Ahmed Chalabi

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Ahmed Chalabi
أحمد الجلبي
Chalabi.jpg
President of the Governing Council of Iraq
In office
1 September 2003 – 30 September 2003
Preceded by Ibrahim al-Jaafari
Succeeded by Ayad Allawi
Personal details
Born (1944-10-30) 30 October 1944 (age 69)
Kadhimiya, Iraq
Political party Iraqi National Congress
Spouse(s) Leila Osseiran
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology
University of Chicago
Religion Shia Islam

Ahmed Abdel Hadi Chalabi[1] (Arabic: أحمد الجلبي‎) (born 30 October 1944) is an Iraqi politician. He was interim oil minister in Iraq[2] in April–May 2005 and December–January 2006 and deputy prime minister from May 2005 until May 2006. Chalabi failed to win a seat in parliament in the December 2005 elections, and when the new Iraqi cabinet was announced in May 2006, he was not given a post. Once dubbed the "George Washington of Iraq"[3] by American supporters, he has fallen out of favor and is currently under investigation by several U.S. government sources. He was also the subject of a 2008 biography by investigative journalist Aram Roston, The Man Who Pushed America to War; The Extraordinary Life, Adventures, And Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi [4] and a 2011 biography by 60 Minutes producer Richard Bonin, "Arrows of the Night: Ahmad Chalabi's Long Journey to Triumph in Iraq".[5]

Chalabi is a controversial figure, especially in the United States, for many reasons. In the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), with the assistance of lobbying powerhouse BKSH & Associates,[6] provided a major portion of the information on which U.S. Intelligence based its condemnation of the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, including reports of weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to al-Qaeda. Most, if not all, of this information has turned out to be false and Chalabi a fabricator.[7] That, combined with the fact that Chalabi subsequently boasted, in an interview with the British Sunday Telegraph, about the impact that their alleged falsifications had on American policy, led to a falling out between him and the U.S. government. Furthermore, Chalabi has been found guilty of the Petra banking scandal in Jordan (see below). In January 2012, a French intelligence official stated that they believed Chalabi to be an Iranian agent.[8]

Initially, Chalabi enjoyed close political and business relationships with some members of the U.S. government, including some prominent neoconservatives within the Pentagon. Chalabi is said to have had political contacts within the Project for the New American Century, most notably with Paul Wolfowitz, a student of nuclear strategist Albert Wohlstetter, and Richard Perle. He also enjoyed considerable support among politicians and political pundits in the United States, most notably Jim Hoagland of The Washington Post, who held him up as a notable force for democracy in Iraq.[9] He was a special guest of First Lady Laura Bush at the 2004 State of the Union Address.[10]

Background[edit]

Chalabi is the son of a prominent Shi'a family, one of the wealthy power elite of Baghdad, where he was born. Chalabi left Iraq with his family in 1956 and spent most of his life in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the mid-1960s, he studied with cryptographer Whitfield Diffie at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from which he received a bachelor of science degree in mathematics.[11] In 1969, he earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago under the direction of George Glauberman,[12] after which he took a position in the mathematics department at the American University of Beirut. He published three mathematics papers between 1973 and 1980, in the field of abstract algebra. His Erdős number is 6.[13]

In 1971, Chalabi married Leila Osseiran, daughter of Lebanese politician Adil Osseiran. They have four children.[14]

In 1977, he founded the Petra Bank in Jordan. In May 1989, the Governor of the Central Bank of Jordan, Mohammed Said Nabulsi, issued a decree ordering all banks in the country to deposit 35% of their reserves with the Central Bank.[15] Petra Bank was the only bank that was unable to meet this requirement. An investigation was launched which led to accusations of embezzlement and false accounting. The bank failed, causing a $350 million bail-out by the Central Bank.[16] Chalabi fled the country before the authorities could react. Chalabi was convicted and sentenced in absentia for bank fraud by a Jordanian military tribunal. He faces 22 years in prison, should he again enter Jordan. Chalabi maintains that his prosecution was a politically motivated effort to discredit him. In May 2005, it was reported that King Abdullah II of Jordan had promised to pardon Chalabi, in part to ease the relations between Jordan and the new Iraqi government of which Chalabi was a member.[citation needed] According to one report, Chalabi proposed a $32 million compensation fund for depositers affected by Petra Bank's failure. The website for Petra Bank contains a press release stating that Chalabi would refuse the pardon.[17] Although he has always maintained the case was a plot to frame him by Baghdad, the issue was revisited later when the U.S. State Department raised questions about the INC's accounting practices. According to The New York Times, "Chalabi insisted on a public apology, which the Jordanians refused to give."[14]

Chalabi was also part of a three-man executive council for the umbrella Iraqi opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), created in 1992 for the purpose of fomenting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Although the INC received major funding and assistance from the United States, it never had any influence or any following to speak of in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. The INC's influence gradually waned until the December 2005 elections, in which it failed to win a single seat in Parliament.[citation needed]

He was involved in organizing a resistance movement among Kurds in northern Iraq in the early mid-1990s. When that effort was crushed and hundreds of his supporters were killed, Chalabi fled the country. Chalabi lobbied in Washington for the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act (passed October 1998), which earmarked US$97 million to support Iraqi opposition groups, virtually all of which was funneled through the INC.[citation needed]

Invasion of Iraq[edit]

Before the war, the CIA was largely skeptical of Chalabi and the INC, but information allegedly from his group (most famously from a defector codenamed "Curveball") made its way into intelligence dossiers used by President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to justify an invasion of Iraq. "Curveball", Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, fed officials hundreds of pages of bogus "firsthand" descriptions of mobile biological weapons factories on wheels and rails. Secretary of State Colin Powell later used this information in a U.N. presentation trying to garner support for the war, despite warnings from German intelligence that "Curveball" was fabricating claims. Since then, the CIA has admitted that the defector made up the story, and Powell apologized for using the information in his speech.[18] A later congressionally appointed investigation (Robb-Silberman) concluded that Curveball had no relation whatsoever to the INC, and that press reports linking Curveball to the INC were erroneous.[19]

The INC often worked with the media, most notably with Judith Miller, concerning her WMD stories for The New York Times starting on 26 February 1998.[20] After the war, given the lack of discovery of WMDs, most of the WMD claims of the INC were shown to have been either misleading, exaggerated, or completely made up while INC information about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein's loyalists and Chalabi's personal enemies were accurate. Another of Chalabi's advocates was American Enterprise Institute's Iraq specialist Danielle Pletka. Chalabi received advice on media and television presentation techniques from the Irish scriptwriter and commentator Eoghan Harris prior to the invasion of Iraq.[21]

Chalabi in discussion with Paul Bremer and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

As U.S. forces took control during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, Chalabi returned under their aegis and was given a position on the Iraq interim governing council by the Coalition Provisional Authority. He served as president of the council in September 2003. He denounced a plan to let the UN choose an interim government for Iraq. "We are grateful to President Bush for liberating Iraq, but it is time for the Iraqi people to run their affairs," he was quoted as saying in The New York Times.[22]

In August 2003, Chalabi was the only candidate whose unfavorable ratings exceeded his favorable ones with Iraqis in a State Department poll.[23] In a survey of nearly 3,000 Iraqis in February 2004 (by Oxford Research International, sponsored by the BBC in the United Kingdom, ABC in the U.S., ARD of Germany, and the NHK in Japan), only 0.2 percent of respondents said he was the most trustworthy leader in Iraq (see survey link below, question #13). A secret document written in 2002 by the British Overseas and Defence Secretariat reportedly described Chalabi as "a convicted fraudster popular on Capitol Hill."[24]

In response to the WMD controversy, Chalabi told London's Daily Telegraph in February 2004, "We are heroes in error. As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat."[25]

During the period from March 2000 to September 2003, the U.S. State Department paid nearly $33 million to the Iraqi National Congress, according to a General Accounting Office report released in 2004.[26] Subsequently, Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress was paid about $335,000 per month by the Defense Intelligence Agency until 28 May 2004.

Falling out with the U.S. in 2004–2005[edit]

As Chalabi's position of trust with the Pentagon crumbled, he found a new political position as a champion of Iraq's Shi'ites (Chalabi himself is a Shi'ite). Beginning 25 January 2004, Chalabi and his close associates promoted the claim that leaders around the world were illegally profiting from the Oil for Food program. These charges were around the same time that UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi indicated that Chalabi would likely not be welcome in a future Iraqi government. Up until this time, Chalabi had been mentioned formally several times in connection with possible future leadership positions. Chalabi contends that documents in his possession detail the misconduct, but he has yet to provide any documents or other evidence. The U.S. has sharply criticized Chalabi's Oil for Food investigation as undermining the credibility of its own.

Additionally, Chalabi and other members of the INC have been being investigated for fraud involving the exchange of Iraqi currency, grand theft of both national and private assets, and many other criminal charges in Iraq. On 19 May 2004 the U.S. government discontinued their regular payments to Chalabi for information he provided. Then on 20 May, Iraqi police supported by U.S. soldiers raided his offices and residence, taking documents and computers, presumably to be used as evidence. A major target of the raid was Aras Habib, Chalabi's long-term director of intelligence, who controls the vast network of agents bankrolled by U.S. funding.

In June 2004, it was reported that Chalabi gave U.S. state secrets to Iran in April, including the fact that one of the United States' most valuable sources of Iranian intelligence was a broken Iranian code used by their spy services. Chalabi allegedly learned of the code through a drunk American involved in the code-breaking operation. Chalabi has denied all of the charges, and nothing has ever come of the charges nor do the Iraqi or U.S. governments currently seem very interested in pursuing them.[27]

An arrest warrant for alleged counterfeiting was issued for Chalabi on 8 August 2004, while at the same time a warrant was issued on murder charges against his nephew Salem Chalabi (at the time, head of the Iraqi Special Tribunal), while they both were out of the country. Chalabi returned to Iraq on 10 August planning to make himself available to Iraqi government officials, but he was never arrested. Charges were later dropped against Ahmed Chalabi, with Judge Zuhair al-Maliki citing lack of evidence.

On 1 September 2004, Chalabi told reporters of an assassination attempt made on him near Latifiya, a town south of Baghdad. Chalabi reported he was returning from a meeting with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, where a few days earlier a cease-fire had taken effect, ending three weeks of confrontations between followers of Muqtada al-Sadr and the U.S. military, at the time.[citation needed]

He regained enough credibility to be made deputy prime minister on 28 April 2005. At the same time he was made acting oil minister,[28] before the appointment of Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum in May 2005. On protesting IMF austerity measures, Al-Uloum was instructed to extend his vacation by a month in December 2005 by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and Chalabi was reappointed as acting oil minister. Al-Uloum returned to the post in January 2006.[29]

In November 2005, Chalabi traveled to the U.S. and met with top U.S. government officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. At this time Chalabi also traveled to Iran to meet with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Political activity in Iraq, 2005–present[edit]

The Iraqi National Congress, headed by Ahmed Chalabi, was a part of the United Iraqi Alliance in the 2005 legislative election. After the election, Chalabi claimed that he had the support of the majority of elected members of United Iraqi Alliance and staked claim to be the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iraq; however, Ibrahim al-Jaafari later emerged as the consensus candidate for prime minister.[30]

Prior to the December 2005 elections, the Iraqi National Congress left the United Iraqi Alliance and formed the National Congress Coalition, which ran in the elections but failed to win a single seat in Parliament, gaining less than 0.5% of the vote. Other groups joining the INC in this list included: Democratic Iraqi Grouping, Democratic Joint Action Front, First Democratic National Party, Independent List, Iraqi Constitutional Movement, Iraqi Constitutional Party, Tariq Abd al-Karim Al Shahd al-Budairi, and the Turkoman Decision Party.

Chalabi attended the 2006 Bilderberg Conference meeting outside of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

In October 2007, Chalabi was appointed by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to head the Iraqi services committee, a consortium of eight service ministries and two Baghdad municipal posts tasked with the "surge" plan's next phase, restoring electricity, health, education and local security services to Baghdad neighborhoods.[31] "The key is going to be getting the concerned local citizens—and all the citizens—feeling that this government is reconnected with them.... [Chalabi] agrees with that," said Gen. David Petraeus. Chalabi "is an important part of the process," said Col. Steven Boylan, Petraeus' spokesman. "He has a lot of energy."[31] In April 2008, journalist Melik Kaylan wrote about Chalabi, "Arguably, he has, more than anyone in the country, evolved a detailed sense of what ails Baghdadis and how to fix things."[32]

After the invasion Chalabi had been placed in charge of "deBaathification"—the removal of senior office holders judged to have been close supporters of the deposed Saddam Hussein. The role had fallen into disuse but in early 2010 Chalabi was accused of reviving this dormant post to eliminate his political enemies, especially Sunnis. The banning of some 500 candidates prior to the general election of 7 March 2010 at the initiative of Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress was reported to have badly damaged previously improving relations between Shias and Sunnis.[33]

On 26 January 2012, the New York Times reported Western intelligence officials expressing concern that Chalabi was working with the leading opposition group in Bahrain, Al Wefaq National Islamic Society. A French intelligence official said, "When we hear that some members of the opposition are in touch with Hezbollah or with shady figures like the Iraqi Ahmed Chalabi, of whom we think he is acting on behalf of Iran, then this worries us". The connection between Chalabi and Al Wefaq was acknowledged by Jawad Fairooz, secretary general of Wefaq and a former member of Parliament in Bahrain. Fairooz said, "Mr Chalabi has helped us with contacts in Washington like other people have done and we thank them."[34]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sometimes transcribed as Ahmad al-Jalabi.
  2. ^ Chalabi Named Iraq Oil Minister
  3. ^ The New Republic, Are Foreign Rebel Leaders Duping The American Right, Again?, 11 August 2003
  4. ^ The Man Who Pushed America to War; The Extraordinary Life, Adventures, And Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi
  5. ^ Miller, Laura (5 December 2011). ""Arrows of the Night": The man behind the Iraq War". Salon. Retrieved 13 January 2013. 
  6. ^ Adam Roston, Chalabi's Lobby The Nation 3 April 2008
  7. ^ The Scribe: Michael Isikoff & David Corn: "Hubris." Cherrypicking intelligence, burying dissent, influence of Iranian intelligence, the President with an agenda, government experts who didn't speak up
  8. ^ Souad Mekhennet, In Bahrain, Worries Grow of Violent Shiite-Sunni Confrontation, 25 January 2012, New York Times, [1]
  9. ^ "Iraqi minister: Chalabi will be arrested: One-time U.S. confidant to face bank fraud charges in Jordan." CNN. 22 January 2005. Accessed 20 January 2008.
  10. ^ Special Guests of Mrs. Bush at the State of the Union
  11. ^ Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau, Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption, MIT Press, 1998, p. 108.
  12. ^ Dissertation title: On the Jacobson Radical of a Group Algebra, see Ahmed Chalabi at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  13. ^ Jerry Grossman. "The Erdös Number Project". Oakland University. 5 April 2013. Accessed 8 April 2013.
  14. ^ a b Dexter Filkins. "Where Plan A left Ahmad Chalabi". The New York Times. 3 November 2006. Accessed 20 January 2008.
  15. ^ Aram Roston (1 January 2009). The Man Who Pushed America to War: The Extraordinary Life, Adventures, and Obessions of Ahmad Chalabi. Nation Books. pp. 52–. ISBN 978-0-7867-4429-9. 
  16. ^ Jeremy Scott-Joynt (17 April 2003). "Chalabi's chequered finances". BBC News. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  17. ^ Response to press reports about the resolution of Petra bank case. INC Press Statement. Undated. Page dated 5 January 2005 archived at Wayback Machine Internet Archive. Accessed 20 January 2008.
  18. ^ Citation needed
  19. ^ Miller, Greg; Drogin, Bob (1 April 2005). "Intelligence Analysts Whiffed on a 'Curveball'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 3 August 2007. Retrieved 24 July 2007. 
  20. ^ William J. Broad and Judith Miller. "The Deal on Iraq: Secret Arsenal: Hunt for the Germs of War -- A special report.; Iraq's Deadliest Arms: Puzzles Breed Fears". New York Times. 26 February 1998. Accessed 20 January 2008.
  21. ^ "Iraq: Reduced To A State Of Nature In The Name Of Progress". Editorial. Irish Political Review. December 2006. Accessed 20 January 2008.
  22. ^ David Sanger [2] THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ: THE EXILE; A Seat of Honor Lost to Open Political Warfare, 21 May 2004.
  23. ^ Larry Diamond. Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq. New York: Times Books, Henry Holt & Co., 2005. p. 45.
  24. ^ Smith, Michael (24 September 2004). "Ministers were told premier was seen as stooge". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  25. ^ Michael Smith. "Ministers were told premier was seen as stooge". The Daily Telegraph. 23 September 2004. Accessed 20 January 2008.
  26. ^ "State Department: Issues Affecting Funding of Iraqi National Congress Support Foundation". Report to Congressional Requsters. United States General Accounting Office. April 2004. Accessed 20 January 2008.
  27. ^ James Risen and David Johnston. " The Reach of War: The Offense; Chalabi Reportedly Told Iran That U.S. Had Code". New York Times. 2 June 2004. Accessed 20 January 2008.
  28. ^ Chalabi Named Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Acting Oil Minister
  29. ^ Iraqi oil minister Al Uloum back at work after quitting
  30. ^ Iraq's Shiite ticket picks prime minister
  31. ^ a b Nancy A. Youssef. "Chalabi back in action in Iraq". McClatchy Newspapers. 28 October 2007. Accessed 20 January 2008.
  32. ^ Perseverance Pays Off in Baghdad, Melik Kaylan, The Wall Street Journal, 12 April 2008
  33. ^ The Economist, 30 January 2010
  34. ^ Souad Mekhennet (25 Janıary 2012). "In Bahrain, Worries Grow of Violent Shiite-Sunni Confrontation". New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2012. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Ibrahim al-Jaafari
President of the Governing Council of Iraq
2003
Succeeded by
Ayad Allawi