OpinionIran in the World PressThe return of Ahmad Chalabi

The return of Ahmad Chalabi

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New York Times – Editorial: It might have been awkward for President Bush to have told Ahmad Chalabi, a deputy prime minister in Iraq, that he would receive no official welcome in Washington this week. Mr. Chalabi does not easily take no for an answer, and he seems to have no inhibitions about embarrassing his former friends with impolitic remarks, especially if they help him in next month’s Iraqi elections. But it is disgraceful to hand this multiply discredited schemer the prestige he will surely milk from his meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the national security adviser, Stephen Hadley. New York Times

Editorial

It might have been awkward for President Bush to have told Ahmad Chalabi, a deputy prime minister in Iraq, that he would receive no official welcome in Washington this week. Mr. Chalabi does not easily take no for an answer, and he seems to have no inhibitions about embarrassing his former friends with impolitic remarks, especially if they help him in next month’s Iraqi elections. But it is disgraceful to hand this multiply discredited schemer the prestige he will surely milk from his meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the national security adviser, Stephen Hadley.

Mr. Chalabi is not just any political opportunist. He, more than any other Iraqi, is responsible for encouraging the Bush administration to make two disastrous mistakes about the Iraq intervention: basing its justification for war on the false premise that Saddam Hussein had active unconventional-weapons programs, and falsely imagining that the Iraqi people would greet the invasion with undiluted joy.

Nor did Mr. Chalabi’s destructive influence stop there. After the invasion, he played a leading role in persuading American occupation authorities to issue a blanket decree against former Baath Party members, sweeping aside the lawyers, doctors, teachers and other professionals who had preserved their careers by joining the lower ranks of Mr. Hussein’s party. That exclusion helped cement the disastrous estrangement of the Sunni Arab middle class. Mr. Chalabi personally took charge of enforcing this purge, and he still resists efforts by the United States and less divisive Iraqi parties to rein it in for the sake of national unity.

As if all that weren’t enough, Mr. Chalabi is suspected by United States government investigators of tipping off Iran that American spy agencies had broken its codes and were covertly reading its international messages, a charge he vehemently denies.

Mr. Chalabi’s record as a double-dealer and unreliable source stretches back for decades. He has long been distrusted by those in the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency who know Iraq best. But during the crucial months that the Bush administration was planning the invasion and occupation, Mr. Chalabi became a favorite of pro-war Pentagon and White House officials, largely by telling them what they wanted to hear. It is alarming that the administration is still willing to reward him with such a high-ranking official audience.

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