Ahmed Chalabi‘s fortunes in Washington have veered wildly over the years. As an exile, he was long held by key figures in the Pentagon as guru and great white hope for the future of Iraq. Just before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, they put up funds to give him a private armed militia. More recently, US forces burst into his lavish estate in Baghdad and charged him with betraying American military secrets to Iran.
The Pentagon’s pet, he was always the object of profound mistrust in the Central Intelligence Agency which warned against entrusting him with secrets.
But even his critics admired his shrewd insights.
The day President George W. Bush made his surprise landing in the al-Asad air base of Iraq’s Anbar province on Sept 4, together with Secretaries Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates, Ahmed Chalabi met a select group of Gulf and Iraqi expatriates in London and offered them his take on the situation in Iraq.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources find some of his observations pertinent and quote them here.
- The United States, he said, has enlisted 12,000 Sunni Arabs to its latest security program. They serve under Iraqi officers who in the time of Saddam Hussein were members either of the Fedayeen Unit or General Intelligence. The Bush administration is now clearly gambling on the Sunni card in Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Jordan are leaning hard on Washington to go all the way by lifting all the restrictions on the employment of ex-Baathists and restoring them to their former eminent positions in the army and intelligence.
- Until recently, the Iraqi government had more than half a million men under arms at its disposal – 160,000 under the defense ministry; 220,000 police officers under the interior ministry and 144,000 security personnel who belonged to a special force guarding government and strategic facilities, including oil pipelines.
That number should have been more than enough to impose law and order in Iraq and bring the militias and al Qaeda to heel. Saddam Hussein exercised full authority with half that number.
- The improvement in security to which President Bush referred does not affect Iraq’s fundamental ills and so the violence and blood-letting with go on. In Chalabi’s view, the US commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus errs by seeking to equalize Sunni and Shiite military forces by conjuring up the war on al Qaeda.
- His formula for al Qaeda in Iraq would be to lean hard on Saudi Arabia and Jordan to withdraw their backing from the Sunni elements close to al Qaeda and which actively funnel Saudi cash to Osama bin Laden’s organization.
- The second problem besetting Washington’s Iraq policy, he maintains, is Iran and its compulsion to defend Iraqi Shiites – chiefly to counteract US backing for the Sunnis. Iran believes that the only way to foil the resurgence of Sunni rule in Baghdad is to sabotage US political and military steps in Iraq.
Some of Chalabi’s other key points:
1. The Nouri al-Maliki government is doomed to fall soon.
2. The intrigue to restore the former provisional prime minister Iyad Allawi to government is “extremely dangerous.”
3. The theft of oil and its products in Iraq has reached vast proportions. More than 10 million liters of benzene alone vanish every day.
4. It is impossible to discuss improved security in Iraq without taking into account that 85,000 Baghdad families have lost their homes and no longer have a roof over their heads.