Friday, May 21, 2004
The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that a U.S.-funded arm of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress has been used for years by Iranian intelligence to pass disinformation to the United States and to collect highly sensitive American secrets, according to intelligence sources.
The DIA has accused Iranian intelligence of "manipulating the United States through Chalabi" into getting rid of Saddam Hussein.
Patrick Lang, former director of the intelligence agency's Middle East branch, said he had been told by colleagues in the intelligence community that Chalabi's U.S.-funded program to provide information about weapons of mass destruction and insurgents was effectively an Iranian intelligence operation. "They [the Iranians] knew exactly what we were up to," he said.
He described it as "one of the most sophisticated and successful intelligence operations in history."
"I'm a spook. I appreciate good work. This was good work," he said.
According to Fox, the evidence linking Chalabi and Iran is "rock solid."
"There is no need for an investigation because we're quite certain he did it," one senior Bush administration official said.
Amazingly, this story is receiving only passing attention in the blogosphere, which should be all over it like honey on a hot biscuit. Chalabi has been one of the causes of the bureaucratic conflict between Defense and State since well before the war. Notwithstanding many questions about his past, including ties with Iran($), the civilian leaders of the Defense Department and Vice President Cheney were particular strong and (obviously) influential supporters. This story -- unlike the actual failure to find WMDs, or anything to do with Abu Ghraib prison -- could very well bring Rumsfeld or even Cheney down.
That the DIA is now saying that he "manipulated" the United States into war is truly astonishing. Is the Defense Department in open revolt against Cheney and Rumsfeld? Or is this a more calculated exercise coming from the White House to create an explanation for the intelligence failures before the war? In any case, the timing of the leak is not accidental. What's my evidence? Stratfor had it figured out more than three months ago, and wrote a piece on Chalabi's ties to Iran on February 18. Here's a link to a pirated version of their letter, and here's the stark conclusion:
Who exactly is Ahmad Chalabi? He has been caricatured as an American stooge and used as a tool by the Defense Department. As we consider the intelligence failures in Iraq, Chalabi's role in those failures and his relationship with senior Iranian officials of all factions, a question needs to be raised: Who was whose stooge?
The review of U.S. intelligence on Iraq will have to study many things. Many of those things will have nothing to do with Chalabi. But some of the most important things will pivot around intelligence directly or indirectly provided by Chalabi and his network of sources inside and outside Iraq. Given the events that have transpired, it is not unreasonable to expect the intelligence review to undertake an intense analysis of Chalabi's role, beginning with this question: What exactly was Chalabi's relationship with Iran from the 1980s onward?
The sum and substance of these stories is that Iran exploited an extremely close relationship between Chalabi and the most powerful Vice President we have ever had to bring the United States into war in Iraq and to spy on the United States. This story has the potential to rock the Bush Administration and shake American politics to its foundation. Will it?
UPDATE(5-22 7:25 a.m.): Today's Washington Post carries the story, on page A20. Abu Ghraib remains on page A1. Very strange.
UPDATE (5-22 11 a.m.): WorldNetDaily has a very different, pro-Chalabi spin, largely sourced from Michael Rubin, who recently left the Department of Defense. He thinks "Bremer has gone mad," and that Chalabi has provided invaluable intelligence that has saved many American lives.
I clearly do not understand what is going on here, but I remain convinced that the full story will have serious political consequences, both in Iraq and in the United States.
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