Iraqi Hero: Mithal Al Alusi

This blog entry tells the story of Mithal Al Alusi. Mr. al Alusi is a Sunni Arab Iraqi from the Sunni Arab-dominated western Anbar Province. His father was a literature professor, so he comes from an educated and prominent family. Mr. al Alusi went into exile in 1976 to escape Saddam’s tyranny. He was arrested for occupying the Iraqi embassy in Germany while Saddam was in power. During his time in prison, he learned about the heroic anti-Nazi Germans who had been murdered in German prisons during the Nazi era. He urged the prisons to build a memorial to these heroes to no avail.

He was originally a member of Dr. Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC) and was a leader of the De-Ba’athification Commission. The De-Ba’athification Commission was formed after the fall of the Saddam regime to remove high-ranking Ba’athists from the military and government while avoiding persecution of Sunni Arabs. But then al Alusi did the unthinkable, violating an overwhelming taboo in Iraqi and Arab politics. He visited Israel in 2004 and attended the Interdisciplinary Conference in Herzeliya, where he delivered a message of support for Israeli democracy.

The retaliation against him and his family was immediate and overwhelming. He was expelled from the INC and removed from the De-Ba’thification Commission. In addition, he faced an assassination attempt by Ba’athist killers in February, 2005, in Baghdad. He was forced to witness the murder of his two sons and only children Jamal and Ayman in front of his very eyes.

But even in the face of this horrific loss, he refused to surrender to terror. He formed his own political party which competed in the Iraqi parliamentary elections in 2005. He ran on a platform of secular democracy, women’s rights, and alliance with Israel, the U.S., and the West. He gained 36,000 votes and won one seat in the Iraqi parliament. His highly admirable courage in the face of terror deserves to be widely known in Israel.

In 2005, he won the American Jewish Committee’s Moral Courage award. During his speech, he said,” No country can deal with terrorism alone. We need an alliance of democratic countries, to make it clear to terrorists that there is no dealing with them.  There is only one way – to respect peace and human rights.” He supports the idea of an “Atlantic alliance” between the U.S., Turkey, Israel, Iraq, and possibly Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Following his second visit to Israel in 2008, the Iraqi parliament tried to strip him of his parliamentary immunity so he could be sentenced to death for fraternizing with the enemy.  Thankfully, the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court ruled in his favor.  The fact that the leading Iraqi court supported him is a remarkable indication of the development of the rule of law and independent judiciary, a critical component of any emerging democracy.

He lost his seat in the 2010 parliamentary elections in Iraq, which were marred by charges of fraud.  Mr. al Alusi continues to live in danger in Iraq. In February, 2012, he suffered yet another assassination attempt. and blamed Iranian Islamists for this attack against him. In August, 2012, he was dispossessed from his home in the Baghdad Green Zone, shortly after claiming that the Iranians had funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to the Assad regime in Syria through the Iraqi Central Bank.

He also protested powerfully against Obama’a appointment of Sen. Chuck Hagel as the U.S. Secretary of Defense, calling him a “minister of chaos.”  He criticized Hagel’s refusal to go to war against Iran and said his position on Iran makes him unsuitable for the position of U.S. Secretary of Defense.  He said, ““This is not a minister of defense, it’s a minister of chaos. [Choosing Hagel] makes it seem Mr. Obama is just a joke, American power is just a joke. If a soldier says, ‘I will never go in a war. I am afraid of war, he is not a soldier. A minister of defense should be a man who understands that if there is a need, he will move. To have a minister of defense who will never go to war–that is how it’s translated to us–even if there is no alternative … this is dangerous. ”

Al Alusi shows moral clarity about the Iranian regime’s mortal threat to Israel, Iraq, and the U.S. which is missing in the U.S. foreign policy establishment.  His attitude partly reflects  historical hostilities between Sunni Arabs and Shi’ite Persians.  But he also takes a bold stand for freedom under perilous conditions.  His courageous resistance to all forms of tyranny, including secular Ba’athism and both Sunni and Shi’ite Islamism, remains critical for the survival of Iraq’s fragile democracy and highly relevant to the U.S. and Israel.

About the Author
Rachel's educational background includes a B.A. in international relations from Brown University; she has been an independent scholar, analyst, and researcher about Middle Eastern affairs for 12 years; Her focus has been on Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Egypt.