IRAQI MP’S ISRAEL PEACE CALL
But he still thinks Israel can help to end Iraqi terrorism
THE DAY started like any other. It was February 2005, and Iraqi parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi had just enjoyed a morning coffee at home with his sons Ayman, 29, and Jamal, 24.
Afterwards his sons drove away with a bodyguard, unaware they were being watched. Suddenly, their car wassurroundedbygun-toting Islamic militants. Acting on the orders of government officials and believing Mr al-Alusi was in the car, the attackers opened fire, killing the politician’s sons and the bodyguard.
“They were only 50 metres away when I heardtheshots,”MralAlusi recalls. “They had just left the house.” The attack was an act of revenge. Months
earlier, Mr al-Alusi, a Sunni Muslim who now leads the country’s democratic Ummah party, had done the unthinkable: he had travelled to Israel, to attend a counterterrorism conference in Herzliya.
When he returned, he had praised Israel’s democratic values, called for intelligence sharing between Iraq and Israel and even recommended establishing full diplomatic ties.
As a result he was expelled from the Iraqi National Congress and indicted by the country’s Central Criminal Court for having contacts with enemy states.
He recalls: “My sons were liberals. One was an engineer, and one was studying engineering in Germany. They were my best assistants, my best advisers. They advised me on so many issues.
“They were very active in the Iraqi opposition movement. They were part of the De-Ba’athification Commission.
“I am a man who does not look at the past. I do not have time. What happened to my sons, they are part of the reality of life in Iraq.”
Mr al-Alusi, 62, does not regret his decision. He continues to call for ties between Iraq and the West — including the UK, United States and Israel.
He says: “Somebody had to start. Somebody had to say: ‘This is a good opportunity — all of us are suffering from terrorists’.
“Iraq needs to have a connection to Israel. Israel believes in democratic values and I still believe that if we are really serious about fighting the terrorists, we need to establish peace with every country that is afraid of terrorism.”
Visiting London this week, Mr al-Alusi claims he met UK politicians to talk about the influence of Iran and Daesh on Iraq.
“Most Iraqi parties are Islamic parties working closely with Iran — so my government is not always interested in fighting extremists,” he explains.
“But we have to stop Daesh, Iran and militias like Hizbollah. We want to build an alliance against terrorists. I believe the British will listen [to my concerns].
“It is fashionable to be against British involvement in Iraq, but we should make it clear that the British support human rights and freedom. They are real democrats; unlike our politicians.”
Unlike so many others, he welcomed former prime minister Tony Blair’s intervention in Iraq. “I am happy for Tony Blair’s mistake — if we can call it a mistake. Iraq is now free from Saddam. I hope Barack Obama makes the same ‘mistake’ with the Iranian regime.”
Mr al-Alusi believes the terror threat will reach Europe: “We should not let the fascists have power. The same thing happened in Europe, when they closed their eyes. In those days the Jews paid the price. Today, the Europeans will pay the price. You are closing your eyes. The Iranians say it, Hizbollah say it — they will attack Europe in a very hard way.”
Mr al-Alusi’s bold comments do not come as a surprise, given his long history of political rebellion.
Born in the Anbar Province, as a Cairo University student he was exiled to Germany after being caught distributing anti-Ba’ath party material. He was convicted for hostage-taking in 2002 in Berlin, after trying to overrun the Iraqi embassy in Berlin to protest against Saddam Hussein’s rule. He appealed the conviction and never served his full sentence. Oneyearlater,hereturnedtoBaghdad andwasmadetheGeneralDirectorofCulture and Media at the Supreme National De-Ba’athification Commission.
As a result of his Israel trip, he lost his place on the commission.
Mr al-Alusi has made enemies in the current regime as a result of his liberal stance. Living under threat “is normal”, he says.
He is also a friend of Edwin Shuker, a Baghdad-born member of the British Board of Deputies, who fled Iraq in the 1970s.
Mr al-Alusi hopes that, in line with the 2005Iraqiconstitution,peoplesuchasMr Shuker could one day regain their citizenship. When Mr Shuker spent Pesach in Baghdad this year, Mr al-Alusi provided him with security.
Mr Shuker said: “Mithal has been a beacon for upholding human rights, rights for women and all minorities. He has been of great assistance when any member of the Jewish community needed him.”
Iraq needs peace withevery country that is afraid of terror’
Mithal al-Alusi ( left). Aftermath of a car bomb attack in Baghdad’s Karrada area in April