WASHINGTON - The head of a small secular political party in Iraq who lost his two sons in a suicide bombing last month is making the rounds of the U.S. capital to warn that Iran and Syria are trying to throttle democracy in his country.
"I am trying to explain the situation in Iraq," Mithal Jamal Hussein Al-Alusi said in an interview. "I am trying to make it clear to everybody that the Iranian and Syrian governments are against liberalization in Iraq."
"They listened, and in some ways I think they agreed," he said Friday.
Al-Alusi is from a scholarly and religious Sunni Arab family in Iraq. He was sentenced to death in absentia in 1976 - he was studying aeronautical engineering in Cairo at the time - for trying to undermine Saddam Hussein's control of the Baath party.
He escaped to Syria, then moved to Germany, returning in 2003 after Saddam was overthrown by U.S.-led forces. Last year he was expelled from Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress for attending a terrorism conference in Israel.
"I think we and Israel have the same interest, and there is no reason to have war," he told a reporter. "They are a democratic country and they are very close to America, as we hope to be, so from our own Iraqi interests we have to start a dialogue and establish peace."
Al-Alusi it trying to build a new party, the Democratic Party of the Iraqi nation. It fielded 25 candidates in Iraq's elections Jan. 30 for an interim assembly. He said it received 4,290 votes, "not bad for a small party," but not enough to win an assembly seat.
He escaped injury in the suicide bombing in Baghdad, but his two sons, Ayman, 29, and Jamal, 19, were among 21 people killed in the attack. An affiliate of al-Qaida and a branch of the Baath party claimed responsibility.
The two organizations have vowed to kill Al-Alusi, who is returning to Iraq next week.
Al-Alusi said he was telling administration officials and members of Congress that the Islamic parties in Iraq are very close to Iran and have the same ideology and the same goals.
"I am trying to explain that we are in the beginning of a process and we should have a red line and be very careful and remember what Hitler did - use democracy to control the people," he said.
He said those writing a Constitution for Iraq want to have an Islamic state. "We have to have professionals," he said.
He said he hoped Iranian agents were not infiltrating Iraqi Islamic parties or the Iraqi security system. "That is very dangerous," he said.