Mithal Alusi to Face Charges Over Israel Visit
Before anyone begins to fret let me just say that I think that all this will play out brilliantly for Mithal.
Here’s what happened today: the Iraqi Parliament unanimously voted (…that included the Kurds, I believe) to lift parliamentary immunity from Mithal Alusi (liberal and secular Sunni MP for Baghdad, head of the Iraqi Nation Party) over his attendance at last week’s Counter-Terrorism Conference in Hezliyah, Israel.
Parliament also voted to bar him from attending any more sessions, or from traveling outside the country. He is to face charges of treason that carry the death penalty.
Iraq is still at a state of war with Israel.
I can’t help but chuckle as I write this: Alusi is a bad-ass, and these folks, especially the Islamists, don’t realize that they are falling into his trap. The Minister of State for National Security, Abdel-Karim al-‘Anizi, made the mistake of calling Alusi an Israeli agent today, only to get Alusi to retort that al-‘Anizi is an Iranian spy; Alusi then proceeded to beat-up al-‘Anizi.
This is classic political theatre as Iraqis get ready for elections. The so-called Iraq ‘analysts’ and ‘experts’ will have a hard time explaining when this is all over why such antics work to Alusi’s favor. Welcome to the rough-n-tumble politics of the New Iraq.
A little over a week ago, I saw Alusi and he gave no indication that he’s about to pull off another one of maverick stunts. In retrospect, I now realize that he had something up his sleeve.
Alusi has been going to conference in Herzliyah every year for the last four years. It was his decision to put last week’s visit into the political spotlight.
I spoke to Alusi earlier today, and this is what he had to say: “America doesn’t have the confidence to deter Iran from building a nuclear weapon. The Americans are even preventing Israel from saving itself. Iraqis and Israelis are the two nations that will suffer the most from a radical Iranian leadership that can threaten us with nuclear weapons. Thus, Iraq and Israel must find a strategy to counter this threat. Time is running out.”
“I am not honored to be in such company in the parliament. Half of them are working for the Iranians or the terrorists, and the other half is distracted by money. 90 percent of Saddam’s laws are still in effect, what has the parliament done to legislate new laws that give Iraqis their rights according to the new constitution? There are parliamentarians who are hiding in Iran because they will be arrested if they return to Iraq, but has parliament lifted their immunity and disbarred them? No. There are heads of parliamentary blocs who have arrest warrants out in their name for supporting and financing terrorism, but no one does anything.
“There are tens of ex-ministers and officials who stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the Iraqi state, and parliament passes a law to give them amnesty because they are all from the same political parties. I have to serve the voters who elected me, but really I am uncomfortable being in the company of many of these parliamentarians.”
Alusi added, “Nouri al-Maliki is a close friend; he is a patriot and good hearted man, but he is helpless. He is surrounded by rings of Iranian spies and corrupt bureaucrats. He is managed by them, rather than the other way round. Iraq needs new management.”
As regards his elections message, “I want to tell the Iraqi voter: don’t vote for me if you don’t find me convincing. But use your vote as a protest against all these parties in parliament and government. Tell them that they are fired. Fired for failing at every level in managing this country.”
“They are trying to distract the voter with issues such as Israel and Kirkuk. They are terrified by elections because they know that the Iraqi people will punish them for failure.”
This is one of Alusi's more recent pronouncements on an Iraqi TV channel; this is why he's seen as controversial (English subtitles):
It is interesting to look through the comments section on Al-Arabiya TV's web coverage on the Alusi story (...sorry, almost all of is in Arabic). One would think that it would be cram full of Arab nationalists (...Arabiya is Saudi-owned) denouncing Mithal as a Zionist spy; on the contrary, the response is predominately supportive. The catch line is that Alusi was punished for speaking out against Iran, not for visiting Israel.