Ahmed Chalabi: Fall from Grace

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Clear signs of Ahmed Chalabi's "Fall from Grace" with the Bush administration were noted in a May 2004 story in Newsweek which reported that a White House official had accused Chalabi of "playing footsie" with Iranians.

"Top Bush administration officials have been briefed on intelligence indicating that Chalabi and some of his top aides have supplied Iran with 'sensitive' information on the American occupation in Iraq," Mark Hosenball wrote. "U.S. officials say that electronic intercepts of discussions between Iranian leaders indicate that Chalabi and his entourage told Iranian contacts about American political plans in Iraq. There are also indications that Chalabi has provided details of U.S. security operations." [1]

Ahead of the June 30, 2004, transfer of 'sovereignty' from the U.S to an interim Iraqi administration, it was reported that both the U.S. administrator and the United Nations envoy to Iraq saw no role for Chalabi. The Washington Post also reported that the U.S. government was likely to end the $340,000 monthly contribution to the Iraqi National Congress (INC). [2]

It's Tenet's Fault

"Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi accused CIA director George J. Tenet on Thursday [June 3, 2004], of being responsible for allegations that the former exile leader passed intelligence information to Iran," according to the Associated Press.

Chalabi, the AP reports, "made the accusation after President Bush announced that Tenet was stepping down as CIA director for personal reasons."

"Chalabi told reporters that Tenet 'was behind the charges against me that claimed that I gave intelligence information to Iran. I denied these charges and I will deny them again.'"

"Speaking to reporters, Chalabi lashed out at Tenet, saying the effects of his policies toward Iraq over the past years 'have been not helpful to say the least. ... He continued attempting to make a coup d'etat against Saddam in the face of all possible evidence that this would be unsuccessful,' Chalabi said. 'His policies caused the death of hundreds of Iraqis in this futile efforts.'

"Chalabi also accused Tenet of providing 'erroneous information about weapons of mass destruction to President Bush, which caused the government much embarrassment at the United Nations and his own country.'" [3]

The "Fall"

Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball ask in the June 2, 2004, Newsweek whether the current Chalabi investigation may well be the "Tip of the Iceberg? The probe into alleged Chalabi leaks to the Iranians may widen."

The June 2, 2004, New York Times' article by James Risen and David Johnston makes the reason for Chalabi's "fall" clear: "Chalabi Reportedly Told Iran That U.S. Had Code".

It was "widely reported last month" that Chalabi "provided Iran with critical American intelligence secrets ... after the Bush administration cut off financial aid to Mr. Chalabi's organization, the Iraqi National Congress, and American and Iraqi security forces raided his Baghdad headquarters."

However, Chalabi, "the Iraqi leader and former ally of the Bush administration, disclosed to an Iranian official that the United States had broken the secret communications code of Iran's intelligence service, betraying one of Washington's most valuable sources of information about Iran, according to United States intelligence officials."

Risen and Johnston outline the chain of events leading to confirmation of Chalabi's betrayal:

"American officials said that about six weeks ago, Mr. Chalabi told the Baghdad station chief of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security that the United States was reading the communications traffic of the Iranian spy service, one of the most sophisticated in the Middle East.
"According to American officials, the Iranian official in Baghdad, possibly not believing Mr. Chalabi's account, sent a cable to Tehran detailing his conversation with Mr. Chalabi, using the broken code. That encrypted cable, intercepted and read by the United States, tipped off American officials to the fact that Mr. Chalabi had betrayed the code-breaking operation, the American officials said.
"American officials reported that in the cable to Tehran, the Iranian official recounted how Mr. Chalabi had said that one of 'them' -- a reference to an American -- had revealed the code-breaking operation, the officials said. The Iranian reported that Mr. Chalabi said the American was drunk.
"The Iranians sent what American intelligence regarded as a test message, which mentioned a cache of weapons inside Iraq, believing that if the code had been broken, United States military forces would be quickly dispatched to the specified site. But there was no such action.
"The account of Mr. Chalabi's actions has been confirmed by several senior American officials, who said the leak contributed to the White House decision to break with him."

Raid on Chalabi and the INC

Not only had the United States government "decided to halt monthly $335,000 payments to the Iraqi National Congress, the group headed by Ahmad Chalabi," which was announced by "an official with the group" on Monday, May 17, 2004, but U.S. military personnel and Iraqi police also raided the Iraqi National Congress compound and Chalabi's home on May 20th. [4]

Chalabi's nephew, Salem Chalabi, "who serves as Iraq's war crimes prosecutor, said the U.S. military personnel and Iraqi police entered his uncle's home with their weapons drawn, and threatened Chalabi's security personnel. ... Describing what his uncle told him, Salim said the forces were 'looking for something; and were upset with Chalabi. ... The forces also cordoned off the Iraqi National Congress headquarters in a separate building nearby, taking guns away from the security there, Salim said." [5]

The Washington Post reported that "U.S. troops detained three guards and seized computers, dozens of rifles, and files from the offices of the INC, a coalition of parties headed by Chalabi that opposed Saddam Hussein from exile.

"Hours after the morning raids, a U.S. official and an Iraqi judge disclosed to reporters that arrest warrants had been issued for 15 people on charges of kidnapping, fraud and 'associated matters.'
"Eight of the people on the list have been declared fugitives, the judge said. Each of them is associated with the INC. The judge said the men had illegally detained and tortured people, stolen government cars for personal use and illegally taken over government facilities."
"Chalabi, at a news conference later, was furious. 'They invaded the home of a Governing Council member a few days after the president of the Governing Council was blown up by terrorist actions at an American checkpoint,' he said, according to the Associated Press." [6]
Chalabi said "U.S. officials disliked his opposition to former members of Hussein's Baath Party, his efforts to investigate kickbacks paid by foreigners to Hussein under the UN Oil-for-Food Program and his demands for full Iraqi control over the armed forces after a U.S. handover of limited sovereignty, planned for June 30." (See Iraqi sovereignty: June 30, 2004.)

"Now [Chalabi] says that with the liberation of Iraq, the United States should get out of the way. 'My message is let my people go, let my people be free, ... We are grateful to President Bush for liberating Iraq, but it is time for the Iraqi people to run their affairs.'" [7]

"The raids appeared to complete Chalabi's fall from grace in the eyes of U.S. officials over the last difficult year of the occupation." [8]

Also see:

INC Offices Ordered Evacuated

On Sunday, May 29, 2004, Iraqi police "arrived at the Ramadi offices" of the Iraqi National Congress and "demanded that staffers of Ahmad Chalabi's political movement evacuate their building in a city west of Baghdad, but officials said they were trying to sort out the situation with the authorities, ... according to INC official Haider al-Musawi, [who] said the evacuation order came from the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. ... It was unclear why the evacuation order had been issued." [9]

All a "Con Game"?

However, Robert Dreyfuss says that "it's all a big con game" and the "still-neocon-dominated Pentagon--which this week stopped funding Chalabi's INC --is playing its last card, hoping that it can boost Chalabi's sagging fortunes by pretending to sever ties with him. That, the neocons hope, will allow Chalabi to strengthen his ties to Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, the king-making mullah who, they hope, holds Iraq's fate in his wrinkled hands." [10]

Joshua Micah Marshall at Talking Points Memo adds on May 21, 2004:

"...we need to wait and watch these reports closely. Much of the charges we're seeing here have been out there for some time, though not with quite the specifics or with such gravity. Chalabi's ties with Iran have been known (and winked at) for years; claims that he was sharing sensitive US info with them have been out there for at least a few months.
"It's not that the claims are false. In fact, I quite suspect the opposite. But what we're seeing here is less the result of new revelations than the outward signs of deep tectonic shifts within the US government -- the discrediting of some factions and agencies, the attempts of others to reposition themselves in a moment of acute crisis and get ahead of the storm, and the freeing up of others to assert themselves for the first time in years.
"It's probably too dramatic to compare this to the bubbles, choppy water and occasional scraps churned up by a Piranha feeding. But the struggles that are giving rise to all these leaks and tergiversations of the state are the real story -- one that it is difficult to see directly, but possible to glimpse in what we can infer from its effects and repercussions."

Jerome Doolittle posts on May 25, 2004, at Bad Attitudes: "The Shiite Hits the Fan":

"As Lead Balloons points out ... , the latest conspiracy theory to hit the media mainstream is that those wascally Iwanians twicked Bush into invading Iraq.
"Their secret agent is alleged to have been the exiled Iraqi Shiite Ahmad Chalabi, a convicted bank swindler and peddler of counterfeit intelligence to the neocon rubes with whom the head rube has surrounded himself. Robert Parry has more along these lines at Consortium News.
"Before we go too far with this, though, let's consider what the ever-devious Xymphora has to say on the matter. Here's a taste:
"In order to believe all this you have to believe that the Iranians would want the Americans to attack Iraq. While they hated Saddam, he was absolutely no danger to them. On the other hand, having Iraq under military occupation by an American government whose stated goal is regime change in all the 'Axis of Evil' countries, including Iran, would be the last thing the Iranians would want.
"The attack on Iraq was the training wheels for a series of wars against those countries targeted by the neocons, and it was not in Iranian interests for this series of attacks to start. American bases in Iraq would be the perfect staging ground for an attack on Iran…"

Chalabi the Iranian "Spy"

Questioning the Neo-Cons

  • Sidney Blumenthal writes on May 27, 2004, in Salon about "Washington's Chalabi nightmare." "One more headache for the besieged Bush administration," he says: "The FBI is now interrogating the neocon cronies of Ahmed Chalabi."
What the FBI really wants to know is this: "Who gave Ahmed Chalabi classified information about the plans of the U.S. government and military?"
See Bush administration: duped into war with Iraq?

Chalabi Timeline

  • Kevin Drum, "Ahmed Chalabi Timeline," Political Animal, May 24, 2004: "Why exactly is Ahmed Chalabi hated by so many people? And exactly who is he hated by? Here's an Ahmed Chalabi timeline to help sort it out for you."

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