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Ahmed Chalabi

Ahmed Chalabi, a secular politician, was notorious for his oversized role in persuading the United States to invade Iraq and overthrow the Saddam Hussein government in 2003 with false information on longtime dictator Saddam Hussein's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction and links to Al-Qaeda. Chalabi was unrepentant about his role. "What happened is that the narrative of war that Bush based his plan on fell apart," he told Foreign Policy magazine in 2014. "Who is at fault? I am. It's an easy target -- a foreigner in Iraq who did things in Washington with questionable methods whom they didn't like. It's easy."

Chalabi was a Shia Muslim born in October 1944 to a wealthy Baghdad Shi'ite banking family. His family went into exile in 1958 the year Iraqi army officers overthrew the monarchy. Chalabi studied in America and taught at American University in Beirut, Lebanon. He lived in exile in Britain and the United States for decades. Chalabi earned a bachelor's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1965, and then went on to get a PhD in mathematics at the University of Chicago.

Chalabi was the chairman of the Petra Bank in Jordan and was eventually convicted (in his absence) of fraud by a Jordanian court. He maintained he was innocent and says the Iraqi government trumped up the accusations. Chalabi, an opponent of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, founded Petra Bank in Jordan in 1977. Over the next twelve years, he grew Petra into Jordan's second-largest bank, with a net worth of thirty million Jordanian dinars or about $40,000,000 at today's rates.

As Chalabi's status as an international financier grew, so too did his vociferous criticism of Saddam Hussein and the Jordanian government, which he charged with complicity in Saddam's wrongdoings. According to Chalabi, his political enemies in Jordan returned to power in the spring of 1989 when Mudhar Badran reassumed the prime ministership and appointed Muhammed Saeed El-Nabulsi governor of the central bank. Nabulsi had occupied this position until 1985, having spent the intervening period in Iraq associating with the "notorious" Iraqi security agency known as the "Mukhabarat."

Chalabi alleged that his public criticisms of Saddam and the Jordanian government angered Nabulsi and Badran, leading them to plot a state takeover of Petra Bank under false pretenses. At the same time, one of Nabulsi's deputies delivered an explicit threat, telling Chalabi that Nabulsi's sole purpose in returning to Jordan was "getting" him. Jordan swiftly laid the groundwork for seizing the bank. In June 1989, the government circulated a denunciatory leaflet entitled "Save What Remains of Petra Bank," designed to discredit Chalabi and to undermine the confidence of Petra's depositors.

Acting under a martial law decree from Jordan's Economic Security Committee, the state seized the bank by military force. Nabulsi ordered Chalabi to remain in Jordan and to serve on the bank's new management committee, but according to Chalabi, this was a pretext to facilitate his kidnapping by the Mukhabarat. Warned of the plot, Chalabi fled Jordan on August 7, 1989, never to return.

In 1992, Chalabi co-formed the Iraqi National Congress to oust Hussein. For the next 12 years, Ahmad had an on-again, off-again relationship with American presidential administrators and intelligence agencies. He rose to prominence as a leading figure in Iraq's exiled opposition in the 1990s, and forged close ties with future Vice President Dick Cheney and the so-called neoconservatives.

Following the 1991 gulf war Chalabi organized a Kurdish uprising in Northern Iraq. The uprising failed and the INC fled Iraq. Dr. Ahmad Chalabi was leader of Iraqi National Congress until April of 1999, when he was demoted to the rank of an ordinary member. A collective leadership of seven persons, each representing one of the main opposition groups, was established in his place.

For a decade, exiled Iraqi Ahmed Chalabi was America's chosen leader-to-be in a new Iraq. Championed by Pentagon neocons and objected to by the State Department, Chalabi received more than 100 million US taxpayer dollars as America's man designated to be leader of a new Iraqi government. But the State Department finally won out in its struggle with the Pentagon to dump Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress, delivering Iraq to a competing exiled group, Dr. Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord.

As leader of the Iraqi National Congress, Chalabi was one of the best known Iraqi opposition figures in the West. Chalabi also was a convicted bank swindler who fed the Bush administration false intelligence about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and capabilities and Iraq's ties to terrorism.

Chalabi influenced the US Congress to pass the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998. That law stated military action in Iraq that former President George W. Bush said would bring democracy to Iraq and the region. He was friends with former Vice President Dick Cheney and many top Pentagon officials. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Chalabi's then-exiled Iraqi National Congress (INC) party played a key role in persuading the US administration of President George W. Bush to invade Iraq.

Chalabi convinced Vice President CHENEY that the United States would be greeted as a great liberator in Iraq. Chalabi was widely seen as the man who helped push the United States into invading Iraq in 2003 with information about Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program. Chalabi's long exile meant that the INC was little-known and did not have grassroots support in Iraq. That was one of the reasons Washington's plan to place the INC as the interim government fell apart.

Chalabi was repeatedly cited as a source of false intelligence that led the U.S. to invade Iraq. Chalabi fed false stories about Iraq's weapons capabilities to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, a story that the Times was later forced to publicly discount.

According to multiple accounts, as the Administration was building its case for going to war in Iraq, Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress (INC) provided the Administration with defectors who claimed to be able to confirm the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Information the INC provided repeatedly turned out to be fraudulent or impossible to corroborate with available intelligence, and the credentials of the defectors were exaggerated. According to news accounts, intelligence experts such as the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the CIA had longstanding doubts about the reliability of INC information, but DOD offices embraced INC information and passed it to the White House without traditional layers of review.

The CIA may have questioned the authenticity of Iranian intelligence passed on to the U.S. by Chalabi, yet still this intelligence was used eagerly to promote the pro-war propaganda that so many in Congress and the nation bought into. And now it looks like the intelligence fed to Chalabi by Iran was deliberately falsified, but because it fit in so neatly with the neocon's determination to remake the entire Middle East, starting with a preemptive war against Iraq, it was received enthusiastically.

In February 2003 Chalabi returned to Iraq, first in Northern Iraq and then in Nasiryah. In November 2003, the Supreme National De-Ba'athification Commission replaced the Iraqi De-Ba'athification Council; Ahmed Chalabi, the Shi'a expatriate politician, served as its first chairman. Chalabi was the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq's newly constituted government in 2005.

Chalabi was one of the main proponents of the "de-Baathification" drive to remove suspected Saddam loyalists from public life. The de-Ba'athification programs designed to dismantle the legacy of Hussein's party, alienated Iraq's Sunni minority and fueled the insurgency against US-led forces.

By 2007 the US Government urged de-Ba'athification Commission head Ahmed Chalabi to significantly revise the Commission's de-Ba'athification bill to be more supportive of reconciliation efforts. The US pressed Chalabi to relax the current standards of de-Ba'athification, focusing on criminality rather than Ba'ath party membership.

On August 11, 2004, Ahmad Chalabi sued the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in federal court, alleging a civil RICO conspiracy and various torts related to Jordan's seizure of his bank some fifteen years earlier. Finding that Chalabi had alleged facts supporting jurisdiction over a foreign sovereign, the district court dispensed with jurisdictional discovery and dismissed Chalabi's claims as time-barred.

Satisfied that Chalabi had alleged - if not shown - facts sufficient to overcome Jordan's sovereign immunity under the "commercial activity" exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(2), the district court nonetheless held that the statutes of limitation applicable to Chalabi's claims provided a straightforward, "non-merits ground" for resolving the case. Chalabi missed the deadline by more than a decade: the three-year period for common law torts and the four-year period for civil RICO began running in 1989.

Once viewed by Washington as a potential successor to Hussein to lead postwar Iraq, Chalabi soon fell out of favor with his American backers because Iraqs alleged weapons of mass destruction never materialized. By 2004, he had been cut off from all aid by the US.

His American backers suspected Chalabi was funneling intelligence to arch-foe Iran. Chalabi was also under investigation by the FBI for allegedly leaking U.S. intelligence information to Iran. He was suspected of telling the Iranians that the US had broken the code by which the US was learning information about their activities. According to former U.S. intelligence officials, this leak "could have caused serious damage to U.S. national seurity." The serious concern was that valuable and top-secret U.S. intelligence may well have gone in the other direction: to Iran with the help of Chalabi. These serious concerns led to the dumping of the heir apparent Chalabi, the arrest of his colleagues, and the raid on his home and headquarters to seize important documents.

US special forces raided his Baghdad home in May 2004 and seized documents and computers. But no evidence was found of ties with Tehran. Chalabi acknowledged Iran's strong influence in Iraq as a fact of life, pointing out that 80 percent of Iraqis live within 150 km of the Iranian border.

Chalabi was a polarizing figure who played high-stakes politics but never managed to reach the top of his country's sectarian-driven political landscape. Chalabi lacked popular support in his native Iraq and was dogged by controversy through his long political life. But largely through political maneuvering, he remained a prominent figure in Iraq and was often touted as a candidate to lead the country.

After being spurned by Washington, Chalabi allied himself with radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militias fought against US forces and who remains a prominent political figure in Iraq. He was also thought to have had the backing of Iraq's most influential Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

He survived an assassination attempt in 2008. In that attack, he was targeted by a suicide bomber. After that, Chalabi allied himself through the Shia Iraqi National Alliance (INA) with Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite leader and Iran ally. His revelation that effectively all Iraqi politics were sectarian may indicate why he, a professed secularist, decided to cast his lot with Iraq's best known sectarian coalition.

Chalabi, who served as the chairman of parliament's finance committee, also served as deputy prime minister and held the key oil portfolio. But he was never able to reach the political heights to which he aspired. In 2014, Chalabi was even being talked about as a serious candidate to replace Nuri al-Maliki as prime minister. But his candidacy, like much of his promising political career, fizzled out.

Chalabi asserted that it was important for the GOI to regularize Iranian missions with official visas, establish a security committee between Iran and Iraq with a British representative as an observer, and that it was important for the US to support legitimate operations between the Iraqi and Iranian government - for example, public works programs that could involve Iranian support (like de-mining).

In 2010, US. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill said Chalabi was "under the influence of Iran" and "a gentleman who has been challenged over the years to be seen as a straightforward individual."

Chalabi, a leading voice behind the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, died at age 71. Attendants found him dead of a heart attack in his Baghdad home on 03 November 2015.

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Page last modified: 22-08-2016 18:33:28 ZULU