.

U.S. officials are facing an unpleasant reality. . . . The United States considers the Iraqi government to be an important security partner, providing its military with billions of dollars of support and advanced equipment. But that same partner has welcomed a group of Iran-backed militias—all sworn enemies of the United States, some designated terrorist groups, and most with American blood on their hands—into the Iraqi security forces as a largely independent, parallel army. The Iraqi government now generously funds those groups through the national budget.

This is not a sustainable U.S. policy toward Iraq—no matter how well-intentioned Mahdi or other Iraqi leaders may be.

Read more at Foreign Policy

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

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security