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Iraq passes law making contact with Israel punishable by death

Hundreds of supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr celebrate legislation by chanting anti-Israel slogans at Baghdad rally; unclear how law will be implemented

Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gather in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on May 26, 2022, to celebrate the passing of a bill that criminalizes normalization of ties with Israel. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)
Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gather in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on May 26, 2022, to celebrate the passing of a bill that criminalizes normalization of ties with Israel. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraqi lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill criminalizing normalization of ties and any relations, including business ties, with Israel. The legislation says that violation of the law is punishable with the death sentence or life imprisonment.

The law was approved with 275 lawmakers voting in favor of it in the 329-seat assembly. A parliament statement said the legislation is “a true reflection of the will of the people.”

Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party won the largest number of seats in Iraq’s parliamentary elections last year, called for Iraqis to take to the streets to celebrate this ”great achievement.” Hundreds later gathered in central Baghdad, chanting anti-Israel slogans.

It was unclear how the law will be implemented as Iraq has not recognized Israel since the country’s formation in 1948; the two nations have no diplomatic relations.

The legislation also entails risks for companies working in Iraq and found to be in violation of the bill.

Earlier this year, Iran fired a dozen ballistic missiles towards the northern city of Erbil in the Kurdish-run north, saying it was targeting an Israeli intelligence base.

A picture taken on March 13, 2022, shows a view of a damaged building after an overnight attack in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region. (Safin Hamed/AFP)

The home of Baz Karim, the CEO of the oil company KAR GROUP, was heavily damaged in the attack. KAR has been accused in the past of quietly selling oil to Israel.

A report by the Iraqi parliament’s fact-finding committee said it found no evidence to support Iranian accusations of an Israeli spy base in Erbil.

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