Is Chalabi Out? Brahimi Plan advances, Baathists Rehabilitated
The intrepid Robin Wright and Walter Pincus at the Washington Post argue that the Brahimi plan for Iraq could forestall the coronation of Ahmad Chalabi as Iraq’s America-installed prince. Brahimi favors appointing four technocrats from outside the Interim Governing Council, leaving IGC members to organize themselves for a political campaign if they like. Some may be appointed cabinet members.
The current IGC is a mixture of warlords with militias, corrupt expatriate politicians, and token independents. When asked to appoint a cabinet full of ministers to run the bureaucracies last summer, they typically put in relatives or cronies. The oil minister, Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum is actually the son of Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, an IGC member, and is related by marriage to Ahmad Chalabi. The recently appointed minister of defense (at first minister of trade), Ali Allawi, is the nephew of Ahmad Chalabi, as well.
Chalabi was behind the dissolution of the Baath army, and an extreme program of de-Baathification that purged even minor members of the party. By the way, no such extreme denazification was attempted in Germany after WW II. Party members who had taught elementary school just went on teaching elementary school after the National Socialists collapsed. Much of Germany’s post-war bureaucracy was run by former party members. The important thing was only that they hadn’t been guilty of crimes. This point is made well by Billmon.
Given the extreme alienation of Sunni Iraqis from the Coalition (30% believe it is legitimate to do violence against Coalition troops) has forced Bremer and the Coalition to rethink allowing Chalabi to purge so many thousands of technocrats, and to continue to control them politically forever after (the US military handed over to Chalabi large numbers of files on party members, which is outrageous–the files should be under the control of the Iraqi state, not a private citizen).
I don’t think anything bad can come of letting former Baath engineers build things in the new Iraq. The US should be careful about putting former Baathists in military and intelligence positions, though.
In any case, the plot to install Chalabi has run into trouble. It is alarming, however, that Brahimi is still worried that Chalabi’s cronies such as Doug Feith in the Pentagon may yet succeed in foisting him on Iraq.
By the way, the business relationship of Ahmad Chalabi’s nephew Salem with a law firm that has some sort of affiliation with FANDZ, the firm of Mark Zell, a West Bank settler and former and future Feith partner, was detailed by Brian Whitaker. The web site of Salem’s firm is registered to FANDZ. This Corpwatch article serves as a follow-up to the Whitaker piece, but does not settle the issue of Salem Chalabi’s precise relationship to Jerusalem-based Zell, or the continued relationship of both of them to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, Zell’s sometime partner. Chalabi’s Baghdad firm appears to be structured so as to trade on insider influence. Feith says he has cut off all relations with Zell’s firm. But then Dick Cheney was thought to have given up all his Halliburton interests, at one time, as well.