Alleged intel fixer Chalabi to assume new role as part of 'surge'
Ahmed Chalabi, the former deputy prime minister of Iraq who has come under suspicion for his pre-war involvement in supplying questionable intelligence supporting the invasion, has assumed a new role within the Iraqi government, according to a report in today’s Wall Street Journal.
According to the Journal, “Mr. Chalabi will serve as an intermediary between Baghdad residents and the Iraqi and U.S. security forces mounting an aggressive counterinsurgency campaign across the city. The position is meant to help Iraqis arrange reimbursement for damage to their cars and homes caused by the security sweeps in the hope of maintaining public support for the strategy.”
In his new position, Chalabi will be responsible for security tasks.
The Journal reports, “Mr. Chalabi's writ is supposed to be limited mainly to security, according to aides to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but he is already speaking ambitiously about playing a larger role in economic, health and reconstruction efforts as well. In his new capacity, Mr. Chalabi answers directly to Mr. Maliki and is already taking part in weekly planning meetings with senior American officials such as Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq.”
Chalabi, who "was convicted and sentenced in absentia for bank fraud by a Jordanian military court" (CNN) back in 1992, has had a rocky history with both the American and Iraqi governments, in large part because of his role in the buildup to the war.
As head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) Chalabi became central to the neoconservative push for regime change in Iraq as early as 1997, and is alleged to have begun fabricating evidence for weapons inspectors around the same time. In 2001, the INC set up a program to transmit stories from Iraqi exiles directly to the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, with the intention of doing an end run around the CIA. These stories, many of which are alleged to have been fabricated, were propagated by prominent journalists including most notably Judith Miller at the New York Times.
Although neither the CIA nor the State Department trusted Chalabi, he remained popular with the neoconservatives in the Pentagon and in Vice President Cheney's office as the Bush administration moved towards an invasion of Iraq. Chalabi was instrumental in transmitting the claims of an Iraqi defector codenamed “Curveball” about mobile biological weapons laboratories that the administration used as part of its war rationale.
Despite his background, Chalabi has continued to play varying roles in the government of Iraq since the invasion. He was named by the US to the interim Iraqi governing council in 2003, becoming the council’s president that September, but his unpopularity within Iraq frustrated any higher political ambitions he might have had. In 2004, Chalabi came under suspicion for currency fraud and of transmitting US state secrets to Iran, but he was never arrested. He served as deputy prime minister and acting oil minister in 2005.
Chalabi has been critical of President Bush for his mishandling of the war. However, before the November elections brought Democrats into control of Congress, Congressional Quarterly reported that then-vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence John Rockefeller (D-WV) had said that “Republicans protected Bush by preventing the investigation into Chalabi's group from going anywhere near the White House.”
(additional research by RAW STORY Research Director Muriel Kane)