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Ahmad Chalabi - It's All Bad News
March 29, 2004 10:53 PM   Subscribe

Ahmad Chalabi, the Pentagon's heartthrob and the State Department's and CIA's heartbreak, has taken the lead in a yearlong political marathon. Temporary constitutional arrangements are structured to give the future prime minister more power than the president... Chalabi holds the ultimate weapons -- several dozen tons of documents and individual files seized by his Iraqi National Congress from Saddam Hussein's secret security apparatus. Coupled with his position as head of the de-Baathification commission, Chalabi, barely a year since he returned to his homeland after 45 years of exile, has emerged as the power behind a vacant throne... All the bases are loaded for a home run by MVP Chalabi. If successful, it will be an additional campaign issue president Bush could have done without. Saddam was good riddance. But was Chalabi a worthy democratic trade?
posted by y2karl (18 comments total)

 
And don't forget he provided Curveball, who peddled the tale of the mobile germ factories sometimes called the Winnebagos Of Death...

And then there is Ahmad Chalabi and His Iranian Connection

Chalabi, like any anti-Hussein leader, clearly would have had a vested interest in providing the United States with information that would lead it to invade Iraq and open the door for a new regime -- particularly a regime in which Shia would play a leading role. It ought not to have been a surprise that intelligence coming from the INC and Chalabi would tend to entice the United States to war. U.S. intelligence might have been more cautious with the INC, but if that is all there is to this story, then it is fairly straightforward.

However, there would appear to us to be something more here. In particular, there is a complexity that is usually omitted: namely, the relationship between Chalabi and leading figures in Iran. Prior to the war, Chalabi, an Iraqi Shiite who lived in the West for decades, made several trips to Tehran to confer with Iranian officials on a number of issues. He has continued to travel to Iran since the end of the war. Not to put too fine a point on it, Chalabi has had and continues to have excellent relations with Iran, as well as with leading Shia in Iraq.

As our readers will recall, we have argued since early fall that the guerrilla war in Iraq could be managed only if the Iraqi Shia were prepared to collaborate with the United States. We made two additional points: first, that the strings of the Iraqi Shia trail back to Iran, and any deal with the Shia would have to include a deal with Iran; and second, that any deal ultimately would hinge on a Shiite-dominated government in Iraq and the inclusion of Iraq in an Iranian sphere of influence. It has always been our view that the unanticipated rise of the guerrilla movement in Iraq forced this alliance upon the United States.

If we step back now, a different potential explanation emerges. First, Chalabi was extremely close to the Iranians prior to the war. Second, he provided much of Washington's prewar intelligence on Iraq. Third, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. Fourth, the Iranians, along with the Iraqi Shia, are the main beneficiaries of the U.S. invasion. In that case, who Chalabi was and whose interests he actually was serving become the central questions.


PS: On the Pollyanna tip:

Shiite Muslim religious extremists, backed by armed militias, are waging a campaign of intimidation to enforce a strict Islamic code of conduct in Iraq's second largest city. Neither the Iraqi police nor the British military forces that occupy Basra seem willing or able to stop it.

And that oil that's flowing so freely: Iraq is facing difficulties in exporting oil from both its northern and southern fields, the Middle East Economic Survey reports in its Monday edition.

It's All Bad News
posted by y2karl at 10:56 PM on March 29, 2004


Wow, great links. Thanks, y2karl.
posted by homunculus at 10:59 PM on March 29, 2004


Excellent finds.

Why hasn't FAIR or someone hired y2karl yet?
posted by skallas at 11:09 PM on March 29, 2004


The small type. :)
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:25 PM on March 29, 2004


No one's hired y2karl yet because he pays attention.
posted by interrobang at 12:51 AM on March 30, 2004


Because no one likes reading stuff that's both true and disheartening all the time.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:07 AM on March 30, 2004


chalabi sucks - anyone think this guy could be the next frankenstein american taxpayers will have to foot the bill to take out someday? (think pinochet, noriega, hussein, bin laden etc...) nah, he's an upstanding businessman who has never double-crossed anyone.
posted by specialk420 at 6:09 AM on March 30, 2004


on the otherhand... he probably wouldn't last very long ... so maybe we let he bing king for a couple months til he ends up 6 feet under... where the SOB belongs.
posted by specialk420 at 6:11 AM on March 30, 2004


nasty f*ck or mullah? (what a choice!)

What's the latest on direct elections? ever? soon? will it matter?
posted by amberglow at 6:14 AM on March 30, 2004


I eagerly await his trip to Jordan.
posted by trondant at 6:23 AM on March 30, 2004


Wide Royal pardon in Jordan may include Chalabi

Several Jordanian MPs have told Al Bawaba that unofficial talks between the parliament and the government over the issue of a wide royal pardon (general amnesty) are underway. Islamist deputies, who do not make up a majority in current parliament session, have expressed their satisfaction with the initiative, which they consider “a positive step by the government towards political openness”.

The current talks have also given rise to Ahmad Chalabi’s name, a powerful member of the Iraqi Interim Council, who was sentenced [in absentia] to 22 years for fraud and embezzlement following the collapse of the Petra bank in 1989. Several political analysts expect the pardon to include Chalabi.


Chalabi: A Questionable Use of U.S. Funding

Ahmad Chalabi has never paid much attention to rules. As an international financier, he was convicted in absentia in 1992 of embezzling millions from his own bank in Jordan. In the mid-'90s, the CIA tried to make him its point man in a plan to oust Saddam Hussein, but found he was not controllable, leading to a bitter divorce. "His primary focus was to drag us into a war that [Bill] Clinton didn't want to fight," says Whitley Bruner, the CIA agent who first contacted Chalabi in London in 1991. "He couldn't be trusted." Most recently, Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress have been accused of passing on hyped or fabricated reports from defectors on WMD that Saddam didn't have—but which provided the casus belli. Like the CIA, the State Department eventually cut off dealings with Chalabi.

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Today Chalabi is in Baghdad and wielding considerable influence as a prominent member of the Iraqi Governing Council. He's overseeing de-Baathification, a purge of alleged Saddam loyalists throughout the country. He apparently has no regrets that his WMD warnings have turned out to be inaccurate. What matters, Chalabi suggested recently, is that he finally got the regime change he had long sought. "As far as we're concerned we've been entirely successful," he told a British newspaper. "That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important."

Some in Congress disagree. NEWSWEEK has learned that the General Accounting Office, Congress's investigative arm, is opening a probe into the INC's use of U.S. government money the group received in 2001 and 2002. The issue under scrutiny is not whether Chalabi prodded America into a war on false pretenses; it is whether he used U.S. taxpayer dollars and broke U.S. laws or regulations to do so. Did Chalabi and the INC violate the terms of their funding by using U.S. money to sell the public on its anti-Saddam campaign and to lobby Congress?

posted by y2karl at 7:58 AM on March 30, 2004


To put it bluntly: Chalabi is a smart man, so he told the Bush people precisely what they wanted to hear.

Chalabi: 'blame CIA, not me' over WMD
(Reuters, March 6, 2004)

Chalabi said the CIA knew defectors could be biased and that even the press was saying "defectors have an ax to grind, don't believe them".
"Now you're telling me that despite all this public evidence, the United States government took our word without checking out the people?" Chalabi said incredulously .
"Intelligence people who are supposed to do a better job for their country and their government did not do such a good job."
(...)
Chalabi, who was born into a prominent Iraqi family but spent 45 years outside Iraq before returning in April, denies coaching defectors, something the CIA believe he's done for years, according to a former CIA analyst interviewed on the show.
The analyst, Ken Pollack, who now works for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and for CNN, said the Bush administration used the information to label Iraq an imminent threat.
Pollack said they were looking "to simply confirm a preconceived notion of an extremely threatening Iraq ... on the cusp of acquiring the most advanced ... dangerous weapons".
Pollack blames senior US officials, not Chalabi.
"This is one of those ... 'fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me'," said Pollack.
"Chalabi has a track record. We knew this guy wasn't telling us the truth."




Egomania, INC
Ahmad Chalabi is loyal to just one cause: his own ambition.
By Fred Kaplan (March 8, 2004)

As the Bush officials stoked the war flames, for several convergent reasons, Chalabi played a key role. He found defectors who affirmed suspicions that Saddam was building weapons of mass destruction. He assured Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney that the Iraqi people would greet American liberators with flowers; that his militia, the Free Iraqi Fighters, would restore order; and that, after a few months, the vast majority of U.S. troops could go home, leaving behind a small, inconspicuous force—25,000 to 50,000 soldiers—at bases to be set up well outside the cities. The new Chalabi government would then be a vehicle for economic modernization, Western-style democracy, and—by the force of its example—the transformation of the entire Middle East.
Of course, it didn't turn out that way. The only surprise is that people in positions of vast responsibility thought it would. And now some of those people profess surprise at the turn that Chalabi himself has taken.
Last week, Chalabi was among the five Shiites on Iraq's Governing Council who refused to sign the interim constitution, which the council had hammered out with the mediation of Paul Bremer, the administrator of the U.S. occupation authority.
A few days earlier, Chalabi's nephew, at his behest, had been one of seven Shiites who walked out of a session, in protest, after several women persuaded the council to drop a provision of the constitution that would have imposed religious rulings on family life.
Chalabi and the others took this obstructionist action at the directive of the Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani, the country's most powerful—and utterly unsecular—Shiite authority.
The contrast with Chalabi's earlier behavior could not be more glaring.


Chalabi group receiving US payments
NYTIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON
Friday, Mar 12, 2004, Page 7

The Pentagon is paying US$340,000 a month to the Iraqi political organization led by Ahmad Chalabi, a member of the interim Iraqi government who has close ties to the administration of US President George W. Bush, for "intelligence collection," according to Defense Department officials.
The classified program, run by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) since summer 2002, continues a longstanding partnership between the Pentagon and the organization, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), even as the group jockeys for power in a future government. Internal government reviews have found that much of the information generated by the program before the US invasion last year was useless, misleading or even fabricated.
Under the unusual arrangement, the CIA is required to get permission from the Pentagon before interviewing informants from the Iraqi National Congress, according to government officials who have been briefed on the procedures.
The CIA has been working with another Iraqi group, the Iraqi National Accord, to help establish an independent Iraqi intelligence service. The relationship between the CIA and Chalabi's group has been strained for years.
A US intelligence official said the maintenance of the separate, exclusive channel between Chalabi's group and the Defense Intelligence Agency was not interfering with the CIA's effort to set up the new Iraqi service.
Among several defectors introduced by Chalabi's organization to US intelligence officials before the war, at least one was formally labeled a fabricator by the DIA. Others were viewed as having been coached by the Iraqi group to provide intelligence critical of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's rule. Internal reviews by the Pentagon agency and the National Intelligence Council this year concluded that little of the information from the group had any value.

posted by matteo at 8:12 AM on March 30, 2004


so maybe we let he bing king for a couple months til he ends up 6 feet under... where the SOB belongs.

The guy really ought to hang. What is the difference between what he did and what a double agent would do? He basically was a double agent, it's just that the organization he was spying for was himself.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:39 AM on March 30, 2004


Robert Baer is a former CIA Middle East specialist of more than 20 years standing, many of them spent in Iraq.
In 'See No Evil', his controversial book detailing his career with the CIA, he describes extensive dealings with the INC and it's head Ahmed Chalabi on behalf of the CIA.
ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA AGENT: He would find somebody who walked out of Iraq with some sensational story and he repackaged for what we call these guys, defectors, and made sure the defector found media outlets and anybody who was off message, Chalabi didn't send on. He was running in this railroad of people out of Iraq who were talking about weapons of mass destruction.
Obviously if an officer came out, who said, "Listen all the stuff was destroyed," He didn't have to take it out of the country in order to tell the story.


---

White House: 'Solid' Evidence Iraq Has Weapons
Friday, Dec. 6, 2002

WASHINGTON – The White House said Thursday that it had "solid" evidence Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.
"Iraq has lied before, and they're lying now about whether they possess weapons of mass destruction," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
"President Bush has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction." British Prime Minister "Tony Blair has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction." Defense Secretary "Donald Rumsfeld has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Richard Butler [the former head of U.N. weapons inspections] has said they do. The United Nations has said they do. The experts have said they do.
"Iraq says they don't. You can choose who you want to believe," he said.

posted by matteo at 8:41 AM on March 30, 2004


Some Iraqi officials, including Ahmad Chalabi, a Governing Council member with strong backing from the Pentagon, say they oppose the new effort out of fear that it may empower dangerous members of the old security forces.

Mr. Chalabi's party, the Iraqi National Congress, has long competed bitterly with the Iraqi National Accord for backing from the American government, which helps explain the clash between the two over the new service.

Another point of contention is that the Iraqi National Congress condemns the participation of former high-ranking Baath Party members in any aspect of public life, and especially in the new security forces. Mr. Chalabi is heading a committee on the Governing Council in charge of purging senior Baathists from the government, and recently unveiled a new set of laws intended to do that.

Organizers of the new intelligence service "are recruiting former Mukhabarat officers in other countries, people who went into exile after the war and who are now coming back," said Entifadh K. Qanbar, a spokesman for Mr. Chalabi who sits in on meetings of the Governing Council's security committee. "We should vet them before they're recruited."

Mr. Qanbar said American agents had recruited several such people in Jordan. Though he insisted that some recruits had taken part in the "oppression of the Iraqi people," he said he could not provide evidence to back that assertion.

posted by clavdivs at 9:32 AM on March 30, 2004


I eagerly await his trip to Jordan Hell.
posted by trondant at 9:39 AM on March 30, 2004


does anyone else hate reading long blocks of italicized type on screen??? it's nasty.
posted by specialk420 at 9:45 AM on March 30, 2004


I couldn't agree more, specialk420. It's too hard to read.

That said, it's a fascinating story. There was an smh.com.au mention of it a few months ago, and I was wondering if there was more to come. Chalabi sounds like a world-class conman.
posted by emf at 4:50 AM on March 31, 2004


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