Sunday, August 15, 2004

More surprises from Iraq

By Hasan Abu Nimah

Surprises continue to flow from Iraq, and there are no signs that we are close to the end of what seems to be an endless list. The man, Ahmed Chalabi, who “six months ago maintained the status of being the Bush administration's favoured leader in Iraq”, as The New York Times described him on Aug. 9, is now ordered arrested by an Iraqi judge for counterfeiting money.

His nephew, Salem Chalabi, who has also been the best American choice for heading the tribunal entrusted with the historic task of trying the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, has also been ordered arrested for a much more serious crime: involvement in the murder, last June, of the director general of the Iraqi finance ministry, Haitham Fadil.

The surprise is not that Ahmed Chalabi is accused of financial corruption and unlawful dealings. Long before he was picked up by the Washington neoconservatives as the figure who would lead the post-Saddam Iraq, he had been convicted in a Jordanian court (in 1991) for bank fraud and sentenced to 22 years in jail. This fact, of which the American authorities were constantly reminded, was totally ignored, obviously because the role which had been planned for him was much more important for Washington than respecting the requirements of Jordanian justice.

The “competence” of the nephew, on the other hand, was clearly exposed in the brief footage shown to the world when Saddam was brought to court before “judge” Chalabi to be informed of the charges upon which he would be tried. Probably very few people at the time thought judge Chalabi would be up to the task; but fewer people believed that the trial would be genuine anyway. That Salem Chalabi himself is now served with an arrest warrant by the same Iraqi law which he was assigned to serve is no surprise either. The real surprise is that since the toppling of the Saddam regime, one can hardly point to one successful decision the occupation authority has taken without being proven wrong later. Actually, the time mark should be pushed back a bit further, and it remains right to say that the Iraq war project has been only reaping failures and proving how disastrously this venture was planned and how badly the war party was advised.

It is generally believed now that much of the bad advice was offered by Ahmed Chalabi and the other stooges who were recruited by him but handsomely financed by American taxpayers' money to fabricate lies about Iraq's military capabilities, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, Iraq's links with the terrorists, and the danger Iraq posed to its neighbours and the world.

It may, accordingly, be logical to assume that Washington started to distance itself from Chalabi for being misled by his and his operators' fabrications. Other reasons were added, as the months passed by, such as his dubious dealings with Iran or his pushing for disbanding the entire Iraqi army and the Baath Party (both actions which were deeply regretted by the occupation authority for proving seriously counterproductive).

Without disputing the validity of any of that, it is necessary, on the other hand, to highlight other much more significant factors relating to Chalabi's part in this extremely costly, politically, financially and in terms of human life loss, military adventure. More important than Chalabi's misinformation and fabricated lies, which Washington was pleased to hear even as lies, was Chalabi's promise to the Bush administration to abolish the Arab identity of Iraq, in line with the neoconservative thinking (David Wurmser in particular) that the seeds of “pan Arabism” in the Middle East should be eradicated. Wurmser's prescription for a trouble-free-for-Israel Middle East was to remove the two Baathist regimes from Iraq and Syria for being the two existing “dangerous” pan-Arab regimes. It is for this particular reason that one of the earliest decisions of the American governor of Iraq was to disband the Baath Party, and to ban Baathists from being part of the new administration, with or without Chalabi's prodding. This was the plan.

Chalabi promised to do in Iraq just what Wurmser planned once he was installed at the head of the post-Saddam administration. He also promised to sign a peace treaty and to normalise relations with Israel, including the opening of the pipeline which would transport oil from Kirkuk to Haifa.

President George W. Bush's promise that Iraq would become the model for other Middle Eastern countries was actually meant that Iraq would become a non-Arab country, with full normal relations with Israel; an Iraq totally disengaged from any Arab commitment to reverse the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories; an Iraq freed from any form of opposition to the Israeli expansionist plans in the Arab world. And for this particular reason, again, one of the occupation authority's earliest decisions was the disbanding of the Iraqi army.

The plan was that a neutral Iraq would not need more than a small security force, not an army, to deal only with internal security matters, and not to pose any threat, at any time, to Israel. Once that phase of the plan was successfully achieved in Iraq, the idea was to move to Syria to implement the same plan there by whatever means deemed necessary, and from Syria, the project would move for the same objective to Iran. That is the neocon plan for the “new Middle East” through Iraq.

It is actually the failure of Chalabi to make himself, or his ideas, acceptable to the Iraqi people that put an end to his role, and consequently, his usefulness.

It proved difficult for Chalabi, who left Iraq as a child more than five decades ago, to secure easy acceptability by the Iraqi people, particularly when his quest was not simply to be part of them but to be their leader, with no convincing credentials. The fact that he was to be imposed upon them by foreign occupiers made his mission all the more impossible.

The two disgraced Chalabis aside, it is time that the occupiers understand that planting incompetent and corrupt leaders, and planting foolish ideas, such as has been repeatedly tried in Palestine, and now in Iraq, will neither succeed nor will it lead but to disasters. It is precisely because of that that what is unfolding in Palestine and in Iraq is only violence, chaos and disasters.

First published on Aug 11, 2004 in the Jordan Times



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