Jewish World Review Feb. 19, 2004 / 27 Shevat, 5764
Stratfor Intelligence Brief by
Ahmad Chalabi key figure in Iraq intelligence fiasco
The United States is reviewing the intelligence that led it to conclude that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which formed the public justification for war. The main channel for intelligence on the subject involved sources developed through the Iraqi National Congress, whose leader, Ahmad Chalabi, was also a key official in the U.S.-organized Iraqi Governing Council.
Like any anti-Hussein leader, Chalabi clearly had a vested interest in providing the United States with information that would lead it to invade Iraq and open the door for a new regime. However, it appears there is also something more here.
Chalabi has had and continues to have excellent relations with Iran, as well as with leading Shia in Iraq.
Chalabi was extremely close to the Iranians prior to the war. Consider the following: He provided much of Washington's prewar intelligence on Iraq, but no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. The Iranians, along with the Iraqi Shia, are the main beneficiaries of the U.S. invasion. In that case, who Chalabi was and whose interests he actually was serving become the central questions.
Chalabi's relationship with Iran proved useful to the United States in the run-up to the war. He arranged for a U.S.-financed transmitter to be installed on Iranian territory, broadcasting into Iraq.
In August 2002, Chalabi met with senior Iranian officials in Tehran, then flew to Washington for separate consultations. According to the Iraqi National Congress, Chalabi spoke to U.S. officials in Washington from Tehran while he was meeting not only with Iranian officials, but with Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country's main Shiite opposition group.
Again in January 2003, before a planned meeting of Iraqi opposition leaders in London, Chalabi visited Tehran to meet with al-Hakim.
The relationship with Iran continued after the end of the conventional war. On the evening of Dec. 1, 2003, Chalabi met with the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rohani. At that meeting, Rohani laid out the argument for Iraqi national elections that Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani had begun pressing the previous summer.
Chalabi responded, "The role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in supporting and guiding the opposition in their struggles against Saddam's regime in the past, and its assistance toward the establishment of security and stability in Iraq at present, are regarded highly by the people of Iraq."
Most reports say U.S. intelligence on Iraqi WMD came through the INC, which means that it came from Chalabi. Perhaps Chalabi was simply trying to get the Americans to invade Iraq, feeding them whatever it took to get them there. The problem with that theory is that the administration intended to invade Iraq regardless. Choosing WMD was a persuasive, public justification - and a good one, given the proof Washington had at hand. Or more precisely, it was a good justification based on the proof that Chalabi provided.
U.S. intelligence about Iraq was terrible: It was wrong about WMD; it underestimated the extent to which the Shia in the south had been organized by Iranian intelligence prior to the war; it was wrong about how the war would end - predicting unrest, but not a systematic guerrilla war. An enormous amount of this intelligence - and certainly critical parts of it - came to the United States by way of the INC or by channels the INC or its members were involved in cultivating. All of it was wrong.
It was not only wrong; it created an irresistible process. The WMD issue has delegitimized the war in the eyes of a substantial number of Americans. The failure to understand the dynamic of the Shiite community led to miscalculations about the nature of postwar Iraqi politics.
The miscalculation about the guerrilla war created a U.S. dependence upon the Shia that is still unfolding. It is al-Sistani, in consultation with U.N. negotiators, who is setting the terms of the transfer of power. The U.S. position in Iraq is securely on Shiite terms, and that means it's on Iranian terms.
This does raise a vital question: Who exactly is Ahmad Chalabi? He has been caricatured as an American stooge and used as a tool by the Defense Department. As we consider the intelligence failures in Iraq, Chalabi's role in those failures and his relationship with senior Iranian officials of all factions, a question needs to be raised: Who was whose stooge?
Some of the most important things in the U.S. review of intelligence about Iraq will pivot around intelligence directly or indirectly provided by Chalabi and his network of sources inside and outside Iraq.
Given the events that have transpired, it is not unreasonable to expect the intelligence review to undertake an intense analysis of Chalabi's role, beginning with this question: What exactly was Chalabi's relationship with Iran from the 1980s onward?
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