Senators Will Play Nice if Chalabi Is Picked to Lead Iraq

“You have to,” said Sen. John McCain, a onetime supporter of the Iraqi politician.

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
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Clara Ritger
July 8, 2014, 7:03 p.m.

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats ex­press a com­mon sen­ti­ment when asked what they think of Ahmad Chalabi.

“Not much, but it’s not my de­cision,” said Demo­crat­ic Sen. Di­anne Fein­stein of Cali­for­nia.

“I wouldn’t buy a car from him,” said Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Car­o­lina.

Chalabi, 69, has been named as a can­did­ate to re­place Nuri Kamal al-Ma­liki as prime min­is­ter of Ir­aq. His last­ing polit­ic­al pres­ence is al­most puzz­ling, giv­en his bad repu­ta­tion in the United States for sup­ply­ing false in­tel­li­gence about weapons of mass de­struc­tion to the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion that was used to jus­ti­fy the in­va­sion of Ir­aq.

Wheth­er U.S. of­fi­cials want to work with Chalabi—or trust him—is a ques­tion that’s off the table for the sen­at­ors. “That’s up to the Ir­aqis as to who they pick,” said Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Chair­man Carl Lev­in. “They’ll choose who­ever they want to choose, and ob­vi­ously we’ll do the best we can to work with who­ever they choose.”

Gra­ham and Mc­Cain also ex­pressed the feel­ing that their hands were tied. “We’ll deal with him, but the trust level between me and Chalabi is very low,” Gra­ham said.

“I op­pose him be­ing the next prime min­is­ter of Ir­aq,” Mc­Cain said. “But if he was, you have to” deal with it.

None of the sen­at­ors felt that the U.S. should get in­volved in the se­lec­tion of Ir­aq’s next head of state. The Ir­aqi Par­lia­ment an­nounced Tues­day it would meet next week to dis­cuss a new gov­ern­ment.


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