The Deep Game

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 1 June 2004

My article from last week, 'The Iranian Spy in the House of Bush,' which took a close look at accusations leveled at the White House's favorite Iraqi Ahmad Chalabi, generated a number of interesting responses from truthout readers. Pointedly, many refused to believe that stories suggesting Chalabi was acting as an agent of Iran in the run-up to the Iraq invasion were anything more than another Bush administration plot, the purpose of which was to gin up national support for an attack against Iran.

The logic people offered to support the idea that we are merely getting jobbed by the Bush crew again is straightforward, and not easily cast aside. This administration has been, since day one of their White House occupation and even before, running the game plan created by the Project for the New American Century, or PNAC. A central component of their imperial designs is the need to attack, invade and overthrow many, if not all, Middle Eastern regimes, thus bringing 'democracy' to the region. Iran has been a central part of the plan; it is difficult to miss the intent behind the addition of that nation to the 'Axis of Evil.' What better way to create support for the next phase of the PNAC plan, goes the argument, than to devise a scenario by which America was under an intelligence attack from Iran by way of Chalabi?

Chalabi is accused of passing highly sensitive signal intelligence to the Iranian government. Specifically, he is accused of informing Iran that the United States had broken one of their most important codes, and was basically able to read their mail. Clearly, there is more going on here than immediately meets the eye. The argument that the White House has conjured these accusations against Chalabi for their own military ends, however, fails in the face of several facts.

First of all, it has been known for years in intelligence circles that Ahmad Chalabi had strong connections to Iran. He bragged to former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter in 1997 that he had "tremendous connections with Iranian intelligence." Chalabi's aide, Aras Karim Habib, has also been a known associate of Iranian intelligence for years. The recent raid on Chalabi's residence in Iraq was aimed more at Habib than Chalabi. Habib escaped capture in the raid, and is believed to have fled to Terhan. Seized in that raid, however, was the personal Koran of Chalabi. The book carried an inscription from former Iranian ruler Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini himself. The inscription read, "To My Son, Ahmad."

Evidence to support allegations that Chalabi has been acting in the interests of Iran goes back some ten years. In 1994, Chalabi conjured an Iraqi defector named Khidir Hamza, who claimed to be a senior member of Hussein's nuclear weapons team. According to Hamza, Iraq was very close to completing the development of nuclear weapons. He was given to CIA agents, who subsequently decided he was utterly without credibility. Imad Khadduri, the Iraqi nuclear physicist who was in charge of documenting nuclear development stated flatly that Hamza, "Did not, even remotely, get involved in any scientific research, except for journalistic articles, dealing with the fission bomb, its components or its effects."

Hamza, in attempting to establish his credibility, coughed up a 20-page document which had apparently been developed by "Group 4," the Iraqi department responsible for designing nuclear weaponry. At first, the report appeared to be damning evidence that Hussein was developing nuclear weaponry in defiance of UN sanctions. After a further review by the International Atomic Energy Agency, however, it was determined that the report was "not authentic."

In fact, analysis suggests this purported Iraqi nuclear document was, in fact, a manufactured fraud created by Iranian intelligence. Several technical descriptions in the report used phrases that would only be used by an Iranian. The use of the term 'dome,' 'Qubba' in Iranian, instead of 'hemisphere,' which is 'Nisuf Kura' in Arabic, is particularly instructive. The usage of these words indicate the document was originally written in Farsi by an Iranian scientist and then translated into Arabic.

Iran, apparently, was creating and disbursing false information intended to demonstrate that Hussein was building nuclear weapons. This particular fraud, and Hamza himself, was used repeatedly to justify the invasion of Iraq. It appears to have been a masterful intelligence operation out of Terhan, one that came to the attention of American officials by way of Ahmad Chalabi. Thus, the new accusations that Chalabi is a tool of Iran have a basis in past activities.

Why would a man with such connections to the anti-American regime in Iran be tolerated in the highest circles of American government? The answer lies in the old Middle Eastern axiom, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Chalabi's Iranian contacts were tolerated for so long because he was working to the same end as many within the United States: the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

Over time, Chalabi developed deep connections with CIA, and more importantly, with many who are now power-brokers within the federal government. He became, most specifically, a prized ally of the cabal of neoconservative hawks which includes Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and William Luti. These men helped engineer legislation in Congress which eventually funneled some $100 million into Chalabi's organization, the Iraqi National Congress. In the run-up to the Iraq invasion, they created a special intelligence-manipulation bureau within the Defense Department called the Office of Special Plans. It was here that accusations of vast Iraqi stockpiles of WMDs, nuclear capabilities and al Qaeda connections were manufactured and disbursed. Chalabi was the main source for these now-debunked accusations.

Chalabi had been chosen by Don Rumsfeld to be the next leader of Iraq, a position which suited Chalabi's all-encompassing desire to come into possession of Iraq's vast oil revenues. He promised Rumsfeld and the hawks that he would create a secular Shia government that would immediately make peace with Israel. In other words, he told the PNAC crew exactly what they wanted to hear; a central aspect of the PNAC plan to enact 'regime change' across the Middle East was, in their minds, about the defense of Israel via the removal of threatening governments.

The wheels came off when none of Chalabi's information - about the weapons of mass destruction, about the nuclear capabilities, about the al Qaeda connections, about the ease with which America would occupy Iraq - turned out to be true. Chalabi felt the winds of his fortune changing and, still filled with the desire to rule Iraq in the manner Rumsfeld had promised long ago, turned on his former friends. He began fashioning himself as a martyr for the Iraqi people, began attacking America with the same rhetoric used by Moqtada al Sadr and other radical clerics, in order to develop a power base with the fundamentalist Shia community. Promises to make peace with Israel at some point were exposed as the lies they were.

Thus, the White House approved the move to send soldiers into Chalabi's compound, to cut off his fat monthly paychecks, and to distance him from the struggle for power in Iraq. According to Newsweek, the final straw for Chalabi came when Bush and Cheney, "were briefed several weeks ago about intelligence indicating that someone in Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress gave the Iranian government 'extremely sensitive' and 'highly classified' info which could jeopardize U.S. intelligence sources and even 'get people killed.' Intelligence sources say potential suspects for the leak include Chalabi himself and his intelligence chief, Aras Habib." The data given to Iran, sensitive signal intelligence that let Iran know we had broken some of their codes, is a damaging breach of national security.

Is this Chalabi story a calculated ruse by the Bush administration to get them off the hook for this Iraq disaster by scapegoating Chalabi? Given all the facts at hand, it seems highly unlikely.

It is difficult to imagine a worse situation for the Bush administration than what is currently unfolding. Chalabi is completely the creation of those running the White House and the Pentagon. This is widely known. If it is true that, as they were anointing Chalabi, he was funneling Iranian disinformation straight to the highest levels of our government, who subsequently gave him intelligence data which he handed over to Iran...if this is indeed true, it is a disaster of millennial proportions for the administration. It reveals this White House to be saps, played like violins by Iran in a masterful intelligence operation that removed a long-time enemy of Tehran while setting the stage for a fundamentalist Shia regime in Iraq that would become a boon ally. How any aspect of this helps George W. Bush and his crew is hard to see.

Is this Chalabi story a calculated ruse by the Bush administration to create an environment where war against Iran would be acceptable? Clearly, they would like this conflict to become a reality. But reality, in this matter, interferes. Consider a call for war in Iran. The immediate questions would be:

  • With whose army? Our troops in Iraq are badly stretched, and there aren't many Reserves left. The UN won't have anything to do with another invasion. It is difficult to believe that we would dare use Israel as a proxy force, because we'd lose every other country in the region overnight, including Pakistan, which actually has nuclear weapons.
  • With whose vote? Congresspeople have constituents, and the constituents are badly disturbed by Iraq already. The war is a mess, and Congress has more than enough political cover to say 'no' this time around. It isn't 2002 anymore.
  • With what money? Bush has spent hundreds of billions on Afghanistan and Iraq, and has failed (quietly on the first and spectacularly on the second). Because of Iraq, Congress can, and almost certainly will, say no to Iran spending.
  • With which Pentagon? If you believe Sid Blumenthal's report that the officer corps in the Pentagon is on the edge of revolt because of what has taken place already, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which they would sit still for yet another military action.

No, this is the real deal. The White House has been forced to turn on one of their most important allies because his involvement with Iranian intelligence has been exposed. The American intelligence community despised Chalabi because Bush and his people cut them out of the loop in favor of Chalabi, and then turned around and blamed the intelligence community when Chalabi's data turned out to be bogus.

Last summer, I wrote that one scapegoats the CIA at their mortal peril. This, a year later, appears to be the final revenge of the intelligence community against an administration that insulted, suppressed and blamed them for the failures of the neoconservative hawks. The fact that the White House provided the hanging rope, in the guise of the badly compromised Ahmad Chalabi, only makes this dish all the colder.