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New visit to Israel, new repercussions

Iraqi lawmakers vote to seek charges against colleague Mithal Alusi for his latest trip. He refuses to be cowed.

September 15, 2008|From Times Staff Writers

BAGHDAD — Iraq's parliament faces a host of pressing issues: how to divide the country's oil wealth, how to organize provincial elections, how to sort out the future of U.S. troops on Iraqi soil.

But the yelling and fist-waving that came during Sunday's raucous session had nothing to do with these things. Instead, lawmakers were debating what to do about one of their own, Mithal Alusi, whose recent visit to Israel has stirred angry emotions here.

After a combative session, lawmakers voted to lift Alusi's parliamentary immunity and seek charges against him for visiting the Jewish state. They also said the fiery, secular Sunni Arab politician should be prevented from traveling abroad again.

Alusi, who accuses Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government of being in the pocket of Iran, reacted angrily during the session, which was broadcast live on television.

"You are selling Iraq! You are pushing the region to war!" he bellowed, alleging that many Iraqi lawmakers are collaborating with Iranian agents. "I will visit and I will go wherever there is an issue of interest to Iraq."

News of Alusi's visit to Israel, which took place last week, emerged over the weekend. It was his third trip to the Jewish state since 2004. The first got him evicted from the post he had held in Iraq's first post-Saddam Hussein government and earned him the wrath of many Iraqis, as well as a host of assassination attempts. One of those ended with his two sons dying in a hail of bullets that riddled Alusi's car in 2005.

"They were stupid to think that by killing my sons, they would make me soft," Alusi said in an interview with The Times the following year.

Alusi said this latest visit to Israel, to attend a terrorism symposium at an academic institute, was aimed at preventing such attacks and safeguarding countries throughout the region. He was reportedly greeted with enthusiastic applause after being introduced at a panel discussion on the Iraq war. Local news reports quoted him as urging cooperation in intelligence-gathering among Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Turkey and the United States.

This "will ensure that we have the correct information and can respond fast," said Alusi, who also was quoted as saying that Iran had tried to pay him to cut his ties with Israel.

"That's how the Iranians work," Alusi said.

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