January 21, 2005

Chalabi, We Missed You

In the New York Sun, Eli Lake tries to crack the mystery of how con man extraordinnaire Ahmed Chalabi became so popular in Iraq:
One answer is that by campaigning against him, Jordan's monarchy and America's spies gave Mr. Chalabi the legitimacy they insisted he lacked. Mr. Allawi, the CIA, and Jordan favored a strategy that essentially purchased Iraqi security through buying off many of the functionaries of the old Baathist regime. At the time, this rapprochement was sold as the only viable strategy for placating the violent Sunni terrorists who have declared war against the right to vote of their countrymen.

But in the rehabilitation of the Baath Party, many Iraqis became enraged at the prospect of returning to tyranny. It was Mr. Allawi who sent envoys to Syria in August to meet with senior leaders of the insurgency and invited a reconstituted Baath Party to help plan the elections Iraq will hold on January 30. One reason why proceedings of the special court to try Saddam Hussein stopped almost entirely during this period was out of concern it would further incite the decapitators, assassins, and car bombers.
I also wonder whatever happened to that whole "Chalabi-is-an-Iranian-spy" story? Oh well. Meanwhile, it looks like Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shalan, one of those infamous ex-Baathists in government, is threatening to arrest Chalabi. The incomparable Kathleen Ridolfo of RFE/RL has details. (And I do mean incomparable—she's one of the best Iraq reporters out there.) Yikes. I still think this split between the Baathist-heavy "Iraqi List" and the religious Shi'ite "United Iraqi List"—of which Chalabi is a member—is going to be gruesome. Never mind the insurgency.
-- Brad Plumer 4:40 PM || ||