Turning the Hagia Sofia into a Mosque Is Both Wrong and Imprudent—and It Should Worry Israel

Built in the 6th century in what was then Constantinople, the Saint Sophia cathedral was one of the Christian world’s most important places of worship until the city fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The new rulers converted the building into a mosque, and so it remained until 1935 when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, attempting to create a new secular Turkish nationalism, turned it into a museum. Now Turkey’s current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has decided into make it a mosque once more, to the pain of many Christians. Daniel Johnson comments:

Erdogan is whipping up old enmities—and he knows it. Not only has he reignited hostility in Greece, at a time when new waves of refugees may cause tensions between the two countries, but he risks alienating Russia, which remains a major regional force in Syria and elsewhere.

No less ominous was Erdogan’s implied threat to Israel in his claim that “the resurrection of Aya Sofia heralds the liberation of the al-Aqsa Mosque.” His implication that Jerusalem, too, could become a religious battleground again is deliberately provocative. The Temple Mount is administered by Muslims, but Palestinians often claim that Israel will one day reclaim the holiest place in Judaism and demolish the al-Aqsa Mosque that stands there. There is no evidence for such claims, but they enjoy wide currency among Islamists.

[The church’s] magnificent mosaics—whose ultimate fate is now uncertain, given the Islamic prohibition of images—depict Mary and Jesus, both Jewish and both of whom are sacred in Islam as well as Christianity. The cathedral is dedicated to divine wisdom, but there is nothing wise in the chain of events that have made it once again a global center of gravity. Political theology always has the potential to erupt into political conflict. The Turkish démarche is (to coin a phrase) worse than a crime—it is a mistake. Making a museum into a mosque could prove to be Erdogan’s biggest mistake.

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Read more at The Article

More about: Israel & Zionism, Muslim-Christian relations, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Temple Mount, Turkey

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy