In a perfect world, Mithal al-Alusi would lead the biggest Sunni party in Iraq and hold either a top cabinet position or the presidency itself. (The position of prime minister belongs to Shiites forevermore.) He’s a secularist, a stalwart friend of the United States, and one of the few Iraqi politicians ever to visit Israel. As it is, his party holds one seat and he’s being pressured by the cancer to the east to take their money and play ball. Not only has he refused, he’s gone public about the bribe. Which I guess means he’s made his peace with fate and is willing to accept the consequences for doing one last good deed for his country:

Like most of the members of the Iraqi parliament, both Sunni and Shiite, Mithal al-Alusi has been offered cash by the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi. But unlike most of his colleagues in the parliament, Mr. al-Alusi has made the bribe public by telling the story to this journalist…

A meeting was arranged through the interlocutor with Mr. Qomi, who brought to Mr. al-Alusi’s office a fine red Persian carpet. “I told the ambassador,” Mr. al-Alusi said, “I have a problem. You are involved in the terrorist problems of Iraq.” The ambassador replied that Iran had no connection to terrorism, but Mr. al-Alusi continued: “I said, ‘You cannot yet attack London or New York with the atom bomb you build, but I am your neighbor. You could attack us.'”…

A senior Iraqi minister here last week, who asked to speak anonymously, said that it is well known that Iranians are paying off both Sunni and Shiite legislators. “Any Iraqi who takes this money should be ashamed, but many are taking it,” the minister said.

American officials also say that Iranian influenced corruption is a problem, though they refused to say so on the record because of a general policy of not publicly undercutting the Iraqi government. But a National Security Council strategy released in January to coincide with the president’s announcement of the military surge said bluntly that Iranian agents had “burrowed” into the Iraqi national security structures. Indeed one criticism of the new national security ministry, created as a Shiite counterweight to the CIA-created and largely Sunni Iraqi Intelligence agency, is that its membership is effectively vetted by Iran’s revolutionary guard.

Why would Iran care about small potatoes like al-Alusi? The only answer I can think of is that they want him as a trophy. They know he’s famously pro-western, so to have him flip would be a finger in Bush’s eye and hugely demoralizing for the cause of political progress. They’re working their propaganda on all fronts pretty outrageously lately, too, and this would be of a piece with that. He deserves much greater renown than he has in America for saying no.

Not that any of this will stop Condi from saying pretty please in asking Iran to come back to the bargaining table. And not that this will, either.

Update: Remember that story from a few months ago about the Iranian parliament trying to truncate Ahmadinejad’s term by 18 months? They’re giving it another go, says Pajamas, and if they can get the bill in front of the Expediency Council, which is led by his archrival, Ayatollah Rafsanjani, they’ve got a shot at making it happen. Whether “Mahdi” would go quietly in that case or whether it would precipitate some sort of internecine warfare between hardliners and “pragmatists” is anyone’s guess.