Iraq’s Political Woes Could Put Iran on the Defensive

Besides exerting de-facto control over Lebanon and much of Yemen, and commanding a great deal of influence in Syria, the Islamic Republic has established itself as a major player in Iraq, where its Shiite militias wield considerable power—as do a number of pro-Iranian politicians. But Baghdad now seems to be coming out of several months of political deadlock, and how the current crisis is resolved may determine whether Tehran is able to hold on to the influence it has acquired. Munqith Dagher explains:

On October 13, Iraqis woke to the sound of nine Katyusha rockets falling on the Green Zone before the special session of parliament that was to be held to select the new Iraqi president. But these rockets were no celebratory shots marking a breakthrough one year after the last Iraqi elections. Although security forces blocked all the roads leading to the Green Zone in order to prevent any demonstrators, they still failed to stop [pro-Iranian] armed factions from expressing their unhappiness about the election of Abdul Latif Rashid to the office of Iraq’s fourth president since the fall of the regime in 2003.

The question now is whether the October Movement—which takes its name from the popular uprising against Iranian influence that began in the southern part of the country in October 2019—will be able to exert political power:

The October Movement, which forced the former prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to resign [in 2019], has now lost much of its momentum as a result of being a main target for disinformation and physical attacks from militias and pro-Iranian forces in Iraq. Ideological conflicts and leadership disputes within the movement as well as clashes with the [followers of the powerful Shiite, but not reliably pro-Iranian, cleric Muqtada al-Sadr] also led to the splintering of these forces and further loss of momentum.

Nevertheless, although the movement has lost much of its energy, its ideas remain firmly planted in the minds of most Iraqis, especially the youth. The memory of what was achieved in 2019-2020 remains present for everyday Iraqis and continues to frighten political parties in power. Although the number who went out into the streets on the third anniversary of the October uprising was smaller than expected, there were calls for broader action and it is still possible that a larger demonstration could be organized for October 25.

The choice of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as prime minister—a politician who had previously been nominated by pro-Iranian forces during the October uprising and whom the October Movement had previously opposed due to his close ties to [pro-Iranian politicians]—will pose a new challenge to the will of the October Movement. It remains to be seen whether these events will prompt youth in Baghdad and southern Iraq to protest further against the regime.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran, Iraq, Middle East

Using the Power of the Law to Fight Anti-Semitism

Examining carefully the problem of anti-Semitism, and sympathy with jihadists, at American universities, Danielle Pletka addresses the very difficult problem of what can be done about it. Pletka avoids such simplistic answers as calling for more education and turns instead to a more promising tool: law. The complex networks of organizations funding and helping to organize campus protests are often connected to malicious states like Qatar, and to U.S.-designated terrorist groups. Thus, without broaching complex questions of freedom of speech, state and federal governments already have ample justifications to crack down. Pletka also suggests various ways existing legal frameworks can be strengthened.

And that’s not all:

What is Congress’s ultimate leverage? Federal funding. Institutions of higher education in the United States will receive north of $200 billion from the federal government in 2024.

[In addition], it is critical to understand that foreign funders have been allowed, more or less, to turn U.S. institutions of higher education into political fiefdoms, with their leaders and faculty serving as spokesmen for foreign interests. Under U.S. law currently, those who enter into contracts or receive funding to advocate for the interest of a foreign government are required to register with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). This requirement is embedded in a criminal statute, and a violation risks jail time. There is no reason compliance by American educational institutions with disclosure laws should not be subject to similar criminal penalties.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American law, Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus