05/03/2004: As the old saying goes.....
With friends like this, who needs enemies.
Mark Hosenball of Newsweek reports in the May 10 issue that U.S. intelligence agencies have reason to believe that Dick Cheney's boy in Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi, has apparently been squealing like a pig to the theocrats in Iran, appearently divulging "sensitive information" to the ayatollahs in Tehran:
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.Juan Cole weighs in on the situation:
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.
Some comments here. First, Chalabi's close links to Tehran have been known for a long time (the Stratfor article is suggestive but I wouldn't take everything in it at face value).. In fall of 2002 when he had a brief falling out with the Americans, Chalabi convened a conference of expatriate Iraqi politicians in Tehran, just to demonstrate that he could switch patrons if necessary.The bright lining to the dark cloud that would be Chalabi assuming power in Iraq: if Chalabi assumes power, he's signed his own death warrant. He seems to be about the only man who dosn't know how hated he is, and it's just about sure that Chalabi will be assassinated if things get that far.
It seems to me more likely that the US has tapped Chalabi's phone calls to Tehran than that they are effectively listening in on calls between Khamenei and Rafsanjani in Tehran, but it is impolitic to admit this.
But if he's playing us for fools against the Iranians, we ought to just drop him in the middle of insurgent held territory, and see how long he lasts.
UPDATE: Billmon, however, raises an interesting point:
The fact that Ahmed Chalabi has been playing a double game with the Iranians isn't exactly news, as Juan Cole notes. Given the neocon track record (see North, Oliver) it wouldn't be any great surprise if the Pentagon were paying $340,000 a month to an Iranian agent of influence. On the other hand, it's also possible Chalabi is actually the Pentagon's man in Tehran, instead of Tehran's man in Baghdad. Although Chalabi's such a crook I suspect he's not even sure if he's on his own side - much less anybody else's.
Len on 05.03.04 @ 12:26 PM CST