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The Jehoshua Novels

Wolfowitz: Chalabi Behavior 'Puzzling'

Wolfowitz: Chalabi Behavior ‘Puzzling’
Washington | June 22

(AP) – Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz insisted Tuesday that the Ahmed Chalabi’s organization provided information that helped U.S. forces in Iraq, but conceded that some of the Iraqi politician’s recent behavior was “puzzling.”

Wolfowitz, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, denied that Chalabi was ever a favorite of the Pentagon, as he has been widely described.

More on Wolfowitz’ testimony from NYT: Wolfowitz Testifies Pentagon Misjudged the Strength of Iraqi Insurgency

Chalabi’s star has fallen in recent months because much of the intelligence his group supplied on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction programs failed to pan out. Last month, U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police raided his residence and office. Allegations then surfaced that he supplied Iran with classified U.S. intelligence on American monitoring of Iranian communications.

“There’s a mixed picture there,” he said. “We know from our commanders that some of the intelligence that his organization has provided us has saved American lives and enabled us to capture some key enemy targets.”

Responding to questions from Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the committee’s top Democrat, Wolfowitz would only say that many Iraqi exiles opposed to Saddam Hussein had contacts with Iran, Iraq’s enemy in the 1980s.

“Nothing in Iraq is black and white. I don’t think I know of any figure we’re dealing with who hasn’t had in one way or another to compromise with the incredibly difficult circumstances of the last 35 years of that country’s history,” Wolfowitz said. “It’s not surprising that many of them – and Chalabi’s not the only one – made contacts with countries like Iran or Syria or others.”

Chalabi has blamed the CIA for his problems and denied wrongdoing. The CIA and Chalabi have been at odds for years.

“I am surprised that he seems to be the target, for many years, of particular animus from some parts of this government,” Wolfowitz said. “But on the other hand, there are aspects of his recent behavior that are puzzling to me.” He did not elaborate on what those activities were.

Wolfowitz said the Defense Department would provide the House panel with a classified accounting of how U.S. money supplied to Chalabi and his group was spent.

Also during his testimony, he maintained the view that al-Qaida and the government of Saddam Hussein had a mutually supportive relationship.

The claim – part of the Bush administration’s justification for invading Iraq – has been called into question again by the findings of the Sept. 11 commission, which found no evidence Iraq and al-Qaida had collaborated on terrorist attacks against the United States, but did describe some older reports of contacts.

“I don’t need proof of involvement in September 11th to be concerned that Saddam Hussein is providing mutual support to Al Qaida,” he said. “It seems to me it’s like saying if someone breeds Rottweilers and leaves the gate open but doesn’t tell the dog who to attack that he’s not operationally involved in the thing.”

Wolfowitz mentioned two pieces of information – intelligence reports of contacts between Saddam’s regime and al-Qaida operatives in the early 1990s, and the presence of the militant Abu Musab Zarqawi, an ally of Osama bin Laden, in Iraq.

The significance of both as evidence of a connection is in dispute.

Wolfowitz said Saddam’s regime “was a regime that survived with thousands of killers, and it was a regime that began making alliance with another group of killers, those people associated with bin Laden and particularly this man named Zarqawi, who has now emerged as probably the most significant author of suicide bombings in Iraq today.”

5 comments to Wolfowitz: Chalabi Behavior 'Puzzling'

  • Anonymous

    Wolfowitz has nothing on this guy:


    Walking back the Chalabi cat
    Daniel Pipes | June 22

    (Jerusalem Post) – The Iranian government learned recently that American intelligence had deciphered its codes and could read its mail. This was a blow to US interests, for it meant losing the ability to access the enemy’s confidential communications, with all the advantages that offers.

    Who is to blame for this development?

    Ahmad Chalabi – the Iraqi politician whom I have known, worked with, supported, and admired since 1991 – has for the past month sat in the hot seat, accused by unnamed intelligence officials of informing the Iranian regime that its codes have been cracked.

    Chalabi denies the accusation, saying that he and his organization, the Iraqi National Congress, have not received “any classified information” from the US government. For what it is worth, the Iranians also deny that Chalabi told them about US code-breaking.

    Thinking this through logically, I conclude that Chalabi is not responsible for the damage to US interests; rather the blame falls on his opponents in the Central Intelligence Agency and State Department. Here is my logic, a form of “walking back the cat” (spook-speak, defined by William Safire in Sleeper Spy as using what we know from the point of discovery to reveal who knew what prior to the point of discovery).

    To begin with, I make three assumptions: First, that the reaction in Washington (which includes possible criminal prosecutions) bespeaks sincerity and confirms that US cryptographers did indeed crack the Iranian codes. Second, that Teheran interprets the US reaction as proof that its codes were cracked. Third, that it is taking the necessary steps to regain secrecy.

    One possibility is that Chalabi told the Iranians nothing. In which case, the allegation that he did so originated elsewhere:

    Perhaps State or the CIA made it up. (Plausible: Time magazine has documented how since April, the White House has been attempting to marginalize Chalabi.)

    Or the Iranians floated it to check if their codes had been broken. (Plausible: It would explain why they used that same code to tell about the code break.)

    Or Chalabi did tell them that Washington had cracked the code. In which case:

    Perhaps he made this up and just happened to be right. (Plausible: Chalabi reportedly took steps in 1995 to trick the Iranians.)

    Or he thought he was providing disinformation but was actually telling the truth. (Unlikely: Too convoluted.)

    Or he knowingly divulged classified information. (Unlikely: Why should the Americans give Chalabi, a British subject known to be in close contact with the Iranian regime, a crown jewel of US state secrets?)

    WHICHEVER scenario actually took place, the implication is identical: The brouhaha in D.C., not what Chalabi did or did not say, signaled Teheran that the Americans broke their code.
    That’s because anyone can assert that the code has been cracked, but why should he be believed?

    The Iranians surely would not accept Chalabi’s assertion on its own and go to the huge trouble and expense of changing codes because of his say-so. They would seek confirmation from US intelligence; and this is what the unnamed sources who leaked this story did – they supplied that proof. Their fury at Chalabi instructed the Iranians to change codes.

    In the end, what Chalabi did or did not do is nearly irrelevant; his detractors in the US government, ironically, bear the onus for having informed the Iranian opponent about a vital piece of intelligence.

    Americans might pay heavily for the rank irresponsibility of those in State and the agency who publicly confirmed the code break as part of their turf wars with the Defense Department and, more broadly, their fight with the so-called neoconservatives.

    On this latter point, note how gleefully elements of the American press exploited the allegations against Chalabi. To take one example of many, the Los Angeles Times on June 10 published “A tough time for Neocons,” which states that neoconservatives are “under siege” partly because, “in a grave threat to their reputation, Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi is enmeshed in an FBI investigation of alleged intelligence leaks that supplied secrets to Iran.”

    Were the press doing its duty properly, it would stop playing the Washington favorites game and investigate the likely damage Chalabi’s opponents have done.

    Were State and CIA managements doing their job, they would be punishing the elements who conveyed a vital secret to the militant Islamic government in Iran.

    The writer is director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures.

  • Anonymous

    Wolfowitz Testifies Pentagon Misjudged the Strength of Iraqi Insurgency
    Published: June 23, 2004

  • Anonymous

    Attack of the Wolfman

    Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is never embarrassed, even as he continues to spin his version of the truth.

  • Anonymous

    Rhetorically, I mean…

    As a friend of mine noted, have they never read their Machievelli (which I find difficult to credit, given the personalities involved)?

    Quoted by Matthew Yglesias and reproduced here:

    “It ought to be considered, therefore, how vain are the faith and promises of those who find themselves deprived of their country. For, as to their faith, it has to be borne in mind that anytime they can return to their country by other means than yours, they will leave you and look to the other, notwithstanding whatever promises they had made you. As to their vain hopes and promises, such is the extreme desire in them to return home, that they naturally believe many things that are false and add many others by art, so that between those they believe and those they say they believe, they fill you with hope, so that relying on them you will incur expenses in vain, or you undertake an enterprise in which you ruin yourself.”

    (the url was the first google hit on Machiavelli and exiles — I’m heartened that this is a common meme, BTW)

  • Anonymous

    New York Newsday

    Is retired terrorist in Iraq?

    Wolfowitz alleges that notorious Palestinian is making bombs designed to kill Americans, but other officials say there is no evidence

    By Knut Royce
    Washington Bureau

    June 30, 2004

    WASHINGTON — Early in his testimony on Tuesday of last week before a House panel, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz alleged that a long-retired terrorist was killing Americans in Iraq.

    He told members of the House Armed Services Committee that a notorious Palestinian terrorist, Abu Ibrahim, was inside Iraq “making bombs today to kill Americans.” The startling disclosure, designed to remind the lawmakers of Saddam Hussein’s “killer regime that work(ed) with killers of various kinds” elicited no reaction from the lawmakers, some of whom were still in college when Ibrahim was last known to have made bombs.

    When he appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday, Wolfowitz repeated his charges.

    Earlier this year he said, “Coalition forces conducted a raid in the vicinity of Mosul that disrupted a bomb-making shop that is attributed to his work.” Still, there was no reaction from the senators.

    There was, however, puzzled reaction from an administration official familiar with current intelligence on Ibrahim, a legendary 68-year-old terrorist who specialized in concealing bombs inside luggage in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

    “All we know is that he was a known bomber in the past,” the official said. “Whether he’s hooked up with Zarkawi … I have no information on that whatsoever.” The official was referring to Abu Musab al Zarkawi, the Jordanian-born terrorist who has claimed credit for many of the devastating bombings in Iraq.

    The official said that the CIA believes Ibrahim still lives in Iraq, where, at the behest of the United States, he was placed on mandatory retirement by Hussein in 1984.

    Another official familiar with the CIA’s reporting on Ibrahim said, “There isn’t any conclusive evidence” that he is active inside Iraq.

    A Pentagon spokesman did not respond to several requests for elaboration on Wolfowitz’s claims that Ibrahim was currently making bombs “to kill Americans.”

    Vincent Cannistraro, who was director of the CIA’s counterterrorism center in the 1980s, said that it was “ridiculous” to conclude that Ibrahim was still active through an analysis of the bombs at the Mosul shop. He said that after Ibrahim was forced by Hussein to abandon terrorism in 1984, he was assigned to instruct Iraqi military commandos on how to make bombs until 1991, when Iraq was driven out of Kuwait by a U.S.-led coalition.

    Any of Ibrahim’s students could have made the bombs discovered near Mosul and the bombs would have had a “signature” similar to that of their teacher, he said.

    Ibrahim, whose given name is Husayn al-Umari, is a short, tough-looking man with a deep voice, who led a small group of Palestinian terrorists called the May 15 Organization until his forced retirement in 1984. His speciality was concealing bombs inside luggage by sewing thin sheets of plastic explosives in the linings and expertly hiding batteries and detonators.

    Available technology in the early 1980s was unable to detect the explosives.

    But several of his suitcase bombs were discovered because they failed to explode, including one that was found on a Pan Am jet in Rio de Janeiro 14 days and 40,000 miles after it was supposed to have exploded on a trip from London to New York.

    Not all of the May 15 Organization targets were airplanes, and the group was successful in bomb attacks in Vienna, London, Antwerp, Nairobi and Rome.

    A federal grand jury here indicted Ibrahim in 1987 in the bombing of a Pan Am jetliner as it approached Honolulu in August 1982, killing a Japanese teenager.

    The State Department arranged the retirements of Ibrahim and other terrorists living in Iraq with Hussein. Iraq at the time was waging a bloody war against Iran and needed American technical assistance.
    Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

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