With no on-the-ground intelligence assets (meaning “spies”) of our own in Iraq, the Bush Administration relied on the intelligence-gathering network established – at American taxpayer expense – by Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, an organization of Iraqi exiles.  Although Chalabi had not actually been in Iraq for over 25 years, the United States government paid him $338,000 every month – for a total of over $33 million – to set up and operate his network.  It was information from Iraqi “defectors” supplied by Chalabi’s network (and especially one particular defector who went by the code-name “curveball”) that provided the Bush Administration with the justification it was looking for to invade Iraq – that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, or WMDs, and programs to develop more.  In return for his information, the Bush Administration placed Chalabi on Iraq’s Temporary Governing Council – and on the fast track to become the new leader of Iraq.  Chalabi was in fact so highly regarded by the Bush Administration that he was seated directly behind First Lady Laura Bush at the President’s “State of the Union” speech in January, 2004.


It was just the latest in a long string of embarrassing developments in Iraq, however, when the Bush Administration began publicly distancing itself from Chalabi.  Then all further monthly payments to Chalabi were stopped.  A few days later, U.S. military forces backed up Iraqi security forces as they raided Chalabi’s home and office – a raid that yielded computers, documents and the like.  In a stunning announcement following the raid, the Bush Administration revealed that there is now “rock solid evidence” that Chalabi had passed United States military secrets to Iranian intelligence – specifically, the knowledge that the United States had successfully broken Iranian codes and was listening in on the Iranian military’s communications.  Broken codes are considered the “crown jewels” of intelligence-gathering, making this an especially grievous act against America.  Bush Administration and military officials have told the news media that this information was so sensitive that “only a handful of top officials” had access to it.


So who among this “handful” gave the information to Chalabi?  Did they have Administration approval to do so?  If so, why? If not, will they be punished?  As disturbing as these questions are, other questions raised by this situation are even more devastating.


The first question would seem to be obvious:  Why did we trust this guy?  Members of Congress, along with some State Department officials, had warned the Administration about him, but Chalabi had friends in high places at the Pentagon, such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith, and this fact seems to have carried the day.  Now it turns out that Chalabi had already been convicted of bank fraud in Jordan, and can never return there.  Did we not know this?  If not, why the hell not?  American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines were put in harm’s way based on this guy’s word, and we didn’t bother to check into his background?  Whose brilliant idea was it to give him the time of day, much less $33 million and the trust of a nation?  In another twist to this bizarre tale, Chalabi has also been indicted by Iraq’s new government for printing up counterfeit Dinars (the old Iraqi currency).  Chalabi, who was in – surprise! – Tehran at the time the indictment was handed down, says he is innocent and will return to Iraq to stand trial.


The second question is, in my view, the most troubling:  If Chalabi is really working for Iranian intelligence, how long has this been going on?


The implications are staggering.


First, a little history:  While both Islamic, Iran and Iraq are not ethnically alike (in general, Iraq is Arab and Iran is Persian), and they are nowhere close to friendly – the two nations fought a bitter 8-year war during the 1980’s, a war that essentially ended in a draw (with the edge going to Iraq.).  The United States got involved when we decided to “re-flag” Kuwaiti oil tankers to transport Iraqi oil out of the Persian Gulf under our protection (Iran had taken to blowing up tankers transporting Iraqi oil), by selling weaponry and supplies to Iraq, and by sharing intelligence information on Iranian troop movements and other information to Iraq.  This was right after the fundamentalist Islamic revolution had overthrown the Shah of Iran (one of our closest allies in the region), and Iranian “students” had taken 52 Americans hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held them for over a year (releasing them the day Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President – the conspiracy theorists had a field day with that one).  So, basically, we hated Iran more – at that time – than we hated Iraq.  Iran’s leadership has, of course, not forgotten whose side we were on, and had certainly not come to trust Saddam Hussein, who had started the Iran-Iraq war by invading Iran in the first place, and had even used chemical weapons against Iranian forces and villages (and his own people) during that war.


Now back to our question:  How long has Chalabi been an Iranian agent?


Chalabi’s former top intelligence chief, Aras Habib, is known to have ties to Iranian Intelligence, and the FBI is investigating whether Chalabi and Habib have been working for Tehran all along.  Habib, it seems, has now “disappeared” from Iraq.  If Chalabi has been an Iranian intelligence agent from the get-go, as now appears possible, then it seems that our involvement in Iraq may have been the result of Iranian manipulation from day one.  Iran wanted spies inside Iraq; we paid $33 million to set up and operate a spy network run by an Iranian intelligence agent.  Iran wanted Saddam Hussein removed from power; we believed the “information” provided by the Iranian-run spy network, invaded Iraq, and removed Hussein.  Iran wanted to control a post-Hussein Iraq; we put an Iranian intelligence agent on the fast track to become Iraq’s new leader.


Could it be that we were duped so badly?  Is it really possible that the United States of America has been manipulated into this whole Iraq misadventure?  Over 900 Americans have given their lives in Iraq, believing that they were fighting for America.  What a compounded tragedy it would be if it turned out that they gave the “last full measure of devotion”… fighting for Iran.


UPDATE (1/24/2006): The number of Americans that have given their “last full measure of devotion” in Iraq has risen to over 2200, with over 15,000 severely wounded.  No one is sure how many Iraqis have died – President Bush himself estimated the number at 30,000.

Chalabi was elected to Iraq’s 275-seat National Assembly in the January, 2005 election, and made a run at the Prime Minister’s post. He wound up as Deputy Prime Minister – a position he still holds – and played a significant role in the development of Iraq’s new Constitution.  In the December 15th Parliamentary elections, the first to take place under Iraq’s newly-ratified Constitution, Chalabi was elected to the Parliament, and is now serving as Iraq’s Oil Minister on an interim basis.  That’s right – an Iranian agent and convicted embezzler is now in charge of Iraq’s oil.  You’ve got to love the irony…


For more information on Ahmed Chalabi, click here.


© 2004 by David Bleidistel.  All rights reserved.