The Pentagon's "Trainee," Ahmad Chalabi (INC), Claims to be epresentative of a New Iraq
Monday 07 April 2003
Fifty-four years old, this banker by profession has an acute sense what plays for the media.
"He was the 'perfect candidate' to represent, beyond any American domestic political stakes, an Iraqi opposition controlled by Washington'', Pierre-Jean Luizard said of him in his book, "The Iraqi Question'' (Editions Fayard). And it's precisely to this "value-added'' brought about by the United States that Ahmad Chalabi owes his notoriety.
Illustrious unknown in politics up until Saddam Hussein's armies' invasion of Kuwait in August of 1990, Ahmad Chalabi succeeded in imposing himself as a figurehead of the Iraqi opposition in exile, thanks to a good intuition about American interests, a certain art of persuasion, and an acute sense of what plays for the media.
Nothing, however, predestined him for such a role. Descendant of a rich Shiite family, Ahmad Chalabi, 54 years old, never enjoyed any political position in Iraq. A banker by profession, he has always had a complex relationship with money: condemned in absentia to twenty-two years in prison in the beginning of the eighties for bank fraud and misappropriation of funds in Jordan, he became the subject of suspicion again in the mid-nineties, this time with regard to the use of CIA funds furnished to the Iraqi National Congress (INC); and again only a few months ago, his good faith seemed to have been put in doubt with regard to the use he made of almost half of the 4.3 million dollars of new American financial aid granted to this same INC, a coalition of the Iraqi opposition created in 1992 at the instigation of the United States and of which Chalabi claims to be a central figure.
Ahmad Chalabi lacks neither push nor inspiration. It was he, who, in April 1991, after the repression of the Kurdish and Shiite uprisings by the Iraqi army, contacted Washington to propose collaboration against Saddam Hussein's regime. He found responsive ears with Republican senators such as Trent Lott and Jesse Helms, even more with Richard Perle. He also interested the CIA, and a Jewish lobby which organized a visit for him to Israel. Time, however, will not stand still for him.
In their work, "The Enigma of Saddam Hussein'' (Editions First, 1999), Andrew and Patrick Cockburn recount with a wealth of details drawn from the best, mostly American, sources, the eventful history of relations between Ahmad Chalabi - according to them , frankly recruited by the CIA by 1991- and the INC with the different decision-making centers in Washington.
The rupture with the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department goes back to the mid nineteen nineties; Ahmad Chalabi seeing himself refused all support for two projects to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein. Since, in the opinion of all the specialists, Washington never considered confiding such a task to the INC and the opposition in exile. The Americans were counting on an internal overthrow, a palace revolution, or a coup d'Etat of senior officers decided to break away.
In spite of the American veto, Ahmad Chalabi decided to go into action and in 1996 launched his plan, called "Of the Two Cities''. It was a question of launching attacks on Kirkuk and Mosul in the north of Iraq. The attack, essentially lead by Kurdish fighters, was a disaster. It achieved the discredit of Ahmad Chalabi in the eyes of the CIA which had already engaged another more trustworthy, according to it, "trainee'': Ayad Allaoui, head of the movement called the Iraqi National Entente.
Since the Bush administration takeover, and its resolve to finish with Saddam Hussein, Ahmad Chalabi has a new wind in his sails, even as the State Department and CIA continue to distrust him somewhat. Richard Perle has introduced him to the Pentagon's "hawks'', especially to Assistant Defense Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, and Ahmad Chalabi plays on the internal divisions within the American administration.
On the Iraqi side, most of the historical parties of opposition keep their distance from him and do not hesitate to criticize him virulently in private. He gives as good back and claims to represent a new Iraq of free and independent spirits opposed to the groups he judges "ossified''. However, neither of these two sides can afford the luxury of a rupture in the face of a common enemy while the United States plays the tune.
Translation: TruthOut French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher
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