Iran’s Political Victory in Iraq, and What the U.S. Can Do about It

Like Israel, Iraq has been mired in several years of political deadlock that may have finally come to an end. The Jewish state is just now entering the period of post-election bargaining that will lead to the formation of a new governing coalition, while the new government in Baghdad was sworn in last week. Unlike Israel, however, the new government is supported by an encroaching foreign power that props it up with a network of well-armed militias. The new prime minister is Mohammed Shia al-Sudani; the foreign power is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Bilal Wahab explains:

On paper, Sudani’s government was formed as a consensus entity that reaches across ethno-sectarian lines. In practice, however, it is dominated by Shiite parties who waited until after they engineered a ruling plurality in parliament before inviting Sunni and Kurdish parties to participate. Their platform includes a long to-do list of seemingly beneficial policy initiatives, but with no accountability measures attached to failure. Rather, the new government seems tailor-made to advance anti-democratic trends, ignoring the will of the millions of Iraqis who rose up in 2019 against a system based on divvying state resources and power among sectarian patronage networks.

In essence, the Shiites have won the ethno-sectarian war. . . . It is therefore logical to assume that their primary goals remain unchanged—namely, to take over the state, develop the Popular Mobilization Forces, [militias under de-facto Iranian direction], as a parallel institution to the national military, and join Iraq and Iran at the hip (which would also facilitate closer connections with China and Russia).

For too long, Washington has underestimated its leverage and tools in Iraq. The powers that be in Baghdad are well aware of this leverage, however—they know they would not have had the luxury to wage a yearlong political battle without the United States actively preventing the emergence of another Islamic State insurgency. Indeed, Sudani will not be doing Washington a “favor” by allowing U.S. military advisors to stay in Iraq—it’s the other way around. America’s engagement, convening power, and sheltering of Iraqi financial assets still provide the foundation for the international legitimacy that the new government craves. And to complement these carrots, the Biden administration should remind Baghdad that it has an arsenal of sticks to punish continued corruption, money laundering, and human-rights abuses.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran, Iraq, Shiites, U.S. Foreign policy

The U.S. Is Trying to Seduce Israel into Accepting a Bad Deal with Iran. Israel Should Say No

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program. According to an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, the Islamic Republic can now produce enough weapons-grade uranium to manufacture “five nuclear weapons in one month, seven in two months, and a total of eight in three months.” The IAEA also has reason to believe that Tehran has further nuclear capabilities that it has successfully hidden from inspectors. David M. Weinberg is concerned about Washington’s response:

Believe it or not, the Biden administration apparently is once again offering the mullahs of Tehran a sweetheart deal: the release of $10 billion or more in frozen Iranian assets and clemency for Iran’s near-breakout nuclear advances of recent years, in exchange for Iranian release of American hostages and warmed-over pious Iranian pledges to freeze the Shiite atomic-bomb program.

This month, intelligence photos showed Iran again digging tunnels at its Natanz nuclear site—supposedly deep enough to withstand an American or Israeli military strike. This tells us that Iran has something to hide, a clear sign that it has not given up on its quest for a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, Antony Blinken today completes a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is reportedly pressing the kingdom to enter the Abraham Accords. This is no coincidence, for reasons Weinberg explains:

Washington expects Israeli acquiescence in the emerging U.S. surrender to Iran in exchange for a series of other things important to Israel. These include U.S. backing for Israel against escalated Palestinian assaults expected this fall in UN forums, toning down U.S. criticism regarding settlement and security matters (at a time when the IDF is going to have to intensify its anti-terrorist operations in Judea and Samaria), an easing of U.S. pressures on Israel in connection with domestic matters (like judicial reform), a warm Washington visit for Prime Minister Netanyahu (which is not just a political concession but is rather critical to Israel’s overall deterrent posture), and most of all, significant American moves towards reconciliation with Saudi Arabia (which is critical to driving a breakthrough in Israeli-Saudi ties).

[But] even an expensive package of U.S. “concessions” to Saudi Arabia will not truly compensate for U.S. capitulation to Iran (something we know from experience will only embolden the hegemonic ambitions of the mullahs). And this capitulation will make it more difficult for the Saudis to embrace Israel publicly.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Antony Blinken, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship