Protests in Iraq and Lebanon Expose the Fragility of the Iranian Empire

Oct. 24 2019

Last week, mass demonstrations erupted in Lebanon over proposed tax increases and have since then intensified, spreading throughout the major cities despite proposals of reform from the government. Meanwhile, the anti-government protests in Iraq, which began early this month, have subsided somewhat, but not yet abated. Hanin Ghaddar points out that in both cases, demonstrators are reacting to economic hardship and corruption by turning against governments controlled by the Islamic Republic:

Iran created proxies in both [Lebanon and Iraq], gave them power through funding and arms, and helped them infiltrate state institutions. Today, state institutions in both countries have one main job: instead of protecting and serving the people, they have to protect and serve Iranian interests.

Observers have called the current protests in Lebanon “unprecedented” for a number of reasons. For the first time in a long time, Lebanese have realized that the enemy is within—it is their own government and political leaders—not an outside occupier or regional influencer. In addition, political leaders have been unable to control the course of the protests, which are taking place across all sects and across all regions. . . . The scale shows that the protesters are capable of uniting beyond their sectarian and political affiliations. What brought them together is an ongoing economic crisis that has hurt people from all sects and regions.

But most significantly, the protests are unprecedented since Hizballah also took an unusual stance. Having prided itself for decades on protecting the impoverished and fighting injustice, Hizballah . . . decided to side with the authorities against the people in the streets. . . . Scenes of Shiite protesters joining other Lebanese in the streets terrified the party’s leadership. Lebanon’s Shiites have always been the backbone of Hizballah’s domestic and regional power. . . . But for the first time since Hizballah was formed in the 1908s, Lebanese Shiites are turning against it. In Nabatieh, the group’s heartland in the south of Lebanon, Shiite protesters even burned the offices of Hizballah’s leaders.

[Likewise], only Shiites took to the streets in Iraq [to demonstrate against the Shiite-controlled government]. Wherever Iran wins, mayhem prevails.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Shiites

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia