June 02, 2004

Chalabi's Fall

On one level, this story is as much about State and CIA flexing their muscles now that formerly ascendant neo-con hawks at the Pentagon are on the defensive. Chalabi, of course, was their baby and now appears to have proven something akin to a traitor of sorts.

I never much liked Chalabi. He had no grass roots support among the Shi'a and, I suspected, was more interested in intrigues and obtaining power than really fostering democracy in Iraq. The allegedly shady dealings in Jordan didn't help either.

But what the Times is reporting crosses all bounds of acceptable behavior:

"American officials said that about six weeks ago, Mr. Chalabi told the Baghdad station chief of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security that the United States was reading the communications traffic of the Iranian spy service, one of the most sophisticated in the Middle East.

According to American officials, the Iranian official in Baghdad, possibly not believing Mr. Chalabi's account, sent a cable to Tehran detailing his conversation with Mr. Chalabi, using the broken code. That encrypted cable, intercepted and read by the United States, tipped off American officials to the fact that Mr. Chalabi had betrayed the code-breaking operation, the American officials said.

American officials reported that in the cable to Tehran, the Iranian official recounted how Mr. Chalabi had said that one of "them" a reference to an American had revealed the code-breaking operation, the officials said. The Iranian reported that Mr. Chalabi said the American was drunk."

If this story proves true and is fully corroborated--it's not just Chalabi's reputation that will nose-dive. His more ardent Beltway supporters will have to explain their misjudgement in providing a potential quisling with funds, political support, and assorted accolades over many long months.

Needless to say, Chalabi is pretty radioactive now. Check out this beaut from Bush:

"In the past two weeks, the administration has moved to sever its close ties with Mr. Chalabi, whose group received more than $4 million a year from the Defense Intelligence Agency, and who sat behind Laura Bush, the first lady, at the State of the Union address earlier this year.

Nevertheless, at the White House on Tuesday, President Bush sought to play down the role of Mr. Chalabi and his group as a source of information in his administration's decision to go to war in Iraq. "My meetings with him were very brief," Mr. Bush said, saying that he might have met with Mr. Chalabi at the State of the Union address as part of a "rope line" greeting. "I haven't had any extensive conversations with him." [emphasis added]


Just a rope-line thang....

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