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.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

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

To the Anti-Semite, Jews Aren’t Just One Problem among Many, but the Source of All Problems

While it likely had some ancient antecedents, the blood libel—the myth that Jews murder Christian children and consume their blood as part of a Passover ritual—as we know it began in Norwich, England in 1144. That same city was the location of one of several blood-libel-fueled massacres of Jews in 1190, and researchers have recently concluded that a mass grave found in Norwich contained the bones of the victims. Meir Soloveichik reflects on this discovery:

The popularity of the blood libel, in its very absurdity, captures the essence of anti-Semitism. By taking the tale of the origin of Jewish chosenness—the exodus from Egypt—and turning it into a pernicious plan for annual evildoing, the libel illustrates how, as Robert Nicholson once wrote, hatred of Jews “isn’t just any old hatred or racism. It is a grand anti-myth that turns Jewish chosenness on its head and assigns to the people of Israel responsibility for all the world’s ills.”

The readiness of all today to denounce the massacres of medieval Jewish communities often highlights how, as the writer Dara Horn put it, “people love dead Jews.” The blood libel is not a thing of the past. It is ongoing. The world is all too prepared to bemoan the injustice against Jews in the past and yet all too ready to overlook those who purvey blood libels today.

Such a phenomenon can be seen in the successful career of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As Seth Mandel has noted, . . . the congresswoman has taken rhetorical dishonesty about Israel to entirely new level, linking—like the libelists of old—purported Jewish activity to grievances around the world. Commenting on the situation at the Mexican-American border, she accused, without offering any evidence, Israel of placing Palestinian children in cages. During one debate, standing on the floor of the House next to an image of a dead Palestinian child, she linked Israel’s airstrikes to the naval base in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

The bones of murdered Jews may have been exhumed from the soil of the site where the blood libel was born, but what has yet to be exhumed from the present is the blood libel itself. And it is only if we do all we can to identify, and call out, the liars and the libelists that we can honestly hope that the murdered Jews of Norwich will rest in peace.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Anglo-Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Blood libel