Top US general praises man who got US into Iraq, WMD fabricator Ahmad Chalabi

Nick Juliano
Published: Monday October 29, 2007

At least Ahmad Chalabi seems to be taking the "Pottery Barn rule" to heart.

The controversial Iraqi politician and alleged Iranian intelligence asset -- perhaps as responsible as anyone in drumming up false pre-war claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities -- has reemerged as a central figure in the latest US attempts to put his broken country back together.

Chalabi's latest job, according to McClatchy Newspapers, is lobbying Iraq's central government to build on security gains to provide "better electricity, health, education and local security services to Baghdad neighborhoods."

"The key is going to be getting the concerned local citizens — and all the citizens — feeling that this government is reconnected with them," Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander here, told McClatchy. Chalabi "agrees with that."

Iraqis are skeptical of the central government's ability to help them. Government critics say local tribal leaders and residents have reinvigorated neighborhoods by pushing insurgents off the streets, but US officials believe it is the central government's responsibility to provide long-term stability by providing reliable electricity, putting doctors back in neighborhoods and establishing permanent schools and police departments.

Before the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Chalabi was a primary merchant of bogus intelligence that inflated the country's weapons capabilities and ties to terrorists. His top customers were the White House, Pentagon and American journalists.

Most surprising, perhaps is his alleged associations with Iran. According to a 2004 report in the UK Guardian, US intelligence has "hard evidence" that Chalabi passed US secrets to Iran.

"Some intelligence officials now believe that Iran used the hawks in the Pentagon and the White House to get rid of a hostile neighbor, and pave the way for a Shia-ruled Iraq," the paper said.

Chalabi is also wanted in Jordan for embezzling $300 million at a bank he created.

In the wake of the 2003 US invasion, Chalabi oversaw efforts to dismantle Saddam's government through de-Baathification, served as deputy prime minister and chaired several investigative committees.

Now, he's in charge of the services committee, which comprises eight service ministries and two Baghdad city commissions and is in charge of providing services to Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki appointed Chalabi to the post in early October.

A Petraeus spokesman told McClatchy that Chalabi "is an important part of the process" and "has a lot of energy."

US military commanders fear any tactical progress from President Bush's troop surge this year will dissipate without strong intervention from Iraq's central government. America's military might was able to expel al Qaeda troops from some neighborhoods when Bush sent 30,000 extra troops to Iraq this summer, but with the Pentagon unable to maintain so many troops in Iraq much longer, the same vacuum that al Qaeda stepped into before threatens to open again.

"Right now, it's a Band-Aid. ...But boy it would be nice if we got the government's help," said Lt. Col. Ken Adgie, who is in charge of controlling a souther Sunni Baghdad neighborhood long controlled by al Qaeda. "We refuse to let al Qaeda creep back in. ...You can't let up. It's slow constant pressure."