Ahmed Chalabi emerges as key player in Iraq election after falling-out with US
Ahead of the March 7 Iraq election, Ahmed Chalabi, who helped convince former President Bush to invade and create a democracy at peace with Israel, is promoting a regional alliance that would include US adversary Iran.
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He fell out with the US – which had mulled installing Chalabi as interim ruler following the ouster of President Hussein – almost immediately after the US invasion. US commanders were chagrined to learn that rather than thousands of Iraqis flocking to his standard, as promised, few average citizens had ever heard of the man. The failure to find the chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction that Chalabi had assured them Hussein was hoarding added to their frustration.Skip to next paragraph
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US forces raided his offices in Baghdad in early 2004 on suspicion he was passing US intelligence to Iran. That's a charge Chalabi denied, though the US cut ties. But even then, people who knew him well said it would be a mistake to write his political obituary.
"The one thing you can say for sure about Chalabi is that you can never count him out,'' Ghassan Attiya, a former political ally of Chalabi's in the Iraqi National Congress, the US-supported exile organization that Chalabi led during Hussein's rule, told the Monitor in 2004. "He's an incredible political survivor ... an incredible charmer."
Odierno: Chalabi 'clearly influenced by Iran'
Just how much of a survivor has been on display in the run-up to the election? Ali al-Lami, a close aide to Chalabi, led the commission that disqualified the candidates for their alleged ties to Hussein's outlawed Baath Party. Mr. Lami, who is also close to anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, spent a year in US detention on suspicion that he had directed an attack on US soldiers and civilians in Sadr City, a Baghdad suburb, in August 2008.
Odierno, speaking at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington conference, said Lami was released in August 2009 "as part of the drawdown of our detention facilities, because we did not have the actual prosecutorial evidence in order to bring him in front of a court of law in Iraq. All we had was intelligence that linked him to this attack."