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.

Read more at The Article

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

Iran Brings Its War on Israel and the U.S. to the High Seas

On Sunday, the Tehran-backed Houthi guerrillas, who have managed to control much of Yemen, attacked an American warship and three British commercial vessels in the Red Sea. This comes on the heels of a series of maritime attacks on targets loosely connected to Israel and the U.S., documented in the article below by Mark Dubowitz and Richard Goldberg. They explain that Washington must respond far more forcefully than it has been:

President Biden refuses to add the Houthis back to the official U.S. terror list—a status he revoked shortly after taking office. And [Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei keeps driving toward a weapon of mass destruction with the UN’s nuclear watchdog warning that Iran is increasing its production of high-enriched uranium while stonewalling inspectors.

Refreezing all cash made available to Iran over the last few months and cracking down on Iranian oil shipments to China are the easy first steps. Senators can force Biden’s hand on both counts by voting on two bills that passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Next comes the reestablishment of U.S. military deterrence. America must defend itself and regional allies against any attempt by Iran to retaliate—a reassurance Riyadh and Abu Dhabi [also] need, given the potential for Tehran to break its de-escalation pact with the Gulf Arab states. By striking Iranian and Houthi targets, Biden would advance the cause of Middle East peace.  . . . Tehran will keep attacking Americans and U.S. allies unless and until he flashes American steel.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen