Mithal Al-Alusi is angry. He is angry with Iran for supporting global terrorism. He is angry with Syrian President Bashar Assad for oppressing and killing his own people. He is angry with his own prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq, for colluding with the two.
But most of all, he is angry with US President Barack Obama for allowing this all to happen.
“Obama has handed Iraq over to Iran and said ‘do what you like’,” Alusi, a former Iraqi member of parliament who hails from the tribal Sunni province of al-Anbar in western Iraq, told the Times of Israel in a telephone interview from his home in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.
Ten years after freeing Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, the Obama administration has allowed a no less dictatorial regime to emerge, and then handed it over to its avowed enemy Iran, Alusi said.
Hugging the current Iraqi regime, Alusi holds, is the last thing the Obama administration should be doing right now
On March 24, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Iraq during a tour of the region, expressing “the strong US commitment to Iraq,” a state department message read. The US completed its military withdrawal from Iraq at the end of 2011, but continues to closely cooperate with the predominantly Shiite coalition led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. As part of the Strategic Framework Agreement, the US will provide nearly $300 million in aid to Iraq in 2013.
“I believe that if Iraq remains inclusive and cohesive, it has the best chance of succeeding,” Kerry said in a statement to the press. But Alusi believes that presently Iraq is nothing of the kind.
“The current regime is dictatorial, uninterested in the law, the constitution, or human rights,” he charged. “Saddam Hussein was a professional murderer and a professional liar. The current regime simply belongs to Iran. Members of the ruling party openly admit working for Iranian intelligence and brag about it.”
Hugging the current Iraqi regime, Alusi holds, is the last thing the Obama administration should be doing right now.
“America is making a big mistake. Its policy will lead our region into war,” he added. “This region must be liberated from corrupt regimes like those in Syria and Iran, but also in [US-allied states] like Bahrain.”
‘I will repeat it, even if these terrorists try to kill me again, peace is the only solution. Peace with Israel is the only solution for Iraq’
Merely speaking to an Israeli publication about these matters could be considered an act of treason by Iraq’s intelligence services, who are likely listening in on the telephone conversation, Alusi said, but added that he would rather die than remain silent.
Indeed, he has paid a high price for speaking truth to power. Alusi’s biography is a microcosm, even if an exaggerated one, of the suffering and displacement borne by many citizens of his war-torn country.
An anti-Baath activist since the mid 1970s, Alusi was forced to flee the Middle East for Germany, where in 2002 he staged a takeover of the Iraqi embassy in protest of Saddam’s human rights abuses. The following year, after the American invasion in March, he was back in Iraq heading the de-Baathification commission responsible of cleansing the administration of Saddam loyalists.
As an outspoken advocate of normalization with Israel, Alusi traveled to Tel Aviv in 2004 to take part in the annual counterterrorism conference at Herzliyah’s Interdisciplinary Center. Upon his return to Iraq, he was stripped of his official positions for violating a law banning Iraqis from traveling to Israel.
On February 8, 2005, gunmen ambushed Alusi’s convoy driving through western Baghdad, killing his two sons Ayman and Jamal and his bodyguard. He had no doubt the attack was a response to his pro-Israel stance.
“I will repeat it, even if these terrorists try to kill me again, peace is the only solution. Peace with Israel is the only solution for Iraq. Peace with everybody, but no peace for the terrorists,” Alusi told AFP that day.
Alusi stood behind those words and traveled to Israel again in September 2008. A supreme court decision three months later saved him from prosecution after a parliamentary majority removed his diplomatic immunity. The court abrogated the Saddam-era law, ruling that it was no longer a crime for Iraqis to travel to Israel.
If the opportunity arose, Alusi would travel to Israel again. With 400,000 Iraqi Jews and their descendants currently living in Israel, Alusi believes that Iraq is well-positioned to serve as a bridge between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Peace will only come about through the will of the people, not through agreements signed by leaders,” he said. “But no peace can emerge with the existence of organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”
Iraq and Israel have shared interests in combating the Iranian threat and Islamist terrorism as well. But security coordination, not to mention full diplomatic relations, cannot come about as long as Maliki is in power, he said.
“I’ve never heard of fascists and traitors calling for peace,” he said of his own government. “As long as a militia is in power, there can be no peace.”
Despite his bleak prognosis of the present and his heavy personal loss, Alusi insists he will never leave Iraq. Somehow, he remains optimistic.
“We cannot look back to the past. For the sake of future generations we must look forward. The murderers are united, so we — who support human rights — must remain united as well.”