How to Deal with Iran’s Growing and Imminent Threat: In Iraq and Beyond – In Conversation with Mithal Al-Alusi

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How to Deal with Iran’s Growing and Imminent Threat: In Iraq and Beyond – In Conversation with Mithal Al-Alusi

23 March @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Iranian influence in Iraq has grown steadily since the toppling of Saddam Hussain’s government in 2003. Shia factions in Iraqi government such as the Islamic Dawa Party, Sadrist Movement and the Supreme Iraqi council have striven to improve relations between the two countries for twenty years and have achieved an entrenched political and economic partnership with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Beyond sectarian and economic ties, the last ten years have seen a deepening security partnership develop, specifically surrounding Iranian military assistance in Eastern Iraq in the fight against ISIS. Paramilitary groups connected to more than a dozen Iraqi political parties with ties to Iran have used violence and intimidation to crush opposition to Iranian influence in the country.

The United States, and the Western World are put in a difficult position by these rapidly shifting dynamics. Beyond diplomatic pressure and limited economic coercion the options are limited. Economic pressure could threaten to drive Iraq closer into the hands of China and Iran, and without a meaningful physical presence in the region there is little that can be done to exercise American influence within Iraqi decision-making on the ground.

The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to welcome you to this meeting where an Iraqi politician and the former leader of the Iraq Ummah Party Mithal al-Alusi, and Dr Alan Mendoza will discuss the latest political developments in Iraq in relation to the growing Iranian influence in Iraq and the wider region, the implications of the growing and imminent nuclear development threat that Iran poses and how the West can best counter it.

 

 

Mithal al-Alusi is an Iraqi politician and the former leader of the Iraq Ummah Party. Alusi has been very outspoken and brave in his stance against Iranian intervention in Iraq and for his relentless fight for civil rights and democracy in Iraq. His repeated calls for peace with Israel and publicly made visits to Israel, the only Iraqi serving politician to have done so to date, have made him a constant target with a tragic loss of his two sons during an assassination attempt in 2005.
 
In 1976, he was sentenced to death in absentia while studying in Cairo for trying to undermine Saddam Hussein. Mithal Al-Alusi was then a member of the Ba’ath Party, but had been aligned with opponents of Hussein within the party such as Abdel Khalia Al-Samari who was himself killed by the security services. Alusi went into exile in Germany and worked as a businessman. In December 2002, he was involved in the takeover of the Iraqi embassy in Berlin to protest Hussein’s tyranny, and was convicted of hostage taking by a German court and sentenced to three years in jail. His sentence was later reduced to house arrest. He returned to Iraq in October 2003 and joined the Iraqi National Congress.

Mithal Al-Alusi was elected to the Iraq Council of Representatives as an independent in the December 2005 election and was once again elected in the 2014 Iraqi Parliamentary election as part of the Civil Democratic Alliance which is an Iraqi political coalition formed by various liberal and civil figures and his one seat party represented by himself. Mithal Al-Alusi is a Sunni Muslim Arab politician who has consistently stood for the civil rights of minorities in Iraq, women’s rights and supports a close alliance with the West in particular the USA, the UK and Israel.
 
 After the invasion of Iraq, Alusi was appointed the General Director of Culture and Media at the Supreme National De-Baathification Commission. In September 2004, after making a public visit to Israel, al-Alusi was expelled from the Iraqi National Congress and sacked from his job at the De -Baathification Commission. He was indicted by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq for “having contacts with enemy states”, a crime under a 1969 Baathist law. He was subsequently released after the Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court, Iraq’s highest court, ruled in his favour on 24 November 2008, stating it was no longer a crime to travel to Israel, and that Iraqis could travel to wherever they wanted.
 
On February 19, 2005, Al-Alusi’s car was ambushed by armed assailants in Baghdad. His two sons Ayman, 29, and Jamal, 24, were killed in the attack, as well as one of his bodyguards. The American Jewish Committee gave him a “Moral Courage” award in response. Then Culture Minister, Asaad al-Hashimi was convicted in absentia of the killings.
 
In September 2008, Alusi again visited Israel and spoke at a conference on counter-terrorism organised by the IDC, a private college in Herzliya. There he criticised Iran, saying it was continually meddling in Iraq. He called for intelligence sharing between Iraq, Israel the US, Jordan, Turkey and Kuwait. When he returned, the National Assembly of Iraq voted to remove his parliamentary immunities and ban him from travelling. The Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Saffiedine al-Safi said he would seek a prosecution for “visiting a country that Iraq considers an enemy”. Such a crime can carry the death penalty. Alusi appealed to the Supreme Federal Court who overturned the lifting of his immunity, ruling that it was unconstitutional as no crime had been committed.
 
More recently, Alusi is based in Erbil, Kurdistan, where he is protected. Alusi continues to deliver his invaluable messages in Iraq and the region as well as to the West, also through high level channels in the US including the Washington Institute, an organisation with the mission to advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them.

 

 

Alan Mendoza is a Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Henry Jackson Society, Britain’s leading think tank fighting for the principles and alliances which keep societies free. He directs strategy for the organisation as well as acting as its main public face in mediums as diverse as the BBC, Sky, CNBC, Al-Jazeera, Bloomberg, LBC and TalkRadio. On the print side, Alan is a columnist for City AM, London’s business newspaper, and has contributed to The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Sun and a host of international newspapers and magazines.

Having obtained a B.A. (Hons.) and M.Phil in history at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Alan completed a Ph.D. at the same institution. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was the Parliamentary Candidate for the Conservative Party in the Brent Central Constituency for the 2015 General Election. He is also a Trustee of the President Reagan Memorial Fund Trust.

 

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EVENT SUMMARY

 

 

The Henry Jackson Society was honored to be joined by Mithal Al-Alusi to discuss the contemporary history of Iraq, his own experiences in Iraqi government, and the encroaching threat of Iranian influence in both Iraq and the broader Middle East. Dr. Alan Mendoza opened the discussion by introducing Mithal Al-Alusi and recounting his eventful career in Iraqi politics from his involvement with the Ba’ath party to his long-term opposition to Saddam Hussain and desire to liberalize Iraqi society from within. Mr. Al-Alusi then commented on the last twenty years of Iraqi history and the current state of relations between Iran and Iraq. Al-Alusi argued that proponents of the Iraq War were naive to assume that the transformation of Iraqi society would be peaceful or easy, and that a lack of American and British resolve has dramatically empowered Iran in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria over the last twenty years. Reflecting on the invasion of Iraq, Al-Alusi said that regardless of the moral and strategic complexity surrounding the outbreak of war, it constituted a moral commitment to the future of Iraq which is being undermined by the strength of Iranian influence in the country. Al-Alusi fears that Iraq is becoming an Iranian militia controlled government that is increasingly influenced by foreign interests due to the combination of Iranian hard power and Chinese investment. Al-Alusi argued that an ongoing strategic and economic partnership between Iraq, Britain, and America will be integral to combating Iranian and Chinese influence in Iraq going forward.

 

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Venue

Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London, England, SW1P 4QP
21-24 Millbank
Westminster, SW1P 4QP United Kingdom
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SPEAKER
Mithal al-Alusi

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