The Pope, the Abraham Accords, and the Hope for a More Tolerant Middle East

On Monday, Pope Francis completed his four-day visit to Iraq, the first ever such papal visit. There he met with Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the religious leader of the country’s Shiites, in the holy city of Najaf; visited Mosul, a city formerly occupied by Islamic State and home to a large Christian population; and also made a stop in Ur, the birthplace, according to the book of Genesis, of Abraham. Fiamma Nirenstein comments:

Although he repeated Abraham’s name during his visit, the pope didn’t mention the fact that Jews have also been persecuted by Muslims in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the peaceful tectonic upheaval that brought the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco to accept Israel and the Jewish people as indigenous to the region is still a train in motion. And it is producing results close to [Francis’s] description of Abraham as one who “knew how to hope against all hope,” and who laid the groundwork for “the human family.”

It’s a pity that the Iraqi government ignored the country’s Jews in this context, against Vatican hopes, by not inviting a Jewish delegation to the event. It was a dismissal of Jewish history and expulsion from Muslim countries, along with their synagogues and traditions, by the hundreds of thousands.

During his interreligious prayer for peace in Ur, the Pope thanked the Lord for having given Abraham to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, together with other believers. . . . Now, with the solidification of the Abraham Accords, the three religions have the opportunity to march together against the fierce opponents of peace, ranging from Islamic State to al-Qaeda, from Hamas to Hizballah, and to all the states that support them, first and foremost Iran.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Abraham Accords, Iraqi Jewry, Jewish-Christian relations, Middle East Christianity, Pope Francis, Tolerance

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