Promoting Religious Freedom Abroad Shouldn’t Compromise the Fight against Radical Islam

Under the Trump administration, defending and encouraging the free exercise of religion has become part and parcel of U.S. foreign policy. While such an approach accords with both American interests and values, Brenda Shaffer and Svante Cornell argue that, if wrongly applied, it can interfere with other countries’ admirable efforts to prevent the spread of jihadism. The problem begins with the federal government’s two annual reports, that, by singling out specific states as violators of religious freedom, can make them eligible targets for sanctions and the like:

While these reports bear the imprimatur of U.S. government publications, the agencies that compile them base a large portion of their reporting on unverified information from various activists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and media. . . . Following [these groups’] lead, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and the State Department condemn Muslim-majority countries that attempt to combat Islamic extremist and terrorist movements and to counter Iran’s attempts to build influence in neighboring countries.

The USCIRF and State Department, [in their recent reports’ sections] on Azerbaijan, for instance, refer to that country’s actions to combat the Muslim Unity Movement as “repression against believers” and lists jailed combatants as “religious prisoners.” But the movement, which receives Iranian backing and training, has been credibly linked to violence, including the deaths of two policemen; the Iranian regime hosts regular television broadcasts in Qom by a member . . . who escaped to Iran and regularly agitates against the West and its secular culture. Is this the type of movement for which American taxpayers should advocate?

In working to promote international religious freedom, Washington may consider several guidelines. [Above all], focus on the most important cases, such as China and Iran, where religious minorities are killed and imprisoned for their beliefs. For these extraordinary cases and for accuracy in reporting, it would be more useful for the annual reports not to attempt to cover, each year, every country in the world, but to focus on the most extreme violations.

Read more at FDD

More about: Azerbaijan, Freedom of Religion, Iran, Radical Islam, U.S. Foreign policy

Would an American-Backed UN Resolution Calling for a Temporary Ceasefire Undermine Israel?

Yesterday morning, the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution, sponsored by Algeria, that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. As an alternative, the American delegation has been circulating a draft resolution calling for a “temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released.” Benny Avni comments:

While the Israel Defense Force may be able to maintain its Gaza operations under that provision, the U.S.-proposed resolution also warns the military against proceeding with its plan to enter the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Israel says that a critical number of Hamas fighters are hiding inside tunnels and in civilian buildings at Rafah, surrounded by a number of the remaining 134 hostages.

In one paragraph, the text of the new American resolution says that the council “determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.”

In addition to the paragraph about Rafah, the American-proposed resolution is admonishing Israel not to create a buffer zone inside Gaza. Such a narrow zone, as wide as two miles, is seen by many Israelis as a future protection against infiltration from Gaza.

Perhaps, as Robert Satloff argues, the resolution isn’t intended to forestall an IDF operation in Rafah, but only—consistent with prior statements from the Biden administration—to demand that Israel come up with a plan to move civilians out of harms way before advancing on the city.

If that is so, the resolution wouldn’t change much if passed. But why is the U.S. proposing an alternative ceasefire resolution at all? Strategically, Washington has nothing to gain from stopping Israel, its ally, from achieving a complete victory over Hamas. Why not instead pass a resolution condemning Hamas (something the Security Council has not done), calling for the release of hostages, and demanding that Qatar and Iran stop providing the group with arms and funds? Better yet, demand that these two countries—along with Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon—arrest Hamas leaders on their territory.

Surely Russia would veto such a resolution, but still, why not go on the offensive, rather than trying to come up with another UN resolution aimed at restraining Israel?

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Gaza War 2023, U.S.-Israel relationship, United Nations