While Promoting Escalation In Iraq, U.S.-Backed Chalabi Blocks U.S.-Led Political Reforms

Reforming the de-Baathification process in Iraq is viewed as a critical step to quelling violence and reconciling estranged factions in Iraq. Under Paul Bremer, the Coalition Provisional Authority removed thousands of former Baath party members, despite many having no ties to Saddam Hussein, a move which helped spawn the vigorous Sunni insurgency today.

Sweeping de-Baathification reforms have been proposed to reconcile differences in the wake of Bremer’s failures. But progress on this front was “sabotaged” by U.S. ally Ahmad Chalabi, who is in charge of the process:

[T]he law was stymied by Ahmad Chalabi, who headed Iraq’s de-Baathification commission. Mr. Chalabi, the former Pentagon prot©g©, relies on the commission for an official role in Iraq’s government. Having just renovated a spacious office in the Green Zone, he has strongly opposed any effort to weaken his position or the country’s policy on former Baathists.

According to a senior official with the commission, Mr. Chalabi and members of his organization sabotaged the American-backed plan by rallying opposition among Shiite government officials in southern Iraq, then taking their complaints to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most powerful Shiite cleric.

On April 1, Mr. Chalabi visited the ayatollah’s office in Najaf. He later appeared at a news conference, declaring that Ayatollah Sistani told him the law was incomplete and that “there would be other drafts.” A day later, an aide to the reclusive cleric confirmed that there was “a general feeling of rejection” about the proposal.

Paid by the U.S. to muster pre-war intelligence, Chalabi drummed up claims that Hussein had nuclear weapons, helping lead the U.S. into war. More recently, he has promoted the escalation in the Iraqi government, serving as an “intermediary between Baghdad residents and the Iraqi and U.S. security forces mounting an aggressive counterinsurgency campaign across the city.”

Thus, while Chalabi helping extend the U.S. presence in Iraq, he is stalling political reconciliation, just as he has done several times in the past.