Friday, February 04, 2005

The March of Freedom, part 2

Or, how the Iranian Intelligence Service got the U.S. to remove a threatening neighbor, increase the Shia power base in the region, and foot the bill for the entire thing.

Also, a few words about the '80% turnout' and '8 million voters' figures that've been bandied breathlessly about and some snippets about the Iraqi election, and its unfolding irregularities.


Blogger Management said...

Intelligence: A Double Game
Has Chalabi given 'sensitive' information on U.S. interests to Iran? He denies it, but the White House is wary
By Mark Hosenball

May 10 issue - Ahmad Chalabi, the longtime Pentagon favorite to become leader of a free Iraq, has never made a secret of his close ties to Iran. Before the U.S. invasion of Baghdad, Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress maintained a $36,000-a-month branch office in Tehran—funded by U.S. taxpayers. INC representatives, including Chalabi himself, paid regular visits to the Iranian capital. Since the war, Chalabi's contacts with Iran may have intensified: a Chalabi aide says that since December, he has met with most of Iran's top leaders, including supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his top national-security aide, Hassan Rowhani. "Iran is Iraq's neighbor, and it is in Iraq's interest to have a good relationship with Iran," Chalabi's aide says.

But U.S. intelligence agencies have recently raised concerns that Chalabi has become too close to Iran's theocratic rulers. NEWSWEEK has learned that top Bush administration officials have been briefed on intelligence indicating that Chalabi and some of his top aides have supplied Iran with "sensitive" information on the American occupation in Iraq. U.S. officials say that electronic intercepts of discussions between Iranian leaders indicate that Chalabi and his entourage told Iranian contacts about American political plans in Iraq. There are also indications that Chalabi has provided details of U.S. security operations. According to one U.S. government source, some of the information Chalabi turned over to Iran could "get people killed." (A Chalabi aide calls the allegations "absolutely false.")

Why would Chalabi risk his cozy ties to Washington by cuddling up to Iran's fundamentalist rulers? Administration officials say Chalabi may be working both sides in an effort to solidify his own power and block the advancement of rival Iraqis. A U.S. official familiar with information presented to policymakers said that White House advisers were concerned that Chalabi was "playing footsie" with the Iranians. Yet Chalabi still has loyal defenders among some neoconservatives in the Pentagon. They say Chalabi has provided information that saved American lives. "Rushing to judgment and cutting off this relationship could have unintended consequences," says one Pentagon official, who did not respond to questions about Chalabi's dealings with Tehran. Each month the Pentagon still pays his group a $340,000 stipend, drawn from secret intelligence funds, for "information collection."

Still, the State Department and the CIA are using the intelligence about his Iran ties to persuade the president to cut him loose once and for all. Officials say that even some of Chalabi's old allies in Washington now see him as a liability. If Chalabi's support in the administration was once an iceberg, says one Bush aide, "it's now an ice cube."
© 2004 Newsweek, Inc.


1:52 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Iran used Chalabi to dupe U.S., report says

By Knut Royce
WASHINGTON — The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that for years Iran has used a U.S.-funded arm of Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress to funnel disinformation to the United States and to collect highly sensitive American secrets, according to intelligence sources.

"Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program (ICP) information to provoke the United Sates into getting rid of Saddam Hussein," said an intelligence source who was briefed on the conclusions of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

The ICP also "kept the Iranians informed about what we were doing" by passing classified U.S. documents and other sensitive information, he said. The ICP has received millions of dollars from the U.S. government over several years.

An administration official confirmed that "highly classified information had been provided (to the Iranians) through that channel."

The Defense Department this week halted payment of $340,000 a month to Chalabi's program.

Patrick Lang, former director of the DIA's Middle East branch, said he had been told by colleagues that Chalabi's U.S.-funded program to provide information about weapons of mass destruction and insurgents was effectively an Iranian intelligence operation. "They (the Iranians) knew exactly what we were up to," he said.

He described it as "one of the most sophisticated and successful intelligence operations in history."

"I'm a spook. I appreciate good work. This was good work," he said.

An DIA spokesman would not discuss questions about his agency's internal conclusions about the alleged Iranian operation. But he said some of its information had been helpful. "Some of the information was great, especially as it pertained to arresting high-value targets and on force-protection issues," he said. "And some of the information wasn't so great."

At the center of the alleged Iranian intelligence operation, according to administration officials and intelligence sources, is Aras Habib, 47, a Shiite Kurd who was named in an arrest warrant issued during a raid on Chalabi's home and offices in Baghdad on Thursday. He eluded arrest.

Habib is in charge of the information collection program.

The intelligence source briefed on the DIA's conclusions said that Habib's "fingerprints are all over it."

"There was an ongoing intelligence relationship between Habib and the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, all funded by the U.S. government, inadvertently," he said.

A U.S. intelligence official said the evidence of Habib's ties to Iran includes both intercepts and some documentation. The official said Habib provided sensitive information, some of it classified above top secret, to the Iranians.

The Iraqi National Congress (INC) has received about $40 million in U.S. funds over the past four years, including $33 million from the State Department and $6 million from the DIA.

The links between the INC and U.S. intelligence go back to at least 1992, when Habib was picked by Chalabi to run his security and military operations.

An intelligence official said Habib also was the INC official who handled most of the Iraqi defectors, including one code-named "Curveball," who provided much of the fabricated, exaggerated and unconfirmed information about Iraqi weapons programs and links to terrorism that President Bush used in making his case for invading Iraq.

Indications that Iran, which fought a bloody war against Iraq during the 1980s, was trying to lure the United States into action against Saddam Hussein appeared many years before the Bush administration decided in 2001 that ousting Saddam was a national priority.

In 1995, for instance, Khidhir Hamza, who had once worked in Iraq's nuclear program and whose claims that Iraq had continued a massive bomb program in the 1990s are now largely discredited, gave United Nations nuclear inspectors what appeared to be explosive documents about Iraq's program.

Hamza, who fled Iraq in 1994, later teamed up with Chalabi.

The documents, which referred to results of experiments on enriched uranium in the bomb's core, were almost flawless, according to Andrew Cockburn's recent account of the event in Counterpunch, a political newsletter and Web site.

But the scientists were troubled by one minor matter: Some of the technical descriptions used terms that would be used only by an Iranian. They determined that the original copy had been written in Farsi by an Iranian scientist and then translated into Arabic.

The International Atomic Energy Agency concluded the documents were fraudulent.

Material from Knight-Ridder Newspapers is included in this report.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Strong Lead by Shiite Clergy in Iraq Vote

Thu Feb 3, 5:04 PM ET

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi officials Thursday released the first partial returns from national elections, showing a commanding lead by candidates backed by the Shiite Muslim clergy. Sunni insurgents unleashed a wave of attacks, killing at least 29 people, including two U.S. Marines and a dozen Iraqi army recruits.

Meanwhile, election officials said strict security measures may have deprived many Iraqis in the Mosul area and surrounding Ninevah province of their right to vote. The admission is likely to fuel complaints by Iraq (news - web sites)'s minority Sunni Arabs, who make up the heart of the insurgency, that they were not represented in the vote.

The results released by the election commission four days after Sunday's balloting came from Baghdad and five provinces in the southern Shiite heartland.

As expected, they showed that the United Iraqi Alliance, backed by Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was leading — with 1.1 million votes out of the 1.6 million counted and certified so far. Some 14 million Iraqis were eligible to vote.

The ticket headed by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a U.S.-backed secular Shiite, trailed second with more than 360,500 votes.

But the returns — from 10 percent of the country's 5,200 polling centers — were too small to indicate a national trend.

Shiites make up an estimated 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people, and the al-Sistani-backed ticket had been expected to roll up such huge margins in the south that the other 110 candidate lists would have to struggle for votes in the rest of the country.

Shiites turned out in huge numbers in cities such as Basra, Nasiriyah, Karbala and Najaf, urged on by clerics who said voting was a religious duty.

However, many Sunni Arabs apparently stayed home, either out of fear of insurgent attacks or in response to boycott calls from their own clerics.

Election officials have said full official results and determine turnout might not be ready until Tuesday.

Seats in the 275-member National Assembly will be determined based on the percentage of the nationwide vote won by each ticket.

The count appeared to have been delayed somewhat by controversies in Ninevah, a region with a large Sunni Arab population.

On Thursday, the electoral commission said it had sent a team to the northern city of Mosul to investigate complaints that some stations never opened or ran out of ballots.

Election official Safwat Rashid said U.S. and Iraqi forces in the area initially allowed authorities in Ninevah, the province surrounding Mosul, to open only 90 out of its 330 polling stations.

As the day went on and security proved better than expected, authorities opened more stations but were unable to get supplies to all of them. "We tried to send the boxes and ballot papers to those places," Rashid said. "In some places we succeeded, and unfortunately in some other places due to transportation and other things, we failed."

He could not say how many stations opened in the end.

One prominent Sunni politician, Meshaan al-Jubouri, accused the commission of mismanaging the vote in some Sunni areas because they "didn't want the Sunnis to vote so that the Shiites could score a fake victory."

Insurgents eased up on attacks following the elections, when American and Iraqi forces imposed draconian security measures. In Baghdad, residents had a cautious sense of security, with the streets clogged with traffic, children playing in parks and outdoor markets bustling with people.

But starting Wednesday night, guerrillas launched a string of dramatic attacks.

In the deadliest incident, insurgents stopped a minibus south of Kirkuk, ordered army recruits off the vehicle and gunned down 12 of them, said Maj. Gen. Anwar Mohammed Amin. Two soldiers were allowed to go free, ordered by the rebels to warn others against joining Iraq's U.S.-backed security forces, he said.

Both Marines were killed in action Wednesday night in Anbar, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad.

Elsewhere, rebels attacked Iraqi police Thursday in the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib, killing one policeman and wounding five, the Interior Ministry said.

Gunmen fired on a vehicle carrying Iraqi contractors Thursday to jobs at a U.S. military base in Baqouba north of the capital, killing two people, officials said.

A suicide car bomber struck a foreign convoy escorted by military Humvees on Baghdad's dangerous airport road Thursday, destroying several vehicles and damaging a house, Iraqi police said. Helicopters were seen evacuating some casualties, witnesses said. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.

Insurgents ambushed another convoy in the area, killing five Iraqi policemen and an Iraqi national guard major, police said. An Iraqi soldier was killed by gunmen as he was leaving his Baghdad home, officials said.

Also, the bodies of two slain men wearing blood-soaked clothes were found in the western insurgent stronghold of Ramadi. A handwritten note tucked into the shirt of one of the men claimed the two were Iraqi national guardsmen.

On Wednesday night, insurgent attacks in Tal Afar, near Mosul, and at a police station in the southern city of Samawah killed three Iraqis.

A car bomb exploded at a house used by U.S. military snipers in Qaim, near the Syrian border, witnesses said. U.S. troops opened fire, hitting some civilians, the witnesses said. A U.S. military spokesman had no immediate information.

During the election, Iraqis also chose provincial councils and a regional parliament for the autonomous Kurdish north. According to the count, the Shiite Alliance was running first and Allawi's list second in all six provinces reporting.

Jockeying has begun for the leadership positions even before the balance of power in the assembly is known.

Kurdish political leader Jalal Talabani said he would seek the office of either president or prime minister when the National Assembly convenes.

"We as Kurds want one of those two posts and we will not give it up," Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said at a news conference alongside the other main Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Um, maybe turnout wasn't so high...
by kos
Fri Feb 4th, 2005 at 08:07:53 PST

We knew this was coming.
For days, the press repeated, as gospel, assertions offered by an election official that 8 million Iraqis went to the polls on Sunday, an impressive 57% turnout rate. I questioned those figures as early as last Sunday, and offered the detailed analysis below on Wednesday. Finally, on Thursday night, John F. Burns and Dexter Filkins of The New York Times reported that Iraqi election officials have quietly "backtracked, saying that the 8 million estimate had been reached hastily on the basis of telephone reports from polling stations across the country and that the figure could change."

Then, in Friday's paper, Burns and Filkins noted that one election commision official was "evasive about the turnout, implying it might end up significantly lower than the initial estimate." They quoted this official, Safwat Radhid, exclaiming: "Only God Almighty knows the final turnout now." And they revealed that the announcement of a turnout number, expected to be released this weekend, has been put off for a week.

I'll be delighted if that figure, when it is officially announced, exceeds the dubious numbers already enshrined by much of the media. But don't be surprised if it falls a bit short. The point is: Nobody knows, and reporters and pundits should have never acted like they did know when they stated, flatly, that 8 million Iraqis voted and that this represents a turnout rate of about 57%. [...]

And one thing we now know for sure: the early media blather about a "strong" Sunni turnout has proven false. Adding a dose of reality, The Associated Press on Wednesday cited a Western diplomat who declared that turnout appeared to have been "quite low" in Iraq's vast Anbar province. Meanwhile, Carlos Valenzuela, the chief United Nations elections expert in Iraq, cautioned that forecasts for the Sunni areas were so low to begin with that even a higher-than-expected turnout would remain low.

In a rare reference to an actual vote tabulation, The New York Times on Thursday reports that in the "diverse" city of Mosul, with 60% of the count completed, the overall turnout seems slightly above 10%, or "somewhat more than 50,000 of Mosul's 500,000 estimated eligible voters."
Ultimately, the war will go on whether 95 percent of Iraqis voted, or 10 percent did. But this is symptomatic of the American press' laziness and willingness to uncritically regurgitate whatever spin "officials" deliver to them.

Perception in this country is now that the elections were a huge success. And after yammering on and on about the great voter turnout in Iraq, none of these media outlets will report the final, actual numbers, in anything more than a back-page blurb.

Once again, Americans will have a distorted view of the actual situation on the ground. And once again, when it comes to Iraq, deceit will be the name of the game.

Update: DHinMI writes:
In al-Anbar it was only 17,000 of 250,000 eligible voters, or 7% turnout. In Mosul, a city of 1.8 million people, only 54,000 votes were cast (3% of the population, so probably no more than 5% of the eligible voters). At one poll in Mosul only 3% of voters were women. At another, which opened at 7:00, at 10:00 they didn't have a single voter except the soldiers assigned to protect it. Why? Well, maybe folks didn't want to lose their heads--literally:

A cluster of men stood within 25 feet of the entrance, saying they were too frightened to go in.

The low numbers made for a dramatically different day for the soldiers of C Company. Instead of protecting voters on the periphery of the polling sites, as occurred in most areas, the company's platoons spent much of the day on raids in which they would burst into homes in search of insurgents, only to wind up urging the occupants to vote.

"Of course I want to vote; we all want to vote," said Mazahim Khalil, a professor at Mosul University's College of Veterinary Medicine, after his house was searched. "We waited 50 years for this. But everyone is afraid."

On a wall across the street from Khalil's house was a warning in Arabic: "Anyone who votes will be beheaded."

But soldiers said they were not disappointed by the low turnout in neighborhoods where they are frequently attacked. Rather, they said they were pleased that casualties were kept low -- the one reported death in Mosul came when an Iraqi soldier accidentally fired his weapon at a polling site -- after weeks of concern that the northern Iraqi city would be a magnet for insurgent violence during the election.

In other words, it was a success because nobody got attacked, and even though GOTV-at-gunpoint doesn't seem to have increased turnout.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Management said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Management said...

More about this from
Excellent, we conquered Iraq for Iran. But Bush wasn't played, oh no, this is Democracy! This is freedom!

Just in case you are too tired to connect the dots. Lets review. Iran and Iraq under Saddam are deadly enemies. An Iranian spy Chalabi goads Bush into replacing Saddam, he does this by feeding the Bush Admin false information. Information the CIA knew was false and Chalabi later admitted was false, but anything to "free his homeland". But what is freedom? An Iranian is elected.

So we did Iran's dirty work for them all because Bush was duped. Maybe some of you can ask Bush about this when you have that fabled beer you are all going to enjoy drinking with him.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Management said...

The Washington Times
For Iraqi, the end justifies means
By Jack Fairweather
Published February 20, 2004

BAGHDAD -- An Iraqi leader accused of feeding faulty prewar intelligence to Washington said his information about Saddam Hussein's weapons -- even if discredited -- achieved the aim of persuading the United States to topple the dictator.
Ahmed Chalabi and his London-based exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, for years provided a conduit for Iraqi defectors who were debriefed by U.S. intelligence agents.
But many American officials now blame Mr. Chalabi for providing what turned out to be false or wildly exaggerated intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
During an interview, Mr. Chalabi, by far the most effective anti-Saddam lobbyist in Washington, shrugged off charges that he had deliberately misled U.S. intelligence.
"We are heroes in error," he said in Baghdad on Wednesday. "As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful.
"Our objective has been achieved. That tyrant Saddam is gone, and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important."
Mr. Chalabi added: "The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords if [President Bush] wants."
His comments are likely to inflame the debate on both sides of the Atlantic over the quality of prewar intelligence, and over the way it was presented by Mr. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair as they argued for military action.
U.S. officials said last week that one of the most celebrated pieces of false intelligence, the claim that Saddam had mobile biological-weapons laboratories, had come from a major in the Iraqi intelligence service made available by the INC.
U.S. officials at first found the information credible, and the defector passed a lie-detector test. But in later interviews it became apparent that he was stretching the truth and had been "coached by the INC."
He failed a second polygraph test, and intelligence agencies were warned that the information was unreliable in May 2002.
But analysts missed the warning, and the mobile-lab story remained firmly established in the catalog of purported Iraqi violations until months after the overthrow of Saddam.
The United States at one point claimed to have found two mobile labs, but the trucks were later reported to have held equipment to make hydrogen for weather balloons.
Last week, State Department officials conceded that much of the firsthand testimony they had received was "shaky."
"What the INC told us formed one part of the intelligence picture," said a senior official in Baghdad. "But what Chalabi told us, we accepted in good faith. Now there are going to be a lot of question marks over his motives."
Mr. Chalabi remains an influential member of the Iraqi Governing Council, though he has failed to develop the popular following in Iraq that his most enthusiastic sponsors once expected.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Management said...
Iraqi exiles still getting paid, despite false intelligence

By Jonathan S. Landay, Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense is continuing to pay millions of dollars for information from the former Iraqi opposition group that produced some of the exaggerated and fabricated intelligence President Bush used to argue his case for war.

The Pentagon has set aside between $3 million and $4 million this year for the Information Collection Program of the Iraqi National Congress, or INC, led by Ahmad Chalabi, said two senior U.S. officials and a U.S. defense official.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because intelligence programs are classified.

The continuing support for the INC comes amid seven separate investigations into pre-war intelligence that Iraq was hiding illicit weapons and had links to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. The Senate Intelligence Committee is now examining the INC's role.

The decision not to shut off money for the INC's information-gathering effort suggests that some within the administration are intent on securing a key role for Chalabi in Iraq's political future.

Close administration ties

Chalabi, who built close ties to officials in Vice President Dick Cheney's office and among top Pentagon officials, is on the Iraqi Governing Council, a body of 25 Iraqis installed by the United States to help administer the country following the ouster of Saddam Hussein in April.

The former businessman, who lobbied for years for a U.S.-backed military effort to topple Saddam, is publicly committed to making peace with Israel and providing bases in the heart of the oil-rich Middle East for use by U.S. forces in anti-terrorism efforts.

The INC's Information Collection Program started in 2001 and was "designed to collect, analyze and disseminate information" from inside Iraq, according to a letter the group sent in June 2002 to the staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Some of the INC's information alleged that Saddam was rebuilding his nuclear-weapons program, which was destroyed by U.N. inspectors after the 1991 Gulf War, and was stockpiling banned chemical and biological weapons, according to the letter.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Knight Ridder, said the information went directly to "U.S. government recipients" who included William Luti, a senior official in Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office, and John Hannah, a top national-security aide to Cheney.

The letter appeared to contradict denials made last year by top Pentagon officials that they were receiving intelligence on Iraq that bypassed established channels and vetting procedures.

The INC also supplied information from its collection program to leading news organizations in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, according to the letter to the Senate committee staff.

The State Department and the CIA, which soured on Chalabi in the 1990s, viewed the INC's information as highly unreliable because it was coming from a source with a strong self-interest in convincing the United States to topple Saddam.

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has concluded since the invasion that defectors turned over by the INC provided little worthwhile information, and that at least one of them, the source of an allegation that Saddam had mobile biological-warfare laboratories, was a fabricator. A defense official said the INC did provide some valuable material on Saddam's military and security apparatus.

Even so, dubious INC-supplied information found its way into the Bush administration's arguments for war, including information that supported charges that Saddam was concealing illicit arms stockpiles and was supporting al-Qaida.

No illicit weapons have been found, and senior U.S. officials say there is no compelling evidence that Saddam cooperated with al-Qaida to attack Americans.

Decision defended

The Information Collection Program is now overseen by the DIA, the Pentagon's main intelligence arm, which took over when the State Department decided to give it up in late 2002.

The defense official defended the current support of the INC effort, saying that it has been of some help to the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group, a team that is trying to determine what happened to Iraq's chemical-, biological- and nuclear-weapons programs.

INC-supplied informants also have identified insurgents who have been waging a guerrilla war that has claimed the lives of more than 500 U.S. troops and hundreds of Iraqis, he said.

"To call all of it (INC intelligence) useless is too negative," said the defense official, who described the Information Collection Program as a "massive" undertaking.

"You never take anything at face value," he continued. "When the INC gives information, we absolutely pursue it. You never know what that golden nugget is going to be."

But a senior administration official questioned whether the United States should still be paying for the program.

"A huge amount of what was collected hasn't panned out," he said. "Some of it has turned out to have been either wrong or fabricated."

The senior administration official also sought to justify the initial decision to support the program.

'We may have been duped'

Before the invasion, U.S. intelligence agencies had no better human sources in Iraq, and had no choice but to rely on the INC, minority Kurdish guerrilla groups and other sources who claimed to have knowledge of Saddam's illegal arms programs, ties to terrorist groups and his military forces, he said.

"The evidence now suggests that at some points along the way, we may have been duped by people who wanted to encourage military action for their own reasons," he conceded.

Chalabi apparently is less concerned about the past.

"We are heroes in error," Chalabi was quoted as saying recently in Baghdad by The Daily Telegraph of London. "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. We're ready to fall on our swords if he wants."

3:15 PM  
Blogger Management said...
CIA report slams Pentagon's favorite Iraqi
By Eli J. Lake
UPI State Department Correspondent
Published 4/8/2003 1:55 PM

WASHINGTON, April 7 (UPI) -- The Central Intelligence Agency issued a report last week claiming that the opposition leader airlifted by the Pentagon to Iraq over the weekend, Ahmad Chalabi, would not be an effective leader to replace Saddam Hussein because many Iraqis do not like him.

In a classified report distributed widely within the U.S. government, the CIA argues that Chalabi, a favorite of Pentagon civilian officials, and Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, the leader of the Tehran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, have little popular support among Iraqis on the ground.

Critics of the agency have questioned the report's timing and motives.

"The CIA has been bad mouthing Chalabi and the INC for years. What is surprising is that they are still devoting resources to their character assassination effort instead of other more obvious missions," said Randy Scheunemann, a long time adviser to Chalabi and now President of the Committee to Liberate Iraq, a lobbying group formed last year to support ending Saddam Hussein's regime. "Whatever the stories the agency may be spreading it's clear Centcom Commander Tommy Franks thinks the INC has an important role to play."

The report comes at a critical time for U.S. policy as coalition forces enter Baghdad. While publicly senior American officials have said they plan to include both Iraqi opposition leaders and leaders culled from inside the country in the next government in Baghdad, behind the scenes hawks and doves in the administration are fighting a nasty battle over the leadership of the transition authority that replaces Saddam's regime. Chalabi has long been supported by a leading hawk, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and other advocates of regime change in Iraq.

Last week Congressional appropriators voted to funnel $2.5 billion to the State Department for reconstructing the country even though the White House originally requested the money go to the Pentagon. Senior State Department officials deny lobbying for the money. Secretary of State Colin Powell, according to two State Department officials, called the White House from his plane returning from Brussels last week to complain about a policy memo from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld calling on the White House to name the transition authority for Iraq sooner than expected.

A U.S. official familiar with the CIA report told United Press International Monday, "This is about the Iraqi interim authority. It discusses the factors likely to affect the legitimacy and acceptability of an Iraqi transitional authority in the eyes of the Iraqi public. In part it looks at Iraqi attitudes toward the Iraqi opposition and how the INC is viewed on the inside."

A former U.S. intelligence official familiar with the report said, "They basically say that every time you mention Chalabi's name to an Iraqi, they want to puke." This official however questioned how accurate the CIA's assessment of Iraqi politics could be given the fluidity of events on the ground there.

"I think that nobody has any idea who is popular on the ground inside Iraq," said Danielle Pletka, the American Enterprise Institute's Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies told UPI. "People who say that they do, including agencies of the U.S. government, are saying so to further a political agenda."

When asked about the CIA report on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday evening, Chalabi said it seemed to him the agency "is more focused on me than on Saddam."

The CIA has long considered Chalabi an unsuitable leader for the government that replaces Saddam. In 1992, while the agency supported Chalabi and an open strategy to spark a rebellion against Baghdad from the north, they also pursued a palace coup strategy without telling him. The agency has also held Chalabi accountable for compromising a coup attempt in 1995, when Saddam's men rounded up disloyal military officers the agency had hoped would kill the Iraqi leader.

Last year, the agency released an assessment of intelligence Chalabi's organization provided to the U.S. government, concluding that approximately 30 percent of it was accurate. However, one key piece of intelligence from Chalabi's operation was firmed up over the weekend when Marines raided a terrorist training facility outside of Baghdad in Salman Pak. Defectors slipped out of the country over a year ago by Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress said the facility trained numerous al-Qaida fighters. A spokesman for U.S. Central Command said over the weekend the U.S. military had concluded the facility was being used for terrorist training.

The agency has also blamed Chalabi for predicting Iraqis would welcome American troops in the initial phases of the war, though recent reporting from al-Najaf and Basra suggests that the opposition leader's optimism may not have been as misplaced as at first thought.
Copyright © 2001-2004 United Press International

3:20 PM  
Blogger Management said...
Chalabi suspected of giving U.S. secrets to Iran
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. intelligence officials on Friday said Ahmed Chalabi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council with ties to senior Pentagon officials, gave intelligence secrets to Iran so closely held in the U.S. government that only "a handful" of senior officials know them.

They also said there is evidence Chalabi met with a senior Iranian intelligence official described as a "nefarious figure" who has played a direct role in activities against the United States. This information was first reported on CBS News.

Meanwhile, government sources said the FBI is investigating who may have passed on the classified information to Chalabi.

Chalabi has denied charges that he passed intelligence information about U.S. operations in Iraq to the Iranians, and he has also dismissed fears that a hard-line Shiite regime might emerge in Iraq.

On Thursday, Iraqi police, accompanied by American troops, raided Chalabi's compound -- a raid that Chalabi claimed was engineered by elements of the deposed Baathist regime, under protection of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

Chalabi has claimed the raid was politically motivated, but coalition officials have distanced themselves from their one-time ally, saying it was part of a suspected fraud investigation, authorized by an Iraqi judge and led by the Iraqis.

Senior coalition law enforcement and justice officials said the raid was part of an investigation of "suspected fraud in a government ministry." Chalabi himself was not named in any of the warrants.

Coalition spokesman Dan Senor said, "It was an Iraqi-led investigation, an Iraqi-led raid. It was the result of Iraqi arrest warrants."

A key ally to America when Washington geared up for war with Iraq, Chalabi has been the beneficiary of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars for his Iraqi National Congress, with easy access to top officials in Washington.

After Saddam Hussein's regime fell, he was appointed to the Iraqi Governing Council and put in charge of its finances.

As the post-war situation deteriorated, and the pre-war intelligence Chalabi supplied about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction did not pan out, the relationship soured.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon shut off the monthly stipend of $340,000, and U.S. officials accused Chalabi of passing information about its operations in Iraq to Iran, which he hotly denied.

The information he has passed on, as one U.S. official put it, "could get Americans killed."

Chalabi, a Shiite political figure who has kept ties with the leadership in Shia Iran, has strongly denied that allegation.

Questioned by reporters about his travels to Iran to meet with senior officials there, Chalabi has insisted that it is logical and important for Iraq to establish a relationship with a key neighbor.

In Thursday's raid, Iraqi police and U.S. forces took away computers and documents but arrested no one, Chalabi told reporters at a Baghdad news conference.

Chalabi said the Coalition Provisional Authority is unhappy with his demands for Iraq's provisional government to be given full control of the Iraqi army after the June 30 handover and for control of the investigation of fraud in the U.N. oil-for-food program.

The U.S.-educated exile called Thursday's raid "the penultimate act of failure of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq."

The man who once had American friends in the highest places then described his relationship with the CPA as "non-existent."

While Chalabi was a close adviser to the Pentagon, he was regarded as divisive and untrustworthy by the U.S. State Department.

After last year's invasion of Iraq, Chalabi returned from exile, on an American aircraft, to try to establish a political base in the country.

But he has struggled to gain a foothold, with many Iraqis distrusting him because of his many years in exile and close ties to the United States.

He was also the champion of a plan to rid Iraq of Baath Party influence that has caused rancor among many Iraqis.

Chalabi was convicted in absentia for bank fraud by a Jordanian military court in 1982 -- charges he insists were politically motivated.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Iraq issues warrants for Chalabis
An Iraqi judge says he has issued two arrest warrants for former Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi and his nephew, Salem.

Ahmed Chalabi is wanted on counterfeiting charges, Judge Zuhair al-Maliki said.

He said Salem Chalabi, the head of the tribunal trying Saddam Hussein, is sought on suspicion of murder.

Both men, who are out of the country, denied the charges and said they were politically motivated.

Ahmed Chalabi was once the Pentagon's favoured candidate to lead Iraq, but he fell from favour amid allegations of links to Iranian hardliners and concerns that he provided faulty intelligence in the run-up to the war.

He said he had not been informed directly, but had heard of the warrants through the media.

"I'm now mobilised on all fronts to rebuff all these charges," he told CNN from the Iranian capital, Tehran.


Judge Maliki told Radio Sawa the warrant was issued against Ahmed Chalabi in connection with counterfeiting money.

"He is the prime suspect," he said.

"They should be arrested and then questioned and then we will evaluate the evidence, and then if there is enough evidence, they will be sent to trial," he added.

The Associated Press quoted the judge as saying that Ahmed Chalabi appeared to have been mixing the counterfeit money with other old money and changing it into new dinars in the street.

It's a ridiculous charge, that I threatened somebody... there's no proof there
Salem Chalabi

Police found the counterfeit money during a May raid on his house in Baghdad, the judge said.

He named Salem Chalabi as a suspect in the June murder of Haithem Fadhil, director general of the finance ministry, the agency reported.

"It's a ridiculous charge, that I threatened somebody... there's no proof there," Salem Chalabi told CNN from London.

On Sunday, the interim Iraqi government restored the death penalty for crimes including murder.

Fall from grace

Analysts say the warrant is a new sign of Ahmed Chalabi's fall from the centre of power.

After decades in exile, Mr Chalabi was one of the first Iraqis to be flown by the Pentagon to Iraq during the 2003 invasion, supposedly to allow him to consolidate his political base in the country.

But the relationship soured during the occupation and jockeying for power that followed the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

In May, US troops and Iraqi police raided Mr Chalabi's home and the headquarters of his party, the Iraqi National Congress, in Baghdad.

American officials announced then that the monthly payment of more than $300,000 to the Iraqi National Congress was to be stopped.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/08/08 22:04:12 GMT


3:22 PM  
Blogger Management said...

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iraq (news - web sites)'s interim defense minister said on Friday the government would arrest Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmad Chalabi after the Eid al-Adha holiday on suspicion of maligning the defense ministry.

The INC has emerged as a power broker in the main election list for the country's Shi'ite majority in the Jan 30. ballot and Chalabi is a contender for the post of prime minister.

"We will arrest him and hand him over to Interpol. We will arrest him based on facts that he wanted to malign the reputation of the defense ministry and defense minister," Hazim al-Shaalan told Al Jazeera television.

Chalabi, a cousin and rival of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, was not immediately available for comment.

The satellite channel quoted Shaalan as saying Chalabi would be handed to Interpol over his conviction in absentia by a Jordanian court in 1992 of embezzling millions from Petra Bank, whose 1989 collapse shook Jordan's political and financial system.

Chalabi, who founded and ran the bank during a long period when he lived in the country, denies any wrongdoing.

"Our measures will start after Eid," Shalaan said. The Muslim feast began on Jan. 20 and ends on Sunday in most Arab states.

Shaalan told London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat in remarks published on Friday he would order the arrest after Chalabi accused the defense minister in an interview of stealing $500 million from the ministry and posted documents on a Web site accusing Shaalan of links to Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s government.

Chalabi was the best-connected Iraqi opposition leader in Washington but after Saddam's fall became a vocal critic of U.S. policy in Iraq.

A U.S.-appointed judge issued a warrant for Chalabi's arrest last year on charges of counterfeiting money, but the charges were dropped in September.

Chalabi had brought together foes of Saddam, the former Iraqi president, under the umbrella of his Iraqi National Congress and spearheaded attempts by the U.S.-appointed Governing Council to remove members of Saddam's Baath party from positions of power.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Management said...

The Iraq Election Primer
In the first of a series of dispatches from Baghdad, David Enders lays out an essential guide to the Iraqi elections.

January 24 , 2005

Note: Introducing's Baghdad Journal. Over the coming weeks, as Iraq prepares for -- and recovers from -- its Jan. 30 elections, reporter David Enders will be filing regular dispatches from Baghdad for Today he kicks off with an essential guide to the elections.

What are Iraqis voting for?

Iraqis are electing a 275-member national assembly that will in turn select a president and a committee for drafting a constitution. (Oddly enough, many Iraqis are not so sure why the old one needs to be totally scrapped — it actually enshrines many of the rights we hold dear in the U.S., and Saddam never amended it; he just went around it.) They will also vote for local councils in each of the 18 governorates; and in the autonomous Kurdish region, a 105-member parliament will be elected.

Who are the candidates?

There are 7,471 candidates running under 111 parties. (As many as 50 parties have dropped out of the race in the past few weeks, either in opposition to the elections or for fear of assassination; but they remain on the ballots, which have already been printed.) The seats in the assembly will be filled proportionally — that is, if Party A's list gets 50 percent of the votes, it fills 50 percent of the seats. The parties expected to fare best are the United Iraqi Alliance, headed by Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and comprising members of various Shiite groups that stood in opposition to Saddam Hussein's government and the Iraq List, headed by U.S.-appointed prime minister Ayad Allawi. (Allawi, it seems, is genuinely popular amongst many of Baghdad's secular middle class for his presumed willingness to play hardball in the service of bringing stability to the country.)

Many Iraqis admit they can't name too many other candidates or members of parties besides their leaders. Many of the parties have not released their full candidate lists for fear of assassination. (At least four have already been killed.)

The Independent Election Commission of Iraq (IECI) has stated that it cannot force any of the parties to release their lists and that it will not release do so itself. Therefore, it is quite possible for voters to elect someone they didn't know was running.

Is anyone campaigning?

Not really. There are a lot of posters up in certain parts of Baghdad but they mostly identify the heads of parties who were already identifiable. As commercial television and other traditionally western modes of marketing are largely new to the country and affordable to few, Allawi is virtually the only candidate who appears regularly on television, though Hakim, through the magic of his own satellite channel, also frequently appears on television.

Why are some groups boycotting and what effect will this have?

There are a number of reasons, the first and foremost being that the country is still occupied by a foreign power. The boycott is popularly discussed as an action by the Sunni minority prompted by fear of losing the power they have held over the Shiite minority since the days of Ottoman occupation, but this is not necessarily the case.

There are a number of influential Shiite clerics, including Jewad Al-Khalasy, the leader of the secular Iraqi National Conference, who have taken issue with the US military's refusal to discuss its withdrawl, as well as the powers held by the election commission, which include the ability to delete any candidate from a party list.

The elections will also be a test of strength for anti-occuption cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, whose Medhi Militia fought US troops from March to May and then again in the fall before he agreed to a shaky cease-fire in September. Sadr isn't running and supports a boycott, but he hasn't called for one for fear of retribution from the US military and to avoid directly contradicting Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the ranking Shiite cleric in the country who has issued an edict, or fatwa, urging people to vote. (Other groups have issued edicts against voting.)

Some Iraqi pundits are predicting as many as 70 percent of those eligible to vote won't, either out of fear of violence or as an act of protest.

How, logistically, will Iraqis vote? And how does the government plan on assuring security for those who do?

There will be nearly 6,000 polling stations across the country. Guerillas have made claims that they know the locations of many of the polling centers and have already damaged a few, though the locations of the polling centers will not be announced to the general public until the morning of the vote. A member of the resistance I spoke to earlier today confirmed infiltration of the election staff.

Vehicle traffic will be restricted on the day of the election to government officials, US and Iraqi security forces and journalists.

(It seems to me that this could help to reduce voter turnout considerably, since many Iraqis do not necessarily live in the neighborhood where they are registered.

There will be wide cordons around polling centers to guard against car bombs, and inter-governorate travel will be banned on the day before, the day of, and the day after elections. Iraq's borders and airports will be closed for the same period and an extended curfew (8 p.m.- 6 a.m.) will be in effect. (This, however, simply formalizes the hours most Iraqis are keeping anyway at this point.) The ban on inter-governorate travel, as well as the closing of borders and airports, seems rather dubious — I doubt anyone drives a truck bomb very far before reaching their target, and announcing such closures weeks in advance only means that anyone who is determined will be position. Also, the US military has failed to close Iraq's borders before now, I doubt they'll suddenly figure it out.

My resistance pal admitted it would be very hard for guerrillas to launch major attacks on polling stations if the cordons are as wide as expected. But for those who do vote, the real danger might be when they go back outside those cordons.

In any case, the Ministry of Health has doubled the number of available hospital beds in Baghdad in preparation.

What do Iraqis have to say about voting?

(Remember that voter turnout in the U.S. is often less than 50 percent, so let's drop the condescension.)

"I'm going to vote for whoever my friends or family vote for," said one guy in Sadr City.

"I'm going to vote because Ayatollah Sistani asked us to," another said.

Many are too busy dealing with the travails of everyday life - supporting their families, etc., to care.

How will the elections be monitored?

Though it's been reported that there will be no international observers, IECI spokesman Fareed Ayar claims there will be about 120 of them. (Presumably they'll be in the Green Zone, which means their presence will be about as valuable as that of the international monitors who plan on working from Amman, Jordan.) There will be 12,642 Iraqi observers.

Are Iraqis living abroad allowed to vote?

Yes, though registration by Iraqis abroad -- more than a million are eligible -- has been lower than expected. Considering that many of those eligible left the country more than two decades ago, I'm not really sure why it's thought so surprising that turnout wasn't that high.

So if things are so screwed up, how come the elections are going forward?

A few months ago, many of the major parties were urging a postponement of elections and some say Allawi even agreed to it before changing his mind the next day, apparently at the behest of the Bush Administration. This is narrow view — the Bush Administration is not nearly in control as that. As one of my colleagues put it, "Sistani is driving the election bus."

What will happen after the election?

Well, stay tuned. My best guess is that once a new government-in-hiding has officially been chosen, its leaders, with the help of the U.S. military, will continue fighting an insurgency that is growing and whose appeal will likely be enhanced by widespread disenfranchisement. The government might also fall to some pretty serious infighting as well, especially if Hakim's list comes out on top, setting up a showdown with Sadr.

Womidh Nidhal, the former political science chair at Baghdad University and the spokesman for Khalasy's party, is no fan of Allawi's, but admits his "election" might be the country's best hope against breaking wide open immediately. (Nadhmi, in an aside, confesses to finding it hard to believe the U.S. would allow a party with close ties to Iran, -- that is, Hakim's -- to win the election.)

The most frightening implication of low turnout is that whoever shows up to vote is electing the federal government for the entire country. It's as if, say, only voters in Red States showed up to vote in a U.S. election, but were allowed to elect all of Congress.

David Enders is a 24-year-old freelance journalist who has spent more than a year reporting from Iraq since the end of the invasion. His first book, Baghdad Bulletin: The Real Story of the War in Iraq--Reporting from Beyond the Green Zone, will be released by the University of Michigan Press in April.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Management said...



Iraq's Election Marred By Problems
A week after Iraq's historic election, charges of confusion, mismanagement and more are surfacing, providing ammunition for politicans to question the entire process.

Some polling places were shuttered when voters came to cast ballots. Others ran out of ballots. One provicincial gvernor's name was left off of the list of candidates.

It is too early to tell if the criticism can undermine the legitimacy of the incoming National Assembly. But in some local races, fears are already strong that flawed elections will give rise to provincial councils with skewed demographic representation.

The most serious allegations are concentrated in violence-plagued areas or those with mixed religious and ethnic groups. Failure to reconcile discord over the Jan. 30 vote could worsen local tensions.

Iraq's electoral commission says it has received more than 100 complaints of irregularities. It has formed an independent team of three lawyers to investigate, though election officials have sought to downplay the scope and seriousness of the problems.

On Sunday, hundreds of Iraqis _ mostly Assyrian Christians and Turkomens _ shouted slogans and waved Iraqi flags outside Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone to protest alleged irregularities in Mosul that they say prevented tens of thousands from voting.

Because of the security situation, many international monitors watched the election from nearby Jordan. Much of the voting and ballot counting was done in the presence of party representatives with their own agendas. And critics say Iraqi monitors, however impartial, had little experience.

Election officials were among those who ``didn't want the Sunnis to vote so that the Shiites could score a fake victory.''

12:47 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Iraq electoral commission admits ballot box irregularities

Mon Feb 7,10:31 AM ET

BAGHDAD (AFP) - An inquiry by the Iraqi electoral commission reported that there had been irregularities with some 40 ballot boxes used in the January 30 election in Nineveh province around the main northern city of Mosul.

"A total of 435 ballot boxes used in Nineveh province did not pose any problems, they were opened and their ballots added to the election tally," the commission said Monday.

"Another 40 ballot boxes have led to complaints and appeals, or were not sealed in conformity with the instructions, which obliged us to transfer them to the national office in Baghdad to open a probe."

Dozens of Nineveh residents demonstrated in Baghdad Sunday calling on the commission to organise a new vote in some of the province's towns. Deputy governor Khasro Goran said several areas had not received ballot papers on polling day.

"On election day, the commission received many calls from its representatives in Nineveh and several political parties claiming that some regions had not received electoral equipment on time," the commission said.

Its investigation found that only in Bartalla, a town east of Mosul with 15,188 electors, did the vote not take place.

Equipment was delivered but electoral staff were "not able to reach the polling stations due to security reasons," the commission said.

The inquiry also found that armed groups had attacked electoral workers and stolen equipment. In one incident, gunmen stole ballot papers before handing them back with candidate lists already ticked off.

The commission is still tallying votes from the election. Partial results give the main Shiite alliance a commanding lead over all of its rivals.

4:39 PM  

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