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16 April 2009

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jon

I would not accept anything that Chalabi says at face value or assume that it represents the truth of the matter. The only thing Chalabi can be trusted to do is to work on his own behalf.

The greatest damage of his statement seems to be that it undermines the credibility and motives of a number of Iraq's more powerful politicians and parties. This might create opportunities for Chalabi and his retinue in the future. At the very least it is likely to destabilize Iraq a bit further, and provide additional grudges to the Sunni population.

It seems that Bush's judgement (such as it is) was easily clouded and shifted by reprising the first Gulf War and his father's role. This is not surprising.

It does cast a worse light on Bush's staff and advisors, including the State Department, military and intelligence services. These bodies are supposed to have the skill and analytic capability to separate wheat from chaff, to work out how the games of power and politics might develop, and to seek to position the US to benefit as greatly as possible in various scenarios.

We know that there were analysts and operatives who refuted Chalabi and his propaganda. We also know that the Administration moved mountains to discredit it own professionals who had the deepest understanding of the area and its politics. Essentially, Chalabi is just twisting the knife.

Ultimately, it reinforces what we already know: that the country was lied, terrorized and misrepresented into a war of choice.

If events had gone as Doug Feith dreamed, and all the dominos fell in our favor there would be loud rejoicing of the brilliance of the plan, how we brought stability and democracy to the Middle East, boxed Iran into a corner, protected Israel, and secured cheap oil for ourselves. But that didn't happen.

Instead what happened was what had always been the more likely outcome: that removing Iraq and its Sunni government, as a counterweight, would advantage Iran which had always had substantial access and influence throughout the Shia majority. With the additional oil consumption needed by the war, withdrawal of Iraq's production, and risk premiums and speculative investments all driving up the price of oil, we benefited every oil producing nation, including Iran, while imposing enormous additional expenditures upon ourselves.

Ultimately, this simply shows that you can't con someone without their willing participation. Chalabi is at most the fulcrum, the seductive whispers in the ear that put the US government into disastrous motion. and we can take some solace from his not having received all of the prizes he was once promised.

Alex

I've long thought just that...is someone finally going to review that CIFA file on Michael Ledeen?

frank durkee

How his fall from grace in '03 or '04 around allegations of giving the Iranians information on US plans etc. fir into this picture?

Cato the Censor

I wonder if neocons like Perle and Feith will continue to stick up for Chalabi now that he has confirmed long-standing suspicions that he's an Iranian agent and basically played them for fools.

William R. Cumming

We need to look long-term. No doubt Iran does and Chalabi seems to do so also. Remember raid by US forces on his office in Iraq?
Still the Iranians may have outsmarted themselves. Now instead of a dictatorship that had lapsed almost into senility and hoping to pass on its power through primogeniture look at the bottom line! A country rich in oil but still divided religiously with almost 7 years of training fighting against or with the US forces in-country. Clearly if Iran goes nuclear, so will Iraq and probably Saudi Arabia. That is the prism through which Iran must operate. And of course Russia continues to play games in Iran. Since oil continues to be the raison-d'etre of international diplomacy, Iranian/Iraqi oil loom large throughout this century. My guess is the major players want to see Iraq and Iran prevented from becoming friends. Certainly big oil powers don't want Iraq broken up even though that would be best political arrangement outside of oil interests. This will really be an interesting decade to watch Iran and Iraq squirm under tutelage and watchfullness of the major powers, including US, Russia, China, and for Iranian purposes Pakistan and India. Hey life cannot be easy for the Iranians. But at least they have have recovered demographically from the Iraqi/Iranian war of the 80's. Chalabi's past indicates that he often outsmarts himself ending up exactly where he does not want to be.

David Habakkuk

jon,

'Essentially, Chalabi is just twisting the knife.'

Trying to make sense of the machinations of the Confidence Man in Melville's novel of that name, a character asks himself: 'Two or three dirty dollars the motive to so many nice wiles?' While Chalabi and his cronies have evidently made plenty of 'dirty dollars' out of their various scams over the years, I also think it likely that -- as conmen often do -- he gets a high out of diddling people.

Whatever more concrete motives he may have for this extraordinary piece of candour, I suspect he enormously enjoyed the scam, and now that he has nothing to lose by coming clean, wants the whole world -- including those he so successfully gulled -- to know what a clever fellow he is.

Highlander

Colonel,

Are you implying that the 9-11 commission was a corrupt process or just incompetent? Or was it both?

And if so why do think was allowed to be so corrupt and ineffective?

It was manned by the "best and brightest" of our political/governmental elites. And it was watched over and reported on by the cream of the MSM. What would be their motive to screw it up?

fasteddiez

FD Says:

"How his fall from grace in '03 or '04 around allegations of giving the Iranians information on US plans etc. fir into this picture?"

Colonel, was this falling of grace due to some intelligence entity doing its' job (finding a clear Chalabi/Iran governmental tie), only to have it spiked by the Bushites, to prevent embarrassment?

Matthew

Col: Truth commissions in the US and UK are always rigged in advance. Tony Blair, for one, was a master of appointing the investigator and then being cleared by the subsequent investigation.

No American government would actually permit a real truth commission.

William P. Fitzgerald III

Pat Lang,

We wuz most certainly robbed, and we did it to ourselves. The vaunted "intel" that was used to propel us into war and which was provided by Chalabi and the Iraq NationalCongress,was intensely desired by the neo-conservatives and other supporters of invading Iraq in the government. However, Many would agree that it was used in support of a course of action already agreed upon.

The question regarding Iran is whether Chalabi succeeded in instigating the invasion as an agent of Iran or, whether the neo-cons in the government used Chalabi and Iran became the unintended beneficiary. I tend to go with the latter, as I don't think that the Iranians could have imagined that America would be stupid enough to invade Iraq. So, the U.S. government used Chalabi to get the war (which not many really wanted), Chalabi used the Americans to gain power in Iraq and Iran benefitted. For an illuminating retrospective look at the selling job on Chalabi by the government and media, see pp. 56 & 57 of "Fiasco" by Thomas Ricks.

WPFIII

Babak Makkinejad

jon:

I agree with you. Chalabi is a very smart man and his statements are tools in his tool chest.

In fact, my understanding has been that Iranians wanted to discuss US plans in regards to Iraq all throughout 2002 and 2003 with no success.

I cannot credit any of this.

A 100 years ago Iranians used to say: "If it does not snow on Mt. Damavand [North of Tehran] it is due to the nefarious machinations of the Perfidious Albion."

Now, a 100 years later, we are asked to believe that the mightiest state that the Earth has seen was manipulated by the Perfidious Persian.

Anyway isn’t Feith a Canadian and thus Her Majesty’s subject? I see the Perfidious Albion in this, don’t you?

curious

I for one am taking this as the beginning of new neocon campaign season against Iran.

If there is echoes, follow up, narrative building, hackeries, chorus, etc...

Then we know the neocon gangs are up to no good again. They are warming up the war propaganda machine.

arbogast

I said when W's Iraq war began, "The Iran/Iraq war is not over and the US just came on the side of Iran."

I know nothing of the ME, but I can eliminate the impossible and take what remains as the truth.

Today we have the next Iraq, an Iraq far worse than W's. We have Obama's Iraq: the looting of the taxpayer to fill the pockets of a tiny coven of plutocrats fleeing from their fraud and lies.

I voted for Obama. I gave his campaign money. But now I sincerely wonder whether McCain could possibly have been worse. I'm all for high-speed trains and stem-cell research, but it's just tinsel, if the country is being destroyed economically.

Elizabeth Warren is the only truth commission we currently have. May her voice be heard.

david

Sir,

My tin foil hat exploded with this one.

It makes me think twice about some conspiracy theories I have heard from the Gulfies over the last 10 years. And it makes me wonder why the Egyptians have been barking so loud over Iran this week.

Are we about to see a race between Israel and the United States over who can cut a deal with Iran first?

Please tell me I'm nuts.

As a small criticism, you did not excerpt the right part of the article -- where he traces his family back four centuries. Reading that tells me why the Americans never really stand a chance in the "east."

Best.

Medicine Man

It seems to me that Chalabi is trying to retro-actively assign himself more importance in the invasion of Iraq than he actually had.

For starters, his suggestion that Saddam would have been safe if not for an implicit agreement between Iran and the US is just a non-starter. The administration at the time had ample resources and public support to oust Saddam Hussein. The fact that the US invasion of Iraq has been a net benefit to Iranian interests in the region, and Chalabi was representing those interests, provides just enough cover for Chalabi to making claims of overseeing some grand manipulation; but that doesn't make those claims true. The bottom line is the Bush Administration were hardly "misled" into pursuing the exact course of action they were desirous of following in the first place. Perhaps Chalabi and his neocon allies in the US enabled these policies, but I don't buy into the image of them as grand manipulators. Pinning all of the blame to them gives them too much credit and deflects too much blame from the ignorant and gullible within the administration at the time.

Patrick Lang

All

I am impressed with the essential vanity of those who do not wish to accept the idea that a relatively minor country like Iran could successfully manipulate the United States and American foreign policy using the ignorance of the general public and the interests of minority groups as tools.

Some of you have forgotten that Paul Wolfowitz in a moment of exceptional candor or exceptional arrogance stated that the WMD threat to the US from Iraq was the "theme" decided on by the Bush Administration as essential to convincing the American public to support an invasion of Iraq.

"The "evidence" used to support that "sale" was largely the product of the Chalabi/Iran apparatus. pl

Medicine Man

Col Lang,

Speaking only for myself, my disagreement with your assessment has nothing to do with my "essential vanity". The United States can and sometimes is mislead by the ploys of smaller states and their actors. One of the ongoing themes of your blog is the media manipulation of the US ME policy by non-governmental ideologues and their foreign allies. This is a fertile ground for discussion, including the efforts of Iranian agent provocateurs.

What I don't agree with is jumping to the conclusions you do based on Chalabi's boasting. If the previous administration was misled into the Iraq invasion, then they were willingly misled.

While there is a patina of truth to Chalabi's claims, there is also ample evidence that the Bush Administration, via Cheney's Office of Special Affairs, was fixing intelligence to support their pre-existing determination to oust Saddam. Taken in this context, it seems evident that Chalabi and his patrons were adding fuel to the fire, not selling the policy itself.

Fred

Col.

Given that the likes of Bernie Madoff manipulated the rich and well connected; and that J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs seem to be doing the same to Obama as we watch, it should come as no surprise that a country could manipulate the US.

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

You wrote: "...those who do not wish to accept the idea that a relatively minor country like Iran could successfully manipulate the United States and American foreign policy..."

Your opinion will be received, no doubt, with great satisfaction in Tehran.

Iran entered the 20-th century with ploughs and donkeys and entered the 21-century manipulating a super-power into eliminating it greatest historical enemy.

Surely, you cannot be seriou.

curious

Speaking of chalabi, I have little questions that I can't seem to find the answer on the net.

1. what exactly was his role/INC during the run up to Iraq war. He was very active in DC. What was his connection with Rumsfeld et.all. (CIA already issued warning about him being a hackster. apparently CIA and him had a falling out a decade or so back.) He was definitely in the circle. A lot of photos, meetings, etc.

2. He did a congresional hearing, presenting what INC did. He shows the "products" resulted from millions of aids, list of articles in the media that he says he was supplying. (major embarrassment to a lot of big prints name) What was Chalabi connection with Judith Miller?

3. Chalabi was also tied to SISMI, fake yellow cake/diplomatic letter. that went nowhere quickly. Mostly a lot of collaborated web reports.

4. Chalabi was also land first in Iraq with his little "army", some photo op. Did he tried to grab Iraq from US? And how come he controls Iraq intelligence papers?

All in all, how deep was Chalabi working the US media? Was he planning/supposed to be the new Iraq president? I guess, how can this guy plays such a big role? Did the CIA fish him out of MIT for a project and he wen on his own way or something? strange.

M. Carey

Chalabi may well have been running several simultaneous schemes: Helping his friends/patrons in Washington gin up the war they wanted, while at the same time , working with Iran, to damage/ destroy Saddam. I remember that there were storied several years ayo- that Chalabi got some of the "data" props from Iran.

M. Carey

By the way, thanks for the reference, it will be interesting reading

arbogast

Was Bush easily manipulated?

C'mon. Trivially easily. For Bush it was all about image. All hat and no cowboy. Putty in the hands of a petty crook like Chalabi.

And now today what about Obama?

Obama has burnished his image by killing three teenage Africans. We are told that those teenagers were threatening their hostage. Is it possible that the destroyer towing them had just turned sharply and they were looking out the hatch trying to figure out what was going on?

Killing them may have been "necessary" and the pirates definitely "went out in the rain to get wet", but it's a sad day for the US when Presidents gain points for their involvement in these killings.

Of course, the Right tries to establish this dialogue all the time with the likes of Rush Limbaugh mocking the President for not being sufficiently macho. I hope they like what they get with that crap.

David Habakkuk

Medicine Man

'While there is a patina of truth to Chalabi's claims, there is also ample evidence that the Bush Administration, via Cheney's Office of Special Affairs, was fixing intelligence to support their pre-existing determination to oust Saddam.'

This is certainly true. But to understand the full significance of Chalabi's contribution, you have to ask why leading U.S. policymakers came to hold the delusional belief that toppling Saddam would provide a panacea for the security problems both of the United States and of Israel.

Part of the answer is that this belief had been sedulously encouraged over a number of years by Chalabi. An interesting discussion of his role comes in an article entitled 'How Ahmed Chalabi conned the neocons' published on the Salon.com website in May 2004 by the Financial Times columnist John Dizard.

'The neoconservative strategy for Israel was laid out in a 1996 paper called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," issued by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in Jerusalem (but written by Americans). The principal authors for the paper were Douglas Feith, then a lawyer with the Washington and Jerusalem firm of Feith and Zell, and Richard Perle, who until last year was the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory committee for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld

'In the section on Iraq, and the necessity of removing Saddam Hussein, there was telltale "intelligence" from Chalabi and his old Jordanian Hashemite patron, Prince Hassan: "The predominantly Shi'a population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shi'a leadership in Najaf, Iraq, rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najaf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shi'a away from Hizbollah, Iran, and Syria. Shi'a retain strong ties to the Hashemites." Of course the Shia with "strong ties to the Hashemites" was the family of Ahmed Chalabi. Perle, Feith and other contributors to the "Clean Break" seemed not to recall the 15-year fatwa the clerics of Najaf proclaimed against the Iraqi Hashemites. Or the still more glaring fact, pointed out by Rashid Khalidi in his new book "Resurrecting Empire," that Shiites are loyal only to descendants of the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali, and reject all other lineages, including the Hashemites. As Khalidi caustically notes, "Perle and his colleagues were here proposing the complete restructuring of a region whose history and religion their suggestions reveal they know hardly anything about." In short, the Iraqi component of the neocons "new strategy" was based on an ignorant fantasy of prospective Shia support for ties with Israel.'

Subsequently, Chalabi changed tack, and abandoned the fantasy of sorting out Israel's problems through Hashemite control of Iraq for the fantasy that the Iraqi Shia were secular, so that an Iraqi democracy, to be headed by Chalabi, would not only be a natural ally of Israel and the U.S., but a dagger pointed at the heart of the regime in Tehran.

At the same time he was explaining to his Muslim friends -- as one of them recalled to Dizard -- 'that he just needed the Jews in order to get what he wanted from Washington, and that he would turn on them after that.'

(See http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2004/05/04/chalabi/)

jon

Col., I don't believe that Iran particularly wanted the US to invade Iraq. Hobble and overthrow Saddam, certainly. But they cannot be enthused to have hundreds of thousands of US military forces pinching them from Afghanistan and Iraq. If the US had achieved the larger objective in Iraq, then we would be in an enormously powerful strategic position to project power throughout the Middle east.

The US objective was questionable from the start, but could have succeeded if there had not been Sunni resistance mainly organized by remnant Baath forces, and followed by the Shia upwelling. Aside from al Sadr, the Shia are aligned, or very sympathetic, to Iran. Iran certainly provided some level of assistance to the Shia, but likely not to the level of command and control, or official provisioning.

I believe that Iran accomplished more than it had initially believed possible in the most favorable outcome. The US actions in Iraq were inept and counterproductive to a staggering degree, following the invasion and mop up of the uniformed military.

I don't believe that it was the intent of the Iranians to install the US, their greatest political foe, on their doorstep. They likely wanted to play some mischief in Iraq, remove Saddam, and perhaps have Chalabi installed. As events unfolded, the ayatollahs of the ISCI proved better positioned and more reliable allies for the Iranians, so I doubt they are unhappy with the outcome.

Ultimately, it was the US that made the decision to invade Iraq. Chalabi and the Iranians provided the McGuffins that could be trumped up and dissembled to give a passing imitation of a justification. But as pointed out above, all of Chalabi's 'evidence' was rapidly proven to be lies or of questionable merit. There is little or no documentation of any active role that Iran might have played in ginning up the evidence that Chalabi planted and supplied. I would have thought the Iranian's to be defter at forgery and fabrication than what was supplied for US inspection. It is the upper echelons of the US government who seized on the disproven evidence, refused to listen to their own exerts and analysts, and led us to disaster.

So, no, it's not the Iranian's fault that we listened to a charlatan. It was not Iran that issued orders to move troops to the Middle East, who ordered missile strike and bombing runs. They bear some level of responsibility for their actions, but it is minor compared to that of the US.

It was clear to other governments, security experts and diplomats, and to millions of people throughout the world that Iraq posed no large, immediate or existential threat to anyone except its own people. The British were fully aware that the facts were being fixed to support invasion. Powell and Rice were clear on this point, until given belaying orders.

Babak, I think that Chalabi works primarily for himself and is happy to attach his allegiance to anyone that might enrich him and further his own goals. That he is now, and has been previously, working with and for Iran does not mean that he has always done so or will in the future.

I don't see the hand of 'Perfidious Albion' in this mess, other than as the poodle accessory to the US effort. The Brits waned to preserve the 'special relationship' and probably hoped to pick up some table scraps from the looting of Iraq to follow. I have never understood what possessed Blair to give such support to Bush in this adventure, and it has not worked out well for him at all.

Wikipedia believes that Doug Feith was born in Philadelphia. His family has roots in Poland and in the Zionist movement. I would look more to PNAC and AIPAC for the critical energy that shaped perception of Iraq as an imminent danger, built a media firestorm, and steered the government towards invasion.

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