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Ahmad Chalabi, spy or scapegoat?

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted May 24, 2004

Ahmad Chalabi is now being tagged by his detractors as a con-artist who duped American officials and worse yet, betrayed the American people, while earning a tidy sum in the process. It's said that Chalabi was part of an effort to pass on US secrets to Iran and promulgate Iranian disinformation.

Ahmad ChalabiWith allegations and counter-allegations flying throughout the airwaves, the American people have a right to know whether Ahmad Chalabi is truly a spy for Iran, a scapegoat for the failures of the CIA or something in-between. Considering that a tremendous amount of taxpayer monies have been funneled to Chalabi and his cohorts in recent years, it's all the more vital to get to the bottom of the hubbub. No charges have been brought against Chalabi, but that might very well change with the outcome of an intensive investigation now underway. It's mind-boggling to think that that Chalabi held considerable sway with many in the Bush administration, even being viewed as a possible future leader of Iraq.

Chalabi, once a golden-boy of the Pentagon, was a long-time Iraqi exile leader that vigorously promoted the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein's clutches, and is now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad. Chalabi's organization, the Iraqi National Congress, was receiving approximately $340,000 a month from the US -- in excess of thirty million dollars over the course of the past five years -- for providing intelligence on Iraq. That's beaucoup bucks by any reckoning. Moreover, if Chalabi has been trafficking in information with other nations such as Iran, then he most certainly has other sources of income.

In any event, it would seem that his nefarious activities are quickly coming to an end -- Chalabi's home and headquarters were raided last week for evidence of wrongdoing, with myriad office records seized. And officials are also seeking to apprehend Chalabi's security chief, Araz Habib, who is reportedly an agent for Iranian intelligence. Chalabi avers that he and his cronies are innocent of all charges, including those of passing on "classified" information. He blames everything on that big, bad George Tenet and the CIA that are supposedly out to get him.

Apart from money, which is a powerful motivator in and of itself, the question is why Chalabi would be willing to get into bed with the Iranians? One theory is that Chalabi, a Shiite, was attempting to position himself as a "man of the people" in efforts to ingratiate himself to the Shiites of Iraq and solidify his political base. Iran admits "close ties" to Chalabi, but maintains that there is no espionage involvement. Are we to believe such gobbledygook? It just doesn't ring true, given the patently corrupt nature of the Iranian regime.

And on the Sunday morning news programs, Chalabi's claim to fame was that he provided the US with reliable intelligence that saved American lives during this Iraq campaign. Oh really? Arguably, he probably threw us a few reliable crumbs at the beginning of the Iraq War as any double-agent would have done. But where was the intelligence on those al-Sadr insurgents – the Iraqi Shiites linked with Iran? A heads-up on that particular guerrilla group would have been very helpful to coalition forces. Chalabi never warned us of that gathering storm as radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia prepared to lay siege to coalition forces.

Reportedly, the State Department and the CIA knew that Chalabi was unsavory for quite some time. The standard operating procedure is for authorities to hang back and monitor – In this case, I'm sure they expected Chalabi to lead them to other operatives and persons of interest before the raid on his offices. Moreover, Iraq's chief administrator, Paul Bremer, wanted documents in Chalabi's possession pertaining to the oil-for-food investigation – an investigation that Chalabi was said to be thwarting. That sounds rather odd, doesn't it? This is just a thought, but you have to wonder if Chalabi was "on the take" from Saddam's oil-for-food racket as well. It seems as if Chalabi was playing all sides against the middle, as we say in New York parlance, and was only out for himself. And the allegations only continue, which is not surprising. According to Fox News, Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress was also linked to embezzlement, extortion and even an episode of kidnapping.

Apparently, Chalabi has more in common with Tony Soprano than a staid head of state. If it becomes necessary, I just hope that US authorities are able to locate and freeze Chalabi's assets so that the American taxpayers can recoup some of their losses.

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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