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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 24, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Reflections on DC: Promises and Pitfalls in the Anti-Trump Uprising
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Developer Welfare: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Melvin Goodman
Trump at the CIA: the Orwellian World of Alternative Facts
Sam Mitrani – Chad Pearson
A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics
Kristine Mattis
Democracy is Not a Team Sport
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Mexico, Neo-Nationalism and the Capitalist World-System
Ted Rall
The Women’s March Was a Dismal Failure and a Hopeful Sign
Norman Pollack
Women’s March: Halt at the Water’s Edge
Pepe Escobar
Will Trump Hop on an American Silk Road?
Franklin Lamb
Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations
Kenneth R. Culton
Violence By Any Other Name
David Swanson
Why Impeach Donald Trump
Christopher Brauchli
Trump’s Contempt
January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail