Chalabi Arrest Warrants
A three-judge panel on Sunday issued a warrant for the arrests of Ahmad Chalabi and his nephew Salem Chalabi. Ahmad Chalabi was in Iran as part of an Iraqi trade mission at the time of the announcement, and says he will come back to contest the charges. The timing is suspicious, however, and some might think the Allawi government hoped Chalabi would remain in Iran, in exile. He was charged with counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars (why not counterfeit new dinars if you were going to counterfeit?) and money-laundering. His nephew Salem, who had headed the tribunal in charge of trying Saddam Hussein, has been charged with murder.
Ahmad Chalabi is accused of being a corrupt con man whose lies helped embroil the US in the Iraq quagmire. But Ahmad Chalabi is also a powerful rival to his distant cousin, Iyad Allawi. Allawi favors rehabilitating the ex-Baathists. Chalabi favors purging them. Allawi deeply distrusts Iran. Chalabi has a strong Iranian connection. Allawi wants to crack down on the militias of the religious Shiite parties. Chalabi has increasingly allied himself with the religious Shiite leadership, despite being a secularist himself.
Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord is not much of a political party, and mainly groups ex-Baath officers who broke with Saddam and decided to try to overthrow him. Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress groups several important expatriate Iraqi political factions. Although Chalabi himself was never popular on the Iraqi street, he has proven himself as a skilfull political broker and might well have found a way to get into parliament and become influential in the forthcoming elections. He manages to have good relations with the Kurds, Sistani, Muqtada al-Sadr, and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim all at once. On the other hand, the Sunni Arabs blame him for his attempts to exclude ex-Baathists from civil and political society.
The arrest warrants may be justified. But their timing, just as Allawi’s government, in alliance with the Americans, was attempting to crush the Sadr movement, another rival to Allawi, is unfortunate.
As if all that were not bad enough, the Allawi government chose Sunday to announce that it was re-instituting the death penalty. This move drew condemnations from international human rights organizations. It was not good news for Salem Chalabi.
A few days ago, The Scotsman laid out the case against Salem Chalabi:
” Mr Chalabi, whose uncle is former Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi, is accused of attempting to intimidate Haitham Fadhil, a finance ministry official who was investigating the Chalabi family’s real estate holdings when he was killed in May. “