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IRVAJ English -MKO > David Frum > Eli Lake > Chalabi = Mossad

IRVAJ English -: "Thursday, May 06, 2004

The Rage Againast Chalabi Continues

May 06, 2004
National Review Online
David Frum's Diary



MAY. 6, 2004: MORE ON CHALABI

Eli Lake of the New York Sun had a very interesting story on the Chalabi accusations in the May 5 edition of that important paper. Some excerpts:

“Those inside the government pushing the line that Mr. Chalabi has divulged secrets to the Iranians come from the same bureaucracies, the State Department and CIA, that have also advocated for the inclusion of Iraqi parties with more open links to Tehran in the Iraqi Governing Council, such as the Dawa Party.”

“A former senior counterterrorism adviser to this White House, General Wayne Downing, said charges that Mr. Chalabi shared secrets with Iran were ‘preposterous.’ ‘All the different political parties have contacts with the Iranians and I don’t think Chalabi would share any information with the Iranians which would cost American lives or would be inimical to the U.S. mission in Iraq.’” [Wayne Downing succeeded Richard Clarke as White House counter-terrorism chief. Those NRO readers unfamiliar with his career might wish to click here.]

Meanwhile, a reader who served in Iraq tells this story.

“In Kut, shortly after the cessation of combat operations probably April 10-May 1, a local leader (I don't think he was a sheik or an imam, just a popular farmer) declared himself governor and took over the Governorate's mansion with his followers. It looked like a flop house when we took it back. In any event, he said he did it to prevent ‘Donald Rumsfield's hand-picked President, Ahmed Chalabi,’ from taking over Iraq. They had daily protests in the front yard (in front of the cameras). Iraqis from rural areas outside of Kut were paid a couple of hundred dinar to get on a bus and help chant ‘La La Chaliba’ (‘No No Chalabi’ in Arabic) in front of the Governorate building.

“I routinely apprehended Iranians in and around Kut. I know for a fact that Iranians were supporting this effort to smear Chalabi and undermine the US effort, by claiming that Chalabi was touring Iraq claiming to be the President. Chalabi is not popular in Iraq because he left and because of the smear campaign in Iraq. I would be very surprised, however, if he was in bed with the Iranians.”

A final thought. It has been apparent for years that the candidates for power in Iraq amounted to this list:

a) Saddam Hussein;
b) The United States;
c) A Shiite theocracy followed quickly by a Kurdish secession;
d) The Iraqi military;
or e) The Iraqi National Congress.

Those who rage at Chalabi seem to believe that he somehow lured the United States into a war that it would otherwise not have had to fight. But that's just silly. Chalabi became important in the mid-1990s precisely because so many people in both American parties had come to accept that Saddam's rule represented an intolerable threat to the peace and security of the Middle East and the world - and were looking for an alternative that was not theocratic, not dictatorial, and would not require direct support from the United States. By building a government-in-exile of Arabs and Kurds, liberals and conservatives, secularists and moderate Muslims, Chalabi offered reason to hope that such an alternative could come into being.

Maybe that hope was mistaken. But as one listens to Chalabi's detracators rage, one rather gets the impression that they are offended that the hope was ever entertained at all. And certainly as I listen to the list of Chalabi's supposed offenses - corruption, authoritarianism, double-dealing with the Iranians - I find myself wondering what those detractors imagine they are going to get from the ex-Baathist Sunni generals now jockeying to replace him. Will they be uncorrupt, unauthoritarian, and sternly anti-Iranian? Or will those issues cease to matter once a regime acceptable to the State Department and Saudi Arabia has taken control? I fear that the second outcome is much the more likely.

PS

And here in the Washington Post is James Dobbins, the US former special envoy to Afghanistan, describing how closely the Brits have worked with Iran - and urging the US to work even more closely. This is blind and perverse policy of course. But if US diplomats think this way, you can understand why wouuld-be US friends in the region have interpreted US actions to mean: Better cozy up to the mullahs.

Oh and one more thing: The story in Salon which rested on the startling quote by Doug Feith's former law partner that Chalabi was a "treacherous, spineless turncoat" who had betrayed his promises to open Iraq to Israeli business? That lawyer, Marc Zell, denies he ever said those words. Zell goes on to point out that since he has never met Chalabi in his life, it's not very plausible that Chalabi would have made him any promises on any subject at all.

Here's Zell's letter to the editor of Salon in full:

"The Salon article by John Dizhart [sic] entitled 'How Ahmed Chalabi Conned the Neocons' contains several quotations attributed to me. None of the quotations ascribed to me was made by me and I categorically disavow each of them. I have never met with Mr. Ahmed Chalabi nor have I ever held any discussions with him. I have no personal knowledge of his past or present dealings, other than what I myself read in the international and national press. Moreover, I have never met with a Mr. Dizhart although I did speak by cellphone on a few occasions with a reporter for the Financial Times by that name about doing business in Iraq. Contrary to what is said in the article, at no time did the person representing himself as Mr. Dizhart ever disclose that he was doing an interview for Salon.Com or for any other newspaper than the Financial Times, for which, he told me, he was tasked to write business stories only.

"Indeed, at no time did I ever consent to be interviewed by Mr. Dizhart for the article in question or any other article. As I recall, the views attributed to me in the article were those of Mr. Dizhart personally and not mine."

MAY. 5, 2004: STATE DEPARTMENT LOGIC

Let’s see if I have this straight: Ahmed Chalabi has been condemned as an Iranian agent and is therefore to be shunned by all agencies of the US government. But Iran itself is to be courted by the United States, and its terrorism and nuclear development is to be ignored. Sound logical to you?

Yesterday, we read in Newsweek and Salon a government-sourced full-blast attack on Chalabi’s connections with the Iranians. But ask yourself this: When was the last time you saw government sources revealing anything untoward about the Iranians themselves?

You may remember that the International Atomic Energy Commission caught the Iranians in a series of lies about their nuclear program last spring and summer. The Iranians themselves finallyy admitted that they had deceived the world for 18 years. It was no longer seriously possible to doubt that Iran was seeking nuclear weapons – or that it had already acquired much of the capability to build them.

In the first shock after the discovery, many expressed fear that the Bush administration would be tempted to act unilaterally to shut down the Iranian nuclear program. Britain, France, and Germany pressed the United States to work through the International Atomic Energy Commission instead – and the US agreed. In November 2003, the IAEA condemned Iran’s past violations of IAEA rules and voted a new set of inspection procedures. The IAEA threatened that if Iran continued to violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the case would be referred to the Security Council – which could (theoretically) vote for harsh sanctions against Iran, including (again theoretically) military action.

On Nov. 26, 2003, Colin Powell said that he was “very happy” with the IAEA’s actions.

But of course, Iran has paid scant attention to the IAEA. The Iranian nuclear program races ahead. And the IAEA has done nothing. No UN referral; no sanctions.

And those intrepid foes of Iranian imperialism at the State Department? What have they done? In March 2004, Colin Powell agreed with the European allies to drop US demands for Security Council action against Iran. US policy is now one of “engagement” with Iran – even as Iran hosts al Qaeda on its territory and supports terrorism inside Iraq.

US inaction has allowed Iran to assert itself as a contender for paramountcy inside Iraq. The US has accepted Europe’s “do-nothing” policy on Iranian nukes. No wonder Ahmed Chalabi joined that phone call to Teheran. Maybe he thought he was doing what America wanted. Unfortunately for him, he misread the policy. America’s clients in Iraq are not allowed to truckle to the tyrannical mullahs of Teheran. Only Americans themselves may do that.

MAY. 4, 2004: THE CHALABI SMEAR

Really, if the CIA and State Department fought this country’s enemies with even one-half the ferocity with which they have waged war on Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress, the United States would be a vastly safer place. Yesterday, the agencies launched their latest offensive against this leader they so detest: They leaked Mark Hosenball of Newsweek a story claiming that Chalabi has betrayed US interests to the Iranians.

“U.S. intelligence agencies have recently raised concerns that Chalabi has become too close to Iran's theocratic rulers. NEWSWEEK has learned that top Bush administration officials have been briefed on intelligence indicating that Chalabi and some of his top aides have supplied Iran with ‘sensitive’ information on the American occupation in Iraq. U.S. officials say that electronic intercepts of discussions between Iranian leaders indicate that Chalabi and his entourage told Iranian contacts about American political plans in Iraq. There are also indications that Chalabi has provided details of U.S. security operations. According to one U.S. government source, some of the information Chalabi turned over to Iran could ‘get people killed.’ (A Chalabi aide calls the allegations ‘absolutely false.’)”

You have to give credit where credit is due: This is an audacious accusation. Audacious because it demands that the State Department’s and CIA’s cheering sections in the media perform a cult-like reversal of belief in everything they were saying about Iraq, Iran, and Chalabi himself up until now.

But those of us with memories that extend back beyond the past 24 hours will have some questions for Newsweek and its sources:

ITEM: Up until now we were supposed to believe that the INC produced no useful intelligence – that it dealt only in fantasies and lies. Now suddenly the INC is accused of being in possession of accurate and valuable sensitive information. How did Chalabi go from know-nothing to valuable intelligence asset overnight?

ITEM: A government source says that the security information Chalabi may or may not have provided could “get people killed.” Get them killed by whom? Up until now, the CIA and State Department have resolutely refused to acknowledge that Iran might be supporting the insurgency in Iraq. Now they are willing to admit reality – but only in order to use it against what they perceive as the real threat: Chalabi.

ITEM: Chalabi has been caught talking on the phone to the Iranians. But wait – hasn’t the State Department been arguing for months that the US should talk to the Iranians about Iraq? In testimony to Congress in October 2003, State number 2 Richard Armitage explicitly disavowed regime change in Iran and called for discussions with Iran on “appropriate” issues. In January 2004, Secretary of State Powell openly called for “dialogue” – and the Bush administration offered to send Elizabeth Dole and a member of the president’s own family to deliver earthquake aid to Iran. (The British sent Prince Charles.) Since then, the hinting and suggesting have grown ever more explicit. What, pray, is the difference between the policy Chalabi is pursuing and that which his State Department critics want the US to pursue?

ITEM: Chalabi is now accused of playing a “double game” in Iraqi politics, an offense for which he must forfeit all rights to a role in Iraq’s future. This “no double game” rule is a new and impressive standard for judging our allies in the Arab Middle East. Question: Will that same standard apply to those former Republican Guard generals whom the State Department is now so assiduously promoting? Will it apply to the former Baathists that Lakhdar Brahimi wishes to include in the provisional Iraqi government? Will it apply to Lakhdar Brahimi himself? Will it apply to the Saudi royal family? Will it apply to the Iranians? Or is it only Ahmed Chalabi who must swear undeviating loyalty to the US policy-of-the-day in Iraq?

ITEM: Salon magazine last night published a lengthy attack on Chalabi by John Dizard. In it, former Chalabi business partner Marc Zell calls Chalabi a “treacherous, spineless turncoat,” for failing to deliver on Chalabi’s alleged promises to open Iraq to trade with Israel. I don’t know that these promises were ever made – and if made, I wonder whether Chalabi ever suggested that they would rank first on a new Iraqi government’s list of priorities. But never mind that: Chalabi has not exercised executive power in Iraq for even a single day. How exactly was it ever possible that he would carry out any promise about anything to anyone?

Ahmed Chalabi no doubt has many faults. I have never been easy in my mind about the collapse of the bank he ran in Jordan back in 1989. (Although the charges that Chalabi himself stole money from the bank are not very convincing either.) But I do know this: Chalabi is one of the very few genuine liberal democrats to be found at the head of any substantial political organization anywhere in the Arab world. He is not consumed by paranoid fantasies, he understands and admires the American system, and he is willing to work with the United States if the United States will work with him. He risked his life through the 1990s to topple Saddam Hussein, which is more than can be said about any of State's or CIA's preferred candidates for power in Iraq. Compared to anybody other possible leader of Iraq – compared to just about every other political leader in the Arab world – the imperfect Ahmed Chalabi is nonetheless a James bleeping Madison.

And maybe that’s exactly why he is so very unpopular with so many of the local thugs and tyrants who unfortunately command the attention of America’s spies and diplomats."