Iraqi Ally of Israel on Hagel, “This is Not a Minister of Defense, But a Minister of Chaos” (INTERVIEW)
On Friday I spoke with former Iraqi Parliamentarian Mithal al Alusi, who has championed counter-terrorism cooperation and normalized relations between Iraq and Israel. This Arab ally of Israel is dismayed by what he sees as President Obama’s abandonment of the liberals and moderates of the Mideast.
In particular, Alusi thinks Obama is signaling weakness in support of genuine liberals and moderates, and appeasement of extremists such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as well as Islamist extremists in his own country, Iraq. Furthermore, he views the President’s nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) to the position of Secretary of Defense as a sign of weakness that he thinks is confusing moderates and emboldening Islamist extremists throughout the Mideast.
“What we hear from your country makes us so confused,” Alusi said. “What [potential] American defense minister will say he will never go to war? Such a statement from a high level politician will … push Iran to understand there is no serious position in America.”
Regarding Iran, Hagel said publicly in 2006, “I do not expect any kind of military solution on the Iran issue … a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.”
Alusi commented last week, “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.”
He added, “If a soldier says, ‘I will never go in a war. I am afraid of war, he is not a soldier.'”
Alusi clarified that he believes a military option against Iran’s nuclear program should be undertaken “only if there is no alternative.” But he believes Hagel’s outright statement of refusal to consider the possibility will be interpreted in the Mideast as a sign of weakness, and exploited.
“This is not the best way,” said Alusi. “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.”
In recent months, thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets in protest of the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s rule as violence has rocked the nation. Suicide bombers have killed hundreds, sometimes dozens per day, in cities across Iraq including Baghdad, Kirkuk (Kurdistan), and Fallujah as well as smaller towns like Hilla, Karbala, and Dujail.
Alusi believes that the violence is driven by extremist militias, and calls on President Obama to project U.S. power and stop sending what Alusi views as signals of weakness to extremists.
“If you talk to the Taliban, Salafis, Wahhabis, Hezbollah, and the Iranians, you cannot expect peace,” Alusi said. “I would like him to speak in a way this is serious … Iran, the Taliban, Islamist parties, need to feel the U.S. is a superpower, not [that Obama] is a good boy for the Islamists.”
Regarding this week’s Israeli election, Alusi said, “I wish the parties there understand their responsibility after the election that … the safety of human beings should be number one, a very serious goal for the new government.”
Asked what he believes would empower moderates across the Middle East, Alusi urged Obama to make clear his support for them, not the Islamists.
“I would like to say, Mr. Obama, are you interested in peace in the Mideast?” Alusi said. “Are you interested in human rights and values, which your country and everybody paid a big price for? You are supporting the wrong side … If you want to support a free Iraq, don’t [appease] Iranians who are killing our people every day.”
He added, “America should guarantee there will be no major change in the balance of power. If it changes, if Iran gets an atom bomb, we will have a war. If jihadists [continue to] gain power in Iraq and other countries, there will be war.”