Chalabi Spy Case
James Risen and David Johnston have a story in the New York Times on Wednesday about the spying charges against Ahmad Chalabi. He is accused of passing to Iran the highly classified information that the US had broken Iranian codes. Although the Iranians use a number of cyptographic systems, and couldn’t know which the US had penetrated, obviously they would be tempted to change them all in the light of this information.
Some observers have speculated that the entire Iraq war may have been an Iranian plot, with the Iranians using Chalabi to feed false information about Iraq’s weapons programs to the US. They would then have used one enemy, the US, to get rid of another, Saddam, and would as a result have liberated the Iraqi Shiite community.
I want to intervene on this meme. It is impossible. Chalabi and the other Iraqi expatriates certainly gamed the Bush administration. But it is not credible to me that Iranian intelligence actively sought a US invasion of Iraq.
In 2002, the US occupied Afghanistan, to Iran’s east. The hardliners in Iran did not like this development. They certainly would not have wanted US troops in Iraq to their West, as well. That they would manufacture fairy tales about Iraqi weapons to lure the US to Baghdad is inconceivable. And the hardliners are in charge of Iranian intelligence.
The hardline clerics objected strenuously in summer, 2002, when the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, then based in Tehran, openly admitted to having conducted negotiations with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s office about an alliance against Saddam. Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim received great heat for this alliance. Then when Abdul Majid Khoei went to Iran in winter, 2002-2003, he spoke to conservative clerics about the need to ally pragmatically with the US against Saddam, and it caused an uproar. His talk was at one point actually cut off by the tumult and he had to leave the hall.
That the Iranians reluctantly accepted that the US was determined to go to war against Iraq is obvious. But that they connived at it is ridiculous.
Indeed, the likelihood is that the Iranians were also victims of Chalabi’s lie factory. The INC peddled the story to the US that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program. It must have peddled the same story to the Iranians. In fact, what if the lies of Chalabi & Associates about the non-existent nuclear program so alarmed Iran that it redoubled its efforts to get a nuclear weapon, conducting an arms race against a phantom? If so, Chalabi and his group have single-handedly destabilized the entire Persian Gulf region. And for what? So that Ahmad could be president for life. And now that will not even happen.