Former Bush Advisers Back Chalabi for Prime Minister of Iraq

The man said to have supplied false information that took America to war still has the support of past administration officials after all these years.

A combination of three file pictures taken in Iraq shows (LtoR) former Iraqi deputy prime minister Ahmed Chalabi, former vice president Adel Abdul Mehdi and former prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Iraq's parliament convenes on July 1, 2014, the first time since April's elections, with world leaders and the country's top Shiite cleric urging the fractious politicians to unite and swiftly form a government. Chalabi, Mehdi and al-Jaafari are some of the candidates seen as possible replacements for incumbent premier Nuri al-Maliki. AFP PHOTO / (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images
National Journal
Clara Ritger
July 7, 2014, 6:32 p.m.

Des­pite some troub­ling epis­odes over the past dec­ade, at least two top ad­visers to Pres­id­ent George W. Bush think Ahmad Chalabi could be the one to save Ir­aq.

Chalabi, 69, is also the one cred­ited with giv­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion tenu­ous jus­ti­fic­a­tion for in­vad­ing Ir­aq, de­liv­er­ing false in­tel­li­gence that then-Ir­aqi Pres­id­ent Sad­dam Hus­sein pos­sessed weapons of mass de­struc­tion. He was later ac­cused of spy­ing on the U.S. for Ir­an.

But former Bush ad­viser Richard Perle says he’s still friends with Chalabi and de­fends his ac­tions lead­ing up to the Ir­aq War.

“Chalabi is far and away the most com­pet­ent and the most cap­able of sal­va­ging this situ­ation,” said Perle, who chaired the De­fense Policy Board Ad­vis­ory Com­mit­tee from 2001 to 2003. “I think he’s got the best chance. It would be fool­ish if we ex­pressed a pref­er­ence for some­body less com­pet­ent, which we’ve done be­fore.”

Since his fall­ing-out with the U.S. gov­ern­ment, Chalabi has served in Ir­aq’s Par­lia­ment and was named last week as a can­did­ate to suc­ceed Nuri Kamal al-Ma­liki as the coun­try’s prime min­is­ter. Pres­sure is mount­ing in Wash­ing­ton and Ir­aq for Ma­liki to resign be­cause his Shia gov­ern­ment has not wel­comed the two oth­er prom­in­ent Is­lam­ic fac­tions, the Sun­nis and Kur­ds, as the U.S. and Ir­aq had hoped it would. A uni­fied gov­ern­ment is seen as the first step to­ward pre­vent­ing the in­sur­gent group IS­IS””the Is­lam­ic State in Ir­aq and Syr­ia””from win­ning con­trol over the re­gion.

But a Chalabi rule in Ir­aq could be prob­lem­at­ic for the U.S. Both the Pentagon and the CIA dis­tanced them­selves from Chalabi in the years fol­low­ing the in­va­sion of Ir­aq. Re­pub­lic­an Sen. John Mc­Cain, ar­gu­ably Chalabi’s biggest pro­ponent in Con­gress lead­ing up to the Ir­aq War and who once called him “a pat­ri­ot who has the best in­terests of his coun­try at heart,” said Monday that the politi­cian is “play­ing both sides” to get ahead.

“I am not a sup­port­er of Mr. Chalabi,” Mc­Cain said. “Since Chalabi star­ted hav­ing close re­la­tions with the Ir­a­ni­ans I have not sup­por­ted him. From what I’ve heard, there’s very strong op­pos­i­tion to him amongst the Ir­aqis.”

Perle offered a dif­fer­ent as­sess­ment of Chalabi’s repu­ta­tion among the Ir­aqis.

“I think he’s un­der no il­lu­sions about wheth­er the U.S. will sup­port him, be­cause of the long his­tory of bur­eau­crat­ic in­sti­tu­tions not lik­ing him,” Perle said. “Wheth­er people like him or not, they know that he is first and fore­most an Ir­aqi na­tion­al­ist that will put Ir­aq’s in­terests first. Where­as Ma­liki put the in­terests of the Shia first.”

Perle cited Chalabi’s ex­per­i­ence as head of the Ir­aqi Na­tion­al Con­gress””a Hus­sein op­pos­i­tion party es­tab­lished with the aid of the U.S. after the Gulf War to de­pose the Ir­aqi pres­id­ent””as evid­ence of Chalabi’s abil­ity to unite the Is­lam­ic fac­tions in Ir­aq.

“Nobody would be talk­ing about him now if he wasn’t good at it,” Perle said. “If the U.S. is smart, they will work with who­ever is able to bring some or­der out of this chaos. The U.S. is in no po­s­i­tion to de­clare that it doesn’t like X or Y. They liked Ma­liki. It’s time for a little hu­mil­ity from U.S. of­fi­cials. We should not be pick­ing Ir­aqi of­fi­cials for the Ir­aqi people. It’s time to let them do that them­selves.”

An­oth­er top Bush aide, Paul Wolfow­itz, told Bloomberg News over the week­end that Chalabi would be a vi­able op­tion.

“The man is a sur­viv­or,” said Wolfow­itz, who served as deputy De­fense sec­ret­ary from 2001 to 2005. “That’s im­press­ive. I think he wants to suc­ceed in what he does, he’s smart; maybe he’ll fig­ure out a way to do it.”

Like Mc­Cain, Wolfow­itz said he thought Chalabi’s ties to Ir­an are a reas­on to be con­cerned.

“We’ve put him in a situ­ation where, in my view, he’s much too close to Ir­an,” Wolfow­itz said.

However Wolfow­itz doesn’t think that’s a reas­on to pre­vent a fu­ture work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Chalabi.

“Chalabi is not an an­gel; no one in that sys­tem is an an­gel,” Wolfow­itz said. “You have to be care­ful who you work with, but I think you need to try to work with every­body.”

What We're Following See More »
WEST WING REDUX
Allison Janney Takes to the Real White House Podium
26 minutes ago
WHY WE CARE

Carolyn Kaster/AP

STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
52 minutes ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
5 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
×