Talk:Ahmed Chalabi

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I believe that the correct spelling is AHMAD Chalabi ...

I recommend that you check out the daily Department of State briefing for 4/9/03 and scroll down nearly to the end of the page and you will find this conversation:

Q: Ahmad Chalabi and his fighters -- I'm still trying to understand what they are doing. We had a reporter with them, and they were virtually all armed. If you have a bunch of Iraqis in uniform, some kind of uniform that's not American uniform, and they are armed, wandering around inside Baghdad, you would think that they would be a potential target for either British or American forces. What are you doing with them? What are they doing? And how do you keep U.S. forces from killing them?

MCCHRYSTAL: That's a good question. And what we are doing right now is training them. We have brought them to a location. We are equipping and training them, for exactly the reasons you discussed, so that as they are employed in the liberation of their own country, they're done (sic) in a way that is safe and effective within the coalition.

Q: So they're not out wandering about in Iraq at this point; you have them in a contained area, and you are working with them, prior to having them --

Q: And that contained area is in Iraq?

CLARKE: It's my understanding -- in southern Iraq. And we'll leave it at that. Thank you.

AI 4/10/03 15:03 (EST)

Actually, Chalabi's first name seems to be spelled both ways. If you do a Google search, you'll find more than 8,000 hits for "Ahmed Chalabi," and 4,000 for "Ahmad Chalabi" with an "a." This seems to be fairly common with Middle Eastern names. There are different ways of transliterating them into Romanized spellings. For example, Al Qaeda is also spelled "al-Qaida" and a few other ways. --Sheldon Rampton 15:09 11 Apr 2003 (EDT)


The following changes were made to the Ahmed Chalabi article July 4, 2005, by anon/IP without documentation and I have relocated the highlighted changed material here to talk until documentation can be provided. The changes have been reverted.

  1. Chalabi, a secular Iraqi Shiite Muslim and mathematician by training, previously served as chairman of the Petra Bank in Jordan. In August 1989 when friends in the Jordanian Royal Family tipped him off that Jordanian authorities were about to send him back to Saddam Hussein to be executed. In 1992 was convicted by a one-man military tibunal directly appointed by the King for embezzlement, fraud and currency-trading irregularities, sentencing him to 22 years' hard labour. [1],[2]
  2. During 2004 Chalabi's influence with the U.S. has waned to the point where government funding for him is likely to be discontinued. Nevertheless, while U.S. government favorites like Ayad Allawi and Adnan Pachachi failed to connect with voters, Chalabi has risen through the ranks of Iraqi politics, and now serves as deputy prime minister.

Artificial Intelligence 06:37, 5 Jul 2005 (EDT)

See this.


The Chalabi Comeback Iraq's "indispensable" man returns to center stage.

BY ROBERT L. POLLOCK Monday, August 29, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

BAGHDAD--"Welcome to the danger zone," says a man I'll call Abbas. It isn't clear if he means Iraq or Route Irish, Baghdad's perilous airport road. He wedges his flak jacket against the driver's side door of the sedan, cocks his pistol, and we head off gingerly, lest we agitate any nervous soldiers or guards. We deliberately overshoot our destination, doubling back on narrow streets to Ahmed Chalabi's compound in the al Mansour district. Abbas's wife calls on the cellphone. She is worried, and right to be. That night Khalid al-Saaidi becomes the third associate of Mr. Chalabi to die in two weeks, shot on the Jadiriyah Bridge.

Meanwhile, Baathist insurgents have obtained the phone directory of another victim--murdered ministry employee Haider Mohammed al-Dujaili--and are threatening still more. Mr. Chalabi has re-emerged in their eyes as a prime threat. Why? Because he survived a concerted White House campaign last year to undermine him, brokering the Shiite-led electoral list that won the January election and becoming deputy prime minister; because he had become a major player in the constitution-writing process that culminated this past weekend; and because he is rapidly becoming a key figure for U.S. military commanders on the ground here as they contemplate the feasibility of troop drawdowns.

"Very personally courageous," "not afraid to make decisions," and a "hugely important figure in Iraq" are among the phrases I heard U.S. officers apply to him during two weeks I spent in the country earlier this month. Another sums up the stakes thus: "Chalabi is there to talk about protecting strategic infrastructure so they can sell oil so they can fund their own security-force development."

He's referring to the fact that Mr. Chalabi has assumed special responsibility for oil and infrastructure security--a role in which he is widely recognized to be making major improvements on the abysmal performance of L. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority and Ayad Allawi's interim government. I watch him in action firsthand shortly after my arrival, chairing a meeting of the Energy Committee he helped create. He suggests that the electrical grid be mapped with GPS, since after a recent attack it took three days to locate the damage. The issue is quickly resolved, as a water ministry official informs the room that such data already exists and that the problem is merely information-sharing. Then Mr. Chalabi offers a gentle reprimand to the Iraqi Army's deputy chief of staff for continued reliance on a local infrastructure protection battalion that has repeatedly failed. What's more important, he asks, keeping some tribal sheikh happy or keeping the lights on in Baghdad?

It doesn't sound like much, but in a society where the modus vivendi for decades has been to tell people exactly what they want to hear, real managerial skills are a rare trait. "Chalabi has emerged as a central figure in the effort to improve infrastructure security," says Gen. David Petraeus, the overseer of Iraqi Security Force training and one of the few officials willing to risk offending the foreign policy mandarins in Washington by going on record about the matter. In particular, Mr. Chalabi is credited with obtaining additional Iraqi funding and focus on the effort, resulting in what one U.S. observer calls "the highest crude oil exports in anyone's memory." Northern exports through the Kirkuk pipeline have resumed, albeit quietly--lest it become an even more tempting target for sabotage.

Things now are a little different from the last time I saw Mr. Chalabi, in June 2004. Then, I had to break away from a military delegation headed by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. The "one-time Pentagon favorite"--what a risible journalistic cliché that's become--wasn't even on official speaking terms with the arch "neo-con" as a result of a National Security Council directive aimed at "marginalizing" him. This meant raiding Mr. Chalabi's home, holding him (unarmed) at gunpoint, and the filing of trumped-up charges against him by a Bremer-appointed judge who has since been dismissed from his job by Iraq's judicial authorities for unethical conduct. Improbable allegations that he somehow obtained and then passed sensitive U.S. information to Iran (another anonymously sourced story Newsweek really ought to revisit) had also appeared. The would-be coup de grace occurred once interim Prime Minister Allawi took power and U.S. forces began stripping Mr. Chalabi's guards of their weapons and permits to carry them. If this was "marginalization," Mr. Chalabi could have been forgiven for wondering if his elimination was the real intention. But then something unexpected--at least to Mr. Chalabi's detractors--happened. He stayed put. The CIA line was that he was a mere dilettante, who'd give up when the going got rough and retreat to his "five-star hotels" and "Savile Row suits." Indeed, how could it be otherwise, given that he had "no support" in Iraq? But that assessment, like so much else, was part of the CIA's larger Iraq intelligence failure.

A coward, after all, would not have risked assassination by Saddam's omnipresent Mukhabarat for more than a decade as a high-profile opposition leader on the slim chance the U.S. might one day finish the job it began in the first Gulf War. A coward would not have helped lead a Kurdish military offensive against Saddam-controlled Iraq that ended up provoking a 1996 counterattack in which hundreds of his compatriots died. And a coward would not have ventured to Najaf in the violent spring of last year to successfully talk renegade Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr out of violence and into politics. (Some have criticized this as opportunism on Mr. Chalabi's part. But Sadr has been largely quiet since, and officers of the 1st Armored Division, which led the fight against his Mehdi Army, were unequivocal last year about Mr. Chalabi's helpfulness.) Also notable was how most of Mr. Chalabi's old political allies--and potential rivals--pointedly declined to be part of the marginalization strategy. Kurdish leader (and current president) Jalal Talabani was a particularly steadfast supporter, to the point of reportedly rebuffing CIA demands that he cut his ties.

So, under the most trying conditions, the master coalition-builder crafted the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance that shocked our spooks and diplomats by dominating the January election. The other big winners--Shiite religious leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, and Kurdish leaders Talabani and Massoud Barzani--turned out to be the very same group Mr. Chalabi had united under the banner of his Iraqi National Congress in the '90s, and which had widely been written off as "exiles." Mr. Chalabi had enough support to make a credible bid for the prime minister's post, only to drop out in the face of strong U.S.-Iranian lobbying (what's "strange bedfellows" in Farsi?) for the Islamist, Ibrahim al-Jafaari, who has proven to be an ineffectual leader at best.

A final irony is Mr. Chalabi's emergence as a corruption fighter. Unlike scores of journalists against whom he could probably win libel cases were he inclined to sue, I don't pretend to know much about Mr. Chalabi's 1992 bank fraud conviction by a military tribunal in Saddam-allied Jordan. What I do know is that the biggest alleged thieves in post-Saddam Iraq have turned out to be those associated with the CIA's preferred secular Shiite, Mr. Allawi.

The Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit recently charged that Mr. Allawi's defense minister, Hazem Shalaan, presided over the misappropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars that could have gone towards better-equipped security forces. Virtually everyone I spoke to at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense confirmed this, including the new minister, Saddoun Dulaimi (an honest man by everyone's account, and a non-Baathist Sunni to boot). But corruption on the scale suggested by the Audit Board should be more difficult now that Mr. Chalabi is chairing a Contracts Committee, which reviews every government expenditure above a certain threshold.

The Chalabi treatment has confirmed that the CIA really can be as nasty and incompetent as its critics on the left used to claim. But what explains the gross political miscalculation by the Bush administration, which knew the CIA had major problems? Part of it, surely, has to do with influence of the foreign policy "realists," who didn't really believe in the regime-change mission and blamed Mr. Chalabi for luring the U.S. into Iraq. (The idea that Mr. Chalabi did so by passing faulty intelligence has been thoroughly discredited by the bipartisan Robb-Silberman commission.) Insofar as they had to go through the motions, the realists preferred Iraqi yes-men. "Get him back in his cage," Colin Powell is reported by the Washington Post to have demanded of Mr. Wolfowitz after Mr. Chalabi began pushing for the rapid restoration of sovereignty in late 2003. "I can't control him," Mr. Wolfowitz is said to have replied. (It should be conceded that Mr. Chalabi's largely admirable outspokenness sometimes becomes a fault.)

Another factor was the persistent pressure from Arab autocrats, who wanted the U.S. to believe the alternative to their rule was theocracy, and who weren't keen on the example a secular, Shiite-dominated democracy in Iraq might set. Finally, there was the matter of last year's U.N.-led exit strategy. It isn't a coincidence that the attacks on Mr. Chalabi really heated up with arrival in Baghdad of U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and a desperate play by the administration to foist responsibility for occupation on the international community. The trouble was, Mr. Chalabi had been busy showing that the U.N. had never really had Iraq's interests at heart. The Volcker Commission would likely never have been empanelled, and Oil for Food chief Benon Sevan's alleged corruption exposed, without the leads Mr. Chalabi provided based on information he obtained while serving as a member of the Governing Council.

It is perhaps understandable that President Bush--who must bear ultimate responsibility for his policies--should have succumbed to such pressures. But it is unfortunate. The marginalization policy meant the shutdown of an INC operation called the Information Collection Program, which Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers testified before Congress had "saved American lives." A military review had concluded that the INC provided the U.S. with far more actionable intelligence than any other Iraqi organization, including the Kurdish militias.

As for the war, a visit quickly makes plain that the latest "quagmire" panic in Washington is widely off the mark. True, the security situation in Baghdad remains a long way from what it should be; but neither do the insurgents control swaths of territory--think Fallujah--as they used to. What's more, the heavy lifting is increasingly being done by Iraqis. "The Iraqi Brigade that owns Haifa Street has done something that we could never do," Gen. Petraeus told me over lunch. Iraqi security forces are far more visible, and with competent Iraqi leadership such success stories will multiply slowly but steadily. It will be, in Donald Rumsfeld's famous words, "a long, hard slog." But it should increasingly be an Iraqi slog. The more important story, the real determinant of whether Iraq stands or falls, is the political one. And a key player is a man countless powerful people around the world have wished would go away. Of course, there are no "indispensable men"--De Gaulle famously remarked that the graveyards are full of them--but Mr. Chalabi is as close as you come among Iraq's political class. He sees the powerful Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani regularly; he is trusted by the Kurds, and, to the extent anyone is, by Sadr; and he put forth a constitutional oil-sharing proposal that has a chance of making federalism acceptable to the Sunnis. It is telling that he was one of the last people huddled with Zalmay Khalilzad in the wee hours of Saturday, when the U.S. ambassador finally gave the go-ahead to announce an agreement. Mr. Khalilzad, who has now brokered constitutions for 50 million newly free people in two countries--and who deserves a medal for his efforts--is a man who knows who to have by his side when a deal has to get done.

The question now is whether his bosses in Washington are mature enough to put aside past mistakes and work with Mr. Chalabi. They certainly no longer have to worry about him being written off as an American puppet.

Mr. Pollock is a senior editorial page writer at the Journal.