The Curious Case Of Chalabi’s Blameless Boosters

The Washington Times’ Eli Lake has a great story today about how a close aide to Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi was detained by U.S. forces in 2008 “on suspicion that the aide served as a liaison to a Shi’ite group thought responsible for the 2007 execution-style slayings of five U.S. Marines and other violence against foreigners and Iraqis”:

The group, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, also has been implicated in the kidnappings and slayings of four British contractors in 2007. The British government is negotiating for the release of a fifth abductee, Peter Moore. […]

Three U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition they not be named because they were discussing sensitive matters, accused Mr. Chalabi of providing crucial guidance to the league — charges that led the U.S. government to sever ties with the mercurial Iraqi in May 2008 and to arrest his aide three months later. Two of the U.S. officials and a third coalition official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the aide was held for more than a month in a secret prison before being transferred to a facility at a U.S. base. The aide, Ali Faisal al-Lami, was released without charge earlier this month. […]

One U.S. official said that Mr. Chalabi, through Mr. al-Lami, provided tactical intelligence to the leaders of the League of the Righteous in spring 2008 when U.S. and Iraqi forces began targeting Shi’ite militias in the aftermath of an offensive that restored central government control over the southern city of Basra. Mr. Chalabi had access to sensitive information about the campaign against the special groups through his relationship with the Iraqi government and U.S. military.

“This was a friendship killer,” the U.S. official said, leading the U.S. military to cut ties with Mr. Chalabi in May 2008.

Lake’s story contains several scoops — in addition to al-Lami’s detention on suspicion of aiding the special groups, there’s the continued operation of U.S. “black sites” in Iraq as late as last year, and al-Lami’s alleging of abuse at the hands of his U.S. interrogators — but it’s been clear for a long time now that Chalabi is an extraordinarily shrewd and shady self-dealer with close ties to Iran.


Back during the 2008 presidential campaign, I wrote about Chalabi’s close relationship with key members of Washington’s neoconservative faction based at the American Enterprise Institute (and later in the Pentagon) including Sen. John McCain’s campaign foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann (pictured above with Chalabi.)

I’ve always been a little surprised by the relative lack of attention by the mainstream media to the fact that a group of prominent foreign policy conservatives worked so intensively with and on behalf a man who turned out to have been working with Iran. Indeed, in 2004, the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that “Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi.” It seems extremely likely that, were the situation reversed, that is, had a small faction of Democratic activists conspired with an Iraqi con man who was later revealed to have been cooperating with America’s enemies and likely gotten Americans killed, the sustained outcry from the right would have forced those activists, at the very least, to seek careers somewhere other than in American foreign policy. Yet Chalabi’s boosters remain, as far as I can tell, members in good standing of the D.C. policy elite. Very strange.