The Iraqi Elections Are Bad News for Iran

Last week, Iraq held its fifth national election since the U.S. deposed Saddam Hussein in 2003. The Islamic Republic has spent the past two decades expanding its influence in the country, setting up an interlocking network of proxy militias and political parties, and trying to turn its neighbor into another Lebanon. But the recent voting has impeded those efforts, writes Amir Taheri; and there is other good news as well:

The very fact that the election took place is [itself] a cause for celebration. Key players, including some foreign powers and political barons addicted to power and perk, did all they could to prevent an early election that they sensed might reduce their share of power.

Tehran’s proxies did worse than anyone imagined. The militia-dominated bloc led by Hadi al-Ameri lost 35 of its 50 seats. The biggest winner on the Shiite side was Muqtada al-Sadr’s maverick bloc, which has called for limiting the holding of weapons only to the state—in other words, disbanding the Iran-controlled militias.

The fact that a large number of candidates, almost 3,500, contested the 329 seats at stake, indicated the abiding attractiveness of the democratic process for a growing segment of politically active Iraqis. Those who entered the competition included the largest number of young activists, women, and individuals standing as independents. . . . The parties and groups representing the Sunni Muslim community emerge from this election with a heightened profile and a more credible leadership, something that could speed up the healing of sectarian wounds inflicted on it since 2003.

The ruling mullahs in Tehran had hoped that the election would turn out to be a referendum on American military presence in Iraq. That didn’t happen, as the Iraqi political elite preferred to focus on the need for foreign military presence in all its forms be ended. The 2,500 US troops still in Iraq could be withdrawn at any moment under the status-of-forces mechanism in place since 2008. The same could not be said about the Iran’s proxy units in Iraq.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Arab democracy, Iran, Iraq

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf