A year ago, Ahmed Chalabi was the darling of American
policymakers, a political powerhouse with unprecedented access to
the highest levels of the Pentagon.
It's hardly an exaggeration to say that he changed the course of
Iraqi history: the information he and his party gave to the US about
weapons of mass destruction - much of which proved to be false - was
central to Washington's decision to launch the war that toppled
But Thursday, US troops raided his house and the offices of his
Iraqi National Congress political party. Earlier this week, his
party's monthly US stipend of $340,000 was abruptly cut off.
Mr. Chalabi's standing is a marker of sorts showing the
philosophical shift in the US effort to create an Iraqi body
Hours after the raid, Chalabi repudiated the American occupation
authority and declared himself a leader of the new Iraq.
"My relationship with the Coalition Provisional Authority doesn't
exist," he told a packed room at "Chinese House," in the wealthy
Mansur neighborhood of Baghdad. "And together with the governing
council, we are still seeking to form a stable government."
Thursday at 10:30 a.m. local time, American troops and Iraqi
forces surrounded Chalabi's compound in Mansur and entered the
house. They overturned desks, seized computers and documents, and
loaded boxes into waiting cars. Coalition officials told Associated
Press that warrants had been issued for "up to 15 people" on
allegations of "fraud, kidnapping, and associated matters." An Iraqi
National Congress (INC) spokesman, interviewed on the Arabic
language Al Jazeera satellite TV channel, said troops accused
Chalabi of harboring terrorists.
Observers say that Chalabi's fall from American graces began
months before Thursday's sudden raid. After allegations that Chalabi
had provided faulty intelligence to American defense leaders -
mainly, weapons of mass destruction that were never found - the
American government cut off his party's monthly stipend.
In recent days, American officials have hinted that Chalabi was
impeding US investigations into funds allegedly skimmed from the
United Nations oil-for-food program during the time of Saddam
Hussein. In a strange twist, Chalabi claimed Thursday that one of
the reasons for this raid was his leading role in opening the
Last year, Chalabi was one of 25 Iraqis handpicked by US
authorities for Iraq's governing council. His name was originally
floated as a possible finance minister, though that idea was
eventually scrapped, in large part because of his 1992 conviction
for embezzlement in the neighboring country of Jordan. (Chalabi, who
lived in exile for years during Hussein rein, claimed the conviction
was politically motivated.)
Despised in Iraq
In Iraq, Chalabi is so widely despised that people blame him for
everything from kidnapping and assassinations to electrical outages. …