Iraqi Political Chaos Is a Boon for Iran

June 28 2022

The Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, one of Iraq’s most influential political figures, recently instructed his party’s 75 parliamentarians to resign after six months of political gridlock during which he was unable to form a government. Most likely, writes Bobby Ghosh, the Sadrists will take the streets, while the Islamic Republic will expand its influence in Baghdad:

Protest, often violent, is Sadr’s stock in trade. Hailing from a family of Shiite clerics who paid for their opposition to Saddam Hussein with their lives, he made his own name in 2003 by raising a militia, known as the Mahdi Army, against the U.S.-led coalition that toppled the dictator. Sadr’s fighters were trounced, but his anti-American rhetoric never waned. More recently, he has cast himself as a nationalist, opposed to the malign influence of Shiite-majority Iran in Iraqi affairs.

The political churn in Baghdad will, at least in the short run, yield butter for Tehran. By Iraqi law, the parliamentary seats abandoned by Sadr have gone to the candidates who polled the second-largest number of votes. In most cases, those were candidates from Iran-backed parties. That bloc, known as the Coordination Framework, is now in the strongest position to form a coalition government.

This would mean the return to the premiership of Nouri al-Maliki, whose two previous terms in the job, from 2006-14 were characterized by an open license for Iran to deepen its influence in Iraqi affairs, especially in the country’s security forces. Tehran also backed a parallel network of Shiite militias, which it has used to attack U.S. military forces in Iraq and launch missile and drone strikes into Saudi Arabia.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Iran, Iraq, Shiites

How Israel Can Break the Cycle of Wars in Gaza

Last month saw yet another round of fighting between the Jewish state and Gaza-based terrorist groups. This time, it was Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) that began the conflict; in other cases, it was Hamas, which rules the territory. Such outbreaks have been numerous in the years since 2009, and although the details have varied somewhat, Israel has not yet found a way to stop them, or to save the residents of the southwestern part of the country from the constant threat of rocket fire. Yossi Kuperwasser argues that a combination of military, economic, and diplomatic pressure might present an alternative solution:

In Gaza, Jerusalem plays a key role in developing the rules that determine what the parties can and cannot do. Such rules are designed to give the Israelis the ability to deter attacks, defend territory, maintain intelligence dominance, and win decisively. These rules assure Hamas that its rule over Gaza will not be challenged and that, in between the rounds of escalation, it will be allowed to continue its military buildup, as the Israelis seldom strike first, and the government’s responses to Hamas’s limited attacks are always measured and proportionate.

The flaws in such an approach are clear: it grants Hamas the ability to develop its offensive capabilities, increase its political power, and condemn Israelis—especially those living within range of the Gaza Strip—to persistent threats from Hamas terrorists.

A far more effective [goal] would be to rid Israel of Hamas’s threat by disarming it, prohibiting its rearmament, and demonstrating conclusively that threatening Israel is indisputably against its interests. Achieving this goal will not be easy, but with proper preparation, it may be feasible at the appropriate time.

Revisiting the rule according to which Jerusalem remains tacitly committed to not ending Hamas rule in Gaza is key for changing the dynamics of this conflict. So long as Hamas knows that the Israelis will not attempt to uproot it from Gaza, it can continue arming itself and conducting periodic attacks knowing the price it will pay may be heavy—especially if Jerusalem changes the other rules mentioned—but not existential.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israeli Security, Palestinian Islamic Jihad