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

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror