FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Chalabi Baba and the 40 Thieves

by PAUL McGEOUGH

Sinbad, step aside. Aladdin and Ali Baba, off with your tawdry tales so we can hear a truly fantastic story from the land of the Arabian Nights.

You would have thought by this stage of this United States presidency, that there was little left to shock. But this is the news from Washington – the CIA has asked the FBI to investigate allegations that the Iraqi exile who almost single-handedly drove the American invasion of Iraq has all the time been a double agent for neighbouring Iran, which was secretly manipulating the US to topple its arch foe, Saddam Hussein.

It strains credulity that Iran, declared by the President George Bush to be an “axis-of-evil” enemy of the US, would set out to sandwich itself between US-dominated neighbours in Iraq and Afghanistan; but too often credulity has to be left at the front door during this Iraq crisis. And it’s not as though Bush needed an excuse to invade. As early as March 2002, according to Time magazine, the President told colleagues: “F— Saddam, we’re taking him out.”

The FBI investigation of the exile Ahmad Chalabi and his Pentagon friends has opened in a week that began with a slightly wild-eyed Bush revealing his new winning plan for Iraq was his old floundering plan. It ended with a peace deal for the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf, Karbala and Kufa which was eerily similar to the deal the US accepted to end the battle of Falluja. Washington’s non-negotiable demands were forgotten and the “thugs” the US was after were allowed to get away.

Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress were the source of much of the discredited US case for war against Saddam; claims of weapons of mass destruction and links to global terrorism. Always suspected by the State Department and the CIA, Chalabi nonetheless mesmerised the Pentagon and the White House and elements of the US media – a point dramatically underscored this week by The New York Times when it admitted just how wrong it was with much of its pre-war reporting on WMD, particularly the work of its Pulitzer Prize winner, Judith Miller, who made great use of – or was greatly used by – Chalabi.

Tension has been rising between Chalabi and Washington at the approach of June 30. That’s when Washington says it will hand sovereign power back to the Iraqis. It’s also the first time the music will stop in the post-invasion game of musical chairs and when it does, Chalabi is among those tipped to be without a seat.

But the tension exploded 10 days ago with joint US-Iraqi raiding parties searching Chalabi’s Baghdad headquarters, waving a bundle of arrest warrants for his associates and fuelling speculation about their role in blackmail, fraud and kidnapping. Chalabi, a disgraced former banker, is accused of positioning his associates to control virtually all the banks in postwar Iraq and of skimming $US22 million ($30.6 million) during the introduction of a new currency last year.

He was airlifted into “liberated” Iraq by the US and immediately appointed to the Iraqi Governing Council – a position from which he took control of the “de-Baathification” of Iraq. This was a process, insisted upon by the US, of stripping all former Baath Party members from public positions. Now it is alleged Chalabi’s teams have been running an extortion racket in which many former officials have been allowed to buy protection from public humiliation.

The investigation of Chalabi is based on CIA claims that it has irrefutable, “rock-solid” evidence that he passed classified US information to Tehran. There’s potential for the neo-conservative element in the Pentagon to be embarrassed here, because of the implication that it gave the tightly-held information to Chalabi in the first place.

The investigation will focus on Chalabi’s long-time intelligence chief, Aras Karim Habib, a Shia Kurd. Some in Washington claim he has been in Tehran’s pay for years and that he has gone underground since last week’s hit on Chalabi’s bunker.

Another former US intelligence chief was quoted: “The people investigating this aren’t sure yet … but the Defence Intelligence Agency is looking through its documents and realising they’ve been had. If it turns out to be true, it was certainly a genius operation – (the Iranians) created an anti-Saddam opposition to get rid of him and they got us to pay for it.”

Chalabi and Tehran have denied the charges. But with the unravelling of the Bush case for war the picture emerging in Washington is of a conman, as opposed to a neo-con, who hounded susceptible officials and coached Iraqi defectors to tell Washington what it wanted to hear about Saddam.

Chalabi’s supporters have billed last week’s raid and the allegations against him as “the revenge of the CIA”.

One of his stoutest defenders, The Wall Street Journal, editorialised on Thursday: “We think Mr Chalabi is a pawn in a much larger battle that is strategic, ideological and personal … he has long battled the CIA over the best way to topple Saddam … he is at odds with the UN special envoy (on the future governance of Iraq) … he is a blunt man who can seem arrogant, even to his friends.”

But a gleeful former State Department counter-terrorism official told reporters: “When the story ultimately comes out, we’ll see that Iran has run one of the most masterful intelligence operations in history – it persuaded the US and Britain to dispose of its greatest enemy.”

If Scheherazade had come up with stuff like this, we would never have had the stories of Sinbad, Aladdin and Ali Baba. She would have been clamped in irons.

PAUL McGEOUGH writes for the Sydney Morning Herald, where this essay originally appeared.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail