Ahmed Chalabi

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Ahmed Chalabi
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Ahmed Chalabi

Ahmed Abdel Hadi Chalabi1 (Arabic: احمد الجلبي) (born October 30, 1944) is the interim minister for oil and a deputy prime minister in Iraq, as of April 28, 2005 [1] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/04/28/AR2005042801261.html).

He is also part of a three-man executive council for the umbrella Iraqi opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), created in 1992 for the purpose of fomenting the overthrow of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. The INC received major funding and assistance from the United States.

Chalabi is a highly controversial figure for many reasons. In the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, under his guidance the INC provided a major portion of the information on which U.S. Intelligence based its condemnation of Saddam Hussein, including reports of weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to al-Qaeda. Much of this information has turned out to be false, and led to a recent falling out between him and the United States. Initially, Chalabi enjoyed a cozy political and business relationships with some members of the US government, including some prominent neoconservatives within the Pentagon. Chalabi is said to have had political contacts within the PNAC, most notably with Paul Wolfowitz, a student of nuclear strategist Albert Wohlstetter and Richard Perle who was introduced to Chalabi by Wohlstetter in 1985. He also enjoyed considerable support among politicians and political pundits in the United States, most notably Jim Hoagland of The Washington Post, who held him up as a notable force for democracy in Iraq. Chalabi's opponents, on the other hand see him as a charlatan of questionable allegiance, out of touch with Iraq and with no effective power base there, and an escrow [2] (http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/01/22/iraq.chalabi/index.html).

Contents

History

Chalabi is the scion of a prominent Shi'a family, one of the wealthy power elite of Baghdad, where he was born. Chalabi left Iraq with his family in 1956 or 1958 and spent most of his life in the USA and the UK. In 1969, he received a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago (dissertation title: On the Jacobson Radical of a Group Ring, see [3] (http://www.genealogy.ams.org/html/id.phtml?id=6597)), after which he took a position in the mathematics department at the American University of Beirut. He has an Erdős number of 6 (see [4] (http://www.oakland.edu/enp/erdpaths.html)).

In 1977 he founded the Petra Bank in Jordan. After the bank's failure, Chalabi was convicted and sentenced in absentia for bank fraud by a Jordanian military tribunal. He fled the country -- the manner of his departure is itself a matter of dispute. He faces seventeen years in prison, should he again enter Jordan. Chalabi maintains that his prosecution was a politically motivated effort to discredit him. (BBC profile, 2002). In May 2005 it was reported [5] (http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level.php?cat=Politics&loid=8.0.165510046&par=0) that King Abdullah of Jordan promised to pardon Chalabi, in part to ease the relations between Jordan and the new Iraqi government of which Chalabi is a member. According to one report, Chalabi proposed a 32 million dollar compensation fund for depositers affected by Petra Bank's failure.

He was involved in organizing a resistance movement among Kurds in northern Iraq in the mid-1990s. When that effort was crushed and hundreds of his supporters were killed, Chalabi fled the country. Chalabi lobbied in Washington for the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act (passed February 1998), which earmarked USD $97 million to support Iraqi opposition group, virtually all of which was funneled through the INC.

Mr. Chalabi has been accused by some opposition figures of using the INC to further his own ambitions.

There are also allegations of financial misdemeanours. In 1992, he was sentenced in absentia by a Jordanian court to 22 years in prison with hard labour for bank fraud after the 1990 collapse of Petra Bank, which he had founded in 1977.

Although he has always maintained the case was a plot to frame him by Baghdad, the issue was revisited later when the State Department raised questions about the INC's accounting practices.

Invasion of Iraq

As U.S. forces took control during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, Chalabi returned under their aegis and was given a position on the Iraq interim governing council by the Coalition Provisional Authority. He served as president of the council in September 2003. He denounced a plan to let the UN choose an interim government for Iraq. "We are grateful to President Bush for liberating Iraq, but it is time for the Iraqi people to run their affairs," he was quoted as saying (NY Times).

In a survey of nearly 3000 Iraqis in February 2004 (by Oxford Research International, sponsored by the BBC in the United Kingdom, ABC in the U.S., ARD of Germany, and the NHK in Japan), only 0.2% of respondents said he was the most trustworthy leader in Iraq (see survey link below, question #13). A secret document written in 2002 by the British Overseas and Defence Secretariat reportedly described Chalabi as "a convicted fraudster popular on Capitol Hill". [6] (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/09/24/wus124.xml&sSheet=/news/2004/09/24/ixhome.html)

Before the war, the CIA was largely skeptical of Chalabi and the INC, but information from his group (most famously from a defector codenamed "Curveball") made its way into intelligence dossiers used to help convince the public in America and Britain of the need to go to war. "Curveball" – the brother of a top lieutenant of Chalabi – fed hundreds of pages of bogus "firsthand" descriptions of mobile biological weapons factories on wheels and rails. Secretary of State Colin Powell later used this information in a UN presentation trying to garner support for the war, despite warnings from German intelligence that "Curveball" was fabricating claims. Since then, the CIA has admitted that the defector made up the story, and Colin Powell apologized for using the information in his speech.

The INC often worked with the media, most notably with Judith Miller, concerning her sensational WMD stories for the New York Times. After the war, given the lack of discovery of WMDs, most of the claims of the INC were shown to have been either misleading, exaggerated, or completely made up. INC reports, on the other hand, were quite useful and accurate in locating the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein's loyalists and Chalabi's personal enemies.

In response to the controversy, Chalabi told London's Daily Telegraph in February 2004, "We are heroes in error. As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat."

Throughout the period, Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress was paid $335,000 per month by the Pentagon for the intelligence provided. In addition, the US State Department paid over $33 million, according to a US General Accounting office report in 2004.

Fall from grace

As Chalabi's position of trust with the Pentagon crumbled, he found a new political position as a champion of Iraq's Shi'ites (Chalabi himself is a Shi'ite). Beginning January 25, 2004, Chalabi and his close associates have been promoting the claim that leaders around the world were illegally profiting from the Oil for Food program. These charges were around the same time that UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi indicated that Chalabi would likely not be welcome in a future Iraqi government. Up until this time, Chalabi had been mentioned formally several times in connection with possible future leadership positions. Chalabi contends that documents in his possession detail the misconduct, but he has yet to provide any documents or other evidence. The US has sharply criticized Chalabi's Oil for Food investigation as undermining the credibility of its own.

Additionally, Chalabi and other members of the INC have been being investigated for fraud involving the exchange of Iraqi currency, grand theft of both national and private assets, and many other criminal charges in Iraq. On May 19, 2004 the U.S. government discontinued their regular payments to Chalabi for information he provided. Then on May 20, Iraqi police supported by US soldiers raided his offices and residence, taking documents and computers, presumably to be used as evidence. A major target of the raid was Aras Habib, Chalabi's long-term director of intelligence, who controls the vast network of agents bankrolled by US funding. Chalabi's future remains uncertain.

In June 2004, it was reported that Chalabi gave US state secrets to Iran in April, including the fact that one of the US's most valuable sources of Iranian intelligence was a broken Iranian code used by their spy services. Chalabi allegedly learned of the code through a drunk American involved in the code-breaking operation. Chalabi has denied all of the charges, and somewhat tellingly, nothing has ever come of the charges nor do the Iraqi or US governments currently seem very interested in pursuing them. [7] (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/02/politics/02CHAL.html?position=&hp=&pagewanted=print&position=)

An arrest warrant for alleged counterfeiting was issued for Chalabi on August 8, 2004, while at the same time a warrant was issued on murder charges against his nephew Salem Chalabi (at the time, head of the Iraqi Special Tribunal), while they both were out of the country. Chalabi returned to Iraq on August 10, but as of early September 2004, he had not been arrested. According to press reports, Chalabi planned to make himself available to Iraqi government officials. Charges were later dropped against Ahmed, with Judge Zuhair al-Maliki citing lack of evidence.

On September 1 Chalabi told reporters of an assassination attempt near Latifiya, a town south of Baghdad. Chalabi was said to be returning from a meeting with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, where a few days earlier a cease fire had taken effect, ending three weeks of confrontations between followers of Muqtada al-Sadr and the U.S. military.

He regained enough credibility to be made deputy prime minister on 2005 April 28. At the same time he was made acting oil minister until the new government could agree on a real one.[8] (http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=564&ncid=564&e=17&u=/nm/20050428/ts_nm/iraq_government_oil_dc_1)

Iraqi Elections 2005

Iraqi National Congress headed by Ahmed Chalabi was a part of the United Iraqi Alliance in the Iraqi legislative election, 2005. After the election, Chalabi claimed that he had the support of the majority of elected members of United Iraqi Alliance and staked claim to be the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iraq. [9] (http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20050220/wl_mideast_afp/iraqvotecandidate_050220202124) However, Ibrahim al-Jaafari later emerged as the consensus candidate for prime minister. [10] (http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050223/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_050223030910)

External links

References

Note

sv:Ahmed Chalabi de:Ahmad Tschalabi

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