"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Chalabi: What Really Happened

Robert Dreyfuss
June 03, 2004

Was the United States set up by Chalabi? Was Chalabi set up by Iran? Some answers and more questions about the scandal surrounding Chalabi and our leaders who trusted him.

Robert Dreyfuss writes The Dreyfuss Report blog and is currently working on a book about America's policy toward political Islam over the past 30 years.

Here’s what apparently happened in the Chalabi case. My story is based in part on a conversation with a well-connected intelligence veteran.

Chalabi had been blabbing about anything and everything to the Iranians for months, especially to the Iranian intelligence chieftain in Baghdad. Because the United States had broken the Iranians’ code, the Iranian official’s reports of his talks with the gabby Chalabi routinely started showing up on the desk of intel officers around Washington, and Chalabi starting becoming even more of a laughingstock than usual among insiders. Then, the gaggle of neocon, pro-Chalabi backers decided to tell Chalabi to shut up, and they warned him that reports of his talks were being picked up by the National Security Agency, which was monitoring the cable traffic from the Iranian intelligence station in Baghdad to Teheran. In doing so, they made the mistake of telling Chalabi that the Iranian code had been broken.

So Chalabi, in a panic, went to the Iranian spy, saying something like, ‘Look, I can’t talk to you anymore, at least not openly, because the CIA is listening to your cable traffic.” Now Chalabi is a notorious fabricator, and there’s no reason to think that the Iranians would take him any more seriously than the CIA does. Then one of two things is possible: either the Iranian intelligence chief in Baghdad didn’t believe Chalabi, and once again just sent an account of Chalabi’s blathering to Iran; or, the Iranians decided to burn Chalabi on purpose, and sent the message knowing it was going to be picked up and that Chalabi would be trashed. In either case, the message was picked up, Chalabi was caught by the NSA, and now the investigation is underway.

The Iranians have a lot more assets in Iran than Chalabi, and it’s silly to think that Teheran needs the portly fabricator for anything. Iran has thousands of agents in Iraq, ties to Muqtada al-Sadr, to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and to Al Dawa, another Islamic fundamentalist party. Chalabi, they don’t need. (The Washington Post ought to win an award for its cartoon today: Chalabi sitting next to a bearded Iranian mullah, saying: “The United States would be easy to conquer and Iranians would be greeted as liberators.”)

In any case, the investigation is underway in Washington, and suspects are worried. As Andy Sipowicz, the streetwise cop on NYPD Blue, would growl, “They’re lawyering up.” The FBI is hot on the trail of some of the neocon ringleaders of Operation Bungle Iraq, including Doug Feith, Bill Luti, Harold Rhode and other Pentagon officials, along with Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official now at the American Enterprise Institute. (The Pentagon, and Rubin, who told me last week that “it is untrue,” have denied that they are being investigated.).But, according to intelligence sources, Pentagon officials are looking for attorneys, adding that one of them has hired Plato Cacheris, the mouthpiece of the national security-afflicted. The New York Times reports that the FBI is polygraphing Defense Department officials. (Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the Chalabi Party?) It has the potential to become a new full employment program for the legal profession, paralleling the apparent White House scramble for lawyers in the investigation of the Valerie Plame leak. President Bush, taking time out from being a War President, might soon become a Defendant President. Worried about being frog-marched out of the White House, Bush has consulted a hotshot Washington lawyer, James Sharp.

Is Ken Starr busy?

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Milton Frihetsson, 14:05


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