Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 23, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

AHMED CHALABI....Lots of mysterious stuff to try to figure out these days. Did we bomb a wedding or a terrorist camp near the Syrian border? What's the real story with the UN oil-for-food scandal? Is the Nick Berg video on the up and up? And what the hell are the Israelis doing in Rafah?

These are all things I need to spend more time trying to understand. By far the most interesting mystery, though, is the strange saga of Ahmed Chalabi which is also, seemingly, the hardest of the bunch to get a handle on. As near as I can tell, no one knows what's really happening here, even though half the reporters in Washington are shaking their sources like piatas in an effort to find out.

I need to catch up on everything before I say much about this, but I will take a guess on one thing: I suspect that Josh Marshall is wrong when he suggests that Chalabi's reversal of fortune is not really the result of new information, but rather just the visible result of "deep tectonic shifts within the US government" as different (anti-Chalabi) groups gain power at the expense of other (pro-Chalabi) groups. Instead, I think something new really has happened, and that something, as reported in the New York Post, was probably convincing evidence from the Jordanian government that Chalabi has passed critical U.S. intelligence information to the Iranians. This makes sense when you put the known facts on the table:

  • Chalabi has long had ties to the Iranian government.

  • The Jordanian government has been tracking Chalabi for over a decade, ever since his bank failed and he fled the country. So it makes sense that they might have some dirt on him.

  • Newsday reports that Chalabi's intelligence chief is an Iranian spy.

  • CBS reports the same thing, adding that (a) Chalabi personally handed the information to the Iranians, (b) the information could "get Americans killed," and (c) the evidence against Chalabi is "rock solid."

  • The timing fits, since King Abdullah II of Jordan visited the White House just a few weeks ago and could have personally put a bug in Bush's ear that got the ball rolling on this.

Finally, as Laura Rozen astutely points out, while Chalabi still has some very vocal supporters among his neocon friends, the ones who are actually in a position to know about the Jordanian charges have rather conspicuously not been defending him lately. And no matter how much slack they've cut the guy in the past, a serious intelligence breach would put him beyond the pale for good.

More to come on this, of course. In the meantime, go read Josh, who's covering this pretty thoroughly, and especially go read Laura Rozen, who's been blogging up a storm on Chalabi, complete with roundups, speculation, and original reporting. She's got the go-to site at the moment for dedicated Chalabi watchers.

Kevin Drum 12:03 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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