Behind Chalabi's Decline: Once Touted by Washington as Iraq's "Liberator," Iraqi Expatriate Ahmed Chalabi Is Now Accused of Leaking Sensitive Intelligence to Iran

By Grigg, William Norman | The New American, June 14, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Behind Chalabi's Decline: Once Touted by Washington as Iraq's "Liberator," Iraqi Expatriate Ahmed Chalabi Is Now Accused of Leaking Sensitive Intelligence to Iran


Grigg, William Norman, The New American


"It was just last January that Ahmed Chalabi occupied the coveted balcony seat next to First Lady Laura Bush and gazed out at Washington's glittering elite" during the State of the Union Address, observed foreign affairs commentator Jim Lobe on May 21. "So how is it that exactly five months later Chalabi was rudely interrupted when U.S. agents and soldiers burst into his bedroom Thursday morning [May 20] as part of a series of coordinated raids at his residence and offices?" inquires Lobe.

More than a decade ago, Chalabi was anointed by Washington to be head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), that nation's government-in-exile. Prior to his installment in Nasiriya by the U.S. military in April 2003, Chalabi's foot had not trod the soil of his homeland since fleeing with his family decades ago as a 13-year old. After moving to Jordan, Chalabi created the Petra bank, which collapsed after running up losses in excess of half a billion dollars. Chalabi fled Jordan to Syria one step ahead of an arrest warrant in 1989; three years later he was convicted, in absentia, on 31 charges of embezzlement and theft.

On-scene Iraqi opponents of Chalabi understandably derided him as a "limousine insurgent," pointing out that (in the words of Andrew Parasiliti of Washington's Middle East Institute) he drew "more support on the Potomac than the Euphrates." In fact, by mid-May of this year Iraqi surveys found that Chalabi, cast by Washington as the face of "liberation," was polling lower that Saddam.

After the Gulf War, the CIA subcontracted with the Rendon Group, a New York PR firm, to create and stage-manage the INC. The "Iraq Liberation Act," passed by Congress in 1998, provided the INC with a monthly allowance of $340,000.

According to the General Accounting Office, at least some of that money was used illegally to lobby Congress and commission press articles in support of the Iraq War. Chalabi, predictably, was taken into the bosom of the Trotskyite Marxists who call themselves "neoconservatives.

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