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The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship?

Arthur Chrenkoff’s Good News from Iraq series has propelled him upwards in the blogging ecosystem, and been picked up by Opinion Journal and Instapundit, amongst others. And it is no wonder why. Check out the latest instalment.

 

One of the items of interest involves Iraq’s ostensible desire to have relations with Israel:

As free Iraq resumes normal relations with other countries, an encouraging sign of future possibilities: “A powerful lobby is developing in Baghdad to promote the idea of diplomatic relations with Israel, the new Iraqi ambassador to Great Britain told Haaretz on Thursday.

 

“Dr. Salah al-Shaikhly, who was appointed two months ago, said that the issue will be raised after the general elections, and ‘now is not the right time.’ Al-Shaikhly told Haaretz that he did not have ‘any problem with Israel or Israelis who wish to visit Iraq,’ but he also noted, ‘I really don’t know what is the position of as yet, but you should know there is a strong lobby working for you in Iraq.’

 

“When asked if he was referring to the Americans, Al-Shaikhly responded, ‘No, I mean Iraqis, in Iraq, who want to establish relations with Israel, who are in favor of this idea. But the current situation is so uncertain, so volatile that any attempt to push this through, at this point, will most certainly backfire’.”

This morning’s Ha’aretz has more on this issue:

Many elements in Iraq are interested in diplomatic ties with Israel, according to Mithal al-Alousi, an aide to Ahmed Chalabi and a member of Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress Party, who was attending a conference on terrorism at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center this week. 
  
Al-Alousi heads the Iraqi government’s de-Baathification campaign, meant to keep Baathists from the old regime out of the new government. He told Haaretz that “many intellectuals in Iraq know that Israel must be taken into account as an existing fact and that generations of people have been born here. It is in Iraq’s interests to have diplomatic relations with everyone, and that is what we want.”

 

Ten days ago, the Iraqi ambassador in London told Haaretz that there is a powerful lobby in Baghdad pushing for ties with Israel. Sunday, the Arab Web site Illaf published a report saying that Iraqi Foreign Minister Hishiyar Zibai is the most prominent of those pushing for an end to the state of war between Iraq and Israel.

 

But Israeli officials are following American advice and keeping a low profile when it comes to talk of ties with Baghdad. The Israelis realize that raising their profile on the issue could harm the new Iraqi regime’s efforts to stabilize the country.

 

According to the Illaf report, quoting Iraqi diplomats in Amman, last week there was a meeting in Amman of senior Iraqis with Israelis. Jordanian government sources said there are contacts between Israelis and Iraqis, though usually it is business people, not government officials. The sources said the Iraqi defense minister also favors a thaw in relations with Israel, but Iraqi President Iyad Alawi is opposed, arguing that the Iraqi government should concentrate on rehabilitating the country.

 

According to al-Alousi, his controversial party boss, Chalabi, did not know about the trip to Israel, which was at the invitation of the conference organizers. He said Chalabi may not have known, but he supports contacts with Israel. It’s time to end the secrecy, he said, the truth shall win.

 

He complained that when he undertook to head the de-Baathification of Iraq’s government he asked Germany – the only other country that had a similar experience, with denazification – but had not received any cooperation from Berlin, or from any other country, about the best ways to go about the process of keeping officials from the former regime out of the new government.

 

Al-Alousi said he was aware of the risk of coming to Israel – he flew via Turkey – but with so many other threats against him, he was used to daily threats to his life. He said he expects to have a lot of problems from some people, but “faith in the cause is a guarantee I will solve the problems.”

Update: Maariv has more:

The former Iraqi opposition figure explained that the reason behind his arrival in Israel is that it is a vital component in the Middle East. “I view Israel as one of the elements that has a positive influence, of those who want peace and quiet in the region”.

 

Al-Alawasi stressed that Iraq is not asking Israel for military assistance. However, he added, there are many subjects in which both countries could cooperate. Among other messages, al-Alawasi asks to tell Israelis that “the Iraqi people believe in peace and democracy and longs for them”.

 

Al-Alawasi is a member of the London-based National Congress Party, which was the largest opposition party to Saddam’s rule. The party supported the US invasion of Iraq and even assisted its forces during their preparation.

 

“Saddam Hussein and the Bath’ party have, for years, taught today’s terror in Iraqi schools and no one saw it. The Americans may have the technology to end this war in two days but Saddam’s terror still exists in Iraq”, he noted.

 

According to al-Alawasi, “Today’s terrorism is assisted by Iran and Syria. Both nations wish to preserve this conflict in order to boost worldwide Jihad.”

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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