IRAQI MP’S IS­RAEL PEACE CALL

But he still thinks Is­rael can help to end Iraqi ter­ror­ism

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY SANDY RASHTY

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’

PHO­TOS: AP/ GETTY IM­AGES

Mithal al-Alusi ( left). Af­ter­math of a car bomb at­tack in Bagh­dad’s Kar­rada area in April

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