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Chalabi Surges Back to Prominence

Elizabeth Sullivan, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH)

Saturday, February 24, 2007 by

The chief architects of Pentagon-di rected disaster in Iraq are gone.

Donald ("the Army you have") Rumsfeld has left the building.

So has his deputy, Paul (Iraq can "finance its own reconstruction") Wolfowitz.

Their policy undersecretary Doug ("how a transition would occur is not known precisely") Feith was just raked for goosing prewar intelligence.

Former viceroy Paul ("I never heard back from him about the report") Bremer is home and busily trying to spread the blame.

Meanwhile, Vice President Dick ("we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators") Cheney is circling the globe, spreading more disinformation prior to possible war with Iran.

Yet there's one bad penny who just keeps coming up, and up and up: Ahmad Chalabi, the wily Iraqi exile banker who cozied up to Iranian intelligence under the very nose of the CIA and then helped land us in war with Iraq through intelligence misinformation.

Incredibly, Chalabi now is in charge of the Iraqi government's civilian liaison for the "surge."

He's Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's new right-hand man -- a role that should give every planner at the Pentagon pause -- running what the Wall Street Journal calls the "popular committee for mobilizing the people."

Mobilizing is one thing Chalabi really knows how to do. He "mobilized" Feith, Wolfowitz, Bremer and Rumsfeld into their most fateful occupation errors -- disbanding the Iraqi army and firing all Baathists.

No matter that such purges were in direct contravention of White House-approved policy that rightly saw preserving the army as key to law and order and limiting Baathist firings as essential to moving the economy forward.

Chalabi was more interested in promoting himself and the exclusivist Shiite agenda that was key to his attempted power grab. Among the first to be fired were thousands of teachers.

No wonder Iraqi voters rejected Chalabi.

Yet it turns out this bad penny never was returned to the bank.

Behind the scenes, Chalabi continued "mobilizing" -- through frequent trips to Iran.

And laws to reinstate Sunnis to their jobs languished because Chalabi still runs the government's de-Baathification committee.

Actually, it should be no surprise that such a man -- who was able to con the U.S. military into airlifting himself and his handpicked army into Iraq in 2003 so they could seize enough of Saddam Hussein's old intelligence files to become rich and powerful -- would remain at the center of influence.

What's worrying is what this tells us about the al-Maliki government.

Chalabi's prominence says that Iran doesn't have to be invited into Iraq. It's already there.

Chalabi's dual games with the CIA and Iranian intelligence go back at least to March 3, 1995.

That was the date, according to a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report, when Chalabi met privately with Iranian intelligence agents trying to entice them to intervene in a planned anti-Saddam uprising. Stationing a CIA representative just outside the meeting, Chalabi apparently lied to the Iranian agents about having White House support for involving Iranian-backed mujahedeen in the uprising.

U.S. intelligence officials went ballistic when enough information filtered back to Washington to suggest what Chalabi had done.

To the CIA, he became persona non grata.

Yet during later Iraq war planning, Pentagon officials pooh-poohed the idea that Chalabi could be untrustworthy.

Chalabi may not be a direct arm of Iranian interests in Iraq. He's too interested in his own power.

Yet he's a connoisseur of power grabs Iraqi-style, for which Iran holds the trump card for Shiites.

And today, this slippery go-between sits on the shoulder of the very Iraqi government for whose legitimacy and longevity U.S. forces are being sent to fight and die.

Somehow, that seems as backward and as wrong as the war itself.

Sullivan is The Plain Dealer's foreign-affairs columnist and an associate editor of the editorial pages.

ę 2007 cleveland.com All Rights Reserved.

:: Article nr. 30951 sent on 26-feb-2007 08:30 ECT


Link: www.commondreams.org/views07/0225-29.htm

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