Chalabi is back.

""The Iraqi Front for National Dialogue cannot continue in a political process run by a foreign agenda," party spokesman Haidar al-Mullah said in a statement, referring to Iran's alleged interference.

He said the party decided to pull out of the vote after U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill and Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top American military commander in Iraq, each described the Shiite leaders of a candidate-vetting panel as having ties to Iran.

The vetting panel is led by Shiite politicians Ali al-Lami and Ahmed Chalabi. It banned more than 440 candidates whom it described as loyalists to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party.

Most of the blacklisted candidates are Sunni, although some are Shiite. Among those barred from running is Sunni lawmaker Saleh al-Mutlaq, the head of the National Dialogue party. Al-Mutlaq has said he quit the Baath party in the 1970s.

In a speech last week to the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, Odierno said the U.S. has direct intelligence that al-Lami and Chalabi "are clearly influenced by Iran." Odierno also accused al-Lami of having been "involved in various nefarious activities in Iraq for some time.""  AP


Ahmad Chalabi was always Teheran's man.  He was Teheran's man when the neocons thought he was their man.  He is Teheran's man now.

This party that has decided not to contest the election next month is the meeting place of the more or less secular elements that were the backbone of the insurgent forces that fought us until a couple of years ago.

In addition to this party the Iraqi union of tribals (both Shia and Sunni) will also not participate.  Iraqi tribes often have both Shia and Sunni sections.  This is the result of migratory settlement of parts of tribes in the territory dominated by the different sects.

Ambassador Hill and General Odierno are understandably disappointed in this development. 

What we are seeing is the inevitable reversion to type of Iraqi society.  As has been said here many times, the creation of "Iraqi Man" was an eighty year long project that we interrupted in 2003.  The "pressure cooker" of Iraqi state institutions; education, civil service, law, the military, etc. was slowly having its way in creating a "national" type.

We tilted the scales of history against that process and enabled a reversion to sectarian politics.  So be it.

Will this stop the withdrawal of American forces?  No.  It will not.  p


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21 Responses to Chalabi is back.

  1. david says:

    Chalabi strikes me as a man of enormous, almost blinding personal ambition, which would explain why others find him so “useful.”
    That’s why I would hesitate to call him “Teheran’s man.” He had a telling quote a few years back where he basically traced his family history back several centuries. This, I imagine, is his only enduring allegiance.
    It would be interesting to know what his Iranian handlers really think of him.

  2. Matthew says:

    A few years ago, George Will quoted a 19th-Century foreign minister (possibly Austrian) who supposed said, “We will astound the world with our lack of generosity.”
    I have always wondered why neo-cons think Arabs would be any more “generous” than any other historical actors. What part of history do they fail to teach at neo-con school?

  3. b says:

    “Odierno said the U.S. has direct intelligence that al-Lami and Chalabi “are clearly influenced by Iran.””
    So what? Is that a crime? How many political leaders in the Middle East “are clearly influenced by the United States”? Not enough it seems.
    Chalabi is really interesting. I have an old bet running that he will end up on the very top as prime minster or president. I am not so sure anymore. Maybe he likes it more to be the puppet master and not so visible on the stage.

  4. 505th PIR says:

    2006 Redux and then some. Hello death squads and ethnic cleansing.
    The Sunni insurgency will be even more virulent than before and the Shia will be far less constrained. There will be great windows of opportunity for AQ Mesopotania to rejoin the mix expecially with lessons learned from past debacle.

  5. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes. We know. Because you are German our problems mean nothing to you. pl

  6. JMH says:

    Refering to the main line insurgency as AIF or Anti Iraqi Forces was an amazing exercise in deliberate self deception. We found the AIF and they were us.

  7. Pirouz says:

    “We tilted the scales of history against that process and enabled a reversion to sectarian politics.”
    The scales of history extend the Iranian boundary to incorporate the rather large Shia “bulge” to the east into that fabricated namesake Iraq. This was always contested with the Ottomans and later with the British opportunists (who played a hand in engineering that “name.” Now this territory has been delivered on a silver platter by the American so-called neocons (including Baghdad!)
    Realize this: Iraq is Iran’s front yard, and Afghanistan makes up its back yard.
    When you have some spare time, take a look at some historical maps of Iran. In them, you’ll see that Iran’s present borders are unnaturally contracted.
    The “influence” that’s taken effect in Iraq today will also take place in Afghanistan, once the dust settles and the Americans- with their awful short attention spans- lose interest.
    “Iran bozorg”, compliments of the neocons, compliments of the US electorate, compliments of the US military, and all paid for by US taxpayers.

  8. Pirouz says:

    should read “west” not “east” (like persian writing on a map).

  9. b says:

    @Pat “Because you are German our problems mean nothing to you.”
    Iraq is neither your nor a German problem. It may be a problem for Iraqis and their next neighbors.
    What cries out from Odierno’s remark is the utter hypocrisy of a U.S. officer who occupies a foreign country whining over “foreign influence” in that country. Don’t they any have mirrors in the generals’ quarters?

  10. Ken Hoop says:

    There are many Americans who agree with b, from libertarians and “Buchananites” on the “Right” to Naderites and Kucinich voters on the “Left” to perhaps even more non-ideologues with the traditional nativist/isolationist impulse- which the Ruling Class has had to marginalize by hook and crook for many generations in order to create the World Policing Empire of Bases.

  11. Hoping someone can put in context what all of the above including Chalabi might be a decade down the road? Here is my reason for trying to deduce the real long term impacts of the American Adventure in Iraq in hindsight? Some estimate that over 5-6 million Iraqis have permanently fled the geographic area of Iraq, not certain of the accuracy of those figures though. PL indicates the Jordanian Iraqis will largely return home. If that occurs what will they be going back for as their “home”? Why do we hear or know so little about what the other countries in the region believe to be their stake in the Iraqi outcome? We clearly are not the only players long-term and wondering what ambitions are for Iraq from other than SHIA and Iranians and Chalabi? Will any Iraqi leadership in 10 years be pro-US in its outlook on the world? Personally I don’t sense that Iraqi nationalism is dead and clearly with billions in oil revenue and other assets (knowledge of US strategy and tactics and equipment perhaps one?) this could become a formidable player in the context of the region? Actually I would bet on that despite the wishes of the Iranians but do others agree or disagree? Why or why not? Should we have created an Iraqi Air Force? Naval power? Educational power? Medical power? Assuming President Obama sees himself as a one-term President what Iraqi legacy will be want to leave?

  12. Jose says:

    If only the idiots in power would listen to your proposed “concert” maybe events could be made less dramatic, but “they” know better.
    Pat, since you prefer not to be called Col., would Dr. Silverman’s advice on dealing with the individual tribes first made a difference?
    We Americans seem so focused on dealing with individuals, such as Chalabi and Karzi, that I’m being to think he is correct.

  13. par4 says:

    Chalabi seems to be a man looking to have an accident.

  14. Brad Ruble says:

    I don’t understand this part of the world well enough. Where does Kuwait stand in all of this.

  15. david says:

    “A man looking to have an accident.”
    Like his US political patrons, he thrives in conflict and conflicted environments, where he can use his tactical skills without any real concern for larger strategic realities.
    As he is without any domestic Iraqi base, he finds political room in the fissures between those who do. This has the effect of making him of an unlikely victim of “accident,” while at the same time making him utterly expendable.
    I am quite sure he thinks he is playing the neocons, Odierno and the Iranians for saps.
    When does clever become too clever? Hard to say, but it almost always does.

  16. david says:

    Sorry for double post, but my guess is that at some point in the near future, the Iranians will attempt “to consolidate” their gains in Iraq rather than relying on a sort of chaotic hodge-podge of relationships.
    I doubt that looming process will be kind to Chalabi, but one should not underestimate Chalabi’s survival skills, nor IRGC factionalism.

  17. Adam L Silverman says:

    Jose: The failure to bring the tribal and traditional Sunnis and Shia, as well as the religious elites and notables in at several different time points has led to bad outcomes. GEN (ret) Garner, who was initially sent to administer Iraq post-invasion, had developed a 90 day course of action to bring in all the elites and notables, including the tribal/traditional guys and the religious ones (and there’s some overlap there in Iraq), have them work out a way forward towards some initial form of democratic governance, and then implement it. This did not happen. Instead GEN (ret) Garner was replaced, very quickly, on the recommendation of Secretary Rumsfeld and others with AMB (ret) Bremmer and the Coalition Provisional Authority. The CPA came in, was closely advised by Chalabi and his INA people, and basically spent about a year setting the US up for major long term failure in Iraq. Their head of development was an Africanist, not a Middle East specialist. They had the Heritage Foundation interns they were using for junior staff immediately set up an Iraqi Stock Exchange (I believe they were trading rubble futures…), and basically set about using Iraq as a laboratory for every crank ideologically driven concept of governance that really can’t be tried in the US as even most Americans would be revolted by them if they had to live with them. These were eventually handed down to the Iraqis as CPA laws and one of those laws indicates that the Iraqis can’t ever change them!!!! They can all be found here:
    Moreover, the CPA with the assistance and advice of Chalabi and his people are the ones who purged the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military of “Ba’athists”. My take on this is that some of these folks were indeed hard core Saddam Hussein/Ba’ath Party types. A lot of others simply belonged to the Ba’ath Party because they couldn’t get government jobs, or promotions, or military rank without membership. As a result the CPA basically took the existing Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, shook out all the folks in it they didn’t like, or were told not to like, then restaffed it with personnel vetted by Chalabi and his people, and then reimposed it on the Iraqis. The hand picked leadership turned out to be useless, so Alawi was replaced with Maliki and his coalition. Unfortunately none of the regional specialists that the CPA supposedly had on their governance staff either noticed, or were successful in arguing, that this was a bad idea as Maliki and his coalition partner Hakim were products of Iran. The focus for Iranian influence was always on Sadr, even though he is an unreliably ally for the Iranians as he’s an Iraqi nationalist, which is why the Iranians have basically co-opted him with the promise of Shi’a jurisprudential accreditation as an ayatullah. I’m not sure anyone realizes that if Sadr ever gets that rank, his plan is to go back and declare himself the Taqlid (authority) for Iraqi Shi’a.

  18. Adam L Silverman says:

    Mr. Cummings: When I was in Iraq in 2008 the estimate was about/upward of 4 million Iraqis displaced. I have all the Internally Displaced Persons data from the Government of Iraq from late Spring 2008; this dealt only with those who had moved around internally, and it is 15 spreadsheets, with over 5,000 rows (each row is a family or individual) per spreadsheet! Some of the spreadsheets have closer to 10,000 rows of data. So just the official count of the internally displaced is running upward of the 100,000 mark – these are the ones that didn’t have the werewithal to get out!
    My take on this is that the better educated and those with resources left. In some cases among the tribal/traditional crowd they were ordered to leave. We did some interviews with leaders of one tribe that lived on either side of a canal in Southern Mada’in Qada and they had an internal feud going. They told us that their overall Sheikh had ordered one of them to take his people and flee to safety and the other to stay and fight. Once things settled down and those that had left returned, there was anger over who had it worse – the refugees or those that had to stay and do desperate things to survive. This had degenerated into an internal to the tribe fight, which at times was quite violent. Overall though, what I think the dynamic is, is that those that have the education and resources to flee are likely to stay away as they have the ability to make better lives for themselves in Europe or the US or some other Arab State. The issue has been can you entice them to return. Some of the Shi’a will likely be able to be convinced as they are the big winners of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I think most of the Sunnis who have fled will decide they don’t want to return to Iraq to be second class citizens.
    As to Iraqi nationalism: it was very clear that there are two groups that are Iraqi nationalist – the tribal/traditional Sunnis and Shi’a and the Sadrists. The Kurds are not interested in anything but autonomy. Hakim’s ISCI and Badr Corps are interested in floating the Shi’a south loose, if possible, to form a loose alliance with Iran. It was for this reason that they supported the reverse federalism/secession clauses in the Iraqi constitution. Once the Kurds go, which won’t occur until after the Kurdish/Pesh and the Arab Shi’a/Badr components of the Iraqi Army splinter and fight each other over Kirkuk, then ISCI will make a play to do the same in the Shi’a South. This was the real motivation behind the Basra Campaign Charge of the Knights. The Sadrists had to be removed and ISCI installed, as the Sadrists won’t consider any fragmentation of Iraq. Sadr may be a twisted piece of work, but at least he’s an Iraqi nationalist… Maliki is the interesting player in this. He has the smallest overall group in the coalition he’s built, but he’s been working to coup proof himself and make himself a strongman and shore up his Iraqi nationalist bona fides; though I think the last is mostly for show and for the pursuit of power! He’s also set up his own special military counter-terrorism units that are loyal to him, and tried to split the tribal/traditional guys by setting up his own tribal councils. Saddam tried this, the tribes almost destroyed him, and he never tried it again.
    The real question is going to be how much blood letting and how big a blood bath occurs once we leave or our numbers are reduced so low that we can’t do anything intervention wise. The oil issue is a nightmare scenario. The Kurds keep going their own way by doing their own deals, which further enflames the fight over Kirkuk, and if that boils over you’ll see the Iraqi Army fragment and choose sides. Back in 2008 Barzani and Talabani put their Pesh under joint command; those two despise each other, but they’ve been preparing for this for a while and they mean to win when it goes down. To my mind the interesting piece is going to be the tribal/traditional guys, especially the Sunnis. Nir Rosen has written, and he and I have personally discussed, his informed view that the tribal guys are defeated. I don’t disagree in the sense that they, and the people they represent – most of them Sunnis – are stuck taking whatever they can get. Where I disagree with Nir is that my takeaway from talking to lots of tribal leaders and SOI leaders (lot of overlap there), both Sunni and Shi’a, is that they are still itching for a glorious fight to settle scores. They can’t win based on the numbers, but they can likely do a lot of damage.
    Finally, on the oil issue. It actually makes matters worse for several reasons:
    1) the Kurds are going their own way on the oil issues, which is only making things worse, but they will continue to pursue their own agenda
    2) Iraqi refining capabilities are way out of date and limited. They are producing more heavy fuel oil, which has actually been a major environmental hazard because they don’t have enough storage for it, as a by product of the refinement process than they are light sweet crude
    3) the vast majority of the oil in Iraq is actually outside the “Red Line”. In the 1930s the Seven Sisters Oil Companies bought 95% of the petroleum development rights for Iraq. They took a map and drew a red line on it (its actually more of a hook). Everything inside the line was to be exploited, everything outside the line was not to be touched – a strategic reserve. The plots outside the lines are actually along the Western border with Saudi Arabia (I have a copy of the map, and verified it with an Iraqi source, now living in the US, who worked as a senior agricultural and engineering specialist under Saddam Hussein before fleeing. He made it clear that this is what happened). Most Iraqis don’t know that this is where the oil is, there are, or were as I’ve not been following this too closely, few plans to do any exploration/exploitation out West along this border. Essentially Iraq was intended to be the oil companies strategic reserve and my understanding, verified by my Iraqi source, was that this was carried over by OPEC. It is for this reason that Iraq was never allowed to produce more, by OPEC rules, than Iran, though the official reason has always been that they are historic rivals and if Iraq could out produce them it would further enflame tensions between them.
    4) So until or unless OPEC, which is controlled by Saudi and the oil companies decide it is time to remove this oil from the ground, Iraq will stay as a strategic reserve. Remember these guys are in business to make money, so if there was really money to be made getting as much Iraqi oil out of the ground and into the market as possible, they would be there, regardless of the security situation, doing it. That they aren’t should tell everyone something.

  19. b says:

    Thank you Mr. Silverman!
    Those two last comments explain a lot of issues I was unsure about.

  20. Thanks very much Dr. Silverman. Very interesting and helpful. To me and I hope to others.

  21. Jose says:

    Thank you for clarification Dr. Silverman, please excuse my delay. I have been very busy lately. Just hope we are not making the same mistake in Afghanistan.

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