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Ahmed Chalabi

AKA Ahmed Abdel Hadi Chalabi

Born: 30-Oct-1944
Birthplace: Baghdad, Iraq

Gender: Male
Religion: Muslim
Race or Ethnicity: Middle Eastern
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Government

Nationality: Iraq
Executive summary: Prominent on the Iraqi Provisional Council

Ahmed Chalabi was the head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), a group of Iraqi exiles brought together and funded by the U.S. government. Its members sought to topple Saddam Hussein and become the new, improved government of Iraq.

Chalabi is charming and erudite, coming from a family that held several high positions in the Iraqi government before Hussein came along. Chalabi's father was President of the Iraqi Senate. After Hussein took power, though, the Chalabi family fled Iraq, and then-12-year-old Ahmed was raised in Britain. He studied math at MIT, obtained his Ph.D in mathematics at the University of Chicago, and taught math at the American University in Beirut until 1977.

Until the second Gulf War in 2003, Chalabi was considered a front-runner to replace Hussein, and at the highest levels of the U.S. government, Chalabi was long considered an excellent source for inside information on Iraq. Throughout the build-up to the 2003 war, he was paid $335,000 monthly by the Pentagon for providing intelligence. Additional sums paid by the State Department to the INC exceeded $33 million, according to a US General Accounting office report in 2004. State Department officials, concerned about these expenditures, conducted an audit of Chalabi's group in early 2001. Auditors could not find any evidence the funds had been misused, but they also could not find receipts accounting for about $465,000. In response, according to unnamed sources at the State Department, the Bush White House strongly suggested that there should be no further audits of Chalabi.

This was not the first hint of financial irregularities in Chalabi's career. In 1977, he started the Petra Bank in Jordan. It very quickly grew to be one of that nation's largest banks. Then the Jordanian dinar's value took a dive, and Jordan's central bank required that banks deposit 35% of their holdings into the central bank's reserves. Other Jordanian banks complied, but Petra Bank failed to meet the deposit requirement. An audit ensued, regulators determining that as much as half a billion dollars in depositors' money had been transferred to other businesses and financial institutions owned by the Chalabi family.

But Chalabi, like the money, was nowhere to be found. He had reportedly been smuggled out of the country in the trunk of an employee's car. He was charged in absentia on 31 counts of theft, embezzlement and other deeds, receiving a sentence of 22 years hard labor. Thus far Chalabi has not expressed any interest in returning to Jordan to start serving his time. Chalabi says that his bank was utterly on the up-and-up, and the audit, investigation, and prosecution were politically motivated. His daughter and unofficial spokesman Tamara Chalabi says, "Petra Bank was seized and destroyed by those in the Jordanian establishment who'd become willing to do Saddam Hussein's bidding."

All this, though, was moot in 2002 and 2003, as Chalabi advised the Pentagon and Bush Administration on what to expect from Iraqis during and after an American invasion. He explained that, after an attack by American forces, Iraq's government would quickly but quite neatly collapse. Iraq's workers and bureaucrats would continue working and bureaucrating for a new Iraqi government, as they had under the old regime. Iraqi society would remain generally stable, and after an invasion, most Iraqis would be eager to thank their American liberators. US intelligence officials, on the other hand, were generally skeptical of Chalabi, and wary of his optimistic predictions. Several high-ranking intelligence officers repeatedly warned that the postwar period would be much more difficult than Chalabi foresaw.

In addition to giving invaluable inside information to the Bush administration, Chalabi and the INC worked closely with a handful of reporters in the American media. He worked especially well with Judith Miller, an oddly-well-connected reporter for The New York Times. Miller wrote a series of articles for The Times, providing details and background information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- articles which undoubtedly would have won her a Pulitzer had there been any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Alas, there were not, and her primary source had been Chalabi.

In 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq, and the subsequent occupation proved more and more unpopular, followed in 2004 by the installation of a U.S.-controlled "sovereign" Iraqi government. As for Chalabi's role in governing the new Iraq, he seems unlikely to be the people's choice in democratic elections. Chalabi has little backing inside Iraq, which, remember, he left when he was 12. Outside of Iraq -- and more specifically, outside the U.S. -- Chalabi's credentials as a legitimate Iraqi leader have long been questioned. In 1995, with CIA funding, Chalabi stayed with the Kurdish resistance in the country's northern region, preparing to lead an uprising. The CIA decided that either Chalabi or the operation was untenable, and pulled the plug before it started. During an interview in early 2004, Chalabi shrugged off growing concerns from Americans that he may have deliberately misled US intelligence.

"We are heroes in error. As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat... We're ready to fall on our swords if [President Bush] wants."

On 19 May 2004, The U.S. announced that effective in July 2004 Chalabi's INC would no longer receive its $335,000 monthly allowance. In dawn raids the next morning, Iraqi police and American troops surrounded Chalabi's headquarters and home in Baghdad, arrested two of his aides, and searched the premises. US officials now suspected something that apparently never occurred to them before the war: that Chalabi, who isn't an American, was not entirely loyal to the American side. Insiders say he was illicitly funneling information on American plans to the Iranian government, while helping the US form its Iraq policy and plan its Iraq war.

Wife: Leila Chalabi (daughter of Lebanese politician; m. 1972)
Daughter: (lawyer)
Daughter: Tamara Chalabi (PhD)
Son: (artist)

    University: BS Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1964)
    University: PhD Mathematics, University of Chicago (1969)
    University: Mathematics, American University of Beirut (1969?-77)

    Embezzlement Sentenced to 22 years labor in Jordan
    Counterfeiting Charged 9-Aug-2004 in Iraq
    Assassination Attempt 1-Sep-2004 in Latifiya, Iraq (convoy attacked)
    Pardoned by King Abdullah II 11-May-2005
    Bilderberg Group 2006

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