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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Mon: Chalabi Speaks
New Video of British Hostages
By AMER MOHSEN 03/22/2009 7:18 PM ET
Kull al-'Iraq
Kull al-'Iraq
According to Kull al-'Iraq, British officials have announced that they received a new video recording from the five British hostages who were captured in Baghdad in May 2007. Four of the hostages were security contractors providing protection for the fifth British national. Allegedly, over 40 individuals wearing official police uniforms and using police cars were involved in the kidnapping, which took place in the Ministry of Finance. The organization behind the kidnapping remains unknown, and the British government kept the identity of most of the hostages confidential. But some analysts claim that the British were taken by a wing of the Mahdi Army, for the purpose of exchanging them for Shi'a leaders currently detained by coalition forces (such as Qais al-Khaz'ali, who headed 'Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq, one of the most active of the so-called “Special Groups.”

In other news, Az-Zaman reports that “a leading official” in al-Hakeem’s Supreme Council was arrested in Diyala by anti-terrorism units along with his two brothers, both party officials as well. The arrest, which was made by a “combined” Iraqi-American unit, did not proceed peacefully, and a civilian was reportedly killed in a fire exchange during the raid.

On a related front, attacks against the Iraqi Army and Police, which receive less media attention than attacks against Coalition troops, continue to impose a heavy human toll on the Iraqi security forces. For example, today’s security rundown in Az-Zaman included the following reports: in Khanqeen, an IED killed 3 soldiers in a combined Police and Army unit, and injured five. South of Mosul, the body of a soldier who was kidnapped two days ago was found with bullet wounds to the head and chest. An IED in Kahnqeen also killed four Iraqi soldiers from the fifth division. And in Babil and Nineveh provinces, two soldiers, who belonged to the force charged with protecting government installation, were found dead.

Meanwhile, al-Hayat is commemorating the sixth anniversary for the Iraq invasion with an interview series with Ahmad Chalabi, the man who tirelessly lobbied for the war, and who is accused by some of “misleading” the US into believing that Saddam was developing WMDs. The same man was later accused of turning to Iran’s side and providing it with secrets “that prompted the American forces to raid his office.”

Chalabi (whose account will no doubt be contested by his adversaries) revealed many interesting facts in the first part of the series (two more to come) about the preparations for the war, US policy towards Iraq before 2003, and the Iranian role in the Iraq invasion.

According to Chalabi, US planners long “dreamed” of arranging an inside coup against Saddam, trying frenetically to cultivate links with Iraqi Army officers, a tactic that Chalabi opposed as fruitless, favoring (according to his account) a military-popular revolt against the regime. US intelligence on Iraq was weak, Chalabi claims, and coup plots hatched by the US were largely taking place under the supervision of the Iraqi intelligence.

Chalabi recounts that the main agent used by the CIA as a link between disgruntled Iraqi officers and the CIA station in 'Amman was an Egyptian national who worked for the Egyptian Embassy in Baghdad; and who was also a double-agent who provided the Iraqi intelligence with the details of his contacts and passed all documents and money to the Iraqi intelligence before handing them to the “conspirators.” This infiltration allegedly led to the failure of a coup attempt in 1996 and the execution of over 39 Army officers. Chalabi says that Iraqi security files retrieved after the invasion prove these claims.

He also alleges that he became aware of the leaks and warned US officials and Iraqi opposition leaders beforehand that the coup attempt – led by Ayad 'Allawi and retired General Muhammad al-Shahwani (who is currently the chief of the Iraqi intelligence services) – will fail because its details were known to the Iraqi authorities.

Chalabi also had a role in coordinating with the Iraqi opposition in Iran and convincing the Iranians to cooperate with the invasion. Iranian cooperation, he says, was key to the invasion’s success “had Iran opposed the removal of Saddam, the process would have been much harder.” Iranian officers, he says, were present in Dukan– near the Iranian borders – during the invasion and coordinating with pro-Iranian factions. In Tehran, Chalabi met with high-level political and military officials, including the leaders of the “Quds Brigade,” now accused by the US of sponsoring violence in Iraq.


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