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Who is Ahmed Chalabi?




By Michel Chossudovsky

TFF Associate

Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa

June 5, 2004

On the 20th of May, US forces raided the Baghdad home of the head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) Ahmed Chalabi. The media in chorus, without further investigation, described the raid as an effort to silence Chalabi's condemnation of the US-led occupation:

"My house was attacked... We avoided by a hair's breadth a clash with my guards. I am America's best friend in Iraq. If the CPA finds it necessary to direct an armed attack against my home, you can see the state of relations between the CPA and the Iraqi people." ( Press Conference in Baghdad quoted in the Independent, 20 May 2004)

The reports pointed to "a changed relationship" between Chalabi and the Coalition. "It's a stunning reversal!." Washington has decided  "to drop its backing for Mr Chalabi and to distance itself from him".

Chalabi is said to have been plotting against the US by putting together "a sectarian Shiite faction" to apparently destabilize to the  "UN sponsored" transitional government which is slated to take office on July 1st.

According to press reports, Chalabi was the target of a US government investigation "into whether he betrayed American intelligence secrets to foreign governments, including Iran." 

He is also accused of hiding the records of the oil for food program and for having "exaggerated" the threat of weapons of mass destruction, in intelligence transmitted to the Coalition in the months leading up to the war. In other words, he is said to have tricked US intelligence into believing there were WMDs. Where he got this intelligence is not mentioned. Chalabi returned to Kurdish held Northern Iraq in February 2003 after 45 years in exile and the INC did not have an active network inside Iraq, which would have enabled it to gather intelligence on WMDs 

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Puppet without Strings

From one day to the next, the puppet is presented as  "pulling the strings" and maneuvering behind the scenes against the US led coalition.

The official explanation, as conveyed by the press reports, simply does not make sense. 

Up until the 18th of May, Chalabi was still on the Pentagon's payroll receiving a modest monthly allowance of $355,000 (more than 4 million dollars a year).

His job was described as "intelligence gathering."  Two days later his house is raided. According to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, cutting his pocket money was part of the "natural evolution" towards democracy in Iraq:

"That was a decision that was made in light of the process of transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people... There has been some very valuable intelligence that's been gathered through that process that's been very important for our forces, but we will seek to obtain that in the future through normal intelligence channels." (quoted in the Financial Times, 21 May 2004)

On the 18th of May, they cut his money and the following day they raid his office?

A puppet does not turn against his master, particularly when key members of his staff, including his main advisers and spokesmen, are US appointees who report directly back to the Pentagon.

Who is Ahmed Chalabi?

Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Council are a creation of the CIA. 

Chalabi is an Iraqi emigrè, handpicked by US intelligence. 

He left Iraq and moved to the US with his family at age 13. He holds a US passport.

Chalabi returned to Iraq barely one month before the war. He had not set foot in Iraq since his childhood.

On April 6 2003, US troops escorted him to Nasiriya, where he established, with the support of the US military, the so-called Free Iraqi Forces, a paramilitary army of some 600 fighters.

Since his return to Iraq, he has been a leading figure of the US sponsored Iraqi Governing Council.

Chalabi may have some degree of controlled "independence", but he remains a US sponsored "intelligence asset". Key members of his staff, report to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

The press reports seem to suggest a "blowback". Our trusted ally has gone against us.": 

Washington's longtime ally who was once favored by the Pentagon brass to be Iraq's post-war leader.

The Iraqi National Police and American military police hauled away computers, documents, and a "valuable Koran" from his office, according to Chalabi, a senior member of Iraq's Governing Council and head of the Iraqi National Congress.

In an angry letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller and CIA Director George Tenet, the Boston law firm that represents Chalabi, Markham & Read, said a large contingent of police and armed plainclothes Americans ransacked the INC's offices and Chalabi's nearby home, ripping computers from their sockets and smashing doors.

"They marauded his office and disrespected his family," attorney John J. E. Markham II told the Globe by telephone. He said Chalabi believed the US-led coalition had launched a vendetta against the INC leader because "he is starting to distance himself from the folly of [Paul] Bremer," the top US administrator in Iraq.

Yesterday's raid appeared to be the climax of a relationship gone bad, in which grievances on both sides have mounted during the past year's difficulties in Iraq. Pentagon officials relied on Chalabi and the INC heavily before the war to assess both Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities and the chances of success of a US-led war. (Boston Globe, 21 May 2004).


Propaganda Ploy

Following the Gulf War, the CIA assigned a public relations firm the Rendon Group: "to help organize, advise, and stage-manage the Iraqi opposition... " In fact, the Rendon Group created the Iraqi National Congress (INC) and its leader Ahmed Chalabi from scratch,--i.e. from a virtually nonexistent entity into a US sponsored political proxy, which would faithfully serve US interests. "Were it not for Rendon,"a State Department official remarked, "the Chalabi group wouldn't even be on the map.". (See Michel Chossudovsky, War Propaganda and the Capture of Saddam Hussein, December 2003)

In fact, the Rendon Group even chose the name of the INC:

"At the helm of the INC is Ahmed Chalabi, a US-trained mathematician who fled from Jordan in 1989 in the trunk of a car after the collapse of a bank he owned. He was subsequently charged and sentenced in absentia to 22 years in prison for embezzlement. Back home in Iraq, he's referred to by some as the so-called limousine insurgent and is said to hold little actual standing with the Iraqi public. Shuttling between London and DC, Chalabi hasn't been in Iraq for over years, and draws "more support on the Potomac than the Euphrates," says Iraq specialist Andrew Parasiliti of the Middle East Institute in Washington DC.

With funding first from the CIA throughout the 1990s and more recently the Pentagon, Rendon managed the INC's every move, an INC spokesperson acknowledges, even choosing its name, coordinating its annual strategy conferences, and orchestrating its meetings with diplomatic heavy hitters, such as James Baker and Brent Scowcroft. Not that the Rendon Group was the first purveyor of psy-op tactics for promoting US foreign policy in the region. In fact, some of the most impressive spin maneuvers and disinformation campaigns occurred during the Gulf War in 1991, the lessons of which are particularly pertinent as the US again gears up (See Ian Urbina, This War Brought to You by Rendon Group, Asia Times Online, 12 November 2002, ).

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Since the Gulf War, The Rendon Group has been involved in several core disinformation operations. It worked closely with its British partner Hill and Knowlton, which was responsible for the 1990 Kuwaiti incubator media scam, where Kuwaiti babies were allegedly removed from incubators in a totally fabricated news story, which was then used to get Congressional approval for the 1991 Gulf War. A fabricated statement by a "Kuwaiti nurse" was presented to the US Congress, who claimed to have seen Iraqi soldiers removing the babies from the incubators, looting the maternity ward and killing the babies. It turned out that the "nurse" was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador in Washington. Her statement, had been commissioned by the Rendon Group. (See Financial Times, 15 July 2003).


The Office of Strategic Influence (OSI)

When Donald Rumsfeld created his propaganda outfit called The Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) in the wake of September 11, 2001, the Rendon Group (TRG), was hired by the OSI as a core consulting firm.

It was to provide the public relations and psych-ops input in support of the Bush administration's "war on terrorism". It was also entrusted with a media and PR campaign to discredit the Baathist regime in the Middle East, demonize Saddam Hussein and build an Iraqi opposition.

When the OSI was officially disbanded, following pressures from the US Congress, several of its activities were transferred to The Office of Special Plans (OSP) created  by Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. (The OSP was subsequently also disbanded).

Several of the OSP's specific propaganda operations were outsourced to the private sector. The Rendon Group, which had created Ahmed Chalabi, remained  one of the key PR firm on contract to the Pentagon.

The "Liberation of Baghdad" media spin and the staged pulling down of the statue of Saddam on Fardhus square on April 8th was in all likelihood the work of a private PR consulting firm on contract to the Pentagon. Members of the INC had allegedly been brought in for a media staged event. (for further details, see The pulling down of the Statue was a staged media event, 11 April 2003 , See also Michel Chossudovsky, Killing the "Unembedded Truth" by Michel Chossudovsky, 11 April 2003, ).

In the wake of the war, Rendon supported the creation of the INC's daily newspaper Al Mu'tamar, which played a key role in releasing the story of Saddam's capture. A (former) staff member of the Rendon Group, Francis Brooke, who is now Chalabi key adviser, was behind the "opposition media" in Baghdad from the beginning of the US led occupation, including TV and news print (including the Al Mutamar project).


Was the Raid on Chalabi's home a Staged Event?

Was the raid on Chalabi's home part of a staged event, which sought to present a US sponsored puppet as a legitimate figure of the Iraqi opposition? 

While there is no proof, there are several pieces of contradictory information, which cast serious doubt on the official version of events.

Chalabi is accused of "betraying American intelligence secrets to foreign governments, including Iran," In other words, the US is accusing him of entering into secret negotiations with Iran: 

"The State Department and CIA, have recently expressed deep concern about a surge in recent intelligence alleging that the INC and Chalabi have been passing on potentially dangerous information to officials in the government of Iran. Though Chalabi has never made any secret of his cordial relations with top Iranian officialsóone of his aides claimed that Chalabi had held discussions with most top Iranian officials over the last six monthsóBush administration officials say the latest intelligence indicates he may have been supplying the Iranians with information on U.S. security operations in Iraq that could ìget people killed.î (MNSBC, 20 May 2004)

Visibly these accusations are fabricated, because the people who are making decisions for Chalabi with regard to Iran, are Pentagon appointees. Chalabi cannot move without his US appointed advisers. 

Francis Brooke, who is Chalabi's right hand man has close ties with National Security Council Chairman Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.  He has played a central role in Chalabi's intelligence undertakings including his links to Iran.

Formerly with the Rendon Group, Brooke is on contract in Baghdad with BKSH and Associates, which is controlled by Charles R. "Charlie" Black, Jr., a leading Republican political strategist and lobbyist, with close ties to Reagan, Bush Senior and Bush Junior.  

BKSH is using Chalabi and the INC to "open doors" into Iraq on behalf of US corporations.

Following the raid on Chalabi's home, Francis Brooke said that "Mr. Chalabi had never shared any secret information with the Iranians." The fact of the matter, is that Chalabi was used by US intelligence to lead a secret US mission to Tehran and the man behind that mission was "our man in Baghdad" Francis Brookes:

Brooke, who was traveling with Chalabi, ... was so warmly received wherever he went in Tehran that journalists who met with Chalabi were intrigued. They noted that Iranian officials from the departments of security and foreign affairs, the Revolutionary Guards and the presidency were even more interested in Brooke than in the INC leader himself.

A young Iranian journalist who asked a Foreign Ministry official just back from a meeting between Brooke and a senior Iranian National Security official whether Chalabiís PR consultant had indeed delivered a letter from the US administration to the Iranian leadership said that the Foreign Ministry man replied: ìAll I can say is that he (Brooke) is an important person who knows many secrets. We believe he is in contact with Washington decision-making circles. We therefore have to use the opportunity of his being in Tehran to convey our point of view to the Bush administration vis-a-vis the war on Iraq especially since the US government has closed off all other avenues open to us.î (Ali Nourizadeh, Frances Brooke, the man behind the new Iran-US entente on Iraq. Daily Star, 22 March 2003)

In other words, it was not Chalabi who brokered a deal with the Iranians but the Pentagon's appointee, Francis Brooke.


New Image

The raid on Chalabi's home creates the impression that Chalabi is no longer a figurehead controlled by the US, but a person of political moderation who speaks his own mind.

The Bush Administration is acutely aware that for Chalabi to continue performing the role of an "effective puppet", he needs a new image, which presents him to public opinion in Iraq and the Middle East not only as "independent" but anti-American.

Chalabi is still a puppet. He cannot move without the consent of the Pentagon.

With mounting resistance, the US cannot reasonably install a political proxy and expect Iraqis to rally behind him.

Whether this strategy will succeed is doubtful and this is one of the main reasons behind the US decision to dump the Iraqi Governing Council.

In Iraq, Chalabi is still viewed for what he is, a creature of the CIA.

Whether he plays a direct role in the political transition remains to be seen.

Whether he integrates a transition government or not, or whether that transition government will actually be formed by July 1st, Ahmed Chalabi will continue to perform an important role on behalf of his US sponsors.

He constitutes a go-between in the shady dealings of channeling of foreign investment into Iraq, meaning the confiscation of the country's wealth by a handful of corporations.

In this context, he is used as a bridge, between selected Iraqi business collaborators and US companies. His adviser Francis Brookes acts on behalf of BKSH and Associates, controlled by Charles R. "Charlie" Black, Jr. and BKSH acts on behalf of major US investors into Iraq.

In turn, Chalabi's nephew Salem Chalabi runs a law firm called the Iraqi International Law Group (IILG). (The Guardian 24 September 2003). The IILG was set up in July 2003 ìto provide foreign enterprise with the information and tools it needs to enter the emerging Iraq and to succeedî, according to its website. ìOur clients number among the largest corporations and institutions on the planet,î (quoted in Brian Whitaker, Zionist Settler Joins Iraqi to Promote Trade

But it turns out that the IILG based in Baghdad is in fact a proxy for a Washington based law firm, Zell, Goldberg & Co, "which claims to be 'one of Israel's fastest-growing business-oriented law firms".

In turn, Zell, Goldberg and Co is the Israeli affiliate of the FANDZ International Law Group. Now it just so happens that FANDZ is a partnership between Marc Zell and Department of Defense Undersecretary Douglas Feith, who, while on leave from the company, reports directly to Paul Wolfowitz and Don Rumsfeld.

"The FANDZ INTERNATIONAL LAW GROUP was established in 1999 with the formation of Zell, Goldberg & Co. and its alliance with Feith & Zell, P.C"

In other words, in the complex web of political puppets, law firms and public relations consulting outfits, all roads lead up the ladder to the Pentagon's highest ranks.

Chalabi has not been dumped. Quite the opposite. He now emerges with a brand new anti-American image, which contributes to confusing public opinion. He remains America's Number One "intelligence asset" in Baghdad, serving a central role in the economic colonization of Iraq.

The ultimate objective of the US led occupation is to confiscate Iraq's resources including its oil wells and gain full control over the national economy.

Faced with mounting popular resistance, that desperate process can only be undertaken under the smokescreen of an illusive national sovereignty.  


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