Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Remember Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Remember Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Article excerpt

There is a new version of the old tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves playing in Iraq, at a theater near you. If it were not true, one would have thought its authors must have swallowed half a dozen LSD hallucination pills to spin such a tale.

Among the new thieves are Israelis, Americans and Arabs. Indeed, the Israelis have finally made it to Baghdad, helped along the way by a trio: the infamous Chalabi clan, the Pentagon and the government of new free Iraq. But let us begin with the mind-bending spins that set the stage for these new Ali Babas to do what they are doing and get away with it.

A couple of weeks ago, L. Paul Bremer III, the American proconsul who has ruled Iraq for more than a year, suddenly speeded up the handover of power to Iraqis. By all accounts Bremer was perfectly sober when he announced in something of a secret ceremony that Iraq was a free country, noting, however, that the 140,000 American occupation soldiers will stay behind a while-maybe five years or so.

He then hurried with his bags out of Saddam's old palace in Baghdad onto an unannounced flight for the United States, skipping the celebration of this historic event. There were no balloons, flags, parades, songs and celebrations which such a sea change deserves. Never mind. This gets better.

The new independent government of Iraq to which Bremer handed over power will be free to ask the Americans to leave, but Bremer noted he did not expect them to do so. Instead, free Iraq will be guided by the largest American Embassy in the world, staffed by 3,000 diplomats!

That is a lot of advice from a lot of diplomats for a free country. Another minor detail skipped over in this spin fairy tale by Bremer was that the "independent" government he appointed for Iraq was selected, not elected.

Its prime minister, Iyad Allawi, was until last year on the payroll of the CIA and has spent the last 30 years outside the country he governs. If they expect you to swallow this fairy tale as gospel truth, you're now ready for the next chapter.

In come the new Ali Babas: Israelis teaming up with the Chalabis and the neo-conservative businessmen cabal that runs the Pentagon, holding the purse to reconstruct Iraq.

The arrival of the Israelis in Iraq is being orchestrated by one Salem Chalabi, 41, the executive director of the tribunal before which Saddam Hussain, Tariq Aziz and other former Iraqi regime officials appeared the other day.

He also happens to be the nephew of the now widely discredited Ahmed Chalabi, once the Pentagon's favorite boy for the leadership of Iraq who has since fallen out of favor, but still has his tentacles all over Iraq. …

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