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May 1, 2012 1:20 pm

Exclusive: Former Iraqi Parliamentarian Says Nouri al-Maliki is a Tool of Iran

avatar by Heather Robinson

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Prime Minister of Iraq Nuri al-Maliki listens to an opening speech during the Sarafiya bridge opening in Kadhimiya, Iraq. Photo: wiki commons.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who met recently with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is being used as a “tool of Iran,” and Iran is using Iraq as a way station for transporting fighters and weapons to Syria to support the regime of dictator Bashar al Assad, according to former Iraqi Parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi.

These are just two of the controversial assertions Alusi has made in interviews during April, presenting a picture of his country as becoming increasingly dominated by Iran since the U.S. troop withdrawal in December.

Alusi, who served two terms in Iraq’s Parliament and has been an outspoken advocate of normalized relations between Iraq and Israel, said earlier this month that Iran’s agents are transporting materials that appear to be weapons on “buses” to Syria via Iraq. It is just the latest, he charges, in a litany of Iranian abuses against his country and its people including money-laundering, sponsoring of terrorism, and bribery of Iraqi politicians, all of which have intensified, he says, since the U.S. troop withdrawal.

Alusi, a Sunni Muslim, has a history of voicing controversial views, as well as of making decisions that have frequently angered extremists.

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In 2004, while serving as a leader in Iraq’s national commission for de-Ba’athification, he traveled to Israel to attend a counter-terrorism conference. Upon his return, terrorists murdered his two sons, Ayman, 30, and Gamal, 22, and one of their bodyguards in revenge for Alusi’s decision to travel to Israel. Minutes after the attack, he told reporters, “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.”

Elected to Iraq’s Parliament as an independent in 2005, he promoted counter-terrorism cooperation among Iraq, Israel, and other democracies and decried Iran’s interference in allegedly peddling influence with Iraqi politicians.

A maverick in Iraqi politics, Alusi has frequently been ahead of the curve. In 2006, he told this reporter that Iran was supporting both sides of the Iraqi insurgency—a claim that was controversial at the time but was ultimately confirmed by U.S. intelligence sources.

In February, he told this reporter that Iraq’s Central Bank was processing hundreds of millions of dollars a day more than usual, and that, according to sources within the bank, Iran’s agents were behind this financial maneuvering. He also said that, according to sources within the Iraqi intelligence community, the same individuals who were  “buying hundreds of millions of dollars in cash” from Iraq’s Central Bank were arranging for these dollars to be carried from Iraq into Syria, and then transported to Iran in order to skirt the U.S.-led sanctions.

“We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in cash going in to Syria–in suitcases–and then it goes to Iran,” he said at the time.

In early April, it was reported that the Central Bank of Iraq had tightened its clampdown on its sales of dollars – due to concerns that buyers were using them to launder money and circumvent U.S.-led sanctions against Iran and Syria.

Last week Alusi provided more examples of what he characterized as large-scale Iranian interference in Iraq that he believes are intended to pave the way for Iranian domination of the Mideast.

One example he cited of Iran’s alleged interference is the establishment of several banks recently in Iraq that he said “have the right to buy U.S. or Iraqi dollars from the Iraqi Central Bank.” He said that “Iranian intelligence” has set up these banks so Iran’s agents can skirt the clampdown and continue laundering money. Because banks in Iraq are not regulated in the same way as U.S. banks are, it is easier to set up new ones without scrutiny, he said.

“In Iraq, [if] you have 2.3 million dollars you can make a bank,” he said. “Iranian intelligence did this. There are a few private banks in Iraq, and mostly they belong to Iraqi politicians and Iranian intelligence.”

Moreover, Iran funds militias inside Iraq that conduct terrorist operations, and have stepped up their terrorism against Iraqis since the U.S. troop withdrawal, according to Alusi.

“All of the terrorists are from Syria, Iran, or Hezbollah – and they are killing people on the street,” he said.

Alusi said the Iraqi government is under-reporting casualties.

“Sometimes the real number of people killed is 50, 60 more [than what Iraq’s government reports],” Alusi said. “Does the U.S. embassy know that? Of course.”

In addition, Alusi said Iranian-trained, Iraqi militias are being “transported” to Syria, under orders from Tehran, to “help” Syrian security in a government-waged crackdown that has claimed the lives of 9,000 Syrians since last year.

Numerous members of the current Iraqi Parliament are taking money from Iran in exchange for supporting Iran’s positions regarding Syria’s crackdown and other issues, and for their compliance in allowing Iran to turn Iraq into a way station for weapons and militia transport, according to Alusi. He added that several years ago, people he believes to be Iranian agents offered him money to stop speaking up about these issues, but he has declined the money.

“If I said, ‘Iran is good,’ I would receive a few million dollars, and all would be good for me,” he said. “I would be powerful and very famous in the government. [But] I don’t want to do that. This [attempted bribery] is a kind of terrorizing, a kind of way of saying, ‘You have no choice.'”

Many Iraqi politicians are afraid to reject Iran’s alleged bribes, according to Alusi.

“My people, I believe they are good,” he said. “Iraqi politicians—many of them—either are under Iranian control, or they have problems. If you are against them they are fighting you and kicking you into a corner, if they don’t kill you.”

In February, Alusi survived an assassination attempt by two armed gunmen.

He resists caving in to Iran’s and its extremist supporters’ agenda because he has already lost so much, he said.

“Maybe because I lost my sons, maybe because of that,” he refuses to cooperate, he said. “[But] can I tell other politicians …’Let them kill your family?’ They are afraid.”

Alusi would like to see President Obama acknowledge that all is not well in Iraq, and to “take his historic responsibility” to stand up to Iran, he said.

“When the U.S. says, ‘Everything is OK in Iraq,’ we Iraqis are saying, ‘My God, we are being killed. What is OK, that we are being killed? What is OK, that the terrorists are more active than before?'”

He argued that the U.S. troop withdrawal sent Iran a signal that it could have its way with Iraq.

“The U.S. has told the Iranians, ‘Now you are free to do what you want.'”

He is not against the Iranian people.

“Iranians are normal human beings,” he said. “But I am against the regime.”

Alusi issued a plea to the U.S. President to “Stop the Iranian nuclear program, terrorist program, and missiles program.”

If Iran can be stopped, human rights and democracy can still have a future in the region, he maintained.

“I am an optimist,” he said. “Can they control us? No. They are rubbish … Please Mr. Obama, do not be afraid [of] the mullahs … If we do nothing, terrorists will go further and further. We are losing Iraq to the hands of Iran and Hezbollah, to fascists. We paid a huge price, many Iraqis did, and Americans did. The only thing that will change the situation is if the White House wakes up. I am Arab. I am Muslim. We have to fight for the new generation. We are not afraid. Why should you be afraid?”

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  • esther kandel

    Thank you for this outstanding article. Mithal Al Alusi repeatedly has warned the United States about the danger of Iran, yet it fell on deaf ears. I have the great pleasure of knowing this man, and his words must be heeded.

  • Marylin Pitz

    What a heroic, selfless individual, Mithal al Alusi. Hope there is still sufficient concern in the USA for the people of Iraq, who with trust in a fledgling democracy we tried to create, turned out en masse for their first free elections after the fall of Sadam Hussein. Remember how they stood in lines to vote? We and they have sacrificed a great deal. What a shame if it was all for naught, and Iran swallows them up. President Obama, don’t let that happen!
    Thanks for the info, Ms. Robinson

  • Louis Marano

    Outstanding article. Heather Robinson reports what others miss — or turn away from. The United States, during its long presence in Iraq, missed an opportunity to get behind Alusi and his secular, democratic party. And it wasn’t out of ignorance.

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