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Pentagon comes to Chalabi's defense

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Monday, May 24, 2004

The U.S. military is defending a pro-U.S. Iraqi leader targeted by the Bush administration.

U.S. military and Defense Department officials have relayed messages to the administration that urged a halt to the attacks on Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress and a member of the Iraqi Governing Council. The officials said that despite criticism Chalabi remains a valuable asset in the U.S.-led effort to establish a democratic Iraq.

Several senior Pentagon and military officials have expressed amazement over the Iraqi and U.S. raids of the Baghdad homes of Chalabi and Kanan Makiya, another leading pro-U.S. Iraqi involved in the INC. The Iraqi police vandalized Chalabi's home in Baghdad on May 20 and confiscated computers and files said to contain intelligence information, Middle East Newsline reported.

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, praised the INC and said it provided valuable intelligence to the U.S. military in Iraq. Myers's assertion came amid charges from CIA and State Department circles that Chalabi has consorted with Iranian intelligence and helped feed disinformation to the CIA.

"The organization that he [Chalabi] is associated with has provided intelligence to our intelligence unit there in Baghdad that has saved soldiers' lives," Myers told the House Armed Services Committee on May 21.

Myers also said the INC continued to relay valuable intelligence since the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in April 2004. He said the INC had provided the U.S. military with "useful and accurate" information over the last year and dismissed accusations that the INC duped U.S. military intelligence.

"I don't have the information that can allow me to make that judgment," Myers said. "I think that remains to be seen, probably. But I just don't know."

On Monday, unidentified U.S. officials continued to assert that Chalabi relayed intelligence information to Iran. The New York Times quoted officials as saying that Chalabi provided Iran with classified information from the CIA and Pentagon. The newspaper said an FBI investigation has focused on U.S. officials who dealt regularly with Chalabi.

"I have never passed any classified information to Iran or have done anything participated in any scheme of intelligence against the United States," Chalabi said in a television interview on Sunday." "This charge is false. I have never seen a U.S. classified document, and I have never seen had a U.S. classified briefing."

"These charges are being put out by George Tenet," Chalabi added. "Let him come to Congress. I will come to Congress, and I will lay everything on the table."

Chalabi's aides said the CIA and State Department have long been angered by the relationship of Chalabi and Makiya with Pentagon and congressional leaders. They said the CIA was enraged by Chalabi's accusation in 1997 that a U.S. intelligence operation to overthrow Saddam had been penetrated by Iraqi intelligence.

The administration's formal disassociation with the INC began on May 16 when Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States was deliberately misled regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction arsenal. Powell did not identify the source, but aides said the secretary was referring to the INC.

Two days later, the Bush administration said it would not renew a program under which $335,000 a month was sent to the INC by the Pentagon for intelligence services in Iraq.

The Coalition Provisional Authority has tried to disassociate itself from the raid of Chalabi's home, the target of which was said to have been INC intelligence chief Aras Habib. CPA officials maintained that neither U.S. officers searched Chalabi's home or office nor that CPA administrator Paul Bremer ordered the raid. But they acknowledged that so-called civilian contractors helped the Iraqi police and Interior Ministry in the raid and that U.S. soldiers surrounded the perimeter of Chalabi's house.

"Their job is the professionalization of the Iraqi police service," CPA senior adviser Dan Senor said. "So they were there to observe and advise the Iraqi police during this operation, as they do on numerous operations. They are the only non-Iraqis, to my understanding, that were there."


Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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